Like most mothers of young children, I spend an inordinate amount of time in draughty, overlit play hangars, cursing God and drinking overpriced coffee that tastes like goose piss. If you've never been to one, think of soft play centres as an amuse bouche for eternal damnation. They are genuinely hellish. In fact, rumour has it that Satan is planning to rebrand Hell as 'Lucifer's Play Barn' and locate it in a hard-to-find industrial estate in East Kilbride.
The frustrating thing about soft plays is that they cost a fortune and are almost always pish - but it would be so easy to make them more bearable. How about some nice lighting? A bar? Some chairs that don't remind you of the interrogation rooms in Red Riding? While you're at it, why not employ staff that don't treat you like a curly dog turd? Yes, it would be simple.
So while I sit there on my plastic Peter Sutcliffe chair, nursing my £5 crappucino and watching my kid helplessly dangling off a 300ft padded ledge, I like to let my mind wander. What would my dream soft play be like? Here are some of my personal fantasy favourites:
CHEEKY MONKEY'S RETRO DISCO BOOZE BARN
Picture this. A large warehouse, just like any other. One side is a fully supervised mega play cage. But the other has a neon sign saying: 'DISCO'. Go behind the velvet curtain and boom - you're in Studio 54 in 1978. Bianca Jagger is riding a white stallion, Salvador Dali is balancing a tangerine on his head, and Andy Warhol looks on, bored to tears. You enter the VIP section, where fashion designer Halston dresses you in a bespoke playsuit with directional shoulders. Cue an afternoon of fabulous excess and hedonism - first one to have a whitey has to get off with
Pay to have your child safely and temporarily 'put to sleep' for 2 hours while you read the papers, catch up on your Poirrot box set or sit in a Windsor chair doing a 500 piece jigsaw of a cottage. Occasionally someone will bring you a cup of tea and adjust your cushions, asking 'do you need anything else?' in a soft, soothing voice.
BILLY BABOONS FLOATATION WORLD
Sometimes the sounds of shrieking kids continually asking if they can have a Ben 10 watch and a Super Mario DS game and the moon on a stick with extra marshmallows can grind you down. At Billy Baboons, your children will be entertained while you indulge in a bit of well-earned sensory deprivation. Go back to the womb in a floatation tank and forget all about the endless responsibility marathon that is now your everyday life. When you get out, you will be wrapped in a fluffy towel and someone will read you a nice story about rabbits.
ROUGH AND FUMBLE
Rough and Fumble does what it says on the tin. It is staffed entirely by attractive men, who will happily offer their services to stressed out mums without even the merest hint of suppressed horror. Not even a massive expanse of bum crack appearing from the waistband of a pair of Asda jeans can dampen their ardour. You can opt for a relaxing shoulder massage if you're not really in the mood, or go all out for a happy finish. They won't even mind if you cry with gratitude afterwards.
So Duncan Bannatyne, are you up for this? I will need ONE MILLION POUNDS. Call me.
6 months ago