Saturday, 23 February 2019


As I think back to my teenage years I remember microwave meals, Findus crispy pancakes, CND badges, the Body Shop strawberry lip balm bought with hard earned pocket money, making mix tapes and singing along to Top of the Pops with a hairbrush! Americana was a big thing, I had a picture of James Dean smoking on my wall and dreamt of owning a pair of Levi 501's.

I remember school trips vividly as it gave us the opportunity to escape our town and discover a whole new world, the seaside arcades would attract us with their hypnotic lights and loud music, luring us to spend all of our pocket money. Computer games weren't such a big thing (can you even imagine?) and the nearest a lot of us got to them were playing on the big arcade machines until our money ran out. My favourite were the moving money shelves where you fed the machine your copper coins to try and knock more off, a fruitless task but would keep me entertained for ages.

Bowling Alleys took a long time to reach rural Gloucestershire and before they arrived our only experience of them were on family holidays or trips to bigger cities. Nowadays they are a feature of every big town and a norm in our children's lives and as much as I promote an outdoorsy ethos, there is a complete joy of being able to do something that the whole family enjoys together - which is harder than it should be!

Cue half term and two moaning teenagers and a bored six year old and, hallelujah, an invite from Hollywood Bowl in Cheltenham to go bowling. We are treated to a VIP lane with waitress service, something most bizarre to my husband who is just programmed to hunt out and go to the bar! Whilst he struggles with being waited on (which also indicates quite a lot about our domestic life I must confess!) the boys and I completely embrace it and absolutely love our fab waitress who appears with some very retro milkshakes, which were delicious (I recommend salted caramel) and some popcorn chicken and fries, perfect to snack on whilst we bowl.

We get started and the husband and I have a shocking first bowl much to the joy of the boys, one of them even had the audacity to get a strike with their first ball! The youngest uses ones of those ramp things that makes it so easy for little ones to play a real game. The milkshakes are finished and the two youngest plead for a Slush Puppy, and as I am completely reliving my youth and I agree, their eyes lighting up as a jug of strawberry and raspberry mixed ice is delivered, followed by brain freeze!

The eldest two boys draw the top score and we celebrate by ordering food, burgers and hot dogs all round. It's not the finest dining but it's delivered quickly and we hungrily dig in, ketchup is squirted on everything and the beautifully presented platters soon resemble a scene from Pulp Fiction!

It's Friday night and in the bowling alley there is a mixture of families, children's parties, work outings and the Cheltenham youth playing pool. The music is loud and the decor is too - a heady mix of retro with quirky additions such as a Cadillac table to eat in and movie paraphernalia everywhere, my 15 year old self would have adored it and actually my 40+ self does too and for a fleeting moment I feel like a cool mum and I wonder why we haven't done this before?

We finish the evening in the arcade on the space invaders game, trying to win a soft toy with 'the claw' and to my joy, the coin machines. We split up, each clutching a handful of change, coming together every so often and joining forces on shooting games.

Three hours passed too quickly and we all had a brilliant evening, the six year old beside himself to leave so leaving is done hastily and grumpily - but that is the best sign of a good time when you have to be dragged away I guess. Thank you so much Hollywood Bowl UK for inviting us to your bowling alley, we will definitely be back if only to try those amazing puddings that we were all too full to try yesterday!

Disclosure: we were invited as a family to Hollywood Bowl UK in Cheltenham for a game of bowling and to eat, the views here however are my own. #gifted 

More information: Hollywood Bowl UK, The Brewery, Henrietta Street, Cheltenham. 
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