It started with my grandmother collecting tokens from the Sun, which for some unearthly reason she gets regularly even when she's not collecting tokens. The most embarrassing result of this so far was the time I ended up getting letters sent to my open-to-public-scrutiny pigeon-hole at University (before I was ill), with "Sun Care Club" emblazoned on them.
Anyway, we got these tokens and applied for a holiday, asking for a fairly nearby destination (I travel rather badly) where you could take a dog. To stand a chance of getting anywhere decent you have to go in about October. Therefore, for July we got somewhere about twice as far away as we wanted, where dogs were verboten. Not only that, it was a Pontins, the shrine to waterproof mattress protectors which make your sheets slide off. The resort was at Brean Sands, a few miles south of Weston-Super-Mare, which we visisted for a meal one evening.
We managed to sort out some dog-minding easily enough and made the most of the holiday. The journey up there could have been worse. For a start I only once had to ask to stop to water a tree when noone else wanted to, although that was after we'd only been going for about an hour. Not including the stop at our local Tesco for lunch, which I think sets our record for shortest first leg of a journey. With the long journey in hot weather, my dad's old car seemed too tired to bother rattling as vigorously as usual. We went mainly on quiet B-roads, which was nicer than the fast A's etc.
We'd upgraded our accommodation from the concentration camp level; we usually find upgrading is a worthwhile investment. We were allocated a "chalet" in the block where they paid particular care to the needs of the disabled although we hadn't made any special arrangements about my ME. This was considerately placed immediately between a late night (and most of the day) karaoke bar and the children's sports area.
One morning I had the privilege to wake up to the opportunity to spectate, from my bedroom window, on the "football coaching" ie a middle-aged bloke acting macho in front of some young boys. He'd done his best to achieve a Kevin Keegan perm, but was rather lacking in raw material, so the overall effect was more like Lennie Bennett.
We entered the chalet and weren't very impressed with the result of our upgrade. They'd "forgotten" to issue us with our free electricity card, so my parents had to go to reception to complain. We were a bit unpleasantly surprised to find that the double bed was just a sofa-bed in the lounge, and it had no bed-linen. So my parents had to go to reception to ask for some. A teenager came round with some sheets and pillowcases, which wasn't enough, so he got sent to get a duvet and pillows as well. Shortly before his return my dad closed the bathroom door, revealing another mysterious door between that and the wardrobe. Behind it was the master bedroom, complete with made-up bed. The teenager seemed as surprised as us about the secret room, and he was quite good-tempered about his wasted trips, but he seemed to have his brain switched off. I don't blame him.
The shower was horrible, it was operated by a single push-button which activated it for about 30 seconds. It had one temperature: just about too hot to stand under. I tried turning on the hot bath tap to see if that would cool down the shower water, but it didn't make any difference except to fill up the bath-cum-shower base with something that felt like like fresh lava.
It's in a very nice area. The beach was beautiful, but sadly the tide was out in the daytime and it's one of those places where it goes out for miles, exposing a very soggy, muddy sort of sand.
Scorchio! Some of the best weather we've had during an English holiday.
I use the word only to give you an idea of what we experienced was supposed to be. It could spawn one of those new buzzwords like "edutainment" and "infotainment", although this would probably be called something like "nontertainment" or "untertainment".
Well that's what it said on the schedule, but it actually seemed to be more like 4 spare bluecoats who happened to be able to get halfway through an aerial somersault then land very loudly. The compere was having a real struggle to get the kids to make any noise, but the heckling livened up a bit when one of the wrestlers said he'd do no more wrestling "tonight" (this in spite of it being lunchtime) if they didn't shut up. Between bouts a bluecoat was trying to get some Mexican waves going. We left after a few minutes.
If you haven't seen one of these, it's kids riding donkeys, and you bet on the result. Between races there was some sort of obstacle race going on, and a bluecoat was trying to get some Mexican waves going. We left after a few minutes. But we did see one race and win one of our bets on it.
For some reason my mum was under the impression that a show band is the same sort of thing as a big band. Of course, it was actually a keyboard player accompanying a slightly overweight bloke and a woman in a suspected wig who had done wonders keeping her figure considering her age. Her special talent consisted of grimly sticking her leg out of the slit in her dress, while they sang easy-to-perform hits from past decades. We left after a few minutes. At least there were no attempts at Mexican waves this time.
The highlight was a drive to Hinkley Point where we looked at the outside of the nuclear power station gates, then looked at some interesting stones in a car park, before returning home, paying close attention to the roles of the different types of electricity pylon on the way.
That's about it really. The journey home was much the same as the journey there, except we had a nice long stop in Shaftesbury, where I bought an interesting looking book which introduced me to the author Ben Bova who became one of my favourites. I didn't need to make any extra toilet stops, and the visit to the local Tesco was for some last minute shopping for our return.
If it sounds like a disastrous holiday it wasn't; exaggerating the tackiness and problems just makes it more fun. It's good to get a break from my regular routine now and then.