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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.


Should you be completing a Tax Return?

Under the self-assessment system, certain taxpayers are liable to complete a Return; if they are a Director of a company, if they are self-employed, have income over £100,000, if their expenses claim exceeds £2,500, or if there is untaxed income in excess of £2,500 or capital gains.  This year there is also a new category of taxpayer required to complete a return – those who are required to pay the High Income Child Benefit charge. This new tax charge is anticipated to affect approximately 1.2 million families where one or both of the couple earns more than £50,000.

If you fall into one of the above criteria, you do need to ensure that you obtain a tax reference and file a tax return for the year ended 5 April 2013 by 31 January 2014.  Failure to file a return on time does create huge penalty issues; a return three months late could result in penalties in excess of £900 even if the person owes no tax!

If you have received a 2012/13 Tax Return, then you have until 31 October 2013 if you want to complete a paper version; after that date you are obliged to file electronically by 31 January 2014.

Common areas where you might need some advice regarding the entries on your Tax Return:-

·         You are self-employed or a director of a limited company.

·         You want to claim for expenditure incurred personally in respect of your employment. This could include your professional subscriptions or for business mileage undertaken in your own car

·         You receive income from property. This could be from a ‘buy-to-let’ property, a holiday home that you let or even a lodger in your own home.

·         You have a variety of investment income sources, such as a managed investment portfolio, and differing rates of tax have been deducted at source.

·         You are a higher rate taxpayer and you regularly make Gift Aid donations or personal pension contributions so wish to claim additional tax relief.

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

This article appears in Walmley Pages, a local magazine delivered free to homes in the B76 postcode.


Ready for a Lichfield Christmas?

LichfieldCathedralLichfield is alight with Christmas cheer right now, so make the most of all that is happening; enjoy the festivities throughout December, until you finally put your feet up on Christmas afternoon with a glass of something sparkling!

Some Lichfield Christmas highlights

The Christmas Farmers’ markets are on the first Thursday in December and back again for a twinkly encore on 20th December, just in time to get some last minute goodies.  Don’t miss the Lichfield Christmas Festival, on 16th -17th December, a weekend bursting with activities, music, storytelling, eating and drinking. For something a little different, how about a nostalgic afternoon, with 1940s entertainment and festive food, at the National Arboretum on the 6th December?

It’s all about the children

Keep the excitement levels at fever pitch over the next few weeks with a whole host of local Christmas activities. Kick off with Christmas crafts in Beacon Park on the 1st and 2nd December, and then go up a gear with a visit to the Garrick for this year’s Christmas panto, Alice in Wonderland. Santa will be getting about; visit him nearby at Shugborough, Conkers, or the Chasewater Railway, and don’t forget he’ll be touring the streets with the Round Table too. Yes, he’s very much in evidence in the area, so best behaviour all round!

The real spirit of Christmas

We are blessed with a beautiful cathedral and many active churches in Lichfield so there’s no excuse for missing the true spirit of Christmas this year. The Cathedral in particular has a packed agenda starting with the atmospheric, candlelit Advent Carol Services on 1st and 2nd December at 6pm

Christmas music features heavily of course. You can enjoy carols in the park, carols in the town square, carols in the Cathedral (and the many Lichfield churches), and even carols in the trenches at Whittington Barracks. If you are not singing, then stop and listen and, wherever you are in Lichfield, you will hear the strains of Once in Royal David’s City carrying on the winds….

To all our readers and advertisers, Merry Christmas and Have Fun!

This article appears in Recommended Lichfield, a local magazine and business directory delivered

to 19,000 homes and businesses in Lichfield and the surrounding areas.


What! in Lichfield

What Value!  What Variety! What Choice!

What’s this all about then?

Well, there’s a store in Lichfield that you might not have heard of. What is its name. That’s not a question, it’s actually called What!

You might not have noticed it because it’s hidden at the back of the town centre, opposite the Lombard Street car park (on the site of the old Carol’s store for those of you who have been around a few years).  What! is a treasure trove; an Aladdin’s cave of all the things you could ever want, and more.  The prices are fantastic too, often half the price you’d pay in other stores, so you can have a happy afternoon’s shopping and save a fortune at the same time.

What’s in stock?

•             A huge range of wools for Lichfield’s avid knitters

•             Art and craft materials at fantastic prices

•             A garden section with everything from garden gnomes to patio furniture

•             Brand name households goods including cleaning materials, toiletries, groceries and more

•             Pet food and supplies

•             Good quality furniture in traditional solid wood as well as more contemporary items

•             Toys and games to keep the kids happy

•             Seasonal goods; Christmas decorations from September for the early birds

•             Dulux paints, curtains, carpets, bedding, lightbulbs, you name it…………

Owner and manager Dave has a simple philosophy: stock what customers are asking for, keep the quality high and the margins low – and sell lots. It works; there’s always something new in store and plenty of special offers, making every visit a voyage of discovery.

What! is open every day from 9.00am ‘til 5.30pm and 10am ‘til 4pm on Sundays.

What! are you waiting for? Drop in and pick up a bargain.  You’re guaranteed a friendly welcome and Value, Variety and Choice every time.

152 Lombard Street, Lichfield, Staffs, WS13 6DP

01543 410828

This article featured in Recommended Lichfield magazine delivered to over 16,000 in Lichfield and the surrounding areas every 3 months.


Social Media Good or Evil?

It’s hard to turn on the TV nowadays without hearing about social media such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. All large internet based public publishing services
allowing open communication between people, companies, celebrities and more.  Although still in its infancy it is the fastest growing phenomenon of the modern age. From inspiring revolutions and reuniting long lost lovers to breaking up marriages and fueling riots.  With the time old balance of good and evil it stands to reason there is always going to be an argument for and against social networking, so why are some people still so fearful of it? and does the good outweigh the bad?
It must first be noted that social media is only a reflection of individuals freedom of speech. If an individual spray paints his thoughts on a wall, would we blame the individual or the wall? A common perception is that people do not want everyone knowing what they are doing, however this usually stems from a lack of understanding. It is your choice to publish social media, if you don’t want people to know something then simply don’t post it. Problems occur however if a friend uploads a picture telling the world he is at the zoo with you, which is fine unless you are having a ‘sick day’ and your boss then finds a photo of your fun day out at the zoo. Far fetched
as it may sound many people have already lost their jobs due to cases such as this. But is this social media’s fault? Or does it stem from the the individual’s choice to be dishonest?
A recent advancement in social networking is Geo Targeting, this allows a user to tag themselves at a specific location (via gps) and is quickly being adopted by many companies for advertising. Word of mouth has always been the best form of promotion so when a girl tags herself at a hair salon for her 500+ friends to see this is priceless marketing. For this reason many high street companies are now offering discounts and offers for tagging in at their location. Although if the same girl then mentions what a terrible haircut she received at the salon then this could clearly have an adverse effect. So is it worth the risk? Through experience in providing social media solutions to a number of companies the same question is always raised ‘Do we really want users talking about us online? My response is always the same “Those users are talking about you anyway, maybe even geo tagging themselves there as we speak.” A quick search of a company name often proves this. Social media simply provides the means to engage with these people allowing you to reward the good comments and even turn around negative views. Monitoring social media is usually a better option than ignoring it.
Social media is less than a decade old and has not shown us all it has to offer just yet but its effects on companies and individuals cannot go on being ignored.  There are many arguments both for and against social media each right in their own way, but whatever the correct answer there is no stopping its growth and no way
of predicting what it will evolve into next.

 

 

This article appeared in Recommended Lichfield Magazine


Europey and Tears dopey

It is only July as I put pen to paper so the Euro footie and Whinebledon have been endured, with the expected results…..

Are the Olympics over yet , how did we fare on track, field, water or bike. Did we do well in some obscure discipline that we are now all experts in (remember Curling last time ? Anyone watched any since? )  Was the   opening show or the closing show a success of world beating proportion? Can we have our twelve billion pounds back now please ? Bet you we could win a World Cup for crying Losers tears or even occasionally Winners wet eyes, what`s that all about ?

Let us now start to give our politicians some real stick over a Referendum about our relationship with Europe. Can we please be consulted as to whether we want to stay as part of the Union or just be a peripheral trading partner or balanced somewhere in between?

If any party is brave enough to give us a straight Yes or No vote on whether to pull out or to stay in, then they get my support. If our rulers were that brave then whatever the result they would have a clear and incredibly strong bargaining chip to take to Brussels for , at the very least, an advantageous renegotiation of our terms of membership. If we did vote to withdraw from the Union are we strong enough to prosper outside ? Of course we are !

And while on that subject , let`s give the Scots and Welsh the same choice about being part of a Great Britain or not. My guess is that our Union will endure and given a fair chance we can build a strong and prosperous future for our children to be proud of. Let`s go for it !

Jeff Gilbert

Jeff’s Useful Shop, Walmley

 

This article featured in Walmley Pages Magazine

 


Trust and Rust

Is there any one left that has earned or deserves our trust ? All of our major institutions have recently been tested and all have been found seriously wanting. Politicians on the fiddle and not listening, Journalists with the ethics of the playground, Bankers without any ethics at all . Even Doctors and Police trying to hang on to unrealistic pension rewards that you and I could only dream of. Do these people think that they are entitled to have so much more than “ordinary” folk ? On what basis and at what level do they disconnect from real life to attain their “superstatus” of entitlement that the rest of us have to contribute to? Unfortunately the only checks and levers of control are held in their own hands and in the hands of their peers . They aint going to change it any time soon!   On the brighter side of life , I cannot tell you how relieved I am that the boffins under the Alps have found the Higgs boson. Just like the car keys or my spectacles , I knew we had put it somewhere safe and can now relax. Can the Cern collider now put in a no win , no fee claim for whiplash ?  Butterflies . Could there be any more cheerful or colourful sign of summertime than the sight of butterflies floating over a wildflower meadow? Down in the Valley we must be doing something right. In 1999 there were recorded just 9 varieties of butterfly. So far this year , up to mid July, our hardy if rain rusted recorders, Bob and Steve have clocked up a magnificent 14 species. If the weather decides to improve sometime this year maybe this total can be surpassed. Keep looking fellers.

Jeff Gilbert

Jeff’s Useful Shop, Walmley
This article appeared in Walmley Pages Magazine