British Honey

Posted 08/03/2012 By Steve

It was recently explained to me exactly why I can walk into a supermarket and buy a jar of honey for less then £2, whereas if I buy it from a local producer I’m more likely to pay around £5 per jar, it’s actually quite a shocking story.

As you would probably expect, supermarkets buy the vast majority of their produce from the cheapest source, obviously provided that people will buy it. As a result, the honey which they buy in is more often than not produced abroad, this in itself is not a problem unless you are specifically concerned about the carbon footprint of the groceries you buy, what is important though is the way it’s produced. Much of the cheap honey which people buy is produced in countries like China and India and their legislation about production is not as rigorous as ours.

In these countries they mass manufacture honey from sugar syrup, yes the bees process it and turn it into honey, but what you are buying is basically concentrated sugar water which has been through the honey stomach of a bee. In nature honeybees will visit thousands of flowers collecting tiny drops of honeycombnectar, the bees honey stomach breaks the sugars down, these are then taken back to the hive and stored in honey cells. Once stored the house bees will evaporate the water out of the nectar reducing it to around 18% water, this is then capped over for storage, in a normal British beekeepers hive this is what is cropped and bottled to be sold as honey. However, the products which come in from abroad are not necessarily made in the same way, they have a high density of hives around drums of sugar syrup, the bees fly back and forth to these drums, performing the same task as they would with nectar, but essentially what they are making is nothing more than concentrated sugar water.

The ridiculous thing about the whole situation is that UK beekeepers are not allowed to feed bees when they are storing a surplus for honey extraction to ensure that the resulting produce is proper honey, however, there does not seem to be any restriction on the import of the sub-standard produce from abroad.

The proof of the pudding and all that! If you have some cheap imported honey do the taste test with a good local honey, you can find local producers listed here www.honeybeehive.co.uk they are sorted by county and town so you should be able to find a truly local supplier. Once you have the two jars side by side, do a blind tasting, I can guarantee that the English honey will taste infinitely better. Why? That’s simple, because you are eating real honey, which is made from nectar just as nature intended, not just processed sugar water.

British beekeepers do sometimes get a hard time and are asked to justify why their honey costs so much more than the ones you buy in a supermarket, but the cost and associated effort in making the real product is huge in comparison to they way it is done abroad.

If you are interested in beekeeping a good place to start is the BBKA website, so pop over there and have a look.

Double Glazing and Doors

Posted 06/13/2012 By Steve

It’s getting to that time of year now when I start sitting outside and realise just how much more the window and door frames in the house are starting to rot, when I say starting, they must have started years ago, they have since been painted over and it’s peeled off again and painted over etc etc. Each year I look at them and think it really should be a bit of a priority to get them changed, but I just never seem to get around to it, mainly due to cost, last year I was hoping to do them but instead I had to get the roof fixed, it would have been replaced in the old days, but I had this guy come in and spray a hard insulation foam on the back of the tiles instead and it’s guaranteed for 25 years, so that’s one job done.

The year before that it was a new kitchen and so on. I guess that’s what happens when you buy an old run down country new kitchencottage, don’t get me wrong, it’s not a posh quaint little cottage, but an old farm workers one, but as a result it has had minimal repairs done over the last century and obviously the tenants weren’t going to spend their time on DIY either, so most things need doing, it’s just a matter of priority.

There are some great options now for getting new windows and doors put in, I like the look of the wooden frames and they would suit the character of the building well, however, they do require maintenance, not painting but oiling every few years, which from a labour perspective amounts to the same as having to paint them, well, perhaps one less coat, but I’s still have to get out there on the ladder, which is a job I hate.

The next option is metal or aluminium frames, whilst they are non-maintenance, I just don’t think they would look right in a building of this age, so they are out too.

That just leaves good old UPVC frames, hard wearing, maintenance free and best of all the cheapest option too. I’m also looking at some sort of patio doors or even the folding ones which go a bit like a concertina when you fold them right back, I think the official name for them is bifolds, although I find that a bit misleading as it implies there are only two of them, and by the pictures I’ve seen of these type of doors they can be much bigger than that.

I do quite like the idea of having a big opening at the back of the house which looks right down the garden, so in the summer I can just fold the doors back and have a great big opening to be able to walk outside. That being said I’ve not concertina style doorslooked into the price of them yet, so I suspect they could be prohibitively expensive for me, what with my limited budget, so I will probably just end up with good old patio doors in the end.

The main reason for needing them changed, apart from the fact that they need to be replaced before they start to fall out, is the heat aspect. The original windows in the house are old sash windows, while they do look very nice (or at least would do if they were tidied up and painted nicely) they are very drafty and are only a single pane of very thin glass. By upgrading them they will be fully sealed up and have double glazed panes in them. The same goes for the doors, they are pretty drafty, whereas new ones, either patio doors or the bifolding style would make the house so much warmer and even let in a lot more light too, not a bad idea seeing as they are east facing so only get the sun first thing in the morning before the sun disappears behind the neighbours extension.

Cafe Coffee

Posted 02/02/2012 By Steve

I just had to pop into town to bank a cheque, so decided to stop in a cafe for a coffee. I had never thought about quite how many choices there are when you do stop for one. First, where to go, I don’t know about your high street, but ours, being a rather touristy place has loads of choice, not just your standard Starbucks and Costa type places, but also every independent cafe obviously sells it, but also all the pubs and hotels too. So firstly hotels are out, it’s only pensioners who stop there for coffee and I’m not quite there yet! Pubs, well, I know some of them do proper coffee but it’s usually in a small cup which isn’t what I was after, cafe’s are usually the same. So it comes back to the big high street coffee chains with their gourmet coffee. Plus I didn’t really want to sit in to drink it and being such a cold day (it said -1 in the car) holding onto an oversize hot drink would help keep my hands warm.

I went into Costa as I prefer their coffee to Starbucks, it just tastes that little bit better if you ask me, and even if you didn’t I told you anyway ;-) I never usually look at the menu, as I always just have a medium filter coffee, the great thing about those is that you don’t have to wait while it’s made, but also if they have run out, which isn’t too uncommon, they just charge you for it but give you an Americano instead, which should be slightly more expensive, I suppose that makes up for having to wait. But then I thought how about something different for a change? So I looked up at the menu, but I had no idea what a lot of them are! A mega coca late, or as my other half has, a regular decaffeinated cappuccino with soya milk!

gourmet coffeeNaaa, I’ll just have the same as always, keep it simple, and there’s nothing worse than buying something different and not liking it, then I’d have to walk around supping my coffee wishing I’d stuck with what I know that I like. Although on the plus side I would have a warm hand.

We bought a coffee machine quite recently, it wasn’t my choice, I thought the one we already had did a perfectly adequate job, but the other half decided it was time for an upgrade so upgrade we did! So we now have this great big monstrosity in the corner of the kitchen (which will still only get used a couple of times a month, when people are round) although I must admit, it does make a nice coffee. Next we have to buy all the gourmet coffee to fuel it, so she has been spending even more money on coffee beans, as this machine has it’s own built in grinder.

I suppose it’s a sign of getting that bit older finding myself writing all about my trip into town, or perhaps I’m just a bit bored today, better get the kettle on and brew another coffee, that will perk me up!

5 Tips for new wedding photographers

Posted 10/10/2011 By Steve

It’s a strange fact that for many people entering (or trying to break in to) a career in photography, that wedding pictures are very often one of the first commercial jobs people get. I say this is strange only because you are attending what will hopefully be the couples, or at least the brides biggest day in her life, and the memories are being captured by someone with less experience than is really required. When I talk about experience I don’t just mean in taking photographs, but also the additional skills required by a wedding photographer, such as crowd control and being an expert in not getting in the way. I hope the 10 tips which follow, will help anyone in that situation.

1. Change Perspective – whilst the bride will be expecting certain standard wedding pictures, it’s also nice to have a few which stand out and are a bit different from the norm (after all they don’t have to display them if they don’t like them) but changing your perspective can add an extra layer of interest, try getting up high, or even taking a picture with the camera close to the ground.

2. Things will go wrong – if you make sure that you are as well prepared as you possibly can be, hopefully the things that go wrong will be nothing to do with you, however your job is to capture the day, so when something happens unexpectedly, be ready to catch people expressions, these can make for fantastic and totally unique photographs.

3. Use Continuous Shoot Mode – With the storage available in modern camera equipment, it’s a good idea to use CSM, as it’s sometimes the second after a posed picture is taken and everyone relaxes which can be a great image.

4. Always have a plan – meeting with the bride and groom in advance to discuss the pictures they want can first save you a lot of thought on the day and make everything run smoother, by knowing exactly which formal shots are to be taken, the order of the day and timings, allows you to relax and be ready to catch those moments mentioned in point 2 above.

5. Crowd Control – to the inexperienced photographer getting all the guests together, in the right place, at the right time for group shots can be a major headache, so whilst the family will be helpful it’s your job to organise them.

Of course if you would rather pass the job on to a wedding photographer with many years experience, Clickart photography would be pleased to help.

Finding the right solicitor

Posted 04/28/2011 By Steve

A good friend of mine recently saw a solicitor and went to court, it was all due to his previous employer not paying him the money he was entitled to when he left. Basically he was in sales and had found another job, so handed in his notice politely and in writing to his direct manager. The manager apparently asked him to wait in the meeting room, came back about 15 minutes later and said he needed to clear his desk and leave there and then. My friend was half expecting this and was quite happy to be put on garden leave (when an employer asks you to leave immediately, but then still has to pay you for your notice period), but asked the question if it was and that he would be paid, the manager said “I don’t know, it’s not my decision”, so he left it at that.

Once he left the building he stopped by at an oxford solicitors office, Oxford being where the company were based, although he lived in Swindon at the time I believe. They advised him that it’s quite a common situation and to keep a written record of events and correspond in writing from now on, so there was written evidence should the case go to court (as it later would do). He took this advice and did everything in writing from thereon in.

Sure enough, and as now expected due to the correspondence he had received in reply, his money did not arrive in the bank on time, neither did a payslip turn up, so a few emails later he took them to a tribunal, it was pretty quick and easy by all accounts and he was in and out in side an hour and didn’t even need to take a lawyer in with him. The judge ruled that he should be paid all money owed to him, although he was a little disappointed that he was not awarded any compensation.

Anyway a few months later, this rather unlucky chap, was involved in a road accident, he was riding his bike and a car didn’t see him and had him off, unfortunately he was travelling at some speed and broke a knee, not a major injury, however for someone who had just got rid of his car and bought a push bike to save money whilst looking for a new job, he didn’t really know what to do. So he called up the same solicitors in Oxford who he had seen previously, but they told him that it’s not their area of expertise, they only deal with corporate and business law and dealing with tribunals and accidents at work is very different from a road traffic accident .

So he went off on the search for a no win no fee solicitor, found one and they managed to get him some compensation, unfortunately he was unable to work for quite a while, so is still struggling to find a job after having been out of the workplace for almost a year now.

Starting a Band

Posted 04/15/2011 By Steve

OK everyone, I’ve been practising for quite a while now, so I’ve made the decision to start a band. You notice I said start one not join one, there is a very good reason for that, and that is quite simply if I joined an existing one they would already have certain songs which they do, be it covers or originals, but either way I would have has no input, and I don’t want to feel like someone else is running the show. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to be running it either, but I feel that it’s important (for me at least) to be equal partners in it. Although I suppose further down the line if we lose someone they will have to be replaced, but then that is their dilemma not mine, and they may not mind joining a band who already have a load of songs on the go, their decision.

Oh by the way, you can’t contact me through this blog, so this post is really for any friends, acquaintances and colleagues who check in here from time to time, basically as you will live near by, I can’t be bothered travelling far for practice and rehearsals, so wouldn’t expect anyone else to either.

So what do I have in mind? Well, seeing as my own interests and skills lie in playing some classical guitar, blues solos on the electric and mixing and scratching, you can assume that it’s going to be an eclectic selection of sounds, add in the fact that a friend who is going to be drumming used to play in a hard rock group but was classically trained and specialised in Jazz, then throw in the fact that it will all be recorded onto the computer and messed around with from there, it could get quite interesting.  You know I don’t even know what we are looking for really, I guess another person who wants to experiment with their music and not be afraid of abandoning something a long way in if it turns out to be non-melodious junk, as inevitably some tracks will be. Unfortunately you have to push things a bit, before you can reign it back in and come up with something truly original, a bit like the old adage about kissing a lot of frogs to find a prince, I mean the rich royal, not the squeaky pop star from the eighties.

Musical influences, Hmmmm where to start,,, As I mentioned before I like playing classical guitar, although to be perfectly honest I don’t really ever just sit down and listen to a classical or flamenco guitar player, infact the last few times I have done it’s when I’ve been listening out for samples. However, I do like the Leonard Cohen style, but then he is a bit of a musical maestro anyway.  I also like Dire Straights and Marillion on the rocky side, Janis Joplin and Big Brother on the bluesy side, but I like to DJ hip-hop and a bit of dance music and still can’t help myself from playing old American grunge from time to time, so I suppose if you could merge all those musical genres together you might come somewhere close to what I have in mind, confused?  you should be! I am and it’s my idea!

What about the bands image? Well I don’t want to look like some boy band who just fell off the latest Simon Cowell TV show, but then again I don’t really do the whole band image thing anyway, I guess just look good standing there is a good image.

I must admit though after all I said about it being my own stuff, I wouldn’t mind joining one of those good, professional wedding bands, you know the type of band for hire which you find playing at corporate functions. A party band who play corporate parties and discos, actually I think being in a wedding band could be great. I might have a look at how to book wedding bands and see how it all works.

Stonehenge

Posted 01/21/2011 By Steve

Stonehenge, an impressive work of art speaking of rich historical background is located in England about 2 miles away from the town of Amesbury in Wiltshire and about 90 miles away from London. You don’t actually have to carry a map to go there because anyone living in England would know where it is since it is one of the major tourist attractions and is famous worldwide for the remarkable work it is and for the mystery it holds.

In today’s world, what we see when we get to England is only a few heavy stones which are damaged and ruined because of so many visitors who visit there and because of weather conditions and other factors. We only have pictures by historians of the original Stonehenge that was made a long time back in 3100 BC. The original Stonehenge, even in pictures look awe inspiring and everyone who looks at it holds their breath at the astounding work of the ancient people.

It’s a fantastic attraction for tourists who visit the historical county of Wiltshire and although many do stay in Salisbury, many more find accommodation in the surrounding towns including Marlborough or Swindon.

The construction of the Stonehenge used a lot of human effort, investment and time. The first Stonehenge had ditches and bank. Then after 1000 years, the bluestones that still remain now were moved from the Prescelly Mountains which were about 240 miles away from the ground where Stonehenge is situated. These stones were very heavy like 4 tonnes each and used lot of sweat to just move them. Their transportation would have taken days and then to put them up in place would have been a challenging and daunting task. These bluestones were arranged in the shape of a circle. After that, in 2000 BC, the Sarsen stones were added which were heavier than the bluestones and were even difficult to transport. While the bluestones were transported using rollers and then by water to cross the river in between, the Sarsen stones could not be moved like that due to their weight being 50 tonnes each and had to be pulled down with ropes and sledges. People had to practically pull them with their hands. With today’s strength of people, about 500 men would be needed to move one such stone. The stones were then arranged in an outer circle.

With such effort and investment, it is obvious that the Stonehenge was not made just for a luxurious purpose as there was no luxury in making this great work. It is clear and there is no doubt that the ancient people who made Stonehenge had great honour for it and there is a high possibility that the Stonehenge was some kind of temple for people who worshipped earth. Other than that, the purpose for which it was made is unclear and remains a mystery. The people who made it are also not known and there are different theories by different historians. But who ever made it for whatever reason, it is a place of great honour and people still respect this site and never go to England for tourism and not visit this great site.

SEO and Site Structure

Posted 12/21/2010 By Steve

Before discussing how a sites structure affects seo in general, it’s worth a quick note to understand why it’s important. You need to consider that the search engines don’t search the internet and present results every time you do a search, but they have robots which trawl the web all day every day, indexing sites and adding them to their own database, there they store information about your website and it’s contents, so when someone does a search, it knows your site is relevant from it’s own database, but then serves up the pages of your site.

The design is a crucial aspect of this, as you need to be sure the spiders can find your pages then read them and take away the data they require for their databases. Best practice is to avoid flash and images which replace text, as they are unable to read and therefore index this kind of information.

It’s best to go through the website one page at a time, making sure you get all the relevant factors right for that page before moving on to the next.

The content of the page is an important element, as this is exactly what the engines will display to their customers (or visitors), so it’s important that it is on topic, i.e. about what the title and description tags would indicate. Please do not keyword stuff the pages, this is a very old technique and could have an adverse affect, instead, use your keyword a couple of times, but also use other related words in the text too, this might just help you gain a little more traffic too.

in the header of the page, you will find various tags, the most important one by far is the title tag, as this will display in the organic listings on search engines such as Google, Bing, Ask and Yahoo, so will affect the click through rate as well as being important for SEO. Another is the description, as this will usually appear as the text right below it, both help the crawlers to identify what that page is about.

The site navigation also plays a key role, as if there are any pages on your website which can’t be found, the search engines will never be able to index them, so they will never appear in the serp’s.

So make sure you get all these page elements right and you are well on the way to having a site structure which is appealing to both the SE’s and the people who land on your pages.

What’s on your Mind?

Posted 12/16/2010 By Steve

I suppose that’s not the most relevant title for a blog post, considering I’m about to tell you what’s on my mind, well, that’s what it’s all about after all. I’ve has so many calls and emails from so called seo companies recently, offering sub standard services, so thought I would offer a few words of advice. You may be wondering how I know anything about how to optimise a website, and to be completely truthful I don’t really, however I have a very good friend who does it for a living and has done for several years, so I take note of what he says.

Firstly, if you contact me and I cant understand what you are saying, it simply makes everything 100 times more difficult, so I’m not interested.  Likewise if you send me an email and I struggle to read it, I will assume you are either a small child or from abroad, if the latter, I don’t really want to do business with you if I can’t read your emails, I can only assume that you can’t read mine either so will not do things right.

Finally, don’t you realise that I get multiple calls and emails daily, offering me seo consultancy and services all providing the same sub standard links.  No I don’t want a link on your PR 0 unrelated website, I wouldn’t mind if it was a related theme and had been around for a while. I also do not want you to go dropping my link on every web 2 site and comment on every blog out there, I know one in a million are good links, but if you are offering me 100, or even 1000, the odds of me getting a good one are pretty slim at best.

Oh, there’s also the good old site report offer. I already know about the free tools out there such as webceo which will run a report about on page factors, such as title tag length, keyword density and alt tags for images and I don’t use them, all they tell me is someone else’s interpretation of what the right length and keyword density is, i’d rather just write what I’m thinking and if it’s relevant to someone I’m sure they will find it, actually I’m not yet, but hey, it’s a brand mew blog.

Brand New

Posted 12/10/2010 By Steve

OK so here’s the new blog, I’m not quite sure what I’m doing yet, so please bear with me.  In time I’ll start adding some SEO plug-ins to it and adding lots of content, it’s the first blogging software I’ve used, although I must say it seems pretty straight forward so far.

So far I’ve added this template but as I write I have spotted some configuration options to my left, so who knows, if there is anything good in there I may well have a play and see what can be changed in a minute. I’ve also changed the link structure for the url’s so the post name appears as the domain extension instead of the default wordpress ones.

Anyway, I shall sign off now as I assume that nobody is going to find this in the search engines for some time yet and look for some seo plugins for the blog.