When is it time to teach our kids independence?

There is a huge debate going on about what age do we start teaching our young independence and life skills. As adults, be we friends of the parents, teachers, aunts, uncles, grandparents or the parents, we all know that our kids are individuals and that they develop at different rates and excel in different areas. That’s human nature. However, I was quite shocked to discover my niece doesn’t even know how to correctly peel and mash a potato. She’s 15.

With fewer than 1 in 7 of us knowing what Laundry Symbols mean, it seems it’s not only the young that are falling behind previous generations. However, there are limits to what we should and shouldn’t teach our kids, and when. For example, I wouldn’t teach a 5 year old how to use an iron, that would just be reckless and dangerous. However, I would expect  a 12 year old to learn how to use one.

It all has to start when they are young. Manners being the most important, as they will need these from cradle to grave. Picking up toys after playing, putting rubbish in the bin, clearing up plates after dinner, I’d expect a 5 year old to be able to manage that.

As they get older, start introducing them to new things, such as being able to use the toaster safely and the microwave, then as the develop further, helping you in the kitchen preparing dinner, learning recipes and the importance of cooking food properly.

Then there’s general chores, such as keeping their rooms clean, making their own beds and making sure they open the window in the day to let it air. Vacuuming, Dusting, loading the Dishwasher/hand washing after meals, Mopping, cleaning the Bathroom, Making a packed lunch for school, all of these things I’d expect a 10 year old to be able to do. I don’t mean doing them all daily, that would be modern day slavery and child labour, but having them do a couple of these tasks every day is one of the only ways that they will learn about good housekeeping. Also, they may be our kids, but they’re not lords and ladies of the Manor, and we aren’t their servants.

We shouldn’t be slaves to our youngsters, we should be teaching and training them to pull their own weight. You can’t do everything, not even Wonder Woman could hold a full time job working 9 -6, run a house with 2 kids, cook dinner, clean up, help with homework, deal with the daily traumas of school life AND organize the kids social calendar.

Once they get to a certain age, they should be helping out around the house, even if it’s only cooking dinner a few times a week, making their own lunchboxes every night, keeping their rooms tidy and cleaning up the kitchen, small tasks that don’t take long, but make life so much easier when you’re juggling a life, work, kids and bills.



The Media Circus Surrounding Alfie Evans Must End

I can’t, and hopefully will never have to, comprehend the apprehension the Evans family are going through. A parent should never have to bury their child, but unfortunately, fate is cruel, and for those who do, my heart truly does bleed.

However, the entire situation has turned into a media circus and its ring master is his father, who, I will add seems to be spending more time with the media than cherishing these final hours with his son. To the point it wouldn’t surprise me if there’s a book deal in the pipeline.

He’s insulted medical staff from the cleaners to the managing directors saying they don’t care because he’s not ‘like them’, he’s rallied up a small army of professional protesters (send in the DWP I say), bemoaned that not enough is being done for his sons condition, which is so rare, it doesn’t even have a name, and is now threatening to privately take Alder Hey medical staff to court for murder.

His mini army tried to STORM the hospital, a hospital that cares for many, many sick children, and provides palliative care and support for families. Unfortunately Mr Evans, the entire universe does not revolve around Alfie, and that kind of orchestrated behaviour is not only unacceptable, but abhorrent. There are other sick children out there, and a doctor will not break the Hippocratic oath lightly.

You have had, Mr Evans, a hell of a lot more than most, all at the expense of the taxpayer. You’ve had nurses and doctors, even neurosurgeons and specialists working when off shift, coming in to tend to Alfie. You’ve had an audience with the Pope. You’ve had TV coverage, more appeals than I thought was even allowed, you’ve even been on the front page of every newspaper in England.

What about those parents whose children are dying who don’t even get a sniff of that, but accept and cherish what little time they have left with their children? Are they not deserving?

To have an entire hospitals staff running around to solely cater for you is a ridiculous demand, and then for ‘Alfie’s Army’ to then threaten and intimidate the very staff caring for him is deplorable, especially when I suspect you’re the one responsible, as after all, you told them to ‘stand down’.

What Alfie needs isn’t celebrity, he doesn’t need, and probably doesn’t want a mob storming the hospital, or the staff being threatened with violence. What he needs is his parents. You seem to have twisted this tragic situation to get yourself a leg up, and just to prove this point;

You say that it’s Gods will that he lives. God didn’t invent life support. Man did. You can’t have it both ways. Taking advice off an unqualified bible basher who’s anti-everything has done you no favours, for he’s cherry picked the bits of the bible and the law he likes, and disregarded the rest.

You should have dropped this battle months ago, all the staff wanted to do was help, and you’ve caused a war.


Selling Women’s Innocence?

My eldest niece has spoken to me, and my sister about sex. She’s nearly 16, and has a steady boyfriend (that no one knew about until a few weeks ago), and she spoke honestly and openly about wanting to do ‘it’.

Shock horror. A teenage girl wants to have sex, on her terms, in a safe environment with all the protection she could want.

Fortunately, my family has a very open mind regarding sex, and my sex education started when I was about 4. We never had Winkies and Muffins, it was laid out bare, we have a Penis or Vagina (or as I pronounced it, Vinegar). It was always age appropriate, and started with inappropriate touching and why my private parts are private, and as I got older the mechanics involved in making babies, and when I came out as gay, the importance of using protection and the plethora of STI’s out there.

Many will question why my niece is coming to me for advice, and all I can say is, we are close, and I’m more than just an uncle. I’m her friend, hairdresser, purveyor of the finest cider, adviser, confessional, educator, forger. You name it, I’ve either done it or I’m waiting for her to need it.

You see, very little is off limits with my family. We discuss everything very matter of factly. From the mundane to the serious stuff, pretty much nothing is off limits. So although I’m not exactly thrilled my niece wants to have sex, she’s human, and a young woman. She’ll be leaving school this year, hopefully to go on to achieve great things, and she has all the knowledge to make her own informed choices. She’s experienced firsthand what it’s like to be a lone parent, and I’ve drilled into her the importance of birth control and protection. If my sister said no, she would have done it anyway, that’s what teenagers do.

This leads me onto my main point, there are a load of ‘Virgin’ girls on a Seeking Arrangement looking to sell their ‘virginity’ to the highest bidder. Now, I remember being a virgin, and believe me, the last thing I was thinking was sell it to the highest bidder. Actually, my first thought of sex was ‘is that it?’. I got bored!

These women prostituting themselves, and that is all they’re doing, are no virgins. They are hookers, whores. Let’s not beat about the bush. They very well may be 19, but I can count on no hands the number of 19 year old virgins I have met.

They may be high class, but no matter what spin you put on it, at the end of the day, they’re street walkers. Employed for an evening and paid for their services. They’ll then depart, and like every other working person, go about their day until the start of their next shift. If you honestly think that there is such a thing as an Eastern European virgin at 19, willing to sell it, you are deluded.


Students Studying Music Warming to Sibelius

The bane of any students life is paying for software, especially specialist software, and poor music students seem to bare the biggest brunt. We have to pay for instruments, sheet music, text books, lessons in 3 other languages, then music notation software. Sibelius Ultimate is £1000! That’s a bloody big outlay, especially when you’re on a budget and your coursework only demands you write for a few individual instruments at a time.

Why have 40gb of sound samples when you’re only required to write for 2 or 3 instruments? The problem with Sibelius is, although brilliant (James Horner wrote the entire Avatar soundtrack in it), it’s a hungry piece of kit, needing a minimum of 4gb or RAM to simply consider launching. Try and load more than 4 instruments sounds to play simultaneously and you’re talking more like 8gb or 16gb of RAM if you want to get any work done in the foreseeable future, and it is HUGE! It’s actually bigger than any Windows installation.

Being a free piece of software, Sibelius First will be ideal for students, new comers and church organists who will only use it periodically to conjoin music and arrange for a single instrument. How many church organists do you know that are a one man band and play 20 instruments at a time?

Though I am a little dubious about this move by Avid, because knowing companies like a do, they’ll most likely only give you the very basics, and I don’t think Sound Essentials is included in the free pack, so if someone wants to record in high quality, they’ll either have to do it through a stand alone sound canvas, or find a compatible sound pack, which could completely null and void Avid’s responsibility if something goes wrong or your computer ends up with an STI (Surfing Transmitted Infection).

As I use Sibelius Ultimate, I have no inclination, or need to install First, however, I am very impressed that there is a free option that will allow students to produce simple scores without the need to spend a huge chunk of their loans on a single piece of software that may, or may not, help them in their later course.

Why would an amateur musician require such a complex piece of software when all they’re doing is dabbling? Music should always be affordable, and it’s an absolute joy for millions of people the world over. It should be accessible to the masses, and although First is basic, it allows the amateurs, the students, the occasional composers and the arrangers to create high quality, professional looking scores that are actually legible (hand written scores are a nightmare to read), and to share up to 10 scores online, print, save and amend.

It may not sound overly exciting, but when something so specialist comes along, making it accessible to the masses, it is kind of a big deal, especially given that the latest version costs more than some people earn in a month.


UK NHS Needs Saving

The NHS saves millions of people each year, so why are we letting it die?

There is one asset that the UK has which sets us apart from the rest of the world, and that is the NHS. A service that is free for all from the point of entry and has saved millions of lives. But with the boom in population, there isn’t enough NHS to go around.

I have first, second and third hand experience of the NHS, from my own experiences, to a cousin with cancer, to my grandmothers Cataract operation to witnessing the devastating news that someone is HIV positive. A friend’s partner tragically lost his life after being hit by a can, and though the doctors and nurses tried everything from the traditional to the experimental, he died a week later.

The NHS is there to help us, and one of the reasons our taxes are so high in the UK, is because the money that is pumped into the NHS doesn’t just grow on trees. It needs funding, and like any business model, needs micro managing to the point of no penny is unaccounted for.

However, the very service that has provided so much for us is in need of help. People are abusing the service, blocking beds and wasting appointments over trivial matters, if they turn up at all. This in turn wastes valuable resources, and some of the worst offenders for this isn’t busy workers, but pensioners and those that aren’t in work.

Why are these very people being given ‘prime’ time appointments? They don’t have anything else to do all day. They don’t have to catch the 0730 train to make sure they’re in work for 9am. They don’t leave work at 6pm, when most surgeries are either closed or closing. They have all day to see to appointments, errands and essentials. Those people should have to see their doctor at times that are convenient for the working.

Pharmacists are medically trained, and in some cases know better than the doctors when it comes to the drugs they’re administering, they’ve also seen it all before, from coughs and colds to allergic reactions. THEY are the people you want to talk to over trivial matters, not wasting your GP’s time.

Now I’m not saying that you should wait until you’re on deaths door, but a mild chest infection or a small rash is hardly important and usually will clear up on its own.

Demanding prescriptions for over the counter drugs, like paracetamol, which can be bought for as little as 28p, is an absurd waste of resources, and if you can’t afford 28p, you really need to look at your priorities.

But it seems to also be these very people who squander the resources, who are the first to complain about the state of the NHS. The situation is simply unacceptable. We need to stop wasting cash, and at the same time, reallocating time to those that are directly funding it. IE, workers to the front of the queue.


UK Police See Sense and Release Richard Osborn-Brooks

You play with fire, you’re going to get burned.

We’ve all heard the saying about playing with fire. Metaphorically at least, it is true.

Two burglars broke into an elderly man’s home while he and his wife were sleeping, long story short, one was armed with a screwdriver, the  victim went into survival mode, stabbed one of the intruders and said intruder ran off, collapsed and died.

Sorry if I sound unsympathetic, but I’m not in the slightest bit sad. Yes, a young man’s life has been cut short, but when you look at his family history, they have more convictions between them than there are cells in Strangeways.

Assault, Fraud, Defrauding the Elderly, Driving without insurance, Driving under the influence. You name it, ONE of the family has done it. Granted the 2 most heinous crimes aren’t there (Paedophillia and Rape), but that doesn’t really save them any grace when they have the rest of the top shelf crimes under their belts.

Collectively, this one family has cost the UK millions of pounds in detention, legal proceedings, police time and appeals.

This isn’t a family, it’s a syndicate of crime, a parasitic underworld virus. To quote that very line from Titanic, ‘mother saw him as a dangerous insect that must be crushed quickly’.

I write a lot about the plight of offenders, and how they can make amends. How they can reform. This family however, I’m afraid to say, will never change, and like a swarm of mosquito’s carrying the Zinka virus, they need eliminating. I’m not calling for bringing back hanging or the chair, but they need taking away from society. Why should us, honest, hardworking folks have to live in fear of a feral family with no respect for others?

Split them up, send them to the toughest prisons and see just how they react when they don’t have a gang behind them and can’t bribe their way out of a situation.

It sounds Draconian, and very against my usual view, but let’s go all Hunger Games on their asses. Survival of the fittest, and then make an example of them by broadcasting it nationwide.  Maybe THAT will deter others from going down such a despicable path. If not, the bookies would make a fortune!

A young man paid the ultimate price for his life of crime, a young man who had no redeeming features and his family engendered his chosen ‘career’. So why is the man who stabbed him being held on murder charges? HIS house, HIS rules, HIS family, HIS property that HE was defending.

It’s an absolute disgrace! Had it been my house he broke into, he’d have ended up in a series of trials to rival that of the Saw movies. I’m not a violent person, usually, however, if someone breaks into my home, they will be met with one of two fates. The dog licks them to death and demands you play with him for at least an hour. Or I get my hands on you, and then your life won’t be worth living.


Alfie Evans a Tragic Story of Love and Illness

Alfie Evans’ father has claimed that doctors will withdraw life support. This tragic situation however has no winners, only losers, and now the Pope has jumped on the bandwagon too.

I’m sorry Francis, but where is your God now? And why, when thousands of children are critically ill, is this young boy suddenly of such importance you’d think he was the rebirth of Christ himself?

Alfie has an undiagnosed brain condition and is being kept alive solely by machinery. This isn’t a life for him, it’s an existence that is probably full of pain and angst. An existence that will see him never go to school, get a job, married or have his own children. And to add insult to injury and salt into the wound, indignant. He will require round the clock care morning, noon and night.

No parent should ever have to bury their own child, but unfortunately, nature is cruel, and my heart truly goes out to Alfie’s parents. I couldn’t imagine how it feels to know that your child will die, or that the life they will live will be dominated by their condition. It’s hard enough with my cousin having Cystic Fibrosis, and even though she lives a fairly normal life, she’s in and out of hospital and her life is dominated by diet, medication and physio.

What appears to have happened with Alfie, is that he’s almost a lab experiment. A guinea pig that is solely being kept alive to further test on. We’ve known for 22 months that nature never intended on this lovely little chap on living, and his parents have to know that they aren’t the only ones. My parents lost a baby (and my mother nearly lost her life and the ability to have children), hence my adoption. I’ve experienced firsthand the bitter-sweet emotions they feel. The horrible feeling of being ‘the replacement’. It seriously isn’t a nice feeling, but one that we must bear, like the Cross was to Jesus.

There is also the financial impact on the NHS to consider. I know that life isn’t and shouldn’t be defined by a monetary value, but, when it comes to the NHS, costs have to be balanced. Does keeping Alfie alive at great monthly cost benefit the 100’s of other children that can be treated? Can the NHS warrant keeping him alive by any means necessary when there are kids with cancer waiting to be treated? The answer, unfortunately is no.

It is time unfortunately for the Evans’ to say their final goodbyes and to kiss him goodnight, and allow the poor little mite to go to sleep and depart this world with dignity and in peace, surrounded by those who love and cherish him.

To drag this legal fiasco out for so long is cruel on all involved, and the judges who have allowed this to go on for so long should hang their heads in shame.

Couple who Have Fostered Over 90 Children!

You don’t need millions to change the world. But it does help!

Sir John Timpson has opened up about how he and his wife Alex have always been ‘fixers’. Willing to give anyone and everyone a leg up when they were down. Having 5 children, 2 of which were adopted, and an incredulous 90 (yes, NINETY!) foster children over the years, Sir John has well and truly earned his title.

A humble man, Timpson’s is quite simply a down scale business that offers Key Cutting and Cobbling. But, it is a huge business that offers a service you can’t simply get online, and it has a conscience. Employing ex offenders, offering free dry cleaning to the unemployed for interviews and they are also branching out into barbering, which will create a huge amount of jobs.

At 74, you’d think that with all of his millions, he’d take a back seat and enjoy the harvest of the seeds he has sewn. Nope! Until the day he dies, he’ll be putting the world to rights, and doing all he can to help others when they need it most.

That must sound like a strange opening few paragraphs, given the title, but, you don’t need to have extreme wealth to make a difference to someone’s world. It doesn’t matter how big or small, grand or humble, a small act of kindness can go a long way.

Many kids in the foster system are damaged. Physically and/or mentally. Scarred in such a way that something as simple as a wave could put the fear of Christ into them for fear they’re going to be beaten. Painfully aware that they’re being irrational, but their self preservation instinct still kicks in, and the only way that this can be overcome, is through patience, unconditional love and understanding.

I read an article not long ago about a seriously abused boy (who is now a successful young man), and how his foster parents were called in the dead of night, when everyone was asleep by social services, begging them to take him in. They didn’t grumble, though they were hardly impressed at being woken up at midnight, they simply said ‘give us an hour’, dragged themselves into the kitchen and made him a buffet of sandwiches, sausage rolls and crisps.

When he was given his £5 pocket money for the weekend, the boy was overwhelmed, he’d never seen money in note form, let alone had any for himself. But he didn’t buy sweets or toys, or magazines. He went into the garden centre, and bought his foster parents a potted plant as a way of thanks. A potted plant that is still thriving now.

I’ve met many foster parents, and I’m adopted, so it’s a subject close to my heart, and my parents were never ‘rich’, but what they lacked in funds in my early years, they made up for in an abundance of time, love and patience.

You seriously don’t need to have the world on a plate to make a difference. Just a little patience and time will suffice.


Think you’re ready to take on a dog? Have a trial run!

There are few things that give you huge responsibilities, like real, life changing responsibilities. The usual one for most people is having a kid, then a high-powered career, and then, there is getting a dog.

Babies, naturally, are the most responsibility, and once you have one, your world changes forever. From the minute they come in to the world, to the minute you depart it, they ware permanently bound to you. Even on your death bed, they’d probably still ask you if they can borrow £20 to pay for their parking.

The high-powered career really goes without saying. You can’t have it all, and you need to make sacrifices. It’s like the 3 Circle Chart, most can only have 1, too can stretch and have 2, and very few can manage all 3.

We’re currently on our second foster puppy, a 3-month-old mongrel called Pee Wee. He’s nice enough, if a little clingy, and he’s quite bright. We only had in his first few hours 3 accidents, he soon got the point, my lounge is NOT a toilet.

Although we did have 4 poops in the lounge last night, he had a very upset stomach after a stressful day yesterday. He was taken away from his mother and litter, jabbed and then given to a couple of randoms who put him in a big scary thing that moves and then put him in a room full of chews, toys and food. I suppose I didn’t help the situation by giving him wet food as a way of bribery and gaining his trust, but if I can get his trust, a couple of puddles of semi liquid poop doesn’t matter. To Hell with what my neighbour says!

In countries the world over, there are dogs that are either waiting to be re-homed, but due to timing it can take several weeks before the adoption is complete. That’s where you come in. Especially with puppies that haven’t had a good start in life. You are the ones that build them up to be what puppies should be. Little bouncing balls of fluff with a penchant for all things expensive. Also, it has the added benefit of giving you the feel-good factor, not to mention extra exercise and unconditional companionship.

The idea of fostering is that you get the dog used to sights, smells, day to day activities, house training, and basic training like Sit, Stay, Wait and Paw. You take on all the responsibility, so you’re responsible for any jabs and vets appointments, socializing (where allowed), ironing out any aggression (easier said than done) and asserting yourself as a pack leader, so when they enter a new pack, they don’t immediately think they’re top of the chain of command.

It takes time, but you will gradually see the difference. You start off with a doleful, whiney puppy that won’t do anything, and end up with a little furry monster that wants to play 24/7.


Premier League Matches and Outright Betting

Fans of Darts will have a plethora of matches to watch on the 5th of April, for there are five matches that are going to be broadcast live on the evening of the fifth, and there are plenty of betting opportunities available on each of those Premier League Darts matches too.

The very first match of the evening will be the 19:15 matchup between Whitlock and Price, and it does look like Whitlock is going to win that match as many betting sites have him pencilled in at short odds of just 4/6, you an however bet on the draw at odds of 7/2 but if you think Price will win then take advantage of the 3/1 odds on him doing so.

The 20:00 sees Van Barneveld taking on Smith, you can get odds of 11/8 on the former darts players, 10/1 on the draw and 11/8 on the latter named player.

Moving onto the 20:30 match you will find that it is Anderson who will be taking on Cross, if you do fancy placing a bet on Anderson then be sure to act quickly as his odds are 11/8, the draw is on offer and available at odds of 10/3 and the odds on Cross are the exact same as are available on Anderson those being 11/8 to win this event.

The 21:00 match seems to be a very unbalanced one regarding the win odds for Suljovic is on offer at huge odds of 8 to 1 whilst the draw is available at 6/1, but it does have to be said that there is no getting away from the fact that Van Gerwen is much more likely to win this match and that sis something all betting sites also believe as his odds are tiny at just 2/9, so you will not get rich betting on Van Gerwen unless you lump on big!

The final match of the evening is the 21:30 match in which Gurney will be taking on Wright. You may be of the mind that this match will finish in a draw and if so then mop up the current odds of 10/3 that are available at most betting sites, however if you thinking Gurney is going to take this match in his stride then take advantage of his odds of doing so of 7/4, Wright’s odds for this match for reference are 11/10!

To win the Premier Dart League outright will of course take a lot of skill and currently the red-hot favourite on all betting markets to do so is Van Gerwen, Michael at odds of 1/2 Cross, Rob is the second favourite to win this event outright at 9/2 and the third favourite is Anderson, Gary at 11/2.

Smith, Michael is on offer at 14/1, Van Barneveld, Raymond is available at odds of 25/1 and Wright, Peter does look very good value at 33/1 too. The other three players and their odds are Gurney, Daryl at 40/1, Whitlock, Simon at 50/1 and Suljovic, Mensur at 250/1!