Very sad to leave


I was wrong. The result was not 60:40 to one side or the other. Instead, the result was 52:48. I think that this is the worst possible result. If we had a clear remain/leave outcome then I think that the Kingdom could have united with the result, and gone from there. However, we are almost as divided as it is possible to be.

I was shocked to read the result this morning. I have felt sad all morning, and truly worry about the next 10 years as we (UK) adjust to being outside of the EU. There are a huge number of potential risks associated with leaving the EU, but for me the biggest one is dividing the nation (most notably with Scotland almost certainly asking for a new referendum to leave the UK).

My hope is that the UK negotiates a free trade deal with EU, which (in return) the UK gives some sensible rights back to the EU. However, I worry that this may not be possible.

It’s a mess right now. Let us hope that in 10 years time we can look back and think that it was worth it.


The Referendum Blues


I woke up this morning feeling blue. The UK is making a monumental decision today, and I am not sure that my decision is correct. I voted in the EU referendum (3 hours ago) feeling sick in my stomach. I cast my vote without the usual smile and joke that I normally give the people working in my local polling station. This time it was serious, and there would not be the usual chance to change my mind a few years later (in a future election). I was committing myself to something that I would have to remember for the rest of my life.

In every election vote in the past, I have passionately believed in the party that I was voting for. I could make long and detailed arguments about why I truly believed in that party. This time, I can see both sides of the argument (“Brexit” or “Remain”) and I simply cannot defend either side for some of their views.

So instead I voted with my ‘gut instinct’. It’s not a vote I made after poring over all the EU policies over a period of months. Instead, it was made after living in the EU all my life, and seeing the benefits/drawbacks that it gives.

If my choice wins tomorrow, I will not be celebrating. I simply cannot tell for sure if my gut feeling was correct. More importantly, I know that the ‘United’ Kingdom is unbelievably divided. It will take years to get over the divide that this referendum has caused. Some people will never get over it. It is a sad day, and I am in a melancholic mood.

I think that the mood of Britain is best summed up by this video:

It is made by the fabulous duo John Harris and John Domokos. They have made a series of videos called ‘Anywhere but Westminster’. Their premise is (essentially) that people have put too much weight on the views of Londoners, and not enough of the views of people all across the rest of the United Kingdom. This is a mistake that I believe so many politicians have made, assuming that what they hear in London (especially at the middle-class BBC) is replicated across the UK.  Rightly or wrongly, ‘ordinary’ non-London people tend to have different views. Their documentaries are fascinating and illuminating.

John Harris’ interview style is reminiscent of the fantastic Simon Reeve ( who interviews people from all walks of life, and does not judge, condone or preach to them. He simply listens.  It is a rare gift.

I hope I voted wisely.

I wish for peace and healing in both the United Kingdom, Europe and around the world.

You heard it here first – the result of the EU referendum

Europe_resultProbably the most important vote in my (adult) lifetime is about to happen – will Britain choose to leave or remain in the European Union (EU)?

I will not divulge which way I shall vote, but I can tell you what the result will be.

I genuinely do think that most politicians and broadcasters (most influentially “the BBC”) originally (for example 1+ year ago) thought that the result of the referendum would be a fairly easy victory for the ‘remain’ campaign. However, it has not surprised me to find out that the opinion polls are so close.

As I type this, the current approximate figures are:

  • 40% remain in EU
  • 40% leave EU
  • 20% undecided.

I personally do not think that the vote directly equates to a referendum on immigration, but I certainly believe that a huge proportion of this country do. I personally do not think that immigration directly relates to Islamic terrorism, but I certainly believe that a huge proportion of this country do.

  • Therefore, I believe that the result of the vote will be completely decided by whether-or-not there is a terrorist incident on Europe before 23rd June 2016.

Approximately 6 months ago, I started telling my friends and family that:

  • If there is no major terrorist incident (in the 2 weeks before the vote), then the result will be 60:40% remain in EU.
  • If there is a major terrorist incident (in the 2 weeks before the vote), then the result will be 60:40% leave the EU.

I really do think it is that simple. Only time will tell whether or not I will be correct.

Honest guide to losing weight – the secret is simply to be honest!

weight-loss-4-menThe number of obese people appears to have soared (here in the UK) since I was a child. Seeing an overweight ‘old’ person has never surprised me – as we get older, we all slow down, and yet we enjoy our food so naturally we put on a little extra weight. Pensioners are (generally) not trying to impress people of the opposite sex, and therefore they are happy to ‘let themselves go’ a little. They know that they’ve only got 10-20 more years left on the planet, and they have decided that the enjoyment of food is more important than longevity or the persuit of active hobbies (like sports). This is normal and has been going on since time immemorial.

What shocks me are the numbers of obsese young people that I see – for example, people 18-30. They seem not to care that they will have (probably) 50 more years on the planet, during which they will have crippling knee, back and hip pain, will be unable to play sport with their kids, and so on. Anyhow, I digress…

I just wanted to write an honest post about me, to give one man’s honest feedback. My thoughts will not work-for/help everyone, but perhaps it will help someone out there.

In my whole life, I’ve alway been slightly overweight. To give you an idea, I was never so large that anyone would ever ‘point and stare’ but enough so that I was always slower in sports than my friends, for example. In early summer 2014, I noticed that I was getting larger than ever – the easiest way to describe it was that I could physically feel bits of me wobble as I walked. I also noticed that my back was hurting most days, presumably because of the extra weight that it was carrying. What’s more, my family had booked our first ever ‘all inclusive’ (also known as ‘all you can eat’!) holiday for late August. I knew that I wanted to enjoy my holiday (in other words “get my money’s worth of my free food”!) so I knew I would gain weight on holiday, therefore some action had to be taken!

Let’s start by giving you some key facts about me (based on early Summer 2014):

  • Just over 6″ tall (184 cm)
  • 36″ waist
  • 40 years old.

I was shocked when I weighed myself – I was almost 16 stone (224 pounds, 100kg)! If you look at the picture at the top, I guess that my shape was most similar to the second picture (starting from the left).

We all know that there is no big secret to losing weight – you eat less and move more. I’ve tried ‘moving more’ (in other words trying to do exercise) but the family lifestyle that we have (with a teenage son and 5 year old girl) meant that I had so little spare time that if I had done more exercise then my family would hardly see me. Besides, the truth be told that (in the past) whenever I’d exercised more I always found that I came home afterwards and ate like a pig to compensate. So (for me) the only secret to losing weight is to eat less. Hardly rocket science eh? Just pure honesty!

People give you all sorts of ways to change your eating habits to lose weight, for example not eating bread, only eating meat or whatever. Ultimately, IMHO all these ‘rules’ are simply making you eat less – simple as that. The less you eat, the more you will lose weight. I knew (in my heart) that the biggest reason why I had gained weight was:

(a) Eating too large portions

(b) Eating high-calorific foods between meals (e.g. fatty / sweet foods, like chocolate/cake etc.)

So my plan was extraordinarily simple. I would just have the following rules:

  • At mealtimes, just eat ‘normal’ portions (e.g. what I would get in a restaurant). If I was still hungry at the end of my meal, I would simply wait 20 minutes. I always found that that hunger pang went away (after 20 minutes) because my body had time to realise that it had eaten a meal. 
  • If I was ever hungry between meals, I would first have a drink.

I mean, most of the time we snack because we are either (a) thirsty or (b) bored (looking for a distraction). Making a cup of tea would distract me, and I would soon forget about my idea to eat

  • If I was still hungry after having a drink, I would eat a sensible snack

By sensible, my rule was that it simply could not be a high-calorie food (for example cake, chocolate, pastry-based, cheese, ice-cream etc.). I would instead typically have a banana, apple, or chicken sandwich.

By following the above three simple rules, I was never (truly) hungry. Yes, we all know that occasionally we’ll say we are hungry (because we’ve just watched someone eat a delicious-looking ice-cream sundae) but are we really genuinely? Or are we just saying it because we fancy a treat? Ask yourself a question – if I am really hungry, then surely I would be happy to eat a chicken sandwich (wholemeal bread), not an ice-cream (which does not fill you up)?

And the results of this experiment? Well, my wife scoffed at my idea, and didn’t think I could keep up with my rules. Perhaps because of this, I stuck to my guns! In fact, I susprised myself to find out just how easy and regular it was to lose weight:

  • First two weeks: Lost 0.5 stone
  • Second two weeks: Lost 0.5 stone
  • Third two weeks: Lost 0.5 stone

So I started my holiday at 14.5 stone, knowing that I would eat like a king all week (and I did!), came home and was unsurprised (and perfectly happy) to find that I now weighted 15 stone. And there I’ve (more or less) stayed (apart from a blip at Christmas, but don’t we all do that surely?).

Finally, I really do want to say how much I found this website interesting. It’s basically a picture of genuine ‘normal’ people with all sorts of height and weight combinations. Very interesting to see how we really look (given our weight).

Be happy – we are all living the Downton Abbey good life!


It sometimes amazes me how miserable lots of people are. People constantly complain about what they don’t have. Well I’m about to say that (for a lot of us) we are actually living an amazing Downton Abbey lifestyle that is fabulous and glorious, so let us all cheer up!

My wife and I both love Downton Abbey (although I have to admit that I went off it a bit with all the sad story lines of series 4). The show tells of the Earl of Grantham and his relatives and employees, living life in the early 20th century. I find it fascinating to see how it must have been like to live in those times.

Let us imagine ourselves as part of one of the richest families in England, living the high life in Downton Abbey itself. Wow, it must have been amazing eh? Well, actually I’m here to argue that we’re all living just as wonderful a life in 2014 middle-income England.

Forgive me for assuming that everyone reading this has a reasonable standard of income, and is living in the developed world. I’m imagining nothing more fancy than a steady job, an average house and a reliable car (that gets from A to B), plus (of course) whatever electronic device you have for reading my words on the internet. Well, you are living the Downton Abbey dream life!

  • Remember how amazed everyone was when the Earl of Grantham got a car? What an amazing device. Wow, it goes at up to 20 miles an hour, and only breaks down once a month or so (and only needs one person to work full time to keep it going!).
    • Well look on your driveway just now. Your car may not be as good as Mr Jones’ car (next door) but check out how fast it goes, its power steering and its air conditioning.
  • The Earl was persuaded to get a phone a couple of series ago.
    • How many phones have you got? Wow, you’ve got one that you can even use away from the house, that’s amazing!
  • A few episodes ago, the Earl bought his first radio (to listen to the King’s speech).
    • Hold on a minute, you say you’ve got several radios? And also a ‘television’ device that allows you to both hear and see pictures. That’s amazing!

We are living in amazing times. Most of us are living Downton Abbey lifestyles, and yet we don’t seem to realise it.

Perfect is the enemy of good – my new blog mantra!


I have many ideas of things that I would like to say – most of them seem to come to me in the short walk back home after taking my daughter to school. However I never seem to find the time to describe my thoughts in precise detail, so it is rare that I actually post to my blog.

  • Or (as Voltaire would put it) “Perfect is the enemy of good“.

In other words, I am stopping saying what I am thinking because I am worried that I will not say everything in exactly the way that I want to. Well I’ve decided to follow his line of thought and start writing shorter (more imperfect) posts. I mean, I can always return back to them (at a later date) to add to them (or correct them) eh?

Top Tips for LegoLand Windsor – my personal advice for a happy day

Entrance_to_Legoland_WindsorFollowing on from my advice about DisneyLand Paris , I thought I would do something relatively similar for Legoland Windsor.

I’ve had the pleasure of going there so many times (probably well over 30 in total) over the past 15 years, and I still love going to that place. Having said that, the park seems to have got a lot busier in the recent years, which means that (unless you are careful) you may get disappointed with your visit. This blog post is to try to help you get your best out of your day.

Here is a link to a map LegoLand_Windsor_Teacher_Map (which was downloaded in 2014, but seems to be based on 2013, so it is slightly out of date when you read it) to help explain what I mean.

Before you even start, be aware that there is SO MUCH to do in Legoland, you’ll never be able to do it all in 1 day. That’s actually a good thing – as I say I must have been there over 30 times and I still love it and get a thrill as I walk through the entrance gates!

  • Set your kid’s expectations that Mummy and Daddy are going to try to fit in as much as they can, but there will be things that they miss out on.
  • It also may be useful to tell them that you are going to tell them what rides to go on (to begin with) rather than to ask what they want to do. In my experience, asking kids what ride they want to go on next just wastes a huge amount of time (walking between things). In general, apart from the initial 1 or 2 rides in the day, you should be just going on the very nearest ride to you that doesn’t have a bad queue … don’t waste time walking across the large park to each ride, just because they’ve seen it on the map/leaflet!

Whilst you are packing:

  • Remember to pack swimming trunks/towel for your kids (see later).
  • Also bring pac-a-macs to avoid getting wet on rides
  • I suggest you bring a packed lunch – this is not just money-saving, it gives you something to do in the queues (see later). Top this up with buying ice-cream (if hot) & doughnuts (if cold) as necessary.

It’s a VERY long walk from the main park to the car park, so I would try to avoid having to do this during the day. Therefore:

  • Bring the lunch with you in a rucksack
  • Try to avoid bringing push-chairs (if possible) for your kids – they can become very annoying dragging around the park.

Also, to set your expectations, be warned that you have to pay for their car-park. This is sneaky (in my view) but if you know in advance it cushions the blow.

OK then, let’s start the day:

  • On busy days the ‘standard’ route to LegoLand can get ENORMOUS traffic delays. Have a look at a map beforehand and try to have a ‘backup plan’ (where you approach via any obscure route).
  • As far as I know, it opens at 10am (do check for your day). Make sure that you arrive at least 30 minutes before, ideally 35 or 40.
    • Assuming that you want to use some vouchers (e.g. Kelloggs cereal vouchers) there can be a relatively long (?15 or 20 minutes?) queue to the customer services (which is where you generally swap your vouchers for ‘real’ tickets).
    • You also want to do all the logistics (adjust backpacks, toilets etc.) and still be there for the minute it opens, hence why getting there in advance

If you get there too early, don’t worry. There’s enough open beforehand to kill 20 minutes, for example: shop, ice-cream, and (most usefully) a Miniland Star Wars exhibition. As you walk through the ticket barriers, if you head straight ahead you’ll be blocked by a cliff (with a great view of the park, and also of London if it’s a nice day). There will be two queues into the park – one to the left, one to the right.

  • In general terms, the left hand queue is best for ‘younger’ kid’s rides, and the right hand for ‘older’ kid’s rides. If you’re new to LegoLand, I shall assume that you’ll head left

If you’re really keen then you can get to the front of the queue (when they ‘release the rope’ and allow people into the park). However, it’s only really worth it if you are a quick family (e.g. no buggies etc.) so I’m going to assume that you are NOT that. I’ll therefore assume that there will be some people in front of you when the time comes. Try to go as quickly as possible (of course) but don’t rush/run or you’ll no doubt have a few accidents on the way. Don’t panic, all will be fine.
Nevertheless, it’s a good idea to get into the park a.s.a.p. Here’s where you will have to start negotiating with your kids. They’ll want to stop and look at things (or slide down the slides, which are by the steps during the descent of the hill). Tell them no – they can go on the slides on the way home!

  • Aim straight for the ‘long queue’ ride that you’ve earmarked (I suggest the ‘boats’ or the ‘driving school’ – see later) and don’t spare the horses until you get there!

It’s up to you to decide what is your first ride, but here are a few rides that tend to have long queues:

  • Boating School (37)
  • Driving School (38 – older kids)
  • L-Drivers (39 – younger kids)

The boating school is quite sweet, but nothing amazing. The weird thing is that it gets HORRENDOUSLY long queues during the day, and it simply is not worth waiting 50 minutes in a queue for it. I tend to always go for this first, and if the queue is 15 minutes or less then go for it (you’ll not have the chance later). If you get there and it’s a long queue, then quickly dash to either the Driving or L-Drivers schools (depending on age) and get in those queues.

After you’ve done your first 1 or 2 rides, my advice (as I said earlier) is that you should be just going on the very nearest ride to you that doesn’t have a bad queue … don’t waste time walking across the large park between each ride.

All of the rides (from now on) will have reasonably large queues, but here are a few that I’d recommend in particular:

  • SQUID Surfer (33)
  • The ‘small’ rollercoaster (10) – this is actually better than its bigger brother (9)! The queues can get long, but it’s actually a lot of fun and well worth it.

Here are a few that I personally think are disappointing (avoid unless you particularly think they will appeal):

  • Dino Safari (34)
  • Laser Raiders (19)
  • The ‘big’ rollercoaster (9). This is slow/boring/disappointing.
  • Vikings river splash (5). Looks better than it is

The Lighthouse show (26) is excellent for the adults – but seems to be less exciting for the kids, so I suggest you avoid it (at least for your first visit). In theory it’s a good place to sit and have lunch whilst watching the show, but in practice you have to get there VERY early (e.g. at least 15 or 20 minutes) before the show to bag your spot, and even then you might not get a great view. The show is spectacular, but the kids seem to prefer the rides.

Is the park busy? Well here are a few rides which are pretty good but (for one reason or another) have shorter queues than they deserve (therefore recommended if it’s busy):

  • Spinning Spiders (8)
  • Scarab Bouncers (18) – this is actually inside the ‘exit’ from the Laser Raider, but you can easily get to them without going to the Laser Raider. There never seems to be a particularly long queue, even though the ride looks great (I have to admit we’ve never done it!)
  • Longboat Invader (7) – We *loved* this when we last went.
  • Fire Engines (41) – queue varies, but often it’s short.
  • Fairytale brook (42) – very simple, but quite charming, and we’ve had some fun on there many times.

Try to put off going to the following until later in the day (when the queues have really got bad) because obviously they have NO QUEUES (so leave them as emergency):

  • the fabulous Lego model village (57)
  • the maze (6) – if you put some ‘effort’ into this (i.e. act like a fun/silly family together, and make a game of it) then you can have quite a lot of fun in this.

Of course you can also just play in the FABULOUS parks:

  • Dry park (44/47)
  • Wet park (44/47) – bring swimwear and towels!
  • There’s also a fabulous-looking park at ‘Castaway Camp’ (labelled 13 on this old map). Not been in it, but it looks good for older kids.

Don’t do these parks too early (whilst ride queues are small) but also don’t leave this too late (they can get very busy on a busy day).

Use your snacks/lunch wisely.

  • Feeding your kids a sandwich in a 30-minute queue is a great way to keep them occupied/distracted. Don’t just sit on a bench to eat … eat when there’s a use for it!
  • One good trick is to go see the puppet show (27). It is excellent (very funny) but get there at least 10 minutes before it starts, to get a seat. Whilst you are waiting, you can eat your lunch.

By far the best two places to get ice-cream and doughnuts are:

  • Near the lighthouse (near the toilets). Trouble is, not many places to sit and eat after getting it 😦
  • Papa Moles (41). I particularly like here because there is lots of seating outside with a good view of the park. Good place to sit and rest 🙂

They have lots of good flavours of ice-cream in those two places – from my memory the caramel is best. However, the queues can get HORRENDOUS at peak times, so think ahead and choose ‘unpopular’ time to snack!
If it rains:

  • The puppet show (45) is undercover. EXCELLENT when it’s wet, although obviously it’ll be popular
  • 4D cinema shows (50) – ditto
  • X-box zone (24) – this is slightly hidden so might be less busy than you might think.

My personal favourite activity is to RUSH to the discovery zone (55) where (effectively) there is a room with two ramps in it. You build cars and the kids race them down the hill. Sounds simple but (trust me) the kids ADORE this. The problem is that there are only limited numbers of wheels available, so get there quickly (as soon as you think it’ll rain) and bagsy your wheels before the other kids/parents do! The only problem is how to get your kids OUT of there. I’ve been in there almost an hour several times in the past.

I do hope that these hints help someone out there – have fun!