I didn’t see the rides at the opening of Dreamland. The wait was too long, the speeches too protracted and when the ribbon had finally been cut by the motley crew of “VIPs”, an “entertainer” in rainbow-coloured dress tried to take my arm and skip me through the crowds.
I withdrew to Forts where my friend and Guardian columnist, Marina 0’Louglin, had already taken herself, head shaking, for a bacon roll. Leaving the be-rouged artiste to bound, far more appropriately, after an unsuspecting child. “I’d have told her to–” growls Mike Pearce, as we enter the sun-filled fairground on Saturday, me with fresh hope in my heart and him with a face on.
Frankly, I was stunned he’d agreed to come at all, and so, I think, was he. “Ah – it’s sweet,” I breathed as I got my first proper look at all the twirling twinkliness, while he perused the pinball machines and muttered darkly about entrance fees. “£17 worth of sweetness?” he grouched.
True, there are teething problems and it’s not finished yet. The Big Wheel did open but had to stop for a while, the Crazy Mouse – the ride I’d particularly earmarked as I walked in – was having some adjustments made. But the Twister was zipping back and forth, the Zodiac Jets whirring and the green caterpillar trundling happily along its rails.
Mike, citing fear of heights, wouldn’t go on any of ’em.
But by now he’d cracked a smile and was tapping his feet to Poetry in Motion, so we left him holding the bags while my son Tom – pressed into service as our photographer – and I went forth on the Wave Swinger, gaining a high five from cheery Farrah Griffin on the gate, for it being our first ride. I hope I’m not going to be sick, the boy confided cheerily as we whirled.
Knowing he’d had two burgers to counteract his hangover, so did I.
Back on the ground, we’d lost Mike, who reappeared sometime later from the Wall of Death, proclaiming it “seriously scary” and announcing with glee that he’d found the dodgems. Here, his joy knew no bounds as he rammed his way into the bumpers of small children and I tried to drive him into a corner.
The photos are blurred because Tom was laughing too much to hold the camera.
Such innocent pleasures are what it’s all about. The whole place is delightful and lovingly done. I cannot wait for the Scenic Railway (last ridden when I was fourteen) to re-open for my nostalgia to be complete.
In short, Reader, I loved it. And I think, maybe, so did HE…
Mike says, “MY DAY at Dreamland never stood a chance. Excitement is seeing Palace score a last-minute goal. It is not having my innards rearranged on a frenetic fairground ride.
And I hate anything described as hip. The last hip person was Edd “Kookie” Byrnes in “77 Sunset Strip”, mouthing “You’re the ginchiest” to Connie Stevens, she of the tight sweaters and baby doll voice.
I was always going to miss the delights of my teenage years – the Guess Your Weight Man, the call-and-response bingo callers, the river caves, where I once nearly brought down the scenery when I grabbed a pillar to try to stop our galleon of love while I was courting a girl with glasses.
(The result was not a passionate clinch. It was a fearful creaking noise, the tub wilfully refusing to stop and me nearly tumbling into water in my best – and only – suit.)
So I’m bound to be rude about the new Dreamland Lite – yet how can I be when the sun shone, the dodgems were a hoot, the Wall of Death riders thrilling, there were pretty girls everywhere, and all to the soundtrack of original fifties American rock’n’roll?
With a reputation to live down to, I must carp about the staff trying to be so desperately jolly.
I do not do jolly, as will be confirmed by people who enjoy yelping, cackling, making silly puppet-on-a-string gestures and using meaningless words like “woot”.
That does not mean I do not do fun, as Jane will be the first (and possibly only) person to acknowledge, .
Just not the sort of fun that involves an army of “greeters” telling me they hope I’m having a wonderful day. Firstly, because I know they really couldn’t care a toss and secondly because the chances are that I’m not.
I am allowed to raise an eyebrow at the rides which were not working and, slightly more concerning, the rides that were trying to work but didn’t.
The still unused roller-coaster has a straight-out-of-the-box weirdness, but probably nothing that a couple of coats of Sadolin wouldn’t put right.
There are some great pinball machines, although a few hundred more are needed to fulfil the earlier suggestion that it would be the biggest collection in Europe, or was it the world?
But while I’m still warmed by the sun, humming a 50s rock’n’roll song, marvelling at the motorbike dare-devils and chuckling at the dodgem smashes, here’s a message for the greeters.
Yes, thank you, I did have a wonderful time.”
Read the original at: http://www.thanetgazette.co.uk/Thrills-spills-Dreamland-jolly-time-Mike/story-26820653-detail/story.html
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