2006-02-28

Money: CDs & DVDs dearer as Govt Closes Loophole

Health: Stress Damaged Brain Leads to Dementia

2006-02-27

Pilkington Sold

2006-02-24

Health & Stats: Water Rationing Imminent

2006-02-18

Intolerance: Upcoming Controversial TV Shows

The Scottish TV presenter and journalist Mr.Dominik Diamond is considering undergoing physical crucifixion as part of a controversial television documentary about Christianity. Mr.Diamond, once a committed Christian, will try to rediscover his faith in a journey from Scotland, via the Vatican and Italy, to the Philippines, where Christians celebrate Easter by re-enacting Christ's ordeal on the Cross. Mr.Diamond said:
'I'm in my mid-30s, I've got three kids and it's about time I did something that didn't involve cheap gags. 'You might as well aim high -- so I thought I'd try to find "God".'
The documentary, 'Crucify Me', is being made for the 'Five' channel by 'Ginger TV', part of the Glasgow-based 'Scottish Media Group' ('SMG'). 'Five's' director of programmes, Mr.Dan Chambers, was in Glasgow last night to unveil several new commissions filmed in Scotland. The network is also filming a documentary about the school shootings at Dunblane. It will be presented by Mr.Will Hanrahan, who covered the story at the time. Investigative reporter Mr.Donal Macintyre is making a documentary about the Northern Ireland Loyalist terrorist Mr.Jonny Adair, who now lives in Scotland. Mr.Chambers said 'Crucify Me' and 'Dunblane: A Decade On':
'Would highlight the depth and diversity of our factual line-up and make for compelling viewing'.
Other programmes revealed by 'Five' in Glasgow last night include 'The Real Rain Man', based on the story of Kim Peek, the inspiration behind the film 'Rain Man', and 'The Woman Who Lost 30 Stone', which follows the transformation of an American who spent eight years weighing 45 stones. 'TV reporter to seek God in real-life crucifixion', Fergus Sheppard, 2006-02-17 Fr

2006-02-16

Health & Intolerance: Weight Loss Through Cannabis?

Super Casinos: The Key To All Our Futures?

Scots Shopping Centre Seller Supporting "Arts"

http://clippednews.wordpress.com/2006/02/16/scots-shopping-centre-seller-supporting-arts/

2006-02-15

Health: Unrecognised Heart Attacks

2006-02-14

Intolerance & Health: Medical Mix Ups Review Needed

Intolerance: Darwin's Compatible With Christianity

2006-02-13

Intolerance & Health: Medical Mix Up: Death in Hospital

A woman died a day after mistakenly being given medicine intended for another patient, the NHS has confirmed. Ms.Barbara Maguire, 51, was placed in an emergency ward bed after being admitted to Glasgow's 'Stobhill Hospital' with a stomach complaint in 2004. 'NHS Greater Glasgow' said Ms.Maguire 'regrettably' received medicine which had been prescribed for a patient previously in her bed. It has been co-operating with an inquiry by the procurator fiscal.
'We met with Ms.Maguire's family at the time of her death, confirmed that the wrong medication had been given and expressed our sincere regret,' an 'NHS Greater Glasgow' spokesperson said. 'We also reported the matter to the procurator fiscal's office. 'Over the past year we have provided information as requested to the procurator fiscal's office including in the past week a final report on the actions we have taken to prevent this happening again.'
Radiation overdose Ms.Maguire's partner of 25 years, Mr.Thomas Bryan, said he was asked to give a statement to police but is still 'waiting for answers'. Mr.Bryan, from Glasgow, told the Scottish Mail on Sunday:
'I can't understand why anyone would give her drugs that were supposed to be for someone else.'
The case comes just days after it was revealed that 'The Beatson Oncology Centre' in Glasgow administered potentially lethal doses of radiation to a 15-year-old girl. Ms.Lisa Norris, from Girvan, Ayrshire, was being treated for a brain tumour. 'The Scottish Executive Health Department' is conducting an inquiry into the case. 'Woman died after wrong medicine', BBC NEWS, 2006/02/13 00:52:33 GMT

Health: Vegetables May Fix DNA & stop Cancer

2006-02-11

'The Little Willies' & 'The Well Hungarians'

2006-02-09

Health & Intolerance: Medical Mix Up: Teenager's Radiation Overdose

The medical director of Scotland's largest cancer centre has apologised after overdoses of radiation were given to a 15-year-old girl. Ms.Lisa Norris, from Girvan, in Ayrshire, was treated for a brain tumour at 'The Beatson Oncology Centre' in Glasgow. She was reportedly given 17 potentially deadly radiation overdoses. Professor Mr.Alan Rodger said:
'We are conscious of the distress that is being caused to Lisa and her family and we are very sorry this mistake happened.' 'Immediately upon discovering the overdose, we launched an internal investigation. 'This investigation established that no equipment failure was involved but that the overdose was the result of human error.'
Mr.Rodger said that the investigation had also confirmed that no other patient treatments were affected.
'The staff involved with this isolated incident are extremely distraught,' he said.
'The Scottish Executive Health Department' is to conduct its own inquiry. Lisa said she did not know what the future would hold for her.
'I could be brain damaged, I could be paralysed. Later in the future, like 10 or 15 years, I could not be here. 'Time will tell what is going to happen to me,' she said.
The teenager said she was 'very sore', with burns on the back of her neck and her ears.
'I am starting to blister and at night I can't sleep because I can't lie on my back, which I usually do,' she added. 'Now I toss and turn because I lie on my side, and every time I toss and turn my mum or Andrew (her brother) has to get me back onto my side again.'
Health Minister Mr.Andy Kerr said it was 'a very regrettable incident'. He added:
'Patient safety is at the heart of everything we do. 'We have sought assurances from "NHS Greater Glasgow" that no other patients have been put at risk -- and they have given us that assurance. 'An investigation on behalf of ministers is already under way in conjunction with "Greater Glasgow Health Board" and radiation experts. 'The aims are to establish clearly what has happened and to identify the measures that will be taken to ensure that the causes of this incident cannot be repeated.'
Ms.Lesley Walker, director of cancer information at 'Cancer Research UK', said:
'Because an overdose like this is extremely rare, it will be difficult for doctors to know exactly what lasting effect the overdose could have. 'It may be three months before they know exactly what has happened and which parts of her body may have been affected.'
'The Beatson' is Scotland's largest cancer centre and the second-largest in the UK. It sees 8_000 new patients each year and more than 15_000 courses of 'chemotherapy' and 6_500 courses of 'radiotherapy' are administered. The centre is based on three sites in Glasgow.
The radiation overdose took place at 'The Western Infirmary'. Ms.Jenny Whelan, head of support group 'CancerBACUP Scotland', said that there were internal checks throughout radiotherapy treatment, given the potentially lethal consequences if it was wrongly administered.
'The machines are checked very regularly, there are physicists on-site that calibrate the machines and make sure that they're giving out the dose that has been prescribed,' she said. 'Obviously something has gone badly wrong. 'We're all fallible but this is a very distressing outcome for a young woman in her situation. 'Incidents like this are incredibly rare but it is very frightening for everybody having radiotherapy treatment.'
'Apology for radiation error girl', BBC NEWS, 2006/02/08 18:36:10 GMT

TV Show helps Criminals Cover Tracks

It is called 'The CSI Effect' and it is being taken seriously by police officers and prosecutors across the country. Murderers are getting better at covering their tracks, by watching the hit television series 'CSI: Crime Scene Investigation', in which police forensics experts track down killers with state of the art equipment.
'It's not uncommon for rapists now to bring bleach with them and effectively sanitise the crime scene,' said Mr.Joshua Marquis, an Oregon prosecutor.
Last year, Mr.Marquis won manslaughter convictions against two women who had allowed an old woman in their care to die and then dumped her body into a ravine. In this case, however, watching 'CSI' contributed to their downfall.
'They were great fans of "CSI" ... they were bragging to their friends that the police would never prove whether [the victim] had medication in her system, because she had been in the ravine for two weeks,' Mr.Marquis said. 'They were just wrong.'
Captain Mr.Ray Peavy, at the Los Angeles sheriff's homicide bureau, told 'ABC television':
'The "CSI" factor is very definitely real; the criminals are learning what not to leave behind at crime scenes.'
In Ohio, another 'CSI' fan, Mr.Jermaine Mckinney, has been charged with murdering a mother and daughter, then burning their bodies, using bleach to remove their blood from his hands, and lining his car with a blanket to avoid leaving traces. But he was given away by his ex-girlfriend. Court papers said Mr Mckinney, who:
'liked to watch "CSI" and other crime and forensic programmes on television', was 'concerned with the transferences of hair, sweat and DNA from him to the victim. 'This was why it was necessary for him to burn the bodies.'
Prosecutors say more jurors have seen 'CSI' and are increasingly reluctant to convict without hi-tech forensic proof.
'I can't say we've seen a vast number of cases in which guilty people have walked free. But virtually every day prosecutors have to deal with it because a jury ... expects DNA tests in every case, and in many cases there is no real DNA evidence,' said Mr.Marquis.
'Hit TV crime show helps criminals cover their tracks', Julian Borger, The Guardian, 2006-02-08

2006-02-08

Intolerance: Fines for Idling

Glasgow is leading Scotland with a get-tough approach on drivers who needlessly leave their vehicle engines running -- while Edinburgh is letting offenders off with a warning. City officials in Glasgow said yesterday 2006-02-07 that they had issued 16 drivers with 20_GBP fines for the offence since the City launched the crackdown two months ago. However, environmental wardens in Edinburgh admitted that they were continuing a softly-softly line by simply asking drivers to switch off their engines. The different approaches follow Glasgow City taking legal advice to ensure it could act under new 'Scottish Executive' regulations to cut down city centre pollution. The drive is being backed by a 150_000_GBP publicity campaign which states:
'I'll wait here and keep the engine running -- how many times have you said that? Idling vehicles are contributing to Glasgow's air pollution.'
A Glasgow City spokesman was unable to say what type of vehicles were among those whose drivers had been fined, but said none had appealed. The worst offenders are thought to be taxi and bus drivers. Bus drivers have been regularly seen parked with their engines running, with no passengers on board. The spokesman said it had previously followed 'Scottish Executive' guidance, which recommended a soft approach. The City had thought that if a driver was warned about idling their vehicle engine unnecessarily and either switched it off or drove away, no fine could be issued. However, the spokesman said the legal advice had made clear that the regulations enabled the council to fine drivers without warning them first. She said:
'The 20_GBP fixed penalty will now be issued if a vehicle is observed committing the idling offence. Enforcement officers from environmental protection services will issue tickets, particularly in areas where there have been persistent problems.'
The spokesman said the officials were not patrolling streets for offenders, but issued fines where they saw idling vehicles during the course of their other duties. She added:
'We are not publishing details of figures broken down at present into types of vehicles. As and when it is appropriate, we will report to a committee with appropriate comment on any data.'
However, Edinburgh City said it was sticking to a softer line. A spokesman said:
'Environmental wardens will inform drivers they are committing an offence, ask them to switch off their engines and if they fail to do so, a fixed penalty will be issued. To date, all parties have complied with the wardens' requests.'
Motoring groups said buses and taxis rather than cars should be targeted, but Glasgow's main bus operator said its drivers should not be leaving their engines idling. Mr.Neil Greig, the head of policy for the AA Motoring Trust in Scotland, said:
'We have no problems with this law in principle, but the issue is the way it is implemented. 'Private cars always seem to be targeted, but they often have the most modern engines. While car drivers may keep their engines on for short periods to keep themselves warm while waiting to pick up someone, buses, lorries and taxis often run their engines for much longer and emit far more pollution in diesel fumes.'
A spokesman for 'First', Glasgow's largest bus firm, said drivers were instructed to switch off engines while their vehicles were parked rather than waiting at bus stops to pick up passengers. 'Divide as Glasgow revs up drive against vehicle pollution', Alastair Dalton, The Scotsman, 2006-02-08

2006-02-07

Intolerance & Stats: Worst UK Truants

Pupils in Glasgow have the worst truancy rate in the UK, a survey showed yesterday 2006-01-06 Monday. The study, carried out among pupils aged 11 to 16, found 32 per cent of the city's schoolchildren had skipped classes. At the other end of the scale, the truancy rate in Brighton was only 11 per cent, closely followed by Edinburgh and Liverpool on 13 per cent. There were major variations across the country, with 29 per cent of Belfast pupils playing truant, and 27 per cent in both Norwich and Plymouth. In Manchester, the figure was 25 per cent, while in Cardiff it was 19 per cent. The national average for pupils playing truant in UK state schools was 23 per cent, compared with 17 per cent in the private sector. The survey of 1_000 pupils found that the main reason for missing school was a dislike of a particular subject or to meet friends. However, 10 per cent said they missed class because they were being bullied while 6 per cent said they played truant because of a hangover. One in three had taken time off without the school's permission to go on family holidays. The survey was conducted by SMART Technologies and a spokesman said:
'We hope this will help the industry gain a deeper insight into the issue of truancy in schools across the country in order to help teachers and school authorities find better ways to engage students and motivate them to attend school regularly.'
According to 'The Department for Education and Skills', 50_000 pupils miss school every day without permission and an estimated 7.5 million school days are missed each year through truancy. Research shows children who are not in school are the most vulnerable and easily drawn into crime. 'Glasgow pupils 'most likely to play truant'', Russell Jackson, The Scotsman, 2006-02-06 Mo

2006-02-05

Intolerance & Stats: Search Engine Penalises Website

Raenex writes
"The car maker BMW has had its German website bmw.de delisted from Google. The delisting was punishment for using deceptive means to boost page ranking, which has now been set to zero for BMW. Matt Cutts, a Google employee who works to stop unethical search manipulation, originally reported the delisting in his blog and suggests that camera maker Ricoh is not far behind."
'Google Delists BMW-Germany', Slashdot.com, Posted by ScuttleMonkey on Sunday February 05, from the wild-wild-west-of-internet-search dept. Google The Internet

2006-02-03

Health, Stats & Intolerance: French Fight Fags

Government agencies and nonprofits are trying to wean the French from their beloved tobacco -- and it's working. Quelle surprise! France has long had a special relationship with tobacco. After all, 'nicotine' was named for a Frenchman, Mr.Jean Nicot, the first European to cultivate the plant when it was imported from the 'New World' in the 16th century. Ever since, the French have been in love with the weed -- from 'existentialists' waxing philosophical over coffee and smokes in cafés, to the romantic image of movie stars such as Mr.Yves Montand -- a cigarette dangling from his lips as he seduces Ms.Marilyn Monroe in 'Let's Make Love' -- tobacco and France seemed inseparable. But now, mon dieu, even the French are starting to get serious about giving up the habit. Since 2003, the government has 'upped' its anti-smoking rhetoric, raised taxes on cigarettes by 40 per cent, and poured hundreds of millions of euros into programs aimed at eradicating France's biggest preventable health threat.
'The fight against tobacco is urgent, an absolute priority,' said President Mr.Jacques Chirac in a 2003-03 speech launching his new anti-cancer initiative.
Emboldened non-profit groups have taken to the airwaves, distributed millions of anti-smoking leaflets, and even filed lawsuits against major publications: The suits alleged indirect tobacco advertising in news photos of race car drivers sporting 'Marlboro' logos on their jumpsuits. Meanwhile, sales of smoking-cessation products -- such as patches, gum, and 'GlaxoSmithKline's' 'Zyban' anti-smoking drug -- skyrocketed 47 per cent in 2005. A broader movement. The campaign is starting to work; France's overall smoking rate fell to 31 per cent of the adult population last year, down from a peak of more than 52 per cent in the 1980s. While still high, it's not as bad as anyone visiting a smoky Parisian bistro might assume. By comparison, U.S. American smokers number 21 per cent of the adult population, while in Britain the rate is 26 per cent. More important, even bigger reductions are occurring among young people. The number of French high school students using tobacco has halved since 2001. And government tax hikes helped slash sales of cigarettes to the nation's remaining smokers by nearly one-third in 2005 alone. Tobacco companies are putting on a brave face. Mr.Michael Pfeil, vice-president for communications and contributions for 'Philip Morris International', a subsidiary of 'Altria Group' and the maker of France's top-selling brand, 'Marlboro', cites his company's co-operation with public-health authorities in France and other European countries. He said:
'We do what we can to establish a stable business environment for our company.'
Officials at 'Altadis', the Franco-Spanish venture that makes France's fabled 'Gauloise' and 'Gitanes' brands, couldn't be reached for comment, but 'Altadis' shares have been flat for the past year. The stock is down 11 per cent since the start of 2006, to 34.32_EUR, on the Paris bourse. France's new anti-smoking religion is part of a broader movement across Europe to mirror the U.S.A.'s successful 40-year campaign against tobacco. Already, countries such as Italy, Sweden, and Belgium have moved to limit indoor smoking, while Ireland, Scotland, and Norway have gone even further, outlawing it even in bars and restaurants. Such national efforts have the strong backing of 'The European Union', which mandated dramatically larger and blunter anti-smoking warnings on cigarette packs and ads starting in 2001. Soon, the text warnings may be supplemented with graphic images, such as colour pictures of smoke-scarred lungs and gums. Novel Approaches. So far, the French government's primary focus has been on public-health issues. Mr.Chirac has created a new 'National Cancer Institute', funded with 2_000_million_EUR, that groups together previously disparate medical experts and administrators. Tobacco tops the institute's list of major national health threats. To help citizens quit the habit, the government has opened a series of addiction treatment centres, though appointments are hard to come by. The government's 'Office for the Prevention of Tobacco Addiction' also runs a workplace outreach program that will send staff addiction specialists on 2_000 company visits this year. The program even subsidises 500 'workplace quitting coaches.' One of the most novel approaches -- clearly aimed at younger people who frequent the Internet -- is a Web site backed by France's 'National Institute for Prevention and Health Education'. The colorful site, www.JeSuisManipule.com ('I'm being manipulated'), includes shocking comic strips and videos, anti-smoking testimonials, and interactive on-line forums. It also features downloadable music and streaming anti-smoking ads. Such public efforts come at the same time as nonprofit anti-smoking groups proliferate around France. The new nationwide 'French Alliance Against Tobacco', a coalition of 30 organisations, focuses on subjects ranging from secondhand smoke in bars to tobacco use among youth. Its 'Tabac-Info-Service' hotline, which offers free coaching, is available all day, six days a week -- virtually 24/7 by French standards. Another group, 'Tobacco-Free Business', works with big companies such as 'Renault' and 'Peugeot'. On top of that are dozens of intra-European agencies funded by the likes of the EU and 'The World Health Organization'. Media Attention. The nonsmoking majority of French people are becoming less timid about demanding their rights. Polls indicate that 72 per cent of the population would support a complete ban on smoking in public places.
'We should be talking about smokers living in a nonsmoking society, not the other way around,' says Ms.Céline Fournier, communications manager for an organisation called 'Nonsmokers Rights'.
To promote that perspective, Ms.Fournier's group in 2005 distributed 250_000 copies of a guide to smoke-free bars and restaurants. Other organisations are making clever use of the media to spread the word. For the past year, a coalition of anti-smoking groups has sponsored TV shorts, titled 'I'm Quitting, And You?', pairing French pop star Ms.Ophelie Winter with a regular citizen smoker as they attempt to kick the habit together. Each thematic episode features the two in reality TV-style settings, addressing the difficulties of quitting, visiting medical experts, and enjoying newfound lung capacity (by jogging together). Advocacy groups also are taking a page from the legalistic North American approach to battling social ills. Under existing French laws banning tobacco advertisements, 'Nonsmokers Rights' sued three newspapers for publishing photographs of 'Formula One' drivers with the 'Marlboro' logo on their gear. The Parisian court of minor offenses ruled against 'Le Monde', 'Le Point', and 'Les Echos' in 2006-01, fining them 800/1000_EUR (plus the plaintiffs' court fees). Changing Image. The outstanding question is whether smoking will become an issue in the upcoming 2007 presidential election. Many people in France doubt the country is ready to adopt a total ban on public smoking -- of the sort now in effect in Spain and Ireland -- though some think it's only a matter of time. Politicians are afraid of the issue, despite vast public support for smoking restrictions. Why? France's 36_000 tobacco-shop owners have threatened to take to the streets if a ban is mooted. Such protests, even by minority groups, have an outsize impact in French media and politics. In fits and starts, France's longtime love affair with cigarettes is finally giving way. Perhaps no recent event underscored the shift more than the news in 2005-09 that 'Altadis' was moving production of 'Gauloises' out of France. The favorite of Mr.Jean-Paul Sartre and Mr.Serge Gainsbourg offshored to Spain? It's a sign of the times.
'The image of the Frenchman with baguette, red wine, and cigarette needs to be slightly altered,' says Mr.Albert Hirsch, a professor of pulmonary medicine and vice-president of an advocacy group, 'The Fight Against Cancer'. 'Soon the cigarette will be gone from the picture.'
'French Tradition Goes Up in Smoke', Matt Vella, Businessweek.com, 2006-02-01

2006-02-01

Intolerance, Money & Stats: Cost of Freedom of Information

Scottish Parliamentary authorities have revealed that 'Freedom of Information' requests from journalists have cost taxpayers more than 139_000_GBP. Among the requests were details of Mr.David Mcletchie's taxi expenses, which led to his resignation. Although processing the requests took about 7_000 hours, no charge was made to the media organisations. 'The Sunday Herald' and 'Scotland on Sunday' placed requests costing an estimated 56_000_GBP. 'Information request cost revealed', BBC News, 2006-02-01

Intolerance: Rogue Tradesmen & The New Trustmark Logo

'Margo Leadbetter' would be disappointed; where is the stern expression, the wagging finger and the haughty tone with which 'The Good Life's' imperious character always got her own way? A new survey shows that nearly two-fifths of us no longer trust builders, plumbers or roofers to do a good job, while one in nine said that having building work carried out at home was one of the most stressful experiences known to man. Yet, while we shrink from confronting the worst slackers with their slapdash approach to 'improving' our homes, more than 100_000 of us complain to 'Trading Standards' every year about substandard work. A new government-backed initiative called 'Trustmark', which commissioned the survey, has been launched to help tackle the problem. It issues standards for trade bodies -- and those which meet the criteria are issued with the 'Trustmark' logo.
'We hope it will take some of the pain and the stress out of getting any sort of work done to your home,' says 'Trustmark's' Chief Executive Mr.Chris Blyth.
Why do we find it so hard to tell those in our employ exactly what we want, or to complain when we don't get it? According to TV psychologist Ms.Jenni Trent-Hughes, it's partly fear of the unknown.
'We feel wrongfooted,' she says. 'We're entering a world where we don't know the vocabulary, we're not sure what's going on and we're not at ease -- it's the equivalent of a man walking into a lingerie department.'
We also feel threatened:
'Your home is your retreat, you feel protected there, and having strangers suddenly invading it raises the stress levels.'
Or maybe it's just good old British reticence and insecurity: it can be hard to look your fellow man in the eye and tell him how to do his job. Help is at hand; here we present the stress-free guide to getting work done on your home without falling apart. PUTTING A PLAN TOGETHER Do your research.
'Head down to a DIY store and have a look around,' says Mr.Blyth. 'Try and make yourself aware of what's out there, so that when you start dealing with the professionals, you've got some idea of the materials available [for the jobs you want done].'
Managing Director of central heating installer AC Wilgar, Mr.Billy Wilgar, says that from a tradesman's perspective, the more research a customer can do the better.
'It's fantastic if you're dealing with someone who's got some knowledge, and knows what they want. 'The Internet can be great for that.'
You should also leaf through interiors magazines for inspiration, and build up a visual image of the ideal end result.
'Pictures really help,' says Mr.Blyth.
You should also, says Mr.Blyth, set your budget and stick to it.
'It's dead simple, really,' he says. 'If you were going to buy a television, you'd know beforehand how much you want to spend. 'There's no reason why you can't use the same principle when getting work done to your house.'
This doesn't mean you need to spend all your money at once, however.
'Keep some back for emergencies,' says Ms.Trent-Hughes. 'If you go right to the top of your limit at the very beginning, and then run into problems later that need more cash, you're stuck.'
For couples, Ms.Trent-Hughes also suggests talking everything over with your partner before you get the professionals in.
'If you have disagreements in front of your builder about budgets or design choices, they may well try to exploit that. 'Discuss things with each other first, and make sure you've got a plan organised, so that you can present a united front.'
BEFORE YOU START 65 per cent of people say they feel uncomfortable leaving tradesmen alone in their homes. If you're one of them, or you'd just prefer to have someone who's an expert keeping an eye on things for you, then once you've found your builder the next thing you should consider is hiring a project manager.
'If you're not 100 per cent familiar with the territory, this can be a very good idea,' says Mr.Blyth. 'An architect or a surveyor will know the industry, and be able to talk the same language as the builders. ' Even if it's 10 per cent of the total cost of the project, it can be money extremely well spent when it comes to securing your own peace of mind.'
After that, it's time to sit down with your builders and project manager.
'Be very clear about what you want done,' says Mr.Blyth. 'Talk every detail through, and make sure your contractor knows exactly what it is that you want.'
Don't necessarily reveal to them your entire budget, but ask them to give you quotes and estimates, and cost out every element. Once this is done, make sure you keep a note of it somewhere. For larger projects, getting a contract drawn up is also a good idea.
'Particularly if the cost of the work is going to be over 20_000_GBP,' says Mr.Blyth. 'A contract means there's much less margin for error, particularly if you run into problems.'
ON THE JOB
'Once work starts, you must, must, must keep a file,' says Ms.Trent-Hughes. 'Keep every receipt, every quote, every clipping. 'Make a note of every phone call you have with your builder, and what is said. 'It may seem tedious and pointless, but if something goes wrong, this is the first thing you'll look at. 'It takes away any confusion, as it's all written down there in black and white.'
If you do run into problems -- say for example a room has been painted the wrong colour -- Ms.Trent Hughes advises trying not to lose your temper.
'Speak to the foreman, or whoever is in charge, and suggest a quiet cup of coffee. 'Say you want to talk over concerns. 'Don't say complaints. That way they'll know something's bothering you but will be less likely to come into the conversation with an aggressive attitude.'
Mr.Blyth agrees.
'Be upfront, but don't be angry.' 'There are good guys out there,' adds Mr.Wilgar. 'The majority of tradesmen aren't cowboys and will deal with situations sensibly.'
Whether or not you have a project manager, make sure you have a weekly meeting with whoever is in charge.
'It's a good way to keep monitoring the work, check that everything's on schedule, and raise any problems,' says Mr.Blyth.
HAPPY EVER AFTER? So, thework is finished. The walls are painted, your kitchen is tiled to perfection and the electrics have been rewired without anyone hooking your cat up to the toaster. Job done, surely? Not necessarily.
'Ask your builder for a detailed report on all the work that's been carried out,' says Mr.Blyth. 'Not only is this a useful thing to have yourself, in case anything goes wrong in the future, but it also shows you're a good and conscientious homeowner.'
Mr.Blyth points out that it could even help boost the price of your house, if you plan to sell it in the foreseeable future.
'Being able to show the new owners proof that you've had work done, and had it done well, looks good to a potential buyer.'
It is also a good idea to have a final meeting with your project manager, if you have appointed one, or your builder in order to go through all the issues that have been raised throughout the work, make sure you're happy with what has been done, and shake hands on a final price. This is, again, where your file and meticulous note keeping will come in handy, allowing you to see at a glance the pre-agreed price that any extra work would cost.
'The people I know who've never had any problems with tradespeople are always the ones who have been organised from the very beginning, and can carry that organisation all the way through a project,' says Ms.Trent Hughes 'They are organised, calm and firm. And bear in mind: an informed consumer is a confident customer.'
CALL THE PROFESSIONALS -- QUICK! If you've chosen the wrong person for the job, you'll soon know about it. Here are the most common gripes:
  • WHERE THE HELL IS HE? Appoint a tradesman, agree costs, time-frame and details to your satisfaction. Get a skip delivered, rip out your unwanted kitchen, and, on the agreed start date, wait for him to show up. And wait. Four days later, when you've left countless stroppy messages on his mobile and eaten nothing but takeaway curries, he will ring to tell you that his wife's sister's dog is being held to ransom by drug dealers, and you will apologise profusely for bothering him.
  • I DIDN'T GET WHAT I ASKED FOR You can clearly recall showing the decorator your Farrow & Ball paint chart and requesting Dead Salmon in a water-based eggshell around the breakfast-room fireplace. So, how come you've ended up with a coat of emulsion in fish-paste pink?
  • THE DISRUPTION The neighbours will go berserk when they find three white transit vans and a cement-mixer blocking their gates. Not to mention the foreman's brand-new BMW X5 Sport, double parked. And you can forget listening to any earnest cultural discussions on Radio 4. While the workers are in situ, every wireless in the house will be tuned to Five Live at ear-bleeding volume.
  • THE MESS THEY LEFT BEHIND You were so glad to see the back of the plasterer and his mate after three weeks that you didn't mind vacuuming up the debris and scrubbing their dusty bootprints off the parquet. But check the house thoroughly -- you may also find fag ends in your flowerpots and beer cans behind the drawing-room curtains.
  • THE EXTRA CHARGES Who knew that a brushed steel lightswitch costs 20 times as much as an ordinary plastic one? Or that adding a bevelled edge to your granite worktop would treble its cost? Tempting though it is to upgrade whenever the decorator waves swatches and samples under your nose, be aware of the pound signs flashing in her eyes.
  • WHERE THE HELL IS HE? It's Friday, for heaven's sake! You don't expect anyone to work on a Friday, do you?
'Have you got the right tools to handle your tradesmen?', Emma Cowing, The Scotsman, 2006-01-31