Centre Parcs: The Sorrow & the Pity

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Well, in answer to your question, we’re going to spend several hours where you beg me to do exciting things like canoeing and abseiling, and I’m going to explore many ways of saying ‘No, we can’t afford it’. I’ll give in eventually, but I will experience severe financial anxiety for the next few months. Then we’ll go for a slightly bad-tempered meal in one of the restaurants, and you’ll eat too much ice cream. Then I’ll hire a scary pinch-faced woman to dole out bedtime discipline, while Mummy and I go to the late-night spa session, where I will experience the sexiest moment of the year, hands down. Tomorrow we fuck off home.

 

ATTENTION PROLE-SCUM! WELCOME TO CENTRE PARCS. YOUR OFFICIALLY-DESIGNATED ALLOTTED TIME OF FUN BEGINS NOW AND LASTS UNTIL YOU WILL BE FORCED BACK TO YOUR STUPID JOB ON MONDAY.

Thank you, happy citizen, for choosing us over every other possible holiday location that just so happens to be totally inferior to us. As you know, we are the UK’s premier short-break holiday destination, otherwise known as “Posh Butlins in a Pine Forest”. We hope you’ve enjoyed the uplifting advertisements on the telly, showing families being brought together in canoes, on quad-bikes, walking in forests, etc; and have been seduced by the idea of a nice swimming pool with some floaty rapids and waterslides where everyone has plenty of room to swim and relax (haha). Please FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS and no one needs to get hurt.

The name Centre Parcs roughly translates as ‘Middle Ground’, and this is the ethos by which we have fleeced dumbos for decades now. Everything is Average. It also translates as a licence for us to print money. Set in artificially tranquil grounds in a remote part of Wiltshire you’d never normally go to, your holiday has been tailored to suit the most medium of tastes.

BEFORE YOU ARRIVE:

  1. Fill in the pre-registration suitability form
  2. Enter your name, date of birth, gender, height, weight, dietary requirements, next of kin, racial group, personal goals and ambitions, email address, and political affiliations. Provide a recent passport photograph of yourself, plus a thumbprint, a recording of your voice reading the prescribed sentence, and a DNA sample from the inside of your cheek. This way, should any… unfortunate incident take place, our scientists can recreate a reasonably-convincing version of you for your loved ones’ future peace of mind.
  3. Please choose your accommodation according to your rigidly enforced social status. The choices are:

    Executive treehouse

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    Put all thoughts about staying here out of your head. It won’t happen. Your sort don’t get this.

    Pine lodge
    Imitation QE2 cabin
    Inner-city penthouse from a good neighbourhood
    The inside of Apollo 13
    Old peoples’ sheltered housing
    Monk-like cell
    Holding pen
    Inner-city crack-den from a neighbourhood gone to hell
    and
    “The Cage”.

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    This is more likely to be appropriate to your level

    Your choices will result in your resettlement on arrival in the following designated zones: Ash, Maple, The Pines, Oak, Redwood, Cypress, District 12.

ON ARRIVAL:
1. Queue politely in your stupid SUV in a tailback on the A46 whilst listening to the calming sounds of whatever it is you dickheads listen to. After a tortuous wait, stationary in your car, your choice of music becomes about as pleasant and calming as listening to Reign in Blood by Slayer anyway. You should reach the main gate within two hours. Be prepared to be harangued by your offspring demanding food, water and toilet facilities. We will provide none of those things until you are in our clutches.

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2. On arrival at the security gate, do not blame the tailback on us. It’s nothing to do with us at all, and really it’s all your fault for coming at such a busy time. What sort of idiot shows up at 5pm on a Friday night? Oh hang on, I guess it’s you lot.

3. Your Personal Welcome Commandant will issue you with keys to your accommodation, a map, and a list of rules. The rules are, in summary:

Don’t Do That; Shut Up and Eat Your Burger; Swim In The Pool!; Spend More Money Otherwise You’ll Be Bored Shitless; Reading Is For Undesirables; Dissent Is Unnecessary and Anti-Social; Urlaub Macht Frei.

4. Park your car in the designated parking zone in the far reaches of the Park. You are now required to carry all your belongings 3.2 miles to your accommodation. Did you remember to bring all your self-catering supplies? This is when you will feel like a complete sucker as you lug 600g packets of Special K along with your 4-litre bottle of semi-skimmed, swimming kit, and bug repellent.

THINGS TO DO:
1. Nothing is free. Everything costs money.

2. You can go for a walk, or swim in the Tropical Swim Funderzone (see section on Tropical Swim Funderzone). You can do those things without handing over actual cash, but you’ve already paid a weeks’ salary for this whole experience, hence nothing is free.

3. All other activities cost a flippin’ fortune, so unless you’re capable of sitting and reading, or enjoying walking around a dense forest in conversation with your loved ones, you have to shell out. So you want to do canoeing? Fuck you, pay me. Fancy a go on the climbing wall? Fuck you, pay me. If you want to play tennis? Fuck you, pay me. Football? Fuck you, pay me. Archery? A bargain at £HAHA.99! Quad Biking? Shit off, you owe us big time. Face painting for the kids? Give us your fuckin’ money and your phone, or I’ll slash you.

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…and may the odds be ever in your favour!

ACCOMMODATION:
Your accommodation follows the basic principles of Zen Buddhism (or at least the principles we’ve made up on a post-it note). They are: You get a bed, some sheets, some walls thin enough to hear your neighbours rutting, and a basic kitchen. You are given bathing facilities, which you must use in order to rid your body of lice and dirt, and a toilet for the disgusting filth your body excretes.

You get a really crappy telly with the emphasis on ITV. Have you actually watched ITV recently? It’s like reading the Daily Star but with moving pictures telling you what to do. Did you know Jeremy Kyle is shown back-to-back on Saturday Mornings now? What? Did you think they still showed kids shows on Saturday morning? You’re clearly a nostalgic idiot. Tiswas and its descendants have for some time been confined to the lower cable channels (which you don’t get here).

So wake up, get yer coffee, switch on Kyle, watch the doleites scream at each other about their easy virtues without any attempt at proper and respectful communication, in front of a shouty, grim-visaged manipulative overlord and his bovine mob of applauders-on-cue, and welcome to your New Society.

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ITV news is a monologue of woe presented by some really creepy and stern news dictators. At night, to calm the restless populace, ITV usually shows The Matrix. Irony.

NATURE:
Here at Centre Parcs, we pride ourselves on a back-to-nature experience designed for you to re-bond with the natural environment. That’s why we’ve filled every square metre of this landscape with non-native pine forest, in order to create a Nordic-style atmosphere of tranquillity and enforced calm. If you have never seen nature before, we will endeavour to convince you that crows, woodpigeons, blue tits, blackbirds and wrens are all really rare and unusual birds. If you see a jay, you’ll be so blown away by its remarkable plumage, you will literally piss yourself with joy. If a squirrel chooses to scamper across your pathway, you must stop and coo in wondrous delight. If you do not coo, you will be visited in your accommodation by the Court of Squirrels at 2am, who will spend two hours conditioning you to respect their twitching noses and their bushy tails. So get busy with the fucking cooing, yeah? Or they will come for you in the Witching Hour, tie up your family, and pronounce you Guilty in their shrill, squeaky voices.

The location of Centre Parcs on the blasted heath of Wiltshire means that there is an ever-present danger from Britain’s most lethal animals, The Adder and Deer Ticks. Adders are a snake with a black-and-white zig-zag pattern on its back, and burning red Sauron eyes. They can be sometimes observed in forest glades doing nothing, harming no one, and minding their own business. If you see one, poke it with a stick until it hisses at you. If you’re very lucky, you’ll witness The Wonder of Nature as it rears up and bites you on your fat ankle. You are then required to stamp the offending snake to death, even though they’re protected by law. Seek medical attention before your heart stops beating. Poisonous as fuck, man.

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The Adder of Morgoth

Deer Ticks wait on prominent stalks of vegetation for large, lumbering, oafish mammals such as yourself to blunder past. They fix their mouthparts to your tasty flesh and infect you with blood-borne parasites and diseases as they suck your living essence. Most of these infections will have you sweating in agony within the week. If you are bitten, seek medical attention from our trained scientists; although really, you should never have left the confines of your room to engage with nature. This is why plebs like yourself reside in your hellish cities and never travel beyond the protective border walls of concrete and steel. Learn your place in the natural world, human. Nature kills.

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Deer Tick

These two animals represent the biggest danger from our native UK wildlife, so to enhance your visit, we have imported various other snakes, scorpions, bears with rabies, tropical centipedes, facehuggers, wolves, and at every Centre Parcs site there is at least one resident Chupacabra roaming free.

FOOD:
There’s a wide variety of eateries at the Central Temple Dome. Each serves a cosmopolitan menu from around the world. You have a choice of Italian burgers and chips and pizza; French-style burgers and chips and poor service; American-style burgers and chips with a remarkable array of sauces that taste identical and sickly; and British-style burgers and chips with an air of Despondency and Gloom.

Desserts are reflective of your holiday at Centre Parcs, in that they’re vanilla-flavoured with bland toppings of chocolate sauce, caramel and cream in a variety of frozen and whipped forms. All the food is free from GM ingredients and has been specially modified to appeal to the blandest palette. If you have any dietary requirements or allergies, please advise your freakishly perky server, who will do her level best to ensure the convulsions from your anaphylactic shock to be reasonably dignified. If you are vegetarian, we respect (but pity) your lifestyle choice and will reward your social transgression with an enticing menu of vegetables and melted cheese.

TROPICAL SWIM FUNDERZONE:
We provide safe, splashy fun in a non-threatening jungle environment.

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Please change in the micro-sized cubicle that has no workable locks, and no sign outside to indicate whether or not the cubicle is occupied or not. If someone tries to enter your cubicle by accident, swear loudly and aggressively until they retreat. You must put all your belongings in the lockers positioned at foot height, and shower in the anti-parasite cleansing room. We have master keys, so we can help ourselves to your things. The dirtiest pants we find will be displayed on the Wall of Skids in the back office.

Upon entering the pool you will note that there is no swimming allowed, or even remotely possible. You will be permitted to find space, and bob up and down whilst having loud conversation with your holidaymates, and that’s pretty much it. The wave machine comes on every 30 minutes and compared to the majesty of the likes of Swindon Oasis Centre, it is a massive disappointment.

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Ah… fond memories of the wave machine at Swansea Leisure Centre circa 1988…

Here at the Tropical Swim Funderzone, your body will be exposed to scrutiny. Obesity, excessive underarm hair in females, pale and blotchy skin, and the inability to walk on wet tiles with dignity will all be subject to behind-the-hand sniggering by a panel of dripping wet teenage girls. Massive Yakuza-style tattoos are de rigueur these days, and even the most respectable-looking woman has body art like a 19th-century sailor on a whaling vessel. Any refusal to have your body tattooed will have you looked down upon as a weakling freak who Does Not Conform To Normality And Body Expectations. Tattoos can be arranged by our resident tattoo artist. He specialises in writing six numbers on your arm in blue ink.

If you wish to ride a slide or flume, be prepared to queue for ages and never be seen again.

The best bit of your entire holiday is the little circular river thing between the main pool and the slides that has quite a considerable current. You can ride it for hours and pretend to be Indiana Jones being swept away by a jungle flood. It’s fucking great! Be prepared to be elbowed in the face by an eleven-year old boy though.

The Hot Water Whirlpool Bath is a large, stagnant bubble pool of hot water for people with regional accents to gather in bubbly hotness and shout their miserable whiney bitching over the roar of bubbles. Relaxation is impossible and discouraged.

If you can be overheard to complain bitterly about your life in a strong Brummie accent, you will be permitted to ride the PARADISE RIVER OF THRILL.

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RULES FOR THE PARADISE RIVER OF THRILL
1. If you are female, you are required to screech

2. If you are male, your swimshorts will fall down, exposing your buttocks and your penis to small children. Congratulations!

3. Lifeguards are there to ignore any signs of distress or peril

4. The water is surprisingly cold and shallow

5. The flow of the river will have you spluttering and feeling slightly panicked. Fast slidey
sections can result in cold-water enemas and the sensation of being waterboarded

6. You will be kicked in the head and crotch by fellow riders of the PARADISE RIVER OF THRILL. You will not receive any form of apology. Likewise, whilst hurtling down the flumey downhill sections, be prepared to end up headbutting a large woman’s breasts. Before you have a chance to recover, an obese man with tattoos will pummel into your back with both fists at high speed

7. Ignore all signs that say “Don’t Stand Up”, “Feet First”, “Avoid Bodily Contact” because for the duration of this ride, we are in opposite-land

8. If you are part of a hen or stag party, obnoxious hooting is a requirement. Crotch-kicking and breast-butting is expected. Heck, it’s mandatory!

9. At the end of the ride, you are required to queue up for it again.

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The Tropical Swim Funderzone contains a cafe which can serve you burger and chips, milkshakes, and disappointing coffee, all for far too much money. To use the cafe, please remove your dripping body to your locker, retrieve fistfuls of random cash whilst soaking your previously dry clothes with your clumsy fumblings, and then return to the cafe whereupon you will not be served for ten minutes. When your order is taken, expect to hand over your sopping wet fivers from your soaking fist, and have your server grimace at being handed soggy banknotes. Did you not dry yourself? Idiot.

ROMANESQUE TEMPLE OF SPA FOR WOMEN AND EMBARRASSED-LOOKING MEN

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Stop that

One of our most popular and expensive activities is the Temple of SPA. Here you can swan around in your swimming togs and a selection of increasingly damp towelling robes. This is especially popular with groups of shrieking women, so men should please be expected to be both in a minority, and to look vaguely shifty.

The Temple of SPA is designed for you mere worker bees to experience how millionaires live every minute of every day, albeit without the constant oral sex. It is a series of hot, wet rooms, where middle-aged Estuary-voiced couples complain loudly; and roving gangs of posh, hen-night women talk in their curious, shrill gibbering. The signs asking people to please respect the silence and to maintain an air of tranquillity are there only for decoration and not really intended to be adhered to.

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Not allowed

You have a choice of Finnish Hot Room, Tyrolean Hot Room, Roman Hot Room with crappy sculptures, Turkish Hot Room that Smells Of Lockets, Greek Hot Room that smells of barbecue, Very Hot And Wet Indian Room, Balinese Hot Room With Secluded Alcoves For Illicit Snogs, Japanese Hot Room, Room With Drapes and Columns of Bubbles in Glass Cylinders Where Over-Relaxed People Snore Loudly, Swimming Pool Room, and Freezing Outdoor Japanese Garden With Prickly Stones Underfoot (the sharpest stones cannot be removed, and on returning inside will burrow into your heel, causing you to limp around the complex in a most amusing fashion).

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Behave yourself

Cold water drink fountains are there to replenish yourself. Ignore them at your peril otherwise you will collapse from heatstroke. Waterbeds with damp sheets are provided for you to lie on and say “bublublblub!” as you wobble about. The air is filled with That Calming Smell – which is a bit joss stickish, and a bit student bedroomy – and you will be treated to a constant soundtrack of sub-Brian Eno bullshit with pan pipes. In the context of the place, it’s actually quite soothing. Anywhere else, and it would be considered the Soundtrack of Hell from Beelzebub’s personal Spotify playlist.

The cafe in the ROMANESQUE TEMPLE OF SPA is the best food outlet in the whole of the Centre Parcs, with a selection of vaguely light Mediterranean dishes that are far too small, but you’re so utterly poached by the various Hot Rooms, you won’t feel particularly hungry.

NIGHT TIME

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Night time at Centre Parcs is a quiet time for reflection, somnambulant wandering, and snoozy-dreamy-dream time after a hard day’s packed itinerary of expensive pursuits (to hire a bike costs over £30!! Fuck me!!). There are no bars. They’re just called ‘cafes’, and they are empty, dispiriting places for the restless to gather and go through the motions of social interaction and heavy drinking. The Sports Cafe has a miserable and lonely DJ playing ‘Street Life’ to an empty dance floor. The Grand Cafe advertises live musicians who are, to all intents and purposes, completely invisible (well, I couldn’t see any). Guests are instead encouraged to buy booze from the surprisingly reasonable on-site supermarket, and expected to consume alcohol quietly and sadly in their accommodation once their over-stimulated kids have been strapped into their beds, and the soporific gas has been administered.

All the birds will be shut down at night to minimise disturbance from the natural world.

You may hear a soft humming sound. This is the electrified perimeter fence, and this is normal. Occasionally, as guests become restless and keen to explore the outside world, the sound of bodies being electrocuted can be heard. There will be a discreet scream, followed by a gentle sizzling noise and the calming smell of what seems to be burnt pork. This is normal and nothing to worry about.

LEAVING
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You are not permitted to leave the park at any time during the duration of your stay. Despite Longleat House and Safari Park being both FUCKING AWESOME and just over the next hill, its location is kept secret from you. If you must know, the outside world no longer exists and has been reduced to an irradiated wasteland populated by ghouls procuring sustenance from the dead flesh of the fallen, and by sucking radioactive lichens. You are now the fortunate survivors of the human race. This is what you will be told in order to keep you in the park, placid and subservient. Go back to the swimming pool and ride the flumes, peasant.

If you decide to leave before the end of your allotted stay due to returning to work on Monday, or because you have just had enough, a professional camp counsellor will ring your accommodation and ask “But whyyyyyy?” over and over again until you acquiesce and return meekly to your pre-paid activities. If you still decide to leave, you will be required to lug all of your belongings the 3.2 miles back to your car in the Eastern District, and hope we have not slashed the tyres.

Please follow the exit signs to the security lodge where you will be further quizzed as to the rashness of your decision to foresake Paradise. You will then note that all exits from the car park are sealed, apart from one exit which will take you past a series of signs that berate your life choices. As you leave the park, a specially trained team of disgruntled employees and local children will pelt your car with stones.

If you choose to leave at your allotted departure time, please exit your accommodation by 6am whilst being pursued by a mob carrying pikes. Please do not do an ‘idiot check’ under your bed before leaving, otherwise how else are we expected to acquire used sex toys?

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“JACKPOT!!”

Please join the orderly tailback of your fellow drones out of the car park back to the horrid trudge of modern society. Please leave your accommodation keys and your dignity at our security lodge and we will endeavour to track your motions for the next decade. Have any complaints? Tough. We own you now, bitch. We have your email address and will bombard you with promotions from the moment you switch on your computer at home. Remember, once you’ve been here, you’re here forever.

THANK YOU FOR COMING TO CENTRE PARCS!! SEE YOU AGAIN!!!!

Disclaimer: I am taking the piss somewhat. Yes, Sarah and I went to Centre Parcs. It is actually brilliant. The pool is pretty awesome, and the spa is particularly good.

The food really is rubbish though.

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