Friday, 24 March 2017

Anti-social van parking - is it unneighbourly for Belfor UK's commercial vehicle to be abandoned outside my house for days on end?

This Belfor UK vehicle was parked outside my house from Tuesday 31 January and it didn't move again until Sunday 5 February (six whole days) not being used, just dumped there day and night ad infinitum. A dirty, great big three and a half tonnes of light blocking high top van. The above is the view from my front door, very little light getting into my hallway from there.

This is the only window on the ground floor at the front of the house where it's letting in any light at all. The police cones were placed there by the local constabulary to stop him obstructing the junction and thus preventing the school coach from exiting. The school coach drops off and picks up at various times - not just at the start and end of the school day - school pupils also travel to swimming lessons in it.

Other coaches use the junction at the weekends; there is a coach pick up point from outside the Methodist Church for regular outings and day trips. As well as the church, there is a primary school, doctor's surgery, public house, part time police station and special needs school also up that road so the junction is in constant use by delivery vehicles.

The above is an example of his exemplary parking opposite the junction on Sunday 15 January. The law is you're supposed to leave 10 metres clear of the junction to enable long wheel-based vehicles to exit.

I can't see anything out of my dining room window except for this van as we're four feet below pavement level. If it were a car parked here, it wouldn't block nearly as much light.

Even legally parked, it dominates the view when I'm working at my computer. Instead of seeing a green verge and a nice old honey coloured stone wall, all I can see is Belfor - Belfor - Belfor. I am so sick of this company.

I can only guess that he's either ill, on holiday, a colleague is picking him up or the company has no work for him on the days on end when it doesn't move. Am I wicked for hoping that Belfor go bust?! I certainly wouldn't want to use this building company to do any work for us.

On 7 February, we were expecting a visitor in the evening. Knowing Mr BellEnd (as we unaffectionately call him) would probably park outside the house again and therefore not leave any space for our visitor, we decided to park outside the house ourselves (leaving plenty of room for the coaches) so that our visitor could use our driveway.

Look what the result was of that! How dare we park outside our own house?!  I don't quite know why he's parked so close to our car ... is he trying to intimidate us by reversing right up to our bumper? I was so hoping someone would park too close on the other side of him to block him in so he couldn't get to work. Also, it should be noted that he's parked it the wrong way round; strictly speaking he should be facing the direction of traffic for overnight parking.

One Friday afternoon, 10 February it was parked outside our house again. Lovely; looks like we've got the Belfor UK van there all the weekend. But on the Saturday, it had moved to an adjacent road for some of the day, next to a high fence and so wasn't blocking anyone's light or view - far more considerate parking. I wonder why he doesn't park there all of the time? It's no further for him to walk to his house but he has to cross the road; oh well, maybe he didn't do his Tufty badge at school. 

On the Sunday of the same weekend, here he is back again, parked right up tight up against one of our visitor's cars. Unless he specifically moved it to park outside our house (which seems rather petty, let's give him the benefit of the doubt on that), moving it about both days over the weekend means he's probably using it for private purposes. Commercial vehicles are exempt from P11D taxation only if they're used exclusively for work purposes. There's a baby seat on the passenger side; at the very least he must be ferrying around a young child in it. I do hope he and his company are paying appropriate taxes on it. 

I know I don't own the road or parking spaces outside my house. I have never complained about cars parked outside my home (provided they aren't blocking the junction). An additional factor is there used to be room for two cars there and now there is only room for that one vehicle, if we want to park a car there (for example while we have a delivery of logs on the driveway) we have to infringe on our neighbour's frontage which we wouldn't do because we think that's inconsiderate and unneighbourly so we go elsewhere. This means there are two fewer parking spaces on this end of the street and so more and more often our neighbours' visitors are blocking the junction leaving us with the possibility of drivers knocking on our door asking us to move it.

When vehicles block the junction, I feel I can't relax in my own home because any minute now, someone will knock on the door. Fortunately, the police cones are now doing the trick and no-one has blocked the junction since they've been out. We're going through the motions of getting yellow lines painted which will remind drivers of the distance they need to leave clear and then the police can remove the cones. It's going to take several months though. Thank you, Belfor UK, I love all the beaurocracy, telephone calls, paperwork and attending parish council meetings that this entails.

When the Belfor UK van is legally parked (but still blocking my light), I have to put up with it but that doesn't stop it being irritating and I'm not the only one who is cross about having a commercial vehicle that's nothing to do with me or our village parking outside my house.

Our neighbour two doors down is so fed up he has installed a new drop curb and turned half of his previously flower filled front garden into a new driveway in order to be assured of a parking space near his home. It's costing him thousands.

I understand others have also complained to Mr Belfor about parking outside their homes and his standard retort is "where am I supposed to park it then?" I think the answer should be back in your company's yard or compound. There should be no place for commercial vehicles on a residential street unless they're making deliveries or effecting repairs in the immediate vicinity.

One of the most annoying things about all this is my husband also works for a building company who operate a fleet of 40 commercial vehicles. They have a comprehensive Transport Policy as part of their Considerate Builders Code of Behaviour concerning liveried vehicles. Vans of this size have to be returned to the depot at night, drivers are not permitted to take them home. Smaller, car-sized vans are only permitted home if the drivers have off-street parking like a private driveway. Clearly Belfor don't care about public perception of their company.

Companies like Belfor UK, who allow vehicles to be dumped on residential streets, are cutting corners, reducing their costs and winning work from legitimate companies like my husband's, who have proper fleet facilities. This makes Belfor UK look like a fly-by-night internet company with artificially low overheads and no consideration for the communities they affect.

Autoglass have a secure parking area close to the services on the A1 just a mile or two from here where their drivers leave their vehicles when they're not working. This is a much better solution than dumping large commercial vehicles on residential streets. Presumably, Autoglass are a company who care about public perception of their business and I applaud them for this.

On 6 February, our immediate next door neighbour, who has had as much as us - if not more - to put up with, suddenly went up for sale/to let. The thing is, when the Belfor van isn't abandoned for days on end and Mr BellEnd does move it during the day (presumably to go to work), he's back parking it up again between 3 and 4pm, much earlier than they get home from work. I was chatting to them recently, she said on frosty mornings, he runs his engine for 20 minutes right under her bedroom window. OK, you've got to clear the windshield but do you REALLY have to have the stereo blaring as well first thing in the morning? Now that's very anti-social; our house is set back a bit further from the road and our bedroom isn't next to where he parks so fortunately, we weren't disturbed. But anyway, have a guess what one of the factors in their decision to move is ... yup! Poor people were counting the days in the end, they said they hadn't planning on moving until next year but decided to go early because of the van.

We've mostly solved the problem of Mr BellEnd taking our light. We've taken to parking our own car outside our house pretty much all the time we are at home, we're fortunate in that Geoff works from home quite a lot of the time. BellEnd has only managed to nab the space off us a couple of times during the past few weeks, in which case we just use our driveway.

On Saturday 11 March, before we went to bed, my husband took the dog out for a quick walk at around 11.30pm, all was well out the front, nothing was amiss but when we got up on Sunday morning, one police cone was on top of our car and the other two were on the war memorial opposite. I would've put this down to youngsters getting up to mischief but due to it happening in the early hours of the morning, I doubt it was kids.

In the above photo, you can see the Belfor UK van in the background parked half on the pavement adjacent to the bus stop shelter. I imagine someone with a pushchair or a disabled person on a mobility vehicle/wheelchair would struggle to get past it.  I'm convinced the cones were moved here by a certain adult who is perhaps annoyed with us for reducing his parking options.

Not long after the police placed the No Waiting cones on the junction, the windscreen wipers of our car were tampered with one Saturday night. They were left jutting upwards; someone had been messing with them. Of course, I have no proof who did this but I only have one suspect with a motive.

On Tuesday, 22 March, Mr BellEnd was parked outside the - now empty - house next door. At 6am the van's stereo was so loud it woke up our neighbour with the new driveway. I understand there was an early morning confrontation about it.

So, all of this is because a Belfor UK van with an anti-social driver suddenly appeared on our street in the last few months ... opinions please .... are we good people of Colsterworth being unreasonable by getting cross and territorial about this? I'm particularly interested to hear from anyone else having problems with Belfor UK's drivers' anti-social behaviour and/or illegal parking. As Belfor have offices all over the UK, I'm thinking there must be other communities having similar problems.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Bottles under the recycling hammer!

Recycling Bombay Sapphire bottle into beads

I'm planning to have a smashing time today!

These Bombay Sapphire bottles have been expertly and efficiently emptied by my sister's petit ami, big thanks to my hero, Jon!

I haven't made any recycled beads for ages. Once the bottles have been broken up into shards small enough to handle in the flame, I will be turning them into beads like these I made a couple of years ago.

I may even make some earrings too!

Friday, 3 March 2017

Feeding a dog with renal problems - part 2

We went to see the vet yesterday for a medication review for our dog, Missy. We're continuing with her heart tablet which we do believe has made a difference. I've explained the difficulties of getting Missy to eat the prescription diet for dogs with renal problems. She's explained to us that Missy has 25% functionality, if we support her kidneys by feeding the prescription diet, she could have a good quality of life for several months, a year even. So it's better if she eats the prescription food which I agree with but what if that's not possible? Missy turns her nose up at it, I do keep trying to reintroduce it but so far no luck.

I felt like such a bad owner for not being able to get her to eat the prescription food, I didn't have the courage to admit for the last few days I can only get her to eat freshly cooked items such as sausages, chicken, cold haslet or fishfingers (though I had to take the breadcrumbs off at first and then she has the breadcrumbs after she's got started).

Our vet isn't a fan of home cooked recipes. We ran through the ingredients of the ones I've tried, she wanted me to omit the calcium carbonate for Missy. Her blood work indicates her calcium levels are fine; excessive calcium risks bladder stones. In the end, she's agreed if Missy rejects the prescription diet, we can't force feed her, we have to work with the hand we're dealt. She's suggested another brand of prescription food for us to try and we're picking some up tomorrow. Fingers crossed she will eat it for longer than 2-3 days!

I've described in an earlier blog entry on 21 February how I managed to feed our dog, Missy, with a home cooked low protein diet using a variety of tricks but she has started picking out the bits of meat to eat and leaving the rest. My latest deception is to put it in the food processor to make the pieces smaller so she can't selectively eat it; it still smells like mince or whatever other meat she fancies that particular day. This worked for a few more days but now she rejects anything that has rice/egg/bread/pasta in it.

She seems to crave protein, even though it's bad for her.

The way I see it is there's a choice. 
  • Keep trying to feed low protein foodstuffs and she starves to death; that's option one.
  • Feed her anything that she will eat, even if it's protein and bad for her and then her kidneys pack up at some point in the future. That's option two.
  • Option three is to give up and euthanise.
Bit of a Hobson's Choice. I don't like any of them. As the least awful of a bad bunch, I'm going for option two while she still has a quality of life. 

With sausages. I have to vary the brands every day or two, she will just stop eating a particular brand. It's like she thinks to herself "oh, I had that yesterday and it made me feel poorly so I'm not having that again". She takes a really good sniff at it and if it smells like something that made her feel poorly, she rejects it. She does seem to forget over the course of time so something that she rejects time and time again on the trot, doesn't mean she won't eat it again several days later.

The key to her eating is to just get her started, once she has taken a first mouthful, she will eat quite a bit. Sometimes, a mouthful of food I've freshly cooked for her will get her started, sometimes I have to try something else even more tempting and go back to the main food item.

I have had quite a bit of luck with small pieces of Hobnob biscuits and then give her something else. Sometimes when she was eating the low protein food, I could get her going with cold sausage roll and then she would eat the main meal. Sometimes I have to try lots of different things before she got started. Sometimes I have to thrown whole meals away (or have them in sandwiches cold myself).

Who knows, she may even go back on the prescription food and/or low protein diets, I will keep trying.

Most days I'm constantly cooking and washing up the grill pan and food processor pretty much all morning. As a consequence, I'm not getting much work done. It's too cold for her to join me in the shed when I'm beadmaking but I don't like to leave her on her own in the house. Her diet is so varied and her mealtimes can be any time I can get her to feed, she's not as predictable as she used to  be about when she needs to go out. Sometimes she needs to go quite suddenly, bless her. When MTM is working from home, he can keep an eye on her and I maybe get a couple of hours in my studio beadmaking. Fortunately, MTM earns enough for both of us so I'm really just dedicating the vast majority of my time to the care of Missy, my business can wait for the time being.

We have good days and bad days. She's better when it's sunny and both of us can walk her together. She seems to really enjoy the whole "pack" going out and about patrolling the village. Rides in the car if we're going somewhere perk her up as well so we take her even if it's just popping to a shop in town. She spends the evenings with us on the sofa, her head in one of laps enjoying being stroked. When either or both of us are working in the study on our computers, she will take the stairs one at a time to be with us. If I hear her starting up the stairs, I go down and carry her up as it tires her out. Sometimes she wants to get on my lap while I type, other times she settles down on the study futon under one of my crocheted blankets.

Here's what she's doing right now whilst I'm typing this blog entry!

She still keeps an eye out for the postman every morning so she can give him a hard time for daring to come to the door. I have noticed her bark has lost quite a bit of its power, it's like half as loud as it used to be, bless her.

We had a lovely day on Wednesday, MTM was working from home and I got two good meals into her. Her afternoon walk with her daddy was a real treat because the sun was out and she walked part way with Archie, a gorgeous springer spaniel owned by another couple in the village. Archie and Missy are great friends, it's the one dog in the village she really enjoys socialising with. She can be very stand-offish with many other dogs but Archie is her favourite. It gave her (and us) such a lift, her owners invited us to take Missy round any time we liked if we thought it would help her. Aren't they lovely?!

One cloudy, overcast day last week when rain was constantly threatening, we were halfway round quite a short walk, she was getting slower and slower, I'm patient with her and just let her sniff at the ground til she's ready to move on but at one point, she just sat down and looked round bewildered. I couldn't cajole her into going any further. Her look said "I'm too tired, I used to be able to do this but today I can't". It was upsetting for both of us, I picked her up and walked on.

Missy has the same colouring as a Doberman and as she's quite a little dog, people often mistake her for a Doby puppy. Because I was carrying her, I think people thought she was waiting for her injections before she could go on the ground. An elderly lady smiled at me, I smiled back, a couple of other people too. When we got to the play area, some kids on the swings came running over. They asked me if they could stroke her. I knelt down "One at a time so you don't overwhelm her". They took turns petting her, Missy enjoyed the attention and even took some dried chicken strip treats from them. I didn't have the heart to tell them "Actually, she's not a puppy, I think she's dying". I walked the rest of the way home sobbing with Missy licking my face, making my glasses go all blurry. 

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Finished crocheted temperature blanket and cushion

My granny stripes temperature blanket is finished. It has taken me a while! 1 January's row is at the bottom of the bed with 31 October just tucked in under the pillows.

The main reason for the delay was it was just big enough for my double bed when we needed a blanket on top of our quilt at the end of October 2016. If I added November and December's daily temperatures, it would be too long for my double bed because of the wooden footboard.

Originally, it wasn't ever going to go on my double bed, the size was determined by my calculations of fitting over a single bed (and quilt) with generous overspills on both sides and the bottom going virtually down to the floor. However, the refurbishments we planned last year didn't get done and so I still don't have any single beds in the house yet. Scaffolding is going up very soon for that, internal plaster removal of two upstairs rooms will begin once the external wall rendering is sorted so maybe NEXT year I will have some guest accommodation and a single bed to put such a blanket upon!

In December, wondering how I was going to finish it all off and get in two more months of temperature rows, I had a sudden brainwave to make a separate cushion incorporating the final two months of the year. Hence it is done in the cooler colours but it ties the bottom of the blanket in rather nicely, I think!

The photograph shows it on the bed just over the mattress and pillows, when the quilt is on, it JUST covers the edge of the quilt with a few inches to tuck in top and bottom.

For the border, I did groups of 3 tr (UK terminology) in each "holey bit" for the first row, then a row of dcs, another row of tr and for the final scalloped edge, I worked 7 tr inbetween two sts, skip 3 sts, 1 dc inbetween next 2 sts, repeated all round with more in the corners.  I used colours that corresponded and related to the rows, changing them as and when I fancied it according to whether the temperature was going up (or down!)

There's more about the concept of the temperature blanket, the pattern and colours I used, in some earlier blog enties:

6 January, 2016
16 January, 2016