Archive | November 2012

Can part-time employees claim back years when they were not eligible to belong to their employers’ pension scheme?

Side stepping the issues like a crab!

Back in 1986 when I worked in a school, I was part-time.  My hours depended on the number of children on roll that year so the hours varied from 17 to 25 per week. At that time I was not eligible to belong to the employers pension scheme because I was part-time.  However, since at the time most part-time workers were women, there was a time when this law was disputed on the grounds of indirect sex discrimination.

In 1991 the law was changed and people like me could enter the pension scheme, paying in 6% of their monthly salary.

I continued to work in the school until 1998, paying in to the scheme during those years.

In 2001 another law was passed allowing part-time workers to buy back the missing years, in my case five years worth. We had to put in a claim, which I did, but nothing has ever come of it. Every year I would write to the authority asking what was going on and how much it would cost me to buy back the missing years. I kept being put off.

Now I am retired but still waiting for my State Pension because the Government put it back by two years for people of my age. Here in England we always used to get our State Pension when we turned 60 (women) – 65 (men). Now they are bringing women in line with men and people of my year of birth, i.e. 1951 have to wait till they are 61 and 8 months to get the pension. Those women one year younger than me will have to wait another year and so on until women and men are treated the same. That is not my reason for writing this today though. The point is I want to get the part-time years buy back done so I can start having it and I feel that the Authority is holding back, giving excuses for not giving me the information.

The truth is probably that it is so long now that they would most likely owe me not the other way round because if I’d bought back the five years in 2001 when the law came in, and it had been invested, then by now it would be coming back to me with bells on!

After writing to the Authority every year since (I’ve been very patient), I am now losing my patience. I have written to my Member of Parliament, Kelvin Hopkins and he is using his influence to get the Authority, in this case Luton Borough Council, to speed up and get the calculation done so I can start receiving the benefit.

I’ll let you know how I get on. I’ve now got the bit between my teeth.

If you are affected by this issue, like I am, you can read more about the background here.

Dylan Update – November 2012

Last week my friend and I took my grandson Dylan to the local park. He likes it there! He especially likes the train.  He’s a good poser isn’t he!

Next he strode off to investigate the climbing apparatus.  There is a special floor in the playground, designed to be a little bouncy – just in case they fall off – God forbid!!! Managed to get his gloves on – finally!

He climbed up the steps quickly, but when he got to the top he didn’t fancy the rope bridge!

Next we went into the museum. I’ve been going in there all of my life.  By coincidence we happened upon toddlers’ hour so Dylan was allowed to do some drawing in one of the exhibition rooms.

He really wanted to find a dinosaur and although we looked and looked, we didn’t find one that day. Maybe next time. Please excuse the photo quality. They were taken on a mobile phone.

We had such a lovely time in the park and in the museum that on the way home in the car ‘we’ fell asleep!

Back at the cottage we had fish fingers and chips for dinner and then watched Ben and Holly’s Magic Kingdom.

Roving to yarn!

This glorious Autumn-coloured roving was mine to spin recently whilst I was in America.

I began to spin and soon it filled the spool.

Here it is once plyed and hanging in skeins.

I brought it back to England with me and put it into balls, using my Swift and ball winder.

Now, what to make with it? Perhaps some mittens? or a pretty shawl.

Purple mittens waiting to be decorated.

I can’t decide yet but whatever I make, it will be more enjoyable for having spun it myself!

Bertie Saves The Day

Let’s all snuggle round the fire on this dark November evening and Oma will read you a story.  Wait a minute, let me give the coals a poke and release some more heat.  That’s better.  Now, are you sitting comfortably? Then I shall begin.

This is the latest in my stories about Bertie, the wise rabbit. In this story Bertie goes shopping for bananas, but when he gets to the supermarket he finds he doesn’t have his purse with him. ..


Bertie Saves the Day

The animals in Hardwick Grove have always been the first priority to Mr. and Mrs. James who live at no. 38.  Recently things had changed.  There was a new person to take care of:  a small boy called Dylan, their grandson.  He referred to them as Granddad and Oma and he went to stay with them every Friday.  He was two years old at the time of this story.

Dylan loved bananas.  He knew that if he was a good boy, he would get a banana but today there was only one banana in the dish on the table.  Standing on tip-toe, he could just see into the fruit bowl.  Gripping the side of the table and standing on his tip-toes, he could see the stalk of the banana pointing upwards at the figure of The Green Man, which was hanging on the wall.  The Green Man smiled down at Dylan.  He could foresee the future and often gave a hint of what was to come by changing his expression.  Today he was looking benevolent.

When Granddad had finished his crossword puzzle and Dylan was finished playing with his circus train, Granddad stood up, stretched and asked Dylan the question he was waiting to hear.

‘Would you like a banana, Dylan?’

‘Eh!’ replied Dylan.  He couldn’t quite manage ‘yes’.

‘O.k., let’s see if there are any in the fruit bowl.’

Dylan ran and Granddad walked to the table in the dining room where Oma’s large, wooden fruit bowl stood.  Dylan jumped up and down in anticipation.

Picking up the banana Granddad unzipped it for his grandson.  He was just about to give it to him when the main part of it snapped off and fell to the floor right in front of Pippa, the one-eyed dog, who snaffled it immediately and then looked incredibly guilty.

Dylan went quiet.  Then when he realised what had happened, his eyes screwed up and tears began to spring forth alarmingly.  He found his voice and started to howl, at which point Pippa slunk away and hid under the sideboard.

Sitting in his house in the garden, Bertie, the wise rabbit, heard the commotion and decided to investigate.  He pushed up the top of his run with his nose and hopped up the garden path and in through the kitchen door.  Mrs. James was standing at the kitchen sink, wearing her best floral apron and washing some tasty-looking cabbage for lunch.

Bertie, being a magical rabbit; a tribute given to him by a recent visit from the fairy queen, was able to stand tall and wear clothes like the people who lived in the house.  He could also talk to the humans just as if he was one himself; although this was all temporary.

‘What’s all the commotion?’ asked Bertie of Mrs. James, who wiped her hands on her apron and turned to go into the living room.

Bertie soon understood what was wrong and kindly offered to go to Sainsbury’s and buy a new bunch of bananas.

‘That’s very kind of you Bertie!’ said Mr. and Mrs. James in unison.

Mr. James opened his wallet and found some money to give to Bertie.

‘Here, take my little purse,’ said Mrs. James, helpfully. She gave Bertie the little purse, which was sparkling with sequins all over it.  It really was very pretty.

Dylan had stopped howling and stared in amazement at Bertie, the wise rabbit, who stood in front of him resplendent in a beautiful brown tweed waistcoat and a pair of corduroy trousers to match.  Dylan had never seen such a big rabbit before even at the zoo where some of the animals were as big as a house and others had necks so long they could reach up to the clouds.

‘Off you go Bertie, don’t lose the purse.  I’m very fond of it.’

‘No, of course not,’ said Bertie, puffing himself up with importance as he hopped away out of the front door and up the street.

A few curtains twitched as Bertie passed by, but nobody came out of their house to stare.

When Bertie got to Sainsbury’s he soon found the bananas.  They were on a stand near the door all bright and shiny yellow.  He chose a nice big bunch and put them in his basket.  Then he got distracted.  He could smell carrots and sure enough there they were, lots of them on another stand nearby, all red and appetising.  Bertie’s tummy began to growl.

‘Perhaps I’ll just stop here and eat a few carrots to keep me going.’ He thought, but before he could indulge himself, a store detective came across and tapped him on the shoulder.

‘Don’t even think about it, sonny,’ said the man, looking fierce.

Bertie was not a young rabbit, but the man couldn’t see that.  To him a rabbit was a rabbit and it ought to be back in its hutch or better still out in the fields somewhere.  Bertie took the basket to the check-out, but when he got there he couldn’t find the purse.  He hunted through all his pockets, there were six in all, but there was no sign of it.

‘Is there a problem, sir?’ asked the girl at the till, looking bored.

‘No, no problem,’ said Bertie, but my purse is lost, that’s all.

‘No money, no bananas, sir’ said the girl.

‘Yes, yes, I know’ Bertie answered the girl impatiently.

Then he said, ‘one moment, please keep the bananas, I’ll be back in a minute.’

He had seen a way out of his current dilemma and he didn’t want to miss the opportunity.

Two little old ladies were pushing their shopping carts over to the doorway.  Neither of them looked as if they could lift anything more than a feather hat.

Quick as a flash, Bertie was by their side and offering to help them take the shopping to the car, better still lift it into the boot for them.

The old ladies looked at Bertie and then at each other.

‘Do you see what I see?’ said Olivia to Amy.  ‘Is that a life-sized rabbit or are my eyes deceiving me?

‘Amy adjusted her glasses on her nose.’

‘It’s a rabbit,’ she replied, ‘and it’s talking.

Bertie followed the ladies out to their car and helped them to pack their purchases in the boot.

Afterwards one of the ladies gave Bertie a tip.  He put it carefully in his pocket where the purse should have been.

Bertie was a wise rabbit and this had been a good idea.  He pursued it until he had enough money to pay for the bananas and then he went back into the store and paid the check-out girl.

‘Found it then, did you?’ she smiled.

‘Not exactly, no,’ he answered, but I found a way around it.

With the bananas safely in a bag, Bertie left the shop and made his way home to Hardwick Grove.  On his way up the hill he had to pass a number of pyracantha bushes with their berries all shiny and red to tempt the birds.  Something else was hanging in the branches of one of them, something with sequins all over it, something that looked like Mrs. James’s purse.

‘It is Mrs. James’s purse,’ exclaimed Bertie, ‘but I can’t reach it.  I need a stick.’

He looked around for a stick but he couldn’t see one anywhere. Then he saw a dog carrying a stick across the playing field back to its master.

‘I know,’ said Bertie, ‘I’ll throw a banana.  The dog will chase after it, dropping the stick for me to pick up.  He pulled a banana off the bunch and put the rest of them under the bush till he came back.  Then he waited till the dog was looking in his direction, taking care that the dog didn’t see him. He didn’t want the dog to chase him or bite him! He threw the banana as far as he could across the field.  The dog chased after it.  Bertie came out of hiding and ran fast across the field to pick up the stick.

When he got back to the safety of the bush, the dog was back with his master.  He dropped the banana at his master’s feet and was looking around for his lost stick.

Bertie was out of breath.

He poked the stick into the bush until he freed the purse and then put the purse back safely into his pocket.

‘Now to get these bananas back to Dylan.’

He bounded along, swinging the bananas round in circles inside their Sainsbury’s bag, until found the sign for Hardwick Grove came into view.

‘This is it.’ He smiled.

When he got in, he looked around.  The people were all in the back room, watching television.  Bertie emptied the contents of the purse into Dylan’s piggy bank and then took the bananas into the back room and gave them to Mrs. James.

‘Thank you Bertie.  You are a good rabbit.  You’ve saved the day.’

Bertie says ‘Always keep your valuables in a safe place.’

Traditional English Christmas Cake

It’s time to start the preparations for Christmas, here in the cottage, but I’m not talking chocolates. Take a peek inside the tin and see what I’m cooking today…

Here are the ingredients for an 8 inch round or a 7 inch square tin:

10 ozs currants

7 ozs sultanas (golden raisins if in America)

4 ozs raisins

2 1/2 ozs glace cherries (quartered)

2 1/2 ozs whole almonds (blanched and chopped finely)

2 1/2 ozs mixed peel

grated rind of 1 lemon

2 tablespoons of Brandy

7 ozs of plain flour (all purpose flour if in America)

1 level teaspoon of mixed spice

2 ozs ground almonds

6 ozs butter (room temperature)

6 ozs soft brown sugar

1 tablespoon of black treacle

4 eggs

and this is the method:

Prepare the dried fruit; cut the cherries in four.  Blanch the almonds, chop finely.  Mix the prepared fruits, almonds, peel and lemon rind together in a mixing bowl and pour over the brandy. (If liked leave overnight.)

Sieve the flour and spice and add the ground almonds.

Place the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl and cream together until light and fluffy.

Beat in the treacle.  Add the eggs, one at a time and beat in thoroughly, adding a little of the sieved flour with every egg after the first.

Fold in the remaining flour mixture with the prepared fruit etc., half at a time, gently and thoroughly until well mixed.

Line the inside of the tins with a grease  proof paper insert and brush inside with melted margarine.  Place the mixture evenly into the prepared tins.  Tie several thicknesses of thick paper or newspaper around the outside of the tins.  (This prevents the cakes from over-browning.)  Smooth the top of the cakes with the back of a wet spoon.

Bake on middle shelf of a very slow oven (electric 290 deg. F., gas no. 1.)  Allow approximately 4 hours for a 7-inch square or an 8-inch round cake.

Remove from the oven.  Leave in tin to cool slightly, turn out, remove paper and cool on a wire tray.

When quite cold,wrap in double grease proof paper and store in an air-tight tin until required.

Don’t forget to feed the cake with some Brandy! You will need to poke holes in the top of the cake with a skewer when it comes out of the oven and is still warm. Then, using a tablespoon, spoon over 3 spoons of Brandy, or you could use three capsful. Watch with delight as the Brandy soaks into the cake.  It will make a slight sizzling sound. The feeding will need to be done again, once or twice before Christmas arrives.  The Brandy will add to the delicious flavour of the finished cake and also help to preserve the cake if you can’t eat it all at once.

This is a very rich cake so small slices should be given (and often!).Next time I’ll come back and tell you how I decorated it.

This was a recipe from Oma’s kitchen.


A Splash of Colour

My Christmas cactus has been blooming its heart out lately.  It’s a bit early but very welcome as we head into the dark days of November.  Last week we put our clocks back in England and I believe it’s this weekend in the U. States?  Winter has arrived.

We don’t make as much of Halloween over here as you folks in America and I was a bit disappointed with what was for sale in the shops when I got back.  I did get a lovely big pumpkin, but most of the rest of it was what I call ‘tat’ so I haven’t bothered. Now that’s over and our next event is Guy Fawkes Night, which is on November 5th.  This is the time when we ‘celebrate’ though goodness knows why! the attempt to blow up parliament in 1605.  You can read more about that here… It’s a big event over here with firework parties up and down the country.  My little cat, Patch will be frightened.  She will follow me around the house for two hours or more while the bangs and whizzes are going on.

Speaking about cats, what do you think of my scruffy cat, ‘Scruff’ see below.  I knitted him from some very furry wool, which I bought in a charity shop a few months ago. It’s Patons Whisper eyelash yarn. That’s a lovely name for it, isn’t it. The little cat even has real whiskers! Guess where I got those from?