Win a Walton’s Honeypot Snug Playhouse!

wpid-wp-1440617819579.jpgWaltons, the UK’s biggest sole supplier of sheds and outhouses, are running a super competition at the moment, with an ace prize of a Honeypot Snug Playhouse (RRP £169.95). Unlike a lot of cheaper playhouses, this has a 10 year anti rot guarantee, and a sturdy construction that puts the mass production ones to shame.

The competition itself is as simple as anything to enter; all you have to do it get your small would be playhouse dweller to draw a picture of their dream playhouse, and tweet/facebook it using the hashtag detailed on the competition blog post

When I asked Fifi what her ideal playhouse would look like, she had a long think and came up with this:

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I’m not entirely sure how feasible it would be to build something like that put Fifi certainly put some effort into it!

Sexual harassment shouldn’t be the norm

I was reading another depressing article on harassment of women the other day, this time involving jogging. It’s depressing that women can’t even go out for a run without getting cat-called or sexually harassed but ultimately not surprising, and as parents we have a responsibility to make sure we raise kids who know that this sort of behaviour isn’t okay.

When parents let their kids play 18 rated video games or watch 18 rated films, the criticism of the exposure to violence is often the first one that is raised. As a 40 something parent myself, with a long term interest in both films and video games, I’ve long been of the opinion that the sexual violence and attitude towards women in both video games and movies is as much of a problem, if not moreso, than the violence.

If ten year olds are banging prostitutes, and then stealing the money back off them in GTA, or watching 20 year old girls play the love interest to an ageing 50 something action star in a movie, is it small wonder that this only reinforces the attitude they have of women as nothing more than sexual objects that the freely available online porn gives them? Yes, porn obviously is responsible for a lot of the objectification of women that boys and men are exposed to but when the mainstream media reinforces it rather than contradicting it, what are impressionable people supposed to think?

It’s insidious- watch any awards ceremony, interview with athletes, and you’ll see the man asked about his performance/work skills/etc, while the woman will be asked about what she’s wearing, how she balances family life with work or other completely different stuff.

I’m not in favour of ruining childhood and I know I had a free run on a lot of stuff when I was younger but there is definitely something to say about the innocence of childhood.

Reminds me of the old joke:

I was having sex the other day, banging away, when suddenly I stopped mid-thrust and stood really still.
“What are you doing?”
“Something I learnt from online porn. It’s called ‘buffering’.”

It’s funny but does highlight the pervasiveness of online porn and how it affects lads. It reminds me of an article I remember reading about the effects of porn on men- one woman said she had a boyfriend who always withdrew and wanted to ejaculate over her chest/face because he thought that’s what was normal. Yes, that’s the most ridiculous (and probably grossest) thing you’ve read today but I’ve no reason to believe it isn’t true and that’s what makes it all the more depressing.

What is required is a sea change in attitude, something that has to start with us and our kids.

It needs to be done now.

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Featured post: Extending is the new moving

All rooms need to be cat approved

All rooms need to be cat approved

I’m currently in the process of having a big clear out. While wifey is getting rid of stuff down the charity shop, i’m going a slightly different route-I’m flogging a load of my old video games on eBay. Only the other day I got £70 for Burning Rangers on the Sega Saturn, something I spent a fiver on in HMV back in the 90’s. I do have an ulterior motive though, I’m saving up for a new PC for the living room and that’s likely to cost me between five and six hundred pounds. I can’t justify subverting any of our regular income for a couple of reasons, firstly it’s a lot of money to spend on a luxury just for me and secondly, we are eyeing up another extension.

I suppose technically we haven’t really had an extension as yet; we have had a garage conversion that just so happened to bring the extension the previous owners had done on the back of the garage into the main house too. Still, because of where we live, any move, even downsizing, will cost us around two thirds of the cost of a single story extension in terms of stamp duty, estate agents fees and moving costs. So we’d be barmy to move but having a ground floor extension across the entire back of the house is something that is sorely tempting us. It would give us a much bigger kitchen and living room but as importantly would provide another route into the garage conversion, meaning we could bypass the playroom entirely.

Funding it though is another matter. When we dropped off our fixed rate mortgage 5 years ago, we ended up on one that’s a point above base rate, meaning we’ve been paying 1.5% for the last five years. We could easily afford 5% (that’s what the fixed rate was) and could stretch to 10% if we tightened our belts. However any affordability calculator that a mortgage lender has doesn’t believe me when I put our expenditure in. We have no unsecured personal debt, other than about one months interest free loan on the boys drumkit, because we don’t spend what we don’t have. Despite living comfortably with our mortgage, and still being comfortable if we had to pay quite a lot more, remortgaging isn’t apparently an option.

This is however absolutely the sort of thing a personal loan is designed for. Looking at the TSB loan calculator, we could borrow enough for our extension at around 3.9% (we have some stashed away as it is) and pay it back over 7 odd years at under £400 a month. Which is nice.

Although I’m generally not in favour of debt, and would rather pay for things up front, being able to make a tangible difference over a relatively short period of time is important and at the end of the day would make our life better, which at the end of the day is the important thing!

When did my geeky hobby become cool?

Following on from my post the other day, Effortless Cool Vs Me, I started thinking about the interests I’ve had ever since I was little and how they seem to be a lot more socially acceptable today than they did back then.

If you had to ask me what got me in to science fiction and fantasy stuff, I wouldn’t have to over think the answer, I could simply say it was tea time on 29 September 1979, and it was precisely the moment that Count Scarlioni pulled off his latex mask to reveal a shaggy green Cyclopean eyed head. In other words, it was Doctor Who, The City of Death.

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The great thing about telly back then was the lack of endless repeats, something that makes it much easier to pinpoint a moment in time decades later. Of course at the time, this was a real problem, especially after the advent of the video recorder and my obsession with taping every episode of Doctor Who, Red Dwarf and Blackadder (woe betide anyone coming near me if I’d missed the start of the title sequence- it put me in a foul mood for a week).

Doctor Who on the telly lead me to the Doctor Who Target books, which lead me to sci-fi, which in turn lead me on to Lord of the Rings and then the rest of the fantasy that was lurking out there. People at school used to rip the piss out of me for reading books about goblins trolls and pixies but I didn’t care (much) and just took it stoically. It didn’t help that I was also a big fan of computer games at the time, something that had still to catch on with a lot of my peer group. I was seen as the odd person who liked odd stuff.

Fast forward 30+ years though and it’s all changed. I blame Harry Potter, the kids books that unaccountably have taken the adult world by storm. Those of us that have been reading Pratchett and other authors in the genre with cross generational appeal for decades took and still take an exception to a lot of Rowling’s comments about “rescuing the genre” but without a doubt, it bought it more into the mainstream, especially when the films were made. So while the Harry Potters were popular, my generation really got in on the act more recently when one of my favourite book series was adapted for TV. back in 1997 my friend Harry recommended me the first book in a series called A Song of Ice and Fire. For the first 3 volumes there was a 2 year gap between each book, then a five year gap, then a 6 year gap and now we’re 4 years since the last one. You may have watched the TV series, it’s called Game of Thrones.

It’s funny but some of what I think of as the uber fans of the TV series were probably not even born when I picked up the first volume in the late 90’s. The number of people round the office that profess to watch it is astonishing. Almost to a person, none of them would consider reading the books either, which shows the populist appeal.

All this- Potter, Game of Thrones, other shows like Battlestar Galactica, the proliferation of Super Hero movies, Tom Cruise & Will Smith making lots of sci-fi- has made the interests I had as a kid, if not cool exactly, a hell of a lot more acceptable