How to get rid of your landline and route calls over the internet.

I no longer have a land line and route all my incoming calls over the internet to my DECT cordless phone.  You could also use this method to get a second landline for work purposes or for your children.

There are a several prerequisites for this guide:

  • You need to be using cable internet as you can’t cancel your BT line if you get the internet down it (you can still use an internet phone for cheaper calls if you don’t buy a call bundle from your provider)
  • You need to be prepared to invest a small amount of money in equipment – this will pay off in the medium-long term
  • You aren’t attached to your phone number (it is easier to get a new number)
  • You need a spare port on your router and an extra power socket near the phone/router

There are advantages to using an internet landline

  • free voicemail (and you can have voicemail messages emailed to you!)
  • cheaper calls
  • free caller display
  • no line rental charges
  • you can pick a phone number with any area code – for example a London number if you live up north!
  • full incoming and outgoing call history on the internet

The first thing you need to do is to sign up with a SIP provider.  I chose sipgate who offer a home service which runs on a pre-pay basis.  Calls cost a mere 1.19p per minute which is considerably cheaper than many landline plans (they do a bundle too).  As part of the signup process you get to choose an area code and phone number.  You will also need to top up the account to make outgoing calls – I would suggest doing this after you have tested the system and know that it is working.


Next you need some SIP hardware.  I chose the Cisco SPA112 which can be purchased for just over £30 and full configuration instructions are provided on the sipgate site.  This device is a small box that supports two telephone lines (I only use one!) and lets you plug in a standard phone (subject to having the right connectors).  I swapped the cable on my DECT cordless phone (the one with a BT plug on the end) for one with rj11 connectors at each end as shown below (available on eBay for a small cost)


Once all is connected and configured you can make a test call to your new number.  The setup shouldn’t take long, as long as you know the ip address of the SPA112 on your network, it’s a ten minute job (don’t forget to change the admin password on your box as a precaution too).  There is no need to worry about port-forwarding (if you don’t know what this is then this is the hardware for you!).

In eight months of running this system the only problem I’ve had is an overheating internet router (I reset everything and it works again) and my puppy chewing through the SPA112 power cable (fortunately this was repaired with insulating tape)

I’ve tried not to give too many technical details, just to tell you what is possible.  Feel free to get in touch if you want to know more about getting rid of your landline or if you have any specific questions.


Cauda equina – MRI scan 12 months on

I’d been back to see my consultant because of tingles and twinges in my (mostly numb) toes. I had been referred for a scan which took five weeks for an appointment to come, and another month for a follow up appointment with my consultant.  The latest scan was taken exactly a year after the last scan (taken while I was suffering from cauda equina).

cauda equina pics

The news was good which is the reason for my post, as it shows that there has been no further degeneration of my discs.  It also shows that my nerves are no longer being pushed or squashed and that the twinges are mostly likely as a result of historic nerve damage or even regeneration.

I know that things have got easier since I had the microdiscectomy (which was when I was at my lowest physical condition) and that I’m a lot better now.  I still get aches in my calf muscles (which I don’t have full control of) but I don’t notice them as much these days.

My message to cauda equina sufferers is get diagnosis and treatment as soon as possible, and keep in there.  Don’t give up, keep going because things will get better – or at least they did for me.

Two months of avoiding the large supermarkets (listen up @tesco and @sainsburys )

groceries spend

Until a few years ago I used to love shopping for groceries.  Now it is a chore that I put off as long as possible (usually when the cupboards are looking bare).  What started to push me away from the large supermarkets was shopping in smaller discount outlets (for example large chain pound stores and discount chains like Home Bargains).  These shops carry many products that are consistently half the price of the major supermarkets (not to mention the odd end-of-line bargain). Surely if these chains, with their smaller buying power and smaller distribution networks can sell at these prices, the supermarkets can too.

Two months ago I decided to see what the options were to doing the main shop in the supermarkets.  I’ve always bought everything in one place and realised recently that I’ve been paying a premium for that convenience.  I have still popped into the supermarkets for the odd basket of shopping, or for things that I can’t get elsewhere but I’m pleased to report that there are alternatives for those with the time and inclination to use them.

Aldi etc

We’ve had an Aldi in my town for ages and I’ve always avoided it.  The narrow isles and constant congestion put me off.  I’m not that impressed with some of their copy-cat products (some of the products have packaging and names that are as close as legally possible to their named-brand equivalents) but I’ve found their fresh produce and meat is of equal (if not better) quality to that of the supermarkets next door.  Of course you can’t get the same range of groceries in Aldi, and they sell very few named brands, but that’s the price you pay for the significant savings on offer!  The bonus is that I park over the road in Tesco while I shop in Aldi!

Farm Foods etc

A relatively small freezer chain, and I could lump Iceland and other small freezer chains in this category.  Again the choice is limited and the selection of fresh produce is extremely basic.  They do have a good selection of fresh produce (for example meats, bacon and cheese) and where they excel is with selling brand names cheaper than the large supermarkets.  Again parking is limited but thanks to Tesco who have a large free car park opposite that isn’t a problem…

Home Bargains etc

As I mentioned at the start of my post, these companies are the ones that soured my relationship with the supermarkets.  Whilst they carry a lot of end-of-line products that you can’t depend on seeing, they carry a lot of regular items at significant cost savings over the supermarkets.  Some of these have their own car parks, but most don’t and this is one of the prices you pay for their lower prices.

Local shops

We have a Co-op Food store less than five minutes walk from the house, and other local shops within a short walk.  I’ve tended to use these shops for top-up and items that I’ve run out of, as they carry only a limited range of essential items.  I’ve also learnt that a quick visit to the supermarket for a bottle of milk can cost ten times the amount as I put in special offer items that are placed to tempt me.  Using my local store puts a stop to this 🙂


So after two months have I saved any money?  My accounting software suggests I have but that doesn’t include the shops that aren’t primarily grocery based.  I’ve certainly had more food for my money and the cupboards have never been so full.  A supermarket fan might point out that I haven’t been earning loyalty points in these other stores, and that it has cost me extra time and petrol money in travelling between them.

groceries spend

So what now?  Having shopped in Aldi I can see why they have been expanding their sales while the larger supermarket chains lose out.  I’ll keep shopping around – if nothing else I can be smug about not giving my money to the large faceless chains, and if more people join me they will be forced to look again at their charging policies.

Where do you do your shopping?  Have you come to the same (or different) conclusions as me?

12 months since Cauda equina syndrome – an update


It has been 12 months today since I suffered from Cauda equina syndrome (CES) and I’ve been contacted by several people who have followed my progress.  I wanted to provide an update for the people who comes to my blog and read about the condition, so they know it isn’t always doom and gloom.

As I’ve mentioned previously on my blog, my lifestyle has almost returned to what it was before CES.  I work full time (my working week is 50-60 hours long) in a special school, where I teach science lessons and am the assistant head.  I have been fortunate in receiving support from work so I have made to measure seating which makes a huge difference, and I have an electric desk which I can raise to standing height if required.  I have an ultrabook laptop which means it is light and portable – all these adjustments were recommended by Access to Work when they carried out my workplace assessment.

Some of the nerve damage has repaired itself, and although I still suffer from loss of sensation down the back of my legs, it isn’t as pronounced as it was a year ago.  I can also run now (albeit slowly) which I couldn’t do last year as my legs didn’t obey my brain when I tried!

I don’t suffer much pain, although I do get twinges in my toes (it feels like someone is stood on my little toe) which my consultant tells me is classic S1 damage.  I’m due to have another MRI scan tomorrow to see if this is nerve regeneration or further nerve damage.  Usually any pain I feel comes from sitting in the wrong position when I have to stand up – I’m getting better at making myself sit up straight too!

The only aspect that hasn’t shown that much recovery is bladder control and the need to practice intermittent self catheterisation.  Fortunately after a year of doing this it is second nature to the point I don’t think about it much in my home/work life (although I do have to plan more carefully when I am going to be away from home for extended periods of time).

Thanks once again to all the people who have got in touch and I hope this post gives some hope to those of you who find yourself unfortunate enough to suffer from cauda equina syndrome.

Online bingo from PaddyPower (@paddypowerbingo) – don't waste your time.

Those people that know me well know I have a fondness for playing bingo on my iPad.  I play a number of different bingo games on my tablet but always for ‘tokens’ that have no real value.

While using Facebook I came upon an ad for Paddypower bingo offering me a £30 credit if I deposited £5.  There is a slight catch – the £5 has to be spent within 48 hours and the free credit is only valid for a week.  I might not have signed up if I had read these terms and conditions before I joined but I rushed right in eager to play.

bingo ad

The first thing that struck me was that the bingo is nothing like proper bingo.  It is more like playing bingo on a fruit machine since it is a totally passive experience.  You can play up to 60 cards at one in some games and there is no way anyone but an octopus with superpowers could play 60 cards at once!

Some of the games are over in seconds, others last a little longer as you see who won the first line, two lines and then a full house.  The software automatically moves those cards needing fewest numbers to the top of the screen and all the player does is sit and watch (regardless on whether you play on a flash-enabled browser or on your tablet).

The images show the game in simplified mode (just the numbers you need) and normal mode (proper bingo cards).

IMG_0323 IMG_0324


Because they realise the novelty of watching bingo cards dancing and changing position on the screen can only hold your attention for so long, Paddypower employ a number of chat hosts who post motivational messages in the chat room.  I assume these people are employed on the basis of their personalities since their literacy and grammar skills appear not to have been tested during the interview process…

To make matters even worse I only received £20 bonus credit, not £30 as promised because I clicked through an affiliate link.  Paddypower told me to chase them – even though I have no contact details and the link takes you straight to the PaddyPower signup page.

Would I recommend this to any of my bingo loving friends? Not a chance.  If you like sitting in front of the screen chatting about the moderators shopping and watching your bingo cards shuffle themselves (with a marginally small chance of winning anything) then this might be for you.  I did manage to win just over £1 with my £25 of gambling credit, but unfortunately the minimum withdrawal is £10 so unless you win £10 you have no choice but to gamble your winnings away.

I’ll stick to Bingo bash on the iPad/Facebook for my bingo kicks – at least I enjoy playing it!

Review: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There are some books you read that make you reflect on your own life and this book falls into this category. Harold starts his pilgrimage very early in the story in order to save his friend from cancer. Along the way he meets a variety of people and we get to find out more about Harold and his past. In walking and talking to his new friends, Harold reflects on his past and the mistakes he made earlier in his life.

A feel good story that makes you realise that it is no good hanging onto past mistakes – life is for living. I enjoyed this story and the well described and believable characters. I would recommend this book to my friends without hesitation.

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Cauda equina syndrome – six month update

I know a number of people find this website by searching for cauda equina syndrome (CES) and I thought it might be encouraging for them to post an update on how I’m getting on with my condition.

The good news is I haven’t been back to the consultant since I posted last – my six month open appointment is rapidly running out but I’m not worried.  Apart from the odd tingle on a numb patch of leg or foot I don’t experience the pain that other CES sufferers do (at least at the moment).  My phased return went without complication and I’m back at work full time.  I’m fortunate that my teaching timetable is lighter than many because of my leadership role as assistant head.  I’m also lucky that I get the chance to walk about a lot which is good for my back – as soon as I feel a twinge from too much sitting down I know to do a lap of the school!

I’m still using the catheters.  On the suggestion of the occupational health service, school have purchased a locker for me to store my medical supplies where I need to use them.  This saves having to run and get my bag when I need to visit the bathroom (women may be familiar with this problem).  I mentioned in my last post changing the company I use for healthcare supplies (Charter healthcare owned by Coloplast) and I really can’t fault their service – as well as taking the fee for dispensing, they send me alcohol gel and wet wipes and even deliver to me at work.

I find myself using my stick less and less.  My walking stick has become something of a security blanket.  I feel self-conscious walking in busy places because the nerve damage means my calf muscles don’t work properly.  Using a walking stick tells people there is a reason I have a slight wobble and it isn’t alcohol related!  I keep a fold-up walking stick in my drawer at work just in case (although I haven’t used it yet) and I’m trying to wean myself off using one for longer walks.  It follows that if I can walk miles over the course of a day at work without using one that I must be able to do so elsewhere.

I’m waiting on an access to work application for a full workplace assessment (occupational health suggested an electric height adjustable desk!) and I find that as long as I am sitting up nice and straight I am quite comfortable but if I don’t I soon get aches in my back.

I realise that each person who has CES is different but that doesn’t stop me wanting to talk to others who have had the condition.  There are some excellent support groups on Facebook (with some frank and open conversations/questions) and more recently UK based charitable organisations have emerged to provide support.

I’m happy to talk to anyone about CES – if that’s you then leave me a message.

Review: The Stainless Steel Rat

The Stainless Steel Rat
The Stainless Steel Rat by Harry Harrison
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Starting to show its age a bit now, as we have a future with camera film and newspapers. Ignoring these short comings the book is an account of how our Stainless Steel Rat goes on his first mission for the special corps and the adventure along the way. Less gadgets than others in the series and a weaker plot.

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Review: The Stainless Steel Rat Sings the Blues

The Stainless Steel Rat Sings the Blues
The Stainless Steel Rat Sings the Blues by Harry Harrison
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Not as good as some of the others in this series (not helped by the fact I decided to reread them in story order rather than in published order).

The Stainless Steel rat is recruited to find an alien artifact on a hostile prison planet. Naturally only a criminal is up to the job! Gadgets and sci-fi galore. Another light and frothy fun read.

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