This time two years ago was a strange, strange night. First I heard the news coming in of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting. I can’t remember the name of the shooter, it’s on Wikipedia but I forgot it the minute I clicked out, which is good.
I couldn’t stick around because we had prebooked tickets to a Halloween party. But on the way back through Leicester city suddenly there were all these sirens, far more than normal, enough to know something had gone horribly wrong. When we got back it turned out there had been a major helicopter crash.
So for a few days after that the whole city was grieving one bad thing and the whole world (it seemed) was grieving an entirely different bad thing. It was not a good time.
I worked at a Cineworld during summer 2007. Working in a cinema is uhh I guess “average” as far as jobs go, but I really enjoyed it. Even hanging about in the lobby waiting to tear people’s tickets wasn’t that bad, because I got to watch the movie trailers. There was something about being in that poorly lit lobby hearing the beautiful music from the Atonement trailer suddenly echo through the halls which always stuck with me…
Also another time I was cleaning out a Cineworld screen and I found £15 on the floor! They said I could keep it if no-one claimed it so I did get to keep it at the end of the day. That may not seem like much but to me at that time it was HUGE.
When I was a kid sometimes my parents would take us to Aquasplash, an indoor water park in Hemel Hempstead. (Britain has very few outdoor water parks for obvious reasons.) Aquasplash was a disgusting unhygienic poorly put together deathtrap of a place, by which I mean it was the best thing EVER.
Here’s one of the few pics of the pool which seem to exist. Imagine it packed full with hundreds of screaming kids, and you’ve about got the flavour of it.
It was all inside this building, the Jarman Park Leisure World. I remember there was a cinema next to it. I have this really clear memory of standing in the queue to get into Aquasplash, and on one side of me there was the window which showed you what was going on in the pool, and on the other side there was the Lord of the Rings Argonath poster all lit up to entice you into the movie. That little scene could sum up the whole of 2001 for me really.
I was OBSESSED with this place. I think I have a whole bunch of journal entries from my childhood where I just talked about how awesome Aquasplash was. It was up there with Disneyworld for me. Braving the Space Bowl (the green water slide you can see up there, it deposited you into a sort of massive bowl) was legit one of the proudest moments of my childhood.
Man, not a single photo of the Space Bowl in its prime was ever taken I guess. You can just about make it out in this picture I found, it’s the big green, well, bowly thing.
See where all those people are sitting? Those are seats from the Burger King which was on the side of the water park! You could climb out of the pool overstimulated and drenched and HAVE A BURGER!
I loved that so much as well, even though my parents wouldn’t allow me back in the pool for half an hour after I’d eaten in case I died.
Here’s what it looked like at the very top, complete with netting that wouldn’t stop a rubber beach ball falling down, let alone a child. “The Abyss” is about right. Also I can’t remember which ride “The Abyss” was, but one of the three rides at the top was literally never open/always broken, maybe it was that one.
LOOK! Look how grimy yet wonderful it all is!
Anyway today I found these old photos on my hard drive. I didn’t take them (didn’t take any of the pics in this post) and even though I saved the link I got them from, it’s a dead link now alas. It’s pics of the place being demolished back in 2014ish.
I was FUCKING DEVASTATED. I still am a little bit, in a way, someone could have bought the pool and (hopefully) sorted it out a bit. Made a new generation of kids deliriously happy and maybe at times actually delirious! But it never happened…
This picture is the worst for me because I used to stand in that exact spot, waiting to get a rubber ring and experience a five-second slide across the pool. It was always freezing cos the emergency exit was right next to it.
This is the end point of the rapids ride, I think. That one was my favourite.
And this I believe is the earthly remains of both the Space Bowl (I think) and another ride I don’t remember the name of, but do remember you were guaranteed a massive wedgie if you rode it.
Fun fact, if you type Aquasplash’s name into Google, in the UK at least, the first result it suggests is ‘Aquasplash child death.” (NO no-one actually died there.) God I miss it.
It’s funny, but most of the memories I have of Harry Potter are almost nothing to do with the actual books and everything to do with the people I was sharing them with.
Like when I was a kid, still in school, I would read Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban to my younger siblings. My favourite bit was the Sirius-Pettigrew confrontation at the end. I used to LOVE read-screaming the lines, “THEN YOU SHOULD HAVE DIED! DIED RATHER THAN BETRAY YOUR FRIENDS!” It was so dramatic and thrilling. But that was my voice, not JK Rowling’s-
When the last Harry Potter book came out I went to the midnight opening of the Milton Keynes Waterstones with a friend. First we saw Hairspray (which is a really good movie) and then we went next door to the shopping center. There were excited kids running around everywhere, it was like a little party. I got a t-shirt. I think I still have it, but I don’t wear it-
When I was a fully grown adult me and the same friend went to London for the day and we stopped at King’s Cross station. They had a Harry Potter tourist area there, they probably still have it. (I’m not going back.) We got in line and waited for ages and got our photo taken at the magic wall. My frienddidn’t even like Harry Potter! But she was still willing to do all that.
So those are the sort of things I think about now.
So there’s going to be a movie about the finding of Richard III, starring Steve Coogan. I’m curious as to how this will go, not least because it was actually a woman called Philippa Langley who lead the project, and her story is fascinating but the biggest name attached to the film is playing… her husband…?
But I thought with that news fresh in everyone’s minds I could share a few photos/details of what it was like to be in Leicester when all that was going on!
* A couple of days after the news that Richard III’s bones had been found in the car park, I went to check it out! There wasn’t much going on though. I guess because the actual bones had been taken away already?
That was in 2012. Flash forward a year and his reconstructed skull (not the real one) was in the Leicester Guildhall along with a bunch of other Richard III stuff.
It’s all been relocated to the Richard III museum now I think.
Then in 2015 there was the actual reburial ceremony…
I still have that pamphlet. At the uni it was absolutely packed, it’s lucky I was able to see anything at all. Oooh look I took a video as well!
So me/the crowds followed the coffin in the car back to the town center….
…and then I had to leave and go to work. But you get the idea!
In the days after that every business in Leicester was using Richard III to advertise their services. It was great for tourism.
Someone also put flowers on Richard’s statue. (This used to be in the park opposite my halls of residence, I think it was moved to its current spot before the reburial.)
And Richard III’s tomb now chills in Leicester Cathedral. You can drop in and see it anytime!
There was a frickin’ EARTHQUAKE in my home town this morning! (someone I know is actually quoted in that article.) No reports of any damage but my brother said everyone piled out into the street to see what the hell had happened.
As for me, a car alarm started going off at around that time in Leicester, waking me up… connected maybe… or not…
Esmeralda was always my favourite of the Disney women. She wasn’t a princess but I didn’t care. (This was before Disney really started pushing the ‘princess’ thing anyway.) She doesn’t appear in the Disneyland parks anymore ever from what I can tell. Disney just kinda quietly ignores their version of Hunchback of Notre Dame, probably because… well… if you’ve seen it you’ll know.
But then I found this old Disney autograph book in a drawer and in it was-
This was kinda interesting to me even though I could not remember meeting either of them AT ALL. (I was still a pretty young kid after all.) And also there was no date on the autograph book because children don’t think to date things! So those autographs could’ve been either from 1996 (when HOND actually came out) or 1999. But I have SO FEW MEMORIES of going to Disneyworld in 1996! That’s what the photos are for, to remind me, but honestly I kinda look at them and a lot of the time there isn’t any memory attached.
But a week or two ago I found this tiny little keyring photo album thingy, all the way from the late 90s. You could print out tiny little versions of photos (or get your parents to do so) and store them in a photo album so small you could carry it around with you on your bag or keys. Yeah… that’s what we all did before phones.
So I flipped through the teeny keyring album a couple of times. It was all pictures from our trip in 1999, which I do remember a bit better. And after looking more closely suddenly I realised there was one photo hidden behind another. I pulled it out and…
There was an Esmeralda in Disneyworld in 1999! I don’t know if she was the one who gave me the autograph or if that was a different ’96 Esmeralda, but hey she hung on for a few years in the park after Hunchback of Notre Dame came out and before Disney got cold feet about the contents of the film!
Thank you past me for hiding that photo away where I’d probably have never found it, ya dick.