Friday, 11 December 2015

Company Christmas Cards

Every year Anne designs and hand makes Taylor Tuxford's Christmas cards; she spends a lot of time and effort in making them and we receive lovely feedback each year. We've had lots of really nice comments already so we thought we'd share some of them with you, but before we do let's have a look back at the past cards:-


Edible Reindeer Poo
 "On Christmas morning
When Santa had been
I ran to the window 
and saw quite a scene
There in amongst
the snowy white drifts
Rudolph & Prancer
had left us some gifts!

I shovelled it up
(with a bit of snow too)
Those little 'nuggets'
of Reindeer poo!
To throw them away 
seemed such a waste
So I bagged them up
to give you a taste!"


How the Angel got on top of the Christmas tree
Santa's day was awful
So fed up was he
The Elves had drunk
his Christmas drink
Rudolph had done a wee

Mother-in-law was coming
His presents weren't yet wrapped
he had never been so stressed
he was in a right old flap!

An Angel was a-passing
and knocked upon the door
a bushy spruce was in her hands
you couldn't ask for more!

She asked where she should stick it
So that's where there came to be
A lovely Christmas Angel
on top of the Christmas Tree!


Folding out hanging Snowman Decoration
And this year......

Self Assembly Christmas tree

This year we sent out a 3-D Christmas tree card complete with assembly instructions on a wrist snap pen drive.

Here's what people have had to say about it: -

"Like the tree!

A construction project from Engineers to a building Surveyor. What could go wrong?

It’s got pride of place on our card shelf now

Merry Xmas"


"Good morning, (make that afternoon now as it’s taken me so long to write this!)

Greetings from the other side……

I received your wonderful Christmas greeting last week but only just made time to concentrate fully and assemble said greeting.

I was intrigued by the long usb stick and considered for a short while the reason for its length. Was this to allow display of business details, to use a shoe horn, to scratch ones back or simply so that it is not easily misplaced? I decided to accept whatever the reason might be and move on to reading the instructions I needed to create my master piece of art. BTW, I did assemble the star all on my own initiative before looking at the instructions. I couldn’t wait. Are you impressed?

Anyway, I found your instructions most informative and helpful and the tree was soon complete (well, as soon as was possible, but probably not soon enough! I knew there was a reason for putting it off). Your tips on the difficult bits were most welcome otherwise it might have been made even more not soon enough! Are you liking my logic? J

I have always found your (well Ann & Michelle’s) homemade cards absolutely amazing in the past, however I can’t help but think they had some help with this one. I’m not doubting though that the idea was entirely (collectively) yours and one to be commended for!

I attach a picture of my decorated tree. Hey it looks like the one in the picture. Oh, I’m so good! But not without your help….

In order to stand the tree up straight I used a lump of blu tac stuck in the bottom as suggested (oooooh)  and that worked a treat – eventually. I’ve not modeled play dough or such like for a number of years and am out of practice, although today’s efforts have enhanced my ability to partake in such fun activities more constructively than earlier this morning!

I found several different colours of map pins, which looked perfect for baubles – see attached picture. Unfortunately, the tree card is so thick that I could not easily prick the pins through at the end of the branches without half destroying the tree! It remains baubleless, if that’s a word, although you never know in a moment (or few hours) of boredom (I never get bored!) I may persevere and attach some other decoration, maybe even some snow.

After erecting my tree, I was again thoughtfully considering the long usb stick and running my fingers along the flat bit thinking how rubbery it felt (in fact I had a job to get it out of the cellophane packet because of the texture) and wondering what you could use it for, when suddenly without any notice, it snapped itself vigorously around my hand and frightened me half to death!!

Once I had recovered from the shock of the totally unwarranted attack (after all I was only gently stroking it!) I decided it was a good idea to wear it on my wrist so that I did not lose it, so I now have new personal decoration as well as my tree – see attached photo. ;-) That’s a good thing because my watch broke at the weekend so my wrist was bare.

Well, finally I thought I would send you an email message with thanks and greetings for the season (this is it!) but when I came to enter the recipient in the ‘To’ line, no address was available. I remembered recently I had a blue screen experience with my computer and our IT man had to clean it up and warned me that it may be software add-ons that caused the problem and specifically mentioned that auto fill on emails may not work. He was right!

However, my mind turned to my new bracelet that had Taylor Tuxford emblazoned on it and I figured I was saved and would find the details I needed right there on my left arm. Alas, it bears only the name. L Perhaps on the accompanying signed card? No. So I had to phone the office and ask for it. Yes that was me just now!!

Many thanks for thinking of me again at this time of year and providing some amusement and thought provoking fun.

Please send details please of your chosen charity as I would like to make a donation, inspired by your continual efforts. It may be a kind of time saving cop out, but I’ll donate to the charity what I might otherwise have spent on making or buying and posting a card.

Merry Christmas and A Very Happy New Year to you all!"


"Thanks for the tree/ pen drive as usual brute force and ignorance meant that we all struggled with the tree then read the card to discover the pen drive DOH!!!!"


"We always look forward to receiving your Christmas card; can't wait for next year!"


So all in all a really positive response, all thanks to Anne's hard work; she's having a rest now as all that card embossing and punching has strained her wrist! 

She's already got some ideas for next year and has raised the bar high this time, so no pressure then!

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Taylor Tuxford Volunteer - Michelle Tuxford

Michelle, as well as being the Principal Architectural Designer at Taylor Tuxford Associates, volunteers for an independent fundraising group named Blucrew, who primarily raise money for the Bluebell Wood Children’s Hospice located in Dinnington.  

Christmas is their busiest time for fundraising and this year has been no exception, with three full stage shows, three separate carol singing events in Meadowhall Shopping Centre, Carol singing at the Wickersley Lights switch on event, Carol singing at Crystal Peaks, Waitrose in Sheffield and at a care home in Sheffield, as well as several other supporting functions (eg. assisting in setting up a grotto for the Bluebell Wood Children) all within the space of 5 weeks in the run up to Christmas!

Michelle has just had a very busy weekend supporting Blucrew and so we thought we’d tell you how it went: -

Saturday night saw Michelle at Silverwood WMC by 6.45pm to find the room looking very festive thanks to the efforts of other members of the Crew in readiness for their second full Christmas variety show of the season.

It can be a very nervy 5 minutes in the changing room as they wait for the introduction music, then they’re on with the show! There’s no time to sit back and relax between acts either as they are constantly checking what’s coming up next, what should they be wearing, what order do we need to go on stage, etc, etc? It certainly keeps you on your toes. Although they very nearly had one cast member singing O Holy night in a grass skirt and coconut bra!!!
Blucrew mini panto cast Dec 2015
The performance was over by 10.30pm and everyone seemed to have had a really good night, the Audience joined in with the fun and games there were lots of smiling faces, a very good result all round.

Of course, now the show was over (and once comfy shoes were on sore feet) they set about dismantling the stage set, lighting, sound equipment, tables, etc. There really is no one specific role for individuals in Blucrew, everyone mucks in, and so, ten minutes after taking their final bow the team were busy carefully packing away.

Sunday morning saw Michelle up bright and early (well, maybe just early) as she had offered to help set up the backdrop and up-lighters at a Hotel in Sheffield, where Bluebell Wood were holding a Christmas Party for the Children, she arrived there for 8am and after a quick set up was away by 9.30am. She then travelled to Meadowhall Shopping Centre to set up for carol singing on the Mall outside Next and was ready for action by 10.30am (ish!)

It was a lovely atmosphere in the Mall and the Centre Management was very accommodating assisting with cordoning off the cables runs so no-one could trip over them. Although, during a song where one of the singers was performing a solo (so she has stepped forward out of line) two shoppers walked straight through the back of the performance area and through the line of singers, completely oblivious to what they were doing!
Blucrew carol Singing at Meadowhall Shopping Centre Dec 2015
Blucrew carolled until the mid afternoon to a very appreciative crowd and were congratulated by the staff at the adjoining Love Koffee who had had to listen to their songs at least 3 times!

They then dismantled the set again and loaded the car back up. Michelle then jumped back in her car and returned to the Hotel to dismantle the backdrop and lights after the Children’s party and so didn’t arrive home until 6.30pm feeling very happy that they’d had such an enjoyable, if not tiring, couple of days. Later that evening the team received an e-mail advising that the Elves had counted the takings from the previous night’s show and the donations from the carol singing that day, and that the two events had raised approximately £3000! It all makes the hard work so worthwhile to have a result like that, which is one of the reasons Michelle volunteers, and they’re all completely blown away by everyone’s generosity.

In closing we’d like to take this opportunity of wishing you all a very Merry Christmas, whatever you are doing, and we hope that you all have a happy and prosperous New Year!

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Remembering John Ruskin

From time to time one is reminded of the sage words of the 18th century English writer and poet John Ruskin. 

Ruskin was well known for making what in our modern world might be referred to as “one-liners” but whereas the modern 21st Century version is commonly made by entertainers of the comedic variety, Ruskin’s were more often than not attuned to the mindset of the (as we might view it) typically staid, God-fearing Victorian – possibly as a result of Ruskin’s upbringing which was largely influenced by his Mother, a devout evangelical Protestant.

I was reminded recently of one of John Ruskin’s more frequently-repeated quotations which was:-

There is scarcely anything in the world that some man cannot make a little worse, and sell a little more cheaply.  The person who buys on price alone is this man's lawful prey

Applications for approval under the Building Regulations may be made either under:-

§         A “Full Plans Submission”:  Where detailed architectural drawings are submitted for checking and approval before the work commences – this can take up to 8 weeks in some cases, or;

§         A “Building Notice”:  Where the works can potentially commence on site two working days after submission of the “Building Notice” and detailed plans are commonly not required 

NB: The Building Notice was brought in as a means of enabling householders to have minor alterations (new door openings and the like) carried out without the need to incur the disproportionate cost of architectural plans and specifications being prepared beforehand. 

The case which brought this to our mind was in regard to a loft conversion project at a domestic property where, in order to “save costs” the householder had agreed to the builder’s suggestion that the work be carried out under a “Building Notice” application to the Local Authority rather than making a Full Plans Submission for Building Regulations Approval.  The builder had proposed this method as a means of saving the cost of the architectural plan-drawing service (which he told the client was “unnecessary” anyway) and also presumably, to cut out the 3-6 weeks that it would probably take to have the plans checked and approved. 

This was all well and good, except that:-

o        There was no agreed scope for the works – either in the form of a detailed specification or even drawings depicting what the finished conversion would look like

o        The builder had provided a “quote”, but because there were no drawings or specification documents, there was no means of establishing precisely what had been included and perhaps just as importantly, what had been excluded from the price the builder quoted to the Client (the builder’s quotation letter was pretty vague in that regard, also)

o        There was no “pre-agreed” detailed specification that was expected would comply in all respects with the Building Regulations

The whole project ground to a halt when the builder presented the client with a quotation for the additional cost of materials and labour due to “improvements” in certain aspects of the work.  These “improvements” turned out in fact to be necessary only because the builder was not aware that the part of the Building Regulations dealing with thermal insulation had been superseded by a new document some months prior to the work commencing.  Thus, all of the thermal insulation that had been installed to the ceiling and walls of the loft rooms – much of which had already been covered over by plasterboard and skim finish – was of insufficient thickness to satisfy the then-current requirements.  The claim was not just for the extra thickness of insulation, but for renewing the plasterboard and skim finishes and, for re-installing all the other fittings (door/window architraves, radiators, electrical sockets, light fittings and so on).

The client thought that he had agreed a fixed price with the builder for “the project” and so one can imagine his response when the builder presented him with a further quotation for in excess of £1,600.00!  In fact, we calculated that the additional cost of using the correct thickness of insulation materials in the first place would have amounted to just £70.00 for the whole project.

Not surprisingly, the client refused to pay this extra £1,600 to the builder – who promptly “downed tools” and vacated the site stating that the client was being “unreasonable”.  The client was then left with a partially-finished attic room that remained non-habitable and with the prospect of either kow-towing to the builder’s demands for extra money or else, paying another builder to step in and finish the job – probably at similar cost to that quoted by the first builder.  Alternatively, the client could of course sue the builder for this cost, but without a pre-agreed drawing or specification determining the precise scope and extent of the works, such legal action could potentially prove to be fruitless and expensive.

We were asked (by the client’s solicitors) to provide a professional opinion on the situation and upon inspecting the work completed thus far, we identified in addition to the thermal insulation issues, a number of other items of defective workmanship that we could not in all honesty advise the client should be left untreated.  In all, we estimated that the total cost of rectification works to bring the project to satisfactory completion would be in the range £4,000 to £5,000 or thereabouts (dependant upon what other defects might be uncovered as the rectification works progressed).

At this stage, the client had paid the builder all but the final £1,500 of the agreed sum for the whole project and so he was likely to be considerably out of pocket.

The problem as we see it is that in our modern age there is an ever-increasing emphasis (for example via price comparison websites and the like) upon getting “the best price” for a product or service.  Too many people however, still confuse “best value” with “lowest price” and in some instances, the two are mutually incompatible.

We took the view that at that stage that it might be rather cruel to repeat John Ruskin’s “words of wisdom” to this particular client, but they nevertheless ring true and in a similar vein, the same author also wrote:-

“It's unwise to pay too much, but it's worse to pay too little. When you pay too much, you lose a little money - that's all. When you pay too little, you sometimes lose everything, because the thing you
bought was incapable of doing the thing it was bought to do. The common law of business balance prohibits paying a little and getting a lot - it can't be done. If you deal with the lowest bidder, it is well
to add something for the risk you run, and if you do that you will have enough to pay for something better.” 

Wise words, indeed……

John Ruskin (1819-1900)

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

A lack of understanding of the Party Wall etc Act 1996

It is almost 18 years since the Party Wall etc Act 1996 came into force in the majority of England and Wales and yet still we frequently come across many people who are largely unaware of the nature and extent of works that typically, may fall subject to the Act and thus, require service of written Notice on the adjoining property owner(s) before commencing works.

When that comment is applied to members of the general public it is perhaps understandable, but we still find that we far too frequently have to make that criticism about individuals (and also companies) who are actively involved in the design and construction of building works (especially domestic projects).  

In the perception of the customer these individuals and companies might be expected to have a reasonable working knowledge – or at the very least a good awareness of – most if not all of the technical and legal matters that pertain to their building project – and that would include the Party Wall etc Act 1996.

But in far too many instances they frankly do not…..

As an example:-

The most recent “hot topic” insofar as works falling subject to the Party Wall Act is concerned relates to the notion of what constitutes “cutting into a party wall”?

Section 2(2) of the Act states that “…A building owner shall have the following rights….(f) to cut into a party structure for any purpose (which may be or include the purpose of inserting a damp proof course)…”

Ever since the Act came into force surveyors have been debating what “cutting into the party structure” actually includes and perhaps more importantly, what it does not include. 

It has long been held to be the case that removing wall plaster from a party wall does not fall subject to the Act; however, a decision by a Judge in the Central London County Court in 2013 determined that the removal of wall plaster using mechanical tools would constitute cutting into the party wall, whereas if the plaster was so old and dilapidated that it could be prised away using a putty knife or similar then it would not fall subject to the Act.

How many builders out there are aware of this comparatively recent development in the interpretation of the law?

Does anyone else have any experiences or comments they wish to share on this subject?

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Failure to serve Notice under the Party Wall etc Act 1996

Taylor Tuxford Associates has over the past few months been involved in three formal Disputes under the Party Wall etc Act 1996 that have arisen following building works that have commenced without first serving the requisite Notice upon the adjoining property owners.  We are currently also instructed in regard to a fourth such case, which is still in the process of being determined.

The disputes in question arose because the adjoining owners in each case claimed that damage had been caused to their property as a result of the works undertaken by the building owner’s contractors.

The Party Wall etc Act requires that in instances where a building owner wishes to carry out works to their property that fall subject to the Act, then they must serve written Notice upon any affected adjoining property owners.

It is a generally held principle in English & Welsh Law that the “accused” person or corporate body is “innocent until proven guilty” and the accuser is obliged to provide that proof.  However, in instances where “work falling subject to the Act” (i.e. the Party Wall etc Act 1996) is carried out without compliance with the requirements of the Act in regard to the service of a Notice etc, then this principle may not apply.

This stems from a Court of Appeal judgement in 2003 where Lord Justice Chadwick stated in his judgement that “…if it can be shown that the damage which has occurred is the sort of damage which one may expect to occur from the nature of the works that have been carried out…he (i.e. the building owner in that instance) should not be allowed to obtain forensic advantage by his own failure to comply with the statutory requirements…”

In other words, the Judge applied a reverse burden of proof and the building owner was thus obliged to prove that the damage had NOT been caused as a result of his building works.  From our extensive experience, this is extremely difficult to achieve in the majority of cases “after the event”.

In the case of the two disputes referred to earlier, the end result was that the building owners in each instance faced substantial additional expense relating to the repair of the damage plus the fees of the surveyors in resolving the dispute.

Does anyone reading this entry believe that they may have inadvertently placed themselves in a similar position?

Taylor Tuxford Associates’ advice is simple – if you are having building works carried out, seek the advice of your architectural designer and/or your builder whether the works will in any way fall subject to the Party Wall etc Act 1996 and if that is the case, ensure that the appropriate written notice is served on the adjoining owners.