Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Doughnut on a Pole II

british airways i360 brighton esplanadeDay 43 of the school holidays, and I've probably forgotten everything and will have to re-start in Year R.
Anyway, today he made me get dressed to which I objected, but that's life, apparently. We were scheduled to go up the i360 which is the new tourist attraction in Brighton, we went there a couple of weeks ago but the queue was too long so we booked online and here we are!
british airways i360 brighton esplanadeSo we drove east and parked on the Chichester by-pass which is normal, and were buzzed by a Spitfire, which wasn't. I had planned for this journey by taking 2 books in the Elementia series of tawdry Minecraft knock-offs and it's lucky I did, for the journey is over an hour.
Taking the earlier road into Hove (the upmarket neighbour to groovy and funky Brighton) like Grandad told us to, we dropped down off the South Downs to the coast and found we didn't have enough coinage for the meter.
But there is an underground car park in Regency Square which is right in front of the Doughnut on a Pole which seemed easy. Along the promenade were some touristy crap shops so we bought some fudge and some seagull droppings which are chocolate-covered raisins. They have sticks of Brighton Rock in sizes you could use to batter a Rhino.
british airways i360 brighton esplanadeWe walked into town and found Café All'Angello which is run by 2 friendly chaps and we sat in the window and looked outside at the procession of lady couples, old queens, dreadfully stylish youths, girls with pink hair, and a chap with a bike whose front bit was a bathtub-shaped kiddie carrier. He even had a bathtub-shaped kid.
Directly opposite was a bar called Dirty Blonde with a side door to a special club called Platinum Lace and another side door called Lola Lo who is open as usual, apparently, she certainly seemed to be open on the billboard poster, mmm.
Once I'd eaten half of my Rigatoni we hastened back towards the i360 down some narrow passages and alleys by the Cricketers' Arms (estd 1547). It is always further away than you think, especially when you've got a full tummy.
They say be there 30 minutes before your flight time but it didn't take us that long to get through security - a full bag check and metal detection. In the first picture I am not moody, just being Vinnie Jones in Lock, Stock.
british airways i360 brighton esplanadeYou loiter in the departure lounge (with its own deckchairs) for a bit and that's when we looked closer at the base of the tower. When it comes down again, it goes down one floor so it can disgorge its sated customers right into the Very Expensive Gifte Shoppe. There's a bit as it's descending when it's difficult to avoid up-skirt glances and you can see the steel hawser that pulls the doughnut up and down. On the beach below, a 2-man band played the blues to the rusted frame of the old burnt-out West Pier.
british airways i360 brighton esplanadeFinally, it was our turn (3 minutes late due to an air traffic control dispute in France) and we all piled in. It is big and round and light and made of glass all the way round and it's got flatscreens showing adverts for the Cayman Islands and a bar where you can buy Bubbly and Nyetimber at over-this-world prices.
The doughnut goes up slowly and smoothly and you all wander around looking out at the various vistas as they open up. Gradually you see just how big this structure is and you stop at 450 feet. It doesn't go quite to the top but right next to the bar is a door that opens out onto the pole and you can climb up the last bit and change the lightbulb on the top.
british airways i360 brighton esplanadeFrom there you can see the white cliffs to the east and the Downs to the north and Worthing Pier to the west and a load of sea to the south and lots of ants which are people below. While we were at the top, the flight attendant came over the intercom and said that thingy and wotsit had got engaged, hope they're not too deeply in debt after buying the Champers.
But soon enough it sinks down again and we ended up in Ye Painfully Pricey Gifte Shoppe and looked at the Victorian-style cable drum which held the steel hawser, thick as your arm, and then saw that the tin mug with a picture of the doughnut on was £15, which shows what you're up against.
british airways i360 brighton esplanadeThat's when we decided we didn't really need a mug or a T-shirt or paperweight (£65) so I got a plastic British Airways plane (£22) and a compass for Scouting.
Once we were outside again I lost interest in Pokémonning on the pier because it would have meant walking, so we just got the car back (ransom £8 for under 3 hours parking) and drove home. I'm going to need some new books.

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Flippin' Eck

I like days off with Jof. Well, I did, until this one, when she had to go into work and I had to sit there and read for 40 minutes. Most unfair. This left us 3 hours adrift without breakfast so we had a MacDonald's, I am allowed one of these every holiday apparently.
flip-out trampolines paulsgrove coshamMy requested activity of the day was Flip-out. This is a place of trampolines just off the island: one of a chain but who cares. Sydney told me about it so I have been waiting to go for ages. Jof told me about it first, but I'd forgotten. So we got in the car and there was an ambulance in the road, leaving slightly too small a gap to drive a bus through so Jof had to do a 17-point turn in the road, and I must admit I was a little cruel and cackled madly at her steering antics.
When we got to Flip-out, we saw that it was a large square new-build light industrial unit on the outskirts of town, with its own car park. Jof parked just that little bit too close to the next car and couldn't open the door properly and fought to escape the car in constricting circumstances, and I must admit I was a little bit cruel by laughing at her a lot.
flip out trampoline club coshamInside it is black and green and hot and every surface is a trampoline apart from the dividing lines, some of the walls are bouncy and there are plenty of foam pits and for those with jumpy legs, it's a real hoot. I am sadly beset by extra gravity which is hormonal I assure you and Jof was a little bit cruel when she laughed at me for spending so much time falling over. But it's really funny and you get an hour and it's very hard work and it's lucky we booked because the whole place was booked out by a coach party the hour after we were there.
On the way out, the car was still wedged into a corner and she couldn't get in her own door or clamber across from my door and she was head-down in the footwell when I said move the chair back then and she finally made it in with embarrassment and pink-face and I might possibly have guffawed cruelly at her, but I have had a great teacher. Mmm.
This was the end of my registered activity for the day, having earned extended sessions on Minecraft.
Then, as soon as she went swimming, we put on "Lock, Stock" and laughed at the Cockney gangster antics. This may have been against protocol but I loved the Lunnon accents and random shootings, like many other items I have enjoyed.

Monday, 29 August 2016

The Englishman who went up a Hill

butser hill aerial towerBank Holiday! This means lots of different things to different people. It means that the banks don't have to go to work apart from one day last year when the big bosses made them go in, and no customers whatsoever turned up all day, because the customers knew that it was a bank holiday, I mean, Duh.
It also means that the parking restrictions on the road outside our house are in normal proper standard operation, because it only says you can park here for free after 6pm or on Sundays. Now, everybody else in the world will construe a Bank Holiday as being a Sunday, apart from those naughty Traffic Wardens who know that Monday is a Monday. So that is why when Bud went to the Co-Op to buy milk this morning, there were 9 ticketed cars parked down the road, and 9 hung-over drivers who didn't know they were really angry yet. And that doesn't count the ones who had already driven their be-ticketed vehicles away.
Butser Hill, Queen Elizabeth Country ParkAnd it also means that Jof tediously insists that we do something as a family, which led to Bud visiting Obscure Cousin Margaret yesterday, only to be told that she was leaving her entire estate to her half-brother (92) but could we still hold her spare front door key please.
So Jof said while everyone's at the Victorious Festival of Musical Beers today so let's go inland, to the Queen Elizabeth Country Park. And we looked it up and it said that it is the highest point in Hampshire (where 'Urricanes 'Ardly Ever 'Appen) although to be fair there were some partygoers at the Victorious Festival also trying to be the 'Ighest in 'Ampshire.
But a hill of this magnitude is a challenge that Bud was too happy to take on (on our behalf) and we found a space in the very very distant lower meadow car park and walked miles back up to the bottom of the hill.
Well, Jof and I don't particularly go in for extreme Hilling and we had to stop a few times to puff and drink, but we were treating it as a personal challenge, like Cala Romantica in Mallorca, because it was hot and dusty and difficult, but when you get to the top, there's a decent view.
Butser Hill, Queen Elizabeth Country ParkOn one puff-break, a large spider called me home but I evicted it. Later, a grasshopper instar landed on me and it tickled. We saw many butterflies and moths and ants and bees and stuff.
But the hill kept going. I know it's part of the South Downs, but I'm thinking the South Ups would be more appropriate. That was when I started to attempt renegotiations (we'll just get to that bush, and turn back) but onwards we struggled and just when I thought I'd changed their minds, there was a concrete obelisk.
This is an Ordnance Survey trig point and national GPS survey marker, and it is the highest point, even slightly higher than the massive aerial and microwave dish tower installation just along a bit. I stood upon it and surveyed, 'cos that's what it's for. It also marked my personal victory over the hill, lucky I was wearing the shirt that says "I did it!".
Butser Hill, Queen Elizabeth Country ParkMany light aircraft buzzed past us. Some kind of dirt-bike racing festival was happening in the valley below. We could see the sea, the Hayling Ferry, the Spinnaker Tower, the chimneys of Fawley oil refinery, the Isle of Wight, container ships in the Solent, Heath Lake in Petersfield (where they do very good ice cream), a whole row of South Downs (and Ups), distant sheep, and the motorway below. It was worth it.
On the way down we went through a sheep-field. But the variety and sheer amount of craps upon the ground was astonishing, and we began to suspect that some of the rabbits were the giant man-eating variety, that there were Llamas, Alpacas and Rhinos aforethought, and that some nervous Wildebeeste had passed through recently.
And hey presto, Jof kept going on the sheep route, met some sheep, who allow you to get within about 10 feet before nonchalantly crapping mightily and moving off to see that nicer looking bit of grass, their best mate Bob or a particularly interesting thistle.
Butser Hill, Queen Elizabeth Country ParkUs chaps, however, explored the great rift in the hillside visible in picture #1. It is a big U-shaped dark forest full of intrigue and darkness, treacherous slopes and foxholes. I believe I saw the great man-eating March Hare with ears like cricket bats but it could have been a log. Then I disturbed an adult Doe by screaming "Bud! Look!" and it panicked and crashed into a barbed wire fence and bounded away, but we got a really good look at it and that's why all the Kings make a big fuss over hunting rights, because once you bag one of those beauties, you've got a barbecue fit for a King, er.
And we exited the rift valley and Jof didn't fall down at all and I tried using the Force on some sheep but they were too stupid to notice. We saw a sheep with a crow sitting on its back, just saying.
giant caterpillar, Butser Hill, Queen Elizabeth Country ParkWe gleaned several handfuls of free blackberries from the juicy hedgerows to top up our vitamin intake and walked back to the car. The Lower Meadow was quite busy so we had to sit on the ground behind our open car and eat our picnic prone like rednecks, which was quite fun until you tried to get up and all your joints had seized up from the hill-climbing.
Ye Olde Gifte Shoppe was all very well when I was 5 and liked bathtime dinosaurs. But when you're 10 it just didn't appeal. What did appeal was a giant and I mean giant caterpillar we found on the path. Removing it so it didn't get trodden on, we noticed it had those big fake eyes and it was like a sausage, I can tell you. It is the caterpillar of the Elephant Hawk-Moth, or maybe a juvenile Pterodactyl. It tickled too, so we put it in the bushes.
I was very glad to regain my chosen sofa at home: then the other good thing about Bank Holidays happened: the Man from Amazon delivered 3 more books in the Minecraft series that we'd ordered yesterday. For Film Night I saw "Eye in the Sky" about a drone crew deciding whether to drop a Hellfire missile on some Somalian terrorists. Gosh, they didn't do Army like that when I flew in 'Nam, they gave you and order and you bombed the hell out of it, instead of saying I'm not happy about the legal aspect, will my hat look bad in this etc.

Sunday, 28 August 2016

You're not at St Richard's now, you know

Struggled out of bed at about 1030, Bud having already left the house. Jof persuaded me to get moving only when we suspected the Café at Giant Tesco might stop serving breakfast at noon: I made it in there just in time. I am fully qualified at Cafés now so ordered up my own breakfast and sat down with my Minecraft book while Jof did the shopping.
Bud was visiting Obscure Cousin Margaret again. She used to be a nurse in a maternity ward which exposes you to all sorts of amusing language. So, the Doctor says "one more big push now, Mrs Batterthwaite" and the lady giving birth says "F*** off you ******* if you ever ******* come near me again I'll chop off your **** you ******* ****, ouch" and sometimes she'd take those special words back home and get told off.
The rest of the day was quiet. I have read so much of my book we have had to buy the next 3 in the series, even though everybody the lead character meets on his travels seems to die, you'd think they'd run out of people on his home planet.

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Best Buds and all that

I was on a promise for a day of sedentary activities, after all the peripatetic, outward bound, laudable activities of the last week. OK, I'd just about allowed a meeting with Jof for lunch, but I was still hoping he'd forget and I could while away the whole day on Minecraft, Youtube and reading my Minecraft-related book. I had spinach and Ricotta pasta for breakfast, as you do.
ten year old boysSo you will imagine my rage and disgruntlement when he said that Ben had returned from the wilds of Cornwall, and had invited me round to his, from where we might even visit the beach hut and play in the sea.
I huffed and puffed and refused and sulked, even more when I found out I'd have to cycle there. But when I arrived, we started on the X-box and it had to auto-update so we burned around the bumpy paths on the bikes and got hot and I'd been issued with £6 for ice creams so we cycled down to the shop like proper independent boys and then the X-box was ready and what more does a growing lad need. We indulged in an orgy of farting and I left after 5 1/2 hours of Ben which was epic. My choice for Film Night was 'Blazing Saddles'.

Friday, 26 August 2016

Hooked on Sweat

shawfords lake YMCA Fairthorne Manor BotleyGot an hour's sleep last night. I gave my sleeping bag back yesterday because I wasn't using it, just going to sleep in my clothes lying on 3 mattresses (this does not make me a Princess as no peas were involved).
So it was another hot day. I have showered 3 times this week which is a lot more than others, I can tell you. But the laundry bag of wet and contaminated clothing is best kept sealed until the great Boilwash of Jof.
We packed up all our stuff and waited for pickup time. Well, while you could say that the whole week is waiting for Friday, you never really get to wait at all at the YMCA because there are activities and songs and irrepressibly gung-ho Kiwi helpers and Spanish helpers and healthy young staff of all nations there to make sure you never have any time off.
There was a half-hour break once where the Brain-Games leader had damaged her foot, but that was the only downtime this whole week. We played a game where we all line up and scream our way up the hill, Light Brigade they call it, I think. "It's a Bomb" was definitely one of the games.
But then Bud arrived to pick me up and we did a tour of the facilities. Here is the lake on which we did kayaking, and raft-building is at the other end. We were out kayaking when it came over all stormy and we had to get out of the water pronto because of all the lightning.
ymca fairthorne manor botleyAt the southern end is a waterfall that goes down to the smaller lake which itself feeds into the Hamble River. This is where the giant zipline goes over the muddy ditch. It's very long and the supporting guy hawsers on the towers vibrate and sound like an air raid siren. The country's under attack, sir! Send a couple of kids down the zipline, Lieutenant ...
Also here you can see the delightful rural setting with its forests of blackberries, stinging nettles, thistles, deadly nightshade, hornet nests and wasps. This is not a load of old bulrushes, even I got nettled.
Here are the massive climbing frames with the Jacob's ladder and tyres of doom and abseiling towers and I have had a magnificent week and made loads of new friends and only one enemy called Daniel and I would venture that apart from the adventure, the social aspect has been the real victory this time.
ymca fairthorne manor botleyGosh, I'm really passing for a natural human nowadays. I found a branch off a pine tree that looks like one of those hooks in the Egyptian hieroglyphs, so I have kept it. It looks like a Minecraft axe.
When I got home I was sweaty and dusty so I had a bath, followed by a shower, followed by an extended hug with Jof, followed by open-ended Minecraft time. I tried and tried to avoid the inevitable loss of consciousness but failed circa 2140, shame I haven't got that German efficiency.

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Thursday Thumpage

texas rodeo drunken idiotsToday we did Tower Climbing and raft building.
A new friend moved into our tent.
Thursday night is Campfire Night. At 7pm we gathered in the outside auditorium and all the leaders and helpers did a song'n'dance extravaganza for an hour. It's all inclusive so all the kids and assorted parents had to join in, in a variety of languages with silly songs, very Hi-de-hi but with added Spanish. In fact, while all the English Vaudeville cabaret stars are entertaining the hotels of Mallorca, the Spanish natives are over here looking after the kids.
ymca fairthorne manor residential daycampsEventually my own dear parents arrived and I got lots of hugs and told tall tales of derring-do and ziplines and kayaks and we clapped and sang and I turned down the chance to roast a marshmallow, opting to show off my tent instead.
I got a sack of chocolates from Jof to share out and after all the dire warnings about not taking mobile phones because nudie pics of kids could be uploaded to the net in a trice, they said cameras were encouraged so I got my camera back for the last night.
ymca fairthorne manor campsiteHaving an absolute blast, but looking forward to being picked up tomorrow.