That’s numberwang!

Kicking back with a buddy a couple of weeks ago with a few ales and my good friend Alexa, we devised a new game called ‘30 something‘. It’s not a complicated game but in our defence, it was about half past midnight and we had progressed to the 7% beer (at the beginning of the evening, we arranged the bottles in order of increasing strength). Basically you pick a famous child actor or actress and say, “Alexa, how old is this person?” and whoever gets closest to 35 wins that round.

Things went well until my chum progressed to being so drunk that Alexa could no longer recognise his voice and just simply ignored him. In that sense I figured AI had actually become more impressive than I realised- here was a female voiced AI basically ignoring a drunkards attempts at conversation. Good show Alexa.

Meanwhile, in a bit of non sequitur, I managed to tweet this:

 

Just think of it as a Mitchell & Webb tribute tweet.

Review: Ticket to Ride Europe

For my first foray into the Board Game Club, we’ve been playing Ticket to Ride Europe. This is a sequel to Ticket to Ride, which I hadn’t heard of either. Part of the reason I took up the offer to join the board game club was my board gaming sort of exists in a 1980’s milieu of Monopoly, Cluedo and Risk. And, if I’m going to be brutally honest, a few MB kids games like Frustration and Ludo. I’ve not moved on and as we’re trying to cut down on the amount of telly we watch, it seemed like a great idea.

Ticket to Ride impresses from the off- it’s a very sturdy (and heavy) box, and the board itself is enormous, taking up a large chunk of the table.

Setting up the game involves giving each player 45(!!!) train carriages, some stations and cards. There are a few nice touches with regard to the pieces; the carriages are made from a “nice” plastic, and I didn’t have to pop them out of a sheet or anything (a bugbear of the more recent kids games I’ve played). There is also a little bag with a couple of spares for each of the players in case any get lost. These are nice little touches which add to the impression of quality.

For those of you, like me, who haven’t played any of the Ticket to Ride series before, you play the game something like this:

Players choose tickets that show 2 cities that they need to connect with train routes. On their turn, players can take one of three actions:

  1. Collect train cards, either from the draw pile or from a set of five cards laid face up beside the board. Players do this to collect sets of cards of the same colour.
  2. Claim a route by discarding a set of cards which match the colour & length of the route. A grey route can be claimed by a set of any colour. This is how players build their routes to complete tickets. Players also score points for doing this and the longer the route is, the more points you score for that route.
  3. Draw tickets; you have to keep at least one of the tickets drawn each turn. Ticket scoring is done at the end of the game.
  4. Build a station on any city. Players have 3 stations to use during the game if they wish. Building stations costs tickets but the trade off can be beneficial as stations allow you to use a single route of an opponent as if it were your own for the purposes of completing tickets. However if you don’t use your stations then they are worth 4 points each at the end of the game.

 

It sounds a lot more complicated than it is- I think the biggest problem I had during our time playing it was lining up my 40 odd carriages in an aesthetically pleasing manner. For me, the biggest issue with any new board game is fathoming the rules out and with Ticket to Ride Europe it wasn’t too difficult to get stuck in playing.

Apparently Ticket To Ride has been around in various forms since 2004. Ticket to Ride Europe has been out since 2009, and refines some of the rules (ferries and tunnels have been introduced along with stations). It plays like a mature game that knows what it’s doing and it’s a great introduction to the Esdevium Blogger Board Game Club for us. The games we’re playing have and will be provided for free, based on a survey I did to give an indication of what we might like. So far so good!

Ticket to Ride Europe has an RRP of £37.99 but can typically be picked up for about a tenner less.

The BT TV Summer activity pack is here to help

“Summer has set in with its usual severity”, is one of my favourite quotes. It’s by this chap called Samuel Taylor Coleridge, a 19th Century poet who is famous for Rime of the Ancient Mariner (Iron Maiden based a song on it) and Kubla Khan (you know, “In Xanadu did Kubla Khan A stately pleasure-dome decree”). He might have popped his clogs a considerable while ago but sadly it seems he knew a thing or two about summer.

With the school holidays now upon us, it seems a long time since the gloriously sunny 30 degree heatwave we had in the south of England. It’s currently 18 degrees out, we’re on holiday and the beach is beckoning once we have waterproof trousers, coats and jumpers on.

Our kids are a hardy bunch, which is fortunate when the weather’s like this but the big issue we have is on our travels (self catering in Norfolk this time), none of the cottages or holiday homes we stay in have more than the bog standard freeview channels. The kids can barely cope with this in the rain. If the weather was better, they’d be out in the garden doing a reasonable approximation of a Victorian pickpocket gang fighting a turf war but when it’s wet, and all their wet stuff from a day out is dripping over the tiled kitchen floor, they end up sitting around and complaining rather than reading books, or losing the pieces to the one jigsaw puzzle the cottage owners have put in a cupboard in concession to children staying in the place.
Fortunately, BT have the answer with their BT TV kids offering. BT TV Kids offers a mix of nine channels including Disney, Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network. Ranging from Peppa Pig (my favourite) to PAW Patrol (Ned’s favourite) there are over 2,000 episodes of kids entertainment on demand in the BT Player. Older kids (and again me) are catered for with Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, Star Wars Rebels, Ultimate Spider- Man, and Marvel’s Avengers Assemble.

While the rain gently attempts to break the double glazing and the main TV has Flog It! on while we drink a cup of tea, the kids are huddled around the iPad watching Alvin and the Chipmunks. Disaster is averted and we can all dry out before venturing to the artisan fish ‘n’ chip emporium for fish served with chips in a mini shopping trolley.


We firmly believe in all things in moderation (except chocolate because that’s a weakness), so it does help that BT TV Kids has also provided a handy downloadable activity booklet that you can print out and take with you on holiday too. There are games, colouring, puzzles, join the dots and even bunting to make. We tend to use things like this in a couple of different ways- firstly to stop the fights over who watches what, and secondly for competitions- who can do the best colouring, whose bunting looks the most summer fete like, that sort of thing. When you’re on holiday, it’s important you have a rest as well as doing fun stuff, so we always try to ensure the kids have plenty to keep themselves occupied while mum and dad have a nice cup of tea to recover from the traumatic trip to a wild life centre or something.

BT TV has also launched a competition that challenges children to put pen to paper this summer and create their own PAW Patrol pup design. Click here to enter or visit www.bt.com/drawpatrol to find out more.

This is an #ad in conjunction with BT TV. Words, images, and children are all my own. Anybody want to borrow a five year old?

Disney Store’s Spider-Man costume in action!

Spider-Man (the hyphen is important you know!) is one of the most important super heroes for kids. He’s wholesome and little more than a kids himself. And he also has the coolest costume, which is why when Disney Store offered our 5 year old Ned the new Spider-Man costume and the Nerf shooter to go with it, he literally hit the ceiling with excitement. He spends a lot of time running around pretending to be super heroes as it is. Spider-Man is one of those heroes that has a strong moral code and would never really hurt someone, which is a lesson we always remind Ned about!

The new Spider-Man costume is a little darker than the older ones, and the mask is an improvement too. It is defintely more Spider-Man than dressing up Spider-Man and Ned absolutely loved it as you can see from the video below:

The Nerf shooter is wrist operated, and thankfully he hasn’t quite got the hang of the aim just yet, otherwise I’d be in trouble! I particularly like the little web bits under the armpits, which are a great detail that’s true to the actual costume. Ned loves it, and I do too. It’s just a shame that they don’t do it in my size!

The costume has an RRP of £30.99, the Nerf Shooter £24.99. Being Spider-Man itself is priceless! If your little one wants to be Spider-Man you can head on over to the Disney Store and have a look at their Spider-Man page.

Review: Nozstock 2017

2017 saw the 19th annual Nozstock Festival. Set in the Herefordshire countryside, Nozstock is a boutique festival for around 5,000 people who seem pretty universally happy by the whole prospective of a weekend of sunshine (and showers) and some great music.

Friday night saw Seasick Steve take to the stage, and Sunday evening saw the festival finish with the Happy Mondays. In between we caught some great acts like Professor Elemental, Hayseed Dixie, the wonderful Le Galaxie and Goldie Looking Chain.

Friday was a bit Biblical in the weather sense; thunderstorms that seemed like someone had severely pissed Thor off. Fortunately the ground staff are super organised and seemed to have 3 billion tons of sawdust, which got thickly coated on all the areas that accumulated mud, making the site much easier to navigate without a pair of wellies on.

Saturday morning started brilliantly with Drum and Bounce, a drum and bass dance work out, which was notable for teaching me how to skank and triple skank. Prior to this, I had thought that a skank was some bloke who was a bit of a ne’er do well, so I learnt something too, even if all the kids laughed at my timing.

We let the eldest go off with some friends kids (who were a couple years older than he was) because this is exactly the sort of festival that is great for kids. The only thing that wasn’t child friendly was some of the rather colourful language from the musicians up on stage but to be honest the day that Shaun Rider manages to keep the swears in check will be the day they bury him six feet deep.

As well as a lot of jolly young people, there is a feeling of safety surrounding Nozstock. The site is small enough and while full, not crammed to the seams, that it maintains an intimate air that isn’t intimidating to kids.

 

We’re at #nozstock

A post shared by Alex Walsh (@daddacool) on


I think a personal favourite of mine was Professor Elemental- we’d seen the other big star of chap-hop, Mr B the Gentleman Rhymer, a couple of years ago and it was good to see the man who wrote Fighting Trousers.

Next year’s Nozstock is the 20th Anniversary, and is bound to be something unbelievably special. As it stands, Nozstock is a hidden gem (well, it is in the hidden valley), a venue that attracts great, if not necessarily world famous for the most part artists. Headliners like Seasick Steve and the Happy Mondays might sell tickets but artists like The Meow Meows and Little Big Stuff find themselves added to the Spotify playlist for the drive home.

In the summertime when the weather is hot you can stretch right up and touch the sky

This school summer holiday is a bit of a landmark one in the ‘Cool household. The littlest is finishing reception and moving into year 1 and the eldest is finishing year 5 and will be starting his last year of primary school. Terrifying.

It’s also the first year that we’ll have faced the summer holidays as two full time working parents. Of course when we booked our summer holidays back last autumn, this wasn’t the case, I was working full time while my wife was on a 22 hour a week part time contract. This was loaded into two very long days, with a couple of hours on Friday morning as a top up as necessary. It meant that between us, a few days of annual leave and some grand parent involvement covered most of last years summer holidays. This year is decidedly different though. View Full Post

Intempo Large Tube- perfecting the BBQ ambience

Sitting out in the garden on a warm summer evening with the BBQ fired is is a great end to the day, and one that can only be improved upon with some fat choons blasting out of a portable BT speaker. In this instance, in deference to our next door neighbours who have gone on holiday and left the builder laying a patio, with the cement mixer churning until 10 or 11pm on the hottest week of the year, we stuck the Bob the Builder album on loop, Bluetoothing to the Intempo Large Tube from Spotify on a mobile phone. The battery on the Large Tube lasted long enough to drive us mad, so hopefully it did the same to the inconsiderate builder next door. View Full Post

A musical win

I feel like I’m doing this parenting lark right at the moment. On Saturday I had a great conversation with the ten year old about music. He told me the day before he had a conversation with a bunch of girls in his class about what they liked to listen to in terms of music. He said he was disappointed that they all seemed to like rude rap music (I think it’s probably grime, I could be wrong though) and not one of them had even heard of Fleetwood Mac, yet alone listened to Rumours (one of his favourite songs is the Chain), or the Scott Pilgrim Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, or the Eurythmics. He sadly shook his head and told me that they all had rubbish taste in music. View Full Post

The interfering and fiddle with stuff just needs to stop

Co-owning and be responsible for three kids ten and under invariably means you have to let your stands slip in some (many) areas. That’s all well and good, the puddle of wee in the downstairs toilet (we don’t go there, it’s full of fearsome monsters), will in time evaporate if left long enough but it’s when the kids just fiddle with stuff incessantly that things get tricky.

It’s like my daughter and doors. She is pathologically incapable of walking through a doorway without fiddling with position of the door slightly. 10 times out of ten she will touch the handle slightly, causing to door to be less than fully open. More than once a week this invariably leads to Ned running full pelt into the handle and a period of long and protracted sobbing. View Full Post

My imperfectly perfect fathers day with SMA Baby Club

*Advertorial Feature

SMA Baby Club asked me to share my imperfectly perfect Fathers Day and I’m only too happy to do so. With three kid (10, 8 and 5), I get plenty of opportunity to “father”, and plenty of experiences of being on the receiving end of children!

I’m always the one up with the birds. It usually either involves me going to work early, or getting up (twice a week) to corral the three kids into the school run. My weekend lie ins are ruined by taking our eldest to extra lessons on a Saturday morning and dragging all three of the little darlings to their swimming lessons on a Sunday.

The sort of breakfast I’d like for Fathers Day

I never get a lie in, so once a year I have this idealised notion that the morning that Father’s Day dawns, I’ll get to have a nice lie in and and wake up naturally as the sunlight finds its way through the chinks in the curtain and plays gently over my face, the motes of dust dancing in the light. As I stretch and wake up from a long restful slumber, my angelic children present me with a freshly made cup of tea and a still warm bacon sandwich (buttered bread, with sauce, two thirds ketchup, one third brown sauce).

As I sit there munching on bacon sarnies, the kids line up respectfully to tell me how great I am and present me with home made presents and cards they’ve crafted with all the love and care that a doting child can manage. View Full Post