Monthly Archives

November 2011

Fire Risk! Bosch dishwashers, known fault – please RT

Posted on 30th November 2011 in Bosch/ Fire Risk

If you have a Bosch dishwasher I urge you click on this link and check to see if your dishwasher could be affected.

My friend only found out in the middle of the night when her smoke alarm went off – she then found flames pouring out of her dishwasher. As you can see from the above picture, they are very lucky they had a smoke alarm.

This is a known fault which means that any of the dishwashers listed here could potentially be a fire risk. Please check.

Also – please make sure that you have a smoke alarm and that it has a working battery.

Brainstrust #CharityTuesday

Posted on 29th November 2011 in #charitytuesday/ brainstrust/ Professor Peter Black

Today for #CharityTuesday I’d like to introduce you to family-run brainstrust – a small charity with a big impact!

brainstrust is dedicated to improving clinical care for brain tumour sufferers and to providing coordinated support for patients, carers, family and friends in their search for treatment.  The charity provides support at the point of diagnosis by giving detailed and helpful information.  The charity has, this month, been awarded the Information Standard accreditation – this is a Department of Health sponsored scheme that gives an official ‘stamp’ to information on the internet and allows the public to feel confident that what they are reading is both accurate and up-to-date.  brainstrust is one of only 126 charities in the UK to receive this accolade.

The work that the charity does is huge compared to the relatively small family team that runs it.  The charity’s icon is Meg Hill – herself diagnosed with a brain tumour aged just 19.  Her mother, Dr Helen Bulbeck, is the charity’s driving force – attending conferences, offering 24/7 telephone support and being a font of all knowledge and wisdom when it comes to the latest information on brain tumours.  Meg’s brother Will Jones is also a vital part of the charity – working on innovative ideas to reach a wider audience along with many others supporters, fundraisers, trustees and patients.

Meg, one week after her surgery, with Professor Peter Black (who saved her life). 

In the last year the charity has delivered a variety of interesting, useful and highly supportive services for people who are desperate for help.  These include the newly launched Brain Tumour Hub – a database of ongoing clinical trials which patients and carers can search through to see whether there is something that they can become involved with.  This is the most comprehensive database available and is updated regularly as brainstrust has close partnerships with key researchers throughout the UK.  Also at the Brain Tumour Hub is a huge database of support services for brain tumour patients and carers covering everything from local support services through to financial support, online networking and bereavement counselling.

There are meet-ups where people suffering with brain tumours can speak to others in similar situations.  In September the charity funded the launch and ongoing support of a brain tumour tissue bank in Glasgow which will allow, for the first time, any researcher or academic in the field to access vital tissue for ongoing medical discoveries.

On a softer level, brainstrust are also the driving force behind ‘The brain box’ – an incredibly useful resource that offers support as the patient journey unfolds.  The box is sent to whoever needs it and includes – a brain book; somewhere that patients can record their journey and their medical intervention along with a book of tips about how to manage the ongoing treatment and associated emotions.  It also includes a copy of the book ‘Living with a Brain Tumour’ written by Professor Peter Black, professor of neurosurgery at Harvard plus a pill box, a box of tea bags and, for young children, a crocheted red elephant which is brainstrust’s mascot.

brainstrust has published The Snaqgle Tooth Splat, an illustrated children’s story book, designed to explain to children who have just been diagnosed with brain cancer what a brain tumour is and how the doctors and their carers will fight it and provide brain tumour support. The book is available through brainstrust – link here

Support, care, help and advice – all available through or follow on facebook –

Help Find Hollie Jarrett

Posted on 24th November 2011 in Call 101/ Hollie Jarrett/ Missing children

13 year old Hollie Jarrett has been missing from her home in Shoeburyness, Essex since Monday 21 November – if anyone hears from her on twitter, facebook, text etc please call 101 and let the police know. They will follow up any lead, no matter how small, in order to confirm that she is safe.

For more information please visit the Essex Police website – let’s get Hollie back home.

NOAH Enterprise

Posted on 23rd November 2011 in homelessness/ NOAH Enterprise

If, like me, you are in the process of throwing away old and unwanted items in time for a house move (or even just to make room for new Christmas items) please consider donating rather than sending to the rubbish dump.

NOAH Enterprise in Luton is an excellent example of a charity who would be extremely grateful for your unwanted items.

Here is what they do:

NOAH takes a holistic approach to homelessness and exclusion and no matter which service a person comes to first they are encouraged to make use of as many areas of NOAH as necessary to enable them to reach their potential.

Welfare, Advice and Outreach

Welfare services are at the heart of NOAH. It is through their welfare and outreach services that people most often have their initial contact with NOAH. Services include:

  • Day centre
  • Resettlement and benefits advice
  • Drug and alcohol support
  • Counselling
  • Hot meals
  • Healthcare
  • Hygiene
  • Outreach support to help vulnerable people struggling to cope in their own homes

The Welfare Centre is open 365 days a year and is used by over 1,000 people. An additional 60 people are supported at any one time through their outreach work.

I think it is wonderful that services like this exist, and that small donations of items, money or time can mean that you get to a pay a small part in helping someone. Please take a look at their website for more information and to see how you could help too.

Light Up A Life #CharityTuesday

Posted on 22nd November 2011 in #charitytuesday/ Light Up A Life/ St Helena Hospice

Today’s #CharityTuesday post is on behalf of St Helena Hospice in Colchester. Like all hospices they do amazing work and if you aren’t local to Colchester I would urge you to look up your local hospice as I would expect that they will be doing something similar and would greatly appreciate your donation or time.

I sponsored a light for Light Up A Life a few Christmasses ago in memory of my Nan and think that it can make a lovely gift as well as being a really nice way to remember someone that you’ve lost. Read more about the Hospice and Light Up A Life here….

St Helena Hospice Light up a Life

As Christmas grows closer, here at St Helena Hospice, we understand how it can be a difficult time if you’re missing someone you love.

As it’s nearing that time again, I thought it might be good to tell Jayne’s story. Christmas is a particularly poignant time for Jayne, as her husband, Brian, died in the Hospice just after Christmas 2009. She tells us how the Hospice helped them through this difficult time.

Brian, was diagnosed with the rare condition Paraganglioma in January 2005, and was told that he had multiple tumours and the specialists were unable to give him a prognosis, such was the rarity of the disease. After two major operations and radiotherapy, Brian lived life to the full with Jayne and their three boys Will, Callum and Robert (now aged 18, 15 and 12).

Jayne said about Brian “He was, of course, much more than someone with an extremely rare genetic cancer, although in a way it’s typical of him to stand out by having something quite so unique! He was passionate about music, sport, social justice and of course his family. Brian was one of those quiet understated blokes who didn’t always feel the need to push himself forward, but he commanded great respect and loyalty. In turn he was tenacious in everything he believed in, including living”.

“He enjoyed 18 months of being really fit, but then unfortunately another tumour was diagnosed in a really difficult to reach area of his neck. He knew that the operation to remove the tumour had to be done and that a nerve would have to be cut to remove it, paralysing his right hand in the process and affecting his vocal chords.”

The next blow came in the June of 2009, when Brian and Jayne were told that another tumour had been found which was not operable, and Brian would be receiving palliative care from now on. It was at this point that St Helena Hospice came into their lives.

To begin with, the Hospice arranged for a Hospice Nurse Specialist to come and see them at their home in Nayland and then through Brian’s remaining time and even after his death, the Hospice continued to be in the family’s life.

The Hospice offered support on many different levels, including counselling, Day Centre visits and complementary therapies.“But,” said Jayne ”we were then told the shocking news at the beginning of December that Brian only had a matter of weeks to live.

Brian was then offered a bed in the Inpatient Unit. Throughout his time with them, the staff continued to come up trumps realising, for example, that because of the boys, Brian needed a bigger room, which they quickly arranged. The boys were made to feel at home, and friends and family were able to pop in and visit Brian at any time.

As Christmas Day grew closer, Brian was optimistic that he would make it home for Christmas. But, unfortunately, it wasn’t to be. He was spending more and more time sleeping and it became obvious that he would not be able to leave the Inpatient Unit.

Instead making Jayne feel ‘at home’ with Brian in his room was a priority to the staff. “Christmas Eve was the last day Brian spoke, before slipping into a coma. He died on 2 January 2010. All of the Hospice staff and volunteers were brilliant throughout, showing great care and respect for Brian and I. There was lots of laughter mixed in with that care. I have an amazing amount of respect for all of them. Nothing was ever too much trouble” said Jayne.

Typically, the Hospice did everything possible to support Brian, Jayne and their boys. For Brian, Jayne, Will, Callum and Robert, the Hospice became a big part of their lives. So much so, that in October last year, just two days after his 18th birthday, Will ran the Dublin Marathon for the Hospice in memory of his father.

The Hospice brought hope and light into their lives at a very dark time. Jayne said simply: “The Hospice took the stress and the anxiety away; it made living with dying, whilst obviously painful, a nevertheless positive experience for which I will always be grateful”.

The St Helena Hospice Christmas Light up a Life appeal is one that gives you a chance to take stock and think about that special person. They might be a family member, friend, or a loved one. Whoever they may be, we are inviting you to make a dedication to this special person.

We would also like to invite you to one of our Light up a Life events held in various parts of North East and Mid Essex. These short services incorporate traditional carols and readings, and in some locations a tree will be lit as part of the event.

You can get hold of a Light up a Life flyer in any of our shops, or you can make a dedication by calling the Fundraising Office on 01206 791740 or by going to our website:

2011 Light up a Life Events in the North and Mid Essex region

Friday 2nd December

Brightlingsea – 7.00pm, St James Church, High Street.

Friday 9th December

Harwich – 6.30pm, St Nicholas Church, Church Street.

Friday 9th December

Halstead – 6.30pmm, St Andrew’s Church, Parsonage Street.

Sunday 11th December

Colchester – 4.30pm, Colchester Castle.

Monday 12th December

Walton – 6.30pm, All Saints Church, West Street.

Tuesday 13th December

Mersea – 6.30pm, St Peter and St Paul Church, High Street.

Wednesday 14th December

Belchamp St Paul – 6.30pm, Hole Farm.

Thursday 15th December

Tollesbury – 7.00pm, St Mary’s Church, Tollesbury.

Sunday 18th December

Clacton – 4.00pm, Clacton Pier.

Tuesday 20th December

Colchester – 6.30pm, St Helena Hospice, Myland Hall, Barncroft Close.

The School Appeal Hearing

Posted on 21st November 2011 in children/ school appeal

Books and globeI can honestly say that the weeks leading up to the appeals were the most stressful of my life. You’d have to know me to be aware that I wouldn’t say that lightly. It was awful knowing that the fate of my children lay in the hands of strangers – what if they were having an ‘off’ day or what if they’d had a row with their partner that morning, or had a headache, or just didn’t like the look of me?!

I took lots of advice; from people on twitter, from friends, from teachers, from the admissions team etc. All the advice suggested that we didn’t have much of a chance. Several people said ‘be careful not to turn the panel against you’, I found that phrase practically haunted me – in the most emotive and important meeting of my life I wasn’t meant to be emotional, or angry or too questioning.

I think the worst thing of all was that we didn’t have a Plan B. The schools we wanted were right by the house – the other schools were miles and miles away and it wasn’t logistically possible to get both children to both schools at the same time when they were 15 miles apart! My previous post explains the problem more specifically. Frustratingly, as we had not exchanged contracts on our new house the appeal was classed as an ‘out of catchment’ appeal – with our address showing as over 60 miles away from the school!

We’d been told that we stood a reasonable chance on the year 6 place and that we had no chance on the year 7 case as the last few appellants had lost their appeals.

How A Hearing Works

There are two distinct parts to an appeal. First – the local authority representative speaks and explains why the school is full and why it would prejudice the school to have to admit another pupil.

This part is not about my child, it is about the school. Their job is to prove they are full.

There is then a recess during which the panel decide whether or not they find that the effective running of the school would be prejudiced by admitting another pupil.

If they do not find prejudice then the appeal is won. If they do find prejudice then it moves to the second stage of the appeal where the parent has to put their case and explain how it would prejudice the child if they were not able to attend that school.

The panel then decide who would be most prejudiced if the child went to the school and the outcome is issued by post within 5 days.

Our Appeals

1st appeal was for a year 6 junior school place – the LA put their case and explained that the school had smaller than average classrooms and an unusual architectural design which he felt adversely affected the running of the school. We then asked questions based upon what they’d said. My aim here was to ask questions which demonstrated it would be possible for another child to be in one of the classes without causing any problems for pupils or staff.

During the questions we found that in year 1 there were 3 classes each containing 22 children, but in year 2 there were only 2 classes each of which had 32 children in them, I suggested that as the school had chosen to do that in year 2 it must work and therefore there was no reason why they couldn’t have classes of 31 in year 6. We also found that there were 3 rooms in the school which were not currently being used as class rooms which again suggested that there was extra capacity.

We went out for the recess and when we returned the panel told us that they were not able to find that there would be any prejudice for the school to admit another child – appeal 1 was WON!

2nd appeal was for a year 7 senior school place – much trickier as there are 34 children on the waiting list! Again the LA put their case – the school had been built for a smaller population, they had been promised development monies that they would not now be getting, they had dismantled portable classrooms on the promise of a new building which never came, the school could not fit in the main hall at all the same time, they had insufficient designated science labs….

All quite doom and gloom. One thing they didn’t say (but that was in their written report which I had studied at length!) was that they were having to re-open some previously closed rooms because of growing pupil numbers. So I asked for clarification of this and asked how many rooms there were that could be re-opened. The LA did not have the information with them. I asked why they had dismantled the portable classes BEFORE the new building had been finished as surely if they didn’t have sufficient room in the school then they would have had to have waited until the new building was finished – the LA said we could guess at several answers, but he did not know the actual answer. I asked how many children were in each of the year 7 classes – the highest class number was 30 and the smallest was 27 – I said that would suggest that there was room in the class with 27 pupils. The chairman of the panel then pointed out that on his information there was a class in year 8 with 32 pupils.

We again went out for recess and when we returned we were told that the panel were not able to find that there would be any prejudice for the school to admit another child – appeal 2 was WON!

The chairman added at the end that ‘sometimes the system works‘.

So we won both appeals without actually having to say anything about the children and why they should go to those schools which I’m still trying to get my head around. We were expecting a long drawn out process with lots of difficult questions, having to reign in tempers and tears and then waiting 5 long days to hear.

To anyone considering a school appeal I would say make sure you read the LAs case thoroughly so that you are able to identify any weak points in may have. Proving the school isn’t full is by far the simplest way to win an appeal.

To say I was pleased by the outcome is a bit of an understatement. With tears in my eyes I told the chairman of the panel that I loved him, I then hugged him and enthusiastically thanked everyone in the room!

Treasure Boxes #CharityTuesday

Posted on 15th November 2011 in #charitytuesday/ Treasure Baskets/ Womens' Refuge

Today’s #CharityTuesday is a heart warming tale about a little girl who likes to raise money to help others. As she’s so young it would be wonderful if everyone who reads this leaves her a comment of support:

Treasure Boxes is a small enterprise that was started by a six year old girl who wanted to make a small difference to other children.

The project started when the little girl, who likes to call herself the ‘Treasure Fairy’ started to make bracelets to raise money for school funds at the school summer fayre.  People started to place orders after the fayre was over and she thought long and hard about how she would like to spend this money.  One thing she was certain of it that she wanted it to go toward making a difference for others rather then herself.

After some thought the ‘Treasure Fairy’ decided that she would like to use the money to make small shoeboxes of toys for children who had none.  The difficulty was that she could not think where she would find these children.

After some thought, her mother suggested that the local womens’ refuge might be a suitable place to donate the boxes to.  They made an enquiry and found out that resources at the refuge were very stretched and needed to be spent on the essentials.  They were also told that many of the children arriving at the refuge, did so in a hurry and arrived with no possessions.

Upon hearing this, the Treasure Fairy immediately decided that this would be her chosen cause.  She thought carefully about what each box should contain and decided that the essential items should include a cuddly toy for comfort, a stone heart or egg to hold when talking about their worries and a notebook to record their thoughts and experiences, along with other small toys.  Each special keepsake box costs about £15 to create.

It is now her mission to ensure that every child arriving at the hostel receives a Treasure Box upon arrival.  Approximately 50 children a year go through the doors of this particular refuge and there are other nearby refuges that have not yet benefitted from this small project.  The need is great.

The Treasure Fairy is now distributing her bracelets online, asking for a donation of at least £3 for each one.  Orders are now coming in from all over the country.  People can request any size or colour and she does her very best to ensure that no two bracelets are the same.  Mother and daughter sets can be made with the same unique design in two different sizes.

For a really different Christmas gift to a loved one the Treasure Fairy is asking that people sponsor a box.  For £15 the Treasure Fairy sends a handmade card and handwritten note to your chosen friend or relative and tell them that a donation has been made in their name.  In the card, which has been made by the Treasure Fairy herself, they will receive a photograph of the actual box that has been created.  Where requested they will also receive a keepsake bracelet to remind them of the gift made on their behalf.

To find out more about Treasure Boxes please visit the website at, the design and content of which has been chosen by the Treasure Fairy herself. Or you can follow @Treasure_Boxes on twitter.

Lightstrike #Review

Posted on 11th November 2011 in laser tag/ Lightstrike/ review

My children (both boys, aged 10 & 11) were seriously over the moon when they saw that we’d been sent Light Strike to review. My 11 year old said he’d seen the adverts on TV and thought it looked good.

Excuse the red eyes – I don’t call them the evil twins for nothing 😉

They very quickly got through the packaging and assembled their weapons. The fun actually stopped there that night as I’d stupidly forgotten to get any batteries! So they were left tantalisingly on the coffee table until after school the next day!

So, next day, batteries a gogo and we were off! I have to say I’m not really a fan of boys toys per se but the noises these make are brilliant and I can completely see the appeal. The packing is brilliant and the weapons themselves have a range of phrases and noises all of which are loud, clear and help to get the boys into the mindset of the game.

As well as the noises, all of the components light up (hence the batteries!) which adds a whole new dimension to gameplay as you can switch the lights off and play in the dark – or in the garden.

Another feature we all liked is the finger print recognition. Obviously it doesn’t actually recognise your fingerprint but there is an area where you have to press your finger in order to get the gun started – cool huh.

The whole game is very similar to Laser Tag and I can see that the boys will get hours of fun from it in different ways. They are already ‘customising’ the game play as the basic concept as far as we can see is that you have 3 ‘lives’ and each time your gun or your target is hit you lose a life, but the scores are not tallied anywhere unless you do it yourself so it is easy to just re-set and keep playing. I think this feature will be really useful for younger players who might get upset if they were to keep ‘losing’.

I’ve asked the boys to tell me some things about it, they said:

– it’s like having Laser Tag at home

– it’s like a computer game except that you are having exercise too

– the noises are good

– you need quite a big area to play it in

– you could buy more assault strikers and use it for a birthday party

As a mum, I get quite fed up with the constant barrage of online warfare games and the apparent peer pressure for the boys to take part in online games which are aimed at an 18+ audience (even though half their classmates seem to play them…). For me, Light Strike seems to satisfy that boyish need to play a strategy tag game without the children being subjected to all the imagery of the more violent, more adult, online games.

The only cons that I can see are that it takes quite a lot of batteries and that the small ‘targets’ do not clip on very well so my boys ended up not using them, although @liveotherwise pointed out to me that you can buy wearable target vests which would do the job a lot better!

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