Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Lotta Bottle

Another lucky week! The luckiest part? Not getting a ride in an ambulance with a two-year-old boy.

You might reasonably ask exactly how this relates to comping … Well, the short of it is that he made such a beeline for the front door when the courier rang the bell that he ended up doing a backwards roll down the stairs. (SPOILER: he was fine; I was a nervous wreck.) And for what? Eight pints of milk. Seriously - the promoter sent MILK by courier?!

It’s not that the prize came out of the blue - I knew I’d won milk. But what I was expecting was a voucher or two - not a dirty great hamper of moo juice; not £3 worth of perishable goods sent by courier. How much that milk would have cost to send I couldn’t say, but I do know that if you need a rich tea biscuit by this time tomorrow, the Royal Mail would charge at least twice as much.

An isolated incident? Not at all. Last year, one promoter sent me 750 grams of salt. Cost of delivery? Nearly three times the value of the prize.

Yes, I do live in Norwich. But despite what you might read on the internet, we do have supermarkets. And those supermarkets do accept vouchers. So what’s going on here?

Ask any economist and they’ll tell you the same: follow the money.

In other words, it’s black ops couriers. By targeting FMCG firms, they can divert a steady dollar stream to their employers without raising suspicion. It’s embezzlement in plain sight, laundered and legit. There are whole syndicates of them - Google it - pooling their intelligence and planting moles in companies with cheap, heavy goods.

Go on, call me crazy - but did you see how many people won potatoes last year?!

In the interests of exposing this madness, let’s conduct a quick survey: what’s the heaviest item to come your way that would have been better served with a voucher? Drop me a comment below!

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Visit Dubai?

Dubai. Why would I want to go to Dubai? I’m a dad. Not a footballer or movie star. Just a bog standard, in-over-my-head dad. Father of a six-year-old with verbal diarrhoea and a two-year-old with, well, that’s enough about nappies. My point is, why would I even contemplate Dubai? It’s just for rich big kids, right?

Hold that thought. Now screw it up in a ball and bury it with all your other compostable waste, because, as my eldest boy would say, it’s poppycock. Sure, it’s for big kids. But it’s also for little kids.

Heck, it’d even wipe the scowl off the most miserable of teenage kids too.

Finished harrumphing? Good, because now I’m going to show you why, and I’m going to start by pulling out the big guns. Or more precisely, the big jets. The water jets. The 140-metre high jets. You want a point of reference - that’s the height of a 45-storey building!

Dubai fountain.

To give it its dues, it’s the world's largest choreographed fountain system - the big brother to the Fountains of Bellagio in Las Vegas, which were designed by the same company.

Dubai Fountain

Set in Burj Lake, right outside the Dubai Mall in the heart of Downtown Dubai, the Dubai Fountain performs daily, with a performance repertoire of approximately 35 songs. The beam of light shining upward from the fountain can be seen from over 20 miles away, and is even visible from space, making it the brightest spot in the Middle East, and quite possibly in the entire world.

Small wonder it’s the city’s most popular free tourist attraction!

Another incredible showpiece at the Dubai Mall is the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo, which is home to more than 33,000 living animals. Walking through the 270-degree acrylic walkthrough tunnel, children can enjoy amazing close-encounter experiences with fascinating underwater creatures, while the rainforest, rocky shore and living ocean environments offer the chance to get up close with piranhas, giant catfish, playful otters, Humbolt penguins and more. 

Shark at Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo

The star of the zoo, however, has to be King Croc. This massive saltwater crocodile weighs in at 750 kg (more than 14 big men, apparently) and is over 5 m in length (that’s about six shopping trolleys, fact lovers!). With a bite force of over 3,700 psi, I can only imagine how ugly his mealtimes get.

If that only whets your appetite, the aquarium sells a number of add-on aquatic experiences, including a shark dive and cage snorkelling; but equally, if you’re on a budget, you can view plenty from outside.

No trip to Dubai would be complete without a few hours on the super clean white sands of Kite Beach. I'd definitely catch some rays while watching the kite surfing. And if I needed some time away from the boys, I'd hire a kayak and get myself out on the water quick sharp.

Kite Beach, Dubai

There are showers, toilets and changing facilities, great views of the Burj Al Arab, and enough paddling opportunities to keep the little ones occupied for hours. I’m pretty sure you can get ice cream too...

I don’t know how may days I could spend doing beach and nothing but beach - my lads have never sat still long enough for me to find out. That’s why Dubai Atlantis Aquaventure Water Park would be high on my to-do list. Why? For starters, there’s the world's largest water slide, the mile-long river ride and the wave machine that can create tidal swells over a metre high. Then there’s the shark safari (special helmets supplied!) and the nine-storey mega-slide that will slam you down its near-vertical drop in (give or take) one second, before speeding you through a clear acrylic tube surrounded by sharks and rays. I won’t say anything about Poseidon’s Revenge, as frankly it scares me. And finally, it’s free if it’s your birthday!

Dubai Atlantis Aquaventure Water Park

So, now you know how I'd spend a few days in Dubai with my family. But how would you spend your time if you you were lucky enough to go there? Would you visit the Burj Khalifa and see what the world looks like half a kilometre above ground level, go dune bashing on a desert safari or cool yourself down at ski camp?! Let me know in the comment section below! If you need a little inspiration, check out the Visit Dubai website. 

This post is an entry in to the Tots100/Dubai Dreams blogger challenge. The prize is a family trip to Dubai courtesy of Dubai Tourism. Sound interesting? Get over to the Tots100 website and have a look! If you aren’t the lucky winner, don’t worry – because Tots100 and Dubai Tourism are giving away a SECOND family holiday to Dubai! Once the blogger challenge winner has been selected, Dubai Tourism will be selecting the best reader comment on the winning challenge blog post – and the author will win their own family break to Dubai! Good luck!

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Swee-eet! (Part 1)

Spring is finally out of bed and it's time to shed the winter timber. Well, that was plan A. Then this immense hamper of US candy arrived.

Much as I wanted to show it off right away, it would have been an injustice to its awesomeness if I hadn't - for the sake of objectivity you understand - troughed my way round a few laps of it.

With the greatest of respect to every hamper that has ever come may way before, this beast wears the crown, if only because of its sheer hamperness. The goodies don't just sit on wicker - they're completely ensconced in it! It's a true, dyed in the wool, picnic basket, stuffed to the gunwales with dental peril!

The picture doesn't even do it justice - these hampers are so absurdly full, you can't fit everything in one photo. I'd have been chuffed with a chocolate stocking selection and a fistful of Skittles, so you can imagine how I choked when I opened it.

How long does it take to complete a degustation project of this magnitude? I don't know, but given that some items have a best before date two years hence, time is on my side.

Here's my tasting notes so far...
  • Baby Ruth: Dangerous balance of sweet and salt. Bang on trend.
  • Birthday Cake flavour M&Ms: Just like regular chocolate M&Ms, but bigger.
  • Peanut Butter flavour M&Ms: Just like regular peanut M&Ms, but less crunchy.
  • Dessert flavour Skittles: Remember Tutti Frutti? Same thing. But round.
  • Butter Finger: Brittle peanut butter dipped in chocolate.
  • Peanut Butter Snickers: Snickers for people with dentures.
  • Hubba Bubba: A six-foot reel! Gave it to a teenager to vandalise school property.
  • Wrigley's watermelon flavour gum (four packs): Ditto
  • Nerds: Easily 250,000 pieces in one box. Tangy. Eat with spoon.
  • Swedish Fish: American gummy candy made in Canada. Not remotely Scandinavian.
  • Runts: Hard candy shaped like fruit. None of your five-a-day. Tastes like the bubblegum that used to come in Two-ball Screwballs.
  • Lucky Stars cereal: I’m using this to bribe my eldest child into staying in bed at the weekend. Mixed results.
  • Kool-Aid powder: "Sugar Free!" Just add water ... and sugar.
  • Laffy Taffy: Sample comment on Twitter: "I'm just gonna learn to like Laffy Taffy with the wrapper on because there's no way I'm getting it all off." Stick it in the fridge, people, stick it in the fridge! Never eat two in a single sitting. Just saying.
  • Hot Tamales: Everyone hates these - they’re brilliant! Especially with black coffee. Get the camera handy if you're feeding them to children.
  • Warheads: When I was 16, Nick Flavell filled his mouth with the crystallised citric acid leftover from a box of astro belts. These are less sour.
  • Strawberry Twizzlers: Imagine the underside of a plimsole flavoured with artificial strawberry.
  • Twinkies: I’ve not even opened these. I tried one a few years ago, and it was the nastiest confectionery I’ve ever tasted. And I’ve had Russian chocolate. Made out of air, sugar solution and hairspray.
  • Spree: That bit of the venn diagram where Swizzels Fizzers overlap with vitamin C pills.
  • Sweet Tarts: That bit of the venn diagram where Swizzels Fizzers overlap with suppositories.
On the to-do list: Slush Puppy squeezy candy, Reese's creamy peanut butter, Marshmallow Fluff, candy corn, Razzles (first it's candy ... then it's gum!) and one extraordinary visit to my dentist.

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Things that the Everyday Folk Leave Behind

If my mum knew how much litter I pocket these days she’d hit the roof. It wouldn't take two seconds before she had her head in her hands, sobbing about where she went wrong and swigging straight from the bottle of gin she keeps for such emergencies.

She may have a point. On my last birthday, I spent way too long arm-deep in the waste bin outside the local nursery, trying to retrieve the Lucozade bottle I mistakenly threw in there earlier. And I did recently walk my six-year old son round the McDonald’s car park looking for Monopoly properties. And yes, that was me guiltily hiding an empty cider bottle behind my back when my son's head teacher collared me the other morning before school.

But what of it?

I’d love to say that wombling has won me a fortune, but the truth is less kind. McDonald’s owes me a cup of tea and a 6x4-inch photo book. End of.

I’ve got a good feeling about these Pepperami wrappers though.

Has litter ever worked for you? What was your best win? Surely someone has done better than a cup of tea?!