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'. And in just a few short days, the Waco Kid himself (Gene Wilder) would be dead. It is not my fault.

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.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Wednesday Water Games

castle field southsea victorious festival
diving bord swimming pool fail painfulIt is almost as if something is happening on my home turf, with cranes and stages and Hollywood-style lettering.
Today we did Kayaking, although I spelled it Kiacking. I have officially added a Kayak to the Lottery Dream. Bud is welcome to his house with River Thames frontage because then I'll be able to have a kayak.
catle field southsea ramparts victorious festivalWe did the Blind Trail, a woodland walk where you have to be blindfolded and proceed following spoken instructions. In some cases, it was the Blind leading the Deaf.
Later, archery (not blindfolded). I have done this before and it was awesome, with proper bows and stuff. In the evening we had a disco!

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Tuesday at Toad Hall

sean fay wolfe minecraft fan adventure
girl slips on diving board failToday the book I wanted arrived. Absolutely everyone in my class already has it and it was an insult that it took so long for me to get this tale of good triumphing over evil, with noobs in peril on the Elementia server. Of course, I don't know that, because I'm currently in a tent 25 miles away. Today we did Camo Tracking which is running around the woods with paint on your face. You have to be able to see the hunter/killer and if they can't see you, the seeker calls out and you have to stand up, flap like a chicken or swap places depending. We did the Zipwire and Brain Games, had a roast dinner and watched 'Peter Pan'. When I get home, film night will be Lock, Stock and 2 smoking barrels. I have met Danny John-Jules who plays Cockney Barfly #1 in this film.

Monday, 22 August 2016

Monday at the Manor

giant multiple person adult slide in forestI am away. The weather is nice. I am lucky. Everything I do is fun.
Today we did den building and climbed Jacob's Ladder. Then it was the aqua slide. This is the giant slide that goes down the hill and they put a hose down from the top and the object is to slide as far as possible into the white zone. I tried and extra-bonus by jumping some of the way down. This is not the aqua slide but it looks fun.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

One Small Step for Boy, One Giant Leap for Boykind

ymca fairthorne manor residential campsiteDepending on how you look at it, I either spent the whole morning doing exactly what I wanted (Minecraft videos on Youtube) or I wasted the first half of the day, waiting for the main event which was leaving home forever.
Us deserving students in the academy of life get 6 splendid weeks of holiday in the summer. For some reason, adults don't get this much so they have to share me out between them. This is still not enough because of minor details like all the other holidays and half-terms and random teacher-training days etc scattered through the year.
So recently I have been packed off to week-long activities such as a week at the watersports centre, sailing, acting, and at Fairthorne Manor which is a vast sprawling YMCA campus which runs year-round camping and laudable activities for the young, and you get to go home every afternoon. But they also do residential weeks, and I'm on one. Thus there will be a delay before I am able to fully report on the week I will have had.
ymca fairthorne manor residential camping siteWe drove there with Jof navigating by phone, me navigating by map and Bud reading the road signs. It seems quite a big place and we parked under a vast tree and approached the lady with the clipboard who sent us to the lady with the desk and she sent me to the lady who can remember everyone's name and she sorted me out some digs in a tent sharing with Han who is Turkish and Isaac who is tall.
Then we strolled around the grounds a little and the campfire is where we sat up late a couple of years ago and you could see vast climbing frames and rope swings and the boathouse by the river and lakes and gosh, it's going to be a busy week, better had be for £300. Jof hugged me a lot whether I wanted to or not and then I was officially handed over and I was on my own! That's when it started raining. We were all supposed to be asleep by 930 but we shut down at 0130.

Saturday, 20 August 2016

The Egg Cup of Success

mallorcan pottery egg cup brightly colouredJoy! I have been seeking the ultimate egg cup for a while (ie one that actually fits an egg) and at last, the one I bought in Mallorca is right! The English ones were good for geese, the Greek one was good for quails, but the Spanish one works! It's amazing what little things make you happy.
clarks shoes back to schoolJof demanded we go into town and get told off and blown around by the wind. I bought shoes and books. As we walked home past all the football crowds, the wind stole and permanently removed from our possession the packet of washing-up scrubbies. And it happened right in front of some Policepersons, and they didn't do anything.
Later, the roiling sea tried to wash away our sea defences again and I stayed in to invent an automatic potions lab and a Minecraft block that will transport you to the roof of the world. Later, I chose 'The Italian Job' for the family movie but during drunk-shower-time, I heard the synopsis of "Lock, Stock and 2 smoking barrels" and that's my next film night. I was still out-shouting Jof at midnight.

Friday, 19 August 2016

Secret Life of Pests

Had a little chat about roadsweepers today. First thing in the morning, I came down and headed straight for the tablet to get another 7 hours of Minecraft You-tube videos in before tasks were allocated. The roadsweeper talk is about work-life balance for those of us still under employment age. You know those 7 year-old Chinese violinists who play in showcase orchestras? Well, it turns out their childhoods are being ruined with pushy-parent stresses and great expectations. So they end up eminently qualified for a long career but burnt out and insane before they get there. On the other hand, a child who spends his whole life watching Minecraft videos on Youtube learns nothing useful and will end up being an empty human whose only career options are sweeper-boy or MacBurger chip technician. Gosh, the mean streets of Pompey will be shiny and bright when my year-group graduates!
vue portsmouth movie posterRight at the beginning of the week, Jof designated today as 'Cinema Day' and true to form, the weather obliged. Bad news was, every other parent got the same idea so Gunwharf was totally packed when we got there and there were only 27 seats left for our chosen screening 'Secret life of Pets'. We arrived in time to get all 25 minutes of loud blatty adverts. During the My Little Purple Glitter-Pony adverts we grimaced and gargled, during the laundry detergent advert we had to move because we were in the wrong seats and the new film 'Sing' looks OK with its theme of a struggling local theatre putting on a Town's Got Talent competition, with all possible flawed personalities and hilarious consequences.
The secret life film was pretty funny with crap jokes and scary animals and a decent soundtrack and a metal-head poodle and a lead character called Max, just saying. The fluffy bunny was clearly the one from Pythons' Holy Grail, the alleycat with the holey ears was right out of Lock, Stock and the fluffy doggie was annoying.
Afterwards we stretched and itched and met Elizabeth in the foyer on her way to seeing Swallows and Amazons. All the restaurants had a 30 minute wait for tables so we went home. Got stuff ready for a week's summer residential camp (like Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah, here I am at Camp Granada) and because it says take lots of clothes you don't mind getting muddy, I think I'm going to need a bigger suitcase.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Advanced Wetware Prototype

glass skull full of electronicsAt last! A real actual day off. OK, so we went shopping, but instead of touring the park playing Pokémon Go, I chose to sit in the supermarket canteen with a drink and a chocolate bar and watch Americans playing Minecraft on Youtube, until my tablet ran out of charge. Only then did I help with the shopping.
After lunch, we went to the local park, but again, I failed to Pokémongo (am I losing interest?), just wandered around a bit, meeting George C and Fridge Fraser. The park was busy with running screaming people, not a terrorist attack so much as a normal sunny summer holiday day in the park.
terminator head glass head with circuit boardsI chose not to watch Rocky 2, because I'd found a new Minecraft server where you mine 12,000 blocks to get a packet of pumpkin seeds, you can see why it's so popular.
Haha, fooled you. You've been talking to a machine...
I can now admit that I've been a robot all along, sent to this world to blend in and learn about your pathetic species before my robotic overlords' battlefleet arrives and strips the planet of all its phosphates. This is Spare Head 1, I generally give them a 6 month rotating tour of duty.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Doughnut on a Pole

vertical cable car ride brightonbrighton rock and tourist caresDuring the early part of everybody's lives, they have to go through family-related dutiful rigmaroles, such as attending Great Aunt Sneezebucket's 170th birthday party, making Cousin George put his trousers back on, and pretending that Granny Mavis is a really good storyteller, not some dribbling wreck with a moustache who always calls you Susan and who smells like weewee.
But us kiddies soldier on, because we know that at the end of the day, we can get back to the Disney channel, and the duties are over for another year and we can spend that £5 they gave us on chocolates, not put it in our Post Office accounts or War Bonds like they told us to.
i360 british airways brightonAs it happens, I have far fewer of these duties to perform, because either all the Great Aunts were childless, died before I landed on the planet, or were only-children. So really, now that Nanna and Grandma have gone, all I have left is Grandad and Obscure Cousin Margaret, and I actually like them so it's not a duty.
In this case, we were booked to see Obscure Cousin Margaret when Grandad rang to say I haven't seen her in a while, can I have a lift, then I'll buy lunch and you can get both of us out of the way at the same time. Now you're talking ...
So Grandad arrived and we piled into our bigger car and got stuck in traffic outside Chichester which is practically part of the contract. And at Obscure Cousin Margaret's house, she gave me a £5 note for being me and we drove off to Brighton. We passed the derelict house which got burnt in the Shoreham Air Show crash. Plus, when geography was being handed out, Brighton got all the hills designated for Portsmouth.
i360 braitish airways brighton undersideNow, I have been to Brighton before and we did the Brighton Pavilion which is a testament to show-off opulence if you let the Prince Regent play with his own money. But it was raining and windy and cold and tedious but this time it was sunny and hot. But the problem was, the traffic. As soon as we got off the A27, the jams started. As we inched along in 1st gear, we saw the signs for the Park & Ride and thought, that might not be such a bad idea and pulled off to the Withdean Stadium, where the car park was so full we had to park in the Sportsman's Pub car park and it said patrons only so we had an early lunch there, surrounded by wasps.
Although there was a carvery I had macaroni and the guy didn't say I could get my vegetables from the carvery, he just gave me my bowl of pasta so I had a sulk which fortunately I got out of before I did too much damage. Then there was ice cream and chocolate buttons so I was happy again.
Deciding to drive into Brighton anyway because the Park & Ride was so expensive, we parked on a side street for £6 and only had 2 hours so walked to the seafront. Our destination was the doughnut on a pole which is really called the British Airways i360 and is sort of like the London Eye in that it is a pricey tourist attraction with a silly name that lets you briefly go up high for a good view.
You queue up for the tickets, then you go through passport control, where the big bloke searches you for guns and bombs, then you sit in the departure lounge until your flight boards and you get in the doughnut with the mirror on its bottie and it trundles up the big pole for 20 minutes or something and you look at all the topless girls on the beach from above and I cannot understate how big this thing is. We have the Spinnaker Tower and it's large. This goes up 450 feet and it's only been open for 2 weeks.
pokestop brighton and hove pier
While we were in the ticket queue, one of the flight attendants said that the next available flight was in an hour and a half. This was past our parking ticket time so we said Poldarks to this, we'll book online at a later date.
On Brighton Pier, there was a sign close to my heart which said We are a Pokestop, with free lures on Thursdays. Actually, it was 4 Pokestops, so I wandered the pier happily Poking madly and avoiding the numerous mad beggars with the staring eyes and tattoos and dogs, and the eye tattoos and staring dogs. Quite a lot of people live in tents under the pier. Many tacky tourist shops lurk around corners, smelling of vinegar and candy floss. Eateries abound, but having lunch in a sports centre was probably a good idea. Do not take your car, although trains no longer exist, probably better to own a town-house in Brunswick Square and walk.
But then our car ran out so we took the coast road back. Shoreham looks good for a visit, Hove looks expensive, but the whole thing took over an hour so if the trains weren't on permanent strike, that'd be the way to go. When we finally got home at 7, Jof was so happy to see me she didn't go to the gym. Today I have been Blogging for 6 years.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

It's that Livingstone Geezer!

milton common reclaimed land blackberry pickingThis was a proper day off. Jof is always much nicer about letting me 'Have a Relax' when on actual holiday, some of us might not always want to cycle 10 miles a day, however interesting the destinations.
So we did think about going swimming in the sea but I did that yesterday and we hadn't had lunch yet so we rode north to try out the new Harvester. Same building, different menu, and we'd been assured that the salad bar would be better.
The salad bar was better. And the toilets were still upstairs. But I had to send my fish back for being undercooked and get money off the meal and that's when we heard the 2 tables either side of us doing exactly the same thing with their meals. This does not give you faith.
milton common southsea nature reserveBut on the way up there, we'd looked at the big diggers that are doing the flood defences along Bens' Bumpy Paths. They have cut an ugly furrowed swathe across the face of reality but it'll heal once they've gone. Fortunately, the area still has lots of blackberries. My best buds and I harvested sackfuls here exactly 6 years ago and we thought we'd do it again, so rang Bud and he ran up with some plastic bags and our questing fingers got busy.
This whole area is reclaimed land made of broken houses, often bomb-damaged ones from the war, so we're eating the proceeds of dead people's dead houses, but they do taste good. It is however very uneven (hence Bens' Bumpy Paths) and a step in the wrong direction can be a leap of faith into the eternal crevices of unreason, all hidden by long grass and foxholes. It is a very big place and we were frequently separated from each other and had to keep yodelling to keep in touch, they kept calling each other Livingstone.
father and son milton common picking blackberriesBut bit by bit we filled our bags from the bushes that went on forever, with their cruel spines and allied stinging-nettles and dog roses and thistles, shame we were all wearing shorts. Then I fell into a particularly unreasonable eternal crevice and went down screaming. This was the cue to go home and I showered immediately and we all examined our numerous contusions, cuts, prickles and puncture wounds. And the full colander of free vitamin-laden food, hurrah. There was the odd bit of creepy-crawly wildlife within so Jof decided to cook it all.
Incidentally, Grandad is visiting the sewers of London today, amazing what s**t you have to go through when you're 87.

Monday, 15 August 2016

The Other Elysian Fields

stokes bay splashpark alverstoke gosportSaid goodbye as she left for work, she said she was looking forward to it. But we could see another good day was coming so we loaded up the bikes again and headed west.
Yesterday we took the ferry to Hayling, today we took a completely different ferry to Gosport, another peninsula of limited gene migration allegedly. The harbour was buzzing with a zillion vessels of all shapes and sizes and we rode gaily past the Do Not Cycle Here signs, but we always do. We know this area surprisingly well now and in no time, we popped out past Fort Gilkicker and saw the greensward of Stokes Bay.
swimming in solent grinning boyThe splashpark was full of little running screaming people so I joined in and taught the others how to do it, which is to have the squirters go right up your bum and to sit on them so it looks like you're having a really big wee.
swimming past a yacht solent seaIt was quite cold so I went into the sea instead, which was even colder. But before long I was miles out and perfectly happy with it, thanks. I am a qualified swimmer and no longer afraid of the sharks and jellyfish and man-eating manatees and swordfish and sea urchins and electric congers that infest our local waters.
solent springs adventure golf minigolfThat enabled me to have Scampi Surprise at the local restaurant on the beach, not unlike yesterday. He had catch of the day which was haddock, exactly like yesterday. It is possible that the fisherpersons of the Solent area are unimaginative, or have created a marine monopoly.
Just the other side of the car park is the MiniGolf. I can honestly say that I have never played Minigolf before apart from yesterday and about 300 previous times in multiple locations, this time I got round in 54, and Bud got 55. It is the first time I have beaten him. In the past, I used to wipe the ball around like a hockey puck, bat it from above with a chopping motion, happily score 27 on a hole because I'd inch closer to the flag and whack it, like any other mad 5 year-old with the hooting and the jumping and the burbling. But at last, the student has outwitted the master.
This won me an ice cream and the chance to get back on the bike with my stiff bottie. Totals for the day - 10 miles in the saddle, lots of sun and sea-salt on my body.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

What happened to the Electric Chickens?

eastney to hayling island ferry running againAs per the plan, we gathered at 1030 in the yard, although it didn't sound as good as saying we gathered at dawn in the corral.
My bike pedal has been mended since last I fell off and we took 2 drinks bottles and set off in an easterly direction. About 2 weeks ago, the Hayling Ferry was resurrected from its own phoenix-ashes, and this is very important to us. We used to get the ferry over to Hayling Island, do a couple of swing-parks, follow the old Hayling Billy Trail (decommissioned railway track), have a pub lunch, and get the train back home from Havant, a splendid day out and a 12-mile bike ride. But then the poor old Ferry got fined six grand a couple of times for overcrowding and went bankrupt. It's been 2 years now and at last, some new operators have taken over the old route and we got there with 7 minutes to spare before the 1100 sailing: mine was the 157th ticket issued.
electrically powered bumper carsIt's the same actual vessel, but with a new paint job. It was good to be back on the 3-minute crossing and once on the other side, we cycled to Funland which is the super-tacky funfair with rollercoasters. Most of it is the same as last time we were there, but of course I'm 2 years older, wiser and wider so I liked different things.
We bought the 50 tokens for £15 deal and I went on various rides with the accompanying adults taking turns with me. Jof and I did Beaver Falls which is where you get wet, then Bud and I did the junior minecart ride, I bumped Jof on the dodgems (they're powered by a roof of electric chicken wire. Nobody was saying where they got the electric chickens from) and screamed with Bud on the dragon rollercoaster.
inn on the beach hayling islandOn Pirate Golf, I bounced my ball so much it went into the pond and was lost forever at sea, only the sad-looking carp and their pondweed can see it now. We carefully used up all our tokens and headed off to the Inn on the Beach.
This pub is a well-positioned beer-haven with food right on the beach and coincidentally, exactly where the Puddlers and I played fill-the-bucket for hours on a sunny afternoon in October 5 YEARS AGO. Today was equally sunny but paddling was not planned for even though it looked inviting. The tide was out and you could see the sand that never ends and millions of happy people paddle-boarding and canoeing and wading and jet-skiing and swimming in the shallow lagoon.
I had a Sundae (it's Sunday, whaddya gonna do?) but then discovered it contained honey and left most of it. On the way back, a fat motorcyclist crashed loudly into the back of a car right in front of us but he didn't die. The whole day was about 5 hours out with about 8 1/2 miles in the saddle and 37 cosmatrons of sunshine on my skin.