The main UK holidays in 2016

Just in case you’ve forgotten any of them, here’s a summary of the main holidays in the UK this year:   DateWeekdayHoliday name 1st JanuaryFridayNew Year's Day 14th FebruarySundayValentine's Day 1st MarchTuesdaySt. David's Day 6th MarchSundayMothering Sunday 25th MarchFridayGood Friday 23rd AprilSaturdaySt. George's Day 2nd MayMondayEarly May Bank Holiday 30th MayMondaySpring Bank Holiday 19th JuneSundayFather's Day 31st OctoberMondayHalloween 5th NovemberSaturdayGuy Fawkes Day 13th NovemberSundayRemembrance Sunday 24th DecemberSaturdayChristmas Eve 25th DecemberSundayChristmas Day 26th DecemberMondayBoxing Day 27th DecemberTuesdayBank Holiday 31st DecemberSaturdayNew Year's...
A Thought for those with CPS (and a Christmas Hamper competition)

A Thought for those with CPS (and a Christmas Hamper competition)

Before we begin I need to remind you to go to this page and do stuff on it for a chance to win this lovely Christmas Hamper. Nearly there. Just a few days to go and time to spare a thought for anyone born between the 23rd and 27th of December who are guaranteed to have suffered from ‘Combined Present Syndrome’ (CPS). CPS is a well-known condition and sufferers will tell you that they have, on at least one occasion, received a combined present that was carried a quality reduction of  25% compared with a sibling’s  separate birthday and Christmas presents.  Kids notice these things. I think the problem is that parents try to buy children stuff they really want for Christmas, so when you throw in a birthday element they get a bit stumped. I have only these words of advice – ‘go random’. Children love random. They love being the only one amongst all of their friends to be the owner of a particular thing.  If someone else gets one they’re just validating the first to have one as ‘cool’. So randomness isn’t all bad. Let’s get random! Number one on my list of random cool presents is the Mixing Finger Beats gadget. Tap on the picture to play the sounds. You can record and play back what you just played and it plugs into an MP3 player so you can listen as you slap out a rhythm. Cool, guy. This one is really for babies – actually it’s for parents of babies who have friends without babies (because once you’ve been in the green it stops...
Bargain Parties

Bargain Parties

Before you even start to read this you should enter our competition to win a Santa Horrendous Christmas Apron.  Go here to do that. More Facebook competitions coming, so follow us there for more chances to win stuff! One thing I like about December is the occasional impromptu party that springs up just because somebody caught a good deal on booze and stocked up early for Christmas, then they invite you back home after the pub or a little cheeky dinner out because there were some coupons in the local paper.  Carveries do quite a lot of coupons like that, I find.  I can’t say no to a good carvery. So when my mate Alex called and asked if we’d like to go out for a nosh I was right up for it.  I was a bit disappointed that it wasn’t a carvery but some new place he’d spotted (with a coupon ad in the local paper).  It had a bit of a dual identity. The serving team (that’s what they like to call them these days, apparently) were all wearing yellow shirts with big black question marks on them, like that Riddler blokey out of Batman, but the place was actually called ‘The Griddler’ because everything was cooked ‘on a griddle’.  A bit more thought could have gone into that I think. Still, the food was okay and very reasonably priced and a good time was had by all – especially after we got through a few bottles of Alex’s special offer Shiraz afterwards. Enough about my sparkling social life, I think.  I don’t want to make anyone...
Weird Randomness I’ve Noticed

Weird Randomness I’ve Noticed

It’s been a weird month for news. The NHS want homeopathy blacklisted and the government has put on its big sheepskin coat and sold off £13bn in Northern Rock mortgages. Meanwhile a designer in Cheshire has decided that ‘coolness’ should be pronounced ‘coolnaisse’ after placing an accent over the ‘e’ in one of her designs (that wasn’t in the news, it’s just a random thing I noticed). It’s been warm for November with daytime temperatures averaging 3.5 degrees warmer than usual – I know it’s not a lot and hardly a return to summer but November 1st was 1 degree warmer than June 1st. With all this heat and sunshine you can add life onto your mobile phone battery with a Solar Powered Mobile Phone Charger Keyring. Ideal for anyone who frequently forgets to charge their phone (me). Once your phone is charged you could use it to have a little play with the Smartphone controlled Copter. All you do is plug the infra red controller into your phone (once you’ve downloaded the free app) and away you go. The app is available for Apple and Android devices. I like something a bit quirky (as if you didn’t already know) and when I heard that you can produce a cake that looks like a house brick I had to have a look. The House brick shaped cake mould is made from silicone, so it’s easy to peel away from your sponge cake. Brilliant idea – build me a cake house now! Baking and space saving don’t usually go together (if you saw the cake mould mountain in our kitchen...

Well, it’s officially winter now that the clocks have swung and the evening darkness is upon us. This means that it’ll be pretty miserable on and off until the spring comes round again, but only because the children won’t be very interested in going out and they’ll mope around the house saying, “I’m bored!”. Before you think my sprogs are deprived, they’re both in their mid-teens and they have absolutely every entertainment device known to man – this man anyway. They have stuff with names that seem to be only letters and numbers, like a PS3 or a 3DS; then there are blu-ray players, HDTVs and all manner of electronics.  Our electricity bill is enormous and there’s always conflict about who left all the lights on. So thinking of simpler times, when the most exciting thing to do on a dark evening was build an Airfix kit, I’ve brought together a few alternatives to exploding pixels. Now brace yourself, because this first one is what the Americans call a humdinger (I have no idea what that really means). I’ll tell you first of all that Waitrose sells, through its wine cellar website, bottles of Château Lafite Mouton Rothschild at a mere £1,150 each.  That’s £6,900 for a case of 6 bottles. Meanwhile, we have Outrage Deluxe which is similarly outrageously priced at £7,990 (and a lot more fun than a box of wine). You have to check out the specifications to see why it’s so excruciatingly expensive. It’s a special purchase for a special person (or to really impress your friends). Alternatively (and strictly for adult couples) there’s Monogamy,...
Winter Nightmares and Cold Nights (and days)

Winter Nightmares and Cold Nights (and days)

I had a nightmare last night. It was Christmas Eve 1995 and I hadn’t bought many presents because I’d been too busy doing man-things like fitting Recaro seats in my Sierra Cosworth. Well, alright, it wasn’t really a Cosworth but it looked like one.  Look, it’s what we did before the internet got big, okay? I’d had my Christmas bonus and being the all-round decent chap that I am I went into town with a plan. Everything I needed to buy I could get at Marble Arch Marks and Spencer. So that’s – Marble Arch M&S Christmas Eve Nightmare!!! It was like fighting for the last loaf in a Moscow bakery during the Cold War.  Grannies had turned into rabid pit bulls over scented candles. I was elbowed, kicked and slashed at more than I was in the ‘experimental’ boys v girls hockey match we had once at school. Only once, because the boys’ suffering came to one cracked rib, one broken wrist, a cauliflower ear, two nosebleeds (one a broken nose) and a multitude of bruises and stud scrapes. Those girls were brutal but, because we were 14 and all had raging hormones, we were careful not to hurt any of them. They completely took advantage. After that Christmas Eve with M&S I made sure that all my Christmas shopping was done early. Now, of course, we can all beat the crowds by shopping online, so I thought I’d take this opportunity to feature some of the more obscure things we have in the shop.  With a prediction of -16C from the Met Office you should seriously consider...
Costume Drama and other problems

Costume Drama and other problems

Hi Folks, I know that party season is a little while away (for some – there are some people who just live to party, or is that just me?) but I thought it was time to bring a few of the fancy dress big guns out. First up is the creepy bit for Halloween and there’s not much creepier than a cockroach.  I hate the little bu**ers things, the way they make that skittering noise and move at an incredible rate across the floor when you switch a light on – UGH!  To become one of the most detested insects on Earth, all you need is the Cockroach Costume, which is almost guaranteed to keep people away from the buffet while you’re trying to fill a plate. If you don’t like dressing up you could always settle for a mask and what better for the occasion than a Frankenstein monster mask that you can peel off at sometime during the party (I hope you look better without it). You might want to surprise people by wearing a Tee-shirt with the logo ‘Instant Halloween Costume’. ‘What does that mean?’ they might ask. When they do you just flip the front over your head (wear a second shirt underneath unless you’re either an Adonis or you don’t care) and there’s a scary face on the inside.  Works for ladies too. The original Red Riding Hood story was all about a wolf, a grandmother and a woodsman with an axe. Red Riding Hood would fit right in with Halloween, especially if she wore this costume. Of course there’s not much that’s more...
Octember, the Cold Month Before Colder Nocember

Octember, the Cold Month Before Colder Nocember

Hi folks, Here we are again and in typical British fashion I’m going to talk about the weather.  To begin with, we had summer in May even though May is ‘officially’ spring.  July was a festival of grey skies with snatches of blue and all across the UK gardeners are wondering what to do with all their green tomatoes because they’re still eating their way through last year’s bumper batch of green tomato chutney. Just in case you haven’t noticed, I’m not a big fan of cold weather.  It’s not too bad when you’re all wrapped up to go outside but it shouldn’t ever feel too cold indoors.  For one thing it makes coffee cool down too quickly, but with the price of power constantly rising and the ecological impact of running central heating we run the thermostat a few degrees lower than we used to. “Wear a cardy!” my wife says, “You’ve had one every Christmas for years and you never wear them.” While I may be older than I used to be, I’m still not feeling the ‘cardy’ vibe just yet and anyway,  knitwear won’t keep my coffee warm, so I came up with a few practical problem solvers, starting with the brilliant Cookie USB Mug Warmer.  There’s no need to explain what it does because it’s all in the name. Children don’t sleep well when they’re cold (neither do I) but we’ve gone off hot water bottles after one split a few years ago.  Fortunately it was quite cool when it split so there were no injuries, But it took forever to dry out the mattress. ...
Brrrr! Bonfire Night is Coming

Brrrr! Bonfire Night is Coming

Well, here we are in Octember (I know it’s September but it’s got chilly). Anyway, it’s only a few weeks now until Bonfire Night and I thought we should all start getting ready for it. I like a nice firework display and so do the nippers, so we all head out for the local one in the park and then go home for sparklers and a barbecue. This year I’ll be wearing my Danger – Man Cooking apron and hat (the hat’ll keep my head warm).  There’ll be bangers, but not the firework variety. There are loads of different aprons in the shop – take a look to see if you fancy any. As well as the barbie there’ll be a big bowl of buttery cheesy mash and I’m going to put a boot print on top of every serving with this Boot Print Masher.  Bit of a laugh opportunity.  It’s what we all need more of. There’ll also be Gingerbread Men that look as though they’ve already been got at because they’ll be made with Already Been Chewed cookie cutters. This year I’m going to surprise the little ones with an indoor firework display to finish things off.  They’re also handy to have in case it’s persisting down with rain. With 25 fireworks in the box they’re great for parties too and they’re rated as safe as party poppers if you follow the instructions! Thinking about the colder weather also reminds me of the trouble I had last year with my phone. You know how it goes. Phone rings, pull phone out of pocket, press screen, remember to...
Lighting Up Autumn

Lighting Up Autumn

Well, it’s nearly August Bank Holiday and that usually means the end of the summer weather except for an occasional day or two.  That also means the evenings start to get gloomy quite early, so I’ve been looking about at a few unusual ways to brighten up indoors without switching all the overhead lights on. One thing I was drawn to (a bit like a moth) was the Mathmos Colour Changing Light which you can set to a single colour or let it cycle through a whole spectrum of shades.  As the evening darkens you can increase the brightness and it’s great to have some soft illumination when watching TV. If you want to make the most of what Mother Nature gives then the Pink Solar Light Jar is ideal.  Stand it on a windowsill during the day and put it in a dark hallway in the evening.  The rosy glow is bright enough to see where you’re going and on a full charge it provides up to 8 hours of light.  That means you won’t have any need to flick lights on and off while carrying the bedtime cocoa (which can sometimes result in a wall covered in cocoa). I like a nice read in the evenings (TV is very often rubbish) but I don’t like cracking the spines of books by laying them flat or folding over a page corner and I keep losing bookmarks .  Problem solved with this little Book Rest House Lamp.  It looks fantastic and gives off just the right amount of light to read by – more gentle glow than bright beam. ...
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