There’s something in the name ‘Planet Fun’ which immediately appeals, something irresistible, suggestive of a hedonistic utopia which we all yearn to visit.
On the way to Belfast we’re all excited about the exotic, mysterious location we’ve been invited to.
After a short search we find Planet Fun in a derelict B&Q warehouse on the Boucher Road. Nowadays it’s called S13.
I’m here with my wife, son and little nephew and we’re given VIP bracelets as we enter on a sunny Saturday afternoon. The first attraction we visit is the Giant Wheel which soars above the city, providing stunning panoramic views for many miles in all directions. Although not if, like my wife, you refuse to open your eyes during the whole ride. I risk being thrown out of the carriage when I pretend to her that the wheel has broken down when it stops to let new passengers on while were suspended many feet up in the air.
But she gets her own back on the bumper cars, where erratic, reckless driving is rewarded and my attempts to appeal to other motorists’ sense of good manners and fairness are cruelly and repeatedly battered.
Planet Fun works for us because a large section of the theme park is devoted to young children. My son is four, my nephew three and the quieter area within the warehouse is a good foil to the frenetic excitement outside. A series of smaller rides featuring cars, trains, teacups and swings keeps them occupied for most of the afternoon while mummy and I relax with a coffee and doughnut.
One of the highlights for the younger children is the caterpillar mini-rollercoaster. On the day we visit it is temporarily disabled as repairs are carried out, which only helps to create a sense of deepening anticipation. When the ride is eventually opened to the public again scores of children dart out of the popular inflatable village to join the queue.
But the gremlins are still in the system and the rollercoaster operator has to call a mechanic to get the ride going while we sit waiting in the carriages. He does this by physically pushing the carriages along the tracks until they gain enough momentum to carry on unaided (I’ve never been mechanically minded but this seems a strange remedy to me). Once the rollercoaster is moving it comes into its own, drawing a series of shouts of delight and mock terror from its young occupants.
Our time is almost up and we let the kids pick one last ride each. My nephew goes for the mini wheel and my son for one last bashing session on the bumper cars. This just leaves me enough time to have a go on the Star Flyer, the tallest ride in the park.
We could have stayed for much longer because there’s plenty more to do but the kids were exhausted. Exhausted but delighted. All the way home from S13 they talked about their favourite rides and asked questions about when we could go back again.
When I put my son to bed I noticed he was still wearing his bracelet. I went to take it off but he insisted I leave it. It’s his reminder of the day of fun.