How I sold my old carI love cars. I always have. I love the memories I have with mine, which made one day last month very hard as I had to sell my old people carrier. Whilst I won’t miss the regular trips to the garage and the skittish, ageing suspension, I will still miss it because it’s the car my children have grown up with for seven years and it’s been like a giant perambulator for our family life. There are certain squashed raisins in certain cracks beneath the seats that can never be fished out, lying there unreachable, as a testament to journeys long since completed.

The offer from the showroom

So when we ordered our new car from the dealer we haggled over part-exchange. We didn’t get a great offer although after some shameless arm twisting they raised the offer from £1500 to £1900. For a low mileage, top spec, 8 year old car with 12 months MOT and full service history, it was a bit miserly. Why was the offer so low? Well firstly we were selling them a different make of car. Wrong badge, they didn’t want it. They would have to transport it to the auctions. Also they don’t know much about them and only have an industry guide (Glasses) to help them price it, and even then I know Glasses said £2200 so they knocked a good bit off to be on the safe side. But the other issue is the industry-wide slump in car prices, and that affects everyone. Manufacturers are pressurising dealers to shift stock so they don’t want your part-ex car as extra stock.

Looking for a better deal

Once we had a date to take delivery of our new car I went hunting to try to get more money for my old car elsewhere. I started with We Buy Any Car. I entered the details on the website, (there’s no option to note any damage) then they display a glitzy headline figure “your car is worth £3060 subject to inspection” and so I booked an appointment at my local centre which turned out to be a sparse hotel room on the second floor of a tired Victorian building. A charming young man took some details and then came out to inspect the car. He barely looked inside, this turned out to be all about bodywork. I got quite annoyed that the faintest and infinitesimally small door-dings no-one would mend or even see were noted down as “dent, over 5cm” a phrase which appeared to be the most damning remark he could record. Then he turned round to me and said “Wow! It’s in fantastic condition!” and knocked £500 off his offer. Oh man.

The We Buy Any Car bloke said if we did the deal on the spot he would increase the price by £100 but the problem was that it was still 5 days before I took delivery of the new car. Clearly I should have left this closer to the last-minute. The company’s TV ad leads you to believe that selling your car for cash will boost your power to haggle a better deal on a new car. I can’t see this being the case at all. It made no difference to the price of our new car and several dealers told us that nowadays their profit and commission are unaffected by the method of payment, whether cash or finance deal. So it was a good offer but I kept looking.

The independent dealer

The next day I took my old people carrier to a local independent car dealer with who sells a mix of cars of a similar age. His inspection was even more cursory than We Buy Any Car but my first impression was that with about 30 years of experience in the business, he properly knew his stuff. He told me what Glasses guide said, I told him what We Buy Any Car said, so he offered me a smidge more and without even remembering to haggle I said “yes”. Uh-oh. I kicked myself. Still, it was such a big improvement on the part-ex from the new car showroom. This independent dealer will tart the car up and sell it on his own forecourt, saving himself the expense of auctions and transporters. Then he said “it does drive ok, doesn’t it?” Um, yes, but what timing for that question?!

The process of selling

So the day before we got our new car, I went back to the private car dealer, gave him the V5C (removing the yellow section first), the MOT, the service history and two keys. He gave me a company cheque and I walked home car-less! I probably saved £25 on a taxi by selling locally. I logged on to the DVLA website to claim my car tax back which was simple. They said the cheque would arrive in 4 weeks but actually it was 4 days. I altered my car insurance with LV which they initially got wrong but quickly amended next day. Once the decision was made on who to sell it to, the process was easy peasy.

I then contacted the dealer from whom I was buying a new car, told them that the part-ex needed to be removed from the deal and we would give cash value instead. I had talked to them in advance about possibly doing this, and they simply re-issued the paperwork for the sale without the part-ex.

If your car is worth less than £1000 then chances are that part-ex might be better value for you as some dealers of both old and new cars offer a minimum part-ex value. But the moral of this story is don’t take the car-buyers adverts at face value and do allow time to take your car to a few places to get the best price.

So you want to do less ironing. Well, if you and I didn’t iron any clothes, what’s the worst that could happen? Okay so ironing gets creases out of things, but how bad are the creases, really?

Steps to never iron shirtsDo you perhaps iron things to finish them off drying instead of using an airing cupboard? Maybe you don’t have an airing cupboard thanks to the prevalence of 1990s combi boilers, which can be installed without a hot-water tank. Maybe you’d rather iron than fold damp clothes to perfection. Maybe you want to be like your Mum, and that’s how she did the laundry.

I wanted to be like my Mum and she doesn’t iron shirts. We didn’t go around wrinkly and crinkly, however. We were as neatly turned out as the next family. I still don’t iron shirts. My husband doesn’t iron his shirts. My siblings will back me up on this. We don’t spend time or money on getting out of the ironing. So what’s the family secret? Well, I confess I rarely wear shirts, so in my house this is menswear or schoolwear advice, but here goes:

1. Buy the right shirts.

You really do have to purchase easy-to-iron polyester and cotton mix for this to succeed. Marks and Spencer multi-pack easy care white shirts are great value and perfect for this.

2. Never EVER iron them.

Never! Ironing them even once or twice will cause the heat from the iron to change the movement and behaviour of the fabric permanently and you will have to carry on ironing them forever.

3. Never wash them above 40 degrees Celsius.

Any hotter than this and the fabric will be permanently weakened by heat. For the same reason, never put them in the dryer.

4. Use fabric conditioner in your wash with the shirts.

Fabric conditioner is not recommended for use on materials with permanent creases (like suit trousers), stain resistant coatings (school skirts) or waterproof coatings, so make sure that those clothes go in a different wash.

5. Use a slow spin speed.

In the washing machine, don’t spin your shirts fast, I would say don’t go above about 900 rpm. 1200 rpm is too much.

6.Take the shirts out of the washing machine quickly.

Take them out within 20 minutes of the end of the cycle. Set yourself an alarm if necessary. If you leave them piled longer than half an hour there’s a good chance you’ll need to wash them again to get the right results.

7. Shake firmly and hang it right.

Now I turn to my Brownie Guide handbook! “All washing needs two good shakes”. Take hold of each shirt by the shoulders and shake hard. Try to get a good snapping motion, go on, whip it! Then hang each shirt neatly on a hanger to dry, not upside-down on a line because it works best if they dry in the shape you want to wear them. If it’s a hot day, dry the shirts more slowly indoors so they have time to hang out.

8. Wear it well.

When the shirts are dry there will still be some creases but don’t give up! When you want to wear the shirt, simply put it on and within 20 or 30 minutes (say, while you’re eating breakfast or driving to work) your body heat will have loosened out the last few creases. This works because you’re wearing an easy-iron shirt and have cared for it meticulously. So steel yourself to set off to work in your not-quite-perfect shirt. Go on! Victory is in your grasp!

If despite following all these steps you still have a creased shirt you have two options.

  1. The simplest solution is to put it back in the wash and start again, don’t give up and iron it.
  2. If the creases are significant then put the shirt on, put a sweater on top and go for a long brisk walk. Your body heat and moisture will gently relax the fibres and revive the shirt.

Maybe my outlook on ironing was influenced by one of my school friends who, at age 16, developed a bit of thing about not being creased. She would have a meltdown after a twenty minute car-ride because a wrinkle would have appeared in the back of her Benetton blouse. She would stand in front of a mirror shrieking “creased!” She became a fashion designer, so make of that what you will. Of course there are still some things I iron, but in general if you remove laundry from the machine promptly, give it some good shakes and smooth it out before you hang it, you will be amazed at how many things dry out smoothly.

I hope this works for you!

This is not a sponsored post, it’s all my own x

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Take a First French Holiday Loire Valley Chateau VillandryWe had a fabulous family holiday to France last summer. We took our car on the ferry and stayed on a campsite, in a gite and a hotel. After sharing a few photos and details of our adventures on Facebook, several friends said to me “I’d love to have a holiday in France but I don’t know where to go.” Well my wish-list included not going too far, finding chateaux, cycle paths, sun and swimming. If that sounds like your thing, here are my four top tips!

Loire Valley

Outline map of France showing the Loire Valley regionThe central area between Angers and Blois is full of stunning, grand chateaux and vineyards so take plenty of spending money. There’s also a huge variety of fascinating caves to visit and fields full of sunflowers. Inland the weather changes more slowly and summer temperatures are good. It’s quite common to find holiday accommodation in this part of France with a pool.

French Atlantic Coast

Outline map of France showing Atlantic Coast regionMy tips for this coast are the regions of Loire Atlantique, the Vendee and Pitou Charentes, all great spots for a French beach holiday. The further south the more expensive due to the warmer weather and it’s worth booking well ahead as it’s popular. The landscape is quite flat and plain but there are pretty canals and cycle routes. Large attractions within reach include Le Puy de Fou (historic reinactments) and Futuroscope (science experience).

Brittany

Outline map of France showing BrittanyDriving to Brittany is a far longer journey than you might expect due to fewer motorways and more rural roads. It can easily take 7 hours from Calais. There are numerous beaches and coves; few large attractions but great for outdoor life with forests, walking and culture. The weather is often described as being like Cornwall but generally better. Accommodation in Brittany tends to be cheaper than coastal areas further south.

Normandy

Outline map of France showing NormandyNormandy has a bit of everything; Norman castles, beaches, cathedrals, booze and cheese. It’s a great way to soak up French culture without going far. Accommodation is quite cheap however in my experience the weather is a little more like England so have some back up plans just in case. Perhaps visit the Bayeaux tapestry or set off early for a day-trip to Paris.

 

Quite a few accommodation websites will give you a good discount on Brittany ferries, but you could get a cheaper gite or campsite by using a French website. Try putting “gites bord de mer” or “le camping pres de la plage” into google, for example and see what pops up.

Vendee Beach on the French Atlantic CoastWe think France is an easy but exciting holiday and going by car just adds to the adventure. Follow my “Places – France” board on Pinterest to get more ideas of places to visit.

Our house looks like it’s been burgled. It’s not standard family mess this time, no. There’s an empty TV bracket on the wall opposite the sofa and empty picture hooks above the fireplace. It’s gloomy, unloved and stark, it’s not a good look! Well, we haven’t been burgled but there’s a bit of a tale here.

Smoking TV

The easier one to explain is the empty TV bracket. One quiet evening last week an acrid burning smell came from the TV. We quickly switched it off and googled it. No, we didn’t grab a fire blanket or even an air freshener, we hit the interweb. Such is modern life.

Within minutes we had established that our TV had been subject to a Sony recall six years ago. We rang Sony, they promised action within 24 hours, and only a mere six days later (a-hem) the set was picked up and whisked away for a grand audience with an Approved Sony Engineer. The collection guy said it would take “AAAAAges!” We have a shiny receipt in its place. It’s not much to look at on an evening.

Leeds Picture Library

The empty picture hooks are the former home of a fine work of art which we really loved.  It was loaned to us for a year from the Leeds Picture Library at Leeds Art Gallery. We never paid much attention to the name of the artist and I never took a note of it, but the picture grabbed us and we didn’t want to change it during our year of membership. The landscape brought the outside in and brightened our sitting area.

 

Leeds Library Painting

 

The problem with the painting was the fact we became so attached to it, and we knew we couldn’t keep it. Membership of the library was about £50 per year. We could have renewed our loan of this painting but the fact we couldn’t own it was starting to really grate on us. We couldn’t find another large painting that we liked in the library because there was a bit too much of abstract art and that’s not our style. Another problem was the glass in the library picture frames which was normal glass and not anti-glare, this posed a problem with our light fitting which reflected in it really badly.

Buy art

So my search for a new painting has begun. I want a lovely landscape by a local artist and I want an original. I want to see brush strokes and light reflecting off texture. OK, you think it’s an expensive dream but I’ve been inspired by the fabulous story of Tim Sayer, an art collector who breaks the stereotype of art collectors. He’s no millionaire with a yacht and six houses. He’s closer to my strata of society because on a humble BBC salary he collected thousands of original artworks for his own enjoyment. He’s now donating the whole collection to the Hepworth Gallery in Wakefield. But for me the interesting part of the story is how he afforded it. He said he either asked for a discount or he paid in instalments, sometimes both. (He also doesn’t have children but I won’t sell mine to pay for a painting, despite the temptation).

With a little research I found that the Arts Council have an interest-free loan scheme called “Own Art”. Some galleries are very good at promoting this scheme. And the artists themselves do not price unreasonably. You don’t just pay for skill and beauty, you pay for reputation. The more exhibitions in grander galleries that an artist has shown in, the more their paintings are worth.

 

Open Studios

I’m starting my picture search by getting to know the work of artists through the annual event North Yorkshire Open Studios. Every few years, over two weekends in the spring, it’s possible to visit artists in their own studios, meet them and see their work and their ongoing projects. Entry is free. You’ll be surprised to find how thick on the ground professional artists are. We found half a dozen only two streets away from our home! Not all are painters. Last time we also visited paper cutters, ceramic sculptors, wire sculptors, wood turners and stained glass artists. The next NYOS event will be June 2017 but I’m planning on finding other galleries to visit before then.

 

The search is on! What’s the story behind the pictures on your wall? Let me know in the comments.

couch to 5k ouch nhs running app 5km
NHS couch to 5k appPicture credit

I’ve got a sore foot. Again. The pain has been coming and going for a year, it’s unpredictable. Twelve months ago my big toe joint became painful and swollen. This mystified two G.Ps and I was sent for an x-ray to see if I had broken it (you’d think I’d remember doing that!). There was no break and no arthritis either, so I went on the waiting list to see a podiatrist. In the meantime my foot improved a bit and I was able to start walking my daughter to school again, but oh my, the pain of using the clutch pedal in the car was awful. Crawling through traffic jams could really make me dizzy with pain.

Diagnosing my foot pain

I waited five months to see a podiatrist on the NHS and when I got there the diagnosis was interesting. (Here comes the science bit!) The pain and swelling is caused by my toe joints bending and stretching in the wrong place as I walk. This happens because I have fairly hypermobile joints. I was born this way, quite flexible overall. It seems to be bad luck that my feet have got so bad at the ripe old age of forty-mumble.

The podiatrist gave me orthopaedic insoles and advised me to take ibuprofen and buy very expensive stiff shoes. Sadly that did not include any Jimmy Choo’s or Louboutin’s but I found a pair of acceptable black trainers on the podiatrist’s list and bought them – only for my husband to have a momentary paddy over the cost. All this treatment and shopping did not produce a miracle of healing.  Still, a few months later things improved. The pain lifted and for several weeks life seemed almost normal. It was only when I tried to keep up with the walking speed of other adults that I realised that I was still in trouble; my stride had shortened and I was stiff.

Getting off the couch

Then I made a strange discovery: It hurts less to run than to walk. How ironic! It turns out that there is less rotation on the toe joints in running motion, than in walking. As you run, your foot takes off from the ground before it has fully flexed, so there is less bending action on the toe joint. Well, I have never been a runner. I would normally say that if you see me running, you should run too because something must be chasing me! But now I had to give it a try. It was January and time for new years’ resolutions so I downloaded the NHS Couch to 5k running app onto my phone and began.

couch to 5k, nhs, running app

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This wasn’t as simple as it sounds. I did try running some years ago and my heart began to pound, I got hot and sweaty and breathless and very tired. My whole body seemed to be telling me this was a bad idea; I couldn’t understand why anyone would think this was acceptable! To top it off I came out in a ferocious itchy rash. Running in public with one hand up my t-shirt scratching was not a good look. I gave up.  I turned to google and discovered there are several reasons why I may have got a rash, some minor, some requiring hospitalization. I brazenly ignored the prospect of urgent medical attention and hoped it was internet flimflam. I decided that if I carried on getting itchy when running I would try antihistamines before throwing in the towel.

I started my Couch to 5k in the house. I cleared a path from the front door to the back window and did the first podcast and scratched shamelessly in private as my rash duly developed. I proudly told my husband of my achievement that evening to which he growled “the floorboards aren’t designed for that you know”.

Two days later I braved the garden path. There’s a nice big hedge in once place sheltering me from the neighbours and once the run got me all itchy again I could shove my hands down my trousers and scratch my thighs without causing an offensive local incident.  Then two days later I did the third podcast and at this point the whole rash thing really started to ease off. In fact that was the last time it happened. I was amazed! I would have taken up running years ago if I had known the itching would just stop.

 

Fun running

I began to really enjoy myself: The music playing in my ears as I wooshed along, the feeling of achievement, the skill with which I avoided meeting anyone I know on my local streets, the extra calories which the app My Fitness Pal told me I could scoff. It was brilliant. I got to week 5 of the 3-times-a-week plan, with a few breaks due to the weather. Then disaster struck. On Tuesday morning a pain began to shoot through the side of my right foot and I could only limp. I hope it eases off soon but after two days there is little improvement and I would really, really like a walking stick.

I’m in limbo with my lower limbs. I never really know if I should plan to walk somewhere or drive in case pain comes on and I get stuck. I’m on the waiting list for some injections but I don’t know yet what that will achieve. So as things stand, I mainly sit. Haha. Wish me luck, I’ll let you know if I ever get all the way to running 5k.

The story continues here

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