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Oh, what have they done to the beloved American Adventure Theme Park? If you haven't visited this attraction within the last couple of years then I advise you to read this review before you set foot anywhere near it.
I live about 5 minutes drive away from the American Adventure and have visited the attraction on many occasions. I even remember when it was called Britannia Park - this was an ill-fated theme park which closed and went massively bankrupt within a year of its opening and it looks like the AA is soon to follow suit. A lot of my friends worked at the AA in its heyday in the early nineties. We loved going as students and would go at least three times during the season.
The Wild West shows were fantastic - unfortunately the gun culture soon took over and these were deemed to be politically incorrect, so the format of the shows were changed to more of a Stunt Riding Show, with a little bit of comedy thrown in. The guys still fell off the buildings onto "concealed" mattresses below, but this was little consolation. Nowadays the show is less than half an hour and the park must be making so little money that they can't even afford radio mikes for the (four) actors.
The other main attraction to the AA was the three major rides, namely The Missile (this is a loop - the loop rollercoaster, you go one way then all the way back in reverse), The Log Flume (re-named Niagraaaa Falls at one stage - this boasts the longest drop in Europe) and the Rapids ride (you know the one where you get soaking wet in a big round raft-type thing). Imagine my surprise when I visited the park in August of this year (2005) and I was told that the major rides had now closed! The reason for this is that the American Adventure is currently undergoing a period of change and the park will now be suitable for children aged under 12. In other words, NO "White Knuckle" rides of any kind.
This is fine, but Derbyshire already has a kiddies theme park called Gullivers Kingdom in Matlock Bath about half an hour away (which, incidentally, is far superior to the current AA). There's also Wicksteed, which at about 1 hour and a half away is well worth the petrol, and indeed Drayton Manor which again is a far superior full day out, with much more to do. There's no need for another kiddies theme park! People only went to the AA for the big rides!
The Log Flume is currently being bulldozed (I nearly cried when I went past in the train that circulates the park) and the whole area with the rapids ride and Missile (and some other attractions on that side of the park) are completely fenced off - the train just drives straight past. There are no plans at all to redevelop this area, in the words of the lady on the Reception desk, "It's all up in the air at the moment" - words which do not fill one with optimism.
OK, lets look on the positive side for the kiddies. It's £11.99 to get in, or if you get a "flyer" from our local libraries or tourist information offices, £9.99 for children (I'll come to the adult price in a minute). So what does little Johnny get for your hard-earned tenner? Well, the highlight of my daughter's trip (she is 6) was the indoor play area, which has a slide, which is almost vertical, as well as two other slides. However, this area is to be rebuilt in time for October half term, so this may make it better or worse, who knows. The new rides are also quite good, there's a Bouncing Buggies ride, a Space Shuttle ride, a weird ride where you get in a fire engine and have to put out a pretend fire with your water hose and finally, the ubiquitous Rockin' Tugboat ride, which I have seen in four different parks this year. Quite what all these new rides have to do with America (remember this is the "American" Adventure folks), I just don't know, I think they just got a cheap deal from the manufacturers in Italy, or are now just making it all up as they go along.
The old faithful rides are still there, though for how much longer I don't know. The Runaway Train still survives for this season, though I don't think it will be there much longer. The Buffalo train is good, and the Wagon Wheel gives you great views of what used to be a fine theme park for all ages. The Mississippi Boat no longer sails across the reservoir, even the Pirate Ship was being taken to bits on my trip. The JCB ride (which is the Twin-Looper coaster in disguise, fact-fans) is still there, as are some JCB's for you to play on, but only half the quantity as they had before. The JCB's and the Sky Bouncers are now free, whereas you used to have to pay extra for them, so that's a good thing.
If you recall the AA in its glory days, you used to enter via the magnificent front entrance, with a quadrangle of fine shops and kids would pelt down the stairs to be first on the Log Flume. However, in recent years, this entrance closed due to mining subsidence and this whole area has also gone to ruin, as have the shops and bars along the "New England" area.
So basically, there's about half a theme park left now. For kids under 10, at £10 for the day (although we had finished all the rides by 2pm - the park opens at 10am) it's not too bad value. My daughter went on about 20 rides so this works out at 50p a ride, when you compare this to the Pier at Skeggy or Fantasy Island, that's good value. You also have to think that the indoor play area could cost about £4 if it was separate - this is of course a bonus if it rains as there's not a lot else to look at if it pours down.
However, it costs £14.99 per adult on top of that £10. My wife and I went, so that's another 30 quid = £40 for the day out. I went on The Runaway Train, the Buffallo, the Fire Engines and the train that takes you round the park. Now my Maths ain't great, but that's a heck of a lot more than 50p a ride. My wife went on the Runaway Train and the normal train ride - that's even less value for money. There's hardly anything for adults (or teenagers) to do in the park now, so why do we have to pay £15 each? At Wicksteed (a much more superior kids theme park) it costs £6 to park your car (fair enough - go with your mates in your people carrier) and then you just buy wristbands for the day or tokens - no charge for adults. Even with the petrol cost from Derbyshire it's much cheaper for a far better day out.
I, like many others think that the directors in charge of the AA are making a huge mistake and expect the park to close within the next year. The debate rages on our local BBC Radio Derby pages, with many postings giving extremely negative feedback. I would like to know what other Dooyoo users think of the AA, past or present, and it's chances of success.
One consolation is that we actually used our Tesco vouchers to get in, so the day cost us nowt in actual fact, but the point is that we could have used these to save money off a better tourist attraction! I shall be using my vouchers for Drayton Manor or Wicksteed next summer!
I have lived in Derbyshire for most of my life, one place which I love to visit time and time again is the town of Matlock Bath. I live about half an hour away, or in peak tourist season on a hot Summer Sunday, about an hour and a half away. The traffic into Matlock Bath on such a day is horrendous, but it somehow adds to the excitement. Matlock Bath has a truly excellent atmosphere on warm Summer evenings, the more people there, the more fun the atmosphere is. If you?ve never been to Matlock Bath before, then it is quite difficult for an ?outsider? to understand the true relevance of the town within the locality. It is traditional to visit the town on a Sunday, especially if you are a biker. By mid-afternoon, motorcycles of all shapes and sizes, all colours and models line the streets, attracting many admirers of many ages. I was always fascinated to see the shiny chrome of the motorbikes as a child, and my daughter (who is now 5) was transfixed the other weekend when I was trying to explain the technical details of a Harley Davidson to an inquiring mind. So why do the leather-clad motorcycle fanatics congregate in this small Derbyshire tourist trap? Well, some come along just for the ride, some to soak up the atmosphere with fellow bikers, but a trip to Matlock Bath for a true bike enthusiast is not complete without a visit to the Bike Shop. The infamous Bike Shop at Matlock Bath is like a Mecca to some, with many bikers making long pilgrimages every year just to pay a visit. Myself, I can?t see what all the fuss is about. I?m not a biker, I think motorcycles are horrible, noisy creatures and don?t get pleasure from dressing up in leather. (Well not outside the bedroom anyway?.) So what does Matlock Bath offer for those of us who are simply tourists, wanting a good day out with our family and friends? Here goes? As you approach Matlock Bath (from the Ripley A38 turn-off, driving along the picturesque A5 at any rate) you pass th
e New Bath Hotel on the left hand side. If you have recently won the lottery, then this is an ideal place to stay. However, if you aren?t quite a Millionaire yet, I would give it a miss for now. It?s very posh though! On the right hand side, you will often see what looks like completely mad people dressed in red who appear to be stuck half-way up the hillside. Don?t worry, this is completely normal, apparently they are professional hill-climbers who think they know what they are doing. As you approach Matlock Bath, there?s a steep left hand turn-off. This leads to the children?s theme park going by the name of Gullivers Kingdom. There?s loads to do for under 7?s, but adults and older children may find the entertainment somewhat limiting. The theme park is built around a hillside, if you are not used to hills (unlike us hardened Derbyshire locals) then you will find walking round the site a struggle. Pushchairs are not recommended, believe me, I?ve tried it and never again! The best bet is to arrive at Gulliver?s about 10.30 a.m., and go on the rides before it gets too packed. A good idea is to bring your own picnic as food can be expensive. When you?ve had enough, either leave the car where it is, or my personal favourite is to move the car to the car park at the other end of town. Part of the fun of visiting Matlock Bath is battling for a car parking space. Last time I visited, I circled the car park 10 times before I found a space, witnessing many examples of ?car park rage? ? better than watching soaps on TV! In the modern-day age of commercialism, Matlock Bath is unusual in that it has no ?high street? names among its fine array of shops. This makes a pleasant change and you feel that you can browse at your leisure. The shops are mainly located on one side of the street, the other is like a promenade, following the line of the river. Many of the locals call Matlock Bath the seaside town without a sea. With it?s vast array of arcades and fish a
nd chip shops, you could be fooled into thinking Derbyshire in fact has a coastline. It doesn?t of course, but no visit to Matlock Bath is complete without walking along the riverside eating fish and chips out of the wrapper. It simply has to be done. There are some lovely tourist-y type shops, with all sorts of gifts, with new ones opening up all the time. I noticed that on my recent visit one of the shops now offer the chance to decorate your own pots, plates or figures. It seemed very popular with the kids, and you can even have children?s parties there. If you don?t want your chips whilst on the move, there are plenty of sit-down and eat cafes, all with their own specials boards. There is a large aquarium and hologram exhibition, which is worth a visit, if you?ve never been before, but if you?ve seen it once then the novelty wears off after the 2nd visit. There is also a Mining Museum which is interesting if you?re into that sort of thing. The shop sells nice gemstones and other such trinkets, ideal for souveniers. Both attractions usually have special offers on admission prices in the evenings or off-peak times. Talking of evenings, the best time to walk along the ?sea front? is definitely evening-time. Unlike most places on a Sunday, the shops remain open way past 4pm, only really closing when the public decide they have spent enough money. Around September ? October, the town holds illumination nights where the streets are lit up, and special ?floats? sail up and down the river, which are brightly decorated and illuminated. These evenings are very popular and it is best to arrive in plenty of time. It is possible to cross over the bridge across the river, on the other side is a lovely woodland walk, with a children?s playground to let them release some of that energy. If you can pack it all in to one day, then a visit to the Heights of Abraham is well worthwhile. This involves taking a trip up Abraham Heights in a cable car. If you
are scared of heights (like me) then I would certainly not advise it. My parents, in their wisdom, decided to take me on my 11th birthday (nearly 20 years ago now) and I cried all the way up and back down again, as my Dad made the cable car rock even more by leaning against the window taking David Bailey-type pictures with his camera. I have never been since, but I have heard that the cable cars have been vastly improved since then, so maybe one of these days I will conquer my fear. In summary, Matlock Bath is well worth a visit if you are touring the sights and sounds of Derbyshire, it is very difficult to pack it all into one day, so you will just have to come again another time and see the things you didn?t see before!
There’s a new product on the market, advertised on the packet with a picture of a frog wiping his bum. Well, that about sums it up I’m afraid. When the new “Kandoo” baby wipes came out a few months ago, we thought “yippee!” –a great new product which encourages young children to be nicely independent, they can go to the toilet and wipe without wasting loads of toilet paper (like the Andrex advert). Well, that’s the theory. However, in practice, as we well know, do not believe everything you see in adverts. Along comes our daughter, Lucy, now just over 4 years old. We had been trying, in vain, for her to become more independent in the “toileting” department. To try and encourage her further, we bought 2 packs of these new Kandoo wipes. Basically, we told her to use some toilet paper first, then use a couple of the Kandoo wipes, to finish off. The packaging advises flushing no more than 5 Kandoo wipes down the toilet at once. Lucy had been doing this procedure quite successfully for about 3 weeks, and got quite a way down the packet of Kandoos. In the meantime, I visited my parents in Derbyshire for a week or so, leaving my wife and Lucy on their own. A few days into my relaxing break, I received a phone call with my wife in a blind panic, shouting “there’s sewage all over the back garden!!” After calming her down and running through the procedures, I wasn’t going to cut my relaxing break too short, so as we have 2 toilets in the house which feed through separate drainage pipes, I advised on using the other toilet. We also share an outside drain with our neighbour, so I advised to pass the message onto her. Prior to all this, we had recently had a new drainage channel cut as we have had a new kitchen sink put in. I automatically blamed the kitchen fitters, so rang them up in a rage. They visited the next day, and looked around, and as always, said “Noth
ing to do with us, our drain pipe is fine.” (as all workmen do). When I returned from my break, I donned my overalls, wellies, rubber gloves and clothes peg on nose and did some s**t shovelling first of all. I then removed the various drain covers and found that the drain was indeed well and truly blocked. Luckily, my neighbour had a set of flexible “rods”, so I set about feeding those into the drain and wiggling them around. Eventually, the blockage cleared, a quick hose down later and all toilet facilities were returned to normal again! During my rodding, I couldn’t believe how many of the Kandoo baby wipes were floating around the mess (sorry if you’ve just eaten!!) and that they had lodged along the pipework, not disintegrated at all. Since then, we have not flushed the wipes down the toilet, and have not experienced any further drainage problems! I decided to telephone the “Pampers Careline” and share my experiences with them. The lady was not very helpful, stating that “we have had no other complaints of this nature” (well, they all say that!). She then asked me for the batch number of the product, and said that she would send a pre-paid envelope for me to send in a report, preferably from a qualified plumber!! On reflection, what I should have done, was to take photographs of the drain whilst I was cleaning it, but you don’t really think of that when you’re knee deep in s**t!! I remember a while ago when the “Charmin” toilet paper first came out, apparently that blocked up people’s drains and they had to completely redesign the product. Whether or not anything will become of my complaint, I don’t know, but I suggest you watch this space, and if any dooyooers have similar problems with the Kandoos, I would like to hear from you, and so would the Pampers Careline lady! In the meantime, I suggest you don’t flush this prod
uct down the loo, unlike the frog on the packet, if you use baby wipes either throw them in the bin, or use the adult versions, like the moist Andrex wipes.
After reading through a fellow dooyoo user’s review (“karenuk”) on the anti-depressant “Cipramil”, and being able to sympathize directly with many of her experiences, this prompted me to write my own review of the drug, as well as my experiences of it. After reading her review, I was relieved to know that someone else had been going through similar experiences and traumatic experiences as I have during the last few months. Firstly, a bit of background… As regular dooyooers will know, I am currently a primary school teacher, and have been teaching for over 7 years now. I am also married to a teacher, which helps in some ways, as you can share experiences and help each other through difficult times, but hinders in others, as we never have any time for each other. We also have a 4 year old daughter, who takes up a lot of time. My wife and I have been through the bad and good times, and just about survived along the way. Over the last seven years, teaching has become more and more pressurized, with added paperwork and administration. During this time, I have gradually lost faith in the education system. Although I enjoy teaching immensely, I am often forced into teaching lessons in a particular style, and take huge amounts of work home. However, that’s another story for another dooyoo debate, but suffice to say that I became increasingly depressed, especially over the last two years. As with most blokes, I was reluctant to go and see a doctor about my spiralling depression, so just continued throwing saucepans across the kitchen and not actually addressing the problem in hand. I had been taking prescribed blood pressure tablets for a while to treat very high blood pressure, I’m only 28, so this was worrying enough. Unfortunately, the pressure of work and other factors proved too much and due to legal reasons I can’t divulge details on this website, but for background purposes I ha
ve been off work for the last two months – this is set to continue for a long time yet, I would imagine. (However, as you will note, I have been making good use of my time writing dooyoo reviews whilst on leave!) It was after one very particular bad day at work that I had got it in my mind that life was no longer worth living, the pressure of various factors had driven me to the lowest time in my life, and I (foolishly) decided to leave a note and throw myself into the local river. In the end, I got close to the water’s edge, but couldn’t throw myself over. I then tried to jump in front of a train, but I also bottled out of that one, too. After that, my wife promptly took me to the doctors, and after a long chat, he prescribed me various tablets to help relieve the stress, and signed me off work. As he said, “the tablets can’t sort out your life for you, but they can certainly help relieve the pain.” He initially put me on a high dose of Diazepam (which is probably around on the dooyoo site elsewhere), along with the antidepressant, Cipramil. This comes in easy to swallow tablet form, and can be broken into smaller doses if required – I’m currently on 20mg a day. Cipramil belongs to the group of medicines known as antidepressants, which work by relieving the symptoms of a depressed mood. The drug is used to treat the symptoms of depression and, when you’re feeling better, to help prevent the symptoms recurring. Cipramil is also beneficial in relieving symptoms in patients prone to panic attacks. Treatment is usually continued for about 6-9 months. As with all drugs, there are possible side effects. The tablets contain a small amount of glycerol, and at high doses, glycerol can cause headaches, stomach aches and diarrohea. Other medication shouldn’t really be taken alongside Cipramil, eg. St. John’s Wort or any anticonvulsants. I must say that since being on the tablets
I hav e been making more regular visits to the toilet, and have thought about taking shares out in Andrex. However, I think due to the stress, this has made the problem worse, and IBS is often associated with stress anyway. Obviously it takes a while for the drugs to get into your system, and often you feel worse before you feel better, like an emotional rollercoaster. It’s also about finding the right balance through trial and error. As I am also on Diazepam, it’s difficult to judge which of the drugs is having the best (or worst) effect. I would say for the first week, I felt no better at all, in fact, I probably felt worse, and was very tired, I would sleep for 12 hours at night, and for about 4 hours in the afternoon also. If I went out of the house, I would have fits of paranoia, as if everyone and everything was out to get me, or talking about me as I walked past. I found it difficult to even walk down to the end of the street and back. Then as the next week progressed, I started feeling a bit more awake, and better within myself, but started to feel extremely dizzy. This especially happened when I got out of bed or out of the bath, and especially at the top of a flight of stairs – it was as though I was going to fall down them. I had to wait a good five minutes before venturing down stairs. The doctor halved my dose of Diazepam, and the symptoms ceased. As the weeks progressed, the tablets have made me feel better. Obviously I have not been at work and taking it easy, which all contributes to feeling better anyway. These last couple of weeks I have been staying away, with my parents and feel far better. During this last month, I have also been making regular visits to a counsellor, which has made me think about “me” as a person and why I have been behaving like I am. My words of advice to anyone in a similar position, on Cipramil, Diazepam or any other anti-depressant is that the tablets a
lone will not sort out your life, they just alleviate some of the pain. You have to find what is right for you, and find yourself, as I have had to do. This does not happen overnight, and it is still an uphill struggle for me as I look elsewhere for a change of career, and to be nearer to my family, which means everything when you think the whole world is against you. Thank you for taking the time to read this review, as I stated, I was prompted to write this article after reading “karenuk”’s review – it just goes to show that there are other sufferers out there who would be willing to help.
Whatever did I do before this amazing piece of new technology arrived into my household? Well, we had an answering machine, that’s what. However, a few months ago, the machine decided to give up the ghost, through a combination of overwork, and over-loaded phone sockets. On its way out, it left us with a series of garbled incomprehensible messages and then went to the great answering machine in the sky. By coincidence, this was around the time when BT were heavily publicising their free 1571 service, on the TV and in magazines. They even went to great expense to include little “post-it” notelets inside the women’s weeklys (not that I read them of course, you understand, purely for research purposes…) It was incredibly easy to sign up for the service, you have to wait about 24 hours for the service to “kick in” whilst the technical guys/gals at BT press the right buttons for it to work, and then Bob’s your Uncle. Basically, the phone rings for 5 rings, during which time, you can answer it in the normal manner, should you wish to. On the 5th ring, the automated service leaps into action, the person trying to ring you gets an automated message in their ear saying “please leave a message”, or something of that nature, which they either do, or don’t. If they do leave a message, when you pick your phone receiver up, instead of the usual ring tone, you can hear an interrupted ring tone instead. You then press 1571 on the handset, and just like on the mobile phone-type voice mail service, you get a computerised lady’s voice announcing “you have one new message”. You can then listen to the message, then save it or delete it. The service has the capacity to store up to 10 messages at any one time, usually more than adequate for the average home user. The best “thing” I have discovered about this service is that I am a regular internet user, espec
ially in the evenings. I use AOL, which doesn’t cut me off, either if an incoming phone call is trying to get through, nor after two hours continuous use, unlike other service providers. I then emerge from the study after about 4 hours of use, pick up the telephone, and I am greeted by the computerised lady informing me I have about 6 new messages, which is extremely useful, but too late in the evening for me to return the calls! However, before the 1571 service, I would have no idea if anyone had been trying to get hold of me or not. Now, sorry in advance to Mr. Alexander Graham Bell, but I do find the telephone an invasion of privacy, we all know the phone always goes when you’re in the bath, shower, toilet or other such activity!! By using the 1571 service, you can continue with whatever it was you were doing and then ring the person back at your leisure. Double glazing salesmen never leave a message anyway, so that filters them out for starters. If no-one does leave a message, then of course you have the back-up of the 1471 service, where you can find out the number of the person who has tried to ring. This has happened to us on many an occasion, we have then spent the next half an hour trawling through address books to try and find the number and match it up to a person or business we know, before phoning them back, or putting it down as a complete mystery, instead of simply answering the phone in the first place! Of course, the Caller Display units could also still be used in parallel with this service, whereby the number flashes up on an LCD screen when the phone rings, much as it does on a mobile phone. These units were quite popular a few years ago, and were quite expensive at the time, I get the impression BT arte phasing these inventions out, in favour of the 1571 service. You can cancel this service at any time, should you wish to, and all information now appears on the computerised BT bills, which are even nowadays
available on the internet. They say there is no such thing as a free lunch, but here we have a free answering machine, in my opinion, much more useful and long-lasting than a tuna bagel.
Before purchasing this toy for our daughter, we had a good look around at all the alternatives, as there are a great number of these around on the market at present, all offering similar features. Perhaps the main reason for buying this particular one is the “Early Learning Centre” brand name, as one that you can rely on and trust. It also seems chunkier and more durable than comparable toys. In fact, my daughter has dropped it onto the floor of the kitchen many a time and it still works perfectly fine, with no hint of damage. The unit itself is very brightly coloured in red and green (Tesco’s, take note!), with chunky buttons on it. They make a satisfactory (and not too annoying) bleeping noise when pressed, the number is then displayed on a large LCD screen. Basically, the register works like a large calculator, prices can be punched in and then added up. Older children would find this a useful support tool in early addition skills. However, younger children just get the pleasure of seeing the numbers appear on the screen. As we all know, gone are the days of price stickers on items in supermarkets (whatever happened to all those price sticker guns?), so this till “reads” bar codes. Actually, it’s all a clever illusion, but to the untrained eye of a 3 year old, they think it’s great. When an item is passed over the black circle on the till, a “beep” sounds and a random price is generated on the LCD display. Younger children could pass the items over in any way, whether there is a bar code on them or not, but older children could be encouraged to look for the bar code. (Particularly if you have a career in Tesco’s in mind for them when they’re older!) A sheet of bar code stickers come in the box with the till, which are useful for making your own food boxes and sticking on for added realism. At the end of the transaction, the child has 2 options – they can
press the button to open the cash drawer (some “pretend” money comes with it). The drawer then flings itself out in typical Arkwright style, with a resounding “ping!” Or, they can move the pretend swipe card through the slot in the till, just like in a real supermarket. We find the till alone has limited play potential, and found that it needed supplementing with other play items. We bought a variety of realistic play food from Early Learning Centre (also available on-line!) – these range from fake lettuces to play cans, packets and the like. Asda also do a very realistic range of pretend food boxes, complete with Asda logos and pretend bar codes. Toys R Us also do a good range. We’ve also supplemented the stock with small boxes, like OXO cubes, spice boxes and free sample bottles. Finally, we picked up a very realistic child-size shopping trolley from a car boot sale, as well as a plastic shopping basket, which adds to the play potential. Our daughter is now 4 and has had a good year’s use out of it so far, and never seems to tire of it. Her Nan works on the checkout at the Co-op and she loves pretending to be Nanny on the checkout. These role-play type toys also develop the child’s language skills (trust me, I’m a teacher!), as well as early emergent writing skills – you can encourage the child to “write” a pretend shopping list before they play.
These play rugs retail in the shops for anything from £10-£20, depending on the size and quality. However, we were lucky enough to pick ours up from a boot sale for £2, which was a total bargain. Basically, it’s a small roll of carpet, very durable, with a plastic backing. It’s easily cleaned with 1001 / Vanish carpet cleaner if drinks, etc. are spilled on it. The design on the front consists of a simple road layout, with roundabouts, corners and T-junctions, complete with dotted white lines down the centre. Around the outside of the road, there are various buildings in 2-D, eg. School, post office, bank, etc. These provide excellent role-play scenarios for the child as they manoeuvre their car to and from each destination. We found that on its own, the play mat has limited potential; obviously you need to purchase some cars to go with it!! Again, boot sales provide an ideal cheap source of toy transport! The most useful toy cars for this particular road layout are the wooden type from Early Learning Centre stores – you can buy all sorts of trucks and lorries also. Brio and Tescos also sell some excellent durable wooden alternatives. Also, the cars which come as part of the Fisher Price series are about the right size and are more chunky for small hands. They also have little holes in which to put plastic people in and drive them around. We put Lucy’s Fisher Price “sounds” garage to one side of the play rug, this adds play potential straight away. With a little imagination, other scenes could also be added, I’m sure, such as Playmobil or Lego sets. After use, the rug can be simply rolled up and stored in a cupboard, or even stored flat on top of a wardrobe, taking up very little space. If you have the luxury of having a playroom, the rug could be left out all the time, eg. To cover part of a wooden floor. I would recommend buying one of these for any child between the age of 3-6,
whether boy or girl. Yes, Lucy likes Barbies and Polly Pocket just like the next 4 year old girl, but she plays with this garage and play rug just as much. However, I would shop around for bargains as they do vary in price and quality – the best bet is to scour the boot sales.
This is a great little product for helpful boys and girls around the house, and just so realistic, it’s unbelievable. When I was a lad, we used to have to make do with empty cardboard boxes stuck together and the insides of loo rolls to represent what we wanted to, and actually use our imagination. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on your viewpoints, children no longer need to use as much imagination as we once did, as there are so many of these “realistic” items in the stores these days. Take this Dyson toy Vacuum cleaner for example. It’s just like Mummy’s (or to be politically correct; Daddy’s) “proper” one, except about three times smaller. It looks and (almost) behaves like a real Dyson, with one obvious exception. Unfortunately it doesn’t actually hoover the dust off your carpet like a real hoover, though I have read somewhere that there are toy hoovers that do actually do this (sounds like a great invention to me!!) That aside, the hoover has a flexible hose on the back, which lifts out of the housing, which the child can pretend to wave around the floor, hoovering up. It also has what I call the “kick” function – if you kick the bottom bit with your foot, this remains on the carpet, whilst you are angling the rest of the hoover around the room. My daughter had obviously watched me do this with our real Dyson, and that was the very first thing she did upon receiving this present for her birthday, and has since had hours of endless fun. Although not actually functional, this is a great educational role-play type toy, which all girls (and boys) would love to play with. Lucy also has a very realistic washing machine, along with iron and ironing board. My theory is that if we teach her at a young age, she’ll be ironing my shirts for me by the time she gets to school. (not really, otherwise Social Services will be round here in a flash!!) Final
ly, inside the front see-through casing of the hoover there are lots of little plastic bobbles, which are supposed to simulate the collected dust. This is much more appealing to the eye than looking at the contents of my actual Dyson, perhaps they should have included a few pretend dead spiders in the toy one to add a bit of realism. When a LR6 battery is added to the hoover (make sure you have plenty in for Christmas, folks!) and switched on, the toy makes very realistic “hoover-type” noises. When the switch is turned further, as well as the noise, the plastic bobbly things whirl round frantically inside the hoover, to simulate the cyclone power of the real thing. I can only think of three disadvantages of this toy, the advantages far outweigh them however; 1. It doesn’t actually hoover up (unfortunately) 2. It is very fiddly to change the battery 3. The connecting hose attachment frequently falls out of the bottom of the unit (perhaps real Dysons do this and mine is the only one that doesn’t?) Also I would say that this toy has limited potential on its own, but when coupled with many of the other “realistic” toys such as this, it really does enhance children’s roleplay opportunities. Failing that, give your child a couple of loo roll innards, a piece of hosepipe and a cardboard box and see if they have just as much fun.
When I initially saw this item on Dooyoo, I thought “How can I write a whole review about a simple light?”, so I thought I’d set myself the challenge, and would appreciate any feedback! When my daughter Lucy (now 4 years old) was first born, she was lulled off to sleep by the dulcet tones of the Tomy Lullaby Light Show (available from all good retailers), this cast an image on the ceiling of pretty animals, as well as playing a tune. However, this had to be wound up at regular intervals and she always liked the security of having the hallway landing light left on at night. However, my wife and I didn’t like the brightness of the hall light continually on all night and found it increasingly difficult to sleep (on the rare opportunities we actually got to sleep). We decided to search round for some kind of night light, to give Lucy the security of having some light on, but not so dazzling for us. We came across this Lindam “Dawn to Dusk Sensor Light” in the Argos catalogue and decided that this would suit the job. This is a very simple device, it plugs into the wall either inside or outside the child’s bedroom and can be left switched on all the time. The device has a simple light sensor on the front, so when it gets dark (or you put your hand over it!), the light comes on. The bulb inside is one which could be compared to one which is inside a fridge, and replacement bulbs are available in all good DIY stores (eg, B&Q, Homebase). I buy mine from a local lighting/electrical spares shop, which are under £1 each, making the light very economical to run. They are also very easy to replace, by simply screwing part of the plastic frontage off the unit, replacing the bulb and screwing the unit back together again. The bulbs are quite delicate though, and often I’ve taken the Light Sensor out of the plug socket and accidentally dropped it on the floor, smashing the bulb in the process. My ha
ndy hints for using this item would be: 1. Leave it plugged in and switched on all the time in a spare plug socket. 2. Have one or two spare bulbs handy in case of sudden failure, otherwise sleepless night is ahead! 3. If you have to unplug it, be very careful when unplugging and changing the bulb, and always remember to put a plastic child safety plug in its place, you never know. My resumee for this product would be: simple, but effective and one which helps you and your child get to sleep!
My 4 year old daughter has to play on this CD nearly every day. I purchased it a couple of years ago, and though she was interested in the Tweenies, she wasn’t terribly struck on playing this game. However, she is now getting much more IT proficient and is quite good with using the mouse, and can actually play this game quite independently. There is also a spin-off CD available from all good retailers, which features a dance mat and microphone, but as with all sequels, this doesn’t quite match up to the original. Upon installing and starting the game, the Tweenies theme music and introductory sequence plays (like on the television programme) , then the child has to initially type in their own name, and choose a pretty picture icon to go with it. Obviously, it would make it easier if the adult previously did all this for the child and saved the name to the list. Now all Lucy (my daughter) has to do, is click on her own name (she chose a ladybird picture) and click on “Go”. Then the Tweenies nursery is displayed, and the characters all walk on, doing a little dance, introducing themselves, then finally Doodles hobbles along to complete the line up. If the child clicks on one of the characters, they do a little dance, which is a nice touch. In the centre of the screen appears the Tweenie clock, with various options. At the bottom of the screen is an icon of Judy, this remains at the bottom of the screen throughout the game, and acts as a “Help” feature if the child (or indeed adult!) gets stuck during the game. There is also a door icon, which is the generally understood “Exit” symbol. To the right of the screen is a cardboard box, which is where we will start: The cardboard box ++++++++++++++ This contains the “games” features. Although not very educational, they have their place and value in a multimedia CD such as this one, the main skill being developing the child
8217;s motor skills for using the mouse, and developing “cause and effect”. The first game is a spaceship game, which being a stereotypical 4 year old girlie girl, Lucy is not at all interested in, so I am unable to comment on this one. The second game is “Snap”, which is probably the best game on here. Jake and Doodles introduce this one, there’s a machine with a conveyor belt which toys trundle along. At the bottom of the screen there is a card. If the toy on the belt matches the card, then the child has to click the mouse, and the toy goes in the box. Jake shouts messages of encouragement along the way. The child has to get 10 “snaps” to progress onto the next level. There are 6 levels of difficulty, the 6th is much too fast, but is very good for testing your reaction time if you have had a few pints to drink. The last game is Doodles bone catching game. You are in control of Doodle’s doggie bowl and someone throws some bones over a wall for you to catch. Again, you have to catch 10 bones in order to progress to the next level, whereupon the size of the bowl shrinks each time, making it more difficult to catch the bones. Story Time ++++++++ Initially, this feature is very good, but after a while, loses its appeal. Max reads a story out aloud. The child is able to follow the words along as they are read out, look at the pictures and “turn” the pages by clicking the mouse. However, there is only one story on the game, which is entitled “Felicity’s Felt Tip Pens.” The story is quite good, but after about 20 reads, this gets very boring. There should really have been more stories to pick from. However, a quick mouse click over to the Cbeebies Tweenies website gives another 3 stories (using Flash animation) to choose from, so that’s not too bad. Messy Time +++++++++ Here, Jake explains various items which can be mad
e and coloured in on screen (or printed out in black and “physically” coloured in by the child) . These include masks, paper planes, spinning circular card patterns, spinning tops and bookmarks. There is also a simple art program, with limited colour choices, choice of brush or pencil, and “stamps” which the child can select to build up their own pictures. The beauty of the CD is that there are 10 pages which the computer somehow remembers at any one time, so the child can recall their previous picture and edit it, or delete it completely. Telly Time ++++++++ Again, this is very limited, but again, the Tweenies website has similar parallels. The child can pick from 5 videos to watch, about 4 minutes long. They can fast forward or pause the action whilst the “film” is being played. They follow the story of a family doing various things. They are: “My Day”, “Looking after a pet”, “Shiny Metal”, “Going to School” and my daughter’s favourite “Litter”. The videos are of high quality, with voice overs from the Tweenies as the action takes place. Song Time ++++++++ On the Tweenies site, there is a huge choice of .wav files of Tweenies songs and nursery rhymes from the TV show. However, the web site simply plays these and in my opinion, the child gets bored just looking at a blank screen all the time. They also take a while to download (unless you have broadband of course). On the CD, there is a choice of 5 songs, complete with words (karoke style at the top of the screen) as well as the actual video of the Tweenies performing the songs. Features include “Here we go Looby Loo”, “Wheels on the Bus”, “One Finger, one Thumb”, and “If You’re Happy and You Know It…” They are all action-based songs, which helps the child learn. There is also another feature, introduced
by Jake, where the child can control up to 4 instruments playing one of either two tunes. This is quite educational, and interesting to show how music is built up from different tracks. The volume can also be altered, as well as the speed. News Time +++++++++ Bit of a tenous link, this one, and probably my least favourite part of the CD, but actually quite educational. Fizz introduces a wheel, with 6 sections to complete. The child has to select a section, whereupon Fizz asks a question with a multiple choice of 3 to answer. You can’t ask the audience or phone a friend, but Fizz does offer some help if the answer is wrong. The vocabulary of the questions helps the child to learn a wide range of words, eg. “next to”, “lightest”, “most” and other counting vocabulary. When the question is correctly answered, this reveals part of a picture on the wheel. After answering all the questions, the child then has to guess what the object is. Finally, there is also a facility on the CD to email Doodles a message, but I have never tried that. I would recommend doing this direct from the Cbeebies website itself. The CD, on its own, usually provides my 4 year old with about 1 hours entertainment at a time, and she never seems to tire of the same features (unlike me, if I hear “Felicity’s Felt Tip Pens” one more time, I’ll throw it through the window), and used in conjunction with the excellent Tweenies website, it’s a very valuable learning tool for the 3-5 year old age range.
I cant believe that I’m the first person to write about West Norfolk’s Number One radio station, KL.FM 96.7. I know that there are many other regular dooyooers out there who, like me, live in rural Norfolk. I therefore feel obliged to speak out for all West Norfolk residents about the merits of listening to our local radio station. Certainly in the King’s Lynn area, since it’s introduction about 10 years ago, KLFM has become a way of life for many people. Most listen to it on their way to work in the car, whilst stuck on the A10 / A47, and of course on the return journey back home and depend on it for local travel bulletins. Others get their children ready for school to the sounds of the eighties and time the school run to co-incide with regular features. Many just tune in on a Sunday morning for the relaxation session (“Easy Like Sunday morning”), whilst lazing through the Sunday papers. Whatever the reason, KLFM does try to cater for a wide audience level. Firstly, let’s look at the (usual) presentation schedule, this is also featured on the recently revamped website on: www.klfm967.co.uk: Monday-Friday 6am Steve Bradley 10am Golden Years 11am The Mid Morning Show 3pm Afternoon Anthems 4pm Simon Rowe 8pm Evening Session 9pm Kelvin Scott 12am Overnight Music Saturday 7am The Saturday Breakfast Show 10am Golden Years 11am Dave Richardson 3pm Afternoon Anthems 4pm Gary Steele 8pm Evening Session 9pm Non-Stop Saturday Night Sunday 7am Steve Bradley 10am Golden Years 11am Easy Like Sunday Morning 3pm Afternoon Anthems 4pm The Pepsi Chart with Neil Fox Neil Fox with the nations favourite countdown 7pm The LP Chart 8pm Evening Session 9pm Darren James And thus continue
s for another week. I think most of West Norfolk will agree with me that the best, and favourite DJ on the station is Steve Bradley. I have met him on a couple of occasions, and he’s a great bloke, very down to earth and is great with the children. A few years ago, a colleague of mine won the honour of being voted “West Norfolk’s Trendiest Teacher” award, and he came to the school for a presentation, he was very polite and had a lot of time for people. He has his own website, strangely enough on www.stevebradley.co.uk, which gives a profile of him, and the fact that he nearly made it as a Blue Peter presenter. He also does voiceovers and other presentation work. His actual radio show is (usually) very smoothly put together, and quite professional, for a local radio station. There are many regular exciting features which grip the whole of West Norfolk, such as the infamous “Mystery Voice” competition. Steve plays a quick excerpt of a famous celebrity talking and listeners have to ring in with a suggested answer. If they are wrong, they get the “Family Fortunes” (uuuuh-uhhhh) noise, if correct, then prizes range from a starting figure of £25, this is increased by £5 as the days go by, until one listener may win £800 or so. Steve is great at dealing with people on the phone, and if there is some old dear phone up with clearly the wrong answer, he tries not to be too patronizing, but by the tone of his voice you can tell he’s thinking “we’ve got a right loony here!” He often speaks to a friend of his, known only as Kevin the Shed Builder, which is also quite a humorous feature. The travel bulletins always make me chuckle, too, and are a very regular necessity on this station. As West Norfolk only has about two main roads, if they are ever blocked by an overturned combine harvester, or a potato lorry shedding its load, then the travel bulletins are a great way of avoiding
the blockage. However, often days, sometimes weeks go by without any major incident, so the travel update normally sounds rather like this: “This morning, all is quiet and the A10 and A47 are running smoothly, no major problems to report, and all trains and buses are running to time.” When you know that the travel reporter is willing for some major road disaster to happen so that they actually have something exciting to report on. Steve has a great rapport with his co-presenters, too, especially Ewan Monaghan, who reads regular news bulletins. I’m sure they make half of it up as they go along, but it sounds very funny as you are driving to work. After Steve comes the Golden Hour (not dissimilar to the Radio 1 feature of the same name), where all songs played are from the same year. Mid-afternoon slacks off a bit, but there is a good competition feature called “West Norfolk’s Top 10”. In “Family Fortunes” style, the presenter has asked a selected audience a question, eg. Name something you hide in the wardrobe, and he gives the bottom 4 answers, listeners have to ring in with what they think is the top answer. The afternoon session is either presented by Simon Rowe, or Dave King, both have their good points and bad points, but both make the drive home from work a more pleasurable one. It is alleged that Steve Coogan loosely based his Alan Partridge character on Dave King, so I’ll let you make your own conclusions on that one – I’d be interested to know what other listeners think! I never really listen to the radio much at evenings or weekends, but as you can see from the selection, there is quite a wide range of appeal. The website is in its infancy at present, but does look quite snazzy, it only has 4 pages to speak of, but I’m sure in time, this could be a website to be truly proud of, for a small local radio station. Finally, th
e KLFM building itself is just off one of the main car parks in the centre of King’s Lynn, the great thing about it is when you walk past, you can actually see right into the studio that they are presenting from, the DJ’s always wave back if you wave at them! If you live in the West Norfolk area (Downham Market, King’s Lynn, Swaffham, Terrington, etc.), and you haven’t yet tuned in, then I suggest you give it a try. In the meantime, surf along to the websites and find out more!
I have just returned from a trip to Twycross Zoo with my wife, daughter (3 and-a-half) and mother-in-law. We decided to go on Good Friday (2002), and so it seems, did the rest of the population. The weather was glorious for an Easter weekend in the UK, which really made the day even more enjoyable. Twycross Zoo is about half an hour away from my wife's former residence in Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands, so whilst visiting our relatives this Easter, we decided to pay a visit, with Nanny's purse open! The zoo is well signposted - just follow the brown "touristy" signs, with an elephant on them. Upon arrival at the zoo, the road got quite busy, with cars coming from either direction to get into the Zoo. The zoo opens at 10 a.m., and if you want to make the most of the day out, I advise getting there plenty early enough. Luckily, a helpful chap came out onto the road to direct the traffic, as road rage would have been inevitable! The hold up must have been the sheer volume of traffic all trying to get into the zoo at the same time. The problem being that once you have driven down the entrance driveway, you have to pay at a little booth. The prices are currently £6.50 for adults, £4.50 for children (under 3’s free), and £5 for senior citizens. It is also a further £1 to park your car, which I find a bit of a cheek, but there you go. Therefore, it cost a grand total of £25 for the four of us, which isn’t too bad in today’s economic climate! Therefore, it helps to know the admission prices before hand and have the cash on you, to pay at the little booth. This will then alleviate the traffic jam on entry (with people paying on credit card). At first, I thought all that palava was a bit of a pain, as we were queuing for quite a while to get in, but actually it does help your day. Once through the barrier, you are then free to return to your car as often as you like. People with young children will appr
eciate how beneficial this is, as you do not want to carry zillions of accessories around with you all day. We took a picnic with us, as did many others, in fact, some even ate their picnic in the car park – so being able to return to the car is very useful in this case. Once in the Zoo, I was amazed by how large an area it actually covers. If possible, I would advise leaving the pushchairs at home as the paths were quite gravelly. I would imagine that wheelchairs are also hard to push, too, so bear this in mind. It was good to let my daughter run around everywhere without fear of her being run over, and let off some steam! The gardens are very well kept, the Zoo must have a superb ground force to keep the flowers and borders looking so colourful. The animals are kept in very clean cages or runs, with plenty of room for them to run about, and they all looked very happy and well cared for! The most spectacular attractions were the family of giraffes, which my daughter absolutely loved, and the family of elephants. It is quite unusual to see elephants in Zoos these days, and they are quite magnificent creatures – it was a joy to see them this close up. Lucy was really disappointed that she could not feed them! The Zoo has many different types of monkeys, but sadly no longer the PG Tips monkeys which were once so famous. There are also penguins and seals, and all the usual zoo-type animals. We spent a good three hours or so looking at all the animals, which kept my three year old amused. We then had our picnic. Unfortunately, we thought that there was a distinct lack of picnic benches, but as the grass was dry, we sat on a grassy area with other families. As for the eateries, they looked quite average for this type of attraction – mostly chips and hot dogs I’m afraid, with very long queues. Perhaps in less busy times, the queues are shorter. I would definitely advise taking a picnic, and also a rug to sit on.
After the picnic, we had a further look around at more animals, then made our way to the adventure playground area. This is a relatively new addition to the Zoo, and is great for children to let off steam, particularly if you have a long journey home to make in the car. There is a separate section for under 6 year olds, with benches for parents to sit on. There are plenty of slides and apparatus to keep the little ones happy. However, my daughter, being the adventurous type, soon set off to discover the older children’s area and had much more fun playing in the section for 12 year olds. (as children do!) However, on the way to the playground is where the title of this review comes in. There is a section which is the home to several “fairground” type rides. Now, I was quite disgusted to find that they were 80p per ride. After an entrance fee, this seemed to us to be rather cheeky and steep. As Nanny’s purse was open, it saved us a few quid, but that is not the point. Lucy went on all six rides, which equates to a further £4.80. Then, she spied the donkey rides, which was a further 80p. The donkeys are lovely, but the ride was very short and not really worth the money, in my opinion. Also on the way to the adventure playground was a train which goes in a circular route around part of the zoo. This usually has three carriages, but only two were working on our day of visit, so the queues were very long. Also, guess what – yes, this was not free either. £1 per person. (under three’s free.) Therefore, another £4 for a five minute train ride. I’m not sure how they justify charging for all these extra attractions when the admission prices are fairly high anyway, I would rather pay one price and everything is all in. For example, a day ticket to Butlins costs say £10, but once you are through the gates, you can go on the fairground rides as often as you want, and people do not abuse this priviled
ge. More cost came in the form of the usual ice cream – another £4 to feed everyone. Finally, the trip to the souvenir shop. I thought the prices were really extortionate, but people were spending all sorts! Again, Nanny with her purse provided Lucy with 3 model giraffes and a snake for £10.80, which I personally thought was a rip-off, but Nanny’s think differently, obviously. Therefore, in total, for 3 adults and 1 child, the day trip cost around £50. Not bad, I suppose, when you compare it to Alton Towers or Legoland, but still quite a lot of money to look at some elephants and to play in a playground, in my opinion.
These are the following items, or groups of people which I would place into Room 101, given half a chance…. 1) Coat hangers. I know this is a strange item with which to start, but since a young child, I have always hated coat hangers. I don’t know whether my phobia of coat hangers is unique, or whether there is a medical term for it – coathangerophobia – who knows? For starters, why are coat hangers called coat hangers when you hang other clothes on them? Coats generally have little hooks of material sewn inside them to enable you to hang them directly on a hook, thus alleviating the actual need for a coat hanger. Other clothes do not, so we need something to hang them up with. We can invent a rocket to put a man on the moon, but all that we can come up with to hang clothes is a strange shaped piece of plastic (usually black), with a metal hook on the end. Surely there must be a more eye-pleasing way to hang up clothes. What really annoys me is that when you buy an item of clothing, say a jumper from Burtons, they never actually give you a hanger. Therefore you have to buy some from Woolworths or such like. Also, no matter how many coat hangers you actually possess, it never equates to the amount of clothes you have, thus causing family arguments (well, it does in my house anyway.) The only argument I can think of against putting coat hangers into Room 101 is that it would mark the unfortunate demise of the Blue Peter Advent Crown. This not only keeps the Blue Peter presenters in work, it also provides employment for hundreds of firefighters across the UK as they zoom around putting out fires caused by Blue Peter advent crowns. 2) People who talk on their mobile phones whilst on the train. I don’t know about all the rest of you, but who remembers the British Rail advert where the passengers relax with classical music in the background while the world flashes
past without a care? Those were the days, when you could indeed relax on the train with no disturbances. Then along came the mobile phone. Every train journey I go on, there are at least 10 people nattering into their mobiles, talking about nothing in particular, or sorting out daily business. I don’t want to know!! All I want to do is have a relaxing train journey, not listen to other people’s business! Please stop! I always try and play “Name that Tune” when I hear the mobiles ringing along the journey to pass the time. It is a shame that the railways scrapped the carriages which had little compartments in them, for only 6 or so people. These would have made ideal travelling phone boxes for all those people who want to use the phone whilst on the train. 3) Men who drive cars whilst wearing flat caps. In Norfolk, we seem to have a very high percentage of this offending group of the population, though I’m sure they exist in other counties. Usually driving brand new Ford Fiestas or Volvos, and accompanied by their wife, they drive at the same speed whichever road they are on. This is usually around 45 mph. Even on 30 mph roads, they drive at this speed, but infuriatingly slow on 60 mph roads. You can spot these blokes a mile off, their car is always immaculately polished and the flat cap can be seen for miles. Now, I was always taught that it was rude to wear hats indoors – does this not apply to cars? Clearly not. Also, they generally appear on a Sunday in droves, meandering around the countryside with no clue as to where they are going, so can turn right at any second with no prior warning, forcing you to slam on the brakes. 4) Shops which insist on putting the children’s section upstairs. Why do shops do this? If you have ever experienced the difficulty of navigating the whole shop with a pram / pushchair all the way to the back of the
store and out again, you will know what I mean. Many shops even put the children’s sections upstairs, so that you have to spend ages, not only trying to find a lift, but waiting for one as well. Some shops do not even have a lift and expect you to use their goods “cage” type lift to get to their products. Why can’t shops put the children’s sections at the front of the store and make people without children walk or go in the lifts / escalators? Escalators are all well and good, but you can’t get a pram up them! It all comes down to money and the latest fashions, I know, but it would be nice for stores to think practically for once. 5) Free ISP CD’s. I have enough AOL free CD’s to cover my walls and still have enough to make into drinks coasters or ash trays. It must cost the company a fortune, and land-fill sites must be over-run with holes and holes full off free CD’s. Yes, I am a member of AOL and find it a very reliable company, actually, but I really do not want any more AOL CD’s. The TV advertising campaign is just as annoying, and the theme tune as a matter of fact. I really object to my £14.99 a month being put towards the making of these crappy adverts and the distribution of free CD’s in every magazine in the newsagents. If free ISP CD’s do not make it into Room 101, as compensation, could we have recycling facilities (like bottle / can banks) for the CD’s at my local supermarket? 6) Plastic bag dispensers at supermarkets. Most people these days buy their fruit and vegetables alongside their regular shopping during their trips to the supermarket. Unfortunately, this involves firstly trying to obtain a flimsy plastic bag from the nearby dispenser. 9 times out of 10 the dispenser is actually empty, therefore requiring a round trip to the brussel sprout section to find a dispenser with bags actually in it. Then, when you pull the bag, one of tw
o things happens; either, a) you tug the whole roll off the dispenser and a trail of plastic bags accompany you around the store, or b) try as you might, you cannot pull a single bag off the dispenser, so again, you have to try and find another one. Yes, again, we are able to build a rocket to put a man on the moon, but cannot seem to invent a dispenser which can accurately dispense a plastic bag in which to place our tomatoes. I prefer paper bags from the market myself. Funny old world we live in, eh?
Many songwriters have used “ROADS” as their inspiration over the years. “The Road to Nowhere”, “The Road to Hell”, “Country Roads”, to name but a few. How the M25 can inspire anyone to write a song, I just do not know, but it is indeed a strange world in which we live. Talking of strange, regular dooyooers will recall that I moved to the county of Norfolk about 6 years ago to live, having been born and bred in Derbyshire. Although only 27, my wife and I were pleased to move to the countryside of Norfolk, so as to escape the rat-race lifestyle of Derby City Centre. Having spent 4 years commuting in and out of Derby, I certainly do not miss the queuing to get in and out of the city. However, what I do miss is the lack of decent roads. I know that sounds like a contradictory in terms, but this was highlighted a couple of months ago in the National press….. Even the Queen herself was late for an appointment at RAF Marham. She was travelling by car from her estate at Sandringham, when her chauffeur got stuck behind a learner driver, who he could not overtake due to the size of the road. He eventually passed the learner, only to be held up again by the familiar tractor, chugging along without a care in the world. This just about sums up the state of Norfolk’s road system in general. Apart from the A47, linking Norwich and Great Yarmouth, most roads in this rural county are single-track roads, with little room for manoeuvre. This means that on any one journey from “A” to “B”, you are guaranteed to get stuck behind either: a) a sugar-beet lorry taking its important produce to the British Sugar factory. b) A potato lorry taking its important produce to the McCain Oven Chip factory. c) A tractor d) A combine harvester e) Other such farm machinery, especially the ones with really dangerous spkies which you daren’t overtake f) Learner driver <
br>g) Flat-capped old biddy who daren’t go more than 30 mph, even in a 60 mph zone. This makes driving on Norfolk’s roads very frustrating, but due to the lack of public transport (a bus departs every other Wednesday from outside the public toilets – or something), owning a car is an absolute necessity around here if you want to get out and about. Something which makes road transport even more frustrating is the lack of direction given to “foreigners” like myself. If you get lost in Norfolk whilst driving, you are faced with a blind panic, as: a) All the road signs are really dirty, covered in mud from the passing tractors. b) The road signs which you can see do not actually direct you to anywhere specific. This is the honest truth, local route road signs all say “By Road” on them. Yes, we know we are travelling by road for goodness sake! But where they actually go, no-one knows. c) If you do dare stop and ask for directions, then make sure you have a Norfolk phrase book with you, as when I first came to Norfolk, I stopped some local old resident, who said “Go roight at the traffic loights, left at the roundabou’, roight and second roight agen.” Well, I kept driving round in circles, I can tell you. Also, if the Norfolk old guy detects that you are indeed a tourist, he will purposely send you on a wild goose chase, just as in an episode of “The Fast Show”. One point I have noticed about the UK’s roads in general is that everything seems to run North – South, in the form of motorways. Ask a Norfolk tractor driver what a motorway was and he would not have a clue. There is very little in the way of decent roads in the UK which run East – West. This is illustrated by the fact that to travel 120 miles, which is the distance from my parent’s house in Derbyshire to my house in Downham Market, Norfolk, it takes just under 3 hours. However, I can
travel to London, which is about the same distance in around 2 hours. One factor which contributes to this is the village of Thorney. I don’t know how many dooyooers have let alone heard of this place, or even had the misfortune to travel through it on their way to East Anglia, but it really is a pain! Unfortunately for the poor residents of this lovely, picturesque village, the main A47 actually cuts right through the heart of the village centre. Therefore all the traffic travelling West via Peterborough has to pass through the village, causing all sorts of blockages, and unfortunately, nasty accidents. The residents have been granted a bypass, but this will take another 5 years to plan and build. In the meantime, the villagers have erected sarcastic signs, which countdown the months to go until the bypass is opened. A similar story exists close to home. In order for traffic to pass through King’s Lynn from any direction, it must first of all navigate its way via “Hardwick” island. This “kamikazee” style roundabout links the A10 with the A47, and is the main tourist route to the coastal towns of Hunstanton and Cromer. Many a happy hour can be spent in the Summer months watching caravans hurtle off the island at all directions as they miss their appropriate turn, with the tones of car hooters piercing the peaceful Norfolk air. Of course, we have been promised a flyover for the last 20 years or so, the “humps” of ground even exist for the road to rest on, but no, we have to wait in endless traffic jams to complete the journey into King’s Lynn in the morning rush hour. A little while ago, they actually had to close the main A10 into King’s Lynn for vital repairs as the lorries had damaged the road surface so much that the rainfall did not drain away effectively. This meant that drivers either had to figure out the local route through nearby villages, or travel an extra 40 miles rou
nd trip to reach their destination. In any other county, they would not have dared close the road, but in Norfolk we will put up with such things! When travelling further afield, roadworks are a common factor of road travel. On a recent day-trip to Skegness, which incidentally normally takes about 1 ½ hours from my house, took nearer 3 hours due to re-tarmacing a road near Boston. We were held up in standstill traffic for about an hour, with no warning on the AA / RAC site beforehand. The really annoying thing is that when you pass the roadworks, the blokes are never actually doing anything, just drinking coffee from a flask. Perhaps I just go past every tea break, or perhaps they have many more tea breaks than I do? To conclude, I have always remembered a quotation which I had to remember for my GCSE History exam. In the 1830’s, the roads at the time were in a dreadful state, which made horse-drawn carriage rides very uncomfortable for the rich. This was clearly not acceptable, so the government made the unemployed people at the time repair the roads. However, the people at the time just tipped a few stones into the holes and enjoyed a day’s holiday. Funny how history repeats itself?
My daughter loves her train set. Mostly consisting of the wooden Brio-type, she spends hours watching the trains go round and round, and building her own tracks. Well, OK, you caught me - her Daddy loves playing on the train set and spends hours building tracks, watching the trains go round. We picked most of the track up from Boot Sales, some was from the Early Learning Centre on special offer, but at full price, Brio can be extremely expensive for what it is. Yes, it is VERY hard-wearing, durable and easy to assemble and very good quality, but well out of the price range of many parents if you want a decent set. The "Thomas" range is extremely expensive, and like sportswear, you are really only paying for the name. Tescos on the other hand, conveniently produce a wooden set which, strangely enough, is exactly compatible with the Brio set. In other words, if you have a set of Brio track, you can quickly and cheaply supplement this with Tesco track for about a quarter of the price. Of course, you can get your Tesco club card points on the purchase at the same time. Tescos do only do the basic sets - straight and curved track, joining pieces, engines and carriages and a lovely engine shed. Therefore, it is worth buying the more advanced Brio pieces, we have the tunnel which makes noises and some very fancy bridges, for example. But who is really going to know whether the piece of straight track is Brio or Tescos? Tescos really have cornered the pocket money market for these particular goods, and as they seem to be only manufacturing the basic components, there is room for both Brio and Tescos in the marketplace.