Plus there was the observation of the excited clamour for the Butlins Blogger Ambassadors places, amongst other people my age, those who could be considered to be my own kind, but, still, I remained sceptical.
Then these two things came together during a mutually bemused chatty exchange on the Butlins stand at the Britmums Live conference last year. They were eager to impress upon my inner snob that their holidays have gone upmarket, to prove that their facilities are for the modern, fussy family - far removed from their old fashioned image - that my own kind is their kind - and they allocated one of their coveted Ambassadorships to me.
'Bugger,' was my first thought. #Bittersweet!
But it would have been rude not to give it a shot - so how did they do?
First of all, let me acknowledge Butlins' progressive thinking by including me as a single mum, let alone one with two sons. Most holiday companies will choose a conventional married couple, with children of both sexes in order to be able to sell all their wares as easily and effectively as possible. I appreciated this mark of respect to me as an authentic blogger, being judged on what I am capable of, rather than my circumstantial limitations. They got a big mental tick for that and I also have to admit to taking a little heart from their confidence that a good break would be had by all, despite my genuinely dubious feelings about it.
We booked their newest Hotel, The Wave, at our nearest site Bognor Regis, quite last minute over Easter. Since I got bashed in the head with the side edge of that badminton racquet, driving long distances has been a bit dodgy, but, to be honest, I thought if things really were that bad, we could just come home ...
There are actually only three resorts - Minehead and Skegness being the others, which came as a surprise, considering their national infamy and as I watched other Butlins Blogger Ambassadors posting fun pics on Instagram and Facebook and writing upbeat blog posts from them all, I reserved judgement. It was important to see stuff for myself.
We were allocated a room that sleeps up to eight people, which seemed a bit of a waste, so were given permission to take along some friends to keep us all company. This was a great move, but it's where we hit the first snag - the first two we invited (a single girlfriend usually game for a laugh and another single mum with two daughters) refused to come, such was their perception of what being at Butlins would mean, but, tellingly, another friend and her two children who'd been before were all absolutely thrilled to be joining us and counted down the days until our departure so, finally, we were off to a good start.
It's important to plan ahead (which we learned in retrospect). The email communication is excellent - not spammy, but very thorough, headlined with 'how many sleeps to go.' They outline the different eateries available (10+), attractions on and off resort, decent directions, a map of the whole place and lots of information about their various 'passes.'
These include a queue jumping one for the shows and pool (which would have to be bought for every member of the family at £20 each out of term time), an Activity one (£14 per person) and an Adrenaline one (£17 per person aged 8+). We didn't bother with any of them, but wished we'd been a bit more savvy re the last one, once we were there. Some of the activities for older children are charged at £5 per time and, especially for the older ones, they'd be handy, but because we hadn't booked anything adventurous soon enough, we got away with not having them anyhow.
The web-site is easy to negotiate and there are videos to
Not enough emphasis is placed on the Butlins App - which brilliantly outlines the timetables for the whole time you're away, allowing you the essential getting to grips in advance with what you all want to do and see. Although it doesn't really mean a great deal until you're there and get your bearings, it certainly gives you the edge for booking up as soon as you are able. For repeat visitors, this would be a godsend.
We were given the Premium Dining package which includes breakfast and evening meal at an assigned restaurant, although you can eat at any of the others as long as, again, you reserve in advance. We were lucky enough to have been advised to eat at the famous chef Brian Turner's restaurant - the only independent one there, for which vouchers are given towards the (mostly covered) cost, but the thing my friend, Liza, was looking forward to most was trying out lots of different restaurants and she would have liked to have seen a little more info about them. Like most busy mums, we were keen to be catered for!
There were definite pluses and minuses about our break, which I've outlined here in a separate post, but, for now, here's a video with quite a good look around the resort, so you can see for yourselves the kind of things on offer. There's free entertainment all day on a stage inside the Skyline Pavilion, mainly for younger kids than ours (5, 7, 8 and 9), plus an evening show every night on a separate, grander scale. One of the things it doesn't show, for obvious reasons, is one of the childrens' highlights and what they had been most impatiently anticipating - Splash Waterworld - a selection of 'swimming' pools and water slides.
As you can see, they remain true to Billy Butlin's original aims and roots and yes they have moved on - but to what degree? Will it be far enough for my inner snob to cope? Find out HERE!
Disclosure - We were provided with the holiday and dining package as part of the Butlins Ambassador programme position. All words and opinion are our own, obvs.