cubaIf you to were run your eye over a certain book case in our house, a certain shelf would have a collection of Lonely Planet guides. Nestled amongst the guides to places we’ve been; Venice, Barcelona, Rome, Paris, Copenhagen, Sydney, and Western Australia is an anomoly. That anomoly is Cuba.

Both of us always wanted to go to Cuba, the famous Communist island just of the coast of America. Purchasing the book was an aspirational step in that direction. Cuba is unlike anywhere on earth, it was then and it just about still is now, although the window going forwards towards the end of the Castro inspired government is closing rapidly. Once that happens and a new government is in place, things will change and they’ll change rapidly, so it really is time to go.

When the Communists came to power and the Americans decided to put an embargo on pretty much everything that was allowed in and out of Cuba, time sort of froze. It’s stuff like the 1950’s American cars that Cuba is famous for but it’s the overall idea of a place out of time that really appeals to me. That and of course the hot weather. And the tequila. Now that diplomatic ties being the US and Cuba have been restored, it’s even better as you don’t have to worry about any issues getting into the US after going to Cuba.

We’re big fans of art and cultural stuff in our house, with the wife being a museum curator and all that, so the idea of seeing a lot of the untouched pre-revolution stuff (the art deco styling on the old Bacardi building being a prime example), or the wealth of (some times street sponsored) street art by guys like Alexis Leiva Machado, is something that appeals to us. Big cities unspoilt by high rise malls or the same coffee shop you can see 100 yards from your office, that is I think a part of Cuba that must appeal to most people. It’s getting harder to find untouched places to explore.

Whether we decide to take the kids or wait a year or two until they’re old enough to spend half term with the grandparents or aunty, it’s something that we still want to look in to doing… before it’s too late.

It’s emotional: a matter of perspective

As adults it is all too easy to assume that our problems and issues are the only real problems and issues that we face as families. After all, the loss of a job could threaten the roof over our families head, the decision on whether to take a promotion could mean we’d have to move house and even the decision on what to have for dinner could arguably (in the overall scheme of things from a nutritional standpoint) be a more important decision than whether to play with Colin and Bill at lunch time if they’re playing something that you don’t want to play.

It is very difficult at times to treat our kids worries and concerns with the amount of gravity they deserve because to us they seem trivial. Our eldest often gets the right hump when he knows he has to spend the next morning at school planning a story because he hates planning a story. Fifi sometimes worries about who to play with at lunch time, Ned worries about where the next snack will come from. To me, these can all too easily be silly worries but, in theory at least, I have the experience and emotional growth to be able to deal with them, while my kids don’t necessarily have the ability to do this.

Having said that, there is a thin line to tread between being supportive and being overprotective. I know personally I was “overprotected” for all the best reasons as a youngster and didn’t get a thick skin or the self confidence that learning from the normal knocks life brings until I was well into my twenties but it is difficult, even knowing that, to let my own kids work their way through difficult situations and find their own solution.

Life generally can be difficult at any age can’t it?

Review: LEGO Friends Girlz 4 Life on DVD

5000210678_UK_LEGO_G4L_DVD_SL_3D-2On Saturday Fifi and I used our Friends & Family railcard to pop into central London to attend the launch event for a feature length LEGO Friends DVD.

Personally in our house we like LEGO Friends. Fifi has always been much more about the role playing with toys than the construction, and LEGO Friends has the best of both worlds. The figures are distinctive, so unlike the normal minifigures, you can imbue each one with a distinct personality. I’ve found that when playing, Fifi is definitely more character driven than plot driven, whereas the boys are completely the opposite. She’ll have toys befriending animals and playing together, where the boys will have a train that crashes and causes a multiple car pile up. Boys eh?

LEGO Friends Girlz 4 Life follows the group of LEGO Friends characters, Andrea, Emma, Mia, Olivia, and Stephanie. Our favourite is Mia, if she was one of the Friends Friends and not a LEGO Friends, she’d be Phoebe- a bit off the wall and likes animals, just like our daughter. The story is based around the friends writing a song that then gets stolen by a conniving manager and turned into a big hit for a lonely pop star. As the girls try to get their song back before the big concert where everyone will incontrovertibly think of it as belonging to Livi, they deal with issues surrounding vanity, trust and friendship.

Fifi understandably loved it to pieces and was over the moon when her goodie bag had a copy of it on DVD. She’s probably watched it about a dozen times already and managed to drive Ned out of the playroom by putting it on so much. I must say as an individual I found it tolerable but as a parent I found it good- it has a moral story at it’s heart, a few catchy songs and obviously appeals to girls.

Lego girlz new 106

Boys and girls learn differently, play differently and as long as differentiating toys for them doesn’t simply come down to making something in pink or blue, I don’t think I have an issue with it. LEGO Friends has managed to get Fifi into building LEGO, which is something pretty much no other range has. Without the confidence in construction she’s got from Friends, I doubt she would have been able to build the Mystery Machine on her own at Christmas either.

LEGO Friends Girlz 4 Life is out to buy on Monday 15 Feb from all good retailers.

Ned’s bed time story appears to feature the Kingpin of Crime

Our littlest might be just 4 but he definitely knows what he likes and for the last year or so that has involved a Thomas the Tank Engine story at bed time. His sister has got so fed up with them that she leaves the room for “Thomas time”.

Last night’s story was about the Fat Controller, Sir Topham Hat (see what they did there? He wears a top hat most of the time so they’ve given him a funny name based around it). As far as I’m aware it’s the only Thomas the Tank Engine book we have where he isn’t always wearing his hat.

Just as well really as the de-hatted Fat Controller looks rather like a certain master criminal from Netflix’s rather ace Daredevil:

sir topham kingpin

Once you see the similarity, it’s difficult to unsee it and you begin to see sinister undertones in the Fat Controllers behaviour. Like Wilson Fisk, he simply wants everything to run properly, and he’s not beyond threatening his underlings (the engines) in order to get his own way. The Fat Controllers mission is a perfectly running railway, and he’s not afraid of who he hurts to get his own way. He is a man with a greater purpose.

It’s not a stretch to look at pages from the books and come up with your own words either: