It was bound to happen sooner or later. Mrs D plans a jaunt during the the school holidays, and muggins here must needs take a day off to ensure that children (a) get out of bed before 11.30; (b) don’t burn the house down when they do get up; and (c) maintain at least a basic level of nourish-ment.
Plus Bath Chronicle Towers was scheduled for one of its occasional technological meltdowns, and home was a far better prospect than an unequal struggle with the many-tentacled octopus that is our computer system.
Mrs D’s awayday? Well, it was a bit hush-hush. Suffice it to say that it involved a very posh garden: so posh that she needed photo ID to get in.
Need another clue? Arrange these letters into a well-known acronym: RHH. More than enough said.
How to fill the day without tears, though? No amount of electronic sedation from Messrs Nintendo, XBox and Co was going to be enough. Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures.
Welcome, therefore, to the world of ten-pin bowling. Welcome to a building with the floor area of an aircraft hangar and the ceiling height of a small shed. And welcome to the home of utter humiliation.
First challenge: getting the scoreboard to work properly. (There’s no escape from technology, even on your day off.) Just type everyone’s name on a keypad that seems to have been drenched in cola and then sprinkled with the dregs from a crisp packet. And then apologise to the people in the next lane for messing up their scores.
Second challenge: choose your ball. There appear to be two sizes: extra small and extra large. Choose the former and you’ll need the fire brigade to extract your fingers from the holes. Choose the latter and you’ll end up in hospital with a dislocated shoulder and a broken toe. Eventually you find the one large-sized ball. It’s pink.
Third challenge: the bumpers. These are the rails down the sides of the lane that stop the children’s ball dropping into the gutter. You need an advanced degree in computer science to work out how to program them, and even when you crack it, one side doesn’t work properly. Adjust the scores accordingly.
Fourth challenge: aiming. The first few times you take your kids bowling, they’re still quite small and need to use one of those special ramp things to point the ball in the right direction. You, on the other hand, have to rely on your natural bowling skills. And thus get beaten hollow. Nowadays the youngsters are big enough to wield the ball themselves. And still whup you.
Fifth challenge: inconsistency. How is it possible to score zero on your first two goes and then a strike on the next? Just asking.
Halfway through the whole sorry episode you spot what they should have given out at reception: the instructions, in the form of a leaflet entitled How To Bowl! This blithely informs you that “The art of ten-pin bowling really is quite simple to master” and then goes on to demonstrate that it isn’t. With copious illustrations. Art means practice. And practising is what you haven’t done enough of.
Still, the children have fun. And that’s what holidays are all about.