Riding Your Bike Is Good For Your Health

We all know how good riding your bike is for the environment, transport is the UK’s most emitting sector and as up to three million commuters travel as little as a mile and a half to get to work, cycling could be an excellent alternative. But cycling is also good for your health. Here are some of the benefits of riding your bike.

Cycling is a great way to start exercising

Because your bike takes the strain, cycling is gentle on your joints. On a bike you can also go slow if you like, and bikes have gears that make peddling less effort. Cycling is great for strengthening your legs!

Getting on your bike is good for mental health too

Cycling has been proven to increase endorphins in your body that lower stress and make you feel good. Getting out in the fresh air only adds to these benefits.

Losing weight is easier when you cycle

Riding your bike helps you lose weight more quickly, and reducing your weight can help boost the health of your heart, can reduce the chances of you suffering from diabetes or, if you already have diabetes, helps you fight it.

Riding in a group is good for your mental health

Apart from the obvious safety benefits riding in a group is a good way to meet new and interesting people who have similar interests to you. Strong friendships can be formed as you encourage each other when the going gets tough riding up that steep incline. Socialising is great way of discussing issues that are worrying you.

A great way to start your day

Having a morning ride on your bike is a great way to start your day. By getting out early you can see the start of a fresh day, get your blood circulating and put the world into a new, positive perspective setting you up for the rest of the day.

It might help you prevent or manage medical issues

Because cycling is a great way to avoid having a sedentary lifestyle there are reasons to believe that it might even prevent or help you manage any health issues that you are facing. Regular cycling has been proven to help prevent having a stroke or a heart attack, and it can help reduce high blood pressure which impacts so many other conditions. 

Riding your bike can improve posture, balance and coordination

On a bike your body is constantly working to adjust your position in the saddle, this improves body posture and your balance and coordination. As all of these reduce as we get older and are less active so riding can help reduce the chance of falls.

There are so many health benefits to riding your bike so why not give it a go!

Rob Bullock
robbullockauthor.blogspot.com

Supporting Upaid Carers – Helping The Helpers

The most recent Census 2021 puts the estimated number of unpaid carers at 5 million in England and Wales. This means that around 9% of people are providing unpaid care.

These unpaid carers in England and Wales contribute approximately £445 million to the economy every day – that’s £162 billion per year - according to research in 2023; equivalent in value to a second NHS in England and Wales.

That is why we are devoting this article to supporting unpaid carers, National Carers Week (scheduled for 10th-16th June) and the work of Carers UK.

Carers UK is the pre-eminent charity supporting unpaid carers in the UK. They provide free advice and guidance on Carers rights in work, in the welfare benefits system and in the healthcare system. They produce an annual ‘State of Caring’ report exploring the lived experience of carers, generate and publish policy research, and promote an annual national Carers Week every June.

If you are an unpaid carer and not aware of Carers UK go to www.carersuk.org/ and see how they can help you.

They also provide factsheets and have a telephone helpline - 0808 808 7777 - which is open Monday-Friday, 9am-6pm (except Bank Holidays). If you have a more complex query they recommend contacting them by email on advice@carersuk.org. They even have an online forum you can join.

82% of carers recently surveyed by Carers UK said the impact of caring on their physical and mental health would be a challenge over the coming year, with nearly 60% adding that being valued as a carer would improve their wellbeing.

According to Helen Walker, chief executive at Carers UK, “We want carers to know they are not forgotten, and they are not alone. The dedicated, committed support unpaid carers provide day in, day out has been valued as the equivalent of a second NHS, but often carers tell us that they feel unseen and undervalued. Many are at breaking point, facing challenges managing caring alongside their own health and wellbeing – with 78% of carers worried about being unable to care in the future.

“Recognition for carers in their communities and at national government level during an election year, has never been more important – making Carers Week a vital opportunity to put carers on the map”.

This year’s campaign theme, ‘Putting carers on the map', is aimed at ensuring the voices of unpaid carers are heard by politicians, employers, service providers, educational establishments, journalists and throughout our communities. Carers UK want caring to be made more visible, ensuring that carers feel seen and respected and that they can access the services and support that they need.

Each day will focus on a specific issue:

Monday - Campaign Launch
Tuesday - Health & Social Care
Wednesday - Work & Employment
Thursday - Younger Carers
Friday - Older Carers
Saturday - Mental Health & Wellbeing

Visit www.carersuk.org/news-and-campaigns/our-campaigns/carers-week/ for more information on the campaign itself.

Remember, if you look after a family member or friend who has a disability, mental or physical illness, addiction, or who needs extra help as they grow older, you are a carer. You have rights and you have entitlements.

If you aren’t already aware of the work of Carers UK please take a minute to find out how they can help you.

Alternatively, in terms of information, advice and guidance, visit the Citizens Advice website at www.citizensadvice.org.uk/family/looking-after-people/carers-help-and-support/ for a short introduction to carers rights.

Unpaid carers are the backbone of our civil society. They need to be valued and supported. What can you do to help them?

By Ed Hodson

Citizens Advice South Warwickshire - Citizens Advice working in partnership across Warwickshire

He’s a magnificent broadcaster, gifted gardener, brilliant author and all-round horticultural visionary. This month, Alan Titchmarsh talks about how patios are the unsung heroes of our gardens.

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Borders – More Is More! By Nicki Jackson

The term ‘less is more’ is used a lot, we say it ourselves for many reasons, however, when it comes to borders, more is most definitely more!

We are often asked to develop a planting scheme for people that haven’t had their garden designed but have had their garden changed and built by landscapers who’ve ‘left the borders ready for planting’. Unfortunately, what we sometimes find are very narrow borders, often just placed around the perimeter of a garden.

Whilst this is by no means a criticism of landscapers, or clients, very narrow borders do make it difficult to create an impactful planting scheme. Sometimes narrow borders are simply due to either landscapers or home owners not realising or understanding the potential for borders to be used to change the whole look and feel of a garden; to bring ambience, for instance, or create surprise, to draw the eye or direct it, to create balance and proportion to the space; and that it is far better to have one or two large borders than lots of really tiny ones; or it could be that homeowners want a low maintenance scheme and think that a narrow border means lower maintenance, when in fact, a very narrow border can make it difficult to achieve lower maintenance status.

To illustrate this final point let’s consider an evergreen shrub such as a Choisya – a great, low maintenance shrub that flowers in spring – once you plant it, there is very little to do to it. Whilst there are a number of Choisya varieties available, for this example our shrub will naturally grow to around 1m width once the plant is established. The borders we are sometimes asked to design are only 30-40cm deep, which means that if we did use it, our poor Choisya would have roughly a third pushed up against a fence and another third hanging over the border edge, often getting in the way of a lawn mower, resulting in the plant never really looking that attractive and homeowners never being that happy with it. 

As such, so many garden staples that are lower maintenance just can't be used in these spaces and if they are, would outgrow the available space in a matter of a couple of years. Had the borders been wider a lower maintenance scheme can be more effectively achieved.

Picking up on some of our earlier design points, narrow borders also make it virtually impossible to create any sense of depth in a border which, if available, brings with it opportunities to utilise other design principles such as using various textures, sizes and shapes of plants to create drama and visual impact. Instead, in a very narrow border a row of similar shaped plants might need to be used to fill the space in order to create some sort of cohesion, but the downside of that strategy is that it can often end up looking a bit like peas in a pod or sentries in a row. Even a very contemporary garden – which often uses a more limited planting palette – would still benefit from deeper borders.

When faced with narrow borders we do usually try to extend at least one border if it is at all possible to allow for a richer tapestry of shapes, form and colour in the garden, as well as to bring more balance to the overall feel of the space. When we design a garden, we will always design it with a more balanced proportion of planted to non-planted areas, utilising deeper borders and the positioning of them to allow us to create a planting scheme that delights the client and wildlife/pollinators too.

If you are designing the layout of your own garden consider the size and positions of your borders because where they are concerned, more is most definitely more!

© Nicki Jackson, Blue Daisy Gardens 2024

This is a great way to feed the family as the chicken and veg are all cooked in one very large tray in the oven. It takes only minutes to put everything together then it sits in the oven for under an hour with no fussy finishing off to do and only one pan to wash up.

The recipe allows one chicken thigh and one drumstick per person, but use less if you are not such big eaters.

Serves 6

1   Preheat the oven to 220°C/200°C fan/Gas mark 7.

2   Place the potatoes in a large roasting tin with 2 tablespoons of the oil. Toss well to coat them. Add the onion, garlic, bacon and chicken pieces and toss together.

3   Add the lemons to the roasting tin. Season everything well and sprinkle with the paprika. Roast for 40 minutes.

 In a bowl toss the courgettes in the remaining tablespoon of oil and season with salt and pepper, then poke them in among the chicken and scatter the olives over the top. Return to the oven for a further 20 minutes, until the chicken and vegetables are golden brown and tender.

Recipe from the book Mary Berry Cooks, published by BBC Books in 2014.

Top Tips

Stuffed olives are great but use plain green or black ones if you prefer.

The preserved lemons really give a lovely citrus tang to the dish – they sit in salt water and are beautifully soft and citrusy and are well worth using – but if you can’t find them use one sliced lemon instead.

Don’t overcrowd the roasting tin, you need everything to be in a single layer or it will not cook evenly – divide between two tins if necessary.

Your Questions Answered by TaxAssist Accountants

Is the threshold for filing a self-assessment tax return changing?

I have heard that HMRC will be changing the threshold for taxpayers who pay tax through PAYE to complete a self-assessment tax return. Could you please confirm what the new threshold is and when it will come into effect?

Answer

For 2023/24 you must complete a tax return if any of the following apply: 

Previously, and for your 2022/23 tax return, you would have needed to complete a tax return if your total taxable income exceeded £100,000. 

Those affected will not need to do anything, you should receive a self-assessment exit letter if you file a 2022-23 tax return showing income between £100,000 and £150,000 taxed through PAYE, and don’t meet any of the other criteria for submitting a self-assessment return.  

Furthermore, for the 2024/25 tax year, employees with only PAYE income will not need to complete a tax return, regardless of the amount of income. 

You can check whether you need to submit a 2023/24 tax return using the HMRC checking tool at www.gov.uk/check-if-you-need-tax-return.

Information supplied by Cheryl Hopkins, Chartered Certified Accountant, TaxAssist Accountants. Advice shared in this article is intended to inform rather than advise and is based on legislation and practice at the time. Taxpayers’ circumstances do vary and if you feel that the information provided is beneficial it is important that you contact us before implementation. If you take, or do not take, action, as a result of reading this article, before receiving our written endorsement, we will accept no responsibility for any financial loss incurred.

Fabulous Fritillaries by Martin Blow

A flood meadow full of the purple checkerboard flowers of Snakes Head Fritillaries (Fritillaria meleagris), Britain’s only native species, in spring is a rare but inspiring sight, now only to be found in a few protected places. However, there are an increasing number of species available to plant in your own garden.

Creating your own mini meadow of Snakes Heads doesn’t require a full-blown flood meadow! Any patch of damp grass that can be left unmowed until the autumn will allow the plants to colonise. Plants may die out in dry conditions. Bulbs can be planted in late summer or autumn about 4” / 10cm deep with some grit in the base of the hole. Pot-grown specimens can be planted at any time in the growing season. Mowing in spring or summer will severely weaken the plants and prevent self-seeding. There are many varieties and forms of Snakes Head from the best-known purple-white checkers to pure white “Alba”, to the dark purple of “Charon”. Other Fritillaries can be planted in grass or in the border.

Almost as well-known is the majestic Crown Imperial (F. imperialis) from Turkey, Iran and into Asia. These large bulbs grow to 3-4ft / 90-120cm in good conditions. The stout stems and lush leaves have a characteristic “foxy” smell. The large fleshy bulbs must be planted very deeply, around 1ft / 30cm deep if possible. This species requires some moisture retention, but good drainage so liberal amounts of garden compost will help. The soil shouldn’t be too acid. The wild species has orange flowers and many varieties have been bred to include yellow flowers and variegated leaves. There is even a short-stemmed, purple-flowered form called “Indora”.

Similar to, but smaller than, the Crown Imperial is a pale yellow F. raddeana. The softer colour and 2ft / 60cm height make it good for the smaller border or pot culture.

Fritillaria michailovskyi has striking brown and gold bells on short plants (8in / 20cm). It prefers dry and cool shade in summer and cold with some moisture, but not waterlogging, in winter.

A hunt around specialist growers will produce even more unusual species to try, but it’s worth researching growing requirements before purchasing as these do vary from species to species.

If you get the growing conditions right Fritilliaries are long-lived plants that spread and colonise when naturalised. The only pests you are likely to encounter are the usual culprits – slugs and snails and sometimes lily beetles in spring. Wildlife-friendly pellets are best to deal with the former and picking off the red adults and brown-sticky grubs for the latter.

Janet & I organise Plant Hunters’ Fairs, specialist plant fairs at wonderful locations. Please see www.planthuntersfairs.co.uk for a full list of our 2024 plant fairs. Please check our website for ticketing information and all the latest updates before travelling. Plant Fair Dates for your diary 2024:

Bodenham Arboretum, DY11 5TB on Saturday 6th April. Middleton Hall, Nr Tamworth, B78 2AE on Sunday 14th April. 1620s House and Garden, Nr. Coalville, LE67 2FW on Sunday 21st April. Chasewater Country Park, WS8 7NL on Saturday 27th April. Arley Arboretum, DY12 1SQ on Monday 27th May.

Our Best Loved Pets

Explore the warmth of animal companionship as we unveil the most affectionate pets in the UK.

Recent research has delved into the world of pet ownership, particularly focusing on the emotional connection between humans and their animal companions. In the UK, a nation renowned for its love of pets, certain animals have emerged as particularly affectionate choices for those seeking a furry friend.

Unsurprisingly, dogs top the list as the most affectionate pets. Known for their loyalty and capacity for emotional connection, canines have been companions to humans for thousands of years. As of the latest statistics, there are approximately nine million dogs in the UK.

The cost of caring for a dog varies greatly depending on the breed, size and health. On average, dog owners may spend around £50 to £80 per month on food, grooming, vet visits and insurance.

Cats are often unfairly labelled as distant, indifferent and standoffish. In truth, they are quite loving creatures. While cats and dogs express their affection in different ways, cats often display genuine loyalty and care towards their owners.

Numerous instances have been recorded where cats have courageously risked their own safety to help an owner they sensed was in danger. The UK is home to about 7.5 million cats. Monthly expenses for a cat can be relatively lower than for dogs, averaging between £40 and £60, covering food, litter and routine veterinary care.

Remarkably, rabbits can exhibit devotion and fondness comparable to dogs. They also possess diverse personalities, ranging from timid and reserved to lively and playful, making them suitable for various types of owners.

In the UK, the rabbit population stands at around one million. The monthly cost of keeping a rabbit – including food, housing and health care – can average between £30 and £50.

Birds, particularly parrots and canaries, are known for their social interaction and ability to form strong bonds with their owners. There are approximately 1.5 million pet birds in the UK. Monthly costs, including food, cage maintenance and vet care, can range from £20 to £40.

Guinea pigs are small, companionable and friendly, making them ideal pets for those with limited space. The UK has an estimated population of 500,000 guinea pigs. Their monthly upkeep cost – including food, bedding and health care – is relatively low, around £20 to £30.

Owning a hamster offers unique joys as these diminutive, cuddly creatures are low maintenance, provide comforting companionship, and can help reduce stress through their playful and demonstrative nature. There are around 400,000 hamsters in the UK and their monthly care costs, including food, bedding and occasional vet visits, are around £10 to £20.

Should We All Learn To Save A Life By CPR?

Cardio Pulmonary Resucitation (CPR) is literally a life saver. Our hearts have an electrical circuit all of their own and a biological pacemaker to keep them beating regularly. It is so sophisticated that it increases our heart rate to pump more blood to our muscles when we run for a bus or exercise. But just like other body functions it can go wrong. Sometimes it goes wrong in a small way with extra heartbeats or irregular timings. Sometimes it goes catastrophically wrong, often due to a heart attack when blood stops getting to the heart muscle. A common heart rhythm in these circumstances is ‘Fibrillation’. The heart’s natural pacemaker fails to coordinate the muscle fibres into a unified contraction, so the heart muscle is alive but just quivering and not pumping blood round the body. Not pumping blood means the person collapses, stops breathing and will die unless either CPR or de-fibrillation with an electrical current can capture the muscle fibres to fire at the same time again. 

So should we all learn CPR? The answer is a big “yes”, we should all be able to come to the assistance of another person with a sudden cardiac arrest. There are short, friendly courses that teach how to do CPR and how to use specially designed Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) that talk you through the whole procedure. 

Community buildings, business premises, sports clubs and pubs often have an AED. To be able to find one when time is of the essence AEDs are registered with The Circuit, The National Defibrillator Network that brings together all the locations of working AEDs so the ambulance service can tell people on the scene how to find one quickly.

Undertaking CPR is strenuous, as to pump blood the chest must be compressed to at least 6cms but it is well worth it if the collapsed person is fit and their life is saved. About 1 in 10 out of hospital CPR attempts are successful because trained bystanders act fast.

In hospital CPR may be more successful if offered to the right patient, e.g. after a heart attack or a sudden illness in a previously well person. It is not worth the physical trauma if a patient is too poorly to benefit from the attempt.

Many people have a discussion with medical staff about their treatment options and preferences. These preferences are recorded on a Recommended Summary Plan for Emergency Care and Treatment (ReSPECT) form. At the end is advice on whether medical staff think CPR is advisable for you. Many people fear that if CPR is not advisable, they will be ‘left to die’ without proper care. However, the advice is only that CPR is inadvisable, all other appropriate and helpful medical interventions are still offered when you need them, but the added risk of trauma or brain damage from CPR will be avoided. This will apply to someone ill with a deteriorating chronic illness, when all treatments have already been tried, to ensure a peaceful passage to death for the patient, family and loved ones.

Have you thought about what you would choose in such a situation? The Omega Course is designed to help people think ahead on these topics. Find out more at www.omegacourse.co.uk or call 07999 739381.

Learn CPR to save a life in 15 minutes online with The British Heart Foundation. If school kids can do it, so can you! Find out more at www.BHF.org.uk/RevivR.

Local CPR training with an AED is led by www.KenilworthHeartsafe.com – 07836 283652.

Dr Chantal Meystre
MB ChB MA FRCP UKCP Cert IGA
Director
Mobile: 07999 739381 
Email: courses@omegacourse.co.uk
www.omegacourse.co.uk

2023 has proved an impressive year of post-Covid recovery as the NGS donated over £3 million to our beneficiaries (including Marie Curie, Macmillan Cancer Support, Hospice UK, Carers Trust, Queen’s Nursing Institute and Parkinson’s UK).

“Warwickshire’s 7358 visitors raised over £44,000 last year. 2024 promises to be another fabulous year of garden openings in our area,” commented Liz Watson, County Organiser. “This year we are delighted to be joined by some gardens previously part of our neighbouring ‘patch’ in the West Midlands including Marie Curie Hospice and Bournville Village. If anyone else would like to join us in opening their own garden or joining a community of volunteers, please do get in touch”.

For full details of all Warwickshire open gardens, please visit ngs.org.uk or see the newly-available county booklet.

APRIL

Every Saturday & Sunday
Bridge Nursery, Southam, CV47 8HX
Admission £3.50 children free
A one-acre wildlife haven of varied plants thriving in clay soil. 

Saturday 20th April
Broadacre www.broadacregarden.org 
Grange Road, Dorridge, Solihull, B93 8QA
2-6pm, admission £6, children free, dogs on short leads welcome, plant sale
Dorridge’s Broadacre opens its imposing Edwardian gentleman’s estate of gently landscaped grounds and nature reserve with venerable oaks where barn and tawny owls nest, 600 year-old hedges, indigenous woodland (with Dutch-elm disease resistant elm varieties planted), fruit trees in Spring blossom and two wildflower meadows, all organically managed. Bring sensible footwear for the Nature Trail. Refreshments will be served at the Wisteria Wall, Country Markets produce stall selling jams, preserves from estate produce and local honey, with Tea Marquee refreshments included in entrance fee dispensing glorious cakes and tea served in china cups. 

MAY

Sunday 5th May
Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens, B36 9BT www.castlebromwichhallgardens.org.uk
10.30am-4.30pm, admission £6, children £3, dogs on short leads welcome, plant sale
10 fascinating acres of restored C16/17 walled garden plus 30 acres of parkland and wildlife reserve. Formal yew parterres, wilderness walks, summerhouses, holly maze, espaliered fruit and wild areas.

Friday 10th May
Priors Marston Manor, CV47 7RH
10am-4pm, admission £7, children free, dogs on short leads welcome. Teas.
Georgian manor garden and pleasure grounds. Regional Winner, Midlands, The English Garden Magazine’s The Nation’s Favourite Gardens 2023.

Sunday 12th & 19th May
Beech Hurst, 3 Warwick Road, Southam, CV47 0HN
2pm-5pm, admission £5, children free
1¼ acre garden attached to Regency house, woodland with historic trees, borders, recent Japanese garden with acers, cherries, rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias.

Cats Whiskers, Birmingham, B13 8LE
12pm-5pm, admission £6, children free
Abundantly stocked plantsman’s garden developed over 40 years.

Saturday 25th & Sunday 26th May
Ilmington Gardens, CV36 4LA
12.30pm-5.30pm, combined admission £10, children free, homemade cream teas
A cornucopia of ten enchanting and varied gardens within this picturesque hillside Cotswold village.

Saturday 25th & Monday 27th May
Pebworth Gardens, CV37 8XZ
1pm-5pm, admission £7, children free, teas at Village Hall, cakes served by Pebworth & District WI
Eleven varied (cottage, modern, walled, terraced) styles for the garden visitor to enjoy. Village allotments also open with – we are assured – some “real characters” offering a warm welcome.

Words & Photographs © Lily Farrah

Back To Black

Black may not be an obvious choice when it comes to home interiors, but there are many reasons to include it in your next redecoration project.

It’s a colour many of us may turn away from, yet there are many ways in which black can be used, not just to improve, but to really add that missing wow factor.

Strike a balance

The first rule when using black in the home is to maintain a sense of balance. After all, it’s a powerful colour that can easily overwhelm a room if used excessively.

To strike the right balance, consider using black as an accent colour rather than the dominant one. For example, you can incorporate black through accessories, such as throw pillows, rugs or artwork to add depth and contrast without making the room feel too dark.

Focus on furniture

Black furniture pieces can be the focal point of your home decor. A leather sofa, for instance, can exude luxury and modernity.

Whatever you choose, ensure it complements the overall style of your home. Consider the material and finish of the furniture, as they will significantly impact the room's ambiance.

Glossy black finishes can reflect light and create a more glamorous feel, while matte black adds a touch of understated elegance.

Be floored

Black flooring or rugs add a sense of grandeur to a space. Black marble or granite floors in entryways or bathrooms can make a stunning first impression, while rugs with intricate patterns can be used in living rooms or bedrooms to anchor the space and add texture.

Just like with furniture, consider the finish and texture of the flooring or rug material to achieve the desired effect.

Light up the dark

Black lighting fixtures, such as chandeliers, pendant lights and wall sconces can add a touch of sophistication and drama to any room. Black fixtures often serve as striking focal points that draw the eye upward, adding height and elegance to a space.

Layer your home in luxury

Black textiles, such as curtains, upholstery and bedding, can be used to infuse elegance into your home. Velvet or silk black curtains can create a sense of opulence in a living room or bedroom, while dark throw pillows or blankets can be added to neutral-coloured furniture to provide a pop of contrast and style.

Add an accent

Finally, using black as a wall accent can be a great compromise. One wall painted in a deep charcoal or black can create a dramatic backdrop for artwork or a statement piece of furniture. Moreover, black accent walls can make other colours in the room pop and provide a sense of depth.

10 Ways To Live An Extra 10 Years

We all strive for longevity in life – we want to maximise each day and each experience.

With that in mind, here are the 10 things scientists recently outlined which, if done properly, can each add a year into life expectancy.

1. A balanced diet

A diet rich in various nutrients is essential for longevity. Incorporate a variety of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains to ensure a balanced intake of vitamins and minerals.

2. Regular exercise

Engaging in regular physical activity can be transformative. It bolsters cardiovascular health, regulates blood sugar levels and will even enhance mood due to the release of endorphins.

3. Adequate sleep

Quality sleep allows the brain to clear out toxins and supports the repair of cells. Poor sleep, on the other hand, has been implicated in a host of diseases, making those 7-9 hours a night a critical investment in your future wellbeing.

4. Good stress management

Techniques like mindfulness and meditation can reduce the production of stress hormones such as cortisol, and regular practice can lower blood pressure, improve heart health and offer a serene mind, contributing to a lengthened lifespan.

5. Healthy social connections

Humans are inherently social beings and isolation can be harmful to our health. Cultivating friendships and community ties can provide emotional support, reduce stress, and foster a sense of belonging and purpose.

6. Lifelong learning

Challenging your brain with new information and skills can stave off mental decline. Pursuits such as reading, learning a new language or playing a musical instrument stimulate neural connections and can protect against dementia and memory loss.

7. Preventive healthcare

Proactive engagement with healthcare providers for regular screenings and check-ups can catch problems before they escalate, with vaccinations, cancer checks, blood pressure and cholesterol levels all cornerstones of preventive care.

8. No smoking and limited alcohol

Smoking cessation is perhaps the single most powerful change for those who do smoke. It significantly reduces the risk of numerous cancers and cardiovascular diseases. And if alcohol is part of your lifestyle, moderation is key.

9. Healthy body weight

Excess weight, particularly around the midsection, is associated with an increased risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and certain cancers. Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight through a balanced diet and regular exercise can significantly reduce risks.

10. A positive outlook

Optimists, who generally expect good things to happen, are less likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease and can even have stronger immune responses. That means cultivating gratitude, joy, and a positive mindset may not only make your days brighter, but extend them too!

Is Barlow Back…For Good?

Following last year’s release of their chart-topping album This Life, Take That are ready to return to the stage with a show that promises to enthrall. Naturally, their chief songwriter, Gary Barlow, couldn’t be more excited.

In June 2023 the iconic pop group Take That announced a grand return to the stage with This Life On Tour – a spectacular 29-date journey across 15 cities, marking their first major outing since their hiatus between 2019 and 2023.

All is set to begin in April with three opening nights in Sheffield and symbolises something of a renaissance for the band. Gary Barlow, the band’s esteemed songwriter of 13 UK number one singles, shared his enthusiasm.

“There’s an electric feeling about going back on tour, especially after such a relatively long break. This Life On Tour isn’t just about performing our new songs; it’s a celebration of our journey, our fans and the music that has been part of so many lives,” he said.

The tour is named after their current and ninth studio album This Life and to celebrate a fourth decade of music since they first appeared on the scene with 1991 debut single Do What U Like.

Featuring the lead single Windows, the album showcases a matured sound reflecting the band's evolution over the years. Barlow describes it as being “filled with our experiences, hopes and memories. It's deeply personal yet universal. We've poured every bit of ourselves into this album.”

The tour will not only cover major cities like Leeds, Dublin, London, Glasgow, Manchester and Birmingham but also includes several other UK landmarks, such as Plymouth, Swansea and Nottingham.

After the final UK date in Bristol on Saturday 8th June, the boys will move on to a series of shows in key European cities, including Berlin, Rome and Madrid.

Reflecting on the band's journey and the excitement of touring again, the 53-year-old enthuses, “Every time we step on stage, it’s a new adventure. The thrill of performing live, the energy from the crowd – it’s irreplaceable. This tour, with our new music, feels like we’re starting a fresh chapter, and we can’t wait to share it with everyone.”

Known for their dynamic live performances and a string of hits dating back to the 1990s, they are expected to deliver a mix of new tracks from This Life along with their classic hits, offering a full spectrum of their musical journey.

As Barlow puts it, “It's not just a tour; it’s a thank you to our fans, a nod to our past and a toast to the future.”

Teenagers and Mental Health

In 2023 about 1 in 5 children aged 8-20 years were deemed to have a mental disorder, this is an increase of 60% since 2017. Family difficulties, bullying, abuse in any form, and family history are major causes, but social media has been increasingly deemed as a significant cause of mental health disorders in our young adults. More than 80% of young adults agree that the Covid pandemic worsened mental health.

Most parents underestimate the problems, risky behaviour and inappropriate experiences their children have had. 

One of our teenage patients has written the following article on how adults, parents, teachers and guardians can help them:  

The rates of depression in teenagers have doubled between 2012-2019 and is still increasing. Someone you know may be depressed. Therefore, it is crucial to know how you can help your friend/child/cousin, etc and what may be causing it.

Be there for them

Depression is much harder to cope with when alone. Humans are social creatures who have faced problems together since the beginning and depression is such a problem that needs to be tackled together, not individually. It is imperative that you constantly check up on your loved one because the biggest blunder you can make is leaving them to be lonely, instead introduce yourself as being a haven for them, a person they can turn to and talk to, as “opening up” is one of the most effective ways of tackling depression.

Help them reduce their screen time

Although not all cases of teenage depression are caused by social media, it is a “prime culprit” for many teenagers. The teenage age group is one of the biggest consumers of social media, they watch intense things like death, drugs, love, sex, violence and everything in between. Whilst not all aspects of social media are bad, some aspects are damaging.

There is reason to believe social media is a catalyst for depression through means such as cyberbullying and excessive exposure to content. Excessive exposure to content is damaging as it can cause too much dopamine in parts of the brain which can cause severe addiction eventually leading to depression.

In general, social media may have negative impacts as it invokes “comparisons”. People like to compare themselves with their favourite creator, many popular content creators advertise a lavish (often superficial) perfect life, and these subconscious comparisons may lead to dismay and despair in our life. Some people may even resort to quick ineffective means to try to reach an unreachable point, and when they fail, they become unfortunately depressed.

Instead of watching them chase these near impossible ideals, help them find their true passion through forms such as sport, art, music and literature because they all help alleviate depression. Maybe get them into gardening because to “plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow”.

Please contact your GP if your teenager or yourself, as parents, need support.

The crisis helpline is available 24/7 on 0808 196 6798 (option 2).

www.youngminds.org.uk/young-person/your-guide-to-support/
www.youngminds.org.uk/parent/parents-helpline-and-webchat

Dr Suparna Behura
Partner and Trainer

PARISH COUNCIL PROJECTS

BIDFORD COMMUNITY FRIDGE (NO WASTE)
This is now operative from the Methodist Church on Mondays and Thursdays 10.30am – 11.30am. This may be extended – so please check social media for updates. The Community Fridge is open to everyone, not just those in need.  It is about stopping good food from being thrown away.  However, you are free to donate to the Bidford Community Fridge should you so wish.
Want to volunteer for this essential local service? Please contact Hilary at admin@bidfordonavon-pc.gov.uk.
The aim of this new community project is “No Waste”, making food, that would  otherwise go to landfill, available to local residents.
Look out for the Café – coming soon!

CITIZENS ADVICE - BIDFORD OUTREACH

The First Thursday of the month in the Parish Council Room (in the library) 10am–1pm. Please note you must pre-book.  This provides essential advice in these difficult times and is carried out in complete confidence. Please note the library is closed on Thursdays. To book a slot, please call 0808 250 5715.
Dates: 4th April and 2nd May

CONCERNS/ISSUES

If you have a concern or issue about anything within the Parish, please use the Love Clean Street App and send by email info@bidfordonavon-pc.gov.uk. Alternatively, you can contact the Clerk on 07718 628925 or by email as above. Please don’t post on Social Media (Bidford Forum) where it may be missed and, therefore, remain unanswered or unsolved.

WEEKLY EVENTS

MEETINGS

All meetings, which are open to the public, are held at the Parish Council Meeting Room, Bramley Way, B50 4QG (unless stated otherwise). Please note it is at these meetings that decisions that directly affect our village and our local community are made – so be part of it and come and see it happen.

BIDFORD EMAIL INFORMATION

Want to know what is happening in the village every week? Nothing easier, simply sign up by emailing the Clerk at info@bidfordonavon-pc.gov.uk and your name will be added to the Weekly Email Information list to receive an email regarding upcoming Events and Notices. As Your Call Magazine is bi-monthly, this is a good way to ensure you are up to date with everything local.

SOCIAL MEDIA

Another way the Parish Council is trying to keep the local community informed is by the use of Social Media. Please follow us via Facebook (Bidford on Avon) Twitter (@Bidford_PC) and now also on Instagram (bidfordpc). A lot of information and updates are published through social media, so do make sure you follow us to stay informed.

PARISH COUNCIL CONTACTS

Elisabeth Uggerløese – Clerk to the Parish Council

PS. Keep an eye on the What’s On page of the website (bidfordonavon-pc.gov.uk/whats-on/) for events. They will also be advertised on Social Media.

Community Shed Update

Work is now well underway to transform the redundant squash courts behind the Greig Hall into a community shed. Modelled on the Mens Shed Movement, this will become THE place in Alcester for members of the community to make, repair, meet and learn new practical skills. One of the courts will become a workshop and the other a public space where the highly successful Repair Café will relocate once refurbishment is complete.

If you require further information on progress or think you would like to join the Community Shed group, please email Cllr Mark Cargill on mcargill.atc@gmail.com.

SPEND

A new support group for parents with children and young people who have special needs has been launched in Alcester. Created through a collaboration of local parents and the Alcester Health & Wellbeing Partnership, the group was launched in January 2024. The response was overwhelming with amazing feedback from all who attended.

The group, named ‘SPEND’, now meets on the second Friday of every month in the Depot at the Eric Payne Community Centre, B49 6AG from 9.45am - 11.15am. The aim is for parents to feel supported, not just with practical advice and assistance but also with their own emotional wellbeing. You can be assured of a warm welcome.

There is also a private Facebook group called ‘SPEND Parent Support’, that SEN parents in the area can request to join (see QR code).

Town Council Meetings

All Town Council meetings are held in person at Globe House with the exception of the Planning Committee which sometimes meets using Zoom. All meetings commence at 7pm.

Full Council – 16th April & 14th May (Annual Meeting)
Planning Committee – 15th April & 20th May
Finance & General Purposes Committee – 30th April & 28th May

Members of the public are welcome to attend all Council meetings and are given time at the start of the meetings to speak. Anyone wishing to attend or ask questions is advised to contact the Town Clerk on clerk@alcester-tc.gov.uk before the meeting to obtain further details. Agendas are published on the Town Council website at www.alcester-tc.gov.uk and copies can be viewed on the Council notice boards.

Alcester Town Council Contact Details

The Town Council offices are open Monday - Friday from 9am-1pm. If you have an enquiry for the Town Council, please phone 01789 766084 or email clerk@alcester-tc.gov.uk and we will respond as soon as we can.

Alcester Town Council Offices

Globe House, Priory Road, Alcester, B49 5DZ Tel: 01789 766084

Town Clerk - Vanessa Lowe: clerk@alcester-tc.gov.uk
Planning and Communication - Sarah Duran: administration@alcester-tc.gov.uk
Health & Wellbeing - Wendy Sherwood: info@alcester-tc.gov.uk
Facilities Manager - Tim Forman: office@alcester-tc.gov.uk
Mayor’s Secretary – Sarah Duran: mayor@alcester-tc.gov.uk

Further info also available at:

www.facebook.com/alcester.towncouncil
www.twitter.com/AlcesterTown
www.instagram.com/alcestertowncouncil

He’s a magnificent broadcaster, gifted gardener, brilliant author and all-round horticultural visionary. This month, Alan Titchmarsh talks about how to make your garden a social hub.

(more…)

Making Your Money Go Further – Tackling ‘Negative Budgets’

Though Spring has ‘sprung’, and we are no longer thinking about the costs of winter, April-May reflects the beginning of a new financial year.

With the March Budget behind us there is a feeling in some circles that the cost-of-living crisis is blowing over and that we need not concern ourselves anymore with how to ‘make ends meet’.

Our evidence across Warwickshire suggests otherwise, with a worrying rise in ‘negative budgets’, which is where weekly-monthly household income does not meet essential outgoings. So we wanted to take this opportunity to recognise that and provide some ‘top tips’ on how to cope with the ongoing crisis.

For some, these tips will be ‘old hat’ and for others ‘obvious’ but, hopefully, there is something there for everyone.

1. If you don’t already do this, download a ‘budget planner’ from tools.nationaldebtline.org/yourbudget/ or make your own, and write down in black and white what your income is and what you actually spend money on. You would be amazed how many people do not take this first step in managing their money.

2. If you are regularly struggling to make ends meet, whether you are in work or not, check your entitlement to means-tested and/or disability-carers benefits. Visit www.citizensadvice.org.uk/benefits/benefits-introduction/what-benefits-can-i-get/ or ask for a benefit check at your nearest Citizens Advice (CA).

3. If you are in particular difficulty, notwithstanding debt issues, seek help in accessing charitable support. Try www.turn2us.org.uk in the first instance or, again, consult your local CA office. Options go far beyond Food and Fuel Banks and help is available for people in all sorts of circumstances.

4. If you are concerned about debts, get free confidential but expert advice as soon as you can from your local CA office. If you would prefer an alternative try www.nationaldebtline.org/ or www.stepchange.org/ or, for general advice, go to www.moneyhelper.org.uk/en. Debt advice saves lives.

5. When spending your limited income several tips may seem obvious but bear restating. Shop around for better deals, don’t auto-renew policies without looking at the competition first, and don’t expose yourself to scams by taking up opportunities which look “too good to be true”. Try websites like www.moneysavingexpert.com/ and see how much money you can save if you can devote some time to being a savvy shopper.

6. With utilities in particular, including TV-Internet-Broadband, ask your current providers about ‘social tariffs’ (ie. discounts for those on low incomes), metering and payment methods. Social tariffs can save you hundreds of pounds a year. If you have never heard of the ‘Big Difference Scheme’, for example, contact Severn Trent Water immediately or visit www.stwater.co.uk/my-account/help-when-you-need-it/help-with-paying-your-bill/big-difference-scheme/.

7. On the biggest expenditures, like rent and mortgages, there are always measures that can be taken however difficult your circumstances may seem. The key is not to accept defeat and/or look for help from short term high-cost lenders such as Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) options or, worse, illegal lenders (‘loan sharks’).

8. …and finally, the standard of living crisis is not going away for most low-income families. Checking you are receiving your legal entitlements, being a savvy shopper, being honest about debt concerns and planning ahead as best you can do all make a difference. Expert, free and confidential support is out there. You just need to make the most of it. For self-help starter information, advice and guidance on all of the above, and more, go to www.citizensadvice.org.uk.

By Ed Hodson

Citizens Advice South Warwickshire - Citizens Advice working in partnership across Warwickshire

Rule(s) Britannia

Are you aware of the dos and don’ts of air travel with the 2024 updates to the rules and regulations coming to fruition? Here’s a rundown before you’re on the runway…

Navigating the new normal in air travel

The landscape of international travel is ever-changing, and this year will be no exception. One of the most notable shifts is the modification of the liquid hand luggage rule. For years, passengers have been restricted to carrying no more than 100ml of liquid in their hand luggage. However, a significant change is on the horizon.

In December 2022, the UK Government announced a relaxation of this rule, allowing passengers to carry up to two litres of liquids in hand luggage by June 2024. This change – facilitated by the upgrade of security scanners – has already been implemented at London City Airport.

Yet, it's crucial to note that this amendment currently applies only to UK airports. Travellers must remain vigilant about the existing liquid restrictions at international airports until they confirm the adoption of the new rules.

New EU border controls

The European Union's new Entry/Exit System (EES), launching later this autumn, represents a significant overhaul of border control for non-EU citizens. This digital system will replace passport stamping with a process that records biometric data and personal information.

While aimed at streamlining security and data accuracy, its introduction may initially lead to longer processing times at EU borders. Historical transitions to digital border systems, like the Automated Passport Control kiosks in the USA, have shown that such changes can initially cause delays.

However, these are often short-lived as travellers and staff adapt to the new technology. To facilitate a smooth transition, travellers should anticipate potential delays, plan for extra time at airports and familiarise themselves with the EES requirements.

Adapting to tourist taxes and child e-gate policies
Tourist taxes are also seeing adjustments in various destinations. In an effort to manage tourist numbers, some locations are implementing new fees. Notably, Venice will introduce a €5 entry fee for day visitors and Amsterdam is set to increase its hotel room tax rate to 12.5%.

In addition, the UK has made a welcome change to its e-Gate policies. Children as young as 10 years old are now eligible to use e-Gates, a drop from the previous age limit of 12.

These gates, which facilitate quick passport checks, are installed at major UK airports including Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, London City, Luton, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, East Midlands, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Manchester and Newcastle. They are also in use at UK border controls at Eurostar terminals in Brussels and Paris, making family travel more convenient and efficient.

Based on a retro classic, this blancmange is a far cry from its wobbly 1970s reputation – instead, this is a light and creamy raspberry and almond dessert.

When serving, you may wish to add something like shortbread biscuits, sponge fingers or langues de chat (another French favourite!) around the base.

Serves 12

1   Soak the gelatine leaves in a bowl of chilled water for 5 minutes, blitz the raspberries to a fine purée. Pass through a sieve into a clean bowl, discarding the pips, then stir in the raspberry liqueur. 

2   Now mix the cornflour with a little of the milk in a pan. Add the remaining milk, along with the sugar and ground almonds. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer gently for 3–5 minutes, to thicken.

3   Squeeze out any excess water from the gelatine leaves, then add them to the pan, stirring continuously until dissolved. Add the almond extract. Stir in 300ml of the double cream and all the raspberry purée, combine thoroughly, then pour into the mould. Leave to set for at least six hours, preferably overnight.  

4   To serve, lightly whip the remaining 150ml of cream to soft peaks, then spoon into a medium piping bag fitted with a medium star nozzle.

5   Remove the mould from the fridge and quickly dip it into a bowl of hot water to loosen the blancmange. Invert the mould onto a serving plate to turn out the blancmange.  

 Finally, pipe the cream around the base of the blancmange, then decorate with crystallised rose petals.

This Year’s Oscars Were Boring (Probably), But Does That Matter? by Tom Beasley

I'm writing this about Oppenheimer's win for Best Picture at the Oscars. And I'm writing it a week before the actual ceremony. Of course, if Oppenheimer didn't win, then I look like an idiot and will probably have to abandon my film critic career immediately. But I'm more confident than I've been about the awards for the best part of a decade. Oppenheimer won – unless, of course, it didn't.

Part of the reason I'm so confident is that I've been watching Oppenheimer hoover up gongs for a very long time now. The “awards season” in Hollywood now spans months, starting with the Golden Globes on 7th January and running all the way through to the Oscars on 10th March. That's 63 days for Oppenheimer's procession to happen.

And it's not just the big, televised shows. You'll be familiar with the Globes and the BAFTAs, but there are also innumerable ceremonies for various critics groups all over the world – including the London Film Critics Circle, of which I'm a part. Then there are awards ceremonies for the various professions within Hollywood – the actors have one, the directors have one, and so on. With only a few exceptions, Oppenheimer has won the top prize at all of these events.

For someone like me, this is a disaster. I'm the sort of deeply tedious nerd who has a colour-coded spreadsheet of all of the winners of these various awards going back decades – seriously – in order to better predict the latest victor. That all feels a little pointless when something sweeps the board. And as a result, it's really boring. I'll be staying up to watch the Oscars and so I'll definitely have given a big yawn when Oppenheimer was announced as the winner at about 5am.

Christopher Nolan is a fascinating filmmaker, but there are only so many times I can hear him thank his family, his cast, and everyone who helped make his biopic of the atomic bomb pioneer possible. He's interesting, but not that interesting.

But unfortunately, I've had to conclude that this only matters to the smallest group of people. For most, Oppenheimer's victory is a triumph and a source of great excitement. With the best will in the world, the Oscars are somewhat pretentious and tend to honour the sort of films that almost nobody outside of the cinephile bubble would go to the cinema to see. There's nothing wrong with that, really, and I would urge anyone reading this to watch incredible recent winners like The Shape of Water, Parasite, and the bonkers multiverse epic Everything Everywhere All at Once. They're all available on streaming.

Oppenheimer, though, is different to those films. It made just shy of a billion dollars at the worldwide box office and was part of the summer's biggest cinema phenomenon thanks to the Barbenheimer double bill. In fact, Barbie was one of the two films to make more money than it did. Super Mario was the other, trivia fans! This three-hour historical drama got more bums in seats than any superhero movie or Disney blockbuster.

Ultimately, that's great for the Oscars. They honoured a film that millions of people saw and enjoyed, recognising a director who has been at the cutting edge of cinema for years. It's the sort of thing that might actually make the Oscars relevant in the face of declining TV audiences and a strike-ravaged movie industry.

It just makes my spreadsheet a bit dull. But then again, I probably didn't need any help with that.

© 2024 Tom Beasley

Tom Beasley is a freelance film journalist, Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic and podcaster
now living in Coventry. He can be reached at tomjbeasley@gmail.com

Privacy Practises by Nicki Jackson

One of the things on most clients’ garden design wish list these days is privacy; most people’s gardens are overlooked by at least one neighbour and with many new build gardens being overlooked from all sides, this isn’t something that is likely to be a fad. Luckily there are some garden designer tips and tricks that can help, so if you’re thinking about privacy in your garden, consider the following:

Follow function with form – as with most garden projects it’s always worth starting by considering the 5 W’s.  Who, what, where, when, why – answer the relevant W questions for your project and the ‘how’ usually falls out of the answers. For instance:

Once you know the answers to the above, solutions usually begin to develop but it is the trajectory of overlooking sight lines that often lead the way, for these will inform the required heights and positions of privacy measures. For example, if you have a dining area just outside the back of your house and you live in a semi-detached house, then your neighbour’s bedroom window might directly overlook your dining area, in which case an overhead privacy screen like a sail, awning or pergola might be the best option for you. If, however, you have a single-story extension on the back of your house that might well break the trajectory of the line of sight from your neighbour’s window you might not need anything overhead at that point at all. In this case you’d be utilising one of those sweet spots we mentioned previously that already afford you some privacy.

Using the same example and assuming you have a fairly level back garden; if your dining table is further down your garden the trajectory of the view of your overlooking neighbour could be broken by shorter more cost-effective screening closer to your dining table just as effectively, if not more so, as taller, more expensive screening closer to your neighbour’s viewpoint. But once you know where and how high privacy measures need to be the possibilities to be creative are endless. It’s time to delve into some privacy practises.

© Nicki Jackson, Blue Daisy Gardens 2024

Cooking a curry from scratch can feel a little daunting, but Amy and Emily Chung – AKA The Rangoon Sisters – create easy-to-follow recipes for traditional Burmese dishes. Lightly spiced, warming and stunningly simple, this fish curry is one you’ll return to again and again.

Serves 4

For the marinade

To serve

1   First make the marinade. Combine the turmeric and salt in a bowl, then add the fish chunks and turn to coat them in the marinade. Transfer to the fridge to marinate for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, crush the garlic cloves and ginger to a paste using a pestle and mortar or blitz in a food processor.

2   Heat the oil over a medium heat in a large casserole dish. Add the chopped onions and cook slowly, turning the heat down to low-medium and stirring every 4–5 minutes until softened and starting to colour lightly and become oily – this will take at least 15 minutes. Once the onions are ready, add the crushed garlic and ginger and fry for a few minutes until fragrant.

3   Add the spices, fish sauce and chopped tomatoes, breaking them up slightly as you stir. Allow to simmer for 5–10 minutes. Add the fish and 100ml of water. Bring to the boil and cover with a lid, then simmer over a low heat for 5–10 minutes until the fish is cooked.

4   Garnish with fresh coriander leaves and crispy onions if desired and serve with rice.

Top Tip

For best results, use any firm, meaty white fish, such as cod, pollock, haddock or coley. Be sure to use large chunks and try not to over-stir during cooking so that the pieces remain intact.

Thinking About A Digital Legacy

On a recent visit with grandchildren to a Museum of Local History in Nottingham I came across a PBX telephone switchboard where you have lines for incoming calls that you plug into holes on the board for different extensions.  In 1972 I was temping in London as an admin clerk when the firm realised their telephonist had gone on holiday.  I was commandeered to take over for 2 weeks.  I had 20 minutes to learn 90 extensions and how to work the machine.  By lunchtime the chaos was calming down and I ended up loving the whole 2 weeks.  Reminiscing I said, “Oh! I used to work one of those!”  My son, shocked, replied, “Mum, just imagine – from that to a smartphone in one lifetime!” 

Yes, it’s been dramatic, there was more computing power in my first Nokia 3310 than in the guidance computer controlling the Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969. 

The internet was born in 1983 and became available to the public as the World Wide Web 10 years later.  We now have information at our fingertips on smartphones 24/7 and have uncluttered offices and homes as email, hard drives and cloud storage have transformed society.

We are eco-friendly not printing emails but every byte of our phone data, email, photos,

 videos, gaming profiles and social media content takes up ‘space’ somewhere.  The desert is stacked with servers maintaining this huge data burden, some of it ours.  What happens to my data?  It stays there unless managed by a digital legacy.

We carefully make a will leaving money and possessions to our loved ones, so they don’t go to the State, or Charles III if we live in Cornwall or the Duchy of Lancaster.  We are less informed about managing our digital legacy, but it is just as important.  At the simplest level, would someone be able to access your phone, inform your energy supplier to end the contract, or tell your Facebook friends you had died and memorialise your pages?  There is much to be thought about as you must not leave a list of passwords lying around in case you invalidate an insurance or give the bank a reason not to refund your money if you are defrauded.

The small print in the privacy and end of life policy will explain who owns your digital data for each online service you have engaged with.  Ever read one?

It is advisable to make a Social Media Will, for digital data of no monetary value, and a separate entry in your formal physical assets Will, for any digital assets that have financial value.

Both the Digital Legacy Association and Dying Matters have useful websites, and the Omega Course covers these issues along with information on Lasting Power of Attorney, Mental Capacity, and DNAR. 

Importantly we also encourage having fun doing the things you always intended to do but never got round to.  Good end of life planning, done well, is a salve to anxiety and gives freedom to live life to the full and confidence to listen to and help family, friends and neighbours in difficult times.

We love Leonard Cohen’s quote from The Week 22/10/16: It’s a cliché but it’s underestimated as an analgesic. Putting your house in order is one of the most comforting activities, and the benefits of it are incalculable.

Interested? Then join us.  Our next Omega Courses are:

WEDNESDAY AFTERNOONS: 28th February - 28th March at Holy Trinity Church Hall, Leamington Spa.

Dr Chantal Meystre
MB ChB MA FRCP UKCP Cert IGA
Director
Mobile: 07999 739381 
Email: courses@omegacourse.co.uk
www.omegacourse.co.uk

Supporting Hospice Care

Since the National Garden Scheme’s founding in 1927, visitors have supported palliative care charities by payment of the nominal gate fee entitling them to wander happily through glorious gardens.

Hospice UK – one such beneficiary – represents the phenomenal work of our nation’s hospices. “The NGS is the largest funder of our work, donating an incredible £7 million in support of hospice care since 1996,” explains Kate Redding, Corporate Partnerships Manager. “We’re so proud of our partnership with them which helps us support hospices across the country and has funded vital projects, grants and bursaries.”

The only Warwickshire hospice to offer inpatient beds since its 1982 opening, Myton has supported over 20,000 patients (end-of-life or with life-limiting conditions) at its 3 sites of Warwick, Coventry and Rugby. Myton offers vital services - Respite Care, Myton at Home and Patient & Carer Wellbeing, counselling and varied therapies – always free of charge to patients and their families. 

At the Warwick site, fronted by pine trees in a quiet residential area in what was a children’s home, all visitors are welcomed by warm-hearted receptionist Vicky, the entrance hall lined with information sheets and fundraising gifts. A bevy of homemade jams with knitted lid-covers reminds us that staunch volunteers ply their talents at all times to help boost funds.

Shakespeare Hospice artwork by patients

Bedrooms look out onto well-tended gardens, with French windows enabling patients to take their ease in the fresh air. (At the Coventry Walsgrave Hospital site, built in 2009, the garden is tended by volunteers, some of whom open for the NGS). A peaceful place for reflection is a must in any hospice setting. Here, the heartfelt declaration (pictured) by Hospice movement founder Dame Cicely Saunders adorns the multi-faith Sanctuary which doubles as a wedding, christening and blessings venue.

Thirteen miles further south on a bitterly cold January afternoon, Shakespeare Hospice nurses Liz and Alison are preparing for the evening’s palliative Hospice at Home visits out of historic Shottery village’s Shakespeare Hospice. This crucial aspect of palliative care offers patients the comfort of final days in their own home, surrounded by loved ones and familiar surroundings. There are no inpatient beds in this day hospice designed with light airy rooms where patients, carers and the pre- and post-bereaved can meet and discuss what matters to them at their leisure. The recently completed Sensory Garden has been funded by Shakespeare patron Sir Peter Rigby who takes a very active role in the life of this hospice.

The Shakespeare also offers specialist Transitional Care for young adults with life-limiting conditions who are in the challenging process of moving from paediatric to adult services, with tailored care plans supported by clinicians who will sometimes accept patients from outside county borders. There is a monthly Motor Neurone Disease clinic offering practical and emotional support to patients who, as with Transitional Care, travel in from outside South Warwickshire borders. Counselling and complementary therapies provide further effective support to patients and their families.

Living fully before passing peacefully is the very essence of all hospice care delivered day in, day out. This wellspring of compassion gives comfort and upliftment to patients past, present, and yet to come. "I've had such incredible experiences throughout my life, and it couldn't be completed without something as special as Myton...".

Dame Cicely Saunders quote, Sanctuary, Myton Hospice

Text © Lily Farrah
Photographs © Lily Farrah

I’m Being Sent To Coventry Again, Out Of Choice by Tom Beasley

By the time you're reading this article, I'll once again be a Coventrian. After more than six years cramped into a one-bedroom flat in Greater London, my wife and I have finally got the money together to own a home of our own. Just over a year after we got married, it's yet another massive life milestone. All of a sudden, they're coming thick and fast.

A long time ago, I more or less resigned myself – in common with many people of my generation – to never owning property. The media would have you believe that this resignation was because we were too fond of smashed avocado and fancy coffee rather than the result of a dire economic situation, but that's a different topic for a different day. Several years of very careful saving has now got us to the point where we'll be waving goodbye to the Big Smoke and returning to the land of cathedrals, ring roads, and Sky Blue football shirts.

It has been more than a decade since I last lived in this city full-time. But it feels absolutely right to be preparing for the permanent journey back up the M40. In fact, I've been thinking a lot about the lyrics to Frank Turner's 2011 track 'Wessex Boy', in which he looked back at his own childhood in Winchester.

There's something about coming back to your hometown again,
The place where you grew up and where you found your firmest friends,
And though none of them still live here, and I've got nowhere to go,
I'm a Wessex Boy, and when I'm here I'm home.

The song captures perfectly the unusual feeling of returning to your roots after a long time away. Things might look different – certainly the centre of Coventry has shape-shifted considerably since the UK City of Culture crown came about – and people will have come and gone, but the underlying atmosphere is undeniable. As Turner sings later in the song, it's about “the welling of nostalgia and the feeling kind of strange, because despite the little changes, this place still feels the same”. It feels like home.

After so long away, I can't wait to be back in Coventry. I paid my first visit to the CBS Arena in about nine years on Boxing Day to watch the Sky Blues' impressive 2-0 victory over Sheffield Wednesday, and I look forward to spending plenty of time on the terraces in the months and years to come. I'll never get tired of watching Tatsuhiro Sakamoto terrify the Championship's left-backs.

But it's not just about football. After six years of enjoying what London has to offer, especially from a career point of view, we're at a point where we want to be close to family and to put down roots. With both me and my wife celebrating our 30th birthdays this year – with apologies to long-term readers of this column who might now feel very old indeed – the timing couldn't be better.

So all this is to say that I am now once again a proud resident of Coventry, which means I'll feel a little less like a fraud writing a column for this magazine. And let's face it, the price of a pint is much more tolerable here. Or at least it was when I left... maybe I shouldn't check.

© 2024 Tom Beasley

Tom Beasley is a freelance film journalist, Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic and podcaster
now living in Coventry. He can be reached at tomjbeasley@gmail.com.

Keeping Your Inner Candle Lit

Imagine a large candle, encased in a glass shield. You reach out, lift the protective shield, and carefully ignite the candle's flame. It flickers to life, casting a warm and inviting glow. You then place the glass shield back, protecting the flame from external influences.

Now, picture that candle as you, and just like the Olympic torch, you must never let that flame go out, no matter what life throws your way. While the candle is shielded, you are shielded too, perhaps surrounded by a loving family, supportive friends, and understanding workmates. Under these conditions, the flame burns steadily without a care in the world.

However, there are moments when the shield is removed - moments that signify say leaving home for the first time, the start of a new job, or even an earlier point in life when security was lost, or a loved one passed away. These moments can leave your inner flame exposed and vulnerable.

Imagine you have a piece of paper, and you move it close to that candle flame. You'll see the flame react. That's because the invisible forces ("energy") from the paper affect the flame. It's like a little push of air from the paper that can disturb the flame's balance.

Now, here's where it gets interesting. Our thoughts, words, and feelings are like really strong invisible forces, much stronger than a piece of paper. When we feel really sad, or angry, or keep thinking about something upsetting, it's like those invisible forces become powerful winds that can affect how we feel inside.

Now, imagine that invisible force unleashed when witnessing something traumatic, for example a loved one's tragic passing. The intense grief and shock can feel like a sledgehammer blow. Visualise that emotion as a physical force heading straight for you, and the immense effort required to dodge, stay calm, stay focused, and keep your inner flame burning.

If you've experienced similar traumatic events in quick succession, you've had to endure a relentless onslaught, just like that flame being tossed about by the paper but never extinguished. The resilience you muster to maintain your balance can be exhausting.

So, if we equate the piece of paper with unpleasant events or a series of them, the energy from these events transfers directly into your inner flame, accumulating as negative emotions.

If you have a high-stress profession like the police force, or as a first responder, or in healthcare, you face a constant stream of stress and sadness, with successes interspersed. But the negatives can accumulate. How long can you withstand it without giving your flame a chance to rest and rejuvenate?

It’s so important to manage emotional overload before it becomes overwhelming. Seek healthy ways to relieve stress, both mentally and physically—whether through meditation, yoga, taking time for activities you enjoy, or talking to someone who cares.

If you've been dodging and diving, much like that flame, for years, consider seeking help from specialist professionals, such as counselling or hypnotherapy. Don't wait until your inner flame is snuffed out - prioritise your emotional wellbeing today. Your inner light deserves to burn brightly.

© Louise Hall, Louise Hall Hypnosis

Louise Hall is a Certified Professional Hypnotherapist based in Coventry, helping people to overcome issues they are struggling with, allowing them to take back control and transform their lives with hypnosis. Visit www.louisehallhypnosis.com to see how hypnosis can help you.

Your Questions Answered by TaxAssist Accountants

Is my bank interest income taxable?

I have received a lot more interest from my bank this year because of the increase in savings interest rates. I am a higher rate taxpayer and earned almost £1,000 of interest across my accounts. Please could you let me know if I will need to pay tax?

Answer

As a higher-rate taxpayer, you are entitled to a personal savings allowance of £500. This means that £500 of your interest income is tax-free. The remainder of your interest income will be taxed at your usual tax rate. As a higher rate taxpayer this is 40% in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and 42% in Scotland. 

If you prepare a self-assessment income tax return you will need to ensure you report all your savings income, the tax payable on your savings income will then be included in your tax liability. 

If you have an accountant who prepares your tax return, provide them with details and evidence of the interest you received - you may have received an annual interest declaration from your savings provider which covers the tax year and can be used for this purpose.

Information supplied by Cheryl Hopkins, Chartered Certified Accountant, TaxAssist Accountants. Advice shared in this article is intended to inform rather than advise and is based on legislation and practice at the time. Taxpayers’ circumstances do vary and if you feel that the information provided is beneficial it is important that you contact us before implementation. If you take, or do not take, action, as a result of reading this article, before receiving our written endorsement, we will accept no responsibility for any financial loss incurred.

The Mind Rewind

In the words of the eternally youthful Cher, we all occasionally want to ‘turn back time’. Yet while such cosmological feats remain unavailable to us mere mortals, there are things we can do to slow down the ageing process and revitalise our brains.

Find purpose

It has been proven that those who have purpose in their lives live longer.

Injecting your everyday with drive in pursuit of achieving a goal – whether it's a career objective, a personal development goal, or a commitment to a cause – is a profound and transformative journey that can lead to greater fulfilment, happiness, and a sense of direction.

Stay in touch

Numerous studies have demonstrated a disturbing connection between social isolation and a myriad of adverse health outcomes.

They show individuals who experience social isolation are at an increased risk of various health problems, including higher blood pressure, decreased resistance to infection, accelerated cognitive decline, and higher rates of depression, dementia, heart disease and cancer.

So whether it’s attending a local coffee morning, making a weekly phone call to a faraway family member, or just chatting to your neighbour, social interaction is vital.

Expand your horizons

Reading more books (or listening to them) is an excellent and easy way to boost our brains. A study conducted by the Yale University School of Public Health has revealed that individuals who engage in regular book reading tend to enjoy a longer lifespan, extending their lives by approximately two years when compared to those who do not read.

Get your beauty sleep

Sleep is essential for our overall health, and lack of it leads to accelerated ageing of brain cells.

Aim for at least six-and-a-half hours and if you’re struggling to hit this consider where the problems lie: perhaps your bedroom is too hot or drinking caffeine too late in the day is making you restless.

Take a cold shower

Cold water encourages cell regeneration, promoting overall health and a longer life. Furthermore, it enhances blood circulation by alternating between constricting and dilating blood vessels, providing a workout for your heart and bolstering the vitality of your mitochondria - the energy generators within your cells. Consequently, cold water proves to be a remarkable overall health booster.

Move more

Research conducted at the University of California has revealed that spending 10 hours per day in a seated position accelerates the aging of your cells, effectively advancing your ‘biological age’ by eight years.

Conversely, aiming for 10,000 steps a day has been proven to reduce body fat and increase oxygen intake, meaning better heath gets closer with every step you take.

February Fiction

As the year fully gets into its stride, why not immerse yourself in a new yarn from this selection of great offerings…

Queens of London by Heather Webb

Heather Webb crafts a tale of dark glamour and sisterhood in an intriguing look at Britain's first female crime syndicate, the ever-shifting meaning of justice, and the way women claim their power by any means necessary.

Queens of London isset in the murky post-WWI era of our capital, and the showcase is “a gang of women you've never heard of,” but one that decided the female of the species can indeed have it all.

Published by Sourcebooks Landmark on 6th February

The Fury by Alex Michaelides

From the author of The Silent Patient and The Maidens comes a compelling closed community thriller, as a former movie star throws a select party on a private Greek island whilst a murderer lurks in the shadows.

The story begins as former movie star Lana Farrar invites a select group to stay. It’s hot, sunny, perfect. A chance to relax and reconnect - and maybe for a few hidden truths to come out.

And they will, because nothing on the island is quite what it seems.

Published by Penguin Books Ltd on 1st February

Red Side Story by Jasper Fforde

The author of The Eyre Affair and The Constant Rabbit delivers a typically singular dystopia rich in wit and his own delightfully singular vision, as two citizens of a world whose hierarchies are based on the colour spectrum strike out on a quest looking for answers.

Eddie and Jane must negotiate the delicate Chromatic politics of society to find out what the 'something that happened' actually was, how society got to be this way, and crucially, is there ‘somewhere else’ beyond their borders.

It's a tale of a young couple's thirst for justice and answers in an implacably rigid society.

Published by Hodder & Stoughton on 6th February

The Guest by B.A. Paris

B.A. Paris never fails to deliver a great thriller and The Guest is no exception.

Trouble emerges when Iris and Gabriel come home from a make-or-break holiday to find Laure, one of their best friends, in their house. She is sleeping in their bed, wearing Iris' clothes, even rearranging the furniture. She has walked out on her husband – and their good friend – Pierre over his confession of an affair (and a secret child).

Iris and Gabriel want to be supportive, but as Laure's mood becomes more unpredictable, her presence begins to unravel secrets in all their pasts.

Published by Hodder & Stoughton on 20th February

The Look Of Love

We all want our homes to be filled with love, so consider embracing the romantic décor trend – a look that is about soft, elegant and subtle feminine energy.

History

The trend has roots in romanticism, an artistic and cultural movement that emerged in the late 18th Century and had a profound influence on various forms of creative expression, including interior decor. Rooted in a fascination with nature, emotion, and the sublime, romanticism in interior decor sought to infuse spaces with a sense of passion, beauty and nostalgia.

Beds were canopied, wallpaper was hand painted with exquisite floral designs and rooms rustled with whispers of velvet and silk.

The present

Modern romantic décor, by contrast, is far humbler and less outwardly decadent. Though comfort and subtle luxury still play key roles, there is far less flamboyance. In particular, the palate is more muted with beige, pale rose, lavender and powder blue taking centre stage.

Achieving the look

When selecting upholstery choose warm, soft tones that create a feeling of cosiness. Fabrics such as linen, suede and velvet will boost the warmth and sensuality of the room, while a cashmere blanket adds that extra layer of luxe.

Furniture and decor pieces in traditional romantic interiors were often characterised by ornate detailing and intricate craftsmanship. Elaborate carvings, curvaceous lines, and decorative flourishes were common in pieces like cabinets, chairs and mirrors - furniture that was not just functional but also a work of art.

The updated look still incorporates curved lines but there is less intricacy. In fact, choosing wooden furniture that has more of a French rustic feel – a solid wooden dining table, a vintage armoire in washed out grey or an antique chest of drawers that boasts more curves than a corseted lady.

Lighting is also a pivotal aspect of this look. Dimmable bulbs are useful to create softer lighting, yet even a few strategically placed candles can boost the romantic aesthetic of a room.

Traditional romantic decor also often featured personal effects and possessions. In our modern commercialised world, it is these personal touches that can be the line between your living room looking like an Ikea showroom or a true home, so embrace but tread carefully.

Finally, invest in some transparent curtains. Sheer drapes can be fashioned from delicate, flowing materials such as voile, silk, chiffon, organza, and lace. These styles of curtains transform intense sunlight into a gentler, subdued glow, offering both seclusion and the sensation of a room filled with soft, airy illumination.

Council Tax: Exemptions, Discounts, Benefit Support and Debt Management

Council Tax (CT) bills will soon start to hit the doormat. If you have been paying CT regularly you may feel you know the ropes in terms of exemptions, discounts, benefit support available to you and top tips on managing CT arrears.

If you are new to paying Council Tax take a minute to review the content below, it could save you hundreds or thousands of pounds.

What is Council Tax (CT)?

Council Tax is a local tax on domestic property collected by local authorities to pay for local services. Depending on your circumstances you might be eligible for a discount or even be exempt from liability. However, if you are liable but don’t pay, you will be subject to court recovery action.

How is my CT liability worked out?

All homes are given a council tax valuation band based on their value in 1991 and different amounts of council tax are charged for each banding. Some properties are exempt from council tax so it is vital to know if your property falls into this category. Usually one person, called the ‘liable person’, has to pay council tax.

How can I pay less CT?

You might be able to pay less council tax or not pay it at all depending on your circumstances. You might be able to get:

How do I apply for Council Tax Reduction (CTR)?

You have to apply to your local council to get Council Tax Reduction (CTR) or other help. Application and eligibility rules vary depending on whether you are of working age or Pension age. You need to know which category of claimant you fit into.

What changes do I need to report if I'm getting CTR?

You need to report most material changes in your circumstances to your local council if you get Council Tax Reduction (CTR). If you don’t report these changes, you might:

What should I do if I start missing CT payments?

You should contact your council straight away. Don’t wait for them to contact you. Ask to speak to someone in the council tax office and tell them about your situation. They should be able to tell you how to get help. If not, look for free debt advice from your nearest Citizens Advice office.

I am a student - does any of this apply to me?

As a student your property is ‘exempt’ from council tax if it’s only occupied by full-time university or college students. Student halls of residence are automatically exempt.

If your property isn’t exempt, some people, including full-time students, are ‘disregarded’. This means the council tax is calculated as if you don’t live there. This might mean that whoever does have to pay the council tax can get a discount.

Go to www.citizensadvice.org.uk/housing/council-tax/ for more details on all of the above.

Council Tax is a ‘priority debt’ in that building up arrears can and will result in court debt recovery action and even, in exceptional circumstances, the threat of imprisonment.

Keep the bailiffs away from your door by seeking specialist advice from your nearest Citizens Advice office if you are struggling with your Council Tax.

By Ed Hodson

Citizens Advice South Warwickshire - Citizens Advice working in partnership across Warwickshire

Chris Martin talks about being the frontman of Coldplay, how he has helped shape modern music, and family life.

From humble beginnings to global fame, Chris Martin's journey is a tale of artistic brilliance and personal growth. As he gears up for an exciting 2024, his career with the band Coldplay continues to be a beacon of inspiration, with upcoming European and Australasian legs of their world tour.

Martin’s journey from an aspiring musician to a global icon is a testament to his talent, dedication and visionary approach to music. “Forming Coldplay wasn't just about creating music; it was about forging a bond with like-minded souls,” he begins.

Born in Exeter on March 2nd, 1977, his journey from an English prep schoolboy to international music icon is one that points to relentless passion, incredible talent and unwavering commitment to his craft.

Early success was marked through debut album Parachutes, which laid the groundwork for a journey filled with emotional depth and creative exploration. The band’s subsequent long-players, A Rush of Blood to the Head (2002) and Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends (2008), further cemented the lead man’s reputation as a gifted songwriter and performer.

Possessing creative versatility and emotional depth resonated with audiences worldwide, earning the band numerous awards and accolades.

“We felt we had a formula, but you never really know. Music sounds and trends change so frequently, and I guess we were in the right place at the right time.

“Britpop had really laid the foundations for singer-songwriters again, be they individuals or in bands, and the door was open for whoever wanted to walk through.”

Away from music, Martin is also known for his commitment to various social and environmental causes. The 47-year-old has been actively involved in charitable work, leveraging his fame to raise awareness and funds for issues ranging from global poverty to climate change.

“Sustainability is crucial, not just in music but in every aspect of life. As artists, we have a platform and a responsibility to promote a healthier, more sustainable world. It's about making choices that protect our planet for future generations.”

His personal life – particularly the former marriage to actress Gwyneth Paltrow and their subsequent “conscious uncoupling” – has also been a subject of media attention. Despite the challenges, Martin has always displayed resilience and maturity.

“My children are my greatest inspiration,” Martin admits, who since 2017 has been in a relationship with actress Dakota Johnson. “They remind me of the innocence and purity in the world. Everything I do, including my music, is a legacy I'm leaving for them.”

Credit: Photo by K C Alfred/San Diego Union-Tribune Via Zuma/Shutterstock (9125050d) Chris Martin Coldplay in concert at SDCCU Stadium, San Diego, USA - 08 Oct 2017

Eating Disorder Awareness Week - 26th February to 1st March 2024

Around 1.25 million people in the UK suffer from an eating disorder, many in secret. People of all ages, genders and backgrounds. Eating disorders are complex mental health issues and cause stress, anxiety and depression, in a vicious circle.

Eating disorders include bulimia, binge eating disorder, avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID), other specified feeding or eating disorder (OSFED) and anorexia, which has the highest mortality rate of any mental health illness. But all eating disorders can be deadly.

Many people suffering from eating problems will tend to hide this, especially young adults. They will do so by avoiding people and becoming more reclusive. Some of the warning signs include weight loss, wearing baggy clothes, avoiding meals with family or eating very restrictive foods, going to the bathroom a lot after eating and lying about how much they have eaten.

We recently spoke to a patient of ours, who wanted to share a message on their journey of support and recovery.

“Anorexia was our family’s unwelcome guest. It arrived in the first lockdown when nobody knew the extent of Covid, and support was limited. Anorexia is secretive and likes to isolate and control, lockdown was its optimal environment. Often, people suffer from an eating disorder when struggling with low self-esteem and feeling out of control. Hidden away from school, friends and hobbies allowed Anorexia to thrive and plant false thoughts in our daughter’s head. 

“We had to act fast. CAMHS offered some support and Beat (www.beat.co.uk) was invaluable. We found useful online resources, in particular, a TED talk (tinyurl.com/teds-ed), where an eating disorder doctor used the continuous sound of a crackly radio to demonstrate the noise in an eating disorder sufferer's brain during mealtimes. Watching that helped to separate Anorexia from our daughter and to accept Anorexia as an illness, not a choice. As parents, we struggled with feeling we couldn’t fix or help our daughter. Anorexia doesn’t want to get better; it’s competitive, and the best Anorexic is the sickest Anorexic. Unfortunately, our daughter did become very ill, and it was clear she needed inpatient support. There are a limited number of specialist eating disorder hospitals, and if there was a bed, it could be anywhere in the country. Luckily, she was admitted to the closest hospital, just one hour away!

“After nearly a year in the hospital, our daughter was ready to recover, and this was when we, as parents, could help. She had outpatient support from CAMHS and private therapeutic support, and we provided a home environment where she felt safe enough to challenge difficult thoughts. Eating disorders do not discriminate against age, gender, or ethnicity, nor are they about food but control. Just because someone looks okay does not mean they feel okay.”

Eating Disorder Awareness Week is an annual event that aims to promote awareness of eating disorders and spread hope for those in recovery and their families. With the right treatment and support, recovery is possible.

For support and help

Contract the practice for early intervention.
Or, contact Eating disorder charity Beat on their helplines: Adults 0808 801 0677 or Youths 0808 081 0711.

Online advice for family and friends

Dr Suparna Behura
GP Partner and Trainer

Monday-Friday – 8.00am-6.30pm
Tel – 01926 857331
www.castlemedicalcentre.co.uk
Facebook – @CastleMedKenilworth
Twitter – @Castle_Med
22 Bertie Road, Kenilworth, CV8 1JP

Weed Suppressant Materials by Nicki Jackson

It’s that time of year when the garden is much more visibly beginning to sprout, and inevitably, some of the plants we’re noticing are not always the most welcome. Weeds – by definition, any wild plant that grows in an unwanted place where it impedes the growth of cultivated plants – are the bane of many a gardener; and dealing with weeds is also at the heart of many a client’s desire for a low maintenance garden. Whilst we’re often at pains to point out that a low maintenance garden can’t ever mean no maintenance – and weeds can be introduced to a garden in many ways, not just emerging from below; on the wind, or via birds, for example – we nevertheless do usually include some form of weed suppression as part of our design solution. The trick as designers is to make whatever we use look aesthetically pleasing.

The least aesthetic but most obvious choice for many people is of course weed suppression fabric. Generally, this solution does a good job in a garden setting by keeping any weeds below it from germinating. The best type by far is a woven fabric, however, as with any laid ‘material’, it won’t allow worms and other beneficial insects to come to the surface to feed on leaf litter and/or organic mulches and as such the soil won’t be naturally improved on an ongoing basis when this method is used. 

Non-organic mulch such as gravel, stones, coloured or plain glass pebbles, crushed stone or slate can be laid directly on top of the soil, though is more often used in conjunction with weed suppression fabric. The look of gravel and other aggregates can be really strong, however it does have potential problems for the soil because it’s heavy which could, depending on the density, contribute to compaction. It also doesn’t get processed by worms, and if directly laid on soil, over time it can mix with the soil, often creating light leaks that can allow those pesky weeds to poke through. 

Laying organic mulch once or twice a year on top of the soil on the other hand does a multitude of things; not least supporting worms and other soil-based insects which in turn keep the soil healthy, it also locks in moisture for the summer months and blocks light to germinating seeds too. Organic mulches include well-rotted manure, mushroom compost, chipped garden waste and composted garden waste, some of which can look gorgeously rich and can set off plants beautifully.

Using plantsis a fantastic way to suppress weeds. If you plant densely for instance, less daylight can reach the soil surface and therefore there is less opportunity for any weed seeds to germinate. Supplement plant density with ground cover plants; i.e. plants that grow as a carpet on the surface of the soil, thereby blocking the light reaching the soil itself while allowing other ornamental plants to be planted through them, and you have a beautiful way of managing weeds. Vinca (see photo), Pachysandra and even wild strawberry if your garden has a more rustic feel, are examples of ground cover plants.

Our preference is to have a balance of plant density, include ground cover plants and use mulches on our borders, it has a more natural look to it and allows nature to do the majority of the work for us and keep our gardens healthy. It is important to note that there is no such thing as a weed free garden especially if, like us, you don’t use chemicals. We have to learn to live with weeds but finding ways of reducing their impact on our green spaces and sanity is a regular occurrence! 

© Nicki Jackson, Blue Daisy Gardens 2024

PARISH COUNCIL SURGERIES AT THE FIRE STATION
Bidford on Avon Parish Council is taking the current Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service (WFRS) Resourcing to Risk consultation very seriously and is urging all residents to reply and make their views known to both WFRS and Warwickshire County Council.

Council recognises that this is a difficult issue: although changes are needed, they need to be the right ones to ensure the safety of our community, which is of paramount importance, and the security of our brilliant local firefighters.
To help residents, the Parish Council will be holding surgeries at the Fire Station, between 10am and 12pm on the following Saturdays: 13th and 27th January, 10th and 24th February and 2nd March.

COMMUNITY FRIDGE
This is now operative from the Methodist Church on Mondays and Thursdays 10am – 11am. Want to volunteer for this essential local service? Please contact Hilary at admin@bidfordonavon-pc.gov.uk. The aim of this new community project is “No Waste, making food, that would otherwise go to landfill, available to local residents. Look out for the Café – coming soon!

CITIZENS ADVICE - BIDFORD OUTREACH
The First Thursday of the month in the Parish Council Room (in the library) 10am–1pm. Please note you must pre-book.  This provides essential advice in these difficult times and is carried out in complete confidence. Please note the library is closed on Thursdays. Full details available at bidfordonavon-pc.gov.uk/citizens-advice-bidford-outreach/. You can also book via the Clerk – email info@bidfordonavon-pc.gov.uk giving name, contact details and reason for the appointment. The Clerk is the Council’s GDPR Officer, and you can be assured all will be treated in the highest confidence.
Dates: 1st February and 7th March

CONCERNS/ISSUES
If you have a concern or issue about anything within the Parish, please use the Love Clean Street App and send by email info@bidfordonavon-pc.gov.uk. Alternatively, you can contact the Clerk on 07718 628925 or by email as above. Please don’t post on Social Media (Bidford Forum) where it may be missed and, therefore, remain unanswered or unsolved.

WEEKLY EVENTS

MEETINGS

All meetings, which are open to the public, are held at the Parish Council Meeting Room, Bramley Way, B50 4QG (unless stated otherwise). Please note it is at these meetings that decisions that directly affect our village and our local community are made – so be part of it and come and see it happen.

BIDFORD EMAIL INFORMATION
Want to know what is happening in the village every week? Nothing easier, simply sign up by emailing the Clerk at info@bidfordonavon-pc.gov.uk and your name will be added to the Weekly Email Information list to receive an email regarding upcoming Events and Notices. As Your Call Magazine is bi-monthly, this is a good way to ensure you are up to date with everything local.

SOCIAL MEDIA
Another way the Parish Council is trying to keep the local community informed is by the use of Social Media. Please follow us via Facebook (Bidford on Avon) Twitter (@Bidford_PC) and now also on Instagram (bidfordpc). A lot of information and updates are published through social media, so do make sure you follow us to stay informed.

PARISH COUNCIL CONTACTS

Elisabeth Uggerløese – Clerk to the Parish Council

PS. Keep an eye on the What’s On page of the website (bidfordonavon-pc.gov.uk/whats-on/) for events. They will also be advertised on Social Media.

Cinnamon, rose and pistachio melt together to make this delectable cake from ‘the golden girl of Persian cookery’, Sabrina Ghayour.

Ideal for those who are not experienced bakers – the British-Iranian chef admits that baking is not her strong point – these evocative flavours stand alone to create a memorable yet incredibly straightforward cake.

Serves 10

For the cake:

For the rosewater cream:

1   Preheat the oven to 160°C/Fan 140°C/Gas Mark 3. Line a 23cm (9in) loaf tin with enough non-stick baking paper to cover the base and sides. You won’t need to grease the tin or the paper, as the oils from the nuts and butter in the batter prevent the cake from sticking to the paper. 

2   Beat the eggs, sugar and vanilla extract together in a mixing bowl. Add the ground almonds, coconut and cinnamon and stir, then add the melted butter and give the ingredients a thorough mix.

3   Add the grated carrots and pistachios and mix again until the ingredients are evenly blended, then gently pour or spoon the batter into your prepared cake tin and bake for 1 hour, or until it feels firm to the touch and a crust forms on top. Check the cake at 40 minutes to ensure it is cooking evenly.

4   Once cooked, allow to cool in the tin, overnight if you can wait; the cake is much moister once cooled and tastes better as a result. 

5   To make the rosewater cream, whip the double cream along with the rosewater and icing sugar, either by hand or using an electric hand whisk, until the cream is thick and unctuous. Dollop a generous spoonful on the side of a slice of the cake and dust the cake and cream lightly with icing sugar.Top with some chopped pistachios.

Top Tip

For best results, avoid putting the baked cake (without the cream) in the fridge and instead keep it on the countertop covered with a sheet of cling film. It should stay edible like this for up to a week.

Community Grants

Alcester Town Council awards small grants to community groups and organisations which can demonstrate a clear need for financial support to benefit Alcester by:

In 2023, 17 local groups received awards. The application form and full details are available on the Town Council website www.alcester-tc.gov.uk/. Paper copies are also available from the Town Council office. If you need support completing the application form, please contact Vanessa Lowe, Town Clerk on 01789 766084.

The deadline for this year’s grant applications is 9am on Tuesday 2nd April 2024.

Meet the Mayor

Following the success of the Meet the Mayor event in August 2023, Cllr Vaughan Blake invites you to come along and say hello again on Saturday 23rd March between 10am and 12pm near the church gates at the top of Alcester High Street. Other Town Councillors will also be available to chat to you.

Town Council Meetings

All Town Council meetings are held in person at Globe House with the exception of the Planning Committee which generally meets using Zoom. All meetings commence at 7pm.

Full Council - 6th February & 5th March
Planning Committee – 19th February & 18th March
Finance & General Purposes Committee – 27th February & 26th March

Members of the public are welcome to attend all Council meetings and are given time at the start of the meetings to speak. Anyone wishing to attend or ask questions is advised to contact the Town Clerk on clerk@alcester-tc.gov.uk before the meeting to obtain further details. Agendas are published on the Town Council website at www.alcester-tc.gov.uk and copies can be viewed on the Council notice boards.

Alcester Town Council Contact Details

The Town Council offices are open Monday - Friday from 9am-1pm. If you have an enquiry for the Town Council, please phone 01789 766084 or email clerk@alcester-tc.gov.uk and we will respond as soon as we can.

Alcester Town Council Offices

Globe House, Priory Road, Alcester, B49 5DZ Tel: 01789 766084
Town Clerk - Vanessa Lowe: clerk@alcester-tc.gov.uk
Planning and Communication - Sarah Duran: administration@alcester-tc.gov.uk
Health & Wellbeing - Wendy Sherwood: info@alcester-tc.gov.uk
Facilities Manager - Tim Forman: office@alcester-tc.gov.uk
Mayor’s Secretary – Sarah Duran: mayor@alcester-tc.gov.uk

Further info also available at:

www.facebook.com/alcester.towncouncil
www.twitter.com/AlcesterTown
www.instagram.com/alcestertowncouncil

He’s a magnificent broadcaster, gifted gardener, brilliant author and all-round horticultural visionary. This month, Alan Titchmarsh talks about the best flowers – other than roses – for Valentine’s Day.

(more…)

Valentine's Day, a timeless celebration of love and affection, continues to captivate hearts worldwide, but what is its historical significance?

From ancient Roman festivals to the romantic gestures of today, Valentine's Day has evolved significantly. Celebrated annually on February 14th and universally recognised as a time for expressing love and affection, it’s a special day for existing, and prospective, lovers, but from where does the idea originate?

The answer, it seems, dates back thousands of years, the earliest association of Valentine's Day to romance and love being traced back to the ancient festival of Lupercalia.

This celebration, held in Rome, was a rite of passage for young men and included a matchmaking lottery, where young men and women were paired off for the duration of the festival… and sometimes longer if the chemistry was right.

As Christianity spread throughout Europe, pagan holidays were often rebranded with Christian significance. In the case of the day in question, it was associated with the martyrdom of two men, both named Valentine, who were executed by the Roman Emperor Claudius II in the 3rd Century.

Their martyrdom was honoured by the Catholic Church with the celebration of St Valentine's Day, and so the die was cast. However, it wasn't until the Middle Ages that the date and day were definitively linked with love.

As poetry and literature began to put thoughts and emotions down on paper for people to read and share, the concept certainly became influenced by the likes of Geoffrey Chaucer and his contemporaries. The ‘father of literature’, who lived in the 15th Century, regularly romanticised in poetry and prose the notion of “courtly love” – thus the idea of celebrating romantic resplendence on Valentine's Day gained popularity throughout Britain and Europe.

By the 17th Century, it had become a widespread tradition in England and Scotland. People of all social classes expressed their love for each other with small gifts and handwritten notes.

The Victorian era ushered in new opportunities for celebrating the occasion, and cards began to replace handwritten notes. These were often elaborately decorated with lace and ribbons, reflecting the emerging trend for ornate designs.

In the United States, Valentine's Day was catching on rapidly in the second half of the 19th Century. Esther Howland, known as the ‘Mother of the Valentine,’ began selling the first mass-produced cards in America, which often included floral designs.

Today, Valentine’s Day is celebrated in a multitude of ways around the globe, accompanied with all the inevitable commerciality you would expect of modern society. Technology has also strongly influenced the celebration of the annual event with gestures that transcend physical gifts and boundaries – great for those in long-distance relationships or separated by circumstance.

And while Western countries primarily view it as a time to celebrate romance, some Eastern cultures use Valentines to express affection toward friends and family members.

Finally, for those who spend the day alone, the kindness of the human spirit has brought about Singles Awareness Day on February 15th in many countries.

At the heart of Valentine’s Day, it stands as a celebration of love, appreciation and human connection – an exemplar of the love and kindness we have felt, and will continue to feel, for one another.

There is something so contradictory about profiteroles that they keep me coming back for more. There is the sweetness of the chocolate against the plain cream; the dryness of the pastry against the moisture that spills from the middle; and a solitary, innocent-looking ball that ends up being filling and extroverted.

What I love most about profiteroles is the fact they’re easy to make yet considered luxurious and even slightly opulent; so here’s a recipe that, in a similar way, is simple, yet sensational!

Serves 4

For the crème Chantilly

For the chocolate sauce

1   Put the butter, sugar and salt for the profiteroles in a pan with 250ml of water and bring to a simmer. Add the sifted flour and stir for a good 5 minutes over a low to medium heat, until the paste comes away from the pan.

2   Transfer this immediately to a food mixer or processor with a beater attachment. Add the eggs, one by one, and beat to a smooth, shiny paste. Put this in a bowl, cover with clingfilm and leave to cool.

3   Preheat the oven to 190°C/gas mark 5. Spoon the choux paste into a piping bag with a plain nozzle and pipe 2.5cm blobs onto a baking tin. Each one should stand up nice and high and you should get roughly 30 profiteroles in total. Bake for about 15 minutes until golden in colour. Pierce each one to let out the steam and cool on a wire rack before filling.

4   To make the crème Chantilly, add the vanilla seeds, scraped from the pod, to the whipping cream along with the caster sugar and vanilla extract and whip until firm. Pipe into the choux buns.

5   To make the chocolate sauce, put the butter, double cream, sugar and vanilla extract into a pan and bring to a simmer. Add the cocoa powder and whisk while continuing to cook for 5 minutes at a slow simmer. Break up the dark chocolate and put it into a bowl. Pour over the hot chocolate mixture and stir until the dark chocolate has melted, then pass the sauce through a fine sieve.

6   Drizzle the choux buns with warm chocolate sauce and sprinkle with the chopped almonds.

Stepping Into The New Year

You don't need to hit the reset button on your fitness New Year resolutions if you maintain a balance throughout December. One refreshingly simple way to strike this equilibrium? Incorporate a daily walk into your routine.

The festive allure of Christmas often brings with it the warmth of gatherings, indulgent feasts and the joyous spirit of the season. While the holiday magic envelops us, our health-conscious routines can sometimes take a back seat.

Committing to a brisk 30-minute walk daily might seem humble, but its rewards are bountiful. Whether you're braving the winter chill or soaking up some morning sunlight, this regimen can gift-wrap numerous health benefits for you.

The benefits:

Combating the festive calories

As the festive season rolls in, the pull of decadent Christmas puddings is undeniable. Yet, there's good news for those with a sweet tooth: indulge in your favourite festive treats without guilt, knowing that a brisk stroll can effectively balance those extra holiday calories.

Heartfelt benefits

A regular walking routine greatly enhances heart health. By consistently engaging in this simple exercise, you can not only strengthen the cardiovascular system but also significantly reduce the risk of serious conditions, including heart disease and strokes.

Disease prevention

Incorporating a daily walk into your routine serves as a protective barrier against various health challenges. This proactive step notably guards against major threats such as cancer and type 2 diabetes.

Boosting immunity

As winter unfolds, the risk of colds and flu intensifies. Engaging in regular walking activities strengthens and invigorates your immune system, transforming it into a formidable defence against these seasonal adversaries.

Brain and mood boosters

The cognitive and emotional rewards of walking are vast and undeniable. Regularly embracing this simple activity acts as a potent remedy: promoting brain health, uplifting mood and bolstering overall mental well-being.

Night-time bliss

During the season characterized by its shorter days, many find their sleep patterns disrupted. However, taking regular walks - particularly bathed in the morning sunlight – can promote deeper, more restful slumbers.

Tips to get you started:

Gear up simply

To embark on your walking journey, simply equip yourself with snug shoes for foot comfort and don appropriate warm clothing to shield against the brisk winter temperatures.

Track and trek

To feed your motivation and monitor progress, employ apps like Strava or the NHS Active 10. These digital companions make your journey both enjoyable and efficient.

Scenic routes

Opt for picturesque paths that please the eyes and soul. Platforms like AllTrails can guide you to nature's most captivating canvases.

A Very Homemade Christmas

What better way to celebrate Christmas than by getting together with your friends and family to make handmade decorations? Not only is this an activity that will create lasting memories, but it will also give your home a unique look that cannot be bought in the shops.

DIY wreaths

An iconic symbol of Christmas which sets a festive tone even before guests step inside. Begin with fir tree branches, then add pinecones and ribbons for a touch of elegance. Integrate small ornaments or baubles that resonate with your personal style or theme. Use a wire frame as your foundation to provide both structure and ensure durability, then decide on its pride of place.

Handcrafted ornaments

Utilise versatile materials like malleable clay, rustic pieces of light bulb or repurposed light bulbs. Embellish with vivid paints, sparkling glitter or intricate decoupage patterns. Beyond just decoration, this crafting journey is a delightful bonding experience, especially engaging for young children, making the end result truly special.

Christmas scent

Simmer a pot filled with water, rich cinnamon sticks, zesty orange slices, aromatic cloves and fresh pine needles, to envelop your home in a mesmerising olfactory experience. This natural concoction beautifully brings warmth and nostalgia to every corner.

Homemade advent calendar

Use small bags, quaint boxes or vintage envelopes as your daily vessels. Inside, tuck away delightful treats, heart-warming notes or tiny sentimental trinkets. Each day becomes a revelation, combining tradition with personalised surprises.

Handmade stockings

Craft personalised stockings for each family member. Whether hand-sewn using soft felt, hand-knitted using cosy yarn or simply reusing an old sock, the real magic comes when you add your own adornment. Embroidered names, shimmering sequins or other delightful embellishments create not just a decoration, but a keepsake that can be used again, year after year.

Christmas cards display

Celebrate the affection and wishes you've garnered by crafting a dynamic display. Use coloured ribbons or twinkling fairy lights as your base, then clip on each card. As more cards arrive, watch your living mural evolve, serving as a heart-warming testament to the love that embraces you and your family.

Centrepieces and table decor

Merge the soft glow of candles with the vibrant hue of cranberries and the rustic charm of pine branches. Enhance the ambiance further by folding napkins into festive motifs, and weaving ribbons and pinecones into your table settings, creating an enchanting table that's both aesthetic and memorable.

DIY snow globes

Mason jars can be the canvas for your festive creativity. Simply fill them with water, a teaspoon of glycerine, glitter and miniature Christmas figurines before securing the lid tightly. When shaken, this handcrafted treasure unveils a swirling snowstorm and captivating Christmas scene.

Snowdrop Garden Openings 2024

Over 100 glorious snowdrop gardens are to open in England, Wales and Northern Ireland this February, with Warwickshire offering three memorable events as an uplifting start to the visiting season.

Clearly bitten by the galanthus bug, dedicated plantsman Neil Higginson is looking forward to opening his 2-acre garden that’s been 30 years in the making. An intensely practical man, now retired from a successful career supplying fishing tackle to trade, he even keeps a potting bench in his home office.

“Fishing tackle and the gardening season used to go hand in hand,” Neil told us. “Once the snowdrops started to come out, I’d think we're not a million miles from the tackle trade starting up again. Trade relies on good weather, and you feel you've turned that corner once the snowdrops start to appear. This year, I’m opening for the NGS as I want to give back a little bit wherever I can, after a successful career.”

The resulting 300 different snowdrop cultivars can be enjoyed by visitors to Neil’s Woolscott garden which also features an impressive variety of fern, followed by over 40 different wood anemone in April, and 80 different geraniums in the summer months. Some plants are sourced at specialist events.

“If you take a couple of hundred quid and spend it wisely, you'll get some hellishly good deals, whereas you can spend £200 on a single bulb on some websites,” says Neil who acknowledges invaluable advice from snowdrop expert Andrew Thorp.

“Propagation is the interesting bit,” explains Neil. “One monstrous-sized plant called Mrs Macnamara starts flowering in December. I began with 6 bulbs five years ago and must already have 300 snowdrops from those originals!”

Clearly, there is alchemy involved in raising these appealing flowers which hail from the same amaryllidaceae family as daffodils.

“I also try to grow from seed as well but that's a slow old process taking about 4 years. Andrew Thorp showed me how to twin-scale them, where you slice them up, then keep your fingers crossed. I've turned a single one into 20 or 30 bulbs, but I've also had failures.”

“Once I’ve planted the seeds, I put them outside and they just accept whatever Nature throws at them. As long as the seed is fresh you can eventually get a nice steady supply of things coming through 6 or 7 years on from planting”.

Seventeen miles further south in Kenilworth, Liz Watson is a seasoned garden opener and snowdrop enthusiast.

“In lockdown, once we cleared compost bins and an old shed from under our 250 year old beech tree, my husband Bob and I were able to create a small woodland garden,” reveals Liz who is also the National Garden Scheme Warwickshire County Organiser.

“This was then planted with over 1,000 ordinary snowdrops, spring bulbs and shade lovers. We were also lucky enough to be allowed to take snowdrops from the garden of the late Colin Mason, a breeder who lived on Fieldgate Lane. So, I have several unusual snowdrops, but I don’t know their names, some being very like the ‘Fieldgate’ series which Colin bred.”

Warwick’s own Hill Close Gardens will also open to display over 100 snowdrop cultivars for the NGS.

Please check for all details by visiting ngs.org.uk

Warwickshire Snowdrop Openings

Saturday 17th February 2024 - Hill Close Gardens, Warwick - £6 entry from 11am – 4pm.
Sunday 18th February 2024 - Fieldgate & St Nicholas Avenue, Kenilworth, Joint Opening - £5 entry from 12pm – 4pm,
Neil Higginson, Woolscott Barn, CV23 8DB. Visits by arrangement only, please call 07836 511495. 

© Lily Farrah
Photographs taken by Neil Higginson

Christmas After Bereavement

Christmas is a magical time of fairy lights glinting in the snow, holidays and family presents, some causing hilarity by missing the mark completely. Dressing the tree with baubles that cause exclamations of memory as they come out of the box. Remember when…? For some of us, the memories are bittersweet as we remember loved ones who no longer take up space round our table; who no longer sleep by the fire after lunch; or who no longer knit extraordinary jumpers we are all careful to describe as, “Great! Perfect for the New Year Party!” whilst stuffing them back in the bag never to be worn.

Bereavement is a normal part of life, but no less painful for that. It takes time to assimilate the loss and can cause loneliness if others feel awkward talking about the person who has passed. So how do we cope with Christmas after a death in the family?

We each cope differently. Some will turn to old Christmas traditions, others shy away from the pain of the usual and will find something new, like volunteering at a homeless shelter serving Christmas lunch. Others introduce new traditions, past loves are not forgotten, but new ways of living are found.

Don’t pretend, “I’m fine.” Speak your thoughts, remember the one you loved. Toast their memory and all they have meant to friends and family. You may shed a tear and need a tissue close by, but talking about him or her will take the tension out of the air for everyone and stop family treating you with kid gloves. Being real, even with sad moments, will improve the day.

Triggers to tears will happen, mascara may run, but this is true family living, sharing joys and sorrows alike. You may be fine almost all day then the film comes on the TV that you’ve watched together every year. Crying does not mean you are ‘going to pieces’ and you will be OK again afterwards. Both you and others will gain confidence knowing that surviving bereavement does not mean forgetting the person you love.

Bereaved friends can be comforted by a card or flowers with a simple ‘Thinking of you at Christmas’ or ‘Remembering your Dad at this time’ rather than wishing them merriment. If inviting them to join you this year, an open invitation to come for some, or all, of the day may give them courage to visit without worrying that they won’t manage for long. If they do accept the offer, access to a quiet space if they need it may be very welcome. If they decline, popping in with a cake or mince pie may ease their loneliness.

Most of all don’t pressurise someone into attending a social event. Even the invitation will mean a lot.

For more information call 07999 739381.

Dr Chantal Meystre
MB ChB MA FRCP UKCP Cert IGA
Email: courses@omegacourse.co.uk
www.omegacourse.co.uk

National Consumer Week Part II: Last Minute Christmas Shopping, Returns And Refunds

National Consumer Week Part I was in October and was designed to help shoppers navigate their way through Black Friday and Cyber Monday. National Consumer Week Part II is scheduled for January 2024 and is focused on understanding refund and return rights. Below are also some tips for last minute Christmas shoppers.

Last minute Christmas shopping is a feature of the modern Christmas. It’s mid-December and no-one has given you their Christmas list, you can’t find the thing he or she really wants, and your budget is being stretched to breaking point. You are scouring the internet, or the local shops, for a good deal. You feel under pressure and are ripe for making rushed decisions.

 Fundamental shopping rules still apply, even in December:

After Christmas, and that one solitary day of rest and relaxation (maybe?), it's time to think about New Year Sales and, just as important, returns and refunds. Below are some simple principles to live by to make sure you are not stuck with presents that you don’t want or that don’t work:

For more details on obtaining refunds for goods you don't want, go to www.citizensadvice.org.uk/consumer/changed-your-mind/changing-your-mind-about-something-youve-bought/.

For more information on returning faulty goods, go to www.citizensadvice.org.uk/consumer/somethings-gone-wrong-with-a-purchase/return-faulty-goods/.

To talk to someone about your consumer issue contact the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 0808 223 1133, Monday to Friday 9am - 5pm.

An alternative source of credible independent advice can be found from Which? at  www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/advice/who-pays-to-return-late-unwanted-goods-avqUy8c5nojV.

Or you can try www.gov.uk/accepting-returns-and-giving-refunds for the retailer’s perspective.

Don’t let not understanding your rights about refunds and returns ruin your New Year. Be prepared.

Oh..and Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from us all at Citizens Advice across Warwickshire!

By Ed Hodson

Citizens Advice South Warwickshire - Citizens Advice working in partnership across Warwickshire

Mental Health – The Walnut Analogy

Mental health is a topic that touches us all, either personally or through someone we know. But understanding the intricacies of our mental wellbeing can sometimes be challenging. We often wonder, why do some people seem to be so resilient, while others might struggle after facing difficulties? To make sense of this, perhaps consider a simple analogy: the walnut. Just as a walnut has a hard exterior protecting its delicate inside, we too have an outer layer of resilience guarding our emotional wellbeing. But how much pressure can this outer layer withstand before it cracks?

Imagine for a moment that a person is like a walnut. The walnut’s shell is incredibly tough. Dropping it or knocking it lightly won’t cause it any harm. It requires significant force, like a hammer, to crack open. Similarly, throughout our lives, we build a protective shell around ourselves to withstand the challenges thrown our way.

Now, imagine placing a heavy paving slab on top of that walnut. Imagine each paving slab represents something really sad or upsetting or angering that a person has experienced in their life. Probably the first paving slab isn’t going to break the walnut. We don’t know how many paving slabs put on top of that walnut it can endure before it cracks.

But when we layer on top of that walnut enough paving slabs of emotional trauma, just like the walnut, our protective shell gives way and everything inside is going to feel crushed causing a situation where those symptoms are spilling out.

It’s not possible to keep shouldering increasing emotional weight without feeling its toll.

Contrary to what some might believe, it isn’t necessarily those who’ve led easy lives that are most susceptible to breaking. The people who are going to crack are the ones who’ve borne too much for too long. This is especially true for people in high-stress professions or those who’ve experienced significant trauma, such as military personnel, police, first responders, healthcare workers, and civilians who have been through very traumatic experiences in their lives. They are going to get to a point where it’s just too much for too long and those symptoms are going to come spilling out.

Their breaking point can manifest not just mentally, but also physically. It’s not uncommon for emotional distress like anxiety, depression or insomnia to manifest as physical symptoms – be it pain, paralysis or even seizures.

Just as a walnut can only bear so much pressure before cracking, we too have our limits. Recognising these limits in ourselves and others is crucial. Everyone’s threshold is different, influenced by past experiences, current circumstances and individual resilience. But, as with the walnut, there’s a point beyond which even the toughest exterior can’t hold back the internal turmoil. Compassion, understanding and timely intervention, such as specialist clinical hypnotherapy, can make all the difference. Let’s ensure we extend that care to ourselves and to those around us, acknowledging that beneath our shells, we are all, in our unique ways, beautifully vulnerable.

© Louise Hall, Louise Hall Hypnosis

Louise Hall is a Certified Professional Hypnotherapist based in Coventry, helping people to overcome issues they are struggling with, allowing them to take back control and transform their lives with hypnosis. Visit www.louisehallhypnosis.com to see how hypnosis can help you.

Focus on Mental Resilience

Since the Covid pandemic, we have seen increasing levels of anxiety, sadness, health issues and a sense of helplessness among people. Some of us have been brilliant in bouncing back to our old selves but some have been less successful in doing so. Mental resilience and mental defeat are two sides of the same coin that follow us through our lives and the shifts in the toss-up probably makes either a success, or failure, of any situation in our lives.

Resilience is our inner ability to cope with adverse situations, be it bereavement, financial loss, relationship breakdown, tragedies, the daily smaller difficulties at workplace or at home, or the much bigger pandemic that we all faced 3 years ago. Having attended many webinars on mental wellbeing and building up resilience among healthcare professionals, some ideas and techniques are so simple and of universal value, which I shall share below, that anyone can learn these skills to improve resilience, both physically and mentally, to face adverse situations and, come out of them without losing mental peace or wellbeing. 

Acceptance: Try to accept unfavourable things have happened and treat these events as learning points. Do not spiral down, plan a response, apologise if necessary, forgive and move away, accept they were meant to happen.

Breathe: Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth, each breath as long as you can hold, and do this for a minute, it will help calm your thoughts.

Challenge your thoughts: A very powerful strategy, think how you would behave if your best friend or a loved one had spiralling thoughts, how would you respond? Place threatening thoughts in imaginary speech bubbles and then puncture them, you will notice they are not so alarming.

Delight and compliment: Practice giving honest compliments to a colleague or even a stranger, every day, you will notice your burdens lessening.

Exercise: A brisk walk, getting out in the open and engaging your thoughts and senses to a beautiful moment in the past, a great holiday, a good book, a nice restaurant, to imagine the sounds and smells and colours, for a few minutes daily, will help uplift your mood. 

Family, friends and faith: The 3 magical triad, each one either separate or in combination, to talk to and be listened to, to contemplate and reflect, are an incredible source of support for our mental wellbeing.

Gratitude: Be grateful to colleagues, family, friends, pets, nature, your garden or anything that gives you happiness, either verbally or in silence, and you will feel a certain joy within you.

Each of us has a different way of coping with stress but sometimes thoughts and feelings can be overwhelming leading to physical illness, so asking for help and seeking out solutions is important. Castle Medical Centre has trained mental health support workers, social prescribers, health and wellbeing coaches and care coordinators to help with such issues. Please contact the surgery if you are going through such a situation.

Dr Suparna Behura
FRCGP Partner and Trainer

Monday-Friday – 8.00am-6.30pm
Tel – 01926 857331
www.castlemedicalcentre.co.uk
Facebook – @CastleMedKenilworth
Twitter – @Castle_Med
22 Bertie Road, Kenilworth, CV8 1JP

PARISH COUNCIL SURGERIES
As the number of residents within the Parish grows, Council has recognised that it has to find practical ways of being available and keeping in touch other than at Parish Council Meetings. Councillors will now be available for Parish Council Surgeries on the second Saturday of the month at the Parish Council foyer area, 10am-12pm, this coincides with the Saturday opening times of Bidford Community Library.

CITIZENS ADVICE - BIDFORD OUTREACH
The First Thursday of the month in the Parish Council Room (in the library) 10am–1pm. Please note you must pre-book.  This provides essential advice in these difficult times and is carried out in complete confidence. Please note the library is closed on Thursdays. Full details available at bidfordonavon-pc.gov.uk/citizens-advice-bidford-outreach/. You can also book via the Clerk – email info@bidfordonavon-pc.gov.uk giving name, contact details and reason for the appointment. The Clerk is the Council’s GDPR Officer, and you can be assured all will be treated in the highest confidence.
Dates: Thursday 7th December and Thursday 4th January.

BIDFORD VILLAGE MARKET
This takes place on the first Saturday of the month (except January-March) in the village centre and aims to bring our community together and help our local businesses. There will be a special Christmas Bidford Village Market on 2nd December – make sure you put this in your diary and come. Council is always looking for new stall holders, so if you run a business from home with items for sale and would like to book a stall in the market, please contact Hilary on 01789 778653 or by email admin@bidfordonavon-pc.gov.uk who will be able to help.

CONCERNS/ISSUES
If you have a concern or issue about anything within the Parish, please use the Love Clean Street App and send by email info@bidfordonavon-pc.gov.uk. Alternatively you can contact the Clerk on 07718 628925 or by email as above. Please don’t post on Social Media (Bidford Forum) where it may be missed and, therefore, remain unanswered or unsolved.

WEEKLY EVENTS

MEETINGS

All meetings, which are open to the public, are held at the Parish Council Meeting Room, Bramley Way, B50 4QG (unless stated otherwise). Please note it is at these meetings that decisions that directly affect our village and our local community are made – so be part of it and come and see it happen.

BIDFORD EMAIL INFORMATION
Want to know what is happening in the village every week? Nothing easier, simply sign up by emailing the Clerk at info@bidfordonavon-pc.gov.uk and your name will be added to the Weekly Email Information list to receive an email regarding upcoming Events and Notices. As Your Call Magazine is bi-monthly, this is a good way to ensure you are up to date with everything local.

SOCIAL MEDIA
Another way the Parish Council is trying to keep the local community informed is by the use of Social Media: please follow us via Facebook (Bidford on Avon) Twitter (@Bidford_PC) and now also on Instagram (bidfordpc). A lot of information and updates are published through Social Media, so do make sure you follow us to stay informed.

Elisabeth Uggerloese – Clerk to the Parish Council

PS. Keep an eye on the What’s On page of the website (bidfordonavon-pc.gov.uk/whats-on/) for events, including those at Christmas. They will also be advertised on Social Media.

Community Shed

Alcester Town Council is exploring the opportunity to repurpose the old squash courts behind the Greig Hall to create a Community Shed. Residents will be aware of the success of the monthly Repair Cafe and this would give the café a permanent home. In addition, it would provide a safe space for members of the community to make and mend along the lines of Men's Sheds which have become popular nationally. Further updates will be provided when the work has been assessed and costs are known.

Are you Well Connected?

There are many advantages of being able to use computers and the internet, from connecting with family and friends, to shopping for groceries. Yet many people are missing out. If you would like to make the most of the internet, find out about WhatsApp or learn how to download apps, come along to our relaxed and friendly Well Connected Computer Group, meeting every Wednesday morning, 9.30am – 11am at the Alcester Unionist Club, High Street, Alcester. Free to attend and everyone is welcome, whether you are new to technology or more advanced.

For more information, contact Wendy Sherwood, Alcester Town Council, on 01789 766084 or email info@alcester-tc.gov.uk.

Town Council Meetings

All Town Council meetings are held in person at Globe House with the exception of the Planning Committee which generally meets using Zoom. All meetings commence at 7pm.

Full Council - 5th December 2023 & 9th January 2024
Planning Committee – 18th December 2023 & 15th January 2024
Finance & General Purposes Committee – 12th December 2023 & 30th January 2024

Members of the public are welcome to attend all Council meetings and are given time at the start of the meetings to speak. Anyone wishing to attend or ask questions is advised to contact the Town Clerk on clerk@alcester-tc.gov.uk before the meeting to obtain further details. Agendas are published on the Town Council website at www.alcester-tc.gov.uk and copies can be viewed on the Council notice boards.

Alcester Town Council Contact Details

The Town Council offices are open Monday - Friday from 9am-1pm. If you have an enquiry for the Town Council, please phone 01789 766084 or email clerk@alcester-tc.gov.uk and we will respond as soon as we can.

Alcester Town Council Offices

Globe House, Priory Road, Alcester, B49 5DZ Tel: 01789 766084

Town Clerk - Vanessa Lowe: clerk@alcester-tc.gov.uk
Planning and Communication - Sarah Duran: administration@alcester-tc.gov.uk
Health & Wellbeing - Wendy Sherwood: info@alcester-tc.gov.uk
Facilities Manager - Tim Forman: office@alcester-tc.gov.uk
Mayor’s Secretary – Sarah Duran: mayor@alcester-tc.gov.uk

Further info also available at:

www.facebook.com/alcester.towncouncil
www.twitter.com/AlcesterTown
www.instagram.com/alcestertowncouncil