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The Village Breeze EDITOR Sheila J. Bethell MOBILE 0753 441 3055 SALES 01283 814214 EMAIL info@thevillagebreeze.co.uk

Welcome OCTOBER 2020 / ISSUE 109

VISIT www.thevillagebreeze.co.uk

Contents 3 4 6 8 8 8 10 12 20 21 22 24 25 26 27 28 29 30

HELLO and Welcome from your Editor MURRAY CLARKE Viva Espana! HOME INTERIORS Grandmillennial Style PUZZLE EXTRA Time Trial GARDENING Garden Boundaries LOCALLY Measham Gardening Group MOTORING Ten Cars with the Biggest Boot FINANCE The Money Pandemic HEALTH Coping with Arthritis SEASONAL TREAT The Best Apps for Halloween TRAVEL Andorra COOK Chicken & Pepper Jalfrezi BAKE Ginergbread Skeletons PARENTING Bedrooms on a Budget PETS Avoiding Lost Pet Anxiety MURRAY CLARKE Over the Rainbow COFFEE BREAK Take 5! KIDS PUZZLE PAGE Spooky Spectacular!

DISTRIBUTED TO... Appleby Magna, Donisthorpe, Linton, Measham, Moira, Oakthorpe, Overseal and Snarestone. DEADLINE FOR NEXT ISSUE... 5th October, 2020 DISTRIBUTION... 8,000 copies monthly.

Our cover image... My goodness is it really that time of year already? Image courtesy of Pixaby - happy spooking everyone!

H

ello again and welcome…

I see Halloween is fast approaching but I doubt many of us will be holding the traditional Halloween parties this year? No skeletons, ghosts or other scary figures but we can still scare the family with bats and spiders! I also doubt the children will be trick-or-treating but the children could still get dressed up and enjoy the sweets at home, at least it allows the old tradition to be carried on into the next generation, albeit in our own homes. Why not buy some apples from your local store for the children to play 'apple bobbing' or 'apple ducking'. A bucket is filled with water and one or more apples are floated on the water. The children (well mainly children) take turns trying to catch an apple with their teeth. They must hold their hands behind their backs at all times. I still remember NEVER being able to get the apple – so no reward for me! If you are celebrating this magical event and you have some photo’s you’d like to share with our readers, please do email them across to me and I’ll publish a few. Whatever you do, enjoy and stay safe. And the thought I will leave you with this month:“When black cat’s prowl and pumpkins gleam May luck be yours on Halloween?” Until next time…

Sheila OCTOBER 2020

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MURRAY CLARKE

SHORT STORY

Viva ESPANA! ‘Buenos dias, Senora. Como esta hoy?’ ‘What?’ ‘Buenos dias, Senora. Como esta hoy?’ ‘That’s what I thought you said,’ replied Philip. ‘You haven’t a clue what I’m talking about, have you?’ said his wife with a smile. ‘We leave in less than four weeks, you know! You really ought to be brushing up on the lingo!’ ‘I’ve plenty of time to improve my Spanish, Annette. ‘What does it mean anyway —what you said?’ ‘Good morning, lady. How are you today?’ she translated. ‘I can’t go around saying that all day!’ Philip laughed. ‘It’s a start!’ Annette looked at the clothes and other items piled up behind them, waiting to be packed. ‘Any regrets?’ ‘”Regrets? I’ve had a few, but there again, too few to mention!”’ crooned Philip, quoting Frank Sinatra’s “My Way”. ‘Oh, very funny! Seriously, no second thoughts?’ ‘Of course not!’ retorted Philip. ‘Not at this late stage! And you?’ ‘Certainly not! Don’t you just love Almeria— we’ve always enjoyed our holidays in south-east Spain,’ enthused Annette. ‘It’s easy to see why the desert area was chosen as the location for so many Clint Eastwood Spaghetti Westerns in the 60s and 70s!’ And the place we’re staying, Arboleas, is such a pretty village, don’t you agree? All those olive and almond trees, barley and wheat fields! And the weather — the warmest in the Mediterranean! I, for one, won’t miss the cold English winter!’ ‘I just love the free plate of tapas they offer you when you order a beer or wine!’ said Philip. Food

and drink were never far from his thoughts. ‘Who said there’s no such thing as a free lunch!’ quipped Annette. ‘Imagine sunbathing on one of the lovely sandy beaches and swimming in the crystal blue sea — only an hour’s drive from our village. We’re going to have such a great time!’ said Philip. ‘We simply must hire a couple of horses and go exploring!’ Annette added. ‘We’ll certainly have the time.’ ‘When we last went horse riding, I fell off!’ Philip grimaced at the memory. ‘Lucky I didn’t hurt myself! I’ll be happy just lying around by our villa pool with a cold beer, soaking up the sun and cooking on the barbie.’ They both laughed. ‘I’m looking forward to the annual festival where the villagers get together and make a huge paella for everyone to share the Fiesta with!’ ‘Thinking of your stomach again, Phil! Don’t forget all those bars and restaurants to choose from! And the shops! Better keep an eye on your credit card!’ ‘Well,’ said Annette, casting an eye behind her. ‘This lot isn’t going to pack itself. We’d better carry on . . . the clock’s ticking.’ ‘Yes, I suppose so,’ replied Philip, reluctantly. Annette continued: ‘We’re going to miss all our friends and family and the grandchildren, of course, but they can come and visit us whenever they like. It’s not every day that we say goodbye to the UK and permanently retire to Spain!’ Philip flung his arms in the air, clicked his fingers, and cried: ‘VIVA ESPANA!!!’ ‘That’s more like it!’ grinned Annette. ‘Now, pass me that empty suitcase . . .’

Murray Clarke is one of our local contributors. Email: murrayclarke@btinternet.com 04 | THE VILLAGE BREEZE


OCTOBER 2020 | 05


KATHERINE SORRELL

HOME INTERIORS

Grandmillennial

T

Style

HIS comfortable, colourful, chintzy look could also be called ‘granny chic’ – and it’s the style of the moment for youngsters and the young at heart. For the Millennial generation (roughly speaking, those in their twenties and thirties now) the trend du jour harks back to the cosy style of their mothers and even grandmothers – a look that has been dubbed ‘granny chic’ or ‘grandmillennial’. It is certainly a trend that is a welcome change from the cold, monochromatic, minimalist looks seen in recent years. Grandmillennial is nostalgic, though timeless rather than outdated, combining a more-is-more approach with a careful edit of traditional elements alongside modern touches. It’s fun, pretty, happy and approachable, and an expression of individuality.

Furniture Essentials Good quality dark wood furniture in polished walnut, mahogany or rosewood, for example, all work with this look. Wicker, rattan and cane pieces will also fit right in – think headboards, occasional chairs and small tables. Choose the supercomfortable Victorian style of deeply buttoned upholstery, in the

sofology.co.uk and ribbons are the little extras that make this look interesting and different.

Pattern and Colour Pattern and colour are the heart of this design style. Colours might be bright but they are also fresh rather than overpowering, with designs often on a white or pale background, or at least carefully controlled so they don’t clash (or at least, only clash tastefully). Wallpapers are a big feature in the grandmillennial room, but if an entirely papered room is not for you, a good alternative is a framed panel. Favoured colours are classic blue and white, pink, green and yellow, with specific patterns to look out for including chinoiserie, chintz or blowsy florals, toile de jouy and trellis.

Accessories Few accessories could be as catherinerowedesigns.com appropriate for the grandmillennial room as a hand-embroidered form of sofas, cushion in traditional style but bearing a sarcastic chaplins.co.uk armchairs and modern slogan. A selection of colourful, not too-wellottomans – or even a pouffe. Velvet or chenille are both matched cushions is a good addition, as well as charming great fabrics to use. displays of collections such as blue-and-white china, Staffordshire dogs or milk glass. Finish off with some Embellishments block-printed or monogrammed napkins, botanical Extravagant embellishments are your go-to for prints, an ornate mirror and a cut-glass vase of perfecting the grandmillennial look. Tassels, fringes, hydrangeas, peonies or roses. gathered skirts, pleats, scalloped edges, ruffles, braids 06 | THE VILLAGE BREEZE


OCTOBER 2020 | 07


GARDENING

Boundaries Garden

G

ARDEN boundaries mark the borders between properties, can help divide a garden into different areas, or can hide an eyesore or the garden from view. They can form an interesting and attractive part of the garden, so what are the options?

Stylish Pleaching Pleaching creates a living boundary whilst minimising the space the boundary takes up at soil level. You pleach by removing all side growths up to the desired height, thus forming clear stems. The developing shoots higher up can be trained into a system of wires, forming a fanlike display of branches. The gap between the trunks could be left unfilled, or a more densely clipped hedge or a fence can be installed, increasing privacy while allowing space for ground-level planting.

Classic Walls A wall made from good quality bricks in the same colours as those from which the house is constructed will be long-lasting, sturdy and look great. Brick walls can help to keep garden plants warmer, so make use of this for more tender plantings. Attach galvanised straining wires, held taut between vine eyes, to make a support system for plants.

Blooming Boundary Many roses can be grown as hedging and look stunning, as well as helping to fill your garden with a magical perfume whilst they are in bloom. They can be grown next to another boundary, such as a short retaining wall.

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PIPPA GREENWOOD

Hurdles Hazel hurdles are popular for a rustic look. They can be bought as ready-made panels or a hurdle maker can construct the fence in situ. They usually have one pale face where the hazel stems have been split to reveal their woody insides, whilst the other face is darker and still bark-covered. A good filter for wind in a gusty site, their disadvantage is that they are not long lasting.

Dry Stone Walls A truly classic look, dry stone walling is a specialist skill giving a lovely boundary, especially within the garden, perhaps around the edge of a raised bed or to create a seating area. Small plants such as the fleshy-leaved Sempervivums or houseleeks can be grown in gaps between the stones.

Cheerful Colours Less-than-attractive concrete blocks or similar materials look better if painted with masonry paint. Clean and thoroughly dry the area beforehand and use a suitable paint for the surface.

Classic Hedging A well-planted and well-maintained hedge is timeless, though it needs a few years to establish. For a dense effect, plant two staggered rows of hedging plants, with plants about 45cm (18in) apart within the rows. Keep the young hedge well-watered and fed during the first couple of years, pruning as necessary for a dense green boundary.

Added Interest Break up a long expanse of boundary by including a feature, perhaps a garden seat or an arbour, with hedge plants behind and trained into a roof above the seat. This provides a great place to sit and relax. Visit Pippa’s website (www.pippagreenwood.com) to book Pippa for a gardening talk at your gardening club or as an after-dinner speaker. OCTOBER 2020 | 09


MOTORING

Ten cars with the

Biggest

Boot

P

RACTICALITY is an important factor when buying a car, so we’ve brought together examples with cavernous boots from a variety of segments.

Skoda Fabia – 330 litres with the rear seats up / 1,150 with the rear seats down. Skoda’s ethos is to build the most practical cars and that’s particularly true of the Fabia, which offers cargo capacity similar to much bigger cars. The estate has even more room – 530 litres with the rear seats up and 1,395 with them down.

Volkswagen Tiguan – 615 litres / 1,655 litres. The Tiguan is an upmarket, stylish and super-practical SUV. Looking perhaps a little dull in lower trims and more expensive than many rivals, it offers excellent build quality, a wide variety of engine choices and a huge boot.

SsangYong Tivoli XLV – 720 litres / 1,440 litres. Niche car manufacturer SsangYong has been rapidly improving in recent years. The XLV is an enticing prospect based on affordability and practicality alone. It might not be quite as nice inside or to drive compared with rivals, but it has loads of space, is cheap to buy and run and comes with great kit. Audi Q7 – 770 litres / 1,955 litres. One of the best sevenseaters, the Q7 might be pricey but has plenty of luggage space. Even with the seats up you get a massive 770 litres, so no need to compromise between people and their stuff.

Peugeot 3008 – 591 litres / 1,670 litres. A compelling rival to the Tiguan, the 3008 is packed full of character. The interior feels premium but with the practicality to make this both a head and a heart purchase.

Mercedes-Benz GLS – 355 litres / 2,400 litres. The GLS can do it all, being a genuine seven-seater with a lovely interior and fantastic on-road manners – though it’s certainly not cheap. To make the most of the boot you’ll need to fold the third row down, but do so and few can match it for practicality.

Skoda Superb Estate – 660 litres / 1,950 litres. The Superb has a simply massive boot – for long-distance drivers who need space above all else there can be few better options. Mercedes-Benz E-Class Estate – 640 litres / 1,820 litres. With similar levels of practicality to the Skoda but more badge appeal, the E-Class might be pricier but has a nicer cabin with only a small compromise on space. Ford Galaxy – 300 litres / 2,339 litres. There’s still a place for MPVs like the Ford Galaxy. Its seats down space isn’t hugely impressive because of that extra row of seats, but without people in the back it can expand to a van-like 2,339 litres. 10 | THE VILLAGE BREEZE

Land Rover Discovery – 258 litres / 2,406 litres. And finally, the unrivalled champion of practicality. The Discovery’s seven-seat boot capacity is unimpressive, but with almost endless seating configurations available you can find space for just about anything. Fold all the seats behind the driver down and you get that hugely impressive 2,406-litre capacity.


OCTOBER 2020 | 11


FINANCE

JOHN LISTER

The

T

Money Pandemic

UCKED COVID-19 pandemic has already had a mighty short-term impact on personal finances, but the effects could be here for many years. It’s a fool’s errand to try to make financial predictions, but we can certainly make some educated guesses about what happens next.

Tax rises of some kind seem almost inevitable after the public spending deficit exploded with furlough pay and other measures. It is true the government has explicitly committed to no rises in the rates of income tax, national insurance or VAT until the next general election. That said, a cut in personal allowances or the 40% rate threshold would mean a bigger tax take without breaking the letter of the pledge.

as a home office. The mortgage market has already absorbed the initial shock of COVID-19 with a period where few lenders were interested in anyone with less than a 40 percent deposit. Fortunately that seems a short-term measure, but it certainly appears 95% mortgages will get rarer while rates and availability will become even more favourable to those with bigger deposits. Even the practicalities of day-to-day spending have been changed by the coronavirus, with the upper limit for contactless payments rising from £30 to £45. With few signs of increased fraud, this is likely to be a permanent switch.

It's also getting harder to see the famed pension ‘triple lock’ surviving. It currently guarantees the state pension will rise each year in line with average earnings, inflation, or 2.5%, whichever is highest. One possibility is to ditch the 2.5% figure and simple go with the higher of earnings or inflation.

Once overseas trips become more normal again, reading travel insurance policies in full will become more important. Many insurers put in a hard deadline after which new policies didn’t cover losses stemming from COVID-19. Until that changes, holidaying could be a more risky proposition, while it’s possible COVID cover could become an optional extra.

It seems many of us have got the taste for avoiding the commute and there’ll certainly be some permanent shift away from office working. That could affect the housing market, with the commuter belt become less of a mandatory destination for some. Meanwhile, city centre offices could be less in demand by business and potentially repurposed as apartments. Some effects have already been felt, with traditional two-bed buyers now looking to three-bed properties, earmarking the extra room

Finally, investors and those with non-state pension plans will continue to be somewhat at the mercy of markets. Stocks have certainly taken a huge hit during the pandemic, though many analysts hope they’ll recover in the medium-term given that this is ultimately a financial hit stemming from a health crisis rather than a fundamental economic failing. As always, it’s important not to panic when markets fall and remember that losses aren’t ‘real’ until you sell.

John Lister (www.johnlisterwriting.com) is a freelance writer based in Bristol, specialising in technology and personal finance. 12 | THE VILLAGE BREEZE


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OCTOBER 2020

| 19


CATHERINE ROSE

HEALTH

Coping with

P

Arthritis

UT simply, arthritis means inflammation of the joints and can be due to numerous causes. Although it is thought of as a disease of the elderly, it can affect people of all ages, even children. There are more than a hundred different types and over 10,000 people in the UK live with the disease. Arthritic symptoms can be very debilitating, with joint pain, stiffness, loss of movement, swelling and bone deformity. Two of the commonest are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoarthritis can affect the knees, hips, spine, and fingers. It occurs when cartilage that acts as a shock absorber between the joints wears away or becomes damaged through illness or injury. It can also have a hereditary factor. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that causes the body’s immune system to attack its synovium – the soft tissue around joints that produces lubricating synovial fluid. Over time, this damages the joint. It can also lead to systemic symptoms such as generalised fatigue, loss of appetite and even anaemia.

Applying heat pads or ice packs can also help temporarily relieve pain and/or swelling. The most important thing is to keep the joint moving as much as possible. Although your instinct may be to rest, this will be detrimental in the long term.

Sadly, arthritis is not curable but there are treatments that can help alleviate symptoms. The first step is to go and see your GP, who can check your joint condition and range of movement and refer you to a specialist for assessment.

Your doctor may recommend you for surgery – usually a hip or knee replacement. Currently knee replacements do not last as long as hip replacements, so consultants are not as willing to carry them out on younger people.

Treatments for arthritis aim to reduce pain and swelling and to help with movement. They can include medication, physiotherapy, walking aids, steroid injections into the joint, or in severe cases, joint replacement.

Losing weight will help as it reduces pressure on the joints. You may find that certain foods exacerbate your arthritis, so choosing a diet rich in antioxidants can be beneficial. Avoiding fatty, processed and sugary foods can make a difference.

Targeted exercises that strengthen the muscles around the joint will help alleviate pressure and reduce pain. A relatively new and effective treatment for osteoarthritis is AposTherapy®, which works to realign your joints and improve your gait or walking pattern through the daily wearing of special customised footwear. Treatment can take several years but results over time have shown greatly decreased levels of pain in patients.

There are also supplements available over the counter that reduce inflammation and support joint health, such as curcumin and glucosamine. It is now believed that some people who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis are sensitive to gluten, so cutting this out of your diet may be worth trying.

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Living with arthritis is not always easy, but do not despair as there is help available.


OCTOBER 2020 | 21


TRAVEL

E

SOLANGE HANDO

Andorra

NCLOSED by the Pyrenees in a narrow valley between France and Spain, the principality of Andorra is one of the smallest states in Europe at just 15 by 18 miles. On the right bank of the Gran Valira, at over 3,000 feet, Andora la Vella is the highest capital, its tall buildings making the most of limited space. But beyond the duty-free shops of Escaldes, mountains and valleys spread across the land, so peaceful and unspoiled, it is nature at its best. Imagine seventy-two peaks in this mini-country, dozens of lakes glistening blue, rivers and wetlands and, for those in the know, fabulous ski slopes in winter and in the bright summer sun wonderful trails rambling from Mediterranean to Alpine zones. Family walks or challenging hikes, this is a well-kept secret, and with so much to explore in summer the only problem is knowing where to start. Rambling, climbing, horse riding, canyoning, fishing, the scenery unfolds all along the trails, catering for different abilities and sometimes joining the long-distance footpaths dotted with mountain shelters. In the south-east, close to the capital, Madriu-PerafitaClaror is the country's second most important river basin and a UNESCO site listed for its cultural landscape. Rising up to 9,530 feet at Portelleta Peak, the park stretches over seven miles and, with no traffic allowed, boasts 70% of Andorra's 1,500 species of fauna and flora, including rare and endangered specimens. It's sheer delight for nature lovers: here a

lonely mountain goat perched on a rock, there a family of boars scrounging in the shadows, marmots twittering in the sun, bearded vultures gliding overhead or a tiny goldcrest, 'King of the Birds' in local folklore. There's a wealth of medicinal plants, mushrooms, flowers, trees and shrubs, thriving in their own microclimates according to altitude and soil, on sunny slopes or in the shade. Among the many trails is the 'Mountain Path' climbing up the Madriu valley, 'the Mother River', towards the distant peaks tackled by mountaineers. But even a morning trek from the capital is full of rewards, though steep in places. First there are fabulous views of the town far below, framed by peaks draped in eternal snow, then beyond the old bridge and foaming rapids is a nostalgic mule trail winding its way up through stones and rocks, as it has done for hundreds of years. At over 5,300 feet, the forlorn settlement of Ramio nestles among pastures dotted with remnants of dry stone walls and huts. Lizards bask on the stones, butterflies flutter here and there then all is quiet until a thunderous roar sends shivers down your spine, the Madriu crashing through fallen branches and trees. But further up, beyond the conifers, the landslides and barren ridges, the valley opens out and the Fontverd refuge greets trekkers with flower meadows, rivulets and pools plus the young Madriu where they can dip their feet in freezing water. At 6,151 feet, it feels like a dream.

Solange Hando...”Be a Travel Writer, Live your Dreams, Sell your Features.” 22 | THE VILLAGE BREEZE


OCTOBER 2020 | 23


COOK

SERVES 4 • READY IN 60 MINS

Jalfrezi Chicken & Pepper

Save a trip to the takeaway, just cook up this deliciously spicy chicken curry instead. Serve with pilau rice, warmed naan breads and some cooling cucumber and mint raita.

YOU WILL NEED... • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

1 tsp mustard seeds 1 tsp each ground turmeric and ground cumin 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed 1 tbsp grated fresh root ginger 2 green chillies, deseeded and chopped 1 tbsp sunflower oil 1 large onion, peeled and chopped 2 tbsp tomato puree 500g chicken breast fillets, cut into chunks 2 red and 2 green peppers, deseeded and cut into chunks 4 tomatoes, chopped 4 tbsp freshly chopped coriander Salt and freshly ground black pepper Strips of lemon zest, to garnish

HERE’S WHAT TO DO... 1 Heat a heavy-based non-stick frying pan over a medium heat and add the mustard seeds. Toast for 1-2 minutes until just popping. Place in a mini processor or blender with the turmeric, cumin, garlic, ginger and half the green chillies. Add 3 tbsp water and process to a paste. 2 Heat the oil in the frying pan over a medium heat and fry the onion and remaining green chilli for 10 mins until the onion is soft and golden. Stir in the spice paste, tomato puree and the chicken and cook, stirring, for 3-4 mins until the meat is no longer pink. 3 Stir in the peppers and tomatoes and cook for 2-3 minutes then add 300ml water and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 20-25 minutes until the sauce has thickened and the chicken is cooked through. Stir in half the coriander and season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Serve garnished with the remaining chopped coriander and the strips of lemon zest.

TOP TIP... If you don’t have time to make the paste from scratch, simply buy a jar of good quality jalfrezi curry paste and use 4-5 tbsp to make the curry. 24 | THE VILLAGE BREEZE


BAKE

MAKES 20 • READY IN 60 MINS PLUS CHILLING

Skeletons Gingerbread

Kids will love helping to make and decorate these fun spooky Halloween treats!

YOU WILL NEED... • • • • • • • •

115g butter 115g light muscovado sugar 100g golden syrup 450g plain flour, plus extra for dusting 2 tsp bicarbonate of soda 3 tsp ground ginger Salt 1 egg, beaten

AND TO DECORATE... • • • • •

400g black ready-to-roll icing Icing sugar, for dusting 75g ready-made royal icing 2 x 19g tubes white writing icing 1 pink and 1 black edible writing pen

HERE’S WHAT TO DO... 1 Preheat the oven to 170OC / 150OC fan / gas mark 3. Line 2 large baking sheets with baking paper. Place the butter, sugar and syrup in a saucepan and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved and the butter has melted. 2 Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda, ginger and a pinch of salt into a large mixing bowl. Add the melted mixture and the egg, and mix together to make a dough. 3 Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to the thickness of a one pound coin. Stamp out gingerbread people shapes with a cutter. Re-knead and re-roll the dough trimmings and cut out more shapes. Place on the baking sheets and bake for 15-20 minutes until golden. Leave on the sheets for 5 minutes then transfer to a cooling rack and leave to cool completely. 4 To decorate, roll the black icing out thinly on a surface lightly dusted with icing sugar. Use the cutter to stamp out shapes and attach to gingerbread biscuits with a little of the royal icing. Spread a circle of royal icing on each biscuit to create a white face. Use the tubes of white writing icing to pipe bones on the biscuits. Leave until the icing has set then use the pink and black edible pens to draw skeleton features on the white faces. OCTOBER 2020

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KATE DUGGAN

PARENTING

Bedrooms on a

K

ITTING out a child’s bedroom can be extremely pricey, but it doesn’t have to be. Whether you’re starting with a blank canvas or upgrading furniture as your child grows, these tips from Kate Duggan might help you to stick to your budget…

Look for quality furniture second-hand If you want furniture to last, look for plain, solidly built furniture. We bought my daughter’s chest of drawers when she was a baby. It’s plain white, but we stuck some removable decals on to 'prettify' it. And, as it's decent quality, it's lasted well (she’s now eleven). It was second-hand and cost well under £50 – contrast this to the new chest of drawers bought subsequently at twice the price, but of nowhere near the same quality. So my top tip is, buy decent furniture second-hand rather than cheap furniture new. Solid pine furniture lasts for years and is easily available secondhand. You can paint it with chalk paint and update it in different colours as your child's tastes change. I picked up an ugly (but well-built) bureau for £12 a couple of years ago. The result of some chalk paint and new handles is an attractive, unique piece of furniture that could be passed down to future generations. Facebook, eBay and Gumtree are good places to look for furniture, as are Freecycle and local charity warehouse stores. I've also picked up bargains at my local tip. Look for customer returns Prefer to buy new? Some stores offer customer returns at a discounted price. Wayfair often sells returned furniture at 25% off, for example, and most items are in perfect condition. At www.nnwarehouse.uk, you’ll find furniture from children's brand Noa & Nani at knock-down prices.

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Budget

In exchange for accepting a minor cosmetic imperfection (e.g. a small scratch or dent), you could save over 50% on the RRP. At the time of writing, a grey single bed is on sale at £39, rather than the usual £129. There’s also a bunk bed for £89, a wooden toy box for £20 and lots more.

Think of resale value If you’re buying for the short term and don’t fancy a customer return, look for brands that you can easily sell on again. Ikea’s Kallax storage units, for example, seem to hold their value well and are robust enough to withstand a few knocks. Decorating on the cheap Pick up some wooden picture frames from a charity shop and paint them in different coordinating colours. If you’re decorating a baby or toddler’s bedroom, cut out an applique from an outgrown or stained Babygro or T-shirt. Once framed, it looks like a handmade (expensive) piece of art. You could also try sticking colourful buttons on some cardboard in the shape of your child’s initials and then framing it. Or just use pictures from a calendar or even a comic. You may have a limited budget, but with a bit of perseverance and imagination, you can give your child a room to be proud of.


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MURRAY CLARKE

SHORT STORY

Over the

Rainbow

‘Arthur! Nicola’s here . . . our daughter, Nicola. She’s come to see you.’ ‘Hello, Dad. It’s Nicola. How are you feeling today?’ The privacy curtains had been drawn for sometime. From my bed two metres away, I could see nothing; only eavesdrop on the conversation — rather like listening to a play on the radio. But this was real life, not a cosy Sunday afternoon drama. The hospital ward was filled to capacity. Fully gowned, masked nurses and doctors moved efficiently from one patient to another. This was the NHS doing what they do best — saving lives. Some doctors had come out of retirement to offer their services; and young nurses barely out of training college were helping out too. All had been thrown into a War Zone against an unseen enemy. Every one of them: a hero. Many of the patients spread out in their beds, like me, were struggling to breathe. Many, I suspected, had underlying health conditions that would compromise their immune system and potential recovery. Patients wore a mask with their own oxygen supply. Plastic tubes inserted in to the back of their hands pumped life-enhancing drugs into their veins. We’d all been tested for the dreaded Covid-19 virus and were told to expect an agonising three days’ wait for the results. ‘Mum, do you think Dad can hear me?’ Nicola was talking. ‘I’m sure he can,’ she replied. ‘Watch his eyes. Sometimes he blinks.’ Visitors were not encouraged in this ward and I wondered why an exception had been made in this case. ‘Dad, I’ve something to ask you. When you get out of here, Alex and I would like you to do something for us. Make a vegetable plot. Nothing too big. You’ve always loved gardening, and you know what Alex is like! He can do all the hard work for you — like the digging. What do you say?’ Silence. ‘A few carrots would be nice; potatoes, of course; peas; maybe cauliflowers? You can choose, Dad. You

can even plant some Brussels sprouts — you love those, even though no one else in the family does! When it’s all finished you can sit on your wooden bench under the shade of the willow tree and I’ll bring you a mug of tea. Just the way you like it. Three sugars and so strong you could stand a teaspoon up in it. Builders’ tea you always call it.’ She laughed. ‘Look, Nicola! He’s moving his eyes!’ I heard the other woman whisper. ‘He understands what you are saying.’ ‘Arthur, time for your blood pressure, my love.’ A kindly nurse had stepped forward and opened one side of the curtains. I glimpsed an old man with unruly grey beard, mask and tubes, lying on the bed. His wife and daughter at his side. ‘We’ll leave you now, Dad. Be back tomorrow,’ said Nicola. She squeezed her father’s hand, affectionately. A tear in the corner of her eye. When I awoke early the following morning, the bed and the old gentleman were gone. I’d like to think that Arthur had been transferred to the Intensive Care Unit where, after several days of tender loving care from the NHS staff, he’d made a full recovery and was allowed home to the bosom of his devoted family. I’d like to think that Arthur DID plant that vegetable patch for his daughter and son-in-law. And get to sit on the bench with a mug of strong tea, admiring his handy work as the evening sun slipped slowly behind the horizon. I would like to think . . . But, I just don’t know. (NOTE: The above short story is based on fact and my observations during a four-day stay as a patient in Burton on Trent Hospital in early April 2020. The events as described are true, but the names changed for obvious reasons. Thankfully, I tested negative for Covid-19, but diagnosed with pneumonia. I am now at home making a full recovery).

GOD BLESS THE NHS.

Murray Clarke is one of our local contributors. Email: murrayclarke@btinternet.com 28 36 | THE VILLAGE BREEZE


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The Village Breeze - October 2020  

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