Theme Park Etiquette, Continental Differences and a Question of Rucksacks

Day 11

You know by now that I’m in Disneyland Paris, and that I’m having a whale of a time, so I’m not going to go into the minutae of my experiences today – essentially, if you love Disney, you’ll love Disneyland, and if you don’t, well – then, you won’t!

So, even though today included Peter Pan, a trolley bus ride, the sleeping dragon,  Animagique, Armageddon FX, The Backlot Tour, Stitch Live, Ratatouille, Crush’s Coaster, RC Racer, Slinky Dog, Monsters Inc, The Tower of Terror and Phantom Manor, I’m going to focus on other things…namely, theme park survival and bloody Europeans.

(Disclaimer: I realise that I am English and from Great Britain, and am, therefore, European, but this is about continental Europe, and “celebrating” the difference.)

(Disclaimer 2: I am possibly being a tad xenophobic here. Please don’t be offended. Some British people are terribly shitty too… It’s just that mainly, it was Europeans that I came across today.)

Having been to various parts of France several times, and visited, amongst other places, Germany, Italy, Spain, Greece, Hungary and Corsica, I don’t feel as though I’m a complete stranger to being amongst Europeans. Equally, I have been to Disneyland in California, Disney World Resort in  Florida, and am currently on my 5th visit to Disneyland Paris, so I am fairly well versed in the art of a Disney survival.

However, I still get just a little hacked off at the bloody rudeness that seems par for the course in a Disney Paris day.

Look, I know that Europeans don’t have a concept of queuing in the way that we stoic English people do, and I can tolerate the pushing in and the laissez-faire attitude that prevails, to some extent, but after almost two weeks in France ( and three days in Disney) it is starting to, frankly, get on my jolly well nerves.

Thing is, you can forget all about the concept of “personal space” when you’re here, as it doesn’t bloody well exist. That piece of the universe that you are (albeit temporarily) occupying? It’s not yours. It’s, basically, fair game. And just because your actual body is in that actual space, don’t for one single second assume that you are entitled to remain in it, because you’re not. People can, and will, attempt to occupy that same space at any and all times (and here’s the mind blowing bit to an English person like myself) whether you are in it already, or not. So you can either vacate it, or share it (physics notwithstanding), the latter option usually requiring some kind of time travel, or quantum leaping or something. Because these people will mow you down if you don’t move. And they won’t give a shiny shite. 

And, quite honestly, I have moved on from my ever-so-polite “excuse moi” requests to strangers, to a full-blown “fekkin move” demand.

So, just in case any of the continental Europeans who I met today are reading this, here’s some advice for you from the black-haired, quite angry looking, middle aged woman with the passive-aggressive muttering:

1) If you want to get past me, just say “excuse me” or “pardon” or whatever it is in your language, and I will happily, gladly and even joyfully skip out of your way, and allow you to pass. You will smile, I will smile and the world will seem that little bit lighter. Don’t, however, walk into me and keep on moving, as though you haven’t just barreled me over; don’t knock me out of the way with your bloody rucksack/balloon/bag/other; don’t – ever – run over my feet with your pushchair and continue to roll, as though it were a tank or similar; and don’t flick your fekkin fag ash over any part of me.  For these things, in any and all combinations, only serve to piss me off, to piss you off and to increase exponentially the headache-to-Brit quota in the park. The world is nicer if we simply acknowledge each other

Addendum to point 1: if you have done any of those things accidentally, simply say “sorry” or equivalent, and don’t just storm off as though it was me that was in the wrong simply by existing/breathing.

2) If you are waiting to go into the toilet cubicle, then please stand away from the frigging door. That way,  I can get out and you can go in and the earth will continue to turn. If you don’t move away from the frigging door then we have a bottleneck situation, where I can’t leave, you can’t enter and there’s just no point in either of us existing any more. This also goes for all of you people who want to board the trolley buses while I am exiting, and anyone standing in a doorway or exit. FRIGGING MOVE, YOU MORONS.

3) There is a special place in hell reserved for you people who are walking along, contributing to the healthy flow of pedestrian traffic, and who suddenly stop. If you’re going to stop, either take a cursory glance around to make sure there isn’t someone directly behind you (there usually is), or move to the side, safe in the assumption that in Europe’s busiest theme park, there is a small likelihood that you will not be on your own.

Either way, if you suddenly stop to look in your bag/talk to someone/take a selfie/other, then do not look at me as though I am the devil incarnate, when I walk into you. It’s going to happen, isn’t it, you twat?

4) if you want to photograph fekkin everything something, then just make sure that you’re not walking across and in front of someone (see points 1 & 3). Especially don’t take videos by criss-crossing and weaving your way sideways to the flow of traffic. This makes you a bellend, and I am likely to photobomb you, in a very British way.

5) And, in its own special category: rucksacks.

Right, I have a question for you. This is for anyone who it applies to, and specifically to the many people I saw today. What the hell is in your rucksack?

Seriously, though? I’m not talking abou small rucksacks, or bags – obviously it’s sensible to have a bag. I’m talking about full-on, luggage-style rucksacks. What’s in them? It’s not food. Bags are X-rayed before they come into the parks, and I’ve seen several people forced to throw picnics away at the gate. It’s not jackets, caps, sunglasses or cameras, because serial rucksack offenders usually have those as well.

What is in them? Are you people setting up tents or something?

On this holiday, there are 3 of us -I have a small handbag with the tickets, sunglasses and a camera. The husband carries Smallboy’s tiny rucksack. It has wet wipes, sun cream and water. We carry money on our persons. We wear our hats.

What else do people need, in such vast quantities?

Some families have several rucksacks. Look:

  Three rucksacks. Three adults and two children. Cameras, hats and jackets stored separately. What is in these beasts?

  

Two adults. Two rucksacks. No kids. Wtf?

 

What is this guy hauling? 

Genuinely interested in finding out.

The other thing about rucksacks is that they virtually double your body mass (I’m sorry for going on about this, but it has really become something of a mission.) People don’t seem to realise that they are manoeuvring around as wide-loads, with the rucksack. You can’t just be swinging round willy nilly – you’re going to smack someone in the chops. And in a queue situation, your rucksack is literally increasing thg queue time for the normal people. Not to mention the fact that you people can’t get though the barriers within the queue, without a massive amount of fuss, and getting on the ride and sodding storing the thing takes an extra 30 seconds per rucksacker. Multiply this up and the 70 minute queue time becomes 85.

So, be prepared to provide me with a detailed inventory of contents, or leave the frigger at home.

6) Queueing. Yes, these European Theme Parker’s queue jump. Yes, we knew this in advance. Yes, we realise it’s cultural. But, frankly, I cannot get my head around the fact that it’s anything other than bloody rudeness. If you see someone standing in front of you, who has been waiting for longer than you, then it’s their turn first, you ignorant shite bag. This goes for rides, toilet queues, parades….anything. Simply seeing a teeny weeny space in front of someone, and assuming you are entitled to fill it (see point 1) makes you a knob.

Quite honestly, the melee of people waiting for the entrance turnstiles to open, was akin to some kind of battle field or Black Friday sale. If we all wait our turns, life is smoother.

7) And, while I’m at it, there are more than two speeds. Slower-than-a-snail and Lightning-McQueen’s-faster-brother are not the only options. It is perfectly acceptable to walk at a tolerable pace. The afore mentioned two speeds, are largely to blame for points 1 and 3 above.

8) PDAs

Look – I like a bit of love, me. I’m not a cynic. But there is a time and a place, people, for gratuitous displays of carnal desire. The queue for the Tower of Terror at 4:20pm is neither of those things.

I was queuing on my own (the husband stayed with Smallboy, who was categorically NOT going to go anywhere near that ride) and had a French couple with three kids in front of me, and a Spanish couple with one child behind me. Those two couples were constantly going at it with the full-on tonsil tennis. Twice I had to move the couple in front on, and how the couple behind me managed to hold off without booking themselves a room, I just don’t know. I’m happy they were in love. Really. But, I don’t need to see the bulge of a guy’s tongue from the outside of his wife’s cheek. And as for the roaming hands – I felt like I was in some 18 movie audience, with a row of horny teenagers. But the worse part of it was, the French couple’s youngest daughter (presumably in the absence of any parental attention) felt the need to entertain me throughout the queue. She danced, she sang, she jumped up and down, she span, she swang, she chatted in French… It was hugely annoying, particularly as I’d managed to bag half an hour off from my own little bundle of firecrackers.

So – PDAs? Non!

And now I have resolved all of the issues that have been weighing down heavily on me in the 28 degree heat, I feel as though we are all closer as a continent.

Bon Nuit, Europe…

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Drama Drama Drama

I have made reference before to my passion for the arts, and particularly for the arts in education.

Over the last few weeks I have been involved in some really quite wonderful activities; indulge me, if you will, and allow me to explain.

I accompanied a group of year 10 students to the theatre to watch a really challenging version of “A Clockwork Orange.” These arguably disengaged, disadvantaged and largely apathetic teenagers had the opportunity to face some interesting political, social and moral conundrums based on watching the performance. Afterwards, they were able to discuss the intricacies of the production itself, the nuances of the dramatic choices, and debate the ethical conundrums thrown up by the content of this seminal play.

I have been directing the school play. Students who otherwise struggle to stay focused on academic studies, have volunteered their own time to stay behind at the end of the school day, learn lines, be choreographed, be taught songs and engage in discipline, respect and socialising with their peers.

I am currently using the forum of “drama workshops” to engage with year 6 students in a Primary School. These 10 year old pupils will be leaving the comfort and familiarity of their school environment in 10 months and heading to secondary education. Used to being top dogs and one of a class of around 28 in a school population of around 250, they will be entering a strange, unfamiliar environment where they will be one of a year group of around 200, in a school housing 1500+ older students. Part of my role is to go into their classes, and gently ease them into this transition process which, for most, is frightening. In these classes, I use drama and art. Conventions that allow them to be at their ease, to express themselves in ways they are not usually able to, and explore themes, theories and issues using methodology that is “off the page” and a little bit removed from their normal school experience.

Past feedback has demonstrated that these workshops make a huge difference to the confidence and anticipation of these young people. In a positive way.

So, why am I banging on about this? I’ll tell you – because Mr Gove in another spectacularly stupid and ill-thought out move, has decided that drama is a “soft option” and shouldn’t be included in the curriculum.

A soft option?

In my small and inconsequential personal history, I have used drama both in and out of a school setting, to explore and teach subject matters including (but not limited to) the following:

abortion, bullying, transgender issues, cross dressing, pregnancy, adoption, the romans, time machines, Shakespeare, mountains, geography, riots, HIV, medieval theatre, ancient Greece, French, german, physics, classic literature, capital cities…. I could go on and on.

In addition, the sessions that I have both led and participated in, have encouraged creativity, confidence, self-esteem, public speaking, modified breathing, voice control, physical control, emotional transference, and many other bonuses that cannot be replicated within academia.

For those reasons, both tangible and additional, drama should be considered not a soft option, but a necessity. However, I recognise my bias and appreciate not everyone shares these views.

But how about this?

We live in a society which enjoys access to TV shows, soap operas, dramas, panel shows, comedy shows, films, theatre, gigs, performance. We applaud all kinds of media, TV presenters, writers, actors, producers, camera operatives – an endless amount of people, roles, media and presentation.

So, do we think they would have got there without access to the arts? Do we think actors would train at drama school, without first experiencing GCSE, or even Key Stage 3 drama? Do we think TV presenters, public speakers, film directors, playwrights, screenwriters and countless roles within the media would exist without exposure to the necessary goods?

Of course not.

Our arts and creative industry is enviable across the globe. We are the home of Shakespeare, of Pinewood, of the West End, of the 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony.

We are theatre and film and performance. And we must never forget that it starts with your high school drama class.

And it doesn’t end.

Mr Gove, take your soft options and shove them. The Arts will not be moved.

The Youth Of Today

In everyday life, there seem to be a lot of accusations levied at the “younger generation.”

I don’t know about you, but I hear it all the time: “The youth of today have no conversation. The youth of today are so rude. Kids these days are only interested in themselves. Teenagers are always on their phones. They’re confrontational, opinionated, only care about what’s on telly and have no interest in politics.”

 Essentially, most of the problems in today’s society, according to some popular opinion, are the responsibility of our teens and tweens.

I say this:

“Really?”

When I was a teenager, the same accusations were thrown our way. I played “knock a door run” and “chicken” – innocuous and innocent sounding as those games now seem to the 40+ generation, at the time it must have been inconvenient at best for those residents and car drivers, and dangerous and frightening at worst.

The “youth” has always been a foil to blame society’s ills on, and in this 2000’s era with all of its technology, the ability to share an ill-thought-out comment with hundreds, or even thousands of people in an instant, is easy and, in my opinion, ultimately forgivable. Because, you know what? Kids aren’t quite there yet, in terms of having the filter on what’s appropriate for wider consumption – just look at what happened to our first Youth Crime Commissioner, Paris Brown. Vilified by some and forced to resign from post because of silly comments made when she was just 14 years old. The only difference between these young people, and those of my era in the 80s, is that our throwaway comments were thrown away. Not recorded forever on an international media feed.

I’ll end with this. I have just had the pleasure of spending the morning – in the Easter Holidays – with two committed classes of Drama students in Year 12 and Year 13. They have given up one of their “days off” to come into school and rehearse for their examination performances. They have been respectful, entertaining, clever, witty, hard-working, diligent and a pleasure to be around. Working in a school, I get to see the good and the bad of our “youth”  and quite honestly, these students – like most of them – are a credit to themselves, and to us.

Because it’s our job to make sure they learn from the same mistakes that we made