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Please refresh the and retry. I want to tell you about this underrated gem, perched on the pebbly shore of the West Sussex coast. Or you could stroll to the Fifties diner, all chrome and pink and jukeboxed, then on to the charming fairground where the carousel and helter-skelter are painted cheery shades and you can giggle and gurn in the retro hall of mirrors.
I wanted to tell you, because it is all true. But I am obliged to add a caveat. Readers of aesthetic sensitivity should forebear at all costs from stepping inside the giant, white tent. For this is Butlins, where bookings are up 7. I experienced my first lurch of foreboding as Nute dating Bognor Regis car was waved in by uniformly cheerful staff in red jackets.
Beyond lay an entire world: three hotels, 29 self-catering apartments, 12 restaurants and bars, outdoor fairground, indoor funfair, flumes, go-karts, climbing wall, 12 car parks, multi-sports courts, stages, shops — all surrounded by a chain-linked fence. A fter setting down our luggage, we began to drop some snobberies too. The sun was setting over the beach. Pick and choose selectively and a trip to Butlins, we began to see, could be something of a jolly exercise in time-travel.
But of course, holidaying in the past has its downsides. The hotel restaurant, we were soon smilingly informed, had stopped taking supper orders at 6.
Peering inside, we realised this was not, perhaps, the disaster we had thought think Ikea canteen. Following a fish dinner deep-friedwe returned to the hotel. Rather than take up the retro styling successfully adopted elsewhere in the resort, the Shoreline is decked out like a giant cruise ship.
Communal corridors are carpeted with a cartoonish deck, fish swimming along one side. Inside our room, a bright purple sofa bearing orange suckers nestled beside a giant floor cushion in the form of a turquoise and sadly stunted octopus. Even the bed is shippy! T he room covered all the essentials: hairdryer, mini-fridge, TVs for both kids and adults; but he had, inadvertently, hit upon something. Snug double bed? Bit shippy. Faintly funky smell in the corridor?
Nor does all of this come cheap. Because this place is deed for kids, not pretentious parents. And to that extent, it has nailed its brief. There are separate cabins for kids in every room, rounded corners, all the toddler paraphernalia a tiny despot could ever require. T here is even a cartoonish bedroom for resort mascot Billy Bear, into whose arms the children ran nightly to squawk lullabies, blissfully unaware of the unfortunate Red Coat perspiring within the suit.
Nor were they remotely phased by the big white tent, otherwise known as The Skyline Pavilion. Imagine the centre of Magaluf, only deed for children and encased in canvas so the pings Nute dating Bognor Regis slot machines and wails of diminutive figures being prised from them reverberate eternally off its surfaces.
P arents clutched pints for comfort as our offspring careened from soft-play centre to arcade games via the stage on which Red Coats — still smiling — sang and danced in ever-crazier costumes. I had voluntarily crossed over into my own personal hell. They were, I realised, having the best time of their little sugar-fuelled lives.
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