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I’m 88 – can you recommend any not-too-violent exercises

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I am 88, in fairly good health (apart from fading eyesight and hearing!).   Had a hip replacement last year and did the exercises they recommended every day for six weeks.

Just wanted to know if you can recommend any not-too-violent exercises as I am not attending a keep fit class at present (although the new hip has not given me any problems) I walk every day to the shops -about 10-15 minutes. Many thanks.

Mary Hyslop.

It’s important to stress that we need to be individually responsible for ensuring how suitable an exercise is for us, since everybody’s health issues, especially those in the over 80’s age group are variable. Some people will be fitter than others, some stronger, others less flexible or less stable.  But it’s a fact too much sitting can result in slack abdominal muscles and slumped posture which encourages cramp and indigestion.  Inactivity is bad for our hearts and circulation, and often results in swollen legs and feet.

Good circulation is important in preventing problems and walking as you do Mary is excellent whole body exercise.  Blood that flows into the lower leg is helped back to the heart by the calf muscle acting as a pump, and the one way valves. Walking helps revitalize your body, re-oxygenate your system and improves your circulation and digestion

Simple exercises can add quality to your life. To improve the mobility of your shoulders and upper back stand with feet apart.   With your right hand reach up and over your head as if climbing a rope (relax left knee if standing).    Bring arm down and reach up and over with left hand (relaxing right knee). Repeat 10 times.

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My 85-year-old mother suffers from osteoporosis

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My 85-year-old mother suffers from osteoporosis.   She recently fell and broke her hip and is in danger of losing her physical independence.   I’ve heard that osteoporosis can run in families.   Is this true?   If so what can I do to avoid it?  Anne D – Berkshire

Dear Anne, I’m sorry to learn of your mother’s accident.   Osteoporosis – fragile bone disease affects 3 million people in the UK.  1 in 2 women and 1 in 5 men will break a bone mainly as a result of poor bone health.

However, in many cases it is a preventable disease, and not just a consequence of growing older.  Look at your lifestyle. Does it include a well-balanced diet containing plenty of calcium plus vitamin D to build strong bones, and regular weight bearing exercise? This changes have been found to help prevent the disease.   Some women are more at risk genetically and you need to be aware of this.   So, Anne, please consult your doctor.

He may recommend a change in lifestyle, HRT (hormone replacement therapy) or specialized drugs to slow down bone loss and maintain bone density.   Talk to your Doctor about your bone density.  It can be monitored with a bone scan (Dexa) screening although it’s not always available on the NHS.  Alternatively, you could contact a private clinic that would perform a bone scan for a fee. Good luck Anne and for more information www.ros.org.uk

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Tech Neck Exercises

With everyday use of techie gadgets we all end the day with a serious ‘crick’ in the neck!! Here’s my solution

Ex 1   Shoulder Shrugs

To mobilise your shoulders and release tension, sit or stand and simply shrug up both shoulders towards your ears. Now relax and simply drop your shoulders pushing down with your arms. Repeat 10 times.

Ex 2   Forward Neck stretch

To release neck tensions sit or stand upright.   Carefully bend your head forward, lengthen your neck and tuck in your chin until you feel a stretch at the back of your neck. Hold for 5 seconds and relax. Repeat 5 times.

Ex 3   Side Neck turns

To release neck tension sit or stand as before, looking straight ahead. Turn your head and look around to the right side as far as possible. Feel the stretch and hold for 5 seconds. Bring head back to look centre, and then turn head on and around to look left, and hold for 5 seconds.  Repeat turning and stretching both sides, 5 times.

Ex 4   Shoulder and Chest stretch

To stretch out tight chest muscles sit or stand, place hands behind your back on your bottom.  Carefully pull your neck in and back, pull shoulder blades together and back and stretch out your chest.  Hold for 5 secs and relax. Repeat 5 times.

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Welcome to GetReady4AnyAge.com

Hello, I’m Diana Moran and welcome to GetReady4AnyAge.com.

As the CoronaVirus hits the most vulnerable in our community, I’ve created a resource to help those of us over 70, who the Government has now asked to self isolate.

I was 81 this year and decided to self isolate myself at my home in Surrey.  Over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing exercises with you which can keep you healthy at home – and a video blog of how I managed under lock down. I’d love to hear from you too so please go to our contact page and tell us what you’re up to and share any tips with our followers here.

Keep checking back here and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

I hope you saw me on BBC Breakfast with some exercises which you can do at home. If you didn’t, then you can see the video at our home page http://www.GetReady4AnyAge.com

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How to make tarnished cutlery shine again!

Hello, I’m Aggie MacKenzie – and I run a sister site to Diana Moran’s called www.aggiestips.com 

Each day I share my tips with subscribers – free.  And if you have a household tip you want to share with my community – I want to hear from you.  So go to www.aggiestips.com and join me there. In the meantime,

See you soon

Aggie MacKenzie 

How to make tarnished cutlery shine again!

If you’ve been storing away stainless steel cutlery for a while, it may have tarnished.

And guess what – vinegar won’t shift the tarnish!

What you need is special metal cleaner such as Maas Metal Polish from Lakeland. It’s not cheap (£12.99) but a tube will last for ages and, most importantly, will work!

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the whites of my eyes have developed a slightly yellowish tinge

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During a recent holiday to Crete my husband noticed that the whites of my eyes had developed a slightly yellowish tinge. That was a month ago now and my eyes still haven’t returned to normal. My sight hasn’t been affected and the colour change is minimal but noticeable to me. I am 51; could this be a side effect of the menopause?

Rona Gower, Cheltenham

Well Rona, by co-incidence I have just read the result of a small study claiming a link between yellow eyes and Menopausal 50-59-year-old women who had been taking Hormone replacement therapy, or Prempro.  I will look out for further studies.

But normally the whites of eyes or sclera are white in colour, but one can get yellow sclera (also called scleral icterus) caused by a high level of bilirubin in the bloodstream.  Bilirubin is made in the liver and is yellow in colour.  If a person suffers from liver disease, the liver can no longer process the breakdown of red blood cells and bilirubin, its natural metabolic product, and no longer enters the bile. Instead it builds up in the blood and tissues, including the sclera of the eyes.

One of the first signs is yellowing, probably caused by blocked bile ducts, leading to a backup of bilirubin.  More seriously it could be a sign of Cirrhosis of the liver due to an excess of alcohol damaging the liver. Or Hepatitis, caused by toxins – but most commonly by a virus that infects the liver, resulting in its dysfunction. Bilirubin backs up and the individual will suffer from jaundice.  Rona, since your eyes have been affected for over a month I would advise you to drink plenty of water and to talk to your GP mentioning any medications you may be taking.

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Diana Moran returns to BBC Breakfast after 40 years and is broadcasting  in Self Isolation

Diana Says: – “I am 80…in the high risk group. And I am self isolating. I am writing regular updates for people over 70 on my website… www. Getready4anyage.com
There is already a lot of general info and advice for older folk up there but will now be adding videos and updates.  It’s important to be informed and to get advice if we are to endure the Governments advice to self-isolate for 4 months! And….its most important to keep well….both mentally and physically.
•    And, it gives us time to tackle those chores you’ve been putting off for months.
•    Clear out cupboards, wardrobes and drawers.
•    This is an excellent opportunity to get tech savvy…
•    Things on your phone like WhatsApp and Skype… helping you keep in daily touch with friends and family.
•    Try to get out and keep active at times when there are less people about…first thing in the morning or later evening.
•    Simple walking is an excellent form of exercise.
•    Some shops are planning to open early for we older ones when there are less shoppers.
Our age group have faced difficulties before and come through smiling.   So a bit of flu isnt going to stop us!
Look on the website….Ready4Anyage.com….for more information and advice
Finally… .KEEP FIT AND CARRY ON!

Do you know someone who would benefit from Diana Moran’s free advice – tell them to log on to http://www.getready4anyage.com and subscribe now.

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I get asked …. Comfortable house shoes

Dear Diana, I work from home and spend a good part of my weekdays around the house. I’m also a fidget so leave my desk 100 times a day to do little jobs around the house, up and down stairs, etc.   I tend to wear slippers for comfort but I’m realising this is not good for my feet. My home is cool, even in summer, so I’m looking for a recommendation for a ‘house shoe’.  Here is my wish list. Kind regards, Anna Everitt …. Bristol

Answer

Phew!  Anne this is a bit of a tall order but I have a few suggestions.  Like you I work from home spending my time at the PC and taking regular breaks to do a few chores around the house and garden.  Consequently, my requirements are somewhat similar to yours so I look for shoes made of natural, supple, durable leather with a fabric lining.  Leather allows the foot to breathe and can provide long term comfort and gentle support.  Shoes need to have a generous space in which to be able to spread your toes naturally, with soles that are shock absorbing, non-slip and provide underfoot cushioning.  Probably like you I don high heels and dress up for special occasions or conversely fall into the habit of slopping around the house in non-supporting “ballet type” light, flat shoes.

Essential;

  • Comfortable – for all day wear
  • Supportive – for all day wear
  • Suitable to wear socks with

Nice to have;

  • Modern style (neutral and inconspicuous)
  • Light outdoor use for taking bins out
  • Washable

Neither shoe is good for feet if worn over long periods and both can cause back pain, so look instead for comfortable shoes with posture correct heel height to encourage a good walking position.  Feet vary in both length and width, but happily many of the great shoes around this season have adjustable Velcro fastenings or laces to ensure a great fit.  These comfort shoes are no longer just practical and fuddy duddy, but come in exciting colours and designs to suit most tastes and can look great with both trousers and skirts. The best selection of shoes and sandals I have discovered recently are by Padders, Hotters and Clarks.  Happy ambling!

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MENOPAUSE – Self Help Tips

One advantage of being older is not having to cope with menopausal problems such hot flashes, disturbed sleep and mood swings anymore!  But what can be done to manage symptoms if they’re bothering you?  Simple lifestyle changes can help, although some symptoms will go away on their own. Distressing hot flashes may be triggered by spicy foods, alcohol, caffeine, stress, or hot environment.  So avoid when possible, dress in layers you can remove and take slow, deep breaths when you feel a flash starting.

Help sleeping problems by cutting out caffeine after lunchtime. Don’t smoke, avoid large meals  and stop working on your computer several hours before your bedtime.  Be more physically active in the daytime but not just before bedtime, because exercise isn’t conducive to sleep. Keep your bedtimes regular and avoid napping during the day.  Sleep in a dark, quiet, cool bedroom and use it for sleep and sex only. If you can’t get to sleep read until you’re tired. 

Getting a good night’s sleep and being physically active helps avoid mood swings, but if they really trouble you consider seeing a therapist or joining a support group. Talk to your doctor if you are depressed or are experiencing memory problems, like forgetfulness.  HRT can be effective in helping regulate hot flashes, mood swings and other menopausal symptoms.  HRT is not suitable for everyone, but your doctor may prescribe medications used for other conditions like epilepsy, depression, and high blood pressure, that may help with symptoms.  If you still have periods, low-dose oral contraceptives (birth control pills) may help.  If vaginal dryness is your problem a water-based, over-the-counter vaginal lubricant like K-Y Jelly can help make sex more comfortable.

Be aware that lower oestrogen levels brought about by the menopause lead to bone loss, and weak bones break easily. To keep your bones strong and to avoid osteoporosis (fragile bone disease) do weight-bearing exercises, such as walking, climbing stairs, or using weights. For bone health eat foods rich in calcium and vitamin D, or consider taking calcium and vitamin D supplements. After the menopause with changes in oestrogen levels plus ageing and possibly gaining weight or developing other health problems, there can be an increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD).  If possible have your cholesterol and blood pressure levels checked. Not smoking, getting regular exercise and following a healthy diet are paramount to keeping you healthy and active in your postmenopausal years.

Insomnia

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Insomnia is debilitating and is identified by habitual sleeplessness, wakefulness and restlessness, with more females affected than males. Between 10% and 30% of adults have insomnia and many of those affected are over the age of 65. The actual cause may be difficult to identify but insomnia can be triggered by a number of factors including worry, stress, underlying health conditions, and also alcohol or drug use. General worries about family or health can keep you awake at night, but insomnia is more often attributed to problems at work, financial difficulties or a stressful event, such as bereavement. However when insomnia continues after the problem has passed or been resolved we tend to associate going to bed with being awake, and this turns into a worry about not being able to sleep. To make matters worse our minds start racing, and especially if the bed is uncomfortable or the bedroom is too light, too hot, cold or noisy. Eating a heavy meal late at night, drinking alcohol before going to bed and taking stimulants such as nicotine (cigarettes) and caffeine (tea, coffee and energy drinks) or recreational drugs will prevent you getting a good night’s sleep.

Most adults need between six and nine hours of sleep every night, so “sleep hygiene” which includes fixing regular times for going to bed and getting up in the morning can help. Working out a routine and sticking to it programmes the brain and internal body clock, and not taking a nap during the day and aiming to “wind down” before going to bed at a consistent time can help. Try to create a relaxing bedtime routine and ensure you have a comfortable sleeping environment. Experiment with ways to help you relax at bedtime, such as a warm bath (not hot), or writing “to do” lists, which will help clear your mind of worries. Or try some relaxing yoga like stretches, but do not do vigorous exercise because it has the opposite effect! Ideally your bedroom should be kept at a temperature of between 18C and 24C.

Speaking personally I find reading a book and listening to gentle, hypnotic music relaxes and prepares me for sleep, I don’t have TV or electronic gadgets such as my mobile or PC in the bedroom because they might light up or bleep in the night, disturbing my precious sleep! If noise disturbs you, consider investing in double glazing or cheaper still use earplugs.

 

don’t plan to stop pedaling any time soon

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That great US Statesman Claude Pepper once said, “Life is like riding a bicycle. You don’t fall off unless you plan to stop pedaling.”

Well, I don’t plan to stop pedaling any time soon and last week something rather exciting happened to me. As a mature woman I took possession of a new bike…possibly only the 4th bike I’ve ever owned! Cycling at my age is still an option, only riding my new bike is somewhat different from previous “wheels” because it is motorized!

Styles of bicycles change over the years, but cycling is timeless and my super new white bike (with green trimmings of course) is what the cycling trade call an eBike by GTech [I bought it online as I do or most things nowadays]! It looks like rides like a conventional mountain bike, but has an added boost of electric power which gives me an extra push. This “push” reminds me of when as a little girl my Dad would give my back that little extra “power push” as I wobbled off on my first 2 wheeler bike.

My new bike is just so thrilling to ride pedaling like on a conventional bike but making the ride easier by giving that extra boost of power when needed, such as up and down hilly slopes. It’s suitable for young and old alike with its electric power helping one travel for longer and making the journey enjoyable.

At first I was concerned that my new form of transport would not do the job of helping me to keep fit. However, it is such a pleasurable experience that I get on my Ebike two to three times more often, riding out in the fresh air fearlessly covering longer distances than I did on my conventional mountain bike. I can go fast if required thanks to its small light motor. This doesn’t make the bike at all heavy and its light enough for me to carry up my front steps. The electric motor’s detachable battery comes inside with me, to re-charge in the kitchen alongside my mobile phone. How 21st century am I?

As I’ve proudly pedaled along on my new GTech eBike I’ve met several people for whom manual cycling had become too painful because of arthritis, back, knee problems and hip replacements. In their 60’s and 70’s they have all splashed out on eBikes. They love the freedom of cycling, feel fit and tell me their electric bikes are the best thing ever because they can now cycle further without pain.

It goes without saying that we were all wearing safety helmets and reflective jackets. You don’t get older without getting wiser!

Products for intimate female parts

Dear Diana, I feel embarrassed to write to you but I have an irritation in my intimate parts which is worrying me. I wash regularly ‘down there’ and have always been a stickler for hygiene. Now though I’m concerned as this itchiness has been going on for a couple of weeks and I’ve never had anything like this before? [Name withheld]

Oh dear, well you know that maintaining hygiene of intimate female parts keeps us fresh and clean and avoids unpleasant health problems. But are you using ‘specialist products’? Ordinary soaps and shower gels are designed to maintain a natural pH of the skin (5.5) but the pH of a normal vagina is 3.8 to 4.5 with many gynecologists advising women to use only warm water. Many women experience an occasional bout of vaginal thrush, due to an infection of fungal yeast called candida. Thrush occurs when the pH levels in the vagina are unbalanced due to such things as poor diet, menstrual blood and antibiotics. Many cleansing products are too harsh and remove the natural moisture the vagina uses to balance pH levels.

Over cleansing gives the candida fungus a chance to thrive, so don’t use normal scented soaps, wipes or douches during infection. Feminine hygiene products are readily available from your pharmacist to prevent infections and itches in your intimate areas, and will safely nurture the feeling of freshness, vital for every woman.

Options for “lady parts” treatments include tablets taken by mouth, or anti-thrush pessaries inserted into the vagina. Over the counter antifungal thrush medicines and creams include Vagisil, CandiGONE, Caneston and VagiQUICK.

Some women eat probiotic yoghurt or supplements to prevent vaginal thrush but there is insufficient evidence to support this.

Diana Moran – reflects on 50 years of change on Women’s International Day 2021

Diana Moran introduced fitness to the UK in the 80s with BBC Breakfast TV. Now at 82 she reflects on her effect on women’s roles over the last 50 years:

  • Lifting the lid on her own battle with cancer removing the taboo on the subject;
  • Making health and wellness a woman’s choice;
  • Learning broadcast technology despite her initial fears
  • Acting as an inspiration to her engineer son;
  • Being brought back by the BBC, in her 80s, to be a beacon of hope in the midst of the Covid outbreak;
  • Having to learn the new technologies to film herself under isolation
  • She believes that young women today have the world at their feet
  • But warns that without health and wellbeing life will be shorter with less time to achieve their potential

Queen of Clean Aggie MacKenzie rallies the nation to tick off their lockdown to-do lists.

 New research reveals that over two-thirds (68%) of Brits admit to putting off tedious household tasks until they can’t be ignored any longer

  • Nearly half claim that the tasks they had set themselves at the beginning of the latest lockdown have yet to be tackled as they ‘can’t be seen’.
  • Gas Safe Register (GSR) teams up with Queen of Clean Aggie MacKenzie to inspire the nation to tackle their outstanding household to-do lists before lockdown restrictions lift.

With two months to go until the expected lifting of lockdown measures in June, garden maintenance (29%), cleaning the windows (27%) and scrubbing the oven (24%) are ranked as the top three jobs that the nation is determined to tackle.

However, worryingly, when it comes to gas safety in our homes, only one in 10 (10%) are hoping to book in a safety check or service this spring for their gas appliances, with a third (33%) also admitting that gas safety checks often slip to the bottom of their to-do lists.

With a tendency to procrastinate on chores that we’re not excited about, when it comes to the reasoning as to why there are still outstanding household tasks on their to-do lists this year, almost half (47%) admit they’ve put them to the back of their minds as they ‘can’t see’ them, and more than two-fifths (42%) cite a lack of motivation.

 Aggie MacKenzie, (www.aggiestips.com) has been keeping us clean, organised and tidy for two decades since appearing on Channel 4’s How Clean is Your House?, says: “Personally, I love getting the less glamorous household tasks ticked off my to-do list! But if it brings you less enjoyment, now’s the time to get the sensible sorted and a gas safety check with a registered engineer should be top of that list. “Booking in your annual service now will reduce disruption in the long term. Get it booked while we’re still at home, so that your summer can be that bit more carefree!”

In fact, tackling the more tedious tasks can be good for us. Over two-thirds (68%) of Brits admit to getting a positive boost and a serotonin hit when they do tick these tasks off the admin list.

TV behavioural psychologist Emma Kenny, who is also supporting Safe Register’s campaigning efforts, shares her thoughts on why we get a buzz from being sensible. She says: “Life in lockdown has felt overwhelming and fatigue has well and truly set in. It’s easy to understand why many of us have found it difficult to tackle those tasks we had set out to do at the start of the year. “Getting on top of your life admin – including those tasks that we often ‘can’t see’ and put to the back of our minds – is great for positive mental health and wellbeing. Knowing that you’ve ticked off important tasks, such as having your gas appliances checked, so that you protect both yourself and your family, is a small win that makes a huge difference to all of our lives. “Getting organised this way helps you to feel in control of your world, while ensuring the safety of the people that mean the most to you. The science clearly shows that when you feel that you’re on top of your roles and responsibilities you feel happier and more content, which is something everyone needs after the challenging year we’ve faced.”

This spring, Gas Safe Register is encouraging Brits to ensure that the servicing of gas appliances in their homes (which should be booked annually) is at the top of their to-do lists. From cookers and boilers to gas fires, many faulty appliances left unchecked can pose life-threatening risks such as carbon monoxide poisoning, a gas leak and – in some instances – fires…or even an explosion.  This has proved to be as important as ever, with the research showing a lack of knowledge among Brits around the signs of an unsafe gas appliance. More than four in 10 (42%) wrongly thought that smoke was a sign of an unsafe gas appliance, a third (30%) claimed the smoke alarm going off was a signal, while 16% attributed mould and 10% a build-up of dust.

Bob Kerr from Gas Safe Register added: “As it starts to get warmer and the further easing of lockdown restrictions are now firmly in sight, you probably haven’t given your boiler a second thought! But after a heavy winter of use since we’ve all spent more time than usual in our homes, spring is the ideal time to book in your annual gas safety check with a Gas Safe registered engineer. “As today’s research shows, with a lack of awareness of the signs and symptoms of an unsafe gas appliance, it’s even more important to make sure that your appliances are fit for use. You can find and check a registered engineer local to you on our Gas Safe Register website. There’s never been a more apt time to be Better Gas Safe than Sorry.”

Aggie’s spring to-do list before lockdown ends: 

  1. Clean the windows

Let the sun shine in! Buy some microfibre cloths specially for glass and mirrors. Wash the dirt off with warm water plus a drop of washing up liquid using a cotton cloth then dry with the microfibre cloth. Your windows will be clear and streak-free.

  1. Tackle the dust on the tops of kitchen cupboards and high-up/out-of-reach surfaces

Get the ladder out, climb to the places you don’t normally reach and prepare to be horrified! For general dustiness, use warm soapy water wrung out in a clean terry cloth – old towels ripped up are ideal. Damp dusting is far better than dry – the dust sticks to the cloth rather than flies around the room to land on a different surface. While you’re up there, take down lampshades for cleaning.  You’ll need to change your water and cloths often (you can’t clean with a dirty cloth). Wipe down doors, walls and skirting boards.

If there’s a gap between the tops of your kitchen cupboards and the ceiling, the surface will be covered in greasy dust. Not that anyone sees it, but you know it’s there. Once you’ve cleaned it off (old-fashioned washing soda solution is the thing here), place a layer of newspaper over to catch any future grot. Remove and replace every few months and you’ll never have to clean it again.

  1. Book a gas safety check

Your boiler will have seen a lot of use over this past winter – in fact more than ever with us having spent so much more time at home. With the weather warming up, you might put your annual gas safety check to the back of your mind, but there’s no better time than now to get it done.

Spring is the ideal time to get a gas safety check booked in – Gas Safe Registered engineers are less busy so it’s easier to get an appointment, and it also means you can rest easy knowing that your gas appliances are safe for use once the weather turns cold again in the autumn.

It can also save you money in the long term – if your appliances are working more efficiently it means they’ll use less energy, meaning you can make savings on your bills.

  1. Cleaning the oven

We all know that the best way to keep an oven clean (if you don’t have a self-cleaning model) is to wipe it down after every use. But how many of us actually do that? If you’ve left it a long time, coat all interior surfaces (as long as they’re smooth enamel) with a thick paste of bicarbonate of soda and water; leave overnight. Scrub with warm water and a scourer.

If baked-on grease is covering the glass of the oven door, apply some soapy water then go at it with a scraper from the DIY shop (the sort used for removing splashes of paint from window glass after decorating). Easy-peasy and it won’t leave any scratches. For the cooker extractor filter, simply detach it from the base of the cooker hood and stick in the dishwasher on a hot cycle.

 Painting/decorating the house

From 17 May, we’ll finally be able to welcome people into our homes again. I’m sure everyone wants their place to look as good as possible for when we can have visitors over. Simply giving your living-room a lick of paint in a fresh colour can give it a new lease of life and a lovely transformation.

  1. Cleaning behind the fridge

While the fridge is pulled out, clean the cooling elements at the back with the upholstery attachment of your vacuum, then wipe with a soft cloth wrung out in warm soapy water. This’ll help your fridge to run more efficiently (and cheaply).

  1. The showerhead/curtain/taps/screen/

Unscrew the showerhead and soak overnight in a bowl filled with warm water and clear vinegar (half and half). In the morning, rinse under the tap and most (or all) of it will fall away. Rub away any scale left behind with a nylon scrubber. NB: only use this remedy on bog-standard chrome fixings – vinegar will strip away any special finishes.

If your shower curtain’s gone a little mouldy at the base, whip it off the rail and run on a shortish cycle in the washing machine using biological detergent. If spots of mould are still present at the end of the cycle, wear a pair of rubber gloves, apply a little neat bleach to the spots and rub with a cleaning pad. Rinse and rehang.

Chrome taps grotty with limescale? Douse paper towel in equal parts clear vinegar and water and wrap around the tap. Cover with a plastic bag held in place with an elastic band. Leave overnight, rinse off and buff to a shine with a dry microfibre cloth. (Don’t use on special-finish taps.)

Limescale on the shower screen? No need for harsh products. Remove the worst on glass shower enclosures with a DIY scraper for paint splatters then ‘wallpaper’ the glass with sheets of vinegar-drenched kitchen roll. Leave a few hours then remove paper and rinse down. Buff dry with a microfibre glass cloth. For chrome taps, envelop with vinegary kitchen paper, cover with a plastic bag and secure with a rubber band. Leave overnight and in the morning the scale will flake off.

  1. Pillows…

You can be sure that a fair proportion of a pillow’s weight is made up of skin scales, dandruff, sweat, saliva and goodness knows what else, so you need to clean them at least once a year. When the sun’s shining, wash them (two at a time) in the machine (check the care label first) and put them straight out on the line. Feather-filled pillows need to dry quickly: if they hang about damp for a few days the feathers will develop mould and they’ll be ruined. If the rain’s back on, stick them in the tumble dryer with a few white tennis balls to stop the filling clumping. And it’s a good idea to cover them with pillow protectors to protect from soiling. Manmade filling is much easier to maintain; follow the washing instructions on the label.

…and duvets Single duvets can go into the washing machine; check the label for instructions. Any duvets larger than single size normally need to be taken to the launderette but some of modern machines have a very large capacity, so check first. As long as the item goes into the machine easily and there’s a bit of space between the duvet and roof of the drum, you’ll be fine.

  1. Garden maintenance and cleaning your greenhouse

Those of us lucky enough to have a garden have found it to be a godsend over the past year. So make sure you take care of the outside space that’s taken care of you. Hydration is crucial as the temperature rises – water your plants regularly and pull out any weeds.

Whether glass or plastic, cleaning the greenhouse hugely improves the environment for growing plants, and Jeyes fluid is good for the job. Remove the algae, moss and grime to allow more light in (and you’ll cut down on pests and diseases too).

  1. Rescue the barbie

If your barbecue was put away last year without being cleaned, don’t just chuck it away in disgust. Take a handful of scrunched-up aluminium foil across the cooking area – this will quickly remove most of the grot, then finish cleaning in a sink of hot soapy water using a pot scrubber. Rinse, dry and light your coals!

Gas Safe Register’s six simple steps to help householders stay Better Gas Safe Than Sorry this spring, are:

  1. Only use a Gas Safe registered engineer to fit, fix and service your appliances. You can find and check an engineer at GasSafeRegister.co.uk or call 0800 408 5500.
  2. Check both sides of your engineer’s Gas Safe Register ID card. Make sure they’re qualified for the work you need doing. You can find this information on the back of the card.
  3. Know the six signs of carbon monoxide poisoning – headaches, dizziness, breathlessness, nausea, collapse and loss of consciousness.
  4. Check gas appliances for warning signs that they’re not working properly: for example, lazy yellow flames instead of crisp blue ones, black marks or stains on or around the appliance and condensation in the room.
  5. Fit an audible carbon monoxide alarm. This will alert you if there’s carbon monoxide in your home.
  6. Have all your gas appliances serviced and safety-checked every year. If you rent your home, ask for a copy of the landlord’s current gas safety record.

Research conducted by 3Gem on behalf of the Gas Safe Register. 3Gem surveyed 2,000 respondents within the UK (aged 18+) in March/April 2021.

About Gas Safe Register:

Gas Safe Register is the official list of gas engineers who are registered to work safely and legally on boilers, cookers, fires and all other gas appliances. By law all gas engineers must be on the Gas Safe Register. To find a Gas Safe registered engineer visit gassaferegister.co.uk/find-an-engineer/or call 0800 408 5500. Gas Safe Register replaced CORGI as the gas registration body in 2009.