Butlins very kindly invited us to the launch of their new Ocean hotel and spa in Bognor Regis, with a couple of nights’ accommodation thrown in too.
They put us up in the Premier Inn in Chichester the night before their launch at Bognor. We arrived after a torturous six hour journey. It took this long because Betty (who is usually a once a day-er) decided to poo all the way down the M4, the A34, the M3 and then the M27.
Tom, Betty, Dolly and I were all in the same rather small room which scared me slightly, but I reasoned with Tom that the experience would toughen us up and be character building.
Three of us had to share a bed (albeit a very large outsized one) whilst Dolly was given the choice of two cots. Betty and Dolly both slept really well but Tom and I did not. It turns out that Betty sleeps like a starfish and so we were both clinging onto each side of the bed for dear life all night long.
The following morning as we were getting dressed, the launch was mentioned on the TV news. I got very excited and texted friends and family saying: ‘The Butlins launch is on the national news, I’m gonna be on TV!’ At breakfast we tried to guess who were bloggers and who were real hotel guests (Single Parent Dad, was that you in the lift with me when baby Dolly was losing the plot?), then we left for the Ocean Hotel.
This £20million, 4 star hotel is pretty impressive: spacious, fun, colourful and clean (so much so that our house now seems embarrassingly filthy in comparison). One of the first things that you experience on entering the hotel are the musical lifts. Seventies disco heroes like ABBA and the Village People serenade you in thirty-second snatches between floors. Much to Tom’s embarrassment Betty would try to get him to dance with her every time we entered them, no matter who else was in there. She also loved chasing the fish on the interactive reception floor and the children’s area in the hotel restaurant, where she tried to get Tom to drink his manly pint of beer sitting in a toy car. Betty also devoured the breakfasts which is a pretty good endorsement as she’s not normally a breakfast person, and she had the staff running around after her, fetching her more orange juice and croissants.
The launch event was great, if surreal – lots of journalists in suits, and bloggers surrounded by children – and the entertainment was fantastic, although the human sized squawking seagulls scared the hell out of Betty.
In the evening, with both girls fast asleep in bed, and Tom babysitting (i.e. reading his book via the changing coloured lights in the bathroom) I went off in search of a glass of wine. I went for a little wander around the camp and saw some of the entertainment but couldn’t help wishing that my secret crush, Shane Ritchie, was still a Redcoat. By the time I got to the hotel bar I was so tired I could hardly put in my order: ‘Wine. White. House. Dry.’ I was also feeling very self-conscious as I still look about 7 months pregnant. The waitress whispered something to her manager which I can only assume was something like ‘Is she safe to serve?’ before handing over the glass of wine. I then went and sat on the terrace and watched the sun setting over Butlins, and looked at the campers in all their finery heading out for the evening’s entertainment and thought: ‘Is this what our holidays have come to? Sitting alone with a glass of wine, staring out at some empty fairground rides.'
However it was nice to be able to have a glass of wine and not have to think about driving home, and that night all four of us had the best night sleep we have had for months. I didn’t hear a peep out of Betty, Dolly and Tom for a solid 12 hours.
On the last day I had my complimentary spa experience where I met some of the other bloggers for the first time whilst freezing our tits off in the snow cave with next to nothing on in minus 16 degree temperatures or sweating like pigs in the steam room. It was quite a surreal setting for meeting ladies that I have only ever chatted to online before.
The hotel was fun, the service was great and it was a real treat to have a holiday paid for by someone else. Thank you Butlins.