Improving my Workspace…… Probably!

Like an increasing number of people these days I work from home. I have a small office in the box room, but find it a bit claustrophobic shutting myself away in there all day, so more often than not I end up using my laptop in the kitchen. I just find it brighter and I can see right down the garden, which is lovely in the summer, although admittedly not so great on a dreary british afternoon in February. The kitchen has other benefits too, such as the cofffee machine being a few steps away and a much bigger table to lay all my paperwork out on if need be. The only downside is that I’m working in a space which is generally a bit tired, this kitchen was in when we bought the house over 15 years ago, and although it was fairly new then, it’s not looking so great these days, and I do believe you need a pleasant environment to work in, so what to do?the original kitchen

The obvious option is to get a new kitchen, that’s going to be pretty expensive because me being me will want new appliances to go with it and it’ll need to be painted or wallpapered too, so I guess I’m looking at upwards of £20k by the time it’s finished. Basically I don’t have £20k, and I’m very much of the mind that you save for what you want, rather than taking out loans or putting it on a credit card (that’s if the bank would even offer me that kind of credit limit, I’ve never asked and certainly don’t intend to).

The probem with that is I do like the kitchen, although it’s looking rather “used” these days, I’d probably end up with something fairly similar to what I have now.  Well, as luck would have it I had a friend round, her husband is a painter and decorator and she said it looked like what I have here already are hand painted kitchen units. I’d always assumed that the cupboard doors came out of the factory that way, but apparently not. She suggested I have the kitchen repainted, but apparently it’s a specialist job and not a parrticularly cheap one.

This got me thinking about it, why not paint it myself? I’m no artist, but for the cost of the paint and a bit of time, it would have to be a vast improvement on what I have now. In fact, if I keep the coulurs similar, I wouldn’t have to spend too much time rubbing down and undercoating. The finish the professionals get is fantastic, but for the sake of doing it myself, even if I can get it half as good, I can’t see why it wouldn’t see me through another 5-10 years, or aat least I can save up to have it painted properly or perhaps even have a completeely new kitchen.

So a quick flick around on Youtube and I’ve found plenty of instructionals on how to hand paint furniture, which must be essentially the same as painting kitchen cupboards, after all, both are wooden things which have paint applied to them to get the finish you need!

My research on the subject kept coming up with Holmans paints, which are specifically designed for painting kitchens, they aren’t cheap, but in the cheme of things a couple of hundred pounds on paint, compared to the thousandss I’d have to spend on a completeely neww kitchen is a no brainer.

So, here I am, or am I just here procrastinating?  Writing about my decission, half pleased with myself and half putting off pulling out my credit card for fear of spending the next 6 months staring at several unopened paint tins in the corner of the room. Decission is made, I should have a nice new office come kitchen soon, OK, let’s be realistic, it’s August now, perhaps by 2017!


I was a Bright Kid at School

Now I was a fairly bright kid at school, however I messed around and didn’t bother going on to university, not one of my best moves, but it was a long time ago and if I had my time again I certainly would do a few things very differently, but hindsight is a great thing, I wish it had been invented when I was a kid!

I was chatting to a friends son the other day, he is training to be a solicitor, I can’t remember the last time I spoke to someone so young with such a clear defined path planned out ahead of him. He went to an event while still at school and there was a stand there promoting the legal profession, so he got chatting with someone from the law society who told him what he needed to know to get started or at least find out the information he needed to start working towards it as a career. I personally would imagine that the potentially huge salaries would have won him over, perhaps I should have had that same conversation at his age too.

He is currently studying at college, I can’t remember exactly what he said his course was, it wasn’t something I would have immediately associated with a career in Law, but apparently it’s a good foundation course to get you a place in a top university to study for a law degree which is what he ultimately needs.  From there he will have to apply for positions at law firms and possibly specialise at this stage too, I suppose living round this area he will be hoping to get a job with a firm of solicitors in swindon as he doesn’t want to spend all his time traveling while he is starting out, he is planning to keep on learning and feels that a long commute would be a waste of his time.

Of course, he will need to decide what he is going to specialise in pretty early too, as there is no point in going to a firm who specialise in criminal law if he will ultimately be one of the clinical negligence solicitors or studying the ins and outs of business and corporate law if he will be a personal injury solicitor.

There is also the whole big corporate company, or small or even self employed approach to consider. The money must be in owning your own practice, but there is also a lot of responsibility associated with that, you could do the whole accident type of no win no fee thing, as I have heard that the government are going to start tightening up on who can claim legal aid, so he suggested that could be a growing market.

I have no doubt that he will do very well for himself and as long as he keeps studying and sticks to the plan, he should be a practicing solicitor in no time.

The Numbers are Amazing

Since I first go myself into this whole blogging thing I’ve taken much more interest in other peoples websites and it really does amaze me how many are running on WordPress these days. Most are quite obvious due to the fairly standard layout they adopt with the main body of text and the sidebar and footer full of widgets and menu’s etc, plus of course on standard blogs like this one, the way everything is laid out in date order and allocated to a specific category. It’s also quite SEO friendly out of the box, but if you want to take it further, there are again plenty of plugins to help with the SEO of your site.

It seems that a huge number of web designers are also using WordPress themselves, customising the templates, or even designing them completely from scratch, giving the clients the opportunity to add their own posts and pages, without having to get bogged down in technical web design and messing about with navigation and so forth. I love the way it makes having a nice looking website design within the reach of everyone, regardless what their budget is, some web designers are even wordpress template designsetting them up for free now too and just charging a monthly fee instead like this one the obvious big benefit being that a new business need not worry about spending thousands with a big design agency to have an online presence. And again, to sing the praises of WordPress it also means that their site is completely scalable should they get bigger and have additional money to spend. In fact, once a site is initially configured and established, all they need do is have a designer develop a template for the site and re-skin it, so minimal cost involved.

Of course many people are going the DIY route these days, so sites like Envato are doing very well, selling a designers pre-made templates, you can see a range of their most popular ones here, unbelievably, some designs are selling so many copies that the designer has literally made over a million dollars now! That’s not to say they just design the template and forget about it, they do keep updating them and have to deal with a lot of support queries, but even so, not a bad way to make a living!

There are loads of tutorials on the web about how to do design, customise WordPress templates and all manner of related topics, all readily available free of charge, so in reality there’s nothing stopping anyone from having a go, who knows, you might just be the next big template to make the developer a million dollars (or ponds if you are in the uk)

Now, while I’m on the topic, yes I know this sites own design is looking a little tired these days, it was set up a good couple of years ago and trends in design have moved on somewhat since then, so perhaps I’ll have a look for a new template for here, they can be free, but you have to pay a little bit for the better designs which don’t have advertising on them, but we are only talking about a few dollars.

A Quick Mention

A couple of friends have a band, well, actually they have 2 bands, the first is a private party set-up where they play at weddings, corporate do’s and the likes, the other is a tribute to Annie Lennox. The first band are really good (not that the second one aren’t) and have really flexible lineups with male and female singers and if you really want to go OTT you can have a full brass section too. I’ve only seen them a couple of times because of the nature of the events they play at, it’s not usually open to the public. I mean, I’m sure you wouldn’t want the bands friends turning up if they were playing at your wedding. If you want to know a bit more about them see they have lists of the type of music they play and loads of info about the band themselves, what they have done before, some live and studio recordings, video and a blog, oh yes, that was the point of me writing today, to mention their blog…

I think it’s a great idea for a band to have a blog, everyone should have one, although I suppose I would say that being an advocate of blogging. But it’s a great way for them to engage with their audience on a less formal basis that they would on the website as a whole, more chat than fact. They mention the new Diva project and some of the recent gigs they have played (although I did tell them that it really needs to be kept up to date). When they are playing somewhere the general public are allowed to attend they can also post it up on there, they get such good feedback and recommendations from the people who have used them before that someone might just read it at the right time and pop along to see them again.

The other band they do is a tribute to Annie Lennox and is just the two of them, but her voice is very true to the Diva and Dave does look a lot like Dave Stewart too, so all in all a good act. It’s very new so is just getting known, but they have already had a few gigs, plenty of enquiries and even one for abroad already, so it’s certainly moving in the right direction. Alas they have no blog as yet but do use twitter to keep people up to date with upcoming concerts and the latest news.

Making a Claim

We do seem to be following a bit of a pattern in the UK, following that of the US when it comes to many types of legal claims, not to mention the fact that all those no win no fee adverts which are all over the TV on weekday morning, tucked in with the loans adverts in between the housewives favorite Jeremy Kyle and some program about finding old tat in the loft or garage and then selling it to some poor unsuspecting soul at the local auction.

Anyway, the point being that the US culture of making legal claims has well and truly spread to the UK and that’s not to mention the fact that we are even calling them injury lawyers now, surely in UK language they should be called an accident swindon crown courtsolicitor or something similar? But again I expect that’s partly down to those big legal firms who dominate the advertising on daytime TV.

So what do these companies do? Well in very broad terms if you have had an accident of any type, be it a trip or fall, car accident, a medical problem which could be attributed back to the NHS or private health care professional, you may have cause to make a claim and this is where a firm of no win no fee solicitors will be able to help you. Whilst they do essentially serve the same purpose, it’s worth noting that many of the large companies out there who offer this type of service aren’t actually a firm of solicitors, sure they have or at least have access to legal professionals, but the people you speak to on the phone are just administrative people and dealing with them means you may never actually speak to a solicitor yourself.

On the other hand there are quite a lot of smaller local firms of solicitors who do offer the same no win no fee service but you will get to speak to the solicitor and probably even go to their offices to meet them or they may even do home visits. Although it seems like a major thing for solicitors to actually come to your house, it makes a lot of sense as, firstly you aren’t paying them if it’s a no win no fee situation, but also the reason they do this sometimes is because  the client may be incapacitated in some way.  If it’s a medical case, the client could be laid up in bed so although they are entitled to compensation would never be able to get it without home visits by their solicitor.



This isn’t one of those things which people put on their website to say how they will or won’t use your information, I’m not quite sure if I should have one on here or not actually, probably not seeing as I don’t collect anyone’s information anyway, so just for the record, if I do, I will not sell it or give it to anyone. The only people who do give me their details are the spammers, who leave me a pointless comment on a post along with a link back to their website, they get deleted, but I wonder where I stand on the legal side of that if I were to gather up all those email addresses and give them all to someone else who will constantly market them, now there’s a funny thought.

I do have a friend who’s a lawyer, although he specializes in medical cases and getting compensation for his clients, so although he is a very well respected solicitor and he has won some very high profile cases, he almost certainly wouldn’t be in swindon courtsa position to offer advice on internet disclaimers. That would be a bit like going to a dinner party and realizing the person across the table from you is a nurse and then bothering them with your ailments all night, although I expect they are so used to it that they are experienced in fending people like that off.

I suppose I could find a legal statement on somebody elses website and adapt it for my own needs, or just ask my no win no fee solicitor friend if he knows someone who could write it for me, but no doubt that would come at a price.

Hmm, I appear to have done it again, started writing with something in mind, then digressed to the point that the entire post is about something else!

Writing for the Web

There are a few key things to bear in mind when writing for the web, this is a bit of a brain dump of ideas and I will add to it over time:

1. Keep it relevant.  This is something which I struggle with myself, but if the content is not relevant to the topic on the page, a visitor will probably lose interest and move on.

2. Grab Their Interest. Get to the point right at the start, most web readers just skim the content, so if you make a bold statement or put the conclusion at the start, you stand a better chance of keeping them on the page.

3. One Idea In Each Paragraph. This relates back to keeping it relevant and helps to segment the article into manageable chunks.

4. Use Lists. Like this post, there is a brief header then a description for each point, so readers can skim or read the whole post easily.

5. Keep Sentences Short. Again, concise is the key here

6. Add links to relevant pages within the body of the Text. They will stand out as they should be a different colour and will make it clear to the reader that clicking it will move them to a new page with related content.

As I said, this list will evolve, but this is what springs to mind right now.

WordPress Blogging

OK, so this is the first post here, generally I will be writing about blogs and blogging, however I know from previous experience that I have an inclination to stray off the topic, so in all fairness, if you have just found my little corner of the web, you really can expect to find just about anything here.  I’ll be chatting about writing for the web, possibly touching on design aspects and certainly a little bit about SEO, as that’s what I’m most interested in right now.