What I did on my Holidays (Pt.5)

Well, here it is, the final part of our holiday blogs from Florida. Of course, regular readers will know this all happened two years ago and that I’m reblogging in an effort to get all the stuff from my old Moonfruit site consolidated here on WordPress, but references to hurricane Irene aside that shouldn’t be an issue. This is a long blog even by my long-winded standards, so you might want to make a cup of tea before diving in… 

My own experience of Disney’s Epcot centre varied from that of the rest of my family’s, as I spent most of the day in the medical facilities there. This was day four of the holiday, and while my strange squitts were still largely controllable I was becoming increasingly disturbed by some of the noises and movements emanating from my stomach.

In the night, it had been making sounds that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on the soundtrack of Jurassic Park; strange gurglings, grumbles and roars that filled the room. They had an odd stereophonic quality about them, too, as though my stomach had learnt the art of ventriloquism and was ‘throwing’ its voice in the way that tigers are said to project their growls so it seems like they’re approaching from the opposite direction. The groans and creaks seemed sometimes to come from behind or above me, and even on occasion from the garage or the house next door. Between ‘sit down wees’ (see previous blog) my stomach would swell like a beach ball (okay, keep the ‘how could you tell’ jokes to yourself, I know I’m carrying a bit of extra timber these days, thank you), and after emptying would ripple and bulge like the abdomen of a David Cronenberg animatronic. I was also, on this day, feeling nauseous and weak, and even sweatier than could be accounted for by the hundred-degree plus Florida sunshine, and after driving to Epcot realised I wasn’t going to make it through the day so sought refuge.

epcotAfter a nice, relaxing ninety minute lie down I suddenly found myself vomiting, with no warning whatsoever, all over the walls and floor of Walt’s very lovely medical centre. Ill as I was, I couldn’t help but be impressed at the magnificence of the display I was presenting  – a stream of steaming orange that rivalled and possibly even eclipsed Walt’s dancing fountains which we had watched on our way in. My wonder, however, turned to consternation when I noticed several mushrooms in the mix, along with a variety of other lumps that seemed wholly inexplicable considering my total lack of food intake for the past two days and what I thought was a completely emptied stomach. Needless to say, despite feeling further debilitated by this sudden eruption I also felt immediately ‘better’, the nausea and sweats subsiding while my stomach returned to its normal taut and muscular ironing board flatness (yeah, right…). So, filled with optimism that I had now ‘turned the corner’ I leapt from my sick bed determined to embrace the few remaining hours of the day.

All things considered, I should have waited until they’d mopped up, really. Slippery stuff, vomit, ennit? For a minute it looked like I was doing one of those old minstrel dance routines – you know, the one where they lean forward like ice-skaters, flipping their legs alternately out behind them while crossing their hands back and forth in front of their stomachs like marching soldiers – and then I went into the old ‘falling over backwards’ routine beloved of silent movie comedy stars like Chaplin and Keaton. Then my legs took off in two different directions at once and I executed the splits, much in the manner of a young Bonnie Langford but with more screaming and crossed eyes. On the way down I banged my head against the metal framework of my ‘cot’, and as I slipped into unconsciousness watched in stunned fascination as the blood leaking from the gaping wound in my cranium ran in winding rivulets through the river of orange juice surrounding me. The effect was similar to mixing a Tequila Sunrise, only on a much grander scale…

tequilaI am, of course, exaggerating (‘I’ve told you a million times not to exaggerate’): there was no impromptu dance routine, no gashed head and no slippage into unconsciousness. The rest, however – give or take a bit of poetic license – is pretty much the truth of it, and after Walt’s lovely nurses had rehydrated me with small sips of cherry Gatorade (horrible US version of Lucozade in a range of frightening colours and flavours) and Walt’s not so lovely (aesthetically, I mean – I’m not making any sort of negative judgement about his personality or psychology) janitor had mopped the floor I left the sick bay to continue my day, just in time to catch the first crack of thunder and flash of bolt-lightning as the heavens opened with a downpour that had us soaked to the skin in seconds.

gatoradeWe decamped to one of the restaurants where the rest of the group ate dinner while I sipped occasionally on my Gatorade. It was around seven then, so we sat in there for two hours hoping that the rain would stop in time for the lakeside fireworks; one of the ‘showstopper’ events at Disney. It didn’t, and the fireworks were cancelled, and we drove home in zero visibility by a hair-raising backroad route selected by the sat-nav after a pile up closed a ten mile stretch of the motorway. The rain stopped approximately 3 seconds after we got back to the villa, which happened to coincide with the return of my squitts as I rushed tut lavvy to relieve myself of the cherry Gatorade…

I can’t remember where we went out the following afternoon, but the morning was spent locating and consulting a doctor for my Maverick Prowles. He gave me a prescription for a ten day course of antibiotics and some industrial strength anti-diarrhetics and told me to drink plenty of Gatorade (they can’t get enough of it over there!) to replace my electrolytes and relieved me of a hundred dollars. TBH I thought an electrolyte was one of those motorised hang-glider thingies you see crashing off of Beachy Head, but give the doc his due the tabs and Gatorade cocktails did their stuff over the next few days, and even after adding another sixty dollars to pay for the scrips it was still money well spent. I’m not sure if the dark orange/brown wee I passed for the rest of the holiday (very retro – reminiscent of a pair of paisley curtains my mum (and I’m sure many other mums too) had in her living room for most of the 70’s) was down to the Gatorade, the antibiotics or dehydration, but at least it was coming through the right set of plumbing and by Sunday I was feeling fit enough to risk a trip to the Blizzard Beach water park, which  Ben and I had been looking forward to giving a bash for months.

Setting off for Blizzard Beach we debated about taking a change of clothing and decided against it. Barbara wouldn’t be swimming anyway, and with the brilliant sunshine Alex and Ben could just have a ten-minute steam to dry their shorts before getting back in the car. As my own duties went beyond just swimming, potentially including rushing round supermarkets or petrol stations for last minute provisions or fuel, I did pack spare shorts and a t-shirt for the journey home. Very sensible forward planning, eh?

Is there anything in the world that’s more fun than water? Whether throwing cupfuls of the stuff in the school playground, diving through crashing waves of it after wading painfully across scrapnell-sharp pebbles on the annual day trip to Hastings or leaping into ice-blue, sparkling seas from a luxury yacht anchored in some sandy tropical bay it is synonymous with joyful laughter and healthy relaxation. Blizzard Beach was no exception; we had a wonderful day there careening at breakneck speeds down water-chutes and dark tunnels on foam ‘bob-sleighs’, darting down daring drops in inflatable two man dinghies and bobbing gently in lazy circles on rubber rings through palm groves and sandy oases.

What made it even more special, initially, was that we were able to persuade Alex, who is a bit of a wuss when it comes to rides and stuff, to try all the chutes and things too, and the fact that he enjoyed them all just as much as Ben and I did. Adding to that it was an absolute pleasure to see him looking truly relaxed on the lazy river – relaxation being something that doesn’t come easily to him in company or crowds – and I vow now that if I ever win the lottery I’ll buy him his own villa in Spain with a lazy river moat running right the way around it.

Blizzard Beach also provided me with what was undoubtedly the most draw-dropping, terrifying, heart-in-mouth ‘ride’ of my life, in the shape of a 40ft ‘switchback’ waterslide down the side of a fibreglass mountain. This wasn’t the tallest or fastest of the slides – they also have a higher, sheer drop equivalent to Wet ‘n’ Wilds ‘Da Stuka’ – but it was the second biggest, and the plan was to gradually build Alex’s confidence in the hope that he would take the plunge on the biggest one afterwards. Ben went first, and effectively went down ‘blind’ as he was made to take off his (prescription) swimming goggles… Without ocular enhancement his world is pretty much a blur (that old joke about the opticians comes to mind: ‘Can you read me the chart on the wall?’ / ‘What wall?’), but he dun the deed anyway and loved every blurry second.

Alex stepped up next, looking surprisingly confident, and asked his inevitable pre-ride question; ‘It’s not fast, is it?’ I told him, truthfully – never lie to people about this kind of thing ‘cos it only makes things worse – that it would be fast, but not much faster than the tunnel rides he had just been on. With that he sat down and shuffled forward to the safety bar.

‘Now you want to cross your feet over, put your hand across your chest, and lie back’ said the attendant.

‘And you’ve got to stay like that all the way down,’ I added. ‘I went on Der Stuka at Wet ‘n’ Wild almost twenty years ago now, and I’m still coughing up bits of those swimming trunks ‘cos I uncrossed my legs…’

Der StukaWith that, Alex crossed his legs, crossed his arms and lay back, only to reverse the movements within a split second of giving himself up to gravity.  He went down sitting up, looking backwards, with his arms and legs dangling over the sidewalls as he tried, dangerously and unsuccessfully, to slow his descent. ‘LAY DOWN’ I shouted, pointlessly. ‘Oh. My. God’ muttered the attendant, clutching at a set of rosary beads he’d miraculously produced from his trunks. People screamed. Several women fainted. My heart was beating like budgie trying to get out of a shoebox, I wanted to look away but couldn’t. In my mind I saw a spinning newspaper, the front page bearing a picture of me in an orange jumpsuit behind bars, the headline ‘Evil Uncle Murders Autistic Nephew at Theme Park’ in bold print above my head…

Suffice to say Alex made it safely down, and trembling head to foot I sat down ready to follow him while the crowd jeered and spat on me. At the bottom, Alex was waiting with a huge grin on his face.

‘That was brilliant’ he said, ‘can we do it again?’

‘Give it five minutes, eh?’ I suggested, ‘I just want to go see Barbara for a minute and see if she’s got any Valium in her bag.’

I hung around the parks defibrillator station for a little while, too, but thankfully my condition stabilised. I’m still having flashbacks though, along with occasional bouts of hysterical, uncontrollable laughter…

As it turned out we didn’t get to go on any other slides, because a few minutes later there was an ear-splitting crack of thunder and the tree I was resting under split down the middle and burst into flames. A moment later a second fork of lightning took out the ice cream kiosk to my right and the heavens opened with a deluge that almost literally lived up to the words of Blackadder’s Captain Rum (Tom Baker) by being ‘so ‘ard it would make yer ‘ead bleed’.

We rushed in several directions at once seeking shelter, watching each potential hiding place explode into flames as the lightning raged around us. Eventually we found a straw hut (flammable, but hopefully non-conductive?) and huddled within it, a space designed for no more than half a dozen people packed with upwards of another hundred soggy and dispirited swimmers. I detected a horrible smell reminiscent of rotting flesh and cabbage-water and turned to give Ben the evil-eye. ‘Sorry’ he mouthed silently, as people looked suspiciously at me.

Eventually it dawned on us that the monsoon wasn’t going to stop and that we’d have to make a run for the car. We wrapped Ben’s head in silver foil and sent him on ahead, the plan being that he could scout out the car while simultaneously acting as a lightning conductor to draw fire away from us. As we scuttled along I espied a changing hut, and knowing that there were dry shorts and t-shirt for me in Barbara’s swag sack of a handbag said I’d nip in and change so I’d be more comfortable on the way home.

‘No, use the one in the car-park’, said Barbara ‘it’s closer to the car.’

The logic of that appealed to me, but I had absolutely no recollection of there being a changing room – or even ‘restroom’ block – in the car park.

‘Are you sure?’ I said.

Barbara harrumphed (this is a sigh, accompanied by eyes rolling heavenwards and a gritting of teeth). ‘Yes’, she said, ‘It is RIGHT by the main entrance, just as you get out of the parking bit.’

I looked at Ben, who shrugged his shoulders. I looked at Alex, who did the same. I looked again at Barbara, who gave an even bigger harrumph and gritted her teeth so tightly that several of them shattered and she broke her bottom plate.

‘Alright. Alright.’ She said, ‘Go in there then and get wet again. I MUST be imagining things. Or STUPID.’

‘Fair enough,’ I said, ‘if you’re sure. Thanks for the tip; I’ll change in the car park’.

When we got outside we looked everywhere. Despite the rain, we found the car, then retraced our way back from it along the route we had taken on arriving so there could be no mistake. After doing this several times Barbara uttered the loudest humph I’ve ever heard her utter and shouted, ‘WELL THERE WAS ONE WHEN WE CAME IN!’

…This, for anyone who’s been waiting with baited breath since part two of the blog, is the ‘definitive proof’ I foreshadowed of Barbara’s capacity for bloody-minded self-delusion: she is actually more willing to believe that someone or something actually dismantled, leaving no trace, an entire building rather than contemplate the possibility that her casual and retrospective recall of that building might be flawed. In fact, I wouldn’t mind betting that if she reads this she’ll appropriate my fictional depiction of an exploding, lightning struck, ice-cream kiosk as the answer to the riddle of the disappearing changing hut.]

Well, I’ve done five days of this holiday blog now, and it’s probably more than enough for anyone. Dun to deff, some might say, the miserable buggers.

The rest of the holiday was lovely too, but we didn’t get to do as much non-theme park / shopping stuff done (National parks, Countryside) etc as we’d hope thank to the second week’s Irene-related lousy weather, but we certainly weren’t bored or disappointed. Ben rose to the challenge of an ‘all you can eat’ menu, leaving bankrupt and shell-shocked restaurant owners in his wake, and took gluttony to new heights with the four course T-Bone steak dinner he ate on the last night. There’s a photo taken of us by the waiter in that restaurant looming out of the darkness over bucket sized bowls of ‘side salad’ where we look like a small pod of manitee grazing on the bottom of a heavily vegetated estuary; an observation that when voiced at the time caused a lady on the next table to laugh so hard that a piece of coleslaw came out of her nose.

ManiteeThere was some confusion over the return flights, as Barbara had somehow calculated a timetable that had us landing at Gatwick around sixteen hours or so before we actually took off. With lots of patience, several diagrams and the undeniable evidence of the dates printed on the tickets I managed to convince her that time travel, even when travelling through different time zones, is, in respect of current technology and the boundaries of our present abilities in manipulating the laws of physics, a physical impossibility. All in all a minor inconvenience, quickly resolved by a couple of phonecalls to reschedule the Gatwick taxi and book Tabitha the special needs cat an extra night at the cattery. The home flights were fine with headphones and movies working and no squitts, and included an amusing episode at the airport when an embarrassed young lady had to explain to security that it was her intimate body piercings setting off the metal detectors.

So that’s about it then, folks. Hoooraayyyyyy! Here’s to next year and a nice relaxing week at Butlins!

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