iPhone Frustrations



I'm beginning to get a bit frustrated with my iPhone and in a way I hope I'm the only person that this is happening to.  Over the last couple of weeks my phone has had an issue with seemingly removing all the photos from my camera roll, only to restore them over a number of minutes / hours.

The first time this happened to me I was distraught, I was left thinking where have all my pictures gone! Then slowly they started to reappear, the oldest pictures first before others followed until they had all been restored after a short while.  It's now happened a number of times, and it's starting to grate on me. I have difficulty backing up my phone on to my laptop, so each time it happens I question if something more serious is going to happen and I'll lose not only the pictures, but also the memories that go with them.

my frustration has been compounded with not being able to install the latest operating system as the verification just hangs until I do a soft reboot.
As I type, my phone is slowly being backed up with the intentions of doing a factory reset tomorrow.  Hopefully taking it back to basics and freeing up some memory will stop this happening in future!

At this point I stopped typing and gave in for the night expecting everything to be ok for in the morning. The backup failed. Due to my impatience, I hurriedly backed up the photos I'd taken since my last successful backup in March to iCloud and kicked off re-installing everything. After a few minutes I got the familiar sight of the reset having done it's job. I quickly went into iPhotos to check my pictures that I'd backed up, no joy. I panicked and restored my my phone again using a backup from my iPad (this gave me an interesting experience as it's setup differently to my iPhone). After making all the necessary selections I started installing a few apps, then tried to do an update to iOS 10.3.1. My iPhone said that I had to wait for the iCloud restore to finish, after an hour of waiting still no joy. After several hours I gave in and restored it again, this time going for a vanilla build and starting from scratch. Thankfully this worked and I've been able to update the iOS and I can see my photos on iCloud, I just wish it had been a nicer experience!

Five Favourite Friday... Disney Villains



Tonight for our Five Favourite Friday post we're considering our favourite 'Disney Villains'. Disney have a lot of franchises (Star Wars, Marvel, etc) to their name, but as Nikki chose this topic I will stay true to the ideal of this topic and stick to traditional Disney villains.

To help me in sticking to this premise I've used Wikipedia to define the villains I will chose from (link).

1) Cruella de Vil - 'One Hundred and One Dalmatians' (1961)
Cruella is such a believable character in 101 Dalmations, though the thought that one litter could produce so many puppies is inconceivable, an evil woman wanting to create a coat from their pelts is much more believable and her insatiable will to get hold of the young dogs to do this is more than a little creepy. She is also the source of parody in the Simpsons 'Two Dozen And One Greyhounds', when Mr Burns wants to get his hands on the offspring from Santa's Little Helper, the Simpsons dog, resulting in one of my favourite song parodies 'See My Vest'.

2) Prince John - 'Robin Hood' (1973)
Going back to the earlier Disney films, I love the Robin Hood film and Prince John is another archetypal villain, royalty at its worst wanting to tax the peasants of England to further his own ends.
3) Shere Khan - 'The Jungle Book' (1967)
I was going to include King Louis from the recent live action version of the Jungle Book, until I decided on using the list from Wikipedia. Instead I've included Shere Khan from the original 1967 Jungle Book film. Shere Khan poses a great threat to Mowgli as he tries to take the kill that had alluded him in the past.

4) Gaston - 'Beauty & The Beast' (1991)
There's no one quite like Gaston is there, such an arrogant human thinking that Belle can be won over by his reputation.  He leads the local towns people against Beast as he seeks Belle attention. Whereas Beast is compassionate, Gaston is self absorbed and a vile person!

5) Captain Hook - 'Peter Pan' (1953)
An unfortunate chap in my eyes, who's only after Peter Pan as his youth exaggerates Hook getting older. Like Prince John, Hook offers a bit of comedy with his (understandable) fear of the crocodile that bit off his hand, it's funny to see him so scared of something bigger and scarier than Pan.

As I mentioned, I'd give an honourable mention to King Louis from the live action 'Jungle Book' (2016) who, although not the real villain of the movie, his demeanour is creepy as... Are there any villains, you think I've over looked, let me know in the comments below and as always have a look at who Nikki has included on her blog.

It's my week to pick next week and I'm going to chose 'Tips For Good Mental Health' as I believe it's Mental Health Awareness Week starting on 8th May.

Film Night | Moana (2016)



"I am Moana of Motunui. You will board my boat and restore the heart to Te Fiti."

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We recently watched Disney's most recent animated film, Moana (2016). Having to follow up the huge success of their last film, Frozen (2013), was always going to be huge ask, but for the most part Moana delivers.

Moana is the story of a Polynesian islands Chieftain's daughter and her trials to get a shape-shifting demigod to help her restore a heart stone back to a powerful island goddess. Ancient legend tells the story of how Maui stole the heart of Te Fiti to give to the human race to allow them to create life, however things didn't work out and the stone was lost to the seas. Back in modern day Motunui, Moana as a toddler is presented with the heart of Te Fiti (island goddess) and she is charged with getting Maui to replace it in it's rightful place.
 
One thing we noticed when watching was how short the cast list was. The standout characters are the titular Moana, heiress to the Motunui tribes settlement and the charismatic demigod Maui, who has the ability to shapeshift through the powers given to him via his magic fishing hook. Moana longs to be an adventurer and explore the surrounding areas of Motunui, to allow the tribe to flourish following recent issues with coconuts being diseased and fish stock running low.
 
As you'd expect from the Disney animation studios the visuals of the film are great, it's hard not to admire the effort that has gone into animating the oceans and the characters hair especially. The detail that has been put into the islands and the supporting cast is immense. Although I didn't really see the value of the Kakamora pirates in the film, there are so many on screen you have to admire the time that must have gone into animating them. The final encounter between Moana, Maui and Te'Ka is great, seeing the water and lava colliding looks immense. I will add that as with most films that have been released for 3D screenings, I can't see how this film would benefit but at least Disney didn't include any gratuitous shots just for 3D.
 
Some of the songs I love, others fall into the background of the film, but the standout songs for me were "You're Welcome" and "Shiny". I'm aware that as a 30-something Dad, I'm probably not the key demographic being targeted by the film, but I feel that these two songs overshadow "How Far I'll Go". I think this was meant to be Moana's "Let It Go", it's a powerful ballad sung by the protagonist of the film, but it's not as a catching as the other two tracks.
 
Overall, I did enjoy the film, but I struggled with why some parts of the film were included, they either felt like filler or an opportunity to show off the studios animation skills. But the films strengths (the animation, visuals and characters) make up for this.
 
'Moana' (2016) - 4/5

Five Favourite Friday... Animals at Dudley Zoo

 
What day is it, oh yes, it's Friday so it's time for another Five Favourite Friday post.  This week we're considering the animals we saw at Dudley Zoological Gardens on a recent visit.  I do have a soft spot for felines, domesticated and the Big variety, so you can guess what type of animals are going to feature prominently on my list!
 
1) Snowy Owl Bubo scandiacus
One of the first animals that we saw, it was perched high in it's cage and didn't appear to move for the whole time we were in the zoo as we passed by it's location a number of times.
 
 
2) Sumatran Tiger Panthera tigris sumatrae
Magestic. Yes lions are the kings of the jungle, but because of their markings I prefer tigers.
 
 
3) Snow Leopard Panthera (Uncia) uncia
Although they were sleeping on our first pass, something had spooked one when we walked passed for a second time as they were running around their cage, along the beams before settling indoors where I was able to have a look at them close up.
 
 
4) Carpathian Lynx Lynx lynx carpathica
The final big cat on this list I promise. They just look like I could go in with them and start to stroke them and they'd be fine with it.  Also, I love the tufts of fur on the tops of their ears, its so cute!
 
 
5) Red Panda Ailurus fulgens
We missed the red panda before our lunch, but when we return after lunch, it was feeding time in the pen, so I got chance to see it up close.
 
 
In honour of my little boy, I'm going to give an honourable mention to the Rothschild’s Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis rothschildi), as our son was obsessed with the giraffes at the zoo and we had to make a second trip to see them after lunch.
 

Do Dudley Zoological Gardens have your favourite animal? If so let me know in the comments below. You can, of course, check out Nikki's favourite on her blog here. She has chosen 'Disney Villains' as the topic, which I'm sure will be fun!
 

Easter at Powis Castle



Today is Easter Sunday, the most important day in the Christian calendar, but like most Britons we spent the day searching for chocolate eggs! We decided to go to Powis Castle and Gardens, a national trust property and estate on the outskirts of Welshpool just over the border in Powys, Wales, to join in with their Easter Egg Hunt around their gardens.


Not sure what to eggs-pect, me, Nikki and our little boy met up with some friends and their children in the packed car park just after lunch time to set off on our egg-citing adventure. For £2, we were given a clipboard, answer sheet, pencil and map to help us find the 9 eggs that had been scattered around the tiered gardens. Although our son wanted to walked the whole way round, we took his pushchair with us just in case, this resulted in taking the suggested route on the map which was designed for those wanting to avoid steps.

The eggs we were looking for turned out to be A4 laminated sheets showing an egg which displayed an animal. This animal was then cross referenced against a chart with letters that made up an anagram which when solved gave the answer to allow you to claim your prize. We walked around the gardens at gentle pace but, despite the number of cars in the carpark, we never felt rushed in to moving on from one egg to another. This was really good, as it took our 2 year old a few minutes to recognise the animal and then find it on the reference sheet. Also, our friends children (aged 4 & 6) wanted to spend time noting the animals seen and the letter as part of the anagram. The children obviously wanted to get around all of the eggs as quickly as possible, but with all the wide open spaces, they could go running off playing as we meandered towards the next egg.

We stopped in front of the orangery for a drink and snacks, which gave us an opportunity to take in the wonderful lawn and surrounding areas. Once we'd found the final eggs, we headed back to the entrance to claim the children's reward for finding all the eggs and working out the anagram. The hunt was really well organised and fun for everyone in our party in spite of the changeable weather.

Hopefully we'll be able to head back to Powis Castle for some of their future events, as they are much more interesting than when I went to National Trust properties when I was younger.

Five Favourite Friday... James Bond Theme Songs




It's Friday again, so it's time for another Five Favourite Friday post, this week we're looking at our favourite 'James Bond Theme Songs'. Just because I love certain films, it doesn't translate that they have my favourite theme songs. There is such a strong tradition of great artists performing Bond themes that it's difficult to pick just five. Anyways, on with my choices:

1) 'Another Way to Die' - Jack White & Alicia Keys (from 'Quantum of Solace' - 2008)
Whether it's nostalgia that makes me love this song, as it was everywhere when we visited Australia in 2008, or the fact I love Jack White's Music, but I do love this song as a bit of a guilty pleasure. Whilst in Oz, we saw 'Quantum of Solace' at the Sun Theatre in Yarraville and it was possibly the best cinema I've ever watched a film in.

2) 'A View to a Kill' - Duran Duran (from 'A View To A Kill' - 1985)
It's very 80's, but you can't help but sing along with this Duran Duran hit.

3) 'Nobody Does It Better' - Carly Simon (from 'The Spy Who Loved Me' - 1977)
Another song that I just love, yes it's a bit cheesy, but I just get drawn into it. 

4) 'We Have All the Time in the World' - Louis Armstrong (from 'On Her Majesty's Secret Service' - 1969)
One of the classics by one of the greatest, an iconic voice singing an iconic song. Taking the song away from the film, it's an amazing track that sweeps your troubles away.

5) 'Live and Let Die' - Paul McCartney & Wings (1973)
Truly up there in my list of favourite songs of all time, I enjoy the change in pace of the song and the energy generated as the song develops.

There's also a massive honourable mention for the main James Bond Theme by John Barry & orchestra as it's the music that defines 007.

You can read Nikki's selection on her blog here. Following our recent trip to Dudley Zoo, I've decided to chose 'Animals At Dudley Zoological Gardens' for next week's post.

One Day in 365





I'll start this post by saying that I am not expecting any sympathy off the back of this post, but the post is merely a reflection of how I've felt in recent years on a few occasions. Unfortunately these occasions are usually birthdays and Christmas'.

Ever since me and Nikki bought our first house together, about 8 years ago, I stopped 'wanting' things, as when do I want something I can become very obsessed until i get the item in question. The reason I did this was to ensure Nikki had any spare money we had so she could enjoy her early twenties as best we could afford. Being a few years older, I had the luxury of buying anything I wanted (within reason) when I lived with my parents, but Nikki hadn't really had this opportunity. I felt, and still feel, that she deserves to have treats.

This has led to difficulty in thinking of things that I want to get given as presents at birthdays and Christmas'. If someone asks me what I want for these occasions, I don't have a prepared list of things that I can go to and suggest, most things I would like to get my hands on are too expensive to ask other people for.

I know in the great scheme of things this is quite trivial, but it gives me a mild form of depression at these times, which in turn results in my not really enjoying my birthday in particular.

There's also the added complication for me that I share my birthday with Nikki's dad, and we usually end up spending the day with Nikki's family as a result. On the whole, there's nothing wrong with this, but it does add to my feeling down on my birthday as it's not all about me.

As I said, this post isn't about wallowing in self pity, I'm intrigued to know if anyone else out there that reads this ever feels the same sort of thing. And does anyone have any tips that I can try next time round? Let me know in the comments below.

It's my birthday today (happy birthday me!), but I really feel that there's not much to celebrate this year. 

Five Favourite Friday... Current Children's Tv Shows


Once again, Friday has caught up with me and I'm typing out a Five Favourite Friday post. This week I've chosen to go with 'Current Children's Tv Shows'.

Although there are a number of remakes of shows I used to watch as a child, I've chosen to exclude them from today's list as I don't want nostalgia to influence my selections. On with my choices!

1) Sarah & Duck - "One ticket for girl and...accompanying mallard.", I love this line from the trailer for Sarah & Duck, it sets up the programme very well with the choice of phrasing. It's not difficult to guess what it's about, but there are lots of little bits that intrigue me about the show, the animation style reminds me of the 'Professor Leyton' games and there's an intelligence to the writing which appeals to me.



2) Do Yo Know? - This is a show all about how things are made or how they work, covering a number of topics, such as the the hydraulics on a bus and escalators to tricycles and toothpaste. The only thing that annoys me is that the presenter uses her "special" camera which Is usually just a GoPro on a long handle.


3) My Story - 'My Story' is the Tv equivalent to sitting down with family members and listening to their stories. I did debate whether to include this, and if so where about on the list (honourable mentions?), because when it's a good programme it's hard to beat, but when the stories are of no interest, I find it very easy to change channels. Due to it being based on real life stories, it's difficult to predict whether it'll be of interest and the quality of storytelling really can vary depending on who is passing on the recollections.



4) Rastamouse - After Nikki won a competition for a copy of a Rastamouse magazine, we became fans of the Jammin' detective. Again there's a simplicity to the sets and props, but it all adds to a very distinctive style to the programme.


5) Hey Duggee - Although a simple animation style, 'Hey Duggee' is really fun to watch. It focuses on a number of young animals and what they get up to with the titular character to earn badges. Despite not saying anything other than the odd bark, Duggee does offer some comic relief to parents watching the show with the well-times woof of approval or dissent.


Timmy Time gets an honourable mention, mainly because of love of Aardman, but I do enjoy this spin-off of a spin-off (Timmy is Shaun the Sheep's cousin, who originally appeared in 'Wallace & Gromit: The Wrong Trousers' (1993)).

I really enjoyed pulling together this list, are there any shows I should take a look at to take into consideration at another time? Let me know in the comments below.

As always you can see Nikki's choices on her blog. Next week we'll be looking at ...

Oh help! Oh, no! It's a Gruffalo... at Haughmond!



Yesterday we went for a family walk around Haughmond Hill on the new Gruffalo Spotters Trail on the day it opened. We had been looking forward to the trail being available on Haughmond ever since we saw that the Forestry Commission announced that they were releasing a new app which allowed visitors to try and spot the Gruffalo at selected forests (link).
Last year they had a Stickman trail, perhaps it was because my son was too young (12-15 months), but we didn't enjoy it too much. But as my son has been obsessed by the Gruffalo for the past 3 months, I had high hopes that he would enjoy it and therefore so would we.
Walking the trail is free but there is a £1 parking charge which lets you stay all day (so long as the car park is open), however at the moment parking charges are suspended for the winter, so make sure you check the signposts when you park up.
To go alongside the trail and accompanying app (iPhone/Android), you can buy a Gruffalo Spotter Kit for £3 from the onsite caf√©. The kit consists of:
  • An evidence collection bag
  • 5 animal activity and facts cards
  • A Spotter's Guide
  • Stickers of The Gruffalo characters
  • A special magnifying glass, ruler and a pencil.
The trail is laid out around the Corbett walk, which is the shortest (0.8 miles long) and quite flat so it's easy for little ones to walk it themselves.  I will say that with all the forestry work that is still being carried out, the route isn't as nice to walk as it once was and the surrounding area at the start of the trial in particular is cut up from the heavy vehicles and detracts from the natural aesthetics of the woods (I know that this work is vital to allow different species of plants and animals flourish, but it looks like a building site at the moment with all the deep tyre tracks and cut down trees).
As you walk around you encounter five sections, one dedicated to each of the animals in the Gruffalo story (Mouse, Fox, Owl, Snake & the Gruffalo).  Each section follows the same pattern, first you can use the magnifying glass to look at a close-up of an animal, then you using a spinner to look at three more parts of the animal and finally you reach an information board, before looking through some 'cut out binoculars' at another part of the animal that is about twenty metres away, and finally you reach an information board.  The information board has a separate sign which can be used in conjunction with the App to view an Augmented Reality, a prop appears on your phone (hiding the sign) and the animal for that section will interact with the prop.  After a short animation you can take a photo of the animal and include any one that wants to be in shot.  Our son loved being in a photo with the different animals and then coming to take a separate photo of just the animal. The one thing that could be improved is by suggesting a place to take the photos from as the Gruffalo is very large and at first we struggled to get both him and our son in the same photo.
Despite being wet from a heavy shower in the morning and little bit of rain falling as we walked round the trail, we thoroughly enjoyed walking the Guffalo trail at Haughmond - if anything the puddles from the rain gave our son another activity to do when walking to the next section. It was great to see our little boy engaged with the trail, as he was telling everyone he met about the animal we were looking for and running to the information boards so he could take his next picture. We are really looking forwards to heading back up there and doing the trail again!