We went to Butlin’s in Bognor yesterday. To be completely truthful I have always avoided Butlin’s and their ilk like the plague because I have always thought of them as festering holes containing crappy fairground attractions and ‘light entertainment’, where the great unwashed foist their offspring off into badly run kids’ clubs and drink themselves silly on warm, overpriced lager.
Well, that’s what it was. But at least we weren’t disappointed.
We went because they had a Community Day running, so entrance was a POUND each. Bargainious. Parking was £6 for the day though, which added another £1 per person. So two whole English pounds before we’d even got there. But compared to the £78 it would have cost on an ordinary day, we were NOT complaining.
It was freezing cold and piddling it down. But we are hardcore, so we chattered our teeth and walked past the frankly prison camp looking chalet block, and we headed straight for the Skyline Pavillion where there was a hot drink and a show. Angelina Ballerina and Norman Price were there to entertain the chums (well, the Boy feigned indifference and went off to play on the Penny Slots with Nanny, but I know he was secretly listening). The Pie enjoyed it under the pretext of helping her small cousin join in. Too funny. The Littlest Chum and me had a bop to the music too, much to his delight.
I left my sister feeding her baby, and took all the children off to the arcades to find the others. We made the fatal mistake of taking our eyes off the two year old pocket rocket for half a second, and she was gone. All of us (me, Rock God, Mum, Dad, The Boy AND The Pie) immediately spread out in every direction yelling her name and running frantically to find her. NOT ONE MEMBER OF STAFF APPROACHED US. My Mum collared a redcoat (are they still called that? They still wear red) and said, ‘we’ve lost a small child’, and the guy SHRUGGED and said, ‘have you looked over here?’.
The doors were wide open, the place was huge. It was a proper panic moment.
Luckily, in her haste to get to the aeroplane ride (which was where she’d scampered off to), the little one had run past her Mummy, who had wrenched her smallest baby off the boob in order to chase down her biggest one. So they sauntered up while I was wide eyed and breathless and almost vomiting with fear. She’d been ‘missing’ for a good two minutes by then (although my sister had grabbed her after thirty odd seconds). But on this count, the staff at Butlins were as much use as a chocolate teapot. When I lost The Pie in Tescos at the same age, they immediately shut the doors and we had several members of staff running up and down the aisles. We expected a bit more from a Family Theme Park. Not that I make a habit of losing children, you understand.
We ate lunch in the Beachcomber Inn. Now this bit was a pleasant surprise in places and a crushing disappointment in others. They promise free baby food for little ones, for a start. They didnt’ have any, but didn’t offer any alternatives or discounts. So we paid a fiver for an Annabel Karmel meal instead. Hmm. He didn’t eat much of it as he decided to sleep instead, so they gave us a takeaway box to, er, take it away in. The Chums had fairly standard nuggets/burger and chips. We both had steak that was actually quite nice, it wouldn’t win any awards but it WAS rare and the chips were yummy. The restaurant itself was clean, plenty of space for buggies/highchairs, and had interesting and pleasant decor. Although my Dad (a member of the Knot Tyers Guild, oh yes) pointed out that they had labelled one of their display knots wrongly. I told him he ought to complain ;).
But the staff on the till were bored and grumpy. After ordering and paying I realised I’d forgotten to order RG’s chicken wings starter, so she rolled her eyes at me, hammered them in on the till and grunted that they’d probably be out at the same time as the mains, now. Which they were. It didn’t really matter, but there were only about three other families eating and it wouldn’t have been the hardest thing in the world to sort out, surely?
Anyway, we all ate, and then cleverly headed straight for the fairground rides.
I sensibly avoided this, but Dad and RG took all the chums on the Carousel, which they all enjoyed, although they were all a bit green afterwards. We then headed for the Bumper Cars, sorry DODGEMS, where the most miserable Saturday Jobber in the world shouted at us all before we got on and then aborted the ride after two minutes and threw EVERYBODY off because a couple of young lads were bumping.
The fairground was really quite disappointing, overall. Badly organised, half of it was closed, ridiculously miserable staff and hardly anything that the Chums could go on without an adult. So we headed back indoors to the arcade.
We all had a go on the Dance Machine, obviously I kicked arse at that (we’ve now ordered a similar thing for the Wii, it was so much fun, I’ll post about it when it arrives), my Dad spent squillions on the Grabbers and didn’t win so decried them as a massive con.
The Boy and The Pie played on the SuperBikes arcade game, and The Boy wants to know how much one of them is to buy and whether we can have an arcade room in the garage.
We also went on a simulator, and bought candyfloss from a machine, and put hundreds of pennies in the Penny Slots and basically did everything that you can do at Worthing Lido or any pier anywhere, which is usually free entrance.
We could have gone swimming, and I think we would have enjoyed that a lot, but it was so cold, and we were all so tired by the time the pool opened at midday that we all vetoed the idea.
Instead, we paid for the climbing wall and go karting, which again, while incredible fun, was staffed by surly ratbags and cost £5 plus for a few measly minutes activity.
We spent the rest of the afternoon sitting in the not very warm Skyline Pavillion watching the Chums and the little Pocket Rocket in the softplay (which was free at least), eating cake and drinking coffee and discussing whether there would be enough to keep the Chums busy if we came for a holiday. The short answer is no.
In summary, it was a great day out for the children, but hardly anything was free other than a few rides, the staff were badly trained and miserable, and if we’d have paid £80 for the privilege of getting in we would have been raging. I suspect that an actual holiday is slightly more fun because you can use all the facilities (lots of signs up saying certain things were for holidaying guests only) and I think the pool would have been fun with a whole day to spend there. But for a day out? Go elsewhere.