Sunday, 23 April 2017

Cube Luck

mystery cube magma blocks mojang minecraftI have had a busy old holiday. And it's only going to get worse at school with the 11+ exams coming up, and the trauma of moving to a new school after only 6 weeks of summer holidays.
So today I started a proper last-day-off with 11 hours of sleep, and a full English breakfast at the supermarket café with Jof. OK, so I don't like baked beans but you can swap for an extra hash brown if you ask nicely. And while Jof was doing complicated extra shopping after the main shopping event had finished, I got myself a genuine Mojang Minecraft Mystery Cube (£4). I love a bit of Minecraft merchandise and know in my heart that geeks the world over buy up all of this stuff and sell completed collections for oodles of cash. Personally, I wanted the Villager With Anvil figurine (who wouldn't?) but got the Pyramid of 3 Lava Blocks. Or are they Magma. Look how big it is, nearly as big as me. Not bad for £4, in my mind.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Last Night at the Toads

groundlings theatre stage productionAt last, my final performance in Wind in the Willows. While mine is not a great big speaking part, I had a few lines and was required in many other scenes to dance (look at me song), object vociferously (courtroom scene) and otherwise sing, prance and generally be seen to be believed.
The nice booking office lady said I was the best Portly Otter and certainly the best behaved. I was chosen to hold the begging-bucket on the staircase and also hand out leaflets.
Last night Child B was locked in his dressing room for running around the building but I was always good. The last performance is tonight but I signed off Red Groups' daytime show with a flourish and the audience was in rows, not on round tables like on previous events. This made photography even more challenging.
So, I left the theatre for the last time this term with face paint still applied, and a whole production under my belt. This comprised at least 30 hours' rehearsals and 7 performances on top of the auditions, so a good 50 hours the lot. And afterwards I said I wanted to be in the christmas Panto which is Aladdin.
Portsmouth Footing-ball club went up to the next division last week so the roads home were filled with blue people waving flags and the pub garden was full of Pompey fans singing the special songs which were we are going up hroogh hroogh and 'Gold' by Spandau Ballet for some reason. It made parking difficult so I walked the last 600 yards home brightening everyone's day by still being in baby otter stage make-up.
groundlings theatre portsmouth drama school
When we tried to buy a flag for the garage pub, they'd run out. Saturday-night-is-film-night, so my choice was 'Twins' in which Arnie still flexes while trying to act emotional with the help of Kuato (Total Recall) and Cousin Sam Klane (Killian's bodyguard in Running Man). As I went to bed, Pompey fans various were still singing the special songs from the nearby pub garden.

Friday, 21 April 2017

Invasion of the Killer Jellyfish

Friday, woohoo. If it wasn't for my generosity in offering to replace the absent 'Riley' for tonight's dazzling production of 'Wind in the Willows', I'd have had an empty day. Well, as you may know, I'm not allowed any empty days because I only fill them up with Minecraft.
cockle pond walpole park gosport
So I crafted awhile as housework went on around me until noon when he said off we go then. Normally I cannot stand secrets and demand to know everything even if it ruins the surprise, but this time we'd practically reached the Gosport Ferry terminal before I realised that we weren't going to the local park.
gosport sumbarine museum fortificationsIt's always nice to cross the water (it's shorter by water) and we saw HMS Iron Duke in harbour and some Police launches and barges and on the Other Side, walked along to Haslar Marina and saw some yachts being painted.
Just over the promenade from there we met some listless teenagers and Bastion #1. This old disused fort is overgrown and covered with trees and its tunnels are pretty small and mostly blocked off. But we climbed it and met some Scouts camping at the top, with decent tents and a fire.
Just the other side is Cockle Pond (part of Walpole Park) which was experiencing heavy yacht use: some old geezers were having a toy yacht race - although these toys were about 5 feet tall and very techy and advanced.
lakeside cafe bar cockle pond gosportHaving used the roundabout and climbing frame and zipline and rowing machine, we crossed the Queen's Causeway to the café on stilts (well, the one with the balcony visible in the yacht race picture). And half way across, he said what's that in the water, then.
Now I may not have travelled the world and met interesting creatures and killed them, but I know a jellyfish when I see one, even though I've only ever seen them on TV. And there seemed to be several in this isolated lake with only yachts and swans for company.
So we just had to visit the café (because one must) where I had a fortifying slice of 'Fridge Lumpy Bumpy Cake' and then we went hunting. Over the other side of the lake we found a veritable swarm, nay, a cloud of throbbing jellied invaders. We surmise that a few jellyfish larvae entered the pond by way of the overflow pipe which is open to the sea at high tide, and survived the winter in the protective environment, and started breeding.
Now, they have bred quite a lot and there are millions of them, although they must be quite inbred, which is normal for Gosport. At first, I was afeared of the globular alien entities, because they are known to haunt the tropical seas and kill sharks and humans with their stinging tentacles. Hmmm. Singing tentacles. That gives me a fancy-dress idea.
jellyfish cockle pond walpole park gosportAnd once Bud had picked a few out of the water to show me, I came to believe that they were not in fact deadly Portuguese men'o'war, but some harmless undulating transparent blobs of gucky mostly-water that just sat there going woing woing and getting stuck in the seaweed. And before long I had got over my tentaclophobia and was pulling them out of the water myself and hunting for the biggest specimen and teaching a passing kid to do the same and in no time we were practically having a jellyfish fight with blobs of whiffy goo flying through the air with added laughter.
No jellyfish were harmed in the making of this afternoon's entertainment, but I insist that it was a bizarre experience, especially when Bud was trying to take a picture and I put a jellyfish on his head. Then I did it again, for I am not a messiah, I am a very naughty boy. Sometimes we go searching for Bizarre, sometimes Bizarre-osity finds us. Apparently, jellyfish are pointless and devoid of nutritional value and have infinite lifespans, ie they don't die unless they're killed, either by being chomped up in a ship's propellers or air-drowned when they wash up onto a beach, for they are even more stupid than me. And all the way home I loudly called him Slime-Scalp and Jelly-Head, for I am a lovable and loving #1 son that is hardly going to get spanked to kingdom come at all.
jellyfish invasion walpole park gosport tidal lagoon
sketch pad prize for design competitionLater I had luxury fish pie for late lunch and I am assured that no added marine monstrosities of any type found their way into the meal, very fishy, mmm.
This, and Minecraft, gave me the strength to play Portly, the Youngest Otter for the second last time, and a welcome chance to act onstage with Sydney for the only time in this run of performances. I stood near her for many scenes and we exchanged smiles. At the end, I got my own bow.
So, nobody will remember, but there was a competition to draw a design for Toad's car. He is the star of the show and as a convicted neophile, obsessively desires anything new and interesting. I came second in the competition and won a chunky design notepad with added Packet'o'30 coloured pencils!
My car 'Toadiacar' has a cowcatcher and rear spoiler.
And because this is a smaller, local theatre, it needs to post cute kids at the door with collecting buckets for the theatre restoration fund (entirely unlike churches, the biggest landowners in the country), we had an unofficial competition between blue, purple, red, green and yellow groups, and Blue won! As I am a Red, but subbing for Blue because of covering for Riley, I got an extra bag of sweets. And tonight's performance had the biggest audience yet, over 100, so the lucky viewers could hardly move without infringing on somebody's personal space. All in all, a compete victory! The clapping went on long after we had left the building. Life: I recommend it.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Hide'n'seek in the Urination Rooms

white line painting on country road failFor a while there it looked like the only friends I'd spend the Easter break with were the ones posting Youtube videos about their Minecrafting experiences. But yesterday I crabbed with Sydney and today, Ben invited me over for a day of exploration.
They had recently explored one of the old forts which now houses the miniature village and rose garden, and I got to join in. We batted croquet balls at each other with giant wooden mallets where the heads kept falling off, and I got a flying croquet ball right in the leg. We explored thoroughly and hardly met anyone else apart from some teenagers rolling their own cigarettes and we discovered many hidden crannies, nooks, dens, bases and hidey-holes where you could quite easily have a wee and nobody would know, so we called them P-rooms and Urination Rooms.
I went home after 5 hours because my cheeks were pink and my hands were scratched and my Youtubers were lonely. Later I performed again onstage. The audience was tiny, and they were mostly parents. But I've only got 2 performances left, and one of them's with Syd, and the other is the Last Night, always well attended.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Flagpoling and Crabpoling

pope vestments blown by wind funnyWas awoken at 9 which seemed early until I found my stage door call was at 10, then it didn't seem early enough. But still, we got there dead on time and I had a good show with a medium-sized audience (all the taller people come to the evening shows) and several players coming on stage well before or after their cues, and this is not because I wasn't stage manager this time.
5th portsmouth scout group milton st jamesI had been promised an easy afternoon off and it's so easy to promise, less easy to deliver. The Scout Leader had asked for a new inside flagpole for the church hall and over the last few weeks, we have obtained, cleaned, and painted one. Today was installation day and I held the 12 foot pole steady in the car and Father Paul, the actually quite groovy Priest in Charge, came out and told us exactly where we could shove it.
Because they use the church hall all the time for old people and brats alike, it had to be hidden in a corner behind the wheelchairs and trestle tables. All we have to do now is sort out a buffer to stop over-eager Scouts slamming it back against the radiator pipes or taking out the overhead lamps. Even I can move it on my own because it has wheels.
And we were just doing the installation while arranging a playdate with Ben, when Sydney rang in and said come crab-hunting with me, for they hadn't had much luck at Canoe Lake and Langstone is much better. I have been crabbing at Langstone twice: once we could pull crabs out of the water with our fingers, the other time I borrowed a reel of baited string off an unknown fellow bystander, threw it in without remembering to hang on to the actual reel, and lost it (beating a hasty and embarrassed retreat).
This real-human contact proved of more interest than yet more Minecraft Youtube videos and I got a better coat and went.
crabbing off brick built bridgeThere was an old culvert with brick-built bridge that was too high at lower tide for even Sydney's long-poled net to reach. We tried and tried but caught no prey, although I reckon that one of her cast attempts was so accurate it gave a crab concussion. But you know, 3 hours of honest messing around with girls in a secluded environment and not catching crabs was OK with me because of the sunshine and real-world activity. I did get my MineWorld time and double-upgrade pasta surprise so no complaints from me.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Planes, Trains and Watermobiles

flybe propeller planeThis being my one true free day where everyone else is back at work, we decided to make it Grandad day. So, as ever, we sought to contrive the busiest day possible for the 87 year-old, as he has less than 2 decades left.
Amazingly the motorway was empty and we got there in only 34 minutes. But this was still sufficient for me to write a report on the Scout Camp to enter into the get-published-in-the-district-magazine competition. I can't quite write as quickly as the torrent of ideas provided by my fellow passengers but got most of it down.
hythe pier from ferry gangplankGrandad was visible in his front room so we picked him up and sped off to little-known coastal town 'Hythe'. We've been there before and witnessed a cricket match in which all the outfield players had to put their pint glasses down when the bowler started running.
But it was clearly market day (with added bunting and old people) in the buzzing metropolis and traffic wardens were patrolling the Waitrose car park so Bud hid the car miles away and we met up at the ferry. The Hythe ferry is very proud of its historical origins and longest pier with the oldest continuously running electric train and you can sponsor a deckboard on the pier and have your name carved into it.
hythe ferry view of container ships loading sothampton docksAnd we walked the length of the very long pier with 4 minutes to spare before the ferry was due to leave and it sat there attached to the dilapidated pontoon for another eternity waiting for the train, like in all the best old blues songs. It was lucky I had a coat because it's quite windy out on the water, but Jof had bought a sunhat. Look, you can see the pier train coming.
Various container ships (such as Wallenius Wilhelmsen and CMA CGM and Hoegh Autoliners) wandered past and they are all curiously square and tall. The journey is only 15 minutes or so but we saw lots of big ships and ferries and planes flying over from Majorca and Jersey.
3.7 inch anti aircraft gun When a bigger ferry goes past, you rock'n'roll most amusingly on their wash. The Hythe ferry lands at Town Quay next to the international ferry terminal where Bud first set foot in England and only a couple of hundred yards away was the old Jewish Ghetto where we walked with Grandad last year.
From there we strolled past the 15th century old god tower (now Maritime Museum) and many splendid edifices and vast impressive monuments to the former wealth and importance of this port town. But an awful lot of it is now labelled 'For Sale' or 'No Entry' or '270 prime waterside flats coming soon'.
And there was a single-track railway with derelict sidings that crossed the road on its way into the port, not sure if it's still used but the tops of the rails were still shiny. We got to the Admiral Sir Lucius Curtis (with dental practice upstairs) which is a Wetherspoons. I get on well with Wetherspoons because I like the food and they're usually in nice big buildings in the middle of town.
rolls royce merlin engine from spitfireThis one had a huge bar with many unknown beers and a big line in historical photos and Southampton Football Club memorabilia. So we all independently decided on the corner table with the big windows in the sun and all got hot again. One of the beers was 'Stonehenge' and you've just got to try it for the name, so 2 of us had pints. What was not known before that decision was that Stonehenge Beer is green. And not just a little bit. So Jof and I laughed at the men with their green beers and we all got stuffed on the burger/scampi/lasagne/gammon meals and didn't need pudding.
From there it is only a hundred yards to Ocean Village which is like Gunwharf Quays but with more sleek expensive yachts and motor boats so we stood there choosing which ones we wanted.
solent sky flying boat southamptonAnd just round the corner was our main target which was 'Solent Sky', a museum of local aviation with a distinct slant on flying boats. Of course the Spitfire was born here so that figured strongly but they boast the only flying boat of its class where you can go in the flight deck and look out of the roof.
This purpose-built warehouse space has a special nook where the tailplane of the biggest plane can fit and there are planes and helicopters of all sizes hanging from the rafters and filling up the view with rotors and propellers and engines and wings and wing-floats and it's all rather fun. None of us knew it was here.
The nice man at the desk gave me the young persons' quiz and promised me a prize if I got 10/10 and you had to look for the caricature faces and note down the names of the planes or their engines depending.
solent sky aviation museum southampton
This may not be Jof's thing but she climbed into 'Beachcomber' the flying boat like the rest of us and sat in the seats and it was built in 1947 with guns but then converted into a passenger plane when we ran out of wars. There is a 3.7" anti-aircraft gun and loads of planes and models and medals and a whole section upstairs for the Police and fire brigades and jets and hang-gliders and quite a few things with sticky-tape on saying don't touch, it's broken.
And they've got maps of where all the German bombs fell and maps the Germans used when they planned the invasion and photos of buildings before and after air raids. And they have a Guinness Book of World Records certificate signed by Norris McWhirter himself about Squadron Commander Rose who flew 54 different types of military aircraft for 11,539 hours over 47 years without a break in service.
flying boat
At the end I got 10/10 so won a small balsa wood model that was on sale in the shop for 50p and so I got a Concorde model as well and gave them some coins because it was only £17 for all of us and it was all rather good and most worthy.
electric train hythe pier ferryThe ferry back to Hythe seemed quicker but our legs were getting tired so we got on the train back along the pier and it was rattly and trundly and funny. Hythe was still having market day so we bought 2 identical man-bags for the adults who have very definite ideas about what bag you need and ice creams too. On the trek back to the car we passed over another disused railway, the one to Fawley which I hear is going to be redeveloped so they might need the railway again.
At Grandad's place he taught me about graphs and gave us chocolate and lo, it was a good day.

Monday, 17 April 2017

Bouncing Back to Bikini-Busting Corner

fast food operative in hairnetOne of those days when you actually have to make something up to do. During a game of golf yesterday, we'd discovered that Jof's trousers had a big hole in them so instead of simply laughing at her bum we told her, which meant she had to go into town and buy trousers and tops and a skirt and crispy prawns for supper and luxury dark chocolate presentation assortiment and say they were for Grandad and eat them anyway.
This is why ladies' lives are so complicated, better them than us, for we don't have the brain-power.
And she had to revise for her job interview and so politely asked us to be quiet, and the only way to do that is if we are outside the house, perhaps at the cinema. I chose the Pyramids swimming complex and we got there for 230.
Then we got 2 and a half hours of wet play. First, there was aqueous battling and watery fighting. I lost the aqua-flume (waterslide) race because I have inherited a curious inability to slide downhill at speed in a lubricated plastic tunnel. I mean seriously, I get stuck.
And then I met Green Charlie. He is in Blue Group at the theatre and when I was watching Blue Sydney's performance I said hello to him but it was his identical non-acting older brother who was not green or blue, but addicted to online gaming and had been forced out of the house to get him off the PS2. Follow? We did extensive water-karate at each other.
And we ganged up on a certain common foe and fought over floats and had 2 standard wave alerts and right at the end, it was Super-Duper Wave Alert. We don't get this very often. Standard wave alert gets a siren sound and that tells you that the wave machine will provide gentle waves for junior swimmers for 3 minutes and you can see bright-eyed babies going woo for the period of that restrained wave action, then you all run to the waterslide queue because it will be shorter.
pyramids centre southsea seafront portsmouth
Super-Duper Wave Alert gets a loud Pang-Pang siren and 30 minutes of slanted waves of significantly greater amplitude. The entire massed ranks of lifeguards gathers poolside with whistles in mouth and all smaller people are told to vacate the Kill-Zone and it begins.
Received knowledge is that the hand-rail visible below that central white column is the place to hang on if you are a girl, and the dark corner under where the blue waterslide finishes is the place to stand if you are a teenager showing off. That is where the waves gather in a tidal bore of fury and you can jump several feet off the ground, get seriously pummelled by Tsunamis of Terror for 30 minutes, and are well-known for blowing the bikini tops off more generously proportioned teen lady-swimmers. I jumped with the rest but was forced out by teenagers 2 feet taller than me and by the time it was all-out-of-the-pool time I had been battered, bounced and blended like Jell-O by Scylla (and Charybdis), hence my world-weary expression and thousand-yard stare in this image taken after the event. You know when you've been bounced.
At home I had a 2 hour Minecraft + Skype meeting with Blue Sydney, who was much kinder than the waves.