Last year we accidentally spent an evening in a caravan park entertainment facility in Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland, where static caravans – thousands of the buggers, all in rows – are let by the week …those which are not cherished second-homes. We wouldn’t have missed it for worlds.
Driving through the gates it was alarming to see the conditions in which some people take an annual holiday …the shaven-headed security-guards were polite so that I was choked with remorse for ever having been afraid of them. The first room in the complex was filled with the buzzers and sirens of one-arm bandits pumped by desperate-looking men. The second, the restaurant, was a huge child-friendly affair in which it was heart-warming to see what liberty the children enjoyed as they climbed over tables with food hanging from their mouths …it was like a come-as-you-please party at Wayne and Waynetta’s – and judging by the carpet we’d only just missed a bloody-good bun-fight.
We sat down at a table in which the previous diners had whiled away their long wait for service by drawing amusing faces in the grease using their fingers. The waitress handed us each a sticky menu listing four or five dishes incapable of disappointing. When she noticed the grease-drawings she seemed genuinely shocked that people of our age could be so childish. With that she lost all patience with us and stood tapping her pad with the end of her pen to let us know that we seemed to be taking an inordinate amount of time to read a menu only four items long; and had better things to do than idle her life away with us. It was diverting to imagine that she was someone’s daughter …and that she would one day marry, and make someone very miserable.
Two cinema screens competed for our attention, the first was reminiscing on the 100 best goals this season – it wasn’t one of your moody, dull-and-dusty, quiet reminiscences: in between shouting himself so hoarse the only the word you could recognise was: ‘GOAL!!!’ …that commentator was weeping real tears – the other screen was filled with penguins singing rock-ballads.
In the third room -The Cabaret Suite – the bar was illuminated with UV tube-lighting causing everything to glow with Persil whiteness. Down a few steps there was a dance floor; above that a fluffy pink-stage surrounded by coloured light bulbs which turned themselves on and off in a mexican wave – and with commanding views over all, a horse-shoe arrangement of tables at which blokes wearing string vests held not pint’s – but Vases filled with lager, in hands the size of shovels. They were hard-looking men whose heads and torsos had con-joined like overfilled Mr. Grumpy balloons – opposite them, malnourished wives, and face-painted children wearing wings, tails and halo’s. The women had gone to lengths to dress-up and wore pomagne-cocktails of frocks - not available on the high street – which flowed-ever with bustle …and set them off with plastic Tiaras. They were dark haired women with pretty eyes which concealed a secret. And when they hit that dance floor they looked as though they’d been sitting perfectly still for an hour, and now had only three minutes in which to enjoy themselves.
The cabaret singer was surprisingly good, a Buble-style crooner who made you wonder what on earth he was doing here. Dressed like one of those loveable-ragamuffin porcelains you see in the Prize Cabinet of a Bingo Hall – he wore a Trilby tipped down over the eyes, baggy cavalry-twill trousers ending in turn ups, white socks and shoes. His second song answered the question of how he came to be here …it sounded identical to the first – as did the third, and by song four – also identical – he was boo-ed off stage.
Boo-ed off stage, for christ’s sake – were they mad? …Talk about cutting your nose to spite your face - what the f–k are we going to do for a singer now? …all the way out here; at short notice …and at this time of the night? It was humiliating for the crooner, and you somehow wanted to make it all right for him – if you or I had been boo-ed off that stage, by that audience, we’d have said to ourselves: ‘ That is the LAST effing-time I ever walk on a stage in my LIFE!’ If he managed to get away clutching one last shred of dignity – the Entertainment Manager took it from him with her next breath: a blonde-haired woman of about 30 she rushed onto the stage to head-off the growing rebellion dressed in Ostrich Feathers, and looking like a pink candy-floss; ‘Come on – Clap!’ she bawled at us; ‘ …he wasn’t THAT bad!’
Just a thought: If you live in West Kensington and have just tossed aside the usual pile of holiday brochures tediously filled with the selections of Nile Cruises; Kenyan Safaris; or Pilgrimages to Angkor Wat – why not stay at home this year for a holiday which really does offer something for everyone? Fill your boots.
Justin is author of Phoenix from the Ashes, an accidental adventure…