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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Parenting

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Parenting

Club kids! London's '80s rave gen party with their tots on the dancefloor

Posted: 22 Apr 2014 09:00 AM PDT

They were England's rave generation, now turned into mums and dads who still go clubbing, but this time they've got babies, kids and prams on the dancefloor with them.

The bass is pumping, the lights are low and the dancefloor of the club is heaving. It's the weekend and the young man is enjoying himself – until someone steals his balloon. Dressed in a Spiderman outfit, the four-year-old boy runs to his dad by the bar to complain, before receiving a glow-stick in consolation.

Such are the highs and lows of family raving, a new craze fuelled by London's ex-clubbers who still want to go dancing but now have kids in tow. "What a genius idea – beer, raving, children. What more could you want?" says Paul Crawley, 34, swaying slowly on the dance floor carrying his baby daughter Camille in a sling. "The worst thing is I was invited out last night, but I said no, I've got to stay sober for this party."

This dingy bar in south London is normally the venue for all-night raves, but for two-and-a-half hours on a Saturday afternoon, it is transformed into a playgroup with a difference. In the chillout area, mums breastfeed on low leather sofas to a soundtrack of soft rock, while older children paint and draw at a well-equipped craft table under moving projected images.

The bar is well stocked and next door, professional DJs play chilled house music, funk and drum 'n' bass at a surprisingly loud volume, although organisers insist it is safe for babies' ears.

The undisputed king of the dancefloor is Caelan, a fleet-footed five-year-old wearing impeccable white trainers. "Keep to the beat!" urges his dad, Michael Edie, while a little girl in a princess outfit looks on admiringly. Caelan has been taking dance lessons since he was three and this is a good place for him to get some practice in, offering a bit more space than at home.

Edie, a DJ with London urban music radio station Rinse FM, is happy to stay seated, however. "You won't see me dancing. I'm no way as good as him," he laughs.

The toddlers staggering around in the half-light look disturbingly like small, drunk adults, while the waft of stale beer lends the party an authentic feel. It is a little too authentic for Jody Bullough, a 43-year-old from Burnley in northern England who is here with her six-year-old daughter Jasmine.

"It's a scuzzy (grimy) venue. It's really dirty," says Bullough, who runs a manufacturing business, noting Jasmine's filthy hands after playing on the floor. The location has brought back fond memories, though. "I remember coming here years ago, when I lived in London and we used to go raving. It's a really good idea," she says.

Nearby, Bullough's friend Rebecca Smith, a 40-year-old probation officer sporting a vest top and pixie haircut, does the funky chicken dance with her daughter. As the girls wander off to get tattoo transfers at the bar – they will wash off later – Smith breaks into some more impressive moves. "Normally, it's a bit later and I've had a bit more alcohol, but this is OK, I can rave to this," she says, dancing off.

Family discos and raves are increasingly common across London, as the clubbers who once packed world-famous venues such as Ministry of Sound get older and have children. "We haven't stopped being people with our own interests," says Hannah Saunders, a 45-year-old former civil servant who organised this party. Her events company, Big Fish Little Fish, is aimed at – and the pun is intended – "two-to-four hour party people" who like to strut their stuff before getting home for the kids' bedtime.

Saunders used to spend her weekends at clubs and warehouse parties and her holidays in Ibiza. Now, with two children under four, she found no shortage of family-friendly musical events but despaired at the chart-topping pop tunes that they played. "My kids are happy listening to my favourite drum 'n' bass tracks, so I knew it would be fine," she says.

Given the nature of the dance music scene, many of the parents here are likely to have indulged in recreational drugs in the past. But the only sign of nefarious behaviour is a group of children in a corner silently trading sparkly ribbons from the glitter cannon.

By the end of the party, there are empty plastic pint glasses piled up on tables, but most people are sober, fully aware of their responsibilities as parents. "The toxins we were pouring into our bodies (when we were younger) were neither here nor there – actually, we still like music and dancing, and we can still do that," Saunders says. – AFP

Dog's world: Smart collar keeps pet on an electrionic leash

Posted: 20 Apr 2014 09:00 AM PDT

For the low, low price of just RM820, dog owners can monitor every single thing about their pet on their smartphone, including how the weather is down there. 

A high-tech collar attachment that will allow pet owners to monitor their dogs at a distance, checking how much they sleep and how many calories they are burning, was unveiled earlier this year in Japan.

NTT Docomo, the country's largest mobile phone operator, said the new gadget would give smartphone users peace of mind about the animal's health and whereabouts at all times.

The "Petfit" tag, complete with a satellite positioning system, sends information to a designated mobile phone on whether a dog is sleeping, walking or running.

It also monitors how many steps a hound has taken, what the ambient temperature is, and whether or not he's getting enough shut-eye.

"The number of dog owners (in Japan) is estimated at 11 million and it is regarded as a sizable market," a company spokesman said.

"In addition, dogs' presence is quite important to their families," the spokesman said. "This is part of our proposal for a smart life with mobile phones."

The Petfit went on sale last month, priced at ¥25,900 yen (RM820), including data transmission fees for the first year. – AFP

One dad's duty is to turn his sons' school green

Posted: 20 Apr 2014 09:00 AM PDT

Earth Day, Earth Warriors: One parent is encouraging green practices in his children's school.

Syed Nasurudin Syed Abu Bakar is a parent who does more than his fair share when it comes to his children's school activities – his involvement extends to pioneering green projects for the school, SK Damansara Jaya 2 in Petaling Jaya, Selangor. These initiatives include putting up energy-saving bulbs in the canteen in 2009 and a purpose-built rainwater harvesting and recycling system in 2012.

Syed Nasurudin says his job as a consultant in his own construction firm meant that he could apply his green know-how in more substantial ways than just recycling newspapers and glass bottles.

"I'm grateful to the school headmistress for allowing me to implement these green projects as well as the staff who are supportive of my efforts," says Syed Nasurudin, 44, who is also the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) chairman of the school. His sons, aged 12 and 10, are students of the school.

He says the costs for the initial batch of energy-saving bulbs and wiring works were covered by the PTA. The lights, fitted in the canteen, enable pupils who arrive early to gather under the space. This saves the need for lights to be switched on inside classrooms. Last year, they installed more energy-saving bulbs – six lights in each of two classrooms – after lighting company Philips sponsored TL5 lights that consume 28 watts compared to the normal 40-watt fluorescent tubes.

"These TL5 lights are brighter and longer-lasting, and do not require a starter. Hopefully, by the end of this year, they will be fitted in all of our six classes. At the end of the day, the school benefits from savings in the electricity bills." 

The simple rainwater harvesting system keeps flash floods at bay while collecting rainwater for the garden.

The simple rainwater harvesting system keeps flash floods at bay while collecting rainwater for the garden.

A walk to the back of the school reveals a unique rainwater harvesting system. Syed Nasurudin has designed a 3-in-1 concept that encompasses gutters to collect rainwater, a fish pond and a stormwater mitigation component. It was built with a RM8,000 fund obtained from the Selangorku Environmental Conservation Grant allocated by the Selangor Government for eco-friendly projects.

"It's a simple but feasible system to harness and recycle rainwater that, at the same time, helps to address flash floods. Basically, the rainwater pipe that is connected to the roof gutter channels rain water down to a polytank which is constructed on an elevated concrete slab. Once the polytank reaches its peak level during heavy rainfall, the excess water is discharged into the fish pond and the rest to open drains. The slow-release mechanism that was designed has effectively reduced flash flood occurrences within our school compound and surrounding areas since the drain outlets do not overflow," explains Syed Nasurudin.

"Water in the polytank is maintained at a level of four feet and is used to water plants and fill the fish pond during the dry season. It makes for nice landscaping as we have reared tilapia fish that also aids in the eating of mosquito larvae, so that we do not breed Aedes mosquitoes. Though the rainwater will have to be filtered beforehand for the pond, it contributes to savings in the use of treated water in the long run."

To keep the rainwater harvesting system in tip-top condition, he cleans the filter once a week, with the help of the school staff and students.

Another project which he carries out is coffee composting to produce fertiliser, which he learnt from a retired teacher. He diligently collects used coffee grounds that are given out by coffee chain Dr Cafe, then mixes it with red soil, cut grass and food waste to start the composting process.

The buckets used for composting are old plastic paint buckets which would have otherwise been discarded. "We leave the bucket as it is for two months before mixing the waste materials inside. Then, it's left for another two months before it's ready for use as fertiliser," shares Syed Nasurudin.

Energy-saving TL5 lights installed in two classrooms promise brighter and longer-lasting lights which run on lower wattage.

At home, Syed Nasurudin has his own rainwater harvesting system and he drives a hybrid car. Last December, he was nominated for the 2013 Tokoh Hijau award that is given by the Petaling Jaya City Council. He is unperturbed that he was not selected for the award (which was received by environmentalist Gurmit Singh). He says his green endeavours are not to earn him recognition, but to make his children proud of the example he hopes to set.

"I earnestly wish that more PTAs can work together with their respective schools to teach children about green projects and the environment, as children absorb better when they see these programmes on the ground. They will indirectly educate their parents too on what they've learnt in school. For instance, we teach our pupils here things which they can apply at home, such as making enzymes from fruit and vegetable waste for use as natural cleaning agents, and segregating food waste into designated pails for use in our composting project, rather than disposing the waste straight into the bin."

Future plans include expanding the rainwater harvesting system to cover a larger area. He estimates that RM12,000 will be needed for new pumps, pipes and filters. The school is also a recipient of Shell's Sustainable Development Grant. Syed Nasurudin says the funds from that will help the school further its green cause.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

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