Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Of trains and racing cars

We were very excited when we were invited to an event organised by Scalextric last Friday. The timing was perfect - just at the end of half term when you're running out of things to do. The trip to London meant a trip on the train - and although the children have been on trains before, they have never been on the fast trains that run down to London from here. When I told them where we were going, they were giddy with the anticipation of it all.

And who doesn't love Scalextric? As a girl from a family of girls, I was always a tad jealous of friends who had brothers as they would have some Scalextric to play with. Husband was pretty happy too, as he loved Scalextric as a child and more to the point, he'd got holiday booked which meant he could come along to his first blogger event.

A day trip to London means an early start from here so we were all up for 6. Actually, Monkey wasn't so my husband took great delight in waking him up - a small revenge for some of the early starts he's put him through! The sun rose as we reached Preston station and waited for our "London train" to arrive. We got on and found our seats - thankfully, a table of 4 to one end of a carriage. Monkey's eyes were wide as he took it all in and noticed how fast the train was going, even as we left the station. However, the novelty soon wore off, he got into playing on his DS and barely noticed a thing the rest of the way! Typical.

Missy Woo had another first - she'd never been on an underground train before. I don't think either could believe how busy and how many people there were (are we beginning to sound like hicks yet?). Amazingly, it all went swimmingly and we reached our destination with plenty of time to spare.

The children were keen to get playing with the Scalextric but had to wait a while for everything to be ready. We were greeted with the most enormous brownies and drinks - something which went down well, but we're talking children, so it created a holy mess! After a bit of a chat from the Scalextric marketing manager about the history of Scalextric (which is owned by Hornby) and the different types for different ages, we had a chance to get on with the important business of the day. Racing cars.

Each family was given a Cars 2 Scalextric Start set (which is suitable from 5 years) to set up a circuit and learning how to use the controls. Monkey decided to build the one that took up the most space but the children were soon racing - when they weren't careering their cars off the circuit! Then we put all the circuits together and had a championship between the children. This is when I came to realise just how competitive Monkey really is. He got upset when he got beat in the final by Pippa's Top Ender, and I mean real tears and bright red face. Luckily, we had lunch to distract him and a chance to play with some of the other toys out on display, including the Team GB Velodrome 2012 set.

As we finished lunch and prepared to leave, the Scalextric people let Monkey choose a set to take home. He chose the Maclaren Mercedes set featuring Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton. He was overjoyed that he could actually take it home with him as you can see here.

But then, they decided that as we had travelled such a long way that we could also take the James Bond set home too - containing the Aston Martins from Goldfinger and the remake of Casino Royale. Armed with a couple of balloons and a VW Beetle car, we staggered away overwhelmed (and overloaded!) by the generosity. It was quite interesting walking around London with 2 large sets of Scalextric, not least because we decided to call in at the Natural History Museum to show the children the dinosaur gallery and had to pay £6 to check them into the cloakroom - and we had to leave the balloons behind reception as well! But we managed to keep everything together, and finally got our train home - which was much much less fun as it was dark by then, and we finally got the children home and to bed by 9.30pm.

The next day, our house was overtaken by Scalextric sets! We put the circuits together as one - because you can do that with compatible sets - and tried all the different cars. Driving each car does take a bit of getting used to because, like full sized cars, they all have different features, cornering abilities and speed. We discovered the F1 cars didn't like the part of the James Bond circuit where the track narrows right down, and that it's really really easy to break off bits of the front of the racing cars - but then, Lewis Hamilton seems to need a new nose-cone quite regularly, so what's OK for him is OK for us (except we might need the superglue to fix it, whilst he has a pit crew to do it in 3.54 seconds or something). Husband loved the VW Beetle the best - particularly as it has headlights that do actually light up.

Since then, we've had circuits set up in the hallway - which is a bit perilous for the paintwork on the doors - before it has finally come to rest in the conservatory, where it still resides, readily set up for an impromptu race. Needless to say, the children LOVE playing races. I didn't think that Missy Woo would enjoy it as much as she does as she is really very girly but maybe having a big brother has given her an appreciation of cars, a lifelong obsession for him. And my husband? Well, he's just spent a whole load of time reliving his childhood. And we're already planning to buy accessories like a lap counter and some other cars as Christmas presents, although I am not sure whether they are for Monkey or for Daddy.

All in all, Scalextric was a memorable experience; Friday was a fantastic event, and the children had a really fantastic day from start to finish. We were completely blown away with their generosity; I was not expecting to come away with a whole set of Scalextric, let alone two. And they are fantastic; the sets are expensive but it will keep the children entertained for hours and hours when other toys keep their interest for a matter of minutes. It's something that you can add to and get endless variety of cars and track features. We didn't get as far as trying out a Scalextric Digital set (and they're eye-wateringly expensive; the Digital Platinum set costs £500!) but it looks like it can add further variety and features to add to the racing experience.

A huge thank you from all of us to Scalextric for an unforgettable half term day out. Oh, and by the way, your balloons rock. The two we trailed round London, on tubes, trains and a trip in the car are still full of helium and plastered to my living room ceiling five days later!

(Scalextric kindly paid our travel expenses to attend this event and provided lunch and refreshments whilst we were there. They also gave us the sets mentioned above to take away and a replica VW Beetle. I have not been paid any further compensation and I have not been told what to write. All words and opinions are my own.)

This post is an entry into the Tots100 Best Western School Holiday competition.

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