Tots Tea Rooms in Wallsend

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This lovely cafe in Wallsend (run by Emma Brown) has become something of a second home for the Ager family recently. It’s a place for parents (or anyone caring for babies and toddlers) to relax and chat over a meal or simply have a tea or coffee. There’s a play area with plenty of toys (so the children can easily entertain themselves) and a baby changing room. The cafe is also breastfeeding friendly.

One of the things that makes Tots Tea Rooms special though is the variety of organised activities for the children, especially in school holidays. Our children have enjoyed sand art, messy play, rock pool fun (see photo below) and cookery – to name just a few of the activities on offer. Emma has also branched out into children’s parties and other events; just this last weekend she hosted our Baby Shower for family and friends.

Naomi is there more often than I am, but occasionally I take work with me or simply pop in and enjoy good coffee – yes, there’s a proper coffee machine before you ask. Emma also has free Wi-Fi for customers.

You don’t need to have a child with you, so why not drop in? It’s on the crossroads of High Street East and Park Road, not far from the town centre.

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Freddy’s First Photoshoot

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I’ve been interested in photography for as long as I can remember, developing and printing 35 mm films in a makeshift darkroom many years ago. Naomi is also a very keen photographer, and taking photos is so much easier now with digital cameras. Freddy (two years and seven months old) sees us both regularly taking photos, often with him as the subject. He has only has a toy camera (not a real one) so I decided it was time he had a go with a real one. I changed the wrist strap on my Nikon Coolpix S2600 compact digital camera for a longer one to go round his neck and took him to the local park in Wallsend to have a go, telling him to take whatever he wanted. I’ve picked one of the best to illustrate this post. All the photos were taken with no help from me, and can be seen by clicking here. I think a bright future in photography lies ahead for him.

Note: See my photos (Nikon D3000 DSLR) of the photoshoot here.

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Jodie Whittaker IS the Doctor

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It was announced yesterday that a female actor has been cast in the lead role of the classic BBC science fiction television series Doctor Who, a role previously only played by men. As someone who watched the first ever episode back in 1963, and as such might be considered a traditionalist, I was absolutely delighted to hear the news, especially as the announcement was made on my daughter’s first birthday.

There’s been speculation around this announcement, not to mention several clues in recent episodes; as the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) recently said, “We’re the most civilised civilisation in the universe. We’re billions of years beyond your petty human obsession with gender and its associated stereotypes”.

There have been howls of protest from some, but who said the Doctor has to be male? Last evening, much to my wife’s amusement, I found myself shouting at the radio when a man (on a phone-in programme) suggested it was a subversive left-wing plot, and that Jodie only got the role because she was a woman rather than acting ability [shakes head & facepalms].

The fact this has caused such a reaction demonstrates how far we still have to go in order to achieve equality within society. It’s one thing to accept the decision, whilst at the same time having a preference for a male Doctor Who (this is my mother’s view), it’s quite another to express displeasure in a negative, sexist manner.

[Sarcasm alert] I can believe he’s an alien with two hearts from another planet, who travels through time and space in a police box – smaller on the outside than the inside. I can believe he often regenerates into a new body, has a sonic screwdriver and regularly saves the earth from total destruction. But I can’t believe he could be a woman; a step too far, political correctness gone mad!

Our Common Humanity

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Imagine the thing that is most precious to you, then think how you’d feel if it were twisted and used against you for evil purposes…..That’s how ordinary Muslims feel when Islam is hijacked, distorted and abused by terrorists who want to justify the murder and maiming of innocent people. Muslims not only feel the pain and suffering we all do, they also feel that something sacred has been defiled. If that double-whammy wasn’t enough, there are those who would spread hatred and promote Islamophobia for their own agenda. Let’s celebrate our common humanity and be peacemakers, because that’s what the world needs above all else.

Article 50 & Brexit Reflections

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Last year the people of the United Kingdom voted in a referendum to leave the European Union by a small majority. This immediately divided the nation in a number of ways and plunged the UK into a complex crisis, not least constitutional. These divisions seem to have deepened and there are ominous signs pointing to a potential breakup of the United Kingdom. The UK government also seems to be pursuing a ‘hard’ Brexit, that is leaving the single market in addition to the EU. I voted for the UK to remain in the EU, believing that to be the best way forward for the country and Europe as a whole.

One thing that concerns me is that such a huge change could be carried through by only a simple majority. Surely something so far-reaching should gain acceptance on at least a 60% threshold, or possibly even a two thirds majority? With the UK split roughly 52/48 (and then not geographically evenly) there was bound to be division and tension with such a slender majority.

But worse was to follow the referendum. There was an immediate political vacuum, with no plan for what a post-Brexit UK (or disUnited Kingdom) would look like. In addition to this, it emerged that politicians (especially in the Leave campaign) mislead the population with promises from which they backtracked.

Many will say this was the democratic will of the people, but there is more to this than meets the eye, and more than I have the time or inclination to go into. Suffice it to say that many voted Leave for a variety of reasons (some simply as a protest vote) and some regretted the decision, not realising we would actually leave (unbelievable, but true), or became concerned for the negative consequences – for which we were warned.

One of the most worrying concerns of Brexit is the increasingly negative atmosphere towards immigrants and refugees which has resulted in increased hate crimes. We can all do something positive to help by reaching out in solidarity and respecting everyone.

I write as a concerned individual, seeking for ways to be positive and working together with others to make our land and continent a better place for all its citizens, especially our children and grandchildren. Despite my reservations, and as Article 50 is triggered by Prime Minister Theresa May, I believe there’s hope for our nation if we and our political leaders work for the common good of everyone. Ultimately, we are where we are and have to make the best of it.

Updated Wednesday 29 March 2017

An Unfortunate Geek Fail

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For a while now my Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 has been stuck in a reboot cycle, it restarts for no obvious reason, and is therefore totally useless. I was unable to perform a ‘soft’ factory reset because the tablet restarted before I could get to the appropriate menu item. It was possible to get to the ‘hard’ reset menu by pressing a combination of keys after the tablet had been switched off, but then the factory reset option always failed. I installed Samsung KIES synchronisation and update software on my PC, but again the tablet rebooted before I could connect the two devices. The last option was to reinstall the latest Android operating system from Samsung via Odin software (again on my PC). Sadly, this failed several times (see screenshot above) and so I’ll have to take the tablet to a local service centre in the hope that something can be done that won’t cost too much.

On the plus side though, I found out that PC World were doing a good deal on the Amazon Fire 7″ tablet: 16GB plus case plus 64GB microSD card all for £59.99 as a bundle. I’m enjoying using it, the quality isn’t as good as the Samsung (unsurprisingly), but it was a great deal. The only downsides are that they try to sell you lots of stuff (the tablet is basically a shop front) and the tablet won’t let you install Google apps via Play, but there are always workarounds for a geek!

Salsa Recipe

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Last Sunday evening in worship we watched another video from the excellent NOOMA series by Rob Bell entitled Tomato. In the video he speaks about his wife making the most wonderful salsa, here’s the recipe from the notes:

Put ingredients in the blender in this order:
1 chopped jalapeño pepper, seeds removed
leave the seeds in if you like it hot
1 small to medium onion, cut into quarters
1 handful of coriander
8 Roma tomatoes, cut into quarters
1 squeeze of lime
1 generous pinch of sea salt
Blend just until the tomatoes start to get blended. You want the tomatoes to still be chunky and not pureed. Pour into a bowl and eat right away.

Obviously the salsa is merely an illustration of something deeper, and the description of the video is as follows: Do we try so hard to be something we are not, that we miss out on how to truly live? We all get consumed with ourselves; sometimes we’re not even aware of it. We learn from a young age that life is about winning and impressing. We pick up that our worth and value come from how good, how smart, and how skilled we are. So, we twist things in our favour, making us look like we have it all together. Every day we have the choice to prop up these false ideas about ourselves or to let go of them. Jesus invites these parts of us to die, the parts of us that tell us our worth comes from the things we say and do. Maybe it’s only when we let these things die, that we truly begin to live.