Event Planning, Fun Story, Funfair Rides

Sid Howell, Fairground Artists

21 September 2021
Fred Thompsons Ark

Another in our series of portraits on the great fairground artists. Sid Howell, and indeed his father Albert, were two highly regarded painters at the firm of Orton Sons, & Spooner. Or more commonly Orton & Spooner as it was referred to within the funfair industry.

The company produced some of the most ornate and elaborate rides, stalls and showfronts during the early part of the 20th Century. Indeed little since has come close to matching their style, both the early rococo theme or the later Art Deco. They were well known for employing the best of artisans and artists to work on their rides.

Sid Howell was born in 1906 in Bristol, but moved with the family to Burton On Trent, the homebase of Orton and Spooner. He not only studied art at school, but was helped with additional coaching from his father, and received actual working experience at the firm.

By the time he was 18, he had completed a study course at Burton Art School, and eventually qualified to teach the subject.

Many would assume that he would follow his father in to the amusement ride firm, but he chose a different path, instead accepting a position as trainee draughtsman at Branston Artificial Silk. Sadly this didn’t work out as the company folded three years later.

Sid Howell
Sid Howell

Orton Sons, And Spooner

When Sid found himself unemployed in a period where jobs were scarce, he ended up joining his father Albert decorating funfair attractions. He brought the benefits of a new younger generation to the company. His knowledge of new techniques and his introduction of newer styles was evident in the standard of work being turned out.

The father and son team were a perfect match, especially on the many jungle scenes they painted together.

They were interrupted during the war years, as were most ride manufacturers. But happily by 1946 the company was back producing rides.

Edwards Ben Hur

Robert Edwards owned a Noah’s Ark that had been built in the mid 30’s. He placed an order for the ride to be rebuilt.

The rounding boards were painted in the familiar jungle theme, quite probably by Albert. Sid however designed and painted a scene from Ben Hur on the main front panels. At over 40ft wide and 15ft tall it was a stunning work of art. This was widely recognised as the finest work of his career. Keep in mind that the front not only had to look right at ground level, but also when it was placed in the air. Add in the fact that the front was curved, and you have an idea of the level of skill involved in his creation.

The Famous Ben Hur Front
The Famous Ben Hur Front

Much of the fabulous artwork from these early artists has been lost, either when the rides were retired and scrapped, or when, as often happened they were repainted to keep them fresh.

Dingles

Happily the Ben Hur ark survived. It is now a resident at the Dingles Heritage Museum in West Devon. Well worth a trip out to see.

Dingles Fairground Museum
Dingles Fairground Museum
This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Sid eventually left Orton & Spooner as work from the showmen gradually dried up. The company turned away from the industry .

Sid had a spell undertaking freelance work, and worked at an amusement park, and also Blackpool’s famous illuminations.

He died in 1966, but the immensity of his talent lives on in his finest work.

His son, Alan S. Howell, researched and wrote a book about the artists of Orton & Spooner titled ‘Men At Work‘. This is fetching sums in excess of £100 for a paperback copy. It would be well worth a read if you can get your hands on one.

Men At Work
Men At Work

Resources;

Fairground Heritage Trust https://www.fairground-heritage.org.uk/

Joyland Books https://www.joylandbooks.com

Catering, Fun Story, Funfair Rides

Popcorn Questions, FAQ’s

17 September 2021
Popcorn Bat Cave

Another of our favourite snacks, hot fresh popcorn. Answers to some of the questions we receive. If you have any others just add them in the comments and we will try and answer them for you.

How Was Popcorn Invented

The answer to that s lost in the mists of time. In 1948, in New Mexico, Herbert Dick and Earle Smith discovered small beads of corn, and popped kernels. This was inside a cave known as the Bat Cave. When they were tested with carbon dating, they were found to be 5600 years old!

The Aztec indians used popped corn, not only as food, but also to decorate clothing and ceremonial wear.

In north America, colonists were popping corn after adopting it from the native Indians. It was also used as a breakfast cereal with milk and sugar. By the 1800’s it was one of the most widely eaten snack foods.

Aztecs And Popcorn
Aztecs And Popcorn

How Does Popcorn Pop

The popcorn kernels contain a minute amount of water, surrounded by soft starch inside a hard shell. As it is heated up, the water expands and the pressure starts to build. This pressure builds against the hard outer shell, which eventually gives way. As it bursts the soft starch rapidly inflates turning the kernel inside out. The steam is released and the corn is popped, ready to eat.

Popcorn a Popping
Popcorn a Popping

Where Do Popcorn Kernels Come From

We have all eaten popcorn niblets, or corn on the cob. Turns out that doesn’t make popcorn. A particular species of maize called ‘Zea mays everta,’ is the only variety that pops. Though there are over 100 strains of this with different flavours. One strain produces the mushroom shaped popcorn, whilst another turns into the snowflake style, which tends to be the most popular for snacking.

Different Strains Of Popcorn
Different Strains Of Popcorn

Is Popcorn Bad For You

It’s low in fat and high in fibre. Really it is a healthy snack. BUT, as soon as you start adding butter, caramel, sugar, salt and toffee it ceases being healthy. So you could keep it as a natural healthy snack, but where is the fun in that. It should be slathered in butter, and sugar. Or if you are American or just plain weird, salt.

Are Popcorns Carbs

Yep definitely are. Around 74g in every 100g in fact. So definitely high on the scale.

Will Popcorn Help You Poop

As a matter of fact it will, it is high in fibre so it can provide relief from constipation. And it sure as hell will be a lot more pleasant than a suppository.

Plenty Of Popcorn Can Help Prevent This
Plenty Of Popcorn Can Help Prevent This

Is Popcorn Harmful To Cats

Popcorn itself isn’t no, but some of the additives and toppings may be, so before sharing with your feline friends it would be wise to check with your vet. The unpopped kernels can be harmful to their teeth, or even pose a choking hazard.

Event Planning, Fun Story, funfair events, Funfair Rides

Orton, Sons and Spooner Ltd., A Manufacturer Profile

14 September 2021
Orton Spooners Three Abreast

The golden years of fairgrounds in the UK, pretty much the Victorian era really. Saw numerous home grown companies providing the ever expanding scene with rides and shows that were works of art. Sadly like much of British industry, few ride manufacturers still remain. The legendary names of old seem to limp along in various forms until about the last third of the 20th century before finally fading away. Orton, Sons and Spooner Ltd was one such name, responsible for some of the most ornate switchbacks, arks and shows ever to appear on the fairground, they ended as equipment handling manufacturers before ceasing to trade around 1977.

George Orton

Originally they were two separate companies. The first being the Lion Carriage Works. Set up by George Orton who manufactured gypsy wagons as well as drays and carriages for other industries. Based in Burton upon Trent, he received his first commision for a Showman’s wagon around 1883. At that period in history, showmen not only lived in their wagons, but they tended to be highly carved and ornate and formed the front part of a travelling show.

Typical Orton & Spooner Showmans Wagon
Typical Orton & Spooner Showmans Wagon

Charles Spooner

A young man named Charles Spooner, owner of the ‘Swan Works’, in Burton was one of Orton’s suppliers. A wood carver who had been apprenticed to Walter Gifford Hilton he supplied drays and carts to the thriving brewing industry in Burton.

Orton contracted him to provide carvings for his showfronts and wagons. This symbiotic relationship flourished to the point that the two companies were amalgamated in 1925 as Orton, Sons and Spooner Ltd.

Ride Manufacturing

They soon expanded their range into the full scale building of rides and showfronts and came to dominate the market. Their highly ornate, exquisitely decorated constructions were far in advance of the plainer, less impressive offerings from competitors, indeed the breathtaking scale of their offerings haven’t been matched since.

Scenic Railway Whale

The picture above is a typical example taken from one of their scenic railways. Superbly detailed and robustly constructed, these cars were said to weigh around 1500kg’s each, with a complete ride in the 35-40 tonne bracket.

They built their first scenic for Holland Brothers in 1912, some 57 feet in diameter and powered by no fewer than eight electric motors. Over the next twenty years they completed over 30 of these rides.

World War I

The first World War, saw the company requisitioned to produce aircraft hangers, but successfully re launched into the fairground market in 1919 with another scenic railway.

Their final scenic was delivered in 1925, with the type coming to the end of its popularity. Smaller and lighter attractions now ruled the roost, with Noah’s Arks, Waltzers and Speedways being in demand. They also turned out an estimated 50 dodgem tracks, along with ghost trains, shows and side stalls. They built the first skid ride for the famous Midlands showman Pat Collins in 1928.

Sadly George Orton passed away at the age of 81 in 1924. The company now being in the hands of his sons, and Charles Spooner, who had married his daughter Anne.

From the onset the business employed only the best artisans and artists. The father and son teaming of Albert and Sid Howell being responsible for some of the stunning art gracing the fronts and rounding boards of these rides.

Painted By The Howells, My Gt Grandfather Fred Thompson's Ark Front.
Painted By The Howells, My Gt Grandfather Fred Thompson’s Ark Front.
Widely Considered Sid Howells Best Artwork, Edwards's Ben Hur
Widely Considered Sid Howells Best Artwork, Edwards’s Ben Hur

The Ben Hur front for Edwards ark was considered to be Sid Howells greatest work. The image above doesn’t do justice to the sheer size and scale of the work which was around 15ft high and over 40ft long.

Carving

Charles Spooner gained a reputation as being amongst the finest wood carvers in the business. Creating examples of pretty much everything required on rides at that time. The company was quick to respond to current affairs. Producing animals carved as Generals during the Boer war, and armoured cars and tanks during WWI.

Boer War Generals Carved As Centaurs
Boer War Generals Carved As Centaurs

They successfully transitioned from their early Rococo style creations, as the country moved into the Art Deco period. They produced modern, for the time, decor with curves and swooping forms. Decorated with modern airplanes and train engines, mixed in with bright colours and influences of the exotic from the far east and Egypt.

In common with much of industry, they gradually moved away from the one off hand crafted work. To a more standardised production line using stencils and patterned parts. To keep up with increased demand and competition this was a necessary evil. It did mean though that we would never again see the wonderful fronts and carvings for which they had become famous.

World War II

Charles Spooner died at the beginning of WWII. The bulk of the companies efforts being the manufacturing of military vehicles during the war.

They recommenced work in the fairground industry after the war. But it was a changed world, demand from the showmen was dropping off, and they began to diversify into other engineering work. 1954 marked the final break with fairground manufacture, and the company soldiered on until finally falling into receivership in 1977.

Orton, Sons and Spooner Ltd will be remembered as one of the greats of the last century.

Sources;

The Fairground Heritage Trust https://www.fairground-heritage.org.uk/

National Fairground And Circus Archive https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/nfca

Catering, Fun Story

Doughnuts Questions, FAQ’s

17 August 2021
doughnuts

Another of our series answering some of the many questions we have received about doughnuts, that delicious fried treat so beloved of cops, well according to Hollywood anyways.

Do Doughnuts Make You Fat

If you eat one they wont, or even a few. If you eat loads everyday and dont work out then yes they probably will. All good things in moderation is the secret here.

Eating Doughnut Meme
Eating Doughnut Meme

Who Invented Doughnuts

Hanson Gregory, from America (obviously), claimed that he invented the ring doughnut aboard a trading ship in 1847. Apparently he wasn’t satisfied with the greasy doughnuts twisted into various shapes and undercooked in the centre. So he punched a hole through them with the ships tin pepper box, to ensure they were cooked inside.

However a recipe book dating from 1800 written by the wife of Baron Thomas Dinsdale (English) lists a recipe for cooking dow nuts.

So take your pick.

Typical Ring Doughnut
Typical Ring Doughnut

Are Doughnuts Fried

Most of them yes. But, they can also be baked. THe baked ones tend to be more compact, but are equally delicious so there is no right and wrong to which type you prefer.

Are Doughnuts Always Round

The traditional doughnuts that we eat in the UK and North America are usually round. Either ring doughnuts with a hole in the middle. Or filled doughnuts which are a solid circle. But other countries have different styles. The Dutch Oliebollen is more of a ball. And a SPanish Churros is a long thin finger. Take a look at our feature on doughnuts of the world to see examples of what is out there.

Churros Fillings
Churros Fillings

Can Doughnuts Be Kept Overnight

Yep they certainly can, though they taste better hot and fresh. A tip is to stick jam filled doughnuts in the microwave for a minute, this warms them up and also makes them taste almost fresh again. However, beware. I once did this, and was interrupted by a phone call. After the call I hadn’t realised that they had been in for over five minutes. When I bit into one, a stream of superheated jam shot up a nostril and gave me severe burns.

Can Doughnuts Save The Planet

According to an economist called Kate Raworth they can. The explanation is a bit heavy for a nice simple FAQ like this, so check out the idea at source. Doughnut Economics.

Doughnut Economics
Doughnut Economics

Are Doughnuts Bad For You

Well they are if you superheat them in a microwave and then bite into the jam centre!

They do contain quite a lot of saturated fat, and sugar. So they are never going to be classed as healthy. But it could be argued that the pleasure gained from eating them is good for your mental health, so it kinda balances out a bit really.

Where Can I Buy Doughnuts Near Me

Asda, Tesco, sainsburys, Morrisons. Most of them sell premade doughnuts. They are not fresh and not hot so aren’t that good. Though we are partial to the Morrisons Jam ones, exploding versions excepted.

Boutique doughnut shops are springing up around the world, so there may be one near to you.

Or if you are holding an event such as a wedding or party, we can bring a hot fresh doughnut cart to you, free (to your guests) doughnuts all night. Hot, fresh, and slathered in sugar and Nutella.

Do Cops Really Like Doughnuts

Well, Hollywood reckos they do. And the stereotypical American cop lives solely on a diet of doughnuts, bagels and coffee. But seriously, who doesn’t love doughnuts would be a better question.

I guess there are people who don’t, but they are usually recaptured pretty quickly.

Officer Donut
Officer Donut

Are Doughnuts Bad For Dogs

They are not good for them. They contain sugars and fats which are harmful in large doses. The oli they are fried in can cause diarrhea. And some contain caffeine or chocolate which can be fatal.

Not The Best Plan
Not The Best Plan

What Is Correct Doughnut Or Donut

Well, the dictionary spelling is doughnut. Donut is a cut down simplified version created by our American brethren across the ocean. They seem to take delight in chopping sections out of words, and replacing the s with z. Or as they call it zee.

Don’t they realise we invented the bloody language. I think they changed everything after the War of Independence just to be awkward.

We love them really.

Fun Story, Funfair Rides

Bradley & Kaye, A Manufacturer Profile

14 August 2021
Bradley Kaye Horse

Some of the ride manufacturers out there are universally known throughout the world. The big boys, Mack, KMG, Chance are all household names (well within funfair and amusement operators households).

Our name this week isn’t one we have heard much about. Possibly because it was folded into the Chance rides organisation in 1986.

Beverley Park

In 1945 Dave Bradley and Don Kaye purchased Beverley Park in Los Angeles from the Frock and Meyer Amusement Company. Aiming for the family market they filled the park with children’s rides, believing that the park should be spotless, and that the customers needed to look like they were enjoying themselves.

Dave Bradley was an economics graduate who held an impressive catalogue of career changes. He worked as a reporter, managed the big bands of Freddy Martin and Russ Morgan, worked as a production manager at a radio stations, and a toolmaker for Lockheed Martin.

The park is credited as the inspiration for Disneyland, with Disney and his daughters being regular visitors, indeed Dave Bradley assisted Walt Disney in the planning of the original Disneyland, travelling throughout Europe to photograph rides for him, and working as a consultant on the original Disneyland. Dave’s first wife Bernice had worked in the Disney Studios research department, before leaving to help run the park full time.

Throughout the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s most of the major Hollywood stars visited the park with their children, with Errol Flynn, Lana Turner and Carol Burnett being regulars.

Don Kaye decided to return to his roots in the music business, leaving the company in the hands of his partner, who decided to leave the name unchanged.

1947 saw the company designing a mini roller coaster for kids, called the little dipper. This was licensed to the Allan Herschell company, one of the countries biggest manufacturers. This was a portable ride which could be carried on a 20ft trailer.

Little Dipper
Little Dipper

The Red Baron

A popular aeroplane themed ride was introduced in 1972, being delivered to Opryland. Based on the WW1 German Ace pilot of that name, the rides were themed with red triplanes and on some white planes decorated up with the British Flying Corps roundel.

Dave Bradley realised at this point that a full time manufacturing facility was needed to keep pace with the orders they were receiving. this was set up in Long Beach California.

During the first half of the 70’s Bradley & Kaye built Red Barons, Jeep rides, Dark rides, stunt rides and more. The company seemed to quite happy with custom commissions, and introduced an innovative small coaster for Storeyland. Called the ‘Ice Berg Coaster’ it followed the contours of the land through the park, skimming across a lake, and dropping down a cliff.

The Red Baron Ride
The Red Baron Ride

One highly advanced ride the company came up with was the Barnstormer. Kind of like a modern starflyer, but instead of seats the riders were in aeroplanes, which circled 100ft off the ground. The advanced part was the ability of the planes to dive 50ft under the riders control. The ride only operated a few seasons, never quite agreeing with the winds encountered 100ft up.

Barnstormer
Barnstormer

Carousels

Dave Bradley was an acknowledged expert in Carousel working on this genre of ride as far back as 1951. He was employed by the great Alfred Hitchcock as an adviser for the carousel scene on the film ‘Strangers On A Train.’

Bradley took moulds from a number of classic carousel horses present on historic rides. He developed new fabrication methods and became highly regarded for these. Indeed this was one of the reasons that Chance Rides took over the company, to access this ‘stable’ of horse designs.

A log Flume was produced in 1978 for Hot Springs Arkansas. A1200 ft model with two lifts, based on an unusual chain lift mechanism, rather than the normal belts. They also produced a number of custom rides for Canada’s Wonderland, and dual swinging boats for Little England in Florida.

1986 saw the Bradley & Kaye draw to a close as it was taken over by the Chance Ride group. They wanted their elaborate collection of horse moulds, and another innovative name faded into relative obscurity.

Sources;

The Amusement Parkives https://amusementparkives.com/2016/11/29/bradley-kaye-balloon-flite/

KCET https://www.kcet.org/history-society/beverly-park-and-ponyland-the-kiddieland-that-inspired-walt-disney

Event Planning, Fun Story

Yorkshire Air Ambulance, Saving Lives

26 July 2021
Yorkshire Air Ambulance Logo

Not exactly our usual post this one. If you have come here hoping for some more stories of the cock up’s we have made. Or a review of a funfair manufacturer. Then I can only apologise.

The only connection we have with the star of this post, is that we are now based in Yorkshire. Oh, and I have a pilots licence, though not for rotary craft (helicopters).

Most of us drive. Some of us quite a lot. A split second mistake could be disastrous, leaving any of us with serious injuries, possibly life threatening. At times like that we are quite likely to need these guys. So letting everyone know about them is always worthwhile.

History Of The Air Ambulance

The first air ambulance service started in 1933. With a flight from Wideford Airport in Orkney. A night time flight was made from the same location in February 1939 using car headlights to help during the take off and landing.

The aircraft, registration G-ACEW was a General Aircraft Monospar.

General Aircraft Monospar
General Aircraft Monospar

This was a fixed wing aircraft (think aeroplane) rather than the more common helicopters you see today. Both types of aircraft have their advantages. Fixed wing tend to be faster and have a longer range. Heli’s the ability to land in small spaces such as on a minor road, or in an industrial estate.

Emergency Air Ambulances

Generally the modern service is based on helicopters. These are used to respond to medical emergencies in support of land based ambulances. Nearly all of them are charity funded. With the charities either owning the aircraft directly, or contracting in private service providers.

The staff are usually seconded from the NHS and local ambulance services. There are a surprising number of Air services around the UK covering most of the country.

Yorkshire

Our local service was established in October 2000. Currently they operate two Airbus H145 aircraft. Like most of the services they are reliant solely on the donations of individuals and organisations.

Yorkshire Ambulance Airbus
Yorkshire Ambulance Airbus

Originally developed between Airbus and Kawasaki Heavy Industries. The craft is basically the front end of Eurocopters EC135 and the rear of a BK117 C1 helicopter. A previous joint production between the two companies.

Nostell Priory Base

The charity was originally based in Nostell Priory, an estate in Yorkshire that was purchased by the Winn family in 1654. A family that originally made its fortune in the textile trade in London during Tudor times.

The first active heli, was based at Leeds/Bradford airport, where overnight maintenance facilities allowed a high state of readiness. A new operations centre was built and became operational at Nostell in 2013, including a hanger and aircrew accommodation and the aircraft moved to that base.

A second aircraft and base was opened in Sheffield in 2007, but closed a year later. With the aircraft being rebased first at Bagby in Thirsk, then eventually sharing a base at RAF Topcliffe with the 645 Gliding Squadron.

There are landing pads for the Yorkshire Air Ambulance at most of the major regional hospitals including Leeds, Hull and Middlesbrough allowing high speed patient delivery straight to casualty.

Nostell Priory
Nostell Priory

Richard Hammond

One of the services most high profile cases was the high speed crash suffered by Top Gear presenter Richard Hammond at Elvington airfield. Hammond was driving a jet powered drag car called Vampire, powered by a Bristol-Siddeley Orpheus turbojet engine, when he crashed at 319 MPH.

He was airlifted to Leeds General Infirmary by the aircrew and spent five weeks recovering, including two weeks in a severe coma.

Richard Hammond Crash
Richard Hammond Crash

The Yorkshire Air Ambulance relies entirely on charity donations. head over to their website and check out some of the merchandise on sale to support their operations.

Resources

Fun Story, funfair events, Funfair Rides

An Insta Worthy Coffee Shop

22 July 2021

Nottingham…yes that’s right I said Nottingham is home to an Insta worthy coffee shop…with a twist. The twist being the fairground theme oh and the hidden tattoo parlor too!. Neon Wolf opened in January.

An Insta worthy coffee shop at Darby Road

The coffee shop that can be found on Derby Road, is home to fluorescent pink lights creating a candy floss like haze and both dodgem and waltzer cars for tables and seats. Don’t worry though the custom made cars have been fitted to the flooring meaning that you won’t be spun round whilst enjoying your coffee. You also don’t have to dodge other people in your dodgem car whilst trying not to spill your tea!.

Dodgem Car Seats

The fun theme to this coffee shop has caught the eye of many Instagram users who have deemed the cafe as an Instagram worthy coffee shop. In today’s society that is among one of the best compliments to receive. There are now 4.20 billion social media uses around the world. This figure has shown a  growth of over 490 million people  in the last 12 months. With more than 37% of the population using Instagram it’s important that businesses utilize social media. Due to the coffee shop being Insta worthy it means that visitors will be more likely to take photos and share it to their Instagram site. This meaning all their ‘followers’ will see the post. This is basically free advertising as once people see the photo they may wish to visit the coffee shop too

Custom Designs

The waltzer car has been manufactured especially for the cafe rather than being a second hand piece from a waltzer. Being custom made ensued that then cafe could put their own touch to the center piece. They had them fitted out with velvet seating and labelled with the phrase ‘sorry mum’ and ‘cry wolf’ in reference to the hidden tattoo parlor under the cafe. The dodgem cars have been restored as they was in very bad condition. With the outside framework being reconditioned and the interior being fitted with the same velvet seating as the waltzer cars.

Waltzer car seat and table found in an insta worthy coffee shop
Waltzer car seat and table found in an insta worthy coffee shop

Goose Fair Vibes

Many visitors have said that the cafe gives them major goose fair vibes. Nottingham goose fair is one of the biggest events on both the showmen and public’s social calendar’s. The goose fair turns up to Nottingham the first week of October and can be traced back more than 700 years. Originally a trade fair selling geese among other things it has now evolved into one of the largest fairs in the country. Nottingham Goose fair is now home to more than 500 attractions.

Nottingham Goose Fair 2018 at night

So for 51 weeks of the year if your missing your goose fair fix then you need to visit Neon wolf.The Instagram worthy coffee shop and take a seat in the waltzer car and imagine your being spun round till your dizzy! 

Catering, Event Planning, Fun Story, funfair events, Funfair Rides

Blast From The Past, A look Back At Our Old Blog

18 July 2021

Another selection of misadventures from our past history.

Keep Them Wheels Turning 2010

When we first started and was operating on a limited budget, we frequently had problems with equipment failures and vehicle breakdowns. As we grew and ended up in a position to buy better equipment, and also put back up systems in place we found that things seemed to run a lot more smoothly.

However the law of averages caught up with us the other day, we had quite a busy schedule, calling at a small village in Surrey to apply 125 chair covers and sashes and set up a chocolate fountain, then on to Sevenoaks to set a number of stalls and a couple of catering carts up, back to the first venue to drop two members of staff off, then I continued on to Walton on Thames to operate a candy floss and popcorn cart. As soon as I finished I derigged everything and shot back to the first venue with the intention of picking my staff up to travel home to Yorkshire, grab a couple of hours sleep, load the van up with the rest of the equipment for the Sevenoaks job and set back off down South.

Bang Goes The Tyre

Everything was going great guns when a bang, signalled that I had a tyre blown out, ‘great, just what I wanted on a lane in the middle of nowhere, a tyre change.’ In time I ended up wishing I was changing a tyre, because when I crawled under the back of the van I discovered the spare wheel missing (it was a hire van). I rang the owner and ot him out of bed, “ring the AA he said, the van is covered”, trouble is when I explained the problem they informed me that under their terms of service, not having a spare wheel meant that I wasn’t covered. Rang John again, “Ring a tyre firm he said and bill me”. An hour later after ringing every number I could find on the internet I rang John again. After an exchange of ideas, he informed me that he was setting off with a spare wheel, wonderful, the three of us only had to sit and wait in the van whilst John covered the 216 miles to us.

Now before John set off he had to nip up to our place and pick up the items I needed for the next day, this included a striker (test your strength machine). On our striker the base unit is made from 20mm steel plate to give it the weight needed to remain stationary whilst being hammered. The base unit is kept on a small set of wheel which allow it to be moved about the yard. When John and my other half lifted it into the van, John had not realised that the wheels were not part of the structure and left his fingers underneath when they dropped it into the back of the van. My wife rang me to tell me that John was running around the yard squealing about his fingers. She wasn’t in the mood for sympathy and told him that if he went to the hospital they would only tape his fingers up, and she offered to lend him a roll of tape to ensure he got on his way quicker.

When he arrived at our end the first thing he did was show me his fingers, which by then were black and blue and quite swollen. Bloody well serves him right for removing the spare wheel.

Squashed Fingers
Squashed Fingers

Mobile Bar Buzz 2010

We recently installed a bar at an event for a major motor industry manufacturer and a games console company. This was a pre paid job with us supplying a fixed package of drinks, including cocktails and one of our Jagermeister tap machines.

The event went stormingly with everyone in fancy dress and the room buzzing. Sabine Schmitz (the German female racing driver who raced Jeremy Clarkson around the Nurburgring race track, with Jeremy in a Jaguar S type, and Sabine in a Transit Van, she lost by only 9 seconds. Ms Schmitz and a cohort of German friends managed to consume our stocks of Jagermeister, before moving onto frozen Margarita cocktails with an added shot of Vodka, something our cocktail mixologist insisted you couldn’t do, but the Schmitz party proving you obviously could!

Our Mobile Bar
Our Mobile Bar

De Computer Sez So 2010

Quite often nowadays I don’t have time to keep this blog updated. Odd occasions I do have time I sometimes struggle for something newsworthy to write. Occasionally however something drops in my lap that I just have to put on here. I recently added a new van to our line up, and insured it with the company that insurers our other CItroen dispatch. In common with our other insurances we pay in a lump sum at the start of the insurance term. A couple of days ago the postman knocked on the door to deliver a registered letter from said company, upon opening it I read a formal notice that as I had not settled an outstanding amount they would be cancelling my insurance unless it was paid in the next 7 days. Now this puzzled me as I know I paid in full at the start of the policy term.

Upon reading further down the page, the amount outstanding was in large bold type to make it more noticable. It read that I owed them £0.00 that’s right Zero pounds and zero pence. I sent them a very nice email admitting that I owed this amount and asking if they would like a cheque for £0.00 or would they like it in cash in which case I would send them an empty envelope.

Amsterdam 2010

February, which is usually our quietest month (although this year turned out to be a busy one), saw us managing to fit a 3 day break to Amsterdam in. I have been there in the past both when I was single, and also spent part of my honeymoon there whilst touring Europe.

As is normal nowadays, everything was booked online a few weeks before, with the booking system informing me that actual airline tickets are no longer issued, we instead have E tickets. Anyway a couple of days before we were due to fly I discovered that my other half’s E ticket had been issued in her maiden name, and knowing that airlines are particularly picky about names since 9/11 I rang our carriers, KLM straight up. “No problem Mr Moody, said a pleasant Dutch voice, we can change names quite easily.” was followed by “Oh, sorry we can’t change your ticket”. Upon inquiring as to why, I was told that since I had booked them through a travel agent, the agent would have to make the name change request. I duly rang the agents to do this. (No problem Mr Moody, that’s quite easy, please hold the line”, was again followed by “Oh, we can’t do it”. The reason this time turned out to be the fact that it was Saturday, and the KLM office which deals with name changes doesn’t work weekends.

SO we ended up being told that we should get to the airport early, and the ticket desk there should change the name for us. On the morning we were flying we arrived bright and early only to be met with a queue of about 80 people! We informed an airport attendant of our predicament and asked if there was anyway of getting the ticket sorted sooner, upon asking to see our ticket, his reply was “I wouldn’t worry about your ticket mate, that flight was canceled last night”, turned out that the plane we were supposed to be on didn’t land because of fog.

Five bloody hours were in that queue for. Mid way through it the rumour seemed to be that the next available flight was the day after.Not wanting to lose a day of a short break, I got my laptop out, connected to KLM’s site and booked three seats on a later flight, reasoning that I would worry about refunds later. After booking the seats I was informed that I would have to pay for them at the ticket desk, so I would still have to stand in the bloody queue.

Anyway as we reached nearly to the front of the queue I discovered that the ticket agent was in fact booking people on the same plane I had just reserved 3 seats on, great it looked like I would have 6 seats on the flight, but at least one of the 6 would be in my wife’s current name. I duly reached the front of the queue to meet the ticket agent, a short stern faced lady who looked like she would make a good concentration camp guard in the movie industry.

I was just about to launch into a tirade about waiting 5 bloody hours and not being informed of cancelled flights when a young man dropped a bundle of papers on her desk and exclaimed innocently “These need taking care of when you get a minute”, the look she gave him would have welded steel from 40 paces, and her reply of “You know what you can do with those Stephen, shove them up your bloody arse!” seemed to modify my temper somewhat.

As she turned that steely gaze upon me I gave her my best smile, what I hoped was a slightly pleading look in my eyes, and informed her that not only did we need our flights sorting out, but my wife’s ticket was in the wrong name. Her eyes narrowed, her shoulders tightened and a visible shudder ran through her, taking a hold or herself she sighed loudly, stared towards the heavens, closed her eyes for a long moment then sorted everything out for us.

Amsterdam turned out much as I remember it, the Dutch must be the most laid back and pleasant race in Europe, and we spent a pleasant 3 days strolling around the city, with a short trip to the seaside town of Vollendam thrown in. THe first tram we boarded into the city centre, I asked the conductor for the price of the ticket (most locals use pre paid cards much like the oyster system in London), he just smiled and told me not to worry and get of when we were ready.

The next day having some experience of the tram system, we boarded the tram outside our hotel and I asked for 3 day passes. The lady conductor smiled sweetly and apologised for having run out of them. “It is not a problem”, she said, “Just buy them from a ticket machine when you get off”. Can you imagine that, over here it would go like this, “3 Day passes please”,
“Can’t do that mate I’ve run out”
“Oh, well can I buy them when I get off at the other end”
“No sorry can’t do that you need a ticket to travel”
“Oh well give me 3 tickets please”
“Sorry, just told you I’ve run out!”

Mid way through I had a headache coming on so thought I would nip into a chemist for some pain relief. What greeted me must have been one of the barest shelves of painkillers I have ever seen, about the size of a television set, it contained pretty much only what you could buy from a late night garage in this country. Upon inquiring about something a bit stronger I was informed that I would need a doctors prescription. “So let me get this straight,” I said, “I can walk into anyone of a million coffee shops and buy cannabis or marijuana, without any problems, but if I want something stronger than 400mg of Ibuprofen I need a prescription?”.
“That’s pretty much it”, replied the chemist.
“Strange country”,
“Yep” came the retort, along with that pleasant Dutch laid back smile.

Amsterdam Coffee Shops
Amsterdam Coffee Shops

Ready to come home, we reached Schipol airport, and found that they have a fully automated system to book in and be issued with your boarding card. I entered our E ticket number, only to learn that I was booked on the flight along with our daughter, but not my wife. It made me think of a recent case where an immigration official had waved his wife off at the airport in London, went back to work and added her to the known terrorist list of people banned from entering the UK, and then proceeded to live the single life until he was found out 4 years later, in the meantime his wife had spent 4 years stuck in Pakistan unable to find out why she wasn’t allowed to board a flight back to England!

As it turned out, because of the name change we had made at Bradford, my wife had received a separate reservation, which no one had bothered to inform me of.

If you missed them take a look at some of our other old stories here.

Event Planning, funfair events, Funfair Rides

Chance Rides, A Manufacturer Profile

14 July 2021

Our look today is at one of the larger ride manufacturers on the States. Currently producing a range of amusement rides, roller coasters, people movers and giant wheels. Chance Rides operate from a 40 acre site with around 310,000 sq ft of buildings in Wichita Kansas. The area is regarded as the aviation capital of the world, and provides a large pool of highly skilled workers, along with many specialised manufacturers.

The C.P. Huntington Train

The original C.P. Huntington was a locomotive purchased by the Central Pacific railway, the third of their loco’s in 1863. When it was sold to the Southern Pacific railway company it was named in honour of Collis P. Huntington, their third President.

The Original C.P.Huntington
The Original C.P.Huntington

Richard Harold Chance, who had originally been building small trains for the Ottaway Amusement Company since 1946, designed a 2ft guage replica of the Locomotive. In 1960 he began to build these using petrol, diesel, propane or electric engines for sale to amusement parks, zoo’s and similar.

The very first one was delivered to the Joyland Amusement Park in Wichita. Replacing their original miniature train that had operated since 1933. It has been the most popular park train model since The Allan Herschell Company merged with Chance closing down the production line for their Iron Horse train. The company has built over 400 trains and coaches for customers around the globe. With prices running upwards of $200,000 for an engine and $60k or so for a coach.

A Modern Chance Locomotive Replica
A Modern Chance Locomotive Replica

Chance Carrousels

Chance Manufacturing was incorporated in 1961 and by 1971. They launched their first carrousel (deliberately spelt that way by Chance) after they had acquired the Allan Herschell Co. At that time the largest Amusement ride manufacturer in the States. Their designs were modified to a more ornate decorative style. The company then acquired Bradley & Kaye in 1986, another carousel manufacturer to acquire their stock of molds. David Bradley had reproduced many of the historic carousel figures in fibreglass and had over 60 molds for them. When the D.H.Morgan carousel company was merged into the group it added even more unique figures for the company to use.

This wide range of ornate, highly detailed animals has become something of a trademark on Chance built carousels.

Chance Carousel Horse
Chance Carousel Horse

D.H. Morgan Acquisition

When Chance acquired Morgan, and formed Chance Morgan, they didn’t just get access to the companies line of carousel figures. But also its roller coaster manufacturing line up.

They had built coasters as early as 1969, producing the Walter House designed Toboggan. A portable ride where a train climbed up a vertical tower before spiralling back down the outside. They built 32 of these and also introduced a children’s big dipper coaster.

The integration of the D.H. Morgan line took their ability to design coasters to a new level. With their own track manufacturing technology and the ability to offer a range of designs.

Chance Morgan Coaster
Chance Morgan Coaster

Ferris Wheels

1967 saw the first Ferris wheel from Chance, debuting at the Iowa State fair. Carrying 32 passengers in 16 cars. Their first park model was an 8-ft Giant Wheel for an amusement park in Minnesota. A tie up with Ronald Bussink, of Switzerland and Dutch Wheels BV, part of the Vekoma rides organisation saw the combine building observation wheels. Giant wheels that place the riders in cabins or pobs rather than seats. They acquired the rights from Bussink Design GmbH to build and sell the R80XL 76metre wheel in North America.

R80XL Wheel
R80XL Wheel

Sources;

Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chance_Rides

Chance Rides https://www.chancerides.com/

Chance Morgan https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chance_Morgan

Catering, Event Planning, Fun Story

Candy Floss Questions, FAQ’s

11 July 2021

Over the years we have come across a multitude of questions about candy floss. Some are quite sensible, others belong in a joke book. We are going to look at, and try to answer some of our favourites.

Can Dogs Eat Candy Floss

Candy floss in itself isn’t harmful to a dog. It is basically pure sugar. However it will lead to a blood sugar spike, then subsequent drop, which isn’t the best thing for your pet. Because most breeds tend to be smaller than humans this will be more pronounced, and because dogs aren’t used to a sugar intake that high it amplifies the effect. So we wouldn’t recommend giving them more than a pinch of floss.

Dog Eating Floss
Dog Eating Floss

Who Invented Candy Floss

A dentist. No really, it was a dentist. To be fair, he wasn’t just a dentist. He was a political activist, invented a method to purify Nashville’s water supply, wrote children’s books and invented a lard substitute. William J Morrison really was a dentist. He didn’t invent candy floss per se. Cooks had been making spun sugar for hundreds of years. What he did invent was the electric candy floss machine. Or as he called it then fairy floss. This enables large quantities of floss to be made very quickly. Previously making spun sugar was a tedious affair, suitable for topping small cakes and the like.

He debuted his machine in 1904 at the St Louis World Fair. It was an instant success, he sold 68,655 boxes of the stuff at $0.25 a pop. That’s the equivalent of selling $500,000 worth allowing for inflation.

William J Morrison. The Cotton Candy King
William J Morrison. The Cotton Candy King

Why Do Some People Call It Cotton Candy

If you call it cotton candy you are most probably from North America. Which is a little strange, because they originally called it Fairy Floss. Sometime after thew switched to Cotton Candy. The Australians and New Zealanders still refer to it as Fairy Floss. Us Brits Candy Floss, The South Africans Tooth Floss, though the Afrikaners call it Spookasem (Ghosts Breath). The French barbe a papa (Daddy’s Beard), Dutch Suikerspin (Sugar Spider), and the Persians Pashmak (Wool Like).

So the name all depends on where you come from.

Is Candy Floss Bad For You

We once read that there are no poisonous substances, just poisonous doses. For instance, water is widely regarded as one of the healthiest things you can partake of. However drink too much and you die. Candy Floss is the same, sugar, pretty much all it is made of, other than a minute trace of colouring. Is one of the basic requirements for life. No sugar in your body and you end up dead. So a little candy floss won’t do you any harm. If you eat nothing but floss, then you will become really fat, lose most of your teeth, and can trigger sugar diabetes. So our tip is everything in moderation.

Can I make Candy Floss At Home

You certainly can, chefs have been making it for hundreds of years. A simple recipe is available here. You can also buy cheap little electric machines that make it in the same way as the commercial machines do. Truth be told they are not very good, but they do work well enough for a kids party or similar.

Home Candy Floss Machine
Home Candy Floss Machine

Does Candy Floss Go Off

Not really. Bacteria, which is usually responsible for food spoiling, doesn’t like sugar rich environments. This is why throughout history sugar has been used to preserve food. You can’t get much more sugar rich than candy floss. Additionally the heat generated to make the floss, around 186 Celsius. Makes sure that the floss is pretty much sterile as it is being made.

However, what does happen, is that the floss gradually absorbs moisture. This leads to it shrinking back into its sugar form, so after a while you end up with a coloured sugar lump instead of a bag of floss. Happily popping it in the freezer means it will last months. The best bit is, you can eat it straight from the freezer as it doesn’t actually freeze. The cold air doesn’t contain moisture so it extends the life.

When I was Younger I Was  A Candy Floss
When I was Younger I Was A Candy Floss

Is Candy Floss Halal

It can be. The ingredients are sugar, and basic colouring flavourings. Now sugar is just pure sugar so no problems there. The flavourings and colouring depends on what exactly is used. Red colour tends to contain the powdered shell of a species of beetle. Called cochineal it is a species native to North America. Alternatives are available, but if you want to be 100% sure then just eat white candy floss. That is made with nothing but sugar, and Silver Spoon brand is both halal and kosher.

This Little Guy Is Why Your Food Is Red
This Little Guy Is Why Your Food Is Red

Where Do I Buy Candy Floss Near Me

Any local funfair will sell floss. Many supermarkets have small tubs available. Or there are mail order sellers. If you are an adult then we can even sell you alcohol infused floss, in cocktail flavours.

Alcoholic Candy Floss
Alcoholic Candy Floss

How Is Candy Floss Made

A band of happy pixies live in the bottom of the machine, merrily knitting the sugar in to candy floss and pushing it through the little holes in the centre of the machine for the operator to collect with a stick.

Of course some people claim there is a scientific explanation, personally we like the one above, but if you are one of those boring grown ups who think magic isn’t real, here is an alternative explanation.

The sugar mixture is poured into a rotating drum. The high speed of the drum forces the mixture against a wire mess around the perimeter. This mesh is heated to 186 degree celsius. This heat breaks the bonds of the constituent molecules (carbon, oxygen and hydrogen C12H22O11).

The hydrogen and oxygen atoms form molecules of water, which instantly evaporate due to the intense heat. This leaves only carbon behind, which burns and begins to caramelise the sugar.

As it caramelises the liquid sugar is forced through the tiny holes in the mesh and solidify as they meet cooler air. As this is happening thousands of times a second. You get a mass of candy floss composed of these filaments which are just 50 microns in diameter.

Candy Floss Being Made
Candy Floss Being Made

Why Is Candy Floss Pink

Actually it isn’t. Pure candy floss is white. The only ingredient is sugar. For other colours of candy floss you add a tiny amount of colouring. So it can be pink, blue, green, orange, yellow, purple and so on. It tends to come out as pastel colours, so you dont really get a deep red, it comes out pink.

Does Candy Floss Have Gelatin In

As a general rule no it does not. But, you would need to know the food colouring ingredients list used to change it’s colour. There are literally hundreds of different food colourings out there, so some may contain gelatin. To be absolutely safe, eat white candy floss, as this is entirely pure sugar.

What Goes Well With Candy Floss

Far and away the most popular is popcorn. The two can be combined on a single cart and are ideal for weddings, parties or events.

Traditional Victorian Catering Cart