Thursday, 22 June 2017

The Fourth Wedding Anniversary of Mr & Mrs Arfon Jones

It's June, it's that time again, time to report back about the day we celebrated the day we got married. For the benefit of those keeping count (and don't read titles) this was the fourth. This time Mrs Jones and I spent it in the Land of the Lions in.... London! London zoo to be exact, at the world’s oldest scientific zoo's newest exhibit that not only (decoratively) transports visitors to India’s vibrant Sasan Gir to get a little bit closer to the majestic, mighty Asiatic lions but also the chance to sleep “within roaring distance” of them!

Having long been fascinated with animals and watching copious amounts of television in my lifetime London Zoo is very familiar to me but to be perfectly honest I had never actually visited before. So finally, after 30+ years I finally had the chance to visit Jumbo the elephant's old stomping ground! We spent a hot day navigating through parties of school children seeing the wonderful array of animals the zoo has on offer. Being the nerd that I am I would stop at familiar points of interest such as the Reptile House, the Raven’s Cage (constructed in 1829), the grade two listed Penguin Pool and of course the Snowdon Aviary,
designed by and named after Lord Snowdon built in 1962 and opened to the public in 1965 it was the second largest aviary in the world but the first walk-through aviary in Britain, specially designed to allow close up views of birds. One of the things I enjoyed about the Zoo (apart from the animals of course) was the balance the zoo had between introducing new and fresh ideas and their own history. We saw Giant Galapagos Tortoises, Penguins and Lemurs but unfortunately the anteaters had been relocated to behind the giraffe house to make way for a new dinosaur attraction (leaving me with mixed emotions as I love anteaters and fibreglass dinosaurs...) and then after “oooh-ing" and "aaaaahhh-ing" over Marilyn the two-toed sloth's uncharacteristic 'speedy' constitutional around their jungle environment and the extremely photogenic otter family over at the Otter Holt we made our way to the Gir Lion Lodge to 'check-in'.


Officially opened by HM The Queen and HRH The Duke on the 17th March 2016 (the original lion terraces was also opened by them both in 1976) Land of the Lions cost £5.2m to build and is five times the size of the previous lion enclosure and as previously mentioned designed to resemble Sasan Gir, an Indian village in the heart of the Gir Forest where the last 500 wild Asiatic lions live and the attention to detail is amazing as it both entertains and highlights ZSL’s international conservation efforts to help protect this endangered species. We arrived at the nine brightly painted lodges inspired by the hotels in the Gir Forest and were greeted by the friendly keepers. We were given the Oriole Lodge equipped with en-suite toilet, basin and shower and tea making facilities and a rather nice private veranda to soak up the atmosphere and relax. But this excursion was not just about finding a place to spend the night in London! Once we had settled in, glass of complimentary Prosecco in hand we were given an exclusive after-hours tours of the Zoo offering a glimpse of what it's like at the zoo once the public have left by the friendly, knowledgeable keepers. We met Bhanu and lionesses Indi, Rubi and Heidi learning more about them, their conservation and their upkeep. Interestingly as part of the lions enrichment, sacks soaked in unwanted perfume are given to the lions with Old Spice being a particular favourite (a little discouraging as its also my favourite brand of aftershave and I was wearing it at the time...). We then made our way around the zoo and some of the enclosures and even had chance to feed Thug and Nicky the pygmy hippos before having our own delicious two-course dinner. Once we had finished our puddings we toasted our anniversary (and the birthday of another guest) we had another 'mooch' around meeting two of the zoo's nocturnal residents which I will not tell you about because its meant to be a secret... but they were delightful!

The next morning was fantastic! I normally associate the bustling sounds of cars, sirens and Ring Necked Parakeets with waking up in London so being woken to the sound of macaws, flamingos and lions was a new one on me! I had a quiet sit down on the 'private veranda' before we went to have our Full English breakfast before visiting the old elephant house to see where all the herbaceous animal's meals are prepared. Some Tapirs and gibbons followed before we went back to “oooh" and "aaaaahhh" some more at the two-toed sloth's and otters (not me you understand, but Mrs Jones, although I did make a similar sound when we briefly saw the giant anteaters roaming their enclosure before a fresh party of school children mobbed to the fence) and that was our sunset, after-dark and early morning excursion to London zoo that I highly recommend, as always I hope this was of interest!

© Arfon Jones 2017. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Mischievous Memories: Jeremy Beadle


On the 14th of June I found myself wandering around Highgate Cemetery East in London looking for the grave of the most famous prankster in Britain, Jeremy Beadle MBE. 
This was somewhat of a pilgrimage for me, as I explained previously in my first Mischievous Memories I have always been fascinated by practical jokes and for two decades, Jeremy Beadle was known as television's arch prankster and so as a result I looked at him as the quintessential practical joker. Although a little two young to remember Game for a Laugh! I fondly remember Beadle's About, I was an avid viewer and it was an essential part of Saturday nights for me. Each week he played tricks on unsuspecting members of the public in the same vain as Candid Camera (although he disliked the comparison) and then praising them for being a great sport, the show was a massive success. It was the longest continually running hidden-camera show of its kind and ran for eleven series, selling all over the world and at its peak pulled in viewing figures of seventeen million. He stated in his 1998 autobiography, Watch Out!Very few people have made a full-time career out of something as silly as practical joking and to be recognised as the country's Number One in that field was something I took as a great accolade. 'Game For A Laugh' had been my apprenticeship and had established me in the role. 'Beadle's About' marked my coronation! I was now the King of Practical Jokes, The Prince of Pranksters.” The programme received around 30,000 letters a year from members of the public nominating family and friends to be the next show's 'punter' (he never called them 'victims' “we were going to make these people stars, so we called them 'punters'”).

Although those practical jokes were amazingly elaborate Beadle delighted in the simple pranks as well and with his place as the nation's number one practical joker assured, he released the Jeremy Beadle's box of Practical Jokes through Merit Toys and MCP games in 1989 which offered any budding prankster “Classic practical Jokes plus the secrets of over 150 of Jeremy Beadle's rib-tickling favourites” Beadle once promoted this potential box of delights on Children's ITV and I recall asking for it for Christmas! Amongst the hand buzzer, squirting calculator, plate lifter, whoopee cushion, wobbly pencil, bottle of disappearing ink and fake injured finger was the Jeremy Beadle's Book of Practical Jokes which not only informs us how to use our arsenal but also offers a few other gags to try out after running through some 'rules' when practical joking such as, “A practical joke is only funny if the person you play the joke on actually laughs” and “A good practical joker will only play tricks on those people they know will enjoy the gag once it has been revealed”. He makes it quite clear that when pulling a “messy joke” we must be on hand with a cloth or brush to clean up the mess and that we must always praise the “star” for being a good sport before telling us to have fun! (I will also add that Beadle was also keen on magic and also released the Jeremy Beadle Box of Magic Tricks that same year offering 28 magic tricks and the secrets of 95 of his “magical favourites”!).
 

Beadle took his trade to another level in 1991 and joined forces with the subject of the last Mischievous Memories Joke Shop by Post, I recall the above advert in their catalogue, “Watch TV's Jeremy Beadle try Our Jokes” this video was called Jeremy Beadles guide to Practical Joking and was almost like a self help video (which I have uploaded to my YouTube channel) calling itself “the ultimate guide for the beginner prankster who plans on becoming an expert practical joker” it offered tips for kids to try out on unsuspecting 'punters'. ”Beadle will teach you how to shock your family, surprise your friends and make everyone scream for more with over 200 easy to learn practical jokes using mostly everyday household items.” Co written, produced and directed by TV producer Clive Doig (whom Beadle had worked with numerous times over the years once creating a program in 1980 for Children's BBC called April Fool)


Sadly, he did receive some flack over the years, the most famous prankster in Britain was also nominated as the second most hated man in Britain in a poll by Punch Magazine (behind Saddam Hussein, but as Beadle pointed out it was a list of only 5 people) but this never really bothered him, nor me for that matter having always been one of a small demographic that likes such entertainers/ presenters as Beadle, Paul Daniels, Roland Rat and Noel Edmunds. In his book he reflected on his time as a joker on television, “After eleven years of Beadle's About and Five years of Game For A Laugh, for sixteen years, I have been synonymous with practical joking. For sixteen years I was considered the best. Even if I was to live to be a hundred, I still think that, in my obituary, I will recognised as one of the greatest practical jokers TV has known. I am quite proud of that. I will continue to work with practical jokes. It may be that I won't actually be on camera but I'll never lose the ability to deliver them. Lets just say my crown is tucked away in a little box, waiting to be taken out and dusted off at some future date.” Sadly he didn't live to be a hundred, he died on the 30th of January 2008, aged only 59 of pneumonia he was right about the obituaries though, they refer to him as “TV Trickster” "King of Pranks" and “Presenter and Prankster” before listing his other talents and accomplishments. I found the grave a rather beautifully carved headstone reflecting his love of books, although a little weathered it reads, “Jeremy Beadle MBE Writer, Presenter curator of curiosities “Ask my Friends” “ a rather poignant memorial to a great man

A little more Beadle for your Buck!
This is a little curio from my collection...  Beadle was also synonymous with “camcorder calamities” having presented You've Been Framed! The show featuring humorous clips from viewers' home videos from 1990 to 1997. Viewers would win £250 if their video was used in the show, this is a VHS that we submitted back in circa. 1991 we didn't win anything but the sticker stating that it had been submitted remains on it to this day. Off the back of You've Been Framed! Beadle presented another 'how-to' video, Have Fun With Your Camcorder produced for Comet stores in association with Panasonic, JVC, Canon, Hitachi, Ferguson, Sanyo and Sharp at the height of the camcorder craze of the 1990's. The video promised help from “Top Television and Film experts, Jeremy shows you the 'tricks of the trade' so you can have fun with your camcorder” this video has also been uploaded to my YouTube channel.


© Arfon Jones 2017. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Monday, 12 June 2017

RIP Adam West/Batman 1928-2017

The world is going to hell and the government is in disarray and to make matters worse Batman is dead.
Adam West, Bruce Wayne, Batman, The Caped Crusader, the man that the Gotham underworld tried to unsuccessfully kill each week died peacefully on the 9th of June at his home in Los Angeles after a brief battle with leukaemia, he was 88.
The death of someone that you have known throughout your life but never actually met is a strange feeling to comprehend. As a long time Bat-Fan I grew up with Adam West, he was always on TV and his adventures not only provided me my much needed Bat-Fix but also my much needed escapism during the 'joys' of childhood.
Mr. West's passing is both a sad and bitter experience for me because I was all set to actually meet him in person at next month's London Film & Comic Con for what was to be his last UK appearance, a thank you to all his European fans. Frankly, personally, I feel cheated, the opportunity to meet my hero, shake his hand and thank him for being there all these years has been snatched away from me. I wouldn't have told him anything that he hadn't heard a thousand times before but I wanted him to hear it again and from me, I will instead raise a glass of milk in his honour when I watch his show... same Bat-time, same-Bat-channel...

© Arfon Jones 2017. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.


Thursday, 8 June 2017

Antony & Cleopatra Poster


Following on from last year's successful production of 'The Tempest' at the Morecambe WinterGardens (for which I provided the poster) Attic Door Productions are back for another year and another re imagining of the bard's work, this time it will be Anthony & Cleopatra and I was delighted to be the one responsible for the poster! “The opulence of Egypt and the power struggles of Rome are transported into the faded decadence of forties film noir with Attic Door’s brand new production of Shakespeare’s tale of Lust and Power : Antony & Cleopatra.” Direct from their acclaimed run of The Two Gentlemen of Verona at Lancaster Castle the Attic Door team once again bring a new accessible angle to Shakespeare’s work, bringing the Winter Gardens to life as the magnificent palaces of Egypt and the seedy warehouses of Rome in this exciting new site specific production! So don't miss it! The Winter Gardens, Thursday 20th, Friday 21st & Saturday 22nd July at 7.30pm! Here is a handy link for you so you can book your tickets right away!


© Arfon Jones 2017. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Dine out before they die out: Wimpy, Rotherham

Wimpy, Rotherham Superbowl, Wortley Road, Kimberworth, Rotherham, S61 1QN. With Little Chef's demise now official I've made it my mission to visit as many of them as possible and in doing so I have neglected the Wimpy Bars somewhat, let's set that right. Located within the Rotherham Superbowl (“It's not just bowling - It's Superbowling!”) I wasn't able to determine exactly how long they have been open but according to one member of staff it had been open for some time and its rather a nice one. It offers the classic Wimpy experience but with the added extra of arcade games, fruit machines and an all night Bowling alley! Serving 10am until late the menu doesn't have all of your Wimpy favourites on it (The Bender and Brown Derby were decidedly absent) however to give them their due the food is of a high quality and served by friendly staff.

Previous Wimpy Sites:
Streatham Wimpy.

Previous Little Chef Sites:
LittleChef Northop Hall.
Little Chef, Wrexham.
Little Chef,Bangor.
Little Chef Dolgellau.
Little Chef Builth Wells.

Little Chef Uttoxeter.
Little Chef Shrewsbury

© Arfon Jones 2017. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Monster Memories: Tommy Boyd: Monster Hunter?

Here is a clipping from Look-In magazine dated the 2nd of May 1992 that states that there was a new book out called Monster Monsters which sets out to educate its readers about, “the weird and wonderful monsters that are supposed to have existed around the world” written by then current face of Children's ITV Tommy Boyd and the article declared that Tommy was “actually a bit of a monster-mad boffin!”. The book, published by Boxtree was published as I immersed myself fully in my fascination with monsters, I was equally a fan of Tommy Boyd who was a regular face throughout my childhood be it from his days presenting Saturday TV-am show Wide Awake Club from 1986–1990 (and Sunday spin-off show WAC Extra) to the time he presented Children's ITV from 1991 to 1992. The book's back cover reads, “Calling... monster trackers everywhere. You come across strange giant footprints leading into a dark, clammy cave. Would you... faint with fright... quietly tiptoe away...or explore further? Tommy Boyd has collected fearsome facts and monstrous myths which will freeze the blood in your veins! Read about the huge body with a serpent's neck which emerged from the dark waters of Loch Ness, or a tentacle half the length of a football pitch which was found on a Florida beach and ask yourself: What is out there?” packed with stories, games, quizzes, trivia, things to do and monsters to make and priced £2.99 it was a terrific read to any budding monster hunter! This wasn't actually the first time Tommy put his name to a monster themed book, the Wide Awake Club released a book entitled Ghosts, Monsters and Legends in a 1986 tie-in with their segment on the show of the same name (although how much Tommy was involved in the writing process is unclear) what is especially interesting in this article however is the closing paragraph, “ By the way, did you know that Tommy's planning an expedition of his own to go off and find the Giant Buru Buru monster* (which you can read all about in the book) very soon and he wants volunteers! Watch out for more news soon.” Did this expedition ever happen? Even in the book he gives map references! Attempts to contact Mr Boyd directly have yielded no results, so does anyone out there know?


* Buru Buru Monster: an aquatic cryptid reptile said to inhabit the Ziro valley, India.

© Arfon Jones 2017. All images are copyrighted throughout the world. 





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