FIVE SUMMER GIFTS – Strictly Briks For Kids

Strictly Briks want kids over the age of five to dream, create and glow by using plastic bricks? Sound familiar?

briksThe world would have it that all kids do nothing all day but stare at a multitude of screens, both big and small, and call that entertainment. However, the world is not just a place for pixels, it is a place for play… play in the real world.

While screens have a great part to play (ahem) in the development of the younger generation’s brains and creativity, the analogue world is just as important, not least when it comes to texture and building.

Naturally, a four-letter beginning with ‘L’ is the product that most people associate with plastic bricks, but here are other emulators and innovators who also offer great gameplay for children, and adults as well.

So step forward Strictly Briks, a company that has more than 20 years experience in the toy industry and provides high-quality and innovative creative products. Two of its products seem to bear this out.

The first is its Brik Tower product that lets kids do what they do best, build as high as they can for as long as they can. The multi-coloured bricks heighten interest and provide a framework for other games played within the tower. It provides, literally, hours of fun.

Strictly Bricks also sells its Trap and Gap baseplates that, again, provide a solid framework for games that are played on the ground, not up in the air. Maybe not as much fun as building plastic towers of Babel, but great nonetheless.

For parents brought up before the screens came down to decimate play as they knew it, using and playing with Strictly Briks will bring back memories when the world was a smaller place, less connected and more human-friendly. That’s not a bad thing… for them or their kids.

FIVE SUMMER GIFTS #6 – Cybersecurity device Fingbox

Cybersecurity in the home is as weak as a cokehead’s nostril, but the Fingbox is an excellent device that protects the domestic environment from web prowlers, snoopers and black hats.


There’s a 1960s pulp Sci-Fi film that terrified me as a kid; my trauma must have been so complete that I can’t (or won’t) remember its name. The terror it engendered was because of a TV that monitored people’s homes, even in the bedroom.

It was like a rubbish 1984, but it was still horrifying, the only good news being that it was impossible to happen in my lifetime. Ha! Thank God I didn’t know at the time that n 2018 everybody with a decent broadband connection has opened their doors, TVs or devices to anybody who wants to watch.

The ignorance and fragility of IoT devices, especially those in the home, are staggering. Easy-to-read passwords, an internet this is rarely switched off and bad people looking for a way in have it easy.

So step forward the Fingbox, a physical device that works with a downloadable app that warns of any external infringements and works somewhat better than a tripwire and a can in the back garden.

The Fingbox is not cheap, but what price piece of mind? Retailing at £125 from THAT website that also constantly monitors you, it connects to the home router and offers a range of services to protect the home.

Technical Specifications

* Monitoring of all wired and wireless devices on a network
* Two-year warranty
* No subscription fees
* 1 GB/s Ethernet port
* ARM 7 processor
* 4GB home board storage

For somebody like me, and you too I would suspect, it takes time to set up the Fingbox and to connect it with the app, but for those who know their tech (not least the bullet-points above) it should be easy.

When I had finally got it working, I really felt safer and, more worryingly, it has already flagged up attempts to tap into my home network. Those people REALLY are watching, it’s not Sci-Fi, it’s here and cannot be ignored.

Take your home security seriously. There are other products out there that offer the same type of protection, but I would look at the Fingbox first, it could be your friend in the future.

FIVE SUMMER GIFTS #5 – Achilles Chef’s Knife

A Kickstarter campaign wants to deliver Michelin quality to the domestic cook with a design-led kitchen knife that cuts to the chase.




The Achilles knife is the most beautiful thing I have in my kitchen at the moment and while I’m not even a half-decent cook, men like me always enjoy having the equipment.

Twenty-five years ago when I was on the dole, I bought a bread knife for £20 and it still sits proudly in my drawer, so far living up to its life-time guarantee. So, I like kitchen knives and what they represent.

The Achillles Chef’s Knife will cost considerably more than £20 when its Kickstarter campaign comes to an end, $249 (£174) to be precise. For early birds though who wish to pre-order can now get one for $100 (£68).

The campaign is already wildly over-subscribed so there is already a market for such a high-end product. However, does it cut through the hype?

The answer is a resounding yes and that’s because it is design-led. It comes in a box-for-life that begs to be displayed on the kitchen island and is ergonomically spruce.

The hole in the knife may seem like a gimmick, but it adds to the aesthetics and fits the high-end emotions experienced when using it. It also does what every other knife does; it cuts things.

The knife has also been recognised by those who bestow awards. Earlier this year, the Achilles Knife won the German Design Award for 2018 for “Excellent Product Design – Kitchen“. It’s well-deserved.

It remains moot whether a lot of people will pay nearly $250 for a knife, but like anything that is expensive, cost-per-use is vital. It may seem like a lot of money, but if it’s used every day and retains its looks over the years, then it’s a bargain.

I don’t know how much £20 was worth when I bought my bread knife in the early 1990s, but I do know it was one of best purchases of my life.

I have the feeling the Achilles Chef’s Knife possesses the same qualities. Over to you.

FIVE SUMMER GIFTS #4 – FretX guitar LED learning

Now you have no excuses, the FretX makes learning the guitar a walk along the fretboard with lights to show the way.

The FretX device is an ingenious piece of musical kit that was originally launched on  Indiegogo and was successfully crowdfunded to 198% of its target.

It is now, indeed, a most viable product… in fact, there are two viable products, one is the Rockstar that retails at $89 (£62) and the other is FretX pack at $59 (£42)… and it is fantastic for anybody who has struggled to learn the guitar.

I am one of those such people. I tried to learn when I was travelling, looking good with it wrapped around my neck, but not so much when I played. I was always a long way from perfect pitch, tuning was difficult to my ear and my fingers were like thumbs when I used the fretboard.

However, that guitar has always been my friend and I’ve always wanted to improve my relationship with it. The first action was to get hold of a Roadie 2 so I could actually tune my guitar; the second was to use the FretX.

At first, I was unimpressed, it looked like a stencil kit for amateur artists, but once I realised that I could stretch its four ‘fingers’ around the top four frets of my guitar, then it all made sense.

The next step was to download the app (available at leading stores) and then link the device, when then effectively becomes an LED learning device, with lights coming on and off when the wannabe musician needs to make a chord shape.

After registering as a user and inputting the skill of the guitarist and type of guitar, the new musician then has to follow YouTube tutorials and other media to learn the guitar.

This device does not come with a manual and that makes the learning experience obviously digital, but also a more effective and modern one.

I have a long way to go before I can even consider myself a minor musician, but the FretX has set me on a better way.

It’s certainly struck a chord with me, maybe it will do the same for you. A most excellent smart learning device.

FIVE SUMMER GIFTS #3 – The nanotech Lotushirt

Sick of shirts that take ages to iron, stain easily when travelling to business conferences? Look no further than the ‘nanotech’ Lotushirt that is a shirt for all occasions.

LotushirtFor the business travellers in this audience, be they male or female, there is nothing worse than packing the wrong clothes for that conference.

Even for those such as myself who travel light for those three-day trips, getting the wardrobe right is never easy. One pair of shoes, two pairs of trousers (one for travelling, the other for the conference) and three/four shirts is generally the right mix.

The shirts, however, are always an irritant. Those freshly dry-cleaned articles are now crumpled and look dirty as soon as arrival at the hotel… and the iron and ironing board never seem to sync.

So step forward the so-called Lotushirt, a shirt for all seasons that launches tomorrow on Kickstarter and something its creators MircoNovelty believe will change the way we wear.

I gave the Lotushirt a thorough road test when I recently flew from London to the STEP conference in Dubai and I can report that it wears it well. I wore the shirt in high temperatures when I was emceeing, no small challenge when running around.

It was excellent. As previously mentioned, I didn’t need to iron the Lotushirt and it still looked as if I had. It was comfortable, looked good and felt natural. The reasons for doing so are tabulated here:

• Designed to repel water and stains
• Inspired by the self-cleaning lotus leaf
• Doesn’t wrinkle, no iron needed
• Flying Fish breathable underarm netting
• Suitable for any occasion

The future retail price for the Lotushirt will be US $99 (£70). But early backers on Kickstarter will receive special discounts to our kind backers. The early bird perk of the Lotuhsirt is us $49 (£35).

Get in now; it will change your life… it has mine. No more ironing boards, no more irons and no more hassle.