This year we said we’d finally enjoy Summer. Last year we’d just moved to the US and didn’t really have time to think – The year before that, we were thinking about moving to the US so, etc, etc. In fact, the last time we did something ‘summery’ that involved leaving the house – it was probably Longleat.

Ah, okay, so those of you from the US don’t know what I’m talking about. Longleat is a country home in the UK. It’s owned by Lord Longleat and luckily, he’s quite quite insane.

(No, really – check out if you don’t believe me. He has one wife and over seventy girlfriends. He also has a park full of wild animals. One way or the other, he’s going to get disemboweled sometime.)

So not only do you have the pleasure of walking around the house of someone much more rich than you (It’s an English thing – we enjoy it). You also have the fun of the fairground rides he has installed, the hedge maze, at one time a rather awesome Doctor Who exhibition – and the safari park. That’s where you drive your own car through the wild animals, with no barriers between you. We used to love getting within three feet of a hippopotamus, or a rhinoceros – and I was looking forward to seeing what kind of equivalent I could find in the US. Unfortunately they aren’t as widespread as I would have imagined. Apparently that’s because of a thing called ‘liability’. Essentially, if someone tells you to drive past animals that could crush you by sitting on you – in England that’s your own dumb fault. Over here – it’s fair to say that someone should have explained to you that the WILD animals may be less than tame.

Instead, we looked around at what was local. (Be aware – local over here is a 2-3 hour drive. In England, if you drive for three hours in a straight line you will almost always end up in the ocean).

First of all, we visited a water-park. Now, they don’t tend to have these in the UK (instead we have waterlogged parks which is a different thing entirely). I remembered visiting one when I was ten, and we’d gone to Florida on vacation – so I wondered if it was still as I expected… (Actually, all I remembered was that it was big, and wet. So it was pretty much exactly what I was expecting).

It was a long drive (2 hours). The nice thing over here is that there are lots of chances to buy food, or make bathroom stops en route. Every exit there’s a sign that says ‘Food’, which usually means there’s a MacDonalds at the next stop. Or there’s a sign that says ‘Food & Gas’, in which case there’s a Taco Bell.

When we got there, we bought our tickets and walked under a huge wooden rollercoaster. I asked the ticket attendant if they’d heard of this thing called ‘metal’ that would probably make it all more stable. Apparently they like the fact that it all looks like it’s out of a Scooby-Doo cartoon, and asked me to shut up, get out of the way, and have a great day – all at the same time.

We tried several things – the go-karts, the bumper boats (I’ve had a phobia of these since a particularly poor experience at an old (now closed) amusement park in England called ‘Tucktonia’. Basically it all comes down to this. I’ve have been driving now for twenty years without a single accident (I’ve had about twenty). But the point is – I know how to drive. And even when I was ten, I could have figured out that turning left makes it go left – turning right makes it go right. But for some reason when they build fairground rides that have a steering wheel – some sadistic **** has decided that if you turn left or right too much you start to go backwards. And left. Or right. This explains why my nose has very little bone left in it, but otherwise makes no sense at all. Why on Earth would you want the thing to feel you turning hard right – and take that to mean you want to reverse into the guy that’s been chasing you for the last twenty minutes? And then they make the track for the things circular. Is the idea that everyone turns left at the same time, and they all start backing up at the same time? Is this just some weird way for cars to go line-dancing?

Anyway – we also went on the tube slides. (Awesome – can’t make any humorous observations about them as I had my eyes shut the whole way down). Although my Son and I did come flying out of the end of the slide and essentially, nearly knocked out the lifeguard waiting at the bottom. She didn’t seem overly bothered though. Or she may have been unconscious. I didn’t wait to find out.

We avoided all the rides that advertised ‘single riders only’ as, obviously, I’m married.

Then we went on the wave machine. Now – I mentioned earlier that I remembered going to a water-park early in my life. But my beautiful wife had never gone to one. Obviously, neither had the kids. Really – I should have realized and mentioned what the wave machine actually was. I think the best way of expressing the moment is to give you a transcript of the conversation;

Mike – Oh, cool. The wave machine. I love these.
Liz – Really? I’ve never been in one. What a beautiful day though.
Mike – Yeah, we certainly got lucky with the weather. I’ve got to say it’s days like these that I just love living here.
Liz – Yeah, it’s awesome.
Montana (my daughter) – Can we go back on the tubes again later?
Mike – Absolutely, we’ll just hang out here for a –

Dylan heroically jumped into my arms, and to this day I have a son-shaped mark on my chest where he held on tighter than he ever has. I saw Liz & Montana (who had just sat in the water), shoot forward at around the speed of sound and both score a solid strike (if you count old people and kids as pins).

Naturally, they all wanted to go again.

Then last weekend we decided to go to the State Fair. This was another thing you just don’t have in England, but you see all the time in movies. I particularly wanted to find the machine that told my fortune, and made me seven again, while putting my son in my grown-up body. (My only concern would be that people at work would guess what happened when I started acting more mature than usual).

Apparently we didn’t actually go to the State Fair. That’s the Wisconsin State Fair. Instead, we went to the Northern Wisconsin State Fair. I explained to my wife that it can’t be a State fair if it only represents a bit of that State – but she wouldn’t believe me. Regardless, we got there and sure enough – it was in a bit of a state. (Hehehehehehe… Oh, never mind).

When we walked in, we saw all the food on display – and I tried my first funnel cake, along with handmade fudge (obviously I checked the guys hands first). I also saw they were selling ‘Dippin Dots’ which are advertised as ‘The Ice Cream Of The Future’. I’ve always wanted to advertise that and then hand people a cup of milk, two eggs and some sugar.

All joking aside, it was another awesome day. I can thoroughly recommend just taking some time out to spend with the family. We all ate far too much, we all looked at the competition entries, we all watched the livestock auction, and we (nearly) all went on the rides. I’ve got to admit I’ve never understood the attraction of paying to be made to feel ill.

That’s the other reason I avoid Taco Bell.

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