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It was a blustery "summer" day, so we decided to take the kids off to the new local attraction: Puxton Park. our kids are aged 7, 4 and 2, so finding something all of them enjoy isn't always easy!
There was a big fuss when ithe place finally got planning permission and was set to open for this summer, then everything went quiet. i had seen somewhere that it had opened on time, but had not seen any advertising/marketing about it since so i was unsure what it would be like.
Actually, it was quite nice. only 10 mins drive away for us, it had good parking, was clean, airy and fun for the kids. It's basically a good size soft play/ball park type place, with a few farm animals. Apparently there was spposed to be lots of animals - but then just as it was due to open Foot and Mouth hit the UK. All animal transport was banned, so they decided to postpone. Which is obviously why the marketing never happened too. And why it is still quite cheap to get in. We brought an annual pass - before they put the prices up next month:-) so it will be a good place to take the kids whenever they need somewhere to go!
The soft play bit has a separate toddler section with balls (and a ball blower thing), little slides, turn-tables and soft climbing area. My 2 year old was more than happy to stay there for ages, and the 4 year old was happy enough with it too.
The big soft play is one of these large climbing things with rope-bridges, slopes, poles etc all 20 foot up and well covered with netting for safety. there is also a big bumpy slide which all three kids thought was fantastic and a couple of vertical drop slides which the kids were too scared to try, but I enjoyed enormously - adults are welcome to play on the equipment too! Most of the adults decided not to avail themselves though, and instead sat in the cafe area next to the soft play which offered pretty good hot & cold drinks and snacks - all organic and local brands too.
Outside was some more play equipment - the usual tractor climbing frame type things and an enormous bouncy castle bubble thing for the kids to jump on like a trampoline - great for the bigger ones - the little ones just got bounced all over the place by the bigger kids and the adults on there. There was also table tennis and such like - all closed when we were there becaused of the high winds, and face painting (extra charge), a birds of prey display (not every day I think) and the animals.
The farm animals consisted of some beef and diary cattle, pigs, sheep and pets corner. the farm animals were all very friendly and happy to be stroked and had good child friendly information boards up. Pets corner was rabbits and guinea pigs - all fluffy and strokeable for even the most cautious child.
Also on site is a big farm shop -which we spent a lot of money in! Full of local fresh produce as well as the obligatory organic stuff that these places seem to stock. The butcher there was great, and the local alcohol was quite good too:-)
The restuarant attached to the farm shop was spacious and well designed. All the food was freshly cooked from organic ingrediants, and there was none of the fried rubbish that so many places offer. But I have to say we were not overly impressed with the standard of food served. Nor with the cleanliness of the tables. Hopefully that will improve with time - they were advertising for more staff.
Overall, we had a good afternoon out. Certainly worth it for us as locals (in fact, we popped up there after school last week just to tire the kids out a bit). I would say that once the kids reach 11/12, they will not be that interested any more, but for primary school age we liked it.
more info at: http://www.puxton.co.uk/ (although it's not the greatest website in the world)
Admission Prices 2007 - likely to go up when the animals arrive next year.
Children 4 - 16yrs £6.50 (3yrs & under go free)
Family Ticket (2 adults & 2 children) £20.00
Annual Membership: Adults £25.00 Child £20.00 Concessions £20.00
open all year round except for Christmas Day and Boxing Day.
April 'til September - 10.00am - 5.00pm
October 'til March - 10.00am - 4.00pm
This is a city centre hotel in what I guess is the mid-range priceband as I think standard rooms are approx £100 - £150 per night. The rooms are standard hotel rooms:-) I looked at a couple, but don't really have much to say about them! However the Malone Lodge also offers two bedroom apartments which is where I stayed, so what I'll review.
First of all, the Hotel itself is rather unpreposessing from the outside. It is just a couple of large town houses which look just like all the residential town houses along the rest of the road. This makes it not terribly easy to find! The apartments are next door but one (I'm not sure what the one is!) and have a separate entrance door. which makes it feel much more homely as you don't have to pass through reception every time you go in or out.
The first thing I noticed about the apartment was that it was big! Much bigger than I expected when I booked. It is only a few pounds more than a room, but so much more space! There were two good sized bedrooms - a double and a twin, a really large living room (we fitted in 7 adults and 5 kids into one without feeling crushed!) and a good enough kitchenette.
Breakfast is provided - cereal, milk (and sometimes orange jiuce - but not for us apparently), bread etc, and although we didn't use it, you could easily have cooked a reasonable meal there too. There was a fridge, freezer, oven, microwave etc.
The place was clean too, which is good. The furnishings were worn, but all in good condition. The heating was sweltering (we were there in June), and fortunately was controlled by the occupiers rather than centrally so we could turn it off once we had arrived.
The only down side was that the staff didn't seem too inclined to come over and sort minor things out (like our orange juice). Also, remembering that these will mostly be used by families, i was very concerned that the windows were all quite low, easily opened, opened fully out without a safety catch and had a sheer drop to concrete without any barriers or bars etc.
The location was great - just 10 mins brisk walk to the Botanical Gardens (or nearer to 30 mins with young chldren), and literally round the corner from plenty of shops and nightlife.
We were there for a wedding. I don't paticularly rate that - but couldn't say how much was to do with the hotel and how much to do with the couple's organisation:-) Although I was disappointed in the meal. the restaurant served very nice food according to others in our party, but the wedding meal was pretty poor, and the service wasn't great.
Overall, I would happily stay at the apartments again. Comfortable, clean and spacious
For years we've relied on Dyson Vacuum Cleaners in our house. Having Psoriasis I shed a lot of skin, and a decent vacuum cleaner with good filtration and washable filters has become essential in iur 4 bed house.
Our last Dyson, a DC-07, had served us well for 3 years and was begining to get a bit tired and frayed, so we went hunting for a replacement. Now I also have Arthritis, and Dysons aren't the lightest Vacuum cleaners in the world so the search was on for a light yet robust machine.
Even before I had searched properly I was shopping in my local Tescos when I came accross the Electrolux Vitesse 1600W Pet Lover. Priced at £69.
It ticked all the boxes and was about 25% of the price of a new Dyson, so I bought one.
Power - 1600 watts
Suction - 169 air watts
Filtration - Single Stage Cleanable Standard
Brush Height Adjustment - for various floortypes (Long Medium Short and Hard)
Edge cleaning - right up to skirting boards
Weight - 6.8 kg
Cable Length - 7.5 m (non-retracting)
Hose Reach - 1.8 m
Dust Collection - Bagless
The vacuum cleaner comes boxed well with full instruction. It is suppled only partially constructed, and it takes about 15minuts or so to connect all the tubes, the main handle, dust collecter and attachments. Just a screwdriver is required.
The Cleaning width of the cleaner is approx 13 inches and it cleans right to the edge (allowing cleaning oright up to skirting boards)
The Cleaner comes with the usual hose extensions, small brush tool and narrow tool, but it also comes with a turbo brush tool. The Turbo Brush is a head to place on the hose with a 4 inch rotating brush head. The nozzle is great for picking up loose material (skin in my case) and other stubborm fibres it would be great at picking up pet hair i am sure. The nozzle has a rotating visor which allows both stair treads and risers to be cleaned thoroughly, as well as allowing easy vertical use for cleaning curtains etc.
I have found that even though it is quite light for a vacuum, that it still cleans thouroughly, if a little noisily. I have used it on long and short pile carpets and hard floors. The vacuum performs well on carpets, but a little less well on hard floors.
The Dust collector is easy to remove and simple to empty, if anything simpler than on a dyson, but the filter inside tends to clog quite easily, although this is easy to remove and just needs a quick brushing off.
In Conclusion this is a very good Vacuum cleaner for the price.
I bought my new chainsaw in May...and then it started to rain...until August, isn't the British Summer fun :o)
Anyway, I'd been considering buying a chainsaw for quite some time, several years in fact, we have wood burning open fires at home, and as a Medieval reenactor we go through loads of wood duringthe season. A chainsaw would allow me to process trees and branches into fuel.
I was after something portable, so not electric, something lightweight, and something not too expensive.
After deciding in May to finally buy one I went on a search of the local Garden Centres and came accross the McCulloch 338 Petrol Chainsaw, made by Electrolux.
Idle Speed 3000rpm
Max speed 13000rpm
Power 1.6kW (2.15hp)
Type of ignition CD
Spark plug Champion
Electrode Gap 5mm
Unleaded Petrol mixed 40:1 with 2-stroke engine oil
Capacty 0.38 litres
Max 111DbA (as loud as a very loud Nightclub get those earplugs in!!!)
4.7Kg (trust me that is very light for a chainsaw)
Length 14" (36cm)
As with all chainsaws it is essential to wear full protective equpment, and be aware of others around you. You should wear
Safety Hard Hat with Face shield
Ear plugs/Ear Defenders
Snug Tight Fitting Clothing
Safety Footware with steel toecaps and non-slip soles.
Heavy Duty Rigger Gloves
NOne of these are supplied withthe saw, and it would be very unusual for a saw to come with them...you may be lucky though if the retailer has an offer on.
You should ensure that no-one, or any animals is within 10 metres of you when you work.
And if you haven't used a chainsaw before, get trained in how to use one first. Luckily for me I am already trained.
It is essential to plan your work in advance, and to not be fatigued in anyway when using a chainsaw.
Well I chose this particular Chainsaw in the end based against several other similar models on it's light weight, because I suffer from Arthritis, and so even when using the saw it will only be for a short period. I will be training my wife to use it.
Fuelling the Saw is simple, Mix the Petrol (kept in a plastic container fit for fuel storage) with the 2 stroke oil in a ratio of 40:1, in a seprate container, and pour into the fuel tank of the saw, just a simple screw cap for the fuel tank on the side of the saw.
Starting the Saw requires the carburetor to be primed, there is a simple to operate priming button, that has to be pressed 6 times for this purpose, then on full choke the starting handle is pulled 5 times, the choke is put back to halfway, and a single pul starts the saws engine.
Once the saw engine is running you start the chain , by depressing the twin Trigger system on the handle, and off you go...In my case it was used to take down a pear tree of about 8" diameter trunk, having removed all the smaller branched by hand, it went throught the wood of the trunk quickly and smoothly and the tree was down using a 3 cut method in about 20 seconds.
3 cut method is to cut a wedge on the side you want the tree to fall about 1/3 of the way throughthe trunk, follwed by a single straight cut parallel to the ground to the apex of the wedge, this ensures control of the direction the tree will fall.
I then used the sawe to make short work of cutting the trunk into managable logs it's light weight makes this very easy and the integral toohed grip at the base of the blade ensures a good true cut.
shutting down the saw is simply done by flicking the fuel cut-off switch to the off position.
When stored the saw comes with a Blade cover to prevent accidental injury or damage.
I paid £129.99 for the saw at Homebase but it is available widely from many stores.
Freecycle is a fantastic idea - although the groups vary depending on location. I am a member of a few local ones, and have found them to be fantastic for both getting "new" stuff that we can't afford or justify spending money on and for getting rid of stuff that isn't worth flogging on ebay because of it's price/size/bulk.
I give away nearly all the clothes my kids have grown out of on there and they always go within 24 hours. Equally I've got a load of clothes for them saving £££££'s. When our bikes and bike trailers were stolen, we recieved offers immediately and even got another trailer for the toddlers - which are pretty expensive. Obviously, some of the goods on offer are well used, but then again, they are free! And some are brand spanking new!
I have known people set up home completely through freecycle, and I've got beds, fridges, mattresses, clothes, kitchenware, toys and furniture - all of which have had plenty of servicable life left. I've seen (but never got) cars, caravans and even boats offered!
There are some time wasters who don't collect - but there are usually other people to fall back on, and you soon learn how to avoid the no-shows. I always ask people to tell me why they want the goods and when they can collect.
When we first started I often delivered as I had transport and was unsure about having people turn up at the house, but now I am happy for people to collect. All posts are moderated, and the moderators are all local people and pretty hot on any problem members. I have always received replys from them very quickly and satisfactorarily.
If you do take up the freecycle habit please please please try to give as much as you get :)
Overall - a great idea, and very useful.
Time for a story...
Back in the mists of time...Well 12 years I discovered a few small red spots on my torso....Thinking I might have something infectious I went to my GP and he diagnosed an allergic reaction, prescribed me a bottle of Anti-histamine and sent me on my way.
2 weeks alter I had flared for the first time, I had 30% body coverage of Guttate Psoriasis (not that I knew what it was at the time) and was very worried about what it actually was having never heard of Psoriasis.
Back to the doc, who again didn't have a clue; looking back I find this quite worrying I mean this was Scotland I was living in, 2% of the population have Psoriasis to some extent anyway and I would have thought the lower UV level in Scotland would have made it more prevalent...but anyway he sent me off to a dermatologist.
1 month later I received a letter telling me I had an appointment with the Derm in 12 weeks time, by now I was quite p***ed off at the NHS. Eventually I got to see the Derm and was admitted to the godforsaken hole that is the Derm ward at the Western General Hospital in Glasgow for Coal Tar treatment. I remember being lied to constantly, being told that this would go away and would never come back during my 3 week stay in the dirtiest and most unfriendly Hospital ward it has ever been my misfortune to be in. After my release I had a 6 week UVB Broadband treatment, throughout which the machines played up constantly and I ended up sunburnt most sessions. What a fantastic introduction to Psoriasis , but hey I was told this would cure it and make it go away, no-one told me it was genetic or anything.
We moved from Scotland quite soon afterwards as I got a new post in Bath. Pretty soon the spots appeared again, so off to GP (old family doc) and within a week I was seeing Dr.Tan (still think this is a great name for a Derm ) at the RUH in Bath. My treatment couldn't have been more different than in Glasgow, clean modern Derm unit, friendly staff, full explanation (at last) of the nature of the Psoriasis beast. I was treated for Psoriasis by Ingrams regime at the RUH for 5 years about 3 times a year 6 weeks plus at a time as an out patient, but it was obvious that the effectiveness of the treatment was getting less and I was becoming resistant to the UVB treatment.
I was diagnosed as a Diabetic, and my son was born. We moved house at this point from Keynsham to Weston-super-Mare, and so was transferred to the books of Dr.Archer at Weston General Hospital. He persuaded me to try PUVA, my next two treatment cycles were of "Bath PUVA" (where you spend 20 mins soaking in a chemical solution in a Bath to sensitize the skin to the UVA light), which were moderately effective and then I had 2 sessions (8 weeks 3 times a week) of Oral Psoralens PUVA (tablets of Psoralens taken to sensitize the skin), the latter involves spending all day wearing sunglasses as the retina also becomes UV sensitive. After the 3rd PUVA (in 18months) it was obviously not having that much of an effect anymore, so the Derm suggested trying Narrowband UVB and also prescribed me my first oral meds for Psoriasis, Neotigason (Acetritin) a "retinoid" that would hopefully reduce the Psoriasis as well.
Over the next 6 months it was obvious that the UVB was not working, I started to suffer severe depression and ended up signed off work for 6 months, and h was at a really low ebb dealing with the psoriasis and the Diabetes. I had been told I could not have anymore UV treatment due to the risk of skin cancer after so many previous treatments. I then spent 2 years on Neotigason only with no UV treatment.
Throughout all this I have been using various lotions potions and creams on my skin...Steroids, Retinoids, Moisturisers, Calcipritol, Banana extracts, coconut oils, all without much effect other than acting as moisturisers, I am pretty much resistant to all topical treatments I have tried.
After 2 years the neotigason was obviously not working so the Derm moved me onto Hydroxyurea, which made me quite sick and then finally onto Methotrexate last September. I also spent 2 weeks in hospital having intensive Dithronal treatment last September....The combination of Methotrexate and the hospital stay finally did the trick, after 9Â½ years I was finally clear ofpsoriasiss.
the next four months were great, I was able to go swimming for the first time in a decade, I could play with the kids (three of them now) I no longer requiredd someone to follow me around with a Hoover...Then the bombshell, the Methotrexate was destroying my Liver (my Liver enzymes were up 1000% above normal) so I had to stop taking it.
Finally I am one of the few lucky recipients of the more expensive Biologic treatments now on the market and my current Dermatologist (Dr.Kirkup) fought for almost 18moths to get the £10000 a year funding for me to be able to take Etanercept (Enbrel), which I have now ben on for approximately 14 months
Still have to resort to constant moisturising to relieve the itching....and resisting the urge to pick at the scales... but the Anti Tumour Necrosis Factor Drugs (Biologics) seem to keep the Psoriasis mostly at bay.
Unfortunately I also developed Psoriatic Arthritis about 18 months ago, and now have to walk with a Stick.
For further information I would suggest you go visit http://www.psoriasis-help.org.uk where ther is also a set of fourums where you will find me and numerous others woth the condition willing to offer support and information on how to deal with this horrible conidition.
So there I was facing a large pile of branches having recently decided to clear the jungle like growth at the end of my garden, pear tree and all.
The pile of wood and plants dwarfing my poor meager incinerator...oh the horror of all that work breaking it down into small bundles to burn.
Branwave !!! I'll go buy a Garden Shredder.
So off to the DiY stores I go, PDA in hand to garner reviews of the powerful machinery I am looking at. I looked round several stores, but baulked at the £150 plus price tags of the shredders that would have the power (2000W and over) and the feed capacity (thick branches) that I needed.
Eventually I entered The Wickes Store in Weston-super-Mare. Bank Holiday sale in fll swing, I still easily found a member of staff who was able to help me out, and pointed me to this piece of machinery, the Wickes 2500W Garden Impact Shredder.
I was struck by the price £67.99, less than have the price of com[arable models from other manufacturers, so of course I was wary of the build quality. The shop assistant assured me that the model was as robust as those more expensive models, and the price was a reflection of the fact Wickes still considers itself a supplier to tradesmen rather than the public.
Well it had all the features I was after:
40 mm cutting capacity (branch diameter)
2500W Motor (nice and powerful)
Wheels for easy moving
Safety Cut-out on Electricity supply
Safety interlocks on hopper lid
It was a little Heavy at 19Kg but on wheels not to much of a problem, and this actually reassured me as to it's robustness.
So I get it home and assemble it, 2 screws, 2 bolts and a couple of plastic widgets later it's built and ready to go.
I notice the clear warning signs in the manual and on the unit of the sound level it produces...103DbA, so it's in with the earplugs before using it, as well as Rigger gloves and safety glasses.
103DbA is about as loud as a very loud Nightclub btw.
I immediately set to work and test the unit with a branch that should be on the limit of what it can shred...a 40mm Pear tree branch. I feed the branch throught he top of the hopper (a window limits the size of branches that can be inserted). The 4 foot length of brach is pulled through with a very loud grrrrrrrrrrrr, and exits into the included collection bag as thousands of 5mm chips....bloody good.
and so after a couple of hours I have reduced a very large pile of branches and undergrowth to a bag of chips, which is duly put in my compost bin.
Guess I'd better go cut the grass next....
I love soft liquorice.
I am especially fond of Black Opal Australian Made Soft Eating Raspberry Licorice. (please excuse the spelling of Liquorice, it's how it's spelt on the packet)
I have loved red liqourice since I was a young child, it seemed to be readily available in both hard and soft varietes when sweet shops were proper sweet shops with jars of delicious comestibles racked up behind the counter.
In recent years however red liquorice has become harder and harde rto find in shops, even specialised confectioners, so imagine my delight when I found Black Opal Australian Made Soft Eating Raspberry Licorice was now being sold in my local Julian Greaves shop in the Sovereign Centrew in Weston-super-Mare. I was delighted. I am now a regular visitor to the stor to get my fix, and have introduced my children to this wonderful stuff as well
My wife thinks it tastes of Plasticene...but I ignore here :)
Food Acid E330 ( I have no idea?)
Raspberry Oil Flavour 0.5%
Licorice Extract 0.5% (so it is real Liquorice !!!)
Concentrates (Blackcurrant, Carrot)
It's Vegan and Vegetarian Friendly
I has a lovely lingering taste and aroma of Raspberries
It is made in Australia by RV and Sons Pty. Ltd of New South Wales
The Product Website is http://www.blackopalinc.com/index.html
Go buy some and treat your taste buds....they also make Black traditional Liquorice which is also delicious
I will continue to be a naughty diabetic and eat it :)
We visited Corfe castle on a Thursday in August 2007. We particularly chose to go on the Thursday as the website proclaimed every Thursday in the summer holidays was a Family Fun Day, with interactive games and activities. As we have three kids under 8, who see an enormous number of castles each year with us, we thought this would be great.
Sadly it wasn't! I was really looking forward to seeing the castle, being over 1000 years old and with a good history, including two seiges during the civil war and having remained in one family (the Bankes) for the past 600 of them, I was expecting some interesting stuff.
The little museum/display in the car park was really good - and free! Then there was a nice walk through a forest path. Then we got to the castle. It was an imposing sight. Entrance, as in all these things, was through the shop. Where they tried to flog us a "treasure hunt map" for £3.00 per child, and charged £6.00 per person to step through the door, without bothering to mention that all the internal part of the castle was closed for repairs.
I do understand that repairs are vitally important and I do not mind them being carried out - even in high season, but I do expect to be told that I will not see anything, and really I would have expected a it of a discount to be honest.
We paid our money, and walked around the ruined outer keep, which was interesting. We took advantage of the (very small) buggy store as (like most castles) it was absolutely unsuitable for wheeled vehicles, but the paths were reasonably good condition.
The "family fun day" consisted of a gazeebo, under which you could make a 1" tile for £3.00, or pay £5.00 to watch someone throw a teddy bear (with parachute) off the scaffolding. You didn't even get to keep the bear! Nothing else - no activities, no historical displays - not even any dressing up! I have seen better family fun in castles as part of their every day options!
On the way back, my kids needed the toilet. We got to them to find the door shut and locked! There was another mother there also with a toddler hopping around, and she kncked on the door. After a couple of attempts it opened a crack, a head poked round and told us to go away as the toilets were closed for cleaning, then the door slammed shut again. Other mother was pretty upset, and knocked again, asking why ALL the toilets were closed if one was being cleaned (only one cleaner), and the cleaner was really rude - only allowing us in after I stuck my oar in as well and we started building up a crowd.
Finally, we exited - again through the shop. My kids had managed to find all the cards for the treasure hunt without the map, so we went to see what they got - you £3.00 would've won them a polished stone. just the one! There was a shop in Weymouth offering a bag full of the same stones for £1.50!
Overall, i was very disappointed. there were hardly any information signs, no audio tour and no staff actually insde the grounds so unless you had brought a guide book you were stuffed. The main part of the castle was closed without warning (no sign on the castle entrance, nothing from the staff and a small one liner on the websie saying some reovation work was being carried out, but not that it was closed off completely), the Family Fun day wasn't, and didn't even try to hide the fact that it was just a money grabbing scheme.
Despite the long history, I can think of 100's of other castles I would rather visit.
I've been using a Microsoft Wireless Laser Mouse 6000 for about 6 months.
I bought it because I have arthritis and the ergonomics of the mouse mean that it fits perfectly into my palm requiring the minimum of finger movement.
The fact this is a laser mouse means the sensitivity is excellent and it can be used n virtually any surface.
It has excellent battery life, a number of reprogrammable buttons on the thumb position (useful fr surfing commands) and a 5 way scroll wheel which I feel lost without when using other mice.
It is also very robust having survived several unintentional dousings in various liquids from my 3 young children
And now the Technical bit
The freedom of wireless, coupled with high definition laser technology
Magnifier function lets you zoom in and edit your work
Smart receiver cuts interference from other devices
Features horizontal and vertical scrolling
Customizable buttons and long battery life
Model number: B5V-00001
Interface: USB compatible
Operating system compatibility: Windows XP Professional/Home/Media Center/Tablet PC Edition, Windows 2000; Mac OS X versions 10.1.x to 10.3.x (excludes Mac OS X version 10.0)
System requirements (Windows): Pentium 233 MHz or higher processor; 128 MB of RAM; 60 MB of available hard disk space (install 100 MB); available USB port; CD drive
System requirements (Mac): 15 MB of available hard disk space; available USB port; CD drive
Tracking system: Microsoft-proprietary high definition laser technology
Mouse button: 5 buttons including scroll wheel button, magnify button, and back button
Wireless platform: 27 MHz radio frequency
Wireless Range: 6 feet (1.83 meters) typical
Battery: 2 x AA alkaline batteries (included)
Battery life: 6 months typical
Dimensions (mouse): 2.92 x 4.96 x 1.73 inches / 74.2 x 126 x 44 millimeters (WxHxD)
Weight (mouse): 5.44 ounces / 154 grams including batteries
Dimensions (receiver): 2.83 x 4.49 x 1.34 inches / 72 x 114 x 24 millimeters (WxHxD)
Weight (receiver): 3.32 ounces / 94 grams
Receiver cable length: 60 inches +/- 6 inches / 1500 millimeters +/- 150 millimeters
Paper Mario fo rthe N64 originally very hard to get hold of in the UK. It is now haowever available for download from the Wii shop Virtual Console on the nintendo Wii.
I missed this one the first time round when I owned an N64, and recently downloaded it to my Wii.
Well just how addictive can one game be. I have spend hours playing this, and so has my 7 year old son.
A must for Mario fans and RPG lovers alike. And if you've never played an RPG before, this is the perfect one to start with.
It was released onto Wii Virtual Console a couple of monts ago and costs 1000 Wii Points.
The game itself is a mix of 2d and 3d, mario and the other characters appear as paper cut outs (2d) moving around a pseudo 3d world. Considering the age of the game the graphics are great, the gameplay is slick, suitable for both children (5 plus) and adults, there is humour for both throughout the game.
I estimate about 30-40 hours gameplay will be required to complete the game, it is quite challenging in places with some good puzzles and lots of hidden secrets. The characters are upgradable and mario can be customised through leveling up and the use of badges and other items in the game.
We had a fantastic day at Paultons Park. It's definitely a theme park for younger children, but we found more than enough to keep all our three aged 7, 4 and 2 occupied non-stop from opening (10.00am) to closing (5.30pm) and they would've stayed much longer if allowed.
It is expensive, costing us £70 or so for 3 adults (one disabled, so not using the rides, one OAP, so not using the rides) and the two kids - although the 2 year old just about made it in free because of her height.
However, the park is really well laid out, clean, friendly, has almost no "extra charge" attractions and stuffed full of things for the kids to do.
I particularly liked the free "sit on" rides everywhere - these are the train/car/bus rides that usually live outside amusment arcades and cost 50p to rock backwards and forwards a couple of times. My kids are never usually allowed to put money in them, so they thought it was great to be able to just press a start button, and it was a fantastic way to keep the little ones busy while the bigger ones went on the "scarier" rides.
Although, there were plenty of adventure play areas dotted around as well which were suitable for toddlers through to 11/12 years.
Each section of the park had some bigger rides and some littler ones, so there was no waiting around while one child did something - unlike Alton Towers type parks where they put all the baby rides together then the little ones just have to drag around watching everyone else having fun!
The toilets were plentiful as well. And clean! and each one had a toddler seat availale, which shows someone has been thinking about what would make life easier.
My kids weren't too excited about the birds and animals, but we did use the dinosaur walk to calm them down a little. There were not very long queues even for the bigger rides, even though we went in the middle of the summer holidays, and no queues for the smaller rides.
Overview: My 7 years olds most used phrase of the day was "that was the BEST ride I've EVER been on!"
After a poor nights sleep (bloody kids) what better way of recovering with a bloody great Fry-up.
So off to The Dragon Inn on Meadow Street in Weston-super-Mare me and my wife and 3 children. They serve Breakfast until Noon and we dutifully arrive at 11:45.
Finding a table is easy, finding a clean cleared table isn't, but we manage to find one with only a few dead coffee mugs on. The place is heaving with famlies, a good sign for us.
We ordered 2 Children's Breakfasts, a Scrambled Eggs on toast, and 2 Farmhouse Breakfasts. We are warned of a 20 minute wait for food, not unreasonable considering how busy they are. We also order 2 coffee's (one white one Americano) and 3 Fruit Shoot Drinks fo rthe kids.
The Coffee's are made and we are given one of the three kids drinks, the member of staff informs us that he will go and get the other 2 from the cellar and bring them too our table as there are none left shelved.
The Coffee is pretty dire, tastes very metallic, and quite weak.
20 minutes later no food and no drinks, I go to the bar and catch the duty manager who immediately gets the missing drinks for us and gives us an extra one on the house for the delay (as my youngest has already polished off the first drink).
the food arrives after 30 minutes, OK not a problem, it is busy after all. What is a problem is the food is Stone cold, congealing eggs, and the 4 sausages are missing from the 2 Farmhouse Breakfasts. Again I grab the Duty manager and he personally removes the cold meals and brings back replacements for us about 5 minutes later. Problem Solved.
We have been there before and will go back again, this was a one off incident I am sure, and it was handled well and apologised for by the staf who were clearly very very busy. The food is Cheap but excellent and plentiful.
Best indicator, our children all cleared there plates and asked for more :) Breakfast for 5 people with Drinks came to £15.
We went out for a meal to celebrate my wife passing here legal exams on 15th August 2007. We had all 3 of our kids with us, but didn't fancy just another chain place, so we wandered down to the local Italian. Our son (7) adores pasta, all the kids eat it happily, Italians are notoriously loud, friendly and family orientated. It seemed like the perfect solution.
We went there for lunch when it first opened, shortly after we moved here, and found it friendly enough if not specifically orientated towards young children. Weve been for a couple of lunch-time meals since then - mostly in the winter when it's quiet :-) Me and my mother took my son there for lunch last week for his birthday, and he was enamoured. So when we arrived at The Mask of Venice at 6.05 this evening (just 5 minutes after it opens) we expected much of the same.
The waiter was a bit flustered that we hadn't booked. I looked around the completely empty restaurant and wondered why, but he soon recovered and we were seated at a nice table at the back of the restaurant. We successfully ordered drinks, including an expensive bottle of wine for. We asked for the starter our son had a few days ago at lunch time, but despite it being a particularly easy dish to make (mozzarella cheese on ciabata toast) and the menu specifying "if you do not see what you want on the menu please ask your waiter and our chef will do his utmost to assist", we were told that was impossible. But we managed to find another suitable starter, and main course for everyone.
While waiting for it to be cooked our youngest daughter (2) fed her stuffed Tasha doll (backyardigan) some bread. She asked me to cut Tasha her own piece - we didn't understand quickly enough and she wailed "cut it mummy". Immediately the chef stormed out of the kitchen, and asked us to make her quiet. By the time he arrived at the table she was already calming down as my wife cut her piece of bread up! I reckon she wailed for maybe a maximum of 30 seconds. there were NO OTHER customers in the restaurant at the time.
We thought it was a bit rude, but ignored chef, and soon the food arrived. It was nice. maybe not £60 worth of nice, but nice.
A few more customers arrived - one other family with two small children, an older couple and two men drinking at the bar. The waiter came over - I thought he was asking of the food was OK, as it had been served only 10 minutes earlier (and his English was not good), but in fact he was asking if he could take the plates away. Our eldest daughter (3) had decided not to eat hers, and I had finished as, my wife was busy sorting out the youngest so had barely started. He cleared several of the plates whilst my wife was still eating, then came back for the glasses - almost snatching them out of my youngests hand, and loitering until my wife ate the rest of her food.
Once her plate was gone, our youngest got down from the table, and promptly bumped her head. She cried. Obviously. She's two! My wife picked her up and gave her a cuddle. By the time she made it onto my lap the chef was there telling us to shut her up and she was disrupting the whole restaurant. Again, she cried for a maximum of 30 seconds. As far as I could see, no-one else noticed.
Overall, I never been made to feel so unwelcome in any establishment, ever. The Mask of Venice is a place to be avoided at all costs if you have children, or even just want to chat and have a laugh with a group of friends. I am amazed they are so keen to get rid of their local trade! And their main summer trade Weston-super-Mare is a family resort! Perhaps that is why it was so empty considering this is as high season as we get! I will certainly never go back, I would recommend any visitor to the town does not go, and I will be commenting on every website/review that i can find! as I said to the manager when we left, they should put a large sign in their window saying "family unfriendly". At least if they were truthful about it they might get a few customers who were looking for an adult only restaurant!
Woe is me.
My family and I (3 adults and 3 under 7 children) have just returned from a weeks "holiday" at a Haven Holiday's Site.
We were booked into Apartment 2 at Weymouth Bay Haven Holiday Park on 18th August 2007.
I am disabled (walk with a stick due to arthritis) and my mother has recently come out of hospital after a bout of Pneumonia and suffers from Obstructive Pulminary Disorder. Haven were told of my Disability and inability to walk long distances when we booked.
We booked in at 1330, having paid for Gold Standard Accommodation, and all seemed well, until the map came out to show us where our accomodation was. Now remember we have 2 disabled persons in our party and they had been informed of my mobility problems...the Apartments are about as far as it is possible to get from the central facilities area, I measured it on our car odometer at over half a mile...this is a BIG Site.
Not overly impressed by this we thought we'd make the best of it, after all there was disabled parking by reception, so resigned ourselves to having to drive accross the camp several times a day.
So we go to our accomodation. From the outside the apartment looks excellent, and large, then we open the front door (security provided by abysmal 3 lever mortice lock). That was when we encountered the beginings of our woes.
The first thing we noted was all the windows we're open; odd we thought as it was persistently raining outside and it was only about 14 Centigrade, hardly balmy. We closed them...well you would, and thought not a lot more of it...except there was the occasional waft of a "damp building" smell. The other thing we found was the beds had all been moved away from the walls, again we didn't really register what that meant. We unpacked, grabbed some dinner from the local Chip shop and settled the kids into bed that evening, not wanting to venture out into the foul weather.
Next Morning we awoke to a deeply pervasive musty smell of damp and mould, and my Mother awoke unable to breathe without constant use of her inhalers, thankfully it had stpped raining so we set up a table and chair outside for her whilst we investigated. What we found was abysmal.
- The Walls of the 2 twin rooms were deeply damp to a height of about 4 feet above the floor.
- The beds and bedding were soaked from where we had pushed them back against the walls.
- The was mould growth in small patches in virtually every corner of the apartment and around all the windows (we missed this upon arrival due to the poor light)
These 3 points in themselves made the accommodation unfit for habitation, and had seriously affected my mothers health overnight.
So we did a full survey of the property....I should add at this point I am a NEBOSH Qualified Health and Safety Officer and my wife is in the Legal profession.
This is what we found.
- Dead insects everywhere, sqashed on walls, desicated around the edge of the carpets etc.
- Mould everywhere (all around the bathroom/toilet, all corners, windows)
- Cobwebs and dust everywhere
The apartment had obviously not been cleaned properly in months (desicated insects...yuk)
And there's more the aparment was substandard against building regulations.
- the Toilet opened directly onto the Kitchen (building regs require a 2 door seperation for hygiene)
- the extractor fan vent from the toilet exhausted into the kitchen (against building regs) instead of to the outside of the building.
So I took photographs of all the defects and health risks and we went to the Weymouth Bay reception.
We went to reception at 9am, and refused the accomodation as it was not fit for purpose. We were expecting a bit of an argument, as it is high season, and they obviously would not be able to offer an alternative apartment as they were al occupied. We barely had to say what the problem was before they were agreeing with us that it was not acceptable .
This was quite odd; we got the feeling that they knew that it was uninhabitable before they even put us there! We gave them until lunch time to sort it out. Went back to the apartment, packed everything up again. Tried to explain to the kids what was going on.
Went back reception at 11.30. They offered us a standard class two bed caravan. We refused. They then offered a Gold 3 bed caravan on the next door site (Seaview) until Tuesday. We refused. We suggested they give us a full refund (£969) and we'd find somewhere else, and that we expected whatever happened to be sorted out by midday. We had already lost a day of our holiday.
The Supervisor on reception wen tto talk to the maanger...faced with a demanded full cash refund they decided the 3 bed caravan on the Seaview Camp was actually available all week.
So off we went, and spent the rest of the week in a caravan as opposed to an apartment, not ideal considering my mobility issues, and the fact my wife doesn't like caravans, especially considering our young children... my kids are not just like a herd of elephants but more of the full safari at 6am, and there is no escaping that in a caravan, whereas a cottage offers rooms to be sent to, and doors to be shut on.
Needless to say a long letter of complaint asking for compensation will be heading it's way to Haven this week.
And so onto the a review of the rest of the camp...
Staff - other than the lifeguards there were a total of 11 entertainment and Customer care/ Reception Staff...between 2 sites of in excess of 500 caravans, and maybe 2000 guests.
Swimming pools - Indoor pools on both sites were filthy, and over chlorinated to a level where my eyes were burning after a couple of minutes in the water. The Outdoor pools wer ecleaner, but only because they were hardly used, having had no sun on them in weeks to raise them to a usable temperature.
Onsite Shop - Well stocked, OK prices, totally incmpetent staff who were unable to answer the simplest questions, nor apparently were they trained to used the tills effectively.
Childrens Soft Play - Planted smack bang in the middle of the Amusement Arcades of both sites, very noisy, and deliberately placed to encourage spending in the arcades. The arcades themselves were very loud.
Entertainement venues - Overpriced Drinks from bars which were understaffed (£3.70 for a pint of Cider!!!), constant force feeding of camp mascot merchandise, Very loud (illegally so I felt). Mediocre entertainment, no adult bingo on Seaview Site.
Site Layout - Only stay at Weymouth Bay if you like long dull walks through caravan parks. Only Stay at Seaview if you like Steep Hills. Neither site is at all Suitable for disabled holiday makers
Epilogue: Unsurprisingly, come Tuesday, the cottage was occupied again - I expect they told whoever was suposed to be coming into the caravan we were now in that they had been given an upgrade!
It took until Thursday for my mother's Breathing to fully recover ruining her holiday.
Conclusion: We're looking at butlins next year, and will never stay at a Haven Site Again..ever !!!!