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Skegvegas 2017 incorporating Butlins Absolute 80s, Boston parkrun and Skegness

They say that whatever happens in Skegvegas, stays in Skegvegas. However that depends on if some inconsiderate blogger then chooses to reveal all online. Fortunately for those with me and at Skegvegas for the Butlins Absolute 80s Weekend between Friday 3rd and Monday 6th February 2017, I am not such a blogger and those activities remain in Skegvegas. Well most of them.

For those that are regulars to my blogs, it is safe to say that this will be a little different from what I usually write. Skegvegas rarely represented my usual theatre world experience, although you could say it was very much a theatre of life.

Day One

We were the first of our group to arrive and despite the concerns of potential ID checks and alcohol bottle counting, they was little issue to be had. Having followed the green line to the checking area, this was to be really very swift and pain free experience. Friendly staff at the checkpoint were to lay
down pretty much everything that was going to occur staff wise for the weekend. Superb at every turn.

The apartment was found with relative ease and as we were top range (la-di-da), once we were inside, this was not definitely not the world of Butlins that my distant memories recalled.

It was perhaps a nice touch that the last time I had been in Skegness and indeed in a Butlins was actually in the eighties, as this weekend spread out ahead of me.
The rooms inside our apartment were far from the chalets of old (although they still existed further into the camp, now under occupation of the staff).
The apartment was relatively spacious (holiday camp wise), fully fitted kitchen and most startling of all, a dish washer. Yes I know!
It was a world far away from Ted Bovis and Peggy.
Outside as we had a little explore, Butlins was also a different world. Excellently landscaped, brightly lit, full of a vast collection of eating establishments, and some impressive venues.
The Skyline Pavilion is of course the truly new thing about modern Butlins over the eighties one. The vast tent beast is impressive and contains access to a heck of a lot of facilities and keeps the often dodgy weather away from the public.

All together now
By early evening, the whole group were together and ready to get out there and at them.
After some food that was.

In the presence of sparkling Gary
Our first eating place of the weekend was Firehouse, it was for me the least exciting place we ate for
the weekend, despite it still being really nice food. The others all just trumped it spectacularly.
It was however the place of Gary the trainee. Seemingly roasted on a spit to be training on this weekend of crazy antics.
I don't know whether he survived the weekend, but he sparkled for us..

Taking the Centre Stage
After a little bit of a warm-up at the Skyline Stage, the rest of our Friday night was spent in the Centre Stage.
Opening the evening was an impressive tribute called the Bon Jovi Experience, a tribute to... Well you get the picture there, it was an impressive beginning to the weekend, full of all the energy of the real thing.

Altered perspectives
After Bon Jovi, we had the first of the weekends headliners. For headliners, read the real thing (or at least some of it) and not a tribute.
This was Altered Images, or perhaps Clare Grogan from Altered Images would be the correct term. I was always a fan of Altered Images, perhaps more specifically Clare if I am going to be honest. So this was on paper my weekend highlight.
It ended up being perhaps my greatest disappointment.
She was late on stage, really rather a disappointing performance, was dressed, to quote a group member "like a roman blind", and worst of all, she was good enough to also share with us that before the show, she had peed on her dress.
If that wasn't enough to shatter every gorgeous memory of Clare and Altered Images in my mind, she sung Taylor Swift's Shake It Off as well.

The haters gonna hate
As if my evening couldn't get any worse, the final performance of the evening was going to set me aside like a leper.
As U2UK took to the stage, the rest of the group were eventually to discover my inherent hate of U2. It was at glorious odds with the rest of the group, but it isn't the first time that I have been the outside and it won't be the last.
If only I had realised as I excruciated on the dancefloor (yes in public!) to U2's music, that the tribute to Prince was going on in the other venue.

Always be aware of your surroundings
When on the dance floor and in a dark environment, always be cautious at all times of your surroundings and try at no time to step back on any small people that may unexpectedly appear in your vicinity.

A truly sticky situation
An unexpected thing of being in the two music environments came from the carpets. They were sticky, truly exceptionally sticky. A workout out to walk on at times, never mind "dance".
The legend of Butlins sticky carpets will live long and proud.

Mutt and Jeff
What I did clearly discover over my weekend on the dance floors of Butlins, was how my hearing clearly doesn't work very well with background noises. While people were happily, but admittedly ear holing and shouting in conversation with each other. If anyone tried to do the same with me while the drum and bass filled the air, I just looked back as if I had had at least some clue what they had said.

Watching people go by
I am and always have been a people watcher. I like to observe stuff, it probably helps me write waffle like this as well.
Being in the thick of a bit of activity like Butlins and its eighties weekend offers amazing opportunity. You see all forms of life and human behaviour.
There were simple and "boring" people like me, who didn't want to be on the dance floor, but had found themselves there, and were trying to just enjoy the music.
There were those that were loving it, dancing away the night and getting more and more "relaxed" with the help of alcohol after alcohol after alcohol.
Then there were the stalkers. Patrolling the dance floor, often neither dancing, nor listening to the music at times. Simply walking around looking for potential mating material.
It wasn't a surprise of course, but it was interesting to see it in operation.
Next morning if came as no surprise as we saw a "walk of shame". There were probably rather a lot of them going on that morning.

Day Two

Boston bound
While four of our group took a valuable rest from the exploits of the night before, two of us brave (mad) individuals were up and about and on a twenty-seven mile route into Boston to fulfill the
weekly craving of parkrun. A parkrun powered on five and a half hours sleep no less.
Boston is amazingly the nearest to Skegness, in what appears to be a drought in Lincolnshire. It was though worth the trip. It is a gorgeous course though Witham Way Country Park and along the bank of the River Witham. It is also well run and like all parkruns, packed full of friendly chatty folk.
It was worth the early rise and was a home grounding of familiar stuff during the weekend.

Saturday saw a trip into Skegness for our whole group and it was going to be a memory stirring escapade,

The long and winding beach
"It is only a mile or so into Skegness" I had said, so I told everyone that I would walk it.
No one wanted to come with me, preferring the ease of the car. When I finally arrived something like an hour and a half later they had all appeared very grateful to have declined the offer.
It isn't of course a mile, however it had been made even worse by my initially leaving by the front gate and finding that road works also on occasion close footpaths.
You are failing to make much progress if after 25 minutes from leaving, you have had to retreat back to the place you have left.
It took a long while, it really did. However even with some ungainly beach walking, at the end of it I had regretted not one moment of it.

Memories are made of this
When I hit Skegness, debarking from the beach, I found myself back in the eighties and those family holidays flooding totally and emotionally back.
If Butlins' nuts and bolts have very much changed, Skegness has simply stayed in a time capsule. The front has the Riverboat, Natureland, Seal Sanctuary, the Suncastle, the bowling greens, Arnold Palmer's putting course, and the Pleasure Beach all intact as they were thirty years before.
I sat on the wall near the clock tower and got quite emotional while waiting to be retrieved by one of our party.

Good solid grub
There was a lot of food consumed over the weekend. A lot. I always thoughy I ate a lot, but this was something else.
My favourite though was in the centre of Skegness though, in Hildreds Centre. An innocent and simple looking cafe called The Cottage Loaf. I was on an emotional high from my solo stroll across the Skeggy front and joining the rest of the group at the cafe was more of the same.
All these new flash restaurants may do things for other people, but for me, this was the real thing. A hearty and huge meal in every way, full wholesome traditional grub and the best eating out for me of the weekend.

Pier attractions
We had a nice stroll down to the front after that gut busting meal and ended up at the pier arcade. This hasn't changed much either, including the children's play area which came back to me as well,
including the ball pit.
We had a few goes on the camel racing which mostly showed my inadequate ball control. However the victory of others resulted in one of our party having a garden gargoyle to take home.

A definite highlight
While the weekend was all about the eighties at Butlins, that trip into Skeggy was truly one of the highlights for me. Being reminded of so much from the past was quite amazing and why I made sure that it was not the final time I went into Skegness on that trip.

The Doctor is in the house
After returning from Skegness we headed for what was to be the absolute highlight of the weekend.
It was our first trip into the second venue, REDS and it was the best music show for me of the weekend.
Doctor & The Medics are not very well known for their hits, with Spirit in the Sky pretty much the end of it. However unlike the other "original" performers that weekend, they chose a really rather brilliant set of covers.
It was a fabulous performance of the songs from the Doctor (The Rev Dr. Clive Thomas Jackson), Melissa Weekes and the rest of the group
However it was also an exemplary show, with a performer delighting us with his jiving in an assortment of costumes.

Seeing a Cyberman dancing to You Spin Me Round and an old lady, complete with ridiculous Marge Simpson beehive, raving to the Ace of Spades were not only bizarre moments, but inspired entertainment.

All this without the fact that we had a giant bouncing balloon to play with in the crowd.
Classic and brilliant!

Unexpected boiled egg
No one is ever prepared for an unexpected appearance of a boiled egg in their lives. However on the dance floor at the foot of the Skyline Stage in the late afternoon, it is even more unexpected.
As further reports suggested, it may have been more unexpected to the man who was later doing head spins in said boiled egg.

Warning: lightweight in attendance
Saturday afternoon I had a moment. A mixture of more alcohol that I am used to and late activity the night (morning) before finally got the better of me, and this lightweight sloped off back to the apartment for a little calm.

Triple sausage
We had our only full meal in on Saturday night and it was a delight as one of our number created a culinary masterpiece of toad in the hole. Good old broccoli filled the plate splendidly as well.

Whatever takes your fancy
Saturday night was the official fancy dress night and yours truly was Freddie Mercury.
It was a remarkable collection of costumes out there on that night.
Among my favourites were She-ra, Dick Dastardly and Penelope Pitstop, several bus loads of Maplins representatives and my favourite group of all, the Miners representing the 1984 strike.

The Wild Boys
The evenings entertainment was opened by The Wild Boys, not a group tribute, but an eighties tribute where they covered a very widespread of music. It was an excellent set, and I reckon my second favourite of the weekend.
They also did an exceptionally nice tribute to George Michael, which was lump in the throat material. The 'Choose Life' t-shirts an especially nice touch
Learn your lines
On occasion members of the audience get their moment in the limelight as the microphone is thrust into the face of those at the foot of the stage. Lead for The Wild Boys, Rich Knight offered this chance during their performance.
If however you find yourself in such a position, ensure that you have fully learnt your lines.
Repeat after me:
Baby give it up
Give it up
Baby give it up

Cool man, just cool man
There was a split in our group on Saturday night, as some departed for Soul II Soul, and two of us (myself included) settled for Aswad.
This was the calm before the storm to come later, and so calm in my companions case that they managed to flunk out completely in a chair as we awaited the arrival of the headliners.
Aswad were real cool, really so. I didn't really know a great deal of their songs, but I knew their style and it was cool, real cool.
They were so real cool, that they made the audience real cool as well. The most laid back crowd so far, it spectacularly failed to prepare me for what was about to come.

Madness in more ways than one
Following a shift of venues and landscapes from the calm and cool Aswad, we headed for REDS again. It was a completely different world from the glories of the afternoon and was the point where I was the most out of my comfort zone.
I like my personal space, and as I found myself inexplicably in a mass of bodies waiting for Complete Madness as Madness to come on stage, I had so little space around me that I could hardly even contain my person.
A very over familiar Village People person was perhaps the worst, offering his hip flask to any takers and very much enjoying himself and wanting me to enjoy it in his way.
The fact that my toes (including my bad one) were crushed a couple of times, and my glasses almost ended up on the floor more than one occasion, also wrapped up the whole situation.
I perhaps won't complain too much about being groped on the dance floor by a nun though as it is a relatively unique thing to add to the life checklist.
It was the worst moment of the weekend for me, however I learnt much that night about how to handle this kind of event and enjoy it in my own way.

Day Three

Up and at them
The Sunday rise was later as expected, but the hardy among us (the parkrun duo) dealt with a little mid-morning pre-breakfast run along the prom prom prom and towards Fantasy Island.
I am sure that I made it to Fantasy Island in the old days, but unlike Skeggy itself, I didn't remember it in anyway.
It proved a nice little target though for a four mile run, before heading back to join the others for breakfast.

The Yacht Club
Taking our sweaty bodies into an eating establishment could be seen as not the done thing, however did we done, and this wasn't actually the reason the very friendly bouncers at the door didn't wish to let us in.
You see, The Yacht Club is a place that you pay upon entry and then just eat as much as humanly possible.
It was also my favourite on-site eating venue of the weekend. A nice atmosphere and a really great reception, once it was not clear that we were attempting illegal entry.
Fabulous stuff!

The Funky 'Clunky' Bunch Interactive Quiz
While virtually all the organisation of the events was exemplary, there was one moment where it all fell down. The 80s quiz in The Front Room suffered from two things, a broken screen and a lack of coverage. Not being able to hear, or indeed see the questions on the big screen, does provide the perfect reason for not getting them right though.

Late starters
There was resting and chatting as we hit the final evening. Our numbers had become four as two departed for the inevitable return to work the next day.
So there was telly and talk before a final fling began at 9:30pm

Into the box
We had a choice of Living In A Box (featuring Kenny Thomas) or Katrina (without any Waves) to choose from as our headliners on the final evening. We chose the former.
I don't know if it was the correct decision, but it sure represented a different world. Soulful tunes, relaxation in operation. It had all calmed REDS after the exploits the night before.
It was all fine in a laid back, on your back kind of way. I was happy with it for a final night.
This new world made be braver than after Madness, I ever thought I would be again.

Final Freddie fling
For my final show I entered the world of venturing into the pit on my own. The others headed back to REDS for the UB40 Experience, I headed to Centre Stage to honour my character of the night before with Freddie in Concert.
I found a pillar halfway to the stage, leaned on it and experienced Absolute 80s the way that I now should. There for the music, not for the lack of personal space.
I enjoyed every minute of that final show.

Missing in action
There may been some at some point, but some artists were conspicuous by their general absence over the weekend. Those that I failed to hear or extremely rarely were Madonna, Shakin' Stevens, Kylie, Hall & Oates, Michael Jackson, Human League, Ghostbusters, David Bowie, Prefab Sprout and Paul Young. Oh and no ELO. Sheesh...

Best moves
There was a lot of dancing over the weekend, a lot. Thankfully little from me, however there was one particularly mover who was like no other. Step forward Miss Edward Scissorhands, energy in spades and incredible moves. So distinctive, that when I took my final trip to a show on Sunday evening, out of the Scissorhands clothes, there was no question who had suddenly appeared before me as Freddie Mercury tunes were belted out of the Centre Stage.

Yeah I get it, that was from the eighties
The award for the most heard song at Absolute 80s goes without question to Soft Cell's Tainted Love.
Sure it was, and still is an amazing song, but I reckon heard it once or twice (a hundred times) too often.
It did offer me the opportunity to be controversial again and suggest that Marilyn Manson's cover was better than Soft Cell's though.

Day Four

The Ten Mile Challenge
On the final morning, I wanted to have another personal pilgrimage into Skegness. So I was up with
the lark and at about seven, I headed off into town.
I discovered that morning that running on the beach is actually easier than walking on it as I arrived in no time at all at Skegness pier (which is less of a pier, and more of a sticky out been of path, as it fails to reach the sea).
This couple of hours of solo entertainment was a
personally great way to conclude the weekend as I got to check out the town, and its memories once again.

And so it ended
The three days of Butlins Skegness Absolute 80s Weekend were looking back now a week later, really tremendous.
I woke Sunday morning thinking after the night before that this whole thing wasn't for me, however on that morning run, I thought quite a bit and worked out that this weekend should be for everyone. So Sunday night I made it work in my way and I enjoyed it so much more.
It helped that it was such a superbly run weekend, with the staff of Butlins exemplary at every opportunity.
It helped that although everyone was full of exuberance, there was no trouble.
It helped that even if there had been a possible flare up, there were staff just within view to deal with it.
It helped that the weekend was filled with the most amazing music.
It helped most though that the company truly were wonderful. A fabulous group of people, who made myself, certainly the outsider of the group, and definitely the quieter, none willing to get totally involved individual, the chance to fit in.
It was a magnificent weekend and despite the fact that I definitely said I wouldn't do it again, I now know that I definitely would.

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