There’s a definite chill in the air, but with Christmas a distant memory, the New Year in full swing and the snow turning to sludge, glimpses of spring are appearing. Before you know it, it’ll soon be time to open up the patio doors, gather everyone together and enjoy hazy evenings of barbeques and cool drinks.
If you’re planning to refresh your home, now is the perfect period to start thinking about contacting people to carry out bricklaying jobs, de-cluttering the house ready for a thorough spring clean and mulling over garden and interior designs to usher in the warmer months.
Finding a tradesman
If you’re looking for builders or bricklayers, it’s always a good idea to ask friends or colleagues for recommendations or use a trusted website, which provides details and reviews of local tradesmen, including carpenters and joiners in your area. You can tailor your search to meet your individual needs and read feedback from other clients, helping you to narrow down the choices and give you peace of mind. You can also bypass the hassle of having to ring around individuals or businesses by posting your job and waiting for interested parties to get in touch with a quote.
If you’re familiar with the scenario of shelves over-flowing, Christmas gifts still sitting in their boxes and piles of clothes, CDs and decorations sat casually around the house, you may be looking forward to a major spring clean.
The first glimpses of spring indicate the perfect time to de-clutter and make your home lighter, brighter and more spacious. There are some amazing storage solutions available today, from fold away drawers and hidden wardrobes, to shelving units and stackable furniture.
As well as doing a great job of storing and displaying your possessions, your furniture can also divide your room into different areas, creating multi-use and functional living spaces.
Bringing the outside in
After seemingly endless months of freezing cold temperatures and dark afternoons, most of us are looking forward to the warm glow of spring and summer and you can make the most of the long evenings and pleasant temperatures by opening up your home and bringing the outside in. This is easily done by putting in French doors, creating airy, light spaces and allowing plenty of natural light to filter through into the home.
Adding large cushions, beanbags, lanterns and willow furniture to your patio will also enable you to soak up every last ray of sunshine and enjoy lazy evenings with friends and family in the garden.
With the excitement of the festive period well and truly over, now is the time to banish winter blues and look forward. By planning in advance, getting building and decorative work sorted and adding a few simple touches to your home, you can swap cosy for cool and start planning garden parties, bank holiday barbeques and sun-soaked evenings.
Given its diminutive size and history of playing unwilling second fiddle to the English, Ireland has always seemed to punch above its weight in terms of the number of quality writers it has produced. Sure, weekend flights to Dublin might normally be associated with too much Guinness and rather hazy memories, but the city is also steeped in a cultural history its citizens are rightly very proud of. If you’ve only got two days to play with, what can’t be missed?
You could, of course, do both, by signing up for the literary pub crawl. In fact, drink and writing have often been comfortable bed-fellows for the Dublin literati; the tour is an approved bluffers guide to Dublin’s literary history, allowing you to get a ground-level sense of the places where the poets and playwrights sharpened their wits, with architectural wisdom thrown in for good measure.
Tour guide Colm Quilligan ‘quotes at ease from Joyce, Behan, Beckett, Yeats’, and the great advantage of the tour lies in his ability to ‘veer off the mark and into subjects that wouldn’t be covered by the city’s tourist brochures’, according to the Irish Times. The tour includes Toner’s in Lower Baggott Street, allegedly the only pub Yeats ever visited, although, poor Irishman in many ways, he didn’t enjoy the experience much.
You could also retrace Leopold Bloom’s famous day. For the Ulysses anoraks amongst you, the only time to visit is 16th June, ‘Bloomsday’. Renowned as the date Joyce’s everyman hero wandered Dublin’s streets, bought a kidney, eyed up a lovely lass or two and went through other such unremarkable rituals, since 1954 enthusiastic literary pilgrims have been retracing the route. Only possible because of Joyce’s more than meticulous recreation of the city in his magnum opus, hotels in Dublin may be difficult to find around the 16th, so book early!
The Book of Kells, at Trinity College Dublin. Round out your whistle stop holidays over the Irish Sea by killing two birds with one stone: check out the alma mater of most of Dublin’s favourite sons, and see this ancient illuminated gospel, finished by monks in a monastery in Kells, county Meath. The manuscript survived Viking raid to be restored to Ireland, and so holds something of a special place among the affections of Dubliners.
But the nation’s literary superstars have always had an ambiguous relationship with their fair city on the Liffey. Jonathan Swift resented being posted there, James Joyce and Samuel Beckett preferred Paris and Oscar Wilde London, while ‘mad Ireland’ hurt W. B. Yeats into poetry, according to W. H. Auden. The problem has perhaps always been that the great Irish writers refused to appear as typically Irish as others would like, forcing them to skip town for the metropolitan centres.
The issue persists in Dublin’s still-vital written culture today, as tackled by novelist Joseph O’ Connor, who mused, in Cowboys and Indians, that one of his characters had ‘settled into a life of Guinness, sarcasm and late late nights, the kind of life that American academics think real Dubliners lead.’ To be sure.
Many people enjoy the luxury of shopping and online purchasing with their mobile phone. Whilst many may automatically think of electrical products and the purchase of everyday goods this is far from the only way to shop with these devices. Thanks to modern developments, diamond jewellery and even engagement rings can now be purchased using your trusted mobile.
With fantastic advances in technology, many products are supported by fully interactive 360 degree animations. This allows customers to view exquisite necklaces, diamond earrings and other items of jewellery from all angles without visiting the store.
With Valentine’s Day in the centre, February is one of the most popular times of year for marriage proposals, when many men may be searching for the perfect engagement ring for their partner. But how can they visit a jeweller without their significant other becoming suspicious?
With the Serendipity Diamonds i-Phone app you can browse the high quality engagement rings at your convenience and without detection. Diamonds have been considered the ultimate symbol of adoration and love for centuries and the diamond engagement ring was first adopted among the wealthy. A universally recognised symbol of commitment and eternal love, as Marilyn Monroe said in 1953; “diamonds are a girl’s best friend”.
Nowadays, there is a great range of engagement rings and wedding bands available to suit all budgets and this means every girl can have the diamond they desire. It is customary for women to wear both their engagement ring and their wedding band on their left ring finger. The origin of this tradition comes from Greece where they believed a vein located in that finger (vena amoris) was a direct route to the heart.
If you are planning on purchasing a diamond ring for your loved one it is important you research the right ring for your future spouse, as it is a symbol that represents your love and will be worn for the rest of your lives together.
Those looking to buy an engagement ring for their partner should consider what style they would prefer and choose a design which will complement their wedding band as well. One way to do this is by using apps and services: this method of shopping has grown in popularity and the Serendipity Diamonds i-Phone app has already achieved almost 10,000 downloads.
In addition to this, the use of technology and social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook offers the ideal platform for customers to engage with companies. These sites not only allow businesses to showcase their work but help them engage with their customers to ensure maximal customer satisfaction.
Behind any website or social network profile there is a dedicated team to offer advice with any enquiry or order and that means the level of service is enhanced, not diminished.
If you are looking for a stunning gift for your loved one this year then diamonds are sure to please and, with mobiles offering you the chance to browse jewellery from the comfort of your own home, the shopping experience needn’t be disruptive to your daily routine.
As we wave goodbye to the festive season, what have reality TV fans got to look forward to over the upcoming winter weeks? The end of the calendar year takes with it television favourites (such as the competing duo X Factor and Strictly Come Dancing) but the New Year brings in a fresh bundle of guilty pleasures.
Now you’ve had time to watch TV online and play Christmas catch-up, it’s time to bring in Dancing On Ice and Celebrity Big Brother to help ease your woes.
Television programmes are more accessible than ever with thousands of us streaming TV to our portable devices every day. We’re watching from our tablets, laptops and smartphones meaning missing the beginning of this season’s Dancing On Ice or Celebrity Big Brother isn’t as dire as it once was; hit ITV Player and 4oD and then catch the remainder live.
Dancing On Ice has already had the tabloids talking this year with the first few shows being packed with action. The celebrity line-up saw greats (and some not-so-greats) get ready to skate away in hope of winning the public vote.
This year’s contestants include many soap stars who are all taking to the ice; Andy Whyment (Coronation Street’s Kirk Sutherland), Laila Morse (Mo Harris in EastEnders), Jorgie Porter (Theresa McQueen in Hollyoaks), Jennifer Ellison of 90s soap Brookside and former Emmerdale actor Matthew Wolfenden. Other famous faces to note include Sugarbabe Heidi Range and fitness guru Rosemary Conley.
Chesney Hawkes, the one-hit-wonder responsible for ‘The One and Only’, was forced to leave the competition early due to injury before the TV show aired. Hawkes’ wipeout means that it’s Chico Time again for the British public as the X Factor blast from the past joins the rest of the hopefuls.
In his official statement regarding his participation in the show, Chico told ITV: “Whilst I’m really excited about being part of the new series of Dancing On Ice it’s not necessarily in the best of circumstances. I wish Chesney all the best and a speedy recovery I will not just be skating for myself I will be skating for Chesney as well and do him proud”, he added.
On Channel Five the list of celebrities walking into the Big Brother House this January leaves us only to infer that we’re set for some toe-tingling TV over the coming weeks.
The house on the nation’s lips is full to the brim with glamour models, playboy twins and WAGs who are joined, with pleasure, by X Factor reject Frankie Cocozza. Other contestants include Denise Welch of Loose Women and Natalie Cassidy who was of course, Sonia in Eastenders.
As usual, the Big Brother house has been given a massive makeover for the new season. Features include a snowflake-themed bedroom accessorised with cosy fur cushions and throws, as well as a luxury lodge-style living area and kitchen. Despite the show taking place during the chilly winter months, the house is also kitted out with the show’s essential outdoor hot tub.
If you are planning to feed your reality show needs by streaming TV live to your laptop, Smartphone or tablet, it is worth remembering that a full and up to date TV Licence is needed to legally watch TV online. For those who never quite make the live broadcasts, services such as ITV Player are perfect for playing catch-up on shows such as Dancing On Ice and don’t require a licence.
Now that Christmas is out of the way, many people will be looking forward to planning their next break. Why not brighten up the New Year by booking a holiday abroad? One of the most popular destinations for Irish holidaymakers is Spain, with the weather being fabulous in the summer months. As well as mainland Spain, choose from the Canary Islands which boast a vast array of things to do and see.
Holidays to Spain have plenty to offer, so it’s no wonder they remain one of the most appealing options. An extremely popular Spanish destination is Benidorm, and with an average summer temperature of 26 degrees C, visitors are guaranteed to soak up some sun. Benidorm is family-friendly and boasts three wonderful beaches, all of which have Blue Flag status – meaning they are recognised as being among the best in Europe.
Other attractions that are popular with families are theme parks, with Benidorm having four to choose from. Those who enjoy shopping when abroad will not be disappointed either, as the town has numerous large shopping areas.
There are plenty of places to stay in Benidorm, one of the most spectacular being the Gran Hotel Bali, which is Europe’s tallest hotel, standing at a massive 186 metres. It is a four star hotel, boasting fabulous views of the town, and is located just 400 metres from the nearest beach. The hotel has a number of self-contained restaurants and bars, while also providing an all-inclusive package.
Those who want to get away from it all while experiencing some soaring temperatures should consider visiting the Canary Islands, the largest of which is Tenerife. Tenerife is the most popular with tourists, attracting over five million visitors each year. The temperatures are warm year-round and the average summer temperature is 28 degrees C.
The island has much to offer in the way of things to do, and one of the most popular areas is Costa Adeje, which features a number of water parks, animal parks and a large selection of restaurants and bars.
One of the most visited hotels in the region is the Costa Adeje Gran Hotel, which has a five star rating. The hotel boasts 24-hour room service and benefits from a poolside bar. There is also a restaurant and a café, as well as a full service health spa offering massage treatments and beauty services.
A number of other leisure facilities are available at the hotel, including two pools and a tennis court. All rooms benefit from having balconies and air conditioning, and the bathrooms include bathtubs and bidets. The nearest beach to the hotel is at the bottom of the hill, just 500 metres away.
Booking a summer holiday can help to brighten up the winter months by giving you something to look forward to later in the year.
As technology changes at an insatiable rate, so do the methods people use to attack our computers and phones. We are bombarded with messages that Internet security is of utmost importance but with so many antivirus companies and people with ulterior motives, just how do you know what’s right for you?
Internet security comes in all shapes, sizes and prices but there are a number of simple rules you should follow whatever type of technology you own. With this in mind, here are five top tips to keep you and your gadgets safe.
1. Keep your software up-to-date
It may sound simple, but you can severely decrease the likelihood of attack by merely keeping your computer’s software and operating system updated. It is often easy to ignore the mounting number of updates that pop up on your screen, but overlook them for too long and you may well regret it.
A lot of programs are released with a glut of security issues and areas of vulnerability but as these are exploited, the producers will release updates and patches to combat any malicious attempts to access your computer. If you want to stay virus free, then don’t ignore those update requests.
2. Update your antivirus software
Whether it’s Antivirus for Mac or Antivirus for mobile, an integral part of Internet security is down to just how good your software is. Viruses are so sophisticated now that your old antivirus software may not be able to cope with the barrage of trojans, malware and malicious content. Update your software regularly and if you haven’t invested in some new security in the last couple of years then do so. Make sure your software is set to scan your computer every couple of hours and ask it to scan everything you download before you send it on or open it.
3. Beware of attachments
Many viruses will attack your computer via attachments. Unopened attachments are safe (as long as you have kept your software up to date) so if anything looks suspicious, or you do not know the sender, then it’s usually best to just delete the email straight away. If you do want to open the attachment then ensure you use your antivirus software to scan it first (you can change the settings so it does this automatically).
Remember, just because an attachment is from a friend or colleague, it doesn’t mean it is safe. Many viruses will infect a computer and then send itself to everyone on the owner’s address book, so always scan before you open an attachment and if you aren’t expecting anything from that person, double check with them before you get rid of it.
4/ Use a firewall
A firewall is your first line of defence when it comes to Internet security. It is effectively a wall that stands between you and the Internet, helping you to track what’s coming in and what’s going out. You can customise who you want to receive and send information to and if anyone else tries to access your information, the firewall will immediately stop them.
Firewalls are so important that after antivirus software, it is the second most essential piece of kit to ensure your computer is safe.
5/ Test yourself
Now you’ve implemented all of the above, the best way to test your security is by doing it yourself. After opening your Internet browser, you are effectively opening the door to any number of hackers to access your information, but with these precautions, you should be difficult to attack.
Use some of the free software available to download to test just how solid your defences are and once you receive the report, it’s easy change your security accordingly.
Health, health, health; it’s all we seem to hear about these days. Hours of television programming and advertisements are dedicated to the issue and pages upon pages of magazine and newspaper articles offer different, usually conflicting advice, on what it is to be well and live a healthy lifestyle.
Amongst all this confusing and varied advice, is a crucial and unarguable constant: health is such a hot topic, simply because it is so important. While the effort to keep healthy may seem daunting, in actual fact it is dwarfed by the benefits brought about by making such changes. Whether it’s alterations to your diet or investing in some home exercise equipment, changing your life for the better is as easy as it is important.
The first facet of life that springs to mind when people mention health is inevitably exercise and keeping fit. The benefits of regular activity are numerous and go beyond the immediately obvious. One of the most important improvements exercise will bring to your life is a significantly decreased risk of heart disease, while other cardiovascular risks such as high blood pressure are also reduced.
Age should place no restriction on a person’s attempt to exercise. Numerous mobility aids are available to keep older generations active and help them retain their strength and independence. Keeping fit is simply a case of finding the right exercise for your needs and abilities. Even something as simple as a regular walk can greatly improve your quality of life; a swim is even more advantageous as it greatly reduces the stress placed on joints.
The other major factor to consider when looking for a healthy lifestyle is diet. The ‘five a day’ drum has been banged often enough for everyone to be aware of it but sticking to these portions of fruit and vegetables is nigh on useless if the rest of your diet is a poor mix of the wrong sorts of food.
There is, however, no need for a draconian banning, omission or avoidance of any foods; as is so often the case in life, the key is balance and moderation. Fruit and vegetables should take up approximately one third of your daily diet; which can be easily achieved by making them part of every meal.
Another third should be occupied by bread, rice, potatoes and pasta. These starchy carbohydrates are the body’s main source of energy. Unrefined carbohydrates are better as they will contain the whole of the grain and will therefore be rich in fibre and other healthy nutrients. Protein from meat, fish and eggs is important for both muscle growth and repair while dairy products, in moderation, play an important role in the provision of calcium. Food and drinks that are high in fat and sugar should take up the smallest amount of space on your daily healthy plate.
Regular and effective sleep can also have a great impact on your health. The ideal target for adults is a minimum of seven and a half hours shuteye a night. For some, this necessity can rise to nine. Of course, getting the right amount of sleep is sometimes something that isn’t practically possible. Work, family and the stresses of modern life can often result in disturbed, shortened sleep patterns. A number of sleep aids are on hand to combat this and ensure that, when you do get your head down, you are rested and recharged properly.
Nearly all facets of life can pale into insignificance and be negatively affected if your health is poor. Start making a few simple changes today and enjoy all the benefits of a new lease of life.
On the face of it, most email systems seem to be very similar. They offer a way to contact and transmit information to people and send attachments. This leads to the notion that since all email systems fulfil the same basic role, they are all intrinsically the same. A recent email migration report published in the Independent has highlighted precisely why this is the case.
Furthermore, the piece has cast light on why nearly 80 per cent of businesses within the next two years are considering making major enhancements and upgrades to their current email systems as part of anExchange 2010 migration.
The article is based on a report commissioned by respected email management company Mimecast and their investigation has revealed some interesting findings about how businesses view their email systems, the different costs attached to running each system, and the potential pitfalls and dangers that can arise if your email system is not of the highest standard.
One of the first things a company will notice when its email system is not up to scratch is the actual running cost. The article cites Microsoft Business Group lead Jacob Jaffe, who stated:
“Email is the backbone of most organisations today, providing the core means for communication with the outside world. Innovation in this platform has moved forward at a blistering rate in the last few years so much so that a customer currently running Exchange 2003 is having to pay up to 40 per cent more to store email and archive content than a customer that has moved to Exchange 2010 or Exchange Online today.”
Yet saving money is not the sole reason businesses are keen to embrace the new Exchange 2010 software as their core system for email. The Mimecast report revealed that keeping up to date with the latest technologies was also a primary reason for businesses wanting to upgrade. Indeed, of the 500 IT decision makers the company contacted, 385 stated they wanted their company to upgrade to Exchange 2010 to take advantage of the software’s new features; these include reduced costs to deploy the software across a business, easier administration and access to archived data, improved disaster recovery solutions, and additional features that help to increase productivity.
However, while reducing costs, improving functionality and future-proofing your business are good reasons to consider Exchange 2010 migration, there is another important reason why businesses are opting to make the switch: security.
The article in the Independent quotes the combative words of Monty’s Outlook founder Monty Mumford who, in the light of recent well-publicised breaches of security by hacker-activist groups like Lulzsec and Anonymous, stated: “Complacency about online security is a refuge that only fools would cling to. Businesses are defined by their content and how they manage data and information so those who are unprepared for potential intrusions into that business don’t deserve their customers.” Mr Mumford went on to say; “It can happen to anybody, but it should happen to nobody. There is no excuse, none at all [for a lack of security]. Get wise or get turned over.”
The final reason identified by the report, explaining why businesses are considering Exchange migration, is the growing importance email plays both in generating and maintaining customers. This is significant not just in terms of bringing in new custom but also in ensuring that current clients remain loyal to your company, through a well-timed and relevant email campaign, for example. With 77 per cent of businesses ready to upgrade their email systems over the next two years and with billions of gigabits of vital data needing to be seamlessly ported over, the decision to migrate to a better, more secure and intuitive email system is central to the future development of any business.
When we think of a sofa, we tend to think of it being in situ in a particular living space. We may have different ideas about what a sofa should be made of, how it should look and how it should be placed within any given space, but generally we assume that sofas are for one thing; sitting on.
Soon, that universal assumption may have to change.
In September, a team of engineers took a brown leather couch and transformed it into something quite different, breaking a world record in the process. They took the two-seater couch, added a coffee table and the obligatory fruit bowl and then used them as the basis for a sofa that would potentially break the world speed record for a piece of household furniture.
If that sounds a tad strange, then it is worth remembering that an Englishman held the previous world record; Marek Turowski set the best top speed for a sofa back in 2007.
The contraption was courtesy of a team of designers and engineers at Add a Motor To It. Taking on board the mantra in their company name, they added a motor, some wheels, pedals and a steering mechanism to develop the sofa. Once the construction of the motorised sofa was complete, they managed to set a new top speed of 163 kph (101 mph) during runs on the runway at Camden Airport, Sydney.
Paul McKinnon, who helped construct the fastest sofa in the world, said: “It’s the oddest vehicle we’ve ever built.”
The addition of a coffee table is an interesting point in the design; indeed, it seems counterintuitive to add weight and mass to the sofa, when you are attempting to reach high speed. However, as Mr McKinnon pointed out, the coffee table served an ingenious purpose:
“With race cars, you can use the aerodynamic body kit, but with the couch it was a matter of just doing what we could. We tried to break the airflow with the coffee table,” he explained.
This isn’t the first time that such a vehicle has been built; in November 2008, a British inventor called Edd China unveiled his sofa vehicle at that year’s Classic Motor Show at the NEC in Birmingham. Named the Casual Lofa, the vehicle was, at the time, the only street-legal sofa in the world.
Mr China’s creation had many innovative features that you are unlikely to find in the showrooms of many car manufacturers; these included a pizza pan steering wheel, a drinks can to operate the brakes, a chocolate bar to change gears, indicators in two flowerpots, and lastly, a speedometer hidden inside a clock. In addition, in 2010 students at Brigham Young University incurred the wrath of university officials when they built a motorised sofa to use as transport around campus. Using a broken wheelchair and two 12-volt car batteries, Nick Homer and Stewart Clyde initially used their vehicle to get around the university site to the delight of fellow students. Unfortunately, the enterprising duo were subsequently banned from doing so by officials, who pointed out motorised vehicles were not allowed on campus.
If you don’t fancy installing an engine to power your sofa, there are other alternatives. In Lisbon a major telecommunications company organised a sofa racing contest to allow contestants to win tickets to a rock music festival. Competitors were given a sofa on a set of wheels and raced the vehicle around the course by pushing it.
It seems the days when living room furniture was merely something that sat immobile in your front room may now be at an end, but it seems a fair guess that buyers are unlikely to use horse power ratings and fuel efficiency calculations as a primary reason for buying their choice of sofa!
Everyone likes to save money where they can, and vehicle costs are no exception. When one adds up all the expenses of running a vehicle (road tax, maintenance, fuel prices, etc.), the final bill can be surprisingly high, meaning that many drivers are now looking at every option available to make running their vehicle a little cheaper. Van drivers are certainly no exception, especially given the extra expense often associated with keeping a bigger vehicle on the road.
But aside from choosing cheap van insurance, what else can be done to keep your insurance premiums as low as possible? Keeping your van secure and avoiding accidents at all costs are both easy ways to do this, as many companies will reward drivers who have never had an accident with bonuses and lower quotes. This is especially so for vans and bigger vehicles, which are often tricky to drive and can be hazardous. To reap the benefits of lower premiums and better policies, follow our top tips for safe driving.
It’s important to be aware of the size of your van at all times, especially if your route consists of narrow roads or bridges. The best advice is to not take risks: taking a slightly longer route around a low bridge is infinitely better than chancing it and destroying the top half of your van. Another thing to remember is blind spots: a van has more of them due to its bulky structure, and is often missing a rear window or rear view mirror. This results in lower visibility for the driver, making accidents more likely. Adjust your mirrors carefully before you set off, and check your mirrors more often to stay aware of what’s going on around you.
It’s also important to check the van itself before beginning your journey. Check the rear doors are locked or that the load is securely attached to the vehicle, as well as checking the tread and pressure of your tyres. The tread must be at least one millimetre, any less can result in a large fine from the police should you be stopped and checked. You should also make a note of the condition of the van in general (the sound of the engine, any potential damage, etc.) and take into account the road and weather conditions when planning your journey.
Of course, all standard road safety rules still apply: take regular breaks, stick to the speed limit, and be aware of what’s happening around you. Big accidents don’t just come from big mistakes: often a simple error, such as a glance in the wrong direction, can result in far more significant damage.
Aside from lower insurance premiums, driving safely can also save you money in repair bills, van maintenance and even compensation from other drivers. And as the nights get colder and the roads become ever more treacherous, being careful on the roads has never been so vital. Remember our tips to ensure that you stay safe (and free of high insurance bills!) this winter.