New Year’s Resolutions 2018

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Another year has come and gone since I wrote and posted a photo of Matilda in 2016. 2017 was another special year for Naomi and I with the birth of Pollyanna in December, our very own Christmas baby. Our family is now complete; Freddy, Matilda, and Pollyanna – not forgetting our dog Toby.

Family life is so precious, albeit demanding with three children under the age of three. My resolutions for 2018 reflect this, and I hope I can do justice to them: Look after myself better (so I can be there my family and work smarter). Spend quality time with family every day. Live in the moment and worry less. Effective planning and organising in my personal and work life. Run twice a week (reaching parkrun 100 milestone if possible).

2017 Favourite Albums

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In 2017 I’ve listened to over 100 albums, mainly while working in the office at home, but occasionally I’ve had the luxury of simply relaxing and listening with headphones and a nice cuppa.

My top ten commercial albums are as follows (in alphabetical order):

Alison Krauss: Windy City
Björk: Utopia
Brian Eno: Reflection
Foo Fighters: Concrete and Gold
Jane Weaver: Modern Kosmology
Laura Marling: Semper Femina
Rick Wakeman: Piano Portraits
Robert Plant: Carry Fire
Sparks: Hippopotamus
The War On Drugs: A Deeper Understanding

The albums that just missed out reaching the top ten are the latest releases by Noel and Liam Gallagher. Let’s hope they overcome their differences and get together again soon, this would be sensational!

I’ve not listened to many live albums, but my favourite (with associated DVD) is David Gilmour: Live at Pompeii.

Whilst not being a particular favourite, I think Every Valley by Public Service Broadcasting deserves a special mention. It’s a concept album which focuses on a topic of modern history (like the band’s previous work), namely the mining industry in Wales, more specifically the rise and decline of the coal industry.

I listen, buy and download independent albums on Bandcamp, my top five are:

Cousin Silas: Landscapes
Cousin Silas & Martin Neuhold: Piano
Cousin Silas & Øystein Jørgensen: Coefficient of Variation
Linnea: Finding Light In The Dark
William Doyle: Lightnesses

Why not check these releases out and let me know what you think? Here’s looking forward to 2018’s new releases!

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.

Update: the Tot Tea Rooms is now under new management.

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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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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!

Update: My local service centre unfortunately informed me it was beyond repair.

Astronomy Picture of the Day

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I’ve always had an interest in astronomy; it goes right back to my childhood, and it’s nurtured my love of science as well as my outlook on life. I’ll probably write about it in the future. In the meantime, one of the websites I visit on a daily basis (as well as the BBC and Facebook amongst others) is Astronomy Picture of the Day. Every day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer. I often bookmark some of the best ones, although you need to save the link in the archive rather than the main page (otherwise you get taken back to the main page in future).

Footnote: As I was writing this the death of Gene Cernan, the last man to walk on the moon was announced. “We leave as we came, and, God willing, we shall return, with peace and hope for all mankind.” – Cernan’s closing words on leaving the moon at the end of Apollo 17.

Reasons to be cheerful in 2016

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2016 hasn’t been a good year for many reasons, not least the large number of high profile celebrity deaths; from David Bowie to…..I hesitate as it’s only the 30th December as I write. There’s been war and terrorism, famine and a refugee crisis. There was the United Kingdom’s vote to leave the European Union and the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States of America; both events marking a rise in right-wing populism, intolerance, fear and hatred. But my main reason to be cheerful in 2016 was the birth of my beautiful daughter Matilda, what’s yours?