Sunday, 21 December 2014

Cranberry muffins

I had left over cranberries after making cranberry sauce so I made some cranberry muffins.  They are lactose free too which is a bonus.


  • 280g plain flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • pinch salt (optional)
  • 85g granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 240 ml orange juice
  • 110g fresh cranberries, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 tsp freshly grated orange or lemon zest
  • 90 ml corn oil


  • Put muffin papers in muffin tin.
  • Turn oven on to 170C (fan oven)
  • In large bowl sift flour, salt, baking powder and then stir in sugar.
  • In separate bowl mix egg with orange juice, cranberries, rind and oil.
  • Mix wet and dry ingredients with gentle stirring.
  • When combined spoon into muffin cases and bake for about 25 mins and tops are browned lightly and spring back when pressed lightly.

Job done.  Eat.

(Can be frozen.)



Sunday, 14 December 2014

How do they do it?

Yesterday evening I ordered something from Next online.

I got an email saying it’d be ready after 2pm the next day from my local store.  I was amazed.  How do they achieve this?

This morning I got a text just before 11am saying that the item I’d ordered was ready for collection.  How is this possible?

The item I’d ordered isn’t normally stocked by our local store so it would have travelled from a distribution centre.  

Surely one item can’t have been worth the logistical cost.  Let’s assume that a few items were delivered and let’s assume one van or truck delivers to a few stores, can the cost of the vehicle, fuel and the cost of the driver really justify this, on a Sunday?

Or are deliveries happening seven days a week to all stores and my item was just chucked on the van before it left this morning?  This seems fairly logical but I am surprised all stores receive deliveries that frequently, and that all deliveries happen by 2pm.

Anyone out there know how they do it?

Monday, 8 December 2014

Unintended consequences

I wasn’t meant to be at home today but a dose of heavy cold/flu meant that for the first time in eight years I needed to work from home because Hannah was poorly.  

I had to nip to work to collect my laptop and shortly after I arrived back home there was a knock at the door.  A workman wanted to know if I used my drive.  I explained that I didn’t, but others do and, in turn, he explained that there was going to be work happening for five days digging up the pavement area in front of our house.

This was new news to me and he told me that the Council should have got in touch to warn me.  He also realised that, because the drive does get used, he needed to order a plate to continue to provide me with vehicle access.

Later in the day I called the Council who told me that UK Power Networks should have told me about the work and that I didn’t get a letter from the Council because they had determined that there would be no traffic impact.

I tweeted UK Power Networks : and responded with the information they requested.

The Council called back later to explain the work was to happen around the school runs.  This made no sense as, whether work was happening or not, the pavement was closed to pedestrians, on their way to school or not.

I spoke to the contractors, Morrisons, who were effectively doing what the contract said.  I clearly needed to get UK Power Networks to take this seriously.

UK Power Networks called me and I explained that the situation with a closed pavement, and no alternative for pedestrians, was unsafe.  I had just video’d the situation and sent that to Debbie in the Romford UK Power Networks office.  Here it is:

Lots of to-ing and fro-ing later and there was a promise of traffic lights and a walkway for pedestrians.  I was happy that everything had been done to make things safe.  I felt responsible because this was outside my house and if anything happened to anyone crossing the road because of the work, I would feel terrible if I hadn’t done what I could to make it as safe as possible.  It’s bad enough that there’s construction traffic next door without adding to the danger.

But then came the kick.  The site manager, who had told me about the traffic lights and walkway, then told me he thought the two workmen who had been on site all day would probably lose their jobs as a result of my intervention.

This shouldn’t be how this situation ends.  I had been clear all the way through that it was the planning that was lacking, not the execution.  The improvement opportunities were with the interaction between UK Power Networks and Essex County Council and not the contractor Morrisons who were just carrying out the instructions on a contract.

I wrote an email to UK Power Networks to try and mitigate things:

Hi Debbie

Thank you for your intervention.  I have just been advised that traffic lights will be installed tomorrow morning.  I feel a lot happier about the situation.
I am concerned that there should not be any blame apportioned to the young gentlemen who have been working on site today.  They have been at all times courteous and helpful within the constraints over which they had no control.  They should be commended for their concern and for doing everything within their power and authority.
In the future, for such work, I would like to see much better collaboration between Essex County Council and UK Power Networks.  Better decisions should be made earlier on to enable contractors such as Morrisons to work for the safety of all concerned.
If you are confused by the multiple addressees, I apologise, but I thought it would be good to share the good news with local residents and Councillors.
Thank you again
Kind regards
I was left balancing the potential accident that the dangerous closed pavement might cause and two people needlessly losing their jobs.  It was no choice and it seemed wrong that in trying to do the right thing and achieving a result, I was also responsible for potential job losses.
I gave the workmen a copy of the email and hoped that this physical evidence, and the fact I had copied about 30 people, might prevent any corporate blaming of the lowest common denominator rather than addressing the fundamental flaws in the process.
I don’t know whether to be pleased that children (and others) will be safer walking along our road this week, or whether to regret getting involved.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

It's not difficult

All I want is a nice sparkly top to wear with jeans. Why can't I find something that works?

I want something with a v-neck  and yet most retailers seem to think high neck or round neck is de rigueur.

I want sleeves but they don't have to be full length.  They can be short sleeves or 3/4 length but don't give me sleeveless or cap sleeves.

I want a diaphonous fabric,  perhaps and perhaps preferably with an opaque layer beneath.

Don't make it black.  Black does not suit me.  A muted  silvery blue would be nice or maybe a soft raspberry colour.

I'm not averse to a few sequins but let's not go sequin crazy.

And a semi-fitted top is fine but completely clingy is not appropriate. So a wrap style top could work or maybe empire line.

This top should work with a bra.  Don't design something that is so low cut that breasts and bra are exposed. It would be acceptable to design bra functionality into the top.

Oh and this should ideally be machine washable.

This top should not have cutouts at the front of the back that would expose bra or pasty winter skin.

So .... It really isn't difficult so why can't I find it.?

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Don't ask, don't get

My pressure cooker broke during my inaugural Christmas pudding cooking.

I'm not sure exactly when the breakage occurred but when I took it apart to wash it (yes I know it's unfair that I do the cooking and the washing up) I noticed a bit of plastic had snapped.

I knew the pressure cooker had a warranty so I sent Kuhn Rikon an email. I asked how I could get a replacement item.

They responded with details of their spare parts service.

I asked about a replacement under warranty as my pressure cooker was less than a couple of years old.

I was advised that whilst the pressure cooker has a ten year warranty some bits of it were only covered by a one year warranty.

I explained that this was disappointing as my pressure cooker is used infrequently, and I asked whether they had a goodwill policy.

An offer to replace the part at no cost "just this once" arrived in my inbox this morning.

If you don't ask, you don't get.

Monday, 1 December 2014

Experiencing problems

I bank with RBS.  It might always have been RBS but when I took out my mortgage it was branded as the One Account.

It’s an offset account that sends statements every month that demonstrate the extent of my debt by displaying it as a huge overdraft.  There’s nothing like the constant reminder of the amount of money one owes to keep spending and saving at the forefront of one’s mind.

I don’t often use online banking for this account as most payments are automated.  When I do use it it’s because I want to transfer money to an individual, which is why I was logging on this evening.

I tried the url for the One Account and kept getting errors. 

Our Wifi can be unreliable, or my Mac can be unreliable, so I tried a few more times.  The One Account website is an antiquated piece of junk and has been known to have issues when site maintenance hasn’t gone to plan.

I gave up and called to hear the following “If you are experiencing issues when logging on to our online service when using Chrome or Firefox, please use Internet Explorer and the site will work."

Really, in 2014 you expect me to use a cruddy Microsoft browser and you can’t get your site working with Chrome which is the UK’s number one browser choice?

RBS has been criticised recently for insufficient expenditure on IT.  It seems I’m experiencing it first hand.

Cameron's bucket list

Never let it be said that a Tory was selfish, but...

Cameron isn’t happy that his mobile phone signal gets a bit off when he visits Cornwall.

But that’s OK, he can just announce he’ll spend £150 million on fixing mobile phone coverage.  Problem sorted.

I wonder if Cameron travels to Cornwall on the A303.  If he does then he’s bound to have experienced delays around Stonehenge.  We all have.  The difference is that we can’t all say that £15 billion will be spent on his Road Improvement Project (notice the acronym) part of which will mean a tunnel under Stonehenge.

It might be worth pointing out that Cameron’s plans for Stonehenge are the bare minimum.  Apparently the tunnel would need to be 2.8 miles long as a minimum if it isn’t going to breach the World Heritage Convention because of damage to surrounding countryside.  He’s promising just enough to fix the traffic issue.

I wonder what else frustrates our leader?

Maybe he’s not keen on library book fines.  Perhaps he objects to young children playing ball games in communal park areas.  Who knows what ridiculous scheme he’ll come up with next rather than addressing the basic services that are being hacked at by the Westminster bean counters on a daily basis.

Don’t get me wrong, I’d like a better phone signal and I don’t like sitting in a queue on the A303, but if it were my money, and some of it is, I’d be choosing other priorities.