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A whole heap of Bank Holiday hideousness

Alpha and I have been trying to find a new sofa for ages and it has started to become an issue. If I find something I think is glorious, he hates it and vice versa. We have spent hours on the internet searching for the perfect thing to park our bums on at the end of each long day, and so far, not so good.

We finally identify a sofa that just might possibly work for two people who have diametrically opposed ideas when it comes to interior design. Hurray! Finally we can get rid of the nasty 8-year old sofa which has (barely) survived too many parties and two children who like to spill liquids, smear chocolate and spread the contents of their nasal cavities on it while staring goggle-eyed at the box.

So Bank Holiday weekend arrives and Alpha announces that it would be a really, really great idea to go to Thurrock Lakeside (to those not familiar with this great British shrine to conspicuous consumption, think retail hell x 325), pop into Ilva and then come home having placed an order for a lovely new sofa.

"It'll be easy," he announces. "Everyone goes away for bank holiday, there won't be anyone there. Look outside - no cars on the road. It's a brilliant idea!"

Seduced by the thought of being able to invite people round to our place without worrying about inviting pity, I agree.

Yeah, well. Everyone in our borough may go away for Bank Holiday but it appears that everyone else in the rest of the Universe likes to go on holiday to Thurrock Lakeside.

The place is heaving. After what seemed like 20,000 years circling the many car parks and getting lost at least three times, we finally locate the elusive Ilva store and manage to squeeze our ancient estate into a space suitable for a kid's tricycle. We emerge from the car like startled bunnies. The Small(er)One promptly wets her pants and goes into hysterics. Firstborn also goes into hysterics, we're not entirely sure why, then I go into minor hysterics because I am tired, cross, dehydrated and desperate for a ciggie. Alpha just gets a bit tight-lipped.

We enter Ilva and the kids immediately go insane. It's like something out of 'Supernanny' - you know the bit at the start when they show children at their most horrid, bouncing off the walls, exhibiting violent and generally uncivilised behaviour, possibly pushing old ladies over, and then they cut to a shot of the parents looking haggard, downtrodden, impotent and generally useless? That was us, on what could have been a glorious lazy Bank Holiday weekend, in Thurrock Lakeside, suddenly wanting to be anywhere but.

After pointlessly trying to get the kids to calm down we opt for the easier alternative of pretending they're not ours. After much wandering through room sets, we locate The Sofa. It is the sofa of Alpha's dreams. It is not mine. We are about to launch into a full-scale (whispered) argument when the Small(er)One is catapulted off the chair Firstborn has been spinning her on, lands in a heap on the hard floor and starts to scream. Firstborn, realising she is about to be blamed, starts to scream. Four salespeople descend upon us, obviously sensing a law suit, and start to fuss over the Small(er) One, which has no effect other than making both girls scream even louder.

We leave, quickly. The journey home is spent in stony silence apart from a litany of demands coming from the back seat. Again, we pretend they're not ours.

We go home and collapse.

I guess that new sofa can wait a while after all.

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