Archive for the ‘Just for fun’ Category

Dad, I’ve made it, I’m on Corrie!

Dad, I've made it, I'm on Corrie!

Dad, I've made it, I'm on Corrie!

Tough man to please, my father. If I get a "it was fine" about a programme or owt else I’m doing, that’s heady praise indeed. He considers it his mission to keep my feet on the ground (not that it’s necessary – I’m hypercritical of everything I do anyway, so my feet are firmly buried a couple of feet below).

However, as a good Northern man, what he has always said is: "You’ve only made it when you’re on Coronation Street!" So thank you to former MSE team member Natasha, who tweeted me to point out the following clip…
(Listen to the TV in the background of the Grimshaws talking in the first scene)

PS. I think the clip that’s playing is an interview I did on whether you should repay your student loan – which is from a good, long while ago. So I presume the producers buy up stock footage of GMTV/Daybreak to use in the background.

I’m writing today and I feel like I’m skiving

I'm writing today and I feel like I'm skiving

I'm writing today and I feel like I'm skiving

I’m sitting in a coffee bar, tapping away on an article on my keyboard and I feel like I’m skiving.

Today was meant to be the last filming day for my ITV show, but it’s been cancelled as we’re all done. So I’ve reclaimed the day to catch up on my articles. Yet I’m struggling to get used to the pressure burners being turned off.

We’ve now finished filming for all future shows (there’s still the script meetings, voiceover and links filming do to, which is done as close to transmission as possible, so all the deals and products I mention are bang up to date) meaning I’m getting some time back to myself.

A writing day feels like a luxury. For the whole of 2013, barring Tuesdays which are spent pounding out the weekly email, I’ve not ever had a long session to sit down and write. Everything has been bashed out at speed in breaks between meetings or filming.

What’s strange is how the mind works on such things.  My week is still full. I’ve my other regular broadcast outlets, writing, campaigning work and of course, running MoneySavingExpert – yet I’m almost feeling guilty that today is too easy.

I may actually get home by six o’clock, play with baby MSE, and then NOT turn the laptop on to start work again. Even so there’s a nagging doubt that I’m missing something and haven’t done a full week (for the first time this year, I may clock in less than 60 hours).

That’s why I’ve written this blog. It’s cathartic. I can now read it back, realise how ridiculous it sounds, and vow to enjoy the time.

The Martian – the most gripping book I’ve read in a long time (and it cost 77p)

The Martian – the most gripping book I’ve read in a long time (and it cost 77p)

The Martian – the most gripping book I’ve read in a long time (and it cost 77p)

I went to bed far too late last night.  The fault rests with a book on my Kindle called The Martian. I had 20% left to read (70 pages in old money) and found myself unable to leave the story.  I curled on the sofa in the dark so engrossed with the castaway astronaut on Mars that when Mrs MSE turned the light on, I jumped.

Reading it gave me so much pleasure I felt the least I could do was to write a quick book review.  As always, I’m far more into the story than the literature.   

The best way to sum up Andy Weir’s The Martian e-book is with this quote (forgive the language). Don’t worry, this isn’t a spoiler.

So that’s the situation. I’m stranded on Mars. I have no way to communicate with Hermes or Earth. Everyone thinks I’m dead. I’m in a Hab designed to last 31 days. If the Oxygenator breaks down, I’ll suffocate. If the Water Reclaimer breaks down, I’ll die of thirst. If the Hab breaches, I’ll just kind of explode. If none of those things happen, I’ll eventually run out of food and starve to death.

So yeah. I’m fucked.

This book is syfy in its purest sense, but while it may be science, it didn’t feel like fiction.  It’s based in what feels like our world, just a wee bit in the future. 

This morning, I’m finding it hard to remember that the whole thing wasn’t real.  It’s the diary of a stranded Robinson Crusoe, a botanist-cum-engineer fighting for survival having been left thought dead on the red planet after an exploratory trip by NASA.

The planet’s atmosphere seems malevolently hostile, the inability to create food actively thwarts Mark Watney as he strives for survival.   Yet Watney is not without weapons. The most potent are an engineering degree and a knowledge of science.

This is a book Dr Sheldon Cooper would be proud of – a novelised puzzle, at each turn you question how he’ll manage to bypass the latest setback.  Yet it’s couched within a gripping page-turner, with a strong character you quickly learn to care about.

If you’re short of something to read, I recommend it.   And if you’re not sure, download the sample. The book has a fast start, so you’ll know pretty quickly whether it’s worth the 77p!

Let me know what you think if you do.

Related past blogs:


1 in 4 say they want me to be chancellor – do they hate me that much?

1 in 4 say they want me to be chancellor

1 in 4 say they want me to be chancellor

I was shown a poll today which listed that I’m the person most people would like to do George Osborne’s job. Seriously people, do you hate me that much? I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy.

The research of 2,000 people by Opinion, for the Nutmeg website, asked:

"If you could replace George Osborne as chancellor, who would you pick?"

Top 10
Martin Lewis 24%
Richard Branson 16%
Stephen Fry 8%
Carol Vorderman 7%
Theo Paphitis 5%
Brian Cox 3%
Mary Portas 2%
Hilary Devey 2%
David Beckham 2%
Seb Coe 1%

I wouldn’t want the job, nor am I capable

Now of course while it’s very kind of people, ultimately I think being the UK chancellor is a thankless task. Much of the UK economy is at the mercy of global economics and capital flows and it isn’t easy for any individual country to turn these tides. 

In truth, regardless of party, the UK chancellor is tinkering at the edges. Yes, they can have an effect – though I suspect more on who the downturn hits, rather than whether we actually have a downturn or not.

Having said that, don’t over-read my expertise on this. There are many differences between being a Money Saving Expert and a political economist. It’s an entirely different discipline and I don’t know anywhere near enough to do it (whether anyone does, including the current incumbents, is a separate question).

I’d also note that while I can be entirely one-sided in my work – totally focused on pro-consumer issues, the chancellor on the other hand has to balance the needs of business, the economy and individuals – a far less populist approach.

Overall I’ll say thank you, but no thanks.

Read letters from blind children to Santa 2012

Read letters from blind children to Santa

Read letters from blind children to Santa

If you, like me, are a soppy git, you may just enjoy this. Each year we help spread the word in our Free Santa Letters guide that the RNIB has special elves, which help the giant with the white beard reply in Braille and other visually impaired-friendly ways.

As a thank-you, the RNIB has given its kind permission to share some of these beautiful notes with you again (read Letters to Santa 2011). It’s real evidence of the great work this much-needed charity does.

Names and minor details have been changed for privacy.

Warning: Some of you, like me, may find you’re allergic to these letters – the prime symptom of which is watery eyes.

Dear Father Christmas,

My name is Madison and my Granny is helping me to send a letter on her computer. If you can write to me in large print I would be very pleased. I am 8-years-old and have a twin sister called Samantha.

We are very excited because we are going to a cottage for Christmas in Cornwall. On Thursdays I go horse riding at a Riding for Disabled centre. We get a letter from you every year and you always tell us amazing stories about what you’ve been doing during the last year, but I have never sent a letter to you on the internet. 

Your letters always make us laugh and we would love to visit you to be able to see the place you always describe to us. We send all our love to you and your wife and all the elves. All the reindeers too."


To Santa,

My name is Luke. I hope you are ok and the reindeers are not getting too fat. I would like for Xmas a Manchester United scooter, football socks and a wrestling game. Thank you.

(Note from Martin – I came very close to editing this out for child cruelty with regards to the MU-branded items, but on balance have left it in.)

I will leave a mince pie for you and some milk and a carrot for the reindeers.

(I am Luke’s mum, he is 8 years old and has uveitis disease, has auto immune disease and has problems with his bones. He’s had two operations and has a rough time but never complains and is extremely brave. He’s on chemo and lots of other nasty medication so a letter saying how brave he is would really be appreciated.

Thank you very much, Luke’s mum.)"  


Dear Santa,

I have been a really brave boy this year having lots of hospital appointments following congenital cataracts and now a recent operation for an iris cyst. I would really like a new bike for Christmas with a shiny red bell. Please can you make this possible?"


Dear Santa,

I am visually impaired and I’m in mainstream school. I have been very good this year. I have been helping my mum with my new baby brother. I go swimming every month. I have been helping with the housework. I want a 3DS and a new set of clothes, most of all I want a letter from Santa."


Dear Santa Claus,

Could you please send an audio CD to my grandson Benjamin who has been a very good boy this year? He is five years old and he spent the first three and a half years in hospital and so Christmases at home are very special. We will be buying him a garden swing as he loves the motion. Many thanks."


Hi there, we have a little blind girl at our school called Debbie, she will soon be 8-years-old and she has brailled a letter to Santa.

Her letter says:

Dear Santa, Please could you bring me a little trolly. Please could you bring me a xylophone? I would also like some chime bars. Thank you very much from Debbie.

We will take Debbie to the post office and post the letter.

Thank you very much."


Dear Santa,

I am writing for my granddaughter Kerry. She is 4-years-old and went blind at the age of two due to a brain tumour. Her mummy doesn’t know I’m writing, I would like this to be a surprise for Kerry and her mummy.

If you could send a letter on audio CD that would be lovely please. She is off to Great Ormond Street hospital for brain surgery in December so a letter from Santa would be lovely. Kerry likes doing puzzles with shapes and textures.

She loves keys and key rings and also dollies (babies) and anything educational. She really loves music and dancing.

Thank you so much in advance."


Dear Father Christmas,

I have been learning a lot of braille contractions and really enjoy having the knack of learning braille. I find it very fun and if I’m asked to do anything to do with braille, I will get on with it at the immediate time.

I appreciate that I am now fully blind so that I can have much joy with braille and no-one can stop me from taking pride in all of my braille work, so thanks for reading."


Dear Santa,

I hope you are well. My mummy is helping me by typing this letter as I am not very good at typing. My name is Daniel. As well as being blind I also have a condition called autism. I love Christmas and I am already very excited about it. This year I would like a musical drum and burping dinosaur as well as lots of chocolate!

I have been a good boy all year and mummy says she is especially proud of me for working so hard on learning braille. I promise to leave you a mince pie and a carrot for Rudolph. Thanks so much."


Dear Santa
I am writing this email for my son, Simon who is seven and has cerebral palsy. Simon can’t read or write and is visually impaired.

However, he is very excited about Santa and can’t wait for you to come to our house on Christmas Eve. As Simon can’t read it would be fantastic to have a reply on an audio CD.

We have just finished converting an area of our house to be suitable for Simon and his needs. What Simon would really like from Santa is some nice things for his new bedroom. Some sensory equipment would be lovely but anything at all would be fantastic.

Simon thinks he should avoid a lump of coal this year……….fingers crossed he is right! Many thanks Santa. Hope to hear from you soon."


Dear Santa Claus and his elves,

I would like to order a Christmas message on audio CD in English for my son.

He is 23 but has a learning disability as well as severe visual impairment and he would love to receive a special message from Santa. He especially likes going swimming and playing with balloons and is looking forward to spending Christmas at home with all the family. 

He is having an operation this week to try to repair a detached retina so will have even less sight than normal for a little while and a special Christmas message would really cheer him up. Many thanks."


Dear Santa,

Please could you send a CD letter to our grandson Barry. He is two and a half years old, suffers from severe cerebral palsy and epilepsy and is almost completely blind. Despite his problems he brings lots of joy to his Mummy and Daddy who work very hard to look after him.

We don’t see him very often so we aren’t sure what he would like for Christmas but I am sure he must have given you some clues when he visited you in Harrods recently! His Christmas list is sure to include pyjamas and pretty lights! Thank you, Nanny and Granddad."


Dear Santa,

My name is Jacob and my Daddy has ‘broken eyes’. I have been very good this year and am now in Year 1! I have been learning to read and write, so I can help my Daddy more. I am busy practicing for the School Play. I am playing Joseph this year. I would love to have a table football for Christmas. Thank you."


Dear Santa,

I am writing this for my brother Isaac who is nearly 4 and has difficulty with his sight. I wrote to you last year too. Isaac is going to draw a picture for you. For Christmas he wants a hamster. I had a hamster called Jet and it died. Now Isaac wants one of his own.

I hope you are getting things sorted for Christmas Eve. I still like Lego by the way. Isaac (and I) would love to hear a reply by audio please. Thank you."


Dear Santa,

I have been very good all year. I have been doing my physio in the morning and every night before sleep. I have been cleaning my teeth nicely. I was a good boy at the doctors having my flu jab today.

Please can you leave some of my presents in the games room? I will leave you a glass of milk, two mince pies (one for you to take home for Mrs Claus) and carrots for your reindeer.

Please can you ask your reindeer not to poo in our front room because they did last year and my dad had to clean it up! Please can you bring me a new computer as my computer keeps breaking down.

I like to play my games, go on YouTube and talk to my friends on Facebook. I have lots of photos to look at close up. I zoom faces in so I can see them.

Please can you bring me some music CDs, DVDs and singing toys? I would like another laughing Elmo and singing lion, hippo, monkey toys. Like the ones you gave me last year so I can play them altogether and give mum and dad a headache!

Mum will be in my bed, hiding under the covers when you visit as I get a bit scared when you come in my room. I did laugh last year when I heard you trip over my toys and when you flushed the toilet.

I know you are busy but if you get time, please can you play a quick game on my pool table? I will leave the balls out ready. You might hear me laughing if I’m awake and I hear you. Please send my love to Mrs Claus.

Can you please thank her for my Christmas tea towel she gave me last year. I am still using it when I have my dinner. Please send my love to Arthur and all the other little Elves. Say hello to the reindeer for me.

Love you."