They must think we are stupid!

“Hello,
Message important for you! You have a tax refund of £ 241,76 GBP still pending! We have been unable to credit the funds on your account.”

Their email address showed as:HM Revenue & Customs <payment@germany-carsale24.com>

Honestly!  Even if the email address hadn’t been visible, the dodgy English in the subject field would have made it an obvious scam: “Enquiry from HMRC urgent for you! You have a tax refund of £ 241,76 GBP still pending!”.

Reported to HMRC.

07527915436

“Am I speaking to Mrs PinQ?”

“Ye—s”

“Hello Mrs PinQ.  I am Dave [MYAR5E] from Credit _______”

I didn’t catch the name of the ‘company’.

“It is my understanding that you have personal debt that you pay off monthly.”

“I must stop you there.  This number is TPS registered.”

“But your number was given to us by Citizens Advice and the Financial Conduct Authority with regard to your debt.”

“I don’t think so.  Even if Citizens Advice did have my details due to a problem with debt, they would not contravene the DPA ’98.”

“Well, what I don’t understand is if you can’t amanage your debt, why you have TPS.”

He then hung up.

I have reported the call to the TPS, Action FraudCitizens Advice and the FCA.  Mainly because of the people that would be suckered by these scammers – especially when they are bandying about organisations such as Citizens Advice and the FAC.

71%

Our Last Hope

You may think that this is me playing at doing something I fancy but it really is our last hope.

The crowdfunding page has been up for 4 days and not a single donation 😥 so here are the links for those of you that would like to help – if you can afford a few pounds, that would be great, if not, please re-post; very many thanks in advance and thanks to those that have already posted the original appeal on FB:

Seven and a half years ago, after recovering from a major depressive episode and other personal issues, I moved 250 miles South, away from the people and places that I knew and loved. I had no money and many of my friends all over the world bought pieces of my art to help me to buy things that I would need. and three close friends made the actual move possible.  With only a weeks’ notice, no savings and coming into a job that didn’t pay enough to get a mortgage; my friends pitched in and helped me to rent a house and move – I couldn’t have done it without them!

Since then, I have made a lot of lovely new friends, some of whom are now like family, and met my husband and over the years, we worked hard to repay debts that had been brought into the relationship. We lived a simple lifestyle but just as we’d got to the point where things were finally getting settled and straight, I was made redundant.  I took it as a chance to recover from the stresses of the job and to focus on my studies and it turned out to be a fantastic blessing because after four years of marriage and not being able to conceive, I discovered that I was pregnant!

Now, I was earning good money in the job that I had been made redundant from so I had encouraged my hubby to take a risk and accept a one year contract working for a youth charity that meant a great deal to him.  He was finally doing a job that he enjoyed, was intellectually stimulated at work and giving something back so he was extremely happy but before our beautiful baby-girl was born, his contract came to an end.

I applied for short-term contracts (up to six months) in my field but found that I was unable to secure a position once I told potential employers that I was pregnant – even after being told that the job was mine.  I decided to change direction and do something more rewarding and was able to secure a part-time position as a youth worker.  It pays very little but it was enough to keep us from sinking and despite not yet being fully recovered from developing HELLP Syndrome towards the end of the pregnancy, I am still applying for suitable roles within my field as a quality manager.

Don’t get me wrong, I really don’t want to leave my baby-girl with a childminder and I certainly don’t want to go back into a highly stressful career again but I will do whatever is necessary for my family – who wouldn’t?

When my hubby’s contract was coming to an end, one of the organisations that he volunteers with encouraged him to apply for a full-time position and he is now eight months into the recruitment process and just awaiting a start date.  In the meantime, he is doing temp work on less than £250 per week, our savings have disappeared and it could be another 6 months before he gets a start date.  He applies for jobs that pay more – although he realises that it wouldn’t really be fair to start a job and then push off when the start date comes but he is only thinking of the family – but there isn’t much locally that is suitable.

To add insult to injury, our landlady has given us notice on the house.  We have 7 weeks to vacate the property.  With my hubby in temp work, me on maternity leave from a very poorly paid part-time job (and not entitled to statutory maternity pay), we haven’t a hope of privately renting and certainly no chance of buying somewhere.  That means that we are facing homelessness with temporary, emergency accommodation whilst we wait for social housing.

Now, I had been toying with the idea of starting a business for a long time and realised that our current circumstances could well be fate giving me a kick up the backside so I wrote the business plan and have set up the crowdfunding page etc.  My next job is to write some funding bids.  I have to be working or we will have to re-home the puppy, the cat, the chickens and our other furries before we are made homeless – that is how desperate our situation is now.

My weekly shop costs about £30 and it is subsidised with vegetables and bread from a food bank, as well as my Mum giving us food to bring home when we visit.  Those visits have been paid for by car boot sales and over the next few weeks, selling things that I have made at Christmas fairs.  If it hadn’t been for the generosity of family and friends, we wouldn’t have even had enough clothes for our baby-girl.

I could spend the next seven weeks breaking my back to do the house and garden up to try to get our deposit back.  We did a lot of big jobs at our own expense over the years – things that were the landlord’s responsibility but they never had the money and as some of you may remember, left us for 8 weeks with an electrical circuit that wasn’t earthed when we moved in; with no heating or hot water for over 3 weeks a few years ago through January and February and more recently, took over 8 weeks to have a collapsed bathroom roof and ceiling repaired.  Incidentally, they wouldn’t pay for the full job to be done and left us with damp, mouldy walls and rotten skirting board so I stripped the bathroom, let it dry and re-decorated just so that it was safe for baby.  With that in mind, I expect that it would be best to just clean it and spend my energies starting my own business and sorting out where we are going to live.

What is left of our savings will pay for a deposit and move but if I can’t get the funding in to start my business, we’ll be homeless within a month anyway so it really is critical that I get the funding in to start the business.

The business will not only be a way for me to sell my own pieces and to raise the profile of other artists and craftspeople but we will also be able to provide workshops in order to share our skills and knowledge with people who want to learn.  Most importantly, 25% of those workshop spaces will be free to individuals who are in some way disadvantaged and would not normally have the opportunity.  I certainly won’t get rich from it.

Please Close the Gate

EU: the FACTS

Was the title of the leaflet that came through the door this afternoon.

I can’t say that I was surprised to find a UKIP logo with contact details on the back, the leaflet proved to me that they are aiming for a less intelligent following.  The “IF WE VOTE TO LEAVE THE EU” page had green headers and the “IF YOU VOTE TO REMAIN IN THE EU” using red.

N.B. The use of “WE” and “YOU”

You are part of a nice, snuggly, warm club/family if you choose to vote leave.  Isolation and doom for you if you choose to remain.

Not surprisingly, the “facts” are not particularly factual.  Opinion is not fact – even when it’s mine 😉

I had a look at it because Star (the puppy) kept trying to paw at it so I thought I would read it to her.

Now, the reason that I kept it on the coffee table in the first place was so that I could lodge a complaint.  When we got Star, Mr PinQ put chicken wire across our wrought iron garden gate and fitted the following sign (on both sides):

Please Close the Gate

The sign is approximately 5″ x 7″ (roughly 13cm x 18cm) and the gate is easy enough to operate so I was not impressed when I went out with Star earlier and found that the gate had only been pulled to rather than closed.  I was taught that when leafleting, you should always leave the gate as you found it and I KNOW that I closed it earlier; never mind the fact that there is a SIGN asking people to close the gate.

Further to all of this, I then tried to call the number on the back of the leaflet to complain about the gate, only to be put through to the UKIP membership hotline!  Really? Membership?

With my Aryan looks, I might have to ask Mr PinQ to put on some DMs so that he looks as BNP as possible and pay a visit to the local UKIP member’s office…

Animal Babies

Pregnancy update

I’ll start with yesterday morning.

I’ve had an ante natal appointment booked for several months now and like all of my other appointments, I thought that it was just routine.

As with the glucose test last month (which came back fine for anyone who missed that newsflash), I was asked if I knew why I was there.  Yet again, I had to say, “I thought that it was just routine.”  It turns out that it wasn’t.  It’s another appointment that has been booked because I turned 40 this year.  With the resource issues in the NHS, I can’t help but feel a little resentment.

I was there at 08:35 for the appointment time of 08:40 and at 09:55, was taken into a room by a Maternity Assistant to have my blood pressure checked, my urine sample dip tested and to be asked if I had experienced any swelling – apart from the belly?  No.  At 09:20, a doctor called me in, advised me on diet (Really? Has he looked at the other women around here?), felt Baby’s position (she’s breech again), listened to her heartbeat (which left gel all over my tunny because he was struggling – the Midwife is so much better at it and does it in one) and then filled in a form to have me induced on my due date.  WTF?!?!

Apparently, new research suggests – yes, that’s right, suggests – that at and beyond 40, it is beneficial to be induced at term.

Baby-girl, please oh please be two weeks early!

All-in-all, I felt that I had wasted another morning. because despite living only 5 minutes away from the hospital (by car – normally a 10-15 minute walk but much longer now that I am waddling), I didn’t get home until just after 10:00 and to be honest, the doctor didn’t do anything that my Midwife doesn’t do and he did those things less competently.   His bit about diet made it seem like he was reading from a script, especially considering that my glucose levels were fine.  The worst thing was that when he was feeling my belly, he tickled me and I flinched and he looked up, smiled and said, “The baby is kicking.”  No, you idiot, that was me flinching because I am so damn ticklish!

Anyway, in the last couple of weeks, we’ve been working out some of the detail that hasn’t really been necessary up until now:

The birth plan (which is what we’ll be covering in next week’s Midwife appointment) is for a water birth, just gas and air, no cutting please in either direction unless necessary for baby, Mummy AND Daddy skin-on-skin time once she has arrived and if the worst happens (as with friends a few years ago) and they have to ask Daddy to make a decision between Mummy and Baby – Baby takes priority.

Hospital bag packing – a couple of items still outstanding but inbound.

Realising that we needed to get a tub of formula just in case I can’t breastfeed for whatever reason.  That is now with the hospital bag “stuff”.

Researching reusable nappies.

Long before I was pregnant, I would read the County “Baby” magazine when I was sat in the Doctor’s waiting room because it was either that or auto-trader (or similar).  It does tend to lean towards the ridiculously wealthy and I often found myself growling at the articles.  Now that I am pregnant, we have had our own copies given to us so I can growl in the privacy of my own home.

The latest issue featured a set of books that came to us hot off the press:

Animal Babies

Which can be purchased here if anyone wants them, they are an absolute delight!

Other than that, as usual, I found myself having a bit of a growl.  On the page containing the magazine editor’s letter was a baby dress for £165.  HOW MUCH?!  Even when I was earning a decent wage, I wouldn’t have dreamt of spending that sort of money on a dress for a baby.

Then came the article about water birth, more specifically, the benefits of.  Now, I want a water birth because of my problems with my spine and hip but I am not so naïve as to think that there aren’t any cons to go with the pros.  I realise that an epidural isn’t possible with a water birth, that there is likely to be more tearing because the midwife won’t be able to support my perineum, that someone will have to stand by with a sieve and that if baby is in distress and I have to get out, the pain will hit me like a tonne of bricks but that’s all fine.  For me, the pros do outweigh the cons.  Unfortunately, the article wasn’t particularly balanced and that, to me, is wrong – people should be given the all of the facts in order to make a balanced decision.

Then came the short piece about why women aren’t breastfeeding.  There was the point that there is insufficient support and that when awkward questions are asked in ante natal classes, they are glossed over or ignored because, “we don’t want to put anyone off”.  The final line of the article basically said that we MUST point out the health benefits of breastfeeding.  Now, it is only recently that I have taken a personal interest in breastfeeding but I can honestly say that there are only two things that I was aware of through the media; one of those is the anger of some people towards breastfeeding in public and the other is the health benefits for baby.  Why not try using the three things that will actually make people sit up an take notice of:

  1. The fact that you will lose more pregnancy weight because breastfeeding uses 500 calories per day.
  2. That it will cost over £600 in the first year to feed a baby on formula – breast milk is free!
  3. When you breastfeed, you will save time because you aren’t having to sterilise bottles and mix formula for every feed.

I have decided to breastfeed (if I can) because I know that it will be better for baby but I see people in town with a little one in a pram that is holding a box of “popcorn” chicken or a pack of cheap fairy cakes.  Those mothers don’t give a toss about baby’s health but one or all of the three reasons that I have suggested might make them pay attention.  Yes, I realise that I will have to express some milk and have some bottles in Baby’s “bottom drawer” for exactly that reason and as I said earlier, I even have a tub of formula just in case I can’t for any reason but I am going to try.  Of course, there is also a small environmental impact too, sterilising bottles requires energy (in my mind, steam but I expect a microwave could do the job too) and over the time that you are bottle feeding, that small amount of energy needed every day adds up – but that wouldn’t be a selling point for the mothers who don’t much care about the health benefits.

Babmboo Breast PadsIn readiness, I have bought a supply of breast pads; one box of disposables (for in case need to change them whilst I’m out and about) and some washable ones for the rest of the time.

I also have a lot of cotton, a sewing machine and some bamboo/cotton blend wadding for quilting so if I can work out the construction, I might make some more.

Which takes me nicely into my next point.  Nappies.

There was an article about washable nappies.   Oh I know they are referred to as “reusable” but let’s face it, that is just to make it sound prettier, more attractive to the more affluent mummy.

This time, the bulk of the argument for washables was about cost and the environmental impact.  Depending on which website or article you read, the cost of using disposables varies but on average, it seems to cost about £1000.  Then of course, there is the environmental impact: nappies take a long time to break down and make up a vast amount of landfill – again , the figures vary but at roughly 5000 nappies per child, I’m sure that we are capable of visualising it!

Again, I found that the article wasn’t really balanced.  It blathered on about how with everything that you would need for using washable nappies, you would have to spend in the region of £350, which compared to the £1000 average for disposables, is very attractive.  But you see, in my little scientific brain, there were questions about the environmental impact of washables.  Surely they have to be boil washed or treated with harsh chemicals to kill off any nasties.  What does that do to the environment in this day and age of washing at lower temperatures and using eco-friendly detergents?  How much would your gas and electric bills increase by?  What about drying?  If, like us, you don’t have a tumble drier, do you then have to buy a second set of nappies, almost double that initial outlay, in order to be able to dry them in the Winter?  If you do have a tumble drier, what are the environmental and financial impacts of the increased volumes that you are drying?  Why did the article not account for the financial and environmental costs of baby-wipes and what are the alternatives there?  I realise that the latter is probably because it is considered “negligible” but is it really?  They may only be the size of a tissue compared to the bulk of a nappy but if everyone used 5000 baby wipes (and the rest!) over 2.5 years, what is the tonnage of landfill there?

Anyway, after conducting a lot of research myself and discussing it with Mr PinQ, we have decided to use washable nappies.  However, we are not entirely stupid and have also realised that at each size stage, it will make sense to have a bag of disposables for things like days out because we would rather not have to carry around a wet bag full of soiled, soggy nappies as well as everything else that we will need to take with us.  We also have a pack of disposables for when she is born just to get us used to the whole nappy thing!
Nappies
As it happens, I was lucky enough to get a “Birth to Potty” pack for under £105 and the only bad review of said pack was from a woman complaining that the nappy covers (on the “unisex” pack) were all white.  It was basically an angry one-liner because she expected pretty patterns on the covers like in some of the images and that “they should be done by the advertising standards”.  Yes dear.

I haven’t really started nesting.  It’s a bit of a struggle because I don’t know how soon we will have to move house so everything that I had planned for our home has gone out of the window.  Why put the energy in and find that we have to leave in a month or two?

Challenging behaviour

I walk the puppy in the park for at least an hour every day as well as for little 15 minute strolls along the road.  Mr PinQ takes her for a longer walk down to the beach but at 33 weeks pregnant, that’s a bit much for me to manage so we go out with a flinger, a ball and a bottle of iced water.

To get there, I have to cross the bridge over the Creek and from our house, the best way is via a little pedestrian cut through.  Not 10 metres past said cut through is a path that is split half and half pedestrian and cycle path.  Both ends of the cut through has a no cycling sign:

No Cycling

The cycle path entrances on the other hand, have signs showing that it is a cycle path:

Cycle Lane

There is a clear white line separating the pedestrian and cycle lanes, painted bicycles at each end of the cycle path itself and along the route, several signs to show that there is a split:

Cycling and Pedestrians

Now, as a cyclist AND a pedestrian (and a driver but obviously not along there!) I frequently use said cycle lanes and pedestrian lanes as appropriate – even though it means cycling that extra 10 metres or so *tongue firmly in cheek*.

Today, Puppy and I had just stopped to watch the young foxes play and were proceeding along the cut through when I heard a shout behind me.  I turned around to find a man in his forties on what was clearly a ladies bike, hollering at me to get out of the way.  I refused, turned to face him and stood my ground.

N.B.  I ALWAYS challenge anyone who cycles up there, there are mums with babies and toddlers, elderly people and dogs (with their owners) who use that cut through and are all less able to get out of the way of bikes quickly in a such a narrow space.

I said very plainly: “No.  There is a cycle path less than 10 metres away and this path is clearly signposted as No Cycling.”

And thus began his torrent of abuse.  I can swear with the best of them but it really isn’t a good way to get your point across.  He was calling me a f***ing a***hole and other choice phrases and shouting that if I hadn’t been there, he would have just gone through.  To which I replied quietly, “I know.”

At that, he realised that he had lost and he turned around and went up the cycle path, still shouting abuse.

We met again at the junction of the two paths and in reply to his barrage of swearing and insults I said simply, “Well, maybe you didn’t understand the signs because maybe you just aren’t bright enough.”

He obviously didn’t like that because he stopped on the bridge, got off the bike and leaned it against the ironwork and turned to face me.

I remember my Tai Chi Instructor once telling me about her ‘elephant arm’, where her body took over when she sensed trouble one night.  Mine did.  I got ready for the fight that he wanted.  After all, stopping on the bridge demonstrates premeditation on his part and as a heavily pregnant woman, no-one would have blamed me for kicking seven shades out of him.  Those of you who know me know that I am an absolute puss-cat but you also know me well enough to know that it takes a hell of a lot to make me lose my temper and an awful lot more to make me violent but I would have happily wiped the floor with the little ****.

He squared up to me and began to swear at me again but when he saw my body language and expression and heard me mutter, “come on then” he couldn’t get away fast enough.  It was quite comical.

Puppy and I were then able to have a lovely walk and play in the sun.

The Foxes & The Locals

I love foxes.

I love animals in general.

I spent a little time today watching a vixen and her cubs playing by the creek and a couple of years ago, sat out in the cold for several hours from midnight to watch them play.

I don’t like the over-population locally.

When we moved into this house, it was evident that there were too many foxes.  Their territories are so small and we regularly see them facing off against each other in the road around the corner.

There are no natural predators and the only thing that would keep the population down would be competition for food but that has largely been removed by The Locals.  A woman across the road makes them a fresh sandwich every night, cuts it into triangles, puts it on a plate and places it in the middle of the lawn.  Another person on the same block has a take-away every night and puts the half that they don’t eat out for the foxes.  A lady on our side goes out in the dark specifically to feed them because she likes them.

The constant human interaction has made them completely fearless.  A couple of weeks ago, a fox wandered past me in the garden just giving me a cursory glance.  A gentleman that I regularly see on my puppy walk was telling me that one had gone into his house (before he got his beagle puppy) , eaten a pair of his wife’s shoes and then appeared at his feet in the lounge!

I’m used to rural foxes where a family group can have a territory of up to 40 square kilometres.  Urban foxes can be limited to just 0.2 square kilometres.  Tell me how that is right.

Of course, in May, that spells danger for our hens and rabbits – a rabbit can die of shock just because a fox is sat outside the hutch watching it all night and many foxes will try their damndest to get into coops and hutches.  The hutches and coop that I have built over the last few years are well and truly fox proof (although I was told that wasn’t possible) and there are additional floors and hiding places so that my feathered and furry babies have somewhere to hide if they feel threatened.  I also made sure that there is much more space than they need because I can’t let them all out to play every day but on a nice day, when we are going to be in, the rabbits (and guinea pigs) go out in the run and the chooks have the run of the garden.

Last week, the chickens were out playing and pregnant-tired, I nodded off but awoke as soon as heard them calling an alarm.  I left the puppy in the cage and shot outside to find a fox in the garden, as brazen as you like.  I managed to get a couple of the girls to go into their house where they would be safe but three wouldn’t budge, so I made the decision to run and get the puppy.  By the time I got back outside, the fox (a vixen) had come back into the garden and had Lucinda in its mouth.  I made it drop her and between us, puppy and I scared her off.  I picked Lucinda up and although she was uninjured, she was in severe shock and died in my arms within minutes.

Now, people say, “They only kill for food.”

They don’t.  When I lived in the countryside, I would walk the dog over the hills every day and in the Spring, seen every lamb in a field slaughtered overnight.  Lambs that I had fed just the day before.  The fox only took the one to feed the family.  It’s a pretty stupid animal if you think about it – why kill off an entire food source in one night?!  I’m not even going to go down the road of the plight of farmers with only a small, family farm and the ridiculously small amount of money that they get per lamb at market.

I grew up as a Townie living on the edge of the countryside and didn’t know much about foxes, agriculture etc so it was years before I could make a genuinely informed decision about my feelings on hunting and despite everything, I still don’t believe in the whole fox and hounds hunt.  That is purely for the “amusement” of certain humans.  However, when I lived in the country, I was offered the opportunity to accompany “dog men” (as I call them) when they were asked by farmers to “take care” of a fox problem.

They went out lamping at night, calling in the foxes by making the sound of an injured rabbit, identifying the fox by the colour of its eyes reflected in the lamp light and shooting it.  One, single shot.  In the day, they would go to the fox hole with a bag full of nets and a Terrier, net the small holes and put the Terrier in the main entrance.  The dog can’t get to the fox, a dog fox is about 6 – 7 kg and a vixen about 5 – 6 kg, the Terrier over 8 kilos and all shoulder – it is simply too big to get down the hole.  The key is the nets over the smaller holes; the fox runs out through one of the other exits, gets caught in the net and again, a single shot dispatches it.

The “dog men” love and respect the foxes and can happily sit and watch them play but when they need to, they will kill them but as humanely as they possible can – obviously they can’t go out with a Terrier any more but I’m sure that lamping still goes on when required.  I’ve known dog men get angry when someone who doesn’t know what they are doing decides to get a gun licence and go out lamping – possibly for sport but no doubt to look big and hard – and they wound foxes but don’t kill them outright, leaving them to die slow and painful deaths because they can’t hunt any more and are more susceptible to things like mange.  The dog men genuinely respect the foxes and care for their welfare and won’t dream of killing them if they are not causing any problems.

I was raised to respect the countryside but I learned more about conservation and respect for nature from those hunters than I could have from reading, television or just living in the country.

Even if I had access to a rifle nowadays, I wouldn’t be able to reduce the numbers locally because there are regulations about the distance that you have to be from houses before you can shoot.  I also wouldn’t dream of setting traps or laying down poison, they would suffer slow and painful deaths and I expect a few domestic animals would suffer the same fate but I really do wish that there was something that I could do to reduce the numbers, give them back their fear of humans and stop The Locals from feeding them.

My beloved did try to engage in conversation with the freshly-made-sandwich-lady one night, explaining the issues but she just muttered that it was nature.  She couldn’t grasp the fact that it is _not_ natural for a fox to have a freshly made sandwich served up on a plate every night.

Although I must confess that I am tempted to hang the dead Lucinda on her front door with a little note to say that it’s just nature…