It’s a cow’s life – Red Poll roam free in Cambridge

red poll in Grantchester Meadows

Continuing the scuseme what interviews with interesting people around Cambridge. The Red Poll cattle come onto the Commons in Cambridge on the 1st April. I meet with Angelika von Heimendahl to find out how they got there.

Cattle on the Common

cam cattle cambridge scusemeThe landscape of Cambridge is defined by its college spires, medieval cobbled streets and the swathes of green that border the Cam for most of its passage through the city.  And pivotal to this historic scene are the cattle that graze these meadows.  Notably on Midsummer Common, as well as the gentle slopes that run down to the river from the Grantchester path.  Grazing rights have been fundamental on this common land for hundreds of years, but cattle have returned only over the last 10 years, thanks to the intervention of grazier and Cambridge vet, Angelika.

A common for a commoner

Angelika studied agriculture in her native Germany. She had long had an interest in farming, but her day to day dealings with people’s family pets in her Cambridge practice, as well as raising a family left her little time to pursue this interest.  “I was walking the dogs one day on Midsummer Common with a friend not long after the Foot and Mouth epidemic.  He told me that the common had lost its grazier.  We were worried about the fate of the land, and whether it would simply become unmanaged parkland.  It was then that I had my lightbulb moment.  I had the knowledge and interest to farm, but no land.  So, I applied to the City Council and became a Commoner”.

Red Poll roam

By 2007 Angelika had bought her first eight Red Polls, a traditional East Anglian breed of cattle, which are now quite rare.  Their relatively small size, docile nature and inherent lack of horns (polled means without horns) makes them ideal for locations where they are likely to encounter people.  “Eager customers quickly made themselves known and my first eight were sold over a few weekends.  So, when Grantchester Meadows became available to rent from its owners, King’s College, I was able to expand my stock”.

Meat market days

With a growing herd (Cam Cattle now has 70 steers), Angelika needed to find other ways to sell the meat.  “We started doing (and continue to do) Cambridge’s Sunday market and we also sell our meat in St Ives (every 1st & 3rd Saturday of the month), Impington (every 3rd Saturday) & Fowlmere (every 2nd Saturday).  We sell through Mr Waller’s butcher on Victoria Road, Chesterton, as well as through the Lensfield Road Farmers Outlet”.

Happy cattle

The tranquil scene of grazing cattle on a summer meadow belies the hard work and management required.  In the winter the cows need to leave the meadows, and Cam Cattle has a “bed and breakfast” arrangement with a local farmer.  Although red polls can be used for milking, Angelika just has beef cattle.  “Calving would be a problem in an urban environment, with dogs and people around, and the cleansings dropped in the grass after birth.  We buy 9-12-month-old calves that have been weaned from their mothers from two fantastic Norfolk breeders that supply us every spring”.

Food provenance

Food provenance and the way the beef is produced is fundamental to Cam Cattle.  “We produce excellent, grass fed, local, organic meat and are part of the ‘Pasture for Life’ farming association that tries to reduce the environmental footprint that livestock farming can have”.  Angelika feels that industrial food production has separated people from the food source. That additives have become so widespread and that it is impossible for the consumer to read every label. Local farmer’s markets make it easy to buy the basic ingredients for every meal and know what you are eating, with the added bonus of local and seasonal produce.

“I respect vegans and vegetarians because they think about their food and live by their principles.  The customers that I find difficult are those who say ‘I couldn’t eat them because I see them every day’.  That is the point: if you eat meat, then you should know where it comes from.  Surely, it’s good to see what kind of life they have had.  Who would know that a Cornish leg of lamb bought in Waitrose in Truro will have been taken to their single slaughter house in Pontefract and then brought all the way back again?  Even so called free-range chickens are kept in tens of thousands.  I would personally rather reduce my meat intake than eat something that I think has had a bad life.”

Spring pleasures

Angelika gets so much pleasure cycling through Midsummer Common and seeing her cattle in full view of the public.  “When the cows get turned out in the Spring, they put their heads down and you can see how happy they are being outside again.  They don’t look half as nice inside; there is something about the beautiful russet colour of my cattle set against the green pasture”.

Easy going cows

Angelika believes humans are hard wired to connect with livestock.  “I have favorites, problem children. Last year we had one that didn’t want to get too near to people.  But it’s those that are too tame that can be more of a problem. This is because people can become silly; like trying to put their kids on the cows’ backs or shove the buggy under a cow.  I had someone report me to the RSPCA because they said the cattle had diarrhea not realizing that cow poo comes out like that. The guy from the RSPCA found it highly amusing”.

But generally, people get on just fine with her cows.  “Dogs and cattle are usually all right because they strike a balance.  When the dogs get too cheeky the cattle will turn around and put their heads down because they have had enough”.  Angelika’s advice is simple.  If you approach don’t get eye contact as this makes them see you as more of a threat.  Also approaching them from behind is worrying for them. If you have a dog and the cattle get worried; let the dog go.  If they chase your dog it will run away and escape under a hedge. But she has not had an injury or a problem in ten years.   “My cows are pretty easy going”.

So if you fancy some happy (and very tasty) beef, come to any one of the Cam Cattle outlets.  Beef, pies, pasties, biltong (from a lovely South African who lives in Grantchester), and lamb from a farmer in Willingham.

To find out more visit: here

Dawn Giesler is the founder of scuseme, a recommendation service that provides an essential and honest resource to help your family run smoothly. Dawn has lived in Cambridge for over 20 years and offers advice based on her own experiences. Contact Dawn if you want to have a question about our services or visit scuseme for more information.

10 ways to manage a stress-free home improvement project

stress free home improvement scuseme Cambridge

Enjoy a stress-free home improvement project

Embarking on any home improvement project can be very stressful, involving family and household disruption and major spend.  But there are a number of things you can do to make your life easier.  Choosing the right contractor and establishing a good business relationship is key. 

In Cambridge, with the high cost of ownership, many people are preferring to extend rather than move. As a result good tradespeople, builders and contractors are in great demand.  In today’s environment of quick fixes, there are many inexperienced traders who give building trades a poor reputation.  Be prepared to wait for the right people; otherwise you my be deciding in haste to repent at leisure. 

We have put together a check list that will help deliver an improved home in the way you want it.  Do not be tempted to skip any of these steps, which should help give you peace of mind and a stress free job.

The contract

As soon as you give a contractor the go-ahead, you’ve made a contract with them, even if it’s not written down.

But a verbal conversation isn’t enough.

For your protection always get a written contract before you give the go-ahead. If not, you could end up regretting this if the contractor doesn’t do what you agree, and it’s your word against theirs.  A written contract should help avoid disputes big and small, and is as important for the builder as it is for you.   

If the builder gives you a contract, check if it covers everything you agreed.  Alternatively you can write your own: the RIBA Domestic Building Contract 2018 is a good starting point.

scuseme builders contract

A physical address

Make sure you have all your contractors’ contact details including a landline as well as a mobile number.

Why not drop off your first payment at their business address? Then should you need to contact your contractor after work has begun, you’ll know where to go.

Check carefully what is in print, especially if you found the details from a suspicious looking flyer.

Licenses and permits 

The construction industry is controlled by a variety of regulations and the requirement to hold specific licences or permits to legally carry out certain types of work. Your contractor should inform you of the ones you’ll need, eg: builders skip permits and scaffolding license.  Equally important you must be confident that your contractor complies with building, construction and health and safety regulations.

Ask to see all their certificates.


Injuries can occur on a construction site.

If the location is your home and your contractor does not have the proper insurance, you may be held liable.

Check that your contractor has the following and get policy numbers and call the insurance companies to verify coverage.

  • Public liability insurance
  • Employer’s liability insurance
  • Contractors’ professional indemnity (a third of builders do not bother with this, which could land you with a huge bill.)

Scope of work

Before any work can be undertaken, there are lots of factors that need careful consideration. People plan for the decorating and furnishing but the landscaping is often overlooked. This is usually an essential part of the project.  Work with either your architect, surveyor or design and build company to produce a detailed plans that will be the central point of reference for everyone involved in your project. Everyone working on the project should understand your vision.

Try to think of as much as possible at this early stage as changes will affect the costs and deadlines, sometimes significantly.

Duration of work

Make sure the contract covers start and finish dates and if you’ve agreed on a daily rate, the number of days the work will take and how many working hours are in a day.  Costs should not include travel time.

Delays do occur, some caused by the client and some outside the contractor’s control.

Confirm what the contractor will do about them. For example, on large projects ‘liquidated damages’ could be arranged with failure to finish by the completion date.  This should represent a real estimate of the likely cost of delay to you, eg: the cost of renting.  If you are responsible for the delay, you need to give an agreed extension of time. Otherwise the completion date in the contract becomes redundant, and instead of having to finish the work by a specified date, your contractor will plan to complete it within a reasonable time.


A good contract should include a list of exclusions. These might relate to areas that are hidden such as the likelihood of finding asbestos within walls or the true condition of services and foundation once the ground is excavated.

You should speak to your builder to help you plan your contingency budget should any of these situations arise.

Materials & subcontractor

Make sure the contract coves who pays to buy or hire materials and equipment. Get all receipts and paperwork to cover the things that the contractor buys.

Find out in advance if, and when they’ll use subcontractors.

Payment schedule

While payment schedules can vary by the job, they should always be agreeable to both parties involved.  Your contract should cover when and how you’ll pay.  Aim to pay by card or on line, and pay in stages.  Why not consider making payments tied to milestones in the project rather than those tied to percentages of completion?  Try to avoid deposits of upfront payments.  If contractors insist, pay no more than 25% or offer to buy the materials yourself instead of paying a deposit.  That way, at least you own the materials if something goes wrong.  Always get some protection for your money.

Avoid contractors who only accept cash or want you to pay everything upfront – it’s a sign they could be dishonest or unreliable.


The standard warranty for work is one year from substantial completion. You can take out insurance if the contractor offers it; check what is covered before you invest.

Insurance should cover the cost of finishing or fixing the work if the contractor does a bad job or goes out of business.


Dawn Giesler is the founder of scuseme, a recommendation service that provides an essential and honest resource to help your family run smoothly. Dawn has lived in Cambridge for over 20 years and offers advice based on her own experiences. Contact Dawn if you want to have a question about our services or visit scuseme for more information.

We’ll check through our list of approved Cambridge builders and tradespeople and give you the contact details of our recommended choices.

Why a local resident set up scuseme Cambridge

scuseme cambridge

Why I set up scuseme Cambridge?

As a local resident one of the questions I am asked most frequently is “why did I set up scuseme Cambridge?”. The answer is simple.  Despite living here for over 20 years,  it can be difficult to find trusted tradespeople and home services.  I have lost count of the many times I have heard friends and colleagues asking one another “can you recommend a ….”.    Of course, the first point of reference should always be to ask someone you know; but what if you are new to Cambridge, or your regular tradesperson is no longer available?

Local and trusted

As a local resident I set up scuseme Cambridge to provide a free and reliable place to connect with the help that you need.  I have a vested interest in Cambridge, I have worked here and I have a family here.  I wanted to build a business that builds on the relationships and local knowledge that I have acquired over the years.  But, unlike other recommendation websites, scuseme is about using people that have a vested interest in the community.  I often bump into scuseme recommended tradespeople in and around Cambridge.  They are people who I have met up with to personally vet and that face to face interaction builds trust.

Another reason behind the business was in response to the increasing incidents I read about where cowboy traders take advantage of the vulnerable.   I have experienced this in the past and it is very distressing.  I set up scuseme to provide a safe source of trusted tradespeople and home services.  Especially for people who may feel vulnerable, scuseme is not just an online service, anyone can connect with scuseme on the phone.  Indeed I have even met with a number of customers  in person to get testimonials.  The reputation of scuseme is growing and because Cambridge is well connected, my good reputation is precious.

It is a fact that the risk of getting a cowboy trader is hugely inflated if you use someone who disappears after the work is done.  Every person on my site is known to scuseme personnel personally.  They represent the best of their trades in terms of the excellent value, experience, and customer care.  I  personally meet all our tradespeople and experts; that way you can be confident the recommendation and I build real relationships with my team.  There is no one on my site that I wouldn’t happily have in my own home.

Cambridge back then

I’ve lived in Cambridge for over 20 years. I love it here. I’ve got some close friends and I feel really at home, especially in the vibrant community around Mill Road. When I arrived with my husband in 1996 it was all new to me. Having lived and worked in London, young free and single, the pace seemed slow and a social life seemed a long way off. Back then I worked at the Science Park in Melbourn and although I met (and remain friends with) some great people, nearly everyone relied on cars.  I missed a spontaneous social life. The ghostly abandoned car park on a Friday evening always depressed me; where was the Friday night piss-up?

Our neighbours were welcoming and great helping us get to know the area. And when our family life started, new friendships blossomed as they tend to. Gradually my neighbourhood became and remains my ‘village’ with all the great things that a small and intimate community brings with it.

How do things get done?

One thing that takes time is knowing how things done. I would ask neighbours, colleagues and friends for recommendations for odd jobs; my husband is useless at this stuff, although he maintains that my unplugging him from the mains one fateful afternoon when changing a broken bulb sealed our relationship. And of course, the internet soon became an essential. But amassing a group of reliable and trust-worthy professionals took a while and involved some costly mistakes.

The idea for scuseme

So I remember what it can be like moving to a new area, and I think I am (I try to be) a good neighbour. When our next door neighbours started renting out their house, we had a regular turn-over of new families. I soon became the person they called on for help. That’s when I came up with the idea for scuseme: helping others kick start the relationship with Cambridge that took me such a long time.

With Cambridge growing so quickly I developed scuseme as a service that would replicate an on-line word-of-mouth recommendation – like a friendly neighbour. It was easy to come up with a name because my daughter used it all the time as a toddler to constantly ask questions.  scuseme now provides Cambridge residents with a wonderful source of local talented tradespeople and home services and the word is spreading.

Looking ahead

My challenge now is to continue to grow the business so that it covers every conceivable local service.  We have introduced services including accounting and book-keeping, chimney sweepers, photographers, tutors and we are about to launch a firewood online ordering service with a local firm. Exciting times are ahead.

If you are looking for a local recommended tradesperson or home services in Cambridge contact us here

For more news and updates Follow us on Twitter @ScusemeCambs LinkedIn @Scuseme Limited and give us a Facebook like here

How to get the most out of revision time?

Learn to learn better

In just three months’ time, summer exams in Cambridge, including life-defining GCSE and A-levels, will be under way.  How do you get your child to make the most out of their revision time, and end up with the best grades?

They need to know how to learn better.  

The key to learning better is to develop independent study skills.   This is easier said than done.  Like many parents I have spent many hours motivating (sometimes bribing) my children to revise.  However, I have seen that the development of independent study skills helps your children:

  1. Structure revision sessions
  2. Become less stressed
  3. Build confidence.

So, encourage your child to start early, learn in short bursts, test themselves on a subject over several weeks and leaving lengthy intervals between each session.

The last thing they should do is cram.

Successful study skills

To become confident, independent learners at post-16 and beyond student’s should prime and develop their study skills.

Too often attention is paid solely to the content of academic courses at the expense of the development of independent study skills. But a student needs strong study skills to deliver his or her academic potential.

Several generic study skills must be processed but it is important to adapt and refined these for the needs of specific subjects.  The aim of core study skills is to master the key areas of organisation, research, note taking and assignment writing.

On this basis with help and guidance a student should then develop styles of study which are personal and individual.


This is a key skill which surprisingly undermines many students who cannot organise their time well.

Students need to know how to timetable and to work towards deadlines. The personal aspect is built in with the student’s realising his or her best places, best times and best styles of work.


So much of post-16 study is dependent upon an ability to research effectively.

Where should students look for evidence for assignments? Libraries and resource centres need to be used in a clear and focused way, whilst the demands of electronic media need specific forms of research skills.

Note taking

Students need to adopt a sharp eye for selecting relevant information when making notes.

Sometimes it is difficult to know what material to collect and what to leave out. Effective note taking requires different levels of reading skills.  This will produce relevant material for use in assignments/exams.

Writing assignments

Whilst different assignments need different ways of putting together material for written assignments, there are some generic rules/tips which can help.

The structuring of thematic paragraphs is important in developing a relevant flow to an argument. In addition, effective and relevant introductions and conclusions can lift essays into higher grades.

This was developed by Richard Perry our scuseme co-ordinator.

Contact Richard for help with revision skills and learning here

To receive from scuseme Cambridge subscribe to our newsletter 

Dawn Giesler is the founder of Scuseme Cambridge, a recommendation website that helps your family run smoothly.  She has lived in Cambridge for over 20 years and offers advice based on her own experiences. For more information visit scuseme.




Ten things to help reduce fuel bills and keep warm at home.

Beat the beast from the east

Cambridge saw temperatures plummet to –6C on 1st March – the first day of Spring! The freezing temperatures and red alerts are setting new records in Cambridge and the rest of the UK, with Storm Emma and the Beast from the East blowing an artic gale.  While the snow is fun keeping your home warm and cosy is not always easy and can be expensive if not managed properly.

Here are ten easy thing to do to that will help reduce your fuel bills and keep your home warm during the harsh winter months

1. Insulate water tanks in unheated areas.

2. Check that your loft insulation is thick and in good condition, running over the pipework where possible.

3. Check that your boiler has been properly serviced.

4. Minimise draughts from outside and close doors to unheated parts of your home.

5. Seal small gaps around the areas where your TV, cable or telephone lines come through your wall.

6. Leave your loft hatch ajar, allowing warmer air to reach the loft preventing your water tank and pipes freezing.

7.  If you’re going away and the temperature’s likely to drop below freezing, keep your home’s central heating at a minimum of 15°C (59F) for a few hours each day.

8.  If your property is unoccupied for long periods, turn off the water at the stopcock and consider draining down the system.

9. If your chimney is not in use get an old cushion or pillow and push it up into the chimney breast, opening it out to stop the air (but not jammed tightly to stop any circulation).  Keep it just visible so you don’t forget to remove it when you light the fire.

10. Make the most of the snow and examine your roof.  If it is covered in snow that means it is well insulated and you are not losing heat.  Patchy or no snow indicates poor insulation. Invest in some good insulation.

Some of these jobs can be managed as a DIY project but if you want to find a locally recommended tradesperson for the jobs that require an expert,  get in touch with scuseme for help.


Get in touch: Tel 01223 520573 or email:

Dawn Giesler is the founder of Scuseme Cambridge, a recommendation website that helps your family run smoothly.  She has lived in Cambridge for over 20 years and offers advice based on her own experiences. For more information visit scuseme.

How to help hedgehogs thrive in your Cambridge garden

hedgehog cambridge garden

Protect hedgehogs in Cambridge

The recent State of Britain’s Hedgehogs 2018 report, published by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society and the People’s Trust for Endangered Species, show hedgehog numbers have fallen by about 50% over the last 20 years.  The report found that there has been a severe decline in rural areas, but there are signs that populations in urban areas may be recovering.

If you make small changes to your outdoor areas and gardening habits, you can help create a ‘hedgehog haven’ and protect Britain’s national species. By encouraging hedgehogs to take up residence in your garden you will provide them with a safe home throughout the year and play a small part in encouraging their survival.

Responsible Cambridge citizens here’s what you can do to help our spiny friends thrive in your Cambridge garden.

Hedge not fence

Plant hedgerows instead of using fencing to encourage hedgehogs to socialise. However, if you must fence, cut a small hole 13cm x 13cm (the size of a CD) to connect your garden with others. As urban gardens are increasingly fenced in and cut off, hedgehogs are unable to move between gardens to find food and mates. Our local handymen can help here if you need it.

Go wild

Leave a patch of garden naturally wild with overgrown corners and wildflowers to encourage hedgehogs. By recreating the hedgehogs’ natural habitat, they can use twigs and dead vegetation to build their nests. It also creates a habitat for the insects which hedgehogs eat.

Tread carefully

Check for hedgehogs before using strimmers or mowers, particularly under hedges where animals may rest and hide.  Beat the top of vegetation lightly to scare away hiding wildlife.

Compost cautiously

Take care when turning your compost with heavy equipment.  Spread the heap before October/November ahead of hibernation. Empty your bin after April, once hibernation season is over.  A good compost heap provides hedgehogs with a great hibernation and hunting environment.

Leave leaf litter & logs

Leave areas of the garden ‘wild’, with piles of leaf litter and logs. Damp leaves provide the perfect shelter for ground beetles, worms and other tasty bugs. Leaves also provide the perfect nesting material for hedgehogs, which can move their bed several times throughout winter.  Log piles encourage a rich feast of earwigs, centipedes and woodlice, perfect food for ‘hogs!  Woodpiles will also provide refuges for wildlife to hide in.  Local supplier of logs.

Hedgehog home

Check sheds, patios and paving carefully for any sleeping critters before removing or relocating them. Hedgehogs and other wildlife may nest under these structures as their homes. You can also make a simple hedgehog home by placing a piece of board against a wall.

Discard pellets

Use one of many “natural” alternatives to slug pellets, like sprinkling crushed eggshells or coffee grounds around the plants you need to protect.  If you must use pellets, place them under a slate which is inaccessible to hedgehogs.  But even so, hedgehogs can die after eating slugs which have the pellets inside them. If you want to get rid of slugs in an eco-friendly way, encourage wildlife into your garden which eats slugs: like hedgehogs! A gardener’s friend.

Be alert

  • Cover drains and holes and place bricks at the side of ponds to give hedgehogs an easy route out.
  • Build bonfires as close to time of lighting as possible and check them thoroughly before lighting.
  • Remove sports or fruit netting when not in use to prevent hedgehogs becoming entangled and getting injured.

Feeding Hedgehogs

Hedgehogs are greedy animals and can eat half their weight in just one day. The hedgehog’s natural diet mainly consists of slugs, ground beetles, caterpillars and worms. During cold or dry periods, these creepy-crawlies become much scarcer in gardens, so hedgehogs will benefit hugely from a shallow dish of water and supplementary feeding.

Hedgehogs will relish any combination of chicken or turkey flavoured dog or cat food in jelly (not fish or beef), hedgehog food, or cat biscuits. Place in a shallow dish and put in a sheltered area of your garden around sunset.  Make a feeding station that is difficult for anything larger than a hedgehog to access to avoid the food you put out being eaten by pets or foxes.

Don’t feed hedgehogs cow’s milk or bread: they cannot digest the bread and cow’s milk gives them bad diarrhoea. Also don’t give them salty food like bacon and corned beef.

Did you know?

  • The mating season for hedgehogs is from April until August, with up to two litters a year. The female makes a nest of grass, well hidden in the undergrowth, and has two to four hoglets that are born spikeless (you can guess why), with closed eyes. She suckles them and they grow quickly. They leave the nest after about three weeks and become independent.
  • The hedgehog has about 16,000 prickles on its back.  These normally lie flat but are raised by special muscles in times of danger.  The head and legs are also tucked in, making the animal into a spiky ball, protecting it against most predators.  Sadly, it is this same response which also results in so many hedgehogs being killed on our roads.
  • As many as 10 different hedgehogs may visit a garden over several nights, which could mean ‘your hedgehog’ is a number of different individuals visiting at different times.
  • Hedgehogs hibernate to bypass the cold months of the year when food becomes scarce. If the weather is warm (as it is increasingly) and food is put out for them every night, some hedgehogs do not feel the need to hibernate and will stay active all through the winter. Even so, hedgehogs do not hibernate continuously; they get up for a few days at a time throughout the winter to top up their reserves.  Making hedgehog homes in the garden and providing food will help them get through the cold periods.

Find out a little more about the hedgehog

If you would like to discuss your garden design project, from a simple redesign to total transformation we can recommend local designers who understand the environmental and ecological impacts of planning as much as the creativity and functionality. Get in touch for a FREE consultation.
Dawn Giesler, is the founder of Scuseme Cambridge, a recommendation website that helps your family run smoothly. She has lived in Cambridge for over 20 years and offers advise based on her own experiences. For more information visit scuseme

How to protect your home from burglars – 20 tips from scuseme Cambridge

burglar scuseme cambridge top tips

Things you can do to protect your home from burglars

The 2015/16 crime statistics revealed by Cambridgeshire Constabulary reported over 600 burglary cases across the county an increase of 130 on 2014/15. I read frequent headlines in the Cambridge News about local burglaries and thefts. With the average house in Cambridge valued at nearly £400,000 and the average salary £31, 000, Cambridge is tempting for burglars.

20 tips from scuseme

FACT: 47% of burglaries are spur of the moment and not pre-planned, they’re opportunistic. If a potential intruder happens to walk past your property, don’t be an easy target.

1. Gravel the path / driveway

2. Use timers to switch lights and radios on and off when you’re not at home.

3. Install outside lighting with infrared motion sensors

FACT: Most burglars will try the front door to start, then the first floor window, then the back door, followed by the garage and the basement.  Burglars will look for ‘hidden’ spare keys or simply kick the door in or remove it from the hinges. Don’t make access easy.

4. Replace rotted door frames with new, solid wood.

5. Use door and window locks – dead bolt locks, bars on windows, and pin locks in sash windows.

6. Lock sliding doors and windows.

Little hint:  To stop a sliding door from opening, even when it’s unlocked, put a curtain rod in the track at the base.

7. Replace or secure doors with glass panels with deadbolts that can only be opened with a key.

FACT: Burglaries spend on average 10 minutes in your home. They specifically target homes that look easy to get in and out of. Don’t be attractive to burglars.

8. Trim or prune plants that could provide cover and if you plant hedges near you home, consider ones with thorns.

9. Lock ladders away

10. Join a Neighbourhood Watch Scheme

Little hint: If a thief does get into your house, you can prevent loss of your valuable objects by making them hard to find within 10 minutes. The dresser drawer, bedroom closet, and freezer are some of the first places thieves look, so forget about those hiding places and consider hiding valuables in plain sight. Consider within books, games boxes, cereal boxes or false bottom drawers and safes which our handymen can build.

FACT: Only half of burglars are strangers. The other half are familiar to or well known by the victim.

11. Only invite traders you can trust into your home. See article on trustworthy flyers

12. Do not indicate whether you are away or not when you change your status on social media

13. Be careful when location tagging images on social media.  Only share your holiday highlights when you return.

FACT: The majority of burglaries are committed by someone living typically within 2 miles of you and take place between 10.00 am and 3.00 pm.

14. Vary times for some out of house routines; e.g. shopping, dog walking, exercise classes.

15. Schedule services you use such as window cleaner, and gardeners, to come during prime theft hours.

16. Become friendly with your neighbours – they are the best people to keep an eye on your property, put bins out when you are away etc.

17. Set a random timer to turn on your TV or radio on during prime theft hours.

FACT: Burglars no longer want to steal televisions and sound systems. They are more likely to be looking to steal car keys and even your personal identity data. It’s more beneficial for a burglar to take documents, laptops, passports and bank cards to sell your personal data from them.

18. Install trackers on your technology equipment.

19. Have copies of your passports and all other important documents

FACT: Burglars don’t like dogs

20. Get a dog

Little hint: If you don’t own a dog get a “Beware of the dog” sign, but also add some supporting evidence of dog ownership, like leaving a dog bowl outside by your side door.
scuseme cambrige dogs burglars

Protecting their territory

Dawn Giesler, is the founder of Scuseme Cambridge, a recommendation website that helps your family run smoothly. She has lived in Cambridge for over 20 years and offers advise based on her own experiences. For more information please visit: scuseme

What’s special about Cambridge Youth Opera?

scuseme cambridge daphis chloe

Opera for free

I first came across Cambridge Youth Opera (CYO) in 2015, when my daughter’s singing teacher suggested she join.  Despite her initial cynicism of opera, she had a successful audition for a solo role, and three years later she is still with CYO and we are both fans.  CYO provide free, open access to high quality opera activities for children and young people from the Cambridge area. CYO is run by a dedicated team of volunteers and trustees, and employs outstanding professional coaches to put on wonderfully professional productions. I meet with Caroline Coetzee, the founder and artistic director, to find out what makes CYO so special.

Caroline Coetzee Cambridge Youth Opera scuseme interview

Why opera?

In 2010, Caroline was looking for something that would enable her to work in opera and support the community. Caroline recalls: “I have loved opera my whole life and am passionate about opening the arts up to young people. Opera is great for this because it encompasses all the arts, but it’s seen as expensive and exclusive. I wanted young people to understand that opera doesn’t have to be like that.  My daughter was a singer, but while we could always get singing lessons, there was little to help her and her friends understand what opera was really all about.”

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The power to excite, move & amuse

Caroline comes from a family of artists: her mother was a concert pianist and father a writer. Caroline studied singing, musicology and theatre, then worked in opera in South Africa, Germany and the UK. Reflecting on her childhood, Caroline explains: “The arts were a normal part of daily life in our house.  Something people just did.  It wasn’t until I went to secondary school before I realized that for most of my friends this wasn’t the case. For most of them the arts were something ‘out there’ or for other people. That has always seemed wrong to me. It isn’t that everybody should have a career in the arts; but everybody should have the opportunity to experience the arts and make them part of themselves.”

This is one of the key motivations behind CYO. “The provision of arts education in the UK is patchy and becoming more so. The arts should be a natural part of daily life, but I think there’s a danger of it becoming something exclusive to those with money, or with a background in it. Unfortunately, there’s still a vast group of young people in the UK who honestly don’t see the arts for them. That is why it was so important for me to make CYO affordable and inclusive in getting across its power to excite, move and amuse.”

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Caroline is passionate about using CYO to bring opera to young people and new audiences. “CYO is for everyone. Because most of our participants won’t have experienced opera before they come to us, we don’t audition our chorus and our production activities are open to everybody.

“A key part of CYO’s success is that it’s not just about singing. Young people get involved in costume and set design and making, stage management and lighting, as well as singing and playing in the orchestra. Consequently these opportunities help young people develop confidence and independence”.

A suitable production

Finding operas suitable for young voices is a challenge. Caroline sought the help of Julia Caddick, Roger Bond and Yvonne Williamson for CYOs first production in 2011, Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas. Dido got funding Cambridgeshire Music and John Lewis and was a great success. Young people provided everything from the orchestra to the set and costume design. Caroline remembers, “The two stage managers ran the show completely on their own; they were 13 years old. That set the bar for everything that came afterwards!”

CYO have since performed The Magic Flute, Amahl and the Night Visitors (twice), Brundibár, and Daphnis and Chloe; they are now working on a new double bill of Benjamin Britten’s The Little Sweep and the European première of Edward Barnes’ The Hiding Tree.

The team select works that don’t put a strain on young voices, and where necessary, Caroline translates and adapts the opera so their productions are interesting and relevant. For example, Daphnis and Chloe performed in 2016, was set on Grantchester Meadows.  From the start Caroline has had an ambition to do something new: “To commission a new opera and work with an artistic partner on a piece written specifically for CYO would be incredible.”

scuseme cambridge daphis chloe

Daphnis & Chloe

Free activities  & superior coaching

CYO has ambitious plans, but providing free activities is central to their ethos. “To ensure CYO’s long-term future and to become sustainable we gained charitable status in 2016. We have a fantastic board of trustees who oversee our activities. Parent volunteers and others interested in what we do carry out our administration and management.”

The key to CYO’s success is the quality of the coaching. Caroline says, “Anne Taylor, our musical coach, ensures that every aspect of the music is of the highest quality. Julia Caddick, our vocal coach, does amazing work, developing young voices to sing with an appropriate and healthy sound. Alastair Chilvers, our musical director gets everything to sound unique, energized and professional. I take care of all aspects of staging and elements of dramatic performance and I’m responsible for the overarching concepts of the shows.”

When needed they bring in other coaches. “In our new show The Hiding Tree, choreographer Julia Pond is working on her second production with CYO; training the amazing Monster.  Seven singers will perform The Monster and we’re excited to have a professional costume maker on board.”

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The Monster in rehearsal

“Quality is vital to us,” says Caroline. “We have been invited to perform professionally with the English Touring Opera on two occasions; this is tribute to the exceptionally high standards we’ve created.”

Funding & partnering

“Fundraising is a huge part of what we do. As a result we apply for grants, look for individual and in-kind donations and put on fund raising events. We especially want to secure corporate sponsorship for CYO and develop a longer-term relationship with anyone interested in supporting us as a sustainable organization.”

Building strong partnerships with schools and colleges in Cambridge is important to CYO. “Our most important one is with Chesterton Community College, our home and rehearsal venue” says Caroline. “In return, their students have unique opportunities to get involved with our activities and contribute to the artistic life of the College.” CYO is also a partner with Cambridgeshire Music and contributes to their opera strategy.

“We’re always on the look out for new partners and would love to hear from anybody who would like to get involved.”

Future plans – the dream

CYO has ambitious plans for the future. “We’d like to start with primary school children.  Particularly in areas where access to the arts is difficult” says Caroline.  To introduce young children to the basic principles of opera in a fun and practical way CYO is exploring a programme of primary school workshops called Stories in Song. 

Down the line, CYO hopes to develop workshops for young singers; to provide them with the skills and experience to get onto competitive opera courses. “We’d love to provide an end to end solution.  With open activities for primary school children and teenagers, to more advanced courses for young adult singers at the very start of their careers. That’s the dream!” says Caroline.

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More information:
Cambridge Youth Opera 
Donate to Cambridge Youth Opera 
The next CYO production is a new double bill of Benjamin Britten’s The Little Sweep and the European première of Edward Barnes’ The Hiding Tree to be performed on the 26th – 28th March.
Photo Credit: / (
Caroline was interviewed by Dawn Giesler, founder of scuseme, a recommendation website developed to provide an essential resource to help your family run smoothly. Dawn has lived in Cambridge for over 20 years and offers advice based on her own experiences. For more information please visit scuseme




Valentine’s Day in Cambridge – 12 romantic places to eat out

romance in Cambridge photographer

Valentine’s Day in Cambridge

Cambridge is a romantic city and St Valentine’s Day provides the perfect opportunity to try some wonderful independent restaurants.  We’ve put together our top 12 romantic places to eat out in Cambridge.

Our recommendations cover a range of prices to match any budget and they still have some availability.  These restaurants reflect the rich cultural diversity of Cambridge and cater for many dietary requirements.

The top ranking establishments such as Midsummer House, Cotto and Ristorante Il Piccolo are fully booked for the 14th February, but we have found plenty of other recommendations

valentine's day cambridge places

Credit: Mike Taylor

scuseme’s 12 most romantic places to eat out

Trinity Restaurant is a great addition to the Cambridge food scene. This elegant restaurant serves up fabulous food in relaxed surroundings.  You won’t be disappointment.

Tradizioni serves authentic Italian food, made with fresh ingredients and although they don’t have a license, there are plenty of shops nearby that sell wine.  There is a £1 charge on corkage.

Signorelli’s Deli  serves fantastic authentic Italian lunches and early evening meals.  Delicious home made food to eat in or take away for a romantic evening in.

Polonia Club has really good quality Polish food in a lovely setting.

The Olive Grove is a family-run award-winning restaurant serving Greek classics with modern twists and a Valentine’s day menu to tempt your taste buds.

La Maison du Steak if a succulent steak and a bottle of red are the ingredients for a perfect Valentines dinner, this is the place, and delicious vegetarian options also on the menu. This is French cuisine for romance. .

Six provides spectacular views over the Cambridge skyline. A perfect setting for starry-eyed lovers.

Bedouin: Tantalise your taste buds with North African cuisine and surround yourself with the luscious and romantic décor of the Sahara for the evening.

Maurizio Dining & Co a lovely place that share the passion and tradition of Italian food and wine, with a special Valentine’s menu and warm, friendly surroundings.

Luk Thai at The Cricketers: For Thai classics and some fusion instilled for a special Valentine menu.

Da Luca Cucina is a sophisticated little Italian eatery and bar with fantastic cocktails, ambient jazz and a great menu.

Alimentum is a great value Michelin-star dining experience and although expensive, it is a special occasion (very few places for lunch and dinner remain).

Whatever you decide to do ….

……….a stroll in a beautiful park,  a punt down the river, or cycle around the colleges?

valentine's day cambridge places

Credit: Mike Taylor


“Happy valentine’s day ” love scuseme x

valentine's day cambridge places

Credit: Mike Taylor

Picture Perfect Moment

If you want to capture a romantic occasion, an engagement, wedding, or anything else, contact our recommended photographers to discuss your project.

Dawn Giesler, is the founder of Scuseme Cambridge, a recommendation website that helps your family run smoothly. She has lived in Cambridge for over 20 years and offers advise based on her own experiences. For more information please visit: scuseme 

I’ve been lucky enough to have tried all of the restaurants listed so the opinions expressed are my own.


7 of the best butchers to get haggis in Cambridge for Burns Night

haggis cambridge scuseme

Get haggis, neeps and tatties. 

Are you ready to celebrate Burns Night on the 25th January?

Don’t worry if not. We’ve checked out the best local independent butchers in Cambridge to find out what is on offer.

Whether you are looking for a traditional haggis, a vegetarian option or something a little bit different, any of these butchers in Cambridge can help.

So, enjoy the address to the haggis, the toast to the lassies and reply to the laddies.  Get carried away with the splendid verse of the bard, Robert Burns

Our top 7 recommendations
ButcherHaggisVegetarian More Info
Cousins C & SonsMacSweens
A Waller & SonOwn special recipe passed down generations from the original family owners in the 1950s No website
The Art of MeatFarmer's Son
(Check availability first as selling out fast)
No website
Cowlings Family Butchers MacSweensNo website
Barkers Bros Butchers Home-made
Michael Beaumont MacSweensNo website
Histon Hog RoastButcher's Haggis
No website

Looking for the best place to get your neeps and tatties, look no further than Cambridge Market

Enjoy a dram on scuseme

Conducted by Dawn Giesler, founder of scuseme, a recommendation website developed to provide an essential resource to help your family run smoothly. Dawn has lived in Cambridge for over 20 years and offers advice based on her own experiences. For more information please visit scuseme