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Christmas Trees are coming! Be Prepared this December

Types of Christmas Trees

There are various types of Christmas trees available, and you must choose the one that is perfect for your home during the holiday season. There are various types, as you will see below:

Nordman Fir

The Norman Fir Christmas Tree barely drops its needles, making it the most popular choice in Modern times, due to the safety issues related to children and pets, and the sharp Christmas tree needles. They come in a range of shapes and sizes, and their needles are a lot fleshier.

Norway Spruce

The Norway Spruce Christmas tree, brings the classic smell of childhood to your home. Its needles do drop a lot more than other varieties, but it more than makes up for that with its beautiful smell, and really traditional tall and narrow shape.

Potted Christmas Trees

The Potted Christmas tree is a great choice if you would prefer your tree to last longer than just a few weeks, as potted trees are more likely to live on through the year, and be fine to use again a year later. The come in both varieties, the Nordman or Norway Spruce, and are often a little cheaper.

Where to buy a Christmas Tree

You can normally buy Christmas trees at your local garden centre, or check online for your nearest Christmas tree farm. Sapcote Garden Centre, Leicester, LE94LG, 01455 274049, (http://www.sapcotegc.co.uk/christmas/christmas-trees) has a range of Nordman Fir, and Norway Spruce Christmas trees for sale, and the price is the same as 2012.

DAILY MAIL COMMENT: Britain’s borders and a passport to abuse

By
Daily Mail Comment


Published:
18:15 EST, 20 June 2014

|
Updated:
03:46 EST, 21 June 2014

The triumph of Ukip in May’s euro elections delivered two unequivocal messages to the political class: voters want genuine reform of the remote, unaccountable Brussels regime and Britain to regain control of its borders.

Yet, one month on, absolutely nothing has changed.

In Europe, David Cameron’s attempt to block the appointment of the arch-federalist Jean-Claude Juncker to the presidency of the EU Commission looks certain to end in humiliation after he failed to win the support of Germany.

In Europe, David Cameron's attempt to block the appointment of the arch-federalist Jean-Claude Juncker to the presidency of the EU Commission looks certain to end in humiliation after he failed to win the support of Germany

In Europe, David Cameron's attempt to block the appointment of the arch-federalist Jean-Claude Juncker (right) to the presidency of the EU Commission looks certain to end in humiliation after he failed to win the support of Germany

In Europe, David Cameron’s attempt to block the appointment of the arch-federalist Jean-Claude Juncker (right) to the presidency of the EU Commission looks certain to end in humiliation after he failed to win the support of Germany

 
 

More from Daily Mail Comment…

 

This week, the Prime Minister was reduced to delivering soundbites about how he will go on opposing the candidacy of Juncker – who is viscerally opposed to handing any power back to sovereign member states – ‘right up to the end’.

Meanwhile, EU diktats on free movement continue to make it impossible to effectively police who enters the UK.

On Thursday, the Chief Inspector of Borders revealed how migrants unlikely to be granted a visa by Britain were instead applying for citizenship elsewhere in the EU.

Once this is granted, they immediately exercise their right to move to the UK and apply to bring in their families.

This would be worrying enough if the rest of the continent had strict controls on citizenship but – desperate to replace their own emigrating citizens, many  of whom have moved to Britain – some nations are handing out passports very liberally indeed.

For instance, since 2011 the Hungarian Government has granted citizenship to 550,000 people from Serbia and other poor countries solely on the basis that their ancestors once lived in the Austro-Hungarian Empire!

With public discontent growing, it is utterly unacceptable for Britain’s borders only to be as secure as the checks in the most lax parts of the European Union.

Which is why, if he wishes to get back on the front foot after the Juncker shambles, Mr Cameron should make imposing new restrictions on free movement his urgent priority in negotiations with Brussels.

Failure to do so will be a gift to Ukip – and increase the already yawning chasm between the politicians and an electorate crying out for some basic common sense on immigration.

Unpalatable U-turn

Not long after becoming Tory leader, Mr Cameron said it was ‘completely wrong’ that food from abroad could be passed off as ‘British’ if it was imported from abroad but processed in the UK.

Changing the rules on labelling became even more urgent after the horsemeat scandal, when worried families were left with no means of knowing what they had eaten or where it had come from.

But, as we reveal today, ministers have now shamefully abandoned their commitment to clear labelling of a product’s country of origin in the face of a ferocious lobbying campaign by the self-interested meat industry.

As with the Government’s repeated capitulation to the big junk food corporations, it’s the lobbyists who win the day – with the needs of the consumer coming a very poor second.

A Tweeting twit

With the passport debacle deepening, culture minister Helen Grant suggests that families might wish to shelve their plans for a hard-earned holiday abroad and opt for a ‘staycation’ instead.

And from where was she Tweeting when her idiotic remarks were made public? Brazil – where she was cheering on the England football team.

Even by the standards of the out-of-touch Westminster elite, Miss Grant takes the biscuit.

With the passport debacle deepening, culture minister Helen Grant (right) suggests that families might wish to shelve their plans for a hard-earned holiday abroad and opt for a 'staycation' instead. And from where was she Tweeting when her idiotic remarks were made public? Brazil

With the passport debacle deepening, culture minister Helen Grant (right) suggests that families might wish to shelve their plans for a hard-earned holiday abroad and opt for a ‘staycation’ instead. And from where was she Tweeting when her idiotic remarks were made public? Brazil

Xmas Holidays

SIMON HEFFER: The fatal fantasies of looney tunes Ed

By
Simon Heffer


Published:
19:27 EST, 20 June 2014

|
Updated:
03:45 EST, 21 June 2014

Labour leader Ed Miliband - who is to stop unemployment benefits to under 21s who refuse training or education

Labour leader Ed Miliband – who is to stop unemployment benefits to under 21s who refuse training or education

Finally, Ed Miliband has grasped that one of the many reasons why voters don’t support Labour is because it appears soft on welfare.

So he must hope that promising to stop unemployment benefit for under-21s who refuse training or education will make his party more popular.

Sadly for him, though, achieving victory at next May’s general election will be much more difficult.

For a start, polls suggest that more than 60 per cent of people can’t imagine him as prime minister, which explains the current panic among some Labour MPs.

Worse, even though Mr Miliband may have devised a sensible policy on one aspect of welfare, his other ideas would destroy wealth, growth and prosperity.

That may soon change when Jon Cruddas MP, one of Labour’s more enlightened thinkers, delivers a major review of the party’s policies.

But in the meantime it is very odd that the Conservatives have failed to pounce on Labour’s failings.

Perhaps the reason is they fear that launching a debate on the economy risks exposing their own mistakes.

Certainly, I believe the Tories have been slow to cut both taxes and spending in the radical way that would have revived the economy faster.

But the fact is they ought to be shouting themselves hoarse about how Labour’s policies would send the economy into a sharp reverse.

For Labour remains addicted to wealth redistribution. I’m convinced that a Miliband government would repeat the mistakes of the Seventies when a Labour government imposed high taxes so as to cosset its core voters in state jobs or on welfare. Of course, this led to stagnation, recession and falling investment.

Now, Labour wants to restore the 50p top rate of tax — despite official statistics showing that it previously raised less from high-earners than the old 40p top rate.

It also vacuously vows to ‘end austerity’, which will inevitably involve increased public spending, more borrowing and a painful rise in interest rates.

With their Looney Tunes economic policy, Mr Miliband and Ed Balls fail to understand that a low-tax economy encourages high-earners to work here and that their wealth — via taxes and spending on goods and services — filters through to people who are less well off.

That is why the Tories must spell out to voters how Labour’s ‘make the rich pay’ policy would raise less money and destroy jobs.

Also, they should expose Mr Miliband’s absurd notion that he can defy world energy markets and force power companies to peg their prices to consumers.

The Labour leader has realised voters don't support Labour because it appears soft on welfare

The Labour leader has realised voters don’t support Labour because it appears soft on welfare

This is Cloud Cuckoo Land economics which would undermine the viability of those major companies and, by restricting competition, lead to higher prices in the long-term.

Then there is Labour’s equally crackpot idea to control the amount landlords charge in rent. History tells us that this actually restricts the supply of available housing.

Even some of Mr Miliband’s own party can see how wrong he is.

For example, Lord Mandelson ostentatiously offered only tepid support for him this week, observing merely that he was ‘the leader we have’.

But this won’t stop Mr Miliband coming up with yet more mad ideas such as his latest: doubling paternity leave to four weeks. This would damage small businesses, is unfeasible for the self-employed and is estimated to cost taxpayers millions of pounds.

What’s more, Mr Miliband suggests the money would come from abolishing the tax allowance for married couples, itself a retrograde step when society benefits from stable families.

He also wants a mansion tax on houses worth more than £2 million — a policy that is bound to alienate voters in the South of England and London where almost 100,000 properties are valued in that bracket.

The Tories are running out of time to convince voters of the lunacy of such policies and the damage they would do to a country that has taken six years to haul itself out of the worst slump since 1931 — a slump Labour encouraged by similar idiocies a decade ago.

This Tory civil war isn’t over

Dominic Cummings, ex-special adviser to Education Secretary Michael Gove, has been attacked for telling home truths about the poor quality of David Cameron’s team at No 10 and about the PM’s lack of political conviction.

As a result, Mr Gove is seen to have been damaged at a time when he’s already fighting  on several other fronts.

I don’t agree. It’s important for Mr Cameron to realise that there are some Tories who still believe in proper conservatism, and to marginalise them would cause deeper divisions.

I predict that a war between pragmatists and ideologues in the party will continue until the election, and I’m heartened to see the ideologues putting up a strong fight.

Cameron the EU fall guy


David Cameron has found that he can’t stop the appointment of federalist nonentity Jean-Claude Juncker as president of the European Commission.

It’s time he also admitted defeat on re-negotiating Britain’s membership of the EU.

The main reason he will inevitably fail is that Germany’s Angela Merkel wants Mr Juncker (the ex-PM of Luxembourg whose executive experience extends to running somewhere about the size of Sheffield) as her puppet. So I ask again: why can’t we have a referendum before 2017?

David Cameron has found that he can¿t stop the appointment of federalist nonentity Jean-Claude Juncker as president of the European Commission, Heffer argues

David Cameron has found that he can¿t stop the appointment of federalist nonentity Jean-Claude Juncker as president of the European Commission, Heffer argues

Luxury cosmetic surgery and procedures that are simply lifestyle enhancements rather than essential to health should be banned on the NHS.

People should be charged, too, for visiting their GP. But such ideas, which have been mooted this week, would be minor tinkerings with a national health system facing a £30bn black hole within six years.

The main parties are equally guilty of refusing to be honest about the drastic changes needed to keep the NHS functioning.

This cowardice must end. Privatising the management of hospitals would be a good start.

I hope that in her spare time from lobbying for the Tory leadership, Home Secretary Theresa May has ensured border controls work properly, writes Heffer

I hope that in her spare time from lobbying for the Tory leadership, Home Secretary Theresa May has ensured border controls work properly, writes Heffer

The news that there are 400 British jihadis fighting in the Middle East is an indictment of our intelligence services.

Their responsibility is to monitor such men and stop them leaving the country. Whatever happens, those who return to Britain must be arrested. I hope that in her spare time from lobbying for the Tory leadership, Home Secretary Theresa May has ensured that border controls work properly and that the police and intelligence services are on the highest alert to prevent any terrorist attacks here.

Although we’re told  MI5 is watching potential Islamic extremists, it’s clear that if 400 have managed to evade detection and go to war or further radicalise themselves abroad, the spooks are patently not doing their job.

First, three Lib Dem peers donated a huge sum to their fast-disappearing party, and then Nick Clegg lobbied for peerages for MEPs who lost their seats last month. How typical of the Lib Dems to both ‘sell’ peerages and to seek to reward failure. Given their dismal six per cent support in the polls, they don’t merit a single extra seat in the Lords.

Meanwhile, Ukip, which won the Euro elections with more than 25 per cent of the national vote, has its requests for peerages rebuffed. Is there a better example of what’s wrong with our political system?

Desperate to save themselves from electoral oblivion, the Lib Dems have cynically suggested that they could now endorse an in-out referendum on Europe. Why should we believe these liars who reneged on their 2010 election manifesto pledge for a national vote on our EU membership?

 

Xmas Holidays

Putin plotting to halt UK fracking, warns Nato chief

  • Putin’s government ‘engaged actively’ with green groups and protesters
  • Nato Secretary-General said plan was part of disinformation campaign
  • Move made to ensure Europe’s reliance on Moscow energy exports, he said

By
John Stevens


Published:
17:14 EST, 19 June 2014

|
Updated:
03:31 EST, 20 June 2014

Putin: Fracking makes ¿black stuff come out of the tap¿

Putin: Fracking makes ¿black stuff come out of the tap¿

Russian agents are secretly working with environmental campaigners to halt fracking operations in the UK and the rest of Europe, the head of Nato warned yesterday.

Vladimir Putin’s government has ‘engaged actively’ with green groups and protesters in a sophisticated operation aimed at maintaining Europe’s reliance on energy exports from Moscow, said Nato Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

He said the Russians had mounted a highly developed disinformation campaign to undermine attempts to exploit alternative energy sources such as shale gas.

Moves to start fracking in the UK have been disrupted following a sustained campaign by environmentalists that has created fears about its impact.

Speaking at the Chatham House foreign affairs think-tank in London, Mr Rasmussen said: ‘I have met allies who can report that Russia, as part of their sophisticated information and disinformation operations, engaged actively with so-called non-governmental organisations – environmental organisations working against shale gas – to maintain European dependence on imported Russian gas.’

He declined to give fuller details of the alleged plot, but said: ‘That is my interpretation.’

He would not say what form the Russians’ apparent engagement with the environmentalists took or whether groups concerned were aware that they were dealing with Moscow’s agents.

According to Mr Rasmussen, who supports the experimental fracking operations, improving energy security is of the ‘utmost importance’ and requires European nations to develop more diverse sources of supply.

‘It also, in my opinion, involves the better functioning of the European energy market so that one single supplier is not able to blackmail one single nation,’ he said.

Britain has vast reserves of shale gas trapped in rocks thousands of feet underground that may be extracted by firing water and chemicals to fracture the rock.

Scientists say we are sitting on deposits of enough shale gas to supply the whole country for at least 40 years, mirroring the North Sea oil boom of the 1970s.

But shale gas development has not yet taken off here, unlike in countries such as the US where it has proved highly popular.

Opponents in the UK have warned that the process risks causing earthquakes, polluting water, blighting the countryside and affecting house prices.

Plots: Nato Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the Russians had mounted a highly developed disinformation campaign to undermine attempts to exploit alternative energy sources such as shale gas

Plots: Nato Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the Russians had mounted a highly developed disinformation campaign to undermine attempts to exploit alternative energy sources such as shale gas

There have been fierce protests against the technique, with exploratory drilling near the village of Balcombe, West Sussex, abandoned last year after the site was overrun by demonstrators.

Mr Putin has repeatedly voiced concerns about fracking, once telling a global economic conference that ‘black stuff comes out of the tap’.

And Russia’s state-owned gas giant Gazprom, the world’s biggest gas producer, says fracking has ‘significant environmental risks’ including water contamination.

David Cameron has told opponents to embrace fracking as part of efforts to reduce dependence on Russian energy supplies.

Mr Rasmussen’s comments drew an angry response from Greenpeace, which saw a group of activists threatened with up to 15 years in jail last year after they staged an anti-drilling protest on a Russian off-shore oil platform.

A Greenpeace spokesman said: ‘The idea we’re puppets of Putin is so preposterous that you have to wonder what they’re smoking over at Nato HQ.

‘Mr Rasmussen should spend less time dreaming up conspiracy theories and more time on the facts.

‘Fracked gas will probably cost more than Russian imports. There’s little chance fracking will generate more than a small fraction of Europe’s gas needs and it won’t even do that for at least ten years.’

Friends of the Earth’s head of campaigns, Andrew Pendleton, was equally dismissive. ‘Perhaps the Russians are worried about our huge wind and solar potential, and have infiltrated the UK Government,’ he said.

 

Xmas Holidays

TOM UTLEY: Not all private school pupils are greedy louts, Alan Bennett. My son, who teaches deprived kids, is noble proof you’re wrong

By
Tom Utley


Published:
19:45 EST, 19 June 2014

|
Updated:
03:25 EST, 20 June 2014

Writer Alan Bennett - who said earlier this week his first impression of public school boys was: 'They were loud, self-confident and all seemed to know one another'

Writer Alan Bennett – who said earlier this week his first impression of public school boys was: ‘They were loud, self-confident and all seemed to know one another’

How my heart swelled with paternal pride on Father’s Day, when I discovered that our brilliant second son had beaten dozens of contestants from around the world to become runner-up . . . in the official Louis Theroux lookalike competition on Facebook!

Suddenly, every penny of the tens of thousands of pounds I invested in his public-school education seemed well spent.

Of course (and I say this not to denigrate his achievement in any way), I would have been even more elated if our Archie had come first in the contest, which was judged by the TV documentary-maker himself. What father wouldn’t?

But it’s enough for me that he deserved to win. Indeed, I share the outrage of our lad’s multitude of fans on Facebook, whose opinion can be summed up in the four words: ‘The boy was robbed!’

As one of them, Emina Mizic, put it: ‘He sooooo should’ve been the winner! What’s wrong with you ppl? I thought this was Louis!!!’ Another, Linea Skoglund, was more succinct: ‘Wow . . . Twin!!’

Will anyone contribute to my legal fighting fund, so that I can take Mr Theroux’s perverse award of only second place to judicial review?

All right, joke over. I’ll drop the leaden sarcasm and admit that I really am proud of Archie — though this is not because he bears a passing resemblance to the faux-naif TV presenter, famous for his revealing documentary on the odious Jimmy Savile.

I’m proud of him because he’s clever, good-natured, endlessly considerate of others, diffident and quietly funny — and he’s doing something thoroughly worthwhile with his life.

After running a charity to promote education and employment opportunities for travellers, he’s about to join the Teach First scheme in a North London state school, where he hopes to put the advantages he’s enjoyed to the use of children who have been deprived of them.

In fact, he is as far removed as it is possible to imagine from the writer Alan Bennett’s description this week of his first encounter with public schoolboys, when he was sitting an exam for Cambridge: ‘I was appalled. They were loud, self-confident and all seemed to know one another, shouting down the table to prove it while also being shockingly greedy. Public school they might be, but they were louts’.

I’ve long been in two minds about Bennett. Like millions of others, I’m a huge devotee of his plays — often funny and touching, always perceptive — and I bow to nobody in my admiration of his ear for the music of the spoken word.

But almost every time he pronounces on a matter of public interest, he seems to say something crass or downright offensive.

Alan Bennett said the public school boys he met when sitting an exam for Cambridge, pictured, 'Were loud, self-confident and all seemed to know one another, shouting down the table to prove it while also being shockingly greedy'

Alan Bennett said the public school boys he met when sitting an exam for Cambridge, pictured, ‘Were loud, self-confident and all seemed to know one another, shouting down the table to prove it while also being shockingly greedy’

I confess that it was for a personal reason that it first struck me he might not be quite the cuddly, twinkly old treasure that so many take him for. This was when I read his published diary entry for the day after my father’s memorial service in 1988.

The service had been attended by Margaret Thatcher, who was then the Prime Minister, along with hundreds of other friends and dignitaries from across the political spectrum. Though Bennett had never met my father, as far as I’m aware, he seemed to take exception to a newspaper report of the occasion and the accompanying photograph of Mrs T.

He wrote: ‘The Prime Minister, flanked by her favourite bishop, Dr Leonard, looking caring at the service for T.E. Utley, for whom no one in the Tory world has a wrong word, though the presence at the service of the Chief Constable of the RUC plus the South African ambassador suggests that a different view is possible.’

I grant you that it’s not the rudest thing anyone has written about a friend and admirer of Mrs Thatcher. But unless I’m being over-sensitive, what he seems to have been insinuating by these snide and silly remarks is that my father, about whom he clearly knew nothing, might have been a believer in oppressing the black majority in South Africa and Roman Catholic minority in Northern Ireland.

Utley's son is doing a Teach First course and will soon begin working in a north London state school (file photo)

Utley’s son is doing a Teach First course and will soon begin working in a north London state school (file photo)

As for the PM ‘looking caring’, is he suggesting she was just putting on an act?

But what annoyed me most was his implication that the Chief Constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary ought to be persona non grata at a respectable British memorial service. This was at a time when heroic RUC men were laying down their lives, so that the rest of us — including bleeding-heart liberals such as Bennett — could sleep a little easier in our beds.

He was at it again last month, when he said the treachery of the Cambridge Five spies — Philby, Burgess, Maclean, Cairncross and Blunt — was ‘excusable, because they thought that they were doing something to improve things, that they were morally on the right side’.

He went on: ‘The treason they’re supposed to have committed doesn’t nowadays seem to me to be a particularly important crime.’ He should try telling that to the widows and orphans of the hundreds of patriotic Britons whom the five betrayed and sent to their gruesome deaths.

Now up he pops again, to unburden himself of his view that private education is unfair, unChristian and ought to be phased out.

Up to a point, I agree with him.
Private schooling is, indeed, unfair — and I’m well aware that, with my
very average intellect and lifelong inclination to laziness, I would
never have got to Cambridge or found lucrative employment as a
journalist if I’d gone to the sort of school where Archie is to teach.

As
it was, my parents made enormous sacrifices to give me the unfair
advantage of a first-rate private boarding school in Suffolk, where
failure was not an option. In education, I reckon, high expectations of
pupils are a hugely important part of the battle.

Utley attended the prestigious - and very expensive - Westminster school, pictured. He says he certainly wouldn't have made it to Cambridge had he attended a school similar to where his son will teach

Utley attended the prestigious – and very expensive – Westminster school, pictured. He says he certainly wouldn’t have made it to Cambridge had he attended a school similar to where his son will teach

Through the efforts of my teachers, I won a place at cripplingly-expensive Westminster School (the alma mater, incidentally, of both Kim Philby and Louis Theroux), which emerges year after year among the top three schools in the country for exam results — and often at number one.

I’m with Bennett, too, when he suggests that the divide between the independent and state sectors promotes an ugly form of class antagonism, which works both ways.

You can see it in the grossly offensive, arrogant, braying hoorays who think they’re superior to their less fortunate betters simply because their parents are rich enough to send them to famous public schools.

The other way around, you can also see it in some of the most vitriolic letters I receive, assailing me over my privileged education and my decision to send two of our four sons to fee-paying Dulwich College, before the money ran out.

In his sermon, Bennett declares: ‘To say that nothing is fair is not an answer.’

But I would suggest that it is at least a bit of an answer. It is not strictly fair, after all, that the author of The History Boys and those brilliant TV monologues is blessed with gifts of observation and expression denied to the vast majority of the rest of us. This surely doesn’t mean we should begrudge him the riches that have sprung from his natural talent.

Where he seems to me disingenuous is in his failure to pay due tribute to the help he received from his own grammar-school education in bringing that talent to flower.

Bennett is famed for his play The History Boys - about a group of school pupils aiming to get in to Oxbridge - which was made in to a film in 2006, cast pictured

Bennett is famed for his play The History Boys – about a group of school pupils aiming to get in to Oxbridge – which was made in to a film in 2006, cast pictured

Indeed, he avoids mentioning his view on selective education in the state sector, which gave so many like him a leg-up in life and did so much to bridge the class divide.

Is this because he wishes there were more grammar schools, but doesn’t want to upset his Left-wing friends by saying so? Or does he share their belief that mixed-ability schools offer children the best possible start in life?

Of course, I know that many comprehensives do a wonderful job against the odds. But looking at this country’s precipitous plunge down the international league tables for educational achievement, I would say the theory that these schools benefit poorer children has been pretty comprehensively exploded over the past half century.

Come, Mr Bennett, let us join forces and proclaim, loud and clear: ‘Open more grammar schools!’

Until we do, let’s keep those successful private schools in business, churning out literate, numerate and public-spirited products like a certain Louis Theroux-lookalike I could name.

God knows, children from poor working-class homes need all the help they can from the likes of good old Archie.

 

Xmas Holidays

A Christmas Choir

Hello Debs here to welcome you to another challenge at Winter Wonderland .

Thank you so much to those of you that joined in with last weeks ‘A christmas Scene’ challenge. 
Don’t forget to check back on Sunday to see if you were the lucky winner and who made Top 3.

Now onto this week’s challenge -

A CHRISTMAS CHOIR

So we would love to see you images/projects with Singer/Singers.
Please remember Christmas projects only.


This week we are sponsored by:

offering 1 lucky winner
£10 online voucher

and

offering another lucky winner

Here’s the gorgeous inspiration from the DT.

Debs

Lynsey

Lorraine 

Mags

We always appreciate a visit so if you click a name you can hop over and leave them a comment and also find out if they have combined their challenge with any others, which could give you some ideas.

We all hope you are able to join us in our challenge this week. We look forward to visiting your blogs and seeing your gorgeous creations. Please be sure to post a link back to the Winter Wonderland blog in your blog post in order to be eligible for this weeks prize! 
Don’t forget Thursday evening (5pm GMT) is the deadline for your creation to qualify for the prizes.
So all that’s left is for you to get creative and leave your entry here with the blue frog so we can come and find you asap.

Have fun and remember you can enter each challenge up to 3 times.

Debs and the WW Teamies xxx






Christmas 2013

NHS ‘is facing a £2bn gap in its funding’: Hunt in talks over 2015 shortfall

  • Gap reportedly caused by ageing patients, costly drugs and rising pensions
  • Yet Prime Minister played down concerns to the Commons yesterday
  • It comes after GPs rejected proposals to charge £10 for appointments

By
Tamara Cohen, Political Correspondent


Published:
18:37 EST, 18 June 2014

|
Updated:
04:02 EST, 19 June 2014

Cuts: Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt is in talks with NHS bosses about how to fill a £2bn gap

Cuts: Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt is in talks with NHS bosses about how to fill a £2bn gap

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt is in talks with NHS bosses about how to fill a £2billion gap in its funding.

Senior sources say the ageing population, the cost of new drugs and the rising pensions bill for staff has left the health service in England with the shortfall for next year.

Chris Ham, head of the King’s Fund think tank, said there was a ‘real risk’ some hospitals could run out of money unless they received a significant cash injection.

‘Everywhere you look across the NHS there are pressures facing patient care,’ he told the BBC, which obtained the £2billion figure. 

‘They’re having to find even bigger efficiency savings to balance the books and deliver good standards of patient care. That’s a very, very big ask.’

The NHS budget for England for 2015 is around £100billion.

David Cameron has not ring-fenced spending on the health service and its budget has risen only by the rate of inflation – without taking into account the rising population and other cost pressures.

Mr Cameron played down concerns at Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday, saying efficiency targets for the NHS had been met every year, and the cash ploughed back into frontline care.

Anita Charlesworth of the Health Foundation think tank said the health service had been doing well at making savings.

But she added: ‘There is a “pincer” – as the NHS takes on more nurses, drug prices are rising and their pension costs are rising, as part of government policy.

‘We’re not going to find this money behind the sofa, so it would mean the Treasury stepping in. If it can’t do that, we’re faced with cutting services and cutting quality.’ 

The Department of Health said: ‘The NHS is on track to make £20billion savings this parliament and we are confident it will continue to make the savings necessary to meet rising demand.’

Meanwhile, some Liberal Democrat ministers are understood to be pushing for an increase in the NHS budget.

Proposals: GPs rejected a move to charge patients for appointments to improve attendance (file photo)

Proposals: GPs rejected a move to charge patients for appointments to improve attendance (file photo)

Leader Nick Clegg is being lobbied by those who think the party should call for more borrowing or spending cuts elsewhere to fund vital health services.

A source said: ‘We could differentiate ourselves from the Conservatives on something the public really care about for a change.’

GPs and nurses’ leaders have suggested charging patients for appointments, in part to save money.  Earlier this year, GPs held a vote on charging for appointments at the British Medical Association’s local medical committee conference in York.

The idea was to deter patients from missing consultations – a problem that costs £160million a year. The fees – possibly between £10 and £25 – would be the first since the NHS was founded in 1948.

Although the GPs rejected the idea, it has not gone away.

Yesterday the Royal College of Nursing’s annual conference in Liverpool debated whether patients should be charged up to £10 for seeing their GP.

Nurses who put forward the motion said that NHS finances were ‘not infinite’.

Once again, the motion was defeated. But its very presence on the conference agenda show it is an increasingly live issue. 

Xmas Holidays

Junk food blamed for soaring rate of Crohn’s disease among young

  • Three times as many young people being treated for Crohn’s, doctors say
  • Medics are blaming the substantial increase on junk food and antibiotics
  • Crohn’s triggers bouts of diarrhoea, abdominal pain and fatigue
  • Caused by inflammation of the lining of the digestive system

By
Jenny Hope


Published:
18:00 EST, 18 June 2014

|
Updated:
03:32 EST, 19 June 2014

Three times as many young people are needing hospital treatment for Chron's disease today than a decade ago, medics say. TOWIE star Sam Faiers is a well-documented sufferer

Three times as many young people are needing hospital treatment for Chron’s disease today than a decade ago, medics say. TOWIE star Sam Faiers is a well-documented sufferer

Junk food and antibiotics are being blamed by doctors for the rise in the number of young people developing a serious digestive disorder.

The latest figures show three times as many young people need hospital treatment for Crohn’s disease today than  a decade ago.

Dr Sally Mitton, a consultant gastroenterologist at St George’s Hospital in London, said there has also been a big rise in the number diagnosed with the condition – and  diet is partly responsible.

‘If you have a lot of junk food it actually makes it more likely that you will develop Crohn’s disease,’ she said.

‘And people have noticed those who have lots of antibiotics – particularly in younger life – also seem to be more likely to develop this condition.’

Crohn’s, which is caused by inflammation of the lining of the digestive system, triggers frequent bouts of diarrhoea, abdominal pain, fatigue and bleeding.

Along with colitis, it is a form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and may be diagnosed at any age. However it tends to strike early in life and there is no cure.

It is not clear how eating junk food, typically high in animal fat or saturated fats, can lead to the disease, but doctors believe it pushes up the chances of genetically susceptible people developing it.

‘All the centres that get lots of referrals have noticed an increase over the last few decades,’ Dr Mitton said, adding that there are many genes which can predispose someone to the condition.

‘We try to keep patients fit enough to stay at home, but because of the increased number being diagnosed, the actual number needing to be admitted has gone up,’ she said.

New data – obtained by the BBC from the Health and Social Care Information Centre – show in 2003/4 there were 4,937 young adults aged between 16 and 29 admitted to hospitals in England for the condition. This rose to 19,405 in 2012/13.

Three-quarters of those with Crohn’s, which affects around 250,000 Britons, will need bowel reconstructive surgery at some point in their lives.

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Doctors blame the increase on junk food and antibiotics. Crohn's, which is caused by inflammation of the lining of the digestive system, triggers frequent bouts of diarrhoea, abdominal pain, fatigue and bleeding

Doctors blame the increase on junk food and antibiotics. Crohn’s, which is caused by inflammation of the lining of the digestive system, triggers frequent bouts of diarrhoea, abdominal pain, fatigue and bleeding

However, a spokesman for the charity Crohn’s and Colitis UK said that while the prevalence of IBD has been increasing in recent years, there are many contributory causes – including genetic predisposition which can be triggered by environmental factors.

He added: ‘Dietary issues certainly can play a role, but there is no evidence they are the main cause. The gut bacteria can be radically altered in people with Crohn’s and colitis – with an increase in harmful bacteria and fewer  beneficial bacteria which may also be significant.’

He said that the charity had been contacted by many patients who say they have always maintained a healthy diet, and who would disagree with the idea that junk food is behind the rise in cases.

 

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Xmas Holidays

Faultless borrowers locked out of the best mortgages

  • The race is on to get a cheap mortgage deal ahead of an expected interest rate rise
  • Many of the lowest fixed rates have been withdrawn already
  • Some borrowers are already running into problems

By
Ruth Lythe

Follow @@RuthLythe


Published:
18:33 EST, 17 June 2014

|
Updated:
03:07 EST, 18 June 2014

Homeowners with a long track record of repaying their mortgages are being barred from snapping up the last of Britain’s low-cost loans.

The race is on to sign up for cheap mortgage deals ahead of an expected rise in the Bank of England base rate later this year.

As the Mail revealed yesterday, many of the lowest fixed rates have already been withdrawn and more are set to go soon.
But many long-standing mortgage borrowers risk missing out these cheap deals and could instead be stuck on more expensive rates.

Stricter mortgage rules: But there is also concern that homeowners are being blocked from taking the cheapest deals simply because they borrowed large loans before the banking crisis began in 2007

Stricter mortgage rules: But there is also concern that homeowners are being blocked from taking the cheapest deals simply because they borrowed large loans before the banking crisis began in 2007

This is because of mortgage rules, introduced in April, that demand loan applicants are quizzed on every aspect of their outgoings.
These have made it much tougher to get a loan, and have made the application process more time-consuming.

Some lenders are understood to be already buckling under the strain of processing mortgages and any surge in demand could lead to delays of weeks. In the worst cases, some homeowners could miss out on the best rates.


On top of this, there is increasing concern that homeowners are being blocked from taking the cheapest deals simply because they borrowed large loans before the banking crisis began in 2007.

They took their mortgages under the old rules — which often allowed for people to borrow seven times their income, or take a loan without proving their earnings, have some of their loan on interest-only, or borrow more than the value of their property.

Many of the lowest fixed rates have already been withdrawn and more are set to go soon

Many of the lowest fixed rates have already been withdrawn and more are set to go soon


But now they have to prove every penny they earn — plus, there are no mortgages for borrowers who don’t have a deposit and interest-only deals are all but banned.


These families were supposed to be protected by a lifeline offered by the City regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority.
It said that providing a borrower in this situation had reliably repaid their loan and didn’t need to borrow more, then they should not be barred from taking a new deal. But brokers say this is frequently not happening.

Long process: Loan applicants are quizzed on every aspect of their outgoings

Long process: Loan applicants are quizzed on every aspect of their outgoings

Jonathan Clark, of mortgage broker Chadney Bulgin, says: ‘We are already seeing borrowers running into problems.

‘Rates are likely to start creeping up in the next few weeks, but some of my clients are being told by banks they have to wait the best part of a month even for an interview with their lender.


‘By that time the best deals could well have gone. To make matters worse, we are also seeing lenders failing to act in the spirit of the new mortgage rules.


‘Even if you don’t want to borrow more money and have been paying off your loan for years without a problem, banks are insisting on reassessing you, when the rules clearly state they do not need to do this. It is crackers.’

Ray Boulger, senior technical of broker John Charcol, says: ‘It beggars belief that borrowers are being told they cannot move to a cheaper deal because the lender says it’s unaffordable, even though they are paying much more to stay on the bank’s own rate.’

RATE RISE BY THE END OF THE YEAR

Last week, Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England, hinted that rates could climb from their five-year low of 0.5 per cent by the end of the year. Any increase will be a shock to homeowners who have enjoyed years of rock-bottom mortgage repayments.

Hardest hit will be customers on their banks’ standard variable rates, which are already much more expensive than their banks’ best deals.

At first, hikes in the base rate are likely to be no more than 0.25 percentage points.
This would add £18 a month to the cost of a £150,000 mortgage on a tracker rate at 1.49 per cent plus base rate. A 0.5 percentage point increase would add £37, taking monthly repayments to £672.


The problem for long-standing borrowers is they may not qualify for some of these deals because banks are so scared of falling foul of the new rules that they are refusing loans to borrowers.
The worst affected are likely to be those in negative equity or those with only small deposits.


There are very few mortgages for them so — instead of being offered a fixed deal — they’ll instead be asked to take one on the lenders’ standard variable rate.
The same could apply for those who borrowed up to seven times their income.

With today’s stricter rules, lenders generally restrict loans to four times someone’s pay. As for the self-employed, they could have got a loan pre-2007 by taking a self-certification deal.
With these they did not need to prove what they earned — but as a result the mortgages were dubbed ‘liar loans’.

Today, the self-employed must have several years’ worth of accounts and so could easily not pass the affordability tests set by the banks. Their application process for a new mortgage is likely to be lengthy and require lots of paperwork.


A final group hit hard by the crackdown are interest-only borrowers — even those who took part of their mortgage on full repayment, and a smaller proportion on interest-only.
They may come under pressure to move their loan entirely on to full repayment, which many may not be able to afford.


In each of these cases, rather than being given a cheap rate, they are being asked to stay on their lender’s standard deal — and this would increase should the base rate rise.

PREPARE FOR A FAST HIKE IN COSTS

Borrowers are being urged not to wait until their current deal runs out. They can start applying for a new loan six months before of the end of their term. However, experts are warning customers to steer clear of two-year fixed-rate deals and to opt for a five-year fixed rate.

Fast growth: Lending rules are being tightened up, which may have an impact on soaring property prices. The red line at the top shows price growth in the UK - the blue line is UK growth, excluding London and the South East

Fast growth: Lending rules are being tightened up, which may have an impact on soaring property prices. The red line at the top shows price growth in the UK – the blue line is UK growth, excluding London and the South East

The best of these for someone with a 10 per cent deposit is Yorkshire BS at 4.29 per cent with a £975 fee. Monthly repayments on a £150,000 loan are £816.
Among the best for someone with a 20 per cent deposit is the Post Office at 3.69 per cent. No fee and monthly repayments on a £150,000 loan are £766.

Borrowers with a larger down-payment have their pick. The best include a 2.99 per cent five-year fix with Tesco Bank for borrowers with a 30 per cent deposit and a £1,495 fee, making repayments £711 on a £150,000 loan.

The FCA says banks routinely ignore the special permission it gave them to waive the rules for good borrowers.


A FCA spokesman says: ‘We’ve been working with the industry to make sure they’re clear on what they can do. We put the arrangements in place to help borrowers looking to change product, possibly for a better deal, but who don’t want to borrow any more money.


‘While it is up to firms to decide if they take advantage of that option, we would expect them to treat their customers fairly and abide by the spirit of the transitional arrangements.’


A spokesman for tradebody the Council of Mortgage Lenders says: ‘Overall the market is coping well with managing the combination of new regulatory requirements and rising demand from borrowers.

‘Existing borrowers who would not qualify for a mortgage under the new requirements that came in under the new rules may nevertheless be able to take out a new deal with their existing lender, as long as they are not seeking to borrow more money.


‘Many lenders will want to take a practical approach to follow-on deals with their existing customers, where this complies with the regulator’s expectations and where the proposed loan is in the customer’s and lender’s mutual best interests.’

Xmas Holidays

Kenya tourist trade wrecked by terror fears

  • 80 per cent of hotel rooms reportedly empty in Mombasa, Kenya
  • Al Qaeda carried out two massacres in villages close to a holiday island
  • Terror group Al Shabab carried out a series of bomb attacks
  • Warned tourists they come to the country ‘at their own peril’
  • Tour operators stopped sending travellers to the country last month

By
Sean Poulter


Published:
18:57 EST, 17 June 2014

|
Updated:
03:07 EST, 18 June 2014

British tourists are turning their backs on Kenya because of the threat of terrorism.

Militants linked to Al Qaeda carried out two massacres in villages close to a holiday island this week, claiming more than 60 lives.

Terror group Al Shabab, which has carried out a series of recent bomb attacks, warned: ‘Kenya is now officially a war zone and any tourists visiting the country do so at their own peril.’

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Residents barricade a road as they protest against the recent killings in the village of Kibaoni. Militants linked to Al Qaeda have carried out two massacres in the area - claiming 60 lives

Residents barricade a road as they protest against the recent killings in the village of Kibaoni. Militants linked to Al Qaeda have carried out two massacres in the area – claiming 60 lives

A man observes the remains of destroyed vehicles and buildings in the town of Mpeketoni after the area was attacked by extremists this week. Terror group Al Shabab have warned tourists they visit the country 'at their own peril'

A man observes the remains of destroyed vehicles and buildings in the town of Mpeketoni after the area was attacked by extremists this week. Terror group Al Shabab have warned tourists they visit the country ‘at their own peril’

Some tour operators, including Thomson, stopped sending travellers to Kenya in May after the first of the bombings.

In a normal year, more than 180,000 Britons would travel to the East African country for its beaches, safaris and wildlife.

But visitor numbers have plummeted – with up to 80 per cent of hotel rooms reportedly empty in Mombasa, the country’s second-largest city after the capital, Nairobi.

Kenya’s tourist board in London has tried to play down the threats. It confirmed that gunmen had raided Majembeni village, a rural farming community about ten miles from Kenya’s coast and 40 miles south of Mokowe, where many holidaymakers take a boat to Lamu, a popular tourist spot.

But a spokesman said: ‘Majembeni village has no international tourist facilities and no tourists were involved in the incident.

‘Lamu Island, one of Kenya’s primary tourist resorts, is in no way affected by this attack and neither is any other part of the Kenya coast. The majority of visitors travelling to Lamu arrive by air into the local airport.’

Kenyan police officers patrol Mavuno villages near Mpeketoni after unidentified gunmen attacked the coastal Kenyan town. Hotels are believed to be 80 per cent empty in Mombasa, the country's second city

Kenyan police officers patrol Mavuno villages near Mpeketoni after unidentified gunmen attacked the coastal Kenyan town. Hotels are believed to be 80 per cent empty in Mombasa, the country’s second city

Somali group Al Shabab confirmed it had carried out the latest attack, telling Reuters that its ‘operations in Kenya will continue’ in response to the presence of Kenyan troops in Somalia and the killing of Muslims.

Spokesman Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab said it had raided villages around Mpeketoni, and he claimed most of those who were killed while watching a World Cup match in a hotel were police officers and wildlife wardens.

Thomson said all outbound flights up to October 31 have been cancelled and anyone with a booking should contact the company.

Kenya police observe the remains of burnt-out cars at a police station in Mpeketoni.  Kenya's tourist board in London has attempted to play down the threats in a bid to save the tourism industy

Kenya police observe the remains of burnt-out cars at a police station in Mpeketoni. Kenya’s tourist board in London has attempted to play down the threats in a bid to save the tourism industy

A spokesman added: ‘Customers will be able to amend their booking to an alternative holiday, any on sale season for either long haul or short haul destinations, as long as the holiday is booked by the end of June.

‘If the cost is less than their original holiday, they will be refunded the difference. 

‘If it’s more expensive we will pay £50 per person towards the extra cost as a gesture of goodwill.

‘If we are unable to secure an alternative holiday, then a full refund will be offered.’

A spokesman for rival operator Thomas Cook said: ‘We monitor travel advice closely and are contacting the small number of customers with forward bookings to the affected areas that are travelling over the next few weeks to discuss their options. We will liaise with our experienced overseas team and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and update on changes in advice.’

 

Xmas Holidays

Danger Mouse to make comeback on CBBC with 52 new episodes

  • Originally ran for more than ten years until 1992
  • Returns to our screens next year; was an international success
  • No word yet on who will do the voices or if David Jason will return

By
Paul Donnelley


Published:
20:09 EST, 16 June 2014

|
Updated:
03:24 EST, 17 June 2014

Crumbs, DM … the much-loved animated TV hero Danger Mouse is to make a comeback.

The cartoon series, which ran for more than ten years until 1992, will make his return next year when it is screened by CBBC.

The white-clad rodent who wore a patch over one eye was voiced by Sir David Jason, while his sidekick Penfold was played by the late Terry Scott, although there has been no confirmation of stars who will be in the new run.

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They're back - Penfold and Danger Mouse but no one yet knows who will provide the voices

They’re back – Penfold and Danger Mouse but no one yet knows who will provide the voices

The show, created by the Cosgrove Hall animation studios, originally ran on ITV and many viewers will recall Penfold’s catchphrase ‘Crumbs DM’ as well as the title music which featured the lines: ‘He’s the Greatest, He’s Fantastic, wherever there is danger he’ll be there.’

Despite the rise of other postal services in the years since the show ended, Danger Mouse and Penfold’s HQ will continue to be in a red post box, although it will now be packed with cutting-edge technology as befitting any modern action mouse.

And programme-makers say the eye patch will be replaced by an ‘i-patch’, with multiple state-of-the art functions. The new look for the character has yet to be unveiled.

Terry Scott

, David Jason.

Vocals: No word on who will provide the voices in the news series. Terry Scott (left) was Penfold while Sir David Jason (right) was Danger Mouse

FremantleMedia Kids & Family Entertainment owns the global TV and licensing rights to Danger Mouse and is joining the BBC to produce the new series which forms part of the division’s five year-partnership with BBC Children’s.

Co-creator Brian Cosgrove of the original show is a consultant on the 52-episode series, being made by Boulder Media and FremantleMedia Kids & Family Entertainment.

Cheryl Taylor, the controller of CBBC said: ‘Danger Mouse is the last word in debonair and delightfully eccentric heroics and with Penfold at his side the much-loved duo will win over a whole new generation of fans.’

Cosgrove said: ‘When I helped to create Danger Mouse I had no idea the show would be such a huge success both in the UK and overseas. I am delighted that a whole new generation will be introduced to his daring deeds and thrilled to be part of this new 21st century series. I can’t wait to find out what he’s been up to for the last 23 years.’

Cosgrove Hall – whose other TV hits included Chorlton And The Wheelies, Count Duckula and Jamie And The Magic Torch – went on to become part of ITV and was closed down in 2009.
 

Xmas Holidays