Monday, May 28, 2012

Another trip to Merry Hill with the Bratii

I was heading up to Merry Hill anyway so I offered to take the Bratii off their parents hands for the trip; we could have gone to Worcester instead, but a) In this weather I think others would be having the same idea and b) they visit Worcester a lot with their parents so this is still slightly different for them.

An uneventful trip up though you can tell how long it's been since I took this particular route as I found the speed limit changes on the Stourbridge Road to be most 'amusing' particularly upon being told I'm entering a 40mph zone area at Norton whilst still being in a 40mph zone. Seriously when they change the limits do they bother to check what's left behind?

Anyway at 10:30 Merry Hill was fairly busy, but not majorly so. We parked on the 3rd floor of the multi-storey in the shade and took the elevator down one whole floor - Minor likes the 'funny feeling' caused by inertia/change in momentum i.e. your body moves up/down but your insides try to stay put and yes I'm told him the cause of this, which he finds "cool!".

As we missed out the Toys 'R' Us last time and as we were so close I took them there first. Out of the centre onto the walkway and the temperature was quite warm. Popped into Maplin on the way past and when we came out I said "That's cooler" and Minor replied "Is it, or did we just get hotter while in there?" Damn proud of him for that observation.

Neither were overly taken with with the toy store; it had the range, but was a little meh for their tastes; just a piled-high warehouse. Back into the centre proper and down to Waterstones. Minor checked the children's range while Major roamed upstairs; then we all checked upstairs, I bought a steampunk novel, and we left via that upper entrance as Minor was eager to check out Games Workshop.

Just to see if they'd remembered anything from last time I asked if they knew where they were, nope. Switched sides and headed towards HMV and things clicked into place when Minor realised Games Workshop was close by.

Into HMV first though. Major charged the CD section while Minor scampered up to the games section and the playable demos. I kept an eye on him while Major roamed and picked up a couple of things (Guns and Roses CDs! Hell yeah) and then he watched while I did a sweep and then switched again. Surprisingly few people buying things so we got served quite quickly.

Out and onto GW. I headed for the books; Minor headed for the models and Major hung back and waited. Both of us got chatting and I turned around and found to my surprise that Major had been talked into a lesson on how to paint a free Space Marine model.

I grabbed a couple of books and, while Major was busy, helped Minor work out what he could afford. He was tempted by some of the more expensive fine-cast one-off models, but knowing his current painting skills I steered him away by pointing out the cheaper collections. Space Marines still being a favourite he got a 21-piece Space Marine with bike set for £7.50 rather than the more awesome (in my opinion) Chaos Space Marine and bike for the same price. Also as he's been looking at Tyranids a 2-piece each 5 set of them for £5.50. Likewise as he really wants to start painting his own Chapter in purple and the Tyranids on the box were painted in that shade a £2.30 bottle of a dark purple. A snip over £15 for something that's going to keep him well occupied; not bad I think.

Getting time for food; recalling Minor wasted a pizza slice for the chips I was tempted to head down to Harry Ramsden's, but on our initial entrance to the centre Minor had commented on the McDonalds and being a once-off thought we'd do that. As we were close we headed to the Food Court where I couldn't recall if a McDonalds was present. We walked in and there were still some seats left but it was getting a little crowded. I spotted a Burger King and thought that might do and presented it to them as an alternative.
"Okay" they said "We've never been to one of those either"
"Wait" I replied "You've never been to a McDonalds or a Burger King?"
Ah yes of course when they're out with the parents they wouldn't; Bratus Pater being vegetarian and there are no such places local to them when they're on their own.
"Right in that case follow me"

I led them away from the Food Court and down the leg towards Sainsbury's. There's another Burger King tucked away down there with its own better seating and normally much less crowded as people flock to the highly advertised Food Court. Indeed we reached it and it was only a third full.

Hmm no menu outside we went to the counter to see what we wanted. Both looked to the Kids Meals - Nuggets with a Coke and Fries and the optional ice-cream. Spoiling myself I went for the bacon something or other with fries and a Coke.

Decision made we headed to a free teller and boy was she miserable. I turned to double check the kids orders

"So that's a Kid's meal of nuggets coke and fries" I said to both Minor and the teller "and..." I turned to Major
"Same again"
"Okay" back to the teller "So that's two kid's meals nuggets fries and coke please"
"Want do you want to drink with that?"
I looked puzzled and turned to Minor who also looked puzzled
"Coke?" I triple checked with both "Yeah coke" I said to the teller "and I'll have the bacon [whatsit] with fries and a Coke too"
"and what do you want to drink with that"
"Um Coke"
"hurumph" she replied "Do you want the kids meals with ice-cream"
I turned and they nodded and I smiled "Yeah go on"
"Do you want them now or later"
I judged the temperature "Later please"
"hurumph" and she dropped two containers onto a tray "Bring those up when you're ready" and then she turned away. Came back; took my money and then turned to the next customer.

I pulled the tray with the two containers to one side and we waited. Okay just want to point out again that it wasn't busy - we weren't holding up a massive queue or anything.

We waited. She came back and snapped at me "do you have your tray" yes that would be the tray I moved out of her way so she could continue serving and was quite obviously still in front of me. I silently pushed it slightly more into sight and she dropped my burger onto it. Then she came back with two kids meals packages then looked at us. "Drinks?" I asked
She harumphed again and got three drinks and I made space for them onto the tray and sent Major off to snag a table ready.
Three drinks plonked haphazardly onto the tray and she went to turn away "Um straws?"
"harumph, everything's over there" she waved at the other end of the counter, which couldn't be seen from our vantage point, and turned away and stalked off.

Minor sent to procure napkins and straws I took the tray to Major, and Minor rejoined us
"She wasn't very nice" said Minor.
"No she wasn't." I replied.

We started eating and as I moved the empty ice-cream containers aside I realised that a) she hadn't given me my receipt and b) using said receipt I could log in to the Burger King site and leave a review on her - co-incidence?

Both kids meals came with toys - not bad; two-inch long 4x4 trucks that ejected the body when they crashed. They started up for their ice-creams and, sans receipt, I told them to try the girl who has served us before if there was any trouble come back to me
"Any trouble" I asked as they came back
"Nope" replied Major "We went to a different girl as the other was busy"
"She was much nicer" said Minor.

They liked their meal, I liked my burger; just slightly soured by the service this time around.

Looking at my watch and judging journey time we needed to be heading back. "Time flies when you're having fun" as Minor commented when I said we getting close to having spent over 3 hours here. We stopped into the "Entertainer" where Minor bought a Star Wars figure for £8; 1p more than in Toys 'R' Us. Totalled £3.30 over his budget, but he had enough money on him as I'd paid for the GW stuff in total to get back later.

However it was time for something we missed out on. Major needed a suit for his end-of school shindig and I'd mentioned to his parents we'd have a quick look around. Minor surprisingly seemed vaguely cool with that only voicing a token bit of complaint.

I volunteered for two reasons. Firstly at that age for a lot of kids clothes shopping is boring; clothes shopping with parents - ye gods! Secondly Major and I are the same build - lanky so I know what does and doesn't suit in a suit (hah) he's also pale as am I but with hair that verges on the white.

I know it's been a while, but suit sizes seem much better. Used to be that I bought a jacket off the rack for the length and it needed to be filled by someone a third again wider than me. Now they seem to come in the same Small Regular and Long as trousers and coats.

Colour proved the problem. It seems Henry Ford has infiltrated the fashion industry - you can buy any colour suit you like provided it's black. Okay there were some dark grey, dark blue; and a few dove grey that screamed wedding. Mostly black though.

Those few that weren't in the darker range were um a little off. A sort of crushed velvet blue that Austin Powers would have been proud of wearing; checked tweed ? Fine if you're 40 or have your own trust fund. "Next" had a larger range of colours that would suit better, but there's the added problem that if all his classmates turn up in black, dark grey, does he have the confidence to pull off a linen suit that is the only thing that would actually suit him?

The best option came from Debenhams - they offered a hire service for half to a quarter of the price of buying a suit that he'll no doubt grow out of in a couple of years time. Leaflet in hand and a rough idea what size jacket he needs we called it job done and headed back to the car.

We made good time until we turned out of Wilden Lane and joined the queue for the island, then the queue for Mitton Street, then the queue for Lion Hill and the queue for York Street and the queue for Bridge Street.

Cars trying to cross into New Street with right of way, but cars from Bridge Street not stopping because no-one bloody indicates when they're turning left. Cars trying to get into the fairground car-park but being blocked by all the pedestrians walking up the bank to cross the road rather than walking the other way and under the bridge because there are no signs informing them of this possiblilty. Just sheer volume of traffic conspiring in Stourport at it has always done.

Anyway back home five minutes after I said I'd be back and before their parents too. Jobs a good 'un.

Well not quite Bratus Pater was a little put out they'd been to a Burger King as he intentionally "avoid[s] such places" I countered that it was a one-off; and that they'd now tried it and thus be less tempted by the allure of the strange and unusual. In other words - been there, tried that, it's okay, meh. "It's difficult to appreciate the good stuff if you've never had the bad" I told him. Which he grudgingly accepted. Legal note - Not that Burger King food or fast-food per se is bad merely that it stands as a mass-produced item to appeal to as large an audience as possible at an acceptable price point.

Add in that Major will be schooling away from home for the entire day and thus eating out best to let him see the choices on offer in controlled circumstances.

Anyway next time it may be McDonalds or better yet the Frankie and Benny's, though that latter will be more expensive; might work up to that via the Cafe Giardino though that's a little more open plan.