After the hell of Peppa Pig World as a treat for the big kids when Eddie was born, it has taken six years for me to summon the willpower, not to mention secure the finances, to venture to another theme park.
I hate them. I really do. I hate all the other people who cheerfully go. I hate the herding. I despise the queue 'disguising' (that jaw-dropping disappointment as you turn what you think is the final corner only to find another one hundred people waiting ahead of you). I cringe at the cynical purchase positioning of themed toys at every opportunity, designed to make you look like mean parents for denying. I could easily go on.
So, what we thought we would do is pick the UK's busiest theme park, Legoland, for a visit during the school holidays. Yes, we know how to play it.
So, I had mentally prepared myself for the queues. But at Legoland there was even a queue for the toilets all day long. (In one building two out of the ten cubicles were out of order.)
And a disappointment was that the funicular train ride wasn't operating. A leftover from the Windsor Safari Park days I had a nostalgic desire to travel the hill this way (Worthy of a £5 discount, surely, since everything is commodified? More on that, later, in the 'lessons'.)
We had done quite a bit of research, got there for opening, knew to head to the back of the park first and had a plan of action. Here is what we achieved, in order, with wait times in brackets: The Dragon (30 minutes), Jolly Rocker (10 minutes), Coastguard (30 minutes), Driving Licence (40 minutes - but we tag teamed the queuing so that these two, which were next to each other, overlapped), Fire Academy (45 minutes), Ninjago (40 minutes), Scarab bouncers (15 minutes) GameZone (10 minutes), Pirate Falls (35 minutes), Viking River Splash (25 minutes), Jolly Rocker (again, 10 minutes), Atlantis (30 minutes), Mia's Riding Adventure (25 minutes), The Dragon (again, 15 minutes), Spinning Spider (15 minutes).
We were there when they opened the gates, and left as they closed them, so of the eight and a half hours in Windor, six and a quarter were spent in a queue.
I am embracing a growth mindset, so this is what I have learned:
Four Lessons of Legoland
1. Take oodles of snacks and eat in the queue. There's no time for slacking. Or lunch. Through the gate at 10am, by midday we had completed just four rides. If you can keep that pace up all day long then it averages three pounds per ride per person, assuming some vouchers have been used to enter - and as long as you just don't stop. Longest queue in the Easter holidays on a cold and dreary day was 75 minutes.
2. Play the 'no more money' mission. After extortionate admission fees, there are fleecing opportunities at every turn. £6 for the parking. £12 for a photo lanyard upon achieving your 'driving licence' in Lego City. £10 for your photo on 'The Dragon', or any other of the big rides.£12.50 for a refillable drinks bottle on entry. It was a nightmarish consumer frenzy. There are fairground-type stalls where you can 'win' big cuddly things for hooking a duck at £5 a pop. We made it part of the day's proceedings not to spend a penny more than the entrance. (It's obscene that the Ninjago Ride disgorges into the Ninjago shop.)
3. Bring alcohol. It's the only way to survive the hell. Children make good mules as their small backpacks are innocent-looking. Consumption in a queue is frowned upon, however.
4. Bring a supply of plastic covering for the wet rides. (To avoid the £2 charge for a family dryer and £3.50 for a Legoland poncho.) Or, as Gertie put it, "Three pounds fifty for a yellow bin bag? You're having a laugh!"
So, don't tell anyone but I quite enjoyed myself on the Dragon and the Jolly Rocker, and my favourite, Mia's Riding Adventure. And, apart from a slightly stressful moment in the unavoidable Ninjago shop where I had to wrestle some polystyrene nunchaku from a determined six-year-old, the kids were patient and well-behaved throughout.
But my best moment of the day was on departure when Eddie said, "I really did think that there would be more Lego..."