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January 24 2013
8 things to consider before sending your kids to boarding school
November 02 2012
Is office space essential to your business image?
Looking the part really matters, so here are some tips for polishing your professional image and looking like you mean business:
It used to be every business owner’s dream to see their name up there on the brass plaque or in flashing lights. But the exorbitant cost of commercial business premises is one of the key factors that has fuelled the growth of home businesses.
Few businesses these days can afford the cost of buying or renting, especially if the only real use of the space is somewhere to keep a dusty old filing cabinet and a kettle. This applies equally to smaller start-ups and established global enterprises, with their flexible footprints and hot-desking.
Even the smallest business may have an international aspect, and many have only international suppliers or customers, so the facility to make international phone calls to different time zones while sitting in your dressing gown is far more important than where your office is.
A whole new wave of virtual address services and virtual office solutions has emerged, encouraged by demand and by technological innovations. Gone are the days of dusty old PO boxes projecting a slightly dubious image.
The alternatives to buying or renting full-time office space are to rent occasional meeting space when required, pay for a virtual address at which to receive important correspondence, or see clients at their expensive offices while continuing to work from home.
This is one area in which modern home businesses can smarten up to compete effectively. Digital printing has revolutionised the look and cost of business stationery. A good logo and co-ordinated business colour scheme can help a small business to look bigger and punch above its weight in terms of professional image.
Cost-conscious businesses no longer have to settle for plain black and white or photocopied notepaper. Full-colour digital printing in small runs means most businesses only have to invest a few pounds for great-looking business cards, and they can save in stationery by printing their own notepaper from an ordinary desktop printer.
This works because hardly anybody sends documents out by post these days; most business correspondence is done by email.
Innovative telephone businesses such as Vonage are rewriting the rules when it comes to business communications. Being able to respond effectively to client or customer enquiries when they come in is probably the most vital part of a business.
This can be hard if you work from home and don’t want to confuse your business line with your home number and risk having your four-year-old pick up the phone to your largest customer. And it can be hard if you are often on the road or travelling internationally.
In these situations, using VoIP phone services can be a real life saver and help you field and return calls with the same consistent professionalism wherever you are, whether you are on the beach or in your pyjamas at home.
Small business resources
Useful resources for small businesses starting up
An in-depth look at digital printing
Voice over Internet Protocol ‘VoIP’
How VoIP technology works
October 26 2012
5 of the world’s tallest buildings
Burj Khalifa is the world’s tallest building, it is located in Dubai and is measures at an amazing 2,723 feet high. Construction for the building begun in 2004 and it was completed in 2009, but didn’t officially open until 2010. The Burj Khalifa cost a total of $20 Billion its main use is for offices.
Makah Royal Clock Tower Hotel
The Makah Hotel is located in Saudi Arabia and is the tallest hotel in the world and has the largest clock tower face, but doesn’t quite make the tallest building, coming in second. As well as being a hotel, there is also a 5 story shopping centre with a car park capable of holding up to 1000 cars; this seems like a pretty flash hotel!
Taipei used to be the world’s tallest building but was replaced by the Burj Khalifa, which then slowly slipped down to 3rd. The building has a variety of different things inside it such as restaurants, a shopping centre, conference rooms, clubs and much more.
Shanghai World Financial Centre The Shanghai Finance centre is the 4th tallest building in the world located in China, the building took 11 years to be completed. It has multiple uses such as a shopping centre, museum, hotel, conference rooms and offices.
International Commerce Centre
Finally, the International Commerce Centre is the 5th biggest building in the world and is located in Hong Kong, China. This building took 8 years to complete, inside the building are a variety of different things. For example there is a 5 star Ritz Hotel that occupies around 16 floors, a shopping mall and offices.
October 24 2012
How to choose the best volunteering opportunities overseas
If you are interested in volunteering aboard, websites such as http://www.projects-abroad.co.uk can help you find projects that are tailored to your own personal or professional goals. Below are some ideas of the kind of areas you can specialise in and the projects you can get involved with in different countries.
If you want to get into human rights…
· In Mongolia you can work with organisations like The Gender Equality Centre to help combat areas such as sexism in the workplace and domestic violence. You will be working on individual cases as well as with other organisations, running campaigns to raise public awareness.
· Placements in Morocco allow you to get involved with refugee work and the support of vulnerable children. You will help with the preparation of educational tools, with monitoring elections and with running training programmes.
· Human rights campaigns in Senegal are promoting respect for life and human dignity, working to promote peace, friendship and solidarity in Africa. As a volunteer you would provide legal assistance to victims of violations of rights, as well as helping the Senegalese people understand what protection they are entitled to.
If you want to get into nursing…
· If you are interested in nursing abroad, a placement in Mexico could see you working in a large hospital, a clinic, or even in an HIV centre, depending on your experience.
· Nursing volunteers in Peru get to travel around the Cuzco area, working in a variety of hospitals and clinics. Intermediate Spanish language skills are needed for this placement.
· Nursing placements in Senegal give you the opportunity to go on healthcare outreach projects in the local community, working with local street children known as Talibés.
If you want to get into journalism …
· A journalism placement in Argentina allows you to help with the production of a monthly magazine run by street children. You will be involved in translating articles and covering local stories of interest.
· Volunteering in Costa Rica will allow you to take part in a placement at a local television station in Liberia. The station aims to educate, inform, entertain and reinforce the local culture. You can get involved with translating, writing, editing and even presenting.
· Journalism placements in Ghana allow you to get involved in either radio or television. Radio volunteers can help produce a show, read the news, take part in debates and interview people on the streets about different topics. Television volunteers will work on education programmes that discuss health, conservation, education and human rights.
If you want to help with conservation …
· The Diving and Marine Conservation project in Cambodia allows you to help protect local marine wildlife, including endangered seahorses. As part of the project you will be trained as an Advanced Scuba diver, allowing you dive to depths of 30m.
· The conservation project in India at the Green Village Model Farm helps a district where 70% of the population earn their livelihood through agriculture. You will teach local people about environmentally-friendly ways to farm, as well as getting involved with tree planting and tending to livestock.
· The conservation project on the Galapagos Islands helps document and preserve the species on one of the world’s ‘megadiversity hotspots’. You will take part in guided hikes to learn about the ecology of the island, as well as helping with reforestation work and educational workshops.
No matter your area of interest, there are volunteering projects to suit you. Volunteering abroad allows you to enhance your professional skills and to help you stand out from the crowd by filling your CV with diverse experiences, as well as making an important difference to peoples’ lives.
October 12 2012
The best apps for portfolio optimization and managing your money
There is no doubt that the internet has revolutionized our lives. When it comes to investments and financial management, we need up-to-date information instantly. Everyday investors can now browse the web and find the latest insight from industry experts such as APT. The internet brings this insight directly into our homes – and the additional information provided by APT can be found here whenever we log on.
It is arguable, however, that mobile apps have revolutionized the investment and money management landscape even further. They enable us to have this information in our pockets. On last checking there were over 16,000 apps for Apple devices that listed finance as their main category. Here are the best of all these apps for helping you to take control of your finances.
Best for investment and portfolio optimization
The free Fidelity app gives you easy-to-read financial news, market updates and watch lists for keeping on top of things, whereas brokerage apps such as TD Ameritrade actually allow you to follow the markets and to buy and sell shares. WikInvest Portfolio Manager is ideal for active traders as it allows you to securely pull together all your brokerage accounts into one place and track your portfolio’s performance over time.
They say that the best way to learn the markets is to play them without the financial risk. The iTrade Stock Market Simulator app lets you do exactly that by giving you a virtual $100,000 to deploy by buying and selling shares using real-time quotes.
Best for keeping track of your spend
Money Lover – Expense Manager is an intuitive way to manage your spend on the go. Enter your income and keep track of your spend and you will be amazed at just how much your local coffee shop takes from you each week!
Best for saving
This has got to be a first: something that makes thinking about saving interesting and rewarding. Savings Calculator is a simple but addictive app that tots up how much money you could be saving over the short or long term if you did not spend on certain items.
Best for managing debt
The Debt Payoff Planner costs less than a £1 but it could save you so much more. It can be so tricky to keep on top of the different terms, conditions and rates of loans, credit cards and overdrafts. This effective, if not pretty, app helps you to understand your debts and to calculate which to pay off first.
Best for converting currency
XE.com will be known to most web users as the authoritative site for converting currency and its mobile app is just as reliable. Find the latest rates and historical data whether investing abroad or just going abroad.
Best for price comparison
Forget trawling from shop to shop or crawling through websites to find the best price on a product. ShopSavvy Barcode Scanner lets you use your smartphone’s camera to simply scan the barcode of the object of your desire and it will bring up a list of online and local prices. If the cheapest price is online, you can even purchase it directly through the app.
September 25 2012
Three Reasons you should visit London after the Games
Prices and hotel availability
If you’ve been trying to book a hotel room during the Games, you’ll already know what an impossibility it was. Many travellers booked their accommodation months (and even years!) in advance to secure their place in easy reach of the Olympic stadium. Thankfully, now that the Games are over, demand is less high so you’re more than likely to find a place to stay.
Because tourism is likely to slump a little after such important events, it’s worth checking out the special deals available for hotels and B&Bs across the city. During September, there’ll still be plenty to do in the capital but you won’t have to break the bank to do it.
Monuments and guided tours
Thanks to the Games, London is now host to an array of new iconic sites and landmarks. Many of these will be open to the public after the Games, with tours available throughout the week. Here are a few sites not to miss.
The heart of the action, East London’s Olympic Park contains the 80,000 seat Stadium, the Aquatics centre and the Velodrome. Tours are available in the Park as well as information about London’s Legacy after the Games.
The pitch at the heart of the Games in London, Wembley Stadium is already iconic in itself. Take a stadium tour or stick around to catch a game.
North Greenwich Arena
Also known as the 02 Arena, this site played host to the basketball and gymnastics events throughout the Games. Usually a top venue for pop concerts, North Greenwich Arena offers tours where you can go right on top of the dome and see fantastic views across London.
Lee Valley White Water Centre
The site of the Olympic canoe slalom competition, this arena was re-opened to the public in September 2012. Anyone can try this exciting sport for themselves and where better to do it than where the British team won gold?
Enjoying the legacy
Right from the start of the original bid, the Olympic and Paralympic Games in London were all about the legacy. As well as the physical monuments and transformation of East London, new programmes have been put in place to create lasting changes in the UK’s capital.
Youth programmes have been created to connect a wealth of young people to sport with an International Inspiration plan reaching 12 million young people around the world. Sports participation has been a sharp focus of the Games with sports education initiatives meaning that more people than ever can get involved.
The most obvious legacy of the Games is the re-generation of East London, which had suffered years of neglect and contamination prior to the Olympics. New parklands have been created, thousands of apartments will be available and new transport links mean that London will be more connected than ever.
Of course, there have always been many reasons to visit the UK’s capital, with or without the Olympic Games. Landmarks, cultural events and learning opportunities have always been in abundance across the city of London. For individuals looking to learn English in London, Skola offers courses in many exciting locations. Visit their website today to check out a full list of courses provided by Skola Group organisations.
London Bed and Breakfasts
Cheap accommodation in London
Transport for London
A guide to public transport in the capital
General information about tourism in London
September 07 2012
Sharing is Caring
When it comes to travelling, it can become quite pricey. Petrol is only going up in price and work is only becoming harder to find. Well, if you were planning a journey to almost anywhere there are lots of ways of saving money. One great place to do this is Go Car Share, a website that allows you to create a journey and see if anybody wants to join the ride! You can state exactly how much you want for petrol; either way it’s going to work out cheaper. Depending on the length of the journey, a friendship could be made- or at least a special story.
Even if you just wanted to go out for a few drinks, there are now websites that offer services to share a taxi. Taxi for Two is a great way to save some money on those shorter journeys. Even if you’re sharing with one other person you’re still going to cut the far in half. It’s a no-brainer, right? It’s much safer than spontaneously getting in a taxi with a stranger when they offer to share. You can find taxi’s to share straight from your mobile, too. Again, a new friendship could always blossom from a situation like this.
Already got a car full and on your way to, let’s say a festival? We all know how manic and expensive parking can be at such large events. With Park at my House you can avoid the expensive long-term parking fares and hours of queues. Instead, your car can be sitting safely on one of the locals’ driveway while you party. And you can come back to it just the way you left it, unlike this lucky fellow..
So next time you’re traveling, consider the money you could save, the wonderful people you could meet and the fantastic stories you’ll have to tell. Share the love!
July 30 2012
London Olympics: Show me the Medals!
So far Team GB has won a total of 2 medals (which may change by the time you read this) which shouldn’t be judged harshly, considering the games last for 2 weeks. But many have said they expected to see Great Britain competing at a higher level in much more events this year. The Chinese have won the most gold medals so far (7), which is more than double the amount of USA who are next in line. It seems since the Beijing Olympics many of the Chinese have been inspired from the games; perhaps this will have the same effect on Great Britain- the official slogan is ‘Inspire a Generation’, after all.
I think as a nation we just need to keep calm, relax, enjoy the amazing sporting events and eventually cheer and applaud our athletes when they start to wreak the benefits of their years of hard training.
My message to all Brits would be to keep calm and carry on! I have a feeling the medals will start to gather up.
So which nation do you think will come out on top with the overall medals? China are looking strong, along with the USA. But anything can happen! After all, I thought I’d seen it all after the Queen jumped from a helicopter (with James Bond) into the Olympic Stadium for the opening ceremony..
There have already been a few shocks in the first few days such as Mark Cavendish failing to win a medal & Spain getting knocked out of the football. I’m sure the World awaits many more surprises in these games.
All I can say is I can’t wait to see how it all unfolds!
June 11 2012
The growing trend of self build projects
Building your own home is no easy task and many difficulties can be met along the way. Common pitfalls are poor task management, inaccurate time scales and lack of contingency plans. These are serious points to consider if you are undecided on whether to try a self-build but the ability to specify a house to your exact requirements and personal style are plus-points to not be forgotten!
How to get started
To start with the first thing that needs to be arranged is the financing, how big is the house going to be? How much does the land cost? How many builders will you require? These questions need to be answered for proper project costing and ideally should be assessed in conjunction with financing plans. Will you take on a loan, use savings or sell your home using the best online estate agency?
To speed up the process of releasing equity from your home, think about using property selling marketing boosters from online estate agents. These are all issues that need to be addressed and you then need to set an appropriate and realistic budget.
Right, so you have the plans and the money sorted, before any money is spent, check the planning permission for the land you intend to buy! So many self builds come a cropper to declined planning permission with many projects having to be modified and sometimes abandoned meaning any money spent has been wasted so please, check it out first!
Now once the planning permission has been confirmed make your land purchase and take the plunge! Commit and sell your house, you know it will be worth it once the home of your dreams is complete! Once this is all is in place, you have a decision to make, whether to hire a project manager or to manage yourself. This is often the decision that determines the success of the build. Although running the show yourself may seem doable and money saving, if you are hoping to hold down a full time job you should maybe reconsider. Project running is very stressful and can take its toll on relationships, jobs and your overall passion for the build.Always be prepared!
During the build many problems can arrive so be prepared! This is a lot smoother with a project manager but if you are organising it yourself expect a few bumps along the way. Try to keep your cool and remind yourself of how amazing it will be once it's complete. Make sure you do have plans for if the budget or timescale do slip a little as this can happen to even the most meticulously planned project and at such a late stage its worth giving it a final push of enthusiasm to get it done!
You made it
Moving into your new home will be a feeling like no other, all of that effort, time and money will be worth it. Yes it is a gamble and yes it may feel like an uphill struggle at points along the way but once you have done it, you will never look back!
May 28 2012
The wonder of the Scottish Lochs
It is located in Argyll and Bute. It has a surface area of 38.5 km2 and is not only the third largest freshwater loch in Scotland but also the longest one.
Situated at the north-eastern extreme of the loch is Kilchurn Castle, whose origin dates back to the 15th century. It was the Campbell clan’s habitual residence, a powerful family at that time.
Located by the lake’s Northern shore is another important building, St. Conan’s Kirk, whose construction was completed in 1930. The build was designed by the architect Walter Douglas Campbell and the name of Conan was given because it is the patron saint of Lorne.
It is the largest loch in all of Great Britain by surface and the second-largest by volume. Loch Lomond is situated in the West of Scotland and forms part of the region of Stirling, Argyll and Bute, and West Dunbartonshire.
In the loch you can find roughly 38 islands which are integrated into the Loch Lomond and Trossachs national park, which is the 4th biggest in Great Britain.
There are 200 species of birds living there and some mammals such as the Scottish deer or wild cats. As for flora, there is a huge variety of wild plants.
From Friday 27th until Sunday 29th July 2012, the Lomond Folk Festival takes place, which is in its 13th edition. Some Acts have already been confirmed including, Skerryvore, Phil Cunningham & Ali Bain & Paul McKenna Band.
Without any doubt this is the most famous loch in the world. It’s the second largest Scottish loch by surface with 56.4 km² and the largest by volume. It is located in southwest of Inverness.
According to legend there is a prehistoric monster called Nessie living in these waters. The first confirmed sighting dating from 565A.D when an Irish monk wrote that a disciple of him had seen a huge head of an estrange animal while he was swimming in the loch.
Since then, lots of people have reaffirmed that they have seen a monster swimming there. Since Dr. Robert Kenneth, who took the famous picture in which it seems there is a long blurring neck coming out from the water, thousands of people have marvelled at the enigmatic legend.
Glacial in origin, Loch Morar is located in Morar, Lochaber and is the fifth-largest loch in Scotland with 26.7 km2 of surface. It’s surrounded by magnificent beaches of white and fine sand.
In the past it was very famous because of its salmon and trout fishing. But nowadays this practice has been almost eradicated.
If Loch Ness has its own legend thanks to Nessie, it is said that the Loch Morar is inhabited by Morag, another strange creature.
Sightings of Morag date from the 19thcentury and the most famous was protagonised by Duncan McDonnel and William Simpson – the 2 fishermen who told of how a huge monster came towards their boat and how one of them shot it and the animal sank.
May 08 2012
Off the beaten track in Spain
If you have taken Spanish lessons Manchester, London and other UK cities will only offer so many opportunities to practise your skills. The best way to use your newfound language skills is to visit Spain. Here are some of the best places...
The Ronda Mountains
In the southern region of Andalucía, just half an hour north of Málaga, the Ronda Mountains rise up out of the sun-drenched landscape. The tallest peak stands at just under 2,000m high, making the area a playground for climbers, hikers and mountain bikers alike. A walk through the hills will take you through ancient olive groves, past jagged rock formations and tall limestone spikes, and then down into the deep valleys below.
The main town in the area is Ronda, which is the site of Spain’s oldest bullring. The theatre stands on a huge limestone buttress 3,000ft above sea level. The Guadelevin river runs through the town, dividing it in two and forming the El Tajo canyon. You can cross from one side of the town to the other by using the Puente Nuevo, a bridge built in 1793 that towers some 120m over the canyon floor.
For a real taste of rural Andalucían life, stop off in one of the hilltop villages, which are accessible from Ronda town. El Gastor and Montecorto are both picturesque places to lap up the country life with the sound of church bells ringing and the relaxed atmosphere
Santiago de Compostela
Take a pilgrimage to Spain’s smallest city and join thousands of others in a walk to the famous Santiago de Compostela cathedral. Located in the huge Plaza de Obradoiro, the cathedral allegedly holds the remains of St James the Apostle. People come from as far away as France and Portugal to walk the Camino de Santiago, a tradition that has spanned several centuries.
The town’s historical old quarter is packed full of things to see and do. Places to visit include evocative monasteries and convents, the Bishop’s palace, art galleries, museums and cloisters. Take a break from walking around at one of the beautiful fountains and enjoy some local cuisine in an enticing delicatessen, inn or tavern. The city is full of magical back alleys and streets, constructed in the dignified blocks of grey granite typical of the Galicia region of Spain.If you are planning a trip to Spain and want to improve your language skills before you go, taking a course at a school such as UIC Languages is a great way to learn. For more information on our Spanish courses prospective students can visit our official website.
Famed as the final outpost of the southern Spanish peninsula, Tarifa is a windswept town in the region of Cádiz. From the main beach of Los Lances, visitors are able to see Morocco across the Strait of Gibraltar, with the African continent lying just over 10 miles away. Tarifa gets very windy and is therefore a mecca for wind and kite surfers alike.
The architecture of the small town is amazingly diverse with gothic, medieval and Moorish influences. The Castle El Guzman el Bueno was built in 960AD by Abd ar-Rahman and is one of the best examples of medieval architecture in Spain. From the tower visitors can take in a 360-degree view of the city, the sea and hinterland of Cádiz, which is simply breathtaking.
Information regarding travel destinations in Spain
Natural history and walking holidays
Bullfighting is a traditional but controversial spectacle of Spain
May 01 2012
Is Manchester the place to be in 2012?
London may be the centre of the UK, but for a good night out, a nice meal, a career and somewhere to live, is it necessarily the best option? Taking nothing away from the capital, it’s rowdier yet more down-to-earth counterpart Manchester has plenty going for it.
If you are considering a trip to somewhere in the UK or possibly wondering about where next to live, Manchester is certainly worth some of your time. Here’s why.
Manchester has always been Britain’s artistic, yet realist, city. Musically, whether you look back at the Factory Records and Hacienda era, Oasis’s Brit-Pop legacy or contemporary acts, such as Doves and Elbow, Manchester constantly has a say in what’s hip.
One of the major selling points for the city is that whatever scene or subculture you enjoy, there will be a part of town to suit you. Canal Street caters for the large gay and lesbian scene, the Northern Quarter is the place to be for the media-types, while Fallowfield is perfect for students.
As is the same with any city in the world, Manchester has many suburbs where you could live or stay while taking a trip. The Northern Quarter, which is bang in the centre of town, is perhaps the hippest location at the moment. But if you’re looking for something a bit cheaper and less central then you need to be careful about where you choose, as some areas are certainly friendlier than others.
Chorlton can offer vegetarian supermarkets, organic delis and bars with beers from all over the world, while Fallowfield is ideal if you’re studying at one of the universities, given its location and number of places to spend a night out – Trof Fallowfield is particularly popular.
For affordable bed and breakfast Manchester offers lots of great options. Somewhere within easy reach of the centre is probably your best bet.
The BBC has recently moved its premises to neighbouring Salford. An area that was once neglected by the bright lights of the city now has a real buzz about it, and along with the BBC’s centre at Salford Quays, there are plenty of other thriving new start-ups lining the streets.
Although not quite in London’s league when it comes to finding a job, Manchester is a prospering city with plenty of job opportunities. You will find that there are many offices, conference rooms, retail centres and a thriving media part of the city.
The official tourism website for Greater Manchester
Get the latest news from the BBC in Manchester
The Guardian’s guide to the top 10 city breaks in the UK
April 30 2012
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