Student Lets and Landlords

This year has seen my eldest returning to uni but this time he will be house sharing with four other students, friends he has made while living in student halls last year. They have had a year of independence, almost sheltered in a way, by living in a corridor with 11 others and sharing a kitchen and a couple of bathrooms. They work out differences on their own and gravitate towards other students that they get on with or become friends with. As parents, although it breaks our hearts to see them go, it feels like they are still being supported if they are living on campus with all the facilities around them. My eldest goes to Sussex university and it was well equipped with a large Co op, a large cafe, launderette, bar, pharmacy and a GP surgery! I know not all uni’s are the same and some are spread around towns on different areas instead.

This  year my son got together with a few friends and viewed some houses and went through the process of securing one with no adult help at all. We had know idea of what to expect (except for a street view of the address on Google maps) but he had warned us that it wasn’t a very up to date place but they were happy with it for the price that they have to pay……………in other words it was probably going to be a shithole!

So, we took him down last week to settle him in (and get a proper look at the place) with all his belongings. When we arrived another student who had collected the keys was being taken around going over the inventory ( not necessarily with what was in the house but more a list of damage and marks!). As my hubby and I glanced around I literally couldn’t believe it, maybe I am being naive but I certainly wasn’t expecting a house who’s decor had not been touched many, many years, with  wardrobes that were definitely from the 1970’s. although, in fairness I think my son had probably the best room as apparently no one wanted to be downstairs at the from of the house- he didn’t care and so ended up with the biggest room (which would have been an original front lounge) with large shelves in the alcoves and a decent sized wardrobe (even though it had come from either a boarding school or an old sergeant’s/ officers mess it was labelled inside and had lots of smaller sections for clothes) and he was lucky enough to have a brand new mattress still in the wrapper.

room pic 4

If you open the wardrobe the whole thing wobbles!

If you open the wardrobe the whole thing wobbles!

Thankfully he was lucky enough to get a brand new mattress

Thankfully he was lucky enough to get a brand new mattress- and yes his curtains are that see through!

As adults though, we could not believe the state of the place. It was clean to the touch (which I was actually surprised about) but the nets were ripped and stained and the curtains were hanging off! There were no lampshades on any of the lights, their communal room/ lounge was an actual conservatory which had the scabbiest seats in there and an old dining table with only 3 chairs (for 5 people). There was a radiator in there thankfully but no plug sockets so that they could maybe have a telly or something in there to at least sit together. So I expect they will bloody freeze in the winter!

How rank are those chairs?

How rank are those chairs?

So, we made sure every bit of damage or stains were on the inventory as the lady doing it said that landlords will do anything not to pay their deposits back. She advised them all to take pictures of how the rooms were set out as they charge £20 to move a piece of furniture if it’s not in the right place let alone anything else! We took picture evidence of his room including any damage, and the kitchen and the communal sitting room too. Now I know for a fact this wouldn’t be the worst student let ever but at the same time it’s a far cry from the best too. However, we could not believe literally how little landlords have to do legally in order to earn big money from these houses. This was considered a cheap property as my son and his friends are only paying about a tenner more each week than they were in halls but even so with 5 of them paying this landlord is taking in almost £2500 a month from this let and yet we had to take my son out and buy them a shower curtain and bath set as it was a clear window in the bathroom with no shower curtain up for any privacy! We had to buy more clips from the hardware shop to hold his curtains up properly. They had to invest in a kitchen bin and some door mats (as it was lino throughout so on a rainy day like the day he moved in, the floor was in a right state by the time we left). Thankfully they actually had a washing machine, which looked fairly new, which I was pleasantly surprised about and was a brilliant bonus.

There were also no door locks on any of the bedroom doors which I was slightly surprised about as they are all encouraged to get their own insurance but how can you be held responsible if someone else forgets to lock up when they go out and you have no other security for your belongings!

Anyway, my hubby and I came away thankful we don’t have to live there but happy that they all seemed excited to be moving in, and wondering why we aren’t in the business of student lets as it seems a big money maker for very little in my humble opinion.

I can guarantee there are lots of you with your own nightmare stories about either your own student lets- seriously I would love to hear them as it might just make me feel better about my son living in the hovel that he is!

 

It’s been a while!

Well it’s certainly been a while since I have been on here!

It’s not like there hasn’t been anything going on for me to write about it’s more like I haven’t had the urge to write, but lately that has been changing. So rather than bore you will loads of catch up posts I thought I would do a quick run through everything that has been going on.

So this year I have had more hospital imput for my M.E/ Fibromyalgia than I have over the last 8 years since being diagnosed. Finally I managed to get physio treatment for the Carpel Tunnel in my left hand which has helped ease some of the numbness at least. I have also been referred onto a pain management course due to start late September for 7 weeks and I hope that helps me with at least pacing any activity I do ( I am absolutely rubbish at saying ‘No’ to anyone and generally end up overdoing things and then crashing afterwards!). The course will run me up to almost Christmas when I have been told I may get referred onto an exercise class suitable to help with my illness.

Excitingly, earlier this year a ‘dream job’ sort of fell into my lap via a good friend of mine. Dream job in the fact I can do the job in my pj’s, at anytime of day, keeping my own time! Sounds bloody good eh? It comes in the form of running a social media account for a local clothing boutique called Kimmicass (would love you to come and give us a follow) that sells amazing womens clothing that you just cannot find in the high street shops (and will be looking to expand and sell online as well as open more shops too). This one account actually led to a second account for a London florist who lives locally but works independantly for clients like the V&A! This account is a slow burner and is not fully up and running but is definitely getting there and should be more active before Christmas. So how great is that? Literally a dream job for me as with my illness its difficult to predict health wise how I will be feeling on any particular day, but this job does not require me to be anywhere in particular for any length of time! So I get to work from home in my pj’s which I am loving ………….total result!

Also, we had an amazing surprise with my youngest’s sons GCSE results. His plan was originally to do a Level 3 Early years Childcare course at college which he needed 5 passes including English and Maths. Now hes a clever boy so we knew he would get the 5 passes unfortunately his worst subject is maths so we were extremely concerned ( as was he) that he wouldn’t pass that and therefore not be able to do his course. So the results morning was literally the most stressful time ever and I had lots of contingency plans running through my head should he not get his maths. Well talk about a total surprise, not only did he get a level 5 in his Maths ( the new marking system is numbered!) but he also passed ALL 10 GCSE’s and did so well was offered a place back at the school’s 6Th Form!! He was so gobsmacked he literally didn’t know what to do with himself and although he still went over to the college to enrol he ended up taking the place at 6th form to do A levels instead. As you could imagine it was total surprise all round so we ended up going out to his favourite restaurant to celebrate………….it would have been rude not to!

alex meal out

Then it was birthday celebrations for my husband who was turning 50 at the end of August…………….50!! Now he’s not one for big parties etc although is more than happy to go to others he hates being centre of attention himself. So I came up with a cunning plan to use the money that a big party would cost and instead take him away to somewhere I know he has wanted to go to for a long time- ROME! So I managed to find a little family run boutique hotel in the centre of Rome for 4 nights and booked that and some flights etc for early October for the two of us. However, because this was going to be his only present , except for a few bits from the boys, I wanted to make it a little special. So, I came up with the idea of putting some clues together to put inside a cabin size suitcase and then wrap it all up. So I numbered the clues…

  1. A picture of a fountain and some Euro coins (for the Trevy Fountain)
  2. A spanish style fan with a picture of some stone steps ( for the Spanish Steps)
  3. A rosary (hopefully making him think Catholic!)
  4. A dvd of Sparticus with a small Italian flag!! (The Colosseum obviously)

Each clue was wrapped up and numbered and then his present was a gift of 2 guide books for Rome with the flight tickets inside.

present box

suitcase clues

suitcase pic

Now my hubby is not one for showing emotion at ALL but as he opened the guide books his eyes did well up and his hands were physically shaking which showed me he literally had no clue up until that point of what his present was. I had even gone behind his back to one of his work colleagues to help me book his time off work and get it approved (he is in the police so it’s not an easy thing to do without him finding out)……………..BUT I BLOODY DID IT!

rich and present

It was a tough thing to make all the decisions on my own with regard to the flights, the hotel and when to go so I was actually quite relieved when it all seemed to work out. Thankfully now I can relax as I know he will sort everything else out from here- he has already done our medical cards and booked airport parking! The only time throughout that I gave myself a total heart attack was when my Mum asked me on the phone if our passports are in date! For anyone who doesn’t know us we never go away anywhere abroad as we cannot afford it normally and the last time i used my passport was when he took me to Venice for my 40th birthday 7 years ago……………………………………..SO THANKFULLY THEY WERE IN DATE!!

**So if anyone has any recommendations for Rome please let me know**

We also took my eldest back to uni last weekend (sobs) and helped him move into his new shared house ( which is a total state and will be another blog post on its own!) so I am missing him already sitting with us for dinner etc.

Next up is my youngest 17th birthday in a few weeks time before we can get really excited about our trip.

Anyway, it’s lovely to be back and have the urge to put things down in black and white again and would love to hear what you have all been up to. If

Teach your children not to live in fear

So, the last few months have seen us endure some pretty horrific terrorist attacks around the world as well and 3 in 3 months in this country alone, and I hear more and more people online sharing their fears for their children’s future in such a world. I too share those fears even though I have older teens now I wonder what will become their ‘normal’ in say the next 20 years with regards to terrorism, policing and our country’s safety. What will they be bringing their future children into in many years to come?

However, I am  from Belfast, born in 1970 and lived my youngest years into my teens throughout the height of ‘The Troubles’ in Northern Ireland. The absolute full extent would probably never have been covered in the national media forums unless it involved the mainland itself, but still it continued on a very daily basis in my area as well as many others. My parents back then probably had the exact same fears about our future as children with armed police and the Army patrolling our streets and wondering where it would all end up.

Yet here I am! Old enough to have my own family and worry about their future in the way my parents did before me. Coming from a very loyalist area ( being Protestant) my parents never discussed religion or politics in front of us. We were never brought up with extremist views one way or the other. They never stopped us playing outside, or going anywhere or doing anything…………………life just carried on. We were never brought up to actively ‘hate’ anyone just because a paramilitary group had decided to plant a bomb,or  kill innocent people, or shoot a single person in retaliation for another attack. We were not brought up to think that ‘tit for tat’ killings where OK. As kids we had been segregated to either Protestant or Catholic areas to live and for schooling etc. Yet I remember how excited I was when I got my first part time job in Belfast city centre working inn Argos knowing that I would be ‘mixing’ with Catholics and working in a ‘mixed’ area. I had a blast in that job. The people I met and the friends I made just made my time there brilliant fun.

What I am trying to say is that my parents never made religion and the issues surrounding it in Northern Ireland and issue for us growing up. We were not brought up to ‘hate’ a person just because they were a different religion to ourselves.

So  if you are afraid of what the future holds for your children then teach them that not everyone of that race or religion believes the same as those extremists. I never once thought that all Catholics ( back in the days of The Troubles ) were affiliated or believed the same as the IRA and I can only thank my parents for that.

Do not get me wrong, my absolute heart goes out to each and every person who has been affected by these atrocities and yes I would love to see an end to them too, it’s a total heartbreak that most of us cannot even begin to imagine or understand what they must be going through.

It is a scary world, but do not pass on your adult fears to your children before they are able to comprehend or begin to understand. Instead, teach them to see and take everyone on face value, to not be afraid when they see armed police or possibly armed forces on the streets- these people are here to protect us. I was in my mid teens on holiday in Plymouth when I saw the very first policeman in shirt sleeves with no body armour, unarmed and on his own!! Until then armed police and Army on the streets was my normal- and yet here I am a normal person. I haven’t suffered any detrimental affects, all grown up with my own family.

Our world is always going to be scary with everything that is going on across the globe, but for your children’s sake concentrate on the everyday normality and the good. I have seen a great quote online telling us to ‘look for the helpers’ in those awful situations and it’s true. There will always be many more people willing to help than to harm. Never let those people affected be forgotten but celebrate those who go to selfless measures to help in the most awful situations regardless of the danger they put themselves in.

In short, I am proof along with many others, if you teach your children to live without adult fears and teach them not to hate a race of people or a religion because of the actions of a minority of extremists then your children will adapt and live normal lives too. It’s possible, we as adults have to make it possible.

 

Fibromyalgia pain management help on the horizon at last

Any of you that have been following me for a while will know that I have ME and Fibromyalgia, which in lay mans terms means I am permanently exhausted and have constant chronic pain (with lots of other symptoms but the list is too long to mention!).

I was diagnosed in 2009 and after being initially referred for a 12 week management program in London at the start my Borough decided they would not pay for me to go out of borough for treatment even though there was nothing similar in my area. So, after being diagnosed  I was then left with no input apart from pain relief from my GP. I spent years on Tramadol until my body totally adjusted and they were having absolutely no effect. Last year when the pain became to difficult to handle my GP switched me to Morphine (slow release) and Oramorph for breakthrough pain during the day. Again as my body adjusted they had less and less effect and the dosages where increased to a point where my GP could not authorise another increase without referring my to a Rheumatologist.

This was probably the best thing that could have happened. I had an appointment in February and she confirmed 18 tender points of Fibro around my body alongside all over body tenderness ( that means my body feels bruised so wearing clothing/ shoes etc all hurts as though someone is pressing directly on a bruised piece of skin!). From there she referred me to the Fibromyalgia clinic and I had that very long appointment yesterday. It takes all afternoon as you see three separate specialists in different areas who all work together to approach the illness from different angles.

I came out feeling amazingly positive after speaking to three separate specialists who not only believed I was in pain but understood how it affects my daily life and had input in how they could, together as a team, help me manage my pain better and help me restore some normality back to my life.

THIS IS HUGE!! For years I have been left to cope with only inadequate pain relief ( turns out opiates are useless in treating the pain I have-typical!) with people finding it hard to actually believe I am in CONSTANT pain. I know I am my own worst enemy as I do not allow anyone to see how it affects me. If I go out no-one would even think for a moment that my body is screaming out in pain, I will smile and chat and completely mask it ( hence some people think it’s not possible to be in pain ALL of the time). My only visible show that something is wrong is that I use a walking stick, not because I bloody enjoy people looking staring at me but because the pain in my ankles is sharp and knife like and can literally knock you off balance when out walking around.

This denial, or masking my issues seems to be part of the problem. If people think I am OK I will carry on as normal doing things I know will knock me off my feet the next day just so no- one sees I cannot cope! Apparently I need to learn to say ‘No’ and totally understand how to pace activity. This is new to me too as I totally live my life the ‘boom and bust’ way, that means on days where I am more able I will do WAY too much just to catch up etc which then pays me back with several days not able to do anything at all.

So, after an extremely long hospital visit to the clinic yesterday they offered to put me on a 7 week pain management course which looks at all these issues alongside getting a combination of medications that actually work with a routine of pacing.

This is the most help I have had in all the years I have been diagnosed. I feel positive with everything they were telling me and I now have to just wait to hear when the course will be starting. Although it is 7 weeks long it is only 1 day a week at reasonable times with lots of breaks etc. I will meet other people in the same position who actually live in my area too which could end up being a bonus socially.

I have been on support groups online throughout having the illness but I tend to find they become quite depressive with people venting every little aspect, pain, new symptom and bad day they are having. I too have those days where it can bring you right down in mood, but that is not how I want to live my life- it is restricted enough without wallowing in what’s wrong instead of concentrating on what is going well. So, although I remain on these groups I tend only to comment on positive posts because I do feel that sometimes when I am feeling OK they can have a draining affect on your mood as you start to think ‘Oh God is that how I am going to become’. I am not running these groups down they do provide people with daily contact and reassurance and generally are a good thing, however, it can become a bit of a pity party some days and that’s not how I want to look at my illness. I know some people will say they have been on the course I have been offered and it did nothing for them and that’s fine, but because a lot of how you manage pain can be down to mindset as well I do not want to go in with any negative attitude- otherwise what is the point?

So, I will keep you updated when I do start and let you all know what happens. But for now I am very happy I am getting any help at all and we have to be prepared to help ourselves as well as the illness is complex and cannot just be fixed with a particular medication or procedure. So send loads of positive thoughts please, I am feeling that my outlook is going to be rosy.

 

My eldest teen dealing with disappointment this week.

Before I start, I want to put this into perspective. No-one has died, or divorced, or left etc. It wasn’t to do with grades or uni or even a relationship. But this week my eldest son had what they see would  as a huge disappointment. He was due to go on holiday with his girlfriend and her family on an early flight on Saturday morning to Tenerife for a week. He had been invited over the Christmas holidays and we agreed that it would be his gift for his 19th birthday which is on Easter Sunday this year. A lot of money was spent on flights, insurance, passport and proper summer clothes that he was going to need.

Last week there was things to sort for him everyday leading up to picking him up from uni late on Thursday evening so we had Friday to sort all the packing and money exchanging. It was a busy week for me as it’s not every day I can be up and around and active due to my illness, however, by Friday morning we were fairly relaxed thinking we were ahead of ourselves.

conors-holiday-pic

Then came the message that was to change it all. His girlfriend messaged to say her younger brother had been rushed into hospital that morning as he had become unwell without any warning signs or symptoms. When he told us my hubby and I knew right there and then that they would not be flying out to their holiday,but wanted to allow him to process what was happening and come to his own conclusions without us being instantly negative. However, as the morning went on I received a call from the mum to tell me what was happening and that they would have to cancel the holiday! Having never spoken to her before other than a phone message I felt so sorry for her when she was getting upset telling us they have to cancel. As an adult we can look at the whole situation and know that the most important thing was that their son was going to be OK. But we then had to break the news to my son, yes he’s 19 years old and should be able to process the initial disappointment and be able to know that it was more important that their son was well. However, throw in the fact he hasn’t been on proper holiday abroad for around 10 years so he was definitely excited about going, also the fact he was going to spend a week with his girlfriend ( who he doesn’t see every week because she lives in Norfolk and he’s at uni in Brighton) and then add on that the fact he has Aspergers (mild traits)!!

Surprisingly, he took it well, but he was playing his guitar at the time ( a stress reliever for him) and we could see that his eyes were welling up but he was trying not to show it. He obviously was concerned for the brother as he has got to know him quite well now and they both get on. He knew it was more important that the son was in hospital and no-one knew what was happening to him (initially we heard it was possible appendicitis, then possible pancreatitis and he was due to have scans and more blood tests) but it was still a huge disappointment for him to process. So, we agreed that if he still wanted to have time with his girlfriend that because my husband was off work for a day or two we would be able to drive him up to stay with her as I know she would want to be at home to see her brother. So, that’s what we did and in all fairness he was quite happy in the end with the outcome of a few days with his girlfriend rather than not see her at all.

I think teenagers ( even the older ones who are more independent) still live in that moment or that day rather than look ahead or plan ahead as most adults would do, in that respect they are still like young children and therefore we have to remember they might not take the same approach to disappointment that a fully grown adult, who has experienced a bit of life, would. Things that happen along the way in life like this situation help us deal better with any future disappointments in life. They put things into perspective, they make them see that things do not always work out as you planned it and it’s still our job as parents to help them through these things and make them feel normal for having these feelings.

The main thing overall is that their son is OK, although he is still in hospital having scans and pain relief until they source the real cause of the problem, but I still think it’s natural to feel a little disappointment when it comes to these situations too. It’s not selfish providing you do not lose sight of the bigger picture. This certainly would have been much, much worse if this had happened on the plane or even when they were out at their holiday destination, there will be other holidays and other times to do things.

So for now we hope he has a great time this week in Norfolk and we just look forward to celebrating his birthday on Easter Sunday.

How have you had to help your teen deal with life’s little disappointments? I am generally interested to know how others cope.