June 25, 2008

If you go down to the woods today…

...You are certainly in for a big surprise. But I feel I should clear a few things up:
1. Don’t go to the woods, go to Barton under Needwood
2. Don’t go today. You should have gone last weekend
3. “Every bear that ever there was” did not gather, because it was raining, so there were only a few
4. It is not the day the Teddy Bears have their picnic. No, this is something far greater.

It’s a Teddy Bear Extravaganza! Hooray! It’s like Alton Towers for Teddies. Allow me to explain.

On Saturday 21st June, Dan and I went to Barton under Needwood along with my trusted companions, Camembert (a golden bear) and Woofay (a brown and white dog). Upon arrival, they had to undergo a “tedical examination” and a security check to see if they were eligible to receive passports and boarding passes for a few “teddy rides”. Fortunately, they were, and we set off on a rather enjoyable but slightly bizarre adventure.

Ride 1: Teddy Oblivion
Essentially, this is a bunji jump for teddies, where they’re strapped onto a little platform, winched all the way up to the top of the church tower, and released, to freefall all the way into “Oblivion”. Great stuff. It’s a good thing teddies don’t eat, or there would’ve been teddy vomit everywhere.

Woofay being strapped in
Woofay getting strapped in by the friendly staff

Winched up
Woofay getting winched all the way to the top of the tower

Got down safely
Woofay finally emerging from Oblivion

Ride 2: Boat a Bear
As an engineer, I have to say this machine is blooming marvellous! It’s a boat race for teddies, “nothing like the Oxford and Cambridge boat race” according to the inventor. The teddies are placed in their boats that are then placed in a channel, and their human counterparts have to spin a wheel that winches water up from a vat below. Once enough water reaches the channel, the boat moves, until one teddy is declared the winner. Woofay lost this one miserably, as he is considerably fatter and heavier. He also lost because Dan was his human teammate, and I’m just better.

Boat a Bear
Starting blocks

Ride 3: Ballistic Bear
As if dropping your teddy from the top of the church tower wasn’t enough, the next ride was none other than a teddy trebuchet. Awesome. I love trebuchets, ever since working with one at Warwick Castle, so finding a place to combine a trebuchet with teddies was like a dream come true. Obviously no-one would be horrible enough to just fling a teddy through the air (no matter how many times Dan threatens to do so), so the teddies have to get into their rockets first. Surprisingly, these rockets bear a passing resemblance to drinks bottles with tennis balls on the top, but I’m sure that’s just coincidence. Woofay was made to go first after his dismal attempt at the boat race, and so was loaded into his rocket (wow, he looked awesome) placed on the trebuchet and… wooosh, he was off! Flying through the air with the greatest of ease, flying towards the safety net that would catch him, and… whack! He missed the net. Oops.

The “Paratedics” ran over as quickly as they could, bandaged him up a bit (you think I’m kidding… he’s still got the bandage on) and checked he didn’t have concussion. He was ok, but I don’t think he’ll do it again. Camembert, however, was not deterred, and took to flying with the greatest of ease… although he only just made it into the net.

The trebuchet
The trebuchet

Woofay in his rocket
A little squished, but still looking good…

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No! It’s Woofay… about to crash land.

Ride 4: Teddy Skywire
Ah zeppelins. Another favourite. This time the teddies were strapped to a carriage hanging under a mini zeppelin, which in turn was attached to a zip line. Camembert went first, with Woofay being the one to release the safety switch to send Camembert zooming off into the distance, once again to the top of the church tower where he crashed head first into a gong to signify he had got up there safely. Well done Camembert. Unfortunately, on Woofay’s turn, the sound of the gong made him pass out as he travelled back down again, poor thing.

Strapped in
Strapped in, waiting to go

Flying off
A lovely silhouette shot

Weigh in
Checking how heavy Woofay is for the counterweights

Ride 5: Teddy Hi-Wire
The final ride was by no means the most strenuous, for both teddies were physically and mentally exhausted by this point, and Woofay was still nursing his hurt leg. However, the teddies faced a bit of a challenge, as they had to balance on a tightrope (with the help of a cunning contraption, of course). The man who was in charge of this ride was possibly the most friendly of the lot, giving both Camembert and Woofay a friendly kiss as he sent them on their way.

balancing act
Camembert concentrating hard

more balancing
Woofay concentrating harder

All in all, it was an absolutely fanatstic day, and for a good cause too – as I understand it, some of the money went to the upkeep of the 475 year old church, and some went to charities. And seeing as I will probably never see the wonderful people who ran it again, I want to take this opportunity to say “thank you, it was brilliant”, on the off chance that they google themselves :P

May 25, 2008

Notes on the Eurovision Song Contest

So, another Eurovision has passed, and we all slink back to our hidey holes, shame-faced at only receiving 14 points (8 of them from Ireland, who, quite frankly, deserved a place in the final with Irelande Douze Points. It was much more entertaining than the Russian Ice Skating thing, even though the Turkey puppet made me feel slightly sick).

It was nice to look out over Warwick SU’s marketplace during the show (I was the person up in Grumpy John’s, doing revision). There was a very nice feel, with friendly rivalries, International Students going mad waving flags about (it really made me appreciate having a large international community), and the whole thing was light hearted and enjoyable. Just what Eurovision should be about. I can’t help but feel the Russians knew they were going to win, because they were out in droves, and seemed to be celebrating before any results had even been announced. Maybe they knew in their heart of hearts that a camp ice skater and, quite frankly, dull song was just what Europe needed.

So what can we do to boost our chances next year? Well perhaps we need to look at how we view Eurovision. It was set up to be a contest between countries, showcasing the state of music between nations. And so why have our recent entries been nothing like what we would usually have in the charts? On the cheese front (glossing over the embarrassment that was Jemini), we’ve had Scooch. This is a band that used to be in the charts, but disappeared along with Steps once everyone lost interest in the novelty. Everyone gained interest in them again when the girls were in Nuts or Zoo, but they’ve once again disappeared into obscurity. This year we’ve had whats-his-face, a man with a forgetable name and a forgetable tune, that never in a million years would have captured people’s hearts without the help of X Factor and now Eurovision. It seems the nation played it safe, voting in someone who was nothing but inoffensive (no personality, no wow factor, and certainly no display of what the British can do). In the interest of fairness, in his defense, I thought he made the most of what he was given last night, and no country has ever won Eurovision when they were second in the line-up.

That gives us option number 1 – change the views of the music industry into thinking that Eurovision could actually be a little bit cool. After all, it did completely revive the career of Sandy Shaw, and gave us treasures like Lulu and Celine Dion (we’ll pretend Sir Cliff never happened). It’ll allow anyone who actually has a shred of credibility to enter the competition, providing a better example of why our music has gone from strength to strength over the last few years (even though it did manage to destroy Top of the Pops).

Option number 2 requires an entirely different take on Eurovision. It is, after all, the strangest, campest, and craziest competition that has ever graced my television screen (one presenter yesterday declared “Welcome to Belgrave, the city where you can’t sit down”. Did someone nick all the chairs or something?). Maybe we should really start pandering up to it all. Granted, that approach didn’t work for Ireland this year, but there’s camp and then just plain bizarre. Take, for example, the genius of Lordi. Hard Rock, yes, but accessable to all because of the sheer campness of it all (“It’s the a-rock-alypse”, anyone? Or how about “on this day of rockening…”?). That year also brought us the delights of “We are the winners” from Lithuania, made even more funny by the fact that their accents made it sound like “We are the weiners”.

So option number 2 would, in fact, be the direct opposite of option number 1. We should ignore the music that we normally listen to, and bring back some of that 90’s trite, like Lolly, or The Cartoons (were they British? I forget). We could have had an amazing trio that reminded me of the dolly girls who entertained the troops during the war, instead of Blandy McBlandy the singing binman. However, it is worth noting that not many of the countries in the final this year actually went for this approach, except Spain (which I’m sure would’ve made more sense if I had put the translating subtitles on, because I could not understand why that dancer kept falling over and looking like she was going to die). The result made for a very bland Eurovision, with most of the women looking like clones of each other, wearing pretty much exactly the same dress. Where were the costume changes of old, where the singers got progressively more naked? Perhaps Bucks Fizz have had their day…

There is another option, which I personally find too hard to consider. And that is to bring back the cheesy “we love everybody” style of Katrina and the Waves. “Love shine a light in every corner of the world”, indeed. Pile of tosh, and even Katrina thought so, as I seem to remember her saying “A lot of people will lap this crap up”, or something along those lines. However, it seemed to work. Maybe what we need is a catchy, heartfelt song all about loving thy neighbour, that can hopefully overcome the hate that everyone else in the World feels towards us, due to all our war-mongering ways. Perhaps it can be called “We’re Sorry About Iraq; The Musical”.

Failing that, we can throw a hissy fit and threaten to pull our funding if we don’t make the top five. Who pays for it anyway? I’ve never been sure. Is it the BBC? Am I right in thinking Eurovision is, in fact, organised by the national Broadcasting Associations? I seem to remember the excuse used not to allow Leichtenstein to compete one year being due to them not having an equivalent of the BBC. It is, after all, only our funding that means we make it to the final every year, along with a few others (I think Germany and France might be in there?), implying we do spend an awful lot. Maybe a bit of blackmail is the only way we have a shot, although that’s not very British. And I don’t think that such a threat would work. The other nations would probably think “Awesome, now we don’t have to listen to their rubbish songs, and don’t have to broadcast in English any more”. Maybe it’s best if we just keep to our tried and tested stiff-upper-lip approach, and clap politely when Sweden, surprisingly, votes for Denmark.

Well, I suppose this isn’t something we have to consider for another year, but it would be nice to enter something that truely does have “Eurovision” stamped all over it: Either an awesome display of modern British style (including all the cosmopolitan influences we’ve got) or camping it up big time, in the style of the Village People. I, personally, prefer the latter idea, but then, it’s not up to me.

May 02, 2008

Quick note before I get back to my baguette…

How brilliant is South Central? Best brie and bacon baguettes ever. Yum.

April 29, 2008

Attempt to keep an up–to–date blog #3

You know those days when you realise you have nothing at all to do? Well, you know when it’s made even worse because everyone else seems to be busy, so you find yourself drinking an entire bottle of Pepsi, playing online Scrabble for hours on end, watching the whole series of the Big Bang Theory, and then to top it all, your fingers inexplicably type your own name into Google? ... No? ... Just me? Oh dear…

Well that’s the day I’m having today. I had to wake up extraordinarily early because of a presentation on my Final Year Engineering Project (High Resolution Particle Image Velocimetry, if anyone’s interested). It finished at about 11, leaving me to my own devices for an entire day. This is especially hard after a couple of weeks of hyperactivity trying to hand coursework in on time, so I did end up doing the forementioned inevitable: Googling my own name.

And so, I stumbled across my Warwick Blog. I started it in my first year, mainly due to the pressure of the overactive IT staff who were incredibly motivated to introduce campus dwellers into the world of blogging. Then it was left in the depths of cyberspace until I remembered it a year and a half later, when I managed 3 posts and then, once again, forgot about it.

So this is my third attempt. I’m not sure what will be in Jo’s Blog Mark 3 just yet. For now I shall describe it as “anything I think is interesting”, because that just leaves me with all the scope in the world.

I shall sign off with a question aimed at you, the random reader who doesn’t actually know me but started reading my blog in the hope it may contain something worthwhile (alas, it does not). The question is this: What is the correct etiquette when you walk through a door and someone is a little further back down the corridor? Should you break your stride, hold the door open, but make said person do that funny little half-run as they speed up to reduce your waiting time? Or should you pretend you haven’t seen them and breeze on, as the door slams inches from their face? Although I agree both have their entertainment (funny half-run vs door in the face. Both are classics), what is the most acceptable? It’s a moral dilemma. Discuss.

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  • wow! that sounded amazingly fun! by sarah on this entry
  • Woofay doesn't look very happy in the bottle. Camembert is an awesome name for a teddy though. by Greg on this entry
  • i think if the UK became part of the Russian/Baltic countries we'd start winning. I absolutely loved… by sarah on this entry
  • is it sad that i still have your blog as an RSS feed and check occasionally to see if you've restart… by sarah on this entry

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