Nacoa, doing great work for kids with alcoholic parents


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.

I came across Nacoa via a friend at my old book group who was volunteering for them at the time, rather than being directly affected by the issue they deal with but once I knew about what they did and the support they give kids and families, it was difficult not to feel moved. I’m sure you’ve probably never heard of Nacoa either, and I’m hear to educate you. The charity kindly offered to do a Q&A with me to explain what they do and how they do it.

Who are Nacoa UK?

Nacoa (the National Association for Children of Alcoholics) is a charity founded in 1990 to address the needs of children growing up in families where one or both parents suffer from alcoholism or a similar addictive problem. As well as conducting research and raising awareness, we operate a free confidential helpline that is open to people of all ages, from all walks of life, to offer support and advice to anybody affected.

How big a problem is alcoholism in parents?

Parental alcoholism is a huge problem. Research consistently shows that approximately 1 in 5 children in the UK are currently living in a household where one or more parent is dealing with alcoholism. Social Services report that alcohol is a factor in 74% of child mistreatment cases and 40% of domestic violence incidents. In the majority of those cases, nothing is ever done to address the alcoholism.

For children of alcoholics, the associated instability in home-life leads to long-term problems: children living with parental alcoholism are 5 times more likely to develop an eating problem, 3 times more likely to consider suicide, and 4 times as likely to develop alcoholism or other addictions themselves. View Full Post

Nevermind at 25- prepare to have your mind blown!


There have been a few articles recently about the 25th anniversary of Nirvana’s Nevermind. We’ve also had the slightly less heralded 25th anniversary of Primal Scream’s Screamadelica. View Full Post

We’re possibly the parents of a musical savant

Rocksmith 2014 The Trooper

Iron Maiden’s The Trooper

When the boy got 93% on his first drumming exam I was surprised to say the least. He refused to practice for almost a month before the actual exam, froze in the practice room before the exam itself, and didn’t say a word for an hour and a half afterwards. We spent the 3 weeks between the exam and the results arriving on our doormat prepping him for failure, telling him that we were proud of him for even doing it (we never thought he’d manage to go to an unfamiliar exam centre and follow an unfamiliar examiner) but we were blown away. 20/20 on two of the three composition pieces, 18/20 on the third, 6/10 on the listening test, and one other mark dropped in the rest, it was nothing short of incredible and his teacher was blown away too. View Full Post

Misery: the playlist

We have a fairly robust approach to the general sobbing and misery that the kids tend to exhibit. Unless it’s something that we feel they have a genuine right to be upset about, the tears get short shrift with us. For example, tears are acceptable if one of your friends has been mean to you and won’t play with you, but rather less so if I’ve put a tiny bit too much milk on your breakfast cereal. Tears are okay if you can’t find your favourite teddy at bedtime but rather less so if you’re sobbing because I won’t pass you your teddy when it’s under 20cm away.

You get the general idea. View Full Post

Up next, the walls will probably start bleeding


I think we may have inadvertently relocated to the town of Amity, and purchased a certain haunted house. You know that bit in all good haunted house movies where it goes dark at midday? There’s an ominous bit of music playing in the background, and the light gradually dims, and the characters understandably freak out? That sort of happened to us the other day. View Full Post

Review: Bamboo Spark smart notebook

spark-gadget-pocketThere is a big disconnect between the very modern digital world we live in and our kids are growing up in and something as simple as drawing and for me that is the bridge that the Wacom Bamboo Spark builds so well. Although ostensibly marketed as a smart note book, and the handwriting recognition is pretty good (at least on par with Android’s built in handwriting recognition), for me the review unit that Wacom kindly provided was a chance to check out how easy it is to digitise the kids drawings.

My kids are at home on tablets and touchscreen computers, as well as being fairly keyboard and mouse proficient but when it comes to drawing, they still dig out their felt tipped pens and pencils. Ironically I have plenty of devices with a stylus- my Surface 3 I’m writing this on has a snazzy one, my Nvidia Shield tablet has one too and we tried (cheaper) capacitive styli. They all work to varying degrees but none of them are the same as writing on paper with a pen and that’s where the problem comes for kids.

I was recently at an evening with Dave Gibbons, the rather famous British comic illustrator who has drawn, amongst other things, Dan Dare, Harlem Heroes, Ro-Busters and Rogue Trooper, Green Lantern, and the legendary Watchmen. He said that he now draws entirely digitally but it took a lot of time and effort to translate his style on to a graphics tablet, something I’m fairly sure our 7 and 9 year olds wouldn’t be able to stomach.

Before you ask, yes it is possible to scan drawings using a multi function printer or a dedicated scanner but to be completely honest, I’ve never found the results brilliant and pretty much everything has been pixelated. The benefit of a system like this is that it’s designed for exactly what you want to use it for.

The Bamboo Spark comprises a folio cover and a smart pen. Although it comes with a pad of paper, you can put your own in as the clever tech is nothing to do with the paper, it’s to do with the electromagnetic resonance technology in the back cover that interacts with the pen. Turning the folio on is easy, there is a slider at the bottom, and telling it that you’re about to start drawing is simply a case of pushing the big friendly circular button, it’ll flash and show you it’s okay to write.

The results are pretty cool:


Because you’re drawing normally with the Bamboo Spark, the digital image you end up with is exactly the same as the one on the page, there is no dithering, odd sizing or anything. It’s so simple, even a child can use it.

The Bamboo Spark retails for £120 but you can pick it up for £80 (from Amazon). When you finish the pad of paper, it’s simply a case of replacing it with one of your own. Ink refills are inexpensive, so there is no real additional cost after purchase but a device that will serve you well for quite some considerable time.


Just why was 15 September 2016 a landmark day for us?

I watched everyone posting their back to school photos the other week with interest but didn’t get involved myself. For me back to school isn’t/wasn’t a landmark event. Yes, obviously my kids are a year older than they were when they started a new school year 12 months ago, and the creep towards finishing primary school has begun for our eldest as he enters year 5 (Junior 3 in old money) but for me Thursday 15 September 2016, is the really important landmark date. View Full Post

A day out at the The Duxford Air Show: Meet The Fighters

A little while ago we were invited as guests of the Imperial War Museum to their Duxford site in Cambridgeshire for their autumn airshow, Meet the Fighters. Since wifey was due to be away with Fifi, I thought it would be an ideal boys day out and I’m pleased to say I wasn’t wrong.

Typically we managed to pick the one day of the whole week where the weather was properly atrocious; it was windy, and it rained an awful lot. Fortunately for us, the planes still flew and it was great to see the Hurricanes and Spitfires up, and there was also plenty to do in the museum itself, which is on a huge site that covers an entire old (WWII) airfield itself. View Full Post

The Grammar School Question

I hadn’t anticipated listening to the claptrap about grammar school reintroduction today but I heard an interview with Michael Fallon, the defence secretary, on Radio 4 this morning ostensibly about NATO peace keepers that veered into education towards the end and now I’m cross. I’ve generally given up on Radio 4 in the mornings since Nick Robinson joined the team but the courtesy car I’ve got has a dodgy aerial and can’t hold onto a music station very well.

Something Fallon (privately educated) said really stood out, for all the wrong reasons, which is really no surprise when it comes to education:

“That’s the kind of choice I want to see in every part of the country,[Everywhere] should have a choice, a proper choice of good schools. Not a choice that’s passing the 11-plus and then failing it and having to go off to a sink school of the kind that has let our children down so badly.”

Apparently we currently have a system that doesn’t have a good choice of schools, and basically sees the majority end up at sink schools. I’ve taken the quote from a newspaper article but did hear it spoken, and it confuses the hell out of me. Half the ills in schools at the moment come from an obsession with testing, bench marking and administration, the other half comes from chronic under-funding. Personally I’ve seen my nine year old son’s love of writing crushed under a need to make sure his paragraphs have fronted adverbials or other such nonsense included that when googled only seem to appear on school curriculum websites. I’m not alone in detesting this, Michael Rosen isn’t a fan either. View Full Post

The great stink


History has some great named events; The Great Sheep Panic of 1888 is one of my favourites but The Great Stink of 1858 is another classic. Basically all the sewerage in London more or less drained into the Thames, which was tidal, so all sorts of crap (literally) was left on the foreshore in the hot summer weather. Somethings never change, and it only became a recognised problem when the Houses of Parliament were effected by the stench that action was eventually taken and a new sewer system that moved all the effluence out of the metropolitan area was built.

We love a bit of history in our house, most of it gained from Horrible Histories or other great documentary series, so reading about this on our recent trip to the Museum of London to see their Great Fire of London exhibition was good fun. I even made the eldest pose for the above picture (in lieu of not being able to take pictures in the temporary exhibition).

I was prompted to write about the Great Stink by the fact we have an unfathomable smell in our office kitchen. We think it’s something to do with the water filter that’s plumbed in to the mains water but can’t be sure. It’s bad. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become generally less tolerant of smells myself. Sometimes when I go to the gents for an extended visit, the smell is enough to make me gag, let alone anyone else in the family. The same is true for all the lads in our house, which probably means it hereditary. Consequently I’ve decided to print out the photo above, laminate it, and stick up on the wall of the downstairs toilet. Call it inspirational, or comiseratorial (is that a word, it is now) but it will fit it’s new environs pretty (far too) well.