Come with me on an eerie visit, where we step through the looking glass into an alternative universe where everything is as good as can be. You will like it here. Everyone smiles: they only want to help their clients fulfil themselves, nothing bad ever happens here. They love their work. This little utopia is the Middlesbrough jobcentre. As everywhere, they are rolling out universal credit to new claimants or existing “clients” with any change of circumstance. Here they prompt unemployed or underemployed people into work or more work, telling them how many jobs to apply for, what appointments and courses to take, and (whisper it) with what penalties if they fail (“But that’s very, very rare”). It has taken me all of seven months’ applying to the Department for Work and Pensions to get here – my requests ignored, forgotten or parked, despite regular prodding. Pre-2010 I often sat in with jobcentre staff: but since then, in department after … [Read more...] about Cruel and chaotic? No, in the DWP’s fantasy land, universal credit is a huge success
With a car, most of these amazing journeys are impossible or prohibitively expensive. Most of these 10 routes could be done in a day or with a single overnight, but ideally you will spread them over a weekend, using the opportunity to hike over a mountain, laze by a lake or build a sandcastle. All routes only use public transport or scheduled services on heritage railways. Times given are for Saturdays and Sundays through the summer unless stated. Ticket prices (correct as of 14 May, 2019) are regular adult singles except where stated Break for the borderMid-Wales Start/end Shrewsbury stationMinimum One dayPotential stopovers Shrewsbury, Machynlleth, Aberdovey, Barmouth and BalaWeekend Friday night in Shrewsbury, Saturday Aberdovey or Barmouth for sandy beachesCost £25.70 (without rail extras) This fabulous odyssey through deepest Wales offers lots of jumping-off possibilities and alternatives. From Shrewsbury, get on the correct part of the train for Barmouth (it divides at Dovey … [Read more...] about 10 classic UK trips by public transport
“Oh,” I say as we pull into a clearing off a dirt track. “It’s really small.” Which should not have come as a surprise, really – “it” being a tiny house and smallness being rather the point of it. But, as I checked my rear-view mirror to see my five-year-old unbuckled and silently trying to release her two-year-old sister from her car seat, I thought again: “That house is very small.” “This would be so nice without kids,” my partner says, quietly. The house sits dwarfed by eucalyptus trees on a rural property in Kangaroo Valley, two hours south of Sydney. Its large window, on the narrow front side, stares patiently west, waiting for the sunset over the small field of ferns which lay before more gumtrees and the escarpment on the horizon. There is nothing else and no one else within sight. It would be so nice without kids. Cheers from the back seat and the unmistakable sound of a small person trying to override a … [Read more...] about Tiny house holiday: can a family of four fit in a 15-square-metre space?
Homeowners trying to sell their property at the moment for the price they had initially hoped for may feel that they're fighting a losing battle. The uncertainty surrounding Brexit and concerns about the economy mean that many of Britain's prospective buyers are holding off from making a move. But new figures published today suggests that those vendors who are realistic about the value of their home are succeeding in getting offers - as long as they shave an average of £8,000 off the initial asking price to secure a sale, according to new figures from property website Zoopla. The average discount to a property's initial asking price across England and Wales is 3.7 per cent, but in some areas buyers are getting 100 per cent of what they hoped for, while in others they must cut more deeply to get under offer. This map shows the ten areas where sellers get closest to their initial asking price: Home sellers in Salford, Driffield and Dronfield typically achieve the full asking price … [Read more...] about Trying to sell your home? Homeowners have to shave an average of £8,000 off asking prices to get properties sold
Original EastEnders star Alexandra 'Sandy' Ratcliff died aged 70 after overdosing on morphine while suffering from two terminal lung conditions, an inquest heard today. Ratcliff, who played the much-loved character Sue Osman in the soap before falling from the public eye, died at a care home in Stoke Newington, North London. Appearing as Osman from the first episode of the BBC soap in 1985 until 1989, she took on a number of tough storylines including when she lost her baby to cot death syndrome before divorcing her husband, Ali, soon after. Alexandra 'Sandy' Ratcliff (left, in an undated image), who played much-loved character Sue Osman in the soap, (right, with her husband Ali) was found dead in a North London care home This prompted a years-long exploration of mental health on the popular show as Sue struggled with the grieving process, depression and the breakdown of her marriage. But off screen, she struggled with heroin addiction for about 20 years, an inquest at Poplar … [Read more...] about Original EastEnders cast member Sandy Ratcliff, 70, died from an accidental overdose alone in her care home, inquest hears