Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Winter Warmers..

WW Collage

I know, I know. A wishlist post and it's not even Friday. But, with the change in temperature this week to the even-colder-than-it-was, we've finally given in and invoked the office central heating and I've spent large parts of my days wishing for just about all of these things to help me warm up.

001: I'm currently working my way through my second Sincerely Louise pattern (which is top secret as it's a Christmas present, if I get it done in time), The first was my pterodactyl bag, which I've finished but failed to take any photos of as yet. But next up, I'd like to make myself this amazing diplodocus scarf. In fact, the list of SL patterns I'd like to make is as long as my arm, but y'know. 

002: I love the chic design of this Helene Berman vest with it's faux fur collar. The idea of layering it over a snug jumper really appeals. I've only recently heard of this brand but was pleased to discover that they'll be stocking this vest in the John Lewis in Birmingham, so will be trying this on when I go Christmas shopping at the weekend.

003: The mix of colours in this coat, combined with the furry lining around the neck just makes me think of a cosy blanket, I think. I'd say this is definitely a good thing, though. And if there's one thing I've learned in life, it's that one can never have enough coats! Kling have SUCH a good coat selection at the moment.

004: When I was in Uni, almost every item of clothing I owned was adorned with stars, and I find I'm still drawn to them now. I love the little "I believe in magic" motto on this Poppy Lux jumper, too.

005: Have you seen this little guy? I have to admit, I've still not caught this year's John Lewis ad, but spotted this mug on Instagram the other day and have decided he's the perfect thing to drink my Christmas coffee from. 

Has the colder weather got you wishing for anything warm and cosy?

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Tuesday Titles 070..

Look at Me
Look at Me - Sarah Duguid
The only bad thing about reading books a little while before they are due to hit the high street shelves is that when they're really great, I want people to be able to read them right away. Look at Me falls right into that category..

Lizzie's mother died a couple of years ago. She's an aspiring actress, and she and her brother Ig live with their hippy father, Julian. All seems normal and calm in their family life until Lizzie discovers a letter, written to her father by a girl who is her half-sister. Lizzie decides to write to her. Eunice agrees to come and stay with the family. Julian shrugs off this discovery by claiming that their mother new all about his previous indiscretions, therefore it was totally not an issue.

Her visit throws the proverbial spanner into their otherwise "normal" family life. I was compelled to keep reading as Eunice's arrival turned the family upside down. There were so many plot twists in this book that I kept thinking I'd figured things out, but was surprised again, which I totally loved.

I really don't think there's much more I can say without giving away important plot points, so I'll just finish by urging everyone to give this a read, when it comes out in February 2016.

Monday, 23 November 2015

#fitmas progress - week one..

Well, I guess the short answer is, there's been none. I spent the whole of last week feeling utterly rotten, with frequent dizzy spells meaning that I was really struggling to do much, let alone a session at the gym. So, I'm ashamed to say I'm a week behind in starting the challenge. I'm going to start from the beginning this evening. Today is my Day One.


 Hope everyone else is doing better than I am.

I did manage to get back to my swimming this morning, though. I have less than 200 lengths to go and I'll have finished my Aspire Channel Swim challenge.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

The tale of a real life Fawlty Towers..

Apologies in advance for the length of this post, but there was too much to tweet.

This post has been a long time in the making and there have been times when I've been unsure whether to even post it. However, I've been asked so many times for an update on the incident where we were burgled in Brighton, so here are the facts for those who have asked. The first part of my account is the review I wrote for the Tripadvisor website, after my requests for the company's complaints procedure went completely ignored.

***Posted to Tripadvisor on 8th Sept*** We arrived at the Mercure Brighton Seafront Hotel, having booked a two night (Fri to Sun) stay as one of those "secret hotel" deals on a last minute website. Upon arrival, we found that the room was a little tired (small to medium issues like loose tiles on the bathroom floor meaning that after the first shower of the weekend, water seeped under the tiles and the floor stayed wet for the rest of the stay, no coffee in the room, etc). 

We didn't have a lot of contact with the staff, as we chose to breakfast elsewhere on Saturday morning, and after checking in and dropping our bags in the room on Friday night, we decided to go out and explore the city due to a noisy party being in full swing in the bar and function room downstairs (looked like a wedding, perhaps, which wasn't a problem, but there wasn't really a table free to sit down for a drink).

On Saturday night, having left the room around 8pm, we arrived close to midnight to find that our room had been burgled. The sash window had been forced open from the fire escape outside. 
We headed downstairs and made the front desk staff aware of the issue as soon as we had established what items had been taken. The staff member on the front desk did not seem at all sympathetic, or really at all surprised. He eventually agreed to call the police and then handed the telephone over to me in order that I could provide the operator with more details. I was asked by the operator about CCTV to the hotel, and was told by the front desk that there is no CCTV to the back of the hotel. 

Once the crime was recorded, we were told by the operator that the police would attend within the next hour, so after being told that we would not be able to move rooms, had little option but to return to the room to wait for the police. When they arrived, they took details and gave us crime reference information and pointed out that the security level of the sash window was inadequate. We aren't aware of whether any other guests had problems in other rooms, or whether this is a common occurrence for this hotel. At no point did any member of the hotel staff ask if we needed anything or show any interest in the issue. 

Unhappy, but having been unable to move rooms, we spent our second night in the hotel unable to sleep, checking out at 7.30 the next morning. The girl on the front desk when we checked out asked if we'd enjoyed our stay, to which I explained "not really, due to our room being burgled the night before". 
She, unlike the staff member the night before, did at least have the decency to look sympathetic, telling me that although the manager was not available at the time, she would ensure she made the manager aware of the situation. 

I was told that a manager would be on duty on Monday morning, so called then to discuss the issues. In fact, the Hotel Manager was not (and still has not been) available to speak to, but the Acting Manager told me that the hotel had been in contact with the police about the incident and that they did in fact have CCTV to the hotel, so would be providing the police with that information. I was told that I would be kept updated with any progress and given details about their insurance policy procedures if I made a request for the information by email, but as yet have had no updates, nor replies to my email asking on progress. 

Having also been in contact with Accor, who are the parent company, I have found it nigh on impossible to find a copy of the complaint procedure as I am very unhappy about the way in which we were treated by a hotel which calls itself four star. 

Of course, I will be happy to update this review should the hotel get in contact, but it's a sad reflection of the facts so far.
What happened next?

7 Sept:
I was sent the details of the hotel's insurance policy in order that I could begin a claim for the items stolen from our room. I submitted this and waited several weeks to hear anything from the insurance company, who advised me that the hotel would be protected by the Hotel Proprietor's Act 1956, which limits the total amount of any one person's claim for property lost or damaged to £100. Whilst there is an exception to this law where items have been left in a safe deposit box, this wouldn't apply to us as the hotel room was not equipped with a safe and we were advised on check-in that there was no safe facility at reception. So, that's the first annoying thing.

11 Sept:
When the General Manager of the hotel returned from his holiday, he did reply to my email outlining my disappointment about our stay. His email was full of gems such as this: "I would also expect them to show sympathy, put you at ease and perhaps offer a complimentary refreshment whilst you were waiting for the police. This training will certainly be discussed with the nights team highlighting your comments as an example." in response to my disappointment about the way we were treated by the reception staff. General Manager was unable to assist me with finding a complaints policy for Mercure.

Overall, I found all of his emails frustratingly weak and disinterested in resolving anything. I asked about a refund of my stay and was told that the hotel wouldn't be able to offer me a refund for our stay until the police had closed the case although I failed to see how those two things could be related. I asked for a refund on the basis that the service provided was sub-par, not to do with the fact we had been burgled. (As far as I'm aware, the police case being closed hasn't yet happened. I haven't heard anything from the police since the night of the burglary.) 

23 Sept: 
So, in mid-September, about a week after my TA review was posted, and the hotel had posted their standard reply along the lines of "we're sorry you didn't have an enjoyable stay", I tried to contact the Mercure UK twitter account in the hope that they would have a complaints policy I could work through. They sent me many DMs and tweets telling me that my concerns would be passed to a relevant department, but no actual reply about a complaints procedure. V. frutstrating, but their twitter feed seems to be full of the same, copy/paste replies. 

Sept 25: 
Finally an email from someone in a position of authority? Well, from the Jupiter Hotels head office anyway, who are the chain owning the hotel I stayed at. The email told me that my email to the hotel had been passed on for her attention. and mentioned how seriously the chain take the safety and well-being of their guests (which certainly doesn't seem to be the case from my experience), and finished up with: " Your comments with regards to the way this has been handled by the staff at the time have been very much noted and would like to assure you will be addressed accordingly."

So, that's useful. They'll address my comments and try not to let their guests be burgled in future? Or, if they are burgled, they'll try harder to look as though they care? Um. Naturally, I replied to say that was all very well but what use was that to me and that I would hope that the hotel would be prepared to refund my stay.

Sept 29: 
A reply to my email offering a 50% refund of my stay "because you didn't have any issues on the first night of your two night stay". 
Frankly, I found that even more insulting than the prospect of not offering anything at all. Suuuuper professional, or at least fully inkeeping with what I'd now come to expect from the company.

Oct 1:
My favourite email of the lot, as the company try to blackmail me.
"Further to our correspondence last week, thank you for taking the time to speak with me again yesterday and I am disappointed that I misunderstood your request with regards to refunding your stay.

Having reconsidered your request, I can confirm that we are able to meet this as a further gesture of goodwill on the proviso that the negative reporting is removed from 3rdparty and social media sites.....which will be posted under separate cover to your home address once I have your confirmation that this action has been carried out, and you should receive 7 working days thereafter." 
Honestly, I had no idea how to reply to that one. Since my review on Tripadvisor had been nothing but an accurate account of the facts of our stay, I didn't know whether this was something they could "force" me to remove. However, since I'd been told that the insurance claim would be limited to £100 payout, and the items which were stolen (including DSLR camera, iPhone and various other items) totalled a value of more than £700, we talked about this and decided that a refund of the stay, to put towards replacing the items we had lost, would be better than nothing. I'm ashamed to say that I was blackmailed by Jupiter Hotels into removing my account of my stay from the TA review site. 

Oct 2: 
TA review removed from the site, at the request of the hotel. 

Oct 7: 
Confirmation received from Jupiter Hotels that a refund would be sent out that day by cheque.

Oct 10: 
Cheque received. Frankly, I was amazed by this, as I'd been skeptical.

Oct 27: 
Email received from hotel's insurers to confirm that they had closed the claim on 14th Oct and had requested the hotel issue the settlement cheque.

Nov 4: 
Cheque and letter received from Mercure Brighton Seafront hotel in settlement of the insurance claim for items stolen during our stay.

Two months from the date we stayed at the hotel, they finally drew the matter to a close and I'll be happy never to have anything to do with them again. I'd certainly never stay at any Accor group hotel again in the future, which is a shame because all experiences with this chain have been great in the past.

I've put the combined money from the refund and the insurance claim towards replacing my camera, which covered a large part of that cost, although not all of it. But you live and learn, and I'll certainly remember to keep it with me at all times in future when I'm away.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

What's the time, Mr Wolf?


Some more photos from our recent trip to Erddig. Having finally (kind of) resolved that debacle with the hotel after having our room burgled when we went to Brighton, I have replaced my camera. I took it with me on this day trip in order that I could have a bit of a play with it. 


I went for the Canon 1200d again, as it had always been a great model and there's no function I'd say it were missing. At present, Canon are offering cashback promotions on some of their products. Plus, this particular model was on a bundle offer where it came with a second lens, which is a zoom one. I'll point out that I still know next to nothing about taking photos, but I@m enjoying learning.


Friday, 20 November 2015

Friday Favourites 170..

FF 20.11 Collage
001 // 002 // 003 // 004 // 005 // 006

So many  pretty things catching my eye this week. Everywhere I look, it's Christmas this and Christmas that. But, since I've done all of my shopping for other people already, I've been steadily adding things to my own wishlist. 

I've had my heart set on just about any / all of the Rachel Riley dresses - so many pretty prints, but I think this cat print one (001) is my current favourite. 

Speaking of lovely dresses, People Tree seem to have come up trumps with pretty dresses lately; I love just about everything in their Winter Florals range. The Ramona (003) and the Abby (004) would be welcome additions to my wardrobe, for sure.

My current favourite Irregular Choice heels have got to be these (006). Gem styled the red version of Truly Scrumptious recently and I love them, but I think I like the multi-coloured bows on the gold version even more.

Last but not least, Little Moose, who are possibly my favourite jewellery company of recent times. They have recently launched their Alice in Wonderland range, and frankly I'd like one of everything, please.

What are you wishing for this week?

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Postage stamp progress..


Amazingly, there has been some. The novelty has not yet worn off, and having decided that the gym wasn't really an option last night after suffering a ridiculous coughing fit from just getting out of the car and walking up the stairs home, I decided I may as well crack on with the quilt.

So, having finished sewing my four-strip blocks together, I pressed all of the seams down. Next, they get cut into strips across. leaving me with 324 strips, all 2in wide.

The next task is to create the 16-square blocks, by putting four strips together and trying not to get too much repetition. I'm quite content with the idea of it being a random placement, but didn't really want to end up with any two squares the same next to each other. I got a little confused with the seam allowance directions to begin with, but think I've got my head around it all now.