Moving to Devon


Whatever your reason for relocating to Devon, it’s a great place to live. Whether it’s for work, bringing up a family, buying a holiday home or simply yearning for a better quality of life, Devon is a fantastic place to be and using the services of a relocation agent in Devon has many advantages.

Renowned for its beautiful rolling countryside, nature reserves and Areas of Natural Beauty, it’s possible to live within its two National Parks of Dartmoor and Exmoor, both offering rugged beauty and open spaces.

If you want to be beside the sea, you can choose from north or south coasts, with their very different characters and ranges of historic seaside towns, resorts and miles of unspoilt beaches

Major industries are tourism, farming and fishing but in addition, the county boasts a diverse range of businesses large and small. Plymouth and Exeter are main centres for business, commerce and shopping each investing in modern city centre shopping centres attracting leading High Street names.

Education plays a huge part in Devon’s glorious patchwork. As well as major universities, there are many high quality schools and colleges offering as wide a range of courses as any in the rest of the UK.

The county has excellent road and rail links, regular domestic and international links from Exeter Airport and ferry crossings from Plymouth to France and Spain.

The county has a special appeal to people who want to step off the treadmill and change their lives.

There is no better time to sell in London, where values are high, and move west where prices are lower and the pace of life is more relaxed.

If you look for a property for sale in DevonStrutt & Parker can help you take a closer look at the properties.

Nine Inch Nails at the O2


This past Saturday evening, as happens from time to time, I returned home from a late night of pub karaoke feeling pretty wired.Because I was very much awake, I opened youtube to find something to watch/listen until I felt ready to go to bed. I happened upon “Austin City Limits”, the PBS show featuring live concert performances from Texas’ capital of weird, and a performance by the industrial rock band Nine Inch Nails.  Much to my surprise, I sat down and watched the whole thing from start to finish.  I came away strangely impressed by what I heard, but glad that I have been able to choose a different way to confront the deeply human concern we all share over nothingness.

Back in high school, when Nine Inch Nails – or “NIN” – first became popular, I was never attracted to their music.  NIN was a very different sort of group from the metal hair bands and pop-rap acts of that time, even though they went on tour with Guns N’ Roses, of all people.  My musical choices tended to be less on the full-out-sensory-assault end of the spectrum, where acts like NIN tended to congregate, and more on what the British refer to as the “shoe-gazing” end of things.  So when I sat down to watch this concert, I had no clue what to expect.

For starters, I was blown away by how engaging the band was. NIN frontman Trent Reznor – who looks better now at nearly 50 than I remember him ever looking in his 20′s – is a dynamic, charismatic performer, reminding me of a more techie, introspective version of punk legend Henry Rollins. His bandmates and back-up singers were, like him, all intense, focused musicians: and they had to be.

The music itself was unbelievably complex. There was hardly anything melodic about it, even when there were actual choruses. There were unexpected rhythm/volume/pitch changes, and unusual combinations of harmony and dissonance. This was combined with a lyricism which, while unfortunately often scarred by profanity, expressed a very deep understanding of very human things: pain, loss, etc.

Considered one of the most influential acts in the industrial music movement, Nine Inch Nails will be performing at the O2, following the release of their critically acclaimed album Hesitation Marks on 23 May 2014 with support from Cold Cave.

The Pearl Fishers at ENO


Although a night at the opera can be cheaper than a day at the races or at a Premier League football match, it is still often decried as a slightly curious indulgence of the rich and elitist. Many are not quite sure just what opera actually is: a peculiarly camp form of classical music, stylised musicals for the posh, or just something that allows people to feel superior by listening to something in a language they (or we) can’t even understand? Opera today has a question to answer in terms of just what it is that makes it valuable.

Against a backdrop of deep cuts across arts funding, has opera a particularly strong case for the defence in comparison to, say, fine art or indeed street dance?

But does opera really have to be ‘relevant’? With music, singing, the libretto, the drama and spectacle, opera is a unique synthesis of artforms meant to give voice to what is inexpressible in our existence.

For those who have never been to an opera, The Pearl Fishers ENO production is the perfect introduction to this beautiful performing artform.

Set in ancient times on the island of Ceylon, The Pearl Fishers offers a compelling tale of friendship tested by love. Amid Bizet’s outpouring of memorable melodies, colourful orchestration and evocative choruses is a story that is not all sweetness and light. A painful love triangle exploring themes of desire and rejection, longing and loss, and religious strictures lies at the heart of the opera.

Pearl Fishers isn’t an easy opera to stage because it teeters on the edge of different realities and expectations. Rory Macdonald conducting brought out the inherent turbulence in the music. But full credit should go to Penny Woolcock and her team. This perceptive production finds the hidden pearls in the depths of this magnificent and surprisingly unpredictable opera.


Shopping in Outlets


Shopping in outlets in London is a great way for fashion junkies to get their fix without breaking the bank. With many shops stocking designer labels with up to 70% (and sometimes more!) reduction on normal retail price, there are some real bargains to be had.

There are several outlet shopping centres in London that are worth a visit if you live in the area or are planning a shopping trip. Some are located in central London, while others are a bit more off the beaten track. It’s also worth signing up to mailing lists on the brands’ official websites so that you’ll be informed straight away if there is a sample sale or stock clearance.

Shop department store and mall store sales before going to the outlets, especially when it comes to things like shoes, jeans and leather goods. The selection is bigger at retail malls, and many retail stores will give you a better value when sales and coupon discounts are added in.

Avoid the outlets between noon and 3 p.m., when crowds are at their peak. Like airline ticket pricing, outlet shopping is best on Tuesdays, Wednesdays or Thursdays, when crowds are smaller and deliveries are made. Off-season goods are typically sold at bargain-basement prices, so shop for summer items in the winter, and vice versa.

Remember that what you buy at an outlet store may not be returnable and many regular retailers won’t take returns from their outlet stores.

Top 5 aquarium hacks with household materials


Home aquariums can be great fun and very rewarding. But they can also cost a surprising amount to run, so look around for cheap electricity deals to save money. You could also cut down costs by only putting the main lights on for a few hours a day, using energy-saving LED lights at other times, and keeping an eye on your temperature settings.

Part of the pleasure of owning a home aquarium is accessorising it with objects and plants. Many objects come straight from the pet shop – you have bright background designs, wood and rock ornaments, silk and plastic plants, and natural and coloured gravels and sand. The range of decorative ornaments, from the familiar rocks and tree stumps to the more adventurous shipwrecks and castles, is increasing all the time.

But many people find that everyday household objects can be used to similar effect, and far more cheaply. The cost of various bought objects and ornaments can soon add up and, besides, it can be a lot more fun to make your own. It makes your aquarium unique and more personalised. We take a look at the top five home aquarium hacks with household items below.

Comic Book Background

If you’ve old comics or posters lying around the house and don’t know what to do with them, how about creating a colourful superhero background for your fish? Use a safe adhesive or background applicator to apply it to the back of the tank, smoothing it out with a putty knife. Your fish will love their new friends!

PVC Pipe Tunnel

Fish love caves and tunnels to escape to, so it’s a good idea to create some hideaways for them. A popular material to use in aquariums is PVC piping. Saw a length of pipe to the desired length and then cut about the bottom third off along its length. This gives you a little room to push the tunnel down into the sand or gravel to secure it. You can also cut the entrances at an angle to make it easier for the fish to enter. Use aquarium safe adhesive, such as aquarium silicone, to glue sand or gravel on to the pipe. Aquarium silicone takes about a day to dry, after which the tunnel should be soaked in tap water for a day and then rinsed.

Styrofoam Background

If you want to get even more creative, you could make a rocky background out of Styrofoam. Cut two layers to the right size for the back of your tank and glue them together using a safe adhesive. Cut out a compartment for your filter and any other components. Then you can start the fun part – carving out the first layer to look like rocks. Place it in the tank and finish it with a powder colour pigment mixed with water and aquarium safe hobby cement – use greys and browns for a natural effect. Make sure everything is dry before filling up your aquarium.

Gravel Glass Bottle

This one’s easy – simply grab a glass bottle that’s lying around, cover it with gravel or pebbles using aquarium silicone, allow it to dry, rinse and add to your tank!

Mossy Coconut Cave

Add a taste of the exotic to your aquarium with a coconut shell. Cut it in half, scrape out the meat and cut a doorway into one or both halves. You then need to boil the coconut thoroughly to get rid of tannins that may turn the water yellow – keep boiling it and changing the water until it runs clear. You can remove the hairs and sand the coconut to make it smooth, or just leave the hairs on. Rinse it off and add to the tank! You could also add some moss for extra effect.

Getting the best out of your product shots


No matter what you are selling, the quality of your product photographs can seriously affect your sales. This applies to all businesses, big and small, right from the stay at home mum who runs a sideline making jewellery and selling it online, to big companies with stores nationwide.

Product shots can be used in a number of ways:

  • online for web sales and for use as a virtual marketplace;
  • offline within brochures / flyers / magazines;
  • within shops as part of a display; etc.

Selling the lifestyle

One simple product shot can tell a story and sell a lifestyle… for example, for companies who sell kitchens, their images tend not to just sell the product but the lifestyle too, adding in little touches such as a chopping board with colourful peppers on them, or a bottle of wine / coffee maker.

From that one image, you can imagine yourself in that kitchen, smelling freshly brewed coffee or enjoying a glass of wine after a hard day’s work, so you already have an empathy with the product.

Or maybe you are selling bath time products. A shot of your lotions, creams and gels etc placed next to clean white towels in a Scandinavian style bathroom immediately sell the lifestyle of fresh air and cleanliness.

It’s not just about styling

You may have the background spot on and have conjured up a certain look and feel, but your actual photograph could really let you down. Taking a photo from the wrong angle or using incorrect lighting may turn a luxurious looking product in to something that looks cheap.

Fuzzy images or shadows falling in the wrong place can not only distort the look and feel that you are trying to capture, but can send out the wrong impression – ie. that you don’t care enough to showcase your products at their best.

Do you want your company to look like it is “cheap” or that you don’t value your customers? Then shoddy, sub-standard product shots will send out that message, loud and clear.

Photos with a “wow” factor

So, what can you do in order to display your products and company in the best way?

Firstly, use a specialist company. They will be able to stage shots for you (if you want their input) and will have the very best lighting and photographic equipment to really do your products justice.

This doesn’t need to be as expensive as it sounds, either. For example, there is one such company offering Product Photography In London for as little as £7.99 a shot. Services such as these typically colour correct the photographs and retouch minor imperfections if needed in order to showcase your product – and the lifestyle – to its very best. Images are typically then supplied in the size and format you require.

Of course, if you yourself are a keen photographer, you could look at investing some time and money in to professional training and specialist camera equipment. There are plenty of courses that can set you on the right track so you can produce some good looking shots.

As with all things, of course, using the services of a specialist may give your product images that extra something that makes potential customers choose your products over your competitors’. The choice is yours!