Review of Donkey and Buskins, Layer-de-la-Haye, Colchester

So before I get into the nitty-gritty of this review, you’ll be wanting to know if the Donkey and Buskins is a good or a bad place to visit. It’s neither – it’s excellent.

On a spring evening in 2016 my wife and I found ourselves with a rare night without the kids. I’m a fan of Real Ale and suggested to my wife that we try the Donkey and Buskins for dinner. Knowing I could definitely benefit from the exercise, my wife suggested that we walk from Blackheath to Layer-de-la-Haye. I wasn’t initially a fan of the idea, but I know to do what I’m told and before long we were an hour down the road having seen some beautiful parts of Friday Woods and Layer, and we were almost at the Donkey and Buskins.

Beef Wellington
Beef Wellington

On arrival we were greeted by some friendly ladies working behind the bar, ordered a couple of pints of St Peter’s ‘Gold Rush’ and enjoyed our first well earned pint of beer (which was very well kept). Shortly afterwards, we were shown our table for two and made our choices from the menu. I opted for the Beef Wellington with dauphinoise potatoes and my wife went for a lamb in herb crust with homemade Scotch egg. A little while later our food arrived, well presented and with a real feeling of quality home made food. Needless to say the meal was excellent with the beef being very tender and the pork nicely cooked with a pink undertone…just as it should be.

After the meal, we moved into the garden to enjoy the last half hour of sunlight. Lots is going on outside the pub to improve the garden area and we could see the potential. We finished the evening in the inviting bar area before taking a cab home for the night.

I can’t praise the establishment highly enough. It’s everything that a good British pub should be. We will be going back as soon as we can.

Lamb in Herb Crust with homemade Scotch egg
Lamb in Herb Crust with homemade Scotch egg

Colchester Scouts St. Georges Day Parade 2016

Hundreds of Scouts and Guides turned out on a cold (and at times hailing) Sunday 24th April 2016 to celebrate St. Georges Day with their annual Colchester Scouts St. Georges Day parade through Colchester Town, made especially important as it’s the same year of the Queens 90th Birthday.

The parade was joined by Colchester Mayor Theresa Higgins, life-long Scouter Sir Bob Russell and Will Quince MP, also a former Scout.

2016 sees a special year for the Scout Association. It has been 30 years since Beaver-Scouts began, allowing children from the age of 6 to 8 to get involved in Scouting. The Association has grown by 4% year-on-year and 25% of Members are now female.

Here are the photos I snapped on my phone of Colchester Scouts St. Georges Day parade 2016.

Video: Colchester Murderer James Fairweather Custody interview

A video has today emerged on Youtube of James Fairweather talking about “voices” encouraging him to brutally murder James Attfield and Nahid Almanea in Colchester.

Fairweather is heard saying that the voices said “he’s the one” and the “my voices were laughing louder and louder” as he continued to stab Mr Attfield. But there has been some doubt over Fairweather reasons for committing the murders being caused by psychosis. However, a psychiatrist would later confirm that James Fairweather was not psychotic.

Fairweather was sentenced on 29th April 2016 for the murders James Attfield and Nahid Almanea to Life with minimum of 27 years.

 

James Fairweather convicted of Colchester murders

James Fairweather found guilty of Colchester murders
James Fairweather found guilty of Colchester murders

April 2016 has seen murderer James Fairweather convicted for murdering James Attfield and Nahid Almanea in two brutal attacks in Colchester during 2014.

Fairweather, who had previously been unnamed due to his age, admitted murdering the pair in unprovoked attacks. James Attfield was stabbed over 100 times by Fairweather who claimed that voices in his head told him to carry out the murder. He was arrested by police after being found hiding in a bush planning a third attack. It was thanks to a vigilent member of the public that the town could finally rest as James Fairweather was convicted.

Fairweather, who suffers from autism and claims to be suffering from psychosis at the time, will be sentenced on 29th April 2016 at the Old Bailey. He is expected to receive a minimum 12-year sentence, due to his age at the time he committed the offence.

He was also found guilty of possessing a bladed article in a public place.

After the verdict, Assistant Chief Constable Steve Worron of Essex Police said: “Fairweather admitted killing James and Nahid but denied their murder was calculated and pre-planned. He then forced their families to endure the pain and grief of a trial, rather than admitting that he had murdered them.”

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The On Demand Generation: a severe lack of patience

It’s fair to say that children have never been known for their high levels of patience, but it seems that the On Demand Generation of children are finding it even more difficult to wait.

Like most parents, we limit the screen time that our children have. We use Microsoft Family Safety to limit the number of hours per week they can use their laptops for and we actively encourage them to play outside and watch less TV. We don’t have a games console and our eldest is allowed limited time of TV in his bedroom.

Still, both of our children suffer with a lack of patience. It’s not just restricted to our kids, either. I carry out volunteer work with young people and they’re pretty much all the same. They just can’t wait. They want everything to be instant and the idea of waiting is almost painful for them.

Why? I believe that the On Demand Generation is the result of the modern on demand lifestyle – the ability to get what they want almost instantly. I’ll explain why:

 

On demand TV & Films

When I was a kid, watching the latest release meant going to the cinema. Failing that, you’d have to wait for a video van man to come around or go to the video shop to hire it. Even then, you weren’t guaranteed you’d see the film as someone else might have beaten you to hire it first. You would have to wait, and this taught you how to improve your levels of patience.

Nowadays, On Demand Generation can watch what they want instantly. Whether it’s streaming from a service like Netflix or watching a video on Youtube, they can get what they want when they want it. And even the new releases can be found in the dark areas of the internet on Peer-to-Peer websites. Put simply they don’t have to wait; they Google it and it appears on their screen – done.

 

On demand Music

Long gone are the days of traveling to Our Price or HMV to buy and album or single to hear your favourite song. When I was a kid hearing a new song first meant listening to the radio or getting the bus to town. Not anymore.

If a child wants a new song now they can get it every and within second, perhaps from a streaming service such as Spotify or through an MP3 download on iTunes. Failing that they can almost certainly find it on Youtube within a matter of seconds. On demand, no waiting, no need for patience.

 

Skipping the Adverts

I was watching TV with my daughter once when an advert break came on. “Fast forward the adverts dad!” she exclaimed. “I can’t”, I said, “it’s live TV”. May daughter was clearly very irritated by the idea that she would actually have to sit and watch the adverts. It’s was almost painful for her and that’s when I realised that this who concept of waiting was something she just wasn’t learning. The idea of waiting for something to occur in it’s own time was too much.

 

On demand Food

We’re all getting bigger (guilty) and it’s not helped by the plethora of fast-food outlets available. Why wait for a healthy cooked meal to be cooked when you can drive though a McDonalds or Burger King? Pay a few quid and within minutes you’re passed a burger and chips from a little window. And if burgers aren’t you think then fear not: there’s plenty of hot sausage rolls, sugary chocolate bars and sugary drinks available to snack on at a moments notice.

 

So how do we teach patience to the On Demand Generation?

I’m no expert on this field and I don’t have the answer. There’s some great advice in the article ‘Kids and Patience‘ which suggests you give kids lots of chances to practice waiting, treat kids as if they can control themselves and slow down your response times. Good luck!

How to turn a Garden Shed into an Office

When my wife became a teacher we quickly realised that our three bedroom house wasn’t big enough for us, our kids and the many boxes of marking that a teacher has to bring home on a daily basis. We also realised that my wife needed somewhere quiet, warm and comfortable to work, where she could lock herself away from the bustle of the family and store all of her equipment. We can’t afford to build an extension at the moment and moving home isn’t an option, so we looked for alternatives and decided to Turn a Garden Shed into an Office.

After watching a program called ‘Shed of the Year’ on television, converting a shed into an office quickly appealed as a cost effective idea for a DIY enthusiast like me, and as as you’ll soon discover, it was a great success.

 

Things to consider before you turn a garden shed into an office

Before you turn a Garden Shed into an Office, there are a number of issues you need to consider. These are:

  • The size of the shed (if you’re buying new)
  • Damp proofing: your shed need to be 100% watertight from both rain and rising damp
  • Electricity: are you going to have mains power in the shed?
  • Insulation: important during cold winter days
  • Location: sheds can get very warm in the summer
  • Ventilation: you’ll need fresh air
  • Light: natural and artificial
A 6ft x 8ft shed offer just the right size for a reasonable work area and to get a nice chair in
A 6ft x 8ft shed offer just the right size for a reasonable work area and to get a nice chair in

Choosing the right size of shed

This is going to depend on your personal requirements, but in my case a 6ft x 8ft shed provided plenty of space to two large sections of worktop (to use as a desk), a bookshelf and enough room to comfortably move an office chair around. If you have the space to go bigger that may be helpful particularly if you are an artist.

I don’t recommend that you buy anything smaller than 6ft x 8ft.

 

Make it watertight

Your shed will need to be 100% watertight so it’s important your deal with this step before anything else. In my case, I did the following:

  • before I fitted the roof panels, I added a sheet of damp proof sheeting (DMF) which was give to me by a friend from a home building project. In the event of a leak, the sheet will add extra protection and it also provides another level of protection from frost
  • I also added a sheet of the DMF to the entire floor before fitting the carpet to prevent rising damp and help to keep the cold out
    once the roof was fitted, I added a silicone sealant to each of the screw holes
  • I also added some strips of very strong and extra-sticky bitumen tape to the edges of the panels to prevent water ingress over time; probably not required but I had some left over so used it to add extra protection over time
  • you might want to consider using a silicone sealant on any gaps where the wood frame meets – this will prevent water ingress and the silicone will allow slight movement as the timber moves slighting during seasons

    Bitumen strips over the joints of the roofing will help the roof remain watertight for many years to come. You can even do this with a felt roof.
    Bitumen strips over the joints of the roofing will help the roof remain watertight for many years to come. You can even do this with a felt roof.

Will you need electricity in the office shed?

Are you planning on having lighting, heating and perhaps a laptop in your shed? In that case you’ll need to consider electricity.

This is a difficult topic as regulations vary considerably from area to area (and country to country). In my case I had to employ the services of an electrician to install an armoured cable from my house, underground and too the shed.

We did consider solar, but it was very expensive so we had to go for mains electricity. It’s something we may revisit in the future. I’ve since built a solar charger which you might want to check out.

 

What about heating in the shed?

This is going to vary depending on where you live. In my case our summers get up to around 33’c maximum, and down to about -5’c in the winter.

I did a lot of research on different ways to insulate the shed. I couldn’t use standard insulation like Celotex or wool as the cavity wasn’t wide enough on the frame. I could have added battens to the walls but this would only added to the cost and reduced the space inside.

I eventually made my own insulation after seeing some advice online. Here’s how I did it:

  1. Reflective: I purchased an catering sized roll of aluminium foil (yes, the stuff you use for cooking). Using a staple gun I stapled a layer over every surface. It reflects heat.
  2. Thermal: I purchased a large roll of bubble wrap with large bubbles and stapled it over every surface – it traps warm air.
  3. Sound: I added a layer of 5mm carpet underlay (new free from Freecycle) over every surface. It added thermal insulation and also helps for sound insulation.
  4. Strength: I boarded the shed with 4mm ply all over the interior to increase the tensile strength of the building

In the winter it works very well – put the heater on to take off the chill and the heat stays in for quite some time. After all, it’s not a huge space to heat.

I also picked up some carpet – for free – which was just the right size. It was brand new and added even more comfort to the existing damp sheet and underlay I’d previously installed.

As an alternative, you might also like to add some of the following to the ‘cavity’ created between the outside of the shed and your ply lining:

  • sheets of polystyrene
  • expanding foam
  • polystyrene balls (if you can get hold of them)

What ever you do, when you turn a Garden Shed into an Office you’re going to need to insulate it if you leave in an area where it can get cold. Ignore this step at your peril!

Wifi and internet

Given the shed is at the end of the garden, wifi signal was pretty much non-existent and when you could pick it up it was weak and patchy. I came accross the TP Link wireless booster. It basically turns your household wiring into a kind of local network for internet traffic and because the electricity for the shed came from my home I was able to extend the broadband internet to a really decent level in the shed. Highly recommended.

 

Lighting the office-shed

I felt it was important to get as much natural light into the shed as possible. Natural light is much better than artificial for people, and it also helps to reduced electricity bills by reducing the need for powered lighting.

The window that came with the shed was completely rubbish. It wasn’t a window as much as two 2mm think flimsy bits of plastic with cracked and marked. They weren’t waterproof and they offered no insulation. So I decided to make my own and it was very easy.

I purchased a sheet of polycarbonate sheeting around 1m by 70cm. This stuff is great because it’s lightweight, UV resistant and thermally insulating. I affixed a simple timber frame, a couple of hinges and a couple of window stays and the job was done.

I also purchased some LED lighting strips from Amazon and added them behind the polycarbonate I was given by a friend after they pulled down their extension. When they’re turned on at night they make the entire roof glow and look very warming.

A large polycarbonate window provides increased light, privacy and thermal insulation
A large polycarbonate window provides increased light, privacy and thermal insulation

 

Some other tips:

Shed doors have a tendency to bow and warp over time, especially in the winter. I recommend you add some cleat hooks to the top and the bottom of the door, as shown in the picture. Make sure you use them when you lock up; you’ll prevent the bow and you’ll thank me later.

If you’re constructing the shed from scratch (as I did) I recommend that you put plenty of extra screws into the frame to pull it all together. Don’t forget to screw the walls into the floor as well.

I managed to do almost the entire shed on my own, but if you can get the help of a friend then do. It’ll get the work done quicker and make it easier to move things around.

On a really tight budget? Check out local free adverts and websites as people will advertise sheds for free as long as you dismantle it for them. As long as the shed is solid it’ll be a great basis for your project.

Kitchen worktop makes and ideal desk with just a couple of supporting legs and a mount to the walls (set it at 30 inches from the ground which is generally the accepted height of a desk)

So our shed still isn’t quite finished. I’ve still got some cosmetic areas to tidy up, such as a window frame, but the shed is in use daily and I’m assured it’s very comfortable!

Checklist

I’ve put together a list of items you’ll need to arrange in advance before you turn a Garden Shed into an Office, which should give you a fair idea of what you’ll need:

  • A shed (obviously!), no smaller than 8x6ft
  • Damp proof sheeting (DMF)
  • Polycarbonate for the window
  • Some timber, a few lengths of 3/4″ x 1″ for the window frame
  • A couple of hinges
  • A couple of window stays
  • Aluminium foil
  • Bubble wrap
  • Carpet underlay
  • Carpet/lino for the floor
  • Old (or new) worktops for the desk
  • A box of 40mm wood screws
  • Ply to line the walls and make it look more aesthetically pleasing

I hope you enjoyed reading my blog on how to Turn a Garden Shed into an Office and I hope you get some ideas to make your shed a success. If you have anything to add, please comment below and I’ll be sure to reply.

Samsung Galaxy S5 NFC not working? It could be the battery

I recently decided I wanted to use NFC to pay from my phone, but no matter what I did I couldn’t get NFC to work. I contacted my phone provider – Vodafone – who told me that the problem was my SIM wasn’t NFC enable so they sent me a new one. That didn’t work, either.

I tried a number of other things (including a factory reset of my Galaxy S5 which was very annoying) but that didn’t work. Over an hour on the phone to Vodafone didn’t solved the problem other than making me angry with the terrible customer service.

It wasn’t until I got to work and borrow a colleagues battery that I realised the problem – it was the battery which was causing the problem.

After some research I discovered that the NFC antenna on the S5 is actually in the battery and my battery didn’t have an antenna at all. How could I tell? Well I put the batteries side-by-side and could clearly see a raised side on one of the batteries which was where the NFC antenna is stuck.

I then peeled off the plastic sticker on the battery which revealed no antenna. I ordered a new battery and the problem was instantly fixed.

Beware: Infoserve are NOT calling you on behalf of Microsoft

Infoserve called today pretending to be calling from Microsoft Bing and said that they need to verify my listing on Bing. I knew this was a lie because Microsoft do this online via Webmaster Tools.

When I questioned him further I said it was on “behalf” of Microsoft. Again, this is a lie. Although Infoserve have 4 members of staff who are accredited by Bing for advertising, they are neither endorsed, approved by, or agents of, Microsoft.

They are calling to get details of people at the top of your company in a bid to sell them services, probably Pay Per Click.

Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan GT 2016 GT car

I was lucky enough to see the Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan GT in action during pre-2016 GT championship testing at Snetterton on Tuesday 15th March.

The car, sponsored by Irish TV, looks and sounds awesome. Here’s the video of it live on track (click the photo to see the video):

Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan GT in garage Snetterton
Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan GT in garage Snetterton. Click the photo to see the video.