New York’s Star Trek Convention

Star Trek: Mission New York

is a reminder of what has changed and what hasn’t in this nerdy corner of geek culture that finds itself riding a wave of popularity

I went to my first Star Trek convention 15 years ago, when I was 13. It went pretty much exactly how non-Trekkers might imagine a Star Trek convention to go.

My family’s trip to a dimly lit, musty-carpeted convention center in Long Beach, California, was an extreme novelty: we didn’t dress up. Other attendees, though, wore costumes ranging from the handmade to the extremely expensive, ordered weeks in advance.

Every stereotype you can possibly imagine was present in that hall, from public displays of conversational Klingon to earnestly specific questions asked of cast members. One man asked Brent Spiner, who played the android Data in the Next Generation franchise, the real gender of his characters cat Spot. As a result of problems with continuity, you see, it often varied.

Kaitlin and Sarah cosplay at the convention. Photograph: Devon Maloney for the Guardian

Star Trek: Mission New York convention, held at the Javits Center in Manhattan, was a vivid reminder of what has changed and what has not in a particularly nerdy corner of geek culture which has now existed for 50 years.

Organized by Comic-Con promoter ReedPop, by the end of the Labor Day weekend the event will have hosted cast reunions from at least three series; demonstrations of forthcoming mobile and VR games; screenings of a new directors cut of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and For the Love of Spock, a documentary produced by Adam Nimoy, son of late actor Leonard Nimoy; and exhibits and presentations from both Nasa and the Postmaster General.

The halls are filled with easy-order Halloween costumes and mass-produced toys, thanks in large part to JJ Abrams 2009 franchise reboot. Attendees are no longer simply geeks who argue openly about the canon, although such individuals certainly still hold dominion over a place like this, and rightfully so. Some look as though they wouldnt have been caught dead at a convention like this even five years ago, let alone 10 or 15. Star Trek has never been so accessible, or so cool.

Ive been waiting 30 years for this, said Briahna Gray, who came with her mother and brother. Its easier to be a fan now that its become more popular Ive always happily leaned into geek culture, but its easier when everyones seeing posters and advertisements for things you love every year. People get your references more: people used to think we named our dog Mr Woof when his name was Mr Worf.

Elyse Rosenstein, Joyce Yasner, Stuart Hellinger, Linda Deneroff and Devra Langsam were among the organizers of the first Star Trek convention, in 1972.

At a panel on Friday, they recounted underestimating the number of fans who might show up, preparing for 1,600 but welcoming more than double that, thanks to some felicitous press coverage. Totally unpaid, the organizers resorted to DIY, crafting convention badges from basic office supplies.

None of us did this to make money, said Langsam, explaining that they eventually stopped hosting fan-run conventions due to issues affording the cast and crews speaking fees and a refusal to turn them into a legitimate business. I think over the years I made about 12 cents an hour.

Yasner added: In fact, when fanzines were originally published, it was looked down on if you made money your zine. [Conventions] seem to have gotten very commercial, impersonal. We didn’t even think of doing it for profit. We did it for love.

Convention panel: from left, Devra Langsam, Elyse Rosenstein, Stuart Hellinger, Joyce Yasner and Linda Deneroff. Photograph: Devon Maloney for the Guardian

Yasner recounted a moment during one of the first conventions when Leonard Nimoy made a surprise appearance. The guy who was in charge of the [exhibition hall] got up, took the microphone and said, Spocks here! The entire room cleared out in about three seconds flat leaving many sellers with unfinished transactions on their hands.

It was more of a community [then], said Hellinger. Theyre big events now. We came out of general sci-fi fandom, and we applied the community aspect of that, but even that’s changing, and not always for the better.

Of course, commercialisation hasnt destroyed all personal connections in the fan community. It has also strengthened them: during the committees panel, a young woman came to the microphone to explain that she had been on a panel this weekend as well, and pointed out how rare women have been on convention panels at events like Comicon.

Thank you for the tradition you started, for making this visible: women’s participation in Star Trek fandom, she said.

[Fandom] become popular culture, Deneroff said later. It makes it easier to explain to people why you’re interested in weird things. Theres no sense anymore that it’s a lonely thing to be a fan.

The sentiment was shared by many attendees, including Grays mother Leslie, a former psychologist and current employee of the United Nations who remembers watching the original series as a child, even being nicknamed Bones, after the shows doctor, by her father.

Can you imagine what its like to be [a Star Trek fan] experiencing this with your kids? she said. I was all alone in the 60s and 70s. There were so few Star Trek fans, especially in the African-American community, you were extra square, an uber-geek if you liked Star Trek.

But then my kids started watching it; my son became a Star Trek savant, with a Klingon dictionary and everything. We lived in Nairobi in the 90s and people had to send us Betamax tapes they were so precious to us. We all can’t believe were here together now.

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For anyone that hasn’t yet seen the latest Star Trek Beyond Movie then here is a short trailer:

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Bridget Jones’s Baby review: Rene Zellweger excels

Bridget Jones’s Baby Review

Broad gags, choice turns and some terrific slapstick involving a hospital revolving door elevate a possibly opportunistic outing into a solid and satisfying comeback

Sell-by dates don’t mean anything … do they? Bridget Jones is talking about the eco-friendly biodegradable condoms she bought ages ago, and with which she has suddenly ended an aeon-long sex famine by using twice, on getting suddenly lucky with two chaps within a few days: dishy online dating expert (Patrick Dempsey) and her old smoulderer, the unexpectedly single Mark Darcy (Colin Firth). Now 40-something Bridget has ascended the duff and there is a Mamma-Mia!-style mystery about the dads identity. The director is Sharon Maguire, and the writers are Emma Thompson, Dan Mazer and Helen Fielding, author of the original newspaper column and bestselling book.

As for Bridget’s own sell-by date, well, she now joins the conga-line of figures from the late 90s and early noughties making their sheepish comeback: David Brent, AbFab, Cold Feet. But Rene Zellwegers own return after 12 years in the dithery role she created and after a six-year absence from the screen has been overshadowed by a massive media overreaction to cosmetic work which she has evidently had done.
(Editor‘s note “don’t the media overreact to everything anyway and isn’t this after all what sells media such as yours”)

Bridget Jones’s Baby is released 16 September 2016 in the United Kingdom and there is more detail about the film here on IMDB

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My Little Pony – Back to play

My Little Pony (MLP) Blind Bags

We have deliveries regularly here at Silly Billy’s. Our suppliers supply us when they are able although some times we have to disappoint our younger customers when such products as My Little Pony are out of stock further down the supply chain. Quite literally there is nothing we can do.
my little ponyToday MLP has cantered back into the Toy Shop, Silly Billy’s is the premier independent toy shop in the North of England and My Little Pony is back. MLP is one of many collectibles we have here at Silly Billy’s and they include:

and many other toys to collect. We occasionally have Star Monsters, though again these seem to be beset with supply problems.

As well as My Little Pony returning to us we have, back in stock, the most amazing Lego Classic Boxes, 10695,  at a lower price than they were before, now only £19.99 for a staggering 580 pieces of Lego
and we also have the Lego City Fire Utility Truck at an unbeatable price of £24.99 so come to Hebden Bridge and do your shopping in Silly Billy’s best Independent Toy Shop, today.

This is what is written about the Lego Fire Utility Truck on the interweb:
“Clean up the city by emptying dumpsters behind the wheel of the LEGO® City Garbage Truck, featuring a lift for picking up containers, trash, container that tilts to open and empty, a broom and other accessories. Includes 2 minifigures: a driver and a garbage truck helper.

Climb in the cab of the garbage truck and get to work! Drive around LEGO® City looking for trash. Pull up to a dumpster and empty it into the truck. Clean up any garbage that falls out, get back in the truck and head to the next container! The hard work is never done!”

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Rogue One

Star Wars Rogue One

Rogue One is the new Star Wars Film due to be released for Christmas 2016. As ever the Lego company are releasing new products for this upcoming Star Wars Movie and they will be with us here at Silly Billy’s Toy Shop in October 2016

Silly Billy’s Toy Shop, the best Independent Toy Retailer in Yorkshire, has Lego Star Wars in stock now, including Lego Buildable figures at only ten pounds.
Star Wars Buildable Figures

Rogue One, A Star Wars Story is due for release in UK on December the 16th according to IMDB coincidentally my eldest son’s birthday.

As well as having Lego Star Wars buildable figures in stock we also have the following Lego Star Wars sets in limited quantities.

Other recent Lego news includes a revelation on BBC Radio 4 that by 2020 the amount of minifigures on planet earth will be greater than the amount of human beings, this shock fact after some research on the internet came from an article written in 2013 that says “Since their introduction in 1978, Lego’s Minifigs have, um, reproduced at a rapid rate. In fact, the toy maker has been making the little fellas at such a pace that they’ll outnumber humans by 2019.

As of 2006, there were 4 billion Minifigs in the world; projecting forward both human and Lego population growth suggests that tiny plastic men will outnumber us by 2019. Imagine that: a world where there are more Minifigs than fellow homosapiens.”
Original Source

As we all know the human population has been expanding globally at a terrific rate and so now it seems the same is true for Lego Minifigures ! Here at Silly Billy’s we have the latest Series 16, Lego Minifigures in stock NOW

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Rogue One

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Lego® Minifigures Series 16

Lego® Minifigures Series 16
Are In Hebden Bridge NOW

All new Lego® Minifigures Series 16 have arrived at Silly Billy’s Toy Shop, in Hebden Bridge. With sixteen to collect the bright yellow boxes of Minifigures stand out for miles.
Lego Minifigures Series 16Here is a list of the sixteen collectible characters that are available in the all new Lego Minifigures Series 16 from our good friends at Lego

You can bring new and exciting creative play possibilities to existing LEGO® sets, with Series 16 of the LEGO Minifigures Collection, featuring a Desert Warrior, Penguin Boy, Ice Queen, Spy, Banana Guy, Hiker, Kickboxer, Spooky Boy, Rogue, Cyborg, Cute Little Devil, Dog Show Winner, Scallywag Pirate, Babysitter, Wildlife Photographer and a Mariachi. Each minifigure comes in a sealed ‘mystery’ bag, together with one or more accessories, plus a display plate and collector’s leaflet.

  • Every minifigure comes with one or more accessories.
  • Collect this exciting new series of LEGO® Minifigures characters and create new and wonderful adventures.
  • Combine with LEGO® building sets for endless play possibilities.
  • Have fun trading minifigures with your friends to complete your collection.
  • PLEASE NOTE: Each ‘mystery’ bag contains 1 of the 16 characters available in this collection. Unfortunately, we cannot accommodate requests for specific minifigures until the Author, Robert A Williams, figures out which minifigure is in each bag, usually this takes a few weeks. We cannot provide any guarantee that you will receive the character you wish for !

From this Lego® Minifigures Series 16 the first Lego®  Minifigure we pulled out was Penguin Boy !!
Lego Minifigures Series 16

Unlike the Lego Disney Minifigure Series this Lego® Minifigures Series 16 has only 16 characters to collect, making the whole job a lot easier.

The Last Lego Disney Minifigure Series was insanely popular and we have a limited supply of Lego Minifigures Series 16 here at Silly Billy’s Toy Shop, so come down to Sunny Hebden Bridge and buy your Lego Minifigures Series 16 today.

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Stocking Up – Schleich – Playmobil

Stocking Up – Schleich – Playmobil – Lego

We have been having a lot of deliveries recently here at Silly Billy’s, far too many to list individually so we will pick out what we consider to be some of the best bits:

Schleich, we have even more Schleich horses this year than we have had before and our Schleich range continues to expand. We have a dedicated Sea-life shelf which sees the addition of Sperm Whales and Sea Turtles plus some Sting Rays. We are excited that our Schleich range covers from the North to the South Poles, Penguins down South and Polar Bears up North. We have animals from Africa as well as more local English Farm animals, plus a comprehensive range of horses.
SchleichOur Lego wall is continuing to grow and we have some larger Ninjago sets in plus some of the larger Lego Friends sets, so this covers the Lego gender gap. No longer is Lego purely a boys toy and the Danes have been trying hard to get more female gender inclusion, notably this is included in the limited edition Ghostbusters Lego Set 75828 that we have in store.
lego cityWe have also had some new Top Model lines in and more Playmobil including the Playmobil Space Shuttle 6196 and the Playmobil Space Rocket Playset – 6195 which is part of our Space Range, we also have space represented in Lego Star Wars
Playmobil 6195
Orchard Toys have been replenished and their is a continued promotional offer where you can get a free Animal Snap if you spend £15 or over.
animal snap orchardWe have a few CUT-PRICE items in store as well including Schleich Justice League Characters, now less than half-price plus Lego Star Wars Buildable figures all now at £10
Schleich Justice League
We have extended our Hex Bugs range to include some track which can be used to make your Hex Bugs race in a controlled environment.
HEX BugsSo come down to Silly Billy’s new shop today and buy from us to help keep the Independent Shops alive and kicking in Hebden Bridge, the home of Independent Shopping in the North of England.

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Lego Technics and Lego Friends

Lego Technics, Lego Friends, and More Lego

We have recently received a new and large delivery of Lego here at Silly Billy’s. As one of our top selling lines we are always keen to get the latest Lego releases into Silly Billy’s Independent Toy Shop as soon as we can, and we work closely with our Lego representative to obtain what we think is the best range of Lego for Silly Billy’s Toy Shop and it’s location in Hebden Bridge.
lego cityIn this Lego Delivery we have substantially increased our ranges of:

We also have a VERY Limited supply of Lego Ghostbusters collectors edition set 75828
Lego Ghostbusters

This is what the Lego Shop says about the Ghostbusters Set:
“You know who to call with the LEGO® Ghostbusters™ Ecto-1 & 2 vehicles! Speed after the demon, put on the proton packs and zap away in this fun set based on the 2016 Ghostbusters™ movie. Includes 5 minifigures.”
legoSilly Billy’s have received some more Lego Friends as well, including the Larger Sets of Heartlake Riding Club 41126 where you can get competition-ready at the Heartlake Riding Club with a rotating exerciser and practice jump, stables, changing room, cafeteria, bedroom, 2 mini-dolls and 2 horses. This set contains over 500 pieces. We have found that Lego Friends has been getting more popular in the Calder Valley so Silly Billy’s have increased their range. We also have the Horse Vet Trailer to compliment this:
“Be on call with the Horse Vet Trailer including an SUV-style car, horse stretcher and veterinary tools to care for sick ponies. Includes 2 mini-dolls, plus a horse.”
Lego 41125Lego was not the only toy to be delivered this week. Silly Billy’s have also received even more TY !! “The Little Furry Fellows”, as Bill calls them, have been flying out of the store and our TY sales have gone nuts. This is good really and as some out-of-towners name us “The Lego Shop” soon we expect people to be calling us “The Beanie Shop” as well.

Lego and TY Beanies are two of our most popular lines at the moment, though don’t forget we stock a lot of other items as well including, the ever popular Playmobil range, and our new range of Baby Toys and Teethers.

In fact our stocks of Playmobil are getting pretty low as Playmobil Bill who stands outside the Toy Shop knows, so watch this blog or Silly Billy’s Facebook Page for notifications of when the next Playmobil Delivery will arrive.

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Genetic Analysis Predicts Academic Achievement

Genetic Analysis Predicts Academic Achievement !!

Teachers and parents may one day be able to use a genetic test to predict whether or not a child will excel at or struggle with academics in the future, based on new research pioneered by scientists at King’s College London.

While the prospect may present a frightening vision of a future in which ability and potential will be determined by one’s genetic makeup, and indeed is tainted by a history of eugenics and racist science, the researchers say the tests will help identify, early on, the children who are at risk academically and help educators create special interventions for them.

Saskia Selzam, lead author of the study, explains more in the video above.
More of the original source from this post can be found here

“By using these polygenic scores, it is actually possible to identify those for example who are maybe at heightened risk for a learning disability, for example,” she said. “So imagine a scenario where we could use a polygenic score very early on to give us information about whether someone might have some learning problems later on.”

But other experts who have also mined genetic testing to predict behavioral outcomes warn that we have a long way to go before genetic testing can predict individual educational achievement, and that research is the genetic tool’s primary utility.

How genetic scoring tool works

Scientists use a special kind of DNA analysis called a genome-wide polygenic score. It aggregates the tiny effects of hundreds of thousands of genetic variants to create the scale that can predict academic achievement. In this case, the researchers from King’s College London borrowed the formula for a polygenic score that others had already used to predict academic attainment (the number of years of formal education a person completes).

They then applied the polygenic score to a population of 5,825 unrelated children to see if they could predict how those kids would score on tests.

The King’s College researchers looked back at students’ academic scores at ages 7, 12 and 16 and found that genes alone accounted for a growing variance in grades that grew as the kids got older. At age 7, genes accounted for about 3 percent of grade differences. By age 12, the number was up to about 5 percent. By 16 years old, genes explained about 9 percent of the difference in grades.

While 9 percent may not seem like much, past studies have linked gender to about 1 percent of the variance between boys’ and girls’ performance in math, while high scores of “grit,” or resilience, account for about 4 percent of educational achievement.

To put it in terms of grades, by age 16, kids with high polygenic scores had grades that, on average, ranged between As and Bs. Those with low polygenic scores tended to earn Bs and Cs. Finally, those with the highest scores were more than twice as likely to go to university compared to those with the lowest scores.

How close are we to using these tests in schools?

“We are at a tipping point for predicting individuals’ educational strengths and weaknesses from their DNA,” Professor Robert Plomin, senior author of the study, said in a statement about the research.

While Plomin’s statement and the results of his study might stir fears of self-fulfilling prophecies, or could even backfire (if you tell a child he’s smart, it may make him fearful and afraid to fail), Daniel Belsky, a professor at the Duke University School of Medicine, says we’re a long way from tests that can be used in schools and doctor’s offices to predict a child’s academic abilities. However, Belsky, who was not involved in Selzam’s study but has conducted his own on genetics and educational attainment, also points out that the time to discuss these issues is now — not when the tests finally do arrive.

“Findings from this study, along with others, suggest the possibility that we might someday have genetic tools that can predict important dimensions of children’s life outcomes,” said Belsky. “We should begin the conversation about whether we want such tools now, before more accurate genetic predictions become possible.”

Selzam is of a similar mind to Belsky on this issue. In the video above, she maintains that while these genetic analyses will continue to be useful research tools, policy makers and scientists would have to discuss how and when to deploy them, if at all, should a version of the test become available to the wider public.

The real point of these tests: social science research

But other scientists who research polygenic scores aren’t convinced about their utility as a tool to predict an individual person’s educational abilities or attainment. Daniel Benjamin, an associate professor at the Center for Economic and Social Research at the University of Southern California, who was part of the initial group of scientists who created the score Selzam used in her study, says their promise lies mostly in research.

“It’s definitely premature to start thinking about using it to tailor the educational experience,” said Benjamin. “But its predictive power is definitely big enough now to be useful for predicting differences in samples in scientific studies.”

Specifically, Benjamin believes that a more apt use of these genetic tests would be in social science research. Once scientists start using these tools to control for genetic factors, they’ll be able to more accurately estimate the positive or negative effects of experimental interventions like, say, free pre-school, on children. In other words, scientists will be able to more precisely estimate how much of a classroom’s achievement is due to class environment versus genetic predispositions.

“Knowing more about which genetic factors matter and being able to incorporate them into studies will help us to better identify the environmental interventions that can help make people better off, improve their educational outcomes and improve their cognitive health,” Benjamin explained.

In fact, Benjamin’s past research has focused on the environmental changes that downplay genes’ importance in educational attainment. For instance, his May paper found that polygenic scores were less predictive of educational attainment in younger Swedish generations compared to older generations. This could mean that the country’s educational reforms enacted in the 20th century were successful in creating more equal opportunities for people.

Belsky also agrees that the point of understanding DNA’s effects on educational achievement is to help develop programs that benefit everyone, regardless of what’s written on their genotype.

“Just because genes predict life outcomes, doesn’t mean they determine them,” Belsky concluded. “The key is to find the pathways — molecular and behavioral — that connect our DNA with outcomes like educational success.”

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Stolen rubber duck returned to family after traveling world for five years

Fantastic story about a Stolen Rubber Duck

The Troiano family received postcards and photos from Gale Ducky, as the yellow duck was taken to 20 countries since 2011 before being delivered home

A New Hampshire familys missing rubber duck has suddenly reappeared, along with a suitcase full of souvenirs and an international mystery.

Stolen in 2011, the Troiano familys duck returned home last week, Seacoastonline reported. In the years since it disappeared, the family has received countless postcards and photos from Gale Ducky as it traveled around the globe. The yellow duck had visited 20 countries on its journey, from Austria to South Africa.

A Facebook account for the duck was created, presumably by its anonymous travel buddy, and has just over 800 likes from people following its journey. The Troiano family said they liked to follow along as well. Every so often I revisit this page and it makes me smile and laugh! Alicia Troiano, the ducks original owner, commented on the page last year.

Troiano received the duck about 10 years ago from a neighbor that she babysat for. She would put the duck in a pond that formed in their front yard when it rained before it was stolen.

Months after the theft, the family received a postcard from Gale Ducky originating in Kuwait City. It informed the family of the Facebook page and of the ducks recent trips to Honduras and Amsterdam. The duck covered much of the globe and the US, going to Las Vegas, San Diego and on a number of cruises.

In photos from each stop, the duck posed for photos with locals and tourists. Many shared their messages on Gale Duckys Facebook page. One woman offered to crochet the duck a hat and coat in a post of the duck overlooking a chilly, snow-covered Quebec.

The ducks return was announced on Facebook. Waiting for my ride, the page wrote alongside a photo of Gale Ducky sitting on a suitcase. Jennifer Troiano, Alicias mother, recognized the background as her sidewalk.

I just was like, What is she doing home? Jennifer Troiano told Seacoastonline. Where has she been? Who had her?

In its suitcase, Gale Ducky had maps from its travels, a friendship bracelet, sunglasses and a Mickey Mouse ears cap among other items.

I will miss seeing the funny pictures that pop up on Facebook and waiting to find out his next destination, Alicia Troiano said, now that her duck has returned home.

It is still unknown who took the duck for the global adventure. The family had some theories on who took it perhaps a pilot. Jennifer Troiano was happy to let the identity remain a mystery for now, but her daughter was still curious.

I have so many questions, Alicia Troiano said. I want to know why they were inspired to pick him up out of his pond and bring around the world, especially since he is not a very small or portable duck.

The Troiano family and the duck, which has its own email address, did not return requests for comment.

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Spy Pens

Spy Pens

Do you remember Spy Pens?
New from House of marbles we have some fabulous Spy Pens, write in invisible ink and light up the ink with the Ultraviolet Light on the Pen’s Top. A great little gadget
Spy pensAs well as Spy Pens we have also received some other new musical products from House of Marbles, a great English company based in Devon.
We have some Monkey Drums:
It’s impossible not to pick them up and spin. A great musical instrument and sensory experience! Length: 18 cm (7 inches).
They make a great sound and are a fantastic new Toy in Our Range:
Monkey DrumsAlso Toot Flutes, a squawky, noisy novelty! Squeak and honk, hoot and toot to your favourite tune! Comes in a variety of colours.
Toot Flutes compliment to our existing Musical Range which includes:
This lovely musical instrument is also known as the Mississippi Saxophone or the Tin-Can Tongue Twister! Our harmonica is a nicely made, simple version in the key of C which would be a great place to start for any budding musician. Length: 11 cm (1 1/4 inches). The first step towards your one-man band.

Possibly one of the silliest musical instruments ever invented, but totally brilliant. Length: 12cm – 5 inches.

Train Whistles
Lay down a music track with this nifty Train Whistle. This musical instrument is great for train and music enthusiasts alike. Length: 16 cm – 8 inch.

Hand Bells
Hand-bells with lovely solid handles – a great musical instrument for bringing the sounds of Summer Morris Dancers into your home. Height: 12 cm – 5 inches. Assorted colours available – red, yellow and green.

Back by popular demand and also from The House of Marbles are Clockwork Submarines, we have not had stock of these since our pre-flood days, when they all floated away !
Clockwork SubmarinesSomething else that flew away in the flooding were Pocket Kites and we now have these back in stock as well, these are great little kites really fun and easy to fly. Pocket Kites are Flyaway fun in miniature; the kite in a bag is one of our best sellers. Easy to fly for the amateur and fun for the expert. The kite comes in a bright and colourful bag (a choice of orange, blue or green) for easy storage and transportation. A surprisingly large kite in a small bag. Kite size approximately 50 x 30 cms / 20 x 12 inches, with a super-long tail.
Pocket Kites

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Toy Shop Updates in Hebden Bridge