He gets away with it because he is so cute

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Ned is a force of nature. He is the youngest of three and given that his older brother is 8, we have a three year old that thinks he has the same rights and abilities as an 8 year old. This can lead to some unfortunate situations but mostly it just leads to awesome rage, violence, threats and tears, followed by the worlds sunniest smile to gloss it all over.

Festival essentials 101

We’re off to Nozstock at the weekend, up in hopefully sunny Herefordshire. This will be something like the 5th festival we’ve been to and on top of that we’ve been camping a fair bit too. We’re still accumulating all the gear to make it as painless as possible though and to that end, I thought I’d share a few essentials.

There are plenty of guides out there but most of the ones I’ve read either include pointless crap like bunting or aim for the high end stuff that will get nicked or if it gets broken will ruin your trip. Cheap yet reliable and sturdy is definitely the way to go in my opinion.

Tent

vango icarus 500

I’ll not bother with a specific tent because despite being an essential, there is a large degree of personal choice and the size and number of you will affect this too. You don’t have to spend a fortune either though, our Vango Icarus 500 cost us about £250 and we’ve already spent weeks in it. I’ve had to replace one of the poles due to wind damage but that didn’t cost very much. It has a separate bedroom and a general living area where you can hang out if it’s raining. If I were going to get one more tent accessory it would probably be the awing as this would give a bit of extra space as the kids get bigger.

Cooking

Although you’re bound to eat a load of horrifically expensive food (although if you’re at Nozstock, you’ll find the food is pretty affordable), it’s worth having the stuff for a quick meal and you’ll definitely need tea and coffee too.

You can spend as much or a little as you want but I would recommend the following:

GRAND

 

  • Stove– the butane stove shown is £16 with 4 cans of butane. It works as well as one that costs £150 and has an ignition. I’ve also got a second smaller stove that’s handy for making tea while cooking food but I count that as a luxury.
  • Table– the ground might not be level or there might be tall grass. This clever table only costs £15 and folds flat for transportation. I bought it after getting fed up with my stove falling over in long grass.
  • Water carrier– saves hiking to the nearest tap every time you want a drink. It’s collapsible for transportation but can hold 15 litres. Only costs a fiver.
  • Travel cutlery set (£10)- there is no good reason why you can’t take your best cutlery from home but at least with this set, it’s all kept together, making it less likely to get lost.
  • Pots and pans– the set pictured is about 28 quid but probably more comprehensive than you need if you’ve only got a single ring burner. At the least a couple of pans and a kettle should do you. You’ll be amazed how much use you can get out of a kettle. One of our camp staples is noodles, so it’s really easy to heat up some water in a pan, add the noodles and then scoff five minutes later. The same goes for pasta with sauce- just check whether the site allows you to bring glass on to the campsite (a lot don’t), otherwise you might have to decant the sauce into a plastic container at home.
  • Plates and bowls– something solid and probably plastic is best, unless you plan on eating Pot Noodles exclusively.

Sleeping

There are different schools of thought on this. You can go one (or more) of three ways basically:

  • Carry mat– these are about a fiver and basically give you about 2cm of foam to sleep on. They’re fine if you sleep on your front or back but a bit of a nightmare if you sleep on your side.
  • Airbed– under a tenner each but bear in mind you’ll probably end up topping up the air every day and if the kids decide to jump on them, you’re bound to get a puncture. My wife swears by them but I’m not a fan.
  • Camping bed– these are about a tenner each and probably the most comfortable. In my opinion though, they need something under them like a carry mat to stop the risk of the legs puncturing your tents groundsheet.
  • Sleeping bags– I’ve got a rather swish Ajungilak sleeping bag I bought years ago (it cost me about £80) but if you’re festival camping bear in mind i) it’s “summer” and ii) the more bodies you have in a tent, the warmer it gets. None of the other sleeping bags we have cost more than £15 and we’ve even got a couple of smaller kids ones. The one concession to home we have is taking our own pillows!

Other

  • Bog in the Bag– the single most important thing you can take with you outside of the above essentials. It’s basically a portable toilet that’s invaluable in the middle of the night.
  • First aid kit– we have a kids kit because a lot of them don’t actually contain plasters, just bandages and tape. NB 90% of the time the application of a plaster is entirely for the placebo effect it appears to give.
  • Antiseptic gel/wipes- worth taking because, you know, festivals!
  • Spare tent poles– wind, drunken people or clumsy kids can easily break a tent pole, so make sure your bag has some spares just in case. And a roll of black tape for emergency repairs too.
  • Pocket knife. I have a Victorinox Huntsman, which is overkill but it does have a saw which is useful for trimming replacement tent poles. It’s quite bulky but have proven invaluable on occasion.

Anything I’ve missed? Probably but I can’t spot it, so feel free to correct me via the comments. Hope this has helped!

tdlr: more bad news

Some of you may have noticed a long post disappeared shortly after being posted earlier on this week. It was something I needed to write but something that perhaps other people did not need to read. Since I’ve finally found out what the popular internet abbreviation tdlr means (Too Damn Long to Read), I thought it sounded like a good opportunity to write the post again without the stuff that might upset some specific people.

Basically mums not well, she’s been diagnosed with an advanced form of bone cancer that effects the bone marrow. The long and the short of it is there’s no long, mostly short.

BBC Charter review: how I would change the BBC

There has been a lot in the press recently about how the Government has appointed a person who has shown public antipathy for the Corporation as head of DCMS (department of culture, media and sport). Comment has also been made on how the Government has raided the BBC for £750m to fund the license fee for over 75’s, with cynics querying whether the power companies will be asked to fund the winter fuel payment. The final nail in the coffin of the doomsaying has to be the selection of the Charter Review panel, of which it has been said is clinking with the sound of special interest group affiliation.

I don’t think the BBC is perfect and to lobby for no change on the basis it does nothing wrong isn’t right in my view.

BBC website

One of the big noises that has been made by Government involves the BBC website, which they feel impinges on commercial interests too much. I have a big problem with this. Commercial websites are inherently driven by traffic which in turn drives advertising, which leads to content being written for search engines or in a lot of instances, just for the sake of having new content:

 

The thing is, if you look at the BBC news website (or the sports section for that matter), you won’t find awkward headlines or “list” articles written as click bait or for search engines- the BBC doesn’t need to bring advertisers in, so it can write about the news and sport without having to worry about that aspect of things. Getting rid of something that avoids all the issues that Peter Oborne wrote were the reasons he resigned from the Telegraph (articles about HSBC scandals not run as HSBC were an advertiser, subdued reporting on the Hong Kong protests as China was a big advertiser) would be a big step backwards and a massive boon for the press barons who, like the owner of the Independent did in the days before the election, use their papers to further their own interests.

BBC TV

At times the output of BBC1 looks much like the output of ITV, with trailers for other BBC shows replacing the advert breaks. The current fad for gameshows dressed up as reality TV, celebrity this and that, makeover shows and so on generally means that there isn’t much on before 9pm in the evening. At the same time BBC2 has recently started showing some antiques game show that I’m positive used to be day time television fare. I’m not going to pretend there were halcyon days of perfect television on the BBC in some rose tinted version of the past that never really existed but I would suggest the following:

  1. Ditch 90% of the reality/gameshow stuff from BBC1.
  2. Ditch the majority of panel shows full stop. They’re cheap television, and it’s boring to see the same faces week in and week out smugly reading the same sort of gags off the Autocue. Don’t insult me by even pretending you’re doing to show for points either for goodness sake.
  3. Move over the more populist programmes from BBC2 to the main channel to make up for the loss in programmes. For example, Gardeners World and Top Gear would be BBC1 programmes, a lot of the sit com output could shift to BBC1 with little or no effort. Click could also get it’s own prime time BBC1 show without changing the way it is currently made to appeal to the lowest common denominator.
  4. Bring back all the proper programmes from the ghetto of BBC4 to BBC2. You can tell the difference between a BBC2 and a BBC4 documentary easily- one will be framed as a “whodunnit”, with scientists being the detectives searching for an elusive clue, the whole programme hung on a “story”, which plenty of out of focus dramatic re-enactments, the other will be a straight presentation of the subject at hand, by men with beards who are often painfully uncomfortable in front of a camera.
  5. Use the iPlayer more efficiently as a method of consumption rather than an online catch up service. If a series is running weekly, don’t offer an episode on catch up for 7 days.

Reducing the output by effectively shifting BBC4 back to BBC2, and scrapping a lot of the toss on BBC1 would allow for more focus on quality rather than quantity.

I like the BBC, in theory as well as in practice but there are changes it needs to make to be better. I’m not buying the current Government narrative about the BBC not chasing ratings though, this is a Trojan Horse that will eventually be used as a stick to beat the BBC with; “nobody watches their stuff, that means the license fee isn’t fair.”