After five months of incarceration with three young children, trying to manage the demands of work, homeschooling and lockdown life, we really tried to make the most of our UK ‘staycation’ this summer. We found, however, that while lots of local attractions and holiday destinations might be open again, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are that much fun to visit or that it’s ‘business as usual.’
Over the last month, my husband Dominic and I have taken our three kids, Charlie (11), Edward (8) and Jemima (6) to Warwick Castle, Legoland and Devon but long, socially-distanced queues, closed-off rides and booked-up pubs have made enjoyment quite tricky.
At Warwick Castle, for example, we were told after buying some ruinously expensive tea and cake from a packed café that, despite the torrential rain, we couldn’t sit in the huge, empty marque outside ‘because of coronavirus’. Around four or five staff were standing outside the marquee but the duty manager told us they couldn’t open it because it would need one of them to police it. Too much of a risk, apparently.
We also had to wait for half an hour to get in and out of the castle grounds due to temperature checks, people taking an age to fish out masks, and social distancing. The famous walkway to the top of the castle, which the children were desperate to see, was closed, and epic queues to get into the castle with the Madame Tussauds statues were so long we gave up.
It was a similar story at Legoland, where they were disinfecting the rides and train with antibacterial spray after every turn. They had closed off the water park and most of the cafes so the ones that were open were also exceptionally busy, utterly defeating the point. The children were made to wear masks on spaced out, open-air rides but not anywhere else in the park, which seemed a rather futile exercise. The one water ride that was still open broke down half way through but everyone had to wait an age before they could get off due to social distancing fears.
In Devon, our favourite pub in Hope Cove was sadly closed, most of the pubs around Salcombe were fully booked, and our favourite arts and crafts café was closed because of the dreaded Covid-19.
This ‘new normal’ is really quite depressing, and I fear the queues, the masks, and the virtue-signalling (our youngest was told off by one disapproving lady for daring to touch a box of fudge in a gift shop) are going to last for years.
We now have to live with a potentially fatal airborne disease, but spontaneity, fun and the buzz of being in a happy crowd, are part of living. They have been replaced with paranoia, white markers and endless supplies of hand sanitiser. Much of which are just box-ticking exercises, especially when it comes to mostly outside venues.
Nobody wants another outbreak, but most families, like ours, know how to be sensible. If you’re at an outside attraction and you are staying within your family group, I would think the risks of transmission are quite low. Common sense seems to have been eclipsed by health and safety regulations.