Saturday 5th August 2017
The first day of our holiday has been a relative success – for us.
The original plan was to detour via Cadbury World on the way, but that turned out to be fully booked, so we decided to spend a few hours at Kenilworth Castle instead.
Sadly, that plan also went to shit, when we neared Birmingham and realised we had booked our holiday during the Midlands’ monsoon season. The wife loves a castle, possibly more than she loves me, but even she couldn’t muster enough enthusiasm to schlep around some ruins whilst soaking wet.
In the end, we opted to spend a couple of hours in Leamington Spa (summary: quite pretty, stupid car parks), ate some traditional Warwickshire fayre (pizza) and then headed on to our campsite.
I think the wife’s expectations of the campsite were pretty low – in her defence, camping is almost universally shit – but ‘The Ranch’, which is where I spent many holidays as a child, has a bit more to it: a shop, a gym and an outdoor swimming pool; not to mention a football pitch (for Ollie and I), a playground (for Isaac and I) and its own pub (for I).
It’s safe to say the place hasn’t really changed, in the twenty-five years or so since I was last here. The football pitch remains inexplicably uneven, the pool looks like it will still shrivel my scrotum (from an ‘outy’ to an ‘inny’) within seconds of contact with the water, and the shop hasn’t increased its minimal stock in the slightest. Still, it’s a base for the week, and a rather fine – not to mention nostalgic – one at that.
Once we had unloaded the car, I took Ollie over to the bumpy football pitch of my youth, and was immediately transported back to the early-90’s, when my brother and I were approached by some mouth-breathing reprobate in a Wolves shirt, asking if we wanted a ‘mash’.
Once we realised he actually wanted a ‘match’, and wasn’t offering us pulped potato, we got chatting. ‘Bully’ – a nickname which could only have been derived from either his own surname, or that of Wolves’ legend Steve Bull, because this skinny little rat-faced turd was anything but intimidating – appeared to have permanently stained his upper lip with over-excessive Ribena consumption. It was like he had a purple moustache.
If recollection serves me, Bully challenged us to a ‘mash’ every day of that holiday, and he remains a fond – if rather obscure – memory, along with the other nut-job we met on the campsite that summer, who had an imaginary dinosaur on a bit of string. He had evidently watched a lot of Jurassic Park, and insisted on showing us his pet ‘spitter’ (pronounced ‘spittoh’, because he was broad Manc), on a regular basis – a habit I do hope he didn’t continue into adulthood. I’m not sure a grown man, hanging around a campsite offering to show kids his ‘spitter’, would be very welcome.
This evening we went to the clubhouse, because there was entertainment on (a bloke from ‘The Voice’, apparently), and as I stood at the bar to get some drinks, the barmaid tried to serve me before an elderly chap on the other side. Since he was clearly there first, and because I didn’t want to upset the locals, I told the barmaid, and she served him instead. He noticed this, and acknowledged my kindness with a thumbs-up, which I reciprocated. All very civilised.
Except he then repeated the thumbs up, twice (with increasing levels of enthusiasm each time), before also insisting the barmaid pass on a message – which took him at least a minute to convey over the music. She then approached me, and – almost matching my levels of embarrassment – shouted: ‘he says thanks’. Yes, I’d got that.
However, the old man was evidently concerned that the three thumbs-up gestures, and barmaid-delivered message, had perhaps not reached me, so he decided to come across and thank me in person. I told him it was fine, and hoped that was the end of the matter, as other tables were now staring (like I had saved him from choking on a bar snack or something).
Alas, that was not the end of the matter, as he then went to the bathroom and, on returning to his table, detoured via ours. Shaking my hand firmly – with the sort of damp clamminess that could only have been caused by either not drying his properly, or, worse, old man piss – I had to fight to get free, abundantly aware that the wife was losing her shit laughing behind me.
Sunday 6th August
Today we went to the nearby ‘All Things Wild’, which is part animal park, part playground. Whilst it was pretty expensive to get in, we managed to fill an entire day, and keep both boys entertained until it was time to come back for dinner.
Sadly, the overly-friendly man from the bar last night appears to be the only pleasant local, since everyone else we encountered today would be filed under ‘utter arsehole’ – if only that wasn’t being unfair to utter arseholes.
Take the woman at the helicopter ride (essentially just a retired helicopter, which kids could sit in for a bit), who didn’t want to abide by the rules of queuing, that I had displayed so admirably last night. When her attempts at pushing-in were blocked by the parents around her, she chose to display her frustration by grabbing her daughter, then shouting ‘I’m not fucking waiting for you to go on some shitty fucking helicopter’ while dragging her away. Classy.
Unfortunately, she wasn’t the only one. It was like we had stumbled into an arsehole convention, and whilst Helicopter Hag may have been the keynote speaker, everyone there displayed a universal arsehole-ness, almost entirely without exception.
Then, when we got back to our lovely caravan, away from all the arseholes, we discovered that we will be spending the week next to an entire clan of them. We realised this, when the man of the group started kicking his football against the side of our caravan. I’d like to think it was accidental, but no one can be so crap at football, that they hit a forty-foot static caravan from a few feet away. Repeatedly.
To make matters worse, not only was he a ‘full-kit wanker’ (the technical term for someone who wears football shirt, shorts and socks for no apparent reason), but it was all generic football wear, from somewhere cheap like Sports Direct, and this made him look an even bigger prick.
Upon further investigation, the family next door (and I use the term ‘family’ loosely, because it appears to be full-kit wanker, two morbidly obese slags in dangerously ill-fitting clothes, and at least seven children – in a six-berth caravan) appear to be the sort of shower who would be rejected from the Jeremy Kyle show for being too obnoxious. They have spent the evening blasting out (c)rap music, drinking, smoking and swearing. I nearly retaliated with some excessively loud Roxette, but the wife intervened.
Surely they would be happier holidaying somewhere like Magaluf, or Wigan?
Monday 7th August
It wouldn’t be a family holiday, if we didn’t visit at least one castle this week (the downside of being married to a history teacher, I guess), and as far as castles go, Warwick is a belter.
This is despite the owners, Merlin Entertainments Ltd (trading as Robbing Bastards Incorporated), doing their level best to ruin it. Since the last time we visited, they have installed a ‘Knight’s Village’, where you can now ‘glamp’ *shudders* in a medieval-style cabin. Sounds great, except in order to find the space for this new attraction, they have had to move the car park to somewhere in fucking Derbyshire. The hike from where we eventually left our car, was honestly so long, we could have walked home to Sandbach quicker.
Then, to make matters worse, Robbing Bastards Incorporated have adopted the same parking policy as at (arguably their most famous attraction) Alton Towers – namely, charging you £6 for the privilege. It would almost have been cheaper (and nearer) to fly there with Ryanair.
By the time we eventually got into the castle grounds, it was gone 11am, so we only managed a quick viewing of the Trebuchet in action (the largest working siege machine in the world, no less), before it was time for lunch. In truth, it wasn’t even midday, but after the parking fiasco, and my relentless medieval knob-gags (huge erection, giant weapon etc.), her patience was wearing thin. Plus, food always cheers up the male part of our family.
Of course, like all dads, I insisted that heading for lunch early was the smart move (in order to beat the crowds), but therein lies the problem – all dads think that. Hence, it was bloody packed. Fortunately, they had beer, so a medieval ass-whooping was narrowly avoided.
Our collective mood improved, we then watched a very good falconry display – even though one of the birds clearly wasn’t interested (in her defence, she’d been up with Isaac at 3am) – followed by a ‘Horrible Histories’ show for the kids (which I enjoyed just as much as they did, such is my childish sense of humour). Finally, there was a War of the Roses battle, with knights jousting on horseback, sword fights, and some Queen (Margaret of Anjou, apparently) in a metal bra. Impractical, uncomfortable, and disappointingly un-sexy. I can relate to that.
Nevertheless, despite the ridiculous expense, the fact our car had to be parked in a different time zone, and that we were still surrounded by the very worst of humanity (there were kids deliberately destroying a very old tree in the castle grounds, and the parents were just sat watching them), we had a good day.
The Clampetts next door are naturally trying to spoil that, by once again taking caravan life too literally, and behaving like redneck trailer trash, but otherwise I’m off to bed content.
To be continued….