Get your will written free in October

 

This is a picture of someone writing their will
My last will

Did you know that October is Free Wills Month?

Free Wills Month brings together a group of well-respected charities to offer members of the public aged 55 and over the opportunity to have their wills written or updated free using participating solicitors in England, Northern Ireland and Wales.
The scheme covers simple wills only, including ‘mirror wills’ for couples. In the latter case, only one member of the couple has to be 55 or over. If you need a complicated will (most people don’t) you can still have this done but may have to pay a top-up fee.
An up-to-date will written by a solicitor will ensure that your wishes are respected and will avoid causing legal complications for your loved ones after you are gone.
Free Wills Month means what it says. There are no catches, although the organizers hope that you will choose to leave a donation to charity in your will. There is no obligation to do this, however.
To take part in Free Wills Month click through to the website  https://freewillsmonth.org.uk/ and fill in your details. You can then pick a solicitor from the list of companies taking part and contact them to book an appointment. Appointments are limited and on a first come, first served basis, so call as soon as possible to avoid disappointment.
You can also download a free Will Planner PDF, to help you plan your will prior to your appointment.

Legacies are a very important source of income for charities with some charities relying on legacies for up to 50% of their income. There are also tax advantages for leaving a legacy to charity in your will.

October reading list

Grimm tales

To keep with the theme of this post I would like to recommend a book I have been reading after stumbling upon it in a charity shop.  In Grimm tales for young and old Phillip Pullman introduces us to fifty of his favourite fairy stories collected by the brothers Grimm in the early nineteenth century including such favourites as snow white and Cinderella. Phillip Pullman is a master story teller and these tales work on two levels either to be used as bedtime stories by an adult or read by an older child .  They also have enough commentary and notes to entertain an adult.  The book does not have pictures and some of the original stories are a bit gruesome for a young child.

The single ladies of Jacandra retirement village

This is a copy of a review I wrote for Net Gallery.  The book is available on kindle and is due to be published in 2019 by Hodder and Stoughton

The Single Ladies of Jacaranda Retirement Village: an uplifting and hilarious tale of love and friendshipThe Single Ladies of Jacaranda Retirement Village: an uplifting and hilarious tale of love and friendship by Joanna Nell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It is very unusual to read a book with a protagonist who is nearing eighty. Peggy a widow has settled into Jacandra retirement village in Australia and has reconciled herself to a life of wearing beige, and days filled with aqua aerobics, doctor’s visits and committee meetings.

However her life is turned upside down when her thrice married friend Angie moves into the village. Angie has very different ideas about ageing and sets about organising a fashion show and karaoke evening. Can the single ladies find love and friendship before its too late?
This is a very life affirming book and the characters leapt off the page. The writer is a G.P. so I also felt it presented a realistic picture of ageing gracefully or disgracefully. I felt I at least wanted to visit Jacandra retirement village.

Disclosure I received a proof copy from Net gallery.

View all my reviews

Five things to see in Prague

This year my daughter is teaching in a village school just outside Prague.  She has introduced her pupils to the game “Simon says” and it has quickly become a firm favourite.  For those of you who have not played it, the teacher gives a list of instructions and you have to obey those that have the phrase “Simon says” before them and ignore those that don’t.  It is good for teaching a foreign language as the children have to  listen if they want to win the game.

These are a few of my “Simon says visit.. ” places in Prague.

The dancing house

This is one of the few modern buildings in the heart of Prague. It is supposed to look like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dancing.
The Dancing house. The stone tower is supposed to be Fred Astaire and the glass tower is supposed to be Ginger Rogers.

The buildings in Prague were largely undamaged during the second world war. However one American bomber pilot got lost on his way to Dresden and damaged a building in the heart of Prague.   The Croatian architect Vlado Milunic and the famous Canadian architect Frank Gehry were commissioned to design a new building and in 1996 the dancing house was opened.  It is now a hotel with the Fred and Ginger restaurant on the fourth floor.

The  Prague Astronomical clock

The picture shows the dial of the Prague astronomical clock.
The Astronomical clock. This is a stock photo as the original is being restored.

The famous astronomical clock on the town hall probably dates back to 1410.  Though extra features were added later. As well as the time, days of the week and months it shows the signs of the zodiac, and the phases of the moon.  On the hour figures emerge including a skeleton, vanity worshiping his reflection in a mirror and greed counting his money.  There are also the twelve apostles and the Christ child. We were unable to see it when we visited Prague but work is supposed to finish by November 2018.

The John Lennon graffiti wall

This shows a section of wall covered in spray paint with very prominant paintings of John Lennon
The John Lennon graffiti wall. For a long time this was the only part of Prague where graffiti was allowed. Photograph Angela Fraser

For a long time this was the only place in Prague where graffiti was allowed.  I come from Bristol home of Banksy and must admit I wish sometimes our local council would adopt a  similar policy.

A dancing bear

The photo shows a polar bear dancing in the street.
In earlier times real bears would have danced for tourists. Now it is just a couple of people in a bear suit. Photograph Angela Fraser

Prague has always attracted tourists and one of the popular street acts would have been a dancing bear.  When I was in Prague I saw the more traditional brown bear but my daughter spotted this polar bear.

A questionable sculpture

This shows two men urinating into a pool shaped like a map of Czechia
This sculpture is outside the Franz Kafka museum.

I am not sure what I can say about this sculpture. It is outside the Franz Kafka museum and is called Piss. The pool represents a map of Czechia. You were able to text a message by phone and the men would “write it”.

This post follows on from Prague a short visit to Czechia’s fairy tale capital.

If you want to find out more about Prague

 

Madeira: visiting the garden island

A photo of the succulent beds in the botanic garden
A photo of the succulent beds in the botanic garden
This is the famous view of the botanic gardens in Madeira which we were lucky enough to visit a few years ago. The colours are all produced  using succulents. A photo like mine seems to be  in all holiday brochures.

A Bristol  coach firm used to run a winter trip to Kew Gardens in London.  Unsurprisingly the orchid house at Kew quickly became one of my favourite places to visit when the evenings became darker.  For a short while we could forget the British winter and imagine we were walking through the tropics.  So  I thought I would share a few photos and memories from a winter trip Bill and I made to Madeira a few years ago in case any of my readers were also feeling the onset of winter blues.

Pink and red flowers covering a wall.
This photo was taken in winter when my own garden at home was looking very bare.

History

Most guidebooks claim that the island of  Madeira which lies in the Atlantic off the coast of North Africa  was discovered by the Portuguese in the 15th century. However there is some evidence that the Romans knew of its existence.  What does seem to be true is that when the first Portuguese sailors landed there it was uninhabited.  Unlike the Canary islands which belong to Spain, Madeira is still part of Portugal.

Madeira  is one of the few places in Europe where sugar cane can be cultivated.  Luckily for the early settlers sugar was much in demand and plantation owners became very rich.   One of the early sugar traders was Christopher Columbus who lived on Porto Santo a small island off Madeira and married a local girl before discovering America.  These days  a replica of one of his ships is used to take people on trips round the bay.

This photo shows the striking large flowers of Aloes over looking the sea.
Aloe flowers. This is the same family as the Aloe Vera used in sun cream.

Botany

Being a volcanic island Madeira has no native plants or animals.  Everything has been imported by sailors or carried by the sea or the wind.  When they first arrived the Portuguese  found a wooded island. Fortunately they had experience coping with the dry Atlantic climate.  Cloud usually covers the top of the extinct volcano.  The first  settlers dug ditches called Levadas  to collect the moisture from these clouds and so irrigate their fields.  Remarkably, some of these date back 500 years and are still in use.  Now they are popular with hikers who want to climb into the mountain.

The soil is extremely fertile and there are few natural pests.  The Portuguese King, Henry the navigator encouraged settlers and the island soon became an important refuelling stop for sailors attempting to reach South America or the West Indies.      Sailors returning from transatlantic voyages often brought back seeds and exotic animals and birds. One eccentric landowner even gave tickets to one of his balls to any one bringing back a new plant.

Madeira is now nicknamed the garden island and here are two gardens I would recommend visiting.  Both gardens are situated on the side of a steep hill so visitors need a reasonable level of fitness.

The  botanic gardens

If you like plants a visit to the botanic gardens is a must. It is a little old fashioned . As well as local plants they have a large collection of plants from Africa and South America.

The gardens also have a collection of parrots. The first time we visited it was also home to Madeira’s oldest inhabitant, a giant tortoise, reputed to be 140 years old.

The botanic gardens are in the village of Monte high above the capital Funchal.  You can reach it by   bus or cable car.   Fit local men push the braver tourists back down the hill in toboggans.

The picture shows the cable car above the houses
We rode in the cable car up to the Botanic garden and enjoyed spectacular views over Funchal.

Monte Palace garden

Another interesting garden close by is the tropical  palace garden which has displays about the history of Madeira.  It also has a large collection of decorated tiles and a gallery with displays of Zimbabwean sculpture and rocks and crystals from around the world.

A chinese garden with a red fence.
The Chinese garden is part of the tropical garden
The photograph shows a black carved African figure
Part of the display of Zimbabwean sculpture in the tropical Palace garden

Nowadays Madeira is a popular cruise destination.  If you have visited the island or enjoyed this post I would love to hear your thoughts or tips.

I packed this guidebook.

 

If you are interested in visiting you can find out more here. Madeira web in English

Home working successfully after retirement

The picture shows someone home working sat on a soafa using a tablet with their feet up.
The dream life. Home working has many advantages.

I  retired just over a year ago but found I missed the stimulation and I will admit the money from working.   I wondered if there were any interesting home working opportunities that would offer a reasonable rate of pay to older people for a few hours work a week.  After a bit of googling  I soon discovered that quite a few mystery shopping companies had jobs for older people. Now rather to my surprise I find myself home working.  This is all very new to me.  During my working life I  worked in offices, nursing homes, hospitals and even a laboratory but now for the first time I am my own boss and work from home and  I find I much prefer it to watching day time television or knitting.

       10 tips for successful home working after retirement

  • set a target for how much you want to earn each week.  When it has been reached you have done enough.
  • Learn to say, No.  If you are working for several different people you will need to schedule a reasonable quantity of work and schedule some down time.
  • Make sure you get up early and get dressed.  It will make you feel more like work.
  • Keep all your work tools in one place preferably away from day time television.
  • Keep basic accounts recording income, outgoings and time.  (I imagine I am invoicing myself) so you can see what is the most profitable type of work.
  • Pay yourself a wage and keep a float for expenses.
  • Check income tax allowances.  If you work from home you can claim a portion of your heating and other household bills against income tax. (U.K)
  • If you work as an employee tell the tax office and you may be able to offset part of your personal tax allowance against tax. (U.K.)
  • Tell your friends and family that you will be working at certain times.
  • Make sure you schedule in some exercise.

I find it suprising the amount of work that is available for pensioners.   My recent jobs have ranged from sending a tweet to enquire about disabled access at a railway station to asking how to apply for a new driving licence at seventy.  I also do tasks that are not age specific like visiting gardens and local pubs.   Google and you tube have been my friends.  When I am stuck I can generally find a helpful video.  I also use my tablet’s planner and notepad to organise my schedule.

When I was in full time work I used to enjoy helping to mentor students.  I also enjoyed helping my own children with their homework when they were at school so when I found that there were opportunities to help research students I investigated further.  My favourite website for this is prolific academic , My referral link which puts research students in touch with participants.  I have also recently participated in research studies at our local university.

If you work from home do you have any tips to share? Or are you finding the transition to retirement easier than I did.  I would love to hear what you are thinking.  Don’t be shy.

If you are thinking of home working and want to find out more….

For more on mystery shopping and a couple of companies to try see my post https://www.theplatinumline.blog/mystery-shopping/

For more on helping with academic research  see my post https://www.theplatinumline.blog/helping-with-academic-research/

A very useful site for British readers to find out about homeworking opportunities is  The money shed

Quincy, a large ginger cat
Quincy – a cat who used to visit. You can’t take time out to cuddle a cat when working in an office

Prague: A short visit to Czechia’s fairytale capital

 

  A few days in Prague

Last week, we were again acting as roadies for our daughter who teaches English as a foreign language.  This year she has a post teaching in a village school just outside Prague and wanted some help with her luggage.  She needed to take extra clothes for this trip as winters can be very cold in central Europe.

We flew to Prague from Bristol with Easy Jet and stayed at the U Krize hotel which is situated between the Vltava river and the Petrin hill near the Charles Bridge.  We went to Prague for a long weekend a few years ago and my son  visited Prague for a stag weekend. However there is a lot more to the city than cheap beer.

A picture looking over the rooftops
Prague from the Petrin Hill

It is known as the city of a hundred spires and from above you can see the red roofs and green domes of the various churches.  The river Vltava snakes lazily through the centre and while we were there a lot of people were enjoying boat trips or were out in pedal boats.  Many bridges cross the river  including the most famous, the Charles Bridge with its dark statues of medieval saints.

Paddle boats on the river
People enjoying paddle boats on the Vltava river. The Charles bridge is in the background

We caught the hop on hop off bus for a sight seeing tour and saw the enormous Prague castle and the rather ugly Prague Sparta football stadium.  I learnt that the name comes from its former use for Spartacus gymnastics. We were unable to see the famous astronomical clock as it is being repaired and was covered by scaffolding.

The memorial to the victims of communism

 

Some history

2018 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Prague spring when protesters led by Alexander Dubcek rebelled against communism before the protest was crushed by Soviet tanks.  We noticed a lot of people visiting the monument to the victims of communism opposite our hotel and lighting candles.  We also visited a moving exhibition of testimonials by local people who had suffered under the communists in a local church.

In 1987 the people of Prague protested again led by Vaclav Havel a playwright .  This time the Russians were more sympathetic and the wave of protests in central Europe led eventually to the fall of the Berlin wall and the end of the Soviet Union. Czechoslovakia became independent after what became known as the velvet revolution and Vaclav Havel became Prime minister.  More recently there has been a velvet divorce and Czechia and Slovakia have split.

Prague today

Prague is now the capital of Czechia and is a large open and vibrant city of over a million inhabitants with a large expat community.   It is full of Parks and quirky statues.   It has lots of restaurants serving international and local dishes and designer shops as well as shops selling handmade wooden toys and local alcoholic beverages. The area around the Charles bridge is full of buskers playing classical music and talented artists painting tourists portraits. Certainly it is a wonderful city to visit.

Statue of Playwright sitting on the shoulders of a giant.
Franz Kafka statue. The playwright lived in Prague most of his life. Photo Angela Fraser