An airline to avoid...2nd September 2006
FlyBe, formerly British European, is a low cost carrier trying to beat the masters at their own game. However, they charge more money and fly slower aircraft, and have even more ancilliary charges. Pre-booking of a seat is available but costs extra money, with an exit row seat coming in at twenty two euro. There was not a chance in hell of me paying that, so instead I shoehorned myself into what no doubt is ample leg room for the average dwarf. In flight, while economy class syndrome set in, a friendly staff member told me in no uncertain terms that I could not consume my sandwich in flight as it had not been purchased on board. The alternative overpriced offerings were, naturally enough, not to my taste. Thanks guys; I'll be sure to fly with you next time.
Funland Amusement Park2nd September 2006
We had clearly chosen a peak time for our visit to Funland Amusement Park. Though we arrived a few moments after opening, there was almost nobody else in sight; the occasional ride operator could be seen, but only on some attractions. When two small children arrived to ride Woody's Children's Roller Coaster (#904) we joined the train, clocking up the new credit for the morning. As such rides go it was actually surprisingly fun; there may have been no airtime but there were reasonably powerful lateral forces at the bottom of the helix, as there was no trim brake to murder the speed.
It looked for a while like we wouldn't get the ride we wanted on the bigger coaster. The ride operators advised us that six passengers were required to run the train, a fairly standard requirement for this breed of ride. Fortunately, two other adults wanted to ride, and they had two kids with them to make up the numbers. One of these was not enthusiastic at all, which made me feel more than a little guilty; as I have said before, it is not right to force children onto coasters if they don't want to go. However, the child didn't belong to me, and his parents insisted, so we all got to ride.
Amazingly enough, Klondike Gold Mine was actually a really good coaster. It wasn't even remotely jarring, certainly a change from its days at Drayton Manor; either the park has invested in some new parts or we caught it on a good day. Certainly it was quite probably the most comfortable ZL42 in my travels to date (and no, I'm not joking). The theming has been preserved from the Drayton days, and looks great if a little out of place among an otherwise unthemed park. The child, as it turned out, claimed to have enjoyed itself, but it did not wish to repeat!
Clarence Pier2nd September 2006
The friendly electronic talking parking meter at Clarence Pier advised us not to leave satnav equipment in the car, surely a sign of the times. Though it wasn't raining, we were being hit by high speed winds, to the point that we assumed (incorrectly, as it happened) that Skyways (#905) would be closed. As it was, we came very close indeed to getting stuck on the anti-rollback dogs at the top of the second hill, with us traversing it at a speed that could not have been more than one mile per hour. This was, in many ways, fortunate; though I enjoyed being evacuated from a coaster last time an evacuation from this one would probably have necessitated a cherry picker, with the additional disadvantage of missing out on the credit!
Blackgang Chine2nd September 2006
Very few Irish tourists are ever likely to find their way to the Isle of Wight. Anyone suffering from even mild anglophobia would likely collapse at the mere mention of the place. Be that as it may, the island felt like any part of rural England, the only difference being the ferry crossing to get there. For some totally obscure reason there is even a train line on the island, with eight and a half miles of track being traversed regularly by old London Underground stock. We did see an authentic looking street sign for Arse Heath though this was on balance probably not an official one, presumably placed by an islander with a sense of humour.
The reason for visiting the island, Cliffhanger (#906), was (fortunately) a truly excellent little coaster. It was being run by a single ride operator who wasn't managing particularly spectacular dispatch intervals (to say the least), but the queue never exceeded half a train worth of people, so this is on balance forgivable.
We made our way through quite a number of walkthroughs, ranging from a crooked house, a musical pet shop which will probably knock Crazy Frog off the mobile phone ring tone charts some day; a haunted house attraction with some very odd scenery; and more. Of particular note was a twenty minute video charting the history of the park and the area; quite a bit of the park has disappeared over the last twenty years, as the cliff it is built on erodes as much as three and a half metres per year. No doubt there is some perfectly valid reason why defenses are not put in place to prevent this, but it does seem odd nevertheless; if things don't change there will be no park left at all at some stage in the future.