John Dowie: Blackpool - a summer threat for the kids

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The Independent Online

Two days of freedom left, and then the kids are on holiday again. What is it with teachers? You'd think if they enjoyed their work, they'd try sticking to it. But no. All that marking and preparation really takes it out of them. So, every summer they inflict six weeks of holiday hell on us poor parents, as a punishment for having sex and breeding, presumably.

Two days of freedom left, and then the kids are on holiday again. What is it with teachers? You'd think if they enjoyed their work, they'd try sticking to it. But no. All that marking and preparation really takes it out of them. So, every summer they inflict six weeks of holiday hell on us poor parents, as a punishment for having sex and breeding, presumably.

What on earth do you do with kids for six whole weeks? I dunno. I do know what you don't do, though. You don't make one of the biggest mistakes it's possible to make in life, and take them to Blackpool. "Miles and miles of golden sand", Blackpool declares about itself, as though this were something to be proud of. We went to look at the "miles and miles of golden sand". Never before have I seen two faces that so clearly expressed the phrase "So what?" I mean, what are they supposed to do with all this sand?

"Sit on it," I explain. "Make sand castles... er... " "Can we go home now?" "No." "Why not?" "Because we're here for a holiday." "Why?" "Because Blackpool has miles and miles of golden sand." They pause to digest this information. A moment passes. Then, "Can we go home now?"

Blackpool has more to it than miles and miles of golden sand, of course. It also has miles and miles of fast food outlets, all selling nothing but burgers and chips. If you don't like burgers and chips, don't go to Blackpool. There are no alternatives. Well, actually, there is, just the one, and it took us all day to find it. I never thought I'd be glad to see a Pizza Hut.

It also has the Pleasure Beach. The Pleasure Beach is very good indeed, assuming you enjoy being tortured. My idea of a good time is not being strapped into a machine that I think is going to kill me. Also, my children are sensitive creatures. It's embarrassing for them to be in the company of a 49-year-old man who is crying his eyes out and screaming, "I want to go home." And this is before the ride has started.

All of the above wouldn't have been so bad if my kids hadn't just returned from a holiday with their richer-than-me mum in Disneyland, Florida.

On our second day in Blackpool we were walking along in a freezing gale, hitting us straight from somewhere like Iceland. And it was raining. I could see that they'd had about as much Blackpool as they could take. Now was the perfect time for a father to wind up his sons. "So tell me," I said, "Which is the better place for a holiday? Disneyland, Florida? Or Blackpool?"

They didn't want to hurt my feelings. The youngest spoke first. "Well, actually, dad, we prefer Disneyland, Florida." "Why?" The older boy decided to help his brother. "It's like this, you see, dad," he said, employing that I-am-talking-to-an-idiot tone of voice which he has to use all the time. "In Disneyland, Florida, you can be walking along and you can meet Donald Duck. Or Goofy." "I see," I said. We turned a corner and there was Sooty.

Sooty was standing outside a theatre, handing out leaflets for his show. OK, the Sooty suit was looking a bit frayed. OK, he had cigarette burns in his fur. OK, he was clutching a can of lager and he was swaying a bit. And swearing. But it was definitely Sooty.

"There you are," I said. "There's Sooty. Anything you could possibly want from Disneyland, Florida, is also available to us in the north of England. Let's have a burger and chips to celebrate, and then go and watch the Sooty show. What do you say?" My sons said nothing. They looked at me in a pitying way. We left Blackpool half an hour later.

I don't think we'll be going again. Although, Blackpool does have its uses. It comes in very handy as a threat. "If you don't tidy up your room," I say, "I'll take you to Blackpool." But I don't mean it. I may not be the best dad in the world, but I'm not as bad as that.

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