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Christmas Trees are coming! Be Prepared this December

Types of Christmas Trees

There are various types of Christmas trees available, and you must choose the one that is perfect for your home during the holiday season. There are various types, as you will see below:

Nordman Fir

The Norman Fir Christmas Tree barely drops its needles, making it the most popular choice in Modern times, due to the safety issues related to children and pets, and the sharp Christmas tree needles. They come in a range of shapes and sizes, and their needles are a lot fleshier.

Norway Spruce

The Norway Spruce Christmas tree, brings the classic smell of childhood to your home. Its needles do drop a lot more than other varieties, but it more than makes up for that with its beautiful smell, and really traditional tall and narrow shape.

Potted Christmas Trees

The Potted Christmas tree is a great choice if you would prefer your tree to last longer than just a few weeks, as potted trees are more likely to live on through the year, and be fine to use again a year later. The come in both varieties, the Nordman or Norway Spruce, and are often a little cheaper.

Where to buy a Christmas Tree

You can normally buy Christmas trees at your local garden centre, or check online for your nearest Christmas tree farm. Sapcote Garden Centre, Leicester, LE94LG, 01455 274049, (http://www.sapcotegc.co.uk/christmas/christmas-trees) has a range of Nordman Fir, and Norway Spruce Christmas trees for sale, and the price is the same as 2012.

Aldi takes on Fortnum and Mason with £76 wine for £19

aldi-forweb
Aldi has created a ‘super premium’ line of wines and spirits, including this Ducastaing 1973 Armagnac and award-winning Insuperable Solera Gran Reserva Brandy De Jerez Photo: Telegraph, Aldi

Budget supermarket Aldi has begun selling a “super premium” range of
wines and spirits at heavily-reduced prices in an attempt to lure christmas
shoppers from Fortnum & Mason and Selfridges.

The German store, better known for undercutting Tesco and Sainsbury’s, said
its upmarket drinks were less than a quarter of the price charged for wines
and spirits “of the same prestige”.

The range includes a Ducastaing 1973 Armagnac for £24.99 and a Glen Marnoch 18
Year Old Single Malt Whisky for £29.99 – both of which Aldi claims are more
than £60 cheaper than “comparable bottles available elsewhere”.

Among the high-end wines is Chateau Pajzos Tokaji Aszu 6 Puttonyos 2008, a
rare and highly regarded Hungarian dessert wine priced at £18.99.

The vineyard’s wines have scored 92 out of 100 on average, according to Wine-Searcher,
a respected internet database, and typically cost £60 a bottle.

The 2008 vintage won gold from the International Wine Challenge, with Aldi
claiming it normally retailed for £76 a bottle.

By comparison, Fortnum and Mason and Selfridges sold the “inferior”
5 Puttonyos Tokaji for £23.50 and £35.99, respectively, Aldi said.

Aldi has earned considerable
praise for its wines and spirits at taste tests
, being named wine
retailer of the year by Wotwine, a wine app, which used four members of the
Institute of Masters of Wine as judges.

The discount store now attracts £5 of every £100 spent in British
supermarkets, according to analysts Kantar Worldpanel, and the new range is
part of Aldi’s attempt to appeal to the middle classes.

Tony Baines of Aldi said: “It is no secret that our shopper demographic has
evolved. We’re confident this new range will appeal to both existing and new
Aldi shoppers.”

The Chevalier XO Cognac priced at £29.99, Insuperable Solera Gran Reserva
Brandy De Jerez at £15.99 and Maynard’s 10 Year Old Tawny Port £9.99, a
bronze medal winner at the International Wine Challenge, make up the rest of
the Aldi range. On average, the cost was 78 per cent less than usual prices,
Aldi said.

>> Aldi has put together the following table to show the discounts
available. If you find cheaper prices than those listed, please leave
comments for other readers below.

PRODUCT

ALDI PRICE

MARKET PRICE OF COMPARABLE DRINKS

SAVINGS

Chateau Pajzos Tokaji Aszu 6 Puttonyos 2008 (75cl)

£18.99

2008 Tokaji Betsek, 6 Puttonyos (50cl) £76.00 bbr.com

£57.01 (75% less)

Ducastaing 1973 Armagnac (50cl)

£24.99

1973 Delord Freres Armagnac (50cl) £89.97 vintagewinegifts.co.uk

£64.98 (72% less)

Glen Marnoch 18 Year Old Single Malt Whisky (70cl)

£29.99

Highland Park 18 Year Old Orkney Malt Whiskey (70cl) £90.59 thedrinkshop.com

£60.60 (67% less)

Maynard’s 10 Year Old Tawny Port (75cl)

£9.99

Taylor’s 10 year old Tawny Port (75cl) £25.00 majestic.co.uk

£15.01 (60% less)

Chevalier XO Cognac (70cl)

£29.99

Croizet XO Cognac (70cl) £69.95 thewhiskeyexchange.com

£39.96 (57% less)

Insuperable Solera Gran Reserva Brandy De Jerez (70cl)

£15.99

Lepanto Solera Gran Reserva Brandy De Jerez (70cl) £41.29 ocado.com

£23.97 (61% less)

Source: Aldi research

Christmas Trees

A touch of frost: Swathes of the UK wake up to a wintery wonderland

Clear skies led to frosty fields and stunning sunrises across England and
Wales. Here are some of the best photographs from around the country as we
experience our first significant drop in temperature since summer.

Golden sunlight bathes the Civil War ruins of Corfe Castle in Dorset

Picture: Andy Farrer/BNPS

Christmas Trees

Watchdog probing claims Ann Barnes drove without insurance

  • Ann Barnes’ soft-top Mercedes collided with another car and a tree
  • Kent police commissioner was allegedly driving without proper insurance
  • Now investigators will probe if police officer was ‘obstructed in the execution of their duty’
  • Mrs Barnes under renewed pressure after her documentary ‘fiasco’
  • There were calls for her to resign over her ‘crime onion’ and other gaffes
  • Furore over role started after her youth crime tsar resigned over tweets  

By

Martin Robinson for MailOnline


Published:
07:53 EST, 25 November 2014

|
Updated:
09:10 EST, 25 November 2014

A probe into whether a controversial police and crime commissioner was properly insured during a car crash has been widened amid claims an investigating officer was obstructed.

Ann Barnes, who earns £85,000-a-year as Kent’s crime tsar, was driving her Mercedes sports car when she was involved in a collision in Dartford two months ago.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) is already probing whether she committed a criminal offence by not having proper insurance to cover business use of her own car.

But today the police watchdog said its team is now examining whether a police officer was ‘obstructed in the execution of their duty’ when initial inquiries into her insurance cover were being made by her force, Kent Police.

Fresh investigation: The Independent Police Complaints Commission has said it will consider if a police officer was 'obstructed in the execution of their duty' after Ann Barnes crashed her Mercedes, pictured

Fresh investigation: The Independent Police Complaints Commission has said it will consider if a police officer was ‘obstructed in the execution of their duty’ after Ann Barnes crashed her Mercedes, pictured

New probe: Kent PCC Ann Barnes, pictured with battle bus 'Ann Force One', is being probed over whether she was properly insured in a crash

New probe: Kent PCC Ann Barnes, pictured with battle bus ‘Ann Force One’, is being probed over whether she was properly insured in a crash

Mrs Barnes’s latest troubles began on September 16 when her soft-top Mercedes crashed into another car and then a tree as she drove to a meeting in Dartford. 

She suffered only minor injuries and later tweeted: ‘Not feeling too bright today, but OK.’ 

If Mrs Barnes is prosecuted on a charge of driving without insurance, she could be fined £300 and hit with six penalty points on her licence.

An IPCC spokesman said: ‘The IPCC is investigating whether the police and crime commissioner for Kent, Ann Barnes, may have committed a criminal offence by not having in place appropriate insurance to cover business use of her own car when she was involved in a road traffic accident on 16 September 2014.

‘The investigation will also determine how long the relevant insurance was not in place, if that is the case, and how many miles the PCC travelled on business use while uninsured.

‘The IPCC is also investigating whether a police constable was obstructed in the execution of their duty when initial inquiries into the PCC’s insurance cover were being made by Kent Police.’

The office for Mrs Barnes, who was shaken but uninjured in the crash, said no comment would be made on the latest update from the IPCC until after its investigation had ended.

Ann Barnes has faced calls to resign and has at times been widely ridiculed since she took office in 2012.

Her first major gaffe came when she appointed Paris Brown, then aged 17, as Britain’s first youth crime commissioner.

But Paris Brown later resigned from the £15,000-a-year job after making offensive comments on her Twitter feed.

She wrote the offensive messages on her personal Twitter account, which also included boasts about her sex life, violence, drinking binges and drugs.

In trouble: Kent Police and Crime Commissioner Ann Barnes with her 'Onion' diagram explaining police priorities, but when asked to explain what it meant she said: 'Oh God, I've got no idea' 

In trouble: Kent Police and Crime Commissioner Ann Barnes with her ‘Onion’ diagram explaining police priorities, but when asked to explain what it meant she said: ‘Oh God, I’ve got no idea’ 

Repeat: The Cutting Edge documentary producer also asked her to name crimes towards the outer rings of the onion and again said, 'no idea'

Repeat: The Cutting Edge documentary producer also asked her to name crimes towards the outer rings of the onion and again said, ‘no idea’

Pressure: The storm over the documentary culminated in a rented plane flying over Maidstone, where she works, dragging a banner reading '#annbarnesout - resign'.

Pressure: The storm over the documentary culminated in a rented plane flying over Maidstone, where she works, dragging a banner reading ‘#annbarnesout – resign’.

Then later Miss Brown’s replacement was temporarily suspended over allegations of a relationship with a married former councillor. 

ANN-ISMS AND OTHER SCANDALS

On her documentary: ‘The only reason I agreed to do the documentary was to help people better understand the role of police and crime commissioner. It is very complex and there are lots of challenges. Unfortunately I don’t think the programme did that and I’m deeply sorry’. 

When asked about her job:‘Oh dear, what is a police commissioner? Right, well it’s not
the Police Commissioner, it’s the Police and Crime Commissioner.

‘It’s
a strange job because there is actually no description at all – there
are certain responsibilities you have to do, but there is no actual job
description.’

On
what her ‘Crime Onion’ meant:
‘Oh God, I’ve got no idea – I can’t tell
you actually – I wasn’t thinking I’d be talking about the actual onion
(the concentric circles) as we call it – umm I don’t know know really –
everything’s important.’ 

On
her Ann Force One battle bus:
 ’My budget is £317million, £15,000 is
money well spent – I could have had a top of range Mercedes, but it’s
not my image.’ Mrs Barnes was then seen driving her personal Mercedes.

On resignation of Paris Brown: ‘I was not recruiting an angel. I was not recruiting a police officer. I was recruiting a young person, warts and all. It is personally sad for Paris and her family’

In June Mrs Barnes said she was ‘deeply sorry’ for her ‘toe-curling’ appearance on a fly-on-the-wall television documentary about her job – but refused to quit.

She was filmed saying she had ‘no idea’ what her taxpayer-funded job entailed in an hour-long Channel Four show branded a ‘disaster from start to finish’.

Mrs Barnes was widely criticised for her performance on Meet The Police Commissioner where she was compared to David Brent and accused of making Kent Police a ‘laughing stock’.

The storm culminated in a rented plane flying over Maidstone, where she works, dragging a banner reading ‘#annbarnesout – resign’.

The documentary, aired on May 29, showed Mrs Barnes travelling in a van she dubs ‘Ann Force 1 and bringing her dogs into the office.

In one clip Mrs Barnes was seen drawing an onion in an attempt to explain what types of crime Kent Police prioritises.

But when asked what the rings meant she said: ‘Oh God, I’ve got no idea – I can’t tell you actually – I wasn’t thinking I’d be talking about the actual onion (the concentric circles) as we call it – umm I don’t know know really – everything’s important.’

She is then asked: ‘So what would be an example of the kind of crime on the outside of that ring?’, to which she replies that he had ‘no idea’. 

The documentary, aired on May 29, showed Mrs Barnes travelling in a van she dubs ‘Ann Force 1′ and bringing her dogs into the office.

She said: ‘My budget is £317million, £15,000 is money well spent – I could have had a top of range Mercedes, but it’s not my image.’ 

Turned sour: Ann Barnes appointed Paris Brown as Britain's first youth crime commissioner but she resigned after it emerged she boasted about her sex life, violence, drinking binges and drugs online

Turned sour: Ann Barnes appointed Paris Brown as Britain’s first youth crime commissioner but she resigned after it emerged she boasted about her sex life, violence, drinking binges and drugs online

But later in the documentary she then pulled up at her office in her top of the range soft-top Mercedes.

In one scene she was also filmed painting her ‘flaky nails’.  

Xmas Holidays

Grand jury evidence reveals how Michael Brown taunted Darren Wilson

  • Evidence released by St Louis County prosecutor Robert McCulloch
  • Includes Darren Wilson’s testimony after shooting Michael Brown, 18
  • In document, Wilson claims teenager taunted him as he sat in his car
  • ‘He said, “You are too much of a p***y to shoot me,” the officer wrote
  • ‘When I grabbed him, the only way I can describe it is I felt like a five-year-old holding Hulk Hogan’
  • Comes hours after the grand jury’s decision not to indict was unveiled
  • Attorney Bob McCulloch revealed black teenager was fired at 12 times
  • Evidence also includes never-before-seen photos of Wilson’s injuries
  • So far there have been 61 arrests, 13 injuries – and no fatalities

By

Sophie Jane Evans for MailOnline

and
Daniel Bates In Ferguson, Missouri for MailOnline


Published:
00:50 EST, 25 November 2014

|
Updated:
09:08 EST, 25 November 2014

Explosive evidence heard by the grand jury in the Michael Brown shooting case has been released following the panel’s decision not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson.

The evidence, unveiled by St Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch on Monday night, includes the testimony of 28-year-old Wilson after he fatally shot the unarmed black 18-year-old on August 9. 

It also features never-before seen photos of the white officer’s injuries, clothing and car – from which he fired two rounds at Brown – witness statements and more than 1,000 other legal documents.

It comes just hours after McCulloch announced that the jury of seven men and five women found that ‘no probable cause exists’ to indict Wilson in the shooting in Ferguson, Missouri.  

SCROLL DOWN FOR VIDEO

Ferguson police officer: A horde of evidence heard by the grand jury in the Michael Brown shooting case has been released following the panel's decision not to indict Darren Wilson (pictured showing off his injuries)

Ferguson police officer: A horde of evidence heard by the grand jury in the Michael Brown shooting case has been released following the panel’s decision not to indict Darren Wilson (pictured showing off his injuries)

Released by officials: The officer appears to have slight bruising on his right cheek (pictured), lip and neck

Measuring: A doctor measures a red mark on Wilson's neck following Michael Brown's shooting on August 9

Measuring: A doctor measures a red mark on Wilson’s neck following Michael Brown’s shooting on August 9

Verdict: In the announcement, McCulloch (pictured) revealed Wilson fired at Brown 12 times: twice from a car, then a further ten times in the street from 125 yards away. Brown died 153 feet east of Wilson's car

Announcement: It comes just hours after McCulloch (left) announced that the jury of seven men and five women found that ‘no probable cause exists’ to indict Wilson in the shooting of Brown (right) in Ferguson

Shooting scene: Brown is pictured lying on the ground after being shot dead by Wilson on August 9 this year

Shooting scene: Brown is pictured lying on the ground after being shot dead by Wilson on August 9 this year

In his testimony, the officer described the moment he gunned down Brown – minutes after the ‘aggressive’ teenager taunted him by saying: ‘You’re too much of a f****** p***y to shoot me’.

Wilson said he felt overpowered by Brown, who weighed 289 lbs and stood at 6ft 5. Wilson, by comparison, is 210 lbs and 6ft 4.

‘When I grabbed him, the only way I can describe it is I felt like a five-year-old holding Hulk Hogan.’ 

Recounting how he shot six bullets into his body, Wilson told police: ‘One of those, however many of them, hit him in the head, and he went down right there.’

The officer said he was completely calm when he stopped Brown and his friend Dorian Johnson as they walked in a Ferguson street and told them: ‘Hey guys, why don’t you walk on the sidewalk?’

The pair then replied they were nearly home, prompting Wilson to say: ‘Okay, but what’s wrong with the sidewalk?’. In a fit of anger, Johnson then reportedly responded: ‘F*** what you have to say’. 

Vehicle: Other evidence in the case was also unveiled, including photos of Wilson's police car (pictured)

Vehicle: Other evidence in the case was also unveiled, including photos of Wilson’s police car (pictured)

Involved in the case: Inside the car, hi-tech equipment was pictured just inches from shards of broken glass

Involved in the case: Inside the car, hi-tech equipment was pictured just inches from shards of broken glass

Broken: In the announcement, which has since been criticized, McCulloch revealed Wilson fired at Brown 12 times: twice from a car, then a further ten times in the street. Above, broken glass from the officer's car

Broken: In the announcement, which has since been criticized, McCulloch revealed Wilson fired at Brown 12 times: twice from a car, then a further ten times in the street. Above, broken glass from the officer’s car

Wilson drove off and then drove back to speak to them, at which point Brown suddenly punched him and they got into a struggle as he tried to get out of his police SUV, the testimony said. 

The officer said he reached for his gun and said: ‘Stop I’m going to shoot’. In response, Brown told him: ‘You’re too much of a f****** p**** to shoot me’.

The police interview, in which Wilson described the shooting, was carried out by an unnamed detective the day after the shooting at the St Louis County Police HQ. 

Recalling the moment he killed Brown, Wilson said: ‘I was yelling at him to stop and get on the ground. He kept running and then he stopped in this area somewhere.

‘When he stopped he turned, looked at me, made a grunting noise and had the most intense aggressive face I’ve ever seen on a person. 

‘When he looked at me he then did like the hop…you know when people do to start running. And he started running at me. During his first stride he took his right hand and put it under his shirt and into his waistband. 

Weapon: Other evidence in the case was also unveiled, including images of the pistol (pictured) and bullets involved in the incident, blood stains on the street and the interior of Wilson's damaged police vehicle

Weapon: Other evidence in the case was also unveiled, including images of the pistol (pictured) and bullets involved in the incident, blood stains on the street and the interior of Wilson’s damaged police vehicle

More evidence: Recalling the moment he killed Brown, Wilson said: 'I was yelling at him to stop and get on the ground. He kept running and then he stopped in this area somewhere.' Above, Wilson's name badge

More evidence: Recalling the moment he killed Brown, Wilson said: ‘I was yelling at him to stop and get on the ground. He kept running and then he stopped in this area somewhere.’ Above, Wilson’s name badge

Detailed evidence: This newly-released document lists various details of the fatal shooting on August 

Detailed evidence: This newly-released document lists various details of the fatal shooting on August 

‘And I ordered him to stop and get on the ground again. He didn’t.

‘I fired, a, multiple shots. After I fired the multiple shots I paused for a second, yelled at him to get on the ground again, he was still in the same state. 

‘Still charging hands, still in his waistband, still hadn’t slowed down. I fired another set of shots. Same thing, still running at me, hadn’t slowed down, hands still in his waistband.

‘He gets about eight to ten feet away, he’s still coming at me in the same way. One of those, however many of them, hit him in the head, and he went down right there.

‘When he went down his hand was still under his, his right hand was still under his body, looked like it was still in his waistband. I never touched him.’

During a later part of the interview, Wilson went over the final moments again and described Brown as ‘very aggressive’.

Shooter: Another shot of Wilson shows him posing in a blue t-shirt after the shooting in Ferguson, St Louis

Shooter: Another shot of Wilson shows him posing in a blue t-shirt after the shooting in Ferguson, St Louis

Cut: The officer shows off a small cut on his chin in the wake of Michael Brown's high-profile August death

Cut: The officer shows off a small cut on his chin in the wake of Michael Brown’s high-profile August death

Cop: During  a police interview, Wilson (pictured after the shooting), described Brown as ‘very aggressive’

Cop: During  a police interview, Wilson (pictured after the shooting), described Brown as ‘very aggressive’

Shown: This evidence inside Wilson's police vehicle was heard by the Ferguson grand jury during the case

Shown: This evidence inside Wilson’s police vehicle was heard by the Ferguson grand jury during the case

Graphic: In his testimony, the officer described the moment he shot Brown - minutes after the 'aggressive' teenager taunted him by saying: 'You're too much of a f****** p**** to shoot me'. Above, a graphic of the scene

Graphic: In his testimony, the officer described the moment he shot Brown – minutes after the ‘aggressive’ teenager taunted him by saying: ‘You’re too much of a f****** p**** to shoot me’. Above, a graphic of the scene

He said: ‘I don’t really know how to describe it. Um, he turns, I look at his face. It was just like intense. It was.  I’ve never seen anybody look like that, for lack of a better words, crazy.

‘It was very aggravated, um, aggressive, hostile. You could tell he was lookin’ through ya. There was nothing he was seeing.’

I looked at his face. It was just like intense. It was.I’ve never seen anybody look like that, for lack of a better words, crazy
 Darren Wilson, testimony

In his announcement on Monday night, McCulloch revealed Wilson fired at Brown 12 times: twice from a car, then a further ten times in the street from 125 yards away.

Six or seven bullets struck the teenager, causing him to fall to the ground. He passed away 153 feet east of the officer’s car, the attorney said. 

Following the verdict on Monday night, a series of photos of the injuries Wilson sustained in the shooting were released. The officer appears to have slight bruising on his cheek, lip and neck. 

Other evidence in the case was also unveiled, including images of the pistol and bullets involved in the incident, blood stains on the street and the interior of Wilson’s police vehicle. 

Inside the car, hi-tech equipment is pictured just inches from shards of broken glass. Outside the vehicle, Brown’s baseball cap is seen lying on the ground. 

Heartbroken: Ms McSpadden, wearing a cap with the hashtag JFMS -  'justice for my son' - publicly sobbed and yelled  'this is wrong!' after the decision, while Brown's step-father yelled 'burn this b**** down'

Heartbroken: Ms McSpadden, wearing a cap with the hashtag JFMS – ‘justice for my son’ – publicly sobbed and yelled  ’this is wrong!’ after the decision, while Brown’s step-father yelled ‘burn this b**** down’

Outcry: Michael Brown's mother Lesley McSpadden, seen in a white beanie and sunglasses, being held by a man in a green baseball shirt, collapsed after hearing the decision Monday night

Outcry: Michael Brown’s mother Lesley McSpadden, seen in a white beanie and sunglasses, being held by a man in a green baseball shirt, collapsed after hearing the decision Monday night

THE FAMILY OF MICHAEL BROWN RELEASE EMOTIONAL STATEMENT

‘We are profoundly disappointed that the killer of our child will not face the consequence of his actions.

‘While we understand that many others share our pain, we ask that you channel your frustration in ways that will make a positive change. 

‘We need to work together to fix the system that allowed this to happen.Join with us in our campaign to ensure that every police officer working the streets in this country wears a body camera.

‘We respectfully ask that you please keep your protests peaceful. Answering violence with violence is not the appropriate reaction.Let’s not just make noise, let’s make a difference.’

McCulloch first said several weeks ago that St Louis County Circuit Judge Carolyn Whittington agreed the evidence in the case would be made public if there was no indictment.

But on Sunday night, a contradictory statement was released by the county’s director of judicial administration, Paul Fox, saying the judge had entered no such order or made no such agreement.

In the statement, sent to KSDK-TV, Mr Fox said Judge Whittington must analyze the records before she can approve their release. It is unknown whether she did this on Monday amid the verdict. 

As the panel’s decision was unveiled at a press conference in Missouri at 8:30pm CT on Monday, Brown’s mother collapsed in tears, while the victim’s stepfather screamed ‘Burn this b**** down’.

Following the verdict, Wilson’s lawyers issued a public statement, saying he acted ‘lawfully’ when he gunned down Brown in an act that has since sparked violent protests. 

Wilson’s lawyers said in the statement: ‘From the onset, we have maintained and the grand jury agreed that Officer Wilson’s actions on August 9 were in accordance with the laws and regulations that govern the procedures of an officer.

‘Based on the evidence and witness testimony, the grand jury collectively determined there was no basis for criminal charges against Officer Wilson.

‘Law enforcement personnel must frequently make split-second and difficult decisions. Officer Wilson followed his training and followed the law.’ 

Demonstrations: Following the verdict, protesters stormed the streets, before throwing rocks and bottles at police and damaging cars. Officers in riot gear have responded by throwing tear gas into crowds

Demonstrations: Following the verdict, protesters stormed the streets, before throwing rocks and bottles at police and damaging cars. Officers in riot gear have responded by throwing tear gas into crowds

Fire: Protesters gesture in front of a burning auto parts store in Ferguson in the early hours of Tuesday

Fire: Protesters gesture in front of a burning auto parts store in Ferguson in the early hours of Tuesday

LeBron James posted this image on Instagram following Monday's verdict, referring to the death of Trayvon Martin, who was fatally shot by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, in Sanford, Florida

LeBron James posted this image on Instagram following Monday’s verdict, referring to the death of Trayvon Martin, who was fatally shot by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, in Sanford, Florida

Showing his support: Another basketball star, Earvin 'Magic' Johnson Jr, took to Twitter to show his support for Brown's family, saying: My thoughts & prayers are with the Brown family and the people of Ferguson'

Showing his support: Another basketball star, Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson Jr, took to Twitter to show his support for Brown’s family, saying: My thoughts & prayers are with the Brown family and the people of Ferguson’

Shocked: Tennis star Serena Williams tweeted: 'Wow. Just wow. Shameful. What will it take???'

Shocked: Tennis star Serena Williams tweeted: ‘Wow. Just wow. Shameful. What will it take???’

STATEMENT FROM MICHAEL BROWN’S FAMILY:

We are profoundly disappointed that the killer of our child will not face the consequence of his actions.

While we understand that many others share our pain, we ask that you channel your frustration in ways that will make a positive change. We need to work together to fix the system that allowed this to happen.

Join with us in our campaign to ensure that every police officer working the streets in this country wears a body camera.

We respectfully ask that you please keep your protests peaceful. Answering violence with violence is not the appropriate reaction.

Let’s not just make noise, let’s make a difference.

The statement, obtained by STL Today, added that Wilson was thankful to those who have stood by his side following his shooting of Brown, who died 153 feet east of the officer’s car.

Meanwhile, Wilson’s attorney, Neil Bruntrager, described the past few days as ‘tense’ for his client, who has reportedly received a number of death threats. 

He added: ‘(Not being indicted) is a brief respite, but certainly not the end of things for him.’ 

On Monday night, Brown’s mother, Lesley McSpadden, had to be held up by relatives as she stood on a car outside the Ferguson police station listening to the decision not to indict her son. 

She shouted, ‘This is wrong! Everybody want me to be calm but you know how them bullets hit my son’, before placing her face in her hands and sobbing violently.

Meanwhile, Brown’s step father, Louis Head, jumped up and down in rage, screaming: ‘Burn this b**** down! Burn this b**** down!’

Minutes earlier as Miss McSpadden listened to the decision being read out she shouted: ‘What was he (Wilson) defending himself from? ‘Some of you motherf****** think this is a joke!’ 

Later, however, the family released a statement saying they were ‘disappointed that the killer of our child will not face the consequence of his actions’ and called for peaceful protests.

Following the verdict enraged protesters set fire to buildings and cars and looted businesses in Ferguson. 

Violent: A protester squirts lighter fluid on a police car as the car windows are shuttered near the Ferguson Police Department after the announcement of the grand jury decision not to indict officer Darren Wilson

Violent: A protester squirts lighter fluid on a police car as the car windows are shuttered near the Ferguson Police Department after the announcement of the grand jury decision not to indict officer Darren Wilson

Tear gas: This photo, taken by a CNN photographer, shows police firing tear gas at protesters in Ferguson

Tear gas: This photo, taken by a CNN photographer, shows police firing tear gas at protesters in Ferguson

Shocking: A protester stands with his hands on his head as a cloud of tear gas approaches in Ferguson

Shocking: A protester stands with his hands on his head as a cloud of tear gas approaches in Ferguson

Protests: In the announcement, McCulloch revealed Wilson fired at Brown a staggering 12 times, two shots in a car, then 10 more shots from 125 yards away, six or seven of which struck the teenager. Above, a protestor

Protests: In the announcement, McCulloch revealed Wilson fired at Brown a staggering 12 times, two shots in a car, then 10 more shots from 125 yards away, six or seven of which struck the teenager. Above, a protestor

OFFICER WILSON’S STATEMENT FOLLOWING THE JURY’S VERDICT

‘Today, a St. Louis County grand jury released its decision that no charges would be filed in the case involving Officer Darren Wilson. 

From the onset, we have maintained and the grand jury agreed that Officer Wilson’s actions on August 9 were in accordance with the laws and regulations that govern the procedures of an officer.

‘In a case of this magnitude, a team of prosecutors rightfully presented evidence to this St. Louis County grand jury. 

‘This group of citizens, drawn at random from the community, listened to witnesses and heard all the evidence in the case.

‘Based on the evidence and witness testimony, the grand jury collectively determined there was no basis for criminal charges against Officer Wilson. 

‘Law enforcement personnel must frequently make split-second and difficult decisions. Officer Wilson followed his training and followed the law. 

‘We recognize that many people will want to second-guess the grand jury’s decision. We would encourage anyone who wants to express an opinion do so in a respectful and peaceful manner.

‘On a side note, Officer Wilson would like to thank those who have stood by his side throughout the process. This continued support is greatly appreciated by Officer Wilson and his family.

‘Moving forward, any commentary on this matter will be done in the appropriate venue and not through the media.’

 

Source: STL Today 

President Barack Obama and the family of Michael Brown asked for calm. As Obama spoke live from the White House briefing room, television networks showed him on one side of the screen, and violent demonstrations in Ferguson on the other.

St Louis police reported heavy gunfire late on Monday in the area near where Brown was shot and killed on August 9 and more than a dozen local businesses were razed to the ground by arsonists. Some reports say that fire fighters have been tackling up to 25 structural fires caused by rioters. 

So far there have been 29 arrests, 13 injuries – and no fatalities, with police saying they have not fired any shots. 

The Federal Aviation Administration issued temporary flight restrictions for the city.

Within minutes of the announcement by the county’s top prosecutor, crowds began pouring into Ferguson streets to protest the decision.

Some taunted police, shattered windows and vandalized cars. Several gunshots were also heard. Officers released tear gas and pepper spray to disperse the gatherings. 

The violent protesters went on to damage cars, as well as start fires and loot local businesses. As of early Tuesday morning, more than a dozen local businesses were burning down including a storage center, meat market and Lille Caesars pizza shop.  

A few rioters used the chaos as a opportunity to loot local shots, and were pictured fleeing with stolen goods from a liquor store and Toys R Us. 

Others congregated and marched shouting ‘Hands up, don’t shoot. No justice, no peace’.

About 400 protesters outside the Ferguson police station became panicked after hearing rapid gunfire down the road.

Protesters tried to flip a police SUV then ran through parked cars smashing windows indiscriminately. They smashed the windows of two restaurants and threw rocks at police in full riot gear. A group was reportedly trying to break into City Hall.  

Officers in riot gear responded early on by ordering the crowds to disperse, saying they were blocking the road and gathering illegally. 

When the protesters did not comply, police reacted by shooting bean bag rounds, stun grenades and tear gas into the crowds.   

Deadly: A fire burns in a trash can during riots on Mondya in Ferguson following the much-anticipated verdict

Deadly: A fire burns in a trash can during riots on Mondya in Ferguson following the much-anticipated verdict

Angry: This Instagram photo shows protesters burning an American flag following the grand jury's verdict

Angry: This Instagram photo shows protesters burning an American flag following the grand jury’s verdict

Secret wedding: On Monday morning, it was revealed that 28-year-old Wilson (left) - who hasn't been seen in public since the shooting - quietly married his fellow officer, Barbara Spradling (right), 37, last month
Secret wedding: On Monday morning, it was revealed that 28-year-old Wilson (left) - who hasn't been seen in public since the shooting - quietly married his fellow officer, Barbara Spradling (right), 37, last month

Secret wedding: On Monday morning, it was revealed that 28-year-old Wilson (left) – who hasn’t been seen in public since the shooting – quietly married his fellow officer, Barbara Spradling (right), 37, last month

Elsewhere: Protesters shout slogans against the law as they start to rally in New York after the jury's verdict

Elsewhere: Protesters shout slogans against the law as they start to rally in New York after the jury’s verdict

Meanwhile, a number of American athletes took to Twitter to express their shock at the jury’s decision. Tennis player Serena Williams tweeted: ‘Wow. Just wow. Shameful. What will it take???’

And basketball player Lebron James expressed his support for the Michael Brown family by posting an image on Instagram of a man wearing a ‘Mike Brown’ T-shirt.

Mr Bruntrager refused to comment on whether Wilson plans to resign from the police department. 

On Monday morning, it was revealed that the officer – who hasn’t been seen in public since the shooting – quietly married his fellow officer, Barbara Spradling, 37, last month.

Wilson visited a St Louis County office last month to apply for a marriage license. He wed his fiancee on October 24 in front of his lawyer, Greg Kloeppel, and Judge Christopher B Graville.

So far there have been 61 arrests, 13 injuries – and no fatalities – with police saying they have not fired any shots during the violence.

WHAT THE GRAND JURY HEARD: HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE TESTIMONY 

A St Louis County grand jury met for 25 days over three months and heard more than 70 hours of testimony from about 60 witnesses – many of whom gave conflicting statements – before deciding not to indict Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson in the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown.

Here are some of the highlights from the testimony, released by prosecutor Bob McCulloch’s office on Monday night:

A PUNCH TO THE FACE

Wilson told the grand jury that he initially encountered Brown and a friend walking in a street and told them to move to the sidewalk, drawing an expletive from Brown.

Wilson said he noticed that Brown had a handful of cigars, ‘and that’s when it clicked for me’ that the men were suspects in the theft of a convenience store reported minutes earlier.

Wilson said he asked a dispatcher to send additional officers, then backed his vehicle in front of Brown and his friend.

As he tried to open the door, Wilson said, Brown slammed it back shut. Wilson said he pushed Brown with the door and Brown hit him in the face. Wilson told grand jurors he was thinking: ‘What do I do not to get beaten inside my car?’

Wilson said he drew his gun and threatened to shoot if Brown didn’t move back, fearing another punch to the face could ‘knock me out or worse’.

‘He immediately grabs my gun and says, ”You are too much of a p***y to shoot me”,’ Wilson said, saying he thought he would be shot when Brown dug the gun into the officer’s hip.

AN ANGRY LOOK

Wilson said he managed to pull the trigger, and the gun ‘clicked’ twice without firing before a shot went through the window. Wilson said Brown stepped back and then looked at him with the ‘most intense, aggressive face’.

‘The only way I can describe it, it looks like a demon, that’s how angry he looked. He comes back towards me again with his hands up.’

Wilson said he covered his face and fired the gun again. He told the grand jury that he fired two shots in the car before Brown took off running and he followed him.

Wilson said when Brown stopped, he told him to get on the ground. He said he squeezed a series of shots when Brown kept coming toward him and put his right hand under his shirt in the waistband of his pants.

He said he fired another round of shots as Brown continued to gain on him, approaching Wilson as if he was going to tackle him: ‘Just coming straight at me like he was going to run right through me.

‘And when he gets about … 8 to 10 feet away … all I see is his head and that’s what I shot.’

A FRIEND’S SHOCK

Brown’s companion that day, Dorian Johnson, told the grand jury he was stunned when Brown stole cigarillos from the convenience store, and expected to be arrested while they were walking home.

But Wilson drove on after originally telling them to get on the sidewalk, reversing his vehicle and coming back at the pair after they ignored his demand.

‘After he pulled back, there was no more sidewalk talk, it was nothing, it was just anger,’ Johnson told the grand jury.

He said Wilson opened his door suddenly, striking Brown, then closed the door and grabbed Brown by the neck.

He said the two men engaged in a ‘tug of war’ each holding on to the other’s shirt and arms.

As the two wrestled, he said he heard Wilson say, ‘I’ll shoot.’ Johnson said he never saw Brown punch Wilson, and didn’t think he grabbed the officer’s gun.

Johnson described being in shock as he realized things were getting out of control.

‘At the time I couldn’t open my mouth. I couldn’t speak. I wanted to say could someone calm down . I’m still standing there, more shocked than ever because I see it is escalating, I can see and hear the cuss words, I can see the frowns on their faces getting more intense.’

TRYING TO RUN

After the initial shots were fired, Johnson said he and Brown took off running. After Wilson shot again, he said Brown stopped running and turned to face the officer.

‘At that time Big Mike’s hands was up, but not so much in the air because he had been struck … he said I don’t have a gun, but he’s still mad, he still has his angry face. I don’t have a gun. … And before he can say the second sentence or before he can even get it out, that’s when the several more shots came.’

Johnson was asked if Brown ran at the officer prior to the fatal volley. He insisted he did not.

AFTERMATH OF THE SHOOTING

A detailed narrative of the hours following the shooting revealed that at around 1.30pm on August 9, detectives began arriving at the scene on Canfield Drive.

There was a large crowd of bystanders and a large uniformed police presence at the scene when detectives arrived.

A female approached two detectives and identified herself as Lesley McSpadden, mother of the deceased.

She stated her son had been shot by a Ferguson police officer and was lying in the street. McSpadden provided identifying information on her son, including a Mohawk style haircut, medium complexion, 280lbs, Big Mike? tattoo on his left forearm.

The identifiers were later used for a preliminary identification of Brown.

As the scene investigation continued, there were several large groups of hostile individuals around the perimeter. The investigation was interrupted several times by death threats directed toward police officers and gunshots being fired by an unknown persons around the crime scene, according to the testimony.

The medical examiner arrived at 2.30pm and removed the white sheet that had been put over Michael Brown’s body.

The detective observed Brown was lying on his stomach and the right side of Brown’s face was resting on the roadway. Apparent blood was on the roadway near Brown’s head and had traveled in a western direction away from Brown.

Investigators found there was nothing in his right or left hands. The detective observed Brown had visible injures, consistent with gunshot wounds, to the following areas of his body – right hand, right arm, head, left forearm.

In his right front pocket were two five dollar bills and a notepad. In his left front pocket was a red lighter and a black lighter.

FIRST POLICE OFFICER TO RESPOND TO DARREN WILSON’S CALL FOR BACK-UP

Another police officer, who was not identified, stated the shift had been ‘crazy’, which caused many of the police units to be handling calls and activity outside of their regularly assigned areas.

The officer received a call about a theft from the Ferguson Market, with the suspect described as a black male wearing a white T-shirt who had left on foot.

He said that he conducted a canvass of the area, but was unable to locate the subject.

The officer then returned to the convenience store and got a more thorough description of the suspect. The clerk stated the suspect was a black male, wearing a red Cardinals baseball hat, a white T-shirt, khaki colored cargo shorts, and yellow socks.

The cop told the grand jury that he continued to canvass the area but when he could not find the suspect, returned to his marked patrol car.

He then heard Officer Darren Wilson call out over the department radio, requesting an assist unit and provided his location. The officer described Wilson’s voice to be ‘excited’.

Knowing Wilson’s location to be close by, he put on his sirens and lights and headed there.

The officer told the grand jury that as he rounded the curve in the 3000 block of Canfield Drive, he heard four gunshots in succession.

As he drove through the curve, he had an unobstructed view of the street and observed a male lying on the pavement and Wilson standing near him, approximately three or four feet away, in the low ready position.

The officer said he parked his car and on approaching the scene, the male appeared to be motionless and bleeding heavily.

He requested the dispatcher have EMS, a supervisor, and Ferguson detectives respond to the scene. He directed another officer who arrived shortly after him, to begin taping off the crime scene and secure it.

He said that Wilson’s uniform appeared disheveled and the shirt pocket to be open. He further observed discoloration and swelling to the side of Wilson’s face and blood on his hand.

Believing he was just involved in a ‘scuffle’, officer asked Wilson: ‘Are you ok?’ Wilson replied: ‘I’m fine.’

Other senior officers arrived at the scene and it was determined Wilson would drive himself to the Ferguson Police Station to remove himself from the scene.

He was seated in an uninvolved, marked Ferguson police car before departing the scene for the Ferguson Police Department. 

- Louise Boyle for MailOnline and Associated Press

 

Xmas Holidays

30 Days to Christmas!

30 Days to <a href='http://www.refernshare.com' target='_blank'>christmas</a> | 100DaystoChristmas.com
 

The Procrastinator’s Edition

Welcome to the newest member of the 100 Days’ series of eBooks!  This is an eBook intended for anyone who has a hard time getting started early on Christmas planning or just prefers to wait until the holiday season is in full swing. 30 Days to Christmas: Procrastinator’s Edition includes a daily task, activity, or reminder, plus a daily checklist to help you stay on track of your Christmas planning.  eBook buyers will get a code for a FREE 60-Day trial to ListPlanIt.com! Download now in PDF format for just $8!   Credit Cards and PayPal accepted

For an excerpt of this edition, see below or download here.

 

[embedded content]   Join our community for updates and the latest discussions at our 100 Days to Christmas Facebook page!

Christmas Trees

The truth about airport security during the holidays: we know your snow globe is not a bomb | Jason Edward Harrington

Every November around the least wonderful time of the year, government higher-ups at airport security checkpoints around the world like to start passing down memos: it’s the holidays, which means the annual increased risk of terrorist attacks; officers must be extra vigilant and take their time screening passengers and their belongings – just not too much time. Better let that lady with the suitcase full of x-ray-proof christmas gifts pass through, before the wait gets too long and passengers start storming the body scanner.

Or there’s the war on Christmas tree lights, which, to an x-ray operator, might as well be a ball full of wires and detonators for an improvised explosive device. Pack a cheese wheel beneath those lights, and the local airport bomb squad will be on the way as Grandma cries her eyes out swearing innocence.

Or there was that time at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago on the day before Thanksgiving, when an agency-wide directive came down from Transportation Security Administration headquarters. It was the busiest travel day of the year in America – it still is – and a blue-uniformed mass of two-dozen TSA agents – myself included – stood at attention as our supervisor read the latest memo aloud. It went roughly as follows:

Re: National Opt-Out Day

Be advised. A group of anti-TSA activists has stated their intention to opt out of all full-body scanners today. Be prepared for possible sit-ins, vocal protests, as well as for passengers rushing the checkpoint. Law enforcement officers have been alerted and will be on standby.

I would be processing tens of thousands of passengers, and it seemed like many of them would be showing up expressly to show their opposition to me. Never before had I so badly wanted to skip out on the rest of the day. Terrorists were approaching, apparently, and the last thing I wanted was to be working security.

That’s the truth about holiday air travel: the queues are extra long because security management is too busy passing down memos, warning security agents that they are the the only thing standing between civil unrest and/or terrorist disaster. Some of the threats could theoretically be worth the worry, but really the patters-down just want to get things moving and go home like everyone else. Instead, the regulations are endless – and they end up being enforced inconsistently.

In the world of airport security, subtlety is the enemy of bureaucracy, and there are too many convoluted rules and senseless restrictions to bring about anything but dangerous chaos. Take it from someone who used to work the x-ray machine: when the turkeys look like explosive hydrogen peroxide and that Disney snow globe won’t be allowed onboard unless Princess Elsa’s head is just a little bit smaller, you’re not going to be getting to Grandma’s any faster, any time soon.

Not many people know this, but after 9/11 the TSA actually hired Disney engineers to help make the appearance of extended lines less intimidating – because who better than the masters behind Space Mountain to teach the wonders of queue theory (it’s a thing) to the masters of draconian bureaucracy? But after a wave of feel-good patriotism, the elves went back to their high-paying jobs in Florida. That was the beginning and the end of queue innovation at the federal airport checkpoint.

This is the ensuing dilemma, only told in whispers after your pat-down: government bosses pass down their color-coded terror vigilantism, and things slow down before your flight, but the powers-that-be at the airlines come to the checkpoints and complain to said higher-ups that the waits are too long. So officers take a little less time looking for the terror threats that are supposed to be a security agent’s raison d’être, all in the name of cutting wait times for business reasons.

And keeping the line down is not very easy when the TSA’s list of prohibited items is always changing, and around the holidays, almost never makes sense. And while full-body scanners may be state-of-the-art, airport-security technology still isn’t good enough to tell the difference between a can of cranberry sauce and a tube of C-4. Thanksgiving and Christmas set off more false explosive alarms than any other time of year, the Fourth of July included.

And let me tell you: when you’re a front-line TSA agent with a manager over your shoulder and a post-9/11 security dilemma in your face, your priorities get totally warped. The most important question at airport security should be: Will this thing blow up a plane? Instead, around the holidays, it becomes: Do mashed potatoes count as a gel per standard operating procedure, and are they therefore subject to the liquid restrictions?

I once saw a woman throw a punch at my colleague after he confiscated her holiday gift of oversized perfume. She then threw a few more hooks at the passengers in line trying to hold her back, pulled out her smartphone and began recording the whole thing on video. It may seem like abuse from the airport-security drones, but we’re just following orders – too many irrational orders.

In my career as a former (thank heavens) checkpoint officer, I saw quite a few passengers throw up their arms and scream, “The terrorists have won!” During the holidays, there were quite a few days at the airport when I couldn’t help but wonder if they had.

Christmas Trees

The ultimate Christmas jumper that has a real message of peace and joy

Feast your eyes on this. christmassy, isn’t it? Jolly and cheerful – and the patterns have meaning, too. For this is a multi-faith festive sweater, featuring the Christian cross, the Star of David, the Islamic crescent and star, and the Hindu Aum, plus the yin-yang sign, a snowflake and a Christmas tree. There’s also a peace symbol and an atom, covering the atheist bases.

The unisex knit is the work of British Christmas Jumpers, a Leicester-based company that describes the sweater as “something that brings people from all walks of life together in the spirit of love, joy and festive cheer”. Its website continues: “We think everyone should be able to wear a British Christmas jumper and celebrate the festive season – however they wish, no matter what their colour, creed or culture.”

Hard to argue with those intentions, you might think, and yet some have: the phrase “political correctness gone mad” has been drifting around social media this morning, like a boring colleague you’re trying to avoid at the office Christmas party. The Daily Mail is offended, of course, setting the jumper in context with the proclamation: “Political correctness has slowly eroded the outlandish displays of festive cheer that occur around Christmas time.”

Is there really anything offensive here? In fashion terms, the patterns may be a little garish for some tastes, but the ying-yang symbol, in particular, feels current – very Tumblr – while the colourful stripes nod to Jonathan Saunders and Eley Kishimoto. If you were being kind – and why not? ’Tis the season – you might even describe that red piping as a quite Dries van Noten. Take out the trees and snowflakes and we would be happy to wear it all year.

If anything, this jumper is decidedly tasteful, as far as the novelty Christmas sweater market goes. The sector is booming (sales are already up 160% year-on-year at Asda), but most festive knits are about as pious as Frankie Boyle. You are much more likely to find rutting reindeer or a tableau in which Santa is spanked (sadly, this exists) than nativity scenes depicted in wool.

Really, this jumper is about as festive as it gets: a bit cheesy, yes, but optimistic, jolly and well-meaning. It’s the spirit of Christmas, knitted.

Christmas Trees

Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen’s winter ‘wonderland’ shuts after hundreds of complaints

By Agency

7:40PM GMT 23 Nov 2014

A festive winter “wonderland” created by Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen has
been forced to shut after just a day following hundreds of complaints from
angry parents.

Visitors to The
Magical Journey attraction at the world famous Belfry Golf Club
had
been promised a “spectacular and exciting christmas experience for the
whole family.”

But children were left in tears after they arrived at the site on Saturday to
find hour-long queues for Father Christmas who handed out cheap plastic toys
– that weren’t even wrapped.

Other
expressed Health and Safety fears
after spotting elves having to
push a train up a hill while other Santa’s Little Helpers just sat around
smoking.

On Sunday mums and dads said it had ruined the magic of Christmas for their
kids after forking out up to £22.50 a ticket for the “shoddy”
and “tacky” experience.

Organisers confirmed they had closed the attraction down until Wednesday so
they “could implement changes and improvements to the experience.”

But unhappy families have taken to Facebook to demand their money back after
bombarding the company with complaints.

Angry Natalie Craig wrote on Facebook: “I want my £220 refunded.

“You did not deliver what you advertised and have ripped people off that
is the issue and some of your staff are damn right rude and clearly do not
care.

“Magical experience what a joke and it didn’t even last the allocated
time of 80/90 Minutes either.”

Alex Turner added: “Never mind the ‘rain’, the rude & unhelpful
staff, unsafe train, rubbish cheap present that’s given unwrapped, workmen
sat around smoking, empty tepees, rooms not being soundproofed, no music or
festive decorations, waiting around in a succession of empty rooms, and lack
of a baby reindeer are frankly enough for me to digest!! ”

The Magical journey was launched at the Belfry, near Sutton Coldfield,
with TV design star Laurence Llewelyn Bowen (photo: BPM MEDIA)

Mum Simone Freeman fumed: “The Father Christmas asked my daughter if she
wanted the ripped present or squashed one!!I hope it’s sorted out for the
other families but it’s annoying for us having spent over £60 & to
have to experience it like this!”

While Elizabeth Yeomans said: “Ruining the magic of Christmas for little
kids!

“Ripping off parents right on top of Christmas when they could’ve spent
that money on Christmas presents! Well done!! I hope Laurence whatever his
name is, and The Belfry, are proud!!”

Faith John Marshall added: “One word!! Gutted.. someone is laughing on
how much they have made from all this!!

“The market stalls were so poor and it was horrendous! Nothing magical
and came out feeling soooo sad.

“These people are making mega bucks from us all and they get away with
it.

“I had to sit on the floor to feed my baby, as had no chairs and whilst
on the train it was so rocky, I nearly fell off with her in my arms.”

Anthony Kingscott said: “I visited the magical journey today at 10.30am
the whole experience was a joke, budget is not the word to explain this
place.

“While we tock (sic) the 15 second train journey the train hit a tractor
parked in the car park then one of the trees if they would of hit the
tractor any harder the train would of turned over…the train was being
driven wrecklessly and too fast for the conditions.

“I will be contacting health and safety to report this first thing Monday
morning, the main tent construction had screws and sharp objects sticking
out, there has been no thought of safety at this event at all.”

Matt Freeman added: “We visited yesterday and was bitterly disappointed.
What was advertised was just not delivered at all.”

Ben Harvey went to the 3.50pm show in Saturday and added: “What a
complete waste of money! You basically walk around a small wood, while
people dressed as elves, try to slow you down, to keep the waiting down for
seeing one of the various Father Christmas’s.

“There is nothing for kids to do, the elf who is meant to be Simon Cowell
is completely pointless.

“The advertised pictures are very different from what you see or do, in
the not so magical journey! I don’t think it is worth half the money we
paid, FALSE ADVERTISING.”

On the Facebook site for Magical Journey, organisers posted: “Based on
customer feedback we have taken the decision to take three full days closure
Sunday (23/11/14), Monday (24/11/14) and Tuesday (25/11/14) in order that we
can implement changes and improvements to the experience.

“Our customers are our priority for safety and a magical experience and
we sincerely apologise for any inconvenience this may cause.

“It is important that we deliver the high quality experience you are
expecting and hope to reopen with improvements and changes having been made.

“We have also had difficulty with torrential rain on site affecting
effecting the lighting and sound, we have people working to repair this
damage.

“All customers affected by these closures have been emailed and will be
offered either a refund or a new date, based on their preference.

“Customers who have already visited are welcome to contact us via PM to
this page or via our support team 0121 636 0888 in order to arrange a refund
and a free visit.”

Changing Rooms star Laurence, who was the brains behind the scheme, said
before it opened: “It is a brave thing to be doing this sort of thing
completely outside. Normally it is in an industrial unit so these things can
be completely controlled.

“There is no magic in that. Yes, we have had some teething troubles. But
by Saturday it is going to be absolutely perfect.

“We set ourselves a very high bar. We wanted to push the envelope. We
have been very lucky with the location with the Belfry.

“We have a sensational section of woodland that we can use for the grand
finale.”

Visitors were promised by Laurence, that “a visit to Father Christmas
will never be the same again,” on the website.

It adds: “The Magical Journey is a never before seen and magnificent
immersive theatrical version of Santa’s Grotto, undertaken with Laurence’s
flair for the dramatic, it promises to be a spectacular and exciting
Christmas experience for the whole family.

“This is an entertainment production the likes of which has not been seen
before in the UK and promises to be the theatrical production of the year
for your entire family.

“Under our spectacular new twist, on the Big Top, you will also find an
indoor Christmas Market, full of stalls with the best of treats and goodies
from local and regional suppliers.

“There you can buy handmade gifts for under the tree and sample festive
treats to warm you on a cold crisp winter’s day and of course The Belfry
will be looking after your food and drink requirements with The Magical Cafe
just next to where you check-in and exit your ‘Magical Journey’.”

Paul Dolan, event director, said the families who complained and those
affected by the closure will be getting a full refund after admitting the
attraction should not have opened this weekend.

He added: “The team have put their hearts and souls into creating The
Magical Journey.

“It’s clear to us now that we should have postponed the opening, but we
didn’t want to disappoint those families already booked. That was the wrong
decision and we apologise.

“Work on building The Magical Journey was severely hampered by torrential
rain over the last few weeks, there were a lot of small issues which needed
to be resolved, and some teething troubles, and we had hoped to do this by
working through the night on Saturday, but again the rain put pay to this.

“It is incredibly important to us that visitors experience The Magical
Journey as it was envisioned by Laurence and the team.

“Therefore we have taken the difficult decision to close The Magical
Journey, for three days while we carry out some necessary work.

“We have taken on board all visitor feedback and we will reopen on
Wednesday the 26th of November. Those people whose visits are effected will
be offered refunds or alternative dates.”

Christmas Trees

Two Christmas trees for everyone

Girl decorating <a href='http://www.refernshare.com' target='_blank'>christmas</a> tree
The decision to stock Christmas trees, at 1.25 metres or 90cm tall, is part of Waitrose’s ‘evolution’ into gardening Photo: Alamy

By Nicola Fifield

5:35PM GMT 23 Nov 2014

Many families are decorating their homes with two Christmas trees this year,
as Britain embarks on the biggest festive spending spree since the recession
began.

The trend this year is also for taller trees, according to the British
Christmas Tree Growers Association (BCTGA).

Whereas in the past, the average household would take home a 6ft tree, the
demand this year is for 7ft and 8ft trees.

Harry Brightwell, secretary of the BCTGA, said: “It could possibly be because
we’re finally coming out of the recession and people have more money in
their pockets.

“People are wanting not only taller trees, but a smaller tree as well as a big
tree, so they can have one for their living room and one for their dining
room or entrance hall to make the whole house festive and not just one room.

“I think people want to give their house that extra bit of grandeur for
Christmas.

“With such high demand, it’s a good thing we’ve had a good growing season this
year. With the mild weather, the trees have grown really well and are
looking good.”

He said prices were about the same as last year, with a 7ft Nordmann Fir
costing between £44 and £55 and the cheaper Norway Spruce of the same height
costing about £25.

Vincent Thurkettle, 58, who has a Christmas tree farm in Great Hockham,
Norfolk, said: “’People want trees which go from floor to ceiling. I think
the economy is picking up and there is more money about.

“We are also finding people are keen to buy narrow, space-saving trees. They
want it to be a feature in the room but they don’t want it to dominate.”

Mother-of-two Barbara Kent, 62, from Sherborne, Dorset, said: “Since the
recession we’ve had to reduce our budget for Christmas, but finally this
year we’ve got a bit more money to spend.

“We won’t be buying two Christmas trees, but we’re going to go for a bigger
one.”

Every household will spend an average of £822 this Christmas, according to a
YouGov survey, an increase of seven per cent on last year.

Christmas Trees