Wishing I Could Take On the Volkswagen Amarok Trailblazers Challenge

April 11, 2017 at 9:11 am

Since starting this blog I’ve had some fantastic opportunities, with the chance to get stuck into some improv Lego building and some cutting edge smart home tech, among other fun stuff.

Having said that, the big kid in me – we all have him, the one who wanted to be a racing driver growing up – is practically stomping his foot with outrage right now.

Time for a great holiday – with no need for exaggeration!

March 30, 2017 at 10:02 am

Have you ever come back from a holiday and found yourself exaggerating some of your experiences when you tell people how it was?

Perhaps you weren’t quite as adventurous with the local cuisine as you might want people to think? Maybe you didn’t get round to visiting the local landmarks, but don’t want your friends to realise you spent the week lazing by the pool? Or maybe the fluent conversations you had with the locals were a little less professional than you might have let on?

Fatherhood: 100 Year Old Organisation, or F1 team?

March 29, 2017 at 8:11 pm

If I were to tell you that my son owns a piece of clothing associated with a world-famous organisation which contains the branding of half a dozen major organisations, I suspect you’d think he was a fan of Formula 1 racing.

Failing that, maybe some major American sport, where sponsorships are more important than the sport itself.

If I told you that the brands in question included Tesco, Hobbycraft, Cotswold Outdoor and Pets at Home, you might be left scratching your head.

Behind-the-scenes facts from the making of Harry Potter

March 28, 2017 at 8:33 am

The Harry Potter films are a hit in our house as they appeal to all of us, which is a rarity in our family. As well as watching them, I really enjoy looking into the making of the films and finding out what happens on set. Some of the special effects have really evolved over the series – after all the first one was released 15 years ago.

As I was putting together these behind-the-scenes facts it really made me want to go on the Warner Brothers’ Studio Tour to see first-hand the making of Harry Potter. The later books were still being released while the films were being made, so the production crew kept the majority of the sets, props and costumes in case they were still needed, which doesn’t usually happen on a typical production.

This means that you can go and wander around sets like Diagon Alley and The Great Hall as well as getting involved in the special effects by having a picture taken of you riding a broomstick in front of the green screen or, pushing a trolley through the platform 9 ¾ wall. Here are some of the most interesting behind-the-scenes facts from the Harry Potter movies to give you a flavour of the tour.

The Great Hall

The reason that Harry, Hermione and Ron look so in awe of The Great Hall when they walk in for the sorting hat scene is because this is the first time the actors had ever seen the amazing set, so their reaction isn’t staged at all.

And in this first film, The Philosopher’s Stone, the candles that float above the tables aren’t computer generated, they’re in fact hung from wires. This means that the trio would have seen them in all their glowing glory. However, as the candles burned the wire and they fell down, for the later films they decided to add them in post-production.

The numbers stack up

There were over 588 sets built for the eight movies and it took five warehouses to store the film props, including 5000 pieces of furniture, 12,000 handmade books and 40,000 Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes sweets – which used 300 litres of silicone to make.

To give you an idea of the scale of things, there were over 20,000 packages and goods in the windows of Diagon Alley and over 1,000 bottles in the Potions classroom. Some contained baked animal bones from a local butcher shop or a selection of dried leaves and herbs, while all the potions they drank were actually soup. In Dumbledore’s office, the hundreds of books on the shelves were old phone books covered in leather and made dusty.

Hogwarts Castle

The opening scenes of Hogwarts castle and many of the exterior shots actually used a 1:24 scale model that took 40 designers seven months to make, including three months alone for the bridge. It housed over 300 fibre-optic lights and they used salt to look like snow.

Harry and Hermione

In order to make the two prominent characters look more like they’re described in the books, the producers tried to give Harry green eyes and Hermione buck teeth. However, Daniel Radcliffe had an allergic reaction to the green contact lenses, and Emma Watson couldn’t speak clearly wearing the false teeth so few scenes were filmed like this. Across the films, Harry Potter went through more than 160 pairs of glasses and 60 wands.

Triple decker bus

The Knight Bus from The Prisoner of Azkaban was built from three vintage London double-deckers and was so top heavy that four tons of weight had to be added to the bottom so it didn’t fall over. An area of London was shut down for eight nights over eight weeks for filming. The bus drove fast around slow-moving cars then the scene was sped up post-production.

Have you been on the Harry Potter studio tour? If so, get in touch to let me know which bits you and your kids enjoyed most.

The eternal hassle of the painful commute

March 20, 2017 at 9:33 pm

A nice chap recently contacted me asking if I’d share his infographic, which talks about the amount of time we London commuters lose every year thanks to transport delays.

Fatherhood: Review – Lego Guardians of the Galaxy 2: The Milano vs. The Abilisk (76081)

March 19, 2017 at 6:34 pm

Well, after an epic few sessions of Lego building, where we reviewed the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 Lego sets “Ravager Attack” and “Ayesha’s Revenge“, we finally come to the grand finale – the biggest set of the bunch.

In case you aren’t familiar with the Guardians of the Galaxy films, the “Milano” is our hero, Star-Lord’s ship – named after 90s acting heroin Alyssa Milano, apparently.

Fatherhood: Review – Lego Guardians of the Galaxy 2: Ayesha’s Revenge (76080)

March 15, 2017 at 8:05 pm

Today we’ll be reviewing the next model in the new Lego “Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol 2” range, “Ayesha’s Revenge”. As with the first set (“Ravager Attack”) it’s a model inspired by the upcoming sequel – and like the other model, features a couple of elements that will probably make a lot more sense once we’ve seen the film.

So, setting aside the question of “Who is Ayesha and why is she taking revenge?”, we set about building the model. Unlike the previous model, this one has a marginally higher “Recommended Age” rating (see box below for all the details) so Robert (8) volunteered for this one.

Fatherhood: Review – Lego Guardians of the Galaxy 2: Ravager Attack (76079)

March 13, 2017 at 9:07 pm

When it comes to blogging, I’ve always told myself that I need to maintain an even mix of reviews and other less-commercial content. Partly because I didn’t start blogging to review products – I started because I wanted to share some of the joys (and challenges) of parenting with my fellow parents. But also in a large part because I didn’t get many opportunities to review stuff – so it wasn’t really an issue.

With the realisation that reviewing stuff is actually quite good fun, though, I’ve decided to loosen my reins a little and take a few more opportunities. And when it comes to what must be my favourite brand in the world – LEGO – I’m definitely not going to turn down the opportunity to get building.

Fatherhood: Taking the Redex Fuel Challenge

March 12, 2017 at 1:18 pm

With the last frosty days of Winter now behind us, thoughts inevitably turn to the Spring and all the opportunities it holds. In our house, one of those opportunities is the chance to get back in the great outdoors.

Whether it’s some camping trips, days out at the local National Trust properties, seeing friends or making trips further afield, our car gets a lot more use in the warmer months – so keeping it running well is a definite priority.

Fatherhood: The Debenhams Big LEGO Challenge

March 6, 2017 at 9:32 pm

As most of you will have gathered by now, our family are quite big fans of Lego. Whether it’s Ninjago, Superhero, Star Wars or Creator (and many more in between) we love them all – and I love reviewing the sets too.

But the crafty people at Debenhams had a different challenge in mind – one which test our creativity and cunning. And who can say no to a challenge like that?

The lovely folk at Debenhams (who have a great range of Lego both in store and online) sent us a Nexo Knights model – the one you can see below, to be precise – and asked us NOT to build it.