One of the first people aboard what has been described as a “psychocoaster” (sick), it’s the middle of the night and we’re all pleasantly drunk off the free cocktails with glo-in-the dark ice cubes. So far, Bill Bailey has come to sit up with us at the back of the bus, providing very amusing roller coaster anecdotes. This is Thi3teen. The vacant queue which we run through reveals a ‘haunted woods’ theme. And the ride and its thrills lasts for roughly 3 minutes. Needless to say, we go on it twice and hang around for the ride photos, complementary of course, to prove that we rode the ride with Bill Bailey. Of course we did.
It’s Friday night, we’re at the Alton Towers hotel and off the back of some press junket, the Whitechapel Ghost finds himself in a grumpy mood in the midst of some celeb bash to celebrate the opening of the new ride, the aforementioned Thi3teen. The grumps soon wearing off, filling up on canapés and Becks. Calum Best calls me “man“, presumably cause I got my hood up and he’s trying to impress the edgy crowd. What, the free bar does spirits as well?? Bonanza. Wow, there’s Sarah Harding from Girls Aloud. She’s looking stunning as she’s getting papped in front of the big promo board for the Alton Towers hotel and bien sur, Thi3teen.
The whole thing, so far from corporate it’s unreal. The Towers Hotel, surely the most apt epitome of a Britain, Great and slick in its postmodern age. This isn’t a hotel, it’s an adventure. “Damn!” I think to myself, silently, “This mephedrone really stings your nose” – me and Johnny stagger back to the party. We’re pretty up for it now, hammered on an apparently unlimited free bar. “Can I have a sambuca and milk please” I keep asking, “Quite a lot of ice please…”
Alton Towers of course the scene of many a childhood haunting. Family friends live in the village of Denstone, just a mile from Alton, in gorgeous Staffordshire rural idyll. Free tickets doled out to the locals, affected by the traffic flocking towards the biggest visitor attraction in Britain – (Of course they built a fucking hotel). Again, Staffordshire perhaps the most comfortable and obvious of British countrysides. Local towns with their century-old traditional ball games. Good, decent homes bringing up wayward teens and hard-working adults. Mature woodland. Anyway, me and Daniel, kings of the world at only 13, smokin weed and treating Alton Towers like it was a park that we owned. He knew all the best hang-outs. Shit, Dan even camped out in the woods with some girls so he could get in, early and free the next day.
Cut back to the party. They’ve closed the bar but I’m too gone to have noticed. “That’ll be £17.80 please” she’s saying to me. I’m not expecting to pay anything for this and I’ll be damned if I have to. I don’t even have that kind of money on my person, but I’m not about to let these drinks slip from my grasp. “Can you charge it to the room?” I gamble. “Yup, what’s your room number?” “384” I lie. “Ok, and what’s the name?” panicking slightly, but not so that she’d know, I get a bit shrewd and try some of the Nigerian Igbo surnames that I’m well versed at: “Adenuga.” “HHHmmm” she scans her list “no, that’s not what I’ve got here.” “Well damn,” I venture, “Maybe the P.R. got the wrong name or something.” I try and look cross like a hack might. It works – “you could always sign for it and it’ll be charged to your room” she offers. “Yes Yes YES,” I’m thinking as she slides over the form and a pen. J.P. Ersatz goes the signature, now don’t you forget it.
“Here’s the drinks ladies…”…
After the ravages of the night before, I’m managing to make it down to the Greco-Roman themed breakfast saloon within minutes of it closing. Must give my stomach something other than alcohol. (We’d started drinking too early the previous day, strong Kenyan lagers and cider from Somerset). What do you think I’m met with?!?!??!? Why it’s Jennifer Ellison looking rough, spilling milk from an over-full bowl of rice krispies, literally looking into my eyes like a dog does when it’s shitting. OOOhhh Jennifer. Baby Blues today?!!?
I don’t blame her. We jump every queue in the whole bloody theme park and three rides in, I’m actually dry-wretching in a rhododendron. Feeling queasy. 4 hours at the Towers and an expensive taxi back to Stoke-on-Trent for the train back 2 Whitechapel. Fun times. The only thing scary was the extent that PoMo architects will go to give the British middle classes what they want.
I remember a time when one of the attractions at Alton Towers was 4 really big slides. Kids climbed up a scaffold stair-well and were given a potato sack by an attendant. You went really fast and it was a lot of fun. Once though, I remember seeing a kid come out of his sack on the way down. He got a really serious friction burn from the fibreglass: lost most of the skin from one of his forearms. I think they took those slides down not long afterwards.