Sunday, 31 January 2021

This Week - 31/01/2021

No one escapes from life alive...



It's been kind of a weird week. Mentally, I'm feeling a lot better. Physically, not so much... I had the period from hell plus some kind of sickness bug that basically wrote off the week. I missed a few virtual meetings and it meant Marianna missed a few days of home school.

Hopefully next week we'll be back on track and much more productive!

What I did do was mostly read. I did manage to do some more doll house decorating too. It's starting to look a lot more finished in there. Just the entire outside to complete...

On the blog I posted an Abba doll guide, a Mini Mart review of Teeny Tiny Things, and an A-Z of my favourite historical reality TV shows. Anthony was (very) briefly featured on BBC news, so that made up Thursday's post, and I also did a paid post on Welsh Government's Childcare Offer for Wales. Finally, I wrote about the 1977 Ysgol Rhosybol UFO sighting for my Weird Wales feature.



Deal of the Week -

Get £5 off your first order of Who Gives a Crap eco friendly toilet paper with referral link - https://www.talkable.com/x/VPZMuN



Song of the Week -

America - Razorlight



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This Week - Weekly Overviews




Saturday, 30 January 2021

Mini Mart: Teeny Tiny Things

Teeny Tiny Things Miniatures

Supplier: Teeny Tiny Things
Website: Teeny Tiny Things | Etsy Store

Teeny Tiny Things Minis on Etsy

Products:

I've bought from Teeny Tiny Things a few times because they're always adding cool stuff! I've got a doll house, a bunch of tiny storage boxes (from £4), ashtrays (£3 for 2), stationery sets, and even an awesome 1/12 scale desk (£15).

In the bottom pic the desk, pink storage box and pencil holder are all from Teeny Tiny Things. They also produce amazing 1/12 scale pram kits but they're a bit beyond my experience range. Maybe one day!

Post and Packing:  £2.50 within the UK.

Teeny Tiny Things 1/12 Scale



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Mini Mart - Reviews of Dolls and Scale Miniatures


Friday, 29 January 2021

Back in Time for... A-Z

Back in Time for... A-Z

I love those shows where modern people live like their forefathers for a couple of weeks. It's not the same as living history, true, but it's as close as we can get. And always makes for good entertainment!

Here's an A-Z guide of all my favourites...



Surviving the Stone Age 
A - SURVIVING THE STONE AGE

Eight survival experts spend a month in rural Bulgaria recreating life in the Stone Age. These shows are usually looking at the recent past so it's great fun to see some 'real' history. ;) Other Stone Age offerings include 10,000 BC (2015) and Steinzeit - Das Experiment (2007).



BBC Historic Farm 
B - BBC Historic Farm




Back in Time for Christmas 
C - CHRISTMAS

Back in Time for Christmas is a must watch for the festive season! You can practically feel the nostalgia oozing from your TV screen.



Back in Time for Dinner 
D - DINNER

As in, Back in Time for Dinner. Part cookery show, part reality show, all edutainment. There's a reason this show spawned an entire brand. They also did Further Back in Time for Dinner, and Back in Time for Tea. In the same kind of vein I also recommend The Supersizers... which explores the menus of yesteryear. Sweden did their own version from 2012 onwards called Historieätarna.

Once you've glutted on those, you can try The Diets That Time Forgot from 2008.



Edwardian Country House 
E - EDWARDIAN COUNTRY HOUSE

Upstairs, downstairs - but with even less glamour for the latter!



Back in Time for the Factory 
F - FACTORY

Series five of Back in Time for... was set in a textile factory, from 1968 to the present day. 



MTV's 70s House 
G - GAME SHOW

As a rule the genre operates on an edutainment basis, with editing relied upon to make the most of personality clashes and tensions. Some go for a full on game show style approach however. E.g. In 2005 MTV aired The 70s House which contestants figured would be a Big Brother style show - little realising they were about to enter a timewarp! In 2017 it was followed up with 90's House.



Coal House 
H - COAL HOUSE

Coal House was a BBC Wales show set right here in Torfaen, up at Stack Square in Blaenavon. Series 1 recreated the 1920s, while series 2 had the participants reliving 1944. 



Living in the Past

I - IRON AGE

Way back in 1978 BBC2 had 15 volunteers spend a year living the Iron Age life for Living in the Past. Then the Beeb did it all over again in 2001 for Surviving the Iron Age.



Wakey Wakey Campers 
J - JOLLY HOLIDAY

Recreate organised fun at its finest with Wakey Wakey Campers. Atherfield Bay Holiday Camp on the Isle of Wight was taken back to the 1960s for this 2005 Channel 4 series. 



Warrior Challenge 
K - KNIGHTS IN SHINING ARMOUR

2003's Warrior Challenge had people recreating military life from various time periods. The History Channel also did Conquest around the same time which looked at weapons and battle styles from different times. Find more military re-enactment via Timewatch: Roman Soldiers To Be (2001), The Trench (2002), and Spitfire Ace (2004). 



Lad's Army 
L - LAD'S ARMY

Four series of modern day recruits being put through 1950s style National Service.



Secrets of the Castle 
M - MEDIEVAL

BBC2's 2014 Secrets of the Castle visited Guédelon Castle in France, an experimental archaeology project being constructed using medieval methods.



The 1900 House 
N - 1900 HOUSE

First aired in December 1999 this is the first 'historical reality' show I remember seeing and it instantly hooked my interest. I wanted to live as a Victorian for three months too! The thing this series best illustrated for me, years before Downton Abbey did the same thing with the Matthew + Valet storyline, was how difficult it can be for us to understand how past societies worked.

The mother in the 1900 house felt superfluous for employing a maid of all work and so 'liberated' her from the drudgery by doing the work herself. ...But without that work a Victorian housemaid could quickly find herself destitute, and a mistress who dismissed a maid without good reason would be viewed very harshly indeed. 



Outback House

O - OUTBACK HOUSE

Historical reality goes down under! Outback House recreates life at an 1861 sheep station in New South Wales.

The same production team from 1900s/Edwardian/etc House worked on this, as well as a few US adaptions: Frontier House (2002), Colonial House (2004), and Texas Ranch House (2006).



Victorian Pharmacy 
P - VICTORIAN PHARMACY

2010 show exploring the growth in the pharmacy trade between the 1830s and 1900. One of the highlights is definitely Ruth Goodman making sheep intestine condoms in a bucket!



The Quest 
Q - QUEST FOR THE...

There are a whole bunch of shows in this Canadian historical reality series. It all started with Pioneer Quest: A Year in the Real West in 2001 which was followed up in 2002 by Quest for the Bay. 2003 brought us Quest for the Sea which recreated life in a rural 1930s fishing village. The final entry was 2004's Klondike: The Quest for Gold which focused on life during the gold rush.

The image comes from the ABC (and, later, Disney+) show The Quest which transports contestants to a historical fantasy realm. It's not quite historical reality but it's still good fun.



Regency House Party 
R - REGENCY HOUSE PARTY

Regency House Party was a 2004 series for Channel 4 that explored the social mores of the regency by assigning set identities to modern day volunteers. For more regency flashbacks, check out 2013's Pride and Prejudice: Having a Ball by the BBC.



Back in Time for the Corner Shop 
S - CORNER SHOP

Series seven of Back in Time for... tracked the British corner shop from Victorian times to the present day. For other shops try Turn Back Time - The High Street from 2010.



Back in Time for School 
T - That'll Teach 'Em

Channel 4 did three series of That'll Teach 'Em back in 2003-06, recreating 1950s grammar and 1960s secondary modern schools. Series six of Back in Time for... also explored British education from 1895 to the present day. This was the first one I watched that I really related to in a nostalgic sense. Seeing the retro IT lessons presented as history made me feel ancient!

School time slips are always a popular topic - some other options include: Dat zal ze leren, Die harte Schule der 50er Jahre, and 2008's Die Bräuteschule 1958 which recreated a 1950s housekeeping school.



The Ship 
U - UNDER THE SEA

And upon it! 2002's The Ship: Retracing Cook's Endeavour Voyage had 55 people living as 18th century sailors. If you prefer 19th century seafaring, check out 2007's Windstärke 8.



Victorian Slum House 
V - VICTORIAN SLUM HOUSE

This BBC show from 2016 had people reliving the life of East End slum dwellers between the 1860s and 1890s. You can only capture a glimpse of the horror of slum life, but just seeing the dimensions of the rooms in action, etc, really adds to your understanding of the difficulties. 



Back in Time for the Weekend 
W - WEEKEND

Series two of Back in Time for... looked at how our available leisure time - and what we can do with it - has changed between the 1950s and today. 



24 Hours in the Past 

X - (E)XCREMENT

Have you ever wanted to watch Ann Widdecombe getting her hands really dirty? Well, 2015 BBC documentary 24 Hours in the Past has you covered. Instead of the usual random members of the public, the show takes a bunch of celebs and sticks them in various disgusting recreations of Victorian squalor. It's one of the most underrated shows of the genre, imo, especially as you spend most of the time thinking 'they can't possibly do that - omg, they're already doing it!'



Opposite Worlds 
Y - YONDER

Sometimes the genre doesn't just seek to recreate the past - it wants to envision the future. E.g. Chilean reality show Mundos Opuestos split contestants into a stone age past and a space age future. Syfy produced their own version, Opposite Worlds, in 2004.



Evacuation 
Z - ZONE OF ACTION

The quintessential UK historical reality experience is WW2 based. There have been a few shows already mentioned in this list but, as you might expect, there are many more! One of the most interesting is CBBC's Evacuation show which had modern (2006 & 2008) children re-enacting what it was like to be a wartime evacuee.

Other wartime based shows to watch include 2001's The 1940s House, 1993's The Wartime Kitchen and Garden, and 2004's The Home Front. 



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Thursday, 28 January 2021

Anthony on the Beeb

Anthony Bird on BBC News

Anthony was asked to comment on a rather comical lockdown breach on behalf of the Community Council earlier. Police raided Euphoria Tanning Hair and Beauty in town which resulted in people at various stages of treatments fleeing... preserved for posterity on CCTV. (Seriously, of all the things to break a lockdown for. Beyond maybe eyebrow threading what is anyone else going to be able to see the benefit of? Lol.)

Anyway, they had a BBC reporter out this morning by Cwmbran Leisure who asked him to say a few words. I think it was on the telly news this evening but, as regular readers will know, I cancelled our TV licence so was unable to capture his lockdown 'do in motion.

I've had to make do with a pic from the Beeb's newsfeed:


The text of the online article read:
Lockdown breaches at a beauty salon are a "slap in the face" for local people, a community council chairman said.

CCTV footage showed people fleeing during a raid, while police found evidence of tanning beds in recent use and beauty treatments taking place. The owner of Euphoria Tanning Hair and Beauty in Cwmbran, Torfaen, was hit with a £1,000 fine by Gwent Police for breaking Covid regulations.

Community council chairman Anthony Bird said residents were "outraged".

BBC Wales has approached the salon owner for a comment.

Gwent Police officers went to the premises on 16 January and saw customers entering through the front of the building. CCTV footage showed eight people running out of the fire exit.

"I felt that it was quite a low blow for the town. You've got so many volunteers running around, doing amazing things. We've got communities pulling together," Mr Bird said. "There are so many events that have been cancelled, businesses that are at risk of going under. And then to find that someone's not playing by the rules, they're carrying on regardless of people's health..."

He said residents were "quite rightly outraged" by the rule breaking, adding: "It wasn't even as if they were trying to hide it and something so blatant is a real slap in the face to the people that have been making proper sacrifices for it. I think it is a very unfair reflection on the town."

Gwent Police Insp Aled George said: "Businesses who flout the regulations are behaving irresponsibly and putting the lives of their customers, staff and the wider community at risk."

 



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15 Seconds of Fame - find me in the press


Wednesday, 27 January 2021

Ysgol Rhosybol UFO Sighting


I briefly mentioned this UFO sighting as part of my post on The Broad Haven Triangle. Central to that story was the sighting of a UFO on the ground and in flight from the yard of Broad Haven Community Primary School. Although it was the one which captured the public imagination - and the press attention - it wasn't the only school sighting to take place in Wales during the February of 1977.

The Rhosybol UFO, like that at Broad Haven, is notable for its multiple witnesses and the similarity of the individually crafted drawings.



Ysgol Rhosybol

On the afternoon of Wednesday February 16th, 1977, nine girls aged between 8 - 11 and their teacher were outside playing netball at Ysgol Rhosybol on Anglesey. Gwawr Jones, aged 10, was looking up at the net when she spotted something strange and shiny high in the sky. She shouted to the others to look and the group stood watching it for a few minutes.

The object was described as having a black dome on top and a silver cigar-shaped base. It was a bright afternoon and they were able to watch it flying in a northerly direction, towards Bull Bay. It went behind the only cloud in the sky then reappeared again for about a minute before disappearing for good.

Gwawr Jones said in 2009: "It's hard to describe what I saw. I was only a child, of course. I can remember seeing something shining in the sky. It moved quickly across the sky. We must have seen something unusual. What exactly? I don't know. It's nice to think extraterrestrials came to watch us play netball!"

Mair Williams, the girls' teacher said: "Everyone turned to look. The children saw it first. It was a circular shape, topped by a black dome. The bottom was a very bright silver colour. ... I remember the silence. It didn't make a noise at all. It didn't leave a vapour trail. Its speed was amazing. I've never seen anything in this little world of ours moving at that speed."

After the sighting the girls went back into school and Mair Williams gave them each a piece of paper and a pencil, telling them to draw a picture of what they had seen without conferring with each other. As she told the Western Mail at the time: "I took the children back into school separated them and then told them to draw what they had seen. It was really astonishing – their drawings were all similar. I never believed in these things until I saw this!" Some of the drawings were printed in the May/June 1977 edition of the BUFORA (British UFO Research Association) journal:

Rhosybol School UFO sighting

The headmaster and Mrs Williams checked with RAF Valley at Holyhead to see if perhaps they were responsible for the strange sighting. The base provided a covering note stating we "can offer no positive explanation or identification" before the drawings and a letter written by Gwawr were forwarded on to the MOD. Back at school the girls made a larger piece of art based on the object they had seen.

They were photographed with this model for the local press - a picture that S4C would attempt to recreate in 2009 as part of their Lle Aeth Pawb? (Where Are They Now?) documentary series. 

Ysgol Rhosybol UFO for Lle Aeth Pawb?

Gwawr Jones - by then using her married name of Bell and running the Pili Palas Nature World in Menai Bridge with her husband and two kids - helped track down her old teacher, Mair Williams, and seven of her fellow schoolgirls. They then recreated the infamous artwork before posing for a picture at Rhosybol Community Primary School. 

I couldn't find a video of the show online, but there is a transcript of the translated English subtitles at Subsaga. They failed to track down Nia but the rest of the witnesses (Gwawr, Mair, Caren, Catherine, Iona, Bryona, and sisters Nicola and Nina) still lived on Anglesey, bar Rhian Price who flew in from her job as an English teacher at an international school in Egypt. Rhian said: "I remember how fast it travelled. It disappeared quickly too, it was odd." 

Catherine added: "I remember it well. I'm totally convinced that, on looking back, I believe we saw something."

Nina, then a prison officer at Holyhead prison, commented: "My colleagues think I'm bonkers because I still believe in it!"

Gwawr also did an interview with the Daily Post in April 2009 to help promote the S4C show: 
"I remember that it was a cold winter’s day, and that the sky was clear. We were having a netball lesson with our teacher Mrs Mair Williams on the school yard. I was looking up as I was shooting at goal when suddenly I saw something moving across the sky. We all saw it. We went back into school, and we all made a picture of what we had seen. We did them individually, and when we studied them we realised that they were all remarkably similar. The object travelling across the sky had a shiny base with a dark domed top. Later, we also made a model of what we saw.

Our headmaster contacted RAF Valley to check if there had been low flying aircraft in the area, but there hadn’t been. There was no explanation for what we saw. At the time there was a lot of interest in the sighting, both in the local and national press. TV cameras came to the school and I remember that our story was featured in the Daily Mirror. I didn’t worry about what I’d seen that day. But sometimes if there’s a nice clear evening sky, I’ll look up and wonder if there’s something out there. Back in 1977 we hadn’t heard of UFOs and had no preconceived idea of what a UFO would look like – I just drew a picture of what I had seen."

(The MOD files are held at the National Archives under DEFE 24/1206 but coronavirus has put them off limits. Govt, in its infinite wisdom, only released the UFO files in easily downloadable form from 1978 onwards...)



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Weird Wales



Tuesday, 26 January 2021

The Childcare Offer for Wales

Introducing the Childcare Offer for Wales

Have you heard about the Childcare Offer for Wales? If you're a working parent of a 3 or 4 year old child you could be eligible for up to 30 hours a week of early education and childcare.

What difference could that kind of support make to your family?

Welsh Government's Childcare Offer for Wales campaign have put together a really cute video asking toddlers what they would do with a bit of extra money, resulting in answers ranging from buying 'a blue dolphin' to 'Portugal'! Marianna's not quite a toddler anymore but I put the question to her all the same.

Sweets and Chocolate

Indeed.

Regardless of what your own answer would be, most working parents of 3 to 4 year olds can now claim funds towards the cost of childcare. 



What would support towards childcare costs mean to your family?

How does the Childcare Offer for Wales work?

It covers the cost of up to 30 hours of childcare and early education for children aged 3 to 4. This is split into two components: a minimum of 10 hours of Foundation Phase Nursery (FPN) provision, and a maximum of 20 hours of childcare from a provider registered with Care Inspectorate Wales (CIW).

The Childcare Offer for Wales funding is available for up to 48 weeks of the year, including up to 9 weeks of school holidays. The exact allocation is dependent on when the Offer is taken up, so it's advisable to double check with your childcare provider how many funded hours you can claim during school holidays.

The Government funds the nursery or childcare provider directly so they can deduct the funded hours from your bill. You may still need to pay transport and lunch fees.



Who is eligible?

Who is eligible?

In short, the working parents or guardians of a 3 or 4 year old child and this applies to two parent and lone parent families.  

The parent (or guardian) must be working the equivalent of 16 hours a week on average. They need to earn at least minimum wage, but less than £100,000 gross per annum. Parents will need to evidence to the local authority that they are eligible. 

People who are self-employed or on zero hour contracts will need to be able to provide documentation to prove their status and that they normally meet the eligibility criteria. There are exemptions available for people on statutory sick or maternity/paternity pay, those affected by Covid-19 restrictions, and households where one parent/carer is not in work due to disability or significant caring responsibilities (as evidenced by the benefits they receive). 

In other words, most working parents of a 3 or 4 year old child will be eligible for the Childcare Offer for Wales. If you fall into a grey area and aren't sure of your eligibility, get in touch with your local Family Information Service (FIS) which will have the latest information and advice. 



How Do I Apply?

How do I apply?

Applications for the Childcare Offer for Wales are open right now across Wales. In Torfaen you should apply via the Blaenau Gwent Childcare Team

You will need to submit copies of:
  • Child's birth certificate or passport.
  • Proof of address. (e.g. utility or council tax bill)
  • Last three months' wage slips. (If part of a couple you must each provide your last three months’ wage slips, or self-employed earnings evidence. However, if one of you are in receipt of a qualifying benefit, you will need to provide evidence of this).
You can typically expect acknowledgement of your application within 10 working days. Parents will be issued with a unique reference number and a childcare booking form that will need to be completed with your chosen childcare setting. Please note that funding for the Offer will not begin until a start date has been confirmed and the application process has been completed. 

Funding will not be back dated, so make sure you apply in good time. 



We looked at the initial Torfaen roll out of the Childcare Offer for Wales at Education Scrutiny Committee in 2019. Here's a video we were shown at the time of how the Offer had been benefitting local parents:


The whole idea of the Childcare Offer for Wales is to make life a little easier for working parents. Not only will it help with childcare costs, meaning you have a bit of extra money each month, it will also give you more flexibility in how and when you can work. 

For more information, check out the Childcare Offer for Wales Facebook page



Childcare Offer for Wales


Disclosure: This post has been commissioned by the Welsh Government and is a paid collaboration. 


Monday, 25 January 2021

ABBA Dolls

ABBA

ABBA there, in all their 1970s glory. After winning the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest for Sweden, ABBA set about world domination with their catchy pop songs. Matchbox released a line of 9" ABBA dolls in 1978, complete with a range of accompanying fashions. 



ABBA Dolls

Benny - box front / box back.

ABBA Doll Advert
ABBA Doll Fashions

★ Money Money - box front / box back.
★ Jumpsuit - box front / box back.
★ Japanese Set - box front / box back.
★ White and Gold - box front / box back.

ABBA Doll Fashions



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Dolls



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