10 tips to steer clear of a counterfeit Christmas

Some counterfeit gifts, like these two perfumes, can be difficult to spot. Credit: The Hamster Factor

Some counterfeit gifts, like these two perfumes, can be difficult to spot. Credit: The Hamster Factor

 December has nearly arrived and Norfolk’s high streets are filling up and stores are opening later. It can only mean one thing – the rush for Christmas gifts is upon us.

But the scramble for presents at Christmas also results in a higher proportion of counterfeit goods being sold than at any other time of year, and quite often we don’t even know what we’re buying is fake.

So how can you steer clear of phoney items this festive season and just why are counterfeit goods such a bad thing? Norfolk County Council’s Trading Standards have a step-by-step consumer guide to making sure you get tipped off and not ripped off this winter.

No-one wants their loved ones to unwrap gifts that are fake, dangerous or of poor quality this Christmas but if a present is counterfeited, it can be all three.

Counterfeit goods can sometimes be difficult to detect but they aren’t just unsafe and unable to work but very often they aren’t refundable. Not only that, it can be a contributor for retailers having to make job cuts or local businesses going bust if people are buying items that are funding criminal organisations.

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Birds of a feather flock together

The mudflats in Snettisham may not seem a likely location for one of Norfolk’s must-see winter events. But that’s reckoning without some 40,000 geese…

Between November and late January the pink-footed goose roosts in North Norfolk, flying south from Iceland in September and stopping off in Scotland and Lancashire on the way. Each morning they take off in search of food – and create an amazing visual display.

And the good news is that you can watch it all happen. The team at the RSPB’s Titchwell and Snettisham reserve see the birds come and go every year and they have more information on how you can have a gander at the geese.

Pink-footed geese taking to the skies in droves – a familiar sight in North Norfolk during winter. Credit: Ian-S

Here in North Norfolk we’re lucky to have one of the UK’s most spectacular natural sights right on our doorstep.

Every year thousands of pink-footed geese make their way to Snettisham to roost in the winter, arriving in late autumn with most birds moving back north around the end of January.

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Ebooks are free books when you borrow them from the library

E-readers and tablet computers will no doubt be on a lot of people’s Christmas present lists this year. Before deciding which brand or device to buy, you might want to have a read of this contribution from Norfolk County Council’s Library Service.

It will come as no surprise that we love books. And we love making it easy for people to read books, which is why our free ebooks loans service is so great.

For the uninitiated, ebooks are books that can be read in electronic form, usually on a tablet computer or ereader device. You can download ebooks from various websites and it’s a way of reading that’s really growing in popularity – earlier this year it was reported that sales of ebooks from Amazon had overtaken sales of hardback and paperback books for the first time.

But why buy when you can borrow, for free, and from the comfort of your own home? Of course we want people to keep visiting our libraries but equally we think our ebooks loan service could really come into its own during spells of wintry weather, when it can be hard for people to make journeys.

Our digital library has hundreds of ebook titles to choose from – for some recommendations from our staff about ebooks you can borrow from us, scroll down. And there’s no chance of getting an overdue charge as when your loan period ends, poof! The file will simply disappear from your device, without you having to lift a finger.

While lots are, not all ereaders and tablets are compatible with the digital library system we use, so if you are planning on buying one for yourself or as a gift, do check out the list of compatible devices here.

We are excited however that the new Kindle Fire is compatible, it’s the first Kindle device that is. You can also borrow and read our ebooks on lots of smartphones and most laptop and desktop computers – although they do have to be connected to the internet to do the borrowing bit.

Apart from a compatible device, the only other thing you need to borrow ebooks from us is to be a library member, and to have a pin number which means you can use any of our online services (such as renewing copies of traditional books you have out on loan).

You can join the library online and once you’ve received your pin and been sent your library card through the post, you’re ready to go. If you’re already a library member but don’t have a pin number, or can’t remember it, there are lots of ways to remedy this

And if you’d rather join the library in person, you can. Whichever way you choose, becoming a library member and borrowing books, however you choose to do it, is absolutely free.


‘The Christmas Book’ by Sheherazade Goldsmith

 A book of approximately 80-90 self-contained craft, food, and gardening projects aimed at helping people escape the modern-day commercial Christmas and enjoy a simpler, more home-spun way of celebrating.

-Take a look inside for more great ebooks>

Let there be Christmas lights

It’ll begin to look a lot like Christmas in some of our towns and cities soon, with several Christmas lights switch-on events happening in the next couple of weeks. The switch-on events have become a spectacle in themselves in recent years, with musical performances, fireworks and a former soap star all on the bill at events across the county.

We’ve scoured the web and put together a round-up of some of the switch-on events that are coming up in November and December as well as links to where you can find more information about each of them.

Merry Christmas one and all! Too soon? Yep, too soon…

Holt – Wednesday 21 November (from 5.30pm)

Olympic torchbearer and First Responder Harry Heathfield will be switching on the lights at 6.45pm and will also lead the Christmas Procession with stilt walker Gentleman Jim, leaving the Community Centre at 5.30pm.

The event is being hosted by North Norfolk Radio and will feature performances from the Holt barber shop choir and the Bauble Trail, a hunt for 13 baubles around Holt for the chance to win a prize (for the chance to enter the Bauble Trail, and get a few clues, look here).

Norwich – Thursday 22 November (6.15-7.15pm)

Paralympic archery silver medallist Mel Clarke, from Taverham, will be switching on the city’s Christmas lights at 7pm at City Hall.

The Christmas lights in Jarrold Store in Norwich are always striking. Credit: Gerry Balding.

David Webster from BBC Radio Norfolk will compere the evening’s entertainment from 6.15-7.15pm and will be joined by the Chermond Gymnastics Club, Norwich Ukulele Society, Demi Semitone and Swank’s Frolicking Fairies. Activities include a giant snowball throw, carols and a Christmas blessing from Reverend Janet Wyer.

Hellesdon and Sprowston Brass Band will be performing at a bandstand in Chapelfield Gardens and there will be a snow machine and a lantern procession taking place around Norwich. There’ll also be some road closures in place around the city centre between 4 and 8pm.

Keep reading for details of more switch-ons!

Keep the home fires burning – safely

The warming feeling of sitting in front of a lit fireplace at home is one of the great joys of winter and there has been a rise in the use of chimneys, woodburners and other fuel burners in the last 10 years. 

But over winter it’s not just Santa that can get stuck in your chimney and the danger can be that blockages can cause fires if your chimney or flue isn’t properly maintained. 

Norfolk Fire & Rescue Service were called out to over 200 chimney fires last year and we asked them to pass on all their knowledge on how you can keep your chimney clean and safe so you don’t need to call 999 this winter.

Norfolk Fire & Rescue Service were called out to 204 chimney fires between April 2011 and March this year. Credit: Travis Wiens

Norfolk Fire & Rescue Service are available 24/7 for any emergencies, but there are ways to try and prevent emergencies before they happen, and we want you to have a great, safe winter, hopefully without having to ring 999.

Between April 2011 and March this year we were called out to 204 chimney fires, and 144 of those were between October and February. On a cold day it’s lovely to warm yourself by a fire, but a chimney fire can be absolutely devastating to your home so we want to make sure you can enjoy them as safely as possible. 

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The free jab that keeps you safe from flu

Those most at risk of flu are being urged to book an appointment for a vaccination with their local GP

Having the flu is a horrible experience for anyone unfortunate enough to catch it, but for some people it can be life-threatening.

In the run up to each winter people who are considered to be at risk from becoming seriously ill if they get the flu are encouraged to protect themselves by getting a free flu jab at their GP surgery. However earlier this month it was reported that many of those people in ‘at risk’ groups haven’t had the jab yet.

Because it’s a virus it can’t be treated with antibiotics and like most contagious illnesses the chances of contracting it are much greater in the winter. So it really is a matter of prevention being better than cure.

We asked NHS Norfolk to give us the lowdown on the flu jab and why it’s so important for some people to have it.

People don’t realise quite how serious flu can be – it’s not like a cold, it’s highly contagious and anyone can catch it. It can knock you off your feet and can increase the risk of developing dangerous illnesses such as bronchitis and pneumonia.

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Don’t go cold this winter

There’s been a domino effect of announcements about increasing gas and electricity prices in the last few weeks. For many of us this will mean a squeeze on our household budgets but for some people it’s more serious, with going cold or hungry a real prospect.

A £100,000 grant from Norfolk County Council to Age UK Norfolk and the Norfolk Community Foundation will boost vulnerable older people across the county. Credit: Le Grace Studio

Fuel poverty is becoming an increasingly recognisable term.The good news is that there is help available. Norfolk Community Foundation and Age UK Norfolk’s Surviving Winter campaign is one such example. It targets its support, including financial assistance, at the county’s vulnerable older people – and Age UK Norfolk will explain more below.

We’ve also provided links to some of the other support and schemes that are available in Norfolk to help people stay warm this winter at the bottom of this blog post. Please add any others you’re aware of in the comments section.

Winter is usually the most difficult time of year for older people. At Age UK Norfolk a lot of our work over the coming months will be concentrated on making sure that Norfolk’s older people keep well and stay warm.But with another hike in the price of heating costs, it is becoming harder than ever for people trying to get by on a pension to keep warm.

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