Tag Archives: Essex

You Asda be kidding me!

Asda may have been first out of the gates with their Christmas advert but as far as their service and continuity is concerned they never even made it out of the stable.

Save money live better may be Asda’s mission statement but if only saving the money and living better was made a tad easier than the tale of woe below.

You could even say it’s almost driven me to drink, I say almost as that drink in question – £10 litre bottles of Baileys – has been so close yet oh so far away. Asda at Shoebury in Essex to be precise.

Checking that the offer was still on I looked at their website before heading on the 10 mile round trip, yep still £10. It would be 20 miles by day two.

Smash cut to store and they are listed as £18.50, I double checked at the till and they checked with a supervisor and was told the offer was not in store but was still online.

I checked again online to find three listings and different prices for 1 litre of Baileys, two listings at £10 and £12 and another ad for £18.50. To coin an old Asda slogan, that’s Asda price…yes but which one precisely?

I know the people on the customer services number will have the answer, right?

Er, no. They were perplexed as to why it was one price online and another instore and said I should go back in and argue this. I’d already done that at the store customer services and was told sometimes prices are different online.

I said to the woman on the phone that it was madness that I could order them online for click and collect from store, the store I was sat outside of yet was unable to buy them right now at that price. She thought this was a great idea, I thought it was slightly inconvenient and didn’t really answer the problem but was sort of happy as it meant I still got a great offer.

The perplexed customer service continued with a different person on Twitter who said they were going to look into it, they must still be looking into it as 24 hours later I was still awaiting a response, despite asking for someone to get back to me again earlier today. At least Asda are being consistent, even if it’s consistently being not very good.

Bottles ordered at £10 each and ready for collection from 8pm. Yippee! Or so I thought, I was there at click and collect and so were my bottles of Baileys, although now they had gone up to £18.50 each, that’s £55.50 in total.

The order was politely declined, something which the guys with the delivery totally understood. Now I know that it says online that you pay the price on the day the item is picked and clearly that has obviously gone back up in price online today but when I was advised I could still order it online from instore and again when it was mentioned on the phone at the customer service centre neither time was I told that offer would have expired by the time a click and collect slot was next available.

It’s a shame that it seems this particular supermarket doesn’t know its Arse-da from its elbow when it comes to knowing what their prices are and what they should be or even when they expire.

Speaking to the customer services centre on the phone again this evening (Wednesday night) I explained my dilemma at length and they offered me free delivery on my next order, what’s that a couple of quid? Not really the point as thanks but no thanks I said as I won’t be using Asda again.

Perhaps I’ll head to Sainsburys to save 25% on 6 bottles of wine or more, more I think don’t you?

Essex Santa Vs Essex Santa: Marsh Farm against Adventure Island

The annual trip to see Santa, it’s almost a rite of passage for younger members of the family and some of my earliest memories include waiting to see Father Christmas, but such choice. Which is the one you should spend your money on, the one that you should spent time queuing for in Essex?

Obviously I’ve not been to see them all in one night (who do you think I am, the man himself?) so I can only comment on the ones we have seen.

I’m focusing on comparing and contrasting two experiences, one from 2013 at Marsh Farm and the other from Adventure Island in 2014. Other Santa experiences in Essex are of course available.

First up then, Adventure Island…

Santa-on-Sea

When you are little it doesn’t get more exciting than visiting Santa, it’s like a massive adventure so what better place to head to this year than Adventure Island.

DSC_1433He’s normally found residing in the North Pole but we found him closer to home on Southend seafront, although judging by Sarah’s coat you’d have thought we were Arctic bound with huskies and all.

Of course, being winter the main Adventure Island is deserted and looks like something you’d find in an episode of Scooby-Doo, if it wasn’t for the glorious sunshine and blue sky for the middle of December. We did get showered with fake snow though, which was quite nice.

Instead we found ourselves entering through the entrance to Feelgoods to be greeted by a giant sleigh and reindeer before we heads under a festive archway and downstairs to sign in with some elves.

Sticker stuck and wristband attached Iz was ready to begin on her journey to find Father Christmas.

Our first step was Southend’s answer to the Polar Express, although thankfully it was less like Westworld with multiple Tom Hanks’. Iz loved it at the front of the train with Sarah so it was my turn to step up to the mark on the following ride, Santa’s Sleigh, which must have hit some turbulence as it didn’t half throw you around.

DSC_1466Iz loved it though – as you can see in the video – and even eagerly fastened her own safety belt, my knees were wedged against the carriage which meant I really was going nowhere. Iz even had fun punching the sleigh’s super pursuit mode, well The Hoff is in town after all.

Post rides we stepped into the entrance of Santa’s grotto, its blinking and flashing lights an trees as we worked our way down the first corridor was almost like the stargate scene from 2001 Christmas special.

Twists and turns took us on a winding sparkly journey that included  the  sights and sounds of a toy  factory, Nar…I mean Wardrobia and a post office.

But this was no ordinary post office, it was one run by Santa’s elves and you also had the opportunity to write a letter to Santa and pin it to his wall.  Isabelle certainly didn’t need asking twice and thoughtfully penned him a letter with her name and covered it with crayon kisses.

It was only then a short wait to be ushered through a door by a helpful elf. Iz then knocked hard and loud on a wooden door before a warm voice ushered her to come in.

As she entered Father Christmas was sat in the corner, he was surrounded by piles upon piles of presents. Chatty all the way round this is where naturally went all sheepish, although she did get to mention a double buggy, Buster’s Bones and Doggie Doo – thankfully I didn’t have to explain the concept to jolly St Nick.

After a not totally successful photo with Santa – Iz didn’t really want to play ball – she was handed a large present from the pile and we waved our goodbyes but not before promising Santa that we’d leave him out a mince pie and a little tipple come Christmas Eve.

Before heading home there was time for one more trip on Santa’s Sleigh, by this time the Polar-ish Express was being pushed round, something about the wrong sort of fake snow on the line apparently.

We bought our Santa snap – normal photo not snow globe or key ring format  – and then us grown ups claimed our free mulled wine which certainly warmed us up on the walk back to the car in the fading daylight across the now chilly seafront.

DSC_1512And of course no seasonal visit to Southend seafront would be complete without an ice-cream. This Christmas lark, you could say that Isabelle has it licked.

At £17 for three of us it wasn’t a bad shout and certainly wasn’t as wallet or distance busting as say Marsh Farm – which we did last year when it was cheaper and in the week as Iz was at nursery.

The rides were a nice touch – you could have gone on them as many times as you wanted to – and all the elves we met were jolly and friendly. They even helpfully warned us of the 30 minute wait to see Santa as we slowly snaked through the different rooms, but then it was a Saturday and there was only a little bit I standing around and plenty of visuals to take in.

The only thing that could have improved that would have been times slots, which we’ve had at a previous grotto visit, or multiple Santa’s, which we had at Marsh Farm which kept the queue coasting through.

All in all though it was a fun experience, at less half price of Marsh Farm, which we might have looked at again were it not exactly the same as last year.

We were there for a total of two hours and felt it represented good value for money, we got a free hot drink and Iz’s gift was like a playdoh set.

The only additional costs were paying for parking on the seafront and buying our picture, which was £10.

There was no obligation to buy but you weren’t allowed to take pics in Santa’s room. You had the option of both at Marsh Farm last year.

And so to Marsh Farm…

Farmer Christmas

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The Goat of Christmas Past

For Christmas 2013 we headed down to see Father Christmas at Marsh Farm, besides seeing Santa there was a full day of activity – both Christmas and farm yard related – to welcome us and keep us busy.

You’d think that explaining to a jolly fat bloke what presents you would like would be easy, well it is, it is just deciding where to do it is the oh so fiddly part. London, when taking into account the train was too costly and the end of Southend Pier (the longest pier in the world at 1.33 miles just so you know) wasn’t enticing enough for the price.

So, after much deliberation we decided to go and visit him and his elves at Marsh Farm as its package included not just meeting the bearded chap, but decorating a gingerbread man with Mrs Christmas, painting a tree decoration, getting to choose and stuff your own make a bear  (after being given a token by Santa), travelling to meet him on a ‘train’ and visiting the farm and its menagerie of animals.

IMG_5764And my wife, daughter and I got to do all this for £30, which took the best part of the day and we thought it was all rather good value for money. In that you also got access to the whole of Marsh Farm as well, so we pretty much made a whole day of it!

The other great thing is that Marsh Farm actually has its own reindeer, so even they were drafted in for supporting roles, minus funny ears and silly costumes of course. Unfortunately the last time I was at Marsh Farm it was synonymous with rain dear rather than reindeer as we held Isabelle’s third birthday on the day back in August when we had that torrential rain. We had a wet but fun party but it was certainly a marked contrast to our return visit with Iz mostly walking round with her sunglasses on…not something I thought I would be writing with less than two weeks until Christmas Day (which is when we went).

Thirty quid sounds steepish, but then all things considered that includes entry to the whole of Marsh Farm – we went midweek and it was a lovely day and was a whole day affair, a marked difference from the two hours we spent at Adventure Island.

The cuddly toy was great, think like build a bear but not, clothes and accessories were of course optional extras as were photos, in key rings and snowglobes (we went with the latter as you’ll see) but you were able to take your own pics when meeting Santa as well, another one up on Adventure Island.

Verdict

IMG_5774Looking back at the video a year later and comparing it against this year’s attraction, although it is further to get to I think we’ll be making a return visit to Santa at Marsh Farm next year as there is just much more to do and to experience.

Marsh Farm’s Santa experience really is the full ticket and the only reason we didn’t do it again this year was because it didn’t look like it had changed so we wanted to try another experience.

Adventure Island may have been much cheaper and closer – parking was a further £3 mind and you couldn’t take your own pics of meeting Santa and they were an extra £10 or three for £20 – but the experience just wasn’t as immersive or as long.

What a difference a day makes

IMG_3256Anyone would have thought that Roland Emmerich had been shooting some sort of Essex-based disaster movie based on the events of the day before what with the floods, rescues and all round chaos…

But, really what a difference a day makes.

The cavalcade of birthday weekend visitors continued with my mum and dad and a surprise (to Iz) visit by her big cousin, Lily.

Sarah and Iz had popped to the shop when they arrived so Lily hid under a blanket for Iz to unveil, which didn’t unfold quite as I had anticipated but never the less she was pleased as punch that Lily was here with some serious hero worship going off.

Roof thankfully fixed we hit the showers (I just realised that made it sound like we had fixed the roof, we hadn’t) and then headed to the hotel where my mum and dad and friends were staying as they had a bouncy castle and music.

Iz loves a castle of the bouncy variety so she, Evie and Lily lay siege to it and dominated it for their ten minutes of bouncing. It was three girls to a single boy at one stage…he never stood a chance, especially with their high pitch screaming that could have drawn ships to shore and dashed them on the rocks. It really was something else.

After the  bouncing there was swiftly followed leaping, jumping, turning and stretching to er Oasis.

Yup, Evie and Izzy were having a friendly dance off. The pair even managed a few pirouettes with Iz stooping to conquer with some improv pole dancing!

Hips were soon cranked up to 11 however once Gangnam Style entered into the fray, or Grandad Style as Iz likes to call it. She certainly wasn’t basing her dance move on Clive Dunn’s affable sitcom though, far from it.

IMG_3297Perfectly in synch of sorts it was truly a sight to behold as Iz and Evie whirled and jumped in mad unison, until suddenly they stopped like they were competing in the musical statues world championships. The lull was only for a moment though and was all times perfectly for the song – and then they were off again showing the Gummi Bears a thing or to about continual bouncing.

IMG_3269By lunch it was actually not just sunny but was not a cloud in the sky variety. Of course the seafront was still probably rather sodden after its Atlantis impression – although the Sea Life centre have to be congratulated on a piece of their jawsome pr, see my previous post, so we decided to head inland and indoors.

Our indoors was the Hollywood Bowl at Bas Vegas which saw Isabelle, and her friend Evie’s, first foray into the world of ten pin bowling, a world of neon glow as it turns out a we entered the world of glow bowl that gave a feeling of sorts of Tron Legacy (sort of).

IMG_3305Thankfully you didn’t smash into pieces if you had a foot fault though!

Iz and Evie obviously had the luxury of the side bars and the thing that you launch balls from, of course we all helped guide them, but they both loved it.

IMG_3276My mum and dad quite literally got into the swing of things, with my dad donning his metaphorical competitive dad hat, although it was Sarah and I who won a game each. Not that anyone was really counting that much as there was no rhyme or reason to our er style and you could hardly say that any of had anything close to a technique.

IMG_3312Typically there was only one ball that I could properly use, even though there were several supposedly the same size and weight – I beg to differ! Iz, who had christened herself as the protector of the balls soon became wise to this and watched that blue ball like a hawk as it just so happened to be the ball that Sarah was using as well, which of course now meant it was strictly off limits to me…like forever.

That was until Iz swapped being a hawk to being a mole as her and Evie decided to spend part of the bowling session underneath the ball machine.

IMG_3338Whether she was on top of the machine, underneath it or just sat to the side taking it all in for a few moments Iz clearly loved her first bowling experience, despite her shoes not fitting, and could be found in a contemplative mood with her slush puppy.

IMG_3342Talking of shoes, they always seem to inexplicably really go with whatever you are wearing but Mark, Evie’s dad, went one better as hi shorts and t-shirt were exactly the same colours so I’m surprised he didn’t walk out still wearing them for the full combo effect. Judging by some of the sights at Bas Vegas I don’t think too many people would have battered an eye lid!

IMG_3344After working up an appetite with two hotly contested games we headed to Frankie and Bennys for food and drink. Of course we’d all only be able to eat one-handed after nursing sore arms from all that swinging that we weren’t used to.

Iz and Evie sat across from one another as if they were Robert De Niro and Al Pacino in the diner scene in Heat, just with more straws and playing with napkins.

IMG_3274Thankfully Iz had saved some energy as she had yet another candle to blow out as the whole restaurant sang happy birthday to her as her desert had a candle plonked in it which was met with great delight.

IMG_3362And so that brought to a close the second day of birthday celebrations, a day full of warmth and laughter that seemed a million miles away from the deluge that had greeted us only the day before.

Spirits were soaring as high as the balloons that we left the restaurant with.

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Horror husband and wife team celebrate ten years of filmic fear

werewolvescheerleaderschainsaws2[1]The tale of the husband and wife team of Alfred and Alma Hitchcock and how they brought the horrors of Psycho to the big screen is currently in cinema screens and hitting the awards circuit. Played by Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren, respectively, the pair have been nominated for numerous awards, including this weekend’s Academy Awards.

Mirren originally hails from Essex and a horror filmmaking husband and wife team from the county might not have a biopic being made about them but they’ve certainly carved, hacked and gouged out something of a niche for themselves.

Jinx Media, run by husband and wife team Pat (Writer and Director) and Pippa Higgins (Producer), is celebrating ten years of fear, or a decade of death if you will, with its high impact, low budget horror movies that have been unleashed across the international market.

They’ve talked cadavars at the Cannes Film Festival and Haunted Hollywood with their series of unique horror tales that have taken in murderous hellbrides, chainsaw wielding cheerleaders and good old zombie Nazi’s (well it would be rude not to).

Rather fittingly based in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, home of the Doom Pond where three witches were tried, Jinx Media has been anything but jinxed. Almost no shallow grave has been left undisturbed by the pair and along the way they’ve won plaudits and prizes aplenty.

Writer/Director Pat has been described as the ‘Essex Auteur’ by Empire magazine, ‘The Tarantino of budget gore flicks for both style and dialogue’ by SFX and one of ‘the most promising British horror directors’ by Fangoria.

He is the co-creator of the Death Tales series of films (the most recent of which, Nazi Zombie Death Tales, hit the UK in Autumn 2012), the original writer/creator of Strippers vs Werewolves and the writer/director of several features including the highly acclaimed The Devil’s Music (winner of Best Independent Feature at the Festival of Fantastic Films 2008)

Pat’s latest live show is called ‘Werewolves, Cheerleaders & Chainsaws’ and is packed with advice and anecdotes from the front line of low-budget horror filmmaking. The live show (which  promises strong language, gore and nudity – Pat stays fully clothed throughout so I’m assured) was filmed at the recent Horror-on-Sea festival in Southend, and the filmed version is available free of charge via http://www.jinx.co.uk  or at the bottom of this post as a thank-you for ten years of support from the horror filmmaking community.

Horror supremo Pat Higgins, said: “I love doing the live shows and thought it’d be fun to share one on the Internet as a freebie, just to say thanks to the folks who’ve supported our stuff over the last decade. The next ten years will be even bloodier, funnier and more action-packed than the last ten; I can’t wait!”

 

The Goat of Christmas Present

Some people go to Blackpool to see the lights, we ventured to Summerhill Garden centre near Basildon, Essex.

Being Essex, as you can imagine there was plenty of Christmas bling, including an upside down Christmas tree of all things! With it being a merry blingmas of sorts that also meant the yuletide nod to The Only Way Is Essex with, I rubbed my eyes in disbelief, TOWIE ‘inspired’ baubles with the words reem, vajazzle and wellgel inscribed on them.

There was also in indoor water fountain section which just reminded of the end of Gremlins, so I guess with that being set at Christmas it just made it all the more festive in my filmic eyes.

We also encountered a menagerie of wire frame, illuminated and sparkling figures (sounds like TOWIE again doesn’t it) from Father Christmas, a snowman and Christmas deer – insert your own joke about it getting more expensive every year here.

Isabelle loved the white deer, especially as there were baby ones as well, so she didn’t need any persuading to gently pet and stroke them…the only problem was that she thought they were goats.

The caused much merriment with the surrounding public as Iz was stood pointing at the ‘Christmas goats’ and shouting goats at the top of her lungs.