A cruise around the British Isles.

A cruise around the British Isles

I  have been lucky enough to have travelled quite a lot in Europe but there are still many places in the British Isles that I have not visited yet.

So when my husband saw an advertisement for a cruise going right round the British Isles departing from Avonmouth, our local port we thought it was too good to miss.   We booked with CMV, cruise and Maritime Voyages.  The ship used was the Marco Polo.  This liner has an interesting history having been built sixty years ago for the Soviet Union.  I had never been on an ocean cruise before and was not sure what to expect.

We were very lucky to be given a cabin high up on the 11th floor well away from the noise of the entertainment and the bars.  I had wondered whether I would be bored being on a boat for a week as I normally enjoy walking but in fact there was plenty to do with lectures and shows. Some of the entertainment reflected the age of the passengers who were mainly elderly with games like throw the bean bag and rock and roll evenings.

I had booked walking tours at our various ports as I thought I would get cabin fever but instead I found I was surprisingly tired when I came home.  This might have been something to do with the amount we ate.  There was a lot of good food provided.  If you wanted you could have six meals a day, breakfast, eleven o’clock snacks, lunch, four o’clock tea and cake, dinner and even a midnight feast.

I certainly needed those walks.  My favourite places were the Scottish Isles which I had never visited before particularly Tobermory with its colourful houses instantly recognisable from the children’s television show, Balamory and Kirkwall in Orkney with its whitewashed stone houses.

A photo of the womble Tobermory outside a shop in Tobemory
Tobermory in Tobermory wombling free.

I also enjoyed my first visit to Dunfermline where we saw the birth place of Carnegie and learnt something of his life story:  How he went from Weaver’s son to one of the richest men in America.  He did not forget his native city and endowed it with a concert hall, library, park, swimming pool and technical college.

A statue of Andrew Carnegie
This statue is of Andrew Carnegie, the philanthropist in the park which he bought for the city after not being allowed to play in it as a child.

   The homeward leg

We then sailed south visiting Honfleur, a well preserved seaside town at the mouth of the Seine  in France and Jersey the largest of the  channel Islands.

Bronze cows wandering through St. Helier
Realistic statues of cows in St. Hellier Jersey.


Our last port of call was my  favourite Tresco in the Scilly Islands where we were lucky enough to be taken on a tour of the Abbey Gardens by a retired gardener.

A picture of chocolate colour succulents.
Succulents in the Abbey garden in Tresco

Two National Trust properties to visit near Bath.

Two of my favourite  National Trust properties near Bath.

My husband and I are members of the National trust.  For any one who is unfamiliar with the National Trust it is the organisation which looks after many stately homes and gardens as well as large swathes of countryside in England.  It is a charity and membership fees help pay for conservation and upkeep of the property and land.   It is also possible to pay an individual admission fee to each property.

I thought I would share two of my favourite local gardens for a relaxing afternoon walk .

Dyrham Park

Deer relaxing in the Park.

This house was built  in the early 17th century by William Blathwayte who was a friend of William of Orange  and  had worked in the Netherlands so it has a decidedly Dutch feel.  It is particularly noted for its Delft china and Spring Tulip festival.  It is on the edge of the Cotswolds and is an ancient deer park.  The deer are quite tame and let visitors get close.  It has a good play area for children.   Dogs are not allowed in the deer park but there is a separate dog walking area.  The roof of the house was recently replaced and last year visitors were able to walk round the scaffolding and see how the house was constructed.  As well as a large park there is a lovely well maintained garden with a lake to explore.

A free shuttle bus takes people from the car park to the house or you can enjoy walking through the parkland though be warned there are steep hills.   It has a good café with out door seating and a large gift shop.

Dyrham Park  

This is a link to the National trust website with more details.  You will also find details of special events throughout the year.

Prior Park Landscape Garden


This garden is on a hill above the city and has wonderful views over Bath.  The Bath skyline walk starts close by.

As there is not much parking nearby  we catch the number 2 bus from Bath bus station.  It is also served by the hop on hop off tourist bus.  The house was owned by Ralph Allen who was associated with the introduction of the 1d post.   The landscape garden was partly designed by Capability Brown with some suggestions from the poet Alexander Pope.  It has plenty of shady woodland and lake side walks and a small café.   The original house is now a college and not open to the public.

It is on a steep hill so not suitable for disabled visitors.  It is most famous for its Palladian Bridge which is listed on a website as one of the ten most romantic places to propose in the west country.  The last time we were there a bride and groom were having wedding photos taken.  If you plan to do this make sure you bring suitable footwear as the paths are steep and can be muddy.

Prior Park Landscape Garden click the link to find out more.

Make an extra £20.00 a month by filling in surveys

How to make an extra £20 a month

From 2017 the British government allows you to make a £1000 a year without having to declare it for tax purposes.  If you have a couple of hours a week to spare it is fairly easy to earn some extra money online.

A lot of companies like to conduct market research by getting people to fill in surveys.  This can be any thing from watching adverts to see if you have understood the message, to asking questions to find out how you shop.

Like many people I began my online money making by filling in these  surveys.         I would be the first to admit that spending 20 minutes filling in a survey for 50 pence is working well below the minimum wage however if you are time rich and money poor it is worth considering these sites as a way to earn a few pence.  Many sites also offer vouchers which can be saved for Christmas or birthday presents.   Quite a few sites also let you donate money to charity.

I look for sites that let me cash out at a low payment threshold and are easy to use.   Another important consideration is do they use the demographic information you provide to choose suitable surveys to match your profile.   I  prefer using British sites as I think they are less likely to disqualify you from surveys. Sometimes filling in surveys can lead to other opportunities. This year I was invited to a focus group to discus a well known science magazine for which I was paid £30.00 after filling in a survey and  I was also asked to keep a spending diary after another survey on a different site for which I received £15.00.   It is worth thinking about your answers and paying attention to trick questions.

My favourite site which does have a £50.00 minimum cash out is populus live.  It pays about £1.00 for five minutes and it took me about ten months to earn £50.00.

A  couple of other reliable sites.

Branded Surveys.

This site is American but seems to have plenty of surveys.  You start as a bronze member and can then pass through the ranks to become a silver or gold member which gives you a chance to get higher paying surveys and more points in the daily poll.    Be sure to do the daily poll to get at least 5 extra points a day.  You also receive a bonus if you are disqualified from a survey.

Branded surveys.




we both get 50p if you use my link.   If you install the QMee app you will also earn a few pence for  searches.  This site lets you cash out any amount to paypal so it is worth giving it a try.


This site is a slow but reliable earner.  Minimum cashout is £50.00.  Surveys are by email invitation only and once you are invited to participate in a survey you can usually complete it.  They are generally short and work well and are often on political or current topics.


I would like to know other people’s favourites in the comments.  I know Pinecone is highly recommended but I have been unable to get on the panel.

How to sell books online

This is a stock photo of some library shelves
Most people have some books that are unloved

Online bookselling

A few years ago I used to supplement my income by online bookselling on Amazon.  Although I no longer do this I thought I would offer a few tips in case anyone else is interested.  Some  are also probably relevant to general online trading.  I am now a poacher turned game keeper and help at a local charity shop and I sometimes spot items they can sell on Ebay.

Most people start by selling their old books, often college textbooks but then need to look for replacement stock. The first thing I realised was that online selling is more about the ability to source quality stock cheaply than  brilliant salesmanship.


When you first look at Amazon you will find a lot of books for sale for 1p .  You will wonder how sellers manage to do this. The answer is that these are mega sellers who probably buy charity shop rejects for about 5p each and make most of their profit from the postage charge. Professional sellers also pay considerably less Amazon fees than you or I.

The key to success is to find your niche. If you are interested in fishing or local history that is the place to start. Have a look at sites like Amazon or Ebay to find what is selling and for how much. If you try looking up the price of your own books it will give you some idea.  All modern books have an ISBN number above the barcode.  If you search for this number you will can compare your edition with what is on offer. Try to do a practice listing to see exactly what you will receive and then decide if it is worth it. Also look at the best seller ranking to see if it is likely to sell. Personally I would avoid hardback fiction or thick mass market paperbacks.  Old encyclopedias , readers digests or family bibles are also unlikely to sell.

The next task is to try to source the books in good condition cheaply. If you have time go into your local charity shops and talk to the staff, ask them to look out for books on your interest and if they find any pay a fair price and thank them. Large book shops also have end of season sales especially if a new edition of a text book has just been published. Unless you intend to trade on a large scale and have a lot of storage space I would avoid buying in bulk. It takes a surprisingly long time to list and pack books. Only buy books for resale in very good condition.

You then need to cut costs for posting and packing. I was able to buy padded envelopes in bulk from our local stationers. Look on ebay for discounted stamps. It is a good idea to invest in some cheap postal scales. It is important to work out a selling price that gives you a reasonable profit. Some dealers have software that automatically makes their books  1p cheaper than the next lowest but ignore this. If your books have been well chosen they will sell. Give the books a good description, mention any faults like highlighting in textbooks and try to package them well and post promptly. If you have good feedback you will get orders.

Other bookselling sites

The Amazon sellers forum is very helpful. If you have several books on the same subject or by the same author it might be worth selling them as a bulk lot on ebay.  More specialist books sometimes sell better on Abe books which is also owned by Amazon.  Ebay also allows you to let the buyer collect if they are particularly heavy. Ladybird books have devoted collectors and prices can be checked on the weeweb or they can be saved and sold as a collectors lot.  Another series to look out for is Haynes car manuals.  I once sold a manual for a Reliant Robin for a good price.

If you have books that are worth a few pounds but you just want them out of the house a site like  Music Magpie is worth considering. Minimum sale is £5.00 but they pay postage and provide the packing labels.

If you want to try bookselling  but don’t have  any spare storage space then the Amazon affiliate programme may be for you.  Once you sign up you can put a link to any Amazon product on your social media or blog and receive a small commission on sales generated.

Publishers are also looking for people to review books in exchange for a hardback or digital copy.   You can apply to receive books to review at Goodreads  or Netgallery (E.books).


Earning money while helping with academic research

Earning money while helping with academic research



Since retirement  one of the most interesting ways I have found to supplement my pension is by helping with academic research.

I joined    Prolific academic  which is   a website that  links academics from around the world with participants willing to help complete online research studies.  Many studies are on psychological topics but a variety of other subjects are covered.  Surveys can take from a few minutes to an hour or sometimes more.  You are told in advance how long a survey will take and what the fee will be.  Payment can be made via circle or paypal or donated to charity.  Unlike most survey sites you receive a fair rate of pay and you rarely get disqualified from a study  half way through.  You don’t need a degree to join and participants from most countries are accepted on to their panel.

click here to find out more  Prolific academic     I get a small bonus for referring either a researcher who wants to run a study or a participant.

Volunteering for local university research studies

Many universities also recruit volunteers directly for studies.  I have recently been participating in a study on dopamine and memory run by the University of Bristol.  This was a very interesting experience  which involved two overnight visits to the Bristol sleep clinic and an E.C.G., E.E.G. and an MRI scan.  Luckily I was recruited as a healthy control.  I enjoyed doing the memory tests and meeting the students.  I also received very generous expenses and dinner and breakfast on the two nights I spent at the clinic.

Helping students is something I miss since giving up work and I feel it is a worthwhile use of my time.  If you would like to give it a try, it is worth checking to see if your local university is looking for volunteers for studies.  .

I was also invited to a tasting session for high protein biscuits.  We spent

an enjoyable half an hour discussing such things as crispiness and crunch.  We soon discovered that if you are developing a product to be used as a supplementary food for the elderly you need to assume that at least some of them will have false teeth.

My next study will be on cicadian  rhythm and memory.  I will need to wear a glucose monitor for a couple of days.

Another Bristol company which recruits volunteers for focus groups and telephone interviews is People for research   

I have not taken part in any project with them myself but I think they are reliable.  Most focus groups take place in Bristol, London or another big city but they recruit people nationwide for phone interviews.