BUTLINS

Those lovely people at Fuelmyblog arranged for some fuellers to try out Butlins in the UK.
I sent my cub reporter, Sam, and her children, Chloe [9] and Joshua [4], aka Joshy, as I was rather busy continuing my study of the female psyche. The Butlins they chose was at Bognor on the south coast.

This is her report, the longest post you’ll ever see over here – normally she hardly mutters a word!!! Tee hee.

Morning!

Ok, Butlins…… it is quite a place!

As you know I had never been to Butlins before and had conjured up my own ideas of how it would be. Jay’s Dad used to be a red coat at Butlins about 40 years ago and that is how he met Jay’s mum, so he had led me to think it was a “hotbed of summer lovin”, many of my friends have visited as children and have fond memories of fairground rides and cabaret and more recently – other friends have been on “hen/stag” weekends, retro 80’s weeks and ABBA tribute holidays, so my perception of the the iconic Butlins could not be pigeon holed!

On arrival we were greeted by some (very young) and enthusiastic red coats who directed us to the enormous queue that was forming by the automatic doors of the Shoreline hotel awaiting check in. After what seemed an eternity we reached the stoic Carolyn on the reception desk, who even in the face of adversity managed to keep a big smile on her face and an amazingly cheerful disposition as she checked us in to room 434 and provided us with our welcome pack and entertainment guide.

The hotel room…. Our room was amazing, a separate area for the children complete with bunk beds, tv and dvd player, bathroom complete with lotions and potions and the main bedroom/living area once again furnished with fridge, tv, dvd player, leather chairs and enormous bed. The French windows opened on to amazing views of the sea and the air conditioning meant that the room was always cool (especially given that we had managed to bag the hottest week of the year so far)!
We even had towelling robes and slippers, which Joshy for some reason took to calling “luxury slippers”, so that led to a couple of amusing conversations!
I was also very impressed with the amount of storage space available to us, given that I had taken 11 pairs of shoes (excluding the 4 pairs of flip flops and the timberland boots in my car) and two suitcases of clothes for a 4 night stay!

Having unpacked the huge amount of clothing, we headed down to the Skyline (huge McArthur Glen style tent), to check out the entertainment schedule and amusements. Both children wide eyed and very excited as we passed through the resort, spotting go-karts, fairground rides, playgrounds and the swimming pool. Following a quick wander we opted to have a swim – so pushing horrific thoughts of donning my swimming costume to the back of my mind, I agreed and off we went! The pool is huge and as I walked in (wrapped tightly in a towel), having removed my glasses so at first glance it just looked like a mass of heaving bodies, on closer inspection I realised the wave machine was to blame for the heaving – thankfully. Clo and Josh jumped straight in and much to my dismay headed in different directions, thinking on my feet I flung my towel on to a vacant (I think) lounger and opted to follow Josh who at 4, is not yet the competent swimmer that Chloe is and was already preparing to launch himself off one of the wavy slides into the water. After an hour or two of splashing around, flying down flumes, climbing up slides and being washed up by hefty waves, we decided to call it a day in the pool.

Tired and exhausted we headed back to the hotel for a bath and to book dinner in the Shoreline restaurant.

Heading down at 6.25 for our table that was booked at 6.30 we were all very excited about the evenings entertainment, Bob the Builder and friends were appearing on Centre Stage – for one night only! We were already tired and hungry and very ready for our tea – however….. little did we know that we would have to wait an hour to even have our drinks order taken and 2 hours for our food to arrive!!! Cutting a long story fairly short – we waited and waited and waited and waited some more…. Given that the restaurant was only 50% to capacity, I was getting increasingly annoyed and the children fidgety and bored. I spent several long minutes trying to subtly attract the attention of the Manager whose only Managing that evening was managing to avoid eye contact, ear contact and infact any sort of contact with his increasingly irate customers. Being the shy, retiring character that I am, I decided to confront this pathetic excuse for a Manager and demand to know why my complicated meal (consisting or 2 hotdogs with chips and a Caesar Salad – also with chips of course) was taking so long. The answer I received was “I am not sure”! Consequently we upped and left, it was now 9.15, we had not eaten, the kids were bored and tired and we had missed Bob on Centre Stage. We walked down to the shop, bought some sandwiches and crisps and headed back to our room to relax in our robe and luxury slippers. Not a good evening in general!!

Day 2 was a lovely hot, sunny day and the children were desperate to hit the fairground, so we headed down early for breakfast. I was somewhat apprehensive about breakfast given the debacle the previous evening and you can imagine that when I was told there was an hours wait for a table, I was less then happy but not surprised, nevertheless we added ourselves to the list and headed out for a quick pad down to the beach. It was lovely, the tide was out and the children played on the sand. When we went back for breakfast – all previous misdemeanours were forgiven…. We were starving and the spread that laid before our eyes looked delicious. Everything you could possibly imagine (and more) to eat for breakfast was a available and that morning our eyes were definitely bigger then our tummies, because we all rolled out about an hour later and could all have done with a little nap. Swimming was not an option for a couple of hours that was for sure!!
… and the winner

We had a lovely day, playing on the fairground rides, riding the battery powered bikes and clambering up climbing frames. Once again tired and exhausted we decided to head back to change for dinner and actually managed to be served and thoroughly enjoyed a delicious helping of pasta and pizza in Papa Johns, followed by “all you can eat” Ice cream factory. With renewed vigour and energy (thanks to copious amounts of smarties and hundreds and thousands on the ice cream) we headed to Centre Stage for the Children’s disco with the Red Coats. Josh amused everyone with his fabulous break dancing moves and even Mummy cut a few shapes on the dance floor that night – much to the utter despair and embarrassment of my 9 year old daughter, who kept her head buried in her Nintendo DS and for what must have seemed a very long time, tried to pretend she didn’t even know me!!

Day 3 – wet, windy and gloomy! We decided to go for swim again, which was also the thought process of every other resident at Butlins that day, so it was busy but good fun and we wiled away several hours fluming, sliding and splashing. After lunch, with the rain still coming we went to the cinema to see “Night at the Museum 2”, it was a tiny cinema that they clearly did not know how many people it contained, as the seats were full and still people were coming in, but it was a good film and we were seated so that’s all that mattered.

The evening entertainment on Wednesday was the “big one” for Chloe – George Samson – Winner of last year’s Britain’s Got Talent, was live on Centre Stage, Butlins, Bognor and as far as Chloe was concerned this was pivotal to her enjoyment of the whole week. We showered and dressed and ate dinner early in order to get a good seat prior to George appearing on stage – so did everyone else!!!!! Doors opened at 7pm and we were shocked to join the queue shortly after 6pm that was already from one end of the skyline to the other! But we queued and eventually the doors opened and we raced to get a table. Chloe, armed with her gigantic slush puppy and Josh with his flashing light sabre (both insisted these items were essential when watching George Samson – or George Simpson as Joshy called him) managed to squeeze their way to the front. Settling down with a large glass of red to keep an eye on them, I watched as the huge room filled to the brim with excited George Samson fans. Suddenly amidst the screaming and dry ice – there he was!! I watched as Chloe’s eyes glazed over with adoration and smiled as Joshy’s face fell when he realised that George Samson (aka Simpson) was not the chubby, yellow faced relative of Homer that he thought he was. I placated him with a bubble blowing machine and a “Diego” hat (will explain about Diego later) and watched George Samson do his thing! He jumped and spun around on stage for about 20 minutes (1/3 of the time we had queued to see him) and then left, but Chloe was happy and could return to her friends the following Monday and tell them she had seen the real life George Simpson – I mean Samson.

Day 4 – Thursday, the sun was out once again and it was a lovely day, however, the previous day Josh had spotted the Play Jungle in the Skyline and Chloe had acquired a taste for the amusement arcade, so I decided that after changing up £5 in to 2p pieces so that Chloe could indulge her newly acquired gambling habit, I left her to potter in the arcades and took Josh to the Play Jungle. I then sat for over an hour with a couple of cups of coffee and watched the world go by, it was bliss!! I was fleeced out of considerable amounts of money that day, periodically topping up Chloe’s 2 pence’s and then forking out for tattoos (temporary of course), hair braids, bungee trampolines and more then one ice cream, but the kids had a great day doing lots but nothing in particular really.
We braved the Shoreline restaurant again for dinner that night and thanks to the brilliant and efficient Manager Annete, it was quite alot better thankfully! We also booked the “Character breakfast” for our last day, which meant that we dined (very early in the morning) with Bob the Builder and his best friend Spud.
The entertainment tonight was more geared towards Josh, it was Dora the Explorer – he cousin Diego and all the Wonder Pets!!! These are all popular characters from Children’s tele and Josh was absolutely in awe of them, it was a great evening and even Chloe managed to have fun!

The last day – Following a brilliant breakfast with Bob and Spud we headed outside. I had promised that the children could hire one of the big trikes that you can ride around the resort and they hadn’t let me forget this, so we headed straight to the hire place and they even got to choose their trike! I plonked myself on the grass with a newspaper and trusted Chloe to ride sensibly around the campus – which much to Joshy’s annoyance she did. Infact she was so sensible that every time they passed me Joshy begged me to drive – I can’t think what he was suggesting! So I agreed and proceeded to create havoc, unintentionally of course. The competitive streak in me meant that we overtook several other trikes which caused the Dad’s who were driving them to also become competitive and before long we had created a racetrack around the resort and there were about 6 of us all vying for poll position. Josh loved every second and was howling with delight, Chloe however was decidedly unamused and even more so when I careered through a puddle at about 15mph and soaked us all (and several others). Time was up before we knew it and not a minute too soon for Chloe, but it was fun and hopefully it has inspired the competitive streak in Chloe to come out a little more. I keep telling her that its not about the taking part, its about the winning!!!

Our holiday at Butlins was nearly over so we headed for a final ice cream and a quick game of Bingo (I had promised Chloe all week), then loaded up the car and sadly headed home. On the way out the red coats were still entertaining the millions – they were at the gate dressed up as Policemen and larking around. I was wearing a blue spotty shirt that morning and as we left the gates they pulled us over. The policeman started to count the spots on my shirt before being questioned by the puzzled children in the back as to what he was doing ” A spot check of course” was his amused reply and as he began to laugh both children rolled their eyes and smiled!

TRUTH GUIDE!!!!

We had a fun week all in all, there were lots and lots of things that need to be sorted out but there were also lots of things that were done very well and seeing it through the eyes of a child, it is like Wonderland. As an adult however, it was an over crowded, expensive and not very clean place to visit that is full of porcine, football shirt clad, chain smoking chavs (male and female) whose idea of a holiday is drinking beer from breakfast and letting their kids amuse themselves all day in the arcades.

The food was terrible everywhere, the pool was dirty and everything was too expensive, but on the plus side, the hotel was lovely, the staff were brilliant and the entertainment was meticulously timed and executed. The kids had a brilliant week, so thank you very much.

[If you managed to read through all that, refreshments are available ……. and a chaise longue – DP]

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