Posts Tagged holidays
1 – Gatwick Airport is a terrible first / last impression of England….
I normally change trains at Gatwick in the morning rush hour to get to work. I have always been staggered that there were no luggage trolleys provided on the station platform. Of course if you got your bags on a train you should be able to get them to check in without a trolley but this frequently involves angry looking parents dragging an angry looking child or two and a couple of wheely suitcases in to the ankles of anyone who passes within a 5 yard radius of them. Trolleys on the platform would be easier I have often thought. Mostly as I have iced my ankles having used at least three varieties of anti-wheely swear words on twitter.
What I didn’t realise was that to get one anywhere – including arrivals – you have to deposit a pound coin in to a key release device. This you will get back only when you connect your trolley to another having taken your luggage off again. I have never seen this in any other airport in the world. Not Chennai where there are an army of free unofficial porters. Or in otherwise rapacious Hong Kong. Certainly not in Alicante where we landed. There we were waved through by passport control in a flash and there were an absolute stack of free to use trolleys.
So when you get your currency changed to go away(and do you these days or do you just use your cards) do you ask for 151 Euros for example? “We only do notes” the bank official will tell you. “That’s a shame” you reply. “I might need an odd Euro coin to operate some of the basic things one should expect in an arrivals hall”. Yet that is the reality in Gatwick. No correct UK coinage? No trolley for you Johnny Foreigner.
Add this to the train guards who feed upon any foreigner who can’t work the rail barriers and treat the airport as a sort of penalty fare open goal and the better but still, frankly, unacceptable security queues and Gatwick gives the first impression of the English as miserable, penny pinching rule enforcers.
2- A little language goes a long way………..
So we went to Spain. I speak O Level French, taxi / kitchen Mandarin Chinese and a few words of Italian and Japanese. The first due to school and the others to various work placements. I do not speak a single word of Spanish bar “Ola” and “Gracias”. I can’t even remember the basic stuff from Dora the Explorer because whenever Dora the Explorer comes on I am too busy pointing my fingers at the screen like a gun and screaming in my head “die horribly you whiny annoying uber positive arsehole”. It’s a good job my kids can’t hear my head. They love Dora.
So we go for tapas one day and I start ordering in English that has become pigeon from the English section of the menu. The waitress is perfectly nice but I’m sure in her head she’s thinking “here we go, another one straight off the plane that can’t speak a word. Whatever he orders I’m going to give him a well done burger and a fried egg.”
And then an old lady sits down on her own at the one table that was reserved. The owner comes out and makes a fuss of her and they start a conversation about what’s good today in French. My ears prick up. Owner disappears and she starts winking at Whirlwind who is in a cute – or at least less destructive – phase. “Etes vous Francais?” I enquire. She’s from Luxembourg but has an apartment in the town where we are staying. She is also a special customer of the restaurant. We have a conversation in basic French, quite possibly grammatically incorrect on my part. The owner and waitress have been watching and their demeanour changes. The food is delivered with a flourish and a ‘merci”. And then……………….
3 – The Boy can count to 8 in perfect Spanish…..
….Boy starts counting the dishes in Spanish. With an accent and everything. He can get to 8. I had no idea he could do this. Bloody Dora. By now we are a step away from special customers ourselves.
4 – Rich Eastern European Dads are a bit different………..
One afternoon I am playing a game with the kids in the pool. We have a li-lo. I am lifting them on to it and then tipping them off again. Each time this nearly gives me a hernia but I do it because they love it. It was Boy’s favourite thing about the holiday. Being tipped in to a cold pool from a pink li-lo. Nutter.
Suddenly a family arrive and start talking in Russian. The man is mid thirties and muscular in a Putin-ish kind of way. His wife is stick thin and bottle-blonde and his two daughters, who I would estimate at about 7 and 10 are stick thin and sun-blonde. They are watching us with suspicion. The older daughter goes and gets a rubber ring. Then she ties some string to it, long enough to pull it. By now my kids are tired and we get out and nod at the other family. When I dry them off I hear a shriek of excitement from one of the girls. Her father is in the pool lying in the rubber ring. She is pulling him round by walking round the outside of the pool and using the string. He must weigh at least 14 stone and it is 32 degrees in the shade.
5- The real colour of Spain is Orange
Eventually you will find that everything in Spain that isn’t an English caff or a pub called the Red Lion is coated in paprika or filled with paprika. Our meat is marinated in it. Our roast vegetables taste better with it. Our washing up water bubbles slowly turn orange in each wash. We have brought back several different types of paprika including ‘bitter sweet’ which I am going to have to guess will go in some sort of pasta and chicken dish. By the time we have got through the paprika I will be the colour of Katie Price and I might be able to get a job on TOWIE.
So I left you here with Baby having been de-vomited. Luckily the next morning she was better, confirming that the previous night’s explosion had been down to careless desert overload rather than wee-wee drinking or gas poisoning. I could tell because she woke me up with a very loud ‘DADDY’ from the bed we had hastily made up to replace the sicked up on one and when I got her up she said two of her new words – ‘toast!’ and ‘orange!’ – meaning feed me toast and orange juice NOW!
I’d love to say the day dawned brightly. That would be a lie. A big one. A lie of Archeresque proportions. It was pissing down, the sort of rain that soaks you to the skin just by you popping your head out of the caravan to see what it’s like out there.
At this point it’s as well to reveal we were staying at Haven Church Farm (remember I kept you in not very much suspense). We chose it because it’s a short car journey away but also because there’s plenty of stuff to do when it’s wet. Seeing the forecast we had booked Boy in to as many activities as we could and so it was he and I set out in to the deluge to try mini archery and fencing in the covered Sports Range. He was worryingly good at archery while in the fencing he got a mask and a very strong looking foam sword and he did his Errol Flynn bit by fencing a boy called Jonny who, luckily for my lad, had the attention span of a gnat. These activities he proclaimed such great fun that we booked him in to have another go on the Monday.
It was after we’d finished these activities we found another danger we’d not really bargained for. There is something that scares the boy silly. Not spiders or moths. Not monsters or dragons. Not the prospect of imminent economic collapse, nor the takeover of the world by Justin Fletcher and Peppa Pig (these last two just scare parents). No. It’s blokes (or girls) dressed up in giant animal costumes. Don’t ask me why but they terrify him utterly. Of course we knew that he USED to be scared by this but at the age of 5 I though he might have grown out of it. Not a bit. We went in to the show bar for an exercise warm up followed by circus skills and then Rory The Tiger came on stage and the boy bolted out of the room in floods of nervous tears. This is where I am glad my wife is around. There is a bit of me that is tempted to get him to handle this fear by manning up and confronting it. Wife of course knew this to be a bad idea and went out to comfort him leaving me with Baby who was grinning at Rory The Tiger while trying to climb up a bar stool.
Afternoon was swimming. Baby loves swimming like I love Brighton and Hove Albion, rare steak, sunshine and her. I may have mentioned before that she considers any small amount of water her own personal fiefdom. She may be half mermaid. She has been baby swimming since she was 3 months old and at 18 months is perfectly comfortable swimming on her own in arm bands, holding on to the side and jumping in. We went in to the pool every day and she grinned from ear to ear for every second. On the Sunday we went in the morning and that afternoon, back in the caravan she found her happy nappy and armbands and gave them to me and said ‘swim!’. I, meanwhile, got to go on the waterslide and I do love a good waterslide.
But anyway back to the Saturday. We had done 3 lots of sports activities plus swimming. We had rescued Boy from a giant tiger costume. We had generally run around and were ready for a good nights sleep.
Outside an otter swam past the caravan.
Do you know what sound really heavy rain makes on a caravan roof? This. All night
The children, having been tired out by their activities and having special Sleeping Through Daddy’s Snoring skillz slept all night. I got about half an hour. Part at least was spent in terror that the caravan was going to take off in the exceptionally high winds like one of those movie scenes where an entire Trailer Park is lifted up by a tornado and you just stare because you can’t imagine the actual horror.
Sunday was much like Saturday only much, much more hard work what with the sleep deprivation, paranoia and having to go everywhere in fishing waders. There was a very brief break in the rain in the afternoon during which Boy and I went to the nature reserve so he could feed the ducks and they could tell us what lovely weather we were having.
Sunday night was much like Saturday night only with dreams of being carried away by floods replacing the taking off in the wind dreams. In the middle of the night I wondered if I should get baby’s arm bands pumped up just in case.
On Monday, straight after more archery, it was time to leave. You guessed it – in bright sunshine.
P.S. I have no connection with Haven but the kids had an absolute blast. If anyone from Haven does end up reading this then your staff at Church Farm are very lovely indeed, from the guy who took away the puke covered sheets to the Sports Stars who were excellent with all the kids on every session we went on. You may want to improve the new menu though. Yes we will be back.
P.P.S. You will notice even though I have titled the two pieces ‘Great British SEASIDE Holidays’ we didn’t go to the beach. Pretty much this was down to the weather. The only person insane enough to go for a dip in the sea that weekend was Queen of Bloggers Mammsaurus and if you haven’t yet seen why click on that there hyperlink and find out!