Seriously. Over the last few weekends, we've been to the 'family fun' pool (stretching the definition, I think) twice, to the wildlife park and bowling. I have glue ear, a sore shoulder and a new found respect for the capybara. It's not that I don't enjoy it. Seeing a grimly determined child 80cm off the ground refuse all help and wrestle a bowling ball is its own reward. But it's a far cry from my own childhood. As the child of a non-driving single academic in '70s York, this kind of thing was totally foreign. Prog Rock step dad brought me some of my school notebooks and they are full of inappropriate anecdotes about what I did at the weekend, often involving sitting in pubs and eating crisps, going to conferences, and mystery trips to stay with various bearded academics in their lairs.
I did occasionally go on outings with the after school deprived kids club, I suppose. I was a member of the deprived kids club (a terrifying new build bunker smelling of builders' dust and wee) due to my 'child of broken home' status, and presumably also because it allowed my mother the odd hour to work on her thesis. I lived in permanent fear of getting my head kicked in, but at least we did 'proper' trips. I definitely remember a coach trip to Mother Shipton's cave* where they dumped us all in a forest for a few hours and left us to fend for ourselves, and there was the trip to Bradford ice rink where I fractured my cocyx. Most exciting of all, I once got my picture in the Yorkshire Evening Press sitting next to the pantomime dame at the deprived kids Christmas party. My mother was mortified, but I had won the deprived kids raffle fair and square, and the fact that my only deprivation was not being allowed a pony was, to me, neither here nor there.
Anyway, this was the exception. Most of my 'leisure' time was spent:
i) At gatherings of junior academics (my mother's stoner colleagues). Mud everywhere, cheap wine, horrible food and terrifyingly rude, filthy children initiating me into their evil ways. Just possibly it might have been the other way round.
ii) In the hideous depths of the Yorkshire countryside walking up vertical bogs with only a packet of Rolos for sustenance.
iii) Lurking in my bedroom reading PG Wodehouse and pretending to be a horse.
Even when the Space Cadette was born and Prog Rock step dad moved in, we weren't big on family fun days out. Brisk walks, certainly; the odd garden centre too. But there was no way Prog Rock Step Dad or my mother would have taken us to Flamingo Land and Macdonalds. They would have been more likely to take flight.
I raised this with the CFO as we sat in the cactus-filled gloom of Chico's Mexican Cantina, overlooking Mini-Europe as I toyed with my vegetarian fajita (an audacious mix of frozen mixed veg - broccoli, cauliflower and crinkle cut carrots) and wrestled with temporary deafness.
"These children have way too much fun. Not only are we a nuclear family, but we take them to child friendly venues for child-centred activities. How are they ever going to grow up interestingly fucked up? Did your parents do this kind of 'fun' activity with you?"
The CFO considered the question at length, toying with a Dorito.
"We went ice skating a lot. But we had to skate for a full hour before they let us have a hot chocolate. And sometimes, for an extra-special treat we went to Flunch. There's nothing wrong with having a stable childhood is there? "
"Hmm. You're hardly qualified to judge anyway. Your parents are in their mid sixties and they still HOLD HANDS in the street. Anyway, I'm not actually proposing we split up. Just, maybe we shouldn't do so much, you know, stuff with them. Boredom is supposed to be good for children. All the papers say so. And stuff."
The CFO cast a jaundiced glance over at Fingers, intently emptying the pepper into my handbag, as Lashes squeezed ketchup sachets into his water glass.
"I absolutely agree in principle. But whenever we actually try it, they drive us fucking crazy within minutes"
"Or" he said, getting into his stride "You get sucked into some ridiculous project that causes untold mess and devastation"
Or even this
"Hmm. Ok, not boredom then. "
* For those of you unfortunate enough not to have visited this haut lieu of Yorkshire tourism, it's a grotto which petrifies stuff. Unmissable!