How to create the illusion of space in a small room

interior design, cambridge,

How to create the illusion of space in a small room

Space is a luxury that creates an environment of peace and relaxation. If you want to make the most of a small room, then creating the illusion of space is the answer. 

In Cambridge there are  many properties with limited space.  For example, student flats, pint sized new builds, quaint cottages and modern bijou apartments.

Doing my job, I meet many experts who build, create, design and style spaces to client specifications.  So, given that  space is a premium in Cambridge, I spoke to one of them who can help. 

Kate Gallimore is an interior designer with experience both in the UK and the USA.  She follows three golden rules: stay tidy, find storage solutions and declutter regularly. Here she shares some of her wisdom and advice for designing and arranging small spaces.

Big is beautiful

Have you noticed that an empty room actually looks smaller that a room full of furniture?  The lesson here is to play with scale and do not put tiny furniture in a small space.  Find a bold statement piece of furniture, such as a sofa, plant or wardrobe.

If you go for a big sofa choose a shape that isn’t too square and boxy, maybe a shaped back and rounded arms.  Also try to avoid pinning the sofa to the wall. People think that pushing the furniture back against the walls creates more space but positioning the sofa even just a little bit off the wall gives it breathing room and creates the illusion of space and circulation. 

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Bums on seats

Be realistic about how many you can actually seat and don’t try to provide seating for all your friends coming around to watch the cup final. One sofa, plus one comfy armchair is plenty.  Add to that a smaller, characterful slipper chair, an ottoman, even an upholstered bench that doubles up as a coffee table and you have plenty of additional seating and ‘perches’.

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Magic mirrors

Mirrors are one of the best solution for small spaces.  When placed opposite or adjacent to a window they draw light into a room and reflect what’s outside to make the space feel larger.

Build up

Because floor space will be a premium, build up.  Use the wall space to store books, ceramics, music etc. Invest in tall cupboards and creative shelving building up to the ceiling.

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Long drapery

If you have windows that needs dressing, consider hanging drapery and curtains from the ceiling to create the effect of a taller room.  Use this same technique to create doorways and soften the space.

Strong colours, bold patterns

Be fearless. Use colours that you love and mean something to you, borrow inspiration from a painting you love or a foreign city.  A room without a window will always be dark, so work with the shadows and choose a fabulous colour to give a wow factor, rather than “Oh. It’s a dark room”

Play with patterns: if a room is narrow, use horizontal stripes to widen it; if it has a low ceiling, then vertical stripes will give the illusion of height, or create a ceiling that will make a huge impact.  Have fun with colours.

 

All the images are courtesy of Kate Gallimore Interior Design, a scuseme recommended expert.  You can contact Kate here to discuss your interior design needs and ideas. 

The country show’s in town

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From town to country

Cambridge is synonymous with so many wonderful events; some with rich histories such as Strawberry Fair and others more recent, such as the Thirstyfest Biergarten.  Cambridge Town and Country Show feels like it has been around for much longer than the 12 years to date such is its impact.  June 2018 marks their 12th show.  I meet with Emma and Charlie Owen, the team behind Oakleigh Fairs, to talk about their journey from the city to the country and the success and relevance of their business today.

Emma reminds me of where they started. “Back in 2005 we wanted a lifestyle change, and after lots of research we bought Oakleigh Fairs, a successful business We started with seven country shows that took place around the M25 and a few Christmas craft fairs. Scoot forward 14 years and we’ve now got close on 30 regular annual events. We’re now one of the biggest organizers of country fairs and shows through to Christmas Fairs to food festivals in the UK” says Emma.

scuseme what interview oakleigh fair

They saw in Oakleigh Fairs a business that had lots of potential.  Of course, there is always a risk taking on a new business. However, Charlie, with a background that takes in the Navy, Management Consultant and the legal profession and Emma, with a marketing background, meant they were confident they could make it work. Charlie reminds me of the early days. “When we started we were based in our house on Tenison Avenue in Cambridge. We booted our daughter out of her bedroom to make an office and then we would park our huge lorry on the road, much to the everyone’s horror.  It soon became obvious that we needed more space, so we left Cambridge and moved to Thriplow and carried on from there”.

Cambridge Town and Country Show born

With so many events, I’m curious to hear how Cambridge Town and Country Fair came about. “The big idea was in part down to my dad” reminisces Emma. “I was brought up in Cambridge and lived alongside Midsummer Common.  As a child there was a lovely heavy horse show that used to take place on the Common. Lots of horses and tractors.  I also remember that on Parker’s Piece there was either a Tudor or a Victorian fair at the start of the Cambridge Festival.  I think that has now evolved into the Big Weekend. Nevertheless, we’d been in business for about a year and Dad said to me and Charlie, ‘Why don’t you do one of these things in Cambridge?’.  We thought, why not?”

Charlie continued, “Ems’ dad put us in touch with Alistair Wilson, head of green spaces at Cambridge City Council.” Emma recalls, “He came from a farming background and loved our proposal.  He just said, ‘great idea; where do you want to do it?’”                        

Cambridge has lots of green spaces but managing the pressure on these is important. Midsummer Common takes quite a hit with Strawberry and Midsummer fairs so they settled on Parker’s Piece.  And, in an already busy summer schedule they had to consider the best time to introduce another major event; the weekend after Strawberry Fair was agreed upon.

Fees or free

Oakleigh Fairs’ events usually charge an entrance fee, which is easy with a gated or tented site. This was not an option on Parker’s Piece. Emma explains, “Parker’s Piece is the resident’s village green, so it had to be free.”  Charlie says, “Working without the income from the door was new territory, and risky for us.  Ground rent, advertising, marquees etc, everything comes from our pocket, whereas normally we would recoup some of that in gate money.  But because Cambridge is such an appealing and diverse city we attract lots of good stallholders to make the event a success.”

Luckily, the first Town and Country Show immediately sunk into the local mind set and was a triumph.  Emma explains, “We were new, and we had glorious weather”.  Outdoor events are very risky because so much is dependent on the weather.  Charlie carries on, “We’ve had years when our business has suffered because of poor weather, and that’s all year round.   Harsh winters, rain etc all have a negative effect.  There is a direct correlation between footfall and the weather so we’re both bonded to our weather apps.”

Town and country

Fundamental to the success of The Cambridge Town and Country Show is that it represents the country as well as the and town: “The clue’s in the name” pipes in Emma. “North Cambridge, well north of the A14, is a hugely rural community, which is slightly forgotten about as people think about the wealth that comes from technology, business and the universities, mainly located in the south.  Our show crosses that divide as our goal is to provide a great day out for everyone who comes along.”

Stalls, entertainment and shopping

Any show is only as good as the entertainment and stalls on offer, so Oakleigh put a lot of effort into finding good acts. Emma says, “The stall holders and exhibitors are the backbone of everything we do.  If they don’t think that they’ll make money, then we don’t have a show.  But our Cambridge events are popular because we have a good turnout.  Our traders know that Cambridge people like product and love shopping.”

Charlie describes the challenges they face dealing with a shrinking entertainment industry. “We’ve noticed that it is increasingly difficult to find good acts.  It’s a tough industry to make a living and finding ones that provide good value is not easy.”

Fewer competitors suggests it should be easier to get good stall holders. Emma explains, “One significant change we’ve noticed is that we now have more weekend warriors because traders have to take on full time jobs to supplement their incomes.  Cambridge fortunately attracts enough stall holders to fill three large marquees, two craft and the other food.  The marquees create a real buzz with customers and stall holders engrossed in conversation.  And they help massively given the uncertainties of British weather.”

scuseme what interview oakleigh fair

Backbone in tradition

The Cambridge Town and Country Show brings the steam engines and the vintage vehicles, “beautifully coordinated by a chap who is a steamer”, says Emma.  “One of my favourite things is watching the steam engines chug down Mill Road and come onto site.  The steam community is an important part of the show that always draws lots of attention.  It brings together not just the bloke in blue overall but the children, mum and granny, who might well be driving the huge great engine.  They are all eager to share their skills, knowledge and experience with anybody and everybody.”

For the show to remain fresh the agenda must accommodate new exciting acts. Charlie says, “Some of the best include the bessom broom-makers, the historical re-enactors and pole lathing.  These people are so knowledgeable, we feel that we must take some responsibility to keep this stuff alive, to give people a taste of living history.  So, it’s a real diverse mix that’s appeals to the enthusiastic Cambridge audience.”

Emma tells me that this year they will bring back the heavy horses and the Savage Bike Skills Team who went down a storm in the past.  Determined to keep the show varied they do something a bit different to appeal to the melting pot where everyone comes together for a good family day out.

Family entertainment & educating

To guarantee top quality entertainment Oakleigh Fairs took over running some of the displays themselves.  The business base moved to the Essex/Suffolk border, where they have the land to develop their own animal displays.  I am told by Emma, “We now have a very good selection of our own entertainment, including our own bird of prey unit.  When we display them at shows we always invite children in to fly them, but we also have a static unit, so people can come and learn and interact with them and see them up close.  Our petting corner is popular; children love to bottle feed the goats. And, they can have a run with the terriers.  The whole ethos is that visitors go home feeling like it’s their show.”

scuseme what interview oakleigh fairs

Charlie tells me how the business is definitely a family thing, “You’ll see our two girls helping the birds of prey, or with the goats and ponies. We all love it.” I have known the Owens for over 20 years and have seen their daughters progress from assisting with the animals to even taking over some of the display commentary.  Tilly controls the birds of prey in the ring and narrates at the same time entertaining huge audience. Isabella takes on the pony display and helps with the goats.  They are both impressive.

Oakleigh Fairs go much further to take the countryside into the towns and cities and specifically to children.  This is important to Emma, “We really want to share our passion for the countryside and it’s sad to know that there are children in cities who might never have met a sheep or a goat or an owl.  So, we take our animal units into schools and other educational settings during the week.”  Charlie continues, “We’ll explain to the children how developing barns into houses takes away barn owl nesting sites, and cutting down hedges results in road deaths where the owls no longer get diverted over the tops of cars.  We want to make children think about consequence on wildlife and the environment.”

Green living 

To give back to the environment is vital to Emma and Charlie.  So, one of the things they have been able to do at home is divide some of their land and develop it into small warm paddocks which they rotate with some years fallow so they don’t overburden the worm population.   Charlies says, “We also got a grant from The Woodland Trust, so all of the hedging is made up of native plants to provide habitat for the birds and insects.”

An old jacket

As our interview ends I ask them of the many events they manage if they have a favourite.  They both agree that it’s Cambridge.  Emma says, “It feels like a homecoming.  We’re right next door to the nursery I went to, and our girls as well, and we always catch up with so many people we know.”

Charlie concludes, “Cambridge comes with specific challenges, like having to build the event while the public walk through it. But now it’s like putting on an old jacket. It’s a lovely place to hold an event. Especially when the sun shines.”

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.

 

 

 

How to look after your block paving, patio or driveway

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One of the nicest things about the summer is to get out into your garden and enjoy the pleasures it brings. Your garden may be an oasis of flowers, with perfect lawns and beds, or a small courtyard with pots that bring your flowers to life. What’s important is that your garden provides the right space for you. A place you can spend time with family and friends, a place to eat, drink, relax, entertain and play. Lawns and beds require dedicated work and attention, a job, or in many cases, a hobby that is a pleasure. But what about any hard landscaping?

How do you look after your block paving, patio or driveway?

No matter how well a pavement might be laid or how much was spent on quality materials, they all require some basic maintenance to keep them looking their best.

Maintenance keeps paving in prime condition and lack of maintenance allows paving to deteriorate. We have put together a few pointers on how to handle most paving maintenance issues.

How to clean block paving

General dirt build-up will occur throughout the year, particularly in the winter. To keep your hard surfaces looking good, sweep regularly with a good broom and wash down with warm soapy water. Avoid jet washing block paving or slabs as this can damage the surface of the product.

After cleaning the blocks or slabs, you may find that some of the jointing sand becomes displaced so re-sand and re-point any joints as necessary and apply a weed preventative between the joints.

Stains

Be aware that some types of paving are more porous and therefore more likely to retain any staining. Different stains and spillages require different treatment.

Here are a few guidelines for common stains that occur on your driveway or patio. Where we have recommended treatments always carry out a test on a small section of the affected area first, with manufacturer’s instructions strictly followed.

Drinks

Scrub the affected area of paving hard with a stiff brush and some warm soapy water. For stubborn stains use a standard strength household bleach diluted to 1:10 and then rinse thoroughly.

Car Oil

To stand the best chance of removing oil from block paving soak up any excess with absorbent cloths. Do not wipe as this will spread the stain. Cover the paved area with a dry absorbent powder such as Dry Oil available from Mackays.

Moss / Algae

If you are looking for an eco-friendly solution contact our recommended local hardsurface specialists who only use HSE regulated products biodegradable cleaning products and a softwash solution. Alternatively, you can clean paving slabs using a proprietary weed killer, preferably in warm weather. The dead material should then be able to be brushed away as it dries out. Use with caution if you have pets or neighbouring animals that may visit your garden such as cats, hedgehogs and of course birds.

Fat / Oil

A curse of garden paving are the small fat/oil splashes that build up around a barbecue. They should be cleaned as soon as possible with hot, soapy water. Most will naturally degrade over time but be careful because frequent use can result in build-up and become dangerously slippery if not regularly cleaned. For this reason, why not use a gravel surface around a barbecue, as this can be raked over to present a clean surface or easily replaced in cases of heavy fat contamination.

Rust

Rust stains are probably the most difficult to remove from most types of paving. A lot of the ‘patio cleaners’ sold at the DIY shops are based on a hydrochloric acid, and these usually have no minimal effect on rust, and occasionally the stronger acid dilutions can sometimes make the stains darker. So try the following natural solutions:

Squeeze lemon juice directly onto the stained area, allow it to react for 5 minutes or so but don’t allow it to dry out. While still wet, scrub the stained area with a nylon brush, such as an old toothbrush, and work the lemon juice into the surface of the paving. Wash off with plenty of clean water after 5 minutes and repeat as necessary.

Vinegar – use a clear or white vinegar (spirit vinegar) rather than a coloured vinegar (malt or balsamic). Cider vinegar also gives good results on some concrete surfaces. Use in exactly the same way as described above.

Berries and Fruit

Berries and other soft fruit can stain paving when they fall from shrub or tree, and it looks worse when they first pass through a bird before being deposited on a pavement. When dry, the resulting stain can prove difficult to remove.
Use a mild, non-oxidising shampoo, such as a own brand baby shampoo to remove the stain. The shampoo acts as a surfactant and is an eco-friendly alternative to harsh sodium hypochlorite.

Scuseme hardsurface cleaning

All hardworking cleaning is carried out to an exceptional standard by qualified and registered REACH and HSE regulated experts using only eco – friendly biodegradable cleaning products. They offer FREE pre-installation site visits, FREE expert advice and FREE quotations.

To book a service with our Cambridge based experts please get in touch here 

Services include:
• Renders — including K Rend / Weber/ monocouche / Lime , Sand Cement/ Pebbledash
• Exterior brick & concrete blocks etc
• Roofs — Slate / Tile / Cement
• Concrete drives/ Block Paving / Tarma
• Sandstone / Limestone /Marble / Granite / Gravestones /Monuments.
• Timber— Fences/ Decking / Shiplap / Garden Furniture
• Conservatories/ PVC / Poly – tunnels
• Caravans/ Boats / Fibreglass
• Paintwork
• Gutter Cleaning
• Interior Hard Surface Steam Cleaning

Independent Cambridge

Independent Cambridge scuseme interview

The Indie has come a long way

Times are hard for retailers everywhere, even in relatively affluent Cambridge. In the past the independent sector has felt the pinch more than most, but things are beginning to change.  A resurgence of independent shops, traders and services is slowly taking hold. Independent Cambridge, created and helmed by Anne Beamish and Steve Linford, is working hard to propel this movement in our city.  Starting as a published book, their website is now the main window to (nearly) all independent purveyors of goods and services in the city.  I spoke with Steve and Anne to find out about the origins, ethos and ambitions of this venture.

Breaking the chain

In 2010, Cambridge was named by the New Economics Foundation amongst 117 other towns in the UK as having the least diverse high street. Then, all but one of the 57 stores on Petty Cury was a chain shop. Cambridge character was undeniable, but this drew solely on the city’s history and architecture; its Anytown high street made little contribution. Back then, Cambridge resident Anne Beamish was unhappy working for a London based publishing company.  Her experience on the committee for the Mill Road Winter Fair raised her awareness of an independent sector in Cambridge. But in contrast to the more edgy and vibrant scene in places like Bristol, it was clear that Cambridge was lacking something.

Anne had worked with graphic designer Steve Linford on a number of projects.  They came up with the idea of a commercial organization that would promote the local independent scene. Steve had long recognized the complacency in the city. “Cambridge is small, if you remove the University you’re left with a market town.  Sadly a lot of the commerce is based on University spin-outs that have little interest in promoting independents” says Steve. “It just didn’t seem like the growth in innovation in Cambridge was reflected in the shops, restaurants and cafes at its heart”.

“I wanted to see places develop that had more ‘Mill Road’ to them” says Anne. “So, I decided to develop something visual to get this message across. I spoke to Steve. He liked the idea”.  Steve chips in, “We put together a dummy booklet to show to people, and Anne got on her bike”.

Anne continues: “I would cycle the streets of Cambridge to identify the independent shops and businesses. As a result word about what we were doing spread like a forest fire. Some people who really took to the idea would drag me along to meet others. Considering I had no sales experience, it picked up really quickly.”

“We now have all sizes of business” says Steve, “from the larger ones like Cambridge Wine Merchants and CambsCuisine to the one-man bands. It’s great to see the smaller businesses grow and flourish”.

Outspoken for Independent Cambridge scuseme interview

The business concept

The Independent Cambridge book (not to be confused with Cambridge Independent newspaper) was their first product in 2013.  Online, the company offers free registration for independently owned companies within the county of Cambridgeshire. “We must keep the authenticity of our brand intact” says Steve. “Some businesses can be tricky to identify as independent because of blurred ownership.  So, the Calvery Brewery is a great example of an independent pub and brewer.  While others, such as The Old Bicycle and The Petersfield brand themselves as independent but are owned by London based venture capitalists”.

Indie benefits

Cambridge Independent offers IndiePro, an enhanced paid membership where members enjoy coverage in the indie, its quarterly free magazine.  The first edition published in February 2018 is available in member outlets across the city.  “The indie is working out well as a showcase for us and them,” enthuses Anne.

So is it just about advertising I ask.  “Not at all.  We help businesses collaborate” says Anne.  “Because there are many benefits from working together, we help them to do this as a network.  For example, we pool deliveries around town”.  Importantly Independent Cambridge provides a dedicated voice in the city to help increase the critical mass and consolidate the common goals of independents and the Independent Cambridge philosophy is egalitarian.

Running an independent business themselves, Anne and Steve regularly speak at events and on social media on matters that affect the indie scene, where other independents might feel compromised. “Our IndiePro members really get it” says Anne “so Sarah at Modish Shoes is a fantastic supporter and speaks out about the indie movement in Cambridge.  While the Varsity Hotel supports the sale of our books and others …. well they have just stuck with us all the way, like Ark, Petrus, Urban Larder and CUP.  We are quite an eclectic mix”.

Steve continues: “Yes we really wanted that. It just seemed to happen naturally.  We realise that the more people we involve the more we can do, since our goal is to sign up as many independent Cambridge businesses as we can and harness the power of the crowd”.

Changing markets

So how do things stand now?  Pressure is still great on UK independent retailers.  Online shopping (predicted to grow from 14% in 2016 to 34% in 2020), increasing business rates, congestion and parking costs make growing demands.  And customers, who generally have less money to spend, demand more from their shopping experience.  Cambridge has its own challenges on top of these.  “Research tells us that locals don’t want to go into the city because visitors make it so crowded” says Steve.  “We expected parking to be the biggest deterrent but it’s tourism.”

These challenges make it necessary for independents to continually innovate and strengthen.  Research by the British Independent Retailers Association shows that independents remain crucial to the vitality of our high streets. Significantly they account for 65% of all retail and leisure units in Great Britain. But there are signs of a considerable shift in the focus and location of independent occupiers.  Many can no longer afford the high street rents and the service economy is overtaking goods.

In Cambridge store closure affects chains as much as independents.  However, happily indies tend to be replaced by other indies.  A recent example being the Afternoon Tease premises on King Street which was taken over by the newly crowned Best Restaurant in Cambridge, Stem + Glory. Others are adapting fast: Catesbys interiors has now gone substantially online reflecting a multi-channel (“bricks and clicks”) business model. In contrast, Fantasia on Mill Road has combined forces with other local indies to offer them the opportunity to trade on the high street at the same time offering customers a much greater range of items.

“We know we’re onto a good thing because we are seeing more corporates trying to pass themselves off as independents.  This interesting trend speaks volumes in terms of the way corporates feel about themselves” says Steve.

The Indie Academy

The pair have loads of ideas. Ann concludes, “I see us putting in place training and mentoring programmes among members covering anything from window displays, accountancy, adapting and changing to market trends etc.  For example Kobir who owns Prana Indian Restaurant has a wealth of experience to offer other independent restaurant business owners and will share his learning with interested local businesses.”

Steve summaries, “Independent Cambridge is growing.  Our newsletters is popular and our reputation is strengthening.  Our next pressing goal is the relaunch of our website which we are very excited about.  We believe strongly in the future of the indie sector in Cambridge.”

For more information about Independent Cambridge please visit: www.indieCambs.co.uk

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.

How to hire guide: bathroom designers and fitters

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scuseme how to hire guide: bathroom designers and fitters

The bathroom of your dreams becomes reality when you hire the right tradespeople. Here are some tips on finding the best local bathroom designers and fitters to get you on your way.

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Finding a good bathroom designer and fitter

Word of mouth recommendations from friends and family are the best place to start.  But if you don’t know anyone who has had their bathroom refurbished recently, then online reviews can prove useful. All scuseme endorsed bathroom designers and fitters have their own business profile pages, where you can read reviews from previous customers.

Look for bathroom fitters with lots of positive reviews and check their profile photographs and company websites. Get in touch to find out if they have undertaken work like yours.  But also ask about their specialities, such as bathroom design, wet rooms or accessible bathrooms and showers.

At scuseme when we meet our bathroom fitters and designers we ask about the trade associations they are members of and the on-going training they undergo, such as The Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineers and Gas Safe regulatory updates.   We believe that further accreditation from a trade association might give you extra reassurance about a prospective bathroom fitter’s professionalism.

Always ask for references from any prospective bathroom designer and fitter. Bathroom refurbishments don’t come cheap so previous customers are the best source of reference.  Use local tradespeople so you can easily check their work.

Consider whether you’d rather employ a single business to cover the range of jobs involved in installing a bathroom, or whether different aspects of the job could be done by specialist traders. Would an experienced tiler, who could complete the job quicker and to a better standard, save money or be worth any extra cost? Apply the same test to other tradespeople, such as plumbers or painters and decorators.

Bear in mind that any gas-related work should be carried out by a Gas Safe-registered gas engineer, while qualifying electrical work must be undertaken by a Part P registered electrician.

You can find an endorsed bathroom designer or fitter in Cambridge with scuseme.

Getting bathroom design and fitting quotes

There are many places to seek inspiration and an idea of costs: friends, the internet, bathroom showrooms etc.  Good bathroom designers and fitters will have plenty of sources to access bathroom furniture and fittings from a range of manufacturers. Take your time browsing for ideas – the best bathroom designers won’t pressurise you into a sale.

Each bathroom and home is different, so it’s not possible to estimate a job exactly without visiting your property.  Do not trust any trader who quotes for a job without first seeing it.

Get at least three quotes for any bathroom design or fitting job, whether large or small. Try to get quotes that can be easily compared and make sure they include any ‘hidden’ costs such as disposal of your old bathroom, or perhaps you can recycle or sell parts. Ask potential bathroom fitters if they have a minimum charge – this could work against you if you only need a small job doing, in which case, you might be better off employing a handyman rather than a specialist.

Subcontractors and suppliers

Fitting a bathroom requires a wide range of skills, and it’s worth finding out from your trader how they deal with this. It may be your bathroom fitter already has a trusted network of subcontractors. But if this is the case, you will not have personally hired each trader, so you’re placing a lot of trust in the project lead.  Ask about the credentials of all subscontractors.

If your trader subcontracts, ask where the responsibility ultimately lies for each part of the installation. You don’t want to be caught in the middle of a dispute, as one trader blames the other. It’s also worth checking that your prospective bathroom fitting company has insurance that covers them for any damage inadvertently caused to your property.

If you feel strongly about personally hiring a tradesperson, such as a decorator or electrician you trust, then you must co-ordinate the project schedule, so you do not jeopardised it.

Be clear on the supply of materials, too. It might work out cheaper for you to buy your own bath or basin, for example. However, if the bathroom fitter can get trade prices and organise convenient delivery, this could be a better option for your project.

Hiring a bathroom designer and fitter

If you’re undertaking a complete bathroom refurbishment, then your bathroom design company might have supplied a sketch or mock-up. Make sure you are clear on all details of the drawing as once agreed, the fitters should follow it precisely.

Any major work should come with a contract which you must sign at the outset. Check this carefully – it should include, as a minimum:

  • the total cost
  • the payment schedule
  • the start and completion dates.

Make sure you understand the terms of any insurances and guarantees, too.

Paying for bathroom work

If a job demands lots of costly materials, then it’s reasonable to expect to pay a deposit in advance of the work. But if you do this then reserve a significant proportion of the payment until the job is completed.

However you and your trader agree to deal with payments, get your ‘contract’ in writing. It doesn’t need to be a formal contract – an email detailing your agreement will do as it provides a paper trail, which should help avoid misunderstandings or disputes later on.

More on this…

 

Reduce plastic waste at home in Cambridge

Plastic pollution: A catastrophic problem

Plastic is an amazing invention, and we are all reliant on it in one shape or form.  But the versatility and durability that make it so important have also led to a downside starkly exposed in recent years.  The scale of the plastic pollution problem is huge.  Overpowering.  But as consumers we can effect the change to begin to undo this environmental harm.  And it’s already beginning to happen thanks to the growing strength and voice of the consumer.

The single use plastic culture is the real culprit.  Global and national plastic reduction measures are being introduced; for example the UK Plastic Pact and the newly announced Commonwealth Clean Oceans Alliance that has seen member states join forces in the fight against plastic pollution.  But locally in Cambridge, what’s our position?

Cambridge, consumers and change

With our global reputation as a progressive city, where does plastic reduction management sit in Cambridge? Since 2015, Bristol has seen over 200 water refill points across its city centre, and this scheme will roll out across all English towns and cities by 2021.  The Cambridge Water Company told us “Cambridge Water is supporting Water UK’s refill campaign through funding.  We have plans in place to put refill points in the Cambridge region. The first of these is going live next week in the West Midlands.”  We would hope that Cambridge will not be long behind

Independent solutions

The 5p carrier bag charge introduced in England in October 2015 saw single-use carrier bag use drop from seven billion to just over half a billion within six months.  Sticks can be useful.  And corporations are beginning to develop their own initiatives to reduce “avoidable” plastic.  As the biggest offenders perhaps this is only right.  How is our independent sector doing?  Hot Numbers, Arjuna, and many market stalls promote sensible plastic reduction practices; but they are the minority.  Fortunately Cambridge Eco Living Festival will launch 22 September in Cambridge to help indie businesses on their less-plastic journey. A GoFreePlasticDay workshop event is on 17 July 5.30 – 7.30pm at St Barnabus Church.

Many of the Independent cafes, food vans and restaurants in Cambridge continue to serve hot food on styrofoam, use plastic cutlery and straws and rely on plastic bags.  Many of our  local greengrocers beautifully display fruit and vegetables without packaging, but let us down with single use plastic bags to serve them.

And don’t be fooled by these so called degradable plastic bags so frequently on offer: these simply disintegrate into tiny pieces to become microplastic.  Even the genuinely biodegradable bags nearly always rely on the right conditions, including warmth, sunlight and bacteria, to biodegrade.

plastic pollution scuseme

100% degradable? Questionable!

Paper bags should always be your preference, and shops that don’t make them available should be encouraged to do so.  Better still, bring your own bag or container.

Old but wise

Ask anyone over the age of 60 about how they shopped.  You will hear nostalgic reflections of a time when people shopped locally, seasonally and reused things.  Waste was so much less: I remember the dustmen taking away a single 20 gallon (100 litre in new money) bin once a week that had everything in it.  There is much we can learn and should copy to reduce a problem where it really was “better in my day”.

What you can do?

I hope our scuseme guide helps you on your journey to reduce plastic pollution.

Shop locally and seasonally

Local farmers’ markets provide a good template and Cambridge market is a great place to pick up fruit, vegetable and many other items from clothing to confectionary without hefty plastic packaging. There the traders get to know their customers, listen to them and adapt their offerings accordingly; for example, Angela the chicken lady in the Sunday market has listened and plastic is now banned from her stall.  Markets can benefit because they can respond so promptly to customer demand.

Cambridge has a good selection of farm shops, farmers markets, greengrocers and produce shops.  Try to buy what’s local and in season (and so can avoid the packaging required for storage and freight).

Cambridge market square

Only select unpackaged fruit and veg options where possible.  Plastic is important in helping to maintain food shelf life.  But if you are lucky enough to have good local shops, buy only what you need in the short term to avoid plastic, as well as avoiding food waste.

  • Cambridge Market weekly and the Sunday Farmers Market
  • Cambridge Farmers Outlet on Lensfield Road
  • Host of greengrocers throughout the city including

Don’t cling to the film

Stop using cling film.  Instead put leftover food in Tupperware or similar (plastic I know, but with a long life) or in a bowl in the fridge with a plate on top or use old jars, or reusable beeswax food wrap.

Try BeeBeeWraps handmade in Cambridge

Food on the go

For food on-the-go try reusable sandwich bags, bento boxes, a tiffin tin or sandwich box.  Lunch in the office?  Whilst it’s hard to plan for every opportunity, consider carrying a spoon or fork (or spork!) in your bag or keeping cutlery or chopsticks in your desk at work.

The Tiffin Truck on Regent Street offer the famous metal tiffin boxes –  available to buy or can be borrowed if a deposit is left.

The Good Life: Are you a Barbara or a Margot?

The best approach to tackling the reduction of plastic and waste in general is to adopt the three R – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.  Or discover your creative side.  Make clothes, make jams and preserves or grow your own fruit and veg.  When something breaks, don’t just automatically throw it away; can it be repaired or reused, upcycled?  Our throw-away culture is a big problem – Cam Home and Garden and MacKays offer great DIY solutions.  If you can’t fix it and need help, call out a local handyperson.

Salad vegetables and herbs are really easy to grow in the garden, a hanging basket or on a windowsill. By doing so, you avoid buying produce that comes in plastic packaging.  If you need help or advice planning and designing your garden to accommodate the good life get in touch with our local landscapers and gardeners.

Collect fruit when in season around Cambridge, find blackberries here or pick your own at Bury Farm in Melbourn. Fresh seasonal fruit can be bought in quantities suitable for jamming at Sun Close Fruit Farm in Milton and Chaplain’s Farm Shop in Fulbourn.

Bags for life

Always carry your own bag with you, whether it’s a carrier bag sturdy enough to be used again and again or a simple cloth bag for fruit and veg to replace the thin clear bags handed out for free in so many shops.

Swap disposable for reusable

Take a reusable cup or your own thermos for on-the-go coffee with you when you visit coffee shops.

Some independent cafes in Cambridge have their own keep cups and some like Hot Numbers offer a 10% discount to anyone buying coffee and using any keep cup.

Stop buying bottled water

Keep a refillable bottle handy. There’s a growing number of café, bars, shops and even public water fountains that now provide the opportunity for filling up.  Remember, all restaurants in England that serve alcohol are legally required to give customers free tap water, so make the most of them.

Use refill stations

For products such as washing up liquid or fabric softener, find your local refill station where bottles can be reused.  Some shops also offer unpackaged food products such as pulses, rice and even peanut butter. Just bring your own jars and fill them up. You can find out where your closest refill station is using the Zero Home Waste app.

Arjuna and Daily Bread promote this.

Get your milk delivered

Switch plastic milk bottles for glass ones delivered by your local dairy. Plumbs Dairy have no minimum order and deliver milk, orange juice and a wide selection of other items.

milk delivered local milkman

Doorstep delivery

Make your tea the loose-leaf way

Plastic is used to seal teabags shut during manufacturing and therefore Friends of the Earth is urging people to “fall back in love with loose-leaf tea.”  Some brands are making teabags that don’t have plastic in but they can be hard to find so the easiest thing to do is go teabag-free altogether, or check the labels carefully. .

Tea can be bought in The High Tea Club, Arjuna, the Market

Freeze out frozen

Avoid frozen foods because their packaging is mostly plastic.  Even those that appear to be cardboard are coated in a thin layer of plastic. Plus you’ll be eating fewer processed foods.

Try ‘naked’ toiletries

I have tried to find more independent shops that stock a wide range of toiletries and the Hemp Store in the market has a lovely range of soaps (including a soap on a rope) that provide a great alternative to shower gels.

soap scuseme

Lush, although not a local shop, has a wide-spanning range of ‘naked’ toiletries that come in solid bar form and don’t require plastic packaging thanks to their self-preserving composition.  Local indie Arjuna will soon follow, and add a solid, package free deodorant to its range.

At work at play

Use metal cutlery and washable crockery.  Get free glass loan with places such as Cambridge Wine Merchants and insist that caterers use real or at least wooden disposable cutlery and real crockery.  Do not order the plastic cups for water dispensers, instead get staff to use their own glasses.

Supermarket rules

The next time you’re doing your supermarket shop, take some of the plastic packaging you don’t want off the products you do want, and leave it at the checkout. That way you’ll deliver a strong message to the supermarket.

Mindful of microfibers and microbeads

It’s good news that the UK government has a ban on microbeads! But there are still  products on the shelves that contain them, so keep checking those labels before you buy on this useful app and avoid products containing any of the following: polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP), polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA), polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) and nylon.

A lot of our plastic pollution that goes into the sea comes from microfibres – the small fibres that wash out of our clothes.  Julian Kirby, a campaigner of Friends of the Earth recommends buying products to counter-act this, such as the GuppyFriend, which goes into your washing machine and traps microfibres to prevent them from getting into seawater.

plastic pollution microfibres scuseme

Guppy bag

Know your symbols

Lastly, learn how to correctly recycle plastic. Get familiar with the different waste direction symbols and common plastic classifications:

plastic symbols

Notes:

  • Most recycling centres will collect Nos. 1, 2 and 5
  • Nos. 3, 4 and 6 are moderately recyclable
  • No. 7 is nearly impossible to recycle because it’s made of a combination of all types of plastics

Learn more about how Cambridge manages its wastes here

 

Dawn Giesler is the founder of scuseme, a recommendation service that provides an essential and honest resource to help your family run smoothly. Scuseme supports the use of local tradespeople and services in a bid to help reduce environmental impacts related to travel pollution. 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.

 

 

 

 

16 super easy ways to reduce plastic waste

zero waste cambridge

16 super easy changes you can make in your daily life to reduce your contribution to wide-scale plastic pollution.

 

1. Give up gum which is made of a synthetic rubber, aka plastic.

2. Stop using plastic straws – an unnecessary single-use item that the Government has now decided to take action to eliminate in the UK.

3. Avoid take-outs or bring your own container since many restaurants use styrofoam.

4. Use matches instead of disposable plastic lighters or invest in a refillable metal lighter.

5. Use cloth nappies to reduce your baby’s carbon footprint and save money.

6. Buy fresh fruit and veg to make fresh squeezed juice instead of buying bottled and sugar loaded juice, and to replace fruit wrapped for single servings.

7. Ditch disposable razor instead and use a razor with replaceable blades.

8. Bring your own garment bag to the dry cleaners for pickups or ask for your clothes to be returned free of plastic wrap.

9. Use a cotton washcloth instead of a synthetic sponge

10. Use solid soap bars instead shower gels and liquid soaps that come in a plastic bottle.

11. Stick to wines that have cork stoppers instead of synthetic stoppers, since the natural material is completely biodegradable.

12. Burn candles (soy or beeswax, not paraffin) or incense, instead of buying air fresheners in plastic holders.

13. Line your bins with paper bags or biodegradable bin bags instead of buying plastic liners

14. Start a compost heap for your organic waste.

15. Avoid single-use coffee pods. They may be convenient, but an old-fashioned coffee machine with a reusable filter works just as well.

16. Avoid plastic toys and try to buy ethical, sustainably produced wooden or natural-made toys where possible. We know children love plastic toys so perhaps buy fewer and recycle and pass things on.

Keep Cambridge Plastic Free

Green, clean Cambridge

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.

Insurance

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.

Exclusions

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.

Warranty

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

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