It's been just over a week now since all of England's pubs, clubs, bars, work places and shops went smoke free. You can hardly miss the millions of no smoking signs that have now gone up in our high streets and vehicles but how has the smoking ban effected the way we go about our lives?
I'm a non smoker so welcomed the ban though was concerned about the social effects it may have. It's hard not to see the health benefits and I think in general the ban was welcomed.
I went out for the first time on Friday night since the ban, we started in our local Weatherspoons - The Shrewsbury Hotel as it has cheap drinks. The place was as always rammed with people there for the same reason I was, bar waiting times were no difference however I felt along with my friends the youngest in there.
Apart from us everyone inside was old, let me clarify old as in forty plus. Outside was different with its usual mix of old and young. It could just be that I hadn't noticed the old people mixed with the young before but there certainly seemed more of them.
Our next stop was Yates, this place is normally chav infested however bar waiting and fighting time was significantly reduced. The nice bar maid informed us that we had missed the busy time. Finally we ended up in our local club - Liquid, it was again pretty dead.
Of course the smoking ban might not be the only reason places were less busy:
- It was rainin so perhaps no one fancied getting wet queueing for the club then waiting for the taxi or walking home.
- People may be more interested in Big Brother this year therefore did not want to come out - though I find this one unlikely.
- Wimbledon highlights are almost as enthralling as teletext pages though might have kept people at home.
- Interest rates went up a quarter of a percent, not that many young people have mortgages and Yates hadn't yet started supplying copies of the FT.
- Reading the thousands of iPhone reviews is taking longer than expected.
It was nice not going out stinking of smoke and a drunk friend I bumped into in Liquid even mentioned how nice it was with no smoke which I thought was an interested topic of conversation considering his state and the fact I hadn't seen him in months.
The taxi driver on the way home said that the weekend before when people could still smoke was equally as dead so it looks like more than just the smoking ban is having an effect of peoples drinking habits.
So has the no smoking ban effected the way we live our lives? Well for me so far no and it hasn't put my friends off going out but I think its too early to tell the fuller extent of the ban.
There are still many opportunities to be had in the UK property market, assures Manish Chande, Clearbell Senior Partner and experienced investment expert.
Amid reports of overheating in the south-east, he advocates that the smart thing to do is look further afield. He explains that the UK property market may be pausing for breath after the sustained period of recovery following the global financial crisis. However, he notes that the continued under supply of properties in many rental markets, particularly outside London, is likely be experienced for some time.
Chande is an authoritative voice on these matters. Alongside his current role with Clearbell Capital was previously a board director at Land Securities.
There’s a clear regional element to consider in the current UK market, he explains. On one hand, a softening in the market may bring forward mispriced opportunities in London. Meanwhile, the yield spread between prime and secondary in the regions remains three times the levels in the six years preceding the 2008 crisis.
The north of England is likely to be a key growth area, believes Chande. Rather than writing off real estate across Britain, smart investors will be looking for opportunities across the country’s regions. The north is fertile ground for this, with attractive valuations that he believes have a good upside potential. Government funding continues to flow in for transport and infrastructure, and this should soon translate to significant improvements.
With this in mind Chande advises investors to look to the past for future growth. As transport links with London, and other cities in the north improve, he expects to see the number of companies moving to the regions increase. Now is the time to plan for this growth, snapping up well-located office space to cater for new businesses and their staff.
The area’s industrial heritage, particularly warehouses, are ripe for regeneration. Following the mould of successful projects outside of city centres such as Salford Quays and Liverpool Docks, large industrial buildings can bring significant opportunities. The combination of large square footage and their easy commuting distance from population centres make them particularly attractive.
Under Chande's leadership, Clearbell’s approach is to capitalise on these types of untapped pockets of real estate with clear potential. Its current investments are varied in nature and include offices, warehouses, residential property, industrial facilities, retail outlets and hotels. Chande advocates an intense approach to asset management, where the goal is to unlock value throughout the life of the investment.
And it seems the investment vehicle is an attractive prospect. Clearbell’s recent launch of a real estate fund brought of £400 million in equity and £100 million in co-invest, mostly from pension funds, endowments and high net worth individuals. Chande notes the spread of investors in this fund was particularly diverse, bringing interest from the US, Australia, South Africa, the UK and mainland Europe.
This highlights a new phenomenon says the expert, as institutional investors continue to focus on real estate. This is mainly because they are being fastidious about their choices and favouring experienced fund managers with a long track record. With three decades of successful projects and an impressive return under his belt, Chande would seem an obvious choice.
Find out more about Manish Chande below.
Digital photography has become so easy and cheap that if you’re like me I have hundreds if not thousands of photos on my computer. While Windows offers some basic photo viewing and editing options it doesn’t really allow you to touch up your photos to make them even better. One option is Google’s free photo editing program – Picasa 2 (
). When first installed it scans either your documents folder or hard drive for pictures. This can be annoying if you have graphics in your documents folder as you then have to remove them from Picasa. Unfortunately as many pictures and photos share the same file types it is very hard to distinguish them. Picasa allows you to do all the basic photo editing fixes such as removing red eye, straightening the photo, cropping and altering the colour/contrast.
As well as these there are more advanced options for tuning the light, highlights, shadows and temperatures as well as a range of effects including sepia, black & white and tint. Editing photos is simple in Picasa, I usually use Adobe Photoshop or Macromedia Fireworks but these can be complicated especially with the range of options available for advanced users. While Photoshop gives you more control over the photo Picasa is easier for the average user.
Apart from the editing functions in Picasa, it makes a good photo viewer allowing you to zoom in and out of photos as well as setting up slideshows and timelines. Picasa is similar to iPhoto on OS X while I prefer the interface in iPhoto, Picasa is more responsive when moving through a large library. Picasa provides easy ways to share your photos as well as print them. There are also options for setting pictures as desktop and screensaver.
I found the batch operations to be very useful. With my cheap Kodak camera being able to correct the colour and contrast makes such a difference to the quality of my photos. If you don’t like any of the changes made by Picasa you can revert back to the original. Picasa will work with the majority of digital cameras and is available for Windows 2000/XP and now Linux. Overall Picasa is a feature rich program that is free and will cover all the basic needs for managing photos.
When we went to London my Girlfriend had to take her nurserys bear to get some photos of it in some famous locations.
ImAFish however found out the truth about the bear with these horific photos!
It's with my pleasure that I bring you A Bear's Tale.
A Bears Tale
By Pete, Ben and Chris
One-day bear felt a bit depressed and needed some loving, unfortunately Jack was not around however bear found some other friends.
Bear felt right at home with her new friends.
Bear quickly became intoxicated and decided to re-enact something she saw on Big Brother this year.
Bear also decided to sleep with her new friends.
They had a Gang Bang.
I was hoping the children would learn about the dangers of alcohol abuse, my Girlfriend didn't see it this way, I'm off for a pint.
*I'm informed bear is now in rehab.