Thursday, 30 January 2020

What Is Coronavirus - And Are We All Going To Die From COVID-19? (Updated 17/02/20)

I've been following the 2019-nCoV Coronavirus outbreak since the beginning of January. I've always been interested in epidemics and more so since my partner had Meningitis and I began looking at the negative effect the anti-vax movement was having.

The 2019 novel Coronavirus emerged with ideal location and timing, just before the world's biggest annual migration of people for the Chinese New Year, meaning that it always had the opportunity to spread rapidly and get really big.

I've added updates on 03/02/20 and 17/02/20 (latest figures below) because this is a changing situation and estimates for transmission, death rate, incubation etc, are still changing. You can also read my interview with a UK national who returned from a severely affected area of China in early February.

IMPORTANT: 13/02/20 China: After spending 3 days removing cases where the patient has a CT result showing pneumonia symptoms, but no nucleic-acid testing (blood test) to confirm, China backtracked. It replaced those removed and is now again including these cases in figures as 'unconfirmed'. THIS is why there was an apparent surge in numbers. 

Image showing ways to reduce the chances of contracting coronavirus - as given below

I've read absolutely tons of scientific papers, government information, different viral models and personal stories, there is masses of information out there from genuine scientists and people who know far more than me, but what follows is my break down of all that I've read - in a language we can all understand.

All we all going to die from COVID-19 Coronavirus? 

Absolutely not. The mortality rate appears at this point to be around 2% or 1 in every 50 (17/02/20). This is not a particularly powerful illness, it's just incredibly good at spreading and because it's new, no-one already has immunity. (The mortality rate from seasonal flu is around 0.1% or 1 in every 1000).

Should I panic about Coronavirus? 

No. What use would that do? It's not helpful if a handful of people stockpile enough face masks for 15 lifetimes, and then don't even get ill. Empty shops and fuel stations won't save any lives. At most you'd need enough toilet roll, paracetamol and soup to last 2 weeks.

Should I worry about Coronavirus? 

No. Worrying does not give immunity and it is not an effective cure. It won't alter your chances of catching Coronavirus. Worrying eats your life up and then you will definitely die of something in the end anyway. You need to live first.

Should I take precautions to protect me from Coronavirus? 

Yes. You should take the same precautions you usually take with your health and the health of those around you.
  • Wash your hands regularly, and always before and after handling food or other people.
  • Wash hands before you touch your face - rubbing your eyes, touching your lips or picking your nose can introduce virus and germs from your hands. 
  • Sneeze into a tissue and throw it away, or if you really don't have one handy, sneeze into the crook of your arm. Then wash your hands - and your arm. 
  • If you are ill, don't mix with other people unnecessarily. Likewise don't mix with people who are ill unless it's unavoidable, in which case follow home advice for carers of people who have flu
  • If you are ill with a cough and cold, have a temperature and are struggling for breath, ring your Doctor and they will advise you what to do next.
  • Wipe down surfaces regularly and use anti-bacterial cleaners on tables, food preparation areas and bathrooms, and high traffic areas such as doorknobs and light switches. 


How bad will the Coronavirus outbreak get? 

No-one knows. This is your classic 'how long is a piece of string?' question.

Wednesday, 29 January 2020

From Triples To Triplets - The Making Of A Triplet Dad by S.C.Wood Review

When I was contacted and asked if I'd be happy to be sent a review copy of A Meditative Parent: The Making Of A Triplet Dad*, I accepted because I was interested in reading S.C. Wood's journey. Self-destructive alcoholic to book-writing, peaceful and meditative Dad of triplets is a giant leap over a period of time. It's a life turned right around and very much a person saved.

It's not something my own brother ever achieved, and I think that's why I took the review.

*Si has changed the title of his book since I was sent my copy, it's now known as 'Triples To Triplets' - which I agree is a better description.

A Meditative Parent: The Making Of A Triplet Dad by S.C.Wood:Book Cover with long road leading into the distance

This is a book for adults, unlike most of my book reviews, and it does deal with the heavy stuff. There is a little swearing which is totally contextual. Alcoholism isn't pretty, nor is depression, and there are very frank mentions of suicide, domestic violence, child abuse and drug use, but they are not dwelt on. Mostly though, there is positivity, and a great read which regularly defies belief.

Monday, 27 January 2020

Hotel Mumbai Movie Review and 2 x Blu-ray Giveaway (Sent by Universal Pictures)

Newly released by Universal Pictures Home Entertainment is Hotel Mumbai, a full length feature inspired by the stories of survivors of the real life November 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks, and we've been sent a copy for review.

This is a powerful film which has adult themes, horrific violence, peril and loss of life, and it is rated suitable for a mature audience only. Not one for the kids, but older teenagers can learn from the mistakes of the past.

Hotel Mumbai Blu-ray cover showing 2 men's faces

Hotel Mumbai has a great cast who will be familiar to movie fans, including Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire, Lion), Armie Hammer (Call Me By Your Name, The Social Network), Jason Isaacs (The Death Of Stalin, Harry Potter), Nazanin Boniadi (Counterpart, Homeland) and Anupam Kher (Silver Linings Playbook, The Big Sick).

Downton Abbey The Movie Review and 2 x Blu-ray Giveaway (sent by Universal).

It may not seem possible, but I honestly have NEVER seen a single episode of Downton Abbey, so when Universal Pictures sent us a copy of Downton Abbey The Movie, we were reviewing just the same as we would any standalone film.

Written by series creator Julian Fellowes and starring the original cast, this is a full length movie version of the very popular TV series about life upstairs and below stairs in Downton Abbey, a large house and estate owned by the Crawley family in the early 20th century.

Downton Abbey The Movie Blu-ray box showing cast in costume

All of the characters are introduced really clearly, and we immediately see the differences between the wealthy Crawley's and their massive staff. This is a somewhat idealised view and everyone is surprisingly polite and respectful, except when the plotline demands.

Thursday, 23 January 2020

Breastfeeding Is Easy...

Breastfeeding is as natural as mud. It's the supplied way of feeding our infants and we grow special appendages purely for this purpose. I did 8 years of it all together and I'm really quite lazy, so it must be easy. Of course I wouldn't have managed more than a single day if I hadn't been ridiculously stubborn, and I'm mostly remembering the experience of someone who had 8 years practice, but I can practically do it standing on my head...

I was 22 when I had my first child and I was some sort of rebellious amateur hippy. I was that person who hooked my plastic bottles over the handlebars of my pushbike and cycled to the single town recycling centre to drop it all off. I read all the pregnancy books and wanted everything as natural as possible. My partner was asthmatic and I was determined to try and protect my kids from that. I was also paying a 15% mortgage rate on a council worker's wages and very broke. A tenner a week on baby milk was an expense I didn't want. Of course I was going to breastfeed.

Scan photo showing baby sucking his thumb in the womb

I had a long labour, but no need for sympathy. We played Rummy for 22 hours of 5 minute contractions and I won every hand. I'm pretty good with pain, so when I started to say I'd had enough, given up and wanted Pethidine, the midwives didn't realise my increased discomfort was due everything getting suddenly exciting and the baby wanting immediate exit. I had my injection less than half an hour before delivery.

Tuesday, 21 January 2020

Daddies And Baddies by Mat Waugh Children's Book Review (Age 3-7+)

Mat Waugh has sent me his latest children's book for review, and it's a big, bold picture book suitable for reading together with younger children. Daddies And Baddies is the story of 5 daddies, 5 baddies and one crazy day....

Daddies and Baddies by Mat Waugh Children's picture story book review

I reviewed Cheeky Charlie for Matt a few years ago, and that was more of a children's storybook, so teaming up with an illustrator to release a picture book is very different. Graham Evans' style is very modern and cartoon-like, with the people always the focus of the image, even in a street scene.

Daddies and Baddies by Mat Waugh Stan's dad illustration and text example

Monday, 20 January 2020

What's On This Spring For Families in Manchester and the North West

Here's my Spring round up of what is happening in and around Manchester and the North West UK for families of all ages, including students and young people. Theatre, exhibitions, days out, shopping and more...

Whats on in Manchester and the NW UK this Spring collage of events below

If you have anything suitable you wish me to add, please send short copy over with a photo to thebrickcastle@gmail.com. The next round up will cover Easter onwards...

Blue Monday...

3rd Monday of the year. January is 217 days in and still no sign of payday. It's cold and damp, with no exciting snow or pretty Winter sun. This is officially the most depressing day of the year, which is especially harsh if it's your birthday.

Our day started on form. Before 7am the doorbell went, and surprisingly it was my partner, who had only just left for work. I say 'left', because he'd made it as far as the drive. where the van wouldn't start because of a flat battery. I was just mainly relieved that I hadn't run downstairs in my dressing gown to open the door to a really early postman.

LEGO scene where a knight has knocked over a drink, and Min the Merciless has slipped in it.

He put the van on charge and made a cup of tea. While he was drinking it he got a call from work to say they'd had a break in - specifically his office.

Friday, 17 January 2020

PR School: Your Time To Shine by Natalie Trice Book Review (Sent for review)

I should probably start by saying that Natalie is a friend, and excellent at PR with 20 years experience. I wasn't going to turn down a review copy of her recently published book, PR School: Your Time To Shine.

Created to appeal to those of us who don't have a degree in Social Media or Business Promotion, Natalie's book is 'A Masterclass in Publicity for You and Your Business', and it's written in language we can all understand, with tips that will help anyone get their product, brand or story out there to the masses.

PR School Your Time To Shine by Natalie Trice Book Review Front Cover

Throughout the book Natalie includes tips and how-to segments from other people who are successful and confident publicists. There are real life stories and explanations of promotions and activities which worked well, and you see immediately that quality of work and honesty are key.

Goodbye Mothercare... thanks for the advice...

This week we had my oldest child's 26th birthday, and the very first place I went to buy him anything was Mothercare. His paternal Grandparents gave us the money to get his pram, and I chose a beautiful blue and grey patterned system, which was the poshest thing I owned at the time by far. It would look ridiculously dated now, so I'm almost glad I don't have a photo.

I was a superstitious pregnant lady and I never bought any of my children anything until I was past 28 weeks, but when my pregnancy was making me tired, sore, sick or just down in the dumps, I'd go and browse Mothercare to get my happy hormones back on track and become excited about my new arrival.


When we bought our car seats, Mothercare employees showed us how to fit them correctly, and when my boobs inflated to twice their non-pregnant size, I had my first ever fitting at a Mothercare store.

That might have been over 26 years ago, but my earliest memories of Mothercare are a long way before then. I was the eldest of 3 children, and my parents were foster carers for babies when I was growing up. A trip to Mothercare meant we were about to get a new arrival, and my mother would carefully choose everything she would need ready for when she brought them home from the hospital.

Wednesday, 15 January 2020

January 2020 - #TBCSmiles

Goodbye to 2019 and Hello 2020! Happy New Year to everyone - I hope it brings you the things you wish upon yourself. It's the 15th already, although January always seems to last a lot longer than most months. No snow yet, which is disappointing me and means it's just cold and windy, so most of your photos, and ours, have been indoors the last few weeks.

LEGO Gingerbread House with light through windows

Christmas is fun but hard work, the return to 'normality' is much harder, and the short days mean leaving the house in the dark and not arriving home until it's dark, which is demoralising at best and can seem to last forever.

As I said in a post about making mistakes the other day, we'd all be in bed far earlier and get up later if we hadn't ever invented the light bulb, so allow yourself some comfort. If you aren't going out and want to stay in your PJ's, do it. You need a few extra calories to keep going, to keep warm and fight off colds, so don't fret about the couple of pounds you put on at Christmas.

Tuesday, 14 January 2020

Simulator Adventures Airbus A320 Flight Simulator Review (Press Visit)

Last November we were invited to review the Airbus A320 Flight Simulator at Simulator Adventures in Trafford Park. The simulator has been designed and built by two brothers, Alan and Stewart Russell, who also happen to have been professional Airbus A320 pilots.

Simulator Adventures are working on introducing a Motion System to the simulator this Spring, but we reviewed without it and you still feel like you are moving, even when you aren't at all. It's an amazing and truly immersive experience.


When you arrive you are well looked after. There is excellent seating in the waiting room (masses of legroom).... and the best toilet door I've seen besides those at LEGOLAND.

Airbus aircraft seats in waiting room

Friday, 10 January 2020

We Can All Make A Mistake...

It's what you do next that really counts...

If you are a parent blogger in the UK (and even if you aren't) you may have spotted a blunder or two recently. In the past week there have been 3 pretty amazing faux pas from 3 of the biggest websites who work regularly with bloggers. And that's just to my knowledge...

L:EGO scene where Dorothy and Jack Sparrow are having a drink. A soldier has accidentally knocked over a drink which Ming THe Merciless has slipped over in

Thing is, no-one is immune. You can only make decisions to the best of your ability at the time. The first week back after the Christmas holidays is manic, and none of us are at our best. Even nature spends half the day telling us we should still be in bed, and without the invention of the lightbulb we probably would be (which helps account for the huge families back then).

When you are busy and working it's easy to press the wrong button or type the wrong word, or even worse, leave half a draft and publish by accident. Gary the cat once published a post while I was on the loo. It was rubbish, but it had 3 viewers and a comment within 5 minutes because he added an intriguing title.

The Word-Keeper by Veronica Del Valle Children's Book Review (Sent by Silverwood Books)

The Word-Keeper is "A Book For Children About The Power of Words" and it is also a fabulous read, I really enjoyed it. Suitable for young readers aged around 8-12+, it contains very clever and varied uses of language, and shows us exactly what sort of disaster might happen if we lost control of our words.

The Word-Keeper by Veronica Del Valle Book cpver with girl sitting cross legged reading

The main character is 11 year old Florence, who showed great proficiency for language from a very young age, with her first word being 'hyperbole'. She lives in a world which is very much like ours, with a few oddities and exceptions.

When the school holidays arrive, Florence travels to visit her Grandfather, who lives in a very strange town named Inkwell. The town is populated by artists and creators, and has a secret history which includes a ferocious battle between good and evil - as all of the best stories do.

The Word-Keeper by Veronica Del Valle text example inside page

Wednesday, 8 January 2020

Collaboration with Wealthify | Toys that will help your children to learn the value of saving

Learning to budget and save up to buy larger items are lifelong skills that will help your children's quality of life and hopefully prevent them getting into a debt trap when they are older. This guest post talks about how you can kick off their understanding from a young age...


Teaching your children to be good with money is essential. Kids that learn to save when they are young, generally speaking, grow into adults who spend responsibly.

There are lots of ways to teach them the value of money. For example, you could open a savings account like the one that you can find out about from this website. When your child is old enough, you can let them play a role in managing that account. Later, they can start to add some of the money that they are given, or earn, to the cash you save up for them.

Children's Book Reviews: Story Books For Younger Children (sent by Matador)

Matador Publishing work with self-published authors. Four of the recently released paperback children's books that they've sent me for review have a common theme looking at, and celebrating, difference, so I've put them all together in one post.

These are all nicely illustrated picture books suitable for reading together with children from a very young age, or for independent readers aged around 5-6+ to tackle alone.

Monday, 6 January 2020

Pandora Millie Bobby Brown Charms Launch

Back in November I was the very lucky plus1 to Sim (from Simslife) at a launch event for Pandora. You might not instantly associate me with Pandora, and it's true I'm not the girliest girl, but I do really like a bit of sparkle and it was a really excellent night out.

Pandora small white jewellery box with earrings inside

We were there to see the brand new range of charms created by Millie Bobby Brown, the young starring actress from Stranger Things. My earrings only arrived just before Christmas, and as I knew there were queues out of the door at most Pandora branches, there didn't seem a lot of point rushing to tell you about them. But if you happened to be the lucky recipient of vouchers under your tree - they've a Winter Sale on now...

Statue and floral wallpaper at The Ivy in Manchester

The launch evening was held at The Ivy in Manchester and it was my first visit. Wow. It's exactly as you'd expect, but with the added bonus of awesome bathrooms and the most amazing waistcoats. The staff themselves, who were impeccable, really made the difference. They were so friendly! I expected politeness, charm and to be well-looked after, but they were also the nicest, smiliest bunch of people too.

2020 Vision.... Happy New Year

It's back to work proper today for a lot of people, and although this isn't my first post of 2020, I'd drafted the first one last year, so it also counts for me.

I said in my 2019 end of year round up that we'd had a much calmer year. For the first time in a long time, not only did we escape any major disasters, but we escaped them for long enough to start to have time to be a bit 'normal'. I even had chance to worry about the state of my hair and my nails, although don't get too excited - I bought a scrunchie and that's the hair sorted.

HARIBO Veggie Tree sweet with tiny stars to make it look like a Christmas tree

I reduced the number of reviews I did last year, and this year I'm reducing it again. I always have great plans to write more personal posts and take this blog back to a record of our lives and a dumping ground for rambling, rather than a safe list of crafted and fairly formulaic review posts. I write much more quickly from the hip and I really just need to pull on my big girl pants, find some of the confidence I used to have, and go for it.

Thursday, 2 January 2020

The Werewolves Of Millers Hollow Game Review (age 14+) Sent by Asmodee

The Werewolves Of Millers Hollow is what is commonly referred to as a party game because it suits a large group. In this case a massive 8-18 players, aged 14+ (and add-ons are available to take that up to 48). Each game will normally take less than an hour, and it's very easy to play. The format is a little like the classic party game 'Murder In The Dark' and it's very intuitive. You just need a little organisation to get the crowd together.

The town is overrun by Werewolves who are eating the Townsfolk and must be stopped. Players are either on the side of the Townsfolk or the Werewolves, and the aim is to rid the village of your opponents so that you can live in peace...

The Werewolves Of Millers Hollow Game Review  for Asmodee pack shot

The Werewolves Of Millers Hollow is stored in a tiny box 10cm x 10cm, and inside are just the instructions and 24 different cards. No waste, very little single use or unnecessary plastic, and easily transported and stored.