Tuesday 26 May 2015

Prehistoric Pining: 'Dinosaur World' Colwyn Bay

I love fibreglass dinosaur parks but unfortunately I have to travel a fair way to see them these days, this wasn’t always the case however as back in the day we had Dinosaur World situated in Eirias Park, Colwyn Bay North Wales. Dinosaur World reportedly housed over 50 life-sized dinosaurs within its grounds with one fondly remembered dinosaur (Edmontosaurus?) standing beside the A55 Expressway promoting the park. Dinosaur World was created by a Mr. Mike Farrell (an entrepreneur who would later try unsuccessfully to revamp the Blue Dolphin outdoor swimming pool complex at Rhos on Sea into a Treasure Island themed water attraction in 1981). Mr. Farrell leased the site from Colwyn Bay council on March 17th 1977 and the park opened to the public on June 5th the same year with an official opening by the Mayor of Colwyn Bay, Councillor Alice Robinson a week later on June 9th. The park remained open until 2003 before being converted into an outdoor centre for schools a great shame, as there has been nothing like it since.

As is often the case very little is written about it and only a hand full of photos exist, so permit me to do something about that and right this wrong. I have included a photo of 2 badges from the park, a photo of myself next to the Tyrannosaurus Rex (the year the park closed) and these postcards that I purchased at the park’s gift shop during my first visit in the early 1990’s. These postcards (sadly missing number 1 the Tyrannosaurus Rex ) offer a glimpse into the park’s early days. Did you visit? Memories to share? I hope to keep this post open and update accordingly so I welcome any further information, either post them at the bottom of this post on contact me directly at arfon@arfon.net and keep the memory of Dinosaur World alive!

Dinosaur World 02 Mammoth

Dinosaur World 03 Stegosaurus

Dinosaur World 04 Triceratops
Dinosaur World Postcard 5 Styracosaurus

Dinosaur World Postcard 6 Nothosaurus

Dinosaur World 07 Cave Men

Dinosaur World 08 Elasmosaurus and Tylosaurus

Dinosaur World 09 Smilodon

Dinosaur World 10 Iguanodon
Dinosaur World Postcard 11 Cave Bear

Dinosaur World Postcard 12 Phorusrhacos

 My sincere thanks to Colwyn Bay Library for providing me with the relevant dates.

© Arfon Jones 2015. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Sunday 24 May 2015

Boffin Board Game Bonanza! 2: Patrick Moore’s Astronomy Game!

It was a simple enough premise, a mini feature devoted to obscure board games that feature a ‘tv boffin’. The first one which I wrote covering David Bellamy’s ‘Save The World!’ was written back in 2012 and to say that I had fallen behind on this feature would be an understatement. So without any further ado I present for you 'Patrick Moore’s Astronomy Game’! Produced by Selsey, based (much like Patrick Moore himself) Whim Games Limited in 1980, part of Quantum Games’s line (also available ‘The Solar System Game’ and ‘First Galaxy G1’). I’ve had this game for some years now remember the time I told Patrick that I had it, his response “where on Earth did you find that?!” The game encourages players to explore the solar system and outer space, visiting celestial objects and obtain information and points. Included in the box are Astronomical Notes provided by Patrick himself and the rules that tell us that the object of the game is to, “Explore the Solar System and outer space, to visit celestial objects and obtain information and points. The game starts and finishes at the Earth, and the winner is the one who gains the most points, not necessarily the first one back home.

The game can be played by up to six players and requires the players to move along the track, through the solar system and into outer space and back to Earth, visiting as many celestial bodies as possible.
The game consists of a die, six coloured playing token rockets, game board, Fuel units, Point cards and Hazard cards. A Mission Controller is elected and is placed in charge of the allocation of fuel units and point cards during the game. Then each player is issued with a playing token and 10 Fuel Units, the die is thrown by each player and the one with the highest score starts the game. Players must then follow the black arrows on the outward journey and red arrows on the return journey. After completing one Earth orbit the player selects which path to take, either straight to Mars and the outer planets or inwards for Venus and Mercury! Whichever mission you embark on you need to collect point cards as you go. There are Planet Photography cards or Sample cards (that are only obtainable when the player lands on the exact planetary orbiting spot marked by a blue ring) a player may overshoot and will require several throws of the dice until eventually landing on the desired spot. The Fuel cards may also be used to achieve this goal (or help avoid an astronomical hazard in your path) but only if you move backwards. A Fuel unit card is surrendered at a rate of one unit per square and if a player runs out of fuel units they must miss a turn for each unit required. There are Hazard squares and if a player lands on one of them they are required to pick a Hazard card and carry out the instructions, such as “Spacecraft Communications fault Loose 2 Fuel Points” or “Go back to nearest planet for repairs
Player are given the opportunity to dock if they land on an occupied square provided that they “both agree” not on a hazard square and moving in the same direction. By doing this both players receive equal amounts of points and can remain like this provided they don’t land on an undocking square or draw an undocking card in the hazard deck then they will have to separate.

To transfer from the Solar System to outer space players must throw the exact number to reach the exit square (fuel units are not permitted!) and then throw an odd number to get to an entry square! Once you arrive here you then have three paths to choose from with the agenda of reaching the furthest point of the track before returning to the Solar System collecting Star cards as they go along. Avoid Black Holes these will send you to the Solar System transfer square and forcing you to re-cross the outer space track once again! Having thrown the exact number required to return to the Solar System you need to make you way back to Earth and achieve the exact number to finish, if not the player will have to keep orbiting the Earth until they do so! The first player to land on Earth is awarded 100 points, the second 50. Scores are then tallied, the player with the most points is the winner!

The game is rather quaint, the trick is to try to use fuel cards sparingly, and of all the times we have played it we have never docked as we usually have our own missions in mind! But its certainly a fun little endearing game that represents Patrick’s everlasting mission to inspire future generations of astronomers and astronauts.  If I had to compare it to a better known board game it would be Monopoly, but imagine Monopoly encouraging you to learn about the property you land on, take photographs and take samples instead of buying it. They come up on eBay from time to time, so check it out.

Next Time’s Boffin Board Game Bonanza David Attenborough’s Zoo Quest.

© Arfon Jones 2015. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Saturday 23 May 2015

The 200th blog entry Doctor Who special: A Galactic Gathering

This will be the 200th post I have written since starting this blog back in September 2009! I used the 100th post as an excuse to recap a trip to New York that accrued 10 months before I started the blog celebrating a big influence in my life, Ghostbusters! This time I thought I would (rather appropriately) go further back in time, 10 years in fact and recap on another event that celebrated one of my influences Doctor Who.
Time: October 14th 2005. Location: The Macdonald Holland House Hotel, Cardiff. Event: The Doctor Who Galactic Dinner!
Its hard to believe that it has actually been ten years since Russell T Davies made good on his promise to bring Doctor Who back to our screens. 2005 was a good year for Who and the fans that had held on since its initial removal from our screens.Suddenly, (in stark contrast to its 40th anniversary in 2003) everyone was talking about Doctor Who again, millions tuned in to the Doctor, and saw him regenerate only thirteen episodes in! As we eagerly waited for David Tennant’s debut, the BBC announced on their website that there was to be a ‘Galactic Dinner’ that raised funds for Children in Need. This limited number black tie affair would include a pre-dinner drinks reception, three-course meal, evenings entertainment and the opportunity to meet Julie Gardner, Phil Collinson, Russel T Davies, Camille Coduri, Noel Clarke, Billie Piper and David Tennant!

On the night Beth and I joined the other guests that convened for the pre-dinner drinks reception before making our way through into the main hall. As we walked in we were greeted by the before mentioned attendees, each one quite humble, David Tennant was both humble and nervous, Keep in mind we had another 3 months to wait until ‘The Christmas Invasion' and so he was worried as to how things would work out.
We took our seats and each of us received a goodie bag filled with various Doctor Who related items before starting a Who related three-course meal (I had the Mighty Rump of Jagrafess followed by Par­fait Mar­garet in a Slith­een Sauce).

Prize table, my ‘Icons’ painting on the right
After the meal BBC Wales’ Jason Mohammed hosted the evening’s festivities comprising of a Q &A session with the actors, raffle and a charity auction. Russell T played auctioneer and everyone had the opportunity to bid on various props and memorabilia from the show raising £20,000 for Children in Need.
With Russell T Davies
There was also a raffle and there amongst the prizes was a painting, painted especially for the event by yours truly. ‘Icons’ was painted in acrylic and pen on A4 card and featured the Tardis door with an ominous Dalek shadow on it (I never actually found out who won this piece and what became of it, if this was you do please drop me a line.) I’ve touted my ‘TIME GENTLEMEN 1963 –‘ painting to numerous Who related events over the years and this one was no exception, I added David Tennant to the line up the week before and was granted the privileged opportunity of having him sign the painting for me. He seemed impressed and amazed that I had added already. Having signed it he then asked if he could date it like Tom Baker had before showing it to the other actors and getting them to sign it too. Then it was back to the main hall for a few more drinks and a photo with Russell T before retiring for the evening, it was an amazing evening one both Mrs Jones and I still look back on with great fondness. It’s probably 10 years too late and lost among the millions of sites devoted to Doctor Who but thank you.
And that was the 200th post, hope you liked it and it was of interest. A big thank you to everyone that has read the previous 199 posts and taken the time to comment.

Incidentally, my good friend Peter Trott was also there (although we didn’t actually meet until around a year later) he wrote an account of the evening that’s worth a look on RichardWho.com 

© Arfon Jones 2015. All images are copyrighted throughout the world

Wednesday 20 May 2015

The 199th blog post special!

Being only one post away from 200 I thought I would devote this post to the posts that never were. The potential posts about the interesting things that I have seen but for whatever reason (usually lack of time or significance) missed out on being featured on the site. So permit me (if you will) to restore the balance and add these to the fold.

The skull of the ‘Witch’ of Wookey Hole, Somerset.
What is there not to like at Wookey Hole? Limestone caverns of special scientific interest in both biology and geology, evidence of human activity from the Palaeolithic period through to the time of Roman Britain. The caves are filled with delicious, maturing Cheddar cheese, caves that were used in the making of Revenge of the Cybermen in 1975! (yes, I am aware that they used in the new series too)  They also have a dinosaur park!  And of course, (as the heading would suggest) they have one "Witch of Wookey Hole”. The actual witch is a stalagmite in the first chamber of the caves with its own legend, as usual with these legends the tale tends to vary but the general story goes that a man from Glastonbury was engaged to a girl from Wookey. A witch living in caves (Jealous having been jilted herself) cursed the romance to fail. The man now a monk seeking revenge on the witch followed her into the cave. As she hid from him in the dark the monk blesses the water and splashed it al around the cave. The blessed water petrified the witch on impact, and she remains in the cave to this day. Long after, in 1912 archaeologist Herbert Balch (1869 –1958) discovered the 1000-year-old remains of a woman in the fourth chamber along with the skeletons of a goat and kid, a dagger and a polished alabaster ball. She was automatically linked to the legendary witch. Her remains resided in the Wells and Mendip Museum, (founded by Balch) until Wookey Hole requested that she be returned she is now on display at their impressive museum, her alabaster ball remaining by her side.

The Ten Bells pub, London 
On the corner of Commercial Street and Fournier Street in Spitalfields stands the Ten Bells pub. This public house has existed since the mid 18th century but is better known for its association with two of its former regulars Annie Chapman (c. 1841 – 8 September 1888) and Mary Kelly (c. 1863 –1888). Both women, shortly having left these premises had the misfortune of running into Jack the Ripper.

Lord Uxbridge's wooden leg,  Anglesey
Henry Paget (1768 –1854), 2nd Earl of Uxbridge, commanded 13,000 Allied cavalry and 44 guns of horse artillery at the Battle of Waterloo and on the 18th of June 1815 a cannon hit his right leg the Earl who declared, "By God, sir, I’ve lost my leg!" To which Wellington replied, "By God, sir, so you have!" Uxbridge was carried off the field to Dr Hume, Wellington’s personal physician who carried out an above-knee amputation. The leg was removed without antiseptic or anaesthetics and legend has it that Uxbridge never made a fuss during the operation only mentioning at one point that, “The knives appear somewhat blunt.” After the operation was over and he was satisfied that the leg was no longer fit for use he was reported to have said,  “Who would not lose a leg for such a victory?” Five days after the battle the Prince Regent created him Marquess of Anglesey and made him a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath in recognition of his bravery. He was offered an annual pension of £1,200 in compensation for the loss of his leg, but refused. Uxbridge was fitted with an articulated above-knee artificial leg invented by limb maker, James Potts of Chelsea. It had a hinged knee and ankle and raising toes and was patented as the ‘Anglesey Leg’, after his marquisette. (The amputated leg went on to become a relic for the owner of the house where the amputation took place, tourists could visit the garden and see the leg’s ‘tombstone’) With his new leg he rose to become a Field Marshal and Knight of the Garter, twice serving as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland and twice as Master-General of the Ordnance. One of his legs (he had 3 made) can be seen at Plas Newydd (the other two can be seen at Household Cavalry Museum in Whitehall, another at Museé Wellington, in Waterloo village).

The ‘Chained Oak’, Staffordshire.
It was Zombies from Ireland director Ryan Kift that told me about this legend, anyone that has been to see Alton TowersHex attraction will know of it. The story goes that the Earl of Shrewsbury returning to his home, Alton Towers encountered a witch in the road that placed a curse on him telling him that for every branch of an old oak tree that fell a member his family would die. The next day a branch fell and his son died and so the Earl had his servants chain every branch of the oak to prevent other branches from ever falling! A great story, I love trees especially if they have lore and legends about them and so last year after visiting Alton Towers we stopped off to visit the tree on our way home and it didn’t disappoint.
The Chained Oak B&B can be found beside the road just outside the village of Alton and the tree can be located along the footpath from the B&B.  No actual hard facts have been presented as to its authenticity and the legend tends to vary from person to person but true or not, the tree and it’s chains (that seem to have genuine age to them) remain. Interestingly, on April 9th 2007, one of the tree's main branches fell (the Talbot family shortly assured the press that no one in the family had died when the branch fell) and it remains on the ground in front of this marvellous tree. We may never know the actual truth as to why the tree was chained in this manner (The Victorians would chain trees to preserve the branches, see my previous post about the Major Oak)

The Cottingley Fairies Camera the National Media Museum, Bradford
The Kodak Gallery the National Media Museum in Bradford tells the story of photography, from the earliest cameras right through to the digital cameras of today and amongst their amazing museum they have a rather special camera, the actual one used to capture the world famous Cottingley Fairies.
When 10-year old Frances Griffiths (1907–86) and 17-year old Elsie Wright (1900–88), went out into the garden with Elsie's father's camera in 1917 they returned claiming that they had photographic evidence of fairies living at the bottom of the garden next to Cottingley Beck. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle convinced that they where real used the photographs in his article on fairies in the 1920 Christmas edition of The Strand Magazine bringing the case to the world’s attention.  Both girls maintained that the photos where genuine before admitting that they had been faked using cardboard cut-outs supported by hatpins but Frances maintained that the fifth and final photograph was genuine…

Peter Pan statue Kensington Gardens, London
This bronze statue of Peter Pan is in Kensington Gardens, next to Hyde Park in a location chosen by Peter Pan's creator, J.M. Barrie (1860 –1937) himself. The statue marks the exact spot beside the Long Water lake that Peter landed having flown out the nursery in The Little White Bird. Barrie, commissioned Sir George Frampton (1860 –1928) to build the bronze statue. Frampton used photographs taken of six-year-old Michael Llewelyn Davies (1900 –1921) wearing a special Peter Pan costume as reference. The statue was erected in 1912 and now thanks to the University of Leicester the statue (and many others the country) comes to life and actually ‘speaks’ to passers-by! Arts organisation Sing London commissioned writers and actors to animate 35 public statues across London and Manchester with the use of QR codes and short URLs located next to the statues. By simply scanning the code on my mobile Peter Pan called me up to talk to me!

The Tower of London
The Tower of London, iconic, historic and very difficult to sum up in just a few paragraphs! Located on the north bank of the River Thames it was founded as part of the Norman Conquest, built by William the Conqueror in 1078. Originally a grand palace and royal residence it served as many other uses during its long history, observatory, armoury, treasury, public records office and even a menagerie (eventually closed by the Duke of Wellington in 1835 forming the basis for London Zoo in Regent’s Park). But it is perhaps more famously known as the home of the Crown Jewels and of course a prison from 1100 to 1952. As a prison it saw many come and go… the prisoners list reads like a ‘who’s who’ Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard, Lady Jane Grey, Gruffydd ap Llywelyn, William Wallace, Sir Walter Raleigh, Guy Fawkes, Rudolf Hess, The Kray twins… to name but a few! Even Queen Elizabeth I was imprisoned there in 1554, because her sister Queen Mary regarded her to be a threat. Execution by beheading was common place and unless they were privileged prisoners would be executed just outside the fortress on Tower Hill (the privileged where executed on Tower Green away from the gawking jeering crowds). The last man to be beheaded on Tower Hill was Lord Lovat in 1747, the execution block said to have been used can be seen inside the White Tower.
Naturally no account of the Tower would be complete without mentioning the Ravens and the ‘legend’ that accompany them that warns that the Tower would fall if the six resident ravens ever leave the fortress. Apparently it was Charles II that deemed the ravens of the Tower be protected (despite protests from his astronomer, John Flamsteed, (1646 –1719)). Interestingly, during the relentless bombings of the Blitz, the Tower took a hit in 1940 and only one raven remained and so more ravens were brought in to maintain the all important number of 6 (apparently the order was given by Sir Winston Churchill himself). There are actually 7 ravens at the tower, the seventh is an emergency ‘standby'. And not forgetting the famous Yeomen Warders or “Beefeaters” (nickname derived from being permitted to eat as much beef as they wanted from the king's table) that live on site at the Tower.  Selected for their meritorious service in the Armed Forces, to qualify they must have completed 22 years service in the Forces. Those credentials aside they are also the countries fines tourist guides, they conduct tours around the Tower every 30 mins and I highly recommend them.

Roman Army unit memorial Chesterholm Museum Hexham, Northumberland
Everyone knows about Hadrian’s Wall and the Vindolanda auxiliary fort just south of the wall. The Vindolanda has one of the finest Roman Britain museums I have ever visited, the Chesterholm Museum that displays finds from the site. They have a lovely garden there complete with a reconstruction of a Roman temple, and I was particularly; taken by this memorial remembering the Roman soldiers that served at Vindolanda between 85- 400AD. (SPQR is an acronym of the Latin phrase, Senātus Populusque Rōmānus "The Senate and People of Rome")

The Crooked Spire, Chesterfield
The Parish Church of Saint Mary and All Saints predominantly dates back to the 14th century, the largest church in Derbyshire and a Grade I listed building but unsurprisingly is better known for having a twisted spire. The wooden, eight-sided spire is believed to have been added in around 1362. Naturally folklore provided numerous explanations for the unusual shape usually involving the devil and demons
but the reason for the spire adopting this shape has been attributed to several non demonic reasons namely the absence of skilled craftsmen due to the Black Death, insufficient cross bracing, and the use of unseasoned ‘green’ timber. When the sun shines during the day the south side of the tower heats up, causing the lead on the spire to expand at a greater rate than that of the north side of the tower. Church Open Days are held each bank Holiday Monday between Easter and August with guided tours up the tower, I hope to go back there someday and do just that.

© Arfon Jones 2015. All images are copyrighted throughout the world

Sunday 3 May 2015

New Business Cards

My new business cards are in! Some of you might recall the cards I had made up 3 years ago featuring free prehistoric animals (seven species in total and available in six different colours). I needed to restock my cards and I settled on free Dracula teeth this time around. Aside from being perfectly suitable for use the cards themselves have a handy peg hole for hanging up!

Want one? Want to swap/trade business cards? Drop me a line arfon@arfon.net

© Arfon Jones 2015. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.


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