Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Believe It or Not

Like everyone else, I get a lot of emails every day. Some good, most bad. Some interesting, most spam. Then you get those ones that seem too good to be true, mostly from Nigerian bankers that want to deposit $400,000 into your account for reasons unclear to nobody. However on this occasion I got one of the good ones - would I like to come and visit Hamley’s before it opened, then lunch at Planet Hollywood followed by a guided tour around Ripley’s Believe It or Not!

Would I ever.

So last Sunday found myself and my son Nate off on our mini boys adventure whilst we left the girls to explore Westfield and try on shoes, or do their nails, or do whatever it is that girls do to pass the time in those places.

We were undeterred by the torrential rain that greeted us at Oxford Circus station and failing to spot an empty taxi-canoe, waded down the River Regent Street to Hamley’s. For those that haven’t been, Hamley’s is one huge almighty toy shop, spread over seven floors and filled with every toy imaginable (and some you’ve never imagined). It’s a place of wonder at the best of times and we were getting a guided tour when the place was completely empty. A bunch of over-excited kids, left to roam free playing with the toys, albeit with the occasional glance at our own children to make sure they were behaving.

 Nate having a ball

Our tour finished just as they were about to open the doors to the public and I’m just glad I had a huge big bear to hide behind as it was pandemonium once those doors opened.

From there it was off to Planet Hollywood and a spot of lunch. It’s a great place for any film buff to eat as it is wall-to-wall film memorabilia and I reckon you could visit every week and still stumble across some un-seen titbit from favourite film you haven’t seen in ages. It’s one of those places where you don’t mind waiting for your food (not that we had to) as you spend the whole time looking around trying to name the films.

Han Solo in carbonite

After that it was off to the main event – Ripley’s Believe It or Not!

Ripley’s plays host to over 700 jaw-dropping exhibits, galleries and interactive experiences across 6 floors and it was now showing off its latest exhibit – a Swarovski crystal covered Mini Cooper worth over £500,000. The crystals are in 50 shades to represent the 50 states of America and it apparently took over 6 months to put together. It was quite a sight to behold but, boys being boys, we wanted to get straight in and see all the freaky stuff – the shrunken heads, the world’s fattest person and an asteroid from Mars – blokes stuff.

There really was something for everyone here. Crazy art including a portrait of Kate Middleton made from lipstick kisses, Brad Pitt made form Cigarette ash and Amy Winehouse made from broken CD’s. Historical busts of infamous people from the past – the worlds ugliest woman and the man with longest ever nose were some of the funnier ones. Even as you walk between the exhibits the walls are covered with strange facts that will raise either a smile or an eyebrow.

They make a lovely couple

I could spent the whole day listing the incredible things you will see in there, but to be honest I don’t want to spoil it for any of you that are thinking of going, and I thoroughly recommend that you do. I also think I may need to visit again as I probably only saw half of it. I will say though, that two of Nate’s favourite parts were the mirror maze (which he insisted we go through twice) and the LaseRace game where you have to get through a darkened room all burglar style with laser alarms everywhere.

From the tallest head to the shrunken head

Ripley’s Believe It or Not! is open 365 days a year from 10am until midnight and at £79.95 for a family ticket (two adults and 2 kids) is quite a bargain, especially for something right smack in the middle of London. If you book online in advance ( www.ripleyslondon.com ) you get 15% off, so a bit of planning can save you a few bob towards your lunch.

But if you want to save yourself even more money a snag yourself a FREE family ticket*, all you have to do is the following:

Leave a comment below fessing up to your own ‘Believe It or Not’ moment. Anything from “Believe it or not I accidentally reversed over the Mother in Law’s foot”, or “Believe it or not I hold the world record for long distance marshmallow blowing from a nostril’. Anything you’re brave enough to admit is good enough for me.

The winner will be whichever one that I and my distinguished panel of judges (aka my grotty kids) find the most amazing/funny. Oh and here’s a little tip, my kids love funny. Oh and retweets and sharing on Facebook would also go down well with the judges (though not a requirement). The judge's decision is final and the winner will be announced on 2nd September 2014.

I’d like to thank Naomi Finn and her team at Ripley’s for a most excellent day out and will point out, for the sake of clarity, that it was a free event.

*The family ticket will be for 2 x adults and 2 x kids OR 1 x adult 3 x kids, whichever you prefer and is valid for 1 year. This is for the London site only.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Pitch your #First

Last week I was invited by Vodafone to attend the launch of their #First campaign. In layman’s terms they want to throw a shed load of money at someone to create their ‘first’ something, something life-changing, something that keeps the world interesting. In celebration of this we were to watch a short film about how they flew a young football team from Ghana, a team that hadn’t even played on grass before,  to the UK to compete in their first international football tournament.

When they told me that the screening was going to take place at the Emirates Stadium, home of my beloved Arsenal, I figured I would have to bring my daughter Kaede along for her first visit to the stadium. It was probably a bad move to tell her about the trip a full two weeks before it actually happened, as by the time the day actually arrived she was beside herself with excitement. 

The look on her face when she first walked into the stadium and took it all in was beyond joy. She had entered her new church and it was obvious that this would be a place she would worship for the rest of her life. I felt a pang of guilt for inflicting this football madness on her, but reconciled myself with the fact that if I hadn’t done it then her Mum, a Tottenham fan, would of and that would be a fate worse than…well worse than anything I could imagine.

The film itself was very poignant and very funny (especially the tour of London film) and I would recommend everyone to go and give the film a watch here and the London tour here.

I would also very much recommend that you get yourselves over to the website www.firsts.com and make your pitch for your very own #First. And despite the fact that I never win competitions, I’m going to enter myself. After all, there’s a first time for everything.

Thanks to Vodafone for the invite and to Leah and Mel at Tribal Media for the invite, although Kaede thanks you more.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

One Year On

There’s been a first birthday, a first Christmas, a first Fathers Day and a first ‘how the hell do you prepare that surface?’ moment.

It’s not until someone has gone do you realise how big a shadow they cast and by Christ he was a big man.  We said at the time that your boots were too big to fill, that me and Daniel would have to have one boot each, but I don’t think I’m even managing that.

You’ve missed so much this year, or maybe you haven’t. Maybe they do let you look down on us via some sort of celestial Skype and you’ve seen all the nonsense we’ve been up to. I would like to think so, but either way I’ve certainly missed telling you about it.

And it’s not just all the family stuff I’ve missed sharing with you. I’ve missed playing you the new Gregory Porter CD, you would have loved him, a voice so deep it screams big bands and smoky nightclubs. We also got to see Frank Sinatra Jnr at Ronnie Scott’s and I swear to God when he walked on it was like his Dads ghost had walked on with him. I wanted to tell you about that so much that it physically hurt, it still does.

They say a black hole sucks in all matter, well it feels like your death has done the same and left a whole bunch of ‘it doesn’t matter’. Nothing seems as important, as significant, as worthwhile anymore. All milestones are being judged and measured in relation to you and your bearing on them.

What’s worrying me more is that now this year has passed so will my memory of you. I’m not sure I want it to hurt less. If I can still cling on to my pain then you will continue to feel real, to be with me. Whilst it hurts this much I can still see you every time I blink the tears away.

The passing of time hasn’t been all bad though. It’s taken a year for my first thoughts of you not to be lying in that hospital bed, slowly saying goodbye to us all without even knowing it. Some days my first thought is of you in the pub, or in the garden feeding the fish. More often than not I remember you through a child’s eyes. Could you really have been that big, that safe, that there?

I don’t know, the mind plays some cruel tricks on you sometimes but at least it’s now stopping me from ringing you up for advice. Three times this year I’ve rung you to ask you something, something innocuous, only for Mum to answer leaving me to scramble some sort of excuse for ringing.

It seems crazy that today will hurt more than any other. After all, in the great scheme of things, it’s just another day without you, just like the other 364 have been. But it does hurt more, as today is the day where all I can remember is saying goodbye. Kissing your forehead one last time, telling you I loved you one last time, squeezing your hand and telling you it’s OK to leave now, to stop hurting and leave it all behind.

I’ve spent a year being angry that your ‘ghost’ hasn’t come to talk to me whenever I take a shower, just like your Dad’s did for you. I couldn’t understand where you were, did I not love you enough to deserve a visit, but that can’t be right? My heart is so full of you it feels fit to burst and I don’t know how to manage that feeling, how to keep those emotions in check.

More often than not I just sit on the back step gazing into the garden, watching the bees, the occasional dragonfly and listening to the birds. That’s when I think I’m at my closest to you. I can almost feel you putting your arm around your tiny sons shoulder and telling him it will be alright, everything is good. So maybe that’s better then. This way I can still see you with every yellow rose bud that’s starting to bloom, every bird looking for food and every blade of grass that will never look as green as yours did.

So today I’m going to go down the pub and have a pint, well two actually – a Light and Lager me and a Guinness for you, and then maybe I can start to say goodbye properly. Start to think of you without blubbing, start to remember only the good times and not those shitty hospital times. Maybe I needed this past year of hurt to toughen me up to continue without your ever-guiding presence. I hope I don’t let you down. Like any kid, I’ve only ever wanted you to be proud of me.

Love you Pops.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Dear Tottenham Hotspur PR

I just recieved this email from a Totenham Hotspur PR

Tottenham Hotspur cordially invites you to the unveiling of the world’s first fully-interactive digital experience for children to be created and developed by a football club. 
Please register your interest in interview time with Club Ambassador Ledley King when replying.
Date: Wednesday xth August
Time: 9am – 10.30am
Location: Hangar Seven, 230 City road, EC1V 2QY (Old Street overground and tube)
I hope you can join us for this event Jason.
Best wishes,

This is my response 

Dear Tottenham Hotspur PR bod,

I thank you for your email inviting me to the unveiling of your digital experience for children.  Unfortunately I feel that I am not a member of your target audience, me being an Arsenal fan and all.  There was a hint of my allegiance to Arsenal in the email address you sent your kind invitation to – GoonerJamie@sky.com.  I could understand your mistake if my email was WeAreABigTeamHonest@sky.com, or MindTheGap@sky.com, or even GlenHoddleWasPeleInAPreviousLife@sky.com, but I am indeed a Gooner and one called Jamie (not Jason).

With regard to the actual content of your email, asking my child to participate in ‘Tottenham’s fully-interactive digital experience’ would be akin to asking her to eat a piece of dog poop that has been laying in the sun in the gutter for so long it’s turned white – you don’t want my child to eat poop do you? 

Why on earth would I encourage a child to interact with a team that last won the top flight league before the rocket that took Neil Armstrong to the moon had even made it off the drawing board?  In fact I know more people that believe in the moon landing than the conspiracy theory that is a winning Tottenham team.  Of course I’ve seen the pictures of Danny Blanchflower holding the trophy and yes, I presume they weren’t photoshopped as that’s almost impossible to do in sepia tone.

As to meeting Ledley King, I do worry that he would drop my child, unused as he is to picking something up.  I also worry he may injure himself in the process and therefore be forced to sit with Darren Anderton for all eternity.

So to surmise, Thank you for your kind but misguided offer, if I am ever feeling suicidal and worthless I shall pop by and visit (much akin to visiting Asda when I’m feeling ugly).

Happy St Totteringham’s Day