Monday, June 25, 2007
I have just returned from Legoland with my older son. It was almost exactly what I expected: a soulless, corporate theme park in which the concept of adventure has been commodified, stripped of risk and regurgitated as a bland, postmodern succession of experiences. My son loved it and wants to go back as today's trip was cut short by torrential rain. I shall try to stall him.
I paid £47 for our two tickets, which was extortionate. However I kept telling myself that once you paid up front, everything was free and you could go on as many rides as you liked. If only. The 'free' bus from Windsor to Legoland cost £5.80, lockers could only be opened with a one pound coin which was non-refundable and a booth with hot air dryers for victims of water rides cost £2 per 30-second blast of hot air. And as for going on as many rides as you like, if a 20-minute queue was the norm for a very wet day in term time, how many rides could you conceivably go on during weekends and school holidays? I'd heard that families spent up to five hours queuing for less than 20 minutes' worth of rides. Indeed, psychologists have identified the new phenomenon of 'ride rage' caused by the stress of queuing in theme parks.
In addition to getting very wet, my son and I had to endure the humiliation of beating our way through the crowds to get away from the front of the queue, once we discovered that our ride was a big dipper. We're both thenthitive individuals and don't need that sort of adrenaline rush.
I hate theme parks. Once upon a time children could go off into the countryside and have real adventures. My father grew-up only eight miles away from the centre of London but in those days - the 1930s - he was on the edge of the urban environment and could cycle out to fields and woods within less than half an hour. Today many children live in shoddy, grey suburbs, denied a normal childhood by parents who are paranoid about cars and paedophiles. Spontaneity, adventure and fun has been denied to many of today's children. Their craving to visit places like Legoland is understandable and very, very sad.