Lewis Hamilton does the School Run…

I always said that the daily race to get the kids out of the house and to school on-time would test the skills of the best, so when insurers Allianz invited former Formula One™World Champion racing driver Lewis Hamilton to give it a go I was more than a little intrigued.

The partnership between the MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS Formula One™ Team and Allianz Insurance dates from 2010 and concentrates on car safety (they explicitly choose to position their branding not on the car, but on key safety devices like seat belts, race overalls and the Head and Neck Device (HANS) instead). In addition, team members, including drivers, provide exclusive F1 insights as well as their personal safe driving advice through the Allianz Drive Safely website and communications programme.

So with Lauren and Jessica ready and waiting, Lewis got a taste of ‘school run stress’. The journey was captured on video and throughout the two excited primary schoolgirls make it as authentic as possible, quizzing Lewis on a wide array of topics and even at one point breaking into a song they wrote especially for him!

And it was raining.

Talk about distracting…


Dr Who meets the Bayeux Tapestry

Happy Birthday Dr Who!

Although I can’t claim to be a regular fan (not since the days of John Pertwee anyway) I am a bit of a history fantatic so this Dr Who-meets-Bayeux-Tapestry mash-up by the incredibly talented Bill Mudron is just too good not to share.

I’m sure all Whovians out there will approve…

Hot Wheels Super Trackset review

They wanted to build the ultimate Hot Wheels track to race on, but instead of getting kids to test it, they asked the dads.

In a Hot Wheels first, you can now design, build and race on your very own orange track creations. The new Hot Wheels Super Trackset includes 20-feet of track and 30+ construction pieces designed to challenge imaginations and inspire amazing stunts!

Hot Wheels has come a long way since I used to play with it. Mind you, that was a long time ago. It still has the same orange track pieces, connectors, curves, and jumps but now also boasts such things as launchers and a side-by-side gravity-racing clamp to create a range of challenges and high-octane obstacles. There are loads of variations for endless ways to play. 

Here’s what the dads thought…

Meet the Tesco Toy Team

… especially if you’ve ever met Charlie (he of the blog title) as you’ll be sure to recognise him:

It’s not the Gettysburg Address

Yes, the famous Fawlty Towers joke (or at least, the event that inspired it) is 150 years old this very day. And anyone with even the slightest interest in words well-written, important ideas or history’s great events should spend at least part of today helping blow out the symbolic candles on its birthday cake.

Or maybe that should be wake, not cake? Because they don’t – politicians especially – make ’em (that’s, political speeches) like that anymore. 
In fact, few people seem able to say a lot in a few words, still less as memorably as Abraham Lincoln at the dedication of Gettysburg Cemetery.
You may not know the Gettysburg Address; you might not know who wrote and who delivered it; you may even not have heard of it. But you will almost certainly know one of its iconic sentences…
…Government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from the earth.
In fact, in just a few sentences and in a speech lasting a little over two minutes Lincoln not only summed up the American Civil War but the entire US constitution and most if not all of the aspirations of the free world. Quite something. 
The speech came late in the afternoon and followed others now long forgotten at the dedication in Pennsylvania of the cemetery where those who had died at the Battle of Gettysburg four years earlier had perished. But as Lincoln said, rather than a dedication to the memory of the fallen:
‘It is for us, the living, to be dedicated to the unfinished work that those who lie here sought to advance…’
Words we might all do well to recall as we draw towards the hundredth anniversary of the First World War next year.
In the meantime, and having already almost equalled Lincoln’s word-count without adding anything to the value of the English language and from one brilliant piece of writing to another, I’d better sign off and bid you all ‘good morning…’ 
I said, ‘good morning!’
There, that’s better. Didn’t hurt, did it? I mean, you only had to say ‘good morning’ – it’s not the Gettysburg Address…

Sunday Supplement: Leap for Joy!

A package from Leap Frog arrives and, as usual, creates a state of high excitement here at Charlie Towers.

If you haven’t already heard or if you can’t remember, the Leap Frog Leap Pad is quite simply the single greatest toy/game/camera/entertainment capsule we possess. It has the capacity (tried and tested) to render long train or car journeys tolerable, to fire the imagination of my budding photographer/videographer/story-maker as well as to sneakily combine all sorts of educational extras and (rather like disguising the greens on the dinner table) let lots of learning happen while ostensibly only playing. It’s wonderful and now the new Leap Pad Ultra it does even more, including LeapSearch – a secure browser that allows children to safely explore the online content they love. 

Not that Charlie’s little sister has been left out as our parcel also contained both a Mr Pencil stylus and a Creativity Cam.

Now the camera might be a little advanced for her at just a little shy of her third birthday but I’m sure its time will come. If Charlie allows her to use it, that is.

But the pencil is a different matter. Imagine a chunky pencil that can talk! And, of course, help you write. 

Mr Pencil works with a free IoS app. and allows the holder to interact in a variety of ways, all designed to gently nurture those basic writing skills in a fun way. 

And Eloise loves it. (Not sure I do as it means I go without my iPad for large chunks of the day, but hey! All in a good cause I suppose…)

Anyway, if you’re stuck for ideas this Christmas an have some little ones to buy for, look no further. 

Highly recommended.

Here is the news

I have a problem with ‘news’. It’s simple. Most of it isn’t.

Most mornings especially, the so-called ‘news’ consists of a headline announcing what’s expected to happen later, another item about what they think someone is going to say and, perhaps, a third piece about something that happened twenty years ago.

As it happens, something interesting DID happen on this day not twenty years ago but in 1922 – the news itself. Or rather, the first broadcast of it by the BBC. It was intoned by one Arthur Burrows, pictured here looking very dapper (but you’ll notice NOT wearing the DJ of myth).

Anyway, I bet his bulletin wasn’t brim full of conjecture. And I bet it didn’t go on for three hours, either. In fact, back in the day, newsreaders (who were just that, not journalists) even dared to suggest that certain items shouldn’t be read out on the airwaves. I’m afraid I can’t remember which BBC announcer was sacked for daring to ask ‘does the country really need to know this?’ about an item reporting that the King had had a peaceful night’s sleep but sacked he was!

Pity. Because I think that’s what’s wrong with news reporting these days. Too many journalists with a vested interest in sucking the blood from every story and too few announcers (with such wonderful, honey-rich voices!) with the nous to know what we, the listeners, want to hear.

Bring back Richard Baker. Or Robert Dougall. Alvar Liddell…

Mind you, that really WAS news. And of course, thanks to the tragedy in The Philippines a week ago there really is much urgent and important news today and here’s a link to the Disaster Emergency Committee’s Appeals Page if you’d like more information about how each one of us can help. 

Lest we Forget

Remembrance has featured quite prominently in our household recently, what with our trip to Ypres a couple of weeks ago and, now, Poppy Day.

Charlie has – as any inquisitive five-year-old would – been asking questions in an effort to understand why we wear those little red flowers, who it is we’re remembering and why it’s the Last and not the First Post played before the silence.

I took him to the ceremony at our local Cenotaph yesterday and was amazed (having not been for a couple of years) to see it so crowded. On the eve of the 100th anniversary of World War One you might expect interest to wane slightly or attendance at such ceremonies to fall away. 

But of course, in spite of the fact that (as I’ve told Charlie) we wear those little red poppies because they’re the flowers that grow in the fields where World War One was once fought, Remembrance is for those who’ve served in all conflicts and there has been an increasing number of those in recent years. 

Other answers to his questions have included the following…

No, there isn’t a first (or second, or third) post. They play the Last Post because that’s the last thing played at army camps before the soldiers go to bed. And that jolly tune (after The Silence) called Reveille is what was played first thing in the morning.

Like the soldier’s alarm clock?

Yes Charlie, like the soldier’s alarm clock.

I can remember something that they said at the Menin Gate when we heard them play the Last Post there. 

Really, what was that?

Remember… (So far, so good!) Yesremember, remember the fifth of November.

Ah, no. That’s something different. That’s Bonfire Night and the Gunpowder Plot. Here (and at the

Menin Gate) they say ‘We Will Remember Them’, meaning all the soldiers who have died fighting in all wars everywhere.

But if we don’t know them, how can we remember them? We don’t know their names.

Well no, we don’t but when we say we will remember them it means we’re thinking about what they’ve done for us and how many people went to fight in wars but never came back.   

And to remember not to do it all again?

Well yes, Charlie. To try to remember not to do it all again.

If only…

Tips for young drivers

Son or daughter learning to drive?

Thankfully, that’s an expense still some years ahead for us but if you have then you’ll probably have discovered how expensive car insurance is for young drivers. But it needn’t break the bank and there are ways you can keep the cost to a minimum, as explained in this sponsored MoneySupermarket video:

You can also view their tips for young drivers by clicking the link.

Mini UK – Not Normal

An invitation to take a brand new MINI Cooper Paceman on a UK road-trip during half-term is a bit of a no-brainer. But this particular offer came with a twist… and something of a brain-teaser!

Because MINI didn’t simply want any old road trip. Oh no. They wanted something different; something unusual; something, specifically, NOT NORMAL to tie in with their current campaign. 
Ok, I thought. I can do not normal. And my first idea would’ve been a cracker. Take the MINI on the water! Not any old water – the Wash, specifically – and from Hunstanton to Skegness on this…
But the ferry wasn’t running. No problem. We’d think of something. Wouldn’t we? Something ‘not normal’? Actually, it was proving surprisingly tricky but Charlie came up with what I thought would be a great idea – to drive the MINI under the world-famous Ribblehead viaduct in Yorkshire. 
The only problem is you can’t get near it in a MINI… and the car wouldn’t fit on the train. So, it was back to the drawing board. Hang on a minute though… how about a photo opportunity with a tank? Yes, a TANK (as in, serious piece of military hardware rather than thing for keeping fish in). We know a place where you sometimes find tanks on the road. But in spite of waiting, the tanks weren’t playing…
To be honest, at this point we were scratching our heads a little. Was there nothing we could do with our mini, was there nowhere we could of that was ‘not normal’?
Then, on the way home, inspiration struck. Of course! There was somewhere we could go, something we could see, some fantastic photo opportunity that no-one, surely, would be able to better?
Yes. We went to Tracey Island: 5…4…3…2…1…
Thunderbirds – and MINIs – are GO!