Earth to Echo (PG)

All parents know that finding things to do with the children during the summer holidays isn’t easy. I can honestly say that both my children (one is 13, the other is 10) ask the same question before bedtime everyday of the holiday: “What are we doing tomorrow?” So I thought I’d take the time to report on a recent trip to the cinema with my two. Hopefully it will give you an honest, unbiased parent’s view of a brand new film that may help you fill half a day of the six-week break if you need one.

When I read the brief synopsis of this film on the Odeon website I judged it to be pretty much a remake of E.T. and I wasn’t disappointed with that assessment. The story is based on the same concept (i.e. an alien apparently stranded here on earth) but I wouldn’t let familiarity with the format put you off. If you think about it, most stories are founded on just relatively few tried and tested ingredients and this film is no different. I recall as a child going to pantomimes loosely based on the Peter Pan story where I was convinced Tinkerbell was going to die unless I shouted several times with all the other children: “I do. I do believe in fairies”. Watch out for that moment in this film if you didn’t spot it in E.T.

I won’t go into anymore detail about the story itself or I shall be forced to put a ‘Spoiler Alert’ at the start of this blog. Suffice to say the plot is fast-moving and entertaining. At no time did I catch my two yawning nor did either of them ask how much longer the film had to go (a result in itself!) They found the computer generated alien of this film every bit as cute as the ‘puppet’ E.T. and they warmed to the human characters. It was very American in places (for example the lead characters use a lot of American slang) but my two seemed to cope with that. Note to self: Don’t let them watch quite so much Simpsons in the future!

I supposed the acid test is – did my children both enjoy it? The answer to that is: Yes they did. With just a couple of caveats, I enjoyed it too. Firstly don’t let the direction put you off. The film purports to be recorded through a camcorder carried by one of the main characters with all the out of focus shots and unconventional camera angles you’d expect if that were so. I found this extremely off-putting at first but eventually I got used to it. Secondly it is a children’s film and as such doesn’t have a lot in it for adults (unlike the humour in the wonderful Toy Story and Ice Age type films). Despite its PG rating, I couldn’t find anything that required my ‘parental guidance’ and I’d have been quite happy for my two to see it on their own so you might want to consider that.

Security at the Gym




There are certain places that attract thieves and, whether we like it or not, a gym is one of them. By definition punters usually leave many of their valuables (cash, mobile phones, tablet computers, watches, etc.) unattended there usually, of course, in the changing rooms. Needless to say there can’t be CCTV in the changing rooms themselves and from my own bitter experience (see below) cameras on just the doors and in reception even with a controlled membership entrance system prove inconclusive and thus somewhat ineffective.

Nearly two years ago I was the victim of a theft at David Lloyd’s in Kingston. I lost the cash I had draw out from an ATM on the way there and a much treasured Rolex watch that I’d bought many years earlier with money I’d inherited. I didn’t get either back and nobody was arrested for it. I was bitterly disappointed at the time with the response I got from the management of the gym and the local police but maybe I’ll leave that for another blog entry.

Today I decided to do my daily bout of cardio at Raynes Park. For those that don’t know – Raynes Park is the ‘original’ David Lloyd’s opened in about 1980 I believe. As the first one in a chain that now numbers 90 or over, it still seems to retain something of a figurehead status getting the latest equipment and also apparently stands ‘first in the queue’ when it comes to refurbishments.

No surprise then to find that over the last few weeks the larger of the two sets of changing rooms at Raynes Park has had a complete refit. I personally didn’t see anything wrong with the lockers and wet facilities that were there already but, as I said, it is apparently the company figurehead and they seem determined to spend some of the profit they must be making out of membership (over £200 per month for a family of four non-tennis members!)

What does surprise me is that the new lockers in those rooms, and presumably the same will happen in the smaller set of changing rooms where works starts tomorrow, have been fitted with digital locks. I’m sure the gym staff find this a huge advantage. Up until now, if a member had forgotten their personal padlock much time in reception was spent (“wasted” I’m sure they’d say) finding them a lock to borrow or even selling them a new one. There was also the inconvenience, when someone mistakenly locked their keys in their locker as I did once, that a member of staff had to attend the changing room with the inevitable pair of bolt cutters. I can’t help wondering however if the management of David Lloyd’s have really thought this digital makeover through though.

I didn’t take note of the make and model of the locks that have been fitted but I assume, in case members make a mistake keying in their chosen code or the lockers have to be emptied by staff for some reason, there is a ‘master code’ to unlock them. If this is true, I think it is safe to assume the number is the same for every lock in those two changing rooms and probably for those about to be fitted from tomorrow. How secure is that? Surely more than one member of staff has to have that number and if it ever gets in the wrong hands (let’s face it – it might!) a thief could potentially gain access to every locker in the building.

Even if that isn’t true, there must be a reasonably simple way to take the locks apart and gain access to the lockers. If there isn’t David Lloyd’s is going to have to wreck one of their brand new lockers every time a member makes a keying mistake. Like the master code, that methodology must have been promulgated amongst the staff and could easily become known to a thief.

If the locks don’t have a master code or a simple way of taking them apart to gain access and someone from David Lloyd’s or the company that makes them wants to correct me on this I’d be very happy to apologise profusely and change what I’m now having to do (i.e. leave all my valuables in my car and take my car keys into the gym with me).

In the meantime, on the million-to-one chance that any David Lloyd manager or even a director reads this, may I suggest you use the profit you’re making on better security advice, upgrading the equipment in all your gyms as frequently as you do at Raynes Park or, better still, stop raising our membership fees above the rate of inflation.

Just not cricket?


So the Indian cricket team have made an allegation against Jimmy Anderson (a player who was undoubtedly their bête noire in the first test) five days after it happened. Apparently it wasn’t serious enough at the time to report it but Anderson hadn’t played his part in a 163 run last wicket stand then had he?

The hearing may well take place tomorrow (the day before the second test begins), If he is found guilty he could face a ban of up to four tests and under ICC rules, any ban handed down would not be suspended pending the outcome of an appeal.

Anyone in their right mind is entitled to think this act by the Indian team is suspicious. Jonathan Agnew the BBC’s Cricket Correspondent has dared to suggest that on Twitter and has been immediately abused for it. What is it that motivates people to abuse those that dare to express just a view on something?