98% of what you'll ever be doing at Alton Towers is queuing. The way in is good practice for it.
There is nothing to do in these queues. No street jugglers, no entertainment screens, often not even any pretty scenery.
Just rows of humanity snaking in and around themselves, each wearing expressions of blank weariness. They paid £42.50 to be there.
In February, engineers managed to get Air active. This huge roller-coaster is one of the park's biggest rides, so everyone present converged upon it. Slip-sliding up walkways and standing in freezing temperatures, we were warned that it could take up to an hour and half to get to the excitement at the end.
Some of our party actually managed it. I and two friends lasted about half an hour, until the first announcement of a temporary delay. Air might have to close after all. We watched the test rides fly back and forth. It didn't look promising, so we left the queue.
By May, everything was open. A capacity attendance of 28,000 could be dispersed across a wide range of attractions. This did nothing to greatly reduce the waiting. Huge dynamic boards list the times upon them: 70 minutes for Nemesis; 90 minutes for its Sub-terra twin; 50 minutes for Rita.
We had split into two groups. My friend waited for 40 minutes to get onto the aforementioned Air, before an announcement came that it was experiencing a temporary closure. They waited and waited.
Meanwhile, myself and my two nephews had opted for the mere 25 minutes for Th13rteen. The sun beat down upon us in that queue. I watched my fifteen year old start to look quite ill. Beyond him, a young girl appeared to be on the verge of fainting. I came close to offering her a drink, but her father noticed and took her away.
Half an hour passed with us still not even within sight of the ride's terminal. It had already made a mockery of the estimated waiting times, when we too received the dreaded announcement. 'Experiencing difficulty', 'technicians working rapidly', 'back as soon as we can'. We sat on the ground, physically struggling in the shadeless heat; and bored beyond question.
Finally there was movement! Forty-five minutes after entering the queue, it was suddenly moving quite fast. I started to become suspicious. This was too fast. But there had been no announcement stating anything other than they were working to get us started again.
As we passed through a gate, a member of staff merely said, "You have to go this way." There was no explanation about where 'this way' led, nor why we were going there. Sheep-like, we did as we were told.
And ended up back outside the ride, into the rest of Alton Towers. Th13rteen had been closed down completely and the queue evacuated. None of us had been any the wiser, just moved like livestock through a gate.