“Random encounters with the unusual” is a repository for the oddities that me and Mrs J have encountered on our travels, which we find interesting or amusing in some way. Have a look, maybe you will find something interesting or amusing herein.

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Hunting for the Lego Simpsons!

Note 15/05/2015 - my feel guide for Lego Simpsons Series 2 can be found here

In a slight departure from "random encounters with the unusual" I want to post some advice for those Lego fans out there who are about to commence their hunt for the Lego Simpsons minifigures, which have just been released.

To assist fellow hunters I will give you an overview of:

1) the chances for finding a particular character in a box of 60 minifigures;
2) a guide for what to feel for when trying to identify each character in the blind bags;
3) a guide to the bump / dot codes that can be found on the packets.

So here we go...

Lego Simpsons Character Distribution in a box a 60. 

From a single box of 60 minifigures (yes I know this is only a sample size of 1) the character distribution that I achieved is shown below. I understand that in previous series of Lego minifigures that the distribution of characters per box was fixed and not random, so on this basis I believe that the distribution below will be common across all boxes.

1) 5 x Homer Simpson
2) 5 x Bart Simpson
3) 5 x Marge Simpson
4) 4 x Lisa Simpson
5) 4 x Maggie Simpson
6) 3 x Abe Simpson
7) 4 x Ned Flanders
8) 4 x Krusty the Clown
9) 3 x Milhouse Van Houten
10) 3 x Ralph Wiggum
11) 3 x Apu
12) 3 x Nelson Muntz
13) 4 x Itchy
14) 4 x Scratchy
15) 3 x Chief Wiggum
16) 3 x Mr Burns

In previous minifigure series, in a single box of 60 you would only expect to get two complete sets of minifigures as some of the characters were rather rare (with only 2 occurrences in a box of 60) and some of the characters were rather common (with 6 occurrences in a box of 60). So in comparison to these, the Lego Simpsons character distribution seems more even that previous series, making it easier to find the character you want. In this box of 60 I was pleasantly surprised to achieve 3 full sets of characters, based on previous experience I was only expecting to achieve 2 full sets!

A feeling guide for Lego Simpsons minifigures.

When hunting for Lego minifigures in blind bags, the best method for confidently identifying the character you want is by feeling the components in the packet and targeting the distinguishing components for that character.

To start off, once you grab a blind bag, shake it. Shaking the packet well helps to ensure that all of the small loose components drop down to the bottom of the bag. Once you have done this, you need to feel the packet for the components that will help you to identify the character you want. Here is a quick look at what key components make specific characters easy to identify.

1) Homer Simpson

Homer can easily be identified by feeling for his small round doughnut or his TV remote control (a 1x2 tile). He is the only character with either of these components, which makes him easy to identify.

2) Bart Simpson

With Bart the easiest thing to spot is his skateboard, which is large and hard to miss. The two studs on the topside of the skateboard also make it easy to confirm what it is. It is worth noting that sometimes the wheels of the skateboard will be attached to the skateboard and sometimes they will be loose. So if you find a dumbbell shaped object, you may well have a loose skateboard wheel.

3) Marge Simpson

Marge can be easily identified by her hair, which is a large cylinder and can be quickly located in the blind bag.

4) Lisa Simpson

Lisa's key identifying feature is her saxophone, which is long and thin with a distinctive bend that means it can be easily distinguished from Nelsons baseball bat or Mr. Burns' green rod. If in doubt, check for Lisa's legs, which unlike Mr. Burns', do not bend. It is worth noting that Scratchy has a long thin bendy tail which could be confused with the saxophone, so it is worth while checking for Lisa's short legs, just to be sure.

5) Maggie Simpson

Maggie has two distinguishing features to enable her to be identified. Firstly feel for her teddy bear, which can be identified by its arms. Maggie is also distinctive as her torso and legs are a single piece, unlike all of the other characters who have separate torso and leg sections.

6) Abe Simpson

Abe is one of the harder characters to identify as his only accessory is a 2x2 tile, which 3 other characters also have. So if you find his 2x2 tile (his newspaper), then feel for his legs (which bend unlike Ralph's and Milhouse's, so they can be eliminated). So now you need to work out if it is Abe of Marge. Marge's long cylindrical hair is easy to identify, so if this is not present you have Abe! Abe's head is cone shaped, so you can also try to feel for this just to be sure.

7) Ned Flanders

Ned can be found rather quickly by feeling for his tool box, which is essentially a 1x3 brick with the handle on the top. His cup is also distinctive, which has a handle, unlike Apu's cup.

8) Krusty the Clown

When looking for Krusty, the best tactic is to feel for his head. His head is a relatively large piece and his pointy hair that sticks out at the sides makes it easy to identify. Krusty's round custard pie is also a useful piece to help you confirm his identity.

9) Milhouse Van Houten & 10) Ralph Wiggum

Milhouse and Ralph can be rather tricky to distinguish from each other. Both of these characters have a 2x2 tile and both have children’s (inflexible) legs. So once you find a 2x2 tile and then find legs that do not bend (so you are sure that you have a child and not Abe or Marge), you are left having to feel the head to work out if you have Milhouse or Ralph. Ralph's head is rather round with a flat top, as opposed to Milhouse's, which is more elongated and has some bumps (his quiff). So careful feeling of the heads is the only way forward! Good Luck!

11) Apu

Apu is nice and easy to find, just feel for his cup. Just be careful to ensure it has no handle however, else you have Ned!

12) Nelson Muntz

The key to finding Nelson is looking for his long thin baseball bat, just ensure it has no head, otherwise you may have Scratchy's axe. Once you have this, just checking for his short legs will ensure that you have the right guy.

13) Itchy

Itchy's bulbous club which has a thin handle is a good way to identify him. His large round ears are also relatively easy to locate, making him fairly simple to identify.

14) Scratchy

Scratchy's main feature is his axe, which has a long thin handle and a flat head. If you find this and want further confirmation, then check for his head, which has sharp pointed ears. Scratchy also has a thin bendy tail, which can sometimes be confused with Lisa's saxophone.

15) Chief Wiggum

The Chief's night stick and his loud hailer are a dead give away. His night stick is short and stubby and the handle can be easily felt. Further to this, his cylindrical loud hailer with its 90 degree handle is also easy to locate.

16) Mr. Burns

Monty has a fish bowl which is the same size and shape as a regular Lego minifigure head, so this is simple to identify. To confirm you have the right character it is also worthwhile looking for his nuclear rod, which is a long thin cylinder (the same piece as the “blade” on a Lego Star Wars light sabre).

Lego Simpson Bump / Dot Codes

The below pictures show the bumps codes on the reverse of each minifigure packet, which may also help Lego hunters identify which minifigure is which. The bump codes have been enhanced with black marker pen to make sure that they stand out in the pictures. These pictures come with a disclaimer however. Firstly these bump codes are for minifigures bought in the UK, I understand that the codes may vary from country to country. Secondly the bump codes for some of the figures (particularly Ralph) are faint and hard to spot. So whilst I have taken care to identify the codes, and have cross checked the bumps across multiple packets, there may remain the odd mistake!

01 - Bump Code for Homer Simpson

02 - Bump Code for Bart Simpson

03 - Bump Code for Marge Simpson

04 - Bump Code for Lisa Simpson

05 - Bump Code for Maggie Simpson

06 - Bump Code for Abe Simpson

07 - Bump Code for Ned Flanders

08 - Bump Code for Krusty the Clown

09 - Bump Code for Milhouse Van Houten

10 - Bump Code for Ralph Wiggum

11 - Bump Codes for Apu

12 - Bump Code for Nelson Muntz

13 - Bump Code for Itchy

14 - Bump Code for Scratchy

15 - Bump Code for Chief Wiggum

16 - Bump Code for Mr Burns

I hope this guide will help some fellow Lego hunters find the characters they want with ease and help to remove the curse of getting duplicates of characters by buying the minifigures totally blind!

Happy hunting!

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Thursday, 24 April 2014

Maud Heath's Causeway

On Wick Hill, near the village of Bremhill in Wiltshire, stands a monument to a lady called Maud Heath. The monument which was erected in 1838 consists of a plinth which is capped off by the statue of a lady in a bonnet. The base of the plinth bears the inscription: "Thou who dost pause on this aerial height - Where Maud Heath's Pathway winds in shade and light - Christian wayfarer in a world of strife - Be still and consider the Path of Life".

It seems that Maud Heath was a local 15th Century land owner, who held properties in both Langley Burrell and Chippenham and who is remembered locally for a folly that she commissioned.

Maud was apparently concerned that the local people from the villages of Bremhill, Foxham, Tytherton and Langley Burrell were having difficulties getting from their villages to the market in Chippenham, as they had to cross the marshy River Avon floodplain (a route that Maud had seemingly used for most of her life herself). So in response to her concern, in June 1474 (the year of her death) Maud provided a trust with the finance to enable a 4.5 mile cobble causeway to be built from Wick (in Bremhill) to Chippenham. This causeway was further improved by the trust in 1811 when the part of the causeway that crossed the River Avon was updated to include a bridge made up of 64 small brick arches. These brick arches can still be seen today as they raise the footpath up above the level of the local road that follows the route of the causeway - a road which is still shown on OS Maps today as "Maud Heath's Causeway".

The monument to Maud Heath on Wick Hill.

Maud wearing her bonnet.
The inscription at the base of the monument.
A marker near the monument on Wick Hill.
The bridge on the causeway which crosses the River Avon.

Looking along the bridge.
The church at the start of the bridge.

Pictures, Wiltshire (April 2014).

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Sunday, 13 April 2014

Andover’s History of Land Speed Records

Let me start by saying that I don't have a fetish for pedestrian underpasses. However, sometimes the art work in pedestrian underpasses needs photographing before it's destroyed by other less able artists.

The first piece of underpass artwork that caught my attention was a mural in Woking, which summarised the destruction of Woking by the Martin Tripods in H.G. Wells' "The War of the Worlds". My eye was caught again this month whilst I was walking through Andover. Between Junction Road and the town centre there is an underpass that is adorned with pictures of vehicles that have previously held land speed records. The mural was too good to just pass by, so I had to stop and take some pictures.  

Working from the dates and speeds that are shown on the mural I believe the vehicles depicted are those in the below table. However, it should be noted that some of the speeds detailed in the mural differ from those quoted on Wikipedia, also it seems that some records were measured over a mile and some over a kilometre, which gives some variability to the numbers. It is also interesting that the mural depicts a vehicle called “Goldenrod” from 1965, which going by Wikipedia was not a record holder as it was slower than “Green Monster” from 1964!

Power Source
Record (mph)
Jeantaud Duc
La Jamais Contente
Oeuf de Pâques
Ford 999 Racer
Internal Combustion
Stanley Rocket
Benz No 3
200 hp (150 kW)
Internal Combustion
Sunbeam 350HP
Internal Combustion
Internal Combustion
Sunbeam Slug (Mystery) 1000HP
Blue Bird
Golden Arrow
Blue Bird
Internal Combustion
Railton Mobil Special
Internal Combustion
Blue Bird CN7
Green Monster
Internal Combustion
The Blue Flame
Thrust 2
Thrust SSC

So it seems that in the 100 years from 1898 to 1997 man increased his maximum land speed from 57.65 mph to an impressive 763.035 mph. So the question is, how much further can this record be pushed in the next 100 years? It seems that 1000 mph is only just around the corner!

The Underpass.

Blue Bird (1935) & Stanley Rocket (1906).
The Blue Flame (1970) & Goldenrod (1965).
Blue Bird CN7 (1964) & Benz No 3 (1914).
Golden Arrow (1929).
Green Monster (1964), Gardner-Serpollet Oeuf de Pâques (1902) & Blue Bird (1928).
Railton Mobil Special (1947) La Jamais Contente (1899).
Sunbeam Slug (1927), Sunbeam 350HP (1925), Ford 999 Racer (1904) Jeantaud Duc (1898).
Thrust 2 (1983) & Sunbeam (1925).
Thrust SSC (1997) & Unidentified! 
Pictures, Hampshire (April 2014).

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Friday, 4 April 2014

Not So Secret Bunkers

Back in February, after hearing about a local legend, I took a trip to Grovely Wood near Salisbury.

The legend in question is the legend of the Handsel sisters. As the story goes in 1737 four Danish sisters moved to the Wilton area and unfortunately for them, their arrival coincided with an outbreak of smallpox which killed 132 people. The locals believing that the sisters where responsible for the outbreak and branding them as witches, took them to Grovely Wood and bludgeoned them to death. The sisters were supposedly buried in the woods in four separate graves and it is said that the graves were marked by four gnarled beech trees, the largest of which is said to have a hollow at the back in which people leave offerings.

Armed with my Ordnance Survey map showing a section of Grovely Wood labelled as "Four Sisters" I set off in search of the four trees. Sadly however the gnarled beech trees remained elusive, possibly hidden amongst the numerous pines.

Walking back along the old Roman road that runs through the wood I did however happen across a bunker on the edge of the tree line. As can be seen from the pictures below, the bunker was very conveniently labelled with the word "Bunker".  Inside the bunker there is also some rather interesting graffiti. On the floor there was an arrow pointing to the far end of the bunker, with the words "Head Rush". Also on the far wall of the bunker there was a painted symbol which resembled a "W". All rather odd.

A quick look on the internet hints that the nearby farm (Oakley Farm) served as an RAF Ordnance Depot and Head Quarters during WW II and that Grovely Wood was used by the US Air Force as an ammunition depot. Grovely Wood was seemingly chosen for this purpose due to its proximity to main line rail stations such as Wylie. Apparently, bombs and shells were left stacked out in the open in the woods, and the less robust munitions (e.g. fuses) were stored in hundreds of small huts that were dotted around the wood. Given the military history of the site, presumably the bunker is related to this WW II heritage.

The bunker seen from the Roman Road.

The entrance to the bunker.

I would never have guessed!

Looking into the bunker.

"Head Rush"  - what does it mean?

"W" - what does it mean?

The "vent" at the far end of the bunker above the "W".

Having stumbled across a bunker in Grovely Wood in February, I was again surprised to stumble across another bunker last week whilst out wandering near the village of Upper Chute in Wiltshire. This bunker, whilst of the same approximate size as that in Grovely Wood, seemed to be of a different design, with the only apparent access way being a padlocked hatch on the top, as opposed to an open doorway at one end. The “Chute” bunker as I will call it, is in a small patch of wooded land next to the road, apparently left and forgotten. The only discernible features of this bunker were the entrance hatch, a bent pipe on the top of the bunker (possibly a ventilation pipe) and a long straight pipe protruding near the base of the bunker. Searching the internet provided no obvious clues as to the nature and purpose of this particular bunker.

The "Chute" bunker. The access hatch can be seen on the left end of the bunker, and the possible ventilation pipe can be seen on the right.

A pipe protruding from the bunker.

The entrance hatch and the possible ventilation pipe in the distance.

So if any readers know the location of the Handsel sister’s beech trees or knows more about these two bunkers, please let me know via the comments section below.

Pictures, Wiltshire (February & March 2014).

*** Update October 2014 ***

Following some very welcome advice from reader Mr Hodder I took another trip into Grovely Wood to track down the Handsel trees. Following Mr Hodder's instructions I found the trees easily, as the below pictures show. Three of the tress still stand, and one of the tress has a small hollow at the back of it where people have placed offerings. From a quick look some of the offerings include small plastic toys, beaded necklaces, plastic coins and some fabric items. For those who want to see the trees for themselves, they are approximately located at 51.100393, -1.900126.

The main avenue through Grovely Wood. 

The first Handsel tree.

A rear view of the first Handsel tree, note the hollow at the base.

Peering into the hollow, numerous offerings can be seen.

Another Handsel tree. Sadly this one has fallen.

The third Handsel tree.

The fourth Handsel tree.

Pictures, Wiltshire (October 2014).

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