Thorpe Park with Trevor McDonald. Rides, cries and lost luggage

Just spent the day at Thorpe Park as a sexy backdrop for the filming of a Tonight with Trevor McD I’m presenting on reclaiming unfair bank charges. Lots to tell, so I’ve split the blog into three bits – the rides, the terrible unfairness of the story of the family I interviewed, and m’lost luggage!

You spin me right round, baby right round!

It’s my first ‘theme park filming’ experience, and it kicked off with a bang. Straight onto the Nemesis rollercoaster to do a piece to camera with legs dangling (you’re hung underneath the ride). The pressure is on, as make a mistake and you need to wait to do it again. Now I never do my pieces to camera scripted, I do it freehand, but still I made a little fluff first time, but think I got it spot on (I hope) the next two.

It still needed four consecutive rides to get all the shots though, while the production crew smugly watched from the sidelines, barring brave Suzanne the researcher, who sat next to me so I didn’t look like a sad man riding alone! Interestingly after the first ride, the fear goes. By the fourth time, there’s not even a spot of adrenaline, just a little nausea.

Yet that was peanuts compared to the next one. After a few tame shots, it was onto the free-fall Detonator ride. Here you sit in a chair at the bottom of a huge tower, you’re then whisked upward at about 50-75m (at a guess), and sit on the top, at which point it free-falls back to earth.

This is a seriously high ride, so your natural instincts are to lean backwards and not look down. And everyone else was sensibly doing that. Sadly, as I was talking to the camera, which was positioned on the ground, I had to look at it leaning forward in the chair to do so. This really wasn’t a pleasant experience, as I suspect you’ll see when it’s shown (currently planned for 5 June). So much so, that after the third take, all done for different angles, when the tittering film crew, all of whom were safely anchored to the ground this time, asked me to go again I ‘politely’ declined!

Martin on the rollercoaster

Benefits and banks don’t add up

In the afternoon it was time to meet the case study Chrissie, and her lovely family; she’s a single mum with three kids living at home (and two older ones). I have to say the tale made me genuinely angry.

This is a single mum, who is a carer for her son, and on benefits. Two years ago, for no reason, the benefits office failed to pay in for a couple of weeks. And the same situation repeated itself recently. The bank thus charged her for going over her limit, and some of her Direct Debits failed to pay out. This of course, understandably, left her finances in turmoil, and once behind, she had no money to catch up, meaning more charges, and the charges snowballing. Now she’ has debts of £3,600 because of it, which of course she has no way to pay off.

So there I am the ‘Money Saving Expert’, yet frankly there was no way out, pure impotence; not only is there no real solution, but she also hasn’t made any past mistakes herself. This is not a frivolous woman – our conversation ran something like this: did you budget? Yes, carefully. Do you overspend? No, we never buy new; we sell the kids’ stuff at car boot sales to buy new stuff. Did you ask benefits office to help? Yes, but wouldn’t. Did you ask bank to cut back charges? Yes, but wouldn’t.

What other solution is there? Based on an admin error she now may have to declare bankruptcy. The one hope is she will get a big chunk of these charges back…. and we can only cross our fingers (see Reclaim Unfair Bank Charges article).

My bag, my bag, a lock-cutter for my bag!

Having started early, I wanted to leave the park at 6.30pm for the hour and a half drive to Newbury for a meeting, then early (6.30am ugh) filming for something else in the morning.

Not a chance. When arriving I’d left my laptop and bag in the internal staff security area. Yet it was a little too safe. The park shuts at 5, but we filmed until 6 and security had already left for the night, my stuff locked away and no spare key!

So while the crew departed, I sat waiting, eating more and more packs of crisps from the dispenser while the person who had the keys to the key cupboard, which had the keys to the engineering store room, where the bolt cutter was located, so the padlock which clamped the security gate down, could be found. Unfortunately, finding them wasn’t easy; it took an hour and a half before I rejoiced at hearing the snap of metal.

One lovely outcome of the day though was the kids had an amazing time at Thorpe Park. Obviously on Chrissie’s budget, theme parks and many treats are totally out of the question, so a day out with us, with everything paid for is a rare experience. Best of all, the “throw the ball and win a teddy bear??? type games where the price soon adds up at £1 a pop, were needed in filming with the kids too. You should have seen the littlest girl (aged 5’s) face when she won a giant cuddly toy – it was beautiful!

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PS. A big hello to the nice MoneySavers who came up to me while there and said Hi. And a special hello to the kind father and two daughters who asked me to sign their tickets as “we got them after reading about the two for one on the site anyway!???