DEAL – Three Vue Cinema Tickets from £12.96

To create some more regular content for the site, I’m going to start posting some deals that are relevant for my friends and readers.

The first one a groupon deal which is perfect for the summer holidays.   Get 3 Vue Cinema tickets from Groupon for just £12.96; that’s just £4.32 each!  Annoyingly I don’t live near a Vue but if I did this would be one I’d get.  You can only use these tickets from the 29th August so it will only be any good for the end of the holidays but still a great deal if you’re being pestered to go and see Captain Underpants or Cars 3.

Click here to get the deal

Do please let me know in the comments if you went ahead – always good to know that I’ve helped someone out!

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Children’s “Coin” games are the scum of the earth


OK – the title of this post is perhaps a bit harsh.   But only a bit and I also appreciate that I need to accept some elements of fault for what I’m about to say.

But games like Roblox or Injustice – especially those aimed towards children really need to be cracked down on my the app stores.   Here is what has happened to me.

+ Jacob got an ipad for secondary school (a requirement) and needed a couple of paid apps – for which I had to use my credit card to purchase.

+ Connor uses the family xbox and has his own xbox login (part of our family account) and once upon a time I used my credit card to purchase him a minecraft skin

Both Xbox and Apple store the card details by default and because of this – and because of my childrens lack of understanding of the concept of money – I have been charged over £500 across two separate occasions.   Both times it is my children getting a combination of Roblox coins or other game coins / points.    Buying multiple packages for over £70 a time.

Thankfully I’ve managed to get the money back for this and my cards have obviously now been removed from respective systems and further lock downs installed – but the overall question still remains the same to me – WHY is this allowed to even happen?   Why are there packages on children’s games for such a huge amount and why would they allow multiple purchases of them?

If you’ve got kids I’d suggest that you follow this guide on MSE on protecting this from happening  but that article is from 2013 and clearly shows that the mobile / gaming companies don’t give a damn considering it’s just as easy 4 years later – clearly because they are making a lot of money out of it.

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Organising my Inbox

You know when you’re asked in job interviews about your “worst” trait and you come back with something like

“I just work too hard – I can never switch off”

Well whilst the above is completely true (as my wife often bemoans), the real answer for me is my organisational skills.  I often find myself drowning in emails and replying to the ones at the top of my inbox (i.e. the most recent) doesn’t really help matters.

So the past few weeks I’ve made a conscious effort to avoid meetings and bring home my laptop most nights to try and really get a handle of the backlog and find ways to stop this from happening.    I’ve tried a few different tools and here are the things that have really helped me turn things round and get to Inbox Zero.

  1. Sanebox – I saw someone link to this in a conversation on Facebook and it was the first thing I tried.  Basically what it does is look at all your emails and put them in a few different folders such as SaneLater.   SaneLater is where it puts all the stuff that you are not interested in reading – out of office replies, daily reports that you never read, newsletters, etc.   You can train it by moving emails back into your inbox and it’s pretty good.  I think my inbox went from having something like 2,200 unread emails to around 300 off the back of using this but it does cost money and I decided to try something else once the free trial was over with.
  2. Gmail Snooze Script – There are a few different versions of this but the best one is probably found the 43 folders one which you can view here.   Essentially what this does is allows you to move an email to a folder it sets up which represents another date – so rather than your inbox clogging up with emails your waiting on a reply to or know you need to follow up another time, it automatically moves mails back into your inbox when you say.   It’s great and once setup you should be able to work it with outlook rather than just the gmail web interface.
  3. – I’m sad to say that I don’t have a PA, so trying to organise my calendar and organise meetings with more than one other person attending can be a painstaking job.   But fear not, this is what helps with.   Essentially this gives you your own PA powered by the marvels of Artificial intelligence.    So you just CC in Amy or Andrew to your emails when you want to organise a meeting and it will contact the other people, arrange a place and time to meet and send you an invite.   This has saved me hours of faffing and whilst it’s not 100% perfect (don’t reply to Amy and she’ll stalk you till your reply) it’s very clever and lifelike.
  4. Moving from Outlook to Webmail – This is perhaps my most radical step I’ve taken.. I’ve not loaded outlook in over two weeks.  The search in outlook is shit and I’ve tended to find that most times I’ve had both an outlook and gmail window open.    To help with this I’ve installed a couple of chrome plugins for gmail (notifications) and gcalendar (again, mainly for notifications or to check my calendar) and it’s worked a charm.
  5. Trello.  This one isn’t email but it’s close enough. I’ve actually been using Trello for a while.  It’s great at organising a todo list but previously I used to categorize things into different lists for each topic.   Instead I read a great pro-tip that instead, you should setup the lists into three categories.  Today, Tomorrow and Later.  You can then use the colors to categorize the actual items but this has really helped me focus on the tasks for the day and I keep it open permanently on my second screen.

So far so good.

The only issue is that after having a few days of meetings by inbox did clog up again and I’ve spend hours at home this evening working so the utopia of Inbox Zero will unlikely last very long, but with some of the methods above it should be a lot more manageable and hopefully will help make me more productive and organised..

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Fat, Thin, Fat…. What next?

Since I was a child I’ve always had weight problems.   I’ve envied thin people and throughout my teenage years I was pretty depressed and this was a big cause of it.

There are a few things that cause my weight problems:

  1. I eat too much, clearly.
  2. I eat the wrong stuff and don’t make the right food choices
  3. I have a shit metabolism
  4. I have a very addictive personality

I’ve tried many diets over my life (inc. just trying to eat healthy and exercise more) but the only thing that has ever actually worked was when I went on a meal replacement plan at the end of 2015.   Between late Sep 14 and April 15 I lost over 100lb (over 7st) – here is a photo from Jan 15 where I was around 80lb down..

I even got to the point where I was cycling 13 miles each way to and from work rather than getting the train and running a 5k every Saturday morning.

I was really happy BUT the side effect from it was brutal… I got gall stones (which are bloody painful)  and an unsuccessful operation almost killed me… after this I decided to take things easy and enjoy life but this excuse led me to putting back on around 70% of what I lost and being pretty much back to where I was.. being constantly paranoid about how I look and what people think of me – being scared about getting onto planes or worried that I won’t fit on a rollercoaster with my kids.

So it’s time to take control again.  

This isn’t a new years resolution – it’s just easier to try and change lifestyles once Christmas is out of the way.

The plan is (against what some people think is a bad idea..) to get back on the meal replacement shakes again… but give myself the occasional “real” meal in the evenings when I feel I need it (sticking to meat and veg) – and get back to the gym to start getting fit again.

I started this today and day one has been a success – but I have to give it a break after a week as I’m off to a work conference in Vegas.

After I’ve lost enough to be feeling better about myself I’ll move to something else – either trying MyFitnessPal again or perhaps going to slimming world or similar to get me back into eating real food again.   This is likely to be around April time.

This isn’t the sensible and perhaps not the best way to get my weight under control again but I know it works and the hard work will come when I’ve lost 50lb again and try and keep it off.  It would be nice to not to look like a beached whale on our Cuba holiday in summer.

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My favourite podcasts #1 – Replyall

I’m a huge podcast fan and it really helps the 2 hours I spend commuting to work each day.   I’ve never really got people who just dismiss the idea of podcasts as being “not something they are into” when there is so much diverse content out there.

So I thought I would start a series of blog posts listing not only my favourite podcasts but my favourite episodes from them.  Perhaps it will help you find some new podcasts to add to your list of perhaps if you’ve not bothered with them before it will convince you to give it a go.

So I’ll start with my favourite out of all of them, a podcast by Gimlet media called Replyall.

This is what Google tells me about Replyall when I search for it “It features stories about how people shape the internet, and how the internet shapes people.”.   But don’t get put off here – it’s really not geeky at all and the connection to the internet is pretty loose at times.

Picking an episode here is really tough as they are all really good so I’m going against the rule that I created seconds ago by sharing more than one of my favourites.

On the Inside

On the inside was probably a surprise to many who have listened to this podcast before.  It is very much like Serial (which I’ll come to another time) and goes into some depth in investigating a crime for which someone says they are innocent of.  The connection to the internet here is in that Paul Modrowski (the inmate) has been writing a blog about his experience in prison and his innocence which has risen to fame.

Episode #1 –
Episode #2 –
Episode #3 –

Todays the day

I don’t really know why I picked this episode.  It’s not a particular special one and there are probably others that I have enjoyed more.   But at this time of the year I thought it was good to share their experience of going outside and doing something a little bit different, like breaking into a building they should not be in.   Perhaps don’t try that one at home kids.

Listen here –

If you’ve got a suggestion on a podcast you listen to then feel free to leave a comment – always after new content to listen to!

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How I met your mother



A post inspired by one of my favourite TV shows – How I met your mother.  If you’ve not watched it then go and sign up to Netflix and sort out this travesty straight away.

It’s fair to say that when I joined secondary school I didn’t really have the time of my life.  I hated it and grew more and more concerned by the chorus of adults saying it was “the best time of your life”.   If this was the best time then I was royally fucked later on in life.

So after leaving school I went to college for a bit and enjoyed a few different part time jobs.  The one that really changed my life was working for a call centre where I answered tech support calls from people that couldn’t connect to their dial up internet service.. And there she was, sitting at a desk right next to me on my first day! Just kidding – that isn’t how I met her.

So this internet service was a company called Lineone (RIP).  During the hours of boredom of answering tech support calls some of us would venture into the realms of their online chat service.   Again this isn’t where I met her.

The reason that this job changed my life is because that chat service led to me meeting some exceptional people that more than 15 years later I still regards as good friends.   Outside of the chat rooms there would be “meets” where we’d all get together and, well, get very very drunk.   Before them I was quite shy and reserved after years of bullying at school so these meets really gave me the confidence that has stayed with me ever since and helped shaped my life.

My parents were very good about all of this – they would often let lots of crazy people that they had never (and sometimes I had never) met stay in their house. One weekend I invited two of those friends down from up north.   Their names were Ste and Lynsey, they had met in the chat room and they were in the middle of an ill-fated relationship.

We went out into London and got pretty drunk in Leister Square drinking cocktails – a pretty usual occurrence for me at this point.


On the train on the way back Lynsey took a call from one of her friends and quite rudely said :

“I can’t be bothered to speak to you right now, here, speak to James”

I had a little chat to the person the end of the phone and thought nothing more of it at the time.    The next day Lynsey asked to borrow my mobile to phone her friend and apologise as she had run out of credit on her phone.   I obliged and a few hours later Lynsey and Ste were on a train back up to the north of England.

Then I get a text message on my mobile:


The last line didn’t actually happen.  That would be a bit weird.   I didn’t recognise the number but soon worked out it was from Lynsey’s friend that I had spoken to briefly last night.    This led to months of further messages, followed by calls and eventually us meeting in Birmingham.

And that kids, is how I met your mother.

Friends of ours still seem to think that we met online.  But we didn’t – we’re not geeks ya know – we actually met over the phone!  I wonder how many other people can say that?



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KoalaSafe Family Wifi Review


First off I should start with a disclaimer that I have NOT been paid to write this, NOR was I given a free device NOR am I linking up this post with affiliate links.   It’s a genuine review of a product that I purchased.

A few weeks ago, I was watching a new TV show that stars Joey from friends called Man with a Plan, which I am still undecided on.

Anyway – there was a point in it where he was struggling to get his children to do their chores until he changed the wifi password and would only give it to them when they were done.   A simple yet genius idea.

We gave this a go but changing the wifi password every day is a big pain when you have so many devices connected to it so I gave up and looked for some similar alternatives.   During this search for alternatives I found some devices that I did not know existed – Wifi boxes that connect to your router and create a new, child safe wifi spot… Essentially parental controls for the internet.

I looked at a few different ones and narrowed it down to the Circle (which I think is made by Disney) and the KoalaSafe.  Be careful when looking around as some have a monthly subscription and if they go bust then you’re screwed.. In the end I went with the KoalaSafe as the Circle isn’t actually available in the UK yet whereas the KoalaSafe I could get on next day from Amazon Prime.   It cost about £60 at the time but doesn’t seem to be on the Amazon site anymore.. weird.

After plugging the box into the router (via a wire) and downloading the app on my phone it was a simple setup but due to a few bugs it did take me a couple of attempts.  The downside of plugging into the router is that there are spots around the house that it can’t access particularly well so I need to see if I can connect this to a booster of some kind.

Once you are up and running you can setup profiles for each child in your house (or adult if you wish) and if you put in their age it will put together some recommended settings for each of them.


Then you connect their devices and after they are connected you can assign them to a profile via the app.

Next you can setup an internet “schedule” of when each child is allowed online.   There are two options – “normal” internet time and “homework” time and within the homework profile you can block additional sites such as Facebook to stop your child from getting distracted.

You can also “Pause” the internet – either completely of per child.  So if you want to sit down for dinner or get them to sort out their rooms it’s a fairly easy win.

As predicted this has caused some… disruption in the house since I’ve had it up and running.  My 14 year old didn’t like the fact that I banned SnapChat from being accessible for him and hates the fact that he can’t get up and watch YouTube videos like he used to because he’s only able to get online in the afternoon/evening.

There is still some configuring to go but so far it looks like a good buy, although even with a paused internet I still have not managed to convince my 14 year old to tidy up his room… eventually he’ll give in though!


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Top 8 Tech Changes since Obama came into power

The impossible happened this week.  Trump won the presidency race.  Who would have thought that mid-America would be stupid enough to put a racist, bigoted, sexist, disgusting man in power.  But it’s happened and all we can do now is pray that he won’t be as bad as the sensible among us think he might be.

I remember a year ago my 13 (not 14) year old saying to me:

“Dad – I’m really worried that Trump will become president – what will happen?”
“Don’t worry” I replied, “Hillary is a good candidate and will make a great president, I fully believe that America will not vote for him”.

But they did.

My 11 year old came back from school on Wednesday night and said:

“Dad – have you seen the news?  Trump is president – it is going to cause world war 3”.   He was pretty upset about it which I found astounding as we don’t really talk about politics in our house.  How someone in their first year of secondary school can foresee the damage that this man can cause just shows how much more grown up kids are these days.

But I digress.  This post isn’t about the election.  This post is a bit of a geekfest to take at how the world of technology has advanced since Obama came into power 8 years ago – specifically the good stuff that has affected my life on a day to day basis.

The rise of the tablet – The iPad was launched in 20XX (feels a lot longer) and this, along with other tablets such as the Kindle Fire, Nexus & surface really changed the internet. Not just peoples use of the internet, but actually got more people online and opened up a new means of communication.  My wife’s parents for example are now able to Facetime their grandchildren who live hundreds of miles away.

Streaming TV – Netflix (which launched in the UK in March 2012), Amazon, iPlayer have change the way in which we use TV.   I don’t actually remember the last time I watched live TV.  I no longer have a Sky box and have “cut the cable”.  Not only has it opened up content to more people but it’s also created NEW content which has revolutionised this space.


Uber– I really like Uber.  Getting a taxi 8 years ago in London would mean finding somewhere to get out cash (I tend not to carry any) and then paying more than I should have to and still having to give direct them home as soon as we got south of the river.  It’s made transport cheaper and more accessible, I just wish my phone battery lasted longer!

Google Maps (and Waze) – Whilst there were GPS devices before Obama came into power there was not the availability there is today.  I remember having to print off maps from some desktop software or heaven forbid actually have to print a map in the car all the time to make sure I knew how to get to my destination.   In addition to these, Citymapper is also an awesome app which I use all the time to help find the best ways to get around London.

Mobile Banking – The first banking mobile app in the UK was by First Direct (who I have used for years) back in 2011.  I was surprised when researching this that it took someone that long to launch considering the app store went live back in 2008.  Internet banking had been around for a while but to be able to check your balance on the go, especially before heading into a shop was a revolution.    I’d also give an honourable mention to contactless payment here too which has come a long way in the past few years and saves a ton of time.

Whatsapp – Whatsapp launched back in January 2010 when text messages were still the done thing.  I’ve probably only sent a few texts over the past couple of years as most people I know now use Whatsapp instead – it’s a much easier and cheaper alternative.   Did you also know that the creator of whatsapp, after leaving Yahoo! with a bunch of cash applied for a job at Facebook and got turned down?  6 years later he sold $17bn.   Oops.

Language apps – Remember when Rosetta Stone used to cost a shed load of money but unless you wanted to go to night school it was your only option?  All that changed with the introduction of apps like Duolingo which can help you learn a new language from scratch.   This is actually used by my sons school for homework now which is pretty neat.

Google Docs/Drive – Whilst I still use Microsoft Word, Powerpoint and Excel for much of my day to day work, Google Docs is super for collaboration.  We use it all the time for a variety of stuff both at home and work but my favourite one is the shared list of things that need doing in our head office where we get such gems as “The toilet seat is broken in the ladies – it wasn’t me though”.


What will the next 8 years bring?  My biggest two predictions of things that will have a big impact on our lives are self driving cars and the mainstream use of voice control.  Perhaps you could add VR to this list but I tend to think it might end up being a fad like 3d TVs.

Have I missed something that has a big impact on your life?   Let me know by leaving a comment..


You Baby Me Mummy
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Disney Store’s Magical Christmas Event


Through my day job I was luckily enough to be invited to bring the family to a Disney Store VIP Christmas Party (in conjunction with Great Ormond Street Hospital) yesterday at their Oxford Street store.

The event certainly made me feel Christmasy for the first time this year, despite already wearing my Christmas Jumper a number of times.

On arrival we were greeted with welcome drinks and given a chance to browse the the store.  The children were given magical bells and when asked to ring them by the bell ringer, Micky and Minnie Mouse (who had come over from Disneyland Paris) arrived with the Disney Voices choice singing a festive song to get everyone in the mood.

Speaking of the Disney Voices choir – they were FABULOUS.   This is a choir made up of Disney employees who sing (believe it or not) Disney songs.  If I didn’t already enjoy my job I’d almost want to join the Disney empire just so I could get involved!   They did a number of other performances through the rest of the night.

Shortly after the bell ringing had finished we were allowed to go to the bottom floor of the store where there were magicians and face painters on hand to entertain.   Belle from Beauty and the Beast was also there providing free photo ops and later in the night she was replaced by Mickey and Minnie.

Finally there was also the chance to write a letter to Santa and every letter written is exchange for a Soft Toy for Great Ormond Street.  Believe based upon previous years this is something that will be rolled out at all Disney Stores (and online) with up to 25,000 being donated across the campaign.


Overall it was a great night and we felt very privileged to be invited.

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Our Tinos Holiday


Around 18 months ago our family went through a huge change.

My wife of almost 10 years got on her first ever flight after being petrified of doing so for her entire life.  We went away together to Majorca (which featured me getting drunk in a Karaoke bar each night) and then earlier this year we went to Barbados to stay with a close friend who now lives out there.

Previously our family holidays involved the UK or France in either a Caravan Park or in our trailer tent.  Don’t get me wrong – these were lovely holidays but it wasn’t what I was bought up with and I really wanted to take my family further afield to experience different cultures and sights around the world.

So in August all five of us went away on our first flight – departing to Mykonos, Greece.    For all three of my children this was their first time flying and there were a lot of nervous tears and tantrums along the way.. our youngest had been saying for the best part of a year  that he was NOT getting on a plane (often crying about the idea of it) but once it was up in the air he loved it.  I took my Microsoft Surface with lots of films and TV shows on and the flight was actually a success.

We were only staying one night in Mykonos (as it’s not a cheap place to stay in summer) and when we got to the airport it was hell to get a taxi.   Despite being one of the first in the queue it was a free-for-all and I ended up having to physically push people out the way to get my bags into the car.. clearly there are not enough taxis on the Island!

Our first night was spent in Eleni’s Village Suites – staying in an amazing little cottage in the middle of the Mykonos country side.  The owners were lovely and the only negative was that we were not staying there for any longer.


Next up was a Ferry from Mykonos to our final destination; Tinos – the next Island along.

Now time for a bit of an embarrassing admission.

When I originally booked the flights the reason that we chose Tinos was purely because I thought Greece would be a good place to go (I’d never been) and I’d found an amazing deal on HotUKDeals.   At the time I did not actually appreciate that there were different Islands in Greece which is ironic considering my only C grade in my GCSE’s years ago was in Geography!

So after booking the flights I realised after a while we’d actually need to get a Ferry too!   We were a little concerned that dragging 3 kids (and lots of suitcases) would be a nightmare but thankfully we were given a lift to the port by the Eleni’s and picked up by a coach the other end with the hotel we were staying in.   The ferry was a breeze – the only thing that I found slightly weird was the way in which everyone pilled on like their life depended on it as soon as the ferry turned up; equally I don’t think that this would have passed the heath and safety tests in the UK!


When we got to Tinos we transferred straight to Tinos Beach Hotel.   We had a family room which just about fit all five of us.    Whilst on the topic of family rooms, this is probably the area we have really struggled with when booking holidays.   Four people?  Easy.  Five?  You become very limited in where you can actually stay unless you want to get two rooms which often costs a lot more.

Back on topic;  the hotel was pretty nice.

Location  – 8/10.   Perhaps it would have been good to be nearer to the town centre – which was only a short bus ride away but if you want to head in here a few times it adds to the cost.  They did offer a free coach service but if I’m honest they should have a smaller coach and a more regular service.   On the plus side it was RIGHT on the beach.

Room – 6/10.   Don’t get me wrong – the room was nice enough, but one of the chairs was broken on the balcony and it just lacked any real facilities in the room.  The maid came every day or two.

Pool – 6.5/10.  The pool looks nice and is better than most of the other hotels in Tinos.   Most of the hotels (in a country that is pretty hot!) didn’t have pools, which was a bit weird.   The big downside however was that it was bloody freezing every single day in that pool.   It really could have done with a bit of heating.

Facilities – 3/10.   This was a big let down.  There was no entertainment – nothing really for the kids to do – in fact all that there was was a small park, one pool table and a couple of table tennis tables.  But the pool table wasn’t in operation (someone had broken the cues!) and the table tennis was always in use with no real time limits or booking system.  Really disappointing and it made it really difficult to keep all the children entertained.

Staff – 6/10.  Nice enough but nothing to write home about.  Went down a mark as when we had dinner in there the first night we poured some fizzy drink for each of us before being told that this cost extra (with no signs suggesting this) in a very rude way.

Food – 5/10.  We actually only worked our half way through the holiday that we got dinner included as well as breakfast but I don’t think we would have enjoyed dinner there every day.  There was one food hall and it was the same stuff most days and none of it was that great.

One thing that I found odd about Tinos (perhaps down to my bad geography skills again) was the amount of wind on the Island!   I would never book to go there again and if it’s like that on all the Greek Islands probably wouldn’t go back to any of them.   They had to put large rocks on the sun loungers that you can place your towels on to stop them from blowing away!   It made it constantly cold when we were sitting by the pool despite the hot sun.   I ended up covering up which was a shame as I was aiming for a tan by the end of the holiday.

Tinos town itself was quite nice and I would have liked to explore it more but other than visiting a few shops / stools we didn’t venture too far.   Perhaps this was just down to the fact that the kids were moaning that they wanted to back to the hotel (even if there wasn’t anything to do there).    We rented a car one day (which we were lucky to do as everywhere was fully booked minus last minute cancellations) and drove around the Island which was probably my favourite part of the trip.   The views were stunning and it’s only a fairly small Island.

My favourite place which I would have liked to spend more time at was a beach called Kolibithra Bay.    It was a surfers beach so the water itself was a bit rough and not really somewhere the children could go swimming but the vibe was very chilled out.  There were two converted VW Camper Vans on the beach to get food and drinks (the cocktails were great, but I only had one as I was driving) and it was playing some decent chilled house music as the sun started to go down.  Our eldest was in a right mood by this point (can’t remember why) so we didn’t stay too long which was a real shame.  If you ever go Tinos, put it at the top of your list.



As the hotel food was pretty rubbish we ate out a few times and the trip also coincided with our wedding anniversary so we decided to head to O Ntinos which was the number 1 ranked restaurant on Trip Advisor.   It took around 30 minutes for the taxi to get there but it was 100% worth the wait and cost.  The views of sunset were spectacular and the food was some of the best that I’ve had.    Also worth noting that the staff were extremely friendly – could not have asked for a nicer anniversary treat.


So that really brings me to the end of our trip.   The journey back was pretty uneventful (don’t get to Mykonos airport too early as there is bugger all to do!) and other than my credit card breathing a sign of relief we were all very depressed to me back in the UK.

Our next holiday will be a little different as we’ve booked to go away for a week next year to an all inclusive resort in Cuba.   Hopefully this will bring lots more to do for the kids and thought it was a good idea to get to Cuba before the American’s build loads of McDonalds and Starbucks now that flights are starting to head out there.   A long wait but excited for our next adventure.



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