Saturday, 17 February 2018

Hogwarts to Hit the Banquet

Regardless of your age, from nursery to pensioner and everything in between, why not let the Harry Potter theme on Friday night bring out your inner child at next year's Banquet in Peterborough. I for one will be donning a school uniform and flexing my wand. Thus I was doubly delighted at just how much yummy Harry Potter merchandise there is to choose from. From Primark to Asda, eBay to Amazon, there are cauldrons to take your fancy, and none of it should break the bank. It all makes for lots of easy costumes to suit every taste and budget.
My all time favourite find came this weekend when an outing into town found me in my local branch of Primark looking for a grey school jumper. No joy on that score, but I made this fantastic discovery instead. Available in black or brown, this Hogwarts satchel is perfect and a mere £12. Be warned, though, there are a lot of people selling them for a lot more on eBay and suchlike, so don't be fooled.

Returning to school uniform—the robe in particular, there is a large selection to choose from. Asda have a number of offerings for adults and children alike (below), all for under £20. Many are internet order only but with their refund policy, that shouldn't present a problem.

To add extra dressing to your costume, there are scarves, wands and ties. Interestingly, there are two versions of the school tie for Hogwarts dependant upon which film you watch, so don't be put out if your tie is a bit different from your friends'. The easiest option is the original gold/maroon stripe which can be obtained from most school stores. I picked one up for £3.99 on eBay, delivered free of charge to my door.

Wands are also widely available. I had one in with the cape I bought from Asda, but it was a pretty tacky, plastic affair (more reminiscent of something from Ann Summers than Ollivander's Wand Shop). Once again, though, eBay came to the rescue. I settled on a wonderful one for just £6.99.

So, with all that so easily to hand, how can you resist having a bit of Hogwarts fund?

Saturday, 10 February 2018

The Joys and Woes of an Arboretum

CAPT Anni Potts

When I first took command of Space Station Centaur, I was quite overwhelmed by the size of the arboretum. With a diameter of over 800m, it's a beautiful space filled with flora and fauna of all kind, and at the centre lies the beautiful, if not ambitiously named, Centaur Village, or the top of it anyway.
Centaur village is more of a glorified shopping mall filled with shops, restaurants and other eateries filling a total of six floors. The top floor opens out onto the arboretum and houses a small selection of shops: coffee bar, gift shop, quaint little wine bar, that sort of thing, creating an air more akin to a little country town square. It all sounds quite idyllic but it's not without its own problems. Take this morning.
As the station turned and the morning rays from the nearby sun cast its beams through my window, I mused at how, with the twittering of birdsong, it was just like at home.
"Oh, crap!" I shouted, realising that this was a space station. "We've got an escapee."
Fumbling on my uniform, I alerted the bridge and within half an hour a small team of us were wandering the corridors, nets in hand, stalking our little feathered friend. Once more I cursed the fact that sensors and transporters were down and made a mental note to chase up engineering regarding progress.
Holly led the way, being an expert on wildlife, and three hours later, we had a beautiful, pink breasted chaffinch in custody. Seriously, it would have been easier to catch a Ferengi with his hand in the till.
Especially pleasant, though, was the release. We all popped up to the arboretum, like a bunch of school kids on an outing, and released Mr Biggs (named after Ronnie Biggs, a train-robber who eluded capture for many years apparently) back into the wild. We all cheered ... until the little sod flew straight back down the stairwell and back into the depths of the village. We all stood around, looking somewhat crestfallen, our gazes focused on the stairs.
"Okay, guys," I said. "Round two ..."
Trying to organise ourselves more proficiently, we contacted Engineering who were able to erect a species sensitive force field. Apparently, it also emits an ultra-sonic signal that will deter birds approaching (I wonder how the Ferengi will fare with that one.) and just ninety minutes later, Mr Biggs was in custody again.
So, while the arboretum is a wonderful space, it brings with it a completely new set of challenges for us to tackle. It's not just birds either. We have a huge selection of plants, and plants require pollination, and that means bees. We also have a selection of carnivorous plants. Don't worry, no triffids but we do have specimens like the Venus Flytrap and various Pitcher plants. These all require insects to feed upon as well—and insects are even more adept at escape than the humble chaffinch.
To conclude this report, Security is very busy establishing new methods and protocols to ensure we have no more problems with rogue birds, animals and insects from the arboretum. I don't think they're very happy about it. Bless, they were trained to deal with smugglers and thieves rather than zoo keeping. I almost feel like hiring a couple of bandits to give them a project more suited to their skill set!

Saturday, 3 February 2018


For our little bit of fun today, how do you fancy navigating your way through this ...