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November 2012

Issue 23

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Culture club Getting better with age The award-winning newspaper columnist Matthew Parris speaks to us about his latest book, The Spanish Ambassador’s Suitcase, which celebrates the very British tradition of the diplomat dispatch. After experiencing more than his fair share of failures, the 62 year-old writer tells us why he’s more content now than ever.

Health & Welbeing Are you keeping warm this winter?

Mary Atkinson from the Care Department explains why it is so important to wrap up, and gives you tips to make it easier.

Prizes to be won WIN: £50 of Jessops vouchers in our through the lens photo competition! Send us your best photo inspired by Christmas to enter.

Around Britain Festive shopping at Christmas markets There’s only seven weeks until Christmas, so help you get ready we’ve compiled a guide to the UK’s must see festive markets; selling gifts, foods and drinks from around the world.

Also featured this month Food & drink: Make this delicious recipe, supplied by the chef at one of the UK’s best pubs, in your own kitchen.

Home & garden: George Hill, our resident gardener, is on hand to answer your gardening questions. Latest news: Find out how the Society pauses to commemorate Remembrance Day. Sport & leisure: We reveal new research that suggests exercising into old age could be better for your brain than a crossword; find out more inside. Money: Expert advice from the Energy Saving Trust on how to stay warm and save money on your energy bills this winter.

WIN: A dazzling pair of gardening gloves! Send George a gardening question for your chance to win (See inside for more details)


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Culture club “I love going to the theatre once in a while, so when I heard my local Oddfellows Branch was arranging a trip I couldn’t pass it up.” Sharon - Manchester

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The lost art of diplomacy The older he gets, the happier Matthew Parris feels. With his latest book, The Spanish Ambassador’s Suitcase and Other Stories earning critical acclaim, the 62-year-old writer is more content than he has ever been. “I’ve found the vast majority of things related to getting older are positive and to be embraced,” he says. “I’m far more comfortable and confident now than I was as a young man.” Parris is notably self deprecating. He describes his past career choices – junior diplomat, MP, broadcaster – as “failures” and says it was only relatively late in life that he discovered he could write. “I was 39 and presenting Weekend World on ITV at the time. The editor of The Times had read a few of the things I’d written as an MP and asked me to be the paper’s new Parliamentary sketch writer.

“The art of letter writing is rare nowadays. We just dash off and send an email or a text message instead. It’s a whole new means of expression.

“I wasn’t at all confident that I’d be any good, but that was 1989 – and I’ve never looked back.” Nowadays the former MP for West Derbyshire describes his 13 years of observing proceedings in Westminster as “going rogue”. He would go on to further success as an award winning columnist for The Times and The Spectator. Most recently he has turned his attention to celebrating the very British tradition of the diplomat, a role once described as “a kind of gilded vagabondage”. It seems an odd choice for a man who himself left the diplomatic service almost 40 years ago, less than two years after joining as a junior civil servant. But it was while reading the dispatches that landed on his desk that the Cambridge graduate realised how integral good writing could be to a diplomat’s career. Valedictory dispatches, written by ambassadors when leaving a post, were famous within the Foreign Office (FO) for their honest, hilarious and often harsh descriptions of the countries their authors were departing.

Ambassadors went to great lengths to “polish the prose” of these farewells before circulating them throughout the FO, where they frequently reached the desks of the Foreign Secretary and other senior ministers. “The best ones were often ambassadors’ final dispatches when retiring from the service,” says Parris. “Think of a speech at an office leaving party where the speaker says all the things he’s wanted to say about the office, his colleagues and the country but never has. These were the jewels.”

(Continued on the next page...)


Culture club It was the extraordinarily candid nature of the valedictory that ultimately proved its undoing. Take Lord Morgan, who in 1984 wrote that “the majority of Canadian ministers are unimpressive and a few... frankly bizarre”. His thoughts, which became public in 2009, made national headlines in Canada. A succession of embarrassments resulting from similarly forthright reflections prompted the government to axe farewell dispatches in 2006. But the young Parris never forgot them, and after writing about them in his columns four years ago he was contacted by a radio producer, Andrew Bryson, who suggested the subject would make a fascinating programme and possibly even a book. Six months later, after reading dozens of dispatches Bryson uncovered using the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), Parris was convinced. As Bryson had predicted, a radio series and accompanying book, Parting Shots, duly followed. The Spanish Ambassador’s Suitcase and Other Stories, continues the theme. From Vietnam and Tokyo in the aftermath of war to a vibrant Brazil in the 60s, these clear eyed dispatches, written by ambassadors upon arrival at a new posting, offer a window on history. Parris believes one of the most intriguing aspects of both books is the fine line between humour and seriousness. “There’s this ambivalence throughout between comedy and tragedy, politics and history, that means neither can be easily categorised. Also intertwined are these beautifully evocative descriptions of foreign places. There’s no doubt that some ambassadors would have made great travel writers.”

“It’s a completely ludicrous picture that Phipps paints of Goering,” explains Parris. “He likens him to a big, fat, spoilt child showing off his various toys, using humour to portray the juvenile, fanatical nature of the man. And yet, as head of the Luftwaffe, Goering had other ‘winged toys’ that would one day be launched to murderous effect.” Both books are permeated by a subtle sense of regret at the decline and loss of the Empire. Parris thinks this reflects an enduring sentiment in Britain, especially among the older generation. “This summer’s celebrations were rather contrary to that sad, backward-looking nostalgia that runs through these books,” he says. Readers might be left yearning for a return to the valedictory, but Parris feels its time is gone.

I’ve found the vast majority of things related to getting older are positive... I’m far more comfortable and confident now than I was as a young man.

Of all the dispatches that Bryson found during his hunt through the National Archives in Kew, Parris’ favourite is a surreal report from Berlin in 1934 from the then ambassador, Sir Eric Phipps.

“As long as you have Freedom of Information, any ambassador writing a valedictory would have to consider the possibility that it could be published in a newspaper, which kind of spoils the whole thing. It’s the fact that it’s a confidential conversation between knowing, intelligent colleagues that gives it that special quality.” Nor is it only the FOIA that makes a comeback unlikely. Like Britain, the way people communicate has fundamentally changed. “It’s a whole new means of expression, and I think a lot is gained by that. But something is lost as well.” The Spanish Ambassador’s Suitcase is available now. RRP £16.99.


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The Reader’s Review Book: From 0 to Infinity in 26 Centuries by Chris Waring In one way or another all of life is controlled by numbers. A world without them would be a world without form, organisation, communication or progress. There are plenty of books on the market for those who wish to pursue a scientific study of mathematics, but few trace the evolution of mathematics in a historical and cultural context. This one does, and it does so in an off the peg, informal way throughout; from the oldest known civilisations right through to the present day. This book is a personal account of how numbers have impacted upon cultures and lives. It brings everyday mathematical concepts to life, showing how and why they were invented. This book is a numerical analysis of life and it is entirely up to you how to use it. By delving into it, you are guaranteed to come up with something that interests and intrigues you. Karen Doku, member of the North London District

Through the lens – photography competition The theme of this month’s photography competition is ‘Christmas’, with only eight weeks away, now is the time to send us your festive photos for the December edition. It could be a picture of a snowman, a frosty winter scene, a warm crackling fire or a nativity scene. If we choose your photo to appear in the next edition you’ll win £50 of Jessops vouchers to spend in store, so go and get snapping. You can enter by emailing your photo to ezine@oddfellows.co.uk, posting it on our Facebook wall or sending it in a tweet that mentions @OddfellowsUK. Click on the links below to visit our social media sites.

Terms and conditions 1) Entries can be submitted at any time and still be included in this competition. However the cut off date for each edition will be the first day of the month. For example, this month’s competition closes on 1 December. 2) If successful, you will be contacted by the Oddfellows to arrange delivery of your prize. 3) If your photograph contains an image of a person, building or private location please ensure you get permission from the person/building owner before submitting your entry. 4) By submitting a photograph to this competition you are confirming that you have given permission for the Oddfellows to use and reproduce this image in future publications and marketing material, both online and printed. 5) The Oddfellows will assume your consent has been given once your entry is submitted unless you directly state otherwise at the time of entering the competition.


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Food & drink “My favourite thing about the Oddfellows is that all the events are aimed at foodies like me. We even went on a tour of an English vineyard recently – I’ll drink to that!” George - Brighton

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Sticky Toffee Pudding Created by Wil Findlay, Head Chef at The Cock pub, Cambridgeshire Ingredients (serves eight) 3 oz of dark brown sugar 2 oz of butter 3 oz of self-raising flour 1/2 tsp of baking powder 3 oz of dates

1/4 tsp of bicarbonate of soda 1/4 pt of water 1 egg

Method Soak the dates in the water and bicarbonate of soda for 10 minutes, then turn them into a puree. Cream the butter and sugar together in a large bowl, before adding the egg and mixing everything together. Next, add the flour and the baking powder before mixing again. Add the pureed dates and stir again until everything is thoroughly mixed together. Butter and line a tray or small roasting tin – roughly 20 x 30cm – and then pre-heat the oven to 175C. Bake it for 35 minutes, until the mixture has risen all over. To check it is cooked, insert a skewer. If it comes out with a few crumbs then it is ready to serve. Toffee Sauce

Ingredients 1/2 lb of golden syrup 2 oz of butter 2 oz of soft brown sugar 1/8 pt of double cream

Method Add the butter, golden syrup and sugar to a pan and heat it all up slowly on a medium heat. Bring it to the boil slowly, stirring well throughout. Once warm, remove the pan from the heat and allow the sauce to cool slightly, before stirring in the cream and then pouring over the pudding.

The Cock at Hemingford Grey was recently voted National Pub of the Year and Cambridgeshire dining pub of the year for 2013 by readers of The Good Pub Guide. Situated in the village of Hemingford Grey, its seasonal food is freshly prepared every day. Visit the website.


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Latest news Share your stories and pictures of Remembrance Day events and Bonfire night through our Facebook or Twitter pages. Just follow the links on the right to carry on the conversation.

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Remembrance Oddfellows members across the country have been joining the UK’s annual Remembrance Day ceremonies this month to pay their respects to those armed forces personnel killed and injured in the line of duty. It is customary for representatives from the organisation’s 151 Branches to attend local wreath laying ceremonies and to wear their poppies with pride, commemorating the sacrifice made by so many over the years. Every year at the Society’s Annual Movable Conference (AMC), members attend the traditional wreath laying service at the host town’s War Memorial. During the ceremony, a wreath in the shape of three links, representing the principles of Friendship, Love and Truth is laid to remember the fallen. The tradition of wearing a poppy as a sign of remembrance began in 1920 in America and was inspired by the poem ‘In Flanders Field’ written by Lt Col John McCrae during WWI.

The poppy appeal 2012 is organised by the Royal British Legion. Organisers hope to raise £42 million this year. Visit www.britishlegion.org.uk to see how you can help.

Congratulations!

Shaken or stirred? The new James Bond film Skyfall was launched last month to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the first film Dr No. To celebrate, we’d like you to vote for your favourite ever Bond. Head over to our Facebook page by clicking on the icon below to cast your vote.

Well done to Iris Gillett, who has won a signed copy of Nigel Slater’s new cook book The Kitchen Diaries II. Thank you to everyone else who entered; keep reading Friendscene every month for more chances to win prizes!

Active+ launches in North Gloucestershire A new membership scheme for younger people has been launched in the North Gloucestershire. Membership includes access to social events, discounts and advice for just £25 per year. More than 80 people turned up to enjoy an action-packed lunch break, complete with delicious food and refreshing non-alcoholic cocktails. There was also a Wii challenge with the prize of a £100 Virgin Experience voucher that was won by Roger Hayne (pictured). Alex Walker, North Gloucestershire’s Development Officer for Active+, said: “the launch gave us the perfect opportunity to show what we’re all about. Our social calendar is exactly what younger people need at the moment.”


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Around Britain “These days we take ‘staycations’ in the UK to keep costs down. But wherever we go there are always Oddfellows events to entertain us.” Lesley - South Yorkshire

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This year’s must see Christmas Markets

(Stuttgart Christmas market in Germany) The Christmas Market began in Germany more than 500 years ago. When Oliver Cromwell banned the celebration of Christmas in the 17th Century, the tradition died out in the UK. However, today they are more popular than ever, attracting millions of visitors every year. Hundreds of towns and cities now host their own every winter – here’s our guide to this year’s must see markets.

Lincoln 6 - 9 December Home to the UK’s first modern Christmas Market, Lincoln boasts 250 stalls in a medieval square beside the Castle and the Cathedral. Now in its 30th year, the four-day market showcases food, drink and crafts from Neustadt, the German town twinned with this historical English City.

Manchester 17 November – 23 December One of the country’s biggest and best, Manchester’s market consists of more than 200 stalls spread across eight different city locations. 14 years after it first started, it has become a popular tourist attraction in its own right.

Image courtesy of Marketing Manchester

Even more markets Bath 22 November - 9 December Festive foods, gift ideas and entertainment will take over the streets surrounding Bath Abbey for 18 days. Glasgow visitbath.co.uk © Bath Tourism Plus / Colin Hawkins 16 November - 23 December Stall traders come from Ecuador, Finland and Russia for this five-week festival in St Enoch’s Square.

Belfast: Blenheim Palace: Caerphilly: Ipswich: Leeds: Newcastle: Nottingham: Plymouth: Skipton: Swansea:

17 November - 20 December 16 - 18 November 8 - 9 December 15 - 18 November Now - 16 December 16 November - 1 December 22 November - 24 December 22 November - 24 December 2 - 9 December 23 November - 16 December


Around Britain Profile: Sheffield

Images courtesy of Sheffield City Council

This month we travel to ‘Steel city’ guided by Paul Eyre, Branch Secretary for South Yorkshire and North Derbyshire and an expert Oddfellows historian. Looking back Sheffield has been home to Oddfellows members since 1730. The predecessor to the modern Oddfellows Society – the Union Order – moved to the city from London in the 18th Century after it was banned by the Government of the day. It is rumoured that today’s Oddfellows Society – the Manchester Unity – broke away from the Union in 1810 because of the age-old rivalry between Yorkshire and Lancashire.

Sheffield Winter Garden

Sheffield joined the new Society in 1823 and still has more than 1,300 members in the area today.

City statistics •

England’s third largest city

Population: 560,000

Home to two Universities (Sheffield University & Sheffield Hallam University)

Tough times Stainless steel was invented in Sheffield but the city was badly hit by de-industrialisation during the 1980s. Most of the big industry that once made it the world’s leading producer of steel has gone, but the world’s last independent steelworks remains; making more steel now than ever before. Recent renaissance Over the past two decades, the city has pulled itself up by its bootstraps. Where the giant factories once stood there is now the Meadowhall Shopping Centre, the Don Valley Athletics Stadium and the Sheffield Arena. The City is home to the World Snooker Championship in the Crucible and became world-famous once again in 1997 thanks to the hit film The Full Monty.

Sheffield from the Peak District Did you know? Sheffield is known as the greenest city in England, with wide open spaces for visitors to enjoy. This is because it was built on seven hills which made construction in some places impossible.

Booming Branch Local Oddfellows members meet at one of nine different groups in the South Yorkshire and North Derbyshire area. With up to 100 members attending each monthly meeting, the organisers’ biggest problem can often be finding somewhere big enough! Upcoming events in the area include a ghost walk, dine around events and walks in the nearby Peak District. For more details about the Branch, email paul.eyre@oddfellows.co.uk or call 01709 838673.


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Active Travel “I love the Oddfellows’ Active Travel Club. My friends and I go on active and culture trips, weekends away and holidays abroad. It lets me meet new people, and it was free to join!” Roger, London

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Summer holiday 2013

Norton Grange Coastal Village (Isle of Wight) Monday 1 July 2013 (4 nights, 5 days) Price - £214pp (based on two people sharing) Join us for a relaxing trip to Norton Grange Coastal Village on the Isle of Wight. This fantastic break is for four nights half board en-suite accommodation plus an entertainment programme and optional excursions. To book contact Barbara Flood on 0800 072 0772. Booking code 67GPB.

All-inclusive holiday to Lake Como (Italy) Wednesday 24 April 2013 (4 nights, 5 days) Join us for a relaxing and picturesque trip to Lake Como; one of Italy’s most popular holiday destinations. This fantastic foreign holiday includes return flights from East Midlands to Bergamo, transfers to and from Lake Como and four nights all-inclusive accommodation in the three-star Britannia Excelsior Hotel in Cadanabbia. Cost: £369pp (exclusive price to Active Travel Club members) Single supplement: £10pp per night These offers are only available to Oddfellows members. To find out more about becoming a member click here. For existing members to find out more about the Active Travel Club please email active@oddfellows.co.uk or call 0161 832 9361.

Optional excursions

Trip to Lake Lugano in Switzerland and Lake Maggoire in Italy (full day) – £35 Lake cruise and wine tasting (half day) – £28


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Home & garden “Sorting out the garden is how I like to relax. An expert gave a talk at my local Oddfellows branch – it helped me no end.” Christine - Derbyshire

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Is your garden giving you grief? Well, fear not, because George Hill is here to answer your gardening questions. Send your question to George by emailing ezine@oddfellows.co.uk. If we publish your question we’ll send you a brand new pair of dazzling gardening gloves absolutely free, thanks to Joe’s Garden.

Q: “I have dwarf cherry and apple trees which have fruited well over the years but have been left to overgrow. When and how should I cut them back to prevent damaging them?” Wendy, Leeds A: The best thing to do is prune them at the end of November. Remove around a third of the total growth while lightly pruning any younger growth where possible. Q: “Should I prune the tall growth that has appeared on my apple trees?” Ken, Kent A: Cut it back by half to encourage more of the branches to spread into the base of the tree. Doing this should result in a better shaped tree with fruit that’s easier to reach when picking. Mulching your fruit trees with manure or organic matter will help as well. Q: “Is it too late to prune back the plants in my garden?” Gill, Derbyshire

Ask George George’s focus This month I’ll be digging farmyard manure into my garden. I always dig a shallow trench first, put the manure inside and then dig it over. The soil should then be ready for plants by next spring. I’ll also be pruning my autumn fruiting raspberry canes and giving my strawberries a light dressing of blood, bone and fish to keep vital nutrients in the plant throughout the winter. Remember! If we publish your question we’ll send you a brand new pair of dazzling gardening gloves absolutely free, thanks to Joe’s Garden.

A: November’s a good time to clean the garden up. Trim back all the excessive new growth first and cut things back in the herbaceous borders almost to ground level. This helps to prevent the spread of disease. Q: “Which herbs will survive in my garden during the winter?” Jenny, Lincoln A: Mint, sage and rosemary all survive quite well unless we have a really harsh winter. Parsley will be ok under some polythene but everything else will struggle.

Members with green fingers Oddfellows members are eligible to receive a special 10% discount on anything at www.suttons.co.uk, from seeds and bulbs to gardening equipment and greenhouses. To take advantage of this exclusive offer, click here*. *You will need to be signed in as a member to access the Members' Benefits page.


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Sport & leisure “I’ve never really been ‘sporty’, but I try to keep fit. My local Oddfellows branch now hosts a walking club. It’s great to get some fresh air, and we always have a good time.” Diana - Essex

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Keep fit to stay sharp

New research suggests that exercising as we get older may keep our brains, as well as our bodies, healthier for longer. Researchers studying the effects of ageing at the University of Edinburgh interviewed almost 700 people aged 70 about their exercise habits. MRI scans were then carried out on the participants three years later to measure the overall health of their brains. The tests revealed that people who exercised regularly showed fewer signs of age-related brain decline, such as brain shrinkage or damage to the brain’s wiring, than those who didn’t.

“If we can establish definitely that exercise provides protection against mental decline, it could open the door to exercise programmes tailored to the needs of people as they age.

Dr Alan Gow, from the University’s Centre of Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology, believes the findings could help more people to keep fit mentally, as well as physically, as they get older.

“Our results suggest that to maintain brain health, physical activity may be more beneficial than choosing more sedentary activities. Increasing exercise – even just a short walk each day – might therefore be beneficial in a number of areas and can only be encouraged.” Contrary to popular belief, the study found no impact on brain health from intellectual activities like reading or visits to museums or galleries. However Dr Gow stresses that these activities clearly have an impact on many people’s wellbeing and quality of life in other ways. Gradual brain shrinkage and damage to the brain’s white matter – the wiring that transmits messages around the brain – are to age-related changes which happen naturally in the body. These become increasingly common as people get older, but what still isn’t clear is why some individuals seem to age more successfully and more healthily than others. Dr Gow and his fellow researchers now hope that further study, funded by Age UK and the Medical Research Council, will allow them to discover whether increased and prolonged physical activity is a direct cause of better, longer-lasting brain function. “If we can establish definitely that exercise provides protection against mental decline, it could open the door to exercise programmes tailored to the needs of people as they age.”


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Health & wellbeing “The Oddfellows give so much. I wish more people knew about the great services they have to offer.” Paul - London

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Warm and well this winter

Mary Atkinson from the Oddfellows Care and Welfare Department explains why it’s so important to keep warm during the coldest months of the year. Studies have shown that it is in milder climates such as ours rather than in countries with very harsh winters that there is the greatest risk of health problems due to being too cold. This is partly because its being just a bit too cold over a long period that causes most problems. Also we don’t tend to take the cold as seriously as countries with a harsher climate and so don’t dress up properly when going out or insulate or heat our homes well enough. Now that the nights are drawing in and the temperature outside is dropping, it is vital that you make sure your home is heated properly. Experts say that the rooms you use the most should be kept at 21C, with other rooms at 18C. With energy prices going up again recently, the need to heat your home may bring with it worries about the cost. The advice from the Care Department is to make heating bills a priority, while at the same time taking all the practical steps you can to keep your bills as low as possible. There’s plenty of information online that can help you work out if you’re on the cheapest tariff, if you should switch suppliers or if you are eligible to receive help with your fuel costs and energy saving measures. Why not start by visiting www.MoneySavingExpert.com, the Government’s website or the Energy Saving Trust (featured in this month’s money section).

If you find any of these tasks difficult, get in touch with us on the numbers below. We’re here to help all members, regardless of age or circumstances. Did you know? If you were born before 6 July 1951 you could be eligible to a Winter Fuel Payment; a tax free grant of up to £300 to help you pay for your heating. Warm Front Scheme Anybody vulnerable or on benefits could qualify for a Warm Front Scheme grant of up to £3,500 to pay for home improvements. This can be used for draught-proofing, loft insulation, cavity walls or heating. Click here to see if you are eligible. Need more help? Oddfellows members can call our Citizens Advice Bureau General Advice Line on 0845 606 2620 quoting their membership number for advice on all aspects of managing fuel costs, including helping you work out whether you should switch suppliers. If you would like a copy of Age UK’s ‘Winter wrapped up’ guide to staying well and warm this winter, contact the Care and Welfare Advice Line on 0845 606 3102, quoting your membership number. Not a member? Click here to find out how to join.


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Money “When I had money worries the Oddfellows put me in touch with the right people who could help. They were with me every step of the way.” Pam - Cambridgeshire

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Practical ways to save on your energy bills

As the mercury falls further this month, there are plenty of small ways for you to make a big difference to the size of your bills, as the Energy Saving Trust explains. Cut your metered water bills - Potential annual savings (£’s) • Fitting a duel flush mechanism to your toilet £105 • Replacing an old shower head with an eco-shower head £78 • Replacing one bath per week with a five-minute shower £21 • Fixing a dripping tap £13 Heating savings - Potential annual savings (£’s) • Fitting a room thermostat £70 • Fitting a water-tank thermostat £30 • Fitting thermostatic radiator valves £10 • Installing reflective radiator panels yourself £4 Replacing electric heating with a wood-pellet heating system could save you around £580 a year on heating bills. A typical solar electricity installation could generate around 75% of a home’s annual electricity needs. Caveat for insulation, heating and behaviour savings: based on a typical three-bedroom semi-detached as heated house, with an average gas price of 4.49p/kWh and electricity price of 14.39/kWh; correct as of September 2011 and valid for 2011-12. Caveat for appliances, domestic computer, consumer electronics and lighting savings: based on an average electricity price of 14.39p/kWh; correct as of September 2011 and valid for 2011-12. Microgeneration and renewables caveat: based on an average gas price of 4.49p/kWh and electricity price of 14.39pkWh; correct as of September 2011 and valid for 2011-12. All information is supplied by the Energy Saving Trust. To find out more visit www.energysavingtrust.org.uk.

Quick ways of saving money - Potential annual savings (£’s) • Using a bowl to wash up rather than a hot running tap £34 • Turning off appliances at the wall socket when not in use £35 • Spending just one minute less in the shower each day £13 • Washing your clothes at 30C instead of a higher temperature £12 • Replacing a 60W incandescent bulb with a 15W energy-saver £8


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