Days Out

In the book

Stonehenge

Stonehenge

Photograph by S.W Ellis

A very nice piece of henge-work this – all those huge pieces of rock which were dragged halfway across the country with nothing more than a few sticks and brutal repercussions for anyone who questioned what on earth it was all for.

It’s no surprise that people from all over the world flock to see this memoir of just how much time Neolithic man had on his hands for DIY and standing rocks on their ends. For anyone who has been there, it is also no surprise to know that the most common visitor’s reaction is: ‘Is that it then? Seriously? Bollocks, we should have gone to Bath after all. Oh, stop nagging.’ Read more…

Madame Tussauds

Madam Tussauds

Photograph by Graham Hills

By rights, spending £25 for an hour of looking at shop dummies dressed as quite famous people should be the sort of thing you do when you have exhausted every – every – other activity on the planet. And yet the queues into Madam Tussaud’s are longer than those turning out to praise Chairman Mao on his birthday when he was in an especially genocidal frame of mind. There are people queuing for Madame Tussauds who have forgotten what they are queuing for and are only aware of a distant zen-like goal, which eventually turns out to be giving the camera a smiling thumbs-up next to Hitler.

Madame Tussauds is actually the most popular tourist attraction in Britain, a fact which surprises for even longer than it makes you weep. Read more…

Genesis Expo

Genesis Expo

Photograph by Kevin Dooley

Yep, we have one. You never knew it existed, but there is a museum of Creationism in Britain. No one you can ask is quite sure why it’s in Portsmouth, best known as a staging post for sailors to get a quick dose of the Clap before they head out to sea, but there it is, standing proud. Just like one of those sailors.

Dedicated to proving Darwin was a tosser and probably in a gay relationship with Richard Dawkins, the Genesis Expo has oddly clashing exhibits. In one room they have a case correctly showing how DNA analysis proves all humans are descended from one man and one woman. In another they have an exhibit ‘proving’ that life cannot form from chemicals – such as DNA. It’s a bit confusing. Read more…

Diana Princess of Wales memorial fountain

Princess Diana fountain

Photograph by Wolf Savard

Going to see water coming out of a pipe makes for a low-thrills day out wherever you are, but a trip to the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain is truly a dull exercise worthy of a princess.

This unique memorial to Diana, Princess of Hearts, ‘aims to reflect Diana’s life’ and ‘symbolises Diana’s quality and openness’ by being a fountain.  All in all, it’s just perfect for the family with a spare day and nothing else to do.

As Diana would have wanted – presuming she wanted to be remembered as a water feature – it was designed by American landscape artist Kathryn Gustafson and contains 545 pieces of Cornish granite lovingly shaped by the latest computer-controlled machinery in a factory somewhere.  Read more…

The Quilt Museum

Quilt Museum

Photograph by Mary-Frances Main

The museum is proud to be the only one in Europe dedicated to quilts, not having stopped for a moment to wonder why that is.

Allow us to explain. It is largely because quilts are very useful items if you want to be warm in bed. Perhaps you wouldn’t mind seeing the odd one or two in a museum if they are of quite exceptional historical note, such as one a pope died under or one sewn by Jimmy Nail during breaks in his prestigious 1990s music career. But an entire building bursting at the seams with the things is just going too far. It is, you might say, ‘blanket coverage’. Read more…

Hogmanay in Edinburgh

Hogmanay in Edinburgh

Photograph by Jenni Douglas

Edinburgh is an incredibly dramatic city. Built across a ravine gouged millennia ago by a migrating glacier, one side sitting atop an extinct volcano, the other a sweep of majestic Georgian townhouses, it is also sodding freezing in winter.

Despite this, thousands of unsuspecting English, American and Antipodean tourists flock to the city on 31 December each year believing that the ‘atmosphere’ will keep them warm. Actually, it is the ‘atmosphere’ that makes you cold. Read more…

Bog Snorkelling

Bog

Photograph by Juri T.

For most people, drowning in mud is an unpleasant idea. But for the locals of the village of Llanwrtyd Wells it’s a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon. And not only is Llanwrtyd Wells the home of immersing yourself in wastewater, but it also hosts the annual world championships. That’s right, there are people out there who actually compete at social exclusion.

Of course it all seems a bit of a laugh until you submerge yourself in freezing, stinking, Welsh bog water. Under the rules of bog snorkelling you are not allowed to use a recognised swimming stroke; but it is conventional to panic, kick wildly with your feet and scream into your snorkel at the thought that you are shortly to die, miles from civilisation at the bottom of a Welsh bog. Many participants like to bargain with God that if He lets you get out of this alive He can take your mother instead. She’s old and it’s her turn. And if she dies, you’ll get the house, so it’s swings and roundabouts really. Read more…

Ulster American Folk Park

Ulster American Folk Park

Photograph by Sean Lucas

You don’t need to visit the Ulster American Folk Park to understand quite what’s wrong with it. You see, the clue is in the name. It’s an attraction dedicated to American folk traditions… in Ulster. Ulster may have been fought over for generation, but never by America which has never laid claim to it.

But don’t visit the park in search of an answer to the question of quite why the people of Ulster should be more interested in American folk traditions than they are in, say, the folk traditions of Italy, or in archery, or in the recorded work of French synthesiser musician Jean-Michel Jarre. Read more…

Haworth, home of the Brontes

Haworth station

Photograph by Daphne Ann

Haworth, the hillside hamlet where the Brontes spent their lives, has rabidly tenuous links to the literary sisters coming out of its freezing, rain-sodden ears.

The Bronte Weaving Shed, for instance, promotes itself as very much the kind of weaving shed the Bronte sisters would have been into, had they been into weaving sheds – so much so, that it is perfectly acceptable to suggest it is, indeed, the Brontes’ own weaving shed. Having set foot within the establishment in question, we would beg to differ. Read more…