Monday, 31 October 2011

Half Term Hiatus

As the title suggests it has been half term hence no blog post for a week or so. This offering has no particular theme, more of a catch up really to summarise where we are.

Working backwards from this morning, well Ollie went back to school so I have been playing catch up - in the main this has involved doing various bits of paperwork on the computer, e.g. last month's accounts, putting to bed last year's tax issues (long call to tax credits people), loading up the latest Pro Disc from Mastermix, putting up some photos and facebooking.

I've just put some photos on a memory stick, as I am going into town later to try and print them off using that machine in Boots. Now I did have my own little photo printer which worked very well for a long time until I got this new laptop a few months back. Since then, I have been unable to use it, as it appears no drivers exist for this printer to work with 64 bit versions of windows. I tried various other methods to get them off but with limited success. This old printer was a pain in the arse anyway, expensive to run and with this annoying and temperemental coloured ribbon that it used for printing. One false move and the whole thing was tangled everywhere. Think about what sellotape is like when it is being unco-operative well this was 10x worse.

So I am going to have a go at printing out my photos myself in Boots. It's a much more economical way of doing things these days anyway. I like the fact that these days you can take 100 photos and print out 10 good ones. Unlike the awful days of taking a 27 roll film in for processing and getting 3 decent ones if you were lucky. Hurrah for the digital age.

Managed to get up this morning despite somewhat of a late one - got in about 1:30am this morning. Last night we had our annual Halloween party at the White Hart and it was another good one. I was so pleased to see so many of my regulars donning the Halloween garb, and some very imaginative costumes to boot. Super atmosphere as usual, and everyone getting into the spirit of things.

Sadly, as many of you know, my new catchphrase on Sundays is "Every Week". This refers to the fact that every week we get one idiot. These can take many forms - the strange dancing men, the song gatecrashers, you all know the ones I mean. Now last night's idiot was not drunk, aggressive or upsetting the singers but she was just plain rude.

Their is a trait I cannot stand in people, and that is to think that they are more important than anyone else. One of the beliefs I live my life by is that we are all equally important, we all were made from one sperm and one egg, and I don't care what you do for a living, what you look like, or what your house is worth, if you are honest, conduct yourself appropriately, and are appreciative of the other people around you then you are alright by me.

Now it's very hard accomodating everyone that wants to sing on the karaoke but I always try my best, even to get latecomers on if I can. But last night, we had one of those prima donna types who clearly thought she was something and had no problem talking down at me as if I was a piece of dirt to get herself on the karaoke - big mistake. Coming in at 11:30 and expecting to sing, when everyone else has been there all night is pushing it at the best of times, but this girl Emma rubbed me up the wrong way straightaway. Had she been polite I might have somehow managed to squeeze her on, but abusing and threatening and trying to bully your way on to the karaoke with me NEVER works.

I can only assume that people like her who do speak to people like this are used to getting their own way, and that is a shame. It reminds me of many run ins I had with female bosses at Nielsen. This was very hard for me as in a junior position I was not really in much of a position to fight back. Well maybe this girl has people she can bully around in her office but let me tell you "it don't wash with me love". Nothing does - I have had people threaten to beat me up before (in G's) if I did not let them sing and I still did not back down. I am not having it. Anyway this girl didn't take kindly to my refusal to budge and came out with some classics "If you don't let me sing I will go to Cathy and tell her to make you let me sing". Called her bluff on that one, and when I asked Cathy about it later apparently she had tried that one on and Cathy had said no. Another good one was "You have to let me sing, I've been on the X Factor". As everyone knows I hate the X Factor so that's hardly likely to wash with me either. I think the implication here was that she considered herself a better singer than those currently on the mic at the time, therefore she should have more right to sing.

Who knows - we never got a chance to find out as she had well and truly disqualified herself from any chance of getting on by this stage.

When will people realise that you get more out of live by being polite and respectful to people rather than bullying? I don't know. Will this girl last night realise where she went wrong? Probably not, I can imagine it now "that DJ's a right bastard" etc etc - oh I have heard it all and a lot worse. But I really do not care about those people and I know that my friends and regulars support my point of view and what I do. If they didn't they wouldn't come - would probably never have come, and I would be sat at home on Sunday nights doing nothing.

That went on a bit, so let's work back a bit further. Claire's days off last week were Tuesday and Thursday so we had a couple of good days out. We took the boys to Oxford on the train for the day on Thursday which Ollie loves and had a nice lunch in our favourite restaurant "Brasserie Gerard" which does steak to die for! On Tuesday we spent the day at Wyevale, which included an hour and a half in the kids cafe where we could eat lunch and the boys could play in the ball pool and go up the climbing frames. Lots of other stuff to do up there as well - the kids love all the fish in the aquatic shop as well.

What a great place the Wyevale centre is - a really enjoyable shopping experience and such a contrast to that blot on the landscape that is Bicester Village.

Ollie was much better behaved overall last week than he has been, I am really starting to build a working relationship with him now based on reasoning, trust, and talking things through. It has been very hard work, he's not an easy child to deal with and I am so glad that I am here for him - if ever a child needed a strong father figure in their lives it is him and I do genuinely feel sorry for young children who are denied that in their lives through no fault of their own. Ollie has a wayward streak in him that could easily see him "go off the rails" but also an imagination and a creativity that properly focused with love and support I do hope that will see him grow up into a good and kind human being. First parents evening tomorrow, we'll see how that goes.

Him and Jamie play together a lot now, I have to remind Ollie to be a little gentle when they are jumping around on top of each other, but Jamie seems altogether a lot more battle-hardened than Ollie and doesn't cry at every little thing. So I think that's good, what he lacks in age he gains in strength and I think they are a good match for each other.

Other than that, quick round up of other events, got a new PS3 game and have been showing off my jockey skills, done a fair bit of cooking including the by now infamous legs spread sausages up the chicken's jaxy experiment the photo of which made a fair few on facebook feel somewhat uncomfortable. Have also been getting into the In-Betweeners, like many shows I've come to it late, but that's all well and good as there are lots of back episodes to look forward to.

Right over and out, expect some more frequent blog entries during November, I'm never short of things to wax lyrical about it seems.

If you have enjoyed reading this blog, please take a look at my books on Amazon (Paperback & Kindle), where you can read lots more of the same! Click here.

Jason x x

Sunday, 23 October 2011

BEST...BUFFET...EVER!!!

I thought tonight I would give you the run down on how my night's DJ'ing went. What was so special about tonight? Well some might say nothing - it's just another gig. However - as I am sure Duncan and Mike will agree there is no such thing as "just another gig" if there was, anyone could do it. And to the person who's party it is, or now was, it's a very special night!

Now tonight's gig (or booking if Russ is reading - he says only real musicians have "gigs") was one of those "surprise ones". You all know the routine, everyone has to keep it a secret until they arrive then it's "surprise" the lights go up and we kick into one of the accepted tunes for whatever the event is - e.g. Stevie Wonder "Happy Birthday". Not that one tonight, as it was a silver wedding anniversary so we went with "Congratulations" by Cliff Richard followed by "Celebration" by Kool and The Kang.

Apologies for putting the band names, I don't want to insult anyone's intelligence, spelling things out like that infuriates me, like when US TV shows put up a caption during a scene set abroad that reads "Paris, France", just in case any of their viewers are too thick to know where Paris is, but I digress.

Anyway, tonight's job was at trinity which is one of the easier venues at which I work as a) it is less than 100 metres from my front door and b) a lot of their equipment is pre-installed, leaving me with very little to take with me, laptop, mixer, a few cables and a couple of lights. Very easy, set up in the afternoon, get Ollie to help me sound check. 2 quick walks home, hence I can finish my closing song at 12:03am and be sat back here at my desk doing this within 20 minutes. And unlike all other Saturday jobs, no driving either so the occasional sneaky one can pass my lips. Which wasn't an issue as one of the barmaids kept bringing them over. Which was nice.

I did not have a great deal to go on so went with my usual rough plan. It was a five hour job, 7pm until 12. The couple whose surprise it was were meant to be there at 7:30pm but as usual it was nearer 8 with a lot of false alarms until they actually arrived. Might as well have written off the first hour. After they arrived there were numerous other things to organise, a lot of chatting, a first dance, then food, then cake cutting, then some photographs, etc etc etc. With the net effect that things did not really get going until about 10pm.

At one time I used to worry about this a great deal and start panicing if no-one was dancing by 9:30pm but over the years I have come to realise that judging yourself purely on the number of people on the dancefloor throughout the evening, is not really the be all and end all - sure it is a factor but just one.

I have had evenings where the dancefloor was sporadic at best until the last hour or two and then everyone went crazy. I think people only remember the last hour or two anyway when they were drunk so I reckon it's OK. They always give positive feedback anyway, so I don't beat myself up over it anymore.

The music is constantly evolving though. Sometimes I have to drop a song from my repertoire that has previously been a winner, but suddenly falls out of favour. In this game you are only as good as your last song, and like a football manager on a sudden run of defeats, they don't last long. So out goes "Evacuate the Dancefloor" by Cascada. Once a popular tune, this has emptied the dancefloor two Saturdays in a row. It won't get a third chance. Funny old game as Greavsie used to say.

For years now I have been dreaming of putting together the perfect playlist that will win every time but it's unrealistic. 3 or 4, is the best I can really manage from any one genre, however, over the past few months I have been refining what I call my "Latin set", and tonight I added one to the beginning and end of the list to stretch this out to 8. I don't know how long I can keep this going, but it's getting a fantastic response from crowds - especially if played with about an hour to go until the end.

The great thing is about this set is it does not need any fancy mixing, an approximate 10 sec crossfade seems to work perfectly.

So here, shared just for you, my dearest blog readers, is my as near to perfect "Latin" set as I have managed to get. If you can read through it without laughing, and fancy trying it under licence then give it a go. All you have to say is - "this set of songs comes to you courtesy of Jason Ayres in association with the UK Crisp and Snack Marketing Board" and you are in. I get a free bag of crisps of my choice every time you say that so it is worth doing.

1) Hey Baby - DJ Otzi
2) Hips Don't Like - Shakira/ Wyclef Jean
3) Sway - Shaft
4) Samba De Janeiro - Bellini
5) On The Floor - J Lo/ Pitbull
6) Stereo Love - Edward Maya
7) We No Speak Americano - Yolanda B
8) Bounce - Kelis/ Calvin Harris.

As a DJ you do get a lot of requests, some completely inappropriate. Tonight I had a guy wanted to sing American Pie. I did not have karaoke set up but he didn't want that anyway, just wanted the mic to sing along. I wisely left this until about 15 mins before the end. If I had done it straightaway - he would only have been back for more (useful tip that). I decided to go for the 4 minute version rather than the 8 which was a wise decision bearing in mind the horrendous racket that ensued, unfortunately he didn't quite get this and continued singing for around 30 seconds into Taio Cruz before he realised I'd played the radio edit. I think the assembled crowd appreciated my decision.

I've forgotten something - oh yes the buffet. I didn't forget it at all really, I just left the best until last.

Best...Buffet...Ever

There's no other way to describe it. I patiently waited until all the guests had been up and there were a lot of them. The room was packed. And then I saw it.

If you attended Ollie's 4th birthday party, well that would pale into comparison with this. Here are a few highlights.

Huge trays of ham, beef and turkey. Very high quality - such as one would expect on a delicatessen. And there was piles of it left.

A cheese board with everything you could possible want on it, and a huge selection of biscuits.

The pie - oh my word. It was one of those deli pies, you know the layered ones, with some ham, chicken and countless other stuff in it. Absolutely gorgeous. Hard to describe but looked similar to this picture which I just nicked off google.

Note to Lynda - if you ever get bored of making cakes you could do worse...

French bread, breadsticks, dips all of that covered, and various rolls.

A fine selection of crisps, Pringles, and other nibbles. Just as I thought it could not get any better a giant plate of cheese balls hoved into view.

I can't remember the rest to be honest, in my heightened sense of excitement, I think there may have been some salad and stuff but my brain has put that information straight into the recycle bin in order to concentrate on the important bits.

Just to clarify having re-read the above statements, I was not in a state of sexual arousal whilst perusing this buffet, I know I love my food as much as most people love their "naughty stuff", but I can manage to keep the two things separate in my mind just about (i.e. it's not a fetish).

So what have we learnt from tonight torrid tale? Not a lot really, let's face it this blog is just a rehash of the same old themes you know and love me for. But hey, if things like James Bond, Coronation Street, Doctor Who and all those things can keep being popular for half a century or more on basically the same premise, then there's life in the old dog yet!

If you have enjoyed reading this blog, please take a look at my books on Amazon (Paperback & Kindle), where you can read lots more of the same! Click here.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Sleeping, driving, parenting. (roughly in that order)

I've been quiet for a few days.

I've been ill. Picked up the virus the kids had, laid me low. Worst thing about it, not the feeling ill, but as someone who has a sleep disorder, this completely wrecked my chance to sleep for two nights.

I have a condition called "sleep aponea", I won't bore you with the details, you can look it up, but for anyone who thought I was just fat and lazy, well I can blame my condition for at least 10% of my sloth!

Anyway, having run a temperature, just like the kids did, and becoming ravenously thirsty seemed to aggravate the aponea to the extent that for the last 2 nights, I estimate that I fell asleep and woke up approximately 240 times each night. This left me in a delirious and other worldy state, with recurrent hellish dreams, to the extent that by morning I was not only utterly exhausted but also not even sure quite who or where I was.

I am just about feeling human again now, and having a couple of glasses of wine as I really need to knock myself out and get a decent sleep as I have 2 nights work ahead now not to mention the 9 day half term stretch.

By 7pm tomorrow night I have to be (at least give the illusion of being) bright eyed and bushy tailed to help a couple celebrate their silver wedding anniversary.

Claire has been great, although being on late shifts she's done all the housework and jobs I normally do when she's working. So I have survived another illness, it seems.

However one thing that Claire could not help with (and nobody else for that matter) was the annual aggravation of the car's MOT. Now those of you that know me, will know that I utterly hate driving and do it only as a necessary evil. In the days before I had kids I cycled everywhere, and after moving down here to Chapel Street, went a couple of years without owning a car altogether.

When I took up the DJ'ing full time about 4 years ago I had to get some transport, so reluctantly got a car and got back on the road, quite frankly I sometimes wonder if it was worth it - this car has literally costs me thousands to keep on the road and it just saps away hard earned nights work.

The bill to get it through the MOT this time was £519. To put this in context, in one foul swoop that's just wiped out the last two weddings I did and then some. When you add in all the other expenses that it costs me on an annual basis, I'm working a good 7 to 10 Saturday nights a year just to pay for the car.

And it's not a like I get a lot else use from it. Since I got it I've only done about 10,000 miles, that's in just under four years. It had 90,000+ on the clock when I got it.

With that and all the other expenses of running the business, I never actually get to see any of the money I earn on Saturday nights. I have already been given a cheque for the job tomorrow night, but the money's effectively already been spent.

With a growing family, and all this equipment to lug around, I need a people carrier. But I can't see me getting one any time soon, I've no fairy godmother or sugar daddy who's going to put one my way, so guess will have to struggle on with the Mondeo. Any money that does come my way I invariably invest in the children anyway - I do not spend any money on myself. When I manage to scrape together a few hundred quid (which I do by living frugally and not going out) I would rather spend it on a holiday or something nice for them.

I know that might make me seem boring in some people's eyes because I don't go out on the piss all the time anymore, but that's how it is.

Decades from now when my kids tell their grand kids about me I want them to remember me as a fun dad who took them on fun holidays and places they wanted to go. In the end nothing else matters really.

I just want to be a good Dad.

If you have enjoyed reading this blog, please take a look at my books on Amazon (Paperback & Kindle), where you can read lots more of the same! Click here.

Jason x x

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

London

My enjoyment of my occasional trips to Nash's has been seriously compromised of late.

Every time I have been in over the past two or three weeks, I have encountered these two horrendous gossipy middle aged women.

I say middle aged but in fact they are probably the same age as me, they have children at the same school as Ollie. They just look older.

Anyway these two women sit in Nash's and at the top of their voices (so everyone in the cafe can hear) systematically slag off and bitch about everyone they know. It usually is along the lines of "You know so and so in the school playground - well I heard this and I heard that, bitch bitch bitch".

The older of these two women is the worst. Not a single pleasant word comes out of her mouth. Nasty, spiteful venom. And she is revelling in the sound of her voice, deliberately speaking loudly in that way people do when they want to be heard in the mistaken belief that they are impressing people with their opinions.

When not slagging people off they are discussing some other vile topic like the contents of their dog's faeces, as if everyone in Nash's enjoying their breakfasts will want to know.

I rarely slag people off - but really - ugly horrible people is all I can say.

Next time I am going to take my iPod.

I have a theory that people's looks change over time to resemble their personalities. For example, we all make snap judgements about people on first impressions just by looking at their faces. This isn't prejudice or stereotyping - it's just natural human instinct. And my impression is that if someone has got a hard and cruel looking face - then it's more likely than not that they will have the personality to match.

We've all heard of the "fat jolly persona" - well there's something to be said for that too. I think people who enjoy their lives and like to have fun also enjoy their food. That's my excuse anyway.

Anyway that was today's "Hors D'ouevre" topic. Now onto the main jist of the blog. Every autumn myself and Mrs A. like to have a weekend away on our own without the kids. Last year we stayed in Cheltenham in early December, did some Christmas shopping, had a day at the Races, and an altogether nice atmos all round. Now this year's trip has taken somewhat more to organise but now I am getting there.

Unlike a lot of things that the internet has made simpler, finding hotels has become incredibly complicated. There's no one obvious site to go to, and the number of sites that come up in search engines is huge. Even if you know where you want to go, prices, availability, suitability all vary wildly not to mention the huge differences in opinions on trip advisor about places - one person's "fantastic stay" is another's "worst hotel ever". Talk about pot luck!

In my younger years I stayed in hotels a lot, all over the country. Because of the many changes of role and clients during my time at Nielsen I have been almost everywhere and had nights out in most of the major cities and many towns. This used to be quite good fun when staying over with a couple of colleagues in a new city. Right we're in Nottingham for the night, let's hit the town...

My experience tends to be that the more competition there is, the better chance you have of finding a good hotel at a good price. I've rarely had a bad stay in the middle of a city

Hotels in the country seem to be very expensive and there's not a lot to do. Then it suddenly dawned on me - since I left Nielsen I have not set foot in London at all. So that's where we are going to go.



In my Nielsen days I spent a lot of time in London, especially during the pubtrack era. I used to go to a lot of conferences and big events - the annual Publican conference, the ALMR Christmas luncheon (chatting drunkenly at the bar to William Hague one year), it seems a lifetime ago. When I worked at Tesco Head Office, we often used to go down to London for the night, floating nightclubs on the Thamas, night bus back to North London, good times. Especially with the company AMEX in my pocket. Entertaining clients - what a licence to have a good time on the company's expense that was. But I digress.

It seems remarkably that it's cheaper to get a weekend break at a decent hotel in the middle of London than it is out in the sticks. This goes totally against everything we are ever told about rents and property prices, but there you have it. Maybe it's because there's so many places competing at being in the city, they make all their money from businessmen in the week so can afford to give good deals to tourists at the weekend. Especially in November.

So there we have it, I have found a nice hotel, so we're going to live it up in the West End, do some Christmas shopping and who knows what else? There's no shortage of things to do. Might even have a ride on that London Eye thing.

Now all I have to do is co-ordinate my work, Claire's work, the mother-in-law's work and my own parents time in order to make this happen. Easier said than done! But I want to be out of here and on the train as early as possible on the Friday and as long as I'm back in time to run my Sunday night karaoke, all will be well.

Six years away from the Big Smoke - it's been too long :-) London here we come.

If you have enjoyed reading this blog, please take a look at my books on Amazon (Paperback & Kindle), where you can read lots more of the same! Click here.

Jason x x

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Whiter than white...?

Well, today's been a little challenging to say the least.

Ollie got sent home from school yesterday - not well. He had a temperature and was clearly not himself. I had a night out planned last night, but had to take it fairly easy - just had the three pints in the end. With Claire working from 7:30am and Ollie potentially unwell, I could not justify getting hammered.

I enjoyed my couple of hours in the Star anyway, a chance to catch up with a few friends without the pressure of running a disco/ karaoke, so a chance to relax.

Just as I was about to leave Daryl turned up, on his way back from a poker tournament at the Highfield. He wanted to have a drink with me - either there, or walking back into town and going to the White Hart, but I declined.

I declined, for the reason that I decline the vast majority of social invitations in that either work or childcare invariably comes first. Not I don't feel guilty about this in the slightest. I had 20 good years of pissing up with no kids, and a Monday - Friday job, leaving the weekends free to do whatever I want.

The thing I do feel guilty about is that I might be perceived as not being a proper friend, as I invariably say no to people and such invitations. Apparently Daryl has also posted on my wall, asking if I fancy going away for a stag type weekend. Inevitably the answer is going to be no. Don't get me wrong - I like Daryl, and 10 years ago I would have been there like a shot, but quite simply, life has moved on for me and I just don't want to do those things anymore.

However - and this goes for Daryl - and any other friend who might be reading this. I like to think what I lack in presence in body, I make up for in soul - and by that I mean that a friend in need knows they can always turn to me for advice and help. While I may not be able to go out on the piss with them at the drop of the hat, they know, in times of real crisis, they can confide and trust in me. That's what's on offer these days.

I still don't think I do enough as a friend though, and that's why I rarely ask for help when I am struggling. I was in a pickle this morning, the mother-in-law was too busy with work to come round, I really did not want to take Ollie out what with being poorly, but in the end I had no choice. We were out of various essentials, bread, milk, cheese balls, and such like, so I had no choice but to get him off his sick bed and up and out.

In the end Ollie was OK, but it just highlights how vulnerable a situation I am in. All I needed was someone to come round for half an hour to watch them while I nipped out but I hate asking people - as a) I feel I am putting them out and b) I never do anything for them in return so feel bad.

It's not so bad during the week, but on a Saturday it's out of the question - everyone's got stuff to do with their families on a Saturday. So I just soldier along on my own.

Now I've made friends with two other mums who pass my way to school who also have boys Ollie's age and babies. I have broached the idea with them of us helping each other out by walking the boys to school if we ever have a problem, e.g. one of the babies was ill, but we have not yet got to the point of exchanging phone numbers.

This is where being a man comes in - once again I am conscious of being one of the few males at the school gates, and it's still early days. After a while at the courtyard this was no longer an issue, but it does take a while for the other mums to get to know me and establish trust in me - something I would probably get automatically if I were female. Maybe it will be OK in time, hopefully. It does seem to take me a while to get to know people in general. My closest friends who read this probably recall our friendships being quite slow burning at first. I'm not the easiest person to get to know and don't think I always make the best first impressions, but ultimately when I click with someone it's very rewarding.

These other two mums, Laura and Claire have been round to each other's for coffee, and I daresay eventually I will join in them, but I am still so painfully aware that I am a man, and an innocent coffee invitation could be mis-construed, so I just hold back. I can't afford to make any mistakes, not when I am going to be around these people for the next 7 years. Eventually we'll reach a point where they "get me" and then all will be well.

Probably just me being over cautious and paranoid but I invariably am. The slightest hint of disapproval, comment taken the wrong way, or anything really and I'm crestfallen and retreating into my shell for days on end.

Anyway, the shopping trip had to be conducted with the minimum of fuss so I didn't have time to check my receipt till I got home and surprise surprise, thank you once again Tesco you robbing bastards, something on a big end of aisle display clearly described as half price at £1 and yes I've been charged £2. No way I am going out again now, so that's another quid you've successfully conned someone out of to add to the millions you make this way every week.

The other thing that is stressing me out is the washing. We have not even reached half term yet and Ollie's uniform is effectively ruined. The jumpers have holes chewed in the sleeves. The trousers are all frayed at the bottom where they have dragged under his shoes, despite these being the smallest sizes available. I don't know how to take up trousers and I don't think that's just a man thing, more of a generational thing, I reckon plenty of women don't know how to do this either.

And finally the white shirts, having got grubby and grey already from multiple washes, now have blue collars and trims - inexplicably from an attempt to do a white wash. I should not have bothered. The more I try and be clever with the washing the worse the results.

Since we have to do a washload virtually every day, it's invariably a mixed wash. As for all those bloody supposedly magical laundry aids you can buy to sort out all these issues, don't bother. Dr Beekman? Absolutely bloody useless. Mr Beekman (the toucan from 3rd and bird) could have done a better job!

Mr Beekman

Vanish? Yeah right! Waste of time and money. From now on it's washing powder, fabric conditioner and 40 degree wash, tried and trusted. And Ollie will be the only boy in school with blue collars.

As for being whiter than white - well, there's not many of us that can make that claim but we do our best. They say that all men are liars, I don't agree, I always try and tell the truth even when I screw up. However what I do believe is that all the detergent ads on the TV are definitely lying. Please someone come on here and confirm to me that keeping whites shiny bright is indeed a myth and not just down to my poor laundry skills!

Well, what do you know, I actually wrote a blog on topic for once.

If you have enjoyed reading this blog, please take a look at my books on Amazon (Paperback & Kindle), where you can read lots more of the same! Click here.

Jason x x

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

The Consumer Champion Strikes Again!!!

Well here we are on Wednesday, and I have not been on facebook since Sunday. And I am not missing it at all. In fact I am positively enjoying it. At last I realise what a slave I had become to that site.

I doubt whether my absence has even been noticed, but there you go. I don't know as I have turned notifications off, so I won't get any emails to tell me if anyone posts on my wall. Which they rarely do anyway.

Despite not visiting the site, I am still maintaining a presence through these blogs, which should send a link to my facebook page. Hopefully, anyway, the posting is a little sporadic, so if you are seeing this, hello!

Now as for facebook, I think I am going to use it as a networking site, as originally intended. I have had a fair amount of business come my way in the past through people either sending me private messages or posting on my wall e.g. "Hi Jason, so and so here, it's my 30th birthday next year and wondered if you could do my disco".

I probably get more business this way than through my yellow pages ad and yell listing (which I am thinking of dropping), so I would be foolish to abandon facebook altogether. I think what I shall do then is keep it open, set my notifications to send me an email if anyone tries to contact me and leave it at that. In the meantime I shall focus on my blogs, which will come up in the news feed anyway, and then if people want to comment they can do it here.

I mentioned spats on facebook. Well there was a huge row on my status a couple of months ago about a totally trivial issue. Then not long before that I got an embroiled in a huge bust-up between two of my karaoke singers. And that's just me. I've seen a lot worse on other people's status. I just can't be doing with it.

Over here on my blog I'm free. It's my little place where I can write whatever I want, and it's permanent, unlike the here today gone tomorrow nature of facebook statuses. My own tiny little corner of the internet, and if you like it, stop over on my blog any time and share a cup of tea :-)

The consumer champion struck again in Tesco today. I'm the man they fear coming into their store. I would not say I've got to the point of actively seeking out mistakes yet, but if you find them, exploit them. Today I found a fixture laden up with fun size mars bars, smarties, maltesers etc, advertised as 2 for £4. The little yellow stickers below then went on to list all the brands included which did include maltesers. However, crucially the maltesers themselves did not have a yellow sticker below them. Hello, I thought, is this another attempt at deception by Tesco? Let's try it on...

Sure enough at the till, the discount did not come off. Cue me causing lots of aggro, stressy staff "we can't find a manager" and me presenting the yellow sticker highlighting the offer, in short "I rest my case, your honour".

In fact further investigation revealed that the offer has actually ended yesterday, not that the average punter would have been able to make this out from the ticket due to the font size, if I can demonstrate it was roughly half the size of this (the smallest font I can get this blog to do)

Offer ends 11/10/2011

Tesco have a policy that if they make a mistake they refund double the difference and these mistakes occur every day. They are worth looking out for. OK, this time I only regained the grand total of £1.74, hardly a great days pay for the 10 minutes wasted arseing about at Customer Services, but it's the satisfaction one gains from getting one over on the giant bloated big corporation that I enjoy. I doubt whether my £1.74 will affect the share price but...




Like I say, it's worth doing. I once got about 6 bottles of Chateauneuf-Du-Pape for the grand total of about £15 (it should have been about £60 due to a catastrophic mix up in their labelling combined with another offer they had going on that week.

That was the second time we'd had trouble at the tills today, as in Somerfield earlier, Claire bought some Aussie shampoo that was reduced to £1.80, which she assures me is a bargain. I don't know - that comes under the heading of "girlie stuff". Anyway the till did not recognise the reduction, cue another load of hassle. No manager available. The usual chaos ensued, you all know my opinions on how badly that place is run. So I was unsurprised to hear (and this is the hot gossip on Sheep Street today) that it is closing down next month, and the hot favourite to replace it (a very strong rumour from a reliable gossipy source) is Wilkinsons. I think this will be excellent. We need a variety store where we can get all those odd little bits and pieces that Woolworths used to sell.

Bicester won't miss a shoddy 1970s food store that's for sure, and Sainsbury's is coming (eventually) to plug the gap.

Ollie went round to his friend's house after school yesterday which gave me a couple of hours to play on GT5 on the PS3. I must have improved an awful lot, as I am finding I can now complete certain licences and special events in the game which I found impossible when I first got the game nearly a year ago. This is enabling me to fill in a few gaps in my trophy cabinet. I can only assume that having played it so much for so long I have got significantly better. I'm certainly winning more online races now than I used to.

There's just been another update released with some new features and cars. There's also an add-on pack which you can buy for a few quid with some new tracks on it - one of which is Spa - how awesome is that? I love the nature of the modern games, the way they can keep evolving and growing. I've certainly had my £40 worth out of GT5, and every update brings new stuff to do. Back in the Spectrum days in the 80s, games were about a fiver, seems cheap by comparison, but if you completed them in 3 days, that was it.

That'll do for today I think. I am going to see if I can beat my best times on the Nurburgring :-)

If you have enjoyed reading this blog, please take a look at my books on Amazon (Paperback & Kindle), where you can read lots more of the same! Click here.

Jason x x

Monday, 10 October 2011

7 day itch

I mentioned all the things I didn't like about facebook in a recent post. Nothing's changed so I am going to try and stay off it for 7 days. I won't deactivate it though. As last time I did that someone got all huffy and upset because they thought I had deleted them!

I sometimes think that some people just don't "get me" and whilst that's not something to bother me in itself, I kind of think why should I set myself up for a fall in a public place. I have had more than my fair share of misunderstandings and spats.

Now this is a public place too - I know. However I also know that the only people who read my blogs are people who do get me. If they don't - they don't read it. And if I did not promote it on facebook I doubt they would read it at all. The only two people who I can guarantee would read it would be Claire and Lynda. For all I know there may be a few "sleepers" too - people who read but never comment. As you can see I have the impressive total of two followers. One is Lynda, and the other one I have not got a clue - but I have checked out his blog so let me take this opportunity to say "Good morning to you sir, and how are the chickens?"

There's a co-incidence - both of my followers keep chickens, perhaps I shall have to try and think of a fowl-based subject for a blog just for them.

But as I say, it all comes back to facebook - if you are not on facebook you might as well not exist. If this blog did not come on my news feed no-one hardly anyone would know of its existence.

I wish more people would blog. Of my 252 friends on facebook I would say there are probably less than 10 who write status updates worth reading. The few who do are massively entertaining, all good friends, and completely on my wavelength. What a great site this would be if the likes of Bobbie, Selina and Gary C all posted here. As long as he leaves Arsenal alone of course.

I still have not really worked out what I want to use this blog for. I have browsed through a few blogs on the site and most do really use it as an online diary. Today we did this, last night we did that, etc. Now I also write in this style occasionally, but my blogs are somewhat more random than that. For example we are well over half way through this one, and I have not told you a thing about what I've been doing yet. All you've heard is thought and theory, there's no substance.

The thing is, and the trap that many blogs fall into, is that a lot of what we all do on a day to day basis is boring. If I just came on every day and said "got up, fed kids, took them to school, went to Nash's for a coffee, did some housework" and so on and so forth I think it would be rather dull.

So I prefer to give you the meandering thoughts of my increasingly erratic mind, spilling onto the page like a form of cognitive diarrohea, despised by a few, ignored by most and cherished by the precious few that sustain me.

And if I can stay off that bloody facebook you'll get plenty of it this week.

So what am I doing - well I am sitting here having a cup of tea and writing this. I'll shortly be off to the bank to pay in the weekend's takings prior to pottering around a few shops and buying a few groceries. Then I will come back and start cleaning, play with Jamie for a bit, have some lunch, perhaps listen to a bit of Jeremy Vine's show, then all too soon it will be time for the afternoon school run.

See I told you it was boring.

I'll do a bit about the kids - people seem to like that.

Jamie and Ollie are really starting to interact now that Jamie is walking. They have developed this little routine where Ollie sits on the floor and Jamie walks over and jumps on him. It has them (and me) roaring with laughter. Precious moments, and I want to enjoy more of them. Which I won't be doing if I'm obsessively refreshing facebook to see if anyone's liked my status. How sad have we become if that's what we need to feel wanted? It's worthless. A reply to one of my blogs is worth 100 times more, it shows someone has actually read and enjoyed it.

So 7 days off it is, if you want me you'll have to get hold of me the old fashioned way, on one of them telephone things.

Till tomorrow then

If you have enjoyed reading this blog, please take a look at my books on Amazon (Paperback & Kindle), where you can read lots more of the same! Click here.

xx Jason

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Holidays - what now?

So, here we are in 2008, and now we have a baby - but that's not a big deal - we just carry on with our holidays like before, right?

Well - as a couple, using just two seats on a plane, and with no children to worry about, a package holiday outside the school holidays, a room and self-catering really is the best option. What I did not realise was that everything was going to change.

First time out - May 2008 with 8 month Ollie, everything was pretty much to form. We went to Minorca (our honeymoon), he sat on Claire's lap on the plane, we hired a car, ate out most nights in restaurants, he had jars of baby food, no problem.

By our next holiday, February 2009 in Fuerteventura, things were getting a little more difficult. He still had to sit on our laps on the plane and it was a nightmare. We also had major problems in restaurants - he was too little for child portions and too big for baby food. By the time the following year came round, February 2010 this had become a major problem. He did not understand that you had to order food and wait for it, and then there was the double whammy that anything that came was way too hot and put in front of him and couldn't be eaten straightaway. Eating out at night changed from a pleasure to an ordeal - and it was also hideously expensive. Lucky to get away from any restaurant with change out of 50 euros. Plus we had to pay for his seat on the plane, effectively increasing the cost of the holiday by 50%.

And then we all got ill.

Don't take any notice of offers of "free child places" by travel agents, they merely increase the base price of the two adults accordingly. So you will see the same holiday priced at £750pp with one free child place - or reduced to £500pp but with no free child place. Either way you pay £1500.

So the Lanzarote holiday went badly, clearly time for a re-think. Prior to that we had our first trip to Butlins which went well. Monday - Friday in term time, very pleasant, none of the hen and stag nonsense of the weekends and the self-service nature of the food worked well with Ollie.

But I still wanted to go abroad, so looked for somewhere abroad with the same criteria as Butlins, and found a place in Ibiza, all-inclusive, and with kids club. It went reasonably well apart from the fact that the food was not a patch on Butlins, and again we all got ill.

But I can't see much future for us in these types of holidays. They are being priced out of our range. Not only are we going to have a 4th seat on the plane for Jamie, but going out of school holidays is going to start becoming a problem.

To summarise, what we used to do as a couple for £800 has risen to close to £2000 and to do what we have been doing as a family of four incoporating part of the school holidays has soared to £3000+. That's a lot of nights DJ'ing. Just looking at February half term for next year I cannot find anything decent for under £2000 and that's even with Jamie still sat on our lap. May is slightly cheaper, but for other reasons I can't go into here, booking a trip abroad that far ahead has other complications at present.

So what is to be done? No more foreign holidays? One thing is clear - the more our family grows the more economical it is to purchase holidays not per person - but per room. For example the chalets at Butlins cost the same however many people you have in them. This largely rules out flights - and any transport that's per seat. So cars and boats - good. Planes and trains - bad.

Butlins is good - but it's not long enough. Monday to Friday is not a proper holiday. You can book for 7 days but I am not sure I want to be there at the weekend and for my whole holiday. How can we get a decent holiday in the UK? And then I hit on an idea - for this year at least.

We don't have any restriction taking Ollie out this year, which makes May a favourable month to go away. When we go to Butlins we book Deluxe room and Premium Dining - which costs about £1000 during the school holidays but in May it's only £350. I want a holiday of a decent length but without missing too much work and I hit on this 3 stage plan.

1) We go down to Butlins for a 4 day holiday in Minehead on a Monday in May - say the 7th. We stay until the 11th.

2) We then drive on down into Cornwall - Padstow or somewhere like that is not far as we are already half way there, and stay in a nice self-catering cottage by the sea to for 3 days, from the Friday until Monday. Then we can eat out, drive around see a bit of my favourite county.

3) On Monday we drive back to Butlins at Minehead and have a second Monday - Friday week, returning home on the Friday.

In summary, we have had an 11 day holiday with a bit of variety, I have only missed one weekend of DJ'ing and all of this can be done on a budget of about a £1000 with all the food apart from the 3 days in Cornwall thrown in. And never more than 3 hours of travelling at any one time.

I have never heard of anyone else every doing anything like this - but I reckon it's a perfect plan. I'd be interested to hear your feedback!

If you have enjoyed reading this blog, please take a look at my books on Amazon (Paperback & Kindle), where you can read lots more of the same! Click here.

Jason x x

Friday, 7 October 2011

Rainy Days and Holi-daze - Part One

It seems that many people are dissatisfied with their holidays judging by some of the disgruntled reviews on Trip Advisor. But who knows - perhaps these are the sort of people who moan about everything anyway. Or perhaps they didn't do their homework. Who knows - all I know, is it's getting harder and harder to find the right holiday for "me".

The weather's gone off and it's gone a bit rainy which always makes me think of holidays. i.e. wanting to go on one!

We may all have our own ideas as to what constitutes the perfect holiday. However, as our life moves through it's different stages our holiday needs change, just as our life needs change.

Never underestimate the importance of holidays. They are something that define us, make for long lasting memories, snapshots of our life at key times. Think back to your past, any particular year and I am willing to bet you have just as many memories of your two week holiday that year as the rest of the 50 weeks put together.

A quick potted history of my holidays, to set the context for my current dilemna. Let's start with my childhood - this covers the period up to my mid teens.

Back in the 70s and early 80s holidays never seemed to be that big a priority. Yes we always had one, but it was invariably in the UK, invariably on the cheap, and invariably based around what the parents wanted to do. This frequently involved camping and B&B's - never hotels and certainly never abroad. As for fun things such as Butlins or Disneyworld, this was the stuff of fantasy. Prior to 1985 I set foot out of the country once - on a horrendous day trip to France on a cross channel ferry in 1979.

Now I don't want to sound as if I am being unduly harsh - for all I know it was like this for all families and I certainly don't recall my schoolmates at primary school jetting off to sunnier climes, and certainly no-one ever went on holiday in term time. Perhaps this was just as it was back then.

Eventually as I grew older and my voice became heard I was able to negotiate some input into the holidays, and I did manage to persusade my dad to take me to Blackpool for a few days one summer but even then I had to endure a week of tramping up and down mountains in the lake district first - something I find absolutely dismal. The camping holidays also extended into France by the mid 80s and I even had my own tent. Which came in very handy in the summer of '86 when I met a young mademoiselle who showed me that French girls were a little more forward thinking than their equivalents back home in my church youth group.

What I really wanted to do was get away from my parents, like any teenagers so I could get up to what I wanted, and I achieved this through the discovery of PGL. With them I had two holidays in England and one in France. The one in France was when I was 17, I arrived at the coach station in London alone, not knowing anyone and boarded a bus with a load of other 16-18 year olds for our two week adventure in France. Sounds quite a brave thing to do looking back but exactly what I needed - leaping into an adventure in the unknown. What an amazing two weeks that was - windsurfing, canoeing, not to mention all the stuff that went on at night. I was a changed person when I returned, for the first time feeling full of confidence about my ability to make my way in the world.

From the late 80s to the mid 90s I was in a relationship so priorities changed. Emma & I were teenagers when we met, and we also wanted the opportunity to get away on our own. After a couple of years of little trips in the UK, we finally went on our first package holiday, and I stepped on to an aeroplane for the first time in my life at the age of 20, and we flew to Greece, with lots of drachma in my pocket (about 250 dr to a £1 if I remember rightly).

The island we stayed on was tiny and had very little tourism. People go on about how cheap it was back then but in this place untouched by mass tourism it really was true. We really could have a 3 course meal with wine for a fiver a head. And all of this normally taking place literally in someone's garden with about 3 tables with their grandmother cooking the meal. And there was nothing to do on the island at all really, but we didn't mind, we were a young couple on their first holiday together so it was all we wanted back then.

all you needed for one of these in 1990

I think you would struggle to find a holiday like that now. At some point in the last couple of decades most people in Greece (and other countries) cottoned on that they really could get more than 50p for a beer when we were paying £2 plus back home. Not that it seems to have done their economies any good.

As for the cost of the holiday, well I remember us paying £300 each for the trip, and for many years afterwards it was still quite feasible to get holidays at a similar price, it was only the spending money that increased. As late as the early 2000's I can remember getting holidays out of season for peanuts.

We had a few more holidays as a couple, some in the UK and some abroad, as well as holidays with friends, including my first and last trip to Pontins in the summer of '93 with Darren & Lisa. It rained all week and me and Darren spent a lot of our time on the racing games in the arcade.

Eventually by the autumn of '95 I was newly single and again struck out on my own, flying off to Fuerteventura on a whim on my own. Met up with some people the first night & again had an amazing time. Over the next decade, I was in and out of relationships and my holidays changed accordingly. During single periods I was able to indulge in suitable holidays - such as when Michael and I went to Ibiza with 2wentys (very like Club 18-30). That was probably a candidate for best holiday ever - I could fill a whole blog with what went on during those two weeks! When with girlfriends we tended to do the standard package holiday - always self-catering, and always having nice meals out in tavernas in the evening. Over those years I covered most of the major Greek islands, Balearics, Canaries, Algarve etc. I was earning quite good money by this stage so two holidays a year was the norm. There were a few other odd trips as well, such as week spent in Lillehammer in Norway during the winter of '99 in deep snow. How I ended up there during Cheltenham week of all weeks is a long story I won't go into now.

Then I had the ultimate trip during my 3 month sabbatical from Nielsen in the Autumn of 2004, taking in LA (Hollywood), Hawaiii, New Zealand, Australia and Dubai. This was the crowning pinnacle of my travels and I couldn't see how I could top it after that. Which I was unlikely to anyway with my marketing career drawing to a close and the spectre of unemployment looming.

Fast forward to January 2007 and now I'm with Claire and we're over to Corralejo in Fuerteventura, my favourite destination. First holiday together and we are having a very nice time, doing lots of couple things, lovely evenings out in restaurants, and everything else that a couple in a new relationship enjoy. At the time we were blissfully unaware of the baby growing inside her, which among all the other changes that it would bring to a person's life, was also to have a huge impact on how we would holiday in the future.

And all of that will be covered in Part Two...coming soon.

If you have enjoyed reading this blog, please take a look at my books on Amazon (Paperback & Kindle), where you can read lots more of the same! Click here.

Jason x x