Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Burglary - reflections

I've just remembered that whilst living in my last house, I unlocked the front door when I arrived home from work, and went to turn off the burglar alarm.  There was a red light on which indicated that something was wrong.

I don't know about you, but I tend to assume that there's a fault in the system when that happens, I'm not so paranoid as to think that someone's broken in, despite having been burgled years ago.

So, I turned off the system and went to check the doors.  They were all intact, and so were the windows.  I tried to turn the alarm back on, but it wouldn't activate.  Clearly there was a problem.  Finally I remembered about the zones - I'm not very technical!!  The lightbulb went on in my head - the garage!!!

The garage door had been kicked in, shattering the lock.  There was a lovely footprint visible on the cream painted door.  I phoned the police, but told them there was no rush, the intruder had obviously run at the sound of the alarm, and nothing had been touched.

I contacted the insurance company, with whom I had both house and contents insured, and said I would be claiming for a padlock to keep the garage secure until the door could be replaced.

The girl on the other end said that a padlock wouldn't be covered, only a replacement door!

It took a great deal of persistence to persuade her that the paltry cost of the padlock, about £4.50, was considerably less than the potential loss of all the contents of the garage if it was left unlocked, since the intruder knew that it was now possible to enter it.  There were several valuable woodworking tools my husband kept in there, plus cycles etc, so it would have been a tidy sum we would have claimed if it had remained unprotected, and the alarm couldn't be set due to the damage.

She did, reluctantly, agree to re-imburse us for the cost, but it was so short-sighted of her to have argued.

The police never found out who did it, despite the lovely footprint, sadly, it's only in CSI that such a thing is a vital clue!

Monday, 27 September 2010

House insurance and burlgary - a confusing, contradictory affair!

I was burgled twice in ten days when my baby was ten months old.  My husband was living "up north", whilst I remained in the south where we were selling our lovely nineteenth century lodge cottage: the Lodge was long gone - the Scots pines, oak, sycamore, beech etc flourished where once it had proudly stood.  It's attraction, detached and surrounded by mature woodland on all except the road side, was, of course, its weakness.  There was a council estate further up the busy main road, and private housing across the  road.  We experienced no problems in the years we lived there until the "sold" sign went up.  The police informed us that this was a common problem, for some reason "sold" signs act as an invitation to thieves.

So, when I spotted an article entitled How keys could invalidate your home insurance policy by "Confused.com", and the way that the companies often try to wriggle out of paying out on claims, making use of the infamous "small print" which many people ignore, I naturally read it.  BTW, I admit to being a keen small print reader, and always read it before signing anything, much to the frustration of sales people!

I don't have a claim to make, thankfully, and my windows and doors all have locks; the door locks are supposed to be amongst the best available.  Insuranace companies always ask about this, and premiums can be lower if you have this protection.  The article begins:

'Homeowners may think that locking the doors and windows of their property is enough to keep it safe from burglars but is it?

Most homes usually have several keys covering front doors, back doors, side doors, and windows as well as garages, sheds and outbuildings. But with so many keys to keep track of, it could be easy for one to end up in the wrong hands. And if this does happen, and someone breaks into your home using a key, will your home insurance cover you?

The answer is no, according to insurer Churchill, which confirms that for burglary claims to be paid out, forced entry must be proven so a homeowner would not be covered if a key is used.'

Essentially, you may encounter problems with your claim if a key has been used to enter your property to effect the burglary, which is why it's very important to replace your locks if you lose your keys.  A good insurance company will cover this cost for you, but even if it doesn't, the cost of replacing a few locks is small compared to the mental anguish of having  your home invaded.  I found this intrusive aspect of the burglaries worse than the theft of the items.

A point raised in the article was that if you're away from home for a protracted periosd, usually more than 30 days, you need to inform your insurance company, and they may impose terms/conditions which you'll need to comply with to maintain cover.  A common condition is that someone visits the house on a weekly basis to ensure that all is well.  The likelihood is that you'll give this person a key so that they can enter the house to check for leaks etc.  or you might hand over a key to a neighbour so that they can draw the curtains each evening for you and water your plants.

However, the fact that there are keys around, and there is no sign of a forced entry, can lead to the claim being dismissed - even though the company may have insisted that the house be checked.  SO, read your small print, and if you don't like what you read, strike it through before you sign - or try a diffrent company.

But, be aware - they'll take your money, but they're not "on your side", companies exist to make a profit, and paying out on a claim eats into those profits.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

rag rugs, a new craft

I try to get along to my local "craft and chat" every Wednesday, and we got back together again after the summer break a couple of weeks ago.

I set off with my longstitch embroidery in hand, but it didn't get taken out of its bag!  No, it was thrust aside because one of the girls had taken along some squares of hessian and some rags.  Yes, you heard it right, some rags.

Specifically, she had boiled, yes, boiled, up some old woollen jumpers that she'd picked up at a charity shop to shrink and matt the fibres, then cut them up into strips about 1" x 4".  She'd done the same with old cotton t-shirts.

Some of the hessian was stretched on frames, but I remember making these rag rugs with my mother when I was very small, and we didn't use frames.  I'd been thinking about these rag rugs recently, which is why my embroidery stayed in my bag, and I was happy to join in the experimenting with the rug-making.

Here you can see on the left some of the rags, then the scissors with which to poke the rags through the hessian, and on the right is the reverse of some of the rags already prodded through.
This is the "right" side, the pile of the rug, lovely and thick, and colourful in a muted way - most of the sweaters she'd been able to obtain were mens, so the colours reflect that!
To make the rug, you poke one end of a rag strip into a hole in the hessian with either a pencil, crochet hook, or, in my case, the blunt ends of the scissors.  The other end of the strip is poked up just two or three threads away.  The next rag strip is pushed into the same hole as the first one emerged from, so that for the whole of the rug, except the edge rows, each hole is shared by two strips of rag, as I hope you can see with the red and green in the close up above, and of the reverse, below.
It's not a fantastically neat piece of work, but you get the idea.

If you try it for yourself, I'd suggest washing the hessian before you begin, otherwise you'll end up like me, covered in coarse beige scratchy fibres!!!!  Whe I was young I seem to remember the hessian originally being old potato sacks, which I'm sure my mother washed before we used it.

It certainly brought back memories for me.  Apparently, way back in the mists of time, when peg rugs were first around, they started out as bed coverings.  They would have been very heavy and warm.  When a new one was completed, the original moved down to the floor at the side of the bed.  It moved from there to the kitchen, and from thence to become a fireside rug at the end of its day, fit only to catch the embers from the fires as they tumbled out.

Fascinating stuff, history:-)

Monday, 13 September 2010

Recreating history - roundhouses and battles

We're a funny lot in England; we love to re-enact historical periods, whether it's a famous battle or simply domestic arrangements.  I've always love history, though dropped it at school because I've a lousy memory for dates - pretty important when it comes to exams!

I'm very interested in nature and wildlife, too, and am a member of the WWT, World Wetland Trust.  You can imagine how pleased I was to see that my local WWT site, Martin Mere, was holding a historical weekend, can't you?

We drove over on a typical British summer day, armed with waterproof clothing and sunglasses, along with binoculars and camera.  We optimistically took a picnic lunch, too - we do so enjoy tempting fate!

There was a camp, complete with fire.  Large logs formed the seating.  Roundhouses had been constructed to demonstrate the homes.

The sides of the roundhouses were created from willow branches coated with mud "daub".  This came from a hole dug at the site.

Sadly, health and safety regulations interfered, yet again, with simple enjoyment: although the hardy people re-creating the past were quite prepared to sleep in the dwellings they had built, this was not permitted as the thatch roofs constituted a fire hazard.

A nearby area was cleared for use as a workshop, with logs being sawn here, but no activity took place whilst we were there.
This is the house used by the camp's battle director, you can see his shield propped outside, and he allows a small boy to wear his headpiece.

There were supposed to be various activites taking place, such as flat bread making and mock battles, but, although we were there for a few hours, nothing appeared to take place when it should, so it was quite disappointing.  There were a few things for children to make, at a price, with enough people to man those sections.  How cynical of me not to be surprised at that.

Still, we were glad we went; the weather stayed fine, we ate our picnic amid lush greenery, and it was interesting to see the houses.  Plus we saw the wildlife which is why we joined the organisation in the first place:-)

Organic Fortnight - Simple Mushroom Paté

It’s Organic Fortnight, apparently. To celebrate, I made this simple, yet delicious, Mushroom Paté to celebrate. Here's the recipe:-

300g mushrooms, wiped and chopped
2 medium onions, peeled and chopped
1 tin pinto beans, drained
3 cloves garlic , peeled and crushed
1tblsp olive oil
Salt and pepper
Sprigs of marjoram and thyme

Simply heat the olive oil in a non-stick frying pan, and sauté the onion for five minutes.  Add the garlic and chopped mushrooms and cook until just tender.

Stir in the beans and heat through.

Add freshly chopped herbs, ground nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste.

Blitz in a food processor.  Put into ramekin dishes and chill.

Serve with toast or crackers and wedge of lemon.

I love it when food is simple to prepare, tastes great and is good for me, don’t you?

Monday, 6 September 2010

It's Zero (food)waste week, did you know?

Logging onto the Oofo site I discovered that it's Zero Waste Week! This is what they have to say:

"Monday 6th September will see the start of the third national "Zero Waste Week". This year's theme is 'Cooking for Victory' in response to WRAPS "household Food and Drink Waste in the UK" report. The report shows we throw away 8.3 million tonnes of food and drink every year. Most of this is avoidable and could have been eaten if we had planned, stored and managed it better. In support of the campaign VegBox Recipes have created a handy guide to eating left-overs."

I try not to waste food, but I have to admit that occasionally, some food does get binned; not a lot, and not often, honestly, hand on heart etc. I'm a dab hand at turning left over veggie into curries or soups, and found it interesting that Oofo has compiled a helpful guide to using left-overs

Paste this very long code into your browser to access the page - I'm hoping they'll tell me how to paste a simple link here to replace it, but at the moment, this is all I've managed to copy, sorry!!!
If you do find you throw food away, you might just discover some useful ideas to recycle your left-overs into something tasty - and imagine how virtuous you'll feel:-)