Monday, 29 August 2016

The Englishman who went up a Hill

butser hill aerial towerBank Holiday! This means lots of different things to different people. It means that the banks don't have to go to work apart from one day last year when the big bosses made them go in, and no customers whatsoever turned up all day, because the customers knew that it was a bank holiday, I mean, Duh.
It also means that the parking restrictions on the road outside our house are in normal proper standard operation, because it only says you can park here for free after 6pm or on Sundays. Now, everybody else in the world will construe a Bank Holiday as being a Sunday, apart from those naughty Traffic Wardens who know that Monday is a Monday. So that is why when Bud went to the Co-Op to buy milk this morning, there were 9 ticketed cars parked down the road, and 9 hung-over drivers who didn't know they were really angry yet. And that doesn't count the ones who had already driven their be-ticketed vehicles away.
Butser Hill, Queen Elizabeth Country ParkAnd it also means that Jof tediously insists that we do something as a family, which led to Bud visiting Obscure Cousin Margaret yesterday, only to be told that she was leaving her entire estate to her half-brother (92) but could we still hold her spare front door key please.
So Jof said while everyone's at the Victorious Festival of Musical Beers today so let's go inland, to the Queen Elizabeth Country Park. And we looked it up and it said that it is the highest point in Hampshire (where 'Urricanes 'Ardly Ever 'Appen) although to be fair there were some partygoers at the Victorious Festival also trying to be the 'Ighest in 'Ampshire.
But a hill of this magnitude is a challenge that Bud was too happy to take on (on our behalf) and we found a space in the very very distant lower meadow car park and walked miles back up to the bottom of the hill.
Well, Jof and I don't particularly go in for extreme Hilling and we had to stop a few times to puff and drink, but we were treating it as a personal challenge, like Cala Romantica in Mallorca, because it was hot and dusty and difficult, but when you get to the top, there's a decent view.
Butser Hill, Queen Elizabeth Country ParkOn one puff-break, a large spider called me home but I evicted it. Later, a grasshopper instar landed on me and it tickled. We saw many butterflies and moths and ants and bees and stuff.
But the hill kept going. I know it's part of the South Downs, but I'm thinking the South Ups would be more appropriate. That was when I started to attempt renegotiations (we'll just get to that bush, and turn back) but onwards we struggled and just when I thought I'd changed their minds, there was a concrete obelisk.
This is an Ordnance Survey trig point and national GPS survey marker, and it is the highest point, even slightly higher than the massive aerial and microwave dish tower installation just along a bit. I stood upon it and surveyed, 'cos that's what it's for. It also marked my personal victory over the hill, lucky I was wearing the shirt that says "I did it!".
Butser Hill, Queen Elizabeth Country ParkMany light aircraft buzzed past us. Some kind of dirt-bike racing festival was happening in the valley below. We could see the sea, the Hayling Ferry, the Spinnaker Tower, the chimneys of Fawley oil refinery, the Isle of Wight, container ships in the Solent, Heath Lake in Petersfield (where they do very good ice cream), a whole row of South Downs (and Ups), distant sheep, and the motorway below. It was worth it.
On the way down we went through a sheep-field. But the variety and sheer amount of craps upon the ground was astonishing, and we began to suspect that some of the rabbits were the giant man-eating variety, that there were Llamas, Alpacas and Rhinos aforethought, and that some nervous Wildebeeste had passed through recently.
And hey presto, Jof kept going on the sheep route, met some sheep, who allow you to get within about 10 feet before nonchalantly crapping mightily and moving off to see that nicer looking bit of grass, their best mate Bob or a particularly interesting thistle.
Butser Hill, Queen Elizabeth Country ParkUs chaps, however, explored the great rift in the hillside visible in picture #1. It is a big U-shaped dark forest full of intrigue and darkness, treacherous slopes and foxholes. I believe I saw the great man-eating March Hare with ears like cricket bats but it could have been a log. Then I disturbed an adult Doe by screaming "Bud! Look!" and it panicked and crashed into a barbed wire fence and bounded away, but we got a really good look at it and that's why all the Kings make a big fuss over hunting rights, because once you bag one of those beauties, you've got a barbecue fit for a King, er.
And we exited the rift valley and Jof didn't fall down at all and I tried using the Force on some sheep but they were too stupid to notice. We saw a sheep with a crow sitting on its back, just saying.
giant caterpillar, Butser Hill, Queen Elizabeth Country ParkWe gleaned several handfuls of free blackberries from the juicy hedgerows to top up our vitamin intake and walked back to the car. The Lower Meadow was quite busy so we had to sit on the ground behind our open car and eat our picnic prone like rednecks, which was quite fun until you tried to get up and all your joints had seized up from the hill-climbing.
Ye Olde Gifte Shoppe was all very well when I was 5 and liked bathtime dinosaurs. But when you're 10 it just didn't appeal. What did appeal was a giant and I mean giant caterpillar we found on the path. Removing it so it didn't get trodden on, we noticed it had those big fake eyes and it was like a sausage, I can tell you. It is the caterpillar of the Elephant Hawk-Moth, or maybe a juvenile Pterodactyl. It tickled too, so we put it in the bushes.
I was very glad to regain my chosen sofa at home: then the other good thing about Bank Holidays happened: the Man from Amazon delivered 3 more books in the Minecraft series that we'd ordered yesterday. For Film Night I saw "Eye in the Sky" about a drone crew deciding whether to drop a Hellfire missile on some Somalian terrorists. Gosh, they didn't do Army like that when I flew in 'Nam, they gave you and order and you bombed the hell out of it, instead of saying I'm not happy about the legal aspect, will my hat look bad in this etc.

Sunday, 28 August 2016

You're not at St Richard's now, you know

Struggled out of bed at about 1030, Bud having already left the house. Jof persuaded me to get moving only when we suspected the Café at Giant Tesco might stop serving breakfast at noon: I made it in there just in time. I am fully qualified at Cafés now so ordered up my own breakfast and sat down with my Minecraft book while Jof did the shopping.
Bud was visiting Obscure Cousin Margaret again. She used to be a nurse in a maternity ward which exposes you to all sorts of amusing language. So, the Doctor says "one more big push now, Mrs Batterthwaite" and the lady giving birth says "F*** off you ******* if you ever ******* come near me again I'll chop off your **** you ******* ****, ouch" and sometimes she'd take those special words back home and get told off.
The rest of the day was quiet. I have read so much of my book we have had to buy the next 3 in the series, even though everybody the lead character meets on his travels seems to die, you'd think they'd run out of people on his home planet.

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Best Buds and all that

I was on a promise for a day of sedentary activities, after all the peripatetic, outward bound, laudable activities of the last week. OK, I'd just about allowed a meeting with Jof for lunch, but I was still hoping he'd forget and I could while away the whole day on Minecraft, Youtube and reading my Minecraft-related book. I had spinach and Ricotta pasta for breakfast, as you do.
ten year old boysSo you will imagine my rage and disgruntlement when he said that Ben had returned from the wilds of Cornwall, and had invited me round to his, from where we might even visit the beach hut and play in the sea.
I huffed and puffed and refused and sulked, even more when I found out I'd have to cycle there. But when I arrived, we started on the X-box and it had to auto-update so we burned around the bumpy paths on the bikes and got hot and I'd been issued with £6 for ice creams so we cycled down to the shop like proper independent boys and then the X-box was ready and what more does a growing lad need. We indulged in an orgy of farting and I left after 5 1/2 hours of Ben which was epic. My choice for Film Night was 'Blazing Saddles'.

Friday, 26 August 2016

Hooked on Sweat

shawfords lake YMCA Fairthorne Manor BotleyGot an hour's sleep last night. I gave my sleeping bag back yesterday because I wasn't using it, just going to sleep in my clothes lying on 3 mattresses (this does not make me a Princess as no peas were involved).
So it was another hot day. I have showered 3 times this week which is a lot more than others, I can tell you. But the laundry bag of wet and contaminated clothing is best kept sealed until the great Boilwash of Jof.
We packed up all our stuff and waited for pickup time. Well, while you could say that the whole week is waiting for Friday, you never really get to wait at all at the YMCA because there are activities and songs and irrepressibly gung-ho Kiwi helpers and Spanish helpers and healthy young staff of all nations there to make sure you never have any time off.
There was a half-hour break once where the Brain-Games leader had damaged her foot, but that was the only downtime this whole week. We played a game where we all line up and scream our way up the hill, Light Brigade they call it, I think. "It's a Bomb" was definitely one of the games.
But then Bud arrived to pick me up and we did a tour of the facilities. Here is the lake on which we did kayaking, and raft-building is at the other end. We were out kayaking when it came over all stormy and we had to get out of the water pronto because of all the lightning.
ymca fairthorne manor botleyAt the southern end is a waterfall that goes down to the smaller lake which itself feeds into the Hamble River. This is where the giant zipline goes over the muddy ditch. It's very long and the supporting guy hawsers on the towers vibrate and sound like an air raid siren. The country's under attack, sir! Send a couple of kids down the zipline, Lieutenant ...
Also here you can see the delightful rural setting with its forests of blackberries, stinging nettles, thistles, deadly nightshade, hornet nests and wasps. This is not a load of old bulrushes, even I got nettled.
Here are the massive climbing frames with the Jacob's ladder and tyres of doom and abseiling towers and I have had a magnificent week and made loads of new friends and only one enemy called Daniel and I would venture that apart from the adventure, the social aspect has been the real victory this time.
ymca fairthorne manor botleyGosh, I'm really passing for a natural human nowadays. I found a branch off a pine tree that looks like one of those hooks in the Egyptian hieroglyphs, so I have kept it. It looks like a Minecraft axe.
When I got home I was sweaty and dusty so I had a bath, followed by a shower, followed by an extended hug with Jof, followed by open-ended Minecraft time. I tried and tried to avoid the inevitable loss of consciousness but failed circa 2140, shame I haven't got that German efficiency.

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Thursday Thumpage

texas rodeo drunken idiotsToday we did Tower Climbing and raft building.
A new friend moved into our tent.
Thursday night is Campfire Night. At 7pm we gathered in the outside auditorium and all the leaders and helpers did a song'n'dance extravaganza for an hour. It's all inclusive so all the kids and assorted parents had to join in, in a variety of languages with silly songs, very Hi-de-hi but with added Spanish. In fact, while all the English Vaudeville cabaret stars are entertaining the hotels of Mallorca, the Spanish natives are over here looking after the kids.
ymca fairthorne manor residential daycampsEventually my own dear parents arrived and I got lots of hugs and told tall tales of derring-do and ziplines and kayaks and we clapped and sang and I turned down the chance to roast a marshmallow, opting to show off my tent instead.
I got a sack of chocolates from Jof to share out and after all the dire warnings about not taking mobile phones because nudie pics of kids could be uploaded to the net in a trice, they said cameras were encouraged so I got my camera back for the last night.
ymca fairthorne manor campsiteHaving an absolute blast, but looking forward to being picked up tomorrow.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Wednesday Water Games

castle field southsea victorious festival
diving bord swimming pool fail painfulIt is almost as if something is happening on my home turf, with cranes and stages and Hollywood-style lettering.
Today we did Kayaking, although I spelled it Kiacking. I have officially added a Kayak to the Lottery Dream. Bud is welcome to his house with River Thames frontage because then I'll be able to have a kayak.
catle field southsea ramparts victorious festivalWe did the Blind Trail, a woodland walk where you have to be blindfolded and proceed following spoken instructions. In some cases, it was the Blind leading the Deaf.
Later, archery (not blindfolded). I have done this before and it was awesome, with proper bows and stuff. In the evening we had a disco!

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Tuesday at Toad Hall

sean fay wolfe minecraft fan adventure
girl slips on diving board failToday the book I wanted arrived. Absolutely everyone in my class already has it and it was an insult that it took so long for me to get this tale of good triumphing over evil, with noobs in peril on the Elementia server. Of course, I don't know that, because I'm currently in a tent 25 miles away. Today we did Camo Tracking which is running around the woods with paint on your face. You have to be able to see the hunter/killer and if they can't see you, the seeker calls out and you have to stand up, flap like a chicken or swap places depending. We did the Zipwire and Brain Games, had a roast dinner and watched 'Peter Pan'. When I get home, film night will be Lock, Stock and 2 smoking barrels. I have met Danny John-Jules who plays Cockney Barfly #1 in this film.