Check your credit report, people! You never know what these credit reference agencies may have incorrectly listed against your name or the various addresses where you’ve lived in the recent past. My credit report was so wrong that I couldn’t even borrow a fiver on credit less than a month ago. Here’s what I did to resolve the issues.
I got a free 30-day trial with each of the three main credit reference agencies; Experian, Equifax, and Callcredit in the UK. Then I carefully checked all the details they had on me since each credit agency holds slightly different information.
It took me a total of six hours on the phone to remove just one incorrectly listed a default for £11, for example, and that wasn’t the only one, but it was well worth the effort for the positive effect it had on my credit score and ability to access more cost effective finance.
Then I had to prove that I am registered to vote at my home address because this is what lenders use to verify your identity, but for some reason, none of the credit reference agencies had me listed as registered to vote. Again, this kind of incorrect information can drastically affect your ability to get personal loans, bank accounts, credit cards, or even a decent mortgage rate.
I even found one old debt still listed on my credit report more than ten years later when all debts should be wiped clean after six years. Ever wondered why your loan repayment interest rates are sky high? Negative information of this sort on your credit report may be to blame for higher than average insurance quotes, credit card rates, and a whole lot more.
Once I had managed to repair my credit report and checked that everything on it is as it should be, I then decided to cancel the 30-day free trials, or they would start charging me monthly fees on my debit card for services that I could well do without.
If you’d like to keep an eye on your credit report for the future, try the free for life Noddle services that keep you up-to-date with information pulled from Callcredit, but also gives you great options to help you save money, too.
I thought moving to Ghana would improve my appearance. I imagined closer proximity to the sun kissing my honey-brown face with kindness, bringing out the natural coppery tones of my fiery complexion, dulled to a pasty, doughy-yellow from too many years of living in England where the sun never shines.
I saw myself moving among the beautiful coal-skinned blackness of Ghanaians virtually unnoticed. But after only a week in the bright and stifling glow, the heat had not been kind. My face had become drawn and ashy. My eyes, those windows to the soul, sunken like dried craters, where less than seven days before, a more fleshy youthful skin shone out to greet the world in colder climes. And these eyes, my dear departed mother’s orbs, have always had a tendency to attract the passing glare of others. But now when men and women looked, they recoiled in momentary horror—for they knew not what sickness they may have seen there, lurking between the blink of an eye.
At first, I blamed it on the sun. Landing at Katoka International Airport has always had the effect of stepping inside a giant conventional oven. That feeling of being enveloped by intense dry heat, sucking out every morsel of the body’s moisture. But this time around, I had come prepared. To compensate for the roasting effect of living in a virtual furnace, I had drank more water in one week than I had consumed over a three-month period in England. For once, my body was fully hydrated, my liver never felt so healthy, and there was very little chance that my skin was somehow drying out from a lack of fluids or any overexposure to the sun. Some other explanation had to be found for my increasingly gaunt look, and this general sense of unease I felt.
I told myself it was the new job. This new country; the new environment; and these totally new experiences daily. New languages all around me. New colleagues to get used to in a completely new industry, where I was the new boy in town. No wonder I was feeling anxious, jumpy, and generally on edge. But this anxiety, I told myself, it too would pass soon enough, given time.
Yet the more I tried to console myself with soothing thoughts of recovery, was the more my nerves took flight. I wasn’t just feeling jumpy anymore. I was feeling progressively out of sync with every passing day. Was I having a nervous breakdown? Was I in the throes of a burnout brought on by too much stress? Lord knows, I was no stranger to psychiatric disorders, having had to section my mother and watch my sister, and a former partner of mine, go through years of mental health hell. Once you’ve seen mental disorders showing up in your family, you can’t help but wonder whether insanity might be a heredity condition that could some day blight your own mental wellbeing. Up until now, my theory on the subject had always been, “If you can cope with all the madness you’ve seen in your life, and still keep your sanity, Paul, then I don’t think you’re fit for the Loony Bin or have anything to worry about, mate.” But I was rapidly beginning to doubt my own thoughts.
Quite apart from living the expat life, suddenly transplanted to a foreign country where everything was new, what else was I doing differently? Had anything else changed in my life in these past few weeks? These were questions I began to ask myself, and that’s when the penny dropped. My doctor had been very specific, “You must take one of these once a week beginning at least one week before travel and for every week you’re abroad,” she had said. And I remember thinking then, but that could be for a very long time, and become a hugely expensive habit. “Can’t I acclimatise over time?” “Do you want to get malaria?” she had fired back, adding that “Lariam is the best on the market,” as she scribbled off a three-month prescription that would cost me a small fortune at the chemist.
It should have occurred to me earlier. Wasn’t I the one who had persuaded my mother that if the pills are doing you more harm than good, you should stop taking them immediately? Poor dear was locked up in Guy’s Hospital for months, being over medicated and dribbling like a fool, unable to hold a coherent sentence or speak to anyone with her tongue heavy and twisted in her mouth. Years later, she would credit me for handing out advice that saved her life, but I could never escape the personal guilt of having signed the document that had put her there in the first place.Now here I was, suspecting a daily dose of antimalarial tablets for my own sudden burst of anxiety, and a new unwillingness to meet people’s gaze. Come to think of it–hadn’t I read somewhere once that mefloquine hydrochloride, more commonly called Lariam, is known to cause depression? It would be just my luck to be that “one-in-a-million” for whom this commonly prescribed antimalarial pill has a severe adverse side effect.
On 7th March 2011, three weeks after I’d started taking mefloquine hydrochloride, I decided to go Bushman style. Just over a week after I’d stopped taking mefloquine hydrochloride (aka Lariam), my anxiety issues vanished. I’ve been living in Ghana for nearly four years and have had malaria twice. When I was a boy, I would watch mosquitoes land on my skin, sucking up as much of my blood as they could fill, before I’d slap them dead with a childhood vengeance. My childish game has left me with no immunity to the deadly diseases mosquitoes spread, but malaria is still curable last time I checked, and prevention isn’t always better than cure.
As of 29 July 2013, here’s what the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is advising the public about strengthened and updated warnings about neurologic and psychiatric side effects associated with the antimalarial drug mefloquine hydrochloride.
The neurologic side effects can include dizziness, loss of balance, or ringing in the ears. The psychiatric side effects may include anxiety, paranoia, depression, agitation, restlessness, mood changes, panic attacks, forgetfulness, hallucinations, aggression, and psychotic behaviour.
These side effects can occur at any time during drug use, and can last for months to years after the drug is stopped or can even be permanent. See the Drug Safety Communication for more information, including a data summary.
Better known in Poland as one half of the duo, Przytuła & Kruk, Bartek Przytuła is worthy of attention in his own right as a blues vocalist, rebellious rascal, undisputed blues fan, and interpreter of all types of music that might make you shiver.
With the accompaniment of a guitar and harmonica, he very quickly gains your attention, and although the blues may be considered a monotonous and even boring genre by some folks, his performances are always original, due in part to his rye sense of humour and an enormous amount of unbridled musical emotions flowing straight from the heart. His music is inspired by Robert Johnson, John Lee Hooker, BB King, Buddy Guy, Sonny Boy Williamson II, Louis Armstrong, Muddy Waters, Otis Spann, Pinetop Perkins, Willie Dixon, Big Joe Williams, and Robert Lockwood Jr–to name just a few–and this too adds a certain texture and mesmerizing context to his performances on stage.
Working with Tomasz Kruk on guitar, their performances over the last three years have notched up an impressive array of awards in every contest they have entered. So far this year alone:
Victory on the small stage competition of the Rawa Blues Festival and a gig on the main festival stage of biggest Poland’s biggest blues festival in 2010. First prize at the VI Galicia Blues Festival in Krosno and a recording session in Studio OTD (2010). Winners of the Power Flower Festival in Opatów (2010). Runners-up in Olsztyn Blues Review competition in their first joint appearance (2010). Second prize and a Audience Award at the festival Las, Woda i Blues in 2010. President of Nowa Sól Award for vocalist Bartek Przytuła at the V Solówka Blues Festival (2010). The Audience Award at the XIX Blues Nad Bobrem festival (2010).
Fresh from Katowice with a shaved head and a significant new win at an important gig on the main stage of the Rawa Blues Festival, we caught up with Bartek Przytuła to find out what makes him tick.
What drew you to the blues?
Generally, blues gives me a thrill, makes me high. It makes me shiver, and for me, it’s a quest and a pleasure to give it to others through my gigs. I remember when first heard the blues: it was John Lee Hooker’s “Boom, Boom” and I was then 10-years old and heard it on some kind of commercial. I didn’t realize that there was a whole category of such music.
What blues musicians inspire you and why?
The things that I truly admire in music are originality and emotions, no matter what kind of music it is. That’s why I really love listening to Robert Johnson, John Lee Hooker, BB King, Buddy Guy, Sonny Boy Williamson II, Louis Armstrong, Muddy Waters, Otis Spann, Pinetop Perkins, Willie Dixon, Big Joe Williams, and Robert Lockwood Jr.
How did you learn to play guitar?
I started playing guitar when I was more into rock and heavy metal at around thirteen or fourteen years old. I was being taught by my older cousin. I stopped playing systematically after some time because of a temporary loss of interest in music, and later I started to learn how to sing. For a year, I was being taught by a professional opera singer, and since then, I’ve never stopped singing—just fell in love with it! A few years later I came back to guitar just to have an opportunity to be independent when needed.
Can white men sing the blues?
White guys very rarely really can sing the blues. To me, it seems that most white people are more into diligence; accuracy and versatility while black musicians are more innovative and great at feeling the music. These characteristics often make whites fine instrumentalists but vocals should be primarily emotive. That in my opinion is why black people are better vocalists in general.
But as always, there are some exceptions such as Dr. John and Randy Newman—it’s the feeling it invokes, that’s what makes it the blues.
Is blues music as popular in Poland as reggae?
Well, no, neither genre is very popular in Poland. Blues mostly appeal to older people while reggae is for young ears.
What kind of gigs do you normally play in Poland, and are you looking to bring your music to London?
In Poland, I play in duet called Przytuła&Kruk where we play old Delta music and songs of our own. We’ve taken part in a number of contests and have been fortunate to get some kind of award in every competition we’ve entered, even winning two of them, Galicja Blues Festiwal in Krosno and Flower Power Festival in Opatów. We’ve also recently recorded our first album and hope that it will be available to buy in Poland by the end of the year. I can’t wait to play a few gigs in London but I see it as an opportunity start playing as a solo artist.
For more information about Bartek Przytuła and upcoming gigs, visit the website he shares with Tomek Kruk: www.przytulkruka.pl