Summer holidays. A few Faceache friends were posting daily about the trips they were taking their children on: ‘off to the park!’ ; ‘going to see monster truck rally!’; ‘tickets for the international ball twine challenge!’
I, on the other hand, had offered nothing. He seemed quite happy to wake up at the crack of lunchtime and spend the rest of the day in bed either shouting at his friends on skype or killing zombies on the X-Box.
I shouldn’t have been surprised when one day he told me he wanted to ‘do something.’
“Your homework?” I asked helpfully, like a normal, dutiful, annoying parent.
“No. Go out somewhere. With you.”
I was flattered. This was great! Father/son bonding going on.
“Excellent! How about you and I go out cycling for a day? I reckon we could get a good 50 miles in, so that means we can get to…”
“ A theme park,” he interceded, “with some mates.”
My mind raced for a moment. The nearest theme park would be at least a hundred miles away.
“Thorpe Park. Can we go to Thorpe Park?” he asked expectantly, giving me a pleading look.
“Erm, yeah, I suppose. How much is it?”
“Well, I suppose forty quid for the two of us…”
“No, dad. Forty quid each.”
I saw him give a pained look that all 15 year olds make when they know dad is possibly going to ’go off on one.’
I did that stare into the middle distance that all dads do when considering their next move, but Johnny had done his homework. Well, he hadn’t, but metaphorically he had. You know what I mean.
“Oh, there’s a few two for one deals you can get on the internet,” he said.
“I’ll print some off.”
Later on in the evening, when Lady Barton St Mary was in residence, she cast a critical eye over Master Johnny’s black and white photocopied vouchers.
“Hmm, I’m not sure about these,” she said, and proceeded to investigate the internet. There were several ways to obtain two for one tickets, most of them convoluted. National Rail and Thorpe Park offered them if you could show a valid rail ticket that took you to Staines railway station. This meant buying a rail ticket from, say, Virginia Water to Staines on the same day and taking tickets and a registration form you filled out on the internet to Thorpe Park. Which would mean getting a ticket from our local railway station. Or would I have to stop at Virginia Water in the car and…?
Suddenly, Butterfly Brain engaged (see June 2012). I couldn’t take it. It was all too much! I hate travelling! I don’t want to go! It’s all too complicated!
“It’s all too complicated, I can’t be bothered to deal with…”
Lady Barton St Mary slapped my cheek. Forehand, whack! Then the other cheek. Backhand, whack!
“Pull yourself together, man, you have to do this. He’s your son. Don’t stress him out. Get on with it.”
I did. I got on with it. Eventually, the best ‘two for one scam’ was searching Tesco for a branded item that came with a two for one offer to Thorpe Park. Johnny and I set off to the local store and returned with two 2kg bags of fusilli. We cut out the vouchers from the side of the packet and high- fived each other, before picking up all of the fusilli that had fallen out of the holes in the packets and all over the floor. The trip was on.
So, here’s my travelogue for Thorpe Park, travelling with my gang: three 15 year old boys and me.
Getting there: I have absolutely no sense of direction, so dutifully copied the instructions of how to get there from the internet. Followed instructions to the letter. Usual English road disease where signs take you to within a mile or so of your destination, then assume you know the rest. Boys spotted Thorpe Park, so circled like a 747 and eventually arrived at the car park.
Getting in: Just to let you know, the two for one voucher scam worked.
Cleverly, I read the Thorpe Park Top Tips about how to miss the long queues. “Arrive early. The first 40 minutes are usually quieter and queues are not so long.”
We arrived at 9 am, half an hour before the park opened. Success! But ten thousand other people had the same idea, so we had to queue to get in.
Getting around: You are thoughtfully provided with a map of the park at the ticket office. It’s very colourful, with amusing cartoons and graphic representations of the rides. Unfortunately, it’s a bit like a cast member from The Only Way Is Essex – colourful, eye-catching, but ultimately useless.
Queues: The most popular activity at Thorpe Park is queuing; lots of long, long, unavoidable lines. This was probably why Thorpe Park was built in the south east of England, where the locals spend most of their lives in queues.
Don’t worry though, ‘Thorpe Park Top Tips’ has the answer!
“Why not buy a Fast Track ticket, cutting down on queuing times!”
Except that (1) a full Fast Track ticket costs £70, (2) ten thousand other people have one and (3) you have to queue for an hour to buy one.
One distraction to queuing for a long time is the entertainment provided. Not necessarily by the bewildering video messages that greet you a quarter of a mile from the ride, but more the obligatory knobhead or knobheads that are in the queue with you.
The most memorable knobheads of the day included:the six foot drongo who dropped sweet wrappers all over the floor, threw milky bar buttons at his friends in the next row, stopped his girlfriend taking photos by putting his hand over the lens and getting his girlfriend in a stranglehold until she screamed, before eventually getting ejected for queue jumping; then there were the two teenage boys who shouted at their mate Ginger, who was in a row 50 metres ahead, as well as swearing very loudly at each other.
Honestly, here’s a piece of advice for Thorpe Park. Employ some ‘Knobhead Identification Officers’ who can hand out free tasers to visitors who are close enough to zap the targeted pond life. It would make great entertainment and take everybody’s minds off the long queues.
Around The Park: “Why do people keep walking straight at me and knocking me to one side?” asked Master Johnny’s friend, Master Kieran, who is very much a rural space cadet.
“They’re from that there London or thereabouts, Kieran.”
He nodded thoughtfully, having heard stories of that there London, full of overcrowded, stressed, angry people who snarl at each other.
The Rides: Just to let you know, I only ride rollercoasters these days.
Swarm – a ride where your arms and legs stick out as you are propelled at great speed through the air. My first ride of the day, the newest at Thorpe Park, so I spent most of the time shouting ‘Make it stop, make it stop!’ Two minute ride, 40 minute queue.
Saw Alive – Frightening from the very beginning, even though it was broad daylight. The actors were totally believable, with mottled skin, horrible malformed features and vicious eyes, growling and prowling with claw like hands.
“Well, this ‘Saw Alive’ experience is pretty impressive, are you scared?” I whispered to Master Johnny. He frowned, putting his head to one side and eyeing me suspiciously.
“Saw Alive is closed, this is the queue for Saw, The Ride,” he said.
Saw – The Ride – Utterly terrifying ride that starts in the dark and then chugs you up a vertical slope 100ft high before throwing you off the edge. We rode this twice. I opened my eyes the second time. 2 minute ride, 70 minute queue.
Stealth – Very, very fast. You sit in what appears to be a car, that accelerates from 0 to 80 miles an hour in milliseconds. This was fine, I’m used to being a passenger in Lady BSM’s BMW. Lots of ups and downs, twists and turns. I nearly lost my eyeballs, which meant they watered a lot when I got off. I should have kept up my astronaut training. 2 minute ride, 60 minute queue.
Nemesis – My favourite, although the 80 minute wait was a bit much. A TP worker told us that someone had been taken ill on the ride and it had to be cleaned. Cue (not queue) laddish conversation about diced carrots. Suggested that it was probably a mechanical fault and that they were probably bolting a couple of seats back on. Sensed those around me were considering my taser idea, so I shut up.
The ride was speedy, lots of loop the loops, exhilarating. 2 ½ minute ride.
After this, I left the wet rides to the boys – Tidal Wave took 30 minutes of queuing and they returned completely soaked, so they went again. The park helpfully supplies giant hairdryers that you can bung teenagers into for £2 a go. The smell is appalling but the results are effective.
We left at closing time.
The boys had managed 9 rides in 10 hours, plus a Burger King lunch which was spent discussing the various sizes of girls’ shorts, denying a liking for certain girls, confirming a liking for certain girls, GCSEs and drunken confessions. Their conversation in the queues tended to concentrate on making disparaging remarks about each other or commenting on the physical qualities of teenage girls. They were also keen to ask me questions: What would I do if I came home unexpectedly to find a party in full swing? What drugs had I taken? Notice that my appearance these days must be so poor as for them to assume I’ve taken drugs.
Getting out- Watch out for the knobhead who holds up the queue by scanning their entrance ticket instead of their car park ticket. How was I to know I’d taken the wrong ticket out of my wallet?
But we were out, no traffic jams! The directions home?
“We’ve been around this roundabout five times now,” commented Master Daniel…