[Just in case anyone starts wondering this is NOT a sponsored post. Heaven forefend – I would never undermine my credibility (sic) nor sully my reputation by advertising in my blog! Well, unless the money was right…]
I’m writing this Monday Club blog a couple of days in advance and schedule publishing because we’re off for a wee break to Butlintz in Bognor. It’s just a four night break, courtesy of a newspaper £10.00 giveaway (which actually came to almost £150.00 when all the surcharges etc went on but is still a bloody good deal), but it will at least get the summer holidays off to a good start.
We’re not actually setting off until after lunch as we’re taking Ben’s mate with us and he has his final GCSE exam in the morning, but that will give us plenty of time to check we’ve packed everything we need to pack for the fourth or fifth time (no, it’s not OCD it’s just erring on the side of caution) and to drop Tabitha The Special Needs Cat off at the cattery. Five days for her in a chicken-wire run will cost almost as much as our holiday, but sadly having someone come in to feed her isn’t an option as we would come home to find the house wrecked by every other cat in the neighbourhood.
Cowardliness is not the most challenging of Tabs’ medical conditions, but it is one of her most irritating. Had we no cat whatsoever our garden would probably be a much nicer place, but it has become a target – or rather toilet – for every other cat within a fifteen mile radius because they all delight in piddling and kakking over every drop of scent our cringing moggy lays to mark her territory. It’s a minefield avoiding the pussy poop to hang out the washing, and we are constantly bog-turded when trying to play boule or croquet.
What with the dribbling, the IBS and the pathetic mewling noise she makes when she’s hungry (which is constantly, given the IBS) Tabs really hasn’t got much going for her at all. If I’m completely honest I rue the day Ben rescued her from the cat rescue centre, but he wouldn’t be without her on his bed at night so I guess on some level she’s worth all the aggro. When she dies I’ll probably have her made into a pyjama case, and she can share his bed forever.
But I digress. Butlintz… It’s been a few years since we last went, but when Ben was little this was one of the few holidays we could afford. It’s very difficult for single parent and child families to find holidays where they’re not incurring surcharges for sleeping space they don’t need, and Ben’s special dietary requirements (gluten and dairy free) complicated things even further. Butlin’s, with its all-in catering and ‘just the two of us’ apartments, was the practical choice, and the free funfair and evening entertainment made it even more attractive. I think we went three times in the space of about five years, holidaying at various caravan parks and youth hostels in between.
One of the drawbacks of being a single parent is that you never get any nice holiday snaps. I’ve got loads of pics of Ben having fun at Butlin’s, but none of the two of us, because I was always the one taking the photos. I did remember to set the auto-timer for this one back in 2004…
…but that’s the only one from all three holidays. That said I HATE being photographed anyway (see previous blog), so I’d hardly go out of my way to point a camera at myself now, would I? It’s hard to believe that the pic was taken only nine years ago. Ben looks little more than a babe in arms (though he was actually coming up for seven!) and I’m looking frighteningly fresh faced compared to the raddled old fart I see in the mirror now! It seems much longer, yet paradoxically only the blink of an eye too. That’s time for you – it gets faster the closer you get to the grave. Bugger.
One big positive of our Butlin’s holidays was that over time I was able to work on Ben’s fear of fairground rides. This caused all sorts of upsets over our first two visits because Ben was pulled in two directions at the same time. He would spend ages queuing for rides, desperately trying to pluck up the courage to go on, but then be unable to follow through once he reached the front. It was heartbreaking that he managed to go on a couple of the bigger rides on the last day of our second holiday there then cried all the way home because of the missed opportunities earlier in the week. Mind you, he enjoyed that last day immensely, and it stood him in good stead for subsequent holidays, including the delights of Florida and the major theme parks there a couple of years ago.
Another thing I remember from our first year at Butlin’s was that I had just given up smoking. The atmosphere in the ‘club’ every night was so heavy with nicotine I’d wake up in the morning with a sore throat and a whole new set of cravings to contend with. It was like walking into a woodbine flavoured cloud chamber. God knows what it was doing to the kids in the room, but it’s amazing with hindsight that smoking in places like that wasn’t banned until 2007.
One thing Ben won’t be doing this year that was a feature of our previous holidays is hitting the decks on the dance machines. He was obsessed with Dance-Stage for a good few years, and what he lacked in style he made up for in energy and almost metronomic timing. He was one of the few boys queuing for the machines along with all the young ladeez, and would leave them stunned when he smashed their scores while apparently leaping around mindlessly in the style of a headless chicken. Ahhh, them’s were the days. Now it’s all X-Box and Zombie Nazis. He still leaps around like a headless chicken while playing, but doesn’t earn bonus points for it anymore.
Anyhoo, that’s what we’re up to for the next five days so wish us luck with the weather. We’ll be branching out to explore the new forest etc if the sun shines, but at least we know if it’s poxy there’ll still be plenty on site to keep us occupied. Even better, with Ben’s mate in tow I can send them off on their own to the pool in the morning while I lay abed recovering from the previous night’s excesses. Of which there will hopefully be plenty.
If you happen to be in Bognor yourself next week look out for a six-foot three-inch nerdy looking kid and his five-foot nowt Milhouse look-e-likee mate. I’ll be the knackered looking bloke schlepping along behind them with a camera.