Thursday, 25 August 2011

Bye Bye, Paper? - Part The Second

If we're talking brand names here, it's the probably the one you're thinking of. Yep, the one that begins with a K and rhymes with spindle. I'm not trying to plug a particular brand, though, it's more about the concept.

As I've mentioned before, I'm a techy gadgety type with a hint of an inner Luddite. I'm always keen on the latest televisual technology but my mobile phone is a couple of years old and just makes calls and sends texts*. I've been these here inter-witterings for about six years now but a lot of them are still initially composed via the time-honoured method of ink via a nib onto the page. I always thought I'd be a "you can prise my papery book from my cold dead hands" type but it would appear not to be so.

Partly it's the convenience; there's nothing worse as a reading commuter than reaching the end of your book when you're only on the journey in and not having a fresh one to hand. Mainly, though, it's the fact that it's easy to use and clear to read; it feels like reading a book and it doesn't strain the eyes (any more so than excessive reading of a book would do).

Yes, there are of course drawbacks when compared to a normal book - books don't need to be charged for one and aren't generally subject to hardware failure (unless you drop them in the bath)- but the advantages are considerable. My current holiday luggage allowance, for example, will be considerably lighter without the ten or eleven books crammed in there.

Does this mean that I hath abjured the sight of regular books? Oh dear me, no. I'll still read plenty of papery books - I've just found another way to consume them. There's room in my life (and my rucksack) for a lightweight portable library. Just need to remember to keep it charged...

* I'm sure that I'll undergo a sudden smartphone conversion at some point. It's just that I'm big fingered and clumsy and don't find them easy to control.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Bye Bye, Paper? - Part The First

I'm a reader. This is not really much in the way of a confession, I know - almost like saying "I am male" or "I have no hair". I have been of the reading persuasion. I honestly cannot remember a time when I didn't read books. I will admit that my reading tastes aren't often highly literary - you'll find me happily reading a Doctor Who tie-in novel as much as anything else and my tastes definitely run to the science fictional and fantastical side - but I am reading in one form or another.

In fact, being of a reading disposition meant that I always had a use for that little pocket inside my school blazer (yep, that's private education for you); it was a handy little book-sized nook always about my person. Although I'm sure my mother wasn't overly happy at the pocket stretching that took place as the size of book read began to increase.

The book pocket continued into my working and commuting life - any inside jacket pocket always contained a book (unless it was particularly large, then it had to be carried in the bag). This made my commuting life feel a bit more constructive, more useful. Sure, I had to spend hours each week crammed into a stinky moving sweatbox but at least I was getting through a few books. Oh, I'm sure I could have started up conversations with the other commuters around me but that would, of course, have singled me out as some of arch mentalist. Besides, I don't really really want to (mornings especially; I'd rather not say a word until I've been awake for at least 90 minutes).

Aside from the obvious booky appeal of getting swept away by someone else's imagination, there's the whole tactile experience of reading, too. The heft of the book, that papery texture, the musty old smell of a second-hand or particularly old book. All part and parcel of the reading experience. So imagine my surprise when I found myself wholeheartedly embracing my brand new ebook reader...

To Be Continued

Monday, 22 August 2011

Stirring Deeds On Heath And Field

To those of you reading this who know me personally, the following sentence will come as no surprise whatsoever:- sport and I are quite happy to be mutually exclusive concepts. Coming from a family of devout football worshippers (the only acknowledged religion in the household), this has made me somewhat the black sheep of the clan. There are the occasional sporting-style pastimes that slip their way through - I'm partial to a bit of ten-pin bowling, snooker's not too bad and darts is, of course, the sport of kings (basically, anything that can be played while drinking a pint) - but, for the most part, the stirring deeds on heath and field* have always left me cold.

My desire for sport and I to be left to take our own separate paths was not always respected, however, and we were shackled together in unhappy union for three torturous months many, many moons ago, back in the dim and distant days of school. For you see, my school of the private persuasion and, while paying lip service to that old Christianity thing, their true worship was reserved for the holy altar of sport. Oh sure, they wanted the academic achievements, too, but if you were weren't interested in sport, you were generally held to be some sort of deviant.

The school's sport of choice, however, was rugby and this was posing them something of a problem. For, even among the sportlier boys, rugger was not the game of choice. Most of them wanted to play football. The school fielded three teams per year - A, B and C team - plus subs so, in order to make up the numbers it needed, it resorted to that tried and tested technique - threats. Potential recruits of a reluctant nature were presented with a choice - once you had deemed worthy of a place on the team, you joined the team or spent your Saturday mornings in detention (a traditional "rock/hard place" style arrangement). Not wanting to go down the detention route, I opted for the choice which brought pain and filth whilst suffering unpleasant weather conditions. I'm still baffled as to why I didn't just do the time to this day...

I wasn't picked for any real ability and definitely not enthusiasm. I was big and broad, therefore I was a prop. At no point, either, did it feel like the rules were ever particularly explained to me. It was assumed that all boys knew everything about sports so, you know, just get on with it. To this day, I'm still not really sure what on earth anyone's doing on the pitch (or why they'd even want to be there).

I perfected a technique which kept me as much out of the action as possible. Scrums I couldn't do much about but, the rest of the time, I mostly ran aimlessly around the pitch whilst trying to keep as much distance between me and the ball as possible. I thought it was reasonably surreptitious but, according to the parents who cane along to spectate when possible, it was more on the side of blatantly obvious.

After three months of this, I was the fittest that I've ever been (before or since) but utterly miserable. I hated the sport, I hated the training and I hated spending my Saturday mornings doing something I didn't understand and covered in mud. So I girded myself and went up to the rugby master** to tell him enough was enough and I was quitting the team. I expected to have a fight on my hands and maybe the threat of Saturday detention. He simply looked at me and said OK. He'd obviously realised as well that I was both hopeless and uninterested.

And so, sport and I went our separate ways. Our time together was brief but unpleasant and neither of us has been in hurry to rekindle that relationship. I'm fine with that. We tried it, it didn't work. And books welcomed me back with open pages...

* An actual line from our school song which also included the line "...and a cheer" to be followed by the assembled masses following it with a loud "Hurrah!" to the embarrassment of all involved.

** Pfft, I say "rugby master" - he was, in fact the groundskeeper and the parent of a couple of fellow students who, in reference to my surname, thought it amusing to call me "Captain" every single time (seriously, he laughed as if he'd just thought it up. Every. Single. Time.)

Friday, 19 August 2011

Radio Silence

I shall be away form this here blogging place for a couple of weeks on a much needed holiday. I've left you a couple of little posts to tide you over for a bit but don't be offended if I don't reply to any comments for a while. It's not that I don't care, it's just that I'll be busy sunning myself by the pool and drinking many beers. You understand, don't you? Yes, I thought you would.

So, you'll have a couple of bits to keep you going over the next week then it'll all go quiet and then, before you now it, I'll be back with all-new inanity to bombard you with. These are indeed glorious times that we live in.

See you on the other side!

Thursday, 18 August 2011

The Familiarity Of Strangers

I'm the sort of person who likes to keep certain portions of his life functional. If you're providing a service to me then, yes, naturally, I'll expect a certain amount of mutual politeness on both our parts but we're not going to end up lifelong friends and drinking partners. Case in point being a recent trip to the shops...

With an upcoming escape to the sun very much imminent (I am counting down the days), an expedition to buy some clothing and clothing-type items was a necessity. Note the choice of words - necessity. Clothes shopping is not a thing of joy, being a traditional male of the blokey variety. That's not to say that I abhor all forms of shopping - set me down in a shop selling gadgety items, DVDs, books, comics or anything of the like and I can happily browse for hours. Clothes? It's a functional thing - I need to wear them so i need to buy them. Don't expect me to enjoy it.

So, I find my Popular High Street Clothing Retailer of choice and perform my usual smash-and-grab shopping technique ("Yep, that looks like something I would wear. My size? Job done.") I hasten to add at this point that "smash-and-grab" is a figure of speech and I will not shortly be appearing in a court near you for looting (as around 3,000 Londoners have done in the last week). Purchases chosen, it's time to head for the till and conclude the whole clothes shopping experience as swiftly as possible. No queue, splendid.

The chap beckons me over and he is unnecessarily cheerful but hey, whatever gets you through the day. He opens with a "did you find everything you were looking for today" gambit and I counter with a firmly non-conversational affirmative. This is insufficient, however, for a man obviously determined to be chatty.

"Just picking up some stuff or going away somewhere?" he enquires, reviewing my selection of quite clearly holiday-based purchases.

"Going away for a couple of weeks." Again, my technique is to be polite but closed off in my statements.

"Oh, anywhere nice?" He still wants a conversation.

"Just to Spain." I'm not looking for a conversation. Can I just pay and conclude my shopping experience?

"Oh, nice. With mates, by yourself or with your partner?"

His determination would be admirable if it weren't for the fact that I don't want to stand around chit-chatting with him. We're not mates, I'm not going to be inviting him down the pub for a swift pint and, if (from a purely cynical point of view) his pleasantness is some way of eliciting rewards from me, well, he's still out of luck because he works in a clothes shop and I'm certainly not tipping him.

Look, I get that he has a presumably tedious job that needs enlivening but that's what your colleagues are for. Respect your customers inner curmudgeon, take their cash and just get it over with, I say.

I'm going to have to buy some more shoes soon. I can feel the dread rising already...

Saturday, 13 August 2011

A Few Years Ago In A Cinema Not Too Far Away - Part The Last

I was going great guns, writing down names and feeling pretty damn good about myself when suddenly a face popped up and I knew it but I could not name it. Instead of just forgetting about it and moving on, my brain fixated. This was it, I was stuck and I sat with there with the pen hovering above the page as all the other faces rapidly drained out of my mind. That one face was still stuck there as the time ran out. I knew it was all over, I could just tell and, yes, the final tally came back and I had achieved third place.

(Oddly, enough, I can't remember who the character was that I got stuck on. You'd think that it would be burned on my memory as The Character Who Lost Me The Comp but nope. Not a clue. Can't remember it at all.)

Still, once of the rest quiz played out, I took comfort in the fact that I would never have reached first place anyway - I just didn't know the answer to the winning question. My viewing with George Lucas was just not to be. Once I realised that I had no chance of winning, I was actually pretty pleased that I'd ended up third. Sure, it would have been rather splendid to step onto the red carpet for the premiere but the marathon screening of all six films sounded like much more fun. And indeed it was...

It was a long old Star Wars-y day. It started at around 7:30 in the morning and didn't finish until around 22:30. We were back to Leicester Square for the screenings and, upon our arrival, discovered that it had been completely Star Wars-ified. Huge Star Wars character banners were festooned everywhere with a large screen in the middle of the Square showing Star Wars clips set to music, all dominated by a full-size replica X-Wing surrounded by Stormtroopers.

Upon closer inspection, we noticed that one of said Stormtroopers was of a smaller stature than the others; a fact of which he was fully aware. "Go on, say it," came the resigned voice from beneath the helmet as a fanboy, who thought himself an original wit, began to eye the trooper up. "Aren't you a little short for a Stormtrooper?" came the expected remark. And thus had a day of extreme geekery begun.

The films were being shown in production order (i.e. original trilogy first followed by the prequels) so that the day culminated in a screening of Episode III at the same time as the premiere across the Square. The cunning plan to make sure that people went along to all six and didn't just rock up for the new one was that you had to get your ticket stickered as you went in for each film - only those with a full ticket got to see Ep III.

The organisers had another cunning plan to ensure that everyone stayed awake for all six films - free Red Bull. I don't know if you've ever spent a whole day drinking can after can of highly caffeinated energy drink but I can't say that I would wholeheartedly recommend it as a lifestyle choice. As someone who doesn't drink tea or coffee, that much chemically charged caffeine drink was beginning to do strange things to me. By the time Episode III rolled around, my eyeballs were vibrating so fast, I could see into other dimensions.

There was another reason for excitability at this point - we were about to receive an intro by the producer and a couple of the stars who arrived flanked by a phalanx of Stormtroopers and a bloke in Darth Vader outfit. Excitement turned into full-blown caffeinated hysteria, however, when an audience of indoctrinated Star Wars fans who'd spent 11 hours watching the films and drinking Red bull were presented with the beardy Force-master himself, Mr George Lucas, who popped over from the main premiere to give us a few words (and to tell us we were seeing it first because he was doing this before his intro to the main premiere - result!)

So, it may have not have been the private screening but I did go to a premiere of a Star Wars film with George Lucas there. Alright, I didn't get jetted off to Skywalker Ranch but it was a unique event and a pretty fine culmination of a lifelong Star Wars obsession. Now I just need to find a way to start getting myself invited to exclusive Doctor Who screenings...

Friday, 12 August 2011

A Few Years Ago In A Cinema Not Too Far Away - Part The Third

I will admit to some measure of nervousness beginning to set in at this point. I am, as we are all aware, a geek of truly tragic proportions but the thought of having my Star Wars knowledge tested was causing conflicting emotions. On the one hand, would it be fairly mortifying if I were to appear on TV and fail to live up to my self-professed Star Wars geekiness? Or would it be worse if my knowledge of the Force was so mind-numbingly arcane that I was crowned king of the anoraks?

I wasn't overly worried about the second option, really - I know a lot about the Wars but it's not the be-all and end-all for me (my geeky net casts far and wide) so there were likely to be a fair few people out there more steeped in the Force than I. To that end, I drafted in my mate Rich (co-film-making conspirator and fellow Force-atic) to be my Star Wars coach - he was also going to be the second person I was allowed to take with me on the day for, if I won the main prize, I was to be whisked off there and then for the flight to the States. He devised a rigorous Star Wars trivia boot camp to put me through in order to be fighting fit for the big day. Imagine, if you will, a Rocky-style training montage but with a lot more questions about Boba Fett.

The big day arrived and we descended upon Leicester Square, home of the MTv studios (at the time). We were ushered in and greeted by the presenter of the show, Alex Zane. He was very charming and was kind enough to say that he though my video was the best (I'm sure he was polite enough to say this to the other two contestants as well).

The show itself, I have to say, passed in a bit of a blur. Live television is a hectic, adrenaline-filled thing - at the times when you're not just sitting around and waiting, that is. We brought into the green room (which, naturally, wasn't green) and had the set-up for the quiz explained to us. The first round was one of those "we'll show you a load of pictures and you need to write down as many character names as you can remember in 30 seconds" type rounds. The one with the lowest number of right answers in that round would get the third place prize and the remaining two would go head-to-head in a quiz to determine first and second place.

It was time. We were brought on to slightly bemused cheers and applause and positioned for the cameras. I muttered something nondescript about being "quite nervy" when questioned and instantly wished I'd have a pithy Wildean bon mot to throw out there. What a compelling screen presence I was. Before I really had time to think about it, however, the game was afoot and an array of pictures was thrown to us. Montage over, we were given our thirty seconds to write down our answers... and I froze.

To Be Concluded

Thursday, 11 August 2011

A Few Years Ago In A Cinema Not Too Far Away - Part The Second

The challenge:- come up with a 30 second Star Wars film in two days. So what to do? Time being short, polished and slick were obviously right out the window. Which was fortunate because, let's face it, polished and slick have never been my bag, baby. This meant it had to be something which made a virtue of its low-fi nature. The time factor also meant that it was going to be tricky to draft in any help so it had to be something I could do Han Solo (oh, come on, allow me at least one Star Wars based poorly pun).

Thirty seconds is not a lot of time in which to convey a narrative so how could I tell much of a story in said time? Hmmm, maybe that was it. Maybe that was the challenge. Recreate the original Star Wars film in 30 seconds. of course, so obvious, it was genius. However, I didn't have a cast, sets or costumes. Pah, minor setbacks and I laugh in the face of adversity and tweak the nose of tricky situations. Actually, once I sat and thought about it, I did have a cast, all ready in their costumes. Not only that but I also had a full set of props, just waiting to be used. All that was required was a trip to the attic at Chez Ma and Pa...

See, as has previously been mentioned, Ma has somewhat of a hoarding tendency and a propensity to keep stuff as "it might come in handy" or "you just might want it one day". In this instance, she was bang on the money as, boxed up and stored away in the loft, was the complete set of Star Wars toys that Bro and I had played with as nipper-type small people. Figures and vehicles and playsets, oh my. Once that realisation has set in, the only thing left was to film. Camera in hand, toys at the ready and hastily crayoned in backgrounds hastily crayoned in, Star Wars In 36 Seconds (OK, so I went slightly over and the 36 seconds doesn't include titles) was born....

Filmed, edited, burned to DVD and submitted, all that remained was to wait and see if the fickle finger of fate had selected me. And lo, the good people of the TRL programme at MTV did look upon my film and deemed that it was good. And there was much rejoicing.

It wasn't all in the bag yet though. Oh dear me, no. I was one of three lucky finalists who would be competing live on TRL for the splendid prizes on offer. Oh yes, indeed. Our particular prize would be determined by an on-air set of quizzes based upon our Star Wars knowledge. A geek-off. A battle of the nerds. And all of this to take place on live TV....

To Be Continuumed...

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

A Few Years Ago In A Cinema Not Too Far Away - Part The First

I once came within a hair's breadth* of sitting in a private screening room with the chief Force-monger himself, to watch Star Wars Episode III: Revenge Of The Sith about a week before it came out. This may seem like a somewhat extravagant claim but it is very much the truth.

"How is this possible, oh bald narrator of ours?" I hear you etc., etc. Well, I'm glad you did etc., etc. as that's exactly what you're going to get so any other line of questioning would only have lead to disappointment on your part. And I don't like to think that I'm leaving you bloggily unfulfilled.

Our saga begins back in the early days of 2005 as hype for the release of the last ever Star Wars was building. Admittedly, after some measure of disappointment at the first couple of sequels, I was quite as excited as I once would have been but I'm nothing if not George Lucas' little bitch so I was till keen to see it.A fact of which my brother's flatmate of the time was perfectly aware. At that time, he was working as a cameraman on a daily show for MTV UK called TRL. The show was running a competition and he felt that it would tick my boxes in two particular ways. Firstly, the prizes were Star Wars-related. The main winner would be flown out to Skywalker Ranch in California for a private screening of the film hosted by Mr Lucas (with second place getting a pair of tickets to the red carpet in Leicester Square, again with an appearance from Herr Lucas and third place getting a couple of tickets to a marathon screening of all six films on the same day as the premiere).

The second reason it was right up my alley? The method of entry. In order to be eligible for the competition, you had to submit a thirty second Star Wars film what you had made yourself. All well and good but, this being a comp on a satellite channel with no small amount of effort being required to enter, they weren't exactly inundated with entries. If I could whip something up before the deadline for entry expired within the next two days, I was in with a good chance of being considered. Well, i like a good film-based challenge so the game was on...

To Be Furthered

* This is an expression, naturally, and should not taken literally.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Affectionately Bitey

Does a name define who you are? If you choose a name that is light and fluffy, will its bearer be filled with sugar and spice and all that is nice? If you choose a name that is an iconic representation of evil, will its bearer lay about those around it with a mischievous sense of malevolence?

Early. It is early. Light has sprawled its lazy way across the sky but all right thinking people still have no intention of cracking their eyelids just yet. Time of day is of no importance to her, though, not to this miniature hunter, this silken predator.

She waits. When it is a necessity, she can bide her time. She waits. For the sign, that little signal. Patience is not her forte but, if need be, she will wait.

A small stirring. A disturbance. An interruption in the deep-breathing, snoring pattern of sleep. This is it. This is The Time. Her prey is not yet conscious but neither is he fully asleep any longer. The waiting is over. She readies herself, she sets herself and then she pounces...

And, to confound expectations, she is the personification of affection. She is loving and sweet and so cute that it is impossible to turn her away. To do so would be mean and spiteful and so her attentions, which would be preferable at a decent time of day, are tolerated with an equal mixture of affection and frustration.

Until she decides that it's time to play and bites me on the hand. Then she's right on the floor.

Maybe we shouldn't have called the kitten Darth Vader after all..

(Postscript - Whilst being a techy, gadgety sort of a fella, when it comes to writing, I nurture an inner Luddite. A large majority of these here blogs are written by hand on one of my many notebooks before undergoing the second draft process of being transferred to the webby page. During the analogue writing of this post, Evil The Kitten decided that a fun game would be to bat the pen around as I was writing. She was wrong. Unfortunately, she is persistent.)

Monday, 8 August 2011

Bathroom Buddies, Ringlefinches And Cobbled Bottoms

A summers evening in August. A cobbled courtyard in Central London. A large cinema screen. A triple bill of creature features. These elements combined to make an enjoyable Saturday night of open-air film watching at Somerset House in That There London courtesy of The Brother (a birthday prezzie). Sadly, the combination of a slightly chilly night along with direct contact with the cobbled floor meant that we didn't last for the third film but, as the wise philosopher Meat loaf once sang, two out of three ain't bad.

"So what were those films?" I hear you ask through the medium of a rhetorical narrative device. Well, I'm glad that I imagined you asked. They were, in screening order, Gremlins, Trollhunter and Tremors - all monster/creature-based in some way. As I said, Bro and I couldn't last through to Tremors (there were only a few die-hards swaddled in sleeping bags and duvets who were sticking it out to the bitter end) but the experience was none the worse for it.

First, a word about the venue. Somerset House is an odd building on the banks of the Thames with a huge central courtyard. It plays host to exhibitions and fashion shows. In winter, it's converted into a massive ice rink. And in summer, it is transformed into a huge open-air cinema. They've been doing this for some years now but, for one reason or another, I've always managed to miss it. Not this year...

We arrived half an hour before kick-off and the place was rammed. We were left with but two choices - the front or the back (as the actress said to the bishop). At the back, the screen was small enough that you might as well be watching them on TV at home - not the desired effect. The front may well have lead to excessive cricking of the neck but would at least offer a splendid view. As it happened, because there was no one in front of us, we were able to set up our blanket and selection cushionage and stretch out full length. Result.

So, first up was Gremlins. I'm not going to waste your time and mine reviewing the film - we all know the score: cute Mogwai, rules (wet, midnight, sunlight), evil Gremlins, good times had by all. Let's talk about the experience. This is a film that I have loved (as has Mon Frere) since I was 8/9 years old (we watched it on rental video - remember those? - so it must have been a while after the cinema release) but i have never seen on the big screen. The print was scratchy and grainy and the sound occasionally popped, hissed and threatened to drop out... but it looked great. Also, Bro and I, despite knowing the film back to front, noticed a couple of things we'd never actually noticed before.

After Gremlins, a large chunk of the crowd decided to call a night and head for the last trains home but we were ready and waiting for Film Number 2 - the Norwegian mock documentary Trollhunter. It's a fun little oddity of a film - the opening is perhaps a trifle too long before getting to the action (presumably a necessity of its low budget nature) but it doesn't disappoint in showing the creatures (you see them just enough to get a good look at them but not too much so that they become tiresome) and has some nice little humourous touches throughout. Definitely one that's worth a watch. (This was a preview screening ahead of the general release in September.)

By the time the credits rolled on Trollhunter, it was nearly 1:30 and the chill air and cobbledy floor had taken it's toll on us over the previous four hours. We would have loved to see Tremors on the big screen too but it would have been a film too far. Next time, I'll bring bedding...

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Letter To My (Currently) Unborn Nephew

Dear Nephew*

Hello. I'm Nick. I'm your uncle. Well, one of your uncles, anyway. The one with the sort of upside-downy head - you know, hairy at the bottom and smooth at the top. Yeah, that's the one. Hi. How's it going?

I thought that I might take this opportunity to impart some vital words of wisdom to you as, before we know it, there'll be the whole birth thing (I imagine your mother may describe this in slightly more vivid terms) and then it'll be Christmas and then first birthday and school and university and then you'll pushing us around in wheelchairs and wiping our puckered old bottoms before any of us have really realised how we got there. It then occurred to me that I actually possess nothing in the way of what you might call "wisdom" or indeed anything even vaguely in its orbit so you'll just have to make do with a random selection of stuff which spews off the top of my (shiny) head. This will, in all likelihood, be a theme in the large majority of our conversations so best get used to it now.

I'm going to present it in the form of a list. The first item will explain why:-

1. I'm fond of lists. Your paternal grandmother is also fairly listcentric. (Is that a word? Well, it is now.) Actaully, your Ma and Pa are fond of a spot of listage so you may well be on the listy side.

2. You'll have a ready supply of 70s and 80s toys to entertain you as your paternal grandparents have kept the loft stocked with a large majority of the stuff we owned as kids. All of which is in keeping with the family motto - "Is vires exsisto utilis" or "It might come in handy" to you and me. There are probably also several boxes of our schoolbooks from primary school through to A level knocking about. Hint:- Steer clear of my geography and physics work unless your intention is borderline failure.

3. Your father, mother (via careful conditioning) and grandmother are all Charlton Athletic fans. I've picked up enough over the years to realise that this is some of football-based thing (football's the one with the round ball you kick and are not supposed to pick up - your dad will cover this with you in some detail). Don't worry if you decide to support a different team - your grandad is a West Ham supporter and your dad went through a Liverpool supporting phase in his youth that he doesn't like to talk about.

4. If you are extremely sporty then your dad and paternal grandparents will see you right. If your nature tends more towards the artistic side then Mummy and Uncle Paul are the ones to speak to. If you need someone with the mindset of a child with whom you can watch cartoons, read comics and play Star Wars Lego then Uncle Nick's your man.

5. You will be spoiled, By all sides of the family. I do not think you will find this to be a problem.

There's lots more, of course - like the realisation that your mum and dad will tell you one thing and then do something completely different (as is their natural right), that school really isn't the be-all and end-all, work really does go on forever and drinking really is rather a lot of fun - but why spoil all the surprises now? You've got another few weeks of kicking back in a nice comfy womb and enjoying the ride. Make of then most of this bit while it lasts, sunshine.

I can't wait to meet you, That Nephew Fella. We have much to discuss...

All my love,
Uncle Baldy

(Yes, I have been away from this blog thing for a while. If you're still making the effort to read these witterings after an absence of months then I thank you most kindly. You are a splendid person and life will smile favourably upon you. True fact.)

* Name yet to be officially revealed to the public at large.