DAY 2 - OXFORD TO BUTLINS and BUTLINS DAY 1
Quickly up and out, down to Butlins before midday. And what a culture shock. One day the beauty of Oxford's culture, the next a gated community on the south coast.
(The very first pics from Butlins - carefully composed shots to imply the prison-like qualities of the place - subsequently proven unfounded))
Initial impressions: NOISE, oh the noise, difficult to get into, far harder to get out. But I was ready for it, determined to make the very best of it, determined to enjoy it on my own terms, determined to make it a fab holiday for Molly.
And, looking back as I write this in the Hotshots bar at midnight (the only place you can get a drink after 11 right now), I've had a great day.
Strange situations are all around; for a start there's no access to the accommodation until 4, which means everyone mills around looking for things to do. Luckily we'd had warning of this and had packed the swimming gear for easy access. Off we went to the pool, kids in tow, Molly not able to wipe the huge smile she'd developed as we got nearer and nearer to Butlins. The swimming just made it more-so. Well, I say swimming, but you can't really swim more than 10 feet before getting to some water feature or running out of depth to swim in. But the flumes, waves, slides and inflatable chutes more than made up for it. A cracking start.
Then dinner. I was expecting some kind of McDonalds meets school dinners type thing, and maybe if we were in the normal dining it might have been. Except we'd somehow managed to get the premier dining restaurant on a basic package. No idea how, but thank goodness we did, because the food really aint that bad. In fact it's all rather good - nothing spectacular perhaps and if I wanted to I could be the size of a whale by week end. Which would still wouldn't put me in the heaviest category here (I believe that's whale+).
That reminds me; the one thing I'm kicking myself for is not thinking of this one until it's too late - BUTLIN'S BINGO. (Similar to the great idea of convention bingo practised by various comic folks throughout 2009). I did get to spend most of the afternoon inventing categories for it though:
Fat people so large they can't move for more than 50 yards without stopping. Bonus points for seeing them eat, even more for seeing them carrying extra sized crap food.
Parents screaming at their children
Parents yanking their children away from amusements. Bonus points for every time you see this afternoon 11pm.
Drunk parents - extra points for every hour before 8pm
I could go on. In my head I did.
But despite the cynicism I was having a ball. It helped that Louise and I have a great kid who was having a wonderful time. She's of an age where we just basically feed her money and get involved when she wants us to. Which makes Butlins just a case of being around and saying yes or no a lot really. Added to that our friends kids are great and Molly adores being the big sister even if it is just temporary.
And the division of labour parenting wise in the Bruton houshold works a treat - this is why tomorrow morning I'm off to swimming with Molly and then to see what sports she wants to do - all of which I'll be going along to. And it's why Louise was the one who headed off to see Anna Muntana tonight at some crappy pavillion place or other.
Oh, yes, Anna Muntana, the Hannah Montana tribute act. I imagine it was as hideous as it sounds. But I wouldn't know, because I was in the Butlin's hotel bar, where I enjoyed the quiet surroundings and wrote (and drank) for an hour or so before heading down to the beach. Although I did have to navigate my way out of Butlins first - not the easiest of jobs. They don't make it easy - one small exit way off the beaten track. And god only knows what I'd do if I needed to leave after midnight when they close that gate.
Meanwhile Molly was having a great time, evidenced by both the ridiculous grim that wouldn't come off her face and the impossibility of getting her to sleep before 11 tonight. Thus bollixing up my plans to go back to the hotel bar and explaining why I'm in the late night bar inside the Pavillion complex writing this. Loud, bright, flashy lights, bar staff that wont stop dancing and a bunch of surly 20 somethings around who obviously think someone reading and writing stuff down is just weird. And I suppose it is. But I have spent me time, I have written good words, I have sat down today and watched some of the strangest sights I've seen in so long. And best of all, my daughter went to bed (and eventually to sleep) incredibly happy that we'd brought her to this most wonderful of places.