It costs £100 for a family of four to be allowed through the turnstiles of Chessington World of Adventures: this sum, which is no small beer if you’re within coughing distance of the minimum wage, entitles you to a day spent in interminable queues as you listen for the four thousandth time to the tannoy announcing in a cod Chinese accent that, “Wise dragon, he/she say (sic) keep your arms inside the gondola at all times.” You get to go on a sum total of about four rides without a fast pass ticket and this becomes apparent within seconds of passing through what passes for security. The hut that sells the fast-pass tickets, which will at least guarantee your wife and children are allowed to be spun around and made temporarily dizzy, is lodged immediately after you’ve got through those first barriers to entrance. Fast-pass tickets come in an array of exorbitant guises, but the only ones worth having cost a further £70 each. Being a grumpy old man who hates being dizzied by anything other than booze or my own command of syntax, I pass on the opportunity to pay the best part of a ton for one for myself so am relieved of (only) a further £210 so that people who are not me might experience vertigo and fear. It costs £310 (before lunch and fizzy sugar in water drinks) to carry a bag around amongst polystyrene clowns all day.
While my wife and the kids are queuing for the log flume (which makes you both frightened and soaked at the same time), I pay eight quid for a snack. As I try, vainly, to muster enough saliva to deal with the horror of tucking into a dry, unbuttered piece of low quality bread-like thing which encloses a ‘hot dog’ wrongly advertised as having had some relationship at some point with the animal kingdom, and as I pop open the non bio degradable lid of a mini pack of Pringles each one of which comes coated with a substance you know is foulness itself but is also so instantaneously addicting that the chemical immediately overrides the logical, and as a skinhead and his haunted kids pass, sobbing, I think, “This is the very shit what we give the working class just before we tell them they are lucky for what they have!”
Somewhere at the same time in Tuscany, a Chief Executive of a concern that makes the filthy un-sausage I am struggling to force down is cracking open a second bottle of Chianti. He is eating olives and baby octopus and congratulating himself on his taste.
It costs a parent a coupla monkeys to direly disappoint two teenage boys by taking them on a dull daytrip to Hastings. First, there’s the train; then, there’s the fish and chips one orders (noting that the price of a saveloy has so increased to make its entirely undeserved status as a delicacy amongst certain folk less class-exclusive that it once might have been). The saveloy! The saveloy! Mulched and brightly coloured faux pig’s penis covered in a debatably edible orange ‘skin’. They don’t serve them in Kensington (but if they did it would be with a post modern ironic twist), but we are expected to regard this travesty of meat not only as food but as a once-a-week treat we are lucky to have. “Mustn’t grumble. It could be worse.” It will be worse.
We pass the seafood shack. I consider traumatizing my sons with whelks as a rite of passage as my father had once done to me. But my children are too savvy. They are streetwise. They see me coming. (And, besides, I have worked amongst the abused and my sons are already somewhat bored with my droning on about their cultural heritage, which they rightly identify as being little more than an ability to cope with shit food). Lest you are unaware of it outside of the Heston Blumenthal range of esoteric ice cream flavourings, the whelk is a sea snail that tastes every bit as ugly as it looks, and it has the appearance of a minor villain in a lysergically-imagined Doctor Who episode and a taste that is momentarily surprising (it has a relatively un-upsetting foretaste) till such point as you realize you have a massive, ugly fat slug rolling around your mouth and that normal humans do not eat this stuff for the simple reason that it is absolutely fucking foul. And as crunched up sand mixes with your saliva which pours in swooshing torrents of horrid down the back of your throat, and just before you spit it out realizing that your dad has deceived you and that you will never properly trust him again, you think, “This is the very shit that we give the working class then tell them they are lucky for what they have!” Mustn’t grumble.
Spitting arced ribbons of putrid spit onto a seaside pavement already etched with the stains of similar mistakes, you attempt to rid yourself of the engrained taste of sea slug that you feel will never leave your tongue (it has the after-taste of shame specific to having slept with your best mate’s girlfriend), you run spluttering in the direction of the ‘amusements’(!). “Oo! I love the coin pushers!” People cry. “Do you love the coin pushers?” They ask. “Oh. I absolutely love them.” They regale. This transient and entirely illusory feeling of joy lasts until the coin pushers (now trademarked by Ben Shepherd as owned by the corporation that made ‘Tipping Point’) have stolen a full two quid off you without ever once having considered even so much as hinting at the brief ejaculatory flurry of getting a couple of coins over that tipping point™.
Disappointed, we move onto the grab-a-hands. They are fixed to just the right degree to make you part with more of the money that you do not have; they are designed to get you in the debt that will lose you your home; they are Satan; they offer the joy of a child’s face as they realize their hero dad has won them a cobbled together cuddly toy of Penfold out of Dangermouse; they give nothing; they give nothing; they give less than nothing; they give the disappointed face of a child as they realize that their dad (who gets up a three-o-clock in the morning and endures all kinds of insults to keep a roof over their heads) is not a hero - at all - any more. But Dad cannot defeat the grab-a-hand. He cannot win.
At the end of the day Terry counts up the takings. He’s got a villa in the Algarve now, y’know. He doesn’t eat whelks and thinks gambling is for losers.
Added Thu, 29 Dec 2016 21:15