Won’t Someone Think of the Children?! (Samsung Mob!lers)

When I was a nipper, my Gran was impressed (and no doubt a wee bit scared/hacked off) that I could program the video recorder whereas she had trouble turning on the TV. Some things never change and kids are still often more au fait with new technology than many of the older generations. It’s second nature to them and they have no fear of ‘pressing the wrong button’ – though this is probably because they didn’t buy whatever they’re fiddling with and so have no concept of how expensive it would be to replace.

Either way, I have it on good authority that the small annoying people (that would be children) love technology and often borrow their parents’ devices to ‘play on’ (read keep them quiet while Mummy tries to stave off the fourth migraine of the week). The guys at the Samsung Mob!lers obviously aren’t aware (and why should they be?) of my disinterest in all things kiddiefied (unless you include cartoons, stuffed animals and brightly coloured sweets which, for some strange reason, seem to be aimed primarily at kids – I quite like all of those things) and have asked me to come up with app ideas for under 5s (They’re the one’s that are about *holds hand a couple of foot above the ground* this big, yeah?). If I haven’t made it clear before, children and all the surrounding hoo-hah, do nowt for me. But hey, I like a lot of stuff that kids like, I get on pretty well with most of the ones I meet, so I’m possibly better placed to complete the mission than I first thought.

So, what did I like when I was a kid? Pretty much the same things as I like now – food, animals, films, reading (yes, I could read very early on – thanks to Mum for making me a precocious little madam). With that in mind, I think I’d like to see something that entertains and educates. I basically learnt everything I needed to know in life from watching Sesame Street, though I do now lay the blame for my fat ass squarely at the door of the Cookie Monster! I think something that allows the child to express creativity would be a great addition too. So perhaps a selection of basic words (illustrated by pictures) that can be selected (by the child) and arranged (by the app) into a story which is then spoken back to the user, while they read along. The user could illustrate the story (perhaps following a guide) and the app could animate the pictures (similar to the fantastico Draw A Stickman that seems to be doing the rounds on social networks this week). The story could be saved and/or emailed.

Cute huh? I bet something like it already exists. Unless I’ve just blogged, and given away for free, my million dollar making idea. Ach well, consider it a gift. And if anyone asks about my generosity, we’ll tell ’em I did it for the kids.

Do you have any opinions on children using technology? Do you allow your kids to play on your gadgets or do they have their own? What are their favourite apps and do they know more about how to use them than you? Or would you prefer that kids were out in the fresh air?


Nyan Nyan Soy Candles

I was lucky enough to win a competition run by Nyan Nyan Soy Candles on Facebook recently and my prize arrived this morning. A beautiful room/car fragrancer made from vanilla soy wax presented in a gorgeous organza bag. When the post arrived I was sat out the front of the house ‘ooohhing’ and ‘ahhhing’ over my Mum’s new car. How serendipitous for her, as she now has a beautiful car fragrancer, made from vanilla soy wax presented in a gorgeous organza bag, hanging from the gearstick of her new car. Well, I guess it’s cheaper than giving her petrol money 😉 . As lovely as the fragrancer is, I don’t have a car myself and I thought the gift was too pretty to hide away in a drawer, even if it would make my pants smell lush.

Nyan Nyan is another of the wonderful fledgling businesses I have discovered through Facebook and Twitter. I follow/find a lot of people, companies and products through the competitions they run and it’s also a great way of gathering present ideas for Christmas. I can definitely see me going back to Nyan Nyan.

All the products are homemade (see how here), organic and suitable for vegans and vegetarians. Their motto is ‘Why breathe in what you would not put on your skin.’, which I think it a great ethos. Lucy’s products look as good as they smell and have a vintage, kooky twist that gives the products an edge over many shop-bought candles. She also offers a customisation service, so there’s plenty of scope for making really individual gifts or items for your home. If you want to see what all the fuss is about check out the Etsy shop.

And, as if you’d need any further reason to shop with Nyan Nyan Soy Candles, they’re named after the Japanese word for small white kittens and the cute noise cats make. Awwwwww.

A Day In The Life (Samsung Mob!lers)

When was the last time you spent a day without looking at your phone? Ever got to work, reached into your bag and come out empty-handed, but for a mental image of your mobile sitting all forgotten on the bedside cabinet, and suddenly felt like you’d had your right arm cut off? We can (and often do) do everything with our mobile phones now – e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g.

Gone are the days of just calls and texts. Even I am surprised how much I rely on my phone on a daily basis. I never let it wander far (apart from that time I thought I’d left it on a P&O ferry to Bruges only for it to turn up in the kitchen cupboard – don’t ask me how!) and when it’s in my hand I put it to work in any number of constructive (and not so constructive) ways.

For my latest Samsung Mob!lers mission I was asked to make a video showing some of the ways I use my Galaxy Pro smartphone in an average day. Here is the result.

‘Sup Cakes?

Who fancies a game? It’s easy, just a little game of ‘What’s Wrong With This Picture’. Below is a photo of some cupcakes that were delivered to my house.

Did you get it? I can’t quite put my finger on it, but there’s a definite air of ‘not quite right’ to this offering. Perhaps it’s the mangled butterflies (the one with just a single wing is particularly graceful) or the skillful way the cakes have not just been squashed from above, but also from the sides – now that’s craftmanship!

What makes this delivery even more ridiculous is that they were sent (along with a bottle of wine, which arrived intact but that I’m still a bit scared to drink lest it actually be old Ribena) as compensation for a previous cock-up where my OH’s mum had received the wrong design (and amount) of cakes. To confuse matters (and the MIL) further, the accompanying greeting card which should have conveyed birthday felicitations, love and best wishes from my OH, myself and the cat (yes, the cat!) was actually signed from ‘Barry and Paula’. As you can see, the Glasgow based bakers (who are a top result when searching Google for ‘Cupcake delivery’) really pulled out all the stops to rectify their mistake and renew their good name. I do recognise and appreciate the generous gesture of apology (the cakes and delivery should have cost £30+), but I have to speculate if it would have been more constructive if the goods hadn’t arrived looking like they’d been made by a work experience boy with the artistic flair of a plant pot and delivered by a nervous Parkinson’s sufferer on a space hopper.

While I’ve not complained a second time (in all honesty, having tasted the cakes, I really don’t want any more), I’ll be looking elsewhere if I require similar in the future. Or maybe I’ll just bake and deliver them myself.

Sticks and Stones

Another reason I’m thankful to be childfree is that I’ll never have to make the baby name decision, I’m useless at decisions, so any child of mine would probably be nameless for the first 18 months of its life while I pondered. I’ve always been quite partial to the name Lysander though so perhaps it’s for the best I will have no son to lumber with such a legacy.

I don’t know many people who really love their own name (I wonder what we’d choose given the chance to pick our own names?), so it’s always amusing to hear of those less fortunate than ourselves. Ever thought your name was too plain or a bit boring? Believe me – it could be a LOT worse.

There’s the first name/surname combos that clearly haven’t been thought out like ‘Dwayne Pipe’ and ‘Wayne Kerr’. Easily avoided if the parents had just said them out loud a couple of times. Regrettable, but, no doubt, memorable and not particularly mortifying. I’d like to think that, similarly, somewhere there exists an ‘Alison Wonderland’ or a ‘Leah Jet’.

Then there are the ones that have you scratching your head as to their origin. I heard of a girl whose name was pronounced Fee-MA-lee. Different, huh? And the spelling? Yep, you guessed it – ‘Female’. I can only imagine it was some sort of mix-up when registering the birth that they couldn’t be bothered to rectify and figured they’d make the best of it.

I once had a tongue-in-cheek conversation with a friend along the lines of, if boys can be known as ‘Dick’ and ‘Willy’ and some girls as ‘Fanny’, it stands to reason that you should be able to call a baby girl ‘Clitoris’. However, it would appear that someone has obviously had the same idea – recently I heard of a child called………….. wait for it…………. ‘Labia’. I don’t know the person in question so I can’t stake my life that it’s not a wind up. But I can confirm that someone I personally know (which is what prompted this blog) recently came across a family who had named their child, of all things, ‘Chlamydia’. I’ll just give you a minute to take that one in………….

There’s no denying it sounds exotic and, for all I know, it may be a clever tactic to make sure the girl in question is so shunned by her peers that she will never stand a chance of catching her namesake because no-one will go near her. I still can’t help but wonder, at what point did they look down at their darling, newborn baby girl, pure, angelic, precious and beautiful, and decide the most befitting name was one synonymous with cystitis and genital discharge?! I defy anyone to tell me of a youngster given a worse name than one originally given to an STD.

Many countries do have legislation to prevent this strange form of child abuse.  Sweden had to ban ‘Metallica’, ‘IKEA’, ‘Veranda’ and ‘Q’ but did allow ‘Google’, which, incidentally, was one of the names I considered for my cat.

Incidents like this proves two things. Some people are too stupid to have kids, full stop. It also highlights that many people view their children (particularly when they are babies), not as living people, but as possessions to be dressed up and accessorised (if not seen as accessories themselves) for the entertainment of the parents. I’ve no doubt that they think it’s marvellous that their new addition, ‘Grapefruit Marmaduke Bellend Smith’, is the only ‘Grapefruit Marmaduke Bellend Smith’ in the country but, quite obviously, there’s a reason for that. One can only hope that Grapefruit’s ‘terrible twos’ last until he’s at least 11 and grows up exhibiting behaviour that would make Damien Thorn look like Pollyanna.

The ‘C’ word

No, not the rude one – though I’m quite partial to dropping the odd ‘c-bomb’ should the need arise. In this case I mean Christmas. Is it too early? I suspect it probably is but I shall plough on regardless.

Usually I refuse to acknowledge anything vaguely festive until at least early December; I’ve been known to huff out of shops that play Christmas songs prematurely (though I do make an exception for ‘She Came Home For Christmas’ by Mew, or the beautiful Cocteau Twins cover of ‘Frosty the Snowman’ which has the exact opposite effect) . Similarly, I haven’t been on eBay since they started the, FREAKIN’ INTRUSIVE, virtual countdown of how many days there are left for them to part you from your money.

Still, when it comes to this most commercialised of usurped Pagan festivals, you have to be vaguely organised. Unless, that is, you enjoy the special look of unrestrained indifference when you present your family with gifts hastily wrapped in newspaper or relish the thought of tucking in to a microwave macaroni cheese because you forgot to buy a turkey.

So, forgive my smugness, when I say that I’ve got Christmas dinner sewn up already. In one fell swoop I’ve jauntily side-stepped the planning, shopping, cooking and even the washing up.

“What is this black magic of which you speak?!” , I hear you cry.

We’re off oot, thanks to the hospitality of a local restaurant. I don’t know why I’ve never thought of it before. Breathtaking in its simplicity and laziness, but isn’t that what Christmas is all about (What’s that? “Little baby Jesus.”, nope, never heard of him).

It also means I can knock back the breakfast Bucks Fizz and pre-lunch G&Ts without fear of becoming so ‘altered’ I manage to throw the vegetables (meticulously prepared the night before) into a sink of dirty washing up water (as in 2006) or forget to put the oven on (like in 2009).

What’s that annoying management-speak phrase? “To fail to plan, is to plan to fail, to make a flan on a plane.”? Something like that. Either way, I’ve planned. What about you?


We will remember them

Just because I’m anti-war (and I am) does not mean I’m anti-troops. I’m not a jingoistic, flag-waver either but I show my respect and I’m thankful for the sacrifices people made.

My Grandad served in WWII and was always full of stories of his overseas adventures. I’m sure he had some less palatable tales of his time in the forces but he never shared those. He was a motorcycle courier and lost a toe due to some fancy stunt driving avoiding enemy fire.

While I support and understand those that do, I choose not to wear a poppy at this time of year because, while others are still currently involved in a pointless conflict, I find it hard to feel like the dead are truly being honoured. In my opinion, the best way to honour them would be to stop allowing politicians to send yet more young men and women to die while washing their hands of the ones that do come back to us injured and/or emotionally scarred. Talk (and poppies) are cheap, all the Rememberance Day services in the world mean nothing if people are still dying needlessly and their sacrifice being dishonoured by not providing their returning comrades with the care they need and deserve.

Happily (I wouldn’t be here otherwise!), my Grandad made it home safe (and relatively unscathed), going on to raise his children, see his grandchildren grow up and have a few more adventures along the way. He died last year, aged 90 after a short illness but a long, full life.

This blog, such as it is, is for the servicemen and women who never had that chance to enjoy all the wonderful things life has to offer on the road to reaching such a grand old age. I thank them for their bravery and sacrifice, but, please, let there not be any more.

“My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori”

Wilfred Owen
8 October 1917 – March, 1918