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When I read about the underground Metro bombing in Russia yesterday, my first thought was for Syria and the retribution Putin was likely to exact with the cooperation of Assad.

And so it has come to pass. I’m sharing this via a friends Facebook update. Someone who is intimately involved with trying to offer some help and hope to the many Syrians that she knows and is friends with – people who are on the ground in the battle zones, able to share the reality of life in Syria under this horrendous bombardment.

I don’t have words to express how I feel after yet another Russia/regime atrocity in Syria yesterday. Hundreds of people – including many children – injured and killed by barrel bomb attacks using Sarin nerve gas. So many horrific images and videos and I just cannot bring myself to share all of them.

6 years of this horror. 6 years of Syrian people – just like you and I – living under Assad’s bombs, chemical weapons attacks, illegal detentions, torture, forced displacement, siege, demographic change,… 6 years of begging, pleading, campaigning and hoping against hope that someone… anyone… will step in to stop these atrocities, so that Syrian people may live their lives in freedom and peace.

So many “red lines” breached… So many broken promises “If Assad uses chemical weapons, we will step in”, “If Assad doesn’t break the sieges, we will airdrop aid”,… All of it lies by international governments too wrapped up in their own alliances and vested interests to care for even one second about the millions of innocent people either forced from their homes or condemned to live in this hell-hole.

Can you imagine how it might feel to live that situation and to pray every day for someone… anyone… to stop your men, women and children dying under illegal bombs? To hope and wait for help to come, only to realise that it isn’t coming?

I don’t know what good writing this will serve. It kills me every day that I cannot do more… that we cannot stop this genocide and support Syrians in rebuilding a safe and free Syria for all Syrians, not just a select few.

To my brothers and sisters in Syria, I am sorry. So sorry. We have failed you. My heart is with you and I am so sorry.

I haven’t given up and I won’t stop trying.”

My heart breaks for her pain, and my heart bleeds for the people of Syria…and let’s remember Yemen too.

This is happening on our watch. When I wonder will it stop? 

A friend of mine posted this today. Copied from a post in a private group, he felt it captured his thoughts so well that he had to share it:

“I am a Londoner. In fact, I can see Parliament from my street. I walk over Westminster bridge regularly. I set up my local anti-war group, campaign for Palestine, support refugees and I don’t deserve to be attacked or killed by some brainless bigot who imagines he’s a mujahid. No one does. Terrorism is now part of the urban landscape. We live with it, just like we live with the noise and pollution but that doesn’t mean it isn’t shocking when it happens. Especially when it is literally so close to home.

The explosion of hate doesn’t end there though. For weeks to come we will have to hear our friends and neighbours vilified by the sort of people that hate London for being London, a diverse global city where different races, religions and lifestyles all live together and get on. Now those Londoners who happen to be Muslims will be terrorised again. The sort of people that set off bombs or drive into crowds don’t ask your religion first. So the millions of Muslims who live in London have to live with that fear same as the rest of us. Then, they have to live with the fear of being blamed for the actions of the one or two idiots who actually committed the crime. Idiots who acted on the belief that somehow we are collectively to blame for the thousands killed by our country in the Middle East.

I am a Londoner. That means my friends, neighbours and colleagues are Muslim and non-Muslim, black and white, gay and straight and from half the countries on the planet and that’s how I like it. I love London because of it and the little englanders hate it for the same reason. If the racists, fascists and common or garden bigots think they can use OUR tragedy to destroy OUR city, they’ve got another thing coming.

I’m standing up for my London. No one’s ever going to take it away from me. Who’s with me?”

I am.

In the wake of yesterday’s tragic events, we all need to stand firm and not allow hate to enter our hearts. This is once again a very small minority attempting to create fear and horror. We CANNOT allow these acts to colour our perception of other cultures and religions. This atrocity is not the belief or actions of a whole group despite the attempts of many people to vilify the Muslim community. 

I have today unfriended, reported or blocked any of the haters on my social media profiles. They are narrow-minded, shallow, racist and bigoted; not open to discussion or realistic discourse.

My condolences to the families who’ve lost loved ones, innocents caught up in one man’s warped beliefs.

Did you know that you can cuddle drug-addicted babies? According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse one baby every 25 minutes is born with NAS.

http://www.theearthchild.co.za/you-can-volunteer-to-cuddle-drug-addicted-babies-in-order-to-help-them-heal/

I did a quick google search and found these links:

http://www.bbc.com/news/health-38732789

http://www.bliss.org.uk/be-a-bliss-champion

http://www.voluntaryworker.co.uk/volunteering-help-premature-babies.html

http://www.gosh.nhs.uk/working-here/volunteering-for-us/current-opportunities/baby-buddy

There are numerous programmes in the US, but I haven’t been able to find that many here. Perhaps a more extensive search is necessary.

Do you know of any such programmes? Please do leave me any links in the comments section. Thank you.

My daughter and I did volunteered at a Convent that took in drug addicted and alcohol withdrawal syndrome babies, in Cape Town many years ago. There was one little baby that I got very attached to. He was suffering from fetal alcohol syndrome…too sad. He was absolutely precious and in the time I spent with hi, I fell in love. I made enquiries about adopting him but because he was a) african and b) likely to die soon c) I worked full-time they rejected my application. Broke my heart. He was so beautiful. I remember the very many little graves in the convent grounds….too heart-breaking. I saw a similar article to the one above a few weeks ago. I’d love to do it again.

 

I absolutely love that this man has become so well known, that he’s generated so much media attention. Imad Alarnab arrived in London in 2015 after fleeing the brutal warfare of his home city of Damascus in Syria, and now he’s launched Imad’s Syrian Kitchen, a pop-up restaurant in Bethnal Green in London.

He’s a Syrian refugee. He’s a human being. He’s a great chef. He’s a person with emotions, feelings, love. He has a family. http://www.reuters.tv/v/F2c/2017/03/13/syrian-refugee-chef-cooks-taste-of-home

Because of the enormous refugee crisis Syrians, like Amad, and other people of other cultures have become and are portrayed as a faceless mass.

Due to this we forget that they’re people, the same as you and me.

Because of this portrayal they become an entity to be feared.

This man, along with millions of others, have been demonized, vilified and manipulated by governments, religious organisations, and media and yes, even ‘humanitarian’ organisations wanting to promote their own causes.

I truly hope that this particular story helps people to change their thinking. To realise that on that whole people don’t just up and leave their country of birth with nothing, just the clothes on their backs, a bit of money and a whole heap of HOPE,…. without good reason.

While I was working in Oxted, on most days, I made the most of my breaks to explore the area and add to my miles for the #walk1000miles challenge, as well as improve my fitness for the Camino. On one said walk my feet took me to one of the largest surviving historic estates in Surrey; Titsey Place in Oxted dates back to the 16th century.

Titsey Estate Surrey

the beautiful grounds of the Titsey Estate

An impressive manor house set in beautiful gardens on a large estate in the stunning countryside of the North Downs. Sadly the house was still closed for winter but I’m hoping to visit when I next visit Oxted.

titsey house and estate surrey

Titsey House, Surrey

My walk took me along the lanes and by-ways of Oxted and I enjoyed being able to explore further afield. I’m participating in the walk 1000 miles 2017 challenge and this walk from Oxted to the Titsey Estate and along part of the Pilgrim’s Way took 1 hour 49 minutes; 4.57 miles / 11,735 steps.

titsey place surrey

the highways and byways of Surrey

I so enjoyed the quiet of the Downs pathway, just me and the birds in the trees and a few cows. I could see and hear the traffic on the M25, and although it didn’t really spoil the walk, it’s interesting how difficult it is to walk anywhere these days without traffic encroaching. We’re meant to walk for health, but if you consider the amount of traffic we’re constantly walking nearby to….well!!! LOL anyway, moving on from that thorny issue, I love walking and thoroughly enjoyed the views and the house looked awesome….roll on March end.

titsey place oxted surrey

views of the Titsey Place Estate near Oxted in Surrey

Titsey House and Gardens are held in Charitable Trust and for part of the year are open to the public offering and there are guided tours of the house.

15/03/2017 UPDATE!!!! The Government have done a big u-turn and WILL NOT BE HIKING THE N.I. ON THE 4.8MILLION SELF-EMPLOYED OF THE U.K. Bloody marvellous!! 🙂 🙂

Subsequent to the current Chancellor’s ‘spring budget’ I, along with millions of other self-employed people was dismayed (to say the least) at the increase in NI for the self-employed, 1%…doesn’t sound like much. Except when, as a self-employed person, trying to build a business, generate an income, and having to save for any annual leave you may wish to take, any sick leave you may need, not claiming benefits, and you’re already struggling to make ends meet, that little 1% can/could make all the difference between actually making any money or not, and to quite simply….in many instances just surviving!

I’m more than happy to pay my taxes and I realise the NI is vital to fund our national services like the NHS and to provide a pension pot (not that I can depend on that to survive in my old age). So when I saw the increase I was like ” urgh bugger, another increase, but hey ho, it’s not really that much and I’ll probably have to work an extra 10 days p.a. to cover the increase”. Peeved, yes! Unable to do much about it, no! So well fine then.

Then I happened to watch the speech Theresa May gave about said increase…and was dismayed to realise that once again this was a move to protect big business and tax smaller businesses (and more importantly in this instance; the self-employed) who don’t have the same Government allowable tax-avoiding loopholes and hand-outs that big businesses have the benefit of. That’s my understanding.

“The Prime Minister also said the shift towards self-employment was “eroding the tax base” and making it harder to pay for public services “on which ordinary working families depend”. – try closing the bloody loopholes that allow companies like Facebook, and Amazon, Starbucks and Google et al to avoid paying their fair share of tax on the profits GENERATED IN THE U.K. Then we will have more of a tax base!!!  2.5 million self-employed people is a drop in the ocean. (Apparently its 4.8million)

Consider this for 2016:

There were 31.84 million people in work, 37,000 more than for July to September 2016 and 302,000 more than for a year earlier.

There were 23.29 million people working full-time, 218,000 more than for a year earlier. There were 8.55 million people working part-time, 84,000 more than for a year earlier.

The employment rate (the proportion of people aged from 16 to 64 who were in work) was 74.6%, the highest since comparable records began in 1971.

So how is it that a mere 2.5 million (4.8million) self-employed people are eroding the tax base?

Of course millions of people around the country were just as upset as I, as well as which her MPs were apparently pretty pissed too! (see their subsequent about-turn aka a Political u-turn). But what our PM and Chancellor are forgetting is that the reason the number of self-employed is rising is because those big businesses she wishes to protect have a bad habit of going out of business and leaving people jobless. So instead of signing on to the Benefits system, they’re taking the plunge and starting up their own businesses….in other words they’re being innovative instead of dependent. You’d think this would be encouraged! Innovation is what drives business and the economy after all.

And then!!!! I saw a post on Facebook that one of my ‘friends’ had left!! And my blood-pressure went through the roof!

Why are peeps moaning so much about this TINY national insurance rise for the self employed in the Budget yesterday? If you are self employed and can’t make an extra £300 a year then really you should go back to being an employee“. What.The.Merry.Fuck!??? Is he serious? Does he not realise just how difficult it can be to generate an extra £300…which by the way is not JUST £300 but substantially more when you consider that by generating an extra £300 in your business you also pay more tax, have to attend more networking events, incur extra costs for travel, clothes, advertising/promotional material etc etc. So I replied that ‘I disagree’.

And then I set out why I disagreed!

I’m self-employed. If I work for an agency as an employee I earn less. If I want to earn an extra £300 a year I have to sacrifice what employees take for granted: weekends…ergo I have to work 25 days a month rather than 21…which means I don’t have those 8 days a month called weekends.

Also small businesses (mostly self-employed) face stiff competition from big companies who can cut prices due to tax loopholes that self-employed small businesses don’t have. Besides that, it’s not like big businesses are standing at their doors shouting “we have loads of vacancies, come on in so we can employ you”. Many of the self-employed are people who provide essential services. Many self-employed are stay at home Mums who are trying to make ends meet in a tough environment. They start a small business; ergo self-employed because it’s too expensive for childcare…and why WOULDN’T they want to stay at home with their children?
So…in my opinion ….It’s arrogant to make a sweeping statement of the like you just have. My daughter is self-employed. She works in a very tough environment where people want what she does for FREE. She goes over and above for her clients, sometime making only £30 profit and has to constantly look for new clients due to the fact that other self-employed businesses are also struggling and push prices down, or use interns to manage what needs skilled knowledge…because it’s FREE.
I don’t get any tax breaks. If I work for an agency I earn less. If I work for a bigly company like BHS I’ll be employed and get screwed over by the owners to whom I’ve paid my pension for decades so he can buy £10million boats and live the champagne lifestyle and then when it suits him fuck off without looking back.
So no, it’s not as simple as JUST looking for a job.
Actually the government are fcking idiots. They should be ENCOURAGING people who are at home to be generating an income rather than claiming BENEFITS who the employed bitch about all the time. How do you think Britain got the nom-de-plume BENEFITS BRITAIN? I think it stinks, many self-employed people are innovators through necessity and we NEED innovators rather than just a bunch of sheep who depend on other people to be innovative, start a company and employ other people so that they can pay them shit wages, claim tax loopholes and live the champagne life-style.” End of rant…or so I thought!!! Actually I could have said a lot more….I bit my tongue

And then!!! Some fuckwot who thinks he knows more about my life than I do leaves this comment on the thread of my reply:

“So many victim mentalities… reality is yours to create folks”.

My reply: “MENtality. Hardly victims. Rather, very tightly squeezed“.

And then he comes back at me with: “It’s still a victim mentality if something external of your own being is limiting you.
Have people created a different result? Yes. Therefore you can… you can’t change the tax you can change what you do, so change what you do, don’t moan about something out of your control.
If you’ve taken offence, good, it means its true

Now, firstly I read that as a challenge ‘If you’ve taken offence……’ And suggesting that I’m in victim mode!!! Red flag to a bull!!! (after I am a Taurean!!) LOL

My reply:
T.S., get back up your own arse. Seriously. That’s such a lot of PD bullshit. My job is not limiting me. I provide a vital service. I happen to love my job. Caring for elderly people unable to care for themselves. My beef is with the government penalising self-employed people who have the audacity to be self-employed and not working for a company. That’s pretty much what Theresa May said….in so many words.
If you take offence…then it’s true, you’re too far up your own arse.”

 

Then some other twit (I’ll refer to her as BG) replied: “Sounds like it’s time to increase your prices, Cindy!

Uhmm, really? And you know what I do for a living then, do you? So I replied:  “I can’t increase my prices B.G.!!! I work as a Carer for the elderly. Caring for the old people that need my services due to the fact their families can’t/won’t/don’t want to care for them. My rate on an hourly basis is less than the minimum wage. My clients and their families bitch about how EXPENSIVE I am. My rate is set by the agency who farm me out to said elderly people whose families don’t look after. I pay my own tax. I save for my own pension. I don’t get tax breaks. If I want to earn more I have to work more days or take on clients with alzheimers or dementia or challenging behaviour. In my line of work I’ve been attacked with a walking stick, sworn at, peed and pooped on, had sarcastic family members berating me, clients treating me like a servant. If I want to continue in this line of work I have to smile sweetly and take the abuse. So no, I can’t JUST increase my prices”.

By this point my blood-pressure was sky high and my mouth was heading fast towards the potty!! I love that American expression ‘potty-mouth’. So in order to save my health, I removed myself from the conversation. It raged on with some people really upset by the insults the ’employed’ / ‘arrogant know alls’ levied at the self-employed who were labelled as ‘victims’ because they were upset by the increase.

As one lass put it, she already struggles in her line of work because by pursuing her passion (which the same PD fuckwits suggest we SHOULD be doing) the companies she gets her business from are, of course, only interested in their bottom line and keeping their shareholders happy with big dividends, and therefor knock her price down. So how many more days, weeks and months of the year should she work in order to just magically generate an extra £300 p.a. The same goes for my daughter. It’s unbelievable just how many people expect her to provide them with a service for practically free and complain like heck that her prices are too high! Trust me they’re not!  These same people are totally amazed when she says no, she can’t provide what is a valuable service for FREE. ffs.

Now for the sceptics who may be reading this…..yes, it’s only £0.82p per day!!! If you work 365 days a year! But since it’s virtually impossible to work 365 days a year and not crash due to ill health brought on by over extending yourself (unless you’re a mother) then that little sum increases.

So reduce that by 105 = the weekends that the ’employed’ get without losing income, and you’re down to 260 days which = £1.15 per day.

Then take off the Bank Holidays = 8 and now you’re down to 252 working days and up to £1.19 per day.

Now take off the 28 days mandatory annual leave days an employed person is entitled to and not expected to lose income for and you’re down to 224 days and up to £1.34 per day.

And now for the fun stuff….Add to that the extra costs involved to generate the extra £300 and it goes up even more, then add to that the extra regular tax you have to pay on the newly generated £300 and voila…surprise surprise, it’s no longer £1.34 per day but goes up and up and up depending on your overall costs for phone calls, networking, travel costs, stationery, phone calls, advertising, making/producing/providing the extra product/service you’re in business for. Suddenly you’re no longer looking at JUST an extra £300. Try telling your clients you’re increasing your prices because the Government has hit you with an extra £300 per year!!!

I think the thing that annoyed me the most was the simple arrogance of his statement: “If you are self employed and can’t make an extra £300 a year then really you should go back to being an employee.

What an incredibly thoughtless, arrogant and totally lacking in knowledgable comment to make. This is where my potty-mouth wants to go into overdrive and I’m tempted to take Helen Mirren’s advice on using the work fuck more often! LOL

Now before anyone who’s employed gets their knickers in a knot, I have nothing against being ’employed’, I was an ’employee’ for over 30 years! I was also at the mercy of said employers and the very last company I worked for (in South Africa) put themselves into liquidation over a petty argument the 2 principal owners had! This resulted in dozens of people becoming unemployed, one of whom was an elderly gentleman who had a heart-attack from the shock and died within a few weeks. It also meant that a number of companies to whom they owed money didn’t get paid. Much like the BHS scenario.  As an employee you are at the mercy of your employer, many of whom are quite abusive….see the many headlines when people blow the whistle. You are at the mercy of the largesse of your boss when it comes to the annual increase in your salary if you’re lucky enough to even get an increase (not that the self-employed even have a faint smidgen of this luxury). You’re at the mercy of a bully boss. Stuck with hanging out at the same place day after day after week after year, unable to JUST move on if you’re unhappy – that doesn’t reflect well on your CV.  And then the company downsizes, relocates, gets sold, merges with another blah blah blah. I’d much rather be self-employed than depend on a business or corporation for my income.  So when this increase in the NI came through, I accepted it with disappointment and felt it was unfair.

Anyway, why is it that being ’employed’ is still seen as the be all and end all…the achievement of respectability, the golden handshake goal to reach for? It’s amazing how many times people who are employed look down on the self-employed as if they’re failures! Not by any means are they failures. It takes a HUGE amount of courage to branch out and set up a business, to be self-employed. No longer the perceived security of a job where you earn a set income no matter how shit you are at your job (remember all those employment laws that protect you!?), no longer do you have weekends free – clients expect you to be at the end of your phone or computer 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If you don’t reply to an email ‘instantly’ at 10pm on a Sunday night they get shirty!! And this is not an imaginary scenario….it’s only too real. As a self-employed person you no longer have the benefit of annual leave and PAID Bank Holidays. Being self-employed has all sorts of ‘perceived’ benefits by the employed who think it’s a long extended holiday. It’s not. It’s tough. People don’t sleep at night for worrying about how to make ends meet. As a self-employed person you are responsible for everything that goes on in a business. Pricing your product to ensure you not only provide a fair price, but that you also make a profit (your salary), marketing said product/service, the accounting, sourcing suppliers, preparing quotes, visiting clients etc etc.

As an employed person you go in to work to do a specific job, in your niche, and the rest of the business magically happens around you. (n.b. I realise this is a variable, and all jobs are different).

  • The self-employed currently pay a lower rate than those in employment
  • The government says this was traditionally down to a lesser entitlement to benefits and pensions, but that these disparities have mostly been removed, so the difference in rates is unfair
  • But critics say it is justified because self-employed people are not entitled to things like paid holiday and sickness leave.

And anyway, as I pointed out to one of the protagonists, it’s not like there are 2.5 million jobs available. In fact many of the apparent job vacancy numbers the Government loves to bandy around are on the very controversial zero hours contracts, and the job market, even for graduates is not flush with vacancies.

An estimated total of 3,694 companies entered insolvency in Q1 2016
A total of 804 companies were subject to a compulsory winding-up order
in Q1 2016
An estimated 2,515 companies entered creditors’ voluntary liquidation in
Q1 2016
There were an estimated 301 administrations in Q1 2016
The estimated liquidation rate in the 12 months ending Q1 2016 was
0.42% of active companies (the report goes on to say) – the lowest level since comparable records began in Q4 1984.
I’m sure anyone who has been at the receiving end of said liquidation feels really comforted that it’s lower!!

Source: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/519466/Q1_2016_statistics_release_-_web.pdf

So yes, I am, like 2.5 million (4.8million) other self-employed people a tad peeved at the increase in NI. It certainly feels like we’re being penalised for having the temerity to be innovative and trying to earn an income rather than claiming benefits. Which the ’employed’ have much to say about…till it happens to them.

Rant over! Or maybe not 😉

🙂 and yes, as of 15/03/2017 the government have done a u-turn and WILL NOT be increasing the NI for the 4.8 million self-employed citizens of the UK. Excellent!!!

Now all we need is for the major corporations to pull on their big-girl panties, fess up and step up, find their integrity and PAY THEIR FAIR TAXES in the country where they generate the ACTUAL INCOME.

 

Finding Firenze

Yes, yes, yes!!! Yesterday I took the plunge and booked my ticket to Florence, Italy. 🙂 Whoop whoop!!! Florence has been a long held dream of mine to visit. After Venice, it was my next dream destination but for one reason and another I just haven’t been.

So, since it is my goal/plan/intention to spend my birthday each year at a different destination, this year its…….FLORENCE!!! Yayyyy. I can’t tell you how excited I am.

Planning a trip to, and day trips in, a foreign country gives a thrilling frisson of fear…kicks the adrenaline into gear 😀😀😀😀

And so I took the plunge and booked my ticket….no going back now! I’ve decided to stay overnight in Pisa since my flight gets in quite late; I’ve found a super hotel…review to follow on TripAdvisor. And I’ve used AirBnB again since my other 4 experiences have been good, it makes perfect sense…and this venue has the use of a kitchen…VIP if travelling on a budget.

Today I’ve spent some time researching ‘things to do in’ Pisa, Florence,  Lucca, Siena and San Gimignano. During my research I found this brilliant site that was ever so useful in giving a step by step guide as to where to go, which bus to use, buying the ticket, length of the journey and how to get back, as well as suggestions, along with the history of ‘what to see while you are there’ Fantastic!!

During my research into these cities I’ve discovered that:

4 of them listed UNESCO Heritage Sites: Historic City Centre of Florence, Piazza del Duomo, Pisa, Historic Centre of San Gimignano and the Historic Centre of Siena

4 are walled cities: San Gimignano, Siena, Lucca and Pisa (although not all the Pisa walls remain apparently.

and they all have cathedrals! Perfect as this means I’ll be able to add these to my goal of visiting 100 walled cities, 100 cathedrals and as many UNESCO Heritage Sites as possible (18 so far). 🙂 So as you can imagine I’m very very excited. My other lists of 100 places = Countries, Islands, Counties in the UK, Abbeys, Domesday Towns and Villages, Castles, Palaces, Walled Cities and famous Walks. So enough to keep me busy till I die. LOL Mind you, I’ve done quite a few already…so….

Anyway, for now it’s FLORENCE FLORENCE FLORENCE. I’m going to sleep, eat and dream Florence till 20th April…..35 days to go.

I’m now working on the travel details for the day trips to Lucca, Siena and San Gimignano. IF and it’s a very BIG ‘if’ I get a chance I hope to go to Cinque Terre…it’s a 3 hour train journey so I may not make it, but still, if I’ve seen all I want of Florence and done the day trips then I guess I shall just have to endure the ‘hardship’ of a train journey to the coast 🙂

Before booking this flight I had dithered and procrastinated for weeks. I had originally phoned Flight Centre to plan my journey but after the lass to whom I gave my details, sent me an itinerary that had my jaw hitting the floor with shock….£888 for the flight??? What???? I’m going to Florence in Italy!! She had planned me a trip to Florence in America ffs. When I queried why it is that I have to fly to Florence in Italy via America she said ” I know, I’m so sorry, that’s the best flight I could find.” Uhmmm, really. I could walk there quicker….even with swimming across the English Channel, I replied. She said: Yes, I know, it does seems weird, but that’s what the computer came up with. I then said but I did a flight search myself yesterday and it was approx £80!!  At which stage she said okay, I’ll do another search and see what I can come up with…..a few minutes later she phoned back and said “I’m awfully sorry, it seems the ‘computer’ took you to Florence in America, and not Italy!”  No shit!!! Thankfully I know my geography!

Anyway long story short and a few words from me, I told her to forget it and I’ve booked the trip myself.  So counting the days…..OMG wow, I’m going to Florence!!! In Italy 😉