When I was a child, our holidays were usually either in the homes of our grandparents, in Plymouth, Devon or we’d rent a cottage in one of the beautiful landscapes of the British Isles – the Lakes, Yorkshire or, closer to home, Dolgellau or Aberporth.
In those days, a theme park was an unheard of proposition. Going out to play meant zooming up and down the cul-de-sac on a Mini Moulton or a Chopper bicycle. The most hedonistic experience you could have at the fair ground was going down the log flume whilst consuming a boiling hot doughnut or, possibly, trying to eat candyfloss in a force 10 gale whilst sporting very long hair. The end result was not dissimilar to one of those troll dolls you could buy – or was it a gonk? I never did manage to work out the difference.
But one thing was a reassuring constant. It always rained. Always. Apart from the ‘long, hot summer of 1976’ which most of us, ahem, mature individuals can recall. So, the entire family would sport the lovely, crinkly and sweat inducing garment that is the kagool. Helpfully high visibility, even on the bleakest afternoon up Cader Idris or in the depths of the slate mine at Blaenau Ffestiniog, you could probably spot the Brooks family from space.
We moved like a day-glo orange unit, armed with dad’s rucksack, some cracked plastic camping mugs (which, mother is STILL using) and emergency Kendal Mint Cake (a minty, sugar based confection which tasted fabulous, resembled a brick and could probably knock you out if it were thrown at you). Sandwiches were cheese and tomato (irrespective of the fact that nobody really liked tomato). Crisps were those Salt ‘n’ Shake ones which were murder if you suffered from mouth ulcers and, since the tortured minds at Robinsons had not yet conceived the “Fruit Shoot”, we had squashy, plastic cartons of Kia Ora which was as orange as our kagools.
I tend to spend most school holidays in a complete lather about “how to entertain the kids”. I morph into an irritable, over-anxious Butlins Red Coat of a mother, bemoaning the fact that every venue seems to require a lengthy drive, satnav, and, of course, at least 50 photographs uploaded to Facebook within 30 minutes of returning home. (Here we are on the beach. Here we are eating an ice cream on the beach. Here we are digging a hole – on the beach). Guilty as charged, m’lud but I wish it wasn’t such a compulsion.
If their holiday Facebook statuses are to be believed, other mums seem to spend their time ferrying their offspring the length and breadth of this country’s entertainment venues within the first two weeks of the holidays. They must surely be inhaling Berroca (although it is more likely to be Pinot Grigio). They go abseiling, rock climbing, horse riding, baking, crafting, bbq-ing and face painting.
Well, in the first week of last year’s summer holidays we went to Tesco’s and let me tell you it was a disaster. Despite Ieuan managing to hold on to Kevin (his evil minion), Caitlin managed to lose one of her soft toy puppy collection which resulted in two trips to Cogan on one of the hottest day of the year and much wailing and tears (and that was just me). Then we went to Penarth Headland to some swings with a sea view. Caitlin fell off the swing so the rest of the afternoon was spent in the Heath Hospital A&E. (Cue the usual muttering from the Husband about us consuming far more than our fair share of NHS resources).
I’m beginning to wonder if I would have been better off busing them to Alton Towers and strapping them onto The Smiler for the afternoon. We didn’t have play centres like Parc or the Zone when I was young. If you got your face painted it was because you’d swiped your mother’s Avon lippie while her back was turned. Everything was much simpler, cheaper and probably safer.
So I think I’m going to buy us all kagools in case of inclement weather and take the kids to visit some of the finest pay and display car parks this country has to offer. It’ll be a thermos, cheese and tomato sarnies and ready salted crisps.
And you know what? I think they’d be just as happy. All kids really want is loving attention from their parents. And all I want is an extremely large glass of rioja! You can post that on Facebook.