I know weekends are supposed to be family time, which should, indeed, include the kids, but in our household we’re incredibly selfish and it doesn’t always work like that. It seems like, recently, my weekends have consisted of children’s birthday parties, swimming lessons, Moshi Monsters and Hide and Seek, and so Jack and I decided it was time to do something fun together…without the kids.
I’m not entirely sure why we decided a trip to Blackpool Pleasure Beach on a rainy weekend in February would tick all the boxes – and I’m not, in all honesty, even sure I can blame him for that brainwave – but that’s what we opted for. I think we were largely motivated by half-price wristbands.
So we dumped Christopher and Harry with Jack’s parents for the day. It was interesting to see how each of the boys handled their abandonment so differently. Chris was sulky and refused to acknowledge us as we left, while Harry screamed like we were beating him with a large stick (which was, admittedly, kind of tempting while he was making the ridiculous noise he was making when we left. I won’t hold it against Jack’s mum…). Normally, my boys are quite placid, good-natured sweethearts, but the knowledge of missing out on something seemed to turn them into spawns of Satan. I blame Jack’s step-dad, who accidentally let it slip that we were off to a theme park while we were dropping them off. Nice work, Granddad, but I bet it sucked to be you because Jack and I were out of there!
It was quite easy to justify abandoning the kids really. We chatted in the car as we were driving out of Jack’s parents’ estate about how we didn’t know what the height restrictions were for the rides, we might as well conduct a “reccy” to see if we should take the boys in the summer, it was raining and we didn’t want them to get wet and, ultimately, sick…by the time we reached the motorway any scrap of guilt had completely evaporated.
Arriving at the Pleasure Beach we collected our smartly booked-in-advance wristbands, quietly smug as we passed people arguing in desperation with the sales assistants about the injustice of having to pay full price on the day, having failed to book over the internet in advance themselves. Jack calls me Anal Ella, in reference (or course!) to my excessive need to pedantically plan and organise everything. I love it when it pays off, because I know, even though he doesn’t say it, that my husband quietly appreciates me, and although my anal retentiveness often drives him bonkers, it does mean his life runs much more smoothly, and in this case, much more cheaply, with me in it.
Now, although you wouldn’t automatically think of Blackpool as an ideal day out for a dull February Saturday, to me a theme park is a theme park, and as long as you’re wrapped up warm, rides are still rides. A bonus of visiting at this time of the year is the total lack of queues that often restrict the fun of a peak-season visit. However, queues do provide their fair share of entertainment, as Jack and I practically burst trying to hold the laughter in when, whilst queuing for the Ice Blast, some chav teenager behind us asked the group of teenage girls who joined the queue behind him if they fancied a ride of the “giant tampons”, referring to the space rockets circling behind us. Classy boy.
Poor Jack has always had this desperate desire to face his fears and prove, to himself because I love him regardless, his total masculinity. To be fair, his determination to push himself and try new things is a quality I do love in him, but when your other half’s greatest fear is heights it totally adds to the fun you yourself can have at a theme park full of rides! Part of me thought, bless him, he’s terrified, it’s so cute. My more sadistic side, however, spent the day revelling in his anxiety, loving the fact that, in imparting my knowledge of the huge variety of rides we were going to go on, Jack’s reaction yo-yoed from macho bravado to barely masked-fear.
I remember, many, many years ago, walking home from a night out with Jack. Whilst crossing through the park near our homes I (drunkenly and stupidly) challenged him to a race up the Spider’s Web. I won (of course), but it was at the top of the web I first discovered Jack’s fear of heights. Being in the early days of our courtship I was much more sympathetic then; I gently and considerately talked him down the web a step at a time, and it was only at the bottom that I laughed my head off, bitch that I am.
I love the fact my husband can take the mick out of himself so good-naturedly, he always has me in hysterics, and I love him for it. The first rollercoaster we tackled was the Grand National. He was absolutely fine…going up. After that first downward motion, all I got all the way round was “this is f***ing horrible!” on repeat.
Give him his due though, he was determined, even after being dragged on to a series of rides in a failed attempt to lessen his fear and “prepare” him, to go on the Big One. I did even try to give him a get-out clause on this one. I said I was too cold and wanted a cup of tea. To be honest, although I had been on it before many years ago, I was in two-minds about going on it again. It might have something to do with getting older, and feeling a sense of fear more keenly than when I was younger. Equally, it might have something to do with, whilst queuing underneath the Big One for another ride, us having the perfect view of the rickety structure and how much it wobbled each time.
My brave, determined husband faced his fear, dragging me with him. He had his eyes shut and swore all the way around. The picture that was taken makes me smile every time I see it, and has made its way into my Box of Special Things. It shows me, laughing, with my arms in the air. It shows Jack, his eyes squeezed tightly shut, his gorgeous face scrunched up…one hand fiercely clenching the bar, the other meekly raised in a bold display of bravery.
And so ended our selfish but wonderful day out without our kids. I’m kind of thinking Blackpool Pleasure Beach, considering the price, is a little old for a 5 and 3 year old boys…what does everyone else think? Does anyone have any suggestions for a fabulous day out for young children? Gulliver’s World in Warrington’s been recommended to me…has anyone been there? Would you consider it suitable for children the age of my boys? Any tips or recommendations would be massively appreciated!
Thanks, ladies! x