Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Father's Day June 19th gift ideas

It's that time again and - as ever, as a dad - I find myself asked for ideas... what to get, for whom, how much to spend, when to buy or even whether to bother. You name it, I'm (often) asked it.

So, in time-honoured fashion and a service to our readers, we present our annual Father's Day gift guide, now in it's fifth year would you believe!

PrezzyBox, as ever, is a great place to start. Not only have they got a dedicated page for Father's Day gifts they've also got a range of dad-centred gifts, from a self-stirring mug (£9.95) to a chance to put dad's 'mug' (face) on a beer mat (£4.95). Check them out. You'll be spoiled for choice.

Meanwhile, the world’s largest original newspaper archive, Historic-Newspapers.co.uk, has added a new range of books, featuring images and photography from legendary photographer Francis Frith.

Each of the new books provides recipients with a unique insight into local history during the 1800s. Visual aids captured by Frith alongside facts, figures and insights provided by local historians and sources help to bring history to life. And for a small extra charge the books can be dedicated to dad! They're available at Historic-Newspapers.co.uk now, with prices starting from £13.99.

For the hirsute pater there are, as ever, a range of products that make shaving so much easier, like the new Gillette Fusion ProShield razor with Flexball technology and facial lubrication before and after the blades do what blades do.

But if it's a beard trimmer that dad is after then how about the this: 'the ultimate precision for your unique style'? It has a precision dial for up to 25 exact settings and lifetime lasting sharp blades. The Braun BT5050 is priced at £49.99rrp and is available to buy on the Braun website among other places.

And if dad needs any help with handling his facial hair then this essential guide (again, available at PrezzyBox) has it all...

Now that he's ready to get dressed, how about a smart new shirt (via lovethesales)? With designer brands like Hugo Boss and Paul Smith available at discount prices through the site (which directs you through to House of Fraser and ASOS, for example) there'll be something special for dad to wear and some savings for you, too. Personally, I quite like this Hugo Boss Slim Jim striped version, if anyone's listening (hint!)...

But what if dad wants for nothing, the ultimate man who has everything and who is (therefore) impossible to buy for? Well, in that case, send him to the cinema with one of the many gift options Cineworld is offering this Father’s Day.

And for the last-minute shopper, sons and daughters can gift dads with CineWorld's e-Gifts which can be received straight to your inbox today.

And finally, don't forget, if all else fails, there's always socks. But if you do go down this route, make 'em special...

Whatever your plans, make it a great Father's Day.

(It's June 19th. Don't forget!)

Thursday, 26 May 2016

The problem with immigration

I've just watched my home town on the national news - again. The backdrop is always the same - the majestic parish church (Boston Stump), the wide sweep of the market place and the slow curve of the river. Then come the cut aways to West Street where the shop signs are in Polish, Latvian, Lithuanian and Russian.

I've blogged about immigration many times before. And let me be clear: it's a big problem. Migrant workers work hard, often for low wages. But they place an enormous strain on local services. Try getting an appointment at the doctors round here, or applying for a school place with any certainty. And there are some - a small minority - whose anti-social behaviour and street-drinking is a real and persistent problem in this town. 

But wait. Let's just make sure we know where to apportion blame. People grumble about jobs being scarce yet more and more migrants are leaving homes and families hundreds of miles away to successfully find work here. Might that say something about the attitude, commitment and possibly the work ethic of some of those complaining that there are 'no jobs' for them?

And whose fault is it that local services are at breaking point? Hard-working, tax-paying migrants have been here now in numbers for over a decade - long enough for money to be spent and provision made for the necessary expansion in school places, doctor's surgeries and hospital beds. And who's planning for the future?

No one can deny the small numbers behaving in unacceptable ways in public. But there are laws against such behaviour. Just no-one, it seems, willing to enforce them. And laws that aren't actively enforced are worse than no laws at all.

It's a shame that when the issue of migration is discussed and the TV crews once more descend on Boston that no one seems to ask the obvious questions:

  • Why have successive governments failed to act to ensure that local services are adequately supported in order to meet increase demand?
  • Why is the local council so keen to pass by-laws that it then fails to enforce? 
  • And why do those who complain so bitterly about migrants 'taking our jobs' not apply for the work themselves? 
Migrant workers travel hundreds of miles, leaving homes and families far behind, to build new lives in a strange and often hostile country. The work they do is essential to those of us who demand cheap, fresh produce in our supermarkets. They work and - it's a matter of record - pay far more in taxes and NI contributions than they receive back in benefits. 

So where does the money go?

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Meeting Martin Middlebrook

I'm about to embark on a tour of The Somme, taking with me this - a book by my postman's uncle. Well, postwoman actually. And great-uncle, to be accurate.

Martin Middlebrook is an icon among military historians, internationally renowned, award-winning and best-selling. He's in his nineties now so the battlefield tours he once personally conducted no longer have him at the helm. But his mind is sharp and his interest in military history - and The Great War in particular - is as keen as ever.

I have my postwoman to thank for all this information. A chance encounter on the doorstep as she delivered a letter, and an article in the local newspaper about my involvement in the CWGC Living Memory project led to one of those conversations you couldn't, as an author, script for want of credibility.

'Are you the same Tim Atkinson who was in the  local paper last week,' she began. I hadn't actually seen the article myself and didn't know it'd been published, but was aware that it was lined up.  We had a brief conversation about the project, and about the local war graves, before she dropped the bombshell. 'My uncle's really keen on World War One,' she said. 'In fact, he's written books about it.'

And that was that. The irony is that until relatively recently (six, seven years ago) Middlebrook actually lived in the same town as me (and the postie) - and a matter of a few hundred yards down the road, at that. He moved from the area to be nearer family, so the chance to meet the great man face-to-face never arose. Unless, of course, he comes to visit his great niece sometime...

I'll keep you post(i)ed!

Friday, 20 May 2016

Children’s charity wants your views ahead of tasty cream tea delivery

What’s the strangest place you’ve ever had a cream tea?

Do you share… or is it all yours?

Children’s charity Action Medical Research, which will be delivering delicious cream teas all over the country in July, wants to know all about your cream tea habits in their new survey. Share your cream tea secrets at surveymonkey.co.uk/r/Actioncreamtea and you could be in with a chance of winning a copy of Paddington Here and Now, signed by the author Michael Bond.

The UK-wide charity is calling for the nation to take a break this summer and enjoy a unique Action Cream-Teas-in-a-box which will see the perfect afternoon pick-me-up delivered directly to homes, workplaces and schools on Friday 1 July 2016.

Last year Action Medical Research raised more than £60,000 as it sent out more than 10,000 cream-teas-in-a-box packed by its army of volunteers. In total, the charity sent out 20,740 scones which, if split open and laid end to end, would stretch over 4.1km; 10,370 Yorkshire teabags, enough to make 2,593 litres of tea; 871kg of Tiptree strawberry jam; and 415kg of Rodda's Cornish Clotted Cream, made from nearly 11,000 pints of milk, all neatly packaged up complete with 10,370 knives, serviettes and thank you notes!

For 2016, the mouth-watering Action Cream Teas - which come in a box priced just £6 - will again contain two freshly baked scones perfect for piling high with oozing strawberry jam and Rodda’s Cornish clotted cream, ready to be washed down with a refreshing cup of Yorkshire Tea.

And Action Medical Research is calling on YOU to get together with friends or colleagues to put the kettle on, tuck in to a tasty cream tea and help raise funds for sick babies and children.

Research is the key to saving many children from a lifetime of suffering, yet surprisingly, medical research into conditions that devastate children’s lives is poorly funded.

For more than 60 years Action Medical Research has helped pioneer treatments and ways to prevent disease that have benefited millions of people in the UK and across the world. Research they’ve funded has helped to beat polio in the UK, develop ultrasound in pregnancy, fight meningitis and prevent stillbirths.

It is currently funding research into meningitis, Down syndrome, epilepsy and premature birth, as well as some rare and distressing conditions that severely affect children.

Join the fight for little lives and order your cream tea online (minimum order of 10) by 17 June 2016 at action.org.uk/cream-teas

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