Friday, March 31, 2006

Here's One I Made Earlier

So there’s a load of fuss about Blue Peter badges. Apparently ebay is selling them at a silly price and now the BBC is halting it’s ‘free entry’ promotions to stall the naughty ebayers. Of course, you may remember I wrote about this here.

Spurred on by the news stories I have started my plan of action to obtain a Blue Peter Badge. Obvioulsy I’ve ignored option c ‘grow up’. But did I choose A or B? Will I obtain a Blue Peter badge and fulfil a childhood ambition or will nothing ever come of this plan.
Sadly you have to wait to find out, as do I.
It’s almost as exciting as Wardrobe Watch (which are now complete, I forgot to tell you. It only took 7 days in the end!) but will it be as exciting as the forthcoming ‘Sunflower Watch’? Time will tell.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Flicking Through Some Photos.

I've decided to finally get with the times and sign up to Flickr. I stumbled across Flickr via Dave Gorman's excellent website & blog. His photos are always entertaining. I slowly branched out exploring Flickr and coming across some genuinely stunning images.

Alas my images are a tad more basic but it's handy to have online access to some of my photos. If you like you can explore them here too:

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Streets Of Shame

Why oh why does radio 1 keep deluging my ears with the new Streets track? Simply put it’s awful. Now I know the Streets is a Marmite style love-it-or-hate-it artiste but even the Streets fans I know have had enough of this awful track being rammed down our throats constantly on all the music channels and Radio 1. How can the same person who gave us the fantastic ‘Dry Your Eyes Mate’ be responsible for such a duff record?

I know what the playlist planners are thinking. Massive hits in the past so the OTT airplay justifies it, but isn’t unfair to newer bands who are actually producing some damn fine stuff but get ignored because they haven’t got the previous sales to back them up.

Take The Feeling with Sewn. A gorgeous song that deserved to be number one. While Radio 1 did give it quite decent airplay a bigger push by the commercials would have given it the place it deserves.

Of course the reverse is true. Good records can be spoilt by being over played. With hundreds of singles around at the moment why are the music providers obsessed with constantly playing Madonna Hung Up or Gnarles Barkly Crazy. The latter hasn’t even had an official single release yet and already I’m sick of it even though I actually think it’s a cracking track.
I just think it would be better if the national and commercial music providers streamlined their playlists a tad. Don’t be so biased towards supposedly bankable artists and give more airtime to fresh talent. Oh and please, someone just admit it. The Streets new track is crap.

Friday, March 24, 2006

It's Not Just The Rides

I’m guessing 99% of visitors to Alton Towers go for the likes of Rita, Nemesis and The Flume. The decaying stately home that stands overlooking the park much ignored by the majority. I’d count myself as one of the ignorant. While I admire the beauty of the gardens as they wind to the Churnet Valley and the imposing Gothic Architecture I’ve never been that bothered by them. Over the last few visits that’s changed. I’ve started wondering more and more about the Towers and on Tuesday decided to forgo the rides for an hour and explore the ruins.

It was stunning. The Towers are huge, bigger than they look. Sadly, due to neglect in the early 20th Century and it’s time as a training camp in WW2 the Towers are no more than just a shell but it’s not what they are now that amazes – it’s what they must have been.

Although the Alton Towers site has been occupied since the 8th Century it was the 15th Earl of Shrewsbury, Charles Talbot (b.1753) that began to transform the site into what we know today. His passion was the gardens. Completely transforming them with Chinese Pagoda fountains, huge conservatories and of course the Gothic splendour of the Towers themselves.

Sadly in the 1920s the Shrewsbury line was in financial decline and Alton Towers sold off to a group of local businessmen. By this time it was already open to the public and attracting hundreds to explore the stunning gardens – lovingly restored by the new owners.

It’s not entirely sure how The Towers got into the ruined state it is now. When the Army took over in the 40s they boarded the state area up leaving it un touched. Perhaps no maintenance for a whole decade wasn’t helpful but they certainly didn’t purposely damage the house.
At some point post war the lead was stripped from the roofs of Alton Towers leaving the house open to the elements. Rumours of a fire in the East Wing (now the most ruined part) probably hold some truth but thankfully current owners Tussauds are starting to turn things around. They’ve made much of the house safe to explore and are slowly renovating parts of it. Sadly at the speed they’re going don’t expect any grand banquets in the great hall very soon but I’d definitely recommend putting aside an hour of them park fun to explore this magnificent building.

For more on the history of Alton Towers.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Yesterday At The Towers

Two Pictures, taken yesterday, to show why I love Alton Towers so much. You have some of the world's best coasters surrounded by some of the world's best scenery.

The Towers Of Alton

Ahh at last, the day I’d been eagerly awaiting had arrived. Yesterday was my first Theme Park visit of the year. It’s a passion I share with my girlfriend and one of my best friends so off we voyaged to the beautiful Staffordshire countryside.

Last year was a trip tinged with disappointment. My beloved Towers provided me with a poor day out thanks to increased prices, miserable staff and many ride and themeing faults. As such I vowed to only visit once in 2005. Would 06 be better?

Upon arriving the atmosphere seemed much, much better. Lots of painting had taken place. The park visibly cleaner. Queues for the rides were non-existant, we walked on everything. This meant we could get much more ride time on Rita & Spinball – two rides I feel I just haven’t experienced enough.

There were some bitter disappointments. The Mine Train and Flume were both closed however two things more than made up for it.

First was Duel. I’ve long lamented the 2002 re-theme of the Haunted House but yesterday all the elements seemed to be working properly and the ride seemed a bit nippier. It’s also the first time in years I’ve been on Duel without it stopping mid ride for five minutes. Really enjoyed it.

Second was the Ripsaw. Wow. They’ve beefed her up a treat. For a start they were actually using the water jets to full effect actually drenching riders – haven’t seen that for years! You may think I’m mad but this encouraged me to ride it instantly and loved every minute.

Air was struggling bless her. While she was nippy around the track and got up the lift hill without stalling she did seem to make funny whining noises in the station. I’ve now learnt the ride was closed at 3pm shortly after my own ‘flight’.

One thing I will say is that the staff were excellent. Gone were the moody ‘magic’ providers of 2005. Instead they were chatty and laughing. Playing games with each other and interacting with guests like I’ve never seen before. One in particular, Kate on Nemesis, took time to talk for a while. I really got the feeling she cared about the job and, in her words ‘her baby’ Nemesis. This passion has been lacking from the park of late but early indications are that 2006 could really be the season where the magic returns.

One more dose of excitement was provided by the sight of Henry Hound strolling down Towers Street. Ahh a childhood icon at last returning to the home of the Talbots!

I also did something very different yesterday. I’ve never done it before – despite dozens of visits. I actually took time to explore the ruins of Alton Towers. Still, more about that tomorrow…

Monday, March 20, 2006

Where Have All The Swear Words Gone

Cast your mind back to the age of 10. How good did you feel uttering the word ‘shit’. Or even’bloody’. What about ‘piss’? There were true swear words. You’d get told off by your parents for saying them and they were strictly frowned up on. Nowadays they seem commonplace. I often overhear young mothers using them in front of, and even at their kids.

Words such as “f*ck and “c*nt” are obviously still taboo but slowly they are creeping into television more and more. ‘F*ck’ is no longer bleeped out after 9pm an sure sign that it is no longer the vile word it once was.

The problem is for people like me who rarely swear it’s hard to get true impact when you need it. I vivdly remember the first time I used ‘f*ck’ infront of my mates. There was a sudden silence and they knew I was deadly serious. This is the power swear words should have in the language but thanks to the dirty mouths of the chav society the words have lost their impact.

In ten years time it wouldn’t surprise me if children’s programmes are littered with foul language. It is time, I feel, that a new batch of expletives were created to replace those that we’ve become desensitised to.

Any ideas?

I quite like ‘Fraq’ or ‘twak’. Of course I’m sure you could think of better ones.

Sunday, March 19, 2006


Ahh my 26th Birthday. Didn’t celebrate as I ended up working all day but thanks to the various people for the cards, the Gremlins DVD box set, the new shoes and the Catchphrase DVD board game. (Say what you see!)

Don’t really feel any older just don’t feel like parting either. Still only two days until the first trip to Alton Towers – that’ll cheer me up!

Saturday, March 18, 2006

2nd Bloggerversary

Wow. It’s two years today, on the eve of my 24th birthday, since I started doing this. I can proudly say that I’m chuffed with myself for keeping it going. Admittedly the last 12 months hasn’t seen as many posts as the first 12 but I’m blaming a whole summer without internet access while I moved house last year.

It’s strange but 2 years in, on the eve of my 26th birthday, and I still have no idea why I blog. I don’t think my life is that interesting so I don’t fool myself that people would want to read about it. I do, however, get simple pleasure from noting down my opinions. Some Blogs have a definite vision. Mine doesn’t. Some days I comment on current affairs other days I noted something I did. Occasionally I use the Blog to reminisce and now and then to simply rant.

Still to all those of you that have commented many thanks. Why you’re reading this I don’t know but I only hope that the next twelve months I manage to make more interesting!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

SOS: Save Our Spaghetti!

Since I was 8 one of my favourite meals has been spaghetti on toast. Not any spaghetti of course, I’m talking about pasta shapes in tomato sauce. There have been many over the years, The Simpsons, Ghostbusters, Robot Wars, Scooby Doo, Spiderman even Bagpuss (I’ll never be grown up enough for plain old spaghetti hoops!)

Throughout my teen years and Uni this meal evolved into breakfast. If I had a long day ahead I’d whack the microwave on for two minutes, slam in the bread and await one of my favourite feasts. Lately HP’s Scooby Doo shapes with BBQ sausages had been a firm favourite.

Then, last week, breakfast rolled around. Innocently I made my breakfast, sat at the table and tucked in. It ended up with me rushing for the sink holding the vomit down. I thought the spaghetti had gone off but on closer inspection I noticed that HP now had a new, no added salt and no sugar recipe. While it may be healthy it tasted vile. I tried a second can in case it was just a dodgy batch. Nope, just as bad. I switched to new Branston Spaghetti which also boasted the kid friendly no-additives label, sure enough just as vile.

Now I’m worried. At the moment Heinz is my last hope for breakfast. All is well but it’s only a matter of time before they go down the healthy route. Does this spell the end for my near 20-year favourite meal?

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Good Food/Bad Food

So last week in a news story straight out of The Simpsons we were told that soft drinks were deadly but we wouldn’t be told which brands were the offenders. Today comes the news that more than two cups of coffee a day will kill you. (See todays Times.) It seems that scientists are on a mission to prove that everything we ever touch or use will kill us. The soft drink scare doesn’t particularly bother me I’ve found myself drinking more water and cordials (one of my favourite words) in the last 12 months anyway. The coffee one does. I’m a coffee-a-holic. Starbucks is my temple.

What’s more annoying is that the boffins do tend to contradict themselves. Crisps are more risky to eat than an apple as far as fat content goes but then again a bag of crisps have more vitamin C than an apple. A plate of chips has less calories than chocolate but if you’re on the Atkins diet chips are a no no.

I’m just sick of scientists telling us what’s bad or deadly for us. Instead of wasting time and energy telling us what, to be honest is bloody obvious. Why can’t they spend their time searching for cures for cancer, aids or heart disease?

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

When Is Sex, Sex?

Has to be said I was left a little confused by two stories that appeared in Radio One’s Newsbeat this morning. The first was that men now need permission from drunken women to sleep with them on a one night stand otherwise it can be considered rape. Nanny state overkill really. When you’re both blind drunk and mid-fumble you’re hardly going to stop the passion to ask permission for sex, let alone ensure you’ve got a Dictaphone and necessary paperwork to make it legally binding.

The second story was that a woman is fighting the courts refusal to let her use frozen embryos that she created with her ex-boyfriend. Because he is now refusing to let her as he feels as they’re no longer in a relationship he doesn’t want the legal or emotional dependence these kids will force upon him.

Emotionally I feel very sorry for her if this is genuinely her last chance to conceive however, when this story is put in context with the previous one it screams of double standards.

It’s OK for a woman to call drunken one night sex rape if she hasn’t been asked permission, which morally is as it should be. However a man is being dragged through the courts and challenged because he hasn’t granted permission for his embryos to be used by his ex-girlfriend.

I just feel that if a woman hasn’t given permission for sex it’s rape then if he hasn’t given permission for his embryos to be used couldn’t the same judgement be made?

Saturday, March 04, 2006

I'm Tired

It’s back. An obsession, a compulsion that grips me and takes over me. I last had this craving in 2002 at university but this morning it returned and I’m worried it’s yet to get worse.

It even affects me when I’m not doing it. I used to sit in lectures sketching out ideas and scribbling down action plans for this disorder. Visitng the real subjects of this disorder filled me with ideas to try out once I got home.

What is it? Well, rather embarrassingly it’s Rollercoaster Tycoon on the PC. At uni I was addicted to this game. I regularly stayed up all night absorbed in the game, micromanaging my finances and trying out new coaster designs.

Last year Rollercoaster 3 came out. It’s the Ferrari version of the game making the original of the game I played at uni look like a battered old Skoda. For some reason it didn’t grip me as much though and I was able to play it in controlled doses.

Yesterday I got the new expansion pack – ‘Wild’. I innocently installed it onto my PC and played for an hour. All was well then at midnight after Miss Smeg had gone to bed I returned to my PC. Five hours later I got to bed.

The scary thing is when I woke up this morning my first thought wasn’t about getting my normal cup of coffee or checking the post it was a brilliant idea to improve the coaster I’d built at 4am.

I’ve fought it though – I’ve decided to come online and catch up on the forums and write the pub quiz. Mind you. I do wonder if placing an entertainer by the exit would encourage more guests to stay in the park…

Friday, March 03, 2006

Strictly Crap TV

Why is it that for every cracking, well-produced piece of Television there are another 20 pieces of absolute guff. For every Life On Mars or Doctor Who there’s 20 different soaps or property shows and for every Spooks or Teachers there’s a reality show or, the latest worrying trend celebrity talent shows.

Think of all the thought that must go into a fine piece of drama. Compare that with the sheer simplicity of coming up with Celebrity Talent Shows. I could do it:

Strictly Stand Up – just in time for the next Red Nose Day 10 celebs compete over a number of weeks to have the funniest stand up routine. They are trained by masters such as Eddie Izzard or Peter Kay and have to write a routine to random subject every week.

Fast Food Frenzy – Celebs have to knock up a mouth-watering dish each week under the watchful eyes of expert chefs. One week it will be Italian cuisine the next Chinese.

Strictly Come Cleaning – Kim and Aggie preside over the show where celebrity teams run home cleaning services. Each week they battle it out over who can give their house the best sparkle.

‘You Spin Me Round’ – 6 Celebs, each with a famous DJ. They have a half hour set to entertain the crowds at a different club each week with the finale being a whole party Djing event at someones birthday or wedding.

And for the channel five market:

Strictly Come. I think you can guess what happens here…

P.S. All these ideas are Strictly Copyright smeg_head 2006. Royalties please….

Thursday, March 02, 2006

One Flew Over The Bird Flu's Mess

What a load of guff. Seriously it is.

Put it in perspective, roughly 3000 people die each day of Malaria. 50,000 on average die each year of regular flu. 300 died in the SARS flap a few years back. So why oh why is the media so obsessed with scaring the ignorant with tales of Bird Flu - of which only 92 people have dies of in history.

Those people that have contracted the disease have been in close personal contact with birds on a daily basis. Tales of people no longer eating poultry is absolute stupidity. By cooking the meat correctly you kill off any bacteria and virus contained in the bird. So what’s the fuss?

Well it could mutate say the tabloids - no doubt egged on by Beechams and Lemsip. Yes it could but its been rife in the east for some time now and shows no sign of mutating into an airborne virus. Even if it does we already have the top boffins in the medical world no doubt researching the virus and coming up with treatments.

So there’s no big deal - besides, I could do with a week off work.