Butlins, Skegness.

“You are determined to moan all week, aren’t you?” accuses the LTLP.

I smart at the injustice. Actually, I am determined to be cheerful. Butlins has been a central plank of British working class holiday culture for decades, an icon for people with my sort of uncomplicated English family background. It has been celebrated on TV (‘Hi de Hi’) and in books (Brian Keenan’s excellent ‘An Evil Cradling.’) I am fascinated as to how it will have adapted to provide a holiday experience for the twenty-first century. I would explain all this, but the wind and rain is howling off the North Sea and the Baby is crying and I am fed up with shouting.

I peruse a leaflet we’ve been given. “We can go and see the stars of ‘The X Factor’ tonight,” I moot. “That might be interesting.”

There are no takers for my stars of ‘The X Factor’ plan. It is a shame. We have all the opportunity to catch a glimpse of the big names of tomorrow and it seems foolish to waste it. I take Child #1 to see the puppet show instead.

The puppet show is a hit. Child #1 enjoys the large crocodile with sunglasses who dances around on strings to the tune of ‘Welcome to the Jungle’ by Guns ‘n’ Roses. There is a small inkling at the back of my mind that this is not what Guns ‘n’ Roses envisaged when they originally wrote ‘Welcome to the Jungle.’ But perhaps it is, and the song has been misinterpreted. I am hoping that the next act will feature an enormous purple cockerel jiving around to ‘Relax’ but to no avail. They are missing a trick there.

When the rain stops, we go to the funfair. I have to cover Child #1’s ears as the man in front of us in the queue is shouting at the attendant that this is the most fucking bollocks funfair that he’s ever been to. He is upset because the go-karts are not working, the dodgems are not working, the whirly-roundy-thing is not working and the kids train ride is not working. He is being unreasonable as this leaves at least six attractions, three of which are not in the ‘you have to pay extra’ class. I buy a token for the junior quad bikes and watch the ex-Toddler pootle around the track. She loves it so much that I go to get her another go, but the ride is closing for lunch. We walk back through the arcade and she plays on the driving machines which she enjoys, even though she is too foolish to realise that you have to put money in them.

We take three more days of the bracing and health-giving Eastern sea air. Unfortunately I go down with some sort of horrible bug on the fourth day and am confined to chalet.

It is the nicest thing in the world to take your family away on holiday. Everybody loved it, especially my mother-in-law. I am glad that I have been to Butlins, as I fear for its future in a world of ‘not having to go to Butlins.’ But I can tick it off the list and move on.

10 Comments

  1. I loved the sting in the tail to your little tale. I used to work in Skegness. A holiday there with your mother-in-law was the theme of another book – I am surprised you didn’t mention it (Divine Comedy, Dante).

  2. Good point, Dave. That would explain the “Lasciate ogni speranza, voi ch’entrate” quote chiselled over the gates. So much friendlier than the “Chalets macht frei” of Pontins…

    Midway on this life we’re bound upon
    I woke to find myself in a dark swamp
    where tarmac roads were wholly lost and gone.
    Yea, Norfolk, verily it is a dump…

  3. How did your new gas guzzling 4WD go on the run up there? Did you take the A52 or did you stay on the A16 all the way to Spilsby then come across on the A158 to avoid the traffic?

  4. Jonny, you sound like my wife. She knocked back a trip to Grimsby to see the sunrise. No pleasing some people.

  5. I have a cold. I put this first as a disclaimer. Perhaps I should add that when I have a cold it replaces my brain with cotton batting stuff so my sentences go something like ‘ah, well here I think Kubrik was… was… doing something …. with – hey, did she just flash her tits?’

    So first, Ivan’s poetry is deeply, deeply moving and probably brilliant.

    Second, I read ‘when the rain stops we go to the UNfair’ and was not sure why that sounded odd, and then I read on and realized I am psychic!

    Either that or I just wasted my one and only truly psychic moment on a description of the Butlins dodgems rather than on winning the lottery or something genuinely useful.

    Or maybe I just have a cold.

  6. Interestingly, Norbert, you’re not the first person to say Jonny sounds like their wife!

  7. We did take the gas guzzler. It was good because we could always drink the diesel out of the tank in preference to the house wine.

  8. “Welcome to the jungle, oh my my my, s’open any time,” is wot they mean.

  9. Can we just clear up the cast list? the Baby is the new Baby and Child #1 is the ex Toddler? Is she also the ex Servalan? Will the baby become the Toddler or the Toddler #2? You wouldn’t want to confuse us and I need time to get my head around Norfolkian nomenclature. Thanks.

  10. And to think you went all that way when you could have just gone to Yarmouth

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