Winter Wonderland 2017

Seasons Greetings Everybody! It’s a little weird that I actually opened with that as I’m not really a fan of this current season. I mean both Winter and Christmas by the way. I’m not really a Scrooge, but I think you just care less and less about Christmas the older you get. Well I do anyway. Christmas used to be my favourite time of year, but after a little while when you stop getting presents, and you stop seeing as much of some of your family and your parents stop forcing you to go to church, it’s like what even is Christmas anymore? It’s a day where you don’t go anywhere (unless it’s to a family member’s house) with a hell of a lot of food, and some great movies on TV. Come on, tell me I’m wrong. I know I was supposed to day “it’s the day we celebrate the birth of Christ”, but my description is essentially Christmas in a nutshell. So yeah, I’m not really a Christmas-ey person. I don’t think I really will be until I have my own children and then we can all get excited about Christmas. I’m serious, I don’t even send out the Christmas-y stuff they put in the email templates we send to customers at work.

Anyway, seeing as t’is the season and everything, I decided to take my friend’s son Reece to Winter Wonderland on Sunday 17th December. I promised him that I would take him last year but I didn’t have the money in the end. Really and truly I didn’t really have the money this year, but I promised him that we would go this time. Plus I wanted to see what it was all about myself. And so we went. If I had known what kind of prices were waiting for me there, I would have saved us both the trip and just taken him to the cinema. Which I was so tempted to do by the way, because it had been a busy week at work and the last thing I felt like doing when I woke up on a day off was taking a trip into Central London in the cold, wet weather. That’s right, wet. It rained that day, but yet we still went. Here’s a tip for you people: don’t. If you wake up on a day like that and had intended to go Winter Wonderland or somewhere similar, just don’t. Save your money and your time, because by the time you get there you are going to want to leave instantly. Which I did. I did not like a single minute of it, and if Reece wasn’t so unbelievably annoying almost the whole time, I would have felt bad about taking him to it and not having as much fun as I thought we would.

I was optimistic when we first arrived. It looked like there was a hell of a lot going on but the first thing I wanted to do was get some food as both of us had set out before eating anything. Well Reece had breakfast and I didn’t, but it was about 2 or 3pm by this time. So I made a beeline for the cash point at the very first opportunity. The first thing to piss me off was having to pay £2.95 for a transaction. I reluctantly paid it however, and withdrew my money whilst accepting that I only had myself to blame by not taking cash out before we got there. Of course there was going to be a charge for the cash point there. I wasn’t expecting it to be as high as almost £3 of course, but either way it would have been smarter to take it out before we arrived.

Reece and I walked around Winter Wonderland looking at all the different food outlets, as I was just trying to look out for somewhere that a) had a roof ideally so that we would have shelter from the rain as we ate and b) has something other than burgers, hot dogs and chips on offer. That second part wasn’t crucial, I guess I just didn’t have a major craving for a burger or a hot dog and wanted to see what other options we had before I decided on something. However clearly the rain put me off walking quite as far as I could have done to look at options, because I’m pretty sure we stumbled across one or two other outlets that had shelter or had other options on their menu later on in the day. It was also partly because Reece was getting slightly impatient after a while, which was fair enough. I mean, we’d been walking in the cold and rain for almost 15 minutes to get there, not to mention the few minutes we spent being herded like cattle in order to gain entry into Winter Wonderland. I think he was just over walking at this point and wanted to actually do something. So we eventually decided to go for burgers and chips, which brings me to the second thing that pissed me off. Actually the rain was also pissing me off at this point, so we’ll say the third thing. I ordered two bacon cheeseburgers, regular not double, and one portion of cheesy chips. The entire order came to £24. £24! I mean, I love a bacon cheeseburger as much as the next girl. But I could order two Large meals from McDonald’s, with an apple pie and a McFlurry each for less that! Don’t get me wrong, the quality of the food was better than McDonald’s. But I’m just saying, we could have had two meals with two extras each, and it still wouldn’t have added up to £24. Plus either they fleeced me or they charged me for two doubles, even though I was very clear about my order, because the burgers were £8.50 each and the cheesy chips were somewhere between £3 and £4. Now Maths was my shittest subject at school and I still can’t get by at work without a calculator, however I’m pretty sure they charged me at least £3 extra for the food. Usually I would be like “err hold up” (they don’t love you like I love you – sorry I couldn’t resist! Anyone that isn’t a fan of Beyonce, get off my blog/look it up), but I guess my head was spinning at the fact that I was handing over two £20 notes to pay for some food. Literally I was thinking, “am I paying this much for food right now and I’m not sat down at a restaurant?” Clearly I must have been delirious. The burgers were so filling, but I told Reece that he’d better finish this burger because not one bite of it was to be wasted. I came with the right child, he consumes food like a hoover. I was more worried about me finishing it after a point, but I forced myself because I knew that if I had to throw any of it away I would be thinking about it all the way back. Reece wasn’t a big fan of the cheesy chips, but I managed to finish those off as well as my burger eventually.

The fourth thing that pissed me off was the hot chocolate. We went to an outlet just opposite the burger place to get it; what with the cold and rain it was definitely going to be first on the list. Guess how much the hot chocolate was? £2.80 each. That’s right, each. And these weren’t hot chocolates in a Costa or Starbucks style to go cup by the way, not even a small version of them. It was literally a hot chocolate in those tiny, shitty plastic cups like you’d get in school. Literally one cup of those, about half the size of a mug of hot chocolate you’d pour yourself at home, with whipped cream. For £2.80. Each! And if this weren’t bad enough, I stupidly asked for marshmallows, assuming it must only be about 20 to 30p extra. Clearly after a few seconds I realised where I was, and I asked the guy how much it would cost. He said that it would be £1 extra per hot chocolate. I literally looked him right in the eye and held my gaze for a few seconds, waiting for him to say that he was obviously joking. But he didn’t. I couldn’t believe he could actually look me in the eye and say that with a straight face. £1 extra! For a tiny sprinkle of marshmallows!?  Of course I would usually just be like “Nah mate, fuck that. No thank you.” But the kid had his heart set on marshmallows as soon as I mentioned it, and this outing was supposed to be his treat, which had alright been slightly sullied by the weather. I could make do with just the whipped cream but I asked the man to just put the marshmallows on Reece’s hot chocolate, and tried not to think about the fact that I could have got marshmallows three times that size for £1 in the supermarket.

So after I’d been politely mugged, Reece and I proceeded to walk around the Wonderland so that we could see what was what. This is when Reece promptly became the fifth thing to piss me off. He’d had a little mini tantrum already by the cash point, insisting that he wanted to go home even though we had literally only just got there and almost crying, literally as a reaction to absolutely nothing. But I forgot about that pretty quickly, brushing it off as a possible reaction to the shitty weather. Hey I’m almost 24, and I felt like crying and insisting on going home at that point. But I forgot how annoying Reece could be sometimes (sometimes is such an understatement by the way, he’s annoying almost all the time but he’s just so cute that I feel like being nice right now). He wanted to do one of those games where you throw rings at these cones (at least, I think they were cones, I don’t really remember now) and if you hit the target you win a prize. They were good prizes too, and from the sound of it you got to pick which one you wanted from a certain row, depending on which target you hit. So it wasn’t even like you’re hit with a display of amazing prizes but people always seem to win the shittest ones somehow. I wasn’t saying that Reece couldn’t do this particular game. I was just telling him that we should probably walk around and see all the attractions and see what he wanted to do the most because after spending £30.60 on a couple of burgers and hot chocolate (Oh God, I just died inside typing that) the money I had to spend was limited, as there was no way in hell that I was going to spend another £3 taking out more cash either. Also, I was slightly thinking “come on dude, you’re six. Let’s be real, you’re probably not going to hit the target”. But who knows, he’s an energetic and determined little guy so it’s not like it wasn’t possible. However, as I said, I just wanted him to be sure of his options. Did Reece understand this though? Of course not, he cried and kept running off and refusing to hold my hand. Just in general being a little shit (I love him, but I’m sorry he was. His mother would agree with me). So I’d become so fed up of looking like a psycho chasing this little boy who refused to listen, and it got to the point where the empty threats were not even empty anymore. I was seconds away from dragging him to the exit and taking him home.

As much as Reece was irritating me though, I didn’t want have come all the way to Central London on a day off, spend over £30 food and then leave again. So I had one more plan of action: to call his mother. Maybe he would listen to her if he was refusing to listen to me. This was the first time I’d ever called his mum in despair whilst I was looking after him, which goes to show that he was being particularly stubborn, even for Reece. It seemed to work though; Reece had a little fake cry (you know that thing little kids do when they make the right facial expressions and sound effects to illustrate crying, but no actual tears come out) for a few seconds but then after that he seemed to perk up a little bit. We had a little walk around, and I got a few tokens so that he could do what he fancied. We walked past the place where you throw rings and win a prize like two or three times, but he didn’t mention anything. Just goes to show that children are fickle and hardly ever know what they really want. It seemed that by the time Reece had caught a glimpse of all the kiddie rides, this was all he was interested in now. The kiddie rides were reasonable enough, compared to what I’d seen so far anyway. It’s £1 per token, and they were all 2 tokens each. Not too bad, so Reece went on a few of these and had the time of his life. One of them looked kind of fun and a little bit more lively than I anticipated. I almost felt like spending the extra £2 to go on it with him. But I didn’t. I guess I didn’t want to that much.

By this point, it was pretty clear that Reece had had his fun but he was kind of over it now. I was over it as soon as we got there personally, so I didn’t want to leave before the little guy was ready to. I’d have pretty much departed whenever, but we were not there for me at the end of the day. Not to mention that I wanted to give his mother as long of a break as possible. So we walked around a little more and had a look at the more advanced rides for kids a little older than Reese, and the ridiculous ones for adults that clearly wanted to die. These rides soon became the sixth thing to piss me off. The amount of tokens they were demanding for each one was not even close to worth it. A couple of them were three tokens, which wasn’t too bad but Reece wasn’t particularly fussed about these ones. Then they got absolutely ridiculous the further we walked, most of them requiring 5 or 6 tokens per person. This was particularly annoying as I would have to accompany Reece on these rides, as they were a lot more intense than the ones he’d been on. I couldn’t exactly leave him on his own; from experience of taking him to the funfair not long ago, I knew he would just hate it and end up crying the whole time. Even the Bumper Cars was obviously not something a six year old could do by himself. I was starting to regret not arriving at 11am in the morning so that we could see The Sooty Christmas Show, which was my original plan, but I really didn’t want to wake up earlier than I had to on my day off. I didn’t have enough cash left for us to do these rides together, and even if I had: £10 or £12 per ride was more than a rip off. Reece definitely looked like he was just done at this point, and I couldn’t blame him. So I asked him if he just wanted to go and see Santa, and he heartily agreed.

Looking for Santa was the seventh and final thing to piss me off. It took FOREVER to find the right place: on the way I asked several people for directions, bought a bag of candy floss for Reece which cost £3.50 (yes the exact same bags you get in shopping centres or fairs in the summer that cost about £1. Do not even get me started, it was £5 for the tub of candy floss! £1.50 extra for alternative packaging! I can’t even count this purchase as another thing that pissed me off, because I was barely even surprised at this point) and I saw the alternative food outlets we could have eaten in which I mentioned earlier, one of them a sit-down restaurant with a roof that even looked warm inside. I’m guessing the prices in there were even worse than the other places, but to be fair it might have been worth it to be comfortable and somewhat drier. After what felt like a year, we finally arrived at the right place. But then the staff by the entrance burst my bubble pretty quickly by confirming that it would be a 30 to 40 minute wait in the queue. My heart sank. I’m pretty sure that is exactly how long it took us to find Santa in the first place. Despite that, I was still prepared to wait in the queue and pretend that my feet weren’t starting to freeze. I wanted Reece to at least have a picture with Santa and a little present to mark the occasion. But can you believe that were in the queue barely two minutes, when the little guy just looked at me and asked “can we just go home?” He had clearly been contemplating the 30-40 minute wait and decided “nah”. I asked him if he was sure, even though I was already mentally trying to remember where the exit we had passed earlier was. He did change his mind once or twice, but then eventually stuck to his guns and decided on going home. I think he was starting to remember how long the journey there was, including the walk to the station, and after weighing up the prospect of seeing Santa he’d decided he’d much rather his make his way back home where he knew a large plate of his Granddad’s delicious food was waiting for him. And to be honest, I can’t even say I blame him. So back home we went.

So in conclusion, Winter Wonderland sucks. It’s completely hyped up, it is daylight fricking robbery and if you aren’t a fan of the cold there will not be enough on offer to compensate your suffering. Trust me on that. Save yourself a trip and wait till it gets warmer so that you can go to a local funfair. That’s what I’m planning to do to make it up to Reece anyway. He may have been a little shit at certain points, but overall I had been hoping to be able to provide him with more which my pocket just unfortunately could not allow. I will be coming up with more fun and cost-effective ways to treat the little one very soon, especially seeing as his birthday is in a couple of weeks. Any tips or bright ideas would be very much appreciated, but for now I would just like to make it clear that I only plan on returning to Winter Wonderland if I know for a fact that I will be spending somebody else’s money. So with that, Merry be-lated Christmas, Happy New Year and stay away from Winter Wonderland. Do not believe the hype: it really sucks.

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