Jigraphy Cityscape Maps

Over half-term I invested probably too much of my time in completing a Jigraphy Cityscape Map jigsaw. But I have to say, it is one of the best jigsaws I’ve ever completed.

The Cityscape Mapmake brilliant jigsaws – the maps are interesting and full of character. They somehow capture the personality of each town or city whilst also being accurate and clear. They are available in three versions – the 100-pieces, the 500-piece or the 1000-piece. I went for the 1000-piece puzzle of Whitby. You can buy them from the Happy Puzzle Company.

I treated myself to a jigsaw featuring the map of my favourite place in the world – Whitby. I felt this would be something I’d love, but also a challenge. As Whitby is separated by the mouth of a river, the jigsaw would have a significant amount of ocean to include as well.

The built up area of Whitby took me a while to put together, but the ocean part took me hours! The pieces were all quite different, so there was no pattern so I really appreciated the challenge.

I would love to get more Jigraphy jigsaws – there are almost 100 available. Here are the places on my list: Bakewell, Chester, Keswick, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Scarborough, Southport, Wells and York. These are all places I love that would make great jigsaws too!

Back To The Future: The Musical

Back To The Future has always been one of my favourite films! Of course, it’s full of pot holes and strange quirks, but it’s a classic! Over the years there has been talk of a reboot and I’ve not been sure about this. So when it was announced back in May 2019 that they were going to reboot it in the form of a musical, I was really excited. This would be something different!

It was either going to be incredibly brilliant, or incredibly bad. So when I managed to find bargain tickets for just £13 each it was worth a shot.

BTTF: The Musical opened at the Opera House in Manchester about a week ago. We went to watch it last night (what a way to remember the bonus day of 29th Feb!) and I am pleased to say that, not only was it incredibly brilliant, but it exceeded all of my expectations.

The show is more than just a musical. It’s an education in special effects. The things they managed to do with the Delorean were magical.

The show starred Olly Dobson as Marty McFly. He was so believable as the main character that you didn’t notice it was Michael J. Fox. He had the same voice traits as the actor! He was superb!

Roger Bart, who we recognised from loads of different things, was Doc Brown. He was hilarious! A knowing performance, he paid homage to the original performance whilst bringing something new to the character. He managed to include all of the silliness of the movie performance with great singing. He was sensational!

Hugh Coles as George McFly was phenomenal, as was Rosanna Hyland as Lorraine Baines. Aidan Cutler was great as the bully Biff Tannen. The character of Goldie Wilson was expanded for the musical and Cedric Neal was show stealing in the role!

The music was refreshing – funny, sentimental and catchy. But, for me, the best songs came at the end and were the classic songs from the movie – Earth Angel, Johnny B. Goode, The Power Of Love and Back In Time.

I don’t want to spoil the show by telling you what they manage to do with the time travelling car, but it is worth going to watch it just for the last twenty minutes alone!

There are some pictures and a review of the show here.

I sneaked a photo of the cast at the end!
Woah, this is heavy.

Awesome 2!

20 devastatin’ hits feature on Awesome 2! This is one of my favourite compilations ever. Released in 1991, I caught on to it that year by borrowing it from a friend so that I could listen to The Wonder Stuff’s The Size Of A Cow.

If you can track down a copy of it, I would recommend that you do as it is amazing.

  • James – Sit Down: One of the best songs ever. So easy to sing along to. Everyone knows the words and it will still get a crowd singing along. Just brilliant!
  • R.E.M. – Shiny Happy People: One of the happiest songs ever! It will make you smile and you might even want to get your air guitar out to play along!
  • The Wonder Stuff – The Size Of A Cow: Me, I like to think that life is like a drink and I hope that it tastes like Bourbon. One of the most random songs ever, but an absolute classic. This deserved more success than it enjoyed, but people of a certain age will recall it fondly.
  • E.M.F – Unbelievable: This song is unbelievable! It still sounds brilliant, 29 years later!
  • The Shamen – Move Any Mountain: This hasn’t aged well, but at the time this was amazing as were most of The Shamen’s songs.
  • Blur – There’s No Other Way: Perhaps this was Blur’s finest song. Debatable, maybe, but it’s up there with their best.
  • Voice Of The Beehive – I Think I Love You: I was amazed when I found out that this was a cover version. Beehive’s version is infinitely better and it is awesome.
  • Deacon Blue – Twist And Shout: Deacon Blue had some great songs and this was one of them. A great song for the album.
  • Divinyls – I Touch Myself: As long as you don’t play this with the kids in the car, this is a cracker.
  • Salt-N-Pepa – Let’s Talk About Sex: In 1991 a song that mentioned sex was automatically brilliant!
  • Erasure – Love To Hate You: Erasure did so many amazing songs. Love To Hate You is great but it’s not one of their best, perhaps. Worth a listen though!
  • Oceanic – Insanity: One of the best dance tunes ever! Released in 1991 Insanity was way ahead of its time.
  • Utah Saints – What Can You Do For Me: It took me a few years to realise how amazing Utah Saints actually were.
  • Sabrina Johnston – Peace: This is the weakest song on the whole compilation. It just feels out of place somehow.
  • Brothers In Rhythm – Such A Good Feeling: Another classic dance tune. It is brilliant as it is, but sounds like a completely new tune when mashed up with Lola’s Theme (released thirteen years later).
  • O.M.D – Pandora’s Box: I love O.M.D and this is probably their best song!
  • Zoe – Sunshine On A Rainy Day: Another song that sounds a bit out of place. However, Sunshine is a great song so it’s allowed.
  • PM Dawn – Set Adrift On Memory Bliss: How brilliant is this?! The perfect chilled out summer song.
  • Lenny Kravitz – It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over: One of the best things about Awesome 2 is it’s attention to detail regarding punctuation. Sure, the graphic designer forgot that capital letters existed, but it gets every apostrophe spot on! This was the first time I had heard anything by Kravitz. This is great but nothing like anything else he’s ever released!

So many memories. I played this so many times that if I hear one of the songs I always expect the next one on the album to come on after. As I listen right now, I’m expecting Unbelievable to play in a minute!


I heard about ZipZero via an online review and thought I’d give it a try.

I am trying to cut down on spending this year. Most days I’m being successful with this, but ZipZero allows me to reclaim a little bit of cash back from purchases that I do make which I can use to put towards bills.

ZipZero is a free app. When you buy something from a shop (it doesn’t work with online receipts) you scan the receipt. ZipZero recognises the information in the receipt and adds about 1% of the total into your account. When you have enough money (above £1) you can withdraw the money to a utility provider or similar and it takes just a little bit off your bill.

When I read about it I thought it all sounded a bit too good to be true. But having tried it for a week, it has been every bit as good as it sounded. I have scanned in every receipt and the app recognised the info and added some money to my account. Once I had accessed the correct pay info for my utility bill provider, and I had enough money in the ZipZero account, I withdrew it and it has indeed paid off a little money from my bill. (I use Igloo so can instantly see any payment made.)

So far, I’ve used receipts from supermarkets, the post office, pubs, newsagents and coffee shops and they’ve all worked. I have had two that didn’t – one was a car park receipt and one was a receipt which was badly printed (and I didn’t realise until I got home).

How the scanning works, I don’t know, but it does.

How on earth can ZipZero afford to give you money back? Apparently: ZIPZERO and their retail partners have created a circle of user consumption. ZIPZERO provides retailers with an opportunity to offer products and services directly to app users in exchange for a system that rewards users with cash to directly pay such bills. I don’t really get it, but that’s not going to stop me using it.

It’s really worth a go.

Life and Lessons Podcast

A couple of years ago I got into podcasts. I’ve become a loyal listener to many. Every so often I thought I’d share the one I’m enjoying the most.

At the moment I love listening to Sean Spooner’s Life and Lesson Podcast. (If the name is slightly familiar, you might recall that he appeared on the Young Apprentice once.)

For the next 52 weeks, I’m going to document the life I live and the lessons I learn as I move towards my 25th birthday. I’m Sean Spooner, the 24-year-old co-founder and Creative Director of Dreem, a fast-growing marketing agency based in South Wales. After 10 years in business and lots of twists and turns in life, I want to get on record the realities of growing a business, evolving as a person and navigating my way through my mid-twenties. This is Life and Lessons, a place where I’ll share my unfiltered inner thoughts and honest truths each week, like you’ve never heard before

I like listening to it as he seems like an interesting and honest guy. He’s ambitious and it’s good to hear about how he is getting on with his business. He talks about good and bad life decisions that he’s made and it’s made me reflect on my own life and particular how I didn’t really think about the future properly back when I was his age.

Something else I like that it lasts for no more than half an hour each week which means it fits perfectly in a journey to work!


A few months ago I signed up for the Chartr newsletter.

Chartr is a free newsletter – which has just increased its output to twice a week. It features charts and headline information about business, technology, politics and entertainment.

Each week three stories are picked to explore and the research is supported with a graph or chart. I am a bit of a maths nerd so really enjoy looking at this.

The stories chosen are always interesting to read as they aren’t based on the highest profile stories of the week so you always learn something new.

The newsletters are always free, so it’s well worth considering signing up at chartr.co.


I decided that I would look into collecting commemorative stamp releases.

There’s something about the idea of these stamps that appeals to me. It’s a bit nerdish; a bit quirky. It’s probably not something I’d own up to in the pub. But having bought some Star Wars, Harry Potter and Game of Thrones in the last few years and displayed them in frames, I quite like the idea of adding to my collection.

I always figured that the stamps might actually be worth something one day. Maybe they will one day, but not for many years.

So, I am purely doing this because I like the look of them. I’m not intending to collect every set released, but only the ones I think look cool.

The 2020 Royal Mail release schedule has been announced.

The 2020 Royal Mail Commemorative Stamp Collection

Without having seen most of the stamps (in fact, only the Video Games collection have been announced), here are my thoughts:

Video Games – these look REALLY good. The games featured include some of my childhood favourites including Dizzy, Sensible Soccer, Worms, Lemmings and Micro Machines. These have already been ordered!

Visions of the Universe – not sure what this will be. I probably won’t be buying these.

James Bond – definitely on my wish list! I love James Bond films, so these will be a great collector’s item.

The Romantic Poets – I hate poetry. No chance.

End of the Second World War – these sound interesting. I might buy these depending how they look.

Coronation Street – I don’t watch Corrie, so I will give these a miss. If Neighbours stamps are released though…

Roman Britain – I’m not a big lover of history. I doubt that I will buy these.

Queen – These sound great!

The Palace of Westminster – I hate politics right now. I don’t want to have stamps reminding be of Boris.

Sherlock – These sound intriguing. Again, it might depend how it looks. I’m not a massive Sherlock fan, but I did enjoy the BBC series. One to think about, maybe.

Rupert Bear – I didn’t even know this guy was still around. If stamps have been announced, does this mean he is due a comeback? Will yellow scarves be back in fashion. I might consider the stamps for nostalgia.

Brilliant Bugs – I don’t think bugs are brilliant. Not for me.

Christmas – Can I shock you? I like Christmas. These always make a nice set.

Star Trek – Not for me – Star Wars all the way. I liked the JJ Abrams films, but that’s about it.

So I’ll definitely buy four and maybe two or three more of the fourteen sets that will be released this year. Which ones do you have your eyes on?

Mi Smart Band 4 – a review

It was my birthday earlier this month. My wife bought be a great new watch and I’m really pleased with it. It’s a Mi Smart Band 4.

I’ve had a Pebble for the last five or six years and I’ve loved it. Recently, the watch has started to feel uncomfortable and heavy on my wrist. I was sure that the step count tracking was a bit off. And I was having to charge it up every two or three days. It was getting a bit frustrating. So started looking for a new one. Fortunately I spotted a tweet recommending the Mi Smart Band 4 – what a bargain!

You can buy the watch in various colours, but I went for black.

So, it arrived just after my birthday, but this means that I’ve had it around a week now. I guess it’s early days, but so far, I love it! And it’s affordable to replace if I have issues with it. I’ve ordered a screen protector as I’m paranoid about damaging it.

The watch was packaged well and it was very straightforward to get it on charge. Charging took a couple of hours, maybe. I was then able to link it to my phone after downloading the free Mi Fit app. This was dead easy and took seconds.

Once connected by Bluetooth, the watch had the correct time and immediately started counting steps.

Using the app I was able to set up notifications from different apps. To be honest, this was a bit annoying as they didn’t come through the following day at work. When I got home in the evening I rebooted the watch and suddenly they started working. I’ve had no problems since.

The big difference between the Smart Band and my previous watch is that this is so comfortable to wear. Instead of taking my watch off to go to bed, I can now sleep wearing this. So now it records my sleep pattern, which is interesting. The watch is waterproof too, which will be handy at some point.

After a week of wearing it, the watch still has 65% charge! Amazing, compared to what I’m used to.

I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Lego Magazines

As someone who loves Lego but can’t really afford to buy it one way that I can get my fix is to read Lego magazines. Here’s a brief review of two that I have found.

Brick Fanatics

This is the newest magazine. I read issue 3 and I bought it online. It costs £5. The magazine is A5-sized. I think this probably causes problems for it. It makes articles shorter. It is considerably smaller in size than other similar magazines.

I like how current the magazine is, including features on The Lego Movie 2 and one on how Brexit might affect Lego supplies. There are interesting articles – I particularly enjoyed the report on how the Darth Vader minifigure helmet has changed, how to tell a genuine from a fake Deadpool figure and the love for a 1×4 tile piece. The report on the effects of combining up to four sets of Harry Potter Quidditch sets was my favourite although it was overlong. If I’m honest though, most of the reports were too short and I am not in the slightest interested in Overwatch, although that’s my personal preference. At 80 small pages long there just wasn’t enough in Brick Fanatics to keep me interested for more than a few minutes.

I feel harsh in not rating the magazine but I hope it develops as time goes on.


I’ve been reading Blocks for a while now. It costs £5.40 per issue and until recently I have had a subscription. At 120 pages and A4-sized it comes in as a much more substantial publication. I reviewed the April 2019 issue.

I enjoy the round up of Lego news and upcoming releases. The articles and features feel substantial and have great pictures accompanying them. I liked the Lego plant feature written by Lego Masters Series One winner, Steve Guinness.

The Top Ten of spooky Lego feels a bit odd in April rather than October but I enjoyed it. It was interesting to find out how sets don’t have pieces missing.

There was lots of Overwatch in this edition which I am not interested in but there were lots of reviews of other sets which meant that I wasn’t bored. The feature on building animals was great!

Overall, Blocks is definitely the superior magazine. There’s something for Lego loves of all ages.

Other magazines

A few years ago I bought the magazines Brick Culture and Bricks which I loved both – particularly Brick Culture. I extended my subscription for both and then the publisher went bust and I lost money. I was more gutted that both magazines ceased to exist.