Go with the Group

Leo Bear hires a people carrier and heads to Hampshire for a luxurious spa day with the girls

My gang was a mix of exhausted young mothers and burnt-out execs desperate to fling off their Manolos and walk barefoot in the grass. Lucky for us, the sun was shining and the lawns were neatly mown at our venue of choice, the Lime Wood Hotel in Hampshire.

van 3

Originally a medieval hunting lodge, the Duke of Clarence reclaimed Lime Wood’s main building in the 1740s. Several extravagant makeovers later, and under the watchful eye of Bamford and Co, the stately pile now has a gentrified yet romantic air with beautifully designed interiors and a world-renowned spa called Herb House.

Our plan was to kick back at the spa, have a long lunch and catch up on all our girl talk –these days we don’t get together nearly as much as we used to. But first, we had to get there.

van 1

Our means of transport was a Mercedes Viano people carrier rented through Europcar. To make the most of our day trip, we opted for the company’s Prestige car hire service which includes vehicle delivery and pick-up – all the more time for packing and primping – and I was impressed by how punctual it was. The chap from Europcar was on my doorstep, suited and booted, dangling a set of Mercedes keys, on the dot of 8.45am.

van 2

Upon first inspection, my new set of wheels conjured the words ‘Hummer’ and ‘LA homie’. It was massive, black and gleaming to the point of near blindness in the early morning sunshine. Certainly my Fulham neighbours were intrigued.

As my hubby climbed on his bicycle to head off to work he commented (jealously): “It’s just a glorified van”, and while this may partly be true – the Viano is based on the Mercedes-Benz Vito, a commercial panel van – it also boasts beautiful interiors and drives incredibly smoothly. The only criticism I can make is that the engine is a tad noisy, but on the whole, I cannot think of a better car for a group getaway.

Arm rests, drinks holders and the built-in sat-nav system were all put to use during the two-hour journey, not that I could hear the instructions over the squawks coming from my excited passengers. At one point one of them actually buzzed down the window and shouted: “We’re going to Lime Wood, b**ches” to no one in particular.

So far, so Paris Hilton.

But it’s true to say, we did feel like kings of the road in our elevated seats bombing down the M3 – and had masses of room to stretch out.

Pulling up at Lime Wood, where everything from the décor to the farm-bought produce, is tasteful, considered and sedate, we certainly turned a few heads: a gaggle of blonde city girls in our giant Mercedes… But we soon settled in and once the toweling dressing gowns were on, we blended in seamlessly with the horsey Home Counties brigade.

The Herb House spa turned out to be everything we’d dreamed of: a quintessentially English retreat with all the usual facilities of a spa including saunas, steam rooms and a hydrotherapy pool, as well as a 14-metre ozone-treated lap pool, a large outdoor deck and workout studio for classes.

I’d booked a Bamford Rose Relaxing Upper Body and Facial Massage (60mins, £90) to help unlock some of the built-up tension in my back (two kids under the age of five takes its toll) and it didn’t disappoint. The treatment began with a back exfoliation with bergamot, chamomile and patchouli oil followed by a deep-tissue upper back and shoulder massage. It ended with a gentle face and head massage, which very nearly sent me to the land of nod.

While I was having all my kinks and knots pummeled out of me on a heated bed, my friends relaxed in the dappled shade of ancient olive trees reading magazines and took turns doing lengths in the pool.

We regrouped for lunch at the spa’s organic restaurant, Raw & Cured. It was something of an eye opener for us carb-lovers with dishes including nori wraps stuffed with parsnip and pinenuts and chocolate mousse made from avocado and cocoa. Who knew healthy grazing could be so fun? Several courses, all artistically presented, were washed down with carafes of ‘swamp juice’ (leaves, apple, carrot and fennel) – which tastes a lot better than it sounds.

To help us digest, we took a gentle stroll around the gardens of Lime Wood (in our towelling bath robes and flip-flops) only to discover a secret back gate leading into the dense forest beyond; something to remember for next time…

Then before hitting the road, we piled into the spa’s bubbling hydrotherapy pool and giggled as the jets of water tickled our bodies all over. With beautiful steaming forest views, and our bodies and minds refreshed, we savoured our precious last moments together, before returning to our demanding city lives in, of course, our fabulous chariot for the day.

The Newbie’s Guide to Buying a Motorbike

If you’re ready to start riding, getting a motorbike is much like getting a car, but there are a few things you should take into account that has to do with safety, and you should obviously take them seriously.

yamaha motorbike

The Paperwork and Your Safety

The first step is to get a provisional license and take CBT (compulsory basic training), which you can do at one of many licensed a href=”http://www.begin-motorcycling.co.uk/centres.htm”>training centres around the country. All the elements of the course, including riding safety theory and time on the road, can be completed in about 8 hours overall but will likely take several days.

Finishing the course comes with a certificate of completion. With the certificate and the provisional license, you can purchase or hire a learner motorcycle up to 125cc with a maximum output of 14.6bhp. You’ll need to insure it, after which you can ride it with L plates. You have two years to take and pass the theory and practice tests in order to get your full motorbike license, with which you can buy whatever kind of bike you desire. But take the time to ride your learner, to get comfortable on the roads and understand the type of riding you want to do – which will determine the kind of motorbike you ultimately purchase.

The Bike

Determine the type of riding you want to do. Diehard riders often end up owning more than one type of bike. If you plan to use it for commuting, consider a traditional bike, which lets you ride in a more relaxed posture than a sport bike, but not as relaxed as a cruiser. If you want to use it for long-haul trips, look at the touring bikes, they are much more comfortable.

New bikes start much cheaper than new cars, and the purchase is much similar. But you should consider purchasing a used bike – you find lots of them on MotorcycleNews.com. Motorbikes are much easier to maintain than cars, and working on at least some aspects yourself will give you a better understanding of the bike and make you into a better rider. Furthermore, if this is your first bike, you may realise that the type you thought was perfect for you is not in fact what is practicable or enjoyable. Finally – and you will hear this enough during your training – every bike eventually ends up falling down. Every one. So there’s no reason to ruin an expensive new toy while you’re learning.

Finally, don’t forget protective gear. In addition to the helmet, you should get a jacket, gloves, boots and a rain suit. This is not a good area for savings – get the best you can afford, because that piece of leather and/or metal will be the only thing between a moving you and the asphalt if you do go down.

The 4 Features Your Corporate Bank Account Should Have

Choosing the right corporate account is important for the long-term management of your business, regardless of its size. With the amount of small and large banks out there, your choice as a business owner is vast – but following the financial crisis, banks are reevaluating their offerings and no two banks offer the same features. Look for these four key features when shopping around.

corporate bank accountReasonable Fees

Make sure you understand the various charges for any transaction you plan to conduct with the account. A corporate account within the same bank that you have your savings account can vary greatly across several criteria, and your needs will likely be entirely different, so it’s important to understand what your bank will offer you.

While interest rates are perhaps less important on a corporate account than a personal savings account, the fees on the two are often different. If your business requires frequent travel, for example, look for a bank that does not charge foreign transaction fees.

Access, Online And In-Person

Your corporate account should be easily manageable from wherever your business takes you, so look for a bank with a good presence online. On the other hand, if you are starting out, you will have questions that an online FAQ will not address – it’s important to have the ability to contact a human being in such cases, and smaller local banks often provide better service in that regard.

Added Personalised Services

Monitoring cash flow can be a job in itself, depending on your business. If you don’t have a financial advisor, looking for a bank to provide added attention to you could save headaches and costs. Some banks even help customers with payroll services and industry research, and your choice may vary by the type of business you plan to conduct. At the very least, you’ll want to be able to set up separate corporate purchasing cards for staff, such as HSBC and other banks offer (see here for what they offer).

A Bank That Will Lend To You

Even if your business is fully funded, getting a line of credit or a loan is something most companies do eventually need. Not all banks are receptive to small business needs in the post-crisis economy. Going with a smaller, startup bank can often mean a more likely approval, but more established banks might offer better rates.

Regardless of the bank you choose, consider reevaluating your business needs every few years. The bank with which you started your business may not be the right bank to grow your enterprise, and a changing business environment may mean additional perks when you move your accounts elsewhere.

Rising Energy Costs Putting Additional Pressure on UK Businesses

Are you doing business in the UK? If so, you are probably facing the same pain as many others when it comes to rising energy costs.

While it is easy to believe that you don’t have a choice, nothing could be further from the truth. Despite the fact that you may be faced with this headache right now, making a few changes in the future could put you in a better position sooner rather than later.

A recent story by Guardian News – Energy bills push UK inflation to nine-month high – discusses this problem in great detail. As you can tell from the title alone, there are two problems here.


First and foremost, companies are being hit with rising energy bills. Consequently, their bottom line is suffering. In an economy that doesn’t need any more bad news, this is never a good thing.

Secondly, energy bills are contributing to the rise in UK inflation. The Office for National Statistics has reported that inflation measured by the consumer prices index increased to 2.8 percent from 2.7 percent last month. This may not seem like a big increase, but it pushes inflation to the highest it has been over the past nine months.

Believe it or not, officials have blamed the increase on recent increases in domestic energy tariffs from the UK’s major suppliers in correspondence with a rise in petrol prices.

What Now?

With all this in mind, business owners often times feel that there is no way out. Fortunately, this is not the case.
Every company has the right to choose their own energy provider. Although sticking with your current provider is your right, it may mean you are spending more money than you have to on gas and electric.

Switching to a cheaper energy provider is easier than ever before. In fact, it only takes a few minutes, and the http://www.powerexperts.co.uk website, to compare plans from leading providers including npower, EDF, Shell, Gazprom and others to get yourself on the right path.

With this type of online tool, any company, regardless of industry, can compare commercial rates from local energy providers.

If you realise that your current provider is cheapest, you don’t have any options for a change at the present time. However, you may be lucky enough to find a company that is able to provide you with the same service at a lower monthly rate. This is what you are looking for.

With rising energy costs, UK businesses are dealing with yet another financial setback. If nothing else, you owe it to yourself to compare providers with the hopes of saving money.

Online Sales for 2012 Holiday Season Record a 14% Increase in the US

Each year the months of November and December see an expected shopping frenzy, with figures for most businesses and sales seeing an automatic surge. It was no different this year as well as the US online sales market registered a 14 percent year-on—year growth as 2012 roped in $42.3 billion from the US market.

Boxing Day sales

That was a trend expected as more and more people are now gladly using their wide array of smartphones and tablets to shop online and the surge of handheld devices in the years to come is expected to increase the market share of online sales and the revenue that it produces.

While the 14 percent up from 2011 was a welcome trend, those predicting the industry figures say that it was still marginally short of the 17 percent growth that was expected for the period and $43.4 billion that was expected to come in through holiday online shopping. This trend suggests that businesses both big and small now need to combine a strong actual store presence with a vibrant online presence to ensure that they offer the very best to consumers and allow their businesses the best possible opportunity to succeed and flourish in the tech-savvy world.

Not only is making a strong online presence felt essential for established business houses, but experts suggest those getting ready to start a business should also plan for cyber-sales well ahead as the traffic from handheld devices has grown by several hundred times in the past few years.

The projected figures for handheld devices globally is expected to cross well over the 8 billion mark by 2016 and with online shopping sites now offering constant discounts along with safe payment modes and a acceptable policy on ‘returns and exchanges’, it seems consumers are only too happy to shop from the comfort of their couch, not just in the US but all around the planet as well!

Growth spurt in Laser Eye Surgery trends promise better quality vision for more people

Laser eye surgery has become pretty popular across the globe in a very short period of time thanks simply to the many benefits that it offers. But one should not forget that despite its incredible popularity, it is still a relatively new surgical procedure and is constantly evolving to ensure that the best benefits are offered to those coming in for a vision defect correction.

laser eye surgery

While the current technological spurt has meant that the equipment needed for the procedure is becoming cheaper by the minute and making it far more economically viable for patients, the bigger and more significant strides are being made in the advancement of Laser and computer targeting technology that will make the procedure a lot safer and reliable.

Among the many latest innovations is the 60 kHz laser that enables surgeons to create a flap on the eye a lot faster than before. This not just means less exposure to the Laser but makes the process easier for the surgeon involved and all the more comfortable for the patient. Since the flap is placed back and it heals naturally, this should only help in reducing the recovery time as well. Another latest advancement is the use of wavefront guided laser treatment, which helps surgeons treat astigmatism with greater success along with treatment for near and far sightedness that is a lot more accurate.

Procedures like the LASIK and LASEK have increased the success rate of Laser Eye Surgeries and it is expected that with greater market reach and the continuing demand for the surgical procedure, large amount of capital, time and effort is being invested in research programs that help in rolling out further technological breakthroughs which make the procedure as successful as possible.

With its already high success rate, fewer side effects, quick nature of the procedure and fast recovery time, the laser eye surgery has brought a whole new world of perfect vision to those who previously had to put up with contact lenses and spectacles and this trend is only likely to continue and grow exponentially.

Help improve employee morale and office productivity with a foosball table

Obviously everyone has heard of “all work and no play makes Jack a dull dude” and while that has been around for a while (in various different phrases that carry the same meaning, of course) modern studies and scientific research and surveys are now backing up the fact.

In a world where we are increasingly becoming mechanical and running to beat the clock on a constant basis, offices and corporate firms have realized that they need to provide their employees with much needed breaks that not only give them rest, but also refresh them by taking them into an alternate world. The solution to this has come in the form of game rooms at work.

Having a game room is becoming more and more accepted across both Europe and the US with companies seeing the value of the investment. While initially it was thought that game rooms would distract from the work environment, studies have now proven conclusively that they actually improve office and employee morale, help push productivity up by keeping workforce fresher and rejuvenated and most importantly help in building team spirit to a very large extent.

The advent of game rooms that are full of Foosball and pool tables, arcade games and even the latest in gaming in the form of Xbox or PS3 has meant that the minor differences between employees are ironed out as they come closer in the fun-filled atmosphere. 80 percent of those surveyed have said their concentration and interest in work improved after a short gaming break and some even stay back late to have some fun with work buddies.

From law firms to software giants and from automotive ships to even convents, game rooms are now becoming a wonderful addition to office layout. And if you are planning on getting one yourself, then think of one that incorporates a big screen with a gaming console, some popular titles, a few old arcade stalls and maybe a pool table and some foosball fun from the likes of Liberty Games. The best way to improve employee morale, really!

Advantages of Samsung’s LED TV Technology

Series 5 LED TVs from Samsung combines all the advantages of LED technology, whether vivid color images and low energy consumption. It offers enthusiasts detail, high image quality by bringing to the satisfaction of every scene crystal clear images.

LED screens are LCD screens using innovative backlight technology, whereby the brightness of the panel is better managed than conventional LCD flat screens. The fluorescent tubes (CCFL) are replaced by hundreds of light emitting diodes (LED), located at the rear of the LCD panel.

These LEDs are electronic components capable of emitting light when traversed by electric current.
However, their principle of operation is the same as the traditional LCD, and is different plasma technology that uses no liquid crystal cells but self-powered gas. This system can illuminate each pixel of the plasma panel, or over two million pixels.

In addition, LED technology improves the image quality of LCD screens. The LED backlighting can use the LCD panel more homogeneous. The more LEDs, the higher homogeneity of the backlight will be important. This contrast enhancement is optimal LED screens using the Local Dimming technology. As a result, blacks are deep. The use of LEDs has the advantage of limiting the loss of energy to illuminate different areas of the screen. Energy consumption up to 40% less than conventional LCD screens.

There are two LED technology. In a technology called EDGE LED diodes are placed on the edge of the LCD panel. Light reflectors can diffuse the light of the LEDs on the whole of the LCD panel. This technology saves thickness screens and get even finer, less than 3 cm.

In LED technology called FULL or DIRECT LED diodes are arranged on the entire surface of the LCD panel. The backlight is more homogeneous than the EDGE LED, but the thickness of the screen is larger. In some TVs, the backlight is provided by three LED (RGB: red, green, and blue). This system allows a better fit of colorimetry.

These two technologies can, on some models, benefit in addition to the technology “Local Dimming” technology which allows Smart backlight to turn on or off an area of ​​LCD. It optimizes the contrast according to the type of picture shown.

Public banks: external audit and ultra vires

The media reported the intention of the government to submit public banks (STB, BH, BNA) to an external audit, and international tender was launched since August 23 by the Ministry of Finance.

Professional organizations of accountants have protested against the international character of this call. Foreign firms would not have their eyes exercisability acts audit in Tunisia.

Able to audit the banks in which the state and public institutions are the majority shareholders begs a host of questions.

First, under which the Ministry of Finance is he legally entitled to commission an external audit on behalf of banks in the form of limited liability company own? A foreign firm did the legal right to audit in Tunisia? What credit can we give to the auditor’s conclusions? What are the guarantees of independence? So many questions that deserve answers. It is in good health Tunisian banks and the requirement of strict compliance with the law.

1-Excess of authority and breach of the Code of Commercial Companies

Indeed, art 18 of the Basic Law No. 6 from 16/12/2011 on the organization of government provides, inter alia, that the ministers exercise supervisory authority over public enterprises within their departments. It emerges that the Minister of Finance or, currently, the Secretary of State for Finance invested duties of Minister holds this authority vis-à-vis public banks to be audited. However, the supervisory authority does not grant the holder any way to any power management or administration of the agency subject to guardianship. Its scope is to ensure and monitor compliance and correct application of the law by the institution under supervision. Secretary of State for Finance Minister functions can not replace the administrative bodies of these banks.

In addition, pursuant to art 188 of the Commercial Companies Code, the company, as is the case of three banks to be audited, is administered by a board of directors or, as applicable, by an Executive Board and a supervisory board. Under Art 197, the Council “is vested with the broadest powers to act in all circumstances on behalf of the company.” At the end of each fiscal year, it must comply with the provisions of art 201, presented at a meeting of shareholders a detailed report on the management of the company. Chairman of the Board of Directors ensures, in turn, the general direction of the company (Article 211 of SCC). While the General Assembly is essentially under Art 274 of the CSC, a supervisory body for the management and approval of the accounts of the company.

The decision to submit the state-owned banks, namely limited liability companies, an external audit is probably not an act of leadership may be the responsibility of the head of it, that is to say, the P CEO, or management control or approval of the likely return of right to the shareholders’ meeting. It is a measure of excellence by which management can take up to the boards of these banks.

The Secretary of State the functions of the Minister of Finance, in deciding able to submit to external audit BH, STB and EPS exceeded its powers as provided by law on the provisional organization of authorities public and has violated the provisions relating to the powers of the CSC management bodies of the company.

2-Violation of the Law on the profession of accountancy

We raised also the question related to whether a firm abroad may be entitled to be entrusted with the audit of banks and Tunisian companies. There is no doubt that audit is not a simple point, it is expected to last over time, at least for some time, probably a few months. Also, it is characterized by its complexity and by the presence of fairly extensive staff undertaking the audit operations. From this point of view, it is similar to a normal exercise of the profession of accounting period, although “fixed-term”. However, the terms of Article 3 of the Law 108-88 require registration to the National Association of Accountants able to engage in the profession. Among the requirements, the candidate should be of Tunisian nationality for a minimum of five years. Moreover, a foreigner is able to perform the acts and conduct accounting in particular after an audit, among other things, the issuance of an authorization from the Minister of Finance in accordance with the holder of Foreign Affairs, following the opinion of the Board order.
It is clear that in principle a foreign public accounting firm is not automatically authorized in accordance with Tunisian law, to audit a bank or a company in Tunisia. Secretary of State for Finance in using a international tender for external audit of public banks broke the law on the profession of accountancy.

It should be added that the National Council of the College shall guarantee the independence and ethics of accountants in Tunisia. As such, it is not only the shield of the profession against interference from any party whatsoever in fulfilling the mission of the accountant, but in addition, it ensures compliance with business rules by its members. However, there is not a foreign firm ordinal international authority empowered to fulfill this crucial role.

The expertise of foreign firms auditing is of utmost importance and usefulness. However, launching an international tender for external audit of public banks, the government should have been more attentive to compliance with regulations because of administrative compliance with the law and delineation of responsibilities of each authority is inseparable from the rule of law and democracy.

It follows that the action taken by the Financial Secretary on the external audit of public banks is flawed competence, infringement of the law on the profession of Chartered Accountants and the provisions of the CSC management bodies SA. She falls, consequently, within the scope of Articles 5 and 7 of the Law on Administrative Court defining the abuse of power and, as such, it may be subject to annulment and suspension of performance on the basis of Articles 37 (new) and following of the Act.

Europe’s automotive industry might leave 80,000 unemployed soon even as fleet management systems grow!

Latest surveys in Europe indicate that the next three years could see as many as 80,000 employees shown the door as demand in car sales takes a further dip. That is further bad news in a time when nations across the continent are struggling with their debts and economies are barely on the path of recovery.

The news comes from Germany as makers like Volkswagen and ford among many others are “posting productivity rates in their plants that are unsustainable” and this means in the coming years they might have to shut down as many as 10 factories across Europe to compensate for the losses.

One of the reasons for the current crunch is the hesitation of consumers to spend more money on new cars while old ones continue to give them better mileage with time. Growing cash crunch in homes and reluctance to buy anything that is not an ‘absolute must’, mean that the medium-sized cars are taking a huge sales hit. The small car market though seems to be still pretty vibrant, but that does not really bring home the kind of revenue which will sustain profits in the long run. The report though comes at a time when improvement in vehicle tracking technologies and car fleet management services have indicated that 25.6 million fleet management units will be in operation by 2018.

That might create new employment opportunities elsewhere for those already involved in the automobile business, but it does take unique skill set and technical knowledge which will require different training and initiation programs.

But in an economy where jobs are hard to find and top car companies are handing pink slips, the fleet management sector surely presents a glimmer of hope in a report that is otherwise laced with gloom. Those close to the big car manufacturers say that it will take another 5 years at least, for things to get back on track; and even that is an optimistic

Global Sulphur Market to Reach 71.3 Million Metric Tons by 2015

The last couple of years might not have been the greatest for businesses across the globe, but with liquidity flowing back into both the US and the Euro zone, it is believed that the next few years will see a path that will put economies back in growth position.

We reckon it’s easier said than done, but let’s learn from the sulphur market where industry experts predict that it will hit the 71.3 million metric tons by 2015 — many saying that this might be on the conservative side of things. If the recovery and growth story is far brighter, then the final numbers might be a lot higher than the projected ones.

It is understandable that when it comes to metals and minerals, the market experts are a tad bit circumspect as there seems to be an element of volatility. Prices of both metals and minerals is going one way one morning and another the next.

Yet, the growing demand for sulphur mainly comes from the Asia-pacific region with China being one of its biggest markets in the region. The other strong holds for the Sulphur industry include South-East Asian countries and even the ones in Middle East. This vibrant new market with plenty of room for growth has meant that there is a constant demand for sulphur.

One of the major aspects surrounding the uses of sulphur is environmental in nature as pollutants like hydrogen sulphide, sulphur dioxide, and sulphur trioxide have been deemed as serious threats to ecosystems and hence the use of sulphur and its bi-products has been curtailed by stringent legislations in many countries.

While 2008 and 2009 saw turbulence in pricing in the sulphur market, growing demand and reduced supply has meant that there is plenty of scope for suppliers in the years to come. Industries such as agrochemicals, petroleum refining and metal mining are expected to be the ones to offer the biggest boost for sulphur market.

UK plans to up its electricity storage systems with £20m funding for innovative new technology

One of the major talking points in the UK energy sector in the recent past has been the high costs that people are being forced to pay for both domestic and business electricity.

Energy rates are simply a bit too high to the liking of the most and some complain that the so called ‘green tax’, which is there to try and fund future renewable energy generation schemes, is simply a burden that needs to be done away with.

But considering the long-term energy scenario, it might be better advised to continue devoting greater attention and funds towards alternate energy, which will bolster the conventional fuel sources that are rapidly depleting, in a considerable fashion.

The government seems to be on the right track though (at least in case of this news bit) as they have launched a £20m innovation competition, which will ask businesses and corporate houses to design and innovative storage system that will help in development of intermittent renewable energy and the building of a future smart grid.

Large scale energy storage demonstration schemes will be tested and the best ones will be approved and put to work, while a parallel system will further research in more efficient storage options and cost-effective components.

Storage systems are essential as they help balance out the fluctuations that are normally seen in generation of wind power and even solar power, to an extent. While the initial costs will be high, it is projected that energy storage could generate savings of £10bn per year and that is indeed a substantial amount, which can then go towards reduction of energy costs.

UK has been working hard in trying to push reforms in the electricity market and a more stable and reliable renewable energy system that can be seamlessly integrated into the grid will be a huge help in this regard. This though can only happen when both large wind and solar farms along with on-site energy and storage solutions for commercial buildings work in tandem.