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We're staying at the Holiday Inn South Wimbledon courtesy of my landlord as my boiler broke down over a week ago and with only a wetroom and no bath that I can fill up so my daughter could bathe we had to be 'decanted'. Firstly, South Wimbledon is a stretch and I reckon they've called it that to make it look good, this hotel is practically across the road from Colliers Wood station. Parking at the hotel is atrocious, for the number of rooms there is very little parking, the parking adjacent to the hotel belongs to the housing opposite which I realised when someone scratched my car! There is no parking in the immediate area either which is really inconvenient when you are pushing a wheelchair and carrying luggage. The room we were given was called accessible however, when we got to the room we found that my daughter's wheelchair, which is a standard size, would not go past the bed to the main area of the room. On the second day a member of staff came up and moved the bed for us - I could not do it myself as I have 7 damaged vertebrae. Currently, our bed is not with the bedstead so reaching the lights is now not so easy and once in bed we cannot benefit from the 'side table' parts of the bedhead. Breakfast is abysmal, no bacon, hash browns and no option for fried eggs, kippers etc. The Premier Inn does a much better breakfast with far greater choice. The food menu for the rooms is very limited and service ends at 9pm. In the evening, the shower is more like a trickle. There is a sink right on top of the toilet which makes going to the toilet really awkward and the shower curtain does not fully go around the shower rail which makes the water spray all over the floor. Staff are great though, really friendly and helpful where they can be.
I go to the Toby Carvery in Mitcham quite regularly, but not because the food is great - it isn't. My family and I go for a low cost meal and some family time together. I take a little jar of mixed seasonings to give my food some flavour so I can enjoy it better. The staff know us well and most of them contribute to making our time out together a good one although with the volume of customers the staff are often harassed looking and not very smiley, although that's not all of them, the carvers are generally very pleasant, one might even say jolly. My youngest (14) doesn't really eat much food as she likes to go for the chocolate fudge sundae so we get her a child's plate. My mum's vegetarian and there isn't much on the menu for her but then it is a carvery after all. I always feel that I should roast some potatoes and bring them with me as I have not been once in almost 2 years and had good roast potatoes. The beef is really fatty so is not a good cut and the Yorkshire puddings taste a bit papery. With what I've written one might wonder why we keep going back but as I said, it's just to have a cheap family night out without having to cook and do the washing up!
I have read several opinions on this subject that have actually alarmed me, quite literally, and spurred me on to write about a subject that I deal with on a regular basis in my work as a trade unionist. The Equal Pay Act (EPA) came into force in 1970 - over thirty years ago. It states: ‘there should be equal pay between women and men in the same employment.’ Women workers have tolerated poor pay because society has traditionally undervalued the kind of work they do. Why for instance should a dustbin man (or woman) be paid more than a qualified Nursery Nurse who nurtures the children of the future? Yet some Nursery Nurses earn less than £8,000. How are we to attract the right kind of people into these sorts of positions when the pay is so unnecessarily low? The Act applies to the value of a role as well as equivalence in role and to people who work part time, full time or on temporary contracts. People who work part time should be paid the part time equivalent of the full time salary for the role. Its not just about women. Equal pay is not even just about wages and salaries. It covers bonuses, overtime, shift payments, holiday pay, sick pay, performance related pay or occupational pensions and share options. The ‘equal pay for work of equal value’ amendment to the EPA has been a significant breakthrough in addressing the value placed on caring roles as opposed to more physical ones. Because of the amendment, women in caring jobs are now able to compare themselves to male colleagues who do more physical work. There are quite a few ways companies try to get around the Act for example: ·Appointing women on a lower rate of pay than male colleagues ·Giving women different titles and grades to those of men doing similar work ·Placing staff on individual contracts and making it an offence for them to discuss their pay rates ·Giving different company cars ·Denying women overtime ·Paying a woman, ethnic minority or disabled person less than someone else on promotion despite better performance This is not exhaustive. Some employers are known to try and use minor differences such as a man on a fish counter and a woman on the deli counter, or even a disabled person who couldn’t stand for too long when the job only required him to sit down as excuses to justify pay differentials. This is real life! ~oOOo~ In spite of 30 years of equal pay legislation the pay gap between women and men stands at 18%. Women working full time earn approximately 80 pence for every pound earned by male full time employees. For people working part time the figure drops to 60 pence. This is comparing like with like. Unions have had a very significant impact in raising women’s pay by negotiating for equal pay between women and men. A unionised workforce earns more than a non-unionised workforce and on average a woman earns 25% more where a union is recognised. The gender pay gap is also lower, but the UK is still 10th out of 15 in the European Union equal pay league table. ~oOOo~ It has been said that we should not try and correct the past, but we have to remember that all employers that have not implemented the Equal Pay Act have been acting illegally since 1970, so they do have a duty to provide compensation to women AND men (because that happens too), disabled people and black and ethnic minorities who are known to have been discriminated against since that date and to bring their salaries in line with their peers’ based on performance in like for like jobs. It is also important to remember that there are people who face multiple discrimination for example a white disabled woman or black disabled man, and it is vital not to be blasé about it. It is happening. For every ‘imagined’ case of discrimination there are tenfold ‘r eal’ ones. ~oOOo~ If you think you have been discriminated against under the Equal Pay Act, you can do one of three things: ~1~Ignore it There are many people who do not want to ‘rock the boat’ for fear of reprisals with regard to future progression or how they will be treated when it is all over. This is understandable and only you can decide if you are prepared to accept the consequences of your actions. Although it is worth noting that it is illegal for an employer to discriminate against an employee because of an action taken by them in cases like this. ~oOOo~ ~2~ Tackle it yourself Some people are quite confident and once they know they are being treated less favourably than similarly employed colleagues they feel able to confront their bosses (wish I was one of those!). If you do decide to take this course of action, arm yourself with as much concrete information as possible and you may wish to use a solicitor. Check their track record and choose carefully. Claims under the Equal Pay Act can be taken at any time up to six months after you leave the company and Courts have said that relatively small differences in the content of a job can be ignored when considering equal pay claims as they would not be likely to affect pay or terms and conditions and therefore should not rule out a like for like claim at tribunal. ~oOOo~ ~3~ Join a Trade Union Trade unions are often wary of taking on new members who just want them to deal with pre-existing problems, in fairness to current members. But in cases like these you will probably find one to represent you. You will have very experienced people working on your behalf and they will tell you if your chances of success are slim. Again, choose carefully. There are specialist unions and also general ones. Go for one that has expertise in your field of work as they will already have the in dustry data. ~oOOo~ NATFHE, the union that represents teachers in further and higher education, found that male academics are currently being paid up to £8000 more than women doing exactly the jobs. This isn’t acceptable, but it is happening. De Montfort University in Leicester recently settled an equal pay claim out of court to the tune of £10,000. The lecturer in question was appointed on approximately £6,000 less than a colleague who had similar qualifications. ~oOOo~ In my workplace there is a proper grading structure. There is a minimum and maximum salary for each role and everyone starts at the bottom of their grade. Moving to the top of the grade can be achieved within 5 years and each year pay negotiations are undertaken by our staff committee. Everything is open and above board. I think that employers should be under obligation to monitor and review their pay systems by gender, ethnicity and disability and forced to implement equal pay policies. They will not do it otherwise, time has proved this.
The Kodak DX3500 (2.2 m pxl) is a pleasure to work with and is as simple to use as the advert portrays. A week prior to buying the Kodak, I purchased my first ever digital camera, a ‘cool cam’ don’t know what make it was, couldn’t find anything on the packaging! At £100 I didn’t consider it to be cheap, and although I knew it wouldn’t give me top rate quality, I was very disappointed with its confusing controls and poor quality pictures. All of the pictures came out with vertical lines running down them. I took it back to the store and exchanged it plus an extra £150 and walked out with my DX3500. I had been expecting to pay and extra £199, but Argos had £50 off – nice one! I couldn’t wait until I got home to start playing with it so while waiting for the bus (car broke down - bummer!) I opened the packaging delved in for the camera and started searching wildly for the lithium battery pack. My heart was pounding, I thought it wasn’t in the box – but it was right at the bottom. Put it in and…nothing happened. Of course, I hadn’t stopped to read the instructions – just like me. I realised I would have to charge it up. It only took a couple of hours for the red charging light to go green for ready and I was off. It is simple enough for a technophobe to use – I swear, my mother could use it, if you knew her, you’d know why I say this! There are 3 stages for the shutter 1 – closed 2 – open 3 – Zoom - (shown by a flower), you can use the directional buttons on the back of the camera to increase or decrease zoom maintaining good quality. The picture you are about to take is shown in the decently sized LCD screen. (although sometimes the picture looks dark in the screen, when taken it is normal. Taking pictures is a breeze and they appear almost instantly on the LCD screen for a few seconds with the option to delete the picture straight away. If you take no action the picture stays and you delete it from the preview mode if necessary. The select button on the back confirms each choice you make from the menu. When deleting pictures the default position for the select button is exit, so you don’t accidentally delete picture by mistake. You can delete them one by one or all of them. Apart from the shutter button on top of the camera there is also a dial, which allows you to choose the function you require 1 – camera mode You can change date/time stamp settings, red eye reduction, select storage medium, set the self timer change the settings for taking your snaps from good 900 x 600 pixels allowing you to store around 50 pictures and 1800 x 1200 for great prints but obviously storing fewer pictures. An 8MB internal memory is supplied with an option to add a 64MB card. 2 – preview mode Here you can protect individual pictures from deletion, magnify them, perform a slide show, copy to a media card, view picture information and more 3 – settings Here you can change things like the time, date, language, brightness and format There is a button specifically to turn on the flash, unlike on my first purchase. You can select Auto, Fill or red eye reduction. Picture Transfer For easy transfer of pictures connect the USB cable to your computer and the docking station provided. Connect to the mains and put in the camera. You can transfer pictures while the camera is charging in the docking station. At a touch of the button, the process is initiated for you. You will get a chance to configure your transfer settings and can choose to transfer one at a time while renaming them (they are given filenames with a combination of digits and letters), or you can transfer all of them. You can also choose to delete each picture after transfer or leave it in memory. You can create subd irectories. The photos will be stored in a Kodak Pictures folder on your C:\drive. After transferring your photos you have a choice of adding fun effects, creating slide shows and more. There is an audio/video cable supplied too. All the cables supplied are of good length. I haven’t worked out what to do with the video/audio cable yet as I haven’t seen any option to take video clips, but I’ll get around to reading the user guide (which comes in Adobe format) one day! A great camera, quality pictures and so simple to use. I'm very pleased I forked out the extra £150. If you would like to see the quality of the pictures, visit the website I created to help parents of children with Cerebral Palsy. In the Aids & Therapy page there are hyperlinks to pages containing pictures taken with the camera. You'll be able to tell the difference between my first digital cameral and the Kodak DX3500 without a doubt! www.writer29.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk - and if you know anyone who could use find the site helpful, please pass the link on. Thanks.
There are many reasons why men and women become single parents. Sometimes the split is a civil one and sometimes both parents actually remain friends. But there are many times when the split is acrimonious and neither parent wants to see or speak to each other. When there are bad feelings between two parents, they may often try to play manipulative games and practice spiteful behaviour in their hate for each other. But where does this leave the child? My parents got divorced when I was fourteen. Around a year later, one day my mother called me down from my room. I remember her exact words. “Nikkie, daddy isn’t your real dad you know”. No preparation, no build up just that statement. I had not yet adjusted fully to the split of who I thought were my mum and dad, and I guess in hindsight, what she told me was in fact her way of trying to help me come to terms with it better. But it shattered my whole life and I am still affected by it today, some fifteen years later. It turned out that the reason they didn’t stay together was that as soon as she told him she was pregnant, he told her he was married. She told him to get lost and never saw him again and all she remembers about him is his name. All of my family knew about it, but no-one ever told me. Deep down, I know that if he cared he would have tried to see me, but I also think my mum should have at least tried to make some kind of contact for my benefit. My children have a grand father out there somewhere they don’t know. I still resent my mum for this although I love her dearly and even though I cannot forgive her, I have had to let it go for my relationship with my mother to be meaningful. I know how difficult this can be. My eldest daughter’s father was violent, he didn’t hit me but would try and push me around. He tried to make me feel small, vulnerable and was always belittling me. He also had lots of other women. W e broke up after he held a knife up to my throat on our daughter’s sixth birthday. I called the police on him - this was the last straw. I know without doubt that he would never physically hurt my daughter. He took his frustration with himself out on me because of jealousy. He could not cope with the fact that I earned almost three times what he did, even though it didn’t matter to me. Despite the fact that I can’t stand him I allow him to come to my home to collect her. We say hello, how are you and that’s about it. We do not argue there is no point. I would never have wanted my child to go through the pain I suffered by not knowing my father. I have always encouraged contact, although he doesn’t see her quite as much as he should, but that’s another story! The point of this rather long op is that unless you know that your child is 'at risk' from the other parent there should be no reason to prevent your child having access to them. You chose to have children. This brings with it a duty to have their best interests at the forefront of every decision you make that affects them. Not you.
I've got two daughters, one aged 10 the other aged 3. My first, well, she was something else - by the age of twelve months she was dry. Yep, bone dry, day and night! One day shortly after her first birthday she just announced: "I don't want to wear my nappy". I had been prepared to fork out for nappies for at least another year. She didn't want a potty so I just bought a training seat so she didn’t slip through the adult seat. She was so pleased with herself, but no more than me, I mean, lets face it, nappies have never been cheap - and I couldn't be doing with terries - what with working full time. My youngest is STILL not dry day or night. Sometimes I think I'm being paid back for having such a lucky break first time around. Although she loves to wear knickers she doesn't pay any attention to the fact that she's got them on instead of a nappy. She also likes to wear pull-ups, the situation is the same so it works out too expensive. She has a potty, one of those that converts to a step up to the toilet, I bought that one thinking it would encourage her to go as it was like her own little toilet. I was wrong. She also has a training seat, which I am glad to say gets some usage – although not as much as I’d like! I cannot remember the number of times she has relieved herself in my arms when I take her out of the bath and often find myself wondering when it will all stop. But I don’t make a big deal out of it. Just let her know she must tell she wants to go next time. Sometimes she tells me when she wants to go (usually in the middle of a queue at the supermarket!) then she'll scream constantly and inconsolably if she doesn't get to go there and then – she normally tells me when its just about to flow. There are no hard and fast rules, what works with one child may not work with another - mores the pity! I will keep trying every m ethod available to me – she has to be out of them by school age…….I hope!
I have a three year old daughter who was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy at 22 months. I had known that there was something wrong with Keisha the day she was born, but no-one would listen to me. She would twitch intermittently from birth. That was the only sign of something wrong until she came off breast milk onto formula when I went back to work when she was 6 months. The change was instant. She was suffering from chronic constipation. It was absolutely heartbreaking. The first time it happen, I didn't know what was going on. When I told my health visitor she told me I must have reduced her fluid intake despite the fact that I was almost screaming at her that I had done no such thing and that there was something wrong with my baby. The next clue was that she could not sit up properly. She arched herself over and drew her feet inward. I now know that this was because of contractures. She started crawling about 10 months old, but would use her arms to drag the rest of her body along (Commando Crawling), the health visitor was still not concerned. Nor was she concerned that at 12 months she could not stand up unaided, not even how very young babies can, stepping with their legs. At 18 months, when she was still not standing up or walking, the health visitor finally referred me to the Paediatric Orthopaedic Surgeon. He started talking to me about breaking my daughter's ankles and re-setting them because she could no longer put her feet flat on the floor, but he suggested some physiotherapy session first to see if it corrected itself. It did not. It got worse. So, four months after the initial appointment I was called in for an appointment with the Paediatric Neurologist who proceeded to tell me that my daughter had Cerebral Palsy - brain damage. She then went on to ask if I had any explanation as to how that could have happened. Could I remember any incident. Well, I'd had a severe car crash five months into the pregnancy , but she said it couldn't have been that, it would have been around the time of birth. So then I went on to the delivery, but that wasn't encouraged as much as any other thoughts I might have had. But I'll tell you here now: After several hours in labour at home, I arrived at the hospital at 3:00am Saturday. By 1:00am Sunday my daughter still had not been born and my waters had not been broken. I had been 8 centimeters dilated for many hours but I felt as though I was about to tear in two - I screamed at them to do something - they finally broke my water and I progressed to the full 10cm some 27½ hours after the onset of my labour. They prepared me for an emergency C-Ssection, but tried forceps and Ventuse before performing the surgery. I cannot say this was definitely the reason for my daughter, but I cannot say it is not either. The Neurologist talked down to me the whole time as though I was some illiterate fool. Little did she know! She gave me no information except to say that she would not grow out of it. She would one day walk, but they would not be able to tell me how long it would take. She is three and three months now, and she still cannot stand up unaided. She is beautiful, bright, funny and extremely cheeky, full of life and independence and I am honoured to be her mum My situation is not uncommon. 'The Professionals' always think they know best. Well time and time again they are wrong. I advise any parent who truly believes there is something wrong with their child to keep pushing the issue. Don't give up. Keep a record of all the signals and make someone listen to you. I know that leaving opinions isn't about self promotion, but I have created a website that gives useful links to the information that all parents need after a diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy and other disabilities. A link to the website is in my profile if you care to take a look - I just want to help other parents wh o find themselves in my situation. www.writer29.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk Nikkie
I think that myself along with many other single parents have brought their miseries on themselves, including myself. How we then deal with that is more important than the problems encountered because of that. I am 30, and have a 10 year old daughter and a 3 year old daughter with Cerebral Palsy. At 19 I became pregnant, and will admit, I did not give any thought to contraceptives as I had been having sex for three years with nothing happening. I guess I became complacent. I am also very lucky it didn’t happen earlier! I had been with her father for 4 years – when the baby came we soon broke up. He was a womaniser and violent. As I’d always been fairly intelligent, but I didn’t do as well in school as I could have, I went to college to do A level English and Maths and then on to do a degree in building technology, of which I completed 2 years successfully. Mounting debt made it impossible for me to continue, my childcare outweighed my incoming money. However, my experiences at college & UNI gave me valuable skills that I didn’t have before such as computing. After leaving UNI I spent the next six years with a man simply because he didn’t hurt me and had another child even though I knew in my heart that the relationship wasn’t going to last the distance. It turned out that she had Cerebral Palsy and I am on my own again– but its my own fault. Of the 10½ years of being a single parent I have probably spent only 18 months on benefits and even then I was studying. I do not see expensive childcare as a barrier that makes it impossible for women to work, I believe they use this reason as it will just be accepted. It used to be true, but it simply is not anymore. The Working Families Tax Credit (WFTC), The Childcare Tax Credit and The Children’s Tax Credit (CTC) all mean that financially, this has been the best time for working parents. Even though I earn around £20k a ye ar (which I admit is no fortune), I get around £640 CTC a month from Inland Revenue, which represents 70% of my childcare costs and I also pay less tax. People can earn more than this and still receive help. I don’t actually receive any WFTC as I take home too much, but I still receive enough help to make it worthwhile. My children won’t be young forever, me staying at home impoverished won’t help me or them and it won’t teach them the value of being a full contributor to society. I don’t expect taxpayers to support me and my family that I have chosen to have and I will not teach my children to have those expectations either. I think it positive not to think of WFTC as claiming benefits. It is a Tax Credit paid by the Inland Revenue and not a Social Security benefit - I believe the two are entirely different. I really get annoyed with the single parents who just bemoan their plight but do nothing about it – there is so much out there now to help you get yourself out of the holes you are in – stop complaining and do something about your situation. If you only want to stay at home while your children are little, it is so valuable to obtain some skills to make yourself able to command a better salary. If you have good skills people will want you, you may have to search hard to find them but you will get there. Many people do not even consider training or even retraining to improve their situations - and there is no better time for people to do this with the government initiatives in place at the moment. Unfortunately, the Individual Learning Account scheme closes to new applications from 7 December, I've used mine thankfully, but I discovered that almost everyone I know hadn't heard of it when it was widely advertised. People need to take more responsibility for making themselves aware of information that is freely available. I've often heard black people say they can't get a good job because they are black, and while I agree to some extent that this is still true, (I have been a victim of that myself), and there are still many barriers for senior management positions, people who want to do well will, even if it takes some trying. I am black, have never known my father, I was brought up by my single parent mother (now aged only 50) who now lives in Jamaica. I have no extended family and I cope on my own and every year I study something new. This is not about me blowing my own trumpet, but about showing you it is possible to break the stereotypes and do something for yourself and your family if you are willing to put in the effort. NB – this op is not aimed at mums who choose to stay at home to care for their children as that is a different situation, but I personally know of people who have never held down a proper job in their lives, but spend most of their time pregnant - I think it is wrong.