Monthly Archives July 2007

Sir Michael Cained

Following an evening in the company of hedonist Sir Elton John, Sir Michael Caine has compiled an album of his favourite chill-out tracks on a new album entitled ‘Cained.’

You can just picture the scene, Sir Michael and Sir Elton having just enjoyed a gourmet feast with some fine wine or perhaps champagne are sitting around in Elton’s plush and luxurious home, savouring some old liquor and maybe making a more ‘rock n roll’ evening of things in the way only A list celebrities know how…

Slightly tipsy and a little bit wayward:-

Sir Michael says, “So Elton, what’s it like making an album? I mean, what’s it REALLLLLYYY like…? Hic!”

Sir Elton: “Well Mick, y’know, in the old days it was intense, but now, it’s all covers and compilations…! s’easy really…! Heck, even you could do it!”

Sir Michael: “Course I could do it! I’m brilliant I am! I can do anyfing I want…!”

Sir Elton: “You know you should! I know this producer, he’ll put it all together for you, all you need to do is come up with a list of songs! Easy peasy!”

Sir Michael: “Ooooooh, now there’s a thought, I could do driving anthems!”

Sir Elton: ” Nooooo, you don’t want to do that! That’s not where the money is! If you want to make a quid or two you want to do a chill-out album! Everyone loves to chill , er, man….”

Sir Michael: “You know that’s a good idea! I like that Moby only I’m not keen on his interior decorator… and some Groove Armada isn’t bad either…”

Sir Michael rubs his chin pensively… “but what would I call it…..”

Sir Elton, who had drifted off into a world of pink cars and candy floss clouds comes back to the conversation… “call what darling?”

Sir Michael: “My album you messy beggar!”

Sir Elton (in a flash of inspiration): “I know! why don’t you do an album of really good ‘come down’ tunes and call it ‘Cained’…..?”

Sir Michael’s eyes roll and as the idea begins to form in his head he sits bolt upright waggling a drunken finger like a limp saber: “that’s brilliant! It’s perfect! ‘Cained’!!

Laughter ensues, drunken phone calls are made to producers, the chill-out compilation submitted by Jade Goody with the provisional title ‘Chill Aaaaat’ gets a quick cover change and presto the CD’s start falling off the production line…

Imagine the hangover…!

Problems Switching Electricity Provider

About 3 months ago I was called by British Gas and having a few minutes of free time I listened to what was said.

Everything made sense and I could see a definite saving so I agreed to switch from Southern Electric to British Gas.

I did what was asked of me, signed what I needed to and left things in the capable hands of a giant national power supply company.

The other day, I received my quarterly bill from Southern Electric…

Needless to say I was a bit confused.

Before calling Southern Electric and questioning them, as to why they were still billing me when to my knowledge British Gas was my supplier, I called British Gas to confirm they had taken over my supply correctly.

The customer number I gave them showed a closed account!

The account manager performed another search of the British Gas database based on my address and discovered something strange…

…because my address had been entered incorrectly on the piece of paper given to the engineer sent out to flick the switches, the job was cancelled and nothing more happened.

It was buried and forgotten about!

So thanks to an admin error, I’ve been missing out on cheaper electricity!

Secured Loan Arrangement Fees

Have you been shopping around for a secured loan and been quoted what you think is an unnecessarily high fee for arranging the loan?

The secured loan market has grown in recent years and as a result there are a lot of companies now providing loans or brokering loans.

As with any industry with a lot of activity there are likely to be a few companies charging excessive fees but in some cases the fees are understandable and can be broken down.

Secured loans are subject to arrangement fees much like mortgages. A valuation must be made of the property that is going to be used as security.

This needs to be done to make sure an applicant has enough equity in the property, either now or in the future, to cover the cost of repaying the loan. Independent valuers are used who need to be paid for their services.

Part of the secured loan arrangement fee is used to cover the cost of administration. The lender is required to make sure all of the necessary paperwork is in order. Some cases require more administration than others and when this happens a slightly higher fee is often charged.

If an applicant has plenty of equity, a clean credit rating and a good income much less administration is required and the loan can often be processed much more quickly.

If an applicant is required to provide extra proof of income or address, i.e. bank statements or utility bills, then more administration is required by the lender to verify the information.

It is quite normal for people with a poor credit history to pay a higher arrangement fee for a secured loan due to the increased amount of work required to process the paperwork and obtain the necessary information to satisfy a lenders criteria.

If you think the fee you have been quoted is excessive, the first thing to do would be to ask the lender or broker what the fee is for and what it covers.

If you are not happy with the fee the only other option would be to get a second opinion.

The only problem with getting lots of different quotes is that it could mean lots of credit searches against your name. This can have an adverse affect on your credit rating so multiple applications are not advisable.


ZenLoans - Secured Loans


Bank of England Base Rate – Interest – ed?

In changing times when the interest rate is rising and is said to continue doing so, it pays to know where you stand.

Keeping an eye on the Bank of England base rate can give you some idea of trends and so can keeping updated on inflation and inflation reports.

So where can you go to keep updated?

The answer is quite simple really.

It’s all there where you would expect it to be. Spewing forth from the proverbial horse’s mouth!

You can even subscribe to email alerts for the facts as and when they happen.

If you currently have savings in an account that is paying less than the Bank of England base rate, you are not really getting a good deal. (If a bank can earn more than you can on YOUR money, it’s not really fair!)

Check out some offers on savings accounts.

If you have a mortgage that has an interest rate well above the base rate, you are probably not getting a good deal.

Compare Mortgages Online


Link Exchangers Beware of Sneak Attacks

In the world of online marketing many website owners ‘exchange links’. This simply means placing a link on one website in exchange for a link from another website.

Links from other websites are thought of by search engines as ‘votes’ and can help in moving a website higher up the order of natural search engine results.

It is quite common if you are the owner of a popular website to receive a large number of ‘link exchange’ requests by email on a daily basis.

In order to decide if a website is worth linking with it is quite common to click on a link in an email to visit the site and make sure it’s suitable.

I recently received an email from Sanjeev (

Dear Webmaster,

Sub:Link Exchange Request
I found your great website while searching for relevant link partners. We are very picky of whom we choose for a link exchange. We value your high quality website useful for our users and would like to ask you if  you would be interested in exchanging links with our high quality theme relevant site.

For your reference, I am sending the site details:

Title : Credit Cards


Description : For everyday use we offer a very rewarding Virgin Credit Card, and for people who love to travel there’s our Virgin Atlantic American Express Credit Card from MBNA. Take your pick.

Your link will be added at :

Hoping an early and positive response from you on this would be highly appreciated.

Best Regards


For the purpose of placing this email on my site I have disabled the links.

The reason I have done this is because website links are not always what they seem. The ‘URL’ you can see is not always where the link points and you can find by clicking a link you end up somewhere completely different.

Both of the links contained in the email redirected to the correct place but they were redirected via another web address that attempted to download malicious code and ‘diallers’.

Malicious code is more often known as a virus and ‘diallers’ put themselves in the way of your internet connection and make your computer connect via a premium rate number.

Thankfully my antivirus software is up to dat but needless to say I will not be exchanging links!

What I can’t tell is if Virgin Money have actually asked Sanjeev to conduct a link building exercise or if this has no link to Virgin whatsoever and Sanjeev and his team are just going around trying to attack the competition….

Always hover over a link and use your ‘status bar’ (bottom left of an active window) to see where the link points before clicking. 

Dell, You’re Having a Laugh!

I started experiencing a few problems with my trusty laptop lately and thought I better look into a back-up or replacement.

In the DELL catalogue I found an amazing deal. A Dimension C521. Not the latest or highest spec machine around but:

Dual core processor 3600+


250GB Hard Drive


13-in-1 card reader

Genuine Windows Vista

1yr collect and return.


A 19″ flat panel monitor.

All for just £199 (plus VAT and delivery).

The catalogue also offered a further reduction to just £179 if ordered before 11/07/2007.

Unfortunately I missed out on the £179 deal by a few days but called DELL anyway to place an order.

The first thing I asked however, was if there were any other offers or deals similar to the £179 offer. I was told that unfortunately there were not.

So I went through the process of declining all their kind offers of options and extras and the final price came to £293.82.

The DELL process then requires me to confirm the spec by responding to a confirmation email they send out.

When the email finally arrived (I had to prompt them again) I did not respond straight away. Instead I told a friend about the offer who promptly visited the DELL website and actually found the same system, still on offer online for £179!!

Naturally I called DELL and said I’d like to amend my quote to reflect the offer available online. The operator went through a few checks to make sure the spec was the same and it was in fact the same system then confirmed he would make the changes and send me a new quote.

Just 10 minutes ago, he called me to say that after checking, the system wouldn’t allow my original quote to be amended so they wouldn’t be able to change it for the cheaper offer. I felt a warmth of righteous anger envelop me and keeping completely calm just said, ‘OK, then cancel the order completely and I’ll call you back in a few days to get a new quote for the cheaper price’.

All the operator (Michael) said was, ‘fair enough’ because there was little more he could say!

The current £179 offer runs until 25/07/07 so I think I’ll give them a call on Monday….!

Page 1 of the Yellow Pages Loan Section, For FREE!

Thanks to the way my local yellow pages organises the adverts on the first page of the loans section they have space to feature the first few standard text listings and I made the No.1 spot!

If you look at the loan section of any yellow pages you will see ALL of the boxed or larger adverts contain a string of ‘A’s.

If you see a Firstplus advert covering half the page, right at the bottom of the ad, sure enough you will see ‘AAAAAA FIRSTPLUS FINANCE’.

I was told in the past by Yellow Pages how this makes the order in which the ads appear fair and without favouritism but I can’t remember how it works!

Nonetheless there are companies advertising on the first page with big colourful adverts which must have cost thousands.

Ocean Finance has even got a full two sided thick glossy page full of their information. For some reason though this page appears between the ‘Golf Clubs’ and ‘Government Offices’ sections!

But there I am, number 1, the first text listing on the loans page. Which also explains the calls I’ve had in the last couple of days!


Paid! Finally!

I haven’t written about this until now because I ran the risk of venting on page but I have finally received a long overdue commission cheque.

Naturally the first thing I did was jump on my bike and cycle to the bank! (It’s just up the road..)

The cheque comes from one of the price comparison sites that advertises on TV. The one that advertises it’s comparison service with a ‘surprise’ gospel choir…

Apparently they’ve have not only been replacing their computer systems but they have also only recently replaced their long-term Accounts Payable temp with a permanent member of staff. Both of which combined has resulted in affiliate payments being extremely late.

Adding to my frustration is the bizarre fact that I cannot send emails to them. I have until recently had to fax invoices and leave voicemails here and there.

What I have learned from doing this is that people do not tend to respond to voicemail as effectively as they do to email!

I have since signed up for a web based email service and now I can send to them again because, despite voicing my annoyance at the fact that I couldn’t, no one saw fit to try and effectively tackle the problem internally even though it is the only company I have ever encountered this problem with.

Ah, well… If you want a job done right…!

Eat Well, Eat Cheap.

Looking around at various other personal finance blogs I’ve seen many entries about food which is, although sometimes taken for granted, something that we all spend a lot of money on during our lives.

Food is also not only fundamental for survival but it is also responsible for the way we feel. A good healthy balanced diet is not only good for the body but also for the mind.

As TV documentaries have shown, junk food can lead to depression, illness and weight problems.

The most prominent campaign to encourage healthy eating at the moment is the ‘5 a day’ campaign because fruit and vegetables contain most of the essential ingredients that our bodies need to function and regenerate.

How much is ‘5 a day’?

5 a day relates to 5 portions of fruit or veg per day. 

1 portion is approximately 80g, e.g. one medium apple or two medium plums. (source:

So one portion is approximately an average sized handful or a heaped tablespoon.

Putting it in perspective like that makes it seem like a much more achievable goal, especially if you factor in two square meals a day (and maybe a banana for a snack)!

Now all you need to do is decide which vegetables you like and go and buy some!

Because supermarkets are constantly competing for business, most offer a wide selection of fruit and veg at reasonable prices. The secret is to buy the fresh, unpacked products.

Anything that is wrapped has had to travel from the grower, to a factory where it is sorted, packed and sent to the shop. You as the consumer have to pay for the extra transport and packaging. Whatsmore, pre-packed products have been out of the ground or off the tree for longer and may ultimately not keep as long.

If you are fortunate enough to live near the site of a local market they can not only be even cheaper than supermarkets but the produce is usually fresher.

Furthermore, markets these days often offer an even more diverse selection of exotic fruit and vegetables from around the world to try.