Before I begin our account of our holiday, I should perhaps mention that we did actually have a super time – and also that the holiday cost less than a quarter of the price of a week’s stay in a Hilton or Marriott hotel. And also that I appear to be channelling super-bitch Katie Hopkins, in all her hate filled misery. In the words of our now familiar friend Mike The Knight, Hazzah! Enjoy.
Prior to departure for Butlin’s in Bognor Regis last Monday, wise friends of ours chuckled knowingly while warning us to go prepared. We weren’t exactly sure what to prepare for, mind you. I’ll come back to this later. Having not been on holiday to Butlin’s myself since 1988, I was left only with vague memories of the Red Coat show in an enormous social club and a grubby old fairground. The website was full of colourful, clean images of a modern refurbished Butlin’s, so we were optimistic.
Off we set at precisely 10am on Monday morning, embarking on an ambitious four and a half hour journey down the M1. Thirty miles (about forty-five minutes) into the journey, Tom let out an colossal ‘FUCK’ (sorry Mum), making us all jump out of our seats and pulled off at the junction; realising that we’d left all the swimming shorts and towels on the washing line in the back garden at home.
So, off we went back up the M1 towards home for a further forty-five minutes, only to find ourselves sat in traffic for an extra half an hour, just a mile before our home turn-off. Back on our drive-way at home, while I tried to disregard the feeling of dread about the restart of the four and a half hour journey that still lay ahead (after an already two hour journey down the M1 and back), the boys sat there happily, watching The Wizard Of Oz in the back of the car, completely oblivious.
Eventually, after being asked ‘Is this Butlins?’ at various locations en-route, including at a truck-stop on the M25, the Watford Gap Services and when stopped in traffic outside a sewage works in Guildford, we arrived at Butlins. Thank GOD. Feeling as miserable as we have felt in a long time, we weren’t especially grateful for the high-pitched chirpiness of the Red Coat at the holiday park’s entrance (sounding like a 5 year old girl on helium) and we probably came across a little churlish as we wheel-spun off across the car park towards the ‘Gold’ parking area half way through her smiley “have a marvellous holiday!”, at least that’s what I assumed she was trying to say.
Our apartment was quite nice. I mean, as you probably already know, we are horribly snobby now that we have children to provide for; the cleanliness of the sink in the kitchen and the toilet weren’t quite up to standard but, generally it was quite nice. I guess you could have described the interior as similar to that of an up-market static home; three-quarter sized rooms, little beds and a tiny Ikea leatherette settee for the whole family to share in the living room. After a quick compulsive clean of the kitchen and bathroom, we were happy.
It goes without saying that the children absolutely adored everything about Butlins. The boys loved the Red Coat shows (Scooby-doo Panto was the clear favourite); the ‘Brill disco’, that we re-named the ‘Shrill Disco’, on account of now microphone yielding chipmunk-esk Red Coats and the still grubby and painfully slow fairground, operated by less enthusiastic Red Coats who were demoted to washed out red-ish fleeces. Although the boys enjoyed every minute at the fair, in our opinion all the rides were just a little too slow, probably in case an elderly guest became too excited and sued Butlins for damages. In between rides at the fairground, Tom and I would tut and sigh while the miserable Red Coat would spend a painful ten minutes slowly unlocking each of the rides’ bars to release the guests, then fiddling through an unnecessarily enormous collection of keys to unlock a padlock on the exit gate, and only then, after every last impatient guest has squeezed through the exit gate would they open the entrance, meticulously measuring every single child in the queue against a ridiculously high height barrier (this is the ladybird ride I’m talking about, 1.2m for this one). Anyway, enough about the fair. You get the idea.
I’m going to get really blimmin’ snobby now. The giant, and I mean bloody massive gigantic social club is still there. Now called Centre Stage, it’s essentially an enormous room, around one hundred metres along and fifty metres wide with a big stage at the front and a bar at each end. It’s jam-packed with thousands of people who I guess you would usually find in your town’s local social club; a gathering of six-week old frizzy perms, blond, sharp bobbed hair cuts with dark roots and bored looking husbands with beer bellies. There are children running around in flashing trainers and Angry Birds t-shirts. The room smells, something we endearingly named eau-de-fromage, the smell becoming increasingly potent towards the middle of the room, fading a little towards the bars at the edges with just a faint brie odour. Like the meeting of The Witches in our favourite Roald Dahl epic, this was where the Butlin's regulars meet to praise the Grand High Red Coat, wearing C&A dresses, scratching under their wigs, doors shut tight at either end.
Our Gold apartment (the Gold bit is very important) as I mentioned was quite nice, a tad small but clean and tidy so after a couple of nights we’d settled in nicely. However, as nice as it was, it wasn’t well stocked. In the kitchen cupboards were eight egg cups, one tiny red wine glass (a Borrower would have complained about it’s size) two small pans (one useless one with broken off handle), a broken can opener, absolutely shit-loads of cutlery (but no tea spoons) and an old casserole dish.
No corkscrew, so I was forced to apply the wine-shoe manoeuvre on the first night, much to the bemusement of passing fellow Gold guests.
We couldn’t open any tins so my Childish Chilli-con-carne was impossible (tut). Impressively, there was an SOS mobile number which one can text in an emergency. So, after an emergency text, a lovely man called Bill quickly arrived with a brand new corkscrew and can opener. Faith restored and new found love for Red Coat Bill quickly developed.
You may note that this blog post is entitled Butlin's Poo-Flu. Whilst avoiding the gory details, the Splash Waterworld; affectionately named Splash-back Waterworld by moi (not the cleanest of places to spend three hours), and the buttons on the 2p slot machines gave us all the proverbial (actually, literal) shits, putting a bit of a downer on one of the days that we were at Butlin's.
That said, no amount of poo-mergency toilet trips could keep us away from the fantastic 2p slot machines, frequented also by the same old granny that we saw every evening in her mobility scooter and therefore named Grannie Gamble; we all jumped and shrieked with excitement as the machine dealt out hundreds of little paper tokens whenever we nudged a 2p off the sliding shelves.
The boys were even more excited at the end of the week when our £20 worth of winning tokens that we’d collected were exchanged for 2 penny sweets and a pack of faux Pokemon stickers (now stuck firmly on the inside rear windows of Tom’s car).
Needless to say, a fantastic fun first holiday with the boys with great memories.