The J Cloth Incident

“Mummy! That lady has got 4 bums”. My brother shouted at a ridiculous volume whilst pointing enthusiastically at a woman, who did indeed have 4 bums. Her shorts were so tight that her arse looked like a pair of festoon curtains.

We were in Flamingo Land, our favourite place in the whole world. Also known as the place parents take their kids if they are too skint to afford Disney Land. Flamingo Land has it all, a funfair, a zoo and a circus. Everywhere you look there are ice cream vans, parents arguing and kids screaming excitedly as they are flung around on the rides. The one thing we didn’t experience were queues. My mum was very smart and did the genius, albeit, illegal thing of taking us off school for a week. It was in the past, things like that were fine then. Flamingo land is in North Yorkshire and people would only go for a day or a weekend. Not us, we’d stay a full week and love it. My favourite bit was choosing our mini box of ‘posh’ branded cereal each morning. The stuff of dreams. I remember sitting in my pyjamas watching telly the morning the news announced the death of Princess Diana. I was more concerned that my brother had eaten my mini box of chocolate cereal.

We’d go to Flamingo Land every year for a week and the remaining weeks of the year were filled with me bragging and showing off about our holidays to anyone in my presence. I’ll be honest with you, I mainly went for a monkey called Albert who lived at the zoo. We’d watch Albert for hours at a time. My poor mum must have been bored stiff. We’d been visiting Albert for years and years and watched him change so much during that time. We’d observed him sniff his mate’s bums, seen him get a monkey wife (Victoria) and we even ignored the rumours that it was a different monkey every year. I loved Flamingo Land so much that I made a 9 year old family friend cry (I was also 9 at the time, I’m not a monster). He’d recently got back from the Canary Islands with stories of his travels. I stared him out for a while before crossing my arms and saying ‘Yeah but did you make friends with a monkey?” He had not. He went home and begged his parents to take him to Flamingo Land. They were a posh family, they wouldn’t take him.

It was all going great until my little sister and I had a near death experience. We ran towards a helicopter ride, we argued on the way there about who would be the pilot. I’m 4 years older but she’s scary so she won and got to be the 5 year old pilot. A truly horrifying concept. As a kid she was terrifying. She’s a grown woman now and I’m reminded the word to use is ‘sassy’. The Flamingo Land staff came round to check all the kids were secured in the rides safely before pressing the start button. They got round to our carriage and realised our safety door was broken. Instead of telling us to go into another helicopter carriage they decided to tie us in using a J cloth. Even as a kid I remember thinking “Well, this seems fucking stupid, surely it’s a joke” But oh no, it was happening. The ride started up. We went higher and higher. The helicopter carriage turned to one side, my side with the metal door, and then tilted the other way…the J cloth side. Oh shit. Shit indeed. J clothes shouldn’t be used to stop kids from dying. My sister and I started screaming for help as we felt the J cloth begin to rip. We looked down at my mum and screamed ‘Mummy! Help us!’ She couldn’t hear us and just smiled and waved. Chilling. I still to this day have no idea how we didn’t die. Whenever I’m shopping for grown up things like scented candles or cleaning products and I stumble across J cloths I shudder at the memory, can’t bring myself to buy them and would much rather use an old sock to clean my shelves.

I recently went back to Flamingo Land, just for the day. Good news, Albert is still there. For some strange reason people kept calling him Tony.