Hell is a child friendly caravan park holiday. Part 4. The Grand Finale

We return home and swing open the caravan door to reveal two sights at our feet. One small bin with a dodgy, luminous orange, sweet and sour mess crawling out of the sides and a three time wrapped shady nappy laying next to it. Mother is slumped in the corner with a can of larger and the toddler is careering through the place – unclogged and happy. A pong of sweet and sour shite hangs in the air. Outside the rain is still hammering down as we watch my partner run with the two bags to the bins like a bomb disposal expert.

We all sit, slightly dazed, watching In The Night Garden. While Oopsie Daisy sluts it up, Mother asks about our meal and we relay how amazing it was – to her bitter face, still smarting from the sweet and sour Hell.

Eventually it is time for the toddler to be trapped in his tiny room. Daddy reads him The Tiger who came to tea and we lovingly kiss our son goodnight before wedging two chairs up against his door handle. My partner goes for a walk in the torrential rain to Spar to get us a selection of chocolate bars (which is why I am marrying him) and we watch Father Ted. Every cloud…

The next day I decide to give swimming a miss… and my Father arrives to join in on the festivities. We all go for a drive to the nearest seaside town and the sun is out. It is beautiful – but, of course, it wouldn’t be a holiday in England without the temperature being absolutely arctic. I mean – it was fucking freezing. But still – beautiful.

Back at the caravan and it’s toddler nap time. My partner and I decide to have two hours together and to explore the caravan site. We walk around, without the toddler. We hold hands. Suddenly we are teenagers at the fair. We walk around the arcades. I momentarily think how romantic it would be if he won me an Olaf or a Minion, before remembering that we have more sense than money. As parents, when everything is about our child, our baby on the way, work and cleaning – it’s moments like these that really do feel magical. The tackiness of our surroundings – and the numerous things to snigger at just added to how special it felt.

Time for lunch and my partner rushes back to the caravan to pick up toddler duty so my parents can go to the restaurant we had been to the night before (so Mother, the woman who enjoys haute cuisine, could shake off her Papa Johns and iffy Chinese experiences).

My partner leaves me in the queue for Burger King – which is epic. I have given up on the toddler having any fibre or nutrition this weekend so I decide to introduce him to his Majesty. I order my partner’s special (two burgers) and nuggets for my nugget and something for myself (and the poor baby growing inside me). The angry Scottish teenage server SHOUTS to the entire crowd my entire list of an order, despite me being stood nose to nose with him:

OK THAT’S ONE WHOPPER MEAL! SUPERSIZED. 
AN EXTRA HAMBURGER! LARGE. 
FOUR LARGE FRIES! LARGE. 
A CHICKEN BURGER! SUPERSIZED. 
AND NINE…NUGGETS!!

as very small children all around gaze at me and my distended stomach in awe. I scurry off – back to the caravan.

We watch the toddler feed his nuggets to the Tiger who came to tea and melt.

My parents return and Mother and partner leave their ‘holiday’. My Father and I remain with the toddler to savour the rest of this time off. I decide to brave swimming once more. And it’s a success, this time it is quiet. A lovely woman lends me her child’s arm bands for my toddler and we have a lovely little swim. Ok…ok… this is nice. It would seem, if you can get rid of 98% of the patrons – the holiday ain’t half bad.

Dad and I both give dinner a miss and it’s off to bed we go: toddler trapped in the tiny room, grandpa taking up the whole living room and me in the master bedroom. Cut off from the TV, no Internet, no movies, no books. It really gives you time to think – time to think how shit it is without Netflix.

Toddler decides that the caravan is no longer fun and decides to scream / cry all the way through the night. I get about three hours of sleep.

The next day we put the toddler in various arcade rides as a going home treat. Four out of five of them don’t actually work so we spend our time strapping him into rides and then taking him out of them and getting a member of staff to retrieve our pound coins.

“Are they all broken?” I ask the member of staff.

He just shrugs at me and walks off.

And that sums it up really.

“Dad…take us home. It’s time to go home.”

And that is the best thing about a child friendly caravan holiday – they sure make home look better, in every feasible way. There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home…

 

 

 

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Hell is a child friendly caravan park holiday – Part 2 (The Swim)

The best time to try out that swimming pool we saw in the lovely promotional video is surely when it opens at 9.30am. Right? Because everyone else here will be either in bed, eating at the breakfast buffet, hungover or just out for the day on a jaunty family day out. Right?

We arrive at the swimming pool door at 9.15am to see a queue similar in length to the black Friday lines outside Asda. Everyone is champing at the bit, counting down the seconds till 9.30am like race horses at the Grand National. Above our heads a large sign hangs that reads:

Owner’s Only Swim – 8am – 9.30am

Public Swim* – 9.30am – 12.45pm

*For public swim read “Peasant swim”.

I try to explain to the lady behind me several times why we are queuing. She keeps exclaiming to her brood “Well, we should have come at 8!” I try to read her through the sign but she can’t seem to grasp the concept. The kids are crying. My child starts crying from the combined noise of the queueing peasants and the loud arcade machines surrounding us. He is also confused that we are immersed in darkness with flashing lights all around him that should come with a ‘may cause fits’ warning. 

9.29…Tick..tick..tock… 9.30! CHARGE!!!

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The scene is similar to how I imagine the ‘gates opening’ moment at a public execution in Game of Thrones. It is a mad dash to secure ourselves a changing room – though many of the swimmers seem to have come prepared so they can just chuck their tracksuit bottoms off at the side of the pool and leap in.

I find a changing room and wrestle the toddler into a special swimming nappy (that doesn’t come in a big enough size FYI). I try to quell the fear that he might choose this time to do his poo as he seems to have stopped pooing since we arrived at the caravan park. He’s probably too stressed to go! I know I am.

We throw our shit in a locker and enter the pool. Toddler in his mini wet suit, me in a stretched out Next swimming costume complete with my farcically large six month bump.

Mmm.. odd… It doesn’t look as big as it did in the promotional video. Especially with all my fellow peasants bobbing about in it, like a salt water pan over-flowing with gnocchi. Toddler waddles in and is happy enough. We keep moving to find space, like people on The Tube. Every time we find a space we need to move again due to the never ending surplus population.

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A solo man sits in the corner with a look of utter horror and repulsion on his face. I fear he is an ‘owner’ and has been caught in the time transition between owner tranquil spa time and peasant pool frenzy. He missed his portal. I later see him scurrying out of the pool, most probably off to the Owner’s only lounge to tell them all what he’s seen over a good quality expresso. Twat.

There is a ratio of 1 parent to every 6 children and a God awful amount of babies. Every single baby is screaming blue murder at being placed in the cold water. They are not enjoying themselves – at all. The parents don’t seem to care about this – probably thinking the newborns will climatise to the sudden drop in temperature … eventually. I hover 1mm away from toddler who can’t swim a jot and try to protect him from flailing legs, arms and errant floats.

The noise of the place is deafening – a mixture of screams, cries, shrieks and people shouting “Yeeee-Haaaaa!!! Oi!! Pass me the Frisby Tanya!”

Ever so often there is a waft of turd that one can only assume is from several of the new borns shitting themselves as part of a dirty protest against this sort of torture. My hair is now soaking wet and mascara is running down my face as several children have motored past me practising their kicking legs and using their arms as propellers and I have been caught in the wake. I see a large amount of quirky tattoos from nape to ankle on Gentlemen and ladies on the extra large side who have the sort of body confidence I crave. I spend most of my time praying my son will stop opening his mouth and drinking the water as one can only imagine how much urine is swarming around us.

I last about thirty minutes in this absolute Hell.

My partner arrives from his train journey to this ‘holiday” and we all go for breakfast to have another vending machine coffee and take our chances on the full English buffet.

My partner selects his five items – he’s a little disappointed as there are strict rules about the items – meat only for meat and non-meat only for non-meat. He tucks into his black pudding and hash brown, beans and what looks like boiled bacon. I imagine the owners are feasting on Eggs Florentine and Bucks Fizz in their sanctuary.

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I have a yogurt with granola and banana – which is very nice. I also have four pastries (I’m pregnant!) Two of which are edible, the other two – not so much. Partner spends a good amount of time tweezing out two huge splinters from toddler’s hand that he picked up on the badly sanded toilet door.

We all discuss what we can do for the rest of the day. The weather is atrocious. Absolutely freezing and pissing it down. Partner wants to sleep – he’s already knackered – and to watch Game of Thrones on his iPad – that he was clever enough to bring! Bastard. Mother wants to start drinking. And I want to have a shower and scrub away the memories of the swimming pool peasant frenzy.

Back to the old caravan we go.

Join me next time for :

– Unsupervised Soft Play Satanic Pit

– Tea and Toast (the silver lining)

– date night and

– Laxative laughs (How to unclog a toddler in one easy step)

 

Hell is a child friendly caravan park holiday – Part 1

I hadn’t been to a child friendly/ family friendly caravan holiday park since I was a child myself. But the promotional video looked so promising: The smiley parents with their smiley children skipping along the beach in their khaki outfits, frolicking in the near empty soft play, splashing in the near empty swimming pool, playing rounders around the lawns, eating sorbet, laughing lovingly with their parents and then back to their enormous caravan (with veranda – soaked in sun) for a Caesar salad and breadsticks.

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“Look at this mum!” I screamed, from the hole in the sofa I wallowed in, stroking my massive pregnant belly, the toddler rampaging through the living room, throwing malt loaf at the ceiling.

“We don’t need to go to a hotel! Or a B&B – we can go here!” Mum leans over. We watch the promotional video five times and book a weekend in one of their deluxe suites.

The Promise of a child friendly caravan park holiday:

1. Our toddler can make as much noise as he likes, no neighbours, no adjoining rooms.

2. Our toddler will never get bored. There are a million things for him to do – soft play, swimming pool, kids clubs, arcades, acres of land, playgrounds, go carts, mini boats and other children to play with.

3. I can have some time to myself and can relax. Key word: RELAX

I looked forward to this break for over a month and soon the time had come. I would go on Friday morning with mother, my partner would be able to come for two days of it (due to work [that’s his story and he’s sticking to it]) and then my dad would come too and do a swap – to ensure I could take full advantage of the whole four days of relaxation with all the family.

“Do you want to take the laptop? Or the iPad? Or the tablet darling?” My partner enquired the night before our departure.

“Hah! No!” I laughed, “I am not going on holiday to watch TV! I am not the sort of person who goes on holiday to go on the Internet! There is more than enough to do thank you!”

And off we go. The toddler, mother and me (and six month bump) – Relaxation here I come!

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Day One

As we have the car, I take every possible weather possibility outfit for the toddler which basically equates to every outfit we own that fits him. Myself – I don’t even take a coat. We set off on our drive. A couple of hours later and we are there. Toddler is already furious that he has been restrained in the car for so long so it’s time to let him loose.

Of course he can’t run free because the huge car park is a definite death trap and none of the cars are adhering to the 10mph signs. He spots a massive playground cleverly placed just behind the reception.

“How do I get to that wonderful playground?” I ask.

“That is for the owners” I am told.

After a couple of minutes wondering how many children the owners have…why they would need such a vast playground. I realise they mean owners of caravans, not the owners of the company. As renters we are already demoted to peasants – unable to use the amazing facilities clearly viewable from reception – which include a go kart circuit and a little lake with tiny boats on it.

The answer to the question “How do I get to that wonderful playground?” apparently is:

“Buy a caravan.”

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Toddler is so furious that I am still holding his hand and not allowing him to run into the owner’s-only lake that he bites my hand. What is this shit?! Have I spawned a pit bull? Mother and I stare at the owner’s only sanctuary wafted under our nose and go to our caravan.

It’s very nice. “Sleeps six” means two bedrooms and many pull out sofas – but it’s nice. We don’t seem to have that sun soaked veranda (we have a 2 foot by 2 foot step) but its nice. TV goes straight on. I am filled with excitement! I can’t wait to go to the on site Spar and stock up on Digestives! The sun is shining and Mother has been talking (nagging) about going to the beach before the sun goes out since 7am.

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Despite the sun-going-out ticking bomb we decide to explore the site. We find the bar. Mother buys us a latte and we take it in turns running after the toddler who only wants to run towards the second, death-trap car park. Our lattes appear to have no coffee in them, so we sit and sip hot milk in the sun. Mother announces at the top of her lungs “I don’t think we will do much eating here darhling!” A Burger King and Papa John’s glowing behind her, as she sips on her frothy milk with a face like someone shat on her scallops.

We rush to the beach.

Toddler runs up and down the beach numerous times. Mother and I take it in turns monitoring toddler who is training to be the next Mo Farah. I give up and collapse into the wet sand. A large dog gallops up and pisses in the sand hole a foot away from me. I watch my poor, nearly pensioner, short-in-the-leg mum simultaneously run after little Mo and run after the ball we brought that is being carried off in the sea breeze. The clouds come over.

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Mother curses for the next thirty minutes that we should have come earlier in the day. Now the bastard sun has gone. And that was the last time we were to have sun and warmth over the holiday.

Toddler wants to run up and down the slippery cobbled lifeboat ramp. He’s not allowed. He screams. We walk up the stretch, me complete with soggy bottom from the wet sand, and take him for Fish and Chips. He screams because they are too hot. He wants to run into the sea; where he came from, he’s not allowed. He bites my hand again. I put his reigns on – the shit hits the fan.

“Let’s just go back to the caravan mum” I say, utterly exhausted, rubbing my huge pregnant stomach as I am dragged back down the lifeboat ramp and along the cobbles by my furious Pit Bull.

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We go back to the site and visit Spar. The on-site spar is designed specifically for toddlers. Half of the room stocks toddler toys – every toy you can imagine. There is a giant basket of balls. Toddler wants to take each ball out and throw across the shop. I spend my time picking up balls and apologising. We stock up on snacks and rush home. It has been a long day and the toddler should be exhausted!

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Back in the caravan and Mother and I watch toddler stampede up and down the place in his pyjamas as we count the seconds down to CBeebies cut off time. After desperately trying to fill him up with yogurt and toast – finally it’s here. We put toddler to bed in the tiny, second room.

Reasons your child will not sleep in a caravan (see also, reasons your child will not sleep on holiday)

1. The walls are made of crepe paper so however much you try – the temperature will be arctic.

2. They do not come with black out blinds.

3. There is nothing more exciting than a different bed / different environment.

4. They will be able to hear everything you do, from running the hot tap, to flushing the toilet, to coughing, to picking your nose.

5. Later – when they wake up momentarily – they will see Grandma is sleeping in the bed next to them which is basically, the most exciting thing that you can wake up next to as a toddler, other than Mr Tumble. It would be comparable to me waking up momentarily to find I am sleeping next to Ryan Gosling. It would be highly unreasonable to expect me to drift off naturally again after that.

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So we put him to bed and about thirty minutes later the door handle starts rattling like the kitchen scene in Jurassic Park.

“Ignore him” I say, “he’ll soon drop off.”

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Moments later and a smiley face appears next to us. He is tall enough to open the bastard caravan doors. I know at this point that no ‘relaxation’ will occur. We let him run up and down the caravan as we tuck into our take away Papa John’s pizza because we no longer care.

Eventually he is put back to bed and two chairs are wedged up against the outside door handle.

I sit on the sofa sucking on Rennies, regretting the Papa John’s, watching Masterchef. It’s all too much for mother and she’s on the Vino. She wants to talk to me about the bloke out of ‘Game of Thrones’. The caravan has no wifi and there is no way of connecting to the internet. I can not quickly Google facts. The long arse day ends with Mother trying to remember his name:

“Paul Pinklage?”

“Percey Drinkpige?”

“Peter Sinknage?”

“wassit Parker Dlinknige?”

I pass out and await what joys day two will bring.

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