Tuesday, 24 April 2012

What are the best apps for brains?

A two part blog entry today.

Firstly, there are many issues that polarise opinion in the world, and factors that make people compatible with one another. Ever since computer dating was invented, people have been trying to matchmake using various criteria. I am sure you have all seen the ads over the years where you get a list of interests you have to tick - reading, holidays, keeping fit, nights out etc. Maybe you have even tried it. But I have come to the conclusion that there is only one test you'll ever need.

People talk about people with Type A and Type B personalities, and countless words have been written on the subject. I myself have spent a good 20 years or more now pondering the issue and indeed wrote an extensive 100,000 word thesis on the subject. However I have condensed this down purely for your benefit into two summary bullet points containing 4 and 5 words each.

So my two basic personality types are:

a) People who like Marmite.
b) People who don't like Marmite.

The only compatibility test you will ever need.

All that research and it boils down to just those 9 simple words. So if you've got your eye on someone, or even thinking of making things a little more official with your current beau, simply ask them - "Do you like Marmite". If you discover your both Type A's or both Type B's go for it! Otherwise best knock it on the head now as it'll never work.

Here is Part Two. I have been contemplating the similarities between our brains and computer hard drives. I did a little search on Google and the answers I came up with suggested that the human brain is around 10 terrabytes. So putting it in context, and thinking about the rate at which computer memory expands, it won't be that long until you are using a laptop with a capacity the size of your brain.

It's hard to compare a human brain with a computer or is it? I thought about the life cycle of a laptop and then the life cycle of a person, and they are quite similar really. Fresh out of the box, a new computer is like a new born child, huge empty memory, with a capacity to soak up huge amounts of information.

Are they really that different?

But then we get older. We have more and more applications on our computer, more and more things to remember in our daily lives. Things start to slow down. On an average day I might have any number of apps running concurrently in my mind, and whilst they may not all be being used absolutely simultaneously, they have to be running in the background so I don't forget. Here's a few of the apps that I might have running either in the foreground or background on a daily basis.

1) Washing app - needs to be continually open to remind me when it's time to put a washload on, put the last lot of dry washing away, and monitoring the machine so I am ready to hang it all up when finished.

2) Shopping app - constantly monitoring stock levels around the house and has to make mental notes every time certain items fall below critical levels e.g. half a loaf, a pint of milk, 4 cans of Strongbow. All of this information has to be stored until visiting the shops when the smart part of the app helps me seek out the best deals for my money.

3) Nappy app. Includes a smell detector, and also a bulge monitor to identify the optimum moment for a change, i.e. when wet but before capacity reached i.e. wet clothes.

4) Clock app - constantly being updated throughout the day with all the ad-hoc things that need to be done, appointments to be kept, etc etc. Also includes a longer term calendar app looking at the week and month ahead.

5) Work app - keeping on top of all the business details, dealing with queries from clients, planning playlists, keeping on top of paperwork.

6) Cleaning app - constantly on the lookout for mess and problems that need sorting, on top of the regular scheduled tasks.

7) Cooking app, constantly trying to ensure that everyone gets fed, not long is one meal completed when already the next one is being planned. Works in conjunction with the Shopping app.

8) Sex app - not one I have any control of, it just "pops up", reminding me that I want some, must have been installed by a virus as I don't seem to be able to get rid of it!

9) Stress app - designed to maximise usage of the hard drive and prevent the computer from suffering any damage. Mine does not seem to work very well, perhaps I need an upgrade.

So with all these apps running, and more, the processor in my brain is under constant pressure.  With a hard drive that's almost full of essential information (history of pop music, complete and detailed information of every episode of Doctor Who ever made that sort of thing), the whole thing is struggling somewhat, and it seems frequently these days everything freezes up and I am stood staring blankly and unresponsively into space with a little hourglass going round and round in my mind. Bestie is also suffering the same problems, and even has a theory that with every caesarean section she had, a small part of her hard drive was also removed by rogue doctors who probably supplemented their incomes as undergraduates with a few stints ripping people off at PC world. So if you see any pieces of Lynda's brain on eBay please let us know so we can buy them back.

Anyway I must dash, my cooking app is flashing and telling me it's time to put the spaghetti on!

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 xx

Monday, 23 April 2012

St George's Day

Happy St George's Day! 

There are certain debates that come up every year in the calendar, e.g. why do we mess about changing the clocks, but the one that seems to grow stronger every year is - why don't we celebrate St George's Day the way other countries do? - Ireland being the one most commonly referred to, but often you hear the USA and Australia mentioned.

I don't think there is any one single reason, but a combination of factors. The first is that St George's Day is not  a bank holiday. Now that is a real big one, probably the biggest of all. In all of those other countries I mentioned their national day is a holiday as in most countries. I could list countless examples.

There has been a clamour in this country to make St George's Day a bank holiday for many years but the Government has always been reluctant to add an additional day. Not only that but the timing is far from ideal. You will all be aware of the lopsided nature of our 8 bank holidays in this country, that they are clustered into groups, 3 of them over Christmas and New Year, 4 of them between Easter and the end of May, and then a solitary single day at the end of August in a 7 month period otherwise barren of bank holidays.

Quite honestly, the simplest solution would be to move the May Day holiday back a week to April 23rd and keep it on the 23rd unless it's a weekend, when you could have it on the Monday. It would therefore give us the novelty of having a midweek holiday sometimes. Having most of our bank holidays on Mondays is all well and good, but imagine what fun it would be to have a day off on a Wednesday.

That's reason one - reason two? Well I think because we are English, trying to celebrate what we are every day doesn't have the novelty value that celebrating the National day of another country has. When the stars and stripes come out in July or all the shamrocks and pints of Guinness appear in March, people lap it up as it's something out of the ordinary - like any event in the calendar. Halloween, Easter, they all have an identity. Now what identity does St George's Day have - well we have the flag, dragons, and English ale producers do their best to replicate what Guinness can do for the Irish, but somehow it just fails to ignite the passions of the average Englishman or woman.

I could use my discos as a good example here. If I do a disco for St Patrick's Day it's all Irish music. For Halloween it's all the Halloween music. Something different. It stands out from the average Saturday night disco. But if I do a disco for St George's Day - it's all going to be English music and very little different to what I do week in week out during the year as being English and playing to predominantly English music in a culture where the majority of chart music is English, it's nothing out of the ordinary. This is how it was when I supported the Wurzels on St George's Day two years ago. All English music, yes, but it did not really stand out. But the Wurzels were great! And let's face it, everyone came to see them, not me!

What a great St George's Day that was!

How do you make something special that's what you are, what you do, every day of your life?

Hopefully I am getting my point across here. Now I know there are those of you out there who are passionate about St George's Day and want to celebrate but feel frustrated by the complete apathy it seems of most of the English population. They know where they are with St Patrick's Day, they know where they are with the other days I mentioned, but I think quite simply they don't really know what to do for St George's Day.

There is a third argument I have heard mentioned - but I dismiss it. It is the one about people being afraid to celebrate being English as they think it is somehow "racist" or shows support for the BNP or whomever. I am sorry but I totally do not agree with this argument. Being proud of your country is not racist. I don't hear people levelling that argument at the French when they celebrate Bastille Day or any of the others. I think this is a nasty, insidious argument invented by people for their own political ends. I have mentioned it here, because I know it's an angle that has been explored by others, but I completely dismiss it.

So to summarise, my conclusions are as follows.

1) Not a bank holiday and at the wrong time of year to introduce a new one. So move the May one.
2) People want to celebrate St George's Day - they just don't know how to!

If you are celebrating today, I wish you all the best of luck and have a great day.

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.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

The 70s and other decades

Whilst myself and Mrs Jason were watching JTV tonight (a programme from 1989), a comment was made about measuring a pregnant woman's baby's heartbeat and Mrs J commented, "Oh I didn't know they could do that back then".

Now as you know, Mrs Jason is some 15 years younger than myself, a factor that rarely causes any issues, but to put it into context, in 1989 she was 4 years old and had not even started Primary School. I had finished my A Levels and was in my first full time job, as well as enjoying all the pursuits that a 19 year old could at that age - i.e. drinking and all the rest of it (yes, believe it or not I was not one of those saddoes who did not lose their virginity until they were 26).

The thing is - 1989 was not really that long ago for me, 23 years in fact. Which is actually the same amount of years for any of us, well it would be wouldn't it. It's only just over half my life ago. For Claire though, it's ancient history. Which is perhaps why she thought the technology to measure a baby's heartbeat did not exist back then.

It got me thinking back to when I was the age Claire is now, 27, it was 1997, and thinking back to 1974, trying to put myself into that same age gap, and it is true the world changed enormously during those years.

But then I think -did it? Let's go back another 27 years from 1974 to 1947, then we really are in the black and white era! In fact most things when I was 4 that were more than five years old were. That gap between black and white and colour more than anything defined history for me. So that when watching colour TV in 1974 and watching 10 year old crackly black and white footage of say, The Beatles, to me, it seemed like a bygone era. The 50s, which everyone used to bang on about as a golden era, well, seemed like another century to me.

Is it the same for people now? I would argue not. A teenager now looking at a 10 year old pop video won't see any discernible difference from one made today. Unlike me in say, 1984. That's my opinion. If some 18 year old wants to come on here and tell me I'm just some old git talking bollocks and that isn't true, I would be interested. In fact readers, those of you with teenage children, I say, ask them.

Technology advances, but not a lot else. I would argue in that single moment where the clock ticked over into 1970 and colour TV arrived, suddenly the world jumped 20 years into the future.

I've got boxsets of shows e.g, On The Buses which started in 1969. The first two series were in Black and White, the remainder in colour. Seriously the first series looks like it was made in about 1950, whereas the picture quality of the colour episodes is up to today's standards.

Same with Doctor Who - Patrick Troughton finished in 1969, suddenly it's January 1970 and Jon Pertweee is the Doctor and it's in full colour. The contrast could not be more different as these two shots show. No wonder they deleted so many of the old black and white episodes.

Doctor who in 1969

And in 1970 - what a difference a year and the colour makes!

And what abou those decades - the 70s and 80s - that we see featured so often in nostalgia shows. It's the same old cliches isn't it? The same old little bits of footage that are trotted out to represent the decades. All you need to know it seems is that the 70s was full of industrial unrest and in the 80s we had the rubik cube. That's about it. Same tired, old cliches. Oh it's the 80s - let's throw in a few bits about the following: rubik cube, falklands war, shoulder pads, yuppies, huge mobile phones (ha ha how funny). The sad thing is, younger viewers, i.e. anyone under the age of about 27 will only have this perception of the decade.

The obligatory rubik cube which  must be included in  any article or programme about the 80s

How sad - those decades were about so much more. And as for technology - wow - every new thing that came along seemed like the most amazing invention ever. It's not like today where everything is just a bigger and better version of what's gone before. 3DTV - yes - but it's still TV. iPhone - yes, but it's just a more sophisticated phone than the last one that came out. In the 70s and 80s it was all new.

Forget the media predictability - here's a few of my own memories. I remember in about 1975, seeing my first ever digital watch. It was this bloke, Bruce who lodged in the house opposite and flew model aeroplanes and had all sorts of gadgets. He had an LED digital watch. All it told you was the hour. But the excitement! I can remember me and several other boys hanging around him as the hour approached so we could see this thing change over from 2 to 3. It was amazing!!!

Pocket calculators! Unbelievable! You could cheat at maths! Home computers - ZX81, ZX Spectrum - computer games at home. Casio watches, kids with mobile ringtones annoying the teachers these days don't know they are born. In our day it was the hourly chime!

I had one very like this.

It all seemed so exciting, and the world truly did change, so quickly. Now? Well I don't think it does. Seriously look back 12 years to the year 2000. The world then looked extremely similar to how it does now. Has anything really changed? We had the internet and mobile phones then, they've just got smarter. Then I think about the 12 years between say 1968 and 1980 and all that happened in those years (I didn't even mention music but there's another example).

How can I sum it up - well, Sandi Thom did it so better than me, "I wish I was a punk rocker with flowers in my hair".

I think I have been very lucky to have been born when I was and lived during the technological era, young enough to embrace it, but old enough to keep my links with the past.

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.

Signing off for tonight

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Bunk Beds

Come on and play me - I dare ya! Username is BicesterBlogger

What the hell is this picture at the top of the blog? All will be revealed further down...but in the meantime, what a busy day that was! I purchased (second hand) an amazing set of bunk beds, and managed to get them home and installed on the very same day, thanks to the help of a couple of very friendly painters and decorators who were able to give me a hand.

Sadly - no picture available of the bunk beds at present. I am currently unable to take pictures with either my Samsung camera or my HTC mobile due to technical issues.

Now you will recall a couple of blogs back my phone related woes. Well I did eventually get to the bottom of this. It transpired that there was no internal memory left on my phone. So no applications would work, no updates could be installed, text messages couldn't be sent - the list goes on.

And why? Well it seems that once a photo is taken on this particular model of phone it is forever engraved on the memory - even after you have deleted it - either from the phone or when linked up to the laptop. Also this particular model of HTC Sense phone despite having a 2GB SD card attached there is no way of transferring the photos to the SD card.

And before you start thinking "useless twat, doesn't know what he's talking about", I did a search on google for the precise problems I was experiencing and discovered countless links to forums describing these exact same problems and the conclusion that there was no solution! Other than a factory reset and don't take any more photos!

Anyway once all this was done, phone worked fine and was able to download some apps finally, including some new games. Have discovered Dice with Friends which is like Yahtzee and I am about to win my first game - I hope. I have finished with a 10 point lead, Lynda has one go left but has only the ones column to fill with a maximum possible 5. Funnily enough she seems to be dragging her heels over this last move. As to play it will be to admit defeat, but let's face it, no-one is ever going to beat me at a mathematical based game. Same with monopoly, I know exactly which properties to buy and how many houses to put on them. Think a hotel on Mayfair is the best investment of your cash? Think again...but don't ask me, I'm not giving away my secrets!

Have decided against the iPad - funds now unavailable, and anyway, an expensive toy I don't need especially now my phone is fixed (providing I don't take any pictures) - spent the money on the bunk beds - £200, which I know seems a lot second hand but they were £450 new and come with 3 mattresses, and the whole thing is good solid stuff in excellent nick. I also spent £50 in Argos on sheets, quilt covers etc, so that has cleaned me out. I had to use the rest of my cash for the week for that which leaves me with about £3 until Sunday, a fridge full of food, but no readies, so looks like I won't be going out for any drinkies this weekend. But do I care - no, because I have spent the money on something that the children needed and they will always come first!

Now all I need is to get a battery for this damned camera! The first one I ordered failed to arrive so I have now bought another one - again through Amazon. I got a refund from the first, hopefully this one will come. When buying through Amazon these days, many of the items are sold through preferred merchants. Now the official Amazon version of the battery I need costs £24.99. The one I bought today through a merchant cost £2.30. And no P&P. Amazing the price difference - will it even arrive or even work? I think you can afford to take the risk at that price. It does look very cheap and nasty, we will have to see.

Back to the bunk beds - I have always wanted some! Though I have not managed to get up to the top deck on these. The ladder is clearly not designed for 42 year old 17 stone bloaters, but shouldn't pose too many problems for the average 5 year old. We as I said now have 3 extra beds. Jamie will continue to be sleeping in his cot for a while yet, but our bunk beds have a top deck, bottom deck and pull out 3rd mattress draw, so we are well geared up to cater for visitors.

So that's all sorted. And for my next project, I shall...? Well who knows, what next in the whacky and wonderful world of Bicester Blogger. I must thank-you all for your continued readership and in recent weeks the hits on this blog have been increasing exponentially! I am really glad you are all enjoying and I shall endeavour to keep up the standard!

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, 18 April 2012

Chicken Pox

The great thing about this blog is that I can say whatever I want on it. It is my blog after all, I'm not libelling anyone, or trying to bullshit anyone (Legoland blog excluded) I just give my opinion.

So when I say I think Montgomery House Surgery is an absolute waste of space, and Langford Village Surgery is the best in Bicester - that's my opinion! Agree or disagree - that's up to you, but I say/ do what I think - always have, always will.

What's brought all this on, well when I got together with Claire some six years ago nearly, I was based at Langford Village surgery and she was based at Montgomery House. Now whilst it is traditional for all family members to be registered with the same doctor, we continued with this arrangement until Ollie came along, at which point he naturally went to the same surgery as his mother. You see, in the first few months of Ollie's life I was continuing to work full time for the Probation service while Claire was at home, so it was the obvious choice.

Yet the two places could not be further apart. It seems almost impossible to get an appointment at Montgomery, they operate this triage system where they call you back, they are always fully booked and on the rare occasion you do get in you are sat waiting for hours. And then you can't even be trusted to go to the toilet without the humiliation of asking the receptionist for a key who then looks you up and down to assess if she thinks you might be going in there to do drugs. Next time I think I'll shout "Can I have the key please I know I haven't had a shave today but I am not going in to shoot up, I just need to drop a log".

Not that there will be a next time. Convenient as it is having the doctors located a stone throw from the school, bollocks to them! I am moving them to Langford Village surgery at the first opportunity.

I have been at Langford more or less since it was built, and have the wonderful Doctor Grimshaw as my doctor. He is patient, kind, understanding and I can always get to see him when I need to - which due to a long term medical condition I need to every six months. When I go there I don't think I have ever had to wait more than 5 minutes past the appointment time and every time I ring up the receptionist is polite and helpful.

What's brought all this on, well basically I got a call from school this morning saying Ollie had broken out in spots on his face, and a couple on his chest too. They suspected chicken pox, so could I take him round to the doctor to check. Phoned the surgery! No chance! Just did not want to know. So brought him home, went into town, got various medications and here we are now confined to base. He does not actually seem ill at all, but we will have to see how it goes.

Where's the calamine lotion?

They say the earlier they get it, the less severe it is, so maybe this is all for the best. I don't like him missing so much school, but I guess it could be worse, at least we are not away on holiday or anything like the nightmare we had in Ibiza last May.

Maybe it would be better if Jamie also got it though he seems fine right now.

Won't be able to go out tomorrow, Claire is working, but I am sure Bestie and others will come to my rescue if I need anything.

Anyone on the mumsnet.com blogger network reading this in a similar boat, well you have my sympathies and I will keep you posted.

Not much else to report - wasn't the best of weekends to be honest, faced the agony of seeing my one and only selection in the Grand National beaten by a millimetre. None of this "I won on the Grand National" bollocks that you get from people that had 50p each way on 8 different horses and one came in fourth. No - all the eggs in one basket for me and sadly they did not bear fruit. Sunday night karaoke was the quietest in probably over a year as my loyal army of supporters vanished (thank you Anne & Sparky for saving the day), hopefully just a one off after the long Easter weekend and you'll all be back this Sunday!!!

Night all.

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 xx

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Everything is mobile nowadays

I am pretty much at the cutting edge generally with technology. I was one of the first people in Bicester to get the internet back circa 1994 when most people thought it was only for sad geeks wanking over porn. I saw the potential back then! I was also the first person in Bicester to get an Andrew James meat slicer for my highly advanced and technological ham production line here at Baconham Villa.

However - the one piece of technology that has always frustrated me is the mobile phone!

Now I hardly use mine. At one time I used the excuse that as I was at home most of the time looking after the kids I did not need it. My laptop here is on 24/7 and I can do pretty much everything I need to do on it. My phone by comparison is cumbersome, incredibly fiddly to type with, I can hardly read anything I try to look at on the internet as the fonts are either so small as to need a microcope or don't fit on the page so I have to fiddle about trying to find what I want, also attempts to scroll up the screen are a bloody nightmare, I try and run my finger up, and it ends up clicking on some other link and taking me off to another page, playing games, that's a joke, trying to line up tiles on Words With Friends, the constant failure to retrieve notifications on facebook, friends endlessly texting and expecting instant responses which take me forever, and it's all just...


Now what is most frustrating is that nobody else seems to have these problems. Bestie Lynda for example quite happily runs her whole life through her phone and only puts the laptop on about once a week for the odd thing she can't do on the phone. She can even write long blogs through it and once managed to write one quicker than I did on here.

Just to put this into perspective. That last sentence I wrote, I wrote twice. I typed it on here and I also typed it  into the text message facility in my phone, including correcting mistakes from predictive texts and timed myself each time. The results were as follows:

Laptop: 16 seconds
Phone: I minute 25 seconds

Says it all really. So what is wrong with me? Am I really that useless. I see both Claire and Lynda happily tapping away on their phones, playing games with no problems, which I am struggling. My phone (HTC) itself does not help - the touchscreen has never been that great and frequently freezes up, it's out of warranty so no joy there and Orange have been singularly unhelpful at all times.

That's another thing - the games. Now I enjoy playing games as much as the next man and got really into Words With Friends. However it seems that the next generation of games are being designed specifically for phones as opposed to the computer. For example, Lynda invited me to play this checkers game with her, but it appears that it is only available for Iphone and Ipod touch, neither of which I have. Another game that everyone is playing at the moment is some sort of drawing game, I believe there is an Android version but I am loathe to download as I know I will struggle with it.

As for using the mobile at home the signal is woeful, conversations frequently get garbled or cut off, I have taken to phoning friends on their landlines lately - that's how bad it is. It's like living in the stone age!

So what is the solution? I am starting to get out and about a lot more lately and I need a mobile solution. Something that can do everything I need to do. Here is a summary list of things I need to be able to do that I can do on my laptop that I cannot do on my phone.

1) Type as quickly as I am typing right now on the laptop.

2) Fully access the internet as clearly as I am right now, with the ability to put windows side by side in order to do things I need to do. For example, if I am at the track the ability to put the Betfair screen and a bookmaker screen side by side to compare odds and place bets.

3) Fast internet access that does not drop out all the time.

What's the solution? I don't know. Can an Iphone do all of these things? Still a bit small and fiddly for my liking. What about an IPAD? Never even seen one. Perhaps I will ask Alex for a demo of his.

Apple iPad 3 (3rd Generation iPad) 16gb Wifi - Black (Brand New March 2012 iP...
Is this the answer?

And if I were to go down the IPAD route, how does that work in terms of accessing the internet. Do you have to get a mobile phone style tariff - or do it through the existing Orange contract? Does it have its own Wifi built in? Or is it covered by the BT infiniti out of home options - BTFON etc - and how reliable are those? My attempts to use it on the HTC have been woeful.

I really am not showing myself in a very good light in this blog entry am I? - hopeless and clueless, not like me at all. I guess I am just looking for some advice and to know if there is indeed a solution to my woes out there. Otherwise looks like we will be maintaining the status quo of this laptop being on 24/7 and my mobile phone sitting in my pocket as an afterthought.

Not going to make any hard and fast decisions until I am sure. I live and breathe this laptop, tapping away, all my windows open, running my whole life, I have it all exactly as I want it. However I cannot help feeling there is more out there and the IPAD is probably the answer for a lot of people. I am sure it must be superior to this in many ways - but like so many things in life - is it right for me?

Responses welcomed!

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

PS: It took me 26 minutes to write this blog using the laptop, including interruptions from Ollie. I imagine on the phone it would have been several hours and then something would probably have gone wrong!

Monday, 9 April 2012

Only Fun and Horses

So, the fun continued fast and furious last week, with even the steadily worsening weather.

Took Ollie into Oxford on the bus for the day on Thursday, which he loves. Jamie was at Julie's so we could sit upstairs on the bus. Had a few things to do which I won't bore you with (technicalities at camera shops etc) then we went to McDonalds for lunch. Here I did my good deed for the day. My friend Claire Atkin was there with her two kiddies, and had a bit of a disaster when her youngest pulled over a whole bottle of Orange Juice flooding the table, food clothes, everything. Fortunately I was able to leap into action, sprinting across the floor, knocking all the fat spotty people out of the way, to return in seconds armed with copious amounts of napkins to minimise the damage. It's very frustrating for a parent when such things occur in public, I remember an occasion some years ago when Ollie pulled over a whole large coke directly into my lap in Burger King so I had to go around for the rest of the day looking like I'd wet myself. Still at least it wasn't a milkshake, that could have been even more embarrassing.

On Friday, I desperately needed to get some supplies in, my normal day to day shopping system having not really been happening during the week due to all the other activity. Now as you are all well aware, going anywhere near Big Tesco on a bank holiday is a majorly bad idea due to the horrendous traffic surrounding Bicester Village. However, the early bird catches the worm and I happily sailed straight into the car park at 8am before the hordes of bargain seekers arrived to clog up the entrance. A most enjoyable shopping experience at that time of the morning and an all round chilled day really, with only the slight worry of a close friend in need having a bit of a crisis for agony uncle Jason to console prior to a good old fashioned Friday night karaoke piss up at the Star.

And on to the main event of the weekend, racing at Kempton Park. Now as a predominantly jumps fan this made a nice change for me as it has been years since I have been to a flat meeting and indeed my first visit to Kempton since they opened the all weather track a few years ago.

The Sharps had been kind enough to invite me, sadly Claire was unable to attend due to work and I decided not to take Jamie, so it was myself and Ollie that Bestie and family came to pick up. I had already placed most of the bets I wanted to on the internet before I left - you get better value than on course, so I was looking forward to cheering them on.

Just as on Wednesday, the skies were grey and threatening a downpour at any time, but it never came. On the way down we had lots of fun in the car counting the sticks on the bridge (don't ask - a very simple thing but it caught the kids imagination). We arrived a good couple of hours before racing. It was a family fun day with Peppa Pig, free Easter bunnies for the kids (and Duncan!), Horrible histories and various other stuff. We headed into the main building and Ollie was delighted to see a huge table filled with crayons and colouring books, so that kept him occupied while we grabbed a coffee. Once we were done there we headed outside to eat our picnic that we had brought with us.

Now this had seemed a good idea earlier in the week, but I have noticed over the years a strange meteorological phenomenon that dictates that the temperature on a racecourse during the colder months must always be at least 10 degrees colder than anywhere else in the local area. And so we sat shivering at the picnic table, with me coming to the opinion that children not eating their crusts is a universal phenomenon not confined to my own family.

Racing eventually got under way. Following a lengthy explanation of the concept of the "placepot" to Bestie, we placed our cleverly worked out permutation of 64 x 10p lines. It died a death on the first race, a 2 year old race full of unraced horses where the hot favourite and placepot banker finished out of the back of the television screen. We also drew a blank with our bets and went in to warm up. Bestie had spotted a Costa and headed for it like there was no tomorrow, whilst I watched the 2:20 from Haydock where I had a nice little investment running until it fell. It appeared that the Costa was not up to scratch though due to the much grumbling coming from Bestie - I am sure it will be dealt with in detail in her own blog. And so things went on, 3 races in and no joy and then we hit form, 9/2 and 8/1 winners from me and a big win from Bestie as well, with none other than legendary celebrity Channel 4 bookmaker, Barry Dennis, who had to hand all his dosh over to Lynda as shown below:

Thanks for all this money, Mr Bookie!

We warmed up in the grandstand with some overpriced and undercooked chips but it didn't matter - it was hot food on a cold day, watched the last race and headed home, a cold but fun day out!

Overall it was an amazing week and outside of being away on holiday, quite the busiest and action packed week I have had I think since before the kids were born.

It's all good. The very early years of bringing up children are very hard work and take up all of your time. Now I am starting to get my life back. And I like it.

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, 7 April 2012


I and countless other people have been saying for years that Bicester needs a proper English restaurant serving good English food. Now there is nothing wrong with the proliferation of Indian, Chinese, etc takeaways and restaurants - most people enjoy those things, but variety is good, and basically there has been nowhere in this town where you can go out and enjoy a decent English meal. And don't even get me started on the Hungry Horse, you may as well, as Basil Fawlty once memorably said "Put out a huge tray of baked beans and garnish it with a few dead dogs".

So Maba opens - on the corner of my street. What could be better? Impressive looking menu, nice concept. Let's give it a try. So having returned from Legoland on Wednesday, a quick shower and shave later and in we go for our meal - the four of us, that's Duncan, Claire, Lynda and myself.

Nice little cocktail menu to peruse and also a wine list as we waited for our table, booked for 8pm. They were extremely busy as is to be expected for a new place, and as we did not have anywhere else to go that night I did not mind waiting for a table. Whilst the girls ordered cocktails, us red-blooded males ordered up a nice full bodied bottle of red. And off to the table we went.

At this point something rather bizarre happened. A strange looking man came got up from a neighbouring table, came over to us and said "Which one's Lynda Sharp?"

Now I was wondering, what on earth's going on here? This is either some assassin hired by some past enemy, or possibly a stripper. But then he explained - apparently Bestie is famous for being top of the Bejeweled Blitz rankings on facebook and news of her arrival in the restaurant had reached him and he had come over to pay his respects.

The red wine we ordered, was lovely, a rather nice Malbec. Now with the restaurant being rather busy, it took a while for our orders to be taken and for our starters to arrive, but let me assure you, I consider this a good thing. When I am in good company, in a restaurant, I don't want to be rushed in and out within an hour. So the wine and the laughter flowed, and before the starters even came, the bottle of red was diminishing fast. Well Duncan was enjoying it very much, and I was rather drunk on the atmosphere so was thinking we should order another! Unbelievably, Bestie, who has this odd notion that I misbehave on too much drink, subtly tried to tell Duncan "Don't let him order another bottle!" but I was wise to this move and our second bottle arrived along with the starters.

And what of the starters! Wow, I had chicken liver parfait and it was absolutely gorgeous - to die for in fact, Claire had the same. Both the Sharps were also very pleased with their choices. As for the mains which followed, well Bestie and I both had steaks, though I think she had the better option at the prices with the ribeye fillet whereas as you know, my meat always is served best "on the bone". Duncan's liver and bacon and Claire's pork belly were also excellent.

Now the chips, we did receive only 6, but they were the largest chips I have ever seen, and quite sufficient for my needs. I have never required a huge amount anyway, not for me the pile it high, undercook it and sell it cheap mentality of the Hungry Horse. No, these were "par excellence". And so, on to delicious chocolate torte and Irish coffee and a large bill - but quite frankly, with the company, and the time spent (3 hours) who cares?

Maba? Huge thumbs up and back in a couple of weeks for a revisit, without a doubt. They also do lunch, so may have to pop in for a sneaky one!

Well only 3 days behind with the blogs now, action packed life at the moment, but that's all good!

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

Thursday, 5 April 2012


The action has been continuing thick and fast throughout the Easter holidays. Now yesterday marked a couple of "firsts", beginning with my first ever trip to Legoland.

I used to do theme parks a lot up until the children were born, but with them so young had kind of fallen out of it. So when the opportunity came to go to Legoland, geared especially for the the little 'uns I jumped at the chance!

So off we went yesterday morning, a convoy of two cars containing 9 people. In the driving seats were myself and DJ wobble, 5 assorted kiddies in the back, and my two favourite girls, wifey Claire and bestie Lynda to keep the boys under control.

Now before departure, wifey decided to have serious words with me about my conduct on the day to come, based on past performance. Basically wifey gave me a set of instructions which went kind of along these lines.

"Now listen, Jason, I know how you like to be the best at everything, top of the fantasy football league, top of the tipster tables, king of GT5, haven't lost a game of Monopoly since 1978, etc etc"...

You catch the drift - uh-oh, where's this going, I wondered...

"Well, the thing is Jason, some people might see this competitive streak and having to win at everything, well a bit, you, know, big-headed"

Whhhatt? I'm thinking - me, big-headed...? Surely not...

"Anyway", she continued, "just for once today, why don't you just be a little modest and let everyone else have a look in, people will respect you more for it, you know. Now if you were like that all the time, well, you might become even more popular than you already are?"

Well, I thought, novel idea, but I'll give it a go.

So some time before 10, we arrived at Legoland, got checked in and away we went. After a quick toilet break to change Jamie and so Lt Rim Block could get her customary pictures for the Throne Zone we reached our first ride. Now this was a water rapid ride in one of those boats where several people sit around together. It is possible to get very wet on these things, especially if you rock them from side to side. However, bestie Lynda gave me one of her "stern looks" so I decided perhaps it was best not to get on the wrong side too early and behaved impeccably. We returned relatively dry.

Ollie had refused to go on the first ride and was doing his usual screaming thing refusing to join in. I've been through all this before and knew once he went on something he would change his mind and realise he enjoyed it. So having practically frogmarched him on to this Spider tea-cup style ride amidst many tears, he did in fact decide to enjoy himself and went on many more rides throughout the day. Sometimes you do have to give a gentle helping hand to push the kids through that pain barrier, if I hadn't he would have gone on nothing all day.

The first opportunity for a bit of competitive action came with the fire truck ride, to cut a long story short, this involves pumping a handle up and down to race a track to one end of some tracks, shoot the hoses at some pictures of a fire and then come back. Not a million miles away from the sort of game they used to have on "It's A Knockout". Now with me and Cam in one fire engine and Claire and Duncan in the other I was pretty confident we had the measure of them, but then I noticed a small pedal saying "brake". Now remembering what Claire had said, and unbeknown to Camy, as we were pumping the handle to move along, I gently pushed down on this brake causing our engine to move much slower than the others. Anyway to cut a long story short, we trailed in a long last and I graciously congratulated the others on their fine win.

Nice bit of sabotage by me on here

More competitive stuff came up shortly after that with one of those laser rides where you shoot targets as you travel along in a car. Now Cam had tipped me off that Lynda was very good at these and the last thing I wanted to do was burst her bubble. So off we went, and by about half way I had already amassed 24,000 points. I decided that was probably enough so for the remainder of the ride I pretended I was still firing but in fact I wasn't pressing the button. When we got the scores it turned out Lynda had indeed won with 29,000. She was so thrilled I made the most of the moment and told her how fabulously she'd done. A lesser man at this point might have made some lame excuse like "the sights were out on the gun", but no, not me, I let her enjoy her moment of glory in full.

And so the story continued throughout the day, however, when we came to the boats around the lazy river I had to pull out all the stops to ensure failure. We had 3 boats, and Camy and I left in front, and quickly pulled clear. At this point I suggested we wait for the others to give them a chance, so steered the boat into the side. Now despite this chivalrous action, a certain "bestie" in boat 2 decided it would be a good idea to ram us up the arse at full speed. But we remained in front, until I grabbed the wheel off Cam and spun us round 180 degrees at which point both the other boats captained by "bestie" and "wifey" went past. Such was my expertise at pretending to be incompetent, that even Duncan, watching the whole thing from the bank was fooled.

To prevent us catching up, a bit more wrestling and arguing with Cam over who was steering scuppered any hope of that, and for added effect, just before the entrance back into dock I managed to wedge our boat alongside another one jamming the river completely and leading to a huge tail back that took several minutes to sort out. It was a masterpiece of planning and a complete vindication of my clever scheme to make myself look as foolish as possible.

The type of boat I completely abused at Legoland.

So much more I could talk about but it really was an action packed day, 8 full hours, good buffet lunch, dozens of rides, and we still didn't do the full park. The last ride of the day was on a rollercoaster, which I very much enjoyed, staying cool as a cucumber throughout, whilst bestie and wifey were screaming, but I think they knew they had nothing to worry about really, not with me on board for reassurance.

And then back to Bicester - and off to Maba which will have to be another blog entry as I must dash now!

I had hoped to put up some piccies but my camera was out of action and Lynda hasn't uploaded hers yet, possibly at a later date I will add some in, so I've just put a couple of generic pictures of Legoland in.

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.