Not going out is the new battleground

We went out the other day as a family. This is unremarkable for most families but it’s becoming an increasing rarity for us. The battle lines have been drawn. We were lucky enough to go to a press screening of Paddington 2 the other week but one child sulked all the way through because he wanted to stay at home instead of being dragged in to London for a cinema outing that would have cost us around 80 quid had we paid for it (and the snacks we had).

It came to a head on fireworks night where only one child actually wanted to come and see the fireworks. We’d been out most of the afternoon at a Playstation Event, playing games and stuffing ourselves with food. It wasn’t as if there was even a game or code for one in the goody bag Sony kindly provided, so there wasn’t really an excuse for wanting to sit around but the kids put there foot down. I know from bitter experience there is little or no point fighting this as our lives will be made a simple misery.

The next challenge is to work out how to stop this happening in the first place I suppose.

Review: Scalextric BTCC Touring Car Battle Racing Set

When I was offered a Scalextric set to put in front of the kids, my first thought was wow! I used to have a lot of Scalextric back in the 1980s; some of it inherited from my cousins from the 60s. We had some of the old cigar shaped F1 cars from the 60s but my favourite was probably the Ford Mirage we were given.

In the intervening 30 odd years Scalextric has changed in some ways and not in others. The tracks are still a bit fiddly to get together but thankfully the connections are much better, so when we used the Scalextric BTCC Touring Car Battle Racing Set there wasn’t a repeat of my dad at my age cursing softly under his breath as he ran a bit of wire wool over the track to ensure it completed a circuit. The pick ups that make contact either side of the slot are exactly as I remember them from my youth but thankfully they are much easier to replace. View Full Post

Nozstock The Hidden Valley hits the Awards season

In 2018 Nozstock The Hidden Valley will reach its 20th anniversary, entering a small group of festivals who have reached two decades of creating magic each summer. Starting from very humble beginnings, that founding ethos remains part of the festival to the present, with Nozstock not only a genuine weekend of escapism and far from the madding crowds, but also one which has kept the same flourishing spirit; it’s a festival with abundant charm, lots of integrity and authenticity at every turn, as well as amazing fun across the beautiful site set on a working farm in Bromyard, attracting one of the country’s most wonderfully diverse audiences whether newbies coming for the very first time, or seasoned festival goers.

Reaching such an illustrious age really is an incredible feat in itself, and Nozstock’s efforts have again been rewarded this autumn with nominations in several key awards categories:

  • A Greener Festival Award at UK Festival Awards
  • Best Small Festival, Best Family Festival and Best Grass Roots Festival at UK Festival Awards
  • Mind Blowing Spectacle at the AIF Independent Festivals Awards for Nozstock’s closing festival fire show
  • Festival Kidz Awards

 

Ella Nosworthy, one of Nozstock’s founders, explains: “It’s pretty crazy for us all at the festival to contemplate our 20th anniversary next summer. We are not sure where the time has gone! My dad and all of the team here are really excited. Everyone is really hyped for the coming summer and we are making lots of plans now. We are of course really thrilled to be nominated for so many awards after this year – it’s lovely to be recognised by so many people. It’s also really spurring us on to make 2018 even better than this year, creating our finest year ever! It would of course be wonderful to win an award, and we are very humbled to have been nominated in these categories too.”

Set on a beautiful working farm in the heart of the Herefordshire countryside, the reassuringly welcoming and independent event has evolved from 50 friends gathered at the inaugural gathering and flourished into an intimate musical odyssey which now looks forward to its 20th anniversary. Joining the dots between pop, ska, folk, funk, soul, hip hop, indie, drum and bass, psytrance, house and a whole lot more, plus with interactive adventure and performance for big and small kids of all ages, Nozstock is a playground for everyone, from seasoned festival goers to newbies setting out for their very first time. The festival features a huge range of entertainment, activities and inspiration for families and kids, with games, pop-up performances, and workshops at every turn, and will be celebrating in fine style in July 2018.

Review: Super Lucky Tales on Xbox One/Xbox One X

Coinciding with the launch of the Xbox One X this week, MS Studios have a new 3D platformer out called Super Lucky Tales. Super Lucky Tales sees you controlling a cute fox, navigating a lush colourful 3D world putting gollums back together and collecting 4 leafed clovers (there are 99 to collect in total and I’m well in to double figures now!).

The game is described as follows by Microsoft:

“Super Lucky’s Tale” is a delightful, playground platformer for all ages that follows Lucky, the ever-optimistic, energetic and lovable hero, on his quest to find his inner strength and help his sister rescue the Book of Ages from Jinx. Jinx is the scheming and mysterious villain trying to reshape the world, but for what reason?

Along the way, encounter a hilarious supporting cast of friends and adversaries. Lucky must confront the nefarious Kitty Litter, Jinx’s mischievous kids – self-taught villains who might not be getting Jinx’s plans quite right. Lucky meets friends and allies along the way too. He meets misplaced Yetis, Kooky Spookies, a village of farming worms and other colourful friends inhabiting of Ages.”

I played Super Lucky Tales at the Xbox Loft the other week and found the two level demo great fun. It looked lovely in 4K on the Xbox One X, but since I don’t have one of those (yet!), I played the review copy Microsoft kindly provided me with on my Xbox One S. The game still looks lovely, although obviously not as lovely as it does in 4K! View Full Post

PlayStation family showcase

As we begin the wind up towards Christmas, one of the things that has struck me this year, with our kids being that bit older, is how what they’d like for Christmas has switched.

We’ve bemoaned the fact that it increasingly seems that toys are being designed to look good in adverts rather than to actually be particularly playable with. The kids tend to ask for a load of plastic tat at Christmas that remains in a box from mid January onwards (until it eventually makes it’s way to the charity shop). It’s frustrating as it’s i) expensive and ii) fills the house up with tat.

This year it’s looking like it will be a bit different though. Last Saturday we headed off to the Playstation Family 2017 event in a trendy part of London. In amongst the multi platform games like FIFA 18 and LEGO Marvel Superheroes 2 (my most eagerly awaited game of the year!), they had a swathe of Playstation exclusive titles that the kids were glued to.

Yes, this year I think the kids might get some video games for Christmas. View Full Post

Xbox One X launching on 7 November!

7th of November is a date to remember. And not for gunpowder, treason and plot either, that’s two days earlier. The 7th of November sees Microsoft’s new Xbox One X console launched and it’s a bit of a doozy.

Earlier on this week Xbox invited me to their Xbox Loft, a swanky penthouse in central London, to play some games and have a chat about the Xbox One X.

The Xbox One X is unique in console launches. It’s a very powerful piece of kit, but it’s also completely compatible with all the existing Xbox One games. This means the usual launch process, which sees the machine launched with maybe five to ten games, and then a steady drip drip of titles, isn’t going to happen this time. Now, you can buy the new Microsoft console and have access to all your existing Xbox One games, and all the Xbox 360 games that already work via backwards compatibility. Oh, and if you’re dead old like me, there are even some original Xbox games available too!

Why would I want to play my existing games on my shiny new console I hear you cry. Well, a lot (there will be around 100 shortly after release) of the existing games are getting enhanced versions/updates for free if you own the original game. This means that some great looking Xbox One games will suddenly get a bump in resolution, framerate and special effects if you play them on your new Xbox One X. It also gives you both choice in what to play and some affordable slightly older games that will still get a makeover. View Full Post

Paddington 2: it’s a great family movie

It doesn’t seem like three years since we were all charmed by the first cinematic outing of a small bear called Paddington from darkest Peru and his adventures with the Brown family but it is and the sequel Paddington 2 is out next week to prove this.

Paddington managed to be charming, set in it’s own world, an England that doesn’t exist now and probably never really did. A good childrens film constructs it’s own world and then exists within it; an excellent childrens film constructs it’s own world and adheres to all the rules that it creates for itself, making something that could be absurd (the prison for example), seem perfectly plausible in the confines of the movie.

I’ll get this out of the way right now, Paddington 2 is a wonderful movie; you might have guessed from the title. I’m pleased to say that we (the kids and I) are not alone in thinking this as there are plenty of 5 star reviews from professional movie critics out there. But as a regular paying punter for the cinema, Paddington is definitely the sort of movie I would pay to take the kids to see. View Full Post

Daddy Day Car and the Kia Stonic

I’ve done the hospital run with a wife in labour three times in my life and on the final occasion, when I got chucked out of the hospital, I had a rather madcap journey back to it too.

So when Kia invited me to have a look at their new car, the Kia Stonic, and specifically how it worked in terms of a hospital dash and as a car for a new family, I thought it would be well worth a look. So I headed down to GWR Kia to find out.

I tried to go into the event with an open mind but I didn’t know very much about Kia, so I set about educating myself on the way there (I wasn’t driving!). Kia are South Korean. This apparently makes some look down their noses because all the best cars come from Germany.

This is odd because Samsung are also South Korean, and as cars get more and more packed with gizmos and computers, I would have thought hailing from the technological capital of the world (sorry Japan, you’ve dropped to second) would have been seen as a bonus.

I was trying to reconcile my preconceptions an hour later while familiarising myself with a Stonic, packed with features like key-less ignition, rain sensing wipers, reversing cameras and blind-spot sensors. I didn’t get round to using the Android Play stereo function as I was worried about being judged on my musical choices. But enough of this, lets take a step back for a moment. View Full Post

Unpicking the dementia tax argument and several red herrings

From the Telegraph:

Pensioners with care needs must stop regarding their homes as “an asset to give to their offspring”, the social care minister has said, as she revived the row over the Conservatives’ so-called “dementia tax”.

Jackie Doyle-Price said it was “unfair” for younger taxpayers to “prop up people to keep their property” when it could be sold to help pay for their own care needs.

I don’t read the Telegraph. I used to as a student but it’s not the newspaper it once was, and the rather hilarious adulation of Boris just makes it look silly. However someone commented on the above article on Facebook and brought it to my attention.

The comments were full of what I suspect are magenta hued baby boomers (closer to the 1946 vintage than the 1964 vintage mind), who were lambasting the government for penalising the hard working and frugality of their generation while  allowing those spendthrifts in council homes to get away scot free. Their comments on the youth of today were equally scathing too. Here is a montage of invective, with surnames blanked out as I am nice like that:

Click for larger

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Ned, edging towards the lead as a reader

My last post was exactly one word short of 1,500 and it was about books. Books, and reading in general are a bone of contention in our house. The two older kids are reluctant readers, often preferring to do nothing and complain about being bored rather than simply reading a book.

While the surrounding distractions they have are undoubtedly greater than those or wifey had when we were growing up (we’re both avid readers), I think there is a danger that we look back on our youth with rose coloured spectacles and automatically condemn the amount of television and videogames available to us now as a reason why kids often don’t like reading as much. View Full Post