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The internet bought me a cuddly dinosaur

02 January 2015
11 minutes
silly stories

Many moons ago, I was at the seaside amusements in my hometown of Bournemouth (UK). There was a grabber machine and inside was the most glorious thing I’d ever seen:

Dinosaur

“What is this beautiful green creature?”, I asked myself, “I must cuddle it”. I burned through all my change in an attempt to get it but due to the weight (quality!) of the dinosaur and limp feebleness of the grabber, I was unsuccessful. I returned the next day with more change, and a plan to try and bribe the pimply-faced-youth in charge if that failed, but the dinosaur was gone. It took some research but I eventually discovered it was from the British children’s cartoon, Peppa Pig.

Dinosaur

That’s George, Peppa Pig’s little brother. For the next few months every time I saw a grabber machine, I’d run towards it. Every time I saw a toy shop, I’d explore it, hunting desperately. I would occasionally find the smaller ones (you can buy these on Amazon if you want one, but only third party sellers now!) but my heart was set on the giant one. It was just perfect. I have a slightobsession with soft toys. I always think this is quite normal until a new person visits my flat and I follow their eyes, and bemused expression, as they look around my living room at all my creatures. There is a small zoo under the television.

After lots of research, I came to the conclusion that the dinosaur was no more. It was marked as discontinued on the only website, the official one, which sold it. In a last ditch attempt, I emailed them:

Dinosaur

They replied! They actually had some leftover but not enough to put them online. I strongly hinted if they could post me one but they said they were unable. This felt like the end of the road; I do not have very much money at all and while I did adore the dinosaur, bills and rent really must come above cuddly-toy-joy. The cost of the dinosaur was prohibitive but the petrol I’d need to put in the car to get there just made it impossible, especially in the time frame of “we’ll have sold the last of them in a few days”.

A few days later, on the Thursday, I was browsing Reddit and on the AskReddit sub, where users will pose a question and others will reply en masse, there was a post titled “Reddit, if someone offered to buy you one thing no matter what it cost, what would you ask for?”. I replied, being quite brief (you may be able to tell that I like to witter) and explained my love for the dinosaur and how close but far it was. This is my post:

Dinosaur

I post quite a bit on AskReddit, some posts get a response, most don’t. I’d forgotten about making the post until my phone beeped fifty minutes later with a user saying “We should actually make this a reality” and another a few minutes after that, “Guys, we need to make this a thing”. I was told to make KickStarter for it. I’d not ever dabbled in KickStarter before but I was in a gleefully silly mood and signed up. No harm in doing it, I thought, and KickStarter wouldn’t take any money unless the goal was met.

It’s quite an intensive process, signing up to create a project on KickStarter. I suppose it’s usually businesses and proper people doing it but I continued and scanned my driver’s licence and filled in bank details and all sorts. I put it in the ‘Journalism’ category, under blogs, intending to make the very thing you are reading now. There were two levels of reward. I was proud and amused with my project page and I updated my post on Reddit with the link to it.

Dinosaur

As you can see, the pledges came flooding in. I had set £55 as my goal, that would be the cost of the dinosaur and the petrol to get to Peppa Pig World. Soon, not only had I surpassed the goal, I was to collect two more dinosaurs for some American redditors who had younger siblings who’d love a Mr Dinosaur in their lives (this is what they say, more people should be brave like me and admit their love for lovable huggable dinosaurs). I removed the KickStarter link from the post at this point, fearful that it would turn into Potato Salad drama and I’d have to host a giant dinosaur tea party. The goal was exceeded, excitement was growing, I was making plans, my girlfriend was now going to come along to help me document the mission. When suddenly!

Dinosaur

Fuckbags. KickStarter suspended my project. The horribly robotic email told me that I could have broken one of three rules, none of which I thought I had – I’d read them before hand, and that this decision was final and was never reversed. I emailed their support address and they were very nice but ultimately useless: they could not figure out why it had been suspended and could only suggest that I recreate it. I didn’t want to do that, I was gutted. See edit 2. It says I was gutted.

Dinosaur

My beautiful pledgers began to get in contact with me, having also been alerted by KickStarter about the suspension of the dinosaur project. One suggested just using PayPal. I already have a PayPal account linked to my bank so I sent them my address and updated the post – although by now the thread was quite old.

Reddit was twice-lovely. The dinosaur-pot again went nearly as high as the first time. A glorious person, who is being rewarded with sweets and joy (and his dinosaur), pledged an extra tenner to get me back to where it was. The mission was on! Fuck KickStarter in their silly faces.

Now. Peppa Pig World is part of Paultons Park in the New Forest. Sixty miles away, which I know won’t sound very far at all to any Americans reading, but I can rarely leave my little town so it felt like quite an adventure still. All this time I’d been in an email conversation with Peppa Pig World, all the time they’d been telling me that the numbers of dinosaurs left was dwindling and that they couldn’t hold any for me.

Dinosaur

We left for the dinosaur rescue mission on Saturday morning, bright and early. Despite enjoying Mr Dinosaur, neither of us like children and upon realising that we were going to a children’s theme park on a Saturday, we decided to get there as early as possible before it became busy and full of snotty squealing things.

Dinosaur

Here is a nice red phone box. They still exist!

Dinosaur

Top photo skills from Bry here, from a fast moving car! We were both so confused and excited when we saw this.

Dinosaur

Fun fact: this roundabout is completely pointless. It has no exits other than the A31 which runs through it. Apparently the road that was supposed to join onto it was built 100 metres away in the wrong place.

Dinosaur

Driving past Ringwood Church. We’re nearly at the motorway by this point. Dorset doesn’t have a motorway, we’re one of the few counties not to have one. We instead have this bendy awful road that is constantly closed due to accidents because of its bendiness.

Dinosaur

This might not excite you but “Hightown Crow” always makes me happy, especially with the (unrelated) bird picture. It is actually two places, Hightown and Crow, but I always like to sing my song when I drive past it – to the tune of ‘Uptown Girl’:

“Hightown crow, she’s been flying with a nice sparrow, I bet she’s never flown with a magpie, I bet her momma never told her why”.

I’ve never had to think of any more lyrics as we’re soon past all the signs and I need to concentrate on driving again.

Dinosaur

Eee. We want Junction 2 on the M27. THE DINOSAUR IS NEARING.

Dinosaur

The joy of seeing a brown sign! Excitement awaits!

Dinosaur

We both made a lot of excited noises at this point. There’s pigs on the sign!

Bry has a fake-GoPro camera that we attached to the dashboard of my car. The resulting video isn’t all that exciting BUT I’ve sped it up and found an amazing dance remix of the Peppa Pig theme tune. I hope you enjoy it:

You can find the original (I think) audio here.

Dinosaur

Paultons Park looks more like a school than a theme park. I believe there are rides and other things behind this building. I was told on the phone to report to the main gate and ask for the manager of the shop, who’d escort me through the park to the shop – saving us having to spend £20 each on tickets. I was pretty excited about this. While I’d not be able to play on any of the (admittedly, designed for under-7s) rides, I could at least see them. Instead, it turns out, the Peppa Pig World shop is in that building. So the escorting through the park, whilst making us feel very important, did only last for ten metres.

We were watched quite a bit in the shop. I don’t know why. Maybe they were bored. Maybe they’d never seen a 28 year old man with silly hair travel all the way to their park just to buy three cuddly dinosaurs. Who knows. Either way, this is my apology for not taking tonnes of photographs in the shop.

Dinosaur

This is ‘Mr Teddy’. Whilst I do love the dinosaur very much, neither Bry nor myself had ever watched Peppa Pig before. We felt guilty about that, and I feared they might be some sort of quiz to gain access to the shop, so we spent the night before bingeing on Peppa Pig. It’s really very good, we were enthralled. Like all good children’s shows, it has a lot of humour for the adults watching too. It’s also wonderfully animated. I used this new found knowledge to proudly point out Mr Teddy and Daddy Pig.

Dinosaur

Good god. The panic set in at this point. There he is, my glorious dinosaur, but there’s only one left. The last dinosaur available to buy in THE WORLD. At least, other than the badly copied and potentially flammable ones available on eBay from China. We needed three dinosaurs, one for me and two for my American helpers. The wonderfully-lovely-lovely manager saw the horror on my face and produced two dinosaurs, put by, behind the counter. We were buying the last ones there! Ever!

Dinosaur

Success!

Dinosaur

This is what joy looks like.

Dinosaur

So began the hard task of figuring out which one we loved the most.

Dinosaur

I had to be safe, I didn’t want my new friends to get injured.

Dinosaur

All set to drive back home!

Dinosaur

I did look in the mirror a lot to check on them. I normally wouldn’t want to get pulled over by the police but I did think it would be fun if we did. We didn’t.

Dinosaur

We drove back to Bournemouth. I noticed a few odd looks from people when the two of us claimed the giant double sofas in Flirt, the lovely café near my flat in Bournemouth. But they soon all understood!

Dinosaur

Here they all are back on my sofa. I’ve witnessed, and sometimes contributed to, these strange acts of internet-generosity, but never been the subject of one. A few people commented that the money would be better off going to Wikipedia or another charity, and well, I agree but I also didn’t force anyone. Strangers chose to chuck a few quid (or dollars!) to another stranger and they made his day. They made my week actually, I’m still grinning now.

Dinosaur

Here are the two dinosaurs in their boxes (I’m really bad at building boxes, this was an unparalleled success for me) along with some nice treats. I’m hoping Terrys Chocolate Oranges don’t exist in America. I’m sorry if I’ve just sent you something you can buy down the shop. Thank you, internet!