Serious Fun at the Amusement Park!
Family Fun For Everyone - Except Me
‘Come on mum!’ the kids shouted in unison as they raced through the gates of ‘Flamingo Land’ theme park, in North Yorkshire, maps in hand. They headed off towards the main attractions. ‘You're gonna have some serious fun!’
Unconvinced, I gazed up at the gleaming new roller coaster towering threateningly, high above me, twisted and skeletal like the fossilised remains of some monstrous dinosaur.
It was bigger, faster and longer than the ones I remembered from years ago. And I was older - much older - than I was. Nowadays my bones rattle all of their own accord with no assistance from the latest white-knuckle ride and my equilibrium is quite content to remain as it is, thank you very much. It doesn't feel any urgent need to be disturbed or confused by me being contorted and turned upside down just when my breakfast is happy to stay put.
The kids were ecstatic. ‘Wow!’ We're all tall enough to go on the scariest ride this time!’ they screamed in anticipation as they lined themselves up against the red height marker, although I suspected one of them was deliberately wearing platform shoes.‘Come on mum! What are you waiting for? There's no queue,’ they cried, almost knocking me over in the rush.
I already harboured suspicions that I'd recently developed certain unexplainable phobias; mid-life fears of doing anything remotely reckless, but I was determined not to let it show.
You can deal with this, I reasoned, giving myself a little pep-talk, as I sat in the front car of ‘The Bullet,’ waiting for it to shoot forwards at sixty miles an hour in less than three seconds. Come on, pull yourself together You've been on roller coasters in theme parks all over America, long before they even had this sort of thing in the UK: Magic Mountain, Knots Berry Farm, Disneyland, you name it - you've been there!
But that was over twenty five years ago. Since then, I seem to have lost my youthful enthusiasm for theme park entertainment. My former nerves of steel and fearlessness have long since departed - that's what staying home and having kids does to you. My brains were already addled and now this huge, metal monster was determined to make things even worse.
Just then, I heard a blood-curdling scream and I immediately realised it was me doing the screaming as the ride suddenly shot BACKWARDS at sixty miles an hour. Of course, I mused. How stupid of me. How could it possibly have gone forwards as I'd assumed? There isn't any track in front of the car.
Several minutes later after fighting a losing battle with terrifying ‘G’ and centrifugal forces and two consecutive loop-the-loops I staggered off the ride, a shattered and broken woman, my stomach barely managing to hold onto its contents.
‘You all right mum? You look a bit funny.’
‘I'm O.K. but I'm not going on that thing again.’
‘Come on then, we'll go on the corkscrew instead.’
‘No!’ I protested adamantly. ‘What about that one over there?’
I had spotted an unobtrusive, harmless looking little roller-coaster, a ride called ‘The Mouse’ which looked temptingly tame compared to the one we'd just been on.
The kids laughed at my choice of ride. ‘That looks dead boring,’ they sneered, but reluctantly agreed to accompany me.
‘Oh this is much better,’ I smiled as our car was being hoisted up the track to the top of the coaster. With the brisk air from the Yorkshire countryside blowing through my hair, I was beginning to feel quite refreshed and invigorated, the experience even bordering on actual enjoyment. ‘What a nice view we'll have when we get to the top,’ I added enthusiastically.
Just then there was a distinct metallic clang as the ride came to a grinding halt. The car had become stuck at the highest point, leaving us staring upwards, poised at an extremely unnerving thirty degree angle like the occupants of some rocket ship about to be launched into orbit. I dared to look back and caught sight of my husband far below, grinning and waving up at us as he positioned himself to take a photo of our unexpected predicament.
‘It's okay, don’t worry it's just a technical hitch, that’s all,’ came a comforting voice. It belonged to one of the park workers, bronzed and youthful with the looks of a Greek God who had clambered all the way up the track to tell us not to be alarmed. Soothed by his calming voice and entranced by his twinkling blue eyes, I listened intently to his apologies until the ride began to move again.
It seemed an eternity but was probably little more than a few minutes. Then we were off again, racing downwards along the track and the whole incident became something to laugh about. When we stepped off the ride, I felt like kneeling down to kiss the ground just like the Pope and after that I attempted nothing more risky than a trip on the little steam train that winds its way round the zoo and fun park. My roller coasting days were well and truly over. I sat down on a picnic bench and fed the sandwiches I couldn't face to some grateful ducks on the boating lake while I sucked disconsolately on a soluble aspirin I'd found lurking at the bottom of my bag.
Annoyed at my avoidance of further ‘thrills and spills,’ the kids decided to desert me and went off to brave the water splash, the roller coaster which hurtles along in complete darkness, and the house of horrors.
‘Technically it's possible to die of fear, you know,’ I told them in my defence, as they accused me of being a spoil-sport. ‘Your blood pressure gets too low and then your heart just stops altogether.’
‘Aww... get a life, mum.’
I spent the rest of the afternoon trying to regain my composure, walking around the beautifully landscaped zoo section of the park. I was enthralled by the clever sea-lion show and was impressed by the elegant flamingos who give the park their name. And although I couldn't bear to look at another roller coaster, that certain queasiness just wouldn't go away.
Yes, my day at Flamingo Land had been serious fun all right. And later I gave myself a pat on the back for making such a concentrated effort - I even managed to wait until I got home before throwing up.
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© 2015 Stella Kaye