There are some things you grow out of as you leave childhood behind but then grow back in to once you have children of your own. Fairgrounds are one of those things.
I’m not sure exactly when I grew out of fairground rides. Probably in my teens when I started experiencing the big thrill rides you get at places such as Alton Towers. But there is a time and a place for more traditional, less adrenalin-fuelled rides too.
For us, that place is Butlins and that time is now.
As is now traditional, we spent a few days at Butlins Bognor Regis during the October half-term. More on that anon but, as usual, all three of our kids loved the fairground in particular.
It feels a bit like walking underneath the entrance arch somehow transports you back in time to a bygone age. Music from the Fifties is piped over the PA system to enhance that feeling. It’s almost as if you have stepped inside a faded sepia photo. Or an episode of Hi-de-Hi. (Look it up on YouTube, kids.)
Whatever. The Bognor site’s compact playground includes dodgems, a helter skelter, a merry-go-round, a chair swing and other whizzy, spinny, up-and-downy type rides. The boys are drawn to the dodgems – I’m still recovering from the whiplash injuries and my compensation claim is pending – while Kara wants to try anything as long as it’s fast. She will scream “I’m going to be siiiiick” throughout an entire ride while at the same time wearing the world’s biggest grin. Fearless, she is.
Sure, the rides may not set your heart racing in quite the same way as their more modern counterparts. But when you see your kids laughing and screaming with joy on a ride and then jumping off as soon as it is finished so they can run around to get straight back on again, you know you’re on to a winner.
Better still, where you will typically pay anywhere between £2 and £5 per ride at a regular fairground, all the rides at Butlins are free and it’s rare that you have to queue for more than five minutes. Over 3½ days we must have accumulated at least £300-£400 worth of fairground fun between us. If that isn’t enough to put a smile on, I don’t know what is.