Sunday, 28 October 2012

Triple Nostalgia Fest

It's impossible not to get nostalgic about things as one gets older. Time moves on, the world changes, people are replaced by other people and things are replaced by other things.

Nostalgia is not always a good thing. Wistfully looking back on supposedly happy childhood things can have a way of coming back and biting you in the arse. All I can say is I am so glad that my sister's and mine letter to Jim'll Fix It were never answered.

3 things this week gave me food for thought. Firstly, that great institution, Ceefax, disappeared from our TV screens after 34 years. I am sure I don't need to explain what Ceefax is to anyone, but I can tell you a little about my relationship with it. It started in 1974 but I didn't become aware of it for a while after this, until the daytime TV schedules, mostly BBC2 started showing "pages from Ceefax". Now it's hard to explain how exciting this seemed to a young lad back in the late 1970s, but innovations such as digital watches and calculators were springing up all around and it truly seemed like we were living in a futuristic world.

Due to the fact that my parents were fairly late adopters of new technology (my mum didn't even have a video until 1988, and my Dad not until some time in the 90s), frustratingly both parents houses remained Ceefax free - at least so far in as having a television set equipped to deal with it. In fact it was not until I left home and moved to Bicester in 1991 that I finally found myself in possession of a set.

This was most frustrating. In the pre-internet era, trying to find out information at short notice could be quite a challenge. For me the most frustrating thing was finding out the racing results. As someone who would like to have an occasional investment, I would often pop into Ladbrokes in Headington at lunchtime in my early days at Nielsen's and have a bet on the afternoon's events. Now back in those days, betting shops were not open late every night like they are now - they were heavily regulated. So they could not open any later than 6:30pm and often shut much earlier - in the winter basically when racing finished, which was when it got dark (no floodlit tracks then) - so by the time I left work they would long since have shut up and be in darkness. So unbelievably although my horse may have run at 2:30 that afternoon, I would not be able to find out how it got on until the morning paper popped through the letterbox around 7:30am the next day!

The only way to find out a result then was to either ring a premium (0898) number - frowned upon by parents when they get the bill and also with stigma attached (i.e. they think you are ringing sex lines) or to check the results on teletext. Now my mate Geoff round the corner had a teletext TV but after a while his wife got irritated with me coming round in the evenings while they were having their tea to find out how my horses got on so that got stopped. With parents stubbornly refusing to upgrade their aging television sets it was a frustrating time for all - but finally I got my own set, with Nicam stereo and fastext and my frustrations were over. A few years later the internet came along and Ceefax disappeared from my life, but for a while it was my main source of information not just for racing but football results and weather too.

I couldn't find any horse racing results so here are some Dog ones.

So bye bye Ceefax - and amusingly, here is its suicide note

Bye bye Ceefax

On the subject of racing still and ageism, you are probably not aware but the BBC is ceasing racing coverage at the end of this year to add to the many sports that it had ditched in recent years. This means that Channel 4 is taking over exclusive racing coverage from January 1st - and as a consequence is taking a lot of the BBC's racing people with it e.g. Claire Balding.

They have announced a new team and basically axed most of the old staff from Channel 4. In fact only one of the new team is over 50. One of the victims is 72 year old John McCririck, instantly recognisable to the public everywhere as he's practically a national institiution.

Behave yourselves!!!

Now say what you like about old John - I know he's not everyone's cup of tea and has hardly endeared himself to the public with some of his antics on the likes of Wife Swap and Celebrity Big Brother. The blatant sexism for a start. And as for the petty sulks over the Diet Coke and the nose-picking incident - well perhaps the less said the better. However despite all of this he has probably done more than anyone to raise the profile of racing over the years, and his highly entertaining rants at members of the public making faces behind him in the betting ring and trying to knock his hat off are pure comedy "Buzz off you horrible little pest" etc.

He's been ever present on TV racing since 1981 and it just will not be the same without him. Racing, and life in general needs colourful characters, and a load of faceless drones in suits just don't cut it for me.

Finally, I am not really one for wallowing in regret and nostalgia for past phases of my life, but this week I started watching the 3rd series of Skins. For those of you not familiar with this show, it follows the lives of a group of students (and sometimes their parents and teachers too) at a Bristol 6th form college. The show renews its cast every two years to reflect the new generation of students coming in. It is by degrees hilarious, and also very dark and dramatic at times - but above all it's real. You can really believe in the characters and they are exactly reminiscent of the people I was at 6th form college (Oxpens) with nearly a quarter of a century ago now.

If you haven't tried this yet, why not?

The episode we watched the other night dealt with their first day at the college and so brought back to mind my first day which I can remember in vivid detail, back one sunny September day in 1987. If there was one time in my life, or day I could go back and relive, wow, would I like to go back in time to that time - crazy, carefree, it all ahead of us, having fun and regardless of the consequences. This opening episode of the 3rd series had it all - from the hilarious induction scene in the gym, to Harry Enfield (one of the parents) ranting in the street, it was the funniest episode of anything I have seen for ages. It doesn't matter than I am a generation older than those characters, fact is I was once exactly like them, and at heart, I still am.

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

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

How generous!

Last week I had to phone my website people to tell them they had upgraded me to the Premium package without my consent - in fact all I had done was looked at the list of options and decided it wasn't worth it.

They sorted it all out - no problem, back to the standard package.

And then today I receive this email! Are they taking the piss or what?

Dear Jason,

Please accept our apologies for the error made on your recent order. We are sorry for any inconvenience it might have caused you.

To compensate for our mistake, we have issued a credit to your account for the amount of £0.00.

What can you do with your credit?

You can use your credit on your next order. You can order the same product, or take your credit off any other product.

The amount of your order doesn't have to be exactly the same as your credit. We will just deduct the credit from the total amount of your new order.

How can you use your credit?

To redeem your credit, take these three easy steps:

  • Choose and design a product and go to Checkout.
  • On the Payment Information page, click on the blue Apply button. It is not necessary to fill out your credit card details if the order amount does not exceed the credit amount.
  • Once you've clicked on Apply, you will see the sentence "Your coupon has been applied to your order." and you will see that your credit has been deducted from the total cost of your order.

To get started now, please click here to go to our site.

If you have any problem, please contact us.

A big thank you!

We appreciate that you've chosen Vistaprint! We hope we'll have another chance to serve you in the future.

The Vistaprint Customer Support Team

Hmmmmm!!!! I'm so excited!!!! What on earth can I spend my £0.00 on????

Not long until Halloween now. I am waiting for my costume to arrive. Hopefully today. So looking forward to the big karaoke party this Sunday at the White Hart and seeing all your costumes! There were some fantastic ones last year.

I've had a bit of a delay in ordering mine due to another cock up - this one involving my bank card. With it due to expire at the end of October, it got to the middle of last week and the replacement had not yet appeared. So I went into the back to enquire and they said it had been sent out on the 29th September. Bearing in mind it was now the 17th October this was not too encouraging. They said they could order me a new one, but my current one would have to be cancelled leaving me without a card. They also said it would come to the branch for security and I could collect on Friday. Needless to say Friday arrived and I went to the branch and it wasn't there. To complete the piss take when I got back home the card that had gone missing had arrived - but now completely useless. It had been sent with a second class stamp on it - glad to see that HSBC are economising where necessary to protect their bankers bonuses.

Pre Tax profit of $12.7bn in the first 6 months of this year.

Is this really the best you can do?

I am still a bit nervous about the costume situation as I failed to specify XL when ordering. I immediately realised my mistake and sent a follow up email - but delightfully I am displeased to announce that in the interests of customer service I got zero response. If it doesn't fit, I'm screwed because it's too late to order anything else online and there's still absolutely f all in the shops around here for adults - why is it Wilko and all the others think Halloween is just for kids - apart from the odd cheap and tacky mask. You're missing a trick retailers! And you wonder why the high street is dying and we are buying online? Because we can't get what we want in your shops!

I've taken the syndication to facebook off of this blog and am going back to posting manually? Why? Because it appears on my page but either not in the news feed at all or as a low priority so people don't see it. They expect me to pay a fee to promote it! Get real - I can do that myself.

Customer service? Pah!

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

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

The writing's on the wall.

And the door. And the bed. And the floor...

Have had to have a serious talking to with Ollie about writing on said items! There have been a number of incidents in the past but this latest one required a very stern talking to.

To summarise, he stayed at a hotel this weekend and noticed whilst walking around in it, that all of rooms (unsuprisingly) had numbers on them. So on Monday morning he got up extra early, went round with a thick black crayon and wrote numbers on the doors of every room in the house. And for good measure on a number of other items of furniture too.

By the time I discovered this in my bleary eyed Monday morning state (after two late nights working) he had already left for school with Claire. Which was probably fortunate for him as I was somewhat annoyed to say the least.

Many of the doors in our house are wooden, and this crayon was thick stuff - there was no way to remove it without damaging the look of the wood so we are probably going to have to treat the doors now with varnish or something.

Anyway, it's not easy to try and communicate to a five year old what's right or what's wrong, or even the severity of such an offence. I do know that screaming and shouting and smacking gets you nowhere though. When I got him back from school I got his undivided attention and gave him a stern but calm and serious talking to, explaining what he had done, and why he was wrong. There were no raised voices but I know I got through to him - he was quite crestfallen to have disappointed Daddy so badly. The subject is now closed and we've no need to keep going over it - I'm confident though that I've got through to him and there's been no so much as a pencil mark on anything since.

I know it's hard when we're angry with our children to stay in control of the situation and handle it effectively - I think I managed this one better than most. The fact that he wasn't here when I discovered the crime probably helped - it gave me time to take a deep breath or two and decide exactly how I was going to tackle the situation. Maybe there's a lesson there for all of us - and not just dealing with children but people and problems in general - take some time out to think the best way out of a problem. Most people are reasonable if approached sensibly - even fractious five year olds.

As you know I am not doing facebook any more however I thought it might be fun to drop in occasionally, and if there are any interesting issues raised, that I fancy responding to (about 1% of all things posted on facebook at a rough estimate) - that I would in fact write my response on here instead where it's got a little more permanence.

This new feature shall be called "Jason's facebook surgery". Of which this shall be the first, and very possibly last edition like most of the other "features" I have started in the past.

So, here's a few stati I spotted today.

Bicester Blogger fan Donna asks:

Now the darker evenings are closing in I am finding my children are hungrier earlier. Eating dinner at 5-5.30pm seems too early. Are anyone else's children the same ?

Well Donna, that seems perfectly normal to me. We always eat at around 5pm here at Ayres Mansion, and that's all year round. Any later and the kids start to get irritable. Plus it gives you plenty of time to tidy up, wash up afterwards and then spend time with the kids before they go to bed - which is around 7pm in this house. Of course eating so early for the adults means you're likely to be hungry again later on - but that's OK - in my case I usual have some cheese with my wine mid evening, then a midnight feast just before bed consisting of any cooked meat or other protein items that I can find in the fridge and a few bags of crisps. That normally sees me through until brekkie the next day. Hope that helps.

Upmarket Winchester "I used to live in Bicester but don't like to talk about it" resident, Robert Eldridge asks:

anyone know how to filter posts I see from friends? I.e. So I don't see picture of the day, so and so just played pacman, join us at pal poker etc?

To turn the game notifications off you can hover over the notification item and click on the little x in the corner to stop them appearing. To control what appears in your news feed, hover over the person's name and then when the little box appears below hover over friends. You can then click settings to control what you see from that person. For example if they are one of those twats that posts 50 links to youtube videos a day you can click off that particular option. Or if they just annoy you in general - unsubscribe. You won't see anything from them anymore but it avoids possible awkwardness in the future.

Oxford United fan Gary Bosher asks:

Anyone fancy coming to Rochdale?

Well it's just coming up to half time and the latest score is

Rochdale 0 - 0 Oxford United.

Hope you are having an enthralling evening, Gary!

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

Biscuits Alive!

Every now and then I like to do a little blog about one of the many hobbies/ interests that have been part of my life over the years.

Today I thought I would talk about Viz.

Now most of you reading will know what Viz is - many will have read it at some point, or at least be aware of it to some degree - famous characters such as the Fat Slags and Sid The Sexist have passed into national folklore.

Here's a piccie or two to jog your memory:

Come on San, I think G's is still open!

And there's one of these in every pub!

The great thing about Viz is that it has basically never really changed. It's been a constant backdrop to my life - appropriately for something classed as "toilet humour" a lot of my reading of said tome has taken place in that exact location. A 1 or 2 page strip is just right for a morning movement I find. Yes, life has changed a great deal for me over the years, but Viz has always been there.

I remember the day I first discovered it - in the old great Virgin Megastore in Oxford. Not the one you may remember on Cornmarket Street that later changed into Zavvi, but the original one in the Westgate Centre, later Mark One, no idea what it is now.

Anyway it was about 26 or 27 years ago, one lunchtime during school, wandered into the megastore, went downstairs, and browsed around the Spectrum games to see what was new out. Went over to the counter where incidentally they also sold Mates Condoms - one of the first high street shops to do so, looked at them wistfully and wondered if it was worth investing the 45p for three that might by some miracle help me lose my virginity. A quick check of the use by dates on them suggested it was probably a bad gamble.

However, next to the Mates, which would never experience the excitement that I was wondering if I ever would, for just the princely sum of 60p was this comic, staring up at me, and grabbing my attention. What on earth is this I thought? I picked it up, had a quick thumb through and was instantly hooked! There was some absolute filth inside. Not filth as in the type of filth that me and my mates dared each other to go and purchase off the top shelf of Martins opposite the Oxfam shop (a rite of passage for any young man, that one) but toilet humour, swearing and general puerile stuff that was right up the street of your average 15/16 year old back in 1986, weaned on a diet of Blackadder and The Young Ones.

Got it home, read it from cover to cover and lapped it up - this was the funniest thing ever! Soon all my mates at school were in on it too - and Viz became a national phenomenon. An annual published that year and several back copies allowed me to increase my collection.

Somehow it just gelled with my sense of humour.

Not everyone got the joke though. I remember getting a telling off from my mother along the lines of "what do you think you are doing bringing revolting magazines like that into this house" after I accidentally left it on the dining room table open at a strip called "Bertie Blunt - His Parrot's A ****". Fortunately mum has mellowed with age and I like to think she'd see the funny side now. Which was a classic Viz line in itself, the spoof letters often finishing with a "luckily we both saw the funny side" type line, taking the piss out of all the lame letters in those crappy magazines like "Take A Break". Also taken the piss out of were the many real kids comics, which Beano and Dandy style would often sign off with a line such as "And there'll be more fun and frolics with Buster Gonad and his unfeasibly large testicles next week". Even though the magazine only came out every two months.

Now here we are a quarter of a century plus later - with no doubt many of my classmates having grown out of such juvenile humour but I never have. Got all the annuals, to replace my decaying magazines, and anyone who visits here will know it's more likely than not you may find a Viz book in the toilet if you pay a visit to the small room.

With so many strips to choose from, it's so hard to pick a favourite. But here's a little anecdote revolving around one of the many many strips that appeared only once in the magazine (or so it seemed). For every Sid The Sexist and Biffa Bacon there was many a random strip that appeared once or twice never to see the light of day again. I often enjoyed the really lame 3 or 4 frame one line strips that appeared on the bottom of the letters page. One of my favourites that appeared in the early 90s was called Biscuits Alive! Quite honestly it is utter crap, but that's the beauty of it. It is finding such humour from its lameness that it had me roaring with laughter at the time. The plot basically consists of a boy getting his biscuits to help him with his maths homework. Anyway, some time after this, a colleague of mine at Nielsen's, Gina G as she was known by me (real name Georgina Roe) was struggling with some complex calculations for a project she was doing for some retailer or other, and was getting quite stressed out by it all. So while she was at lunch one day, I photocopied "Biscuits Alive! and left it on her desk with a packet of biscuits. She did get the joke and Biscuits Alive! ended up pinned to her wall space for the rest of her time at Nielsen's.

So that was it for Biscuits Alive - or so I thought. The great thing about Viz as I said is that it never changes, and is aware of its own history. Long term readers are occasionally rewarded with little references back to things that happened years or even decades ago Imagine my delight on getting the latest Viz annual last year and discovering a brand new Biscuits Alive! strip. This one running to a mighty six frames! And every bit of lame as the first one. But the line that had me rolling around on the floor in laughter? At the end of the strip it said "And there'll be more fun with Biscuits Alive! in another 18 years" Roll on 2028 I say!

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

Sunday, 21 October 2012

The Certainty Of Chance


Why do so many people do the lottery? Because someone "has" to win it. It's just not very likely it will be you.

However anything that has a possibility of happening will in theory happen eventually. I am sure we have all heard the example oft quoted that give let an infinite number of monkeys type away randomly on a keyboard infinitely and one of them will eventually come up with the complete works of Shakespeare. I can't even begin to calculate the possibility of how long this would take but it seems highly unlikely to me - astronomical odds in fact.

Alas, poor Yarik..."no you stupid monkey
 you've spelt it wrong - start again"

Going back to the lottery, by comparison it's a much more achievable aim - the actual odds of scooping the jackpot are around 13 million to one. Let's say you have a quid in each of Wednesday's and Saturday's draws. By my calculations if you live another 125,000 years approximately, chances are you would be more likely to win than not. To condense that down - if you live another 125 years you've got a 0.1% chance. Not massively inspiring but chances are you'll still cash in before the monkeys finish.

Anyway - the point is that no matter how small the likelihood of something happening it's bound to eventually happen. If you were to take a commerical airline flight twice a week while you were waiting for your numbers to come up - you'd be more likely to crash and burn first - though not by much - it should take just 91,000 years.

Anyway, all of this won't be of a surprise to anyone. What I though might be of more interest if I were to use my advanced knowledge of statistics to calculate the odds of some real life events occurring in my own life. Remember, no matter how unlikely these may seem, my "certainty of chance" theorem means they must all happen sooner than later. In fact - it is statistically more likely than not that the following 10 unlikely seeming events will happen in my life on or before the dates listed below.

I wear a suit - 19th October 2013

Only happens on "VERY" special occasions!

I go for a night out in the pub and don't get hit on by some monster - 4th June 2014

I win an online poker tournament - 12th March 2016

Funky Mike attends one of my karaoke nights and doesn't take the piss out of me - 4th April 2017

I go to the gym - 4th July 2018

I eat a salad - 26th August 2019

Seriously...? By 2019? Come off it...

I finally get to drive a proper racing car around Silverstone - 16th February 2020 (a 50th birthday gift hint hint).

My lifelong dream...

Spider offers to buy me a drink - 31st July 2024

I become Mayor of Bicester due to my outstanding commitments to the community - 3rd February 2031

I wake up in the Tardis strapped to a bed with Karen Gillan (in police outfit), Billie Piper and that Welsh bit out of Torchwood (not Catherine Tate though thank goodness) telling me that I'm the last human male in the universe and they need my help to repopulate the species - 31st December 1999999999999999999999999999999999...oh hang on - suddenly that whole monkey/ Shakespeare thing is starting to look quite likely by comparison! Also I now need to think of a way to stop my wife from reading this! lol x

I don't think I can think of anything more improbable than that!!!

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

Friday, 19 October 2012

Home alone

I find myself in a most unusual situation this weekend.

For reasons that I needn't elaborate on, my wife and children are in York for the weekend and will not return until Sunday night. This leaves me in the rather unique position of being home alone - with nothing I "have" to do until I head off to DJ at a wedding tomorrow afternoon.

This is something that hasn't really happened before since the kids came along, and is unlikely to happen again any time in the forseeable future. Now some would see this as an opportunity to have some "me time" but myself I just don't know what to do with myself to be honest.

Why? Well - when you have the responsibility of parenting and running a house, your days are one long list of things to do - and they also have a defined structure working around the school runs and mealtimes. You become almost programmed into the routine. When that routine is suddenly ripped away, well, in my case I am a bit lost as to what to do.

It shouldn't really be like this as I had years, well decades even before I settled down and had kids - so I tried to picture how it used to be then. What did I used to do on a Friday night six or seven years ago before Claire and I got together?

Well - back then I used to go out EVERY Friday night without fail - and a good few other nights too. My usual routine on a Friday was to go to the Hob first - which was my local - meet up with a few friends, play pool - then sometimes wander into town and go to the White Hart for a bit - and then back to the hob perhaps before going over to Litten Tree (now Yates). Back then a lot of the pubs were not open as late as they are now, so after a certain time the only late options were a) Litten Tree - OK in those days b) The Angel - somewhat more sedate or c) G's - desperation. Whatever happened invariably the evening ended with a trip to the kebab shop and my standard order of a Donor, no sauce, no salad. In other words a great big pile of meat shoved in a pitta bread. And then home - which back then was up on Glory Farm.

This routine went on for years and years and years - though I have to say it doesn't seem that appealing now looking back. I guess though back then when I was a Monday to Friday office worker, the excitement of getting to the end of the working week, and casting off the chains made Friday night a time of freedom, and endless possibilities.

So how has today gone so far? I had an hour with Jo at lunchtime - normally we go to Nash's but this time we went to Maba - I felt like I needed a treat. That was the best hour of the day - so far. Now what to do with the others. I didn't plan this morning very well - originally I was to have coffee with Little Laura (one of the mum's from school) - but that got cancelled as one of her kids was ill - I had also hoped to squeeze in a coffee with Lynda but we couldn't get our timings right. Another mum friend, another Laura, also rang me to see if I fancied going out for lunch in Oxford with her and another mum but by then I had made other plans. I was trying to fit too many things in to too little time - so couldn't do that.

So here I am as teatime on Friday approaches. A time when on the other 51 weeks of this year I will be surrounded by children running around crazily as I begin to prepare their tea. Today - this responsibility does not exist. And with no-one to cook for I have no motivation to cook for myself. So I guess I am biding my time waiting for the various fast food eateries to open. Then later - no doubt I shall find myself invariably venturing out into Bicester's playground - most likely to the White Hart - but with a possible diversion first to the Hob or Bell as it is again known - just to see if it's changed since my last visit however many years ago that was. I don't want to go out too early. There's no karaoke on tonight anywhere so that's not an option.

I feel like I should be doing more with the weekend - or alternatively maybe I should be doing less. Is it an opportunity to have a rest and laze around here and do nothing? Or should I have seized the day and gone off to the races at Cheltenham or had a round of golf or something? I don't know really. I guess I am just killing time until I have to go to work which is still 24 hours away. I do know one thing - I'm lonely. So if you do see me out in a hostelry tonight looking a bit disorientated due to lack of recent practice - come up and say hello.

I've decided I am not going to arrange to meet anyone tonight - I am just going to go out and let randomness do it's work. It will either be a complete waste of time - no one out I know - or maybe it will be a pleasant surprise. I'm not entirely sure of the wisdom of going into the Hob. There is nothing more soul destroying or depressing than going into a pub where once you knew everyone but the passage of time has taken it's toll - there's no one there now that knows you or cares about you and it's full of new people all having a good time, but who knows, maybe I'll bump into an old friend I have not seen in years or something like that and it'll be great. Still - at least I know when I get back on home turf - i.e. the White Hart,  I won't be lonely.

As for now - well there are no chores or anything I have to to here so I can just potter around, listen to music, and do nothing really. Like I say, it feels weird, plus there's still this great empty chasm where the children normally would be. I guess the big decision is where am I going to get my tea? Wah Hong? Papillons? Kebab Shop?

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

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

DJ Jason presents his Halloween Playlist - Scare-oke!

Hi everyone,

Well - it seems that having been saying it for months I have finally broken free of the chains of facebook! It's really not all that hard if you really try. No longer do I have to read an endless torrent of moaning about the weather, traffic, cryptic attention seeking statusues (or should that be stati?), a load of links to crappy bands that I don't like or have never heard of, supposedly "amusing" pictures and all the rest! I'm free!

OK - I am not totally off facebook, I need it for work, and the PM facility is very handy - fortunately if someone PM's me I get an email so I can come on and respond - a lot of my work comes through facebook, also we have our little racing game on Saturdays which I can't abandon bearing in mind how far I am winning it by. Though come to think of it I am so far ahead even if I didn't post any tips for the rest of the year I probably have an unassailable lead!

This blog should be pulled automatically across to facebook - I'll have a look later on to check, if not I'll have to paste it across manually (again).

Of course one consequence of not going on fb and so no longer reading everyone else's posts is I'm not making any either, which is somewhat irksome. Although I have my blog in which to present my views to the wider world, there are always those little moments one encounters on a daily basis which one might deem worthy of a comment. Trouble is, put them on fb and someone either gets the wrong end of the stick or one gets drawn into a lengthy debate. To this end - I think I have finally found a use for Twitter!

"Twitter?", Mr Ayres, I hear you say - "you mean the thing you labelled Twatter, not so long ago?" Yes, the very same. The thing is - I am not interested in Twatter itself and very rarely go on it - except to find out what's going to be on the Jeremy Vine show each day. And I only have about 12 followers. However, it does have a very useful little facility where any posts you make can be posted through here to my blog. So - this is how I shall use it. When I do have a little wry observation, just enough for a one liner, but not enough for a blog, I'll post it on Twatter and it should come through to the top of my blog - so when you log on here to read my latest entry, chances are you'll see one or two little one liners as well.

A picture to emphasise that the next bit
of the blog is about Halloween.

Been a busy bee this morning preparing playlists for two up and coming events, firstly an Irish wedding this Saturday which is going to be a mix of Irish and English music - just a case of getting the balance right. And also coming up is Halloween, so I've been sifting through my music to come up with a good mix for my Sunday night Scare-oke - which is my annual 50/50 disco and karaoke special at the White Hart which gets better every year - everyone will be dressing up and we will be having a really good party that night - which is Sunday 28th October - and it's also the day before half term so mums and dads who might normally have to be up bright and early for the school runs can come out without having to worry about being up so early in the morning. It's one of the best Sunday nights of the year.

They say you should not give away trade secrets, but I have no qualms at all about sharing out with you my ultimate Halloween Playlist. Well you all give me work all year long booking me for your weddings and other parties so why not give something back I say.

Also - it showcases just how much time and effort I put into putting these things together - anyone who has had me perform for them will know how much research goes into these things. A combination of my perfectionism, OCD and encyclopaedic knowledge of music makes for a pretty good finished product I think.

The great thing about a list like this with a theme is you can throw absolutely every type of music into it - mine's got everything from Heavy Metal to the cheesiest of the cheesiest pop - and spans the decades - from classic old 60 artists like Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley all the way through to David Guetta and Professor Green, this list has got it all.

Of course I don't need to help out my fellow team of esteemed DJ's such as Funky, DJ Wobble and Helen - but some of the lesser known names out there might get a few tips from this lot - or even if you are just having your own party at home - feel free to plunder my list for some ideas. They are roughly in the order I'd play them but it's not an exact science as my fellow pros will tell you - you can go to a disco with a rough plan but adaptibility on the night is a must. Still if you are just having a little party at home you could shove this lot on your Itunes, the ones you've got anyway, the rest can be downloaded from the Itunes store or wherever you buy your tunes from and get on with the fun. Most of mine came off one of those 100 hits compilations that I got for about six quid. There's probably loads of other stuff I could have put in too, but I'm limited to what I've actually got, if you think there's any glaring omissions feel free to comment!

There's 5 hours worth here. Enjoy.

I am so good to you people!

Trick or Treat? Mine's a Strongbow. Cheers.

Enter Sandman Metallica
Zombie The Cranberries
Thriller (Single Version) Michael Jackson
Somebodys Watching Me Rockwell
Hungry Like A Wolf Duran Duran
Cry Wolf a-ha
(Don't Fear) The Reaper Blue Öyster Cult
Clap For The Wolfman The Guess Who
The Witch Queen Of New Orleans Redbone
You're The) Devil in Disguise Elvis Presley
(Ghost) Riders In The Sky Johnny Cash
TV Tunes The Munsters TV Theme
Devil Woman [B-Side] All About Eve
Tigerlily La Roux
Female Of The Species Space
Bad Things Jace Everett
The Bad Touch Bloodhound Gang
Beautiful Monster Ne-Yo
Monster Professor Green vs Example
Monster Automatic
Deal With The Devil Judas Priest
Highway To Hell AC/DC
Sympathy For The Devil Guns N' Roses
Bat Out Of Hell Meat Loaf
Bring Your Daughter...To the Slaughter Iron Maiden
Poison Alice Cooper
Hellraiser Sweet
Devil Gate Drive Suzi Quatro
The Devil Went Down To Georgia The Charlie Daniels Band
Lil' Devil The Cult
Black Magic Woman Santana
She Wolf - Halloween Special Shakira
She Wolf (Falling To Pieces) David Guetta Feat. Sia
Things That Go Bump In The Night Allstars
Halloween Japan
I Want Candy Bow Wow Wow
Nightmares A Flock Of Seagulls
01 Kylie Minogue - Better The Devil 1 Kylie Minogue
Timewarp Rocky Horror Show
I Put A Spell On You Sonique
Tokyo (Vampires & Wolves) Wombats
Pumpkin Soup Kate Nash
Devil's Beat Sandi Thom/Sandi Thom
Perfect Nightmare Shontelle
Spirit In The Sky Dr. & The Medics
Bad Medicine Bon Jovi
Feed My Frankenstein - cut first 0:13s Alice Cooper
Raising Hell Run-D.M.C.
A Nightmare On My Street DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince
Amityville (The House On The Hill) Lovebug Starski
Ghostbusters Ray Parker Jr.
There's A Ghost In My House R. Dean Taylor
Race With The Devil Gun
Superstition Stevie Wonder
Evil Woman Electric Light Orchestra
Hammer Horror Kate Bush
The Road To Hell (Part 2) Chris Rea
Werewolves of London Warren Zevon
The Whole Of The Moon The Waterboys
Bad Moon Rising Creedence Clearwater Revived
Monster Mash Bobby "Boris" Pickett And The Crypt-Kickers
Grim Grinning Ghosts Barenaked Ladies
Ghost Town Specials
Waiting for the Ghost Train Madness
04 Abracadabra Steve Miller Band
Addams Groove Hammer
Witchdoctor Cartoons
Halloween Aqua
Nightmare Brainbug
Kernkraft 400 Zombie Nation
Hunting For Witches Bloc Party
Propane Nightmares Pendulum
Witches Brew Katy B
Fire Crazy World Of Arthur Brown
Firestarter Prodigy
Swamp Thing The Grid
Beatfreakz BeatFreakz
Candy (Featuring Kimberly Wyatt) (Radio Edit) Aggro Santos Featuring Kimberly Wyatt
Candyman Christina Aguilera
Trick Me Kelis
Hotel California The Eagles

Jason Ayres is the author of time travel novel "The Time Bubble", set in a small market town near Oxford, available now from Amazon

Jason xx

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Holy Water! And Maba Revisited.

No - that's not an exclamation from Robin in the 1960s Batman TV series, though I am sure he said it at some point! No in fact today was my second son's baptism.

Because of the unusual way in which we work - i.e. I am usually working over the weekends and off in the week, we arranged this to happen as part of the Wednesday morning communion service at the church.

Unlike Ollie's baptism, we decided it would be just a quiet affair this time. We asked our very good friends Lynda and Duncan to be godparents and they were delighted to accept. So just before 10 I collected Ollie from school and we all met at the church and enjoyed a very nice service from Teresa, who is the vicar at St Edburg's. Ollie was very well behaved throughout - he is definitely getting better on these big occasions.

I do enjoy Teresa's services as she talks a lot about everyday events, and even for those who attend special occasions who are not Christians, there is still plenty to be taken out of the services in terms of how we treat each other as fellow humans and showing compassion and care for each other, and supporting those who need our help in times of need. Christian values - that everyone can live by, whether believers or not.

When the time came to have him baptised, I had to hold Jamie while she did it - and invariably a lot of the holy water went all over me. This of course I had anticipated in advance, hence my choice of casual clothes for the day, which was of course remarked upon by Duncan who had come suited and booted for the occasion. I think my excuse that I didn't want to get my suit wet was a good one - I see no need for it to be given an airing any time soon - I believe it last left the wardrobe in 2008.

Afterwards we had coffee and biscuits and cakes with the congregation who seemed like a really nice bunch of people. After which I took Ollie back to school (amid much grumbling) and the four of us headed off for a slap up lunch at Maba.

Now you will recall from my previous review of Maba that I am quite a fan - after a lengthy evening's wining and dining there back in the Spring. They have a huge range of options at lunchtime - in fact we were given 3 menus, the a la carte, a brunch menu and a lunch specials menu. My eyes were instinctively drawn to the latter. As we all know, dining out isn't cheap, but restaurants that offer a set menu of 2 or 3 courses for a fixed price usually allow you to get a bit of value.

We all went for the 3 courses for £10.95 option and were not disappointed. I had the inevitable "platter" of bread and meats for my starter - which was fairly generous and then a very nice fish and chips for the main course, polished off with a sorbet. All of the others were happy with their options too and they didn't skimp on the portions just because it was part of a set menu - which is something other restaurants have been guilty of in the past.

Jamie himself was very well behaved throughout the menu, a combination of bread, chips and crayons saw him nicely through.

So Maba still impresses and we shall be back there as soon as Saturday for another meal, this time with our good friends Alex and Jo - this will however be an evening fixture with no children and that means the full a la carte and a good go at the wine menu! Jo and I have already bagsied the reds!

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, 5 October 2012

The Grand Opening

Hi all,

First of all - this is the last post I shall be sharing to facebook. This was mainly done to try and attract new readers and get more hits - but to be honest - number of hits on the blog is not the be all and end all of blogging unless you are aiming to get millions and make some money.

I'd prefer any comments relevant to the subject matter to be actually put on the blog rather than facebook - as at least I know then that the person reading them has actually read it! As opposed to casual acquaintances I've haven't seen for years making obtuse comments based purely on the title. The comments have more permanence then anyway as opposed to the here today gone tomorrow nature of facebook.

Speaking of which I am still trying very hard to wean myself off facebook - there are some things that I have to be on there for i.e. work and the racing game we do on Saturdays but the rest is a constant distraction for all the reasons I've blogged about many times before.

I've decided that I would much prefer to get back to traditional ways of communicating with my friends i.e. actually meeting them in the flesh for coffee, etc or having a good old chinwag on the old blower - and by that I mean the landline - remember them?

If you want to know when the blog is updated - become a follower if you are a member of this site (I have 9 at present) or if you are not a member you can click on the follow by email link to the side of this page. As it won't be promoted on facebook any more after today.

Anyway, on to the subject matter. This blog's been brewing all day - but haven't really had a chance to put virtual pen to paper until now. Claire's just back from a shopping trip so can keep the little munchkins at bay whilst I type. Don't have to cook tonight as Friday night is family fun night with takeaway. We will be watching a usual child friendly JTV offering - though Ollie is going to have to be quite brave tonight as we've reached a dalek themed episode. Now I think at 5, this is just about OK - you might disagree, but I watched Genesis Of The Daleks which was broadcast when I was 5 and survived and that was a pretty grim story. Anyway Ollie is quite good at self-censoring. If he decides it is too scary, he'll take himself off up to bed of his own accord. We can't go on watching CBeebies forever. Before that we've an episode of Worzel Gummidge which is perfect for kids his age and which he loves. I have all of them on DVD - OK they may be old (from the 70s) but still good.

So what am I blogging about? Well the housing estate behind us has finally finished, been opened up and the first tenants are moving in - I've already met one of them today and she seems very friendly, a lady with a 3 year old boy. These flats are sanctuary housing, so I think we will get quite a few parents with young children. It will be nice to have some other children in the street again as we are just about the only ones at present.

I had a good chat with her though some of what she told me was quite surprising. These are new eco houses - some features of which are obvious such as the solar panels on the roof, but she also told me about the smart electricity they've got in the house which tells you if you are using too much apparently. However, I was quite surprised to hear that they have all had to sign up to a number of rules and certain appliances are banned altogether - for example they are not allowed dishwashers! Now I think that is taking the eco thing a little far - surely it's up to the individual to decide. I'm sure there are worse polluting things in the world than dishwashers and they can't all be that bad, can they? Good job they haven't got any jurisdiction over us and the neighbours, things are a little more old fashioned over this side of the car park.

With the passage opened up behind the flats we were able to take a new route home from school today which took us down Priory Lane, and comes out directly opposite our house by the new play area. Here's a picture of the new way in - which is a public right of way so no battles such as we had over the secret door.

Where does that go, Daddy?

This was only opened up today and I'm pretty sure my children were the first ones to go down the slide. Jamie was fearless, straight up the rope ladder. This was a bit too much of a challenge for Ollie, who took the more sedate way up. Amazingly I got them both sat up at the top at the same time and as there are two chutes to this slide they were able to come down in perfect synchronicity. Here's a shot of them at the top all poised and ready to go.

Ready Steady Go!!!

The gates in and out of the park are very stiff so once you are in there with kids my age you are pretty safe they are not going to be able to run out into the car park.

One very amazing and unexpected bonus is the Wi-fi. Now I took my Note and phone over with me to see if our signal reached that far - not expecting it to. But I was amazed to pick up a signal - not that strong - about 2 bars out of 5, but perfectly serviceable - got on to a few websites and there was no drop in service. Now to put this into context here's a picture from the bench I was sitting on when I was using the Note.

Don't take the picture yet Daddy, I want to be in it.

As you can see this is a good 50 metres or more from our house (the white building), possibly more, and the router itself is right on the far side of our house. Very impressed that it works so far away. BT comes up trumps again so I will forgive them for going down for an hour the other night at a most inconvenient time.

The other thing I worried about was that we'd be a bit of a goldfish bowl - that's our kitchen window you can see but this isn't an issue at all - at least it daylight as the light reflects straight back - you can't see into the kitchen at all. As long as we put the blinds down at night before we put the lights on then our privacy is secure.

So - it's all looking good.

Busy weekend coming up. Tomorrow we have the French market coming to town, so shall we be there in the morning, and the afternoon shall be taken up by a party up at the Scout Hut, so plenty to look forward to.

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, 4 October 2012

Race against time

I'm settling into quite a little routine in the mornings now term's well established. Basically, my mission in the mornings is to get Ollie to school by 8:45am and Jamie to the Courtyard by 9:10am. Bearing in mind there is no more than 10 minutes walk between those two places that doesn't sound too much of a challenge, does it?

No - it isn't - but I like a challenge and I also like maximising my time. 25 minutes isn't long enough to go back home - as soon as our coats are off, we'd be putting them back on again - but it doesn't leave much leeway for doing anything else. But time management is key to the success of my days, so I have decided to try and fit all of my shopping into that window. With an optional extra of Wilkinsons after dropping Jamie off as it's on the way back.

I normally need to visit any two or more of the following: Tesco, M&S, Iceland and the Butchers. Now I am an efficient well oiled machine when it comes to shopping as you well know - so I can race around Tesco's in 3 minutes and pick up the 5 items I need. Under this new time pressure it's also of benefit to my health as I don't go down every aisle so any highly tempting offers that I may previously have been seduced by e.g. four Chunky Kit Kats for a quid, I am less likely to spot. Plus the rate of knots I'm haring around at makes me feel like I am doing a good workout.

This has worked out quite well so far, as I'm usually at the Courtyard before 9:15am which is plenty early enough as they seldom open the doors spot on 9:10am and even if they do, getting about a dozen or more toddlers through the door and all the various traffic jams, tantrums, parents wanting to talk to the carers etc, means there is plenty of leeway.

So generally - so far so good. However, yesterday was slightly different. The school had their harvest festival service in church and were to perform a couple of songs. I promised Ollie I would go and watch him. However, the school had decided that this service would be first thing - officially starting at 9:15am. I am going to suggest they change the time next year.

So - I had my usual madcap dash around the shops, but more so that usual with the thought of getting to the Courtyard early to get to the front of the queue. This meant I was having to be ruthless about stopping to talk to people. It is impossible for me to walk from one end of the town to the other without meeting several people I know - usually a quick hello suffices if I am in a rush but yesterday, everyone wanted to speak to me. I made a good start from the school, practically on pole position out the gate so had cleared all the school mums and had a clean dash as far as Sheep Street - where I bumped into Hayley from the bed shop whom I get on great with - had a very brief conversation, she could see I was in a rush so let me go - all well and good - no offence caused. Quick look in M&S - still out of stock on Cheese Tasters!!!! Not happy. Into Tesco's, rush rush rush. Re-arrange their potatoes which were untidy whilst rummaging to the bottom for the best date. Overly chatty cashier - the one time I didn't want one. Just get out into Sheep St and run into Catherine, who has children higher up the school. She attempts to engage me in conversation - "You know your little boy..." - at which point I cut her off with - "sorry I'm an a terrible rush - tell me later". She looked horrified and offended. So I guess whatever it was she wanted to tell me about Ollie she'll have to tell me another time - if she ever speaks to me again.

90 seconds in Iceland to pick up the milk. And made it to the Courtyard just after 9:10am with the doors not open yet. Ahead of quite a lot other people but then - completely out of character, just as we get in the queue near the front - Jamie does a poo. So I have to fight my way back out, into the toilets and change his nappy. There doesn't seem to be any nappy bin in the toilet so I put it in the bin which has a lid that snaps open and closed - basically once it's in it stays in - then afterwards notice a large sign along the lines of "DO NOT DISPOSE OF NAPPIES IN THIS BIN _ USE THE ONE IN THE MAIN BUILDING. But it's too late now and I am panicing. I figure it's only this once - they won't know it's me - though in fact now I've written it in this blog they probably will - so in case anyone from the Courtyard is reading this - I'm very sorry and I won't do it again, OK?

So after all of that we're at the back of the queue and as usual one of the mum's at the front decides to have a long chat with Sarah on the door about "little Johnny" oblivious to the fact there's a whole line of stressed parents and fractious children behind her. Finally get out about 9:22am and speed to the church at a rate even those of you that have seen my lightning moves in the White Hart would be impressed with. Make it just as Key Stage 1 are starting their song "Tu Whit To Woo" - something to do with owls apparently. I scour the children desperately trying to spot Ollie and catch his eye so he knows I am there - but I can't see him. He's little I figure, must be standing behind one of the bigger ones, but no joy. We say a few prayers with Captain John and then it's all over. Only then do I spot a crying Ollie with the teacher - he was too nervous to go up and join in - this is one of his issues. I felt so sad and disappointed - I just want my little boy to be brave and stand up there with the others. He is so vulnerable - will he ever be a grown man with the confidence that I have. When I went over he cried and hugged me and said he wanted to go home. I wish I could have taken him, he needs me so much and I'm trying so desperately to help him, scenes like yesterday in the church are heartbreaking for me.

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