During the Easter Break a few weeks ago I did a wife swap as the mother of three children, plus one I made earlier.
In one of the comatosed sleeps that punctuated my tenure I was visited by a dark voice suggesting an outing to Syon Park Snakes and Ladders indoor adventure playground.
The Heavens opened, Beelzebub chuckled and five of us buckled up in the Citroen Picasso.
Self-described as ‘Family fun come rain or shine’, in literal terms it is a 3-tier adventure play area with climbs and slides, netted play areas, tunnels and plastic balls.
In human terms, it is a place of unparalleled venal misery that dreams of becoming hell one day- a vast overcrowded aircraft carrier space that has the Astrodome of Hurricane Katrina as its pin-up.
To the left, various brightly-coloured plastic pieces of aparatus held together by the vomit and discarded limbs of former pint-sized adventurers.
To the right, bodies rammed around picnic tables and sprawled a-kimbo over any un-littered floor space inbetween.
Prior to this visual feast are the delights of admission- a twenty minute queue which may alert the quick-witted to the possibility that others have shared their cunning plan, if indeed any such persons were trying to gain entry.
After the ceremonial mugging at the cash register (‘Let’s do the maths, kids: 1 x adult, 2 x kids over 3, 2 x kids under 3= Villa in the Maldives) one is confronted by a place prostrating itself at the alter of snobbery in order that the survival of our species may be encouraged.
For it seems impossible that any sane person therein, if gifted one glorious moment of detachment from the mob, would not confidently conclude their evolutionary superiority.
Collectively a cesspit of genes the medical profession hopes to be able to screen out within 20 years, individually certain to screech if met with a vegetable.
Gargantuan beasts steeped in cobalt blue mascara whose criminal records would identify as women, emptying their midriff overspill onto plastic tables.
Men with uninterrupted hair from head to toe, one- maybe two- illustrations ahead of the biped homosapien.
Children weighing in more than a baby elephant- no, more than a mature cheese-burger loving parent elephant with a metabolic disease.
Babies engulfed by giant cups of synthetic orange fizz, boasting six-figure body-mass indexes.
All either engaged in a tense transaction of sweat, swearing and going-home time negotiation or the sort of solitary weeping that helps to pass the time until the school holidays end.
Or at least until ‘lunch’ arrives, delicately bellowed over a tannoy system by some poor wretched youth who would have left school early if they had ever been allowed to start.
Dished up by a kitchen chiefly supplied by certain Swedish clinics, whose morticians have had insufficient time to beautify the remnants.
A swirling mircrowave-baked quagmire of every artificial ingredient known to coagulate the blood and soul. With extra ketchup and a Mars Bar.
This is food that glows in the dark, judders in the light and eyes up airline meals jealously.
The sort that makes you grateful you can stop by the sweetie Pick ‘n Mix at the exit, to supplement the nutritional content of the meal with pink oysters, fudge pieces and sour snakes.
But only after you have spent 3 hours weakly clutching drain-water tea and wiping noses.
Distributing, re-directing and collecting the fluids of E-number-fueled ankle-biters.
Stuffing decibels out of your ears by stuffing tissues into them.
And dreaming of wine in large tumblers…
The kids absolutely bloody loved it.