Wednesday, 20 November 2019

Radio Active

How ironic that the BBC should phone to ask me to contribute to a slot on BBC Radio Five Live about children... just when I have to pick said children up from school.

I used to be asked to do this kind of thing a lot. Back in the days of that rare breed the stay-at-home dad and his online manifestation as that even rarer breed the dad blogger (I was the only one once, can you believe it?) I was often phoned and asked to contribute in some way or other to discussions, debates, analyses and other such media jollies. Heck, I even got asked to go on telly!

It was a lot easier when the kids were younger. Easier, though not without its hazards. Both Charlie and his little sister have accompanied me live to local radio studios (for want of childcare) and been extremely well behaved, by and large. Ironically, it was while doing a FaceTime interview on BBC News that it all so nearly went pear-shaped, when Charlie - watching me on telly in the other room - got up excitedly to find me and tell me I was... on the telly. You know that viral video of the little kid being hustled out of the room by the au pair while a be-suited American gives an interview down the line? That was so nearly me, a home-grown version.

Now they're older it should get easier. But it doesn't. For a start, they're busy and that usually means I'm running from one activity to another or getting them fed before band or scouts or something similar. That's another reason I've been out-of-the loop media-wise for a while. But as it happens, my eldest daughter was around today and so I could skip the school run to do the School Running slot with Nihal Arthanayake on BBC Radio 5Live this afternoon.

You can have a listen if you like on BBC Sounds. It starts at 2:27.30 and includes, among other things, Billy Connolly,  bad grandparents, and fishing...

Thursday, 7 November 2019

Echo Hall, by Virginia Moffatt

Echo HallEcho Hall by Virginia Moffatt
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

War destroys families and drives friends apart. But it doesn’t take a war to wreck lives, drive a wedge between husbands and wives and bring a premature end to any hope of happiness. And sometimes it’s not your enemies who inflict most harm, but those closer to home.

Echo Hall echoes with unhappiness, and though world events in the form of three wars account for most of it, the ultimate tragedy arises not from man’s universal inhumanity to man but the domestic bitterness that bubbles and flares and destroys individuals.

I must confess having taken a while to get into this book. I must also admit to skimming some of the epistolary passages which seemed to contain just a little too much detail for my need to get on with the story. But it was worth the effort, if only to realise the haunting symmetry of lives and loves across the generations.

‘Empires rise and empires fall’ as Moffatt says towards the end of the book. And Echo Hall sets the personal cycle of individual birth, life and death against a century of history, where even the empires that survive are utterly transformed.

View all my reviews

Sunday, 13 October 2019

Brexit means... what, exactly?

"They can't work it out... can you?"

That's the theory behind The Brexit Card Game, a kind of top trumps way of trying to make sense (or fun) of the ever-more-bizarre situation the UK seems to find itself in.

If you or your kids want to try and get to grips with the main players, compare status, deals, ideas, ideals then this game might be for you. Or even if you just want to have a bit of fun with something which, increasingly, is less and less amusing, then... again, this might be the card game for you.

Charlie's made a short film about it. Here you go...

Teacher frustrated by Brexit and youth apathy creates Brexit Card Game to encourage political engagement

Don’t know your Boris from your Barnier? Let The Brexit Game fill in the blanks!

'Top Trumps’ style card game aims to take the mystery out of Brexit - and help educate the next generation of Britain’s voters

Despite three years of wall-to-wall media coverage, many young people are still fairly clueless when it comes to Brexit. Now a teacher working at a school in the Isle ofSheppey has launched a new card game designed to help students learn more about the process - and understand both sides of the argument.

Like many people, Patch Fordham was frustrated by the way Brexit was playing out. He decided to take a light-hearted approach to teaching his sixth-form students about the UK’s bitter and protracted approach to leaving the European Union. He created a pack of playing cards featuring the leading protagonists - including Theresa May, Boris Johnson and Angela Merkel - and used them to get his class more engaged with the process.

The project was so successful, he decided to go one step further and manufacture hundreds of decks of cards to sell online.

The game follows the same principles as ‘Top Trumps’, with all the major Brexit players ranked on attributes such as Power, Fickleness and even Dancing Ability! There is also a ‘Brexit-ometer’ thatshows where each character sits on the Remain-Leave spectrum, as well as some fun facts and quotes.

After the success of the game’s first run, featuring 36 familiar faces on both the UK and EU sides of the debate, Patch is now in the process of designing additional editions that spread the Brexit net further. The new international pack features Pope Francis and Kim Jong Un, while the ‘Best of British?’ deck introduces players to a motley crew of UK MPs such as Dominic Cummings and Joe Swinson.

Although the game pokes fun at the divisive and complicated world of Brexit, it is also designed to educate - and Patch hopes people will use it to build their own knowledge further so they can develop more informed opinions and - ultimately - make better voting decisions in future elections.

“It’s been crazy,” Patch said. “I just wanted to find a fun way to teach the next generation of British voters about politics. My students were incredibly bored of me banging on about current affairs all the time, and pleaded with me to try and make Brexit more fun! It’s kind of snowballed from there, really. I’ve already got over 1000 followers on Instagram and been featured on BBC Radio Northampton!”

Before becoming a teacher, Patch worked at a refugee camp and a school for autistic children, and he is hoping that any proceeds he makes from the game will help him create an educational website designed to make teachers’ lives easier.

“I know The Brexit Game has a limited shelf life,” he added. “Hopefully it will be resolved soon and we can all get on with our lives! But, in the meantime, I hope the game will give people a few laughs and - who knows? - maybe even help them learn something along the way!

The Brexit Game is available on Amazon and from

Tuesday, 8 October 2019

Kiss it better...

Or rather, don't. Put a plaster on it. And not just any plaster - one of these.

That pic arrived in my inbox a few days ago. Then in the post came some samples. So the least I can do is share them. The blurb goes on to say...

Need help cheering the little ones up after a fall in the playground or during family weekend adventures? Enter - *NEW* Elastoplast PAW Patrol Plasters!

Yes, with the entire troop - Chase, Skye, Marshall, Rubble, Zuma, Rocky and Everest – coming to the rescue, scrapes and cuts will be forgotten in a flash.

What’s more, these colourful wound healers are:
Specially developed for children’s sensitive skin
Dirt and water-resistant
Skin-friendly and easy to remove

All we need now is for someone to fall over!
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