How tech saved me from being homeless

OK so that title is laced with much hyperbole, but at least it made you look! And it has an element of truth in it!

For one reason or another – mainly the landlord being on holiday in the far east –  the tenancy agreements for our new house took a long time to come through.  In fact, so long that they didn’t make it to me until 3pm yesterday, and we move in today!  I needed a scanner, and quickly, otherwise, we may well have not had keys to our new home until tomorrow, which would have been bad!

Enter stage right the Scan2PDF app for Android.  For £3.99 it turned my phones camera into a scanner, taking a photo of each page, collating them together and then emailing the PDF straight to the Estate Agent. Very. Nice. App.

Reflections on relocation

We’re moving in a week, which is about 8 years to the day that I moved in.  During that time, I met, courted and married Jet, Elizabeth was born (in the house), I have changed jobs twice, decorated it fully at least once. It is quite a wrench moving areas, much more than I ever thought it would be.  At the end of the day, a house is no more than a pile of bricks, but a home is much more.  The tough things are leaving friends and neighbours behind, and most difficult is Elizabeth leaving the most amazing nursery.

On a positive side, we are not moving a million miles away – Oxfordshire is nearly two hours from here, so we will maintain contact with all of our friends and make more; and we have found a wonderful Child Minder who Elizabeth really likes.  The four hours I spend in the car every day, will be reduced to ten-minutes – I wonder what I will do with an extra four hours a day?!

I am really looking forward to not being tired every second of the day, to see more of Jet and Beth and enjoying the new house.

What would you do with an extra four hours a day?

Four weeks of relentless optimism…it's working!


About a month ago, I posted the following on Twitter:

It was one of those tweets that you don’t think about, but I had a great week!  So I tried it again the next week, and the following and then finally on Monday this week.  Each week, it has been brilliant…here are just some of the very cool things that have happened:

  • Interviewing some fabulous prospective Area Managers leading to this post
  • Phoning 3 to cancel my sPhone contract, only to be given a free HTC Desire, and a staggering  package for £5 less than my last contract.
  • Using my gorgeous HTC Desire. It is fantastic in every way (apart from one, the children’s apps don’t compare to the iPhone ones!)
  • Meeting some fantastic people that I speak to every day on Twitter at TeachMeet Blackpool and TeachMeet East. And taking photos at them both (TMBpool here, and TMEast here)
  • Making my TeachMeet debut (from about 1 hr 16m 30s) – prezi here – and when you do see me, what on earth was I doing with my hands?!
  • Making a very successful change of the @classpet twitter account to @eScholasticUK with the wonderful help of @corynhughes
  • In the middle of all of this, someone tried to head hunt me (nice boost to the ego)
  • Hard work paying off, big style. In some cases up to two years work leading to deals.
  • Finding amazing new product that can make a real difference.
  • Finding a house to live in, in Oxfordshire.
  • Finding a Childminder for Elizabeth when we make that move (August!).
  • Some more work stuff that I can’t talk about.
  • A week with few meetings (yay!) which meant I could spend more time with people – something that as a manager you need to do.

The above isn’t all, it isn’t even close.  The most important thing is the feeling that nothing will go wrong.  That isn’t to say that there aren’t blips, or hurdles, but it is to say that you don’t stumble over them. You know that you can deal with them and move on.

And I am not on my own! This positivity virus is catching, and @DianneSpencer has tried it with great success!

Try this.  On Monday, proclaim at the top of your voice to whoever will listen (on twitter and in person) that it will be a great week.  Then at the end of the week, look back and see what has happened and how you feel at that time.  I bet, you will be able to see all of the really good things that have happened, and many fewer bad things.

Try it, at the end of the week, what have you got to lose?!  If it works, let me know, I will start a Positivity Day, or a Optimism Cult or something…

A happy ending to cowboy electricians…

My second post for the Best of Hinckley was posted today…I have republished here:

Last Friday night, the electrics in my house went.  I thought it was our tumble dryer that had done it, but not being an electrician, I couldn’t be sure.  I did all of the things that you usually do but couldn’t fix the electrical trip switch, so decided to call an emergency electrician out.

Not having required an electrician before, I did the natural thing and searched online and although I couldn’t find one on the bestofhinckley I did come up with a company that looked OK, which I won’t name. The call was taken eventually and they promised that they would be with me in a couple of hours. Three hours later (including an hour that I had spent on hold!) the electrician still hadn’t turned up.  At 2am, I then called another ‘fast response’ company who said they would with me at 8am but turned up at 11am.  Already, I had experienced enough bad customer service for anyone to endure in a day.  However, worse was to come because the bloke who came in proceeded to tell me that I needed a new tumble drier, RCD, washing machine, fridge….., etc, which of course he would be only too pleased to provide, at a significant cost!

Not convinced that I had received the most impartial of advice so far, I went back on the web and found another company that appeared more trustworthy. Within half an hour I had been contacted by a local electrician called Pete from PPB Domestic Electrical Installations (0845 839 3531 – local rate call or 07594 587730) and just 20-minutes later, Pete was in my house testing the circuits and finding out what was wrong.  Half-an-hour after that, our electrics were working again.  We still need a new tumble-drier but everything else (RCD, washing machine, fridge…..)  is fine.

SO the lessons that I have learned…

  • always ask friends, family, colleagues (and of course check the bestofhinckley) to find out who are the best local trades people;
  • collect a set, I have always used Gas Care Services in Barwell for my plumbing needs, he would certainly be another very safe option); for flooring I use Carpet Cottage in Barwell and now Pete for my electrics. I also had a really brilliant roofer but unfortunately he has recently retired. Anyone know of a great roofer?

The major lesson in all this of course is that you really do need to compile your list of reliable trades people BEFORE you have a problem (as I found out to my expense with a £100 call out fee!) because it’s too late once something goes wrong!

From a personal business point of view – I am incredibly loyal and all the contact details of the reliable, trustworthy people that I find either personally or through the bestofhinckley are in my phone and if something should go wrong, or I need something they are the first people I call. It’s quite simple really; I call them because I know I can rely on them for good service and a fair price.

Are the first emergency electricians that called in my phone?  No, not a chance!

A dark Romeo & Juliet in more than one way

Last night I had the pleasure of going to Stratford Upon Avon to watch Romeo and Juliet. I had initially decided not to go, as I have seen it more than any other Shakespeare play, but after reading Kevin Mulryne’s review I booked tickets and am delighted I did.

I am not intending this to be a review of the whole play, but the things that really stood out to me were:

  • Amazing lighting. It was dark for the majority of the play, lit by candle, burner and torch.
  • Stunning costume. Every member of the cast was dressed in period costume, apart from Romeo and Juliet – who were in hoodies and Converse trainers.
  • Brilliant choreography – both in movement around the set, but the dancing and fighting.
  • The two actors who played Romeo and Juliet. We had the understudy for Romeo – Dyfan Dwyfor, who was simply brilliant at playing the flighty teen in love and Mariah Gale. It is quite unfair of me to say so, but I have seen Mariah many times at Stratford, and my first instinct is to wish it were someone else in the lead; but every time, and none more so than last night, her acting shines above everyone else on stage. She was really amazing last night, to the point that she really led me to believe that she would kill herself, and maybe wake up before Romeo does the dark deed.
  • The casting of the two key roles, and the direction of Rupert Goold, really did make me tear up on a number of occasions, for the unguarded happiness, and astonishing depth of despair.
  • Mercutio – wow. I have seen his character played so many times, and never so brilliantly as last night. He was tormented and twisted, graphic and rude. Completely over the top in cringeworthiness, but excellent nontheless.
  • As always, the set was awe-inspiring. Completely flexible, and you felt like you were in the room with them.

I have to say, that while I thought this version was one of the best I have seen, that view wasn’t shared by Jet, who wasn’t as impressed.  She wasn’t such a fan of the darkness.  And on a final note we were accompanied to the performance by no less than eight different school trips.  One section were incredibly unruly (playing cards, talking, telling jokes); but I have to say that the vast majority were impeccably behaved and a credit to their school.  I did, however, want to throw the former bunch off the gallery!

Thank you to Kevin for putting me on to it – I am delighted I went!

PS – a fuller review, and one that I pretty much agree with can be found here