Cadbury World

Our middle girl had two friends stay for a sleepover last night. They all retreated upstairs at about 10pm, with rules put in place that they could stay up as late as they wanted within their bedroom, and as long as they were quiet. My other half went to bed at about 11pm. I followed her (after watching yet another episode of the X-Files) at about midnight. While sitting in bed, reading emails and messages on my phone, the bedroom door suddenly burst open. Miss 12 stage whispered “what time is it?”…Miraculously, all the kids got up before 8am, and were already eating breakfast when I arrived downstairs a few minutes later. For some reason my other half likes to pretend we’re a hotel when we have guests at breakfast time, so she gets every box of cereal, every type of syrup, honey, or other gloopy stuff, and every damn bowl, plate, spoon, fork, and whatever the hell else out, and stacks it all on the dining room table. Guess who has to put it all away again? It’s also worth pointing out that we still don’t have a dishwasher (2 years after ours broke), so I had to wash up for an hour while everybody else did whatever everbody elses did while I washed up for an hour.

How on earth can six women generate three sink fulls of washing up in one breakfast time?Anyway. This wasn’t supposed to be a rant about washing up.

We went to Cadbury World today. I knew nothing about it in advance, so was entertaining ideas of it being some kind of grand Willy Wonka style factory tour, complete with Umpa Lumpas and a river of chocolate. Unfortunately the truth was very different indeed (although not all bad).

Cadbury World is not a grand theme park in the rolling hills of the countryside like most others – it’s a re-purposing of part of one of the old factory buildings in the Bournville site on the outskirts of Birmingham. There are very few signs on major roads, and the last couple of miles are through suburban streets until you almost trip over the entrance.

After finally finding a parking space in the “lower” car park (holy crap is the place popular?!), we checked into reception, got our tickets, and went straight through to the restaurant, where a birthday lunch was hopefully awaiting us. This is where I turn the tone of this post completely around, and the reason for that was the manager of the restaurant who made everything a pleasure, rather than a burden. We were shepherded to our table, which had already been set out and festooned with helium balloons, and the food arrived moments after our arrival. Lots of food. I was sent off in search of cups of tea for myself and my other half, but beyond that we were kind of shell-shocked. Potato wedges, pizza, freshly cut ham, cheese, and tuna sandwiches, sausage rolls, crisps, jugs of soft drinks… and all for very little on top of the ticket price.

The manager looked after us throughout – cracking jokes with the children, taking photos for us, and conspiring to deliver yet another death-by-chocolate birthday cake with lit candles, while leading a very spirited rendition of “Happy Birthday”.

Our time-slot for the “Cadbury Experience” eventually approached, and – feeling quite sick – we wandered off to find out what the rest of the “world” might be. It’s hard to describe really. Cadbury World is a strange mix of industrial buildings, lecture theatres, kiddy rides, advertising museum, and playpark. We spent perhaps three hours “doing the tour”, which started with some really quite brilliant holographic projections of historical figures in the history of chocolate, and of the key players in the Cadbury story.

The only real let-down was a half-hour wait to go on perhaps the most pedestrian, snore inducing “ride” in the history of theme parks anywhere. If you were two years old it might have seemed fun, but to anybody over the age of five, you realised you just wasted a huge chunk of your afternoon. Thankfully the kids we had with us were all brilliantly behaved (except Miss 12 herself, who started to kick off), so it wasn’t that bad.

While wanding around the factory corridors between activities, I couldn’t help noticing the mix of people around the place. Most of them had young families – and as the day went on, of course the children started to become cranky. By the time we left, exiting the building had become an assault course of sorts, with screaming and misbehaving children at every turn. I couldn’t help smiling about a particular Mum losing the plot with her husband who was supposed to be looking after their toddler. He lost her twice inside five minutes, and the little girl face-planted both times, into the path of strangers, who nearly fell over avoiding her.

We eventually left late in the afternoon, armed with a bag full of free chocolate bars that I still can’t quite face looking at. Most of the kids fell asleep on the way home – all except our youngest, who talked non-stop all the way (an hour and a half). I’m guessing that was the chocolate coursing through her veins.

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