A minigolf revisit, a Dalek, Bar Billiards and no Laser Tag - a trip to Milton Keynes & Northampton.
On Monday 20th February Emily and I headed off on a trip to Milton Keynes and Northampton.
We’ve been to MK a number of times and on my last visit I had faced-off against fellow Minigolfer Marc ‘The Roller’ Bazeley in the "MK Winter Sporting Challenge". We would have a re-match of sorts in Northampton later in the day.
Before heading to the Centre: MK for some shopping we stopped off at Willen Lake to see if the minigolf course there was open. It wasn’t. We previously played the course in July 2007 when it became the 29th course played on our Crazy World of Minigolf Tour.
Last July we had played a Crazy Golf course at the Centre: MK, unfortunately there was nothing going on in the Middleton Hall area on this occasion (we’d also found some great Gluten Free Meat there in March 2011). But wandering around the shopping centre we did spot a Dalek and an Only Fools & Horses Reliant Regal!?
We then headed back on the M1 up to Northampton. It’s somewhere we’ve never, properly, visited before. On the way to the Manchester Miniature Open minigolf competition in 2009 the hire car we were driving had caught fire just outside Northampton Services and we’d received a tow to the rental office in the town, but that’s as far as we’d previously got.
This time though we managed a good walk around the town centre and it was a nice enough place to spend the afternoon.
In the Tourist Information Centre we had spotted a leaflet for the Laser Force arena in the town centre and ahead of meeting up with Northamptonshire’s number one Crazy Golfer Marc ‘The Roller’ Bazeley we decided to scout it out.
First off we looked inside the Sol Central leisure complex, but couldn’t find the laser tag. We did however find an Amusement Arcade that was closed.
We eventually found the arena, but unfortunately the Laser Force laser tag at Sol Central is closed on Mondays (except in holidays).
From the posters and adverts outside it looks like a good set-up and we’d like to play there in the future. It’s also got a ‘Machine City’ zone! I wonder what fellow Laser Tagger Oliver ‘The Machine’ Florence knows about this?
Even more disappointing was the fact that, as with the Peterborough version, they also have a Boom-A-Rang Air Hockey Table!
We met up with ‘The Roller’ who took us on a bit of a mystery tour of the bits of the town centre we’d not yet seen. The undoubted highlight of this was visiting “the third most hated building in Britain” – the town’s Greyfriars Bus Station. While posing for a photo outside it we also got a beep from a passing car!?
With the Laser Tag closed, a dearth of Miniature Golf in Northampton and the other Laser Maze in the town centre now closed down we headed to the Crown & Anchor pub for the main-event of the day’s contest – Bar Billiards.
We found the table in a corner of the quite spacious Crown & Anchor pub and luckily no one was playing. We did notice that Monday nights were competition nights in the Northants Bar Billiards Association! With league games played between 7.30pm and 10.30pm.
With Marc having beaten me in the Milton Keynes Winter Sports Challenge, picking up a win in the Pool discipline on his way to ultimate victory (despite having to play half way inside a Hurricane Simulator on a table with an ‘adverse camber’) I was right to be wary of him as an opponent, even if it was his 'debut' playing of the game of Bar Billiards.
In our first head-to-head match-up, Umpired by Emily, Marc picked up the win with a final score of 190 points. I had notched up a score of 800, but this was lost as I knocked down the dreaded Black Peg on the last ball shoot-out.
Almost inevitably in our second game – a triple-threat match including Emily – the balls failed to be released from the table after putting our pound coin in, so we had to get ‘The Man’. However, as this was not a seaside Amusement Arcade (aka 'The Buttons') Emily refused to get #TheMan, so I had to ask at the bar.
The table was promptly fixed and the balls released. As an added bonus we got a chance to see the ‘inner workings’ of a Bar Billiards table as the top section had to be lifted up to get at the ball release mechanism!
In the three-way-dance match I scored a win with a final score of 750 points, with Marc and Emily both knocking down the Black Peg to wipe-out their scores of 400 and 340 respectively.
In the games we seemed to favour the top-left-hand corner of the table and the balls seemed to ‘collect’ here quite often!
Game three was another one-on-one match between me and ‘The Roller’ and was another victory for Marc, this time with a 660 points to zero score-line after I’d wiped-out from 1,050! Marc also picked up his ‘career best’ break with a score of 530 points in one visit to the table, after I had opened with my ‘day best’ of 350 with my first three shots following the start.
The final game saw Marc pick up his third win on 'home soil' with a score of 1,090 to zero, as I once again knocked down the Black Peg as the ball dropped into the 200-hole. On this occasion the result would not have been affected even if I had potted the last ball cleanly without hitting the peg, as under the watchful eye of the Umpire both players were forced to ‘go for it’ in the last ball shoot-out!
Commenting on his Bar Billiards victories Marc ‘The Roller’ Bazeley said “I’ve still got some way to go before I’m mixing it with the Pros, but it was a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon nonetheless.”
After the fun of the Bar Billiards we went for another wander around town and headed to (the) Shipmans pub on (the) Drapery for a drink. Unfortunately there were no pub games on offer in this long, thin pub. We did however discuss the game of "Hood Skittles", which is now on our list of Pub Games to play!
To round off our fun day in Northampton we headed to The Church Bar & Restaurant on Bridge Street as we had spotted they offered a Gluten Free menu. The food and surroundings were excellent.
It, and Northampton as a whole, is worth a visit.