Choosing which charities you support is often daunting, in recent years we’ve involved the children to help choose which charities will benefit from what little we can afford to donate. Nacoa aren’t a large or glamorous charity, they don’t benefit from a dedicated PR team that can do blogger outreach but Nacoa do very important work and they’re a charity I’m happy to support. View Full Post
I hit 42 years of age on Saturday. As birthdays go, it wasn’t a great one to be honest, mostly my own fault but I felt a bit flat after Christmas, the weather was awful and we’d arranged my daughters 8th birthday party for the late afternoon.
I’m impossible to buy stuff for because the only things I really want (as oppose to need) are too expensive for presents. You know, a PSVR headset, a nice turntable and an amp, all in the £350 to £600 range, which is about (at the top end anyway) ten times more than have for presents. So I had a nice homemade SpongeBob Square Pants storage box from Fifi and a pair of techno socks* from my lovely wife.
It wasn’t the lack of gifts that made it a bit duff, rather the weather- originally I’d wanted to go out for the day (trip to the rather bleak seaside top of the list) but having Fifi’s party had put the kybosh on that. No problem, we could go out for a walk in the morning. Both the boys protested by taking their socks and trousers off when I suggested this (pants stayed on mercifully), so that didn’t happen. My first trip out for the day saw me go to the DIY store to buy a can of damp sealant. I scraped bumpers with the bloke next door on my way back which was a nightmare I could have done without. It put me a really rotten mood.
The rotten mood was alleviated by Fifi though, who provided me with an envelope containing the following:
Which was lovely and cheered me up no end. The post title comes from Fifi’s aunty, who made that comment when she saw the letter!
I should point out I’m generally miserable on my birthday, I hate being the centre of attention for simply being a year older, as though I’ve done something to warrant it other than simply not dying. I don’t like people spending money on me either. It’s never anyone else’s fault I have a rubbish day, it’s all self inflicted!
*merino wool walking socks, not some dance through back global hypercolour socks.
We struggle to get any of our three kids to do much reading. I think it’s laziness on their part, although they do admittedly have slightly more distraction than we did growing up. Although we had computer games, which if you’ve ever looked at our retro gaming blog you’ll know all about, the telly available was much more limited.
I was always a voracious reader but also a demented writer too. I was the first person in our secondary school to submit typed essays (on the dot matrix printer Dad got for our Atari ST), and there was initially a bit of wrangling over whether that was acceptable. My Dad pointed out that if they were worried someone else had written it, I could simply have hand copied something that someone else had written anyway, which was a fair point. On top of that concerns about length, when a 450-500 word essay took 8 or 9 pages of some girls bubble writing but fitted on one side of printed paper, were just mad.
I was also a precocious reader, ploughing through the kids section at our local library and making the jump to adult fiction as soon as I started secondary school (if not in the final year of primary if I check the dates closely enough). View Full Post
I’m stepping outside of my family to talk about the wider blogging community in this post, hold on to your hats, it’s a scary bumpy ride! This post has been prompted by endless Facebook posts about (cyber) bullying over the last year or so. The opinions here are my own, based on my views, and are not targeted at individuals because lets face it, I interact with so few of the blogging community now, whenever I meet new people, they assume I’m a newbie. As a parent who suffered physical bullying myself, I know what bullying is and what it can do to a child and I want to clear a few things up.
As long as I’ve been involved in the parent blogging community (that would be around 2007 vicariously and 2009 directly) people have argued the toss about everything, from bottle feeding to PSD, and more recently over who is a freebie grabbing corporate whore and who isn’t.
People disagree, people argue. People can disagree pleasantly, in a rational and dispassionate manner and people can disagree with a vituperative spleen venting tirade of invective. At the end of the day it boils down to the same thing, two people disagreeing over something. View Full Post
Nintendo, never a company to follow the trend, have launched a new console today, with a release date of 3rd March. That means retail units have already been made to build up stock for launch. They kept that one quiet! The Nintendo Switch unsurprisingly doesn’t follow the trend of more of the same but more powerful than what came before. Don’t get me wrong, I love the PS4 and Xbox One S, they both give a gaming experience that is unparalleled in terms of home console gaming but in a sense they follow a distinct paradigm that was started by Sega and Sony with the Saturn and the Playstation. A disc (and now disc and downloadable content) based system that focuses on 3D grunt. As the grunt gets more grunty, the games look more realistic and become more involved.
Nintendo have looked at the market and decided to do something different. There are some differentiators between the PS4 and Xbox One, the PS4 has it’s new PSVR virtual reality headset, the Xbox One tried motion control with the Kinect but now focuses on a better integrated user experience. In the end, if you’re not willing to shell out £350 for the VR headset, the choice effectively comes down to exclusive games and which system most of your mates have. From Nintendo’s point of view, it seems they decided there was little sense in introducing a third system that was much the same as the other two, that would make for a very crowded market. View Full Post
While the kids made merry over Christmas with tons of Netflix Christmas related movies (and none of the adverts that drive them up the wall and me to distraction as some shiny bit of tat attracts their attention), we sat down of an evening to watch another new Netflix Original, The OA.
The nature of the OA is such that it’s very difficult to write about it without spoiling either the set up, main conceit or conclusion but nevertheless I’m going to try and if this reads poorly as a result, I apologise and simply suggest you watch the damn thing.
The OA is ostensibly a science fiction drama that deals with a girl called Prairie who spent 7 years held captive by a kidnapper. When she was abducted she was blind but when she came back, she could see. Prairie tells her story to a disparate group of sceptical people who grow to believe her and the preternatural powers she talks about. View Full Post
When authors return to a much loved setting many years later it can be as much a cause for alarm as celebration but Tad Williams is doing just that, 24 years after the hardback release of To Green Angel Tower, the final volume in his Memory, Sorrow and Thorn series. The Heart of What Was Lost is Tad Williams long awaited return to the world of Ostern Ard, and I’ve been itching to get my hands on the book since it was announced.
I can still remember reading the original series for the first time. Born in 1975, I turned 18 when To Green Angel Tower came out and remember feeling exceptionally excited for a multitude of reasons, not least just how young Tad Williams was- 36 at the time of publication in 1993- with a whole life time to write wonderful books ahead of him.
Although I have the entire Otherworld series in hardback (a mainstay of Christmas’ and birthdays from ’96 onwards) and absolutely adore The War of the Flowers, it was always the lack of any more Osten Ard that disappointed me slightly. I remember at the time Williams said if he did return to his fictional world, it would probably be for a collection of short stories but that never came about. View Full Post
I read a book once where the main baddie was called The Remover of Inconvenient Obstacles. It was a good book and the name stuck with me. We could currently do with a Remover of Inconvenient Obstacles because every way we look there seems to be an insurmountable obstacle.
Yesterday I took a car load of crud to the dump and was there for about an hour and a half queuing, dropping large pieces of chipboard in to skips and individually flatpacking about 40 8 and 16bit computer game cardboard boxes, removing the plastic inserts, and flinging them into a cardboard recycling skip.
It was a large car load too. I now have a company car, a Honda Civic Tourer, which is a posh way of saying estate. With the seats flat, like they were yesterday, it has a boot capacity of over 600 litres. I still had stuff in the passenger foot well.
After that we filled the boot with several hundred (probably somewhere between three and four at a guess) books and drove them round to the Oxfam Bookshop. The staff looked a little shell-shocked as we did about 8 trips to bring them all in.
Next up was six bin bags full of clothes to be recycled. I got rid of some that I have pictures of me wearing on our honeymoon. We were married in 2004. I did find some nice newer stuff that I had forgotten I owned, which was good. Basically I’ve been wearing the same 4 t-shirts on rotation for about a year as anything else requires me to have my section of the wardrobe out in it’s entirety because it’s rammed past capacity with clothes. There is still room for improvement though. I still have 5 pairs of shorts and ten jumpers, which seems a little excessive.
So all this stuff removed, a car full of junk, 3-400 books, 6 bin bags of clothes, it’s transformed our house right?
Nope. While we have almost cleared one bookcase, we still have about 3 ft of books on it and most of the four other bookcases are double stacked. We could easily fill it over again and still not completely un-double stack everything. The garden does look a bit tidier as the horrible plastic toy car has gone but that’s about it.
I keep telling myself it must have made a difference because I can see physically the amount of stuff we’ve removed but it really doesn’t look much different. I suppose the only way forwards is to do it again. And again. And again, until we’ve got next to nothing but space.
As a new year starts, I see lots of people vowing to read plenty of books in 2017. I love reading but I always struggle with finding the time, so with that in mind, I’ve decided to list the last dozen I read in an attempt to motivate me to the next 12. That’s only one a month after all. There are a couple of series in there, so I’ve classed those as one each.
|Leviathan Wakes by J Corey||The first in a long series of near future science fiction, recently adapted for TV and it's great!|
|Night Without Stars by Peter F Hamilton||The final book in Hamilton's 2 parter that finishes off his Commonwealth books. Satisfactory ending.|
|The Gentleman Bastard sequence by Scott Lynch||These are great, real sense of adventure and brilliant humour. Suffer a little if read back to back as a tad formulaic.|
|The Psychopath Test by John Ronson||One of two non fiction titles here, brilliantly funny but also great empathy from Ronson as he examines what a psychopath is.|
|The World of Ice and Fire||Well, GRRM isn't actually going to get a physical novel out any time soon is he?|
|Dancer's Lament Ian Esslemont||Another of the legion of Malazan spin off books, can't believe they're so well written given how many there are.|
|Memory, Sorrow and Thorn by Tad Williams||In my opinion, the best fantasy series ever, and I reread it as a new series is coming. WooHoo!|
|The Thing Explainer by Randall Munroe||Randall Munroe, of xkcd.com fame, uses an incredibly limited vocab to explain very complicated stuff. It's great|
* the astute among you might currently be railing at how that list isn’t 12 books long. It contains some series. You can even debate how long one of them is- it was 3 books in hardback, 4 in paperback.
Our kids lust after toys. The first draft of their Christmas lists came in at the price of a
small family car. The lists included retired LEGO sets that sell for £600, everything NERF have ever made, and more cuddly toys and sweets than the Child Catcher would have probably accumulated during his career. View Full Post
And breathe. The whole Christmas and New Year period is now over. I’m back at work, but I’m told the official marker for the end of the Festive Period is the Darts Final and since that happened yesterday, things are officially now getting back to normal.
I wrote last week how I’m not a huge fan of Christmas Day, and the same goes for new year really. We were in bed by 10:30, although the intermittent fireworks that seem to be a tradition now (from 11pm to around half one in the morning) woke me up more than once. View Full Post