As in previous years, I am bringing you a small selection of ideas for days out this Bank Holiday Monday, but I'm avoiding the usual cheap and cheerful suggestions, and offering attractions of a more absorbing, if not sombre nature.
Once, spitting and hawking were an established part of the British way of life. We spat on the pavement. We spat out of train windows. We spat blood if we had to. When we chewed tobacco we spat it all over the place. It was the only way we could spread TB and other popular diseases of the time. But then it all got terribly disapproved of, and nowadays it seems that the only people allowed to spit are footballers.
So, a visit to the Heritage World of Spitting (near Northampton) gives us a rare chance to revisit that far-off, unhealthier but refreshingly ruder world. In this cool world of sawdust and spittoons, you can do all the spitting you've always wanted to. Chew a quid of tobacco and have a go! Try your luck at hitting a spittoon! See how far you can get a cherry stone, and find out why we still talk about "spitting distance"! (Entry £8. Protective clothing supplied.)
The Protected Witness Experience
When the police decide that a witness at a future trial could be nobbled by gangsters, they take them away from their home and give them a fresh identity, fresh house and fresh way of life. But even "protected" witnesses have to have a holiday. How would YOU like to fill in for a threatened witness for a fortnight, while they take a break? A new police scheme houses volunteers like you for a free holiday away from it all - and the odds against you being rubbed out are a generous 130-1 against!
Great British Diseases - a Celebration!
Whereas the Sealed Knot recreates historic battles, the Sealed Flask recreates historic diseases, to sometimes startling effect. Who can forget their demonstration of the Black Death at the Bath and West Show, or, more recently, their re-enactment of trench foot and shell shock at many a country fair? Today, they will be doing their famous St Vitus's Dance at a folk festival in the Midlands.
World of Leeches
Near Bourton-on-the-Water lies probably the last leech farm in Britain, where you can still have leeches attached to you to clear up your circulation. Harking back to the days when barbers and surgeons were one and the same, a day ticket here will get you a free bleeding - and a shave as well! (Ladies, you can now buy leeches to take home in four different shades, to match your home decor!)
The Immigration Experience
Not many people would offer a simulation course in immigration as an afternoon's entertainment, but as Dr Julian Strangechild says in his introduction to his "Alien Portal" experience, near Dover: "We were all aliens once. The Celts displaced their predecessors. The Saxons drove out the Celts. The Normans did their best to enslave the Saxons. The sycamore is an import. The rhododendron is a bloody bush from India! There are no true natives!" He aims to make visitors feel as unsettled as if they had just found out they were adopted. Only for the tough-minded, perhaps.
The Big Drop Experience
The ultimate bungee jumping moment - a chance to experience what it is like to be hanged! At the Big Drop (Blackpool) you are led to the scaffold, blindfolded, have a noose adjusted round your neck, given the last rites and - bingo! The ground opens and you bounce up and down on a big rubber band! At least, if it all goes right you do.
The Wonderful World of Queueing
In a recent eye-opening survey, it turned out that the British liked the attractions where they had to queue the longest: they felt they were getting their money's worth. The rides at Alton Towers, for instance, were all right, but the waiting in line - that was terrific! No wonder that the World Of Queueing (just off the M4 near Reading) has been this year's smash hit. Here, you can taste all the different kinds of queue there are - the zigzag queue, the Post Office shuffle, the airport check-in, and many more. While you wait, you can watch such classic film sequences as the longest motorway tailbacks in history, etc. (There may be long delays getting access to this attraction.)