Sunday, 26 April 2015

The Majorcan Showergel Dance

cassiobury park centenary slate markerWoke up in Watford. This was surprising but then I used some showergel labelled as used in Iberostar hotel chain, Majorca. This is because Jof always removes such items from hotels, knowing that the hoteliers expect that, and because they might come in handy, next time you're in a hotel.
Thus once we'd finished a very piggy breakfast, she stripped the room bare of all that wasn't nailed down, and we only just persuaded her to ditch the lamp and the hairdryer.
Thus we came away with many little pots of jam, sachets of sugar, showercaps, mending kits, grooming kits, fruit, cereal and teabags. At this point we have no idea what hotel we'll be in when we use these things, but one suspects we'll export some of them to Crete, to use them there and in turn, bring back some Greek showergel to re-export to Torquay or Cheltenham or wherever we end up next.
cassiobury park watford wildlife sanctuaryWe hadn't really planned very well for the day so went to Cassiobury Park.
This very large green space is in Watford and has a wildlife sanctuary, 2 swingparks, quite a lot of Scouts and Beavers, the Grand Union Canal, a massive splashpark (empty), a miniature railway (very funny) and a lot of ancient trees of all nations. It was most tranquil, apart from where a dog convention had gathered so the elated hounds could splash about in the water chasing sticks and tennis balls.
I climbed the unusual climber-frame made of giant cubic zirconia, we met some ducks and a lock on the canal and a weir and some rivers and I fell over on the trampoline and we both swung in the chair swings and if you played hide and seek there, you'd starve before anyone found you. Houses backing onto the park start at 800k and go up. The London Underground station is next to the park giving you access to central London in half an hour.
edge grove school aldenham watford
Then we battled our way over the good old A41 again (it narrows to a single lane just by the Sainsbury's so is always jammed) and drove right past the hotel we'd just checked out of and north on the Radlett Road to a very wealthy village near the M1 called Aldenham.
Turns out that Bud went to the Preparatory School there called Edge Grove. Now, I've seen his second school and wanted to go there but it would be a bit of a commute, not to mention the ambitious school fees for a private education of that calibre. But this one was from when he was 7 to 13, and still living in the desert countries and flying there and back on his own.
The drive is long and surrounded by cow fields and it used to be an old country house until the 1950s when it was converted into a boarding school for 100 or so pupils. Amazingly, in the 32 years since he last visited, it's changed. All the doors are locked. CCTV abounds, as do fences and gates, but the inside bit still has oak panelling and is very grand.
preparatory boarding school for 7 - 13 boys and girls
We were taken around by a teacher who told us it's grown to 400 kids and half of them are girls, which would have been interesting in the old days. We saw 'North', the dormitory over the main staircase, it used to be the ballroom and is now carpeted and only has 5 sets of bunk beds and a TV and some cushions and you can still see the fire escape going onto the roof where Bud was busted late one night for running around on the roof. The Portuguese servants have been replaced by Australian gap year students, new adventure playgrounds have been erected but the Virginia Creeper remains.
The many acres of rural land have some excellent den-building facilities and a lake with an island and a boat, outside swimming pool to stiffen the backbones, lots of new buildings and we found Bud on some old school photos from the 1970s. He looked like me.
disposable items stolen from hilton hotels room
Of course I now want to go to that school but the same issues arise, we simply don't live abroad and we'd have to sell the house to pay the fees anyway, it's not justified. So we gave the science teacher some hard disc drive magnets, noted the many locked doors keeping us from checking out the cellars and saw some horses and drove past the same bored cows to the Round Bush Pub where the lady asked us if we'd booked but we had lunch anyway.
Home was an hour and a half away and I watched Harry Potter 2.

Harry Potter and the Very Expensive Shop

warner brothers studio tour watfordI woke up with a seven in it because I was very excited. For ages I'd been dreaming of going to Harry Potter World and Jof had sprung for tickets for all of us.
I'd got up 6 hours before we were due to arrive so I played Minecraft while housework was done around me. We even did a bit in the park and hit the road at high noon.
Jof insisted we'd be late but it took us less than an hour and a half. That left us enough time to check into the hotel and find our family room but it didn't leave us enough time to have a carvery lunch at the Toby Pub next door.
warner brothers studio tour Harry Potter world watfordWe drove to Potter World and had a sandwich in the shop.
The Warner Brothers studios are very large indeed and we were shepherded into a room where the rules were laid down for us and then we saw a short film about how much work the cast and crew had to do to make the 8 films and I still want to be an actor.
Once the short film had finished, the screen went up and behind it were the giant doors of the great hall and it looks like stone but rings hollow when you knock on it.
warner brothers studio tour Harry Potter world watfordThe ceiling isn't enchanted but there's lots of girders and scaffolding and real props and costumes and every little thing is so intricately detailed you think it's lucky the films made money, because it must have cost a bomb.
warner brothers studio tour Harry Potter world watfordMostly I was distracted. They have a game for kids much like in many other attractions I've visited where you have to find things and stamp your visitor book. Here you have to find Golden Snitches and get your Potter Passport stamped at all the Stamping Stations, so I may not have seen everything.
The stage sets are ace and it all must be worth a fortune now but the metal skeletons and prize cups and models etc are behind fences or in glass cases.
warner brothers studio tour Harry Potter world watfordI did the green screen thing where you ride on a broomstick and they superimpose you in various aerial locations and Jof got me the pictures and the video and the vault door is immense and I wanted an owl in the railway shop and we went on the Hogwarts Express and it hoots every now and then and you can see the carriages and the sweets trolley.
warner brothers studio tour Harry Potter world watfordThe room of wands has the names of everyone involved in the project ie millions of them and the draughtsman room is overwhelming because they drew everything in huge detail before it was made.
warner brothers studio tour Harry Potter world watfordwarner brothers studio tour Harry Potter world watfordI suppose the single most visually stunning item is the model of Hogwarts Castle that takes up the whole room. Of course you can't go on it but a little boy tried to and he was removed by security and howled his way to Azkaban.
The animatronics suite has lots of terrifying models that move and Aragog was frightening and I liked the dragons and Dobby.
warner brothers studio tour Harry Potter world watfordIn the Backlot café we had a muffin and a sit-down and we got some Butterbeer which I didn't really like but I did get a moustache.
I couldn't reach the ding ding bell on the Knight Bus but it's really cool and authentic given that it was made from 3 actual buses. The Hogwarts bridge was excellent and I went on it lots.
warner brothers studio tour Harry Potter world watfordA surprising number of our fellow travellers were French, must be the Chocolate Frogs which attracts them.
warner brothers studio tour Harry Potter world watfordIt is not the kind of place where you can keep still especially if you are Deep Purple on the madness spectrum so a lot of the photos I'm in only show the back of my rapidly disappearing head as I storm off to find another Golden Snitch.
The film people really have done very well in keeping all of this stuff together and it makes a great day out. We kept the Butterbeer souvenir tankard (plastic) and I might have my night-time milk in it.
warner brothers studio tour Harry Potter world watfordIn the shop we got a couple of shirts and a Time Turner and the Elder Wand and a set of coins with Galleon, Sickle and Knut and a chocolate Frog and peppermint toads.
They have some very impressive displays of wands and jewellery for the discerning Harry Potter fan at extremely discerning prices and you can get the full set of Hogwarts school uniform and sports kit for all 4 houses, a good idea perhaps if you are the parents of extremely competitive quadruplets and have a spare 17 1/2 thousand pounds.
warner brothers studio tour Harry Potter world watfordwarner brothers studio tour Harry Potter world watfordThe circuit took 3 3/4 hours and we drove back to the hotel in the rain but I didn't care. We had to forgo the pre-supper swim because the pool was out of action but it was so late anyway we battled with the smart TV (smarter than we were, until we bullied it into submission) and watched Pointless before going to the Toby Carvery next door to fill our deserving tummies.
After the roast I had Rolo ice cream in a goblet, although I failed to entirely gobble my goblet.
Then, to pass the time, we invented a small country called Beefgravia. The capital city is called Rump, and it is a large valley surrounded by mountains: they grow cows, have an annual Shoelace Festival and the local currency is the Roolo. Incidentally, the whole population is Lactose intolerant after a genetic bottleneck caused by a 14th century border dispute.
warner brothers studio tour Harry Potter world watford

Friday, 24 April 2015

A Friend with Weed (OK, Weeding with a Friend)

School was funny today, we did gardening club. As a mere stripling, I used to cut the sod and turn the soil, also plant my feet sturdily on the arable pastures etc, but that was before I was doing consultancy work for InterSpank. In the old house, I even demanded to grow my own apple trees, grew them, fed them, and actually ate fruit from them.
But it's been a while, mostly nowadays I help Jof get all the dead beercans out of our front garden and repot the peyote cacti every now and then.
Our school is an Edwardian (?) construction with nice chunky brickwork elevations but as it was placed in a built-up area to serve it, it kinda takes up one city block leaving no space for rolling playing fields etc. So we have a little stripe of earth between 4 and 8 foot wide around the building, then it's the cast-iron railings, then it's the pavement and the mean streets of Pompey.
Our class project was to do some weeding of this little brownsward and then Ben and I collaborated on digging a trench, by order. Our trench art was almost wide enough to take the lowest edge of a 4 foot pallet which the other team members had gaily painted, and then the idea is you place plant pots on the underside of the exposed yet secure pallet and they are displayed for all to see, although you do have to water them regularly. Nearby is the rhubarb that the Year 4 of Yesteryear (yes, the YesterYear 4) planted.
school gardening club pallet used as flowerpot stand
In swimming there were only 3 in my class and I was better at diving than them because they were girls. Ah. Usually before swimming I put on my trunks and put my pants in the bag so that if we're suddenly in a hurry, I'm ready to leap straight in. This has proved very useful on occasion. But this time, because I was too busy watching TV and I only have a certain amount of CPU Run-time, I wasn't paying attention and put my trunks on OVER my pants, lucky Bud checks before we leave or I could have been a pant-less boy again.
But the highlight of the day was the end of the week, haven't had relief like that since I used Acme Colon-U-Purge. It means I get to go to Harry Potter World, a bit late maybe, but who's counting. I was so excited, I nearly packed my own bag. After my shower, I watched Eric Morecambe doing his paper bag trick for acting lessons background and got a bonus Morecambe and Wise Breakfast sketch. Good old Youtube.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Shoes, By George

children are annoying partenting failAnother lovely day stuck inside at school but it all got better when I was released. I was out first and beat all the parents.
I always spend the journey home quizzing, renegotiating and attempting to get what I need which is 7 hours of Minecraft, as much chocolate as I can eat and the remainder of the day in front of the TV.
I start with 'What jobs do we have today' and then I determine a running order for the afternoon several times, each time more skewed in my favour, until I imagine he has agreed with me. It doesn't take long for him to say that with all those things you need to do, we'd better delete Minecraft so you've got time, and I pipe down.
sports direct in debenhams southseaSo first we took the Coleman lamps to the Scout lock-up. These hurricane-lamp thingies needed new mantles, which is the little string bag that lights up. In the box we found some Tilley lamp mantles, so we brought back the Tilley lamps to see if we could refurbish them too. We also deposited 4 latrine tents, as you do.
Onwards to Debenhams, where we both bought new running shoes. I complain about the hardness of the pavements and so armed (or footed) with new purpose-made shoes, I expected a radical change.
We popped over the road to Jof's work and it was empty so we sidled up to one of those desk microphones and said into it "Oi Ratbag, what do you have to do to get some service around here" and there was a big tweetling howl-round on the speakers and Jof totally and studiously ignored us.
25MM AT hotchkiss copper armour piercing 1936It was not until a couple of minutes later when she wandered over to the other window that she noticed us at all, and I got a hug.
On my run around the park I stopped half way and said why do my feet still hurt then, surely these new shoes should whisk me round at the speed of a little boy's imagination with the comfort of a million sofas. But apparently it doesn't work that way so we stopped off at the swingpark and played with Jack W.
This naughty little copper armour-piercing monster is a Hotchkiss 25mm anti-tank round from 1936. This is why I'm glad I'm not a soldier.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

build a better mousetrapTook Ben home today and we spent the journey trying to outdo each other with tales of derring-do on the football pitch. Ben scored the best goal in his tournament final, and one of his bounced off the back of the net (scoring one) and hit the goalie only to go in again (scoring a second). Whereas I knocked someone out with mine by hitting them on the head and it ricocheted off Sputnik and went in. Of course Ben actually plays football but he won't know mine was made-up.
spies game in milton parkHe liked my Lego Castle with 345 humanoid guards and we didn't destroy anything!
In the park we took my 2 pistols. These are the Chinese-manufactured plastic ones from Blackgang Chine (combined value thruppence farthing), with orange ends.
boys making den with blanketsThe JBs joined us and they played big football while LittleMax and I spied on people and snuck around shooting them and hiding behind fences.
Then we came back to mine and made a den. Just because we're 9 does not mean that dens are passé so we piled up all the furniture in my room and used the desk as a base and the Lego Humanoids were guarding our perimeter, or were we guarding them? We didn't decide.
But we did use a Lego box to weigh down the duvet on the desk and for no reason at all it plummeted all over the floor and we had to clear the whole room up.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Life gets Teedjus, Don't it

tank with parking clampTook Jof's mosaic in to school and was authorised to state that I'd helped create it. They liked it.
In the afternoon I changed straight into shorts and did my double run around the park without stopping. Now I've found a sensible pace at which to jog, it's getting easier. But I will have to buy some running shoes with more rubbery soles.
Gymnastics was ace because we did the bar and you have to walk along it without falling off and maybe all that cat burgling and climbing up church towers is paying off as I turned out to be quite good and got the best in group award.
southampton choral society on stage at the mayflowerYou don't get a badge or anything, just some clap off the ladies.
Apropos of nothing, here is a picture of Grandad. OK, so you'll just have to believe me on that, but there he is on stage at the Mayflower Theatre where he sang for some dancer bloke called Carlos Acosta. The curtain call where Mr Acosta himself came out is no good, because he stood right in front of Grandad who is possibly the smallest and oldest member so was obscured by the star of the show, who does he think he is.
I have so much to do, Minecraft, chocolate, drawing my latest alien etc, and he said my greatest enemy is my own brain which will babble happily and play Lego, running me out of time. When I was found singing naked to my Lego at ten to ten, I lost tomorrow's Minecraft time.

Monday, 20 April 2015

Dib Dib, Burn Burn

hobbycraft mosaic tessellated designI awoke far too early, I've got used to getting up at 11 but I did find a mosaic on the dining table, Jof had sat up late last night making it and she said I could tell my teacher I'd made it for extra house points. It's on a cake tray painted with bathroom paint, as you do.
england flag in garageSo today was the first day of the new term and I took in Blind Uncle Len's wartime souvenir box.
I did the show and tell of the Roman pottery fragments and everyone liked the bit of Benghazi cathedral (destroyed) and the Vesuvius Lava (once destroyed Pompeii) and the bronze urn (incomplete).
Miss M said I could make a good TV presenter/personality, possibly with comedy, so not the nine o'clock news or Blackadder. I was one of only 2 people to hand in homework.
We have a Scout camp coming up and if there's one thing you need, it's a fire. I might not sing Kumbaya, but I will burn stuff.
So Bud brought home a carload of dead pallets and cardboard tubes and boxes and pallet triangles, like in the good old days. We unloaded the car and look how much there is.
At Scouts it was quiet. Maybe people have forgotten about Scouts because Louie was the only guy in his 6, he'll have to be his own group leader. Again, I was one of only 2 people to hand in homework, so only 2 of us will get badges.