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November 2010

R is for… Retirement

Posted on 30th November 2010 in benefits/ direct gov/ entitlements/ retirement

My Dad asked me recently where he should look to find out what he is entitled to when he retires, so I figured that as I am doing the research for him I may as well share it in case anyone else would find it useful.

For a general check up of benefit entitlements, there is a site called Turn2Us

The Direct Gov website offers several options for those about to retire, including:

Guide if you’re about to retire

Overview of the different areas covered in this section

Trace a company or personal pension scheme

Find a company or personal pension scheme you’ve lost touch with through the online form from the Pension Tracing Service

Retirement checklist: who to notify, when and why

Claiming the State Pension, checking you’re entitlement to benefits and paying the right tax in retirement

Early retirement – effect on your pension

What effect early retirement might have on your State and other pensions, steps you can take to protect your pension income

How much income will you have in retirement?

Get a pension forecast, trace old pensions, check government benefits and make the most of your savings in retirement

Do you need to top up your National Insurance contributions? (money, tax and benefits section)

Making up the shortfall if you don’t have enough qualifying years in your National Insurance record

Making sure you’ve stopped paying National Insurance

Your National Insurance contributions if you’re working after State Pension age

Why it’s important to fill in your Pension Coding form

When you are nearing State Pension age, complete the ‘Pension Coding’ (P161) form to make sure you don’t pay too much tax

Help if you have little or no pension

If you end up with little or no pension you may be able to get Pension Credit and may be entitled to a non-contributory pension if you are over 80

Report your change of address, bank details or other circumstances to The Pension Service

Find out how and when to report any changes in your circumstances that may affect your pension and benefits

Additional links

Claim more

More about Pension Credit

Over 60? You may be entitled to more money each week

Useful contacts

Benefits from retirement age

The government offers various kinds of financial support for those in retirement – it’s worthwhile finding out if you will qualify. Some are income related, some are not.

Pension Credit

Pension Credit is an income-related benefit for those living in Great Britain who have reached the minimum qualifying age. It guarantees a minimum weekly income (2010-2011) of:

  • £132.60 if you are single
  • £202.40 if you have a partner

If your income in retirement is less than this, you can get top up payments to bring you up to the guaranteed level.

The age from which you can get Pension Credit Guarantee Credit is gradually increasing from 60 to 65 between April 2010 and 2020. To find out the age when you may be able to apply for Pension Credit, you should use the State Pension age calculator.

The State Pension age for both men and women will rise in the future. The government is reviewing the current timetable for increasing the State Pension age from 65 to 66. No decision has yet been made as to how the timetable will change. Any change will require the approval of Parliament.

Changes to the State Pension age are likely to affect the Pension Credit qualifying age.

Other income-related benefits

You may also be entitled to other income-related benefits including:

  • Council Tax Benefit
  • Housing Benefit
  • Cold Weather Payment
  • help with funeral costs
  • help with health costs

Benefits not related to income

Some benefits are available whatever your income, including the Winter Fuel Payment, disability payments, attendance allowances and bereavement benefits.

Can anyone suggest any other links that may help someone, about to retire, to find everything that they are entitled to?

G is for… Guest Post from

Posted on 25th November 2010 in onlydads/ sex/ single father/ single parent

The first ever guest post on my blog is by my lovely friend Bob. If you don’t already know him, then the only thing I need to add to his post is that I want you to read it with the knowledge that he is the master of understatement, a genuinely humble and modest man. Bob is a wonderful father to two very lovely (and lucky) girls, a good friend and has a work ethic that most should admire.

Without further ado, and with much applause, I hand you over to Bob:

The invitation to write something for @coffeecurls’ blog was met with a mixture of pride and trepidation. Pride because this is one of the few blogs I really read, and Lisa’s writing style is easy and flowing and natural. It would be a hard act to follow. Trepidation? Well that feeling arose because firstly, my writing style is more jolted and clumsy, and secondly, I knew if I was to write anything, I would want to make it meaningful and informative. And to do that, I would have to be honest.

So this post may be a bit clumsy in terms of grammar and it may not flow with ease. But it is written from the heart and the head and I have tried to be really open and honest about quite a tricky subject for many single Dads; this blog post is about love and sex.

With running I am privileged to come into contact with many lone fathers and there is a general perception that single dads live their life like Jack the Lad. I think people do the Maths…”ten times more single mums than single dads…blimey son, you’re in luck”

And in some ways this is true. As a single Dad we do meet more single mums than we do single dads. Of course we do. But there is a gap between the statistic above and living the lifestyle of our mate Jack!

I will explore why I think this is with my own story:

Welcome to the world of being a single dad

I was left living with my two girls (then 4 and 7) when my wife ran off with her gym instructor 6 years ago or more.  This chap was many things, but he was also muscular, extremely fit, and in truth quite handsome. When you hear from your ex that he is also “very good in bed” as a man you feel…well what do you feel? Deflated? Not a bad word, yes – deflated.

But this feeling of “deflation” is amplified. When you become a single parent Dad through separation it is always “news”. People mutter and talk. “She’s left him and her kids”. One can almost hear the questioning about what sort of husband you must have been to facilitate such drastic action as a Mum leaving home. These are hard concerns and worries to live through.

My introduction to single parenting began at 4.00pm one afternoon in May 2004. I came home from work early to find my two daughters with a childminder. The two girls and the childminder were visibly upset. My youngest Anya was crying…the childminder took me outside and told me that “she has left”.

My wife had left. She was never to return. I paid the childminder off and asked her to leave us.  I remember seeing her run down her path audibly crying. Back inside, both girls looked scared. I remember hugging them. But it was not a love hug, the sort of hug that some Dads reading this will give their daughters and sons. It may not have been a hug at all. Perhaps a mutual “clinging” would be a better description.

The entry point into becoming a single parent is rarely a pleasant one. We do hear of mutual partings where everyone remains friends, but for many I fear, it is so often the opposite.

My entry point to single parenting left me feeling broken. Like I was not a true man. Something less than a man… a failure.

Later that same week I had to walk into work. Everyone knew by then.  It took guts and strength to hold my head up. I did not (could not) hold it up high. But hold it up I did. All single parents reading this will know that inner strength that we develop. The strength that says “get up” when all you want to do is crawl away and hide.

I relied heavily on that inner strength in the first few weeks and months.

But in those early days I was supported by many. Friends like @Traveloguer (he’s crap at Twitter so don’t follow him! ) kept me going in ways I can’t adequately express. How fortunate to have true mates…but (and I’m sure all single dads will relate to this), you also find your house being visited by single women with all sorts of offers of help and support especially in the early days.

I used to wonder if it was because they didn’t think I could cope on my own…now I wonder if at least some of them thought they might strike up a relationship??

Jack the lad!

One such lady…Sophie,  caught me on the way into work one morning. (I was in a suit and tie in those days). She took my tie off in the street and loosened my collar, and lifted my chin up, pecked me on the cheek and said something like “much better”. I got into work that morning with something of a spring in my step…a week later she asked if I wanted to come over to her house in Provence for a few days. “Just the two of us”. The kids were packed off to Grandma’s in a flash and I was on a plane!

If you can’t enjoy sex in the late September warming climate of Provence with no kids and wine at lunchtime then there is something wrong. It was a blissful few days 😉

But back in the UK, the daily grind of another type returned. Guilty at having left my kids and mounting pressure at work, and an endless round of Divorce hearings and…the list goes on…meant that our fledgling relationship was put under strain. This one was not to last. But Soph was and is a lovely person…and for reminding me that I was a man and not one who should hide-away was a real gift. Thank you Soph!

It was a year before I met Lisa. (Lisa was blonde with extremely curly hair btw).  Another lovely woman – this time a single mum. We used to live a mile or so from each other and although we never moved in together, we used to see a lot of each other. It was good…but again not destined to last.  Another 11 month relationship?? Another lovely person gone from my life. Lisa was a Northerner and could make me laugh like no-one before.  But why?

Sex (I believe) became an issue in both these two relationships sadly. Both Lisa and Sophie enjoyed having sex with me. And I did with them – don’t get me wrong. But these relationships were being forged at a time when single parenting and work were really sapping me of my sex drive.

I was spending day after day doing house work, making packed lunches, shopping, cooking, trying to cope with a full-time job…and to be honest, by the time I got the kids to bed at 8ish I was more Done-In than Don Juan.

I think many single mums will relate to the shear tiredness factor that must impact on new relationships. But for dads who cope with the all the domestic drudgery…I really do believe that there is something emasculating about the whole thing. What is it my “friend” Chris wrote in a paper once “Bob …more Wonder Woman than Superman”

He made a valid point!


Men need confidence to enjoy good sex. That is a male #fact.

So when single dads I talk to speak of feeling “effeminate and boring” because all they do is housework and domestic stuff, I can really relate. It’s a horrible feeling.  All single Dads I have ever met go through periods when their confidence (hence their sex-drive) disappears temporarily.

I tell them (and myself when I remember) that although we may be domestic drudges; my God, we should be super confident because we really are doing it all. Alpha Males might be bullish in the work place and a bit shouty down the pub…but if you want to find a real man…single dads up and down the land step up to plate, and in my book, have everything to be proud of.

Our confidence really should be sky high!

As for me, I long for the day when I find myself in a long-term sexually fulfilling and loving relationship.

It takes confidence though to make a move – and sometimes I still feel like I might want to hide away – while at other times, I just know I can move mountains!

Whatever – and I do like to keep our single dad friends in mind…our time will come. I’m sure. If in doubt we just need to look at the statistics… 😉


Yes, he did start by saying he couldn’t write. Am sure you’ll all agree with me now that he is a far too modest man! Please comment below to let Bob know what you thought about his guest blog – it took some convincing to get him to do it and I’d really like him to feel the love! If you are a twitterer – please also tweet him @OnlyDads to share your views on this post.

Oh, and send him some socks too please.

ODEON #HOreply

Posted on 24th November 2010 in colchester odeon/ compliment/ odeon

Today I was awoken by the postman at 7am…. Feel a bit sorry for him really as it’s not a pretty site! He handed me a tube. Intriguing. Inside the tube was a large Dispicable Me sticker, 3 minions and a letter!

In case you aren’t aware, this relates to a complaint I made.

I have already had a very lovely response from the General Manger at Colchester Odeon here.

So I wasn’t really expecting a reply from HO as well. At risk of further angry comments (see comments already made on first Odeon post…) although I do appreciate the Odeon sending me the sticker and the minions, the letter they sent kinda indicates that they didn’t ‘get’ the complaint at all.

It says:

Dear Madam,

I apologise for my delay in getting back to you sooner over this matter.

Please find 3 minions. Not sure if they £1 each but the cinema is not allowed to sell merchandise as they have a binding agreement with the Film Distributors.

Despite this I apologise for the disappointment this caused and financial cost to you. I hope this helps ease the discomfort.



Today – 29 November 2010 – I have written a compliment letter to Regional Manager:

Dear Mr xxxxxx,

I just wanted to drop you a quick note of praise for the outstanding customer service that I recently received from xxxxxxxxx of the Colchester Odeon.

I had a complaint based upon a visit to the Colchester Odeon and xxxxxxxxx acted promptly and intuitively to put it right. I truly felt that the level of customer service given by xxxxxxxxx far exceeded my expectations and I feel it only fair that I write to you to applaud him for his actions.

You have a shining star of customer care within your midst and I hope that congratulate him accordingly.

Conversely – the ‘official’ letter that I received from the Odeon Customer Care team was badly written, in poor English and demonstrated no understanding of the actual issue raised.

xxxxxxxxx could and should be an example to your Customer Care team.

Yours sincerely,


Lisa Hall

Socksy #OddSocks

Posted on 22nd November 2010 in odd socks/ onlydads/ poetry

When I’m cold and feeling the chill

They always make me feel brill

They may not be pretty

But they’re warm and snuggly

They may not match

But don’t say that they’re ugly


They never care

If I’ve washed my hair

Or done my make-up

So it’s ‘barely there’

They wait all day

Without complaint

Till I come home and then they’ve got a date


We stretch out on the sofa

My odd socks and me

We laze together and watch the telly

We drink sometimes wine and sometimes tea

And do you know what?

We feel all socksy!


This poem was written in support of @OnlyDads and the Oddsocks Christmas appeal.

OddSocks! OnlyDads needs your help this Christmas

This year, has been asked to decorate a Christmas Tree which will be placed in the Mediaeval Courtyard of the Dartington Hall Trust. It will be a wonderful setting for what we hope will be a memorable Tree.

The Dartington Hall Trust is committed to work in the fields of Arts, Sustainability and Social Justice. Picking up on these core themes, OnlyDads is inviting Mums and Dads to get involved in this event and we have proposed to have Socks as our theme. This is where you come in!


We aim to decorate the OnlyDads tree with hundreds of bright and wonderful socks. We are inviting parents of children to:

  • Make and/or decorate a sock that can be hung on the tree.  Artistic imagination will be required!
  • Ask the child to place a message in the sock – based on the following prompt “make a wish for your Dad?”. Being a Dad’s based lone parent organisation we know that many children will have Fathers who have died, or are absent, or in the case of some, their sole carer. For other children living with both Mum and Dad, this will still be a fun and creative exercise. The important thing for us is not to exclude any child from participating.

Then What?

The sustainability theme is important to us.  We will preserve all these important messages on a dedicated website to begin with. Thoughts are also being given to the publication of a book (with pictures of the decorated sock and the message accompanying it).

Given that Dartington Hall has such a vibrant interest in the Arts – thoughts are also being given to an Artist turn our Socks (and messages) into a permanent work of Art…the possibilities are endless.

Our “odd socks” theme seems to be catching! Please, grown-up or young person, if you want to draw a picture or write a poem about socks, just send it to us. These all add to the overall project in a really positive way.

What to do next?

Assuming you and your child(ren) would like to get involved (we hope they do) then we will need the Sock with the Message inside to reach us by 30 November 2010. Please include in the envelope a note with your child’s first name and age.

Socks need to be sent to:

OnlyDads, Room D4, Foxhole, Dartington Hall, Totnes, Devon, TQ9 6ED United Kingdom

There will be prizes for the best designed socks. Some examples include:

Most innovative sock = £50 of  Argos Vouchers (many thanks Woolley & Co Solicitors)

For the Mum/Dad who helps with the best ideas for project = B&B for two with a bottle of bubbly in the room at the fabulous Watermans Arms in Devon (Many thanks Rob and Jane)

Most touching message = annual family pass to Woodlands (thanks Woodlands)

Craftiest Sock = a special “non sew bunting kit” from the fab @redtedart

Sweetest Sock = £10 gift voucher from Cranch’s (the world best sweetshop)

But we do apologise in advance –  socks cannot be returned as they may end up as a permanent work of art!

Read more about OnlyDads here

Magical #WinterWonderland

Posted on 20th November 2010 in #winterwonderland/ children/ days out/ family/ ice skating/ rides/ roland rivron/ roller coaster

Thursday night we were lucky enough to get a sneak preview of the Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park in London. To say it was magical is one big fat understatement! It was an incredible night out that I know will have created lasting memories for my boys.

As you get close to the park the skyline is alive with brightly lit towers, rides, big wheels and all manner of exciting looking things.  I’m not sure who was more eager to get in there – the kids or me!

Amazingly it is free to enter, so if you don’t fancy the rides it’s still worth going along to soak up the atmosphere and enjoy the Christmas market.

As you walk in there are some lovely Christmassy stalls offering a range of different wares for unusual present ideas. Plus a tantalising aroma which is a meld of spiced pretzels, BBQ, roasted chestnuts, hot flavoured nuts, candies, steak burgers, german sausage, hot chocolate, waffles, crepes and much more.

The children were keen to get the huge (frightening looking) rides but before we ran ahead we stepped into an innocuous looking ‘Hall of Mirrors’ I’m so glad we did, it was hilarious! Before you get to the maze of mirrors, there is a room full of different moving floors, which had us all in fits.

After much persuasion, I did manage to convince DH that ice skating was a great idea and we all donned incredibly crippling skates and headed onto the open air ice rink. We did place bets that I would be the first to stack it but it was actually DS1 who went first, and second and third and….. I think I was the third member of the family to ‘go down like a sack of spuds’. Have to say I was reasonably impressed that the ice didn’t shatter 😉  I learnt two things, one that I am not Jane Torvill and two that it is sometimes useful to have a well padded derrière!

Also spotted Roland Rivron in the ice rink, I think he was with the skating display (whether as a skater or not I don’t know as the boys were keen to get onto the scary roller coaster!) DS1 says that I scream to much on roller coasters…

As you enter and leave the park you go by a German singing reindeer – highlight of night for me, he was fab!  Just don’t laugh too much at the glimpses of me!

#Winterwonderland at Hyde Park. Witness the German singing reindeer – no day out is complete without one! Please excuse the glimpses of me and the nest of snakes that is my hair….

If the video doesn’t play for you, you can access it via the link below.

Winter Wonderland from MrsLJHall on Vimeo.

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