We arrived nice and early so we could get our moneys worth and go on as many rides as possible. In fact so early the rides hadn't started yet so we had a look around the zoo, which was quite impressive in scope. We had a look at the penguins, lemurs, wildcats, meerkats and reptiles.
What surprised me about Drayton Manor was how quiet it was - it's much more compact than Alton Towers but still manages to cram a large number of rides on the site. Even so, the queues were much shorter than I'm used to at such places.
We started off on the Buffalo Coaster which is advertised as one of the children's rides but it's fairly good for a non-looping coaster. We did see a very frightened baby rabbit run away from the tracks as we thundered overhead!
We managed to go on all the major rides at least once. Towards the end of the afternoon the queues on the 'basic' rides (such as the Buffalo Coaster or the Cable Cars) were getting quite long but the queue on G-Force was non-existant so we went on that a second time.
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There were Pot Noodle Miners in Birmingham city centre this lunchtime. They were giving away samples and vouchers. I waited around for a free sample (chicken and mushroom flavour) and I must admit that it was tastier than I remember pot noodle being.
At lunchtime I had a walk round the shops. I went to Jessops in the Bullring to get some of the medium format black and white film I use in my pinhole lubitel. I was wanting some of their own brand film because it is cheaper and works well enough. I was told it was out of stock and had actually been discontinued. I checked their website and where they used to sell 3 different versions of the film, they only had one listed and that was out of stock. It looks like if I want to keep doing more pinhole photography I am going to have to bite the bullet and buy some more expensive branded film, which always seems a bit overkill when the camera is a bit cheap and rubbish!
The train was ready to leave Birmingham New Street when the announcement came on to say that the departure was cancelled and we all had to go over to platform 1 to board the Bournemouth train. Something to do with a failure with the overhead lines causing other trains to be cancelled or diverted. Anyone travelling to London would have to change at Birmingham International and hope for the best. Thankfully the Bournemouth train stops at Coventry so I was ok.
The train was a bit over crowded with many people standing in the aisle and by the doors. On arrival at International, the London bound people got off and a few other people got on. There was one unfortunate chap who was standing on the platform, arms were full of various bags and holdalls. He was also carrying a cup of coffee which he set down in the doorway of the train as he got his bags ready. Just as he was about to climb aboard the train, the doors closed. He was still there on the platform clutching his luggage as his coffee sped off into the distance.
It was very busy on the train this morning. A lot of people got off at Birmingham International (presumably for Crutfs at the NEC), including a woman with a huge fluffy white dog.
This was a trip organised by the University of Warwick Biology Society and the Cheese and Chocolate Society - I went because they needed a minibus driver and nobody in the Biology Society was old enough or had held a driving licence for long enough. I took the University minibus test last month so I was able to drive for the trip. The best thing about that was that as driver, I got into Cadbury World for free.
The first thing we noticed on leaving the minibus was the sweet smell of chocolate filling the air. Our first free bars of chocolate were given to us at the very start of the tour, just before we went through the jungle based exhibition about how the Spanish first encountered cocoa.
Other parts of the tour (in no particular order) included the history of Cadburys and the Bournville site, a viewing of the factory where we could see bars of chocolate being wrapped. It was after this section (and the viewing of a 3D film about the robots who do the packing) that we got out next free chocolate. We also got to see the set used for the 'Sponsored by Cadburys' opnening sequence used for Coronation Street.
Part way through the tour there was a tasting room. On our way in we were handed small pots of melted chocolate to taste. We also saw chocolate being set into shell shaped moulds and lumps of fudge being dipped into liquid chocolate - these were then made available for tasting. We came out of this room into the next area but couldn't see any other members of our party, so we ducked back under the barrier and went back into the tasting room - this was only to try to find the other. We had no intention of eating more chocolate. Honest.
Possibly the strangest part of the tour was the car ride through the Cocoa Bean Village. This was bizarre, with the beans in various settings from quaint village life through to skiing. A lot of the scenery was animated with flowers swaying from side to side.
The tour ended up in the Factory Shop, where anyone who hadn't become fed up with chocolate could buy more.
I was walking back to the office after wandering around the shops at lunchtime. On New Street, at the bottom of the ramp which leads up to the Palisades shopping centre, there was a bloke handing out books. Ever curious, I decided to see what it was about. The book was called Survivors, written by a pseudonymous Zion Ben Jonah. It seemed to be some kind of post-apocalyptic tale designed as a warning about moral corruption in modern society. I tried to hand the book back saying that I wasn't interested, but he refused to take it back and said that he only wanted 'a few pennies' in return. I rummaged around in my pocket and pulled out a few coins to give to him - I had less than £1 on me after buying food so he only got a few coins, which strangely were all 20p pieces.
I started reading the book on the train home. It's a novel where the end of the world seems to follow the events described in the bible, which starts with the nuclear destruction of America. The book also takes issue with the moral corruption of modern America and how organised religion has diverged so far from the original teachings of Christ - both fair points as well.
There are one or two issues I have with the book (apart from it's obvious preachy nature) but I'll wait until I've finished reading it before saying more. You can read a review of the book here.
We decided to go shopping in Birmingham by bus instead of train. We both have travel passes which allow us to travel anywhere in the West Midlands by bus so it wouldn't cost us anything to go. Unfortunately the bus takes around 3 times longer than the train. Not worth it just to save a few quid (so we took the train back home again).
We had a walk round the market, getting some fruit and veg and some less healthy chocolate-coated strawberries. We went to Selfridges to get some of their so-called mini onion bhajis, which are fairly huge but terrific value at only 50p each and taste great. Lunch was at McDonalds - only because we had a b.o.g.o.f voucher for a value meal, otherwise I try to avoid the place.
I was on my way home from work on the Birmingham to London train, which stops at Birmingham International and Coventry. I'd got to the train quite early and managed to get a seat at table. When the train stopped at International, a grey haired who looked vaguely familiar sat down opposite me. After a few seconds I realised it was one of my old lecturers from Aberystwyth.
This was a great day out - lots of free samples of food and drink (but mainly drink). The ticket cost includes one of the 'theatre' shows. We decided to see Gordon Ramsay. I would have been disappointed if he didn't swear, since that's what he seems to excel at.
He was demonstrating a 3 course meal starting with a soup. All was going well until he tried to liquidize the soup. He lifted the jug off the liquidizer base and it came apart, dumping the soup all over the worktop.
In the main hall there were more cookery demonstrations. We caught a glimpse of Anthony Worral-Thompson doing one of them. But the highlights were Gordon Ramsay's soup and the huge number of free samples we managed to obtain. We did actually spend some money though: 2 bottles of a decent sparkling wine (we made sure we sampled some first) and 12 big bags of kettle chips.
I got soaked walking from the office to New St station this evening. The rain had been quite heavy for most of the afternoon. Parts of Navigation Street were flooded, the water was starting to flow onto the pavements. Some of the streets were more like rivers.
It was very warm and sunny today so rather than stay in the office all day, I decided to have a walk along the canal, from the Mailbox to Brindley Place (and back again). Here are some of the photos I took.
On the train home tonight, the passenger info system (recorded announcement and scrolling LED display) seemed to be in reverse. On leaving Birmingham New Street, we were told that the train terminates there and all-change please. This continued for the rest of the journey. The voice would correctly identify the station we'd stopped at but would claim the next stop was the one we'd just left. At Birmingham International, the driver realised what was happening and apologised over the tannoy, but left the automatic voice to continue to mislead us all the way to Coventry.
They seem to be having a few problems with the departures boards at Birmingham New Street. I took this photo last night, but it was also showing this interesting variant of the Blue screen of death last week. They seem to have sorted it (or simply rebooted) because it was working ok today.
The above looks more like a Bios screen which you see when a computer starts up. Here is a 'proper' blue screen of death, on the same screen.
Seemingly overnight, the streets of Birmingham have been overrun by these flower daleks. They add some much needed colour to the streets, but some are quite badly placed - the one pictured here makes the pavement very narrow and is on a busy pedestrian route along a fairly busy road.
Since I took the first photo, it looks like somebody has been stealing the flowers from this one!