Category Archives: Just A Little Fun
Isn’t the whole Momentum thing interesting? It has almost become a metaphor for change of certain kinds and the word is bandied around only loosely in context, often by people who don’t actually have much of an understanding of politics.
But what is Momentum actually doing?
Well, from an external point of view they are a bunch of left-wing radicals who think the Labour party should be more left-wing radical, and have set about trying to change the Labour party from within to effect that change. They’ve done it by encouraging true believers to join the party, by getting themselves into positions of authority within the Labour party, by talking to others in the Labour party and encouraging them to support their view of things. They believe in the ideological strength of their arguments and think that the Labour party has strayed too far from its roots and needs to get back to its core message. Some of them don’t even recognise the New Labour lot as part of the same movement as them, so great are their differences.
“Moderates” in the Labour party see it differently. They see a bunch of people who would make the Labour party unelectable, who want to tear apart existing structures and remove old players who have been around a long time. Some maintain that they are the wise old heads who should be in charge and not these new whipper-snappers.
Both sides make accusations against the other. With “Moderates” saying that Momentum are bullying them, and Momentum saying those people are simply sore losers in a fair and democratic battle.
Who is right?
Probably none of them. Each is seeing the events from their own lens, and each sees their cause as the heroic one. Because everybody is the hero of their own story. I don’t know where it will all end when the dust settles – and as a lifelong Conservative its really none of my business – but its interesting to watch. And it’s nothing that hasn’t happened on many levels a thousand times before.
Now if Momentum were to “win” and mold the Labour Party in their image, what then? How long would it be before they became the “establishment?” How long before some new group, who thought they were completely off track, came and did precisely the same to them? This is often the cycle of things – with each fresh new event eventually becoming older and more stale and more tired and less hungry – until it eventually crumbles away from sheer entropy.
What is most interesting about this cycle is how quickly the new players forget how they toppled the old and begin to see themselves as the solid establishment which deserve to stay in control forever. How quickly they abandon the positions they took when they came to power. How, in denial, they continue to blame any other bogeyman that allows them to alleviate any sense that they could possibly be the architects of their own problems.
Momentum may win and take control of the Labour party. Or they may not. But whatever the outcome, it will only be the status quo for as long as they new leaders retain their focus, drive and energy. Let it slip, and there’s always some new force eager to step in and relieve them of the burden.
I really don’t care which lot wins, but more popcorn is definitely a requirement for viewing.
The Nightmayor’s Big Bash
The night I became Mayor of Wisbech I held an invite-only private party for friends, colleagues and family. With a free bar and lots of food and a live band, we partied the night away and it was a wonderful end to a truly brilliant day. Actually, one of the best days of my life.
But the event was also a fundraiser. Guests were asked to make anonymous donations or named pledges. I am proud to say we raised £4,400 on my first fundraiser, which is an excellent start for the Mayor’s Charity Fund this year.
Next morning some of us met for breakfast. I was a little the worst for wear. I was not the only one. :)
It’s Oh So Quiet
Scare Kingdom 2016
This post is nothing to do with local events or politics and is, instead, a review – of sorts – of the place I just spent the weekend.
I’ve just spent the last couple of days with four friends at Scare kingdom.
Scare Kingdom is an attraction in Blackburn, near Manchester. It is, essentially, five “haunted house” type buildings linked one after another, enabled by fantastic props, special effects and music and populated by real actors in ghoulish costumes and make-up. If you like macabre and spooky stuff, and you enjoy being creeped out and made to jump out of your skin then it’s right up your street. It certainly was ours.
Scare Kingdom is set on a very large working farm. The owner, who also runs the farm, appears to have found a very unusual and effective way to supplement their income. Long may they continue. Arriving at Scare Kingdom you join the queue of excited and nervous people and wait your turn to be put with a group of about ten and fed into the cavalcade of fright and terror.
The first attraction is called Mallum
Mallum is not one of the five “mazes” (the colloquial term used by people who visit the growing phenomenon of scare attractions around the country) but is rather a single room experience to set the scene. Frankly, it’s pretty cheesy. Some music, some story, an actor, a jump scare. And not a particularly good one. But by this time you’ve been queuing and waiting to go in and you’re in the mood and its certainly fun, as a warm-up taster act.
At this point you exit the building and are walking through the dark farm, your way only occasionally and creepily lit so you need to tread carefully. Following the path you encounter one of the roving actors who are scattered between some of the mazes, to add to the fun. These guys will stop you and engage you in creepy conversation, partly to add to the atmosphere and partly (I suspect) to break the groups of people up so that they don’t all arrive at the next maze at the same time and cause too much of a queue. It’s effective and enjoyably diverting. The actors seem to be really enjoying themselves and you quickly get caught up in it all.
Then you reach the first real maze. The Sickness.
There is a brief queue as you wait outside a large warehouse-type farm building. You can hear scary music, sound and the occasional screams from within. Once in a while, people burst from a side door – one of the groups ahead of you – chased, terrified and screaming from the exit. Then it’s your turn. Trying to avoid too many spoilers in this review, but this was an excellent maze. The props, actors and effects were exceptionally good and there were several jump scares and at least two truly unnerving situations. The story was fun and held together well. It took five or ten minutes to get through. Having claimed we would not, we burst from the exit door to the amusement and trepidation of the waiting queue just like those before us. Brilliant!
A short walk and we reached ManorMortis, which is a static feature. The other features change each year, but ManorMortis is there every year, I am told, and added to and improved all the time. Again, it was a large farm-type warehouse inside, but once through the door you would certainly believe you were in a haunted house.
ManorMortis really was quite exceptional. Crawl spaces and secret doors and all manner of twisted goings-on. This one was more actor-driven and you were taken from area to area by ghoulish narrators to played their parts to a tee. The final scene was very well done and unexpected.
Then, on to the one which was my personal favourite, The House of Gaunt.
Met in the entrance hall by an excellent actress who set the seen with a macabre poem, you quickly understand that this one is about puppets. I’ve always found spooky puppets creepy so I was looking forward to this – and it did not let me down. We had been taking it in turns to “be at the front” because that’s where the worst of the jump scares get you. This was my turn. One of the things I like in these type of attractions is having a good look at the props and scenery, which are often awesome. Normally, the plot has you rushing through the mazes and you don’t get anywhere near as much time as you’d like to do so. But The House of Gaunt let you set your own pace to some degree and I was at the front. Add to this the fact that its often pitch black, with very narrow winding corridors and hanging curtains which block your way, often followed by a switchback, and I got a really good look at some of the monstrous decor. I really, really loved this one. It was creepy as all hell! :)
The next attraction was 666 Brimstone Place. But to get to it you had to walk across a section of the farm where a back-and-forth corridor had been created using steel fencing. As we threaded our way along it we saw a scary clown waiting blocking our way. Another of the roving actors, this one was also an obstacle, coupled with the fact that he had a chainsaw. It was an interesting predicament and one that required some, um, running. :)
Whilst it was not my favourite, Brimstone Place had a few really really outstanding moments. In fact, in my opinion the best “scene” in the whole attraction is in this maze. The actors were very effective too, with the Nun actress managing to make me leap out of my skin about six times! The music was very loud in here and if I had one criticism it’s there here, and in one or two other mazes, the music is too loud to hear some of the actor’s dialogue. It’s not the end of the world, but I think its something they could work on.
We encountered one more roving actor and then on to the last, and the weakest (in my opinion) of the attractions. This one is called Black Death.
The story and ideas are great. But the surprise in this one is that as you queue to enter they tell you that you must pass through “sensory deprived” meaning that you put a hood over your head. You then put your left hand on a guide rope at your side and your right hand on the shoulder of the person in front and shuffle on blindly through the maze. So the scares are delivered by the music and sounds, by the actors, and by other sensations such as the change in the ground underfoot. Trouble is, it didn’t really work. Well not for me, anyway. The lack of vision made it less scare for some reason, I was spending most of my time noticing how hot it was inside the hood and trying to work out which way I was going by following the rope. The scares became very secondary and I just didn’t get anywhere near as invested in this one as I did all the others. Don’t get me wrong, it was still perfectly good fun. Just, by comparison with the rest of the attraction, this one didn’t really do it for me.
You emerge from Black Death into a pretty neat little bar, packed with people who have also followed the path of terror to this point. The atmosphere is great, the drinks are fine and you can even grab a burger or a hot dog from the barbecue. It’s all over, but the party is just beginning.
Except that it’s not quite all over. Because there is one more “attraction.” This one is quite infamous, has been in the newspapers and on the news, and is billed as the “sickest attraction in the UK”. It not part of the main Scare Kingdom offer. It costs an extra fiver. It is for Over 18s only. You must sign a fairly serious “waiver” to be allowed to enter. Instead of going through in a group, you go through alone. There is a “safe word if you can’t “handle it” during the experience. It says very clearly on the door “You do NOT want to do this.” It is called Snuffhouse Alone.
Three of the five of us, of which I was one, elected to take part. Standing in the bar you can see people emerge from the exit. They look very shaken. But you think: “It must be hype. How bad can it be?” And then there’s the peer pressure and the competitiveness and the beers you’ve been drinking. :) And before you know it you are in the queue and chuckling a little nervously, but still thinking: “Meh. It’s just some actors and props. This’ll be fine.”
It’s not fine. It is bloody horrible. I am not kidding. You will think I am kidding, just like I thought the people who went in before me were kidding. Or exaggerating. One of the three of us used the safe word to leave the attraction early. I got all the way through, but I don’t mind admitting that it was very very very hard to do so. I am not going to put any spoilers here. You, dear reader, may visit Scare Kingdom and you may also be foolish enough to ignore the warnings and give Snuffhouse Alone a try. You should not. But you may do so anyway. Because after all, how bad can it be?
All I will do is to give you a few valuable pointers which I wish somebody had given me:
(1) Take a full set of clean clothes and keep them in your vehicle. A FULL set, including underwear and shoes.
(2) Have deodorant and soap ready for when you leave. You are going to want to wash. A lot.
(3) Do not joke or try and be cocky during the experience. It will only make it worse. Just play along.
(4) Do not eat before going in.
And most importantly:-
(5) Just don’t go in. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an experience and I don’t have any issue with its existence. I chose to go in of my own free will, as do many other people. But it really is awful. And I doubt I’d do it again, knowing what I know now. You have been warned. Not that you’ll listen. :)
All in all, Scare Kingdom was £20.00 and a drive to Blackburn well spent. I think I’ll be heading back there again. But not too soon. For now, I’m as creeped out as anybody needs to be. Moreso, maybe. A fantastic weekend away with some very good friends, and some stories to tell for a lifetime.
On September 30th 1968, I was born.
The number one pop song was “Hey Jude” by The Beatles. #sigh
The #1 Movie was Night Of The Living Dead #hurrah
A Gallon of Petrol cost about 20p. #ooh
The Boeing 747 was first shown to the public. #excellent
My “Tarot Card Personality” is “The Hermit” #whateverthatmeans
I’m a Libra. #ifyoubelieveinthatstuff
I share my birthday / year with Lithuanian basketball player Gintaras Einikis #sothere’sthat
I have been alive for 1,514,773,256 seconds. Which is 17,532 days. Or 337 dog years. 0.04803 milleniums, if you prefer.
If I had a calendar from the year in which I was born, I could use it again in 2024. Both years being exactly the same!
There have been 594 full moons since I was born. The amount of times I have changed into a werewolf is presently zero. Maybe October 16th’s full moon will change that?
In the Chinese zodiac I was born in the year of the Monkey. #whatever
People born on 30th September are most likely to be intelligent, sexy and sophisticated. And liars. :)
You really have to watch out for these Independent Councillors.
The Great British Letterbox
This blog post is probably only of interest to people who have done leafleting at some time in their lives. And probably not to all of them, if I’m honest. But this blog is often just a stream of consciousness from my admittedly somewhat oblique brain, so here we go.
Letterboxes come in many shapes and sizes. People who have to deliver leaflets into them will recognise some of the types I am about to describe.
The Stiff Box
The Stiff Box is a letterbox whose entrance flap is, well, stiff. Trying to prise the thing open requires tough fingers and you will probably have to hold it open with one hand while inserting your leaflet with the other. Since you are probably carrying a stack of leaflets then you will face a choice. You must either put the leaflets on the floor – which risks them blowing all over the homeowner’s front garden. Or you can put them on the floor and stand on them, which will plant a beautiful footprint on the top one. Or you can try and stick them between your knees or under your armpit, a maneuver fraught with complications you must discover for yourself.
The Ankle Box
While the normal location for a letterbox is about waist height. Some people choose to put them right down on the floor. Regular leafleters have come to know these by another name, “Sciatica Boxes”. Leafleters like myself who could stand to lose a few pounds look at them in horror. “What? I’ve got to bend down? What sort of harsh and unreasonable punishment is this?”
The Hard Brush Box
Sometimes you will encounter a letterbox, beyond whose flap there are a series of hard brush bristles from the top and bottom. Presumably aimed at cutting drafts down, these rigid obstacles also serve a secondary purpose of screwing your nicely-folded leaflet up. At this point, if you careful draw the leaflet back and fold it until it is stronger then it will probably go through, but the temptation – when encountering a hard brush bush – is just to try and push past the bristles. This doesn’t work well at all.
The Vertical Box
For some reason, some people choose not to have the regular, commonplace horizontal letter box. Instead, they have a vertical slot. This requires a complete change of tactic and the method you use to pop leaflets it will no longer work. Now this may seem like a First World Problem to you, dear reader, but good leafleting involves finding a rhythm and things that break the rhythm are liable to cause problems. Add to this the fact that Vertical Boxes are very likely to also suffer from other issues and you can have quite a challenging time of it.
The Sharp Edge Box
A Sharp Edge Box is a letterbox whose flap is sharp along its lower edge – the bit your fingers touch as you push the leaflet in. I can only presume this happens by accident with old boxes as the idea that somebody would deliberately sharpen a letterbox until it is as keen as a knife seems too cruel to be true. Nonetheless, they are out there and you can certainly cut yourself on them.
The Small Box
These letter boxes, for some bizarre reason, have a width that is smaller than a standard letter’s width. Sometimes considerably so. This forces you to fold your letter or leaflet to push it through. Liberal Democrat election literature often tends to emulate a newspaper and is huge and printed on thin “newspaper-style” stock to complete the illusion. I have no clue how those people deal with The Small Box. This must be like facing a logic puzzle akin to a Rubic’s Cube. Getting one of those unwieldly beasts through such a small space must be virtually impossible, without the end result being a screwed up ball that looks like the dog had it for a while. We Conservatives go for colour rather than size so our challenge isn’t quite as great, but even so there’s no way you’re getting an A3-folded-to-A4 full colour leaflet through there without a few contortions. The colourful concertina shape that makes into the hall must look like a fan commemorating the Chinese New Year.
The Dog Box Conundrum
Okay, this isn’t a letter box, but it is a letter box related problem. It refers to the situation where you have just started pushing the leaflet through and your fingers are in up to the knuckle when you hear the telltale thump-thump-thump of a dog’s legs and that terrifying throaty growl. At this point it’s all about dexterity and courage. Do you thrust the leaflet through in the hope you are quick enough to withdraw before the dog bites? Do you snatch your hand back and leave the leaflet half-in and half-out, just in time to hear the door shake as a dog the size of a bear smashes into it? Plenty of people have chosen wrongly and paid the price.
The Invisible Letterbox
Sometimes, a letterbox is so well concealed and blended into the design of the door you can’t see it at all. You stand before the door looking puzzled. Then you back up and look to see if there is a box around the side. Then you go back to the door and ponder some more. And then you see it. It’s right there, in the door. Camouflaged like the monsters in the Predator movie, only less likely to want to kill Sylvester Stallone.
A Sidebox is a letter box that is not in the obvious place. Instead of being in the front door, it is just a hole in the side wall of the house. Or a hole in the front wall of the house. Or even another letterbox in another door, which you have to reach by walking around the side or back of the house. Which makes you feel a little like you are a trespasser. Even if there is a sign saying “letterbox at back of house” it takes a sturdy soul to wander around the side of somebody’s property without feeling a little like they really shouldn’t be there.
The Porch Conundrum
This is also not exactly a letterbox issue, but a related one. This is when the house has a porch with a letterbox and inside of that a front door with a letterbox also. This creates a question of letterbox etiquette. If the porch is unlocked then you can either put the letter through the porch letterbox, or open the porch door, step inside, and put the letter through the house letterbox. Now if you think this answer is obvious then let me assure you I have been told off for both these actions. Putting the leaflet into the porch I have been told: “Don’t just drop it on the porch floor! The door is open! Put it in the proper letterbox!” And stepping inside I’ve been told: “The porch door is the front door! That’s as far as you need go!” The question is easy if the porch door is locked, of course. But how about this one – sometimes the porch door doesn’t have a letterbox and is locked – so you can see the letterbox just beyond the glass but you can’t reach it. All you can do is stare forlornly.
The Distant Letterbox
You will occasionally encounter a letterbox that is so far away, you can barely see it. To reach it you must traverse four hundred yards of gravel drive, an irregular crazy-paved footpath and a little bridge across a tiny stream. It is like an episode of the Crystal Maze, only with no prizes. You are left wondering why oh why the owner didn’t install a letterbox at the beginning of the drive. But even that is betting than getting all the way there, seeing no letterbox, and then realising the owner DID install a letterbox at the beginning of the drive.
Oh the strange and discomforting Wetbox. For no reason you can fathom, when you push the leaflet through, you discover the letterbox is wet. Why? No idea. It just is.
The Missing Box
Sometimes there is no letterbox. You are left completely bemused as to how mail gets delivered. There seems to be no way. It is a mystery.
The LMI (Letterbox with Multiple Issues)
Finally, we have the dreaded LMI. The letterbox which has multiple issues from the list above. You can get all sorts of terrible combinations. Vertical Hard Brush Boxes. Invisible Porch Conundrums. Some with a collection of issues that are so difficult that you wonder what sort of evil genius designed them.
I’d like to finally leave you with a story of an LMI which is so unpleasant that it has come to be known as the Death Trap Box. A letterbox whose issues collude to present a really nasty outcome. This particular letterbox, using my (completely made up) technical terms is a Stiff Sharp Edge Dogbox. When you start to push the leaflet in you realise that the flap is so stiff that it requires quite an effort to push through and the whole time the flap is pressing down on the top of your fingers. When you are about half way in, up to the second knuckle or so, you hear the dog coming. The timing is perfect, as though the dog has been placed at just the right spot to hear you and react just when you are in the worst position. At this point, envisioning those sharp teeth about to clamp on your hand, the natural human reaction is to snatch your hand back. Unfortunately, you do not know that the edge of the flap is very very sharp and the force of its pressure is pressing down on your hand. As you pull you hand back, you leave behind the top layer of skin from four of your fingers. This has happened to several volunteers to my knowledge. But then I think this. In an election season, having skinned your fingers and moved on, what happens when the next party leafleter arrives? Has it now become a Stiff Sharp Edge Dogbox Wetbox? Because if so, that’s a pretty grisly wetbox, right there.