Sunday, 1 May 2011

In which I go upside-down

Printed 28/04/11.


It's nice to discover, at the ripe old age of 23, that I can be a theme park person.

I'd always assumed otherwise. I don't wear practical shoes, I have hair at the floofy end of the scale, and I would sooner staple my eyelids together than be anywhere near anyone who might vomit. The words 'scream if you want to go faster' usually inspire in me only a steadfast desire to stay mute and still (though this no doubt can be blamed as much on Geri Halliwell as any formative incidents at Alton Towers).

So it was after neatly sidestepping all of the above that we found ourselves at Flamingo Land, Yorkshire's premier amusement park that is named after a pink bird. I was promised flamingos, Boyfriend was promised multiple adrenaline highs and the opportunity to take his top off in public.

What Boyfriend didn't realise was that taking someone who hadn't been to a theme park since they were 12, to a theme park, was essentially tantamount to taking a 12-year-old to a theme park.

"Is there a Professor Burp's Bubbleworks?"

"No."

"Will I have to go upside down?"

"Yes."

"Can I buy some pointless tat in the gift shop?"

"If you must."

Matters weren't helped when the operator of our first ride decided to make a racist comment about some other visitors, just before we got on. So alongside general fear, safety concerns and the overall 'rickety charm' look that most of the Flamingo Land rides seem to be going for, I also had, "and a racist is pushing the buttons!" bleating round in my head.

A massive racist! Does that make it less safe? Could the screw loose in his head somehow also make a screw come loose on the tracks? What sort of establishment is this? Do they have a sexist on the ticket booth? A homophobe selling ice creams?

But then all moral indignancy gets pushed out of my head, because it is being hurtled around at eighty million miles an hour on a mock-motorbike. Another fleeting moment of concern arises when, on the log flume, three men have to come out to physically haul the wagon onto the 90ยบ incline (is this a quirky part of the rustic safari-style concept? Nope, the thing just hasn't been serviced since the 70s…) but by this point I have seen a rhino and had a Twister lolly. I am content.

Four more rollercoasters, a drippy fajita and a quid's worth of giddy fun on a 2p machine later, I have also had an epiphany, and begun to understand the appeal of the theme park. It is a place where we celebrate life. We have our appreciation of life tested by entrance fees that could buy a small bungalow in Aberystwyth, hours of dehydrated queuing and regular performances of the World's Worst Parenting by bands of travelling, Stella-touting jesters. It is shaken to its core by repeatedly being asked if you want to buy a photo of yourself with a face that can only be described as 'constipated wind tunnel terror pout'.

But then, THEN, you allow yourself to be flung about like a human ragdoll for thirty seconds believing all the time that you actually might die, and you realise two things: 1) Going upside down is completely awesome, and 2) Life back on the ground is worth hanging on to.

In short, I left with a lot more than promised – I had a new-found respect for the human condition.

I didn't, however, see any flamingos.

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