Is there anything worse than a hangover? I mean a baddun. Hmm? Turns out there is: a hangover in a Soft Play centre. Oh God, it was awful. Worse than awful. I had one of those ones that make you feel like you’re on a stormy cross-channel ferry. Yeah, I know it was self-inflicted, but honestly, it was Hell. So bad in fact, I’ve decided to come off the sauce for a bit. For the uninitiated, please allow me to paint you a picture. A giant, sweat-infused, lobster podded psychadellically paint splattered picture. The ever so fun sounding ‘Soft Play Centre’ is in fact a boiling hot net full of writhing, colliding toddler limbs and enough germs to concoct a chemical gas. With its intricate labyrinthine structure of slides and tunnels, this play zone provides local little darlings with a ‘soft’ environment in which they can vent the most dreadful extremes of their id upon eachother, and especially on the few adults brave enough to venture in.
Guess who ventured in today? Yup. Now my son is a speedy little chap on an off day, but today he ran so fast that I could swear he teleported. He was off in to the maze before his little shoes hit the ground, leaving me alone, and holding his apple juice dejectedly. Now if you are the kind of Daddy that looks like Henry Cavill or Mr Bloom you’re fine, but the bearded, more dishevelled-looking of us attract immediate suspicion. Several faces rose away from their smart phones, and there were distrustful glances that reeked of ‘lone scruffy male alert’. It was horrible. I waved at my son for verification, but a swiftly-retreating bouncing mop of hair atop pumping arms was all I saw. He was off.
I gave chase immediately, ignoring my churning stomach and throbbing temples. I must have resembled an arthritic Silverback, clambering over rope bridges and peering around funfair style mirrors that really didn’t help matters. Small people swarmed over me. I was a termite being mobbed by ants. Swift glances to the left and right revealed scampering feet and faces pressed to netting, many with vertical snot lines like tribal warrior markings. I heard my son’s patented belly-laugh, and saw him having hysterics at me, shortly after several matchbox cars slammed in to my face, launched from somewhere on high. There were no other parents anywhere. All seemed glued to their tablets or smartphones. ‘For Fuck’s sake’ , thought I. ‘I’m Gulliver.’
I found the boy at the top of the place, seated next to a chap who looked like he’d been born in the Soft Play. He was grubby, had callouses on his hands and had unnaturally large eyes. My son was impressed. I watched in awe as Colonel Kurts showed my son how to tuck his t-shirt in to his trousers to gain extra speed. I was observed, and then they were off in to the stygian darkness, zooming between two giant rollers (that I got stuck in). Actually stuck. I tried to reassure the toddler in front of me as I backed through the rollers, face squidged together, but she looked apalled. I was half in-half out of the pit of balls, with a coven of small people. I don’t know who threw the first ball, but all of a sudden I was Simon from ‘Lord of the Flies’, set on by the mob. As if that wasn’t bad enough, my feet were suddenly grabbed from behind. I squidged myself free, turned and found my son looking at me, and he said ‘Don’t worry Daddy, you are just too fat’.
© Tom Tide 2016