Center Parcs first for grandma

The Drop at Center Parcs' Elveden Forest holiday and leisure village... one more thing grandma didn'

The Drop at Center Parcs' Elveden Forest holiday and leisure village... one more thing grandma didn't go on. Picture: Archant Library - Credit: Archant

It was my first trip to Center Parcs... next time, maybe I’ll join in.

A weekend at Center Parcs in mid-September with the grandkids ? who knew everyone else in East Anglia and several more from further afield would have the same idea?

All these years the holiday village has been less than an hour away, in Elveden, near Thetford, and I had never been there. In fact, I had erroneously thought it was a patrolled site under a weather-proof dome, a sort of cross between the Eden Project and The Prisoner. I am happy to report it was not like either of those. I was neither in, nor pursued by, a bubble. It is its own self with abundant wildlife. We saw deer in the forest, a stoat scuttling along a path, small boys in all areas, many squirrels and bird-life galore.

It is not the cheapest of options for a weekend away but gosh, there is so much to do. George and Wil had a pony ride, did an hour of “crazy science”, swam and flumed, went boating and, probably their favourite thing (and free), building a den.

Remarkably, although there were long queues to get into the west Suffolk site, once you are installed in your cabin (my husband says I have to call it a lodge) you have no sense of being in the company of thousands of people, including in this case, at least one hen party. Quiet and peaceful in our lodge, we were no more than a 10-minute walk from the heart of the village, wherein are many eateries, a supermarket, a gift shop and activity areas.

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So what did grandma do?

Well, she walked... and walked... and walked. She walked until her arches fell another five millimetres, until her legs yelled out for her to stop. She could have hired a bicycle. In retrospect, she should have hired a bicycle. She would have gone swimming but that would have meant showing her cellulite; she would have gone boating but she is not confident getting in and out of floating vessels with her replacement knee (it is waterproof but doesn’t bend so well). She would have gone for a spa treatment but she doesn’t like being touched by strangers. She could have whizzed down the zip wire... you have to be kidding.

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Den-building (grandma didn’t do that either) meant grandpa, daddy, George and Wil, spent hours out in the forest, constructing their magnificent hideaway from fallen logs and branches. It was a little bit Lord of the Flies... I half expected my son to come back and report that my husband was sitting naked up a tree. But no, the whole exercise was amicable and happy until three-year-old Wil grabbed a fern and cut his finger. His skin was almost surgically incised, like a paper cut, and he gulped back sobs as he bled.

“It’s only paint,” he said in a small voice, clearly applying some sort of strategy recommended by a grown-up. It wasn’t paint, though, it was blood.

After washing the finger, we bought Paw Patrol plasters from the shop and carefully applied one to the wound. Thereafter, for a full day Wil kept his finger extended, always pointing the way.

After his bath before bedtime, I offered to renew the plaster, an offer he eagerly accepted, this time choosing a different configuration of the Paw Patrol (ref. CBeebies) team. I took off the old one and replaced it, whereupon the small boy put the original plaster on his middle finger, thus having two bandaged fingers. It was all too much for George, now aged six, who eyed the plasters enviously.

“I’ve got a sore finger,” he said, showing me the alleged offending digit which, I was not surprised to see, was completely unscathed. But grandmas being what they are, I let him choose a plaster and applied it to the elected finger. Honours even.

Little Herbie, at six months, did not have a plaster. I recall putting a plaster on a hang nail on my baby daughter’s finger when she was about the same age. I had neither taken into account that it was one of the fingers she sucked, nor the force of her suck-power. Ten seconds later, the plaster had gone; she’d swallowed it.

Six hours later, it reappeared, intact at the other end.

• George came to the Center Parcs straight from school. As usual, you could tell what he had for lunch with a quick survey of his white polo shirt. It looked like gravy again.

“How does this happen, George?” I asked.

His dad explained that George wipes his fingers on his polo shirt when he gets food on them.

George piped up: “I have to use my shirt, they don’t have any napkins.”

What?! No napkins in the school dining hall? What is the world coming to?

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