Tag Archives: Christmas

Insert clever name here…

What a year! It’s been a year of mostly ups for me and very little downs, I know how lucky that makes me and I am aware that I am in danger of becoming sincere and sentimental so I shall stop it immediately.

This year has meant 4 more of my books being published, a new website with an awesome name (www.andrewsbooks.co.uk), a rediscovery of my love of poetry, a virtual fistful of new apps for my phone, some great trips, an attempt to regrow my hair and a new found DJ. So here it comes, my best of 2011 list…

1) Poetry: I uses to like poetry at school and then I didn’t. It wasn’t a conscious decision I suppose it’s just where do you come into contact with it in your every day life. As I teacher I really enjoyed teaching it this year. The best compliment I got from a child was “you made me think about the world in a weird and different way”. Love it.

2) WordPress: I really like the WordPress website and the fact it is so easy to use. The disadvantages are that checking your stats is addictive, how many views? How many followers? I can’t help myself! The massive advantage is the WordPress app, it’s awesome. It means I can blog and add pictures direct from my iPhone. This also means I don’t drive my family mad by being constantly on the computer.

3) iPhone: blogging tool, camera, mp3 player, texting, making calls, sat nav, tv, Internet access and game console. Who needs a laptop? My favourite things on it this year have been sky go (I can watch up to 12 sky channels on my phone, including 6 movie channels), as it means I don’t have to watch kids TV all the time. Sonic the hedgehog is a great time waster as well, the mega drive version of course.

4) Squidge: what a great year for the Squidge books it has been. I have loved writing them, James has loved drawing them and proving house have loved putting them out. I think this shows in the quality of the finished books. Check them out.

5) Jaguar skills: a DJ who has been around for a while but is new to me. No one knows who he is, well they do but they don’t. Let’s try again. A DJ who keeps his identity secret. The best thing to do is have a look. Jaguar skills link.

I think that one of my favourite things though has been coming up with the names for the blogs. I’ve left this one blank so you can join in the fun if you want.

Have a happy 2012. Hope the new year treats you well.

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It’s grim up north?

Well no, it’s not. Having just got back from a small town outside of Leeds (Heckmondwike), I found it rather a relaxing experience. Yes the journey up there was long and full of delays, yes the M1 is a horrid motorway and yes, the boy screamed for a large part of the journey. But when you get up north certain things change for the better. Here comes my list of northern wonders. most of them car based…

1) people drive normally. Someone said to me the other day that driving in London is like driving in a race. I think she was right. I turn into a real arse in London traffic. I don’t let anyone out or in, I put my foot down when I don’t need to and I swear (a lot). Up in the Leeds area I was let out by a nice lady, in turn I let someone else out. I can’t remember the last time I was let out in London (and in turn I can’t remember the last time I let someone out).

2) crossing the road. Where I live you have a 50/50 chance of some one in a car stopping for a pedestrian even on a designated crossing. Where I work this percentage drops to zero. When visiting my friends, a young man (in a hot hatch sported up car with a very loud stereo) let us across the road and it wasn’t even a crossing. His music still sucked though!

3) the pace of life. People walk around up north, they don’t march. If you stroll in London then you get barged past more often than not. If you don’t run off the tube and to the escalator then you get pushed along. This happens irrespective of age, ability or what you are carrying (even if what you are carrying is a small child). I can’t see the need to run between stops, 20 seconds isn’t gonna make that much difference, you’re not that important.

So there we go. I really liked my visit up to Leeds, it was relaxing and rejuvenating. Will I be moving up there? Not a chance. I like the pace of life down here as much as my friends like the pace of life up where they live. We do like to visit each other, but as Dorothy said ‘there’s no place like home’. If only I had some ruby slippers and didn’t have to use the M1 motorway.

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The journey

Sorry for the lack of blogs the last couple of days, Christmas and all that.

I blog to you today from a little town outside Leeds, that’s right, I’ve gone national! Nothing to do with the books or author stuff, just visiting friends. It’s the journey up here that got me thinking about travel in general.

There are certain rules I tend to follow when going on a long journey. Wether or not these rules make the travel easier is debatable, although they do make me feel better and more in control. An illusion I am sure as I can’t control the roads or any form of time tables. So here are the rules I follow…

1) when driving, get as far as you can before you stop at the services. Even if you or your copilot need a wee, I go by the ‘one more services’ school of thought. I suppose the real reason behind it is the hope you might do it in one stint. This gives the driver (usually a man) a real sense of pride. Why? Got me there.

2) it’s ok to be delayed before you are in the vehicle. Delays at the airport are pretty good these days. Not that they don’t happen, that’s not the good part, it’s that you now have shops and pubs. Last time I was at London Heathrow I was disappointed that the flight was on time. As soon as you get on the plane though it’s a different story. 5 minutes delay in the air feels like an eternity.

3) don’t get false hope in a traffic jam. You are sat for hours, moving millimetres at time, fighting to keep as close as possible to the person in front in case someone pushes in and extends your journey time by 20 seconds. You feel miserable (a feeling made worse by a screaming child) and then the traffic starts to move. 10 miles an hour, 20, 30, 40, you start to hope, you think this is it, we are going, the jam has ended. Then 30, down to 20, then 10, then stop. You are left feeling worse than before because you dared to hope.

4) take plenty of sweets (unless on a train). I like a good Murray mint or a Wethers original. The worst kind is the flaky chocolate as you show up looking like you’ve had an accident. Why not the train? Sweets don’t mix with beer.

The other thing that really makes me grumpy is when the information thingys tell you to stick to 40 and you haven’t moved in 10 minutes. This leads to me shouting at inanimate objects!

May your roads be clear and your flights on time.

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Can you feel the Christmas presence?

It’s finally upon us, Christmas day. Food, Presents, food, drink, food, music, food, games and food. It’s the time of year to eat ‘til you want to burst, have a sleep then eat some more. I love it.

It’s strange for me to see the most wanted Christmas toy list that they seem to have every year. I like to think that, being a teacher, I am relatively up to date with kids TV, music and toys. Every now and then though I am reminded how wrong and old I am. So here is the top 10. Recognise any?

Doggie Doo, John Adams, RRP £22.99

Fijit Friends, Mattel, RRP £54.99

Fireman Sam Pontypandy Rescue Set, Character, RRP £29.99

Kidizoom Twist, VTech, RRP £49.99

LeapPad Explorer, Leapfrog Toys, RRP £79.99

Lets Rock Elmo, Hasbro, RRP £69.99

Milky the Bunny, Flair, RRP £59.99

Monster High Lagoona’s Hydration Station, Mattel, RRP £39.99

Moshling Tree House, Vivid, RRP £18.99

Nerf Vortex Nitron Blaster, Hasbro, RRP £44.99

Me either!

So then, here are my top 5 Christmas gifts. Time for a festive list…

5) Kid size pool table. This was an unexpected present for both me and my sister. The problem with this gift was my curiosity, that coupled with the fact that I’d had an early night and was up way too early. Basically I’m making excuses for the fact that I peaked. The size of the thing meant that it couldn’t be wrapped so I saw it. Sorry Ma and Pa I had to do it.

4) Remote control car. I loved my car, it was awesome. It was red and fast, and that is all I remember. I do remember wanting one because my next door neighbour had one and I wanted my own. He was quite a bit older than me and infinitely more patient, so whereas mine was straight out of a box, he spent months building his. I do remember that when he finished it, he drove it straight down the drive, into the road and a car ran it over.

3) A Transformer. I never wanted Optimus prime, I was always after Megatron, something about turning into a gun I suppose. Looking back at the original transformers, and the new version I suppose, is how on Earth (or Cybertron for that matter) was it a good idea to turn into a car when you could be a plane. If I had to go to war I know which one I would prefer to be. Anyway, I was told not to let other kids play with it unless I knew them, I ignored this, it broke, I cried.

2) A pack of tampons. OK so not you traditional gift for a man or boy. To be fair, not really a gift for anyone. Could you imagine on Christmas morning ‘here you are dear, I hope you like them’. Anyway, I digress. We had a secret Santa with the lads many years ago, the remit was under £5 and pointless. I couldn’t have chosen better myself.

1) A speeder bike (the one that works in the forest of Endor). This is a star wars based present and it rocked. Not only was it able to fit neatly in my hand, not only did it come with a full size Luke Skywalker (in full camo gear) but it also exploded when you pressed a button on the back. I still enjoy watching the video of that Christmas as everyone is sitting, eating and being merry and every now and again I would run past shouting (not singing) the Star Wars theme tune.

It’s a strange thing growing up as Christmas doesn’t hold the same appeal it once did. If I really want something now then I can just buy it. If I wanted something then I would have to wait months and weeks to get it. What it does have though is the joy of being able to buy presents. I do love choosing stuff for other people in a way my younger self just wouldn’t understand. May the force be with you this festive season. Merry Christmas y’all.

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The night before Christmas

Do you remember Christmas eve as a kid? I know I do. Not only did I want to go to bed early but I was ready at about 5 in the afternoon, even earlier if I didn’t know what I was getting. This though had a knock on effect, it meant that I would be up all the more early the next day. I was a slightly hyperactive child so when I woke up the whole house knew, and I’m sure it happened in the small hours more than once. I am also sure I am not alone in this.

Fast forward a few years, I am still very hyperactive, I still want to go to bed early but my parents now have a secret weapon at their disposal… I can now tell the time. They are now able to say ‘don’t wake us up until…’ To be fair to them, they didn’t choose 9 or 10 o’clock. If memory serves it was about 6 o’clock. That didn’t stop me and my sister coming in at quarter to 6.

Move on a few more years (I feel a little like the ghosts in a Christmas carol, the muppet one of course) and its my parents waking up me and my sister. Not because they have gone a bit mental and we have had to tell them to wait until 6am, but because we spent Christmas eve down the pub, and one year a club. I don’t think Christmas morning is the same for parents when they have 2 hungover teenagers.

These days we wake up in our own house at Christmas. My little boy is too young to know what’s going on, he wakes up at 6.45 most days. We will wake up in our house, open our presents (though to be fair they are mostly his), jump in the car and head down to my parents, where he will get even more presents (and attention).

I do look forward to the year, maybe next year or the year after, when he knows Santa is coming and gets really excited. I will be sure though to teach him how to tell the time and get him a digital alarm clock.

Have a happy Christmas eve, may your day be merry and bright and may all your children sleep in until a semi decent hour tomorrow.

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There’s no encouragement to drink less.

I went out the other night. A very rare treat as I have a young son and a demanding and time consuming job. I had a really good night and had a couple of drinks to boot. While in the bar I asked my wife what she would like, I went to the bar, ordered my drinks and was asked the killer question… Would you like an extra measure/shot for only 60 pence. I of course said yes. I went back and gave my wife a much larger drink than she had asked for, explaining that it wasn’t much more money. She turned to me, thanked me and said “they never encourage you to drink less”. It struck me that in our health conscious world surely they shouldn’t be promoting more alcohol. Surely they should make it harder to get drunk and hence damaging your organs not easier. This seems to me to be one of a long line of ‘more, more, more’ culture. Here are my others…

1) BOGOF. The ‘buy one get one free’ offer always gets me. I fall for it every time. Either I a) change what I was going to buy and get the deal or b) buy something I didn’t go in for in the first place. I once saw a man have an argument over cheese, he only wanted one block of cheese but it was on a BOGOF offer. The girl on the checkout was so perplexed that he only wanted one block she was insisting he go get another. The other problem is when there is only one left. Even though I would buy that product individually, and I really don’t need double the amount, I will still pick an alternative as I feel like I was being done out of free stuff if I bought just one.

2) cinema. The cinema meal deal is as expensive as a real meal. Seriously. Having been recently, I asked for a large coke and a small popcorn, the reply was ‘you can get a large coke and a large popcorn for only £8.75’. Only? Only? My dinner later that evening cost about £10.00. As an aside, I tried the popcorn, it was stale, I told the person behind the counter and she asked me, not her boss, If I thought she should do a fresh batch. Erm no thanks, I’ll eat the stale stuff.

3) Fast food: supersize anyone? Why should my blood have an easy job getting through my arteries? Bring it on.

I am yet to walk into a bar and be asked “for the sake of your liver, would you like to pay 60 pence less and get half the amount?” I suppose that wouldn’t make much business sense, just common sense. At this festive time of year I am reminded of Richard Attenborough in miracle on 34th street sending people to where they can get toys cheaper. The best we can hope for is an asda (Walmart) price promise. Come shop with us, go check every item on line and we might give you back 59 pence. Ho Ho Ho, Merry Christmas.

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Christmas songs

Top five Christmas song crimes…

5) Mariah Carey: all I want for Christmas

4) Chris Rea: driving home for Christmas

3) Elvis Presley: Blue Christmas (controversial? Just because it’s the king doesn’t make it right)

2) Cliff Richard: Saviours day

1) Cliff Richard: Mistletoe and Wine

Numbers 1 and 2 are equally as bad. I picked mistletoe and wine as number 1 as I know more of the lyrics and that annoys me. That’s the problem with really bad Christmas songs, you still know the words.

I am not saying that I hate all Christmas songs, far from it. There are songs that I can’t wait to dust off and play each December (not October or November). I love the classic crooners, Bing, Nat, Dean and of course Frank. They have a real ‘this is Christmas’ feel to them. I will happily hum along to wham, Elton, Mr Lennon and the Pogues too. So what makes a great Christmas tune? List anyone?

1) the right level of cheesyness. You have to get the mix right. Either that or go completely one way or the other. John Lennon, zero cheesy. The darkness, full on cheesy. Mariah, what are you doing?

2) not a cover. The spice girls did a Christmas song once. They even did a medley (jive bunny and the master mix style). As each song clunked along into the next all I could think was ‘this ain’t as good as the original’. Money spinner? Oh yes indeed.

3) some form of Christmas percussion. The sleigh bells are the best. Come to think of it, they are the only really.

4) you need to feel Christmasy. Some efforts just leave you feeling like you’ve eaten too much and, although this is a feeling associated with Christmas it is not a Christmasy feeling. To be fair, some of the songs I hate feel Christmasy, but I still hate em.

So, what is my favourite of all time? It’s a tough one. It’s a bit like John Cusack says in hi fidelity, my favourite at home or in a club? In the shower? While eating? If I had to pick one it would have to be The Christmas Song by Bing Crosby. It just IS Christmas.

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire
Jack Frost nipping at your nose
Yule-tide carols being sung by a choir
And folks dressed up like Eskimos.
Everybody knows a turkey
and some mistletoe
Help to make the season bright
Tiny tots with their eyes all aglow
Will find it hard to sleep tonight.

They know that Santa’s on his way
He’s loaded lots of toys
and goodies on his sleigh
And every mother’s child is gonna spy
To see if reindeer
really know how to fly.

And so I’m offering this simple phrase
To kids from one to ninety-two
Although it’s been said
many times, many ways
Merry Christmas to you.

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CCTV Christmas

So I went out to do a bit of shopping. I didn’t stay long! I could go into all the old clichés about consumerism and packed shopping centres, full people being herded from shop to shop like cattle, but it seems overdone.

Instead, I would like to show you this pic I took. There are many of these fake baubles all over the trees at my local shopping centre. It appears that the season of good will towards men is long since gone. Is it now the season of the shoplifter?

I suppose if you have been naughty, if you aren’t getting any presents from Santa anyway, then you need to get your own. Surely though, buying them would be better.

Remember, Santa is always watching.

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Here comes Santa Claus 2

He screamed! We didn’t even get in the door. The poor Santa and elf didn’t know what to do. At least we still got the present.

He was a really good Santa as well.

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Here comes Santa claus?

We are off to see Santa today and I for one can’t wait. I have a shopping afternoon off work, we have booked in (yes, you need to book with santa’s PA for an appointment) and my son has no idea what is going on. It’s not a surprise, it’s just that he is not yet 2.

Last year was a disaster. We took the boy to a shopping centre, got there early, queued for ages and had to leave within seconds due to the screaming. Our expectations of a magical and festive experience were smashed to pieces by the piercing screams of our nearly one year old. To be fair to my son though what did we expect? There you go son, sit on this big fat mans lap in a strange place, try to ignore the massive beard and strange person (with big ears and a stripy outfit) taking your picture, just smile for the camera. New parents? You bet.

But what makes a truly great Santa? Here it comes…

1) real fatness. Santa must actually be fat. It’s no good shoving pillows up a skinny mans top as it makes him look like the voodoo head Shrinkers have got to him. Scary.

2) a good beard. It needs to be like goldilocks hair, white of course, but not straggly. The last thing you need is your Santa looking like Dan Ackroyd when he goes nuts in trading places. It also needs to look real, not stuck on, otherwise pulling of the beard will occur. De bearding Santa? A dream crusher.

3) the grotto. It needs to be cosy, warm and welcoming. The one last year looked like an evil Micky mouse lair. No wonder my son went nuts.

4) Santa needs to be old. A young Santa is just weird. Crows feet yes, deep, gruff voice yes. Youthful exuberance no.

I hope today goes well. To be honest I just hope it’s not a scream fest. Above all else though, I hope the picture is good. It’s a long time to wait for the next one.

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