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Monday, 28 May 2012

What a weekend

We had a fantastic weekend.  The weather was fantastic, and we spent a lovely weekend with Brad and Angelina.  We had a great bbq, but the heat* got to me and I did fall asleep quite early.  Sunday saw us all up fairly early and on the road to Watford, not usually a destination, more the starting point of a nightmare away from which you are desperately fleeing.  However, Warner Bros have setup their The Making of Harry Potter tour.  This is an event of the "back-lot" variety, and it was fantastic from beginning to end.

They have taken over two large studios for the tour, conveniently known as Stage J and Stage K.  The experience starts with a very clean and well layed-out foyer and a short queue in to the first part, which is a short film that builds the excitement, a bit like the warm-up comic before the main show in a TV recording.  This did the trick, and then we were off on the tour, starting in the actual real-life** main hall.  This was followed by the "internal set" section, which had a lot of detail on the internal sets, props, make-up, costume etc.  The attention to detail was amazing, and this gripped the whole party from Maggot 2 up to our very own Scobi. There were sets for Hagrid's Hut (there were several of these, some done with large scale furniture, used to make Harry et al look small, and one on a small scale, to make Hagrid look big), Dumbledore's study (which sits as three interlocked round towers jutting out one of the main school towers), the Weasley's home, Diagon Alley and a whole bunch of other stuff.  Being somewhat soft in the head, I even sat on a broomstick in a green-screen studio and flew over Hogwarts.

This absorbed us for over two hours.  The next section was the outside set section, which also included refreshments.  We tried Butterbeer (trade secret, it is an ice-cream float) and had a coffee before seeing the Knight Bus, a section from the long wooden walkway, and part of Privet Drive.  One of the "Interactors" gave us the low-down on this.  Apparently they did the first film somewhere like Bracknell.  For the second film they moved to the other side of the same street, and for the third film onwards they used the mock-up of 4 and 5 Privet Drive in the studio, using CGI to build the rest of the street.  The reason for all this was, apparently, money, in that the owners of the houses were either being greedy, or realising their potential, depending on your viewpoint (i.e. realist or knob-head respectively) by asking for more money for the second film, so to avoid being held to ransom, the director chose instead to build his own.  Sensible chap.

Finally, we enter the animatronics section, with a charging three-part film with Warwick Davies and the actual prop lead, who has some acting potential, showing the amazing mechanical and remote control creatures they created.  For example, and it is possible I am the only person in the land who did not know this, but some of the Hagrid scenes, where you really need to see his size, were done by a six foot seven inch rugby player with a fat suit and an animatronic remote-control head on top.  A-ma-zing.

The final reveal was a scale model of the exterior of Hogwarts.  It occupied probably and area twenty metres square, and was both meticulously made and massive.  This was used for a number of shots such as "owl flying in to Hogwarts tower" and other exterior shots, and again, it was very impressive.

The final room was stacked floor to ceiling with four thousand boxes, each containing a hand-picked wand and with the inscription of the particular cast or crew member.  Every person on the film had a box, and with a bit of searching we were able to find Emma, Daniel and JK Rowling, but not Rupert.

We ended up giving it a nine out of ten.  The missing one was for the long queue for the broomstick, and the slight lack of interactive sets.  This may be harsh as the sets were the actual, real-life proper sets used in the film, but I for one would have preferred to have bought my Butterbeer from the Three Broomsticks rather than a catering window outside.  This is a very very very tiny critique of what was otherwise an absolutely amazing day out, and total value for money.  Also, you want to save your ten just in case.

We reckon it may have five years, perhaps a bit more, so if you are OK with Harry Potter and love the behind-the-scenes look at how it was made, then you cannot spend your money better than visit this attraction.

* not the beer then? Ed.
** Real life can be a relative thing, and you should not be concerned that any of us thought this was real life, but you know what we mean, it was made to look real, had a flagstone wall, even though when you walk out you see that it is a wooden shell, covered in plaster and painted to look hundreds of years old.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Come on England

Good luck to England tonight. I know nothing about the team - ignorance is bliss - but I hope they are mostly young and totally keen. 2-0 to England.

Friday, 25 May 2012

And . . . relax

Day three, and it is still hot.  LO has brought out from the back of the wardrobe her summer dresses, and was heard to utter "I am gonna get us to Fayence one way or the other".  As I have previously commented, this particular chap loves a high-spirited filly with spunk, and while one does not remember ordering high-maintenance*, in the round she is a lively mount and no quantity of gob-stoppers would temp me to part with her.

This weekend is full of fun.  Tonight we are at the evening do of a wedding, and on Saturday we head up country to visit Brad and Angelina, in readiness for a visit to the Harry Potter studios on Sunday.  This was part of the Maggots Christmas present bonanza, and something to which the whole family is looking forward.  We will probably do Saturday night food and film, screening the first Harry Potter film to get us in the mood.

I hope you have an equally enjoyable weekend.

* this is only a joke, because when I see what high maintenance looks like in others, I realise LO is far from that.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Hot hot hot

So, having continued to need the heating or the fire on as recently as this weekend, it is a bit of a shock for it to be so hot and sunny for the last two days.  It is so hot, in fact, that the greatest risk on the roads is the white legs or other bare flesh dazzling oncoming drivers.  That is to say, the nation has got its summer wardrobe out of the loft.

A chap cannot help but feel pride in a nation for whom it is either cold or wet for three hundred and fifty days of any given year (since the infamous 'seventy six) and yet, and yet, for those 15 days when the weather is either sunny or warm, out come the crop tops and Union Jack shorts, the spaghetti strap tops and dresses, the flip flops* and bare feet, and of course the convertible cars.  Also, most importantly, out come the sunglasses.  Now, a chap is always happy to give credit where it is due, and that means that some folks can carry off some pretty outlandish shades, however, the majority tend to look like the five year old wearing her dad's bifocal glasses, or a toddler with a monocle; fine for a "funny" birthday card, but not something you would be sharing with the world on Facebook.

Talking of Facebook, it is interesting how things shake out.  on 18th May they floated on the US stock-market.  There has been a phenomenal interest in this, and the price point for the shares were unbelievable.  They started life at $38, hit a low of $31 and currently sit at $32.  As if that is not bad enough for the company, there has just been a writ raised in the US by disgruntled shareholders who are alleging that revised growth figures were not disclosed to all investors.  It is very early days, but regardless of whether this writ turns out good or bad for Facebook, it is going to be bad news from this point onwards for the company and for its public image, and even a dismissal of the writ may well not improve that image.

I have always struggled a bit on quite where the value is in Facebook.  I know there is the footfall of a half a billion users, and the advertising on the site must drive some revenue, but even with all that I am not sure I see something in which I want to invest my money**.  Maybe my incredible nose for a deal has done it again***.

Enjoy the sun, and be careful of those lilly-white legs.

* I have noticed that the young and trendy male is often seem in flip flops for some of the rest of the year also.
** Of course, the fact that I do not invest and, at this time, I have no money to invest is also contributing to this situation.
*** Have we not had words about being economical with the truth? Ed.

Monday, 21 May 2012


We had a pretty enjoyable and successful weekend.

Friday night say Maggot 1 off to scouts, A&E coming round for dinner*.

Saturday saw Maggot 1 and Eldest off the the cinema unaccompanied**, and the rest of us back at Chez Scobi for chat, a small bit of DIY*** then up the park for a walk and play.  Back by 6pm where the Maggots de-camp to the front room and adults de-camp to the back room, and the true benefits of the extension become crystal clear.

Sunday saw a bit of gardening, and, whisper it quietly, I may be starting to enjoy it just a little bit.  I am determined to get our lawn up to scratch, with the goal if it being nearly acceptable by the surprise party****.  This meant a trip to the tip to get rid of all the old, rubbish topsoil removed from the patches before being replaced by a beautiful mix of one part (good) topsoil, one part sand and one part compost, with a sprinkling of grass seeds on top.  The lawn therefore currently looks like swampy has visited, but we just need to hold the faith for a few weeks to start seeing the benefits.  This latter faith-holding is proving difficult for LO who has declared, with her rather dismissive and judgemental manner, that we "must have a duff batch of grass seed".  I have approximately four more days to see signs of the first round of patching to start sprouting before I will be horse-whipped and humiliated on the Homebase bulletin board by my dear wife.

This week is going to be rather busy, with a lot of work and home commitments to knit together in to a seamless life.  I am already looking forward to Friday.

Have a good week, and speak soon.

* A most fantastic menu, and equally fantastic company.  If memory recalls, a pretty fantastic Canasta score for the boys too.  And I managed to stay awake for most of the evening.

** Maggot 1 was beside himself with the pleasures of being without adults, and being in the possession of the phone that we all like to call the "family phone" but Maggot 1 calls "his phone".

*** Having try to avoid adding all the plastic bits to the glass shower door, I have relented on the final piece and, with the help of David, installed the drip-stopper bit on the bottom of the sliding pane.  Drips are now, mostly, stopped.

**** About which I obviously cannot talk. 

Friday, 18 May 2012

And . . . relax

I am very glad it is Friday.  It was a long week, although one not devoid of success.  It was full of office working, which took its toll, but as a result I have achieved a lot.

We have A&E to dinner tonight, David and Samantha tomorrow, and some full-on relaxing Sunday.

The rain, which has upset most of the rest of the country, has been a godsend for us because it means our lawn is getting a jolly good watering.

That is all from me.  Quick, to the point, prompt, swift, decisive etc. etc.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Is that what working was like in the old days?

I have spent the first three days of this week in the office, and the experience is somewhat unsettling.  All that dressing up and talking to people and stuff has really taken some getting used to.  I find myself at home today and already I have managed to nail a number of important little tasks.  Starting at 6.30am definitely helped.

At home, Gee Gee is still in hospital, but improving, Ma Scobi is due in for a knee operation on Sunday, and we have a very busy weekend with A&E Friday and David and Samantha Saturday.  As part of the day Saturday, Maggot 1 and D&S's eldest are off to the cinema for a 12a screening of something or other.  To set this up, Maggot 1 had to ring the eldest to make arrangements.
Yesterday, Maggot 2 declared "I am not sure what I am doing on Saturday, I think I had better ring Youngest", in the sort of serious tones that Billy Elliot used to tell his parents he wanted to dance.  You have to laugh at his parrot-like ways.

Otherwise it will be a day slogging through a bit of a backlog of smallish things, hopefully some time to spend on bigger things, and maybe even a bit of time to have lunch and catch a Frasier episode.  I certainly know how to live.

Monday, 14 May 2012

Not everything panned out

We had a pretty good weekend, me having started the gargantuan task of patching up the lawn.  A couple of rolls of turf to fill some empty squares (one where the soakaway was dug) and some top soil, sand and compost plus some grass seed for some of the other patches.  I have also, for the first time, bought some feed 'n' weed to try and bring the lawn up to something approaching not very good.  This has only done about a third of the lawn, which is OK coz it is really a football pitch, so I cannot close the whole area down.  We just need the rain today to wash the feed 'n' week in to the soil, water the bits we have patched, and we are on our way.  We plan to attack the patches in phases, just so that some garden activities can still continue.  The areas that have so far had some attention have sticks and string to cordon them off from excitable Maggots.  Actually, the Maggots gave me a lot of help doing the work.  They seemed to relish mixing up the 1 part top soil to 1 part sand to 1 part compost mixture, which for Maggots who don't really like dirt under their nails, was surprising.  They also loved digging out the bigger patches, and Maggot 2, intrepid archaeologist that he is, even found a fragment of pottery that may well have lain buried since the Twiggy era.

The only cloud on the horizon was that Gee Gee was taken in to hospital with a racing heart.  This has abated a bit with medication, but it is fair to say that Gee Gee is bored, frustrated and in a ward of really old people (Gee Gee may have the years, but she also has her marbles) a couple of which were, to put it kindly, nutters.  We send our love to her and hope that the magazines and chocolates will help to numb some or the boredom.

Today sees me in my local Starfleet office, to attend an afternoon seminar.  I have decided I need to sharpen my appreciation of some new technology, and as part of that campaign, plan to take half a day out of my otherwise busy schedule to do something for me.  I hope I learn something, since I plan to do this more often.  The account on which I work is like a black hole and will suck any physical or temporal matter that gets too near, so doing something for me feels both decadent, and exactly what I should be doing.

Speak again later in the week.

Friday, 11 May 2012

And . . . relax

Friday is here once again, and that deserves a cheer from the Scobi camp.

Reflecting on the week, not too much happened that will stick in the memory.  At work I have made a few tippety steps with a few key issues.  At home I have finished off the last little bits of the shower room door and the tools and associated detritus are now removed from both shower room and (nearly) utility room.

I also have new glasses, which as reported yesterday are taking a bit of getting used to.  Being stronger, I have that thing again where as you take off the glasses to look in to the distance, your eyes take a bit of time to refocus, and that has not happened in a long while, which itself goes to prove that I have needed stronger glasses for a while.

This weekend we are taking it pretty easy.  Maggot 1 has scouts and his scouting friend is coming back to ours for a sleepover tonight.  Tomorrow we are off to see Oliver! in Southampton, and on Sunday we may try to finally get the Sunday lunch at the Nags date sorted with LO's outlaws, the said date having been cancelled twice before due to illness.  The Nags offers a Sunday buffet, somewhat nearer the "pile 'em high and sell them fairly cheap" variety than haute cuisine, but you can get a good roast there, the selection of meats satisfies Maggot 1's insatiable carnivore appetite, and we will all have a nice lunch, paid for by GG.

Other than that, we intend to take it easy, no doubt watching The Voice UK, Britain's Got Talent and the paint in the shower room drying.  We will also be recording for later consumption The Bridge, which is on BBC Four and the latest from what may begin to be called their "Danish season".  Having already seen The Killing 1 US version, The Killing 2 DK version, starting to watch The Killing 1 DK on DVD, and more recently The Killing 2 US which has just started on TV, it is fair to say we are loving the Danish output.  Right now, The Bridge is about as good as it gets.  I have said previously that having subtitles means you have to concentrate 100%, and that concentration really engages and emerges you in the action, so that you get a lot out of the viewing.  I absolutely love The Bridge, and if you have not seen it already then I would definitely recommend you get it on iPlayer because it is a cracker.

Have a good weekend, speak next week.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Everything looks a bit funny

I have just picked up my new glasses, which are mighty fine in many ways, but are also a new prescription. By new, I mean stronger, since my eyes deteriorate yearly now that I am of a certain age.  What I had not appreciated is that they work best at a certain distance.  Where my previous glasses were not quite strong enough for reading, that shows itself by allowing me to see in focus at a distance of around 50cm.  Incidentally, 50cm is the distance between my eye balls and my home screens.

Now that I have new glasses, that are at the correct prescription, the "focus distance" is also a more normal 30-45cm, which means that my screens are all slightly out of focus.


I guess that I will slowly get used to them, although I am a bit concerned that actually what I need is to bring the screens closer to me, which means I will need to move the outer wall in a bit to bring the desk nearer to my eyes.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

That was the weekend that was

We had a great weekend.  Saturday, after the Maggot lessons - swimming lesson for one and tennis lesson for the other - we travelled up the A34 to Newbury to visit Brad and Angelina.  The usual cup of tea and slice of Cherry Madeira awaited our arrival, and the Maggots disappeared upstairs for hours of fun which mostly seemed to consist of a competition to see whether they could dust the unreachable parts of the house merely by jumping up and down so hard the whole house shook.  The ladies then disappeared to buy picnic items, and the gentlemen retired to the park-by-the-river with the Maggots, spotting a number of tasty trout in the river as we walked.

We had a lovely evening of fish pie and Canasta, a combination that six billion humans over several millennia have yet to better.

On Sunday, the Maggots were up by 5.30am, the adults preferring a more civilised 8am, and then it was the usual round of shower, breakfast, teeth, dressed, shoes on, find your coat and pack the picnic type activities that precede a day out.  We then headed out to Highclere Castle, the set for Downton Abbey if you are interested, and even if you are not then it still is, and thankfully the mention of any such links were infrequent and modest.

The house itself was about seven out of ten, with the accompanying Egypt exhibition - first section real artefacts, the remaining ninety percent being replica items - did bring the score up somewhat, since the house was OK but not anything special. 

The Egyptian element was not, pay attention at the back, some frivelous "what are we going to do with this Mummy" type exhibitions, but there because of George Edward Stanhope Molyneux Herbert, aka Lord Carnarvon who funded Howard Carter through several Egytian excavations, who on 4 November 1922 found the tombs of Tutankhamun.  

Carnarvon's end was not a pretty one.  Urban myth may label it the "Curse of Tutankhamun", but the facts confirm that it started with a mosquito bite on the cheek on 25 March 1923, the top of which was taken off during shaving shortly after, and this wound went septic.  It got better, then worse again, and this repeated a couple of times until, on 5 April 1923, he finally dies in the Continental-Savoy Hotel in Cairo.

Surprisingly for such a day out, where there was lots of reading and "looking at stuff", the Maggots were  pretty happy all day.  We found the secret garden* where we had a picnic and the Maggots ran around a lot, and overall we had a great day.

We left there for home, to watch the final episode of Homeland, and to sleep in our own beds.

Monday morning say Scobi and Scobi senior tackling the fitting of the ill-fated shower door.  It is now in, albeit after a lot, and I mean lot, of stressful sweating.  There are a few bits to finish, and in the installation we did unfortunately drop a bracket on an exposed bit of shower tray and add a small dent to the edge.  We also managed, despite many activities to ensure this did not happen, put the door in slightly at an angle across the front edge.  Only a pedant, of which there are two in our family alone, would notice it.
Other than that, it is in and looks pretty good.  Just a few final bits of finishing and I shall be able to tick it off my To Do list.

Have a good week, and speak again soon.

* obviously don't tell anyone

Friday, 4 May 2012

And . . . relax

Hmm, the new interface does not seem to remember previous titles, so I have had to guess the title above.  I can only apologise to my OCD demographic if the full stops are not layed out quite how they should be.

This weekend is a long weekend, and that means a number of things:

  • It will rain
  • there will be a lot of adverts on TV for DIY stores
  • on Monday, between the hours of 9am and 5pm there will probably be at least one James Bond film showing on one or more channels
  • I will be doing a bit of DIY
  • on at least one of the evenings, Maggot bedtime will come quickly enough
as far as DIY goes, the second shower door package arrived yesterday, so it is just a matter of lining up my dad to help, and then we may finally be able to get our downstairs shower room completed.
If I haven't mentioned it before, the shower repair guy came last Saturday and did a fantastic job on the damage to the shower tray.  The front edge, that did have two large chunks out if it and a number of little dents where the shattered glass had fallen, is now perfectly smooth and white.  The repairs are invisible, and truth be told the finish is better than the original tray.  Result.  The work was predicted to take 2 hours, but actually too 5.5 hours, and in some weird way that I still do not fully understand, the engineer seemed to be implying that they could not charge anything further than the quote "without an upgrade".  From their perspective, maybe an upgrade was what was needed, but he did do that, and even refused a £20 I was happy to offer him as a thank you for taking so long to do such a good job at no further charge.

Otherwise, we are away the weekend at Brad and Angelina's to see them, of course, but also to visit the house used for the filming of Downton Abbey, really Highclere Castle.  I am hoping and expecting the usual warm welcome, and a slice of the best Cherry Sponge Cake this side of the Hairy Bakers.

I hope you enjoy your weekend as much as we definitely will.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Nora, Nora, who the #### is Nora?

Sounding much more impressive that it felt, the Norovirus has been ripping through our family.  Maggot 2 got it Saturday evening, better around 24 hours later.  Scobi got it Monday night, betterish around 24 hours later, and now LO has it, still ill and by standard measurement, should start to feel better by mid tomorrow, maybe later.  Interestingly, and I use that word in its least suitable way, LO has not had all the symptoms;  she has the aching, headache, general inability to move, but none of the bodily emissions that the rest of us have suffered.  I hope it remains that way because LO has a massive phobia of bodily emissions of the oral kind, and this manifests itself in me having to deal with every aspect of such emissions, including me having to manage the disposal of her emissions.  Nuff said.

This illness means that LO is on the sofa, issuing orders like the Borgias, and I am on all the school runs, both ends of the school day.

We are looking after Holly-dog, the Outlaw's cat (my little joke; it is, or course, a dog) and so I walked it to school to pick the Maggots up today.  The school rules stipulate no dogs on the grounds, so the plan was for me to wait at the gate, Maggot 2 to leave his class at 3.05pm, when his day ends and take control of Holly-dog while I got to get Sammy, whose day actually finishes at 3.00pm precisely.  And this was pretty much how the plan unfolded.

I am now just about finishing for the day, ready for a fun evening of running round an ill wife and two hungry children.  Enjoy your evening, and speak tomorrow.