Michael with his dad, John (left)
In these fevered times of Brexit bust-ups and elections as regular as Southern train service cancellations, there’s been a lot of hot air about British values. Blowhards from across the political spectrum have spent years trying to define what makes the nation truly great.
But if you really want to see a living embodiment of the best values this country has to offer, I have the answer: Butlin’s.
The epitome of the traditional holiday camp, Butlin’s has often been given a bad name in the snooty world of “staycationing” – to people who talk English rather than infuriating marketing speak, this means holidaying in Britain.
Now, after spending the recent half-term break among three generations of the Booker clan at Butlin’s in Skegness, I honestly can’t think of a better place for family fun and frolics.
I feared the worst as the clouds gathered and the heavens opened as we wound our way through the A-roads of Lincolnshire. However, things brightened considerably as we turned into the camp to be welcomed by the 1,000-mega-watt warmth of the famous Redcoats.
Within a matter of minutes the deluge had ceased, the sun had emerged and we had been shown to our accommodation, a two-bedroom luxury Seaside Apartment in the Lagoon Bay area in the centre of the park’s action. There are different levels of accommodation at the three seaside resorts: Skegness, Minehead and Bognor Regis.
They range from Standard Apartments up through Silver and Gold standard, to the higher-spec Seaside Apartments. Ours came with all the mod cons to make it an option to cater for ourselves, but to do so would be to miss out on the huge variety of dining-out options on site.
And there’s plenty of choice to satisfy that key aspect of Britishness – making a pig of yourself!
The cosy Seaside Apartments
There are varying dining plans available at The Deck and Yacht restaurants, a huge array of Italian pasta and pizza at Ludo’s, great grilled food at the Firehouse and fabulous fish and chips at Rock And Sole.
We went for the all-inclusive option at The Deck, which as well as the daily meat, veg and chips offerings had themed food nights.
I for one made a particular pig of myself on Italian night where I managed to fit in a pile of cannelloni, two different types of lasagne, a side plate of garlic bread, a handful of breadsticks and two bowls of ice cream.
Beyond the food, there’s plenty of activities to keep all ages entertained. Just behind our apartment was the cavernous Skyline Pavilion, the camp’s entertainment epicentre.
Donkeys on the beach in Skegness
In the mornings were stage shows such as the Teletubbies, the Mr Men and Butlin’s very own characters The Skyline Gang.
Our particular evening favourite was a live wrestling match where the burly combatants – some of whom looked like they’d overdone the buffet themselves – received a cacophonous response from the crowd, booing the baddies and cheering the good guys.
Butlin’s is also now a regular stop-off for big-name TV stars who perform in the slightly more exclusive theatres on the edge of the Skyline Pavilion.
Among the acts performing over the summer from the end of July at the three resorts are Britain’s Got Talent dancing stars Diversity, TV presenters Sam & Mark and ITV quiz show host-cum-comedian and magician Stephen Mulhern.
The day we arrived was just a week after the terror attack at the Manchester Arena. As a result there was a new addition to the line-up at the park – machine gun-toting police. A surreal sight among the Teletubbies and Redcoats, they quickly became part of the experience and even served as a magnet for kids and families for an unusual souvenir selfie.
Keeping calm and carrying on is very much part of the nation’s spirit and that was evident. But if calmness is really your thing then spend a day being pampered in the camp’s luxurious spa.
You can choose from a long list of treatments for £28-£62 at the hands of one of the skilled therapists, or just loll by the pool in your dressing gown and slippers. Being a chap who doesn’t entirely thrive on being given a rub down with only a fluffy towel to protect my modesty I chose the “lolling” option.
If calmness is really your thing then spend a day being pampered in the camp’s luxurious spa
But I’m told by the ladies in our party that the treatments were as good as anything they’d had in top-name spas across the country.
For more exciting watersports there’s the Splash Waterworld where you can zoom down waterslides and ride the rapids. If you are struggling to find the energy to get back to your apartment after all that then I’d recommend getting around like we did, pedalling a trike.
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Available to hire for £12 plus a returnable deposit, we pedalled around like mad during our stay. The weather behaved itself, too, and that meant regular trips to the wonderful sandy Skegness beach.
I even managed to get sunburnt despite confidently claiming I’d be fine without sunscreen. As you see, a typically British hard-luck story at the end of a typically British holiday.
Butlin’s (0330 102 5299/butlins.com) offers four nights in a Seaside Apartment in Skegness from £170 (four sharing). Includes shows entry, use of the Traditional Fairground and Splash Waterworld plus other activities and shows.
Source : EXPRESS