Its half term break and I’m sitting in a cabin in the woods with a bottle of wine at my elbow and a crackling a fire in the hearth. Across the lake the smoke from another cabin is lazily coiling through the pines and somewhere close by the ducks are calling out to one another contentedly.
It might seem like a picture of woodsmanly bliss but not only is the ‘lake’ is man-made, the cabin has wi fi, the logs I’m burning aren’t real and I didn’t even buy them at the last gas station before we made the fork in the woods. Perhaps the most obvious clue that all is not as it seems lies in the towering glass and steel ‘Sub-tropical Leisure Bowl’ located just beyond the view from my window.
It’s redolent of ‘Sanctuary’ from the movie Logan’s Run and within are restaurants, video arcades, laser quest, a swimming pool complete with flumes and rapids and a host of other entertainments while all our needs are catered for by ever smiling, tireless staff. Welcome to Centre Parcs – the great British holiday that the weather can’t spoil.
This is not the first time I’ve been. Some years back, the company I worked for as an outdoor instructor ran regular activities here and I swore I would never darken its doors as a paying customer. How times change because while I sit here on the couch at Lakeside apartment 89, staring out at the trees, trying to pretend that all is as it appears, I have to admit that even if it was, it might not be that great. The last time we went away and rented a cabin in the woods we spent the week leafing through out of date visitor brochures and travelling long distances to attractions where we met people in period dress who seemed worryingly deep in character. Our evenings involved unfriendly pubs and exploring the entertainments on offer in the cabin; monopoly, cribbage, snap.
As we began the long drive home at the end of the week I tried to feel refreshed but actually all I felt was an overwhelming desire to lie on my leather couch in front of my wide screen TV and to enjoy some heat that didn’t require half an hour of wasting matches and furiously working the bellows.
Today, here at Centre Parcs Shona, myself and the boys have been crossbow shooting, pony trekking, flume riding and ten pin bowling. Despite an absence of anything remotely woodsmanly we’ve all had really great day and tomorrow’s schedule is just as busy. The boys are already in bed and we’re not far behind but for now I’m quite content to enjoy the wine and crisps we bought just round the corner at the ‘Parc Mart’ in the Leisure Bowl, better yet Arrow’s just starting on Sky1.