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Mr. M. K. Egan

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The Guide to Individuals in Need 2016-17
The Guide to Individuals in Need 2016-17
by Rachel Cain
Edition: Paperback
Price: £85.50

5.0 out of 5 stars Gained thousands of pounds for my clients through this book, 1 July 2016
I have worked at Citizens Advice as a debt advisor since 2011 however my job is funded by the British Gas Energy Trust so I specialise in helping clients apply to the Trust for free grants to clear their gas and electricity arrears, pay outstanding funeral expenses and to purchase essential household items such as boilers and white goods.

It quickly became apparent to me that there was a great need amongst clients for funding. Many clients in receipt of benefits or in low paid jobs, do not have savings or investments and often find themselves getting into debt with credit like catalogues and pay day loans to purchase the things they need. This can put a lot of pressure on their already limited finances as they often have to pay back what they borrowed plus high rates of interest, with the subsequent stress impacting their mental and physical health.

Whilst the British Gas Energy Trust is a great versatile Trust, it has its limitations. If a client has already received an award from the Trust, they cannot reapply for two years. Some clients request grants which aren't available from the Trust: help paying rent arrears, beds, carpets e.t.c. It is limited to one household item per application however some clients require several household items if they are moving into rented unfurnished accommodation.

This is where "The Guide to Grants for Individuals in Need" comes in. Through this book I have discovered many charities which have helped hundreds of my clients over the years and led to me obtaining thousands of pounds worth of grants on their behalf. The benefit of applying to charitable trusts is that it is free to apply and nothing has to be paid back so crucially a client won't get into debt! This makes trusts a much better alternative than catalogues, door step loans and credit cards.

This book is the "bible" of grants and is an essential resource for any frontline worker that deals with clients/patients/tenants/service users who are living in poverty or struggling financially. Citizens Advice advisors, housing association tenancy support workers, social workers, support workers, welfare officers, counsellors and more, will all benefit from this valuable resource. Please do not be put off by the expensive price as this book is worth its weight in gold.

Examples of grants I have obtained on behalf of clients through charities I discovered in this book include: rent arrears, carpets, beds, mobility scooter, roof repair, tools, boiler, washing machine, cooker, fridge-freezer, tumble dryer, recliner chair, spectacles, school uniform, funeral expenses and grants of regular financial assistance.

The book is divided into sections with a section on general charities which covers some of the main UK wide charities, a section on occupational charities which includes an extensive list of armed forces related charities and a section on charities related to specific illnesses or disabilities. There are also sections for charities which are specific to certain regions of the UK or local areas.

A Theory of Human Motivation
A Theory of Human Motivation
by Abraham H. Maslow
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.95

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential reading for all human beings, 26 Jan. 2016
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I've read a lot of self-help books and psychology books over the years and Abraham Maslow' Hierarchy of Needs is something which crops up time and time again. I attended a supervisors course recently and the tutor used this theory of human motivation to help us identify the needs of our colleagues which are not being met.

One of my colleagues previously worked as a secretary for a psychologist and I met him on a night out and asked him who is number one influence was in psychology and he replied 'Maslow'. He was surprised I knew who Maslow was, which just goes to show how ubiquitous and widely referenced his theory is.

This isn't a large book at 39 pages but it is a gold mine of knowledge about the human condition and at such a cheap price, you can't complain.

iSlice Magnetic Safety Cutter Tool Micro Ceramic Blade
iSlice Magnetic Safety Cutter Tool Micro Ceramic Blade
Offered by Good Thymes
Price: £4.70

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect stocking filler/Secret Santa present, 25 Jan. 2016
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This is one of those things you would love to receive as a present instead of the useless tat people often buy, as it's well designed, easy to use and makes life a lot easier! One of my bugbears is having to remove the plastic packaging on purchases such as DVDs and CDs. As soon as I read about the iSlice in a business magazine, and how it solved this problem, I was sold!

Instead of damaging DVD and CD cases by using my keys to open packages, I can now do it quickly and efficiently. I also cut out magazine articles which interest me and stick them in a scrapbook and the iSlice has rendered my scissors obsolete, it is the perfect tool for that job.

This is a great product, don't wait for someone else to buy it for you (they probably don't even know it exists!) treat yourself and buy it now and whenever you're stuck for a gift idea, this is sure to be a winner!

All Good Things [DVD]
All Good Things [DVD]
Dvd ~ Ryan Gosling
Price: £3.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Watch 'The Jinx' instead, 16 Jan. 2016
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This review is from: All Good Things [DVD] (DVD)
I purchased this film after I watched 'The Jinx - The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst' which is an excellent documentary about the true story which 'All Good Things' is based on. Given the fascinating source material and the fact that Ryan Gosling and Kirsten Dunst star in this film (I like a few Gosling films and loved Dunst in Fargo season two) I had high hopes for this film, but it was a bit of a disappointment.

If you have already watched the Jinx, this is essentially just a film version of what is covered in the documentary but it's not a very polished film and I wasn't convinced by any of the acting. If you've never seen 'The Jinx' I suggest you purchase that instead of this film as it's much better and it's the true story.

How To Change The World [DVD]
How To Change The World [DVD]
Dvd ~ Robert Hunter
Price: £12.99

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "How can we save the planet if we cannot save ourselves?", 21 Dec. 2015
I recently watched this documentary on Sky Atlantic and rewound it and watched it a second time, such was the impression it had on me. This review explains the main events of the documentary so if you don’t want any spoilers, I suggest you skip the main text and read the final paragraph.

It begins with the United States government carrying out nuclear tests on Amchitka in 1971. Bob Hunter, a columnist for the Vancouver Sun, sets sail with a motley crew to try and prevent the nuclear weapons test from happening.The documentary consists of vintage footage which is excellent and the words of Bob Hunter are narrated throughout and interspersed with contributions from surviving members of Greenpeace at that time. These include Patrick Moore who has a PHD in Ecology, Paul Watson who is a sailor and Rex Wyler (photographer), amongst others.

The documentary is divided into five main sections with the first entitled “Rule One: plant a mind bomb”. A mind bomb is a term coined by Bob Hunter and is essentially the same as something going viral on the internet today. The idea was to bear witness in the Quaker tradition of going to the scene of the crime by sending a Canadian vessel to the site of the nuclear tests, to deter a launch being made.

I was aware of the charity Greenpeace before I watched this documentary but I knew absolutely nothing about its history or how it was founded so it was really fascinating to learn about the origins of such a world famous organisation. Bill Darnell is credited with naming it Greenpeace because it is a union of the peace movement and the environmental movement.

Whilst sailing to Amchitka the crew stop off at an Alaskan village with an abandoned whaling station and go on a psychedelic trip where they receive the insight that all life is interwoven and we are all one. The US Coastguard turns up and fines them for not clearing customs and entering the United States illegally, and that’s essentially the end of their first voyage, however they accomplished the task of getting their mission into the mainstream media.

The launch of the bomb is carried out regardless and registers 7.0 on the Richter scale and there is some disturbing footage of the impact the launch has on the natural environment of Amchitka. The political pressure generated by the Greenpeace voyage eventually leads to the nuclear testing programme being quietly phased out.

Feeling that their first voyage was not a great success, Greenpeace endeavour to get the ecology movement as big as the peace, women and civil rights movement. Paul Spong is a psychologist studying a whale in captivity and whilst carrying out tests with the whale, he quickly realises the whale is testing him and decides it should be free from captivity, so he joins forces with Greenpeace as he is impressed by their non violent resistance.

"Rule Two: put your body where your mouth is". Bob Hunter quits his job at the Vancouver Sun and commits himself fully to the environment movement. Saving the whales becomes the next campaign and they aim to get their bodies between the whales and the harpooners to prevent them being slaughtered. Cue the next voyage where they aim to capture powerful and iconic images to spur the general public into action. Bob Hunter describes himself as a commander of a psychedelic navy and one interviewee on the documentary describes them as being transformed from flower children to a sea going gang of ecological bikers, which was a brilliant description.

Trying to find the Russian fleet that was killing the whales was like finding a needle in a haystack and with only two days of fuel left, they had to decide whether to continue their mission or return to San Francisco. Unable to decide for themselves, they turn to the I Ching (book of changes) for inspiration and decide to continue with the mission. The next day they found the Russian fleet.

The footage that follows is very disturbing as we see a dead baby whale bleeding all over the place. Paul Watson climbs onto the whale to measure it and the body is still warm and hot blood is leaking out. There is some horrific footage of blood pouring out of one of the Russian vessels and the ships are described as slaughterhouses on water and killing factories.

The Sperm Whales in the vicinity are blowing fast and hard as they’re tired and can’t dive much. The Greenpeace crew use Zodiac boats to try and get in-between the Russian Harpooners and the whales to protect them but after an initial standoff, the harpooner fires anyway. The whale does not die immediately and is still blowing and thrashing about in the water and there is steam rising from the blood. Apparently they shoot the female whale first and when the bull whale tries to help the female, they shoot him. The footage is heartbreaking as one of the bull whales is “going mad as hell and freaking out”.

Although they could not protect all of the whales from the harpooners, in some respects the mission was a success as they captured the footage of the whale being harpooned and this launched the modern environmental movement. This leads us on to "Rule Three: fear success".

At this point we see how a band of committed passionate citizens leads to the formation of a huge charity/organisation and suddenly they have problems to contend with such as bookkeeping and cashflow and managing the egos and personality clashes of its members. Greenpeace offices were being set up across the world with no central management/control. As one interviewee pointed out, the goal was to make ecology/nature famous and not to make a famous organisation.

All of a sudden merchandise is being sold and people are jumping on the bandwagon, leading to a necessity for organisational structure. It is also pointed out that the people who organise structures are not the same kind of people who think it’s a good idea to put themselves in a boat in front of a harpooner-they think differently.

Paul Watson decides at this stage to tackle seal hunting, using the tactic of putting dye on the seals, as they are killed for their white fur. After opposition from local unemployed fishermen, Bob makes a deal with the locals that the dye will be handed over. Nevertheless the protest continues and again we see some horrific footage of seal blood in the white snow, trails of blood from where the seals have been dragged away and gut wrenching images of skinned seal bodies.

"Rule four: the revolution will not be organised" is the penultimate section of the documentary. As Greenpeace becomes a bigger organisation, we see the personal toll this takes on Bob Hunter who is self-medicating on Valium, Nicotine, Alcohol and Weed. Fascinatingly the CIA gets involved and feeds the organisation the positions of the Russian whaling feet as they want to embarrass the Russians but this does not sit well with some of the members of Greenpeace.

Paul Watson makes another dramatic seal protest, with Brigitte Bardot turning up to lend her support and eventually he is forced out of Greenpeace and Bob resigns. The organisation is torn apart with the proliferation of offices which had no cohesive management. Lawsuits are also made as competing offices vie for control. Again the point is made that organising and managing shouldn’t be the purpose, the purpose is the cultural revolution.

Bob Hunter delivers a great line: “How can we save the planet if we cannot save ourselves?” This reminds me of the line by Gandhi “If you want to change the world, change yourself” and also Leo Tolstoy: “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”

"Rule Five: Let the power go" is the conclusion of the documentary and I believe the line refers to earlier advice given to Bob by Allen Ginsberg. In my own conclusion this is one of the best documentaries I have ever watched and I will be purchasing it as soon as it is released on DVD. It’s fascinating to see the journey of a world famous organisation from its early origins and the events which inspired and shaped the organisation, and the subsequent trials and tribulations the members went through. This documentary is worthy of an Academy Award and BAFTA and I'll be disappointed if it isn't awarded them!

Halloween II [DVD]
Halloween II [DVD]
Dvd ~ Donald Pleasence
Price: £3.99

5.0 out of 5 stars "I shot him 6 times! I shot him in the heart-but... HE'S NOT HUMAN!", 18 April 2015
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This review is from: Halloween II [DVD] (DVD)
The original Halloween film is a classic in horror movie history and for me this film is right up there with it although in many respects it is just a continuation of the first film as it picks up right where it left off. Following the shooting of Michael Myers and his subsequent disappearance at the end of film 1, we see the ensuing police search of the neighbourhood whilst he prowls amongst the residences and the body count racks up!

The ultimate 'Scream Queen' Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie winds up in the local hospital for treatment and it is this location where most of the action in the film takes place as Myers hunts her down and kills anyone who tries to get in his way. Meanwhile the excellent Donald Pleasence as Doctor Sam Loomis endeavours to track down his escaped patient.

There are some very gruesome deaths in this film if you're a fan of gore and one of the things which stands out for me is the soundtrack! "Mr Sandman" by the Chordettes features at the beginning and end of the film alongside the Halloween theme tune which is a classic. This is a classic film which belongs in the collection of any horror fan.

This House is Haunted: The True Story of the Enfield Poltergeist
This House is Haunted: The True Story of the Enfield Poltergeist
by Guy Lyon Playfair
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.99

15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enfield Haunting, 16 April 2015
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I first read a library 2nd edition of this book (published 2007) and it gave me the heebie-jeebies for want of a better term! As soon as I saw a trailer for the "Enfield Haunting" (to be released 3rd May 2015 Sky Living) I knew I had to read this book again and purchased the 3rd edition.

"Mention of spirits invariably polarises people into either fanatical believers or total sceptics" p. 82 I fall into neither camp. I can't say I believe in spirits as I have never seen an apparition or experienced poltergeist activity but I have an open mind and whilst I enjoy reading the scientific arguments against such paranormal activity, I'm not a total sceptic either.

What is great about this book is that the author presents the facts of the case together with some theories and he allows you to make your own mind up, there is no dogma at all so this book should be enjoyed by believers, sceptics and people 'on the fence' like me, alike. The Enfield case is one of the most documented poltergeist cases in history which makes this book worth reading as the author was one of the lead investigators on the case.

For anyone who has watched 'The Exorcist' or the Stephen Spielberg 'Poltergeist' films, you will recognise much of the phenomena in this case: raps and knocks, apparitions, malfunctioning of electronic equipment, furniture being moved/overturned, materialisation/dematerialisation, levitation, fires and even spoon bending! I liked the scientific approach taken to the case by the investigators who meticulously recorded the events and they never assumed that everything was paranormal as they often tried to catch out the children involved to see if they were playing tricks.

A range of experts were consulted from police officers, journalists, mediums, psychiatrists, hypnotists, doctors, physicists, exorcists, ventriloquists and even a member of the Magic Circle! Even if you consider this book a work of fiction, it is a fascinating read which is very unnerving in places.

There is an appendix to the 3rd edition with afterthoughts (2011), suggested further reading and 'what to do with your poltergeist.' If you enjoy this book, I also recommend reading 'The Poltergeist Phenomenon' by John and Anne Spencer which wasn't included in the author's suggested reading list. If I remember correctly, it was the Spencer book which first introduced me to the Enfield case and inspired me to the read the 2nd edition of this book when I came across it in the library.

After reading this book, my immediate thoughts were that this would make a great film, if done correctly. As interesting as the case itself is, there is a particularly interesting back story to one of the lead investigators on the case (Maurice Grosse.) I just hope the Enfield Haunting to be aired on Sky Living dose the case and this book justice, as it would be a real shame if the televised drama was a flop. Apparently the film 'The Conjuring 2' will also feature the Enfield case in 2016. Needless to say, I'll be watching both.

Complex Of Fear [DVD]
Complex Of Fear [DVD]
Dvd ~ Hart Bochner
Price: £3.23

5.0 out of 5 stars "Every man is a woman is safe", 21 Mar. 2015
This review is from: Complex Of Fear [DVD] (DVD)
If memory serves me correct I first saw this film on the Film 4 channel during a 'psychopath season' where they showed films such as Fatal Attraction, Single White Female and Sleeping with the enemy. I really enjoyed it so purchased a second hand copy which I stumbled across in a local shop.

The film focuses on Ray, a police officer, who moves into a new apartment complex with his wife Michelle in 1989 and everything seems very suburban and idyllic until a serial rapist starts breaking into the apartments and raping women. Whilst the main theme of the film is the search for the suspect and the fear and paranoia generated amongst the community; it was interesting to see the changes in the relationship between Ray and Michelle once he discovers she has been the victim of rape in the past.

On a surface level the film is just about the hunt for a rapist but it goes deeper and exposes some of the attitudes and prejudice prevalent amongst some people about victims of rape. For instance, the police officers responding to the first rape take the allegations with a pinch of salt because the victim has a 'reputation' for sleeping around. Whilst Ray has to adjust to his wife's revelations about being a victim of rape herself, he generally fares better as a cop, showing more empathy and sensitivity to the victims in contrast to the inept insensitive handling of the cases by the other cops.

The film claims to be based on a true story but I couldn't find any further information online to verify this one way or another. Whether it's fact or fiction, it's a good film which goes a little deeper than your average crime film.

The Refuge: My Journey to the Safe House for Battered Women
The Refuge: My Journey to the Safe House for Battered Women
by Jenny Smith
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

5.0 out of 5 stars "You have so much to give, Jenny", 15 Mar. 2015
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Several years ago I read an old book from the library on Crisis Intervention Strategies and the authors mentioned a book called 'Scream quietly or the neighbours will hear' by Erin Pizzey who founded the first women's refuge in 1971. I was immediately interested as I was born in 1986 so I have lived through a time where refuges for Domestic Violence have always existed.

Unfortunately most of Erin Pizzey books can only be bought second hand as they are no longer in print but I managed to track down a second hand copy of 'Scream Quietly or the neighbours will hear' on Amazon and I went on to buy 'Prone to violence' by Erin Pizzey (again second hand) and I last bought 'This Way to the Revolution: A Memoir' an autobiography by Erin Pizzey which thankfully is still in print! Amazon suggested I buy 'The Refuge' by Jenny Smith when I purchased 'This Way to the Revolution', which I duly did.

The first half of the book is essentially an autobiography detailing the author's life with the second half focusing on her time in the refuge and beyond. Jenny comes from a Northern working class background, the daughter of a miner, and she describes how living with her mother's Schizophrenia drove her to run away from home at an early age to London.

For someone of my age, it gives you a fascinating insight into what life was like before the pioneering work done by Erin Pizzey and others. Victims of Domestic Violence or battered wives as they were then known would often be classed by Local Authorities as "intentionally homeless" for escaping abusive partners and they often received little sympathy or help from people they turned to such as doctors and clergymen. There are some appalling accounts in the book of people just turning a complete blind eye to the violence.

If you have already read books by Erin Pizzey, Jenny Smith' book gives you a different perspective as you learn the life events of someone which led them to the Refuge and it details her first hand experiences of it. If you haven't read any books by Erin Pizzey and you enjoy reading 'The Refuge' then I strongly recommend reading them as they are a fascinating historical account of a very important issue which remains with us today.

Finally I would like to thank Jenny for sharing her story as it is an important one. As someone said to her in the book "You have so much to give, Jenny" and this book gives an illuminating account of a very complex problem.

Money Master the Game: 7 Simple Steps to Financial Freedom
Money Master the Game: 7 Simple Steps to Financial Freedom
by Tony Robbins
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.49

4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 'Become an investor, not just a consumer', 13 Jan. 2015
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Having already read and loved 'Awaken the giant within' and 'Unlimited power' by Tony Robbins, I was excited to say the least when this book was published especially as better finances is one of my goals for 2015.

At 600+ pages this book is heavy reading! it took me a few weeks to finish the book but there is lots of great advice and wisdom in there which makes the effort worthwhile.

If you are completely new to this area and a book this size seems too daunting for you then you're probably better off reading 'The richest man in Babylon' by George S Clason and 'Rich Dad, Poor Dad' by Robert T Kiyosaki which cover the fundamentals of making money. Indeed, as Tony states on page 69 of this book "As a young man, I came across George Samuel Clason's classic 1926 book the richest man in Babylon, which offered common-sense financial advice told through ancient parables. I recommend it to everyone."

Whilst money: master the game essentially covers the same advice in the aforementioned books it goes into far more detail about investing on the stock market and as can be expected from a Tony Robbins book, there is a heavy emphasis on personal development too.

The biggest problem I found with this book is that I am British and it is clearly aimed at an American market so some of the advice is not relevant to a British or International audience. Having said that, there are some universal principles about investing in the stock market and you can still learn a lot from this book if you're not American.

One thing I particularly liked is the interviews with Billionaires. I had already heard of Warren Buffett but knew none of the other investors interviewed such as Ray Dalio, Carl Icahn, Charles Schwab, T Boone Pickens, Sir John Templeton, Jack Bogle, Paul Tudor Jones and David Swensen. I found all the interviews inspiring but particularly liked the ones with Ray Dalio, Carl Icahn and Sir John Templeton.

If like me you don't really know the difference between inflation and deflation and your eyes glaze over when news readers start talking about Consumer Price Index and the economy, there is a great video produced by Ray Dalio 'How the economic machine works' which Tony recommends readers watch at the video is half an hour long and it is brilliant! learning about this video was worth the price of the book alone as it makes everything easy to understand.

In conclusion if you are completely new to managing finances you will learn a lot from this book but at 600 pages it's a lot to get through so you may wish to try the two books I mentioned earlier first which can be read relatively quickly. If you are already in the game so to speak then the interviews with highly successful investors are very insightful.

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