PICKING A CHRISTMAS TREE

When to buy your real Christmas tree – and how to choose

  • Do buy early. All Christmas trees are felled at the same time, so there is no point in delaying.
  • Do think twice before buying from a pop-up tree seller. They’ll disappear as fast as they appear, so you won’t be able to return dodgy goods.
  • Do measure the room heightbefore you go out – and don’t forget the extra room the stand takes. Your tree has to fit!

The major garden centre chains started to sell Christmas trees in late November and, although many will consider this too early to buy a tree, the truth is that it’s a case of the earlier the better.

“There’s no benefit at all from waiting into December,” warns David Mitchell, Wyevale Garden Centre’s Christmas tree expert. According to Mitchell this is because all the trees get cut at the same time, in early-November; their distribution is then drip-fed over the following weeks. It is therefore better to get there early and start caring for and feeding your tree, rather than letting it sit on a pile with all the others, yearning for the water it needs to stay healthy.

On the BCTGA website, you can put in your postcode and find your local Christmas tree farm, along with the types that they stock. Pop-up Christmas tree sellers will also be out in force during the coming weeks, but it is generally wise to go with a BCTGA member who will be available to help you out should you encounter any future problems with your tree. 

You should be looking for a British-grown tree as its carbon footprint will be substantially less than one that has been transported from mainland Europe. Importantly, it will also be fresher.

Room height is very important. “A lot of people can get carried away and get something too big for the space and forget that the stand adds an extra 20cm at the bottom,” says Mitchell. “It’s quite an easy mistake to make and you might find that you have to cut the top off, which then gives you a conundrum in terms of where are you going to put the fairy.”

Generally speaking, people look for one of two shapes: tall or wide. The wide, bushy types are more popular in continental Europe, especially in Germany, the Christmas tree’s home. Here in the UK, we are more into tall and slim, possibly due to the fact the average home size is four metres squared smaller.

The slimmer profile also lets more light shine through the tree branches. And, with Christmas baubles getting ever heavier, they can hold decoration all the way up to the top branches.

GIG ETIQUETTE

1. People are at the show for different reasons and to have different experiences. Look around you: are people acting the way you want to act? If not, you’re probably in the wrong part of the room. If you want to flail wildly, please reposition yourself at the front of the stage, where others are likely to be flailing wildly. If you wish to stand still and listen intently, then take a position further back, rather than standing and tutting in the middle of the moshpit.

2. If you have come to the show to see your friends, and what is happening on the stage is of marginal interest to you, why not write off the cost of the ticket and go to the pub instead? You’ll be able to enjoy your conversation, and the people who’ve come to hear the music will be able to enjoy that, rather than your conversation.*

3. If you’re at a seated show, remember that no one around you can move. So if your behaviour is unpalatable, don’t be surprised if aggrieved patrons pick you up on it.

4. If you arrive at a gig early, you should of course feel perfectly entitled to stand anywhere you want. You’ve made the effort. If, however, you arrive two minutes before showtime, is it entirely reasonable to push your way to the front and centre, especially if you’re tall and thereby block the view of everyone behind you? It’s not, is it. Conversely, if you’re short and arrive early and stand at the back, there’s no point complaining when your sightline becomes obstructed as the evening wears on.

5. At outdoor shows, the nearer the front you are, the less reasonable it is to spread out with your friends, family and a picnic on a rug. There are tens of thousands of people present. They all want to get close to the stage, and it’s not fair to occupy half an acre with your sausage rolls when everyone around you is crammed in like sardines, especially if the first song is fast approaching. You’ve lost your right to complain when you get wellies wading through your sarnies if it’s five minutes to the show.

6. When at the bar, remember who was there before you. It’s just polite to let someone else get served if they’ve been there longer. Think how aggravated you get when others push in, before you do the same yourself.

7. Once you’ve been served, your drink is for drinking, not throwing. As ever, moshpit exceptions apply. If everyone is throwing their drinks in the air, what’s wrong with joining in? (As long as you don’t hit the band.) But if you’re at the back, watching your pint describe a perfect parabola as it soaks those underneath its flightpath, you are not just an arsehole, you’re a coward.

8. Still on the subject of drink: if you’re right in the middle of a packed crowd, in the middle of the show, think hard about whether you really need that extra drink. You’re going to have to barge past everyone to get to the bar, then barge past everyone to get back, then barge past everyone to go to the toilet 20 minutes later. Is it really worth that much inconvenience to you and them just to drink overpriced lager?

9. In general, singing along is fine. Not every time, of course – no one wants to hear Laura Marling drowned out by a lone, drunken, tuneless voice bellowing along. But a crowd joining in can be a magical moment. If someone is upset that you are ruining their recording of the show, tough luck for them.

10. And, yes, recording shows. Why not just watch the gig instead of holding aloft your phone to get a jerky picture, with terrible sound, that no one – including you – will ever want to see again? A show is a moment: live in the moment.

HIP FLASK

Through history, there have been some important developments in the transportation of liquids. Before the modern era, alcohol was useful for its preservation and sterilization properties when clean drinking water was hard to find. Drinking alcoholic beverages, such as beer and wine fermented from local crops, was first foremost a practical health measure. One needed to carry trustworthy liquids with them and as a result, nearly every culture developed their own form of a flask.

Some say it all started with the hunter-gatherers of the Kalahari, in Southern Africa, 60,000 years ago: they used ostrich eggshells as canteens. Earthenware containers evolved around 2000 BC and were eventually replaced with more modern materials such as glass and metal. From approximately 500AD to the Middle Ages, Pilgrim flasks were created by the thousands for Christian pilgrims to take home water or oil from a sacred place.

The modern flask – a sleek beverage bottle – may have started with the advent of the pocket watch. The notion of carrying something in an easy and practical way developed in the 18th century in England, but followed different ways: the landed gentry adopted the pocket watch and the workers started carrying the hip flask.

It’s not exactly known when, but it was approximately at this juncture when the flask was beginning to take the modern shape with a rounded rectangular body that was curved to match the contours of the body. This shape makes it less visible in the pocket than a square-edged shape.

What should you put in it? The experts are unanimous: hard liquor only, which means 80 proof and above. Whiskey, bourbon, rum, gin, brandy (Cognac, Armagnac) are fine. Lower alcohol beverages such as beer or wine don’t keep well in a flask, nor do cocktails, cream liqueurs, or citrus-based liquids. They will deteriorate or mix badly with the flask material, and some may even damage it. Flavored alcohol will not stay fresh, either. Port wine is a possible exception to the 80-proof rule, especially if you plan to smoke a cigarwith it.

The truth of flask etiquette is that there are very few scenarios in which it is appropriate to carry and drink from a flask. Just consider how flasks are depicted on TV: they are almost always used by a character who is reliably inappropriate, often drunk, or disrespectful of social norms. There simply aren’t many social situations in which bringing your own supply of liquor is encouraged or acceptable. Furthermore, the “need” to bring a flask implies that the scenario is one in which you shouldn’t be drinking.

Our advice is to choose carefully when you carry and drink from a flask.

Here are a few flask Dos and DON’Ts:

  • DO be aware that though Prohibition is long gone, many states have open container laws that prohibit bottles, cans, and flasks with a broken seal or that have been previously opened from being carried in public (aside from a car trunk). Check your local laws.
  • DON’T attempt take a filled flask on an airplane, as they won’t let in outside alcohol nor will it pass the TSA
  • DO carry it to a wedding party, a friend’s house or other private places where you know you will not find your favorite spirit
  • DON’T carry a flask purely with the intent to get drunk; that’s not gentlemanly anywhere
  • DON’T take a flask into bars or restaurants as a way to save on the drinks that should be bought there, even if it is your best 20-y.o. single malt. It is rude and cheap, two things unbecoming of a gentleman.
  • DO remember to offer your friends a sip from your flask once it’s open
  • DON’T take a flask to situations where you would not drink out of respect –a religious service, funeral, a government building, etc.
  • DO be prepared to experience some judgment from the people around you
  • DON’T carry more liquor than you can consume without embarrassing yourself
  • DO plan a safe ride home
  • DON’T make carrying a flask become your personal hallmark; carry it sparingly

Conclusion

One of the all-time favorite gent’s accessories, the popularity of the hip flask shows no sign of abating. 

THE BOW TIE

The bow tie is a tour de force in its own right. More of a style icon than accent, it has graced the likes of everyone from Winston Churchill to James Bond. It is a statement that shows you’re debonair, self-aware and not too timid to shy away from the crowd of Four-in-Hands and Half-Windsor tie knots. (Not that there’s anything wrong with them.)

However, as they say with great sartorial power comes great responsibility, and correctly tying and wearing a bow tie is no exception. A pre-tied or clip-on option is out of the question, and a loosely tied, too large or haphazardly askew look will destroy the whole effect.

Which is why learning how to properly tie a bow tie is not only an important life skill, but a rite of passage.

HOW TO TIE A BOW TIE

STEP 1
Step 1

Hang the bow tie flat around your neck, pulling side A longer than side B by approximately 1.5 inches.


STEP 2
Step 2

Bring A across B close to your neck to prevent the tie from becoming too loose.


STEP 3

Step 3

Continue to bring A up behind B, forming a simple and loose knot.


STEP 4

Step 4

Fold B to make a bow tie shape by pulling it to the left and then folding it back over itself to the right. The fold should be directly between the collar points.


STEP 5

Step 5

Drape A over the front of B.


STEP 6
Step 6

Fold A and pass it through the loop behind B.


STEP 7
Step 7

Continue pulling A through the loop, without pulling it completely through. This will form the back half of the bow.


STEP 8
Step 8

Tighten the knot and adjust until even by pulling on opposite sides simultaneously. Pull the front left and back right section to tighten, and the front right and back left end apart to loosen.

NEW CAR?

So you want to buy a car? Excellent! But a car is one of the most significant purchases in your life, and one you want to make sure get right.

Whether it’s a commuter, an extension of your personality, or for work, the options available are more plentiful and varied than ever before.

To make sure you get the right car for the right price, research and preparation is key.

Here are 11 questions you should answer before you take the plunge.


What do I want?

Wants, as you know, are different to needs.

Luxury and next-generation technology is on a lot of people’s lists, but a basic A-to-B car is often more realistic. Digital radio might be nice, but FM can suffice to save a few bucks. Do you need a built-in sat-nav if other devices do the job?

Cars come with all manner of options these days. Work out what’s crucial and what’s a sweetener.

tesla_chadstone_03


What do I actually need?

Think about the core features you require from the car and the type of driving you’ll be doing with it and then ask big questions.

Is it for the family? Is it for work? Is it to take you to the shops and back? Will it tow the caravan? Is it cheap to run and maintain? Is it all of the above? Does it need to be?


What is my budget?

If you think smart and do your research, you should be able to land the car you want for the right price. You may hear of a brand-new sedan being sold at a base price of $40,000 but to get everything you want the costs can blow out by thousands.

Instead, a car that costs a bit more and comes with everything as standard may be a better and cheaper option for you.


What finance do I need?

Is this a trade? Do you have the cash in the bank or do you need to get a loan? Should you lease it? What finance does the car company offer and is that a cheaper package deal?

Get the calculator out and see where you stand financially. And before you enter a dealership and get ready to seal the deal, work out how you’re going to pay for the car and have it ready to go.


How long am I keeping this car?

Whether you’re the kind of person who upgrades cars every few years or plan on keeping the new ride in the family for years to come, servicing, long-term warranties and resale value are factors to consider.

Is it worth spending a little more today to save a heap down the line for your needs?

alfa-romeo_dealership_02


Auto or manual? Petrol, diesel, hybrid or electric?

This is for the purists out there – even though it’s increasingly a question you don’t even get the chance to ask. Know the answer before you get too attached to models that don’t have the option.

Likewise, what sort of fuel best suits your needs? Petrol, diesel, hybrid or even all-electric? These should be considered.


What sort of maintenance and insurance can I afford?

In an era of capped price servicing and multi-year/100,000 kilometre warranties, you need to know what works best for your car and budget, and what sort of protections you have.

Will the service costs meet your budget? Does the insurance premium go up or down because of your lifestyle? Go online and get some quotes and toggle the options.


Where should I go?

Your local dealer is the most logical option, but it’s worth looking throughout your region to see what else is around.

Establishing a relationship with the right dealer and service department could be worth hundreds over the life of your car.


How many cars should I test?

Once you have narrowed down your focus to what you think ticks the most boxes, head to the dealers and arrange a test drive.

Try to book the car for 24 hours if you can so it’s thoroughly tested. If you have five candidates on your list, test all five. If it’s more or less, so be it.

Even if the second car you drive feels like the right one, it’s not worth writing the others off. Confirmation by trying a few more never hurts. And knowledge of rival products could be a boon when negotiating.

Subaru Essendon Dealership - 1st July 2016


Does the car have a roadworthy certificate?

This may seem like an obvious question with an obvious answer when talking about new cars, but unless your new car has never been registered, it will require a roadworthy certificate.

This applies to second hand cars, as well as ex-demos. Most dealers will – as a default – ensure the car has a current RWC, but it’s worth a question just for peace of mind.


How do I get the best deal?

Research and a little bit of timing can do you some favours here. Check out CarAdvice regularly for the latest news and reviews.

If you’re absolutely certain what you want and aren’t fussed on timing or particular options, time can be your friend. As the calendar year ticks over, dealers will often sell cars built the previous year for a discount or with extras included in the price.

Otherwise it’s worth thinking about your negotiating skills. You may not be able to talk down the price of a car given its margins, but if you can get a discount on servicing, options or spares, you’re still saving money.

And, let’s face it, who doesn’t love landing a good deal?

BUYING A PIANO

People stumble on their search for a piano when:

1)  They haven’t decided if they really want to learn/play – If you ask most people if they would like to learn piano or like their progeny to learn piano, they will say, “yes, of course!” But most people leave it there. One of the most common things we see is people who sign their kids up for a month of lessons at the lowest price they can find, and then follow-up with the purchase of an inexpensive unweighted keyboard. And while some of these unweighted keyboards are incredibly impressive instruments with robust features, they sometime lack the real feel and response that help aid the learning process. After a month, the child/student hasn’t learned a thing and $200-300 could have been better spent. We discourage people from buying if they are don’t actually want to invest the time and money to learn. You have to decide whether you want to unlock the secret benefits of music, to which there are many!

2)  They don’t understand how much a piano costs to move and maintain – Professional piano movers and tuners are expensive. Locally, it costs, roughly, $200-400 to move an upright, and factors such as stairs and distance can increase the cost. If shipping from outside your city/state, greater distances across the US might set one back as much as $700-$2000+ and can take up to 3-4 weeks. A grand piano can cost between $300 – $1000+ to move locally depending on the logistics, and the cost of moving a grand nationally is $1000 – $2500+! Want to save money by using regular movers or doing it yourself? No worries, but please be aware of the costs if something goes wrong. Every finish nick will cost about $150 per, a broken pin block renders most pianos worthless, costing $8,000+ on high-end grands and being close to impossible on uprights. Tuning, a necessity after a move, costs between $100-$175 each visit and should be done at least once a year, ideally twice.

3)  They under-commit with lessons or quality of piano– This is similar to the first point but a little more nuanced. You can do one right and the other wrong and you are going to render your proper investment worthless. We sometimes see people buy very expensive grands, uprights or digital pianos, and when we ask them if they’re taking lessons, they say they’re using YouTube, going to teach themselves via a book or have a friend teach them. Usually, we offer a teacher referral at this point, with someone whom they can trial, unless the person is fine with the piano simply being a piece of furniture in the house (believe it or not, this is more common than not). We also see people sign up for lessons with a prestigious teacher in town, paying $100+/ per lesson but be concerned with spending too much on an instrument in case lessons don’t work out. The problem here is that the $100s of dollars spent on lessons ends up being a waste and costs the customer more than the savings that were made on the inexpensive instrument.

4)  They use “Grandma’s” piano – Now this is actually not always a bad thing as a family heirloom piano can sometimes be of excellent quality, especially when music runs in the family. Often, though, there are severe issues with the “family” piano. If the piano has tuning stability issues, the player will develop a bad ear. If it is missing strings, it is impossible to play many pieces. If the piano action is broken, the proper playing mechanics will not be developed and/or strange playing techniques will develop to compensate for the uneven action which will make playing on other instruments difficult.

5)  They don’t ask for their teachers advice – Teachers are a great source of information and guidance. They also usually have strong opinions on what is best for the student because of their method of teaching. The improper instrument then gets in the way of the relationship between the teacher and the learning/playing of music. Teachers are also great at sniffing on a good deal or a bad one for that matter.

6)  They buy a used piano with a critical flaw – Much like points 2 and 4, you don’t know what you don’t know. A $500 piano on Craigslist is a really good deal if it’s indeed a good deal. If it’s not, like when it’s got broken strings, pin-block, tuning stability issues or action issues, you are looking at a $700-1250 loss (how so? Well, you have to pay to get it to your house, get it tuned and then, finally and sadly, thrown away…we actually get paid to pick people’s junker pianos and dispose of them…it’s sadly somewhat expensive as you can’t put them in the regular trash.

7)  They don’t get buy-in from their significant other – Communication is key. We’ve seen many well intentioned future musicians not come to fruition because parents weren’t on the same page about the value of music for their children. One did it growing up and the other didn’t, so one wants to do the “trial” version and the other wants to take out a second mortgage on the house. Usually no one wins here. The other situation we see is that the child is asked to participate in the decision and they side-rail the whole expedition because it doesn’t look fun enough. Teachers and music stores can be great partners and helping parents convince their children that music is a journey they will never regret. Unless, of course, they don’t take it and then they’ll be another person telling us about how they wished their parents would have made them “stick with it” when they were growing up.

8)  They put it on-hold – The saddest story I remember hearing was a Dad who saw us at an outside piano sale event and he told us that he remembered when he’d almost bought this exact piano for his daughter when she was in high school. He said, “Wow! I can’t believe how much more expensive it is now and I regret not having done that for her. She really loved music so much and she doesn’t play anymore.” He talked about potentially buying it for her college graduation but said he “still needed to think about it”.

9)  They buy too quickly – And then they end up with issue 2, 3, 5, 6 and/or 7. The pain, money, and time spent increases and regret builds on an instrument that should bring joy and build memories in your home. You don’t think about the sound factor of an acoustic piano and realize that a weighted digital piano was probably a better choice for your situation. You don’t think to match the colors to your furniture and style. You buy a digital and you really wanted the feel and sound of an acoustic instrument. This list can go on for days, but doesn’t have to with an informed and well planned decision!

10)  They spend too much or too little – You can buy too much piano and you can buy too little piano. If you have a 4 year old beginner, a 9′ premium grand piano might be overkill. If you’ve been playing for 5+ years, a $1000 used spinet of $500 keyboard is going to hold you back as a musician and stunt your growth. The key is to make sure you understand where you are in your musical journey and where you want to go, so you get the right instrument, maximize your investment and save money and time. 

Use this list wisely! There are many factors that should be addressed when purchasing the right instrument, and if you just stop and breath for a moment, the right piano will let itself be known. We would also like to point you to our  Piano Buyer’s Guide as that will also give you further insight into how to approach the process. Good luck on your quest, and remember , “Play A Note, Change Your Life!”

HOW TO THROW A SURPRISE PARTY

Important Tips for Throwing a Surprise Party

Throwing a surprise party can be a daunting task! Getting everyone organized, making sure the birthday person is really surprised and isn’t faking it, lots of things to do and remember at the same time! This page is full of important tips for throwing a surprise party, don’t miss out on any of them!

Make sure to also check out our MAIN Surprise party page for loads of more information on throwing a surprise birthday party.

Read all the following Surprise party tips to ensure you create the coolest and most secretive Surprise party!

  • When throwing a Surprise party it’s always important to appoint a time much earlier, so that even if someone is late twenty minutes, it won’t ruin the surprise.  Make sure you are very clear about it being a Surprise, and tell everyone a few times what time they need to be at the surprise area! If someone is really late to the party and you feel that it could totally ruin the surprise – call them or send them a text message saying they should stay in the car for a few minutes until the surprise is over, then call them when it’s already safe for them to arrive.
  • Make sure that no clues (obvious and less obvious) are left lying around that the Surprisee may find out about. For example if you send e-mails to people about the surprise party, and there’s a chance the Surprisee might see them, ERASE them! Or if you went to a cake shop to have a special cake made for the Surprisee with information written on the cake that make it obvious for whom it’s for; and who knows, the Surprisee happened to walk by this cake shop… that could ruin the surprise! (True story by the way…). You have to be on guard and make sure no clues are left around.
  • You might want to think of a dress code. Think about what the Surprisee will be wearing. For example if he or she just came back from the pool or beach, tell everyone not to dress too formal, keep it casual. If it’s possible, tell your guests to dress accordingly; that way, you won’t make the Surprisee feel strange. OR a much easier solution is to have some of the Surprisee’s clothes on hand with you or other clothes they can borrow (for example if your throwing a Surprise party Hawaiian-style, give the Surprisee clothes that fit the theme).
  • Sometimes children don’t know how to hold a secret. It’s best not to tell the little ones weeks before (you might want tell them on the day itself or a few hours beforehand).
  • It really pays to plan ahead of time. Of course you can throw a surprise party in a week, but this means you are a very organized person who is able to improvise well. Just in case, try planning a few weeks to even a few months beforehand to lower the chances things will get messed up.
  • This goes for the day of the surprise party. If you are decorating the party area with lights, flashes, bombastic decorations, etc., make sure they aren’t visible from outside the party area (you don’t want to ruin the surprise a few minutes earlier when the Surprisee might become suspicious about the strange decorations in front of their house for example).
  • Don’t forget to film and photograph the surprise moments!! A cool idea is to buy lots of disposable cameras and disperse them around. Give them to as many guests as possible so that when the surprise moment comes along, they can all take a picture from their point of view. That way you have the surprise moment photographed from all kinds of directions and point of views!
  • This may seem obvious, but it’s best to invite people the Surprisee likes. Don’t invite EVERYONE the Surprisee knows just to make it a huge party; it’s best to invite all the people the Surprisee is fond of.
  • You never really know how people will react to a surprise. Does the Surprisee have health problems? If you feel like there may be a chance the Surprisee might faint or anything else, why not have a doctor or nurse on hand, or at-least someone who knows how to deal with these situations (I don’t want to frighten you… just want you to be aware of as many things as possible beforehand and to take it into consideration).
  • Of course a surprise party needs to be hidden, but this doesn’t mean you hide the fact that the Surprisee has a birthday. From trying to hide the idea of a surprise party, it might seem that everyone has forgotten the Surprisee’s birthday, and it’s important not to let them feel this; a ‘forgotten birthday’ can disappoint and hurt them (a surprise party may not compensate their disappointment). So talk about the subject of their birthday easily and calmly… possibly plan a small overt birthday party with them or take them on a small outing before the Surprise party to show them how much you appreciate the special occasion. The best way to be low key about a surprise party is to live life just the way you live it, make it seem like everything is at it’s usual and regular pace.

 

Surprise Party To-Do List

Here is a simple list you can go by so that you know where to start when throwing a surprise party:

1) Choose a date and time for the surprise after finding out (secretly!) whether the Surprisee will be available that day and time. You might want to consider holding the surprise party before or after the real birthday date, so as to lower suspicion.

2) Decide where you want the surprise to take place (also think about what the Surprisee may prefer or most like), will it be indoors, outdoors, your house, the Surprisee’s house, a park, a hotel, a mall, a concert, a show, a swimming pool, the beach, a campfire, etc.

3) After thinking of the place the surprise may take place, think about a theme you might want to base the surprise party on. Will it be a kidnapping theme, a western theme, a colorful theme? (etc.). Of course your surprise can be just a “Surprise theme” or a party with no theme at all, whatever you choose most suitable.

4) Once you figure out the date, time, place, and theme, think about what help you will need to pull off the surprise. Contact all the people you will need help from and let them know your plans (it’s best to get help from people who are good in keeping a secret and keeping a straight face).

5) Make a list of all the people you want to attend the surprise party itself. Write up invitations or call each one and let them know the date, place, and time. It’s very important to stress being secret about your plans, make it as clear as you can by saying it’s a “SURPRISE” a few times.

  • It might be best to tell the plans verbally face to face or via phone and not to write the information via e-mail (so that the Surprisee doesn’t read it by accident). But if you do send out invitations, make it VERY clear it’s a Surprise party.
  • Invite everyone at-least a half-hour before the surprise, so that even if someone is a bit late, it won’t ruin the surprise.
  • Tell everyone to park their cars out of sight (especially if there are people who have very specific, unique, easily-recognizable cars and license plates). You might want to encourage people to carpool, so that the least amount of cars need to park in the area.
  • If you know there will be people who have a hard time keeping a secret, encourage them not to be in contact too much with the Surprisee a few days before the party.

WALLETS

1. Your lower back will thank you

It’s not a big mystery – that lumpy back pocket wallet you are sitting on is actually a huge health hazard for your long term back health! The nerves exiting the lower back control and coordinate some of the largest and strongest muscles in the body — legs, buttock, core, and back. Putting pressure on them for hours at a time by sitting on your wallet can cause an avalanche of body mechanic problems; one of the most common ailments is called sciatica.

“Sitting on your wallet is as much a health concern as walking around with one shoe on and one shoe off”, – Dr. Frank J. Martusciello

Front Wallet on Train

Sitting on your wallet for long stretches of time is never a good idea and could cause back problems like sciatica. A simple yet effective remedy is to move your wallet from your rear pocket to your front pocket.

2. Your credit cards will last much longer in a front pocket wallet

Wearing your wallet in your front pocket will drastically increase the longevity of your credit cards, since you are not sitting on your wallet and in effect crushing everything in it. Having your credit cards replaced on a regular basis is a pain in the you-know-what, but fortunately Axess Front Wallets keeps your cards like new until they expire.

credit card

If you want your credit cards to last so that you don’t have to replace them several times per year, it’s probably best not to sit on them everyday.

3. It’s easier to find the card you need because you don’t have to dig trough all your stuff

Have you ever been in a crowded line, digging through your thick wallet for that subway card or credit card, and not finding it past the tons of old receipts, lint, and expired gift cards you’ve collected over the years? That situation will never arise in a minimalist front pocket wallet where the minimalist size makes hoarding useless stuff impossible, and thus will allow each essential card in there to be immediately accessible.

4. You don’t have to be ashamed to show your wallet

Taking up your old, torn billfold that you’ve been (ab)using since the early 90’s is never a pretty sight, and does not increase your stature among the unfortunate people around to witness it. A minimalist wallet is usually neat and does not wear as badly as a stuffed billfold, and is a more elegant object to whip out in front of people you want to impress.

bifold wallet

That old billfold that you’ve been treating like a filing cabinet for the past 15 years is rarely a pretty sight to put on display.

5. You will reduce the chance of pick-pocketing

In crowded places such as the subway, you quickly lose control over what’s happening with your back pocket, but not so if you carry your wallet in your front pocket. In crowded places it’s normal for strangers to press against you, which makes it impossible to notice pickpockets nor the odd opportunist! This lack of oversight never occurs when you carry your wallet in your front pocket.

billfold credit card cash

Your belongings are not very safe hanging out your back pocket, especially not in crowded areas.

6. As we are getting closer to a cash free society, there is no need for a regular wallet

With digitizing of everything from receipts to business cards and photos, and functions like apple pay and Swish making payments from your cell phone more and more convenient, you simply don’t need to carry with you as much cash and as many cards as you used to, and your wallet should reflect that.

Front Wallet

The times are changing towards minimalism and so should your wallet.

7. It is much more comfortable

Barstools, subway seats and benches can be a real nightmare to sit on if you have a thick billfold in your back pocket. Instead of squirming and being uncomfortable, carrying a front pocket wallet will ensure that your foundation will be even and that you won’t be interrupted by nagging pain ever again.

sit on wallet

Not all seating is comfortable with a bulky wallet in your back pocket. In fact, some situations can be straight up torture with that old bulky billfold.

8. Using a front pocket wallet with a slim profile improves your look

Slogging along with a bulky billfold literally creates a bump on your behind and ruins your denim silhouette, especially if you are wearing tight jeans. Unless you are carrying a wallet in both back pockets, you look lopsided, even with a vented jacket on.  If the wallet is bulky enough, it will eventually ruin the pants by causing stretching that can lead to actual holes!

Denim Look

A slim wallet improves your denim silhouette.

9. You don’t have to worry about removing your wallet whenever you sit down.

Many people who carry a traditional billfold remove it from their back pocket whenever they sit down or arrive at the office. This habit can lead to misplacing your wallet, not to mention that there are many situations in public places where you where it would be risky to remove your wallet. This habit is completely circumvented when you use a front pocket wallet.

why use a front pocket wallet

A slim front pocket wallet can remain in your pocket while you work so that you don’t misplace it.

10. Carrying a smaller wallet in your front pocket makes you declutter

Your wallet is not a filing cabinet, nor a rolodex or a photo album. A lot of people carry all kinds of things in their wallets – most of which is hardly necessary to carry around on a day to day basis. Expired membership cards, social insurance coupons and old receipts don’t need to be in your wallet all the time. Carrying a smaller front pocket wallet will force you to do some healthy wallet cleaning and get rid of the old junk, it’s amazing how much lighter you will feel.

11. The smaller wallet makes you more organized

Most of Axess models have specially designed pockets for travel cards, name cards, ID cards etc. designed with consideration to size differences of ID-cards and credit cards, and to the fact that each wallet have RFID-blocking pocket. Using an Axess Front Wallet will thus assist you in staying organized and will always give you easy access and overview of your various cards.

12. Front pocket wallets are so thin, you can carry the phone and the wallet in the same pocket

Some people don’t like to scratch neither their wallet nor their phone with their keys and like to keep those items separate. Axess Front Wallets have such a thin profile, it is perfectly possible to wear your keys in the one pocket, and the phone and the wallet in the other without major bulk!

Front Pocket Wallets

Slim Front Pocket Wallets frees up your pockets and lets you wear the phone and the wallet in the same pocket without creating major bulk, so that you can keep your keys in a separate pocket.

13. It reduces the chances of the wallet falling out of your pocket

Losing your wallet does happen, especially if you are running to catch a bus or a train, or move about in crowded urban areas. The front pocket is usually tighter, holding your wallet more firmly, and if the wallet would fall out, you would notice it immediately as compared to if your wallet is in your back pocket. A bonus benefit: If you are in the habit of tapping on your back pocket to confirm that the wallet is still there you no longer have to do that when the wallet is in your front pocket.

THE SLEEVE ROLL

Rolling up your sleeves.

It’s something you’ve probably never thought twice about.

But the way you roll your sleeves makes a huge difference in the silhouette of your outfit.

It can keep a level of formality in hotter weather. Or it can take your outfit to business casual.

This simple art – which takes a few minutes to master – makes a world of difference to your appearance and the social signals you send. (And it can also make your arms look bigger!)

But you need to know how to do it right. In this article and video, I’ll explain how to roll up your sleeves in five different ways. You can decide which method suits you best.

BIKES FOR 2019

What’s the best bike for commuting?

What type of bike you choose to ride to work will depend on a number of factors such as journey distance, terrain, where you live and your taste in bikes.

To help make your decision easier, we’ve done our best to explain how eight common types of bike fare when turned to commuting duties.

It’s also worth mentioning that, with a little modification, most bikes can be made into great commuters — with the addition of full-length mudguards to ward off foul weather, some kind of luggage carrying capability and lights for year-round visibility. Your languishing, older ride may be a prime candidate for resurrection as a commuter

Looking for suggestions for lights, mudguards, jackets and other commuting tips and tricks? Check out our other best list recommendations:

Hybrid / flat-bar bikes: the best all-round commuting bike

Hybrid bikes are a very popular choice for bike commuters, thanks to their versatility
Hybrid bikes are a very popular choice for bike commuters, thanks to their versatility
 Oliver Woodman / Immediate Media

Hybrids are best thought of as a hardy road bike that takes some influence from mountain bikes, borrowing its off-road cousin’s flat handlebars and a more upright, traffic and comfort-friendly position.

Like a road bike, most modern hybrids are usually built around 700c wheels. However, the tyres are often wider than a road bike’s — but usually not as wide as a mountain bike — allowing you to traverse rough roads and gravel paths with ease.

Most hybrids are built with a rigid fork, but some are also sold with cheaper suspension forks. While the idea of suspension may seem appealing, be wary as most models are equipped with low-end forks that are heavy and tend to add little to the comfort of the bike.

Cheaper hybrids will usually come with rim brakes, with more expensive models equipped with disc brakes. Disc brakes offer more powerful, predictable and reliable braking — regardless of the weather — than rim brakes and are definitely something you should look out for.

Hybrid bikes also offer almost unrivalled versatility, with many bikes bristling with bosses and mounts for every accessory imaginable. This makes them an ideal candidate for conversion to other duties, such as touring.

It’s also worth looking out for hybrids — such as the Cube Travel SL — that include accessories as part of the bike package. Adding on mudguards, a rack and lights can add considerable cost, and these packages often present far better value for money than upgrading a ‘naked’ bike.

If you are a beginner looking for a bike for general use or are a dedicated commuter that favours an upright position in traffic, a flat-bar hybrid is likely to be the perfect choice for you.

Pros: Fairly quick, hugely versatile, confidence inspiring upright position

Cons: Not the lightest or most comfortable bike for longer distances

Electric bikes: best if you need a hand up the hills

Electric bikes, or e-bikes, can make your ride much easier, but at the cost of more weight and money
Electric bikes, or e-bikes, can make your ride much easier, but at the cost of more weight and money
 Oliver Woodman / Immediate Media

As technology has matured and their adoption has become widespread — particularly in Europe — there’s absolutely no denying that electric bikes have become an increasingly dominant force in the cycling market.

While the proponents and haters of e-bikes will forever more debate whether or not they have a place in the cycling world, we at BikeRadar are big fans of them — not only do they open cycling up to a more broad audience, but they also allow more experienced cyclists to cover far greater distances than would otherwise be possible.

This ability to cover ground easily really comes into its own when turned to your commute; with the helping hand that an electric assist e-bike affords — assist being the key word here — it allows those that live out of town to consider riding long distances to work, even with a heavy load.

We highlight the word assist because one of the great misconceptions surrounding electric bikes is that they do all the work for you — this is not the case.

You still have to pedal on an e-bike and will invariably tire yourself out riding one, you’ll just do it over a far greater distance than on a regular bike.

Of course, there’s a weight and price penalty to pay with an e-bike, but the technology that powers them is becoming ever more accessible.

While we don’t want to speculate too much, we can totally foresee modern, ultra-reliable e-bikes becoming a truly viable car alternative in years to come.

With that in mind, for those that live far away from work, it’s definitely worth considering whether ditching the car — and the associated cost of running one — and investing in an electric bike is a viable option.

Pros: Possible to cover great distances, even when loaded, very efficient, a true car alternative

Cons: Heavy, must be recharged, expensive (for now)

Folding bikes: best if your commute involves public transport

Folding bikes are brilliant for those who need to take a train or bus as part of their commute
Folding bikes are brilliant for those who need to take a train or bus as part of their commute
 Oli Woodman / Immediate Media

Most often built around diminutive 16in or 20in wheels, folding bikes — as the name suggests — fold down into often impressively small packages that can be stored just about anywhere at either end of your journey.

Folding bikes are also ideal for those that don’t intend to ride the entire way to work and plan on completing part of the journey by public transport — or, if you prefer the trendy word of the moment, go ‘multimodal’.

A folding bike won’t handle like a regular bike due to its use of small wheels and the inevitable compromise that creating a packable bike demands. They also tend to feel pretty sluggish on the road, but how likely is it that you’ll be regularly razzing around the streets at full gas during rush hour on a folding bike anyway?

While some folding bikes are built around larger wheels, they don’t fold down nearly as compact as their small-wheeled brethren, so some trains and buses won’t accept them, making these only really useful when space is a premium at home or work.

The undoubted market leader here is Brompton, with an incredibly clever design that has become something of a modern classic. That said, there are lots of interesting options from other manufacturers too, such as Tern.

If convenience, easy storage and the ability to travel on public transport trumps all, a folder is likely the right choice for you.

Pros: Incredibly convenient to store and travel with

Cons: Not as spritely, confidence inspiring or comfortable as a ‘full-sized’ bike

Town bikes: best for hassle-free, day-to-day riding

Town bikes, such as this Pashley, are an excellent (if heavy) option for urbanites
Town bikes, like this Pashley, are an excellent (if heavy) option for urbanites
 Oli Woodman / Immediate Media

Often referred to as Dutch or sit-up-and-beg bikes, town bikes come in all shapes and sizes, but are generally characterised by an upright riding position and oodles of practical accessories.

Town bikes are also generally very heavy. Practicality is the key focus here, with stout, abuse-proof frames and components that are designed to last almost indefinitely over featherweight, speed-focused performance.

The heft and upright position of a town bike can make for a pretty slow ride. These bikes are also usually outfitted with an internal gear hub drivetrain with a limited range, making them a bit of a nightmare to get up hills. For what they lack in range, however, they more than make up for in fit-and-forget practicality.

Usually outfitted with full-length mudguards, chainguards, racks or baskets and often even integrated dynamo lighting, town bikes are as practical as it gets, offering true hop-on-and-go convenience that could even go some ways to replacing a car in an urban environment.

If you live in a flat-ish area and fancy schlepping baguettes, kids and groceries in the utmost of leisurely style, a town bike may be the ideal option for you.

Pros: Relaxed riding position, eminently practical, perfect for the maintenance-phobic

Cons: Damn heavy, not the easiest on the hills, often not that cheap or the easiest to work on

  • Luxury: Pashley Roadster, £775 (5-speed) / £875 (8-speed), international pricing TBC

Fixed gear/singlespeed bikes: best if you hate maintenance

Fixed gear bikes, or 'fixies', are a great low-maintenance option
Fixed gear bikes, or ‘fixies’, are a great low-maintenance option
 Jack Luke / Immediate Media

Long adored by hip urbanites, the classic fixie/singlespeed bike continues to attract devotees in every corner of the world.

Goading aside, the appeal of a singlespeed bike is totally understandable. With no multi-gear drivetrain to worry about, fixies and singlespeed bikes offer a largely fuss- and maintenance-free ride that’s ideal for commuting.

It’s also worth clarifying that a fixie has no freewheel; if you’re moving, you’re pedalling. Riding a fixie for the first time is an incredibly odd sensation that will no-doubt result in a spill at some point, so probably isn’t the most suitable for beginners.

Luckily, most singlespeed bikes come in a ‘flip-flop’ arrangement, with one side of the rear wheel being set up with a screw-on freewheel and the other a fixed cog. Our advice is to try out the free-coasting side first.

Some riders choose to ride fixies without brakes (as is done in track racing), but be aware that — at least in the UK — it is illegal to do so. A bike must have at least two braking systems (the fixed rear wheel counts as one brake), so make sure you stay on the right side of the law.

With only one gear, riding a singlespeed bike in a hilly location can be challenging, so think carefully before buying.

If you’re after an easy to maintain ride and you don’t mind mashing a hard gear, a singlespeed or fixie may be the perfect commuting choice for you.

Pros: Incredibly simple, often good value for money

Cons: Potentially unpleasant in hilly areas, not very adaptable, high risk of being labelled as a hipster

Road bikes: best if you’re riding a long distance on roads

Road bikes are fast, but best suited to smooth terrain
Road bikes are fast, but best suited to smooth terrain
 Russel Burton / Immediate Media

For those that plan on travelling longer distance, road bikes can make a great commuter.

Best suited for use on tarmac, road bikes are the best way to ride long distances fast.

However, a road bike subjected to constant abuse from potholes, poor weather and rough terrain will inevitably deteriorate quicker than a hardier bike. But given appropriate care and regular maintenance, it will, of course, last for years.

You’re unlikely to want to spend a fortune on a road bike dedicated to commuting — even bikes as cheap as the £600 mark can make great and dependable rides — but just make sure that whatever you choose has mudguard eyelets, a dependable groupset and a strong, high spoke count wheelset.

While carbon will offer the lightest and stiffest ride possible, value for money — which a cheaper alloy or steel bike may offer — and longevity should be your primary concerns. If you do decide to go for a carbon bike, greater care should also be taken when locking it up.

On the subject of locks, it’s worth noting that thieves really do love a road bike, so invest in a chunky and dependable lock that will save on stress and potential heartbreak in the long run. Remember that if you opt for a particularly bulky lock you can always leave it attached to your bike rack at work.

Finally, most road bikes will come with lightweight and fast rolling tyres. While these will feel great on a fast Sunday ride, they’re likely to be far more puncture-prone than a sturdier tyre, and you’ll probably want to swap them out for commuting.

Pros: Quick, efficient, great fun

Cons: Not the sturdiest

Gravel/adventure/cyclocross bikes: best if you want to ride far on bad roads

Gravel bikes, such as this £550 Voodoo Nakisi, are getting ever more affordable
Gravel bikes, such as this £550 Voodoo Nikasi, are getting ever more affordable
 Jack Luke / Immediate Media

A gravel, adventure, cyclocross, #groad or whatever else you want to call it bike, is best thought of as a road bike with some changes that make it more suitable and comfortable for off-road usage.

Primarily, clearances are improved so that chunkier tyres may be fitted, smoothing out the ride on broken surfaces. The wheelbase of a gravel bike is also often considerably longer than a road bike, with the head angle also often slackened in a bid to ease handling in rougher terrain.

Most gravel bikes are outfitted with disc brakes, with only a few now available with cantilever or v-brakes.

Gravel bikes are designed with versatility in mind, with most having provisions to mount mudguards, racks and multiple bottle cages. Combined with a road-like fit, these bikes make excellent commuters for those who have to contend with poor roads or even light off-road detours.

Dedicated cyclocross bikes tend to lack these commuter-friendly provisions and also usually feature a more aggressive fit than their all-road minded cousins, but still make great commuters with some modifications.

Pros: Incredibly adaptable with a fast and comfortable ride

Cons: Not as quick on tarmac as a road bike, but more suitable for commuting overall

  • Luxury: 3T Exploro, £3,950–£5,800 / $2,999–$6,800