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The rise and rise of the Bitcoin

From being a little known oddity confined to the geeks of Silicon Valley just four years ago, the Bitcoin is heading all the technology news boards and has even got some central banks running scared. So, what is it, how does it work and why does it matter?

 

The Bitcoin was created in 2009 by an unknown programmer called Satoshi Nakamoto, a name that is widely believed to be an alias. Although it is generally considered to be a crypto or virtual currency, it was originally just a means of exchange for online transactions. The way the transactions are processed is in the realm of the serious cyber boffins, I barely understand it myself, but suffice to say there is a definitive log of all transactions and when they occurred. Bitcoins are created by “Miners,” people who use computers or networks of computers to solve increasingly complex algorithms. If you think processing the transactions is complex, don’t even try and think about Bitcoin Mining. There are currently around 12.2 million Bitcoins in existence but there is an absolute cap of 21 million on the number that can be created. Bitcoins are also anonymous, they don’t have serial numbers like banknotes, and the people who own them are anonymous too – rather than a bank account, owners have a wallet which is accessed using a username and password.

 

So far, so geeky, but this is where it starts to get interesting. Although the Bitcoin is not a currency, in many ways it acts like one. Bitcoins can be used to pay for a huge range of online transactions, anything from school fees to casino chips, and increasingly they are accepted by physical retail outlets such as bars, bedding retailers and even burger stalls. Bitcoins can be bought using one currency and then sold in another currency, making them an effective medium for transferring money out of a country that enforces currency restrictions. Because Bitcoin owners are anonymous, there are widespread reports of them being used to fund drug deals, illegal arms trading and international terrorism. There are also claims that Bitcoins have been used for money laundering, though there is little evidence to support this. Most importantly, the value of Bitcoins fluctuates wildly. The first units produced in 2009 had a value of less than 2 cents. In November 2013 the value of 1 Bitcoin hit an all-time high of $1,250. A few days later the value plummeted by more than half in just one day when the People’s Bank of China, the Chinese central bank, banned the conversion of Yuan into Bitcoins.

 

It is worth considering what has driven this heavy demand for Bitcoins and the dramatic increase in value that goes with it. In China, citizens are limited to taking $50,000 of currency out of the country per year. The Bitcoin represents a heaven sent opportunity to get round this restriction. India also has similar limitations in place, coupled with a currency that is prone to serious inflation. It is no surprise that the Indian central bank moved to limit conversion of Rupees into Bitcoins. With such dramatic increases in value, speculators have inevitably jumped on the bandwagon, further fuelling the volatility in price. What is surprising is that, after the dramatic drop in early December, the value of the Bitcoin has already stabilised at about $800.

 

Despite everything that has happened, it looks as if the Bitcoin is here to stay. The US Treasury has made no move to outlaw it or limit transactions and the number of physical outlets that accept Bitcoins is increasing exponentially. Only when all 21 million Bitcoins have been mined will we know a realistic value for it, something that is estimated to happen by around 2017. In the meantime, it is an excellent example of technology being used to create genuine wealth and at the same time respond to a real need.

Graham Iek

IT Consultant     

This article appears in Walmley Pages Magazine, a local magazine delivered free to Walmley, Sutton Coldfield and surrounding areas.

Bhujon – The most fabulous restaurant you must give it a try.

bhujon 2

When we stepped inside Bhujon Restaurant in Sutton Coldfield, we immediately knew that we were in for a great evening.

Whilst walking into the sophisticated Bhujon Cocktail area where diners can indulge in classic and a bespoke selection of cocktails. Our eyes were immediately drawn to the spacious and attractive dining area below that just oozes class, comfort and style.

As were a family of six we were seated in a booth which was ideal, it was our own comfortable segment of a larger impressive restaurant, we perused the menu and were given advice and recommendations from the helpful staff.

bhujon 1

It was nice to see not only a good selection of traditional Indian dishes but also some very innovative choices that were something a little different to what you would find elsewhere.

We chose a variety of starters from Lamb chops adraki perfectly cooked and spiced to Chicken Tandoori tenders, chicken delectably seasoned, the starters were a taste of what was to come as each starter was delicious and the attention paid to the presentation was exquisite.

The highlights of our main courses proved to be a Bhujan speciality Tawa Chicken Jalfrezi cooked with onion green pepper strongly herbed and spiced with home-made sauce, it arrived on a piping hot pan and was sizzling as it was placed on the table, it was simply the best Indian dish I have had in a long time. We also tried an old favourite Chicken Massala a mild dish which was perfectly cooked and full of flavour accompanied at the recommendation of staff by fresh okra.

There was a great choice of deserts I personally had the Caramel Royal which was the perfect finish to a great meal. .

Owners Mr Miah and Mr Zaman strive to offer the highest quality food with a first class ambience and excellent service, something they are definitely achieving. They are certainly bringing a new first class dining experience to Sutton Coldfield.

Bhujon offers a terrific dining experience for couples,  families, friends and  large parties.  It’s creative with delicious food, great service and stylish but comfortable setting, it really is a fabulous restaurant and we recommend that you give it a try

Bhujon Cocktail Bar and Diningbhujon 3

290 – 292 Lichfield Road, Mere Green, Sutton Coldfield, B74 2UG 0121 308 0930

This restaurant review appears in Sutton Coldfield Recommended Magazine, delivered to 40,000 homes and businesses in Sutton Coldfield and surrounding area’s.

Christmas Time in Sutton Coldfield

December already, and another merry Christmas is ringing in. Have you started (or finished!) your Christmas shopping. Are you planning a special night out? Or perhaps you are planning a less commercial, more meaningful celebration? Here’s a taster of what Sutton Coldfield has to offer this Christmas.

Christmas gift ideas

The Gracechurch Centre, Sutton Coldfield, under new ownership, will have the usual seasonal cheers with bright lights, late nights and lots of little extras to put pleasure into your gift hunting. It’s open every day and right up to the wire on Christmas Eve – apparently the traditional time for men to start their shopping!

Or for something completely different, start early, on 1st December, at the Sutton Vintage and Arts Fair in the Town Hall.  Find unique and quirky Christmas gifts, vintage and handmade clothes and enjoy some festive fun.

Christmas concerts and events

Sutton Coldfield Town Hall plays host to some musical extravaganzas in December including Musical Memories, Past and Present on Friday 6th December, The City of Birmingham Brass Band in concert the following day and two Family Christmas Concerts at 4.15pm and 7.30pm on Sunday 15th December, which promise to be uplifting and heart-warming in equal measure.

Of course, Christmas is not Christmas without panto, but this year the pantomimes are not exactly at Christmas! Snow White runs at the Sutton Arts Theatre until 15th December and Aladdin plays at the Town Hall from 14th January to 19th January 2014.

 

London comes to Sutton Coldfield

Fancy something a little more highbrow? A quiet revolution has been happening in cinemas across the country, where “as live” screenings of National Theatre and Royal Opera House shows are beating blockbuster films at the box office. The obvious hit for Christmas is the ROH production of Nutcracker on 12th December at 7.15pm, showing at the Empire and a number of other cinemas near Sutton Coldfield. Last year’s Nutcracker beat Skyfall in cinema box office takings!

 

Whatever your plans, enjoy a happy Christmas in Sutton Coldfield, and here’s hoping that 2014 is your best year ever

This article appears in Sutton Coldfield Recommeded, a local magazine delivered to 40,000 homes and businesses in Sutton Coldfield and surrounding area’s.

Christmas and New Year is the time for giving – but what are the tax implications?

As this is the ‘Season of Goodwill’ in this month’s tax tips we are focusing on the tax implications of Giving.

Charity Donations

Firstly let’s consider the donations you make to Charities. Many people are aware that if you make a donation to a charity via the gift aid scheme, then the charity will receive an additional payment of basic rate tax from HMRC. But what many people paying higher rates of tax may not realise is that they can also benefit from tax relief on donations.  By declaring their charitable Gift Aid donations, they can claim relief equal to the difference between the higher rate of tax and the basic rate of tax at 20% on the total value of the donation.  So if you donate £100 to a charity, and you are currently paying tax at 40% you can claim additional tax relief which saves £24 tax!

‘Small’ gifts

What about the gifts to family and friends? Well you can make small gifts up to the value of £250 to as many individuals as you like in any one tax year and they will all be exempt from Inheritance Tax when you die.

Annual exemption

You can give away additional gifts worth up to £3,000 in total in each tax year and these gifts will also be exempt from IHT. There is also provision to carry forward the unused part of the £3,000 exemption from last tax year.

Wedding gifts/civil partnership ceremony gifts

If you give cash or gifts or because of a Wedding or civil partnership, then this will be exempt from IHT if it is below the following limits:

Parents –  each up to £5,000

grandparents and great grandparents – each up to £2,500

anyone else – up to £1,000

Regular gifts or payments that are part of your normal expenditure

If you make regular gifts out of your after-tax income, these can also be exempt from Inheritance Tax. These gifts will only qualify if you have enough income left over to maintain your normal lifestyle.

Any other gifts

Gifts in excess of the above exemptions, but which were made more than seven years before the donor dies are free of IHT. However, if you reserve any benefit from a gift – such as continuing to live in a house you have given away- “gift with reservation” rules may apply tax as though your gift had never happened…

 We offer a free 30 minute consultation, so if you would like any additional information regarding the above or any other tax issues concerning you, then please contact us or visit us in our offices in Walmley Village, Sutton Coldfield.

This article appears in Walmley Pages Magazine, a local magazine delivered to homes and businesses in Sutton Coldfield, Walmley, Minworth and surrounding area’s.

Property Has the nation rekindled its love affair with property?

After a five year drought, the television schedules are awash with property programmes once again. Grand Designs is enjoying its annual run of programmes, but these are all brand new projects rather than updates on programmes that were first run a few years ago. Kevin McCloud can also be seen in Man Made Home, a quirky series about building a beach hut from recycled materials. Sarah Beeny, who made her name showing amateurs how to make money out of property development, is now telling them how to achieve their dream house for half the cost of upsizing.

Caroline Quentin has recently finished her latest series of Restoration Home, a programme about people who spend hundreds of thousands of pounds restoring historic properties that should probably have been left to crumble to dust. Meanwhile, a brace of architects are showing self builders how to create a perfect home for a pittance in The House that £100k Built. Recently, I saw the first episode of Location, Location, Location, that wasn’t a rerun from six years ago, in a long time. In case you’ve forgotten the concept, this is a house hunting show fronted by Kirsty Allsopp and Phil Spencer. All this and I haven’t even started on the numerous property shows that litter the daytime television listings.

Sutton Coldfield hasn’t returned to the days of 2006 when this kind of programme was at its height. The money no object, fortunes to be made exuberance of the mid noughties is long gone and may never return. Instead, the focus is more on getting the absolute maximum of bangs for your buck. For instance, the concept of Sarah Beeny’s show is that people who have run out of space can extend and renovate their current property for half the cost of selling up and buying a bigger house. But we can still take heart from this; people are passionate about property again and that can only be good news for the housing market.

Craig Brown

This article appears in Walmley Pages Magazine, a local magazine delivered free to homes in Walmey, Minworth and Sutton Coldield

Puffed up and Puffed out – from Walmley Pages Magazin

Did you remember to change your clocks? Autumn is a time to curl up and let the world pass me by. All I seem to think of is how long it will be until spring! However that feeling soon gives way to appreciating the smells and colours of the great outdoors that surround us here in Walmley. Just a walk in the Valley country park is enough to freshen even the most jaded of psyches. Jaded is how I feel after another round of the talking head hot air that are the annual party conferences. I cannot even get heated about the guff that flows from these self congratulatory and self flagellatory talking shops. What I can do instead, and I urge you to join me, is to laugh at `em. Just as they are being laughed at by the unions, by the BBC, by the illegal immigrants, by the feckless underclass, by the bankers and by the industry that surrounds political correctness and Health and Safety.

Talking of politicians (and indeed I was) I wonder whether the much heralded and derided HS2 railroad has been junked yet ?

I have no wish to pay for the construction of this folly of the future. If it such a good idea and guaranteed success why is  private investment not being sought ? Has not history shown us that these grand government vanity projects don`t work , always overrun on cost and time, whereas private projects with shareholders and profits to worry about ,invariably work or don`t get built.

Last thoughts for November, enjoy a safe Bonfire Night on the 5th.

Try to make it to the War Memorial, Walmley Village on Sunday 10th for the annual Remembrance day service. Always well attended and very moving.

                                                                                                                                                                                              

Jeff Gilbert – Jeff’s Useful Shop, Walmley Road, Sutton Coldfield.

This article appears in Walmley Pages Magazine, distributed free of charge to residents and businesses in the Walmley and Sutton Coldfield area.

 

Cheers and Cheeps – Article from Walmley Pages Magazine

Do we in Walmley realise how lucky we are to have a number of unpaid and unsung heroes who quietly enhance all our lives with no thought of recompense or reward. This attitude goes straight to the real heart of that elusive ideal, “community “. People like the group of pensioners who weekly tidy round the church and church hall, the early morning duo who tidy around the Select n Save area, THANKS to you all.

The magical appearance of our hanging baskets, Christmas tree and lights, they all have silent arrangers behind the scenes as do the annual Remembrance service at the memorial, ditto the carols round the tree each December. THANKS to you all .Too many to mention who help out in our Country Park, those who pick up other folks litter , those who help to cut back overgrowth , those who always answer the call for workdays. THANKS to you all, Chrissy , David, Chris, Jenny, Paul, Bill…….The list is extensive and covers many ages and both genders. All of these hardy souls do not sit back and whine “something must be done”, they get out there and do it !

I know that through August and September your garden birds have been quiet and less in evidence . This is perfectly normal and is as a result of their annual moult when they feel vunerable , so don’t sing and tend to skulk. By now they will be coming back and this is a good time to establish a feeding station in your garden to ensure plenty of winter entertainment from a convenient window.

Provide clean water and a variety of foods in your chosen spot and enjoy.  Remember keep it clean and regular. Small quantities at first to avoid attracting vermin. Just one reason to look forward to winter. Lastly, a date for your diary…

 

Saturday October 12th    Crocus planting in Walmley Village, Sutton Coldfield

All welcome, just bring your trowel, and dig it ! 

 

Jeff Gilbert – Jeff’s Useful Shop, Walmley Road, Sutton Coldfield.

This article appears in Walmley Pages Magazine, a local free magazine delivering to homes in Walmley, Sutton Coldfield and surrounding areas.