Beware Of The Hamster

HamsterThe latest example of Elf & Safety gone mad is the news that young children shouldn’t be allowed to keep hamsters as pets.

And it’s not just the humble hamster that’s been deemed a dangerous health hazard; also in the firing line are lizards, turtles and hedgehogs.

Fair play re: hedgehogs, given that they’re formed almost entirely of spikes.

And I can’t really see turtles or lizards topping my list of suitable household pets for children, either.

But, seriously, where’s the harm in hamsters? I had one when I was little; so did my brother; my best friend – oh, the horror! – had two.

As far as I’m aware, we’ve all made it into adulthood with no discernible side effects from our time spent looking after these little furry creatures.

The anti-hamster argument, which comes from a report by the American Academy of Paediatrics, is that they carry germs.  (And kids don’t?!)

So, because children spend a lot of time chewing on their fingers, they’re more likely to ingest said germs, yada yada yada.

The good news, however, is that once a child reaches the age of five their immune system is better able to cope with potential risks from dastardly rodents.

Ah – but then they have to go to school…and who knows what dangers lurk there?

October 7, 2008 at 4:25 PM 2 comments

Straight ‘A’ Landlords

As of today, Energy Performance Certificates become mandatory for all new tenancies, and landlords will face charges of up to £200 per property if they don’t provide them.

The certificates, which will be valid for a period of ten years, must be issued by an accredited energy assessor, and provided free of charge to tenants.

EPCs rate a property’s energy efficiency using an A-G system of grading, with an ‘A’ rating being an all-singing, all-dancing top score and a ‘G’ being the equivalent of a ‘see me after class’ scrawled in red ink.

The certificates were introduced last year for homebuyers, and so far, the average rating has been a ‘could do better’ ‘D’.

While recommendations to improve a property’s efficiency rating are given as part of the EPC, landlords are under no obligation to carry out any improvements.

However, if tenants are faced with a choice of properties with different ratings, it seems likely that they’d opt for the more energy efficient one, as their fuel bills would be lower.

We’d be interested to know what you think about EPCs:

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October 1, 2008 at 2:51 PM 2 comments

Windmills For Sail

It was Miguel de Cervante’s birthday yesterday (happy birthday Mig, me old mucker) and so in honour of his most famous character Don Quixote, here are a few choice windmills for sale for him to tilt at.

The Weatheroak Hill Windmill

4 bed house for sale - Albrighton

4 bed house for sale Scopwick, Lincs

Property for sale in Silver Coast, Portugal

Sadly they’re all lacking their sails, but I’m sure the Don would still have had a pop at them … “Charles Potherington-Smythe woke up one morning to find a mad Spaniard in his garden poking holes in his windmill.” What will the neighbours say!

September 30, 2008 at 10:47 AM 2 comments

Church made entirely from Beer Cans! Praise the beer, Ecclesiastical architecture at its finest.

Homer SimpsonNow here’s a novel notion: a church built out of beer cans.  Yep, that’s right.  A church. From beer cans.

Although it may sound like something straight from the mind of Homer Simpson, this is actually a true story of ecclesiastical architecture.

Having lost their main church building to developers, the parish of Colston Milton in Glasgow could soon boast Scotland’s first recycled place of worship, pending the results of a feasibility study.

Of course, the new church wouldn’t be made entirely from recycled alcohol receptacles, fabulous though that may be; there’ll be all sorts of other stuff used, from old tyres and windscreens to earth and wood.

But the specific idea of using beer cans, according to the parish’s Reverend Rowe, came from ‘a wonderful group of men and women who drink in the woods’.

That’s a very sweet euphemism for what we Glaswegians call ‘jakeys’.  The English definition, courtesy of the Urban Dictionary, is: ‘members of the street drinking fraternity’.

Yet praise where praise is due, as these wonderful winos have fully embraced the recycling concept and are regularly delivering their empties to the church hall for use in the project.

However, when the good Reverend revealed to the BBC that he hoped the locals  would help in the actual building of the new church, it gave me pause.

Heavy drinkers? Drunk construction? Brilliant!  This could unintentionally end up as Glasgow’s answer to the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

September 26, 2008 at 3:15 PM Leave a comment

Ridiculous Generalisation Of The Week

No, it’s not a regular blog posting (yet), but to be quite honest, with the amount of dubious data out there it easily could be.

The questionable claim that has caught my eye on this occasion comes courtesy of a survey into the saving habits of first-time buyers.

Finance site surveyed around 2,500 individuals and found that they put away around £139 a month, equating to £1,668 a year.

This, they pointed out, would be a mere dent when it comes to stumping up for a £26,127 deposit on your first home (average deposit of 15 per cent, average house price of £174,178).

So with all that scrimping and saving just how long would it take before the Holy Grail of property ownership was attained?

“15 Years!” screamed the headline, “15 Years for first-time buyers to save a 15 per cent mortgage deposit.”

That’s 15 years of saving at a consistent rate of £1,668 a year, obviously ignoring the pesky little matter of inflation and the unending variance in house prices – oh, and let’s not forget the see-sawing of mortgage rates and lending criteria…

You get my point.  Unfortunately, as dull as they may seem, all those variables added to the mix are important and have and will continue to have a massive effect on buyer affordability.

Of course it could well take fifteen years for a first-time buyer to save up to buy their first home, but it could easily be less if mortgage lenders start to relax their LTVs and fees a bit. Sure, it may look improbable right now, what with LIBOR going up again and banks collapsing and merging left and right.

piggy bank

But the point is it could still happen between now and 2023, as could any multitude of economic outcomes that could affect the housing market.

And let’s not forget that a saver’s personal circumstances are more than likely to change massively over this time. I for one have no intentions of remaining the sole contributor to my future mortgage over the next decade and a half, and I’m usually incredibly pessimistic in that department.

But with first-time buyers undoubtedly facing a real struggle at the moment to claw their way onto the ladder I think it’s important not to depress the situation further with misleading hysterical claims.

The advice for FTBs, however, remains the same wherever you look. Sit tight and save. After all, tomorrow is another day…

September 25, 2008 at 2:33 PM 2 comments

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