Fail-safe Father’s Day Gifting with Boots

Fathers Day is a tricky one to deal with as a father of small children, which is why it’s always a good idea to point the family at Boots. It’s a case of balancing what you’d actually like with what is i) affordable and ii) something the kids would actually like to give you. A case in point is I’d quite like a new soldering iron and a stand but that’s not something the kids will actually get any joy in getting for me. Frankly it would just confuse them.

So it needs careful planning to ensure you get something that you want and something that the kids want to give you. It doesn’t always work out though, last year when I gave it the old “just make me a card, that would be perfect, I don’t want anything”, routine I got a cravat. Apparently, I had complimented Matt Berry’s cravat in the amusing film What We Do in the Shadows and that

A cravat. Honestly

was enough of an indication that I should like to own a cravat. Now I’ve written the word cravat four times, I’m beginning to even doubt it’s a word. The time before that when I couldn’t be bothered to come up with something I got a jumper with my twitter profile motto ever so slightly paraphrased.

It’s not that I’m ungrateful; far from it but if people are going to spend the money, they should spend it on something, well, better.

This is where Boots comes in handy. I’m often running through their Christmas gift aisle on Christmas eve, exchanging knowing (and panicked) looks with other men because we all leave our shopping to absolutely the last minute. Which reminds me, it’s our 15th wedding anniversary tomorrow and I simply must get something.

Anyway I digress, the range at Boots for Father’s Day gifts handily solves the issue of cravat vs misspelled jumper as they have plenty in terms of scents, shaving and general pampering stuff to cater for all but the most picky of picky individuals.

If I had to put together an informed yet spontaneous list of some of the groovy things you can get for Father’s Day at Boots, well it would look a little something like this:

So that’s my advice then; chuck your nearest and dearest mini people (and their mum) towards Boots if you can’t decide what to pick up as a gift this Father’s Day. Job done!

Do you find it hard to buy for your Dad on Father’s Day? Well here’s your chance to win something amazing for him! All you have to do is leave a comment below on what you like to do with your Dad on Father’s Day, and what kind of gifts he usually appreciates!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This post is an advertised collaboration with Boots but all thoughts are my own

I think any relevance I had died a while back

I have a 7 year old who patiently explains to me that if something is sick, it’s actually good, while my 10 year old bolts from the room if anyone actually mentions sick or does a throaty cough.

I’m not sure what, if anything, this means but I know it means I’m getting left behind by the modern age. It’s bad enough half the time when I get a blank response from quoting a TV show or movie at work I realise the person I’m quoting it at wasn’t born when the show was first broadcast.

Getting old is inevitable though, getting irrelevant shouldn’t be so I guess I need to up my game a bit!

childcare.co.uk, granting parents a little window of freedom for ten years

We have three kids, ranging in age from 7 to 12 and it’s logistically been a nightmare over the years. A one point we did the maths and realised that it would take a gross salary of around £50,000 to deal with all the childcare costs every year (holidays, after school clubs and actual childminding for our littlest). Obviously that was a bit bonkers so my wife made the only sensible decision and restrained as a childminder herself. During her one OFSTED inspection she gained an outstanding rating, and was herself registered on the childcare.co.uk website.

because life is just as ironic as Alanis Morrisette would have you believe, we’ve actually been using childcare.co.uk from the other side recently. Due to a perfect storm of our regular babysitters going to Denmark and Australia for a year each, we’ve been a bit stuck locally. Although we love our children dearly, to be honest we can’t wait for the odd night out without the little darlings to come round as it can all get a bit tiring at times. I’m half convinced that they have worked out a complex routine for pestering us- some sort of rota or shared Google Calendar- because as soon as one has presented themselves to us at 10pm saying they’re too hot, another one is complaining of the cold, and the final one makes an appearance ten minutes later with a tummy ache.

As I’ve said, childcare.co.uk is great for finding well qualified childminders but it is also great for finding babysitters too. The filters are great, meaning you can find sitters who have been DBS checked, or sitters with SEN experience, paediatric first aid qualifications and pretty much anything else you could possibly either want or think of.

Where childcare.co.uk excels is the extra mile it goes in terms of safety. A babysitter I was looking at had a nice tick next to DBS check but also a red triangle that said whilst the sitter had stated she had been DBS checked, she hadn’t as yet uploaded her form, so be sure to ask her. It’s little things like this that make it easier to trust your kids to a stranger.

It took a matter of minutes to compile a list of half a dozen babysitters within a mile of our house who all seemed to fit the particular criteria that we were looking for. If only this sort of service had been available to my parents when I was younger, I wouldn’t have had to put up with Penny from next door babysitting and could have watched my taped off BBC2 collection of Hammer Horror movies without having to hover my finger permanently over the change channel button.

More useful still is a category I hope we never have to use and that’s the emergency babysitter one. There have been a couple of occasions where we’ve had trips to A&E with one child (nothing too serious!) and in an ideal world we’d both liked to have gone but since our parents aren’t that local, it hasn’t been feasible. This is where an emergency babysitter would have been a godsend.

It’s things like that, coupled with the review system (and a really high Trustpilot score) that make childcare.co.uk a great resource for parents!

ClassDojo, helping schooling into the 21st century

One of the most frustrating things about communicating with our kids school is the haphazard way they use email. More often than not, we get email that simply says please see the attached letter (which is in PDF format). PDFs are not the best for reading on a mobile phone and invariably these always end up being sent at the wrong time of day for either of us to be anywhere near a computer. Talking to friends, we are far and away not alone in this, so I’m not singling out our kids school- honest!

It is also difficult to contact the teachers directly with any particular issue either- through no fault of theirs I should stress- as every morning there is a queue to see form teachers and they’re often busy after school and home by the time either of us finishes work.

it’s funny that in the work place we adopt lots of collaborative systems like Slack or Microsoft Teams to make our communication and workflow better but in other areas of life still have to rely on an email with a PDF attachment, or even in the case of the doctors, a letter that’s dictated and sent overseas for transcription.

Fortunately if you have a school that’s either onboard with the 21st century or open to suggestion, it doesn’t have to be this way because clever people out there have noticed that downloading and squinting at PDFs or leaving work early to have a five minute chat with a teacher isn’t really the most sensible thing to do and you know what? They’re right.

Enter ClassDojo, already used by a good 40% of primary school teachers in around 85% of primary schools, if your school hasn’t jumped on board, it’s time to ask them if they intend to. If it turns out your school actually does use ClassDojo and you just didn’t realise it, there are plenty of benefits to using it.

ClassDojo connects teachers with families so they can become a “teaching team.” Teachers can instantly share pictures, videos and messages with families about what’s happening throughout the school day.If, like me, you’re greeted with a “Not anything” when you ask how the day has gone or seem to spend half of your ten minutes at parents evening asking what you can specifically do to support your kid at home, this sounds like a godsend. I can still remember the day I asked our lad what happened at school (he was in reception at the time) and he said “nuffin” but the following week we saw a photo of him on the school website sitting in a big yellow digger.

ClassDojo is also an app that your kids can use, which helps to get them involved and develop both responsibility and accountability.

Kids can even use it to update you as parents to what they’re up to in the classroom. I know for a fact all our kids are brimming with pride when it comes to parent evening, how much more exciting would it be to let them share via ClassDojo as and when they do something cool, obviously once agreed by the teacher!

ClassDojo is available in primary schools so what are you waiting for? Check it out and if you like what you see, be sure to mention it to your school!

This post is advertorial content for ClassDojo

Rudimental (DJ Set) to headline 21st edition of Nozstock The Hidden Valley

Nozstock The Hidden Valley is back for its 21st season this summer. Following on from last year’s spectacular sell-out 20th anniversary, the independent festival now reveals its main wave of artists.


Joining Nozstock so far are Rudimental (DJ set), Soul II Soul, The Skatalites, David Rodigan, Hollie Cook, Elvana: Elvis fronted Nirvana, Oh My God! It’s The Church, Henge, Jam Baxter, DJ Zinc + SP:MC, Turno, Notion, A Skills, Randall, Hospitality Takeover and loads more!

Last years Nozstock was pretty special, I absolutely LOVED Grandmaster Flash and a load of the other acts but Rudimental is a particular favourite in our household so it’s bound to be really exciting.

Nozstock is one of the UK’s longest running festivals. Set on a beautiful working farm, it is family-run, home-made and proudly independent. It’s a gloriously eccentric and decadently off-kilter brain-shift with incredible detail at every turn. A small festival with a big heart which continues to chart its own path, far away from commercialism and following the flock. Nozstock transcends the classic festival experience, creating its own sense of community and escapism for a few precious days. The Nosworthy family curate one of the UK’s finest portfolios of music and arts, with a huge focus on keeping families entertained in the Little Wonderland Kids’ Area.

Payment by instalments available, and you can find all the details below. I recommend watching some of the videos to get a good idea of how cool it all is!

www.nozstock.com / @Nozstock  / facebook.com/nozstockthehiddenvalley
youtube.com/nozstockfestival   /   instagram.com/nozstock

The internet content filtering dilema

Don’t try anything on my WiFi network

I think the general consensus among parents I talk to is that their kids should be spoken to and rationally convinced that they shouldn’t look at naughty stuff on the internet. It’s the modern, involved, right on option to take. The problem is, any kid is only a couple of clicks away hot anal action or instructions on how to make homemade explosives either by accident or intent. And lets face it, we don’t want our kids either looking at that sort of stuff or conflating the two to come up with hot anal explosions do we?

There are a couple of options available to parents: all internet access is done in the communal living space and fully supervised. Who’s got time for that? Or you can use some sort of filter. Some routers now have basic filtering settings to weed out problem sites. There are also subscription services like Disney’s Circle that do device by device filtering. I’ve tried a few of these and they’re…. okay. If you’re a bit more technically minded you can even switch your DNS servers to OpenDNS and put site/category specific filters in, though this isn’t for the faint hearted.

The best solution I came up with in the end was a new Synology router, the RT2600AC Wi-Fi AC 2600.

Synology made their name in network storage but their router carries the user friendly interface across and it comes with some great apps, including the rather useful Safe Access. This allows you to assign devices to individuals, give the individual time limits, a curfew and filter the content to remove anything you don’t want them to see. The best part is you can customise the block screen that comes up when someone searches for something they shouldn’t…

Tinkering with the sublime

Before MTV even considered Pimp My Ride there was an obvious market for after market modifications to cars, be it the silly spoilers lads put on the back of their XR2is or right at the other end, RUF building you a custom car that looks like a Porsche 911 on steroids. I mean, have you seen the insane Nurbergring Yellowbird video?

Anyway, I digress. I’ve always said that my first port of call on a lottery win would be a sports car to tide the gap until I could get something a bit more unique. The way car financing works today, anything right up until to get to McLarens aren’t particularly exotic on the road any more. I drive around our middle of the road surban estate (not one of the more expensive areas in St Albans I hasten to add) and I see various high end Jags, an Audi R8, a Ferrari and several different Porsche 911s (a Turbo, a Carrera 4 GTS, and a plain old Carrera amongst others). Someone over the other side of town has a Lamborghini Huracan with a rather garish wrap job that makes it swirly and mirrored (think the old TVR chameleon paint and you wouldn’t be a million miles off). Lambo always used to have the reputation of being the supercar that fat Italian businessmen drove up the village to visit their mistresses in but things have changed mightily since ’98 when VW bought the company and put it under the control of Audi. German reliability and Italian flair? What could go wrong?

Of course there are a lot of aftermarket kits and modifications you can make to your car, even if it’s a Huracan. Some are cosmetic, some actually affect the performance of your car. It’s fascinating to see what’s involved in this sort of thing too- a lot of performance boosting now days just involves remapping the engine management to improve throttle response and to be honest, can be a bit boring to read through. I’ve been reading the Scuderia Car Parts blog which shows a Huracan up on the ramps with some serious tinkering occuring.

A new exhaust system and a carbon fibre spoiler is certainly a great way to personalise your Lambo!

And that’s what it’s really about I suppose. When I learnt to drive in the early 90’s it was a treat to see something as “exotic” as a 4th generation Supra. Even now, I was genuinely more excited to see an Alpine A110 in the metal than a lot of cars more than two or three times the price- I even drove a McLaren last year on a track day for goodness sake- which just goes to show it’s the niche element rather than the price sticker that makes a lot of these performance cars desirable. If you can spend around £50K on something that does 0-60mph in under 5 seconds, spending £150K on something straight out of the factory isn’t really an option any more.

Because England is the home to a lot of motorsport companies, the whole tuning and modding scene is very well developed here, and there are equally a large number of well established wholesalers that sell performance parts. Such a company is Scuderia Car Parts, with whom this post is a paid partnership. And yes, as the name suggests, they also do parts for Ferrari (and other) manufacturers too!

Nozstock: the most family friendly festival becomes EVEN more family friendly!

We’ve been to the Nozstock festival in Herefordshire for a few years now and we all love it. It’s small enough that the kids don’t feel overwhelmed but big enough that they don’t get bored. Last year was a particular highlight as Ned accidentally learnt the words to the Dub Pistols Mucky Weekend (fortunately he doesn’t understand a word of it. If you want to pick up on our review of it, you can read it here.

  • Expanding and improving family camping to accommodate more tents and more space
  • Increasing the number of toilets on site by 25% and introducing child-friendly toilets in family camping
  • Supplies available for family campers including loo roll, wet wipes, sanitiser, sun cream, plasters, toothpaste and site maps. Whilst stocks last!
  • ‘Save your space’ scheme. Booked to use family camping but want to make sure you have enough space to camp together? A limited amount of 5m2 pitches are available to hire to save your space
  • Little Wonderful Kids Area expanded to include more activities aimed at older children and a dedicated breastfeeding space

As you can see from my review of this years festival, Nozstock is already really family friendly, so any improvement is going to be the icing on the cake.

So if you’re looking for a last minute Christmas pressie, you can buy tickets for the 2019 festival here.

A useful instructional for the parents of boys

I don’t often publish instructionals and this one is even more out there as it’s from the BBC’s comedy show The Daily Mash (itself spun out of the satirical website of the same name).

However given the press recently on all sorts of shenanigans on the internet from kids not believing that Madeleine McCann was actually a real person, to what’s known as “redpilling“, it’s probably more relevant now than ever that we keep an eye on what our kids are up to online. Let’s face it, you don’t want to get down the line and long for the nostalgic days when all you had to worry about was your kid googling for “boobies” on the internet. Whether it’s right wing/racist/fascist stuff on YouTube, or endless conspiracy theories that younger people find hard to differentiate from the truth from poppycock, the important thing is to talk to your kids about it.

Which brings us on to the whole “incel” subculture in the video. I was terrible with girls at school but that was due to shyness, I didn’t feel the need to construct an entire narrative or reality around the way human interaction works to justify my crapness, I just knew I was shy. The whole incel movement, “involuntarily celibate” boys who go to rather extreme lengths to convince themselves that the world is ganging up on them reminds me rather of an old episode of Red Dwarf where Rimmer does the “worm do” joke from the 1,001 chat up lines book he has, and Lister tries to point out to him that women aren’t an unknown different species who have to be tricked into liking you.

That’s what I like about Rachel Parrish’s monologue above; although she rightly ridicules the whole movement, she doesn’t dismiss it and actually ends up with some (tongue in cheek) pointers to potential incels to stop them going down that crazy path.

Last night I got told off by my mum- I’m 43!

I’m used to be told off, it’s a part of life but it has been a number of years since my mum actually told me off. I’m well into my forties now and had thought that I’d passed that stage of my life. It appears that I haven’t.

I tend to have a weekly chat with my parents on the phone while I’m walking home from work. Although they’re only based 18 miles away, with three kids and lots of activities at the weekend, we only see them once every couple of months, so it’s good to keep in touch.

While I was chatting to mum yesterday, I mentioned that it’s great to be able to see what the boy has had for lunch- he’s newly started at secondary school and his school dinner money is done via biometrics- in this instance a thumb print. We can log on to an app and see what he’s spent and what he’s spent it on. Mum was impressed, I could tell. Mind you, a lot of technology impresses her generation, but even so, she said it was a shame that they didn’t have that sort of system when I was at school.

I was a creature of habit in my school days. Packed lunch containing:

  • two slices of Sainsbury wholemeal bread made into a Marmite sandwich (cut diagonally)
  • a bag of crisps (Ringos, Farmer Browns, Hula Hoops, Chipsticks)
  • a biscuit (orange/mint/fruit Club or a KitKat)
  • an apple
  • a carton of drink (5 Alive, Umbongo or something similar)

Blithely, I mentioned to mum I didn’t actually eat my packed lunch very often, instead I sold it to Mark Giltrow. Mark was on school dinners but didn’t like them and preferred a packed lunch, so I sold him mine for the equivalent of a school dinner, pocketing the money to fund my obsession with comics and computer games. Along with my 55p bus fare home I didn’t spend, choosing to walk instead, this added a huge £8.75 a week to my income. That was enough to buy a Megadrive game once a month!

There was silence on the other end of the phone. The silence extended and became awkward. Them mum replied, “You naughty boy, no wonder you were hungry when you got home, honestly Alex, I’m cross with you.”

I had to point out that we were talking about something that happened 30 years ago, and as a 43 year old parent of three I wasn’t about to take a telling off for something that happened so long ago but there was little I could say that would mollify her. I was in trouble!