Tuesday, April 28, 2009


Lily Allen's current single, 'Not Fair', appeals very much to the children with its "I think you're really mean" and "it's not fair" refrains. Allen's got a knack for the unfortunately catchy.

While the song is all about not getting to orgasm with a selfish lover.

Bring back Mary Whitehouse, I say, dig her up!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Seals at Gweek

Over Easter we took a trip to the Seal Sanctuary at Gweek.

The weather was good for us and the setting of the centre is just beautiful. There are reasonably lengthy walks to get to the seal pools themselves and further to the otter area, but these are attractive and interesting to walk, interspersed with information boards about wildlife you can potentially see in the area or facts about the centre, its animals and its work. The question boards where you have to figure out the answers were a big hit with the children, particularly my eldest.

We were lucky enough that the children had the opportunity to participate in feeding the sea lions, and the short talk which went with it was just right for the audience. The seals and sea lions themselves were splendid fellows and we spent a very long time watching them swim underwater through a viewing wall, all of us trying to catch a picture as they sped by. Other attractions included paddocks of ponies, artificial rockpools with sealife, the "safari bus" and the otter enclosure. The wooded walk to the otters' home was particularly picturesque as we had left all signs of boatyards in the river behind: we saw egrets and nesting swans on our stroll.

The children made 'lucky pennies' in a machine on the way in, and their own badges near the rockpool. Making the badges was especially rewarding and something my son wanted to discuss at his next class "show & tell".

We had a great time and my daughter was negotiating to come back again, as we left.

One reservation I would have about recommending the Seal Sanctuary to others would be the pricing for entry. We were fortunate to have vouchers, but otherwise a family of four would have been £36. However, you can buy discounted tickets online, and of course, the work the sanctuary does for the seals is no doubt worth the money.

We didn't visit the cafe as we had lunched in the car en route, but the icecreams in the shop were reasonably priced, as were sticks of rock. The shop was relatively small, but that's not a bad thing (having chased children round massive ones before now, saying no fifty times a second), and from what little looking I did beyond sweeties and ices, the selection of toys and souvenirs appeared decent and seemingly not outrageously overpriced, unlike some places.

It was a little unfortunate that there are no toilets beyond a certain point in the sanctuary, so when small son needed the loo we had to hike back up the hill quite some way from the seal pools. What I learnt from this was, should I visit again in future, to insist they go on the way down whether they think they need to or not! It seemed to me that an extra loo near the cafe would be an improvement, but presumably there are reasons there isn't one, and it did warn us at the top of the hill that there were no loos beyond.

All in all it was a most satisfactory day out and the children enjoyed themselves greatly.

Sunday, April 19, 2009


Cow and Gate's new advertising campaign for their Growing Up Milk seems to me to be rather misleading. Its main thrust is that to get enough iron a toddler would need to drink 20 litres of cows' milk as opposed to 2 beakers full of their formula.

The thing is, in your diet you don't look to milk to provide iron: you go for fortified cereals, pulses, meats and vegetables. Most children of one eat solids, and should be having smaller versions of what their parents are eating basically, thus obtaining iron in their normal diet shouldn't be too much of a problem.

It seems to me an irresponsible message, although I have little doubt it conforms to advertising standards to the letter, if not the spirit. It makes me quite angry that with the government spooling out healthy eating and living programmes such as 'change4life', that Cow & Gate is doing this soft-shoe shuffle. It may be true in its bare bones that their product contains more iron than 20 litres of milk, but this does some very convenient side-stepping. Cows' milk is not considered a primary source of iron to begin with, while the advert seems to suggest otherwise. Their website has a page showing other dietary sources, which is good, but how many people watch the tv advert and may not pick up on what is omitted (or is possibly in very small print)?

Monday, April 13, 2009

Overthinking ToddWorld

I caught an episode of ToddWorld today and it made me frown a bit.

Pickle had been given a guitar and was determined to become a rockstar that day. He started a band straight away and played a horrendous din to his friends. Todd and another character said encouraging things, while the black-haired girl, whose name escapes me, said it was awful, which upset Pickle

and was disapproved of by her peers.

The episode followed her coming round to the idea that she should "respect" Pickle's musical choices. In the end, they watched him perform again and she applauded encouragingly, having learnt to "respect" his rotten music.

I'm not against encouraging people, but there is such a thing as merit. Of course, I don't condone meanness, and the character was meaner in her comments than necessary, but it irritated me that the character of Pickle wasn't undergoing a learning journey as well. After all, becoming a guitarist is not an instant thing and surely a worthy moral would have been - getting good at something takes practice and effort. Not make a fucking awful racket, we'll all humour you and some poor sap is bound to like it.

I could go along with the storyline if it had been Pickle playing, say, his new music CD and she didn't like it and was horrid about it. We're all entitled to our musical preferences and tastes and in that case, she'd have been entirely unjustified. But to have Pickle entitled to make a terrible noise, having had no musical tuition, and expect applause and "respect" for it seems nonsensical. There has to be room for constructive criticism: shouldn't one wait to perform live to an audience until one has learnt one's instrument and rehearsed with one's band? Ideally?

Certainly the meanness of the girl character should have been addressed, but Pickle needed to learn about deferred gratification. Dagnamit.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Bad Science's missing chapter on Matthias Rath

Ben Goldacre was being sued by Matthias Rath* when he published his book, Bad Science, so he had to leave a chapter on the fellow out.

Having won the court case, the chapter is now freely available here for those who read older editions of the book, or for those who are just plain interested.

* A man whose claims for his multivitamins have included curing cancer and being more effective for AIDS than antiretrovirals. Whose other lawsuits have included Medicins Sans Frontieres as targets.