One of my wife’s friends had her birthday today, and we all went out to celebrate at Tenpin, a bowling alley over in Croydon in the retail park. Getting there was a bit of a mission; the roads to the retail park were clear, apart from the occasional idiot driver who didn’t understand how roundabouts work, but when we arrived at the car park it was almost completely full of cars queuing up to get in or out, because what better way to celebrate the day after the day after Christmas than by going out and buying a cheap sofa?
Tenpin isn’t just a bowling alley. There’s a pair of table tennis tables, there’s six or seven pool tables, and there’s the LOUDEST SELECTION OF VIDEO GAME MACHINES IN ALL OF CROYDON. La Serpiente loved the clanging, flashing, blinking, banging hullabaloo so much that at one point she ran off and hid, leaving her panicked parents to run around trying to find her for several minutes. They also have a bar that serves dreadful, watery lager, and no Guinness. (Unlike Lewisham Bowl, which has no more than two video game machines and some of the best Guinness in London, last time I checked (2006/7)). After several games of pool and no bowling, we had given La Serpiente enough audiovisual overload and it was time to go to dinner…
Dinner was at the Global Buffet, which was three doors down from Tenpin. The Global Buffet, as the name suggests, is a buffet. A very large buffet. Indeed, as I was reliably informed, the largest buffet in the whole of the country. Not just in Croydon, not just in South London or in England, but a bigger buffet than anyone in Wales, Scotland or Northern Island could hope to go to without crossing a border. The crofters of Aberdeenshire, the tin miners of Cornwall and the boys in the Valleys must look upon Croydon with a sickening sense of envy. What pathetic buffets they must have in comparison!
A buffet is a wonderful idea for a meal, because there’s literally something for everyone – if you want to have Italian but the person next to you wants Japanese, or Indian, or Thai, or to eat nothing but profiteroles the entire night, then you can both be happily accomodated. On the other hand, because they don’t specialise in any one cuisine in particular, you do begin to worry that there’s some clown with a deep fat fryer out back, busily making vegetable samosas, ersatz tempura and green curries (with extra batter) all at once. Also, I’m really fussy, and whenever I’m at a buffet I have flashbacks to breakfast in a Westin somewhere in Asia, where I end up with fifteen croissants and a bowl of congee (aka chicken slurry) that goes untouched throughout my meal. I have poor decisionmaking and low willpower which are a bad combination when faced with a buffet, especially with my fastidiousness coming to bear as well. If I’d been teleported back to Bodiam Castle 400 years ago, it would have been simpler, that’s mainly because I would have probably been on the end of a pikestaff, rather than being allowed to subsist on a diet of mead and mead alone.
Anyway, my wife took charge and ensured I had pasta to eat, and then after Destroyer had fallen asleep and La Serpiente had exceeded both her bedtime and her normal consumption of sugar, it all went a bit mental. She kicked off her shoes and began to run around the biggest buffet in the country, again and again. I wish that I’d strapped a GoPro camera to her chest, because she has a really impressive turn of speed, swerving between the legs of people carrying plates stacked high with roasted chicken, caroming off the ice cream counter, sprinting behind rows of seats and then repeating the whole circuit again and again I hadn’t done enough steps for my Fitbit to be satisfied with my exercise today, but chasing after La Serpiente added about 4,000 steps to my tally, doing something to get me away from being made entirely of cheese.
There was also all the adrenalin you get from seeing your first born leap down two steps in one go, and the joy when she makes the landing and doesn’t dash her face out on a floor that’s seen more hot dinners than you’ve had hot dinners.
Then we raced round some more. I found out that she’s a bit intimidated by the heat lamp illuminated section of the buffet – she kept creeping close to the croquettes and French fries and then retreating, dazzled by the hot shining lights, or deciding it was a better idea to ascend the fruit station and try to amass a large portion of bananas. But yes, we have no (more) bananas today.
By then, we’d had close to three hours out, and so I had to employ threats of the Bungletruck to persuade La Serpiente to come home. She resisted sleep for a while, but made me feel all warm and fuzzy when she told me she wanted me to go with her to the farm tomorrow (I missed out on today’s farm adventure this morning because I was at home taking calls while my daughter played with animals) and then she rolled over and went to sleep. While Destroyer refused to do anything but giggle until at least 11pm local time…