I know these are hard times for businesses but I have had four examples this week of very hard sell.
Telephone call on my mobile from an insurance broker telling me she “needs to speak” to me about my home insurance. Then a letter, saying there are a few “points on your home insurance which need clarifying”. Feeling rather unnerved by this point and wondering whether there is a problem with the cover, I ring up. Of course, the brokers are just trying to secure the renewal of an existing policy. Actually, I am still comparing quotes.
Letter from accountants warning that the risks of an in depth tax enquiry by HM Revenue & Customs have continued to increase. “HMRC officers are now using new wider powers to visit premises and inspect financial records…and the professional costs of defence are rising” and moreover “Even if you have done nothing wrong, the taxman will not give up and will still try hard to find errors”. And the way to provide “peace of mind” against such an onslaught is of course to pay for “Fee Protection” which incidentally costs almost as much again as the cost of preparing accounts. Terrifying.
Letter from a party wall surveyor informing us that they understand from council records that our neighbours are building an extension to their property and that they are writing to let us know some “important legal information”, namely that the Party Wall Act applies if the extension involves “digging foundations within three metres” of our house. In these alarming circumstances we should appoint a surveyor “to safeguard” our legal rights and here’s a handy form we can complete nominating them. All very well except that we know that the “extension” is in fact a new bungalow our elderly neighbour is building at the end of her garden, nowhere near our house.
Telephone call from the call centre of a nationwide optician telling me that my “next appointment is due” and indeed “recommended” by the optician and offering to arrange it. That’s fine except I have no ongoing relationship with any optician and this was simply one of the last companies which checked my eyes a couple of years ago.
Whilst I am happy to consider buying all these services if I need them, I do object to being frightened or pressurised into buying them. Anyone else had similar experiences?
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Love Grand Designs? Always wanted to build your own but lacked the funds? Interested in sustainability, innovative building methods and all things green? Here’s the chance to help rebuild Kevin McCloud’s famous eco house.
Planning permission has just been granted for the University of Brighton to rebuild The House That Kevin Built which was first erected in London’s Docklands live on Thames TV in six days in 2008 for Channel 4’s Grand Designs Live and heralded as the UK’s first low-energy prefabricated house made from eco-friendly materials.
The house was later dismantled but – and here’s the exciting part – the concept is being reborn in the courtyard of the University of Brighton’s Faculty of Arts.
Kevin McCloud, the British designer who presented the TV programme, is backing the idea along with Brighton & Hove City Council and the Building Research Establishment . The house was designed by architect Duncan Baker-Brown, a Brighton graduate.
In an article for Grand Designs Magazine, Kevin writes:
If you made it to Grand Designs Live at ExCeL in London in the spring of 2008, you will have been greeted by the sight of my house.Thousands of you tramped round it. I slept there during the exhibition, in fact, spending my 49th birthday there. It wasn’t, of course, the house where I spend the bulk of my time and which is full of my detritus. It was the house that I built, admittedly with the help of around 73 muscular adults, in just six days as an exemplar project of where domestic house building might go…..
The house came down, sadly, as it was there only for the duration of the exhibition, but being a component-built project it was always intended that it might go somewhere else. The exciting news is that it now has a new home in Brighton where we’re hoping to reincarnate it as a project for the University. The House That Kevin Rebuilt is goingto fit in the quadrangle of the Faculty of Arts in Grand Parade, which is a lump-of Hemcrete’s-throw away from the Royal Pavilion, so it’ll be available to see for anyone in the towncentre.
It will also provide a working laboratory for researchers to monitor the building’ s performance, carbon footprint and evolution. Different faculties will be involved and the building adapted and furnished by students.. ..
And here’s where you come in – £300,000 is needed to re-build the house. All donations to the University are eligible for both Gift Aid and the government’s matched funding scheme; for every £2 received in philanthropic donations, the University can claim an additional £1 from the government.
If you would like to make a donation to the project, click here and you will be taken to the University’s secure JustGiving site. Mention The House That Kevin Built in the comments box when you make the donation to ensure that your donation goes directly towards re-building this unique Grand Design.
More information HERE.
You may have noticed that we have been getting some good press lately from a new website called www.virtualgranny.com and last week I got in touch with the founders to find out a bit more about what had inspired them to set up the site and what they are planning. Here’s what I found out.
VirtualGranny was set up last summer to provide a space for entertaining, informing and offering support to lively over 50’s grandparents by Marrisse Whittaker with the help of her business partner and husband Bob Whittaker.
Marrisse and Bob are TV producers (www.oriontv.co.uk). Bob’s background is as an onscreen TV Journalist and Marrisse was a TV/Film makeup artist for years before becoming a TV scriptwriter. They make TV programmes for all of the major broadcasters.
However, time and time again they find that TV commissioners request that programmes be targeted at the 18-34 age group, despite the fact that it is the over 50’s who have the money, watch TV and have the ability to buy the products advertisers want to sell around the programmes.
Marrisse and Bob often found hugely talented people over the age of 50 to appear on screen, with great stories to tell, all to no avail. So one day they decided to set up a website dedicated to over 50’s grandparents, “to help give them a voice as well as a place to chill out”.
As they are TV makers, VirtualGranny has video on site and eventually they are hoping to launch a regular on-site soap series. They also have more celebrity interviews in the offing and video series planned on consumerism, grandchild care, gardening, books and more. They currently have sections for discounts and competitions and a shopping mall.
Most of all, Marrisse and Bob want to develop the social networking area of the site, with visitors logging on to tell them what they think about issues and what they would like to see on the site. VirtualGranny are about to launch a search for 50Grand – 50 grandparents who will group together via the website to speak out as a group, road test products and give honest reviews and insights on a huge range of issues as they come up in the media.
Marrisse says:”Think Mumsnet for lively minded grandparents, with lots more TV footage, eventually giving the site the feel of a glossy magazine and TV channel rolled in to one”.
Marrisse and Bob’s plans sound very promising and we particularly like the upscale, intelligent and funky feel of the website and the interesting, good quality videos. There are several other websites out there vying for the attention of grandparents but we think VirtualGranny looks set to stand out from the crowd.
Have a look around and tell us what you think www.virtualgranny.com
Posted by Virtual Granny on February 4, 2011
Three cheers for The College of Richard Collyer and their innovative and stylish designs focused on overcoming one or more of the challenges of ageing, with pioneering, stylish and. aspirational creations.
“Designing for the Future” is a competition run by The Future Perfect Company and Richard Collyer in Horsham, for entry by AS students, who embraced the brief readily.
Philippa Aldridge, founder of The Future Perfect Company found that the most thoughtful designs came from those who had spoken with their older relatives about the realities of ageing, something which must seem almost unimaginable to this group of 16 year olds.
The winning designer Glen Crombie, made a push out plug socket, which can eject a plug from a socket at the touch of a button – a fantastic concept for people who have not so nimble fingers for any number of reasons.
Other fantastic winning designs include a very stylish self heating mug, which does away with heavy kettles by using electromagnetic induction to heat a mug of water. Not only a great energy saving idea, but ideal for people who want a quick cuppa at their desks or want to boil up a brew on holiday.
Other designs include an ingenious light bulb changer which avoids the perils of step ladders and a very funky grip glass which makes it easy for people with gripping challenges to drink with confidence and without drawing attention to their disability.
So top marks to the students and especially to Philippa Aldridge, for bringing old and young members of the community together on a brilliant project which can only benefit both parties in the future.
For more information about the “Design for the Future” competition, which runs yearly and to peruse innovative products created especially for people who have age related challenges or general disabilities – or actually for anyone who likes funky stylish gadgets and designs, visit http://thefutureperfectcompany.com
Yesterday was the launch of the “Designing for the Future” competition at the University of Brighton. This is the second year of this competition which follows hot on the heels of the successful student design competition at Collyers’ sixth form college. All part of our mission to encourage designers to consider the challenges of getting older. And we think it’s working. The winning design from the Collyer’s competition went viral on the internet meaning that blogs all over the world were discussing how best to redesign plug sockets for less nimble fingers. Great result!
Nick Gant (Principal Lecturer) and Gareth Neal (Senior Lecturer) are leading the project at the University which is open to staff and students from the Faculty of Arts and the School of Environment and Technology.
We were delighted that Age UK policy advisor Gretel Jones has agreed to be a judge again. And this year we are also joined by one of the UK’s leading occupational therapists, Maggie Winchcombe OBE, FCOT from Years Ahead. Anne Boddington, Dean of the Arts Faculty at University of Brighton and Philippa Aldrich from The Future Perfect Company complete the judging panel.
We return to Brighton in April for a “Dragons Den” to assess progress and give feedback. The judging will take place in May with the results announced in June.
All very exciting. We are hoping for some new and innovative designs and will keep you posted!
The Light Bulb Changer is designed to help people who are less dexterous, disabled or have difficulties using a step ladder to change a light bulb. This innovative product has a silicon finger print grip on the claw providing a strong and safe way to hold the bulb; a handle moulded to the shape of a hand to aid human grip; and a light weight structure which can rotate and has integral lights. This modern yet simple design is an easy and safe way to change a light bulb.
Joint Second: Lauren Hale
This Soap Holder has been designed to help meet the needs of the older generation. The bathroom can be an unsafe environment so I have designed a product which allows older people to use soap without fear of dropping the soap, slipping over it in the shower and risking injury.
The two handles make the product easier to hold for people suffering from physical problems, such as arthritis. The soap is attached to the product by a plastic screw. The extended bar allows older people to wash their feet and backs easily without having to move too much or bend over.