Why my seven-year-old has a YouTube channel

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Stampy: hero for the YouTube generation

Remember those heady childhood days of the 80s and 90s? When a group of grubby adolescents yelled at us to “Switch Off Our Television Sets And Do Something Less Boring Instead”? Or when Philip Schofield had Gordon the Gopher as an assistant presenter instead of Holly Willoughby? It’s difficult to forget when Ant and Dec were the heroes of our Saturday mornings not our Saturday nights and everyone wanted their pictures to be included in Tony Hart’s gallery.

If your children have passed the CBeebies stage you’d be hard pressed to identify a TV star that sums up their generation. In our household it is a more home-grown type of celebrity that is making its mark on a very different kind of childhood. All hail the rise of the YouTuber. Stampy. Chris MD. Dan TDM. Spencer FC. These are the people weaving their way into our family life.

Given the firm impression these YouTubers have been making, it was only a matter of time before Toby wanted to imitate them with his own channel. A devoted gamer, he’s been picking up tricks of the trade from these guys since a stupidly young age and wants to now share his knowledge with an audience. The benefits and the risks of the internet age is that we can all be publishers now – even a seven-year-old boy with dreams. Continue reading

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EU Referendum: The Post Mortem

We all have regrets. Some, like kissing inappropriate people in your twenties, you can live with, but others run deeper and threaten to whisper “what ifs” in your ear for the rest of your life.

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I suspect as David Cameron stepped out in front of Number 10 this morning he could feel the regrets rising. Regrets that he played with our EU membership to appease his party rebels. Regrets that he authorised an EU referendum as leverage to negotiate – negotiations that are now worth nothing. Regrets that he didn’t fight hard enough against a campaign that was built around myths, intolerance and hate.

Above all, he’ll regret going down in history as the prime minister responsible for severing our ties with our European neighbours; potentially sparking the break-up of the UK; and possibly undermining years of peace negotiations in Northern Ireland. I doubt that’s how he expected his political career to pan out. Continue reading

What we’re reading: The BFG by Roald Dahl

imgresI have to admit to a bedtime story hiatus in our household. Reading at bedtime, for a variety of reasons, has fallen out of our routine.

However, prompted by a rather blunt but accurate comment in this year’s report card that my son is not “passionate about books”, I decided to do something about this. My motivation has been helped by the fact that Toby has been laid low with a mild virus and is unusually receptive to most things I suggest, realising in his hour of need that I might actually serve a purpose.

So, after a browse of the bookshelf and a brief revisit to The Witches I downloaded The BFG onto the Kindle, extremely grateful to the e-book format in these desperate circumstances. Continue reading

Is the zoo the right place for a wildlife lover?

Taking your kids to the zoo is one of those parenting rites of passages. Have baby. Must go to zoo. Our local zoo is in Edinburgh and I remember hopping on a 26 bus to drag my toddler son to the zoo only to find the hilly walks quite exhausting and the sleeping or hiding animals not that exciting to a two-year-old with a five-second attention span.
Quite simply, it was all a bit over-rated. Plus, I remember the stony silence that greeted me when I cheerfully shared my weekend adventures at the zoo with colleagues. Clearly, attending a zoo was no longer considered an ethical pass-time, and I had committed some sort of social faux-pas.

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Up close and personal with an egg-eating snake

I’ll confess something here and now. I’ve never been a huge proponent of animal rights. It goes without saying that I don’t want to see unnecessary cruelty inflicted on any vulnerable creature but as far as causes go, there are others that ignite the fire in my belly more.

Since becoming a parent I’ve started to change, however. I don’t know if that’s because my maternal instincts have been sharpened and extended to cater for all living things or if seeing the world through a child’s eyes has made me more aware that we have to do more to protect it and the creatures that inhabit it.
Continue reading

Best bank holiday day trips for a seven year old

That Friday night glass of wine tastes all the sweeter knowing there is an extra day in the weekend thanks to that old British tradition of the bank holiday. These little beauties have a tendency to pop up just at the right time, when the school run is becoming just a little too repetitive, and the email inbox is wearing you down. I appreciate that not everyone has the chance to participate in bank holiday glory but for those who do, it’s an opportunity to really make the most of the time off.

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Save the housework for Sunday, and use the holiday as an excuse to get away from screens, the home and the unfinished chores tormenting you and go somewhere with your offspring. And if, like me, you have a seven-year-old to keep happy, here are some of my tips for days out that won’t disappoint the most demanding. Continue reading

We’ve finished! How to Fight a Dragon’s Fury by Cressida Cowell

How-to-Fight-a-Dragons-Fury-648x1024I estimate that it’s taken us approximately one year and four months to work our way through Cressida Cowell’s How to Train Your Dragon series of books, and tonight we closed the final chapter in the final book. And what a doorstep of a book it is.

It seemed a fitting ending to a cracking adventure series, that not only packed plenty of suspense, action and plot twists between its pages but evoked every emotion from despair to elation, and from sadness to terror.

We laughed, we cried, and sometimes ducked under the duvet during this thrilling viking saga. However, it is time to say goodbye to Hiccup and his fellow vikings, and with this last book I sensed that Cowell had exhausted every avenue with this story, tying up all loose ends, and saying goodbye finally to the world and people she’d created. Continue reading

Protecting the Carnegie Library is about protecting an ideology

In Dunfermline, we’re pretty proud of one of our most famous exports, industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.

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His legacy is everywhere. In street names, school names, business names and our concert hall that is slightly less famous than the similar named Carnegie Hall in New York. An Andrew Carnegie statue proudly watches over the dog walkers, joggers and kids on scooters using Pittencrieff Park, and a short stroll away from this wonderful green space, you’ll find the Andrew Carnegie Birthplace Museum.

Andrew Carnegie gave more to the town of Dunfermline than just a famous association to draw visitors for years to come. The son of a weaver, Carnegie emigrated to America with his parents in the mid 19th century, and it was there, in the land of opportunity, he built up a steel empire that made him one of the wealthiest industrialists of his time. Continue reading