Sunday 19th April 2009

Weekends jam packed with so much entertainment are great. Most people leave with some very fond memories, a memory card stashed full of photographs and usually a much lighter wallet. While I am no different, I also carry the burden, the heavy heart of expectation that I will provide a written account of all the key points from the past few days. Not easy but it is a challenge I face on a regular basis and when the status of the weekend was set as high as the ‘Ultimate Lads Weekend’ there is no escape. Where do I start, well I did not actually pack my stuff together until around 1.30am, after I written up the last blog post. It was not until around an hour later I eventually went to bed. I thought a little sleep may be good as it was unlikely I would be getting any quality sleep again until Sunday evening. I got up at 6:36am precisely, this is significant because Pav had mentioned in his e-mail at work on Friday that he would be at Terry’s pad at precisely 7:36am. I had an hour to get ready, get some breakfast and catch a little television. Pav text me to ask for me to note down the post code of the camp. I was just about to jump into the shower, so stopped and then noted down the details on a piece of paper. I replied to his text that I did not have a printer and had noted down all the information we needed. In the end, Pav was only fifteen minutes late which by his standards is very good. Foxy got out the car as I put my luggage in the boot and jumped in the back to crash out. He was out of the count as we drove out of Newbury. We stopped at the local Shell garage for fuel after Pav had initially headed in the opposite direction. We then were on our way with an initial ETA of 9:39am. We had to be at the farm for 9:30am sharp to ensure the course finished on time. The route was all A roads then country roads which took us to the middle of nowhere in West Sussex. However we found the location without any problems. Mainly because Kev’s Dad had beaten us to it and was waiting by his car when we got there. It was just gone 9.30am. We were on time, Pav had made up the time in the trusty, Rover of Dreams. We drove past the entrance to the estate, turn the car around and parked up. Literally a minute later Jez arrived in his beautiful blue SLK Mercedes and followed by Si’s silver BMW. We were all set. We got out of the cars, did the meet and great and then met our hosts for the day. Richard and Kevin. We then had the long muddy walk down to base camp. It was a long walk, at least fifteen minutes through slushy mud, my boots were taking most of the pain but only Pav had been organised with Wellies!

Base Camp

At base camp, we had a nice cup of tea. I had brought along my Superman mug! As we sat down on the log with our drinks we were briefed on the plan of the day. Quite simply what would we do if we were stuck out in the woods all alone. We would need to get shelter, make a fire to keep warm, get water and find some food to eat. So we were given a few directions and shown shelters still standing from previous courses and then set to to work. We had to find the right place that the whole group agreed would make a good place and then begin construction.


Rather than go into the details, you can check out my latest FlickR set, which charts the construction from start to finish, plus the other adventures we got up to. Once the shelter was complete (well not officially as it needed to have one arms length worth of leaves for padding to ensure the heat stays inside) we had a group photograph taken inside. We handed a few cameras to Richard. While he tried to get to grips with the Sony CyberShot, Foxy’s comment was, “Country boys and technology”. He had warmed up fine and was now on fire. I was laughing hysterically. It was around 11.30am when we went through the fire aspect of our course, which would take up the majority of the day. The six ways are starting a fire are: Spark, Electrical, Chemical, Sunlight, Compression and finally Friction. We would go through all these types of ignition, firstly demonstrated by Kevin. I was impressed he got the fire going with the friction option which he demonstrated at the end. We had a little go before we headed to the pub for lunch. Jeremy had booked ahead and arranged everything for us. It was only a five minute drive around the corner, in Pulborough, with an excellent setting by the river. There was a beer garden opposite, with some great cars parked outside. A vintage Alfa Romeo Spider and DB9 soft top I mean Volante. When we ordered drinks, Si had to ask the questions, “Do you do any cocktails?”. The reply from the barman, after a long laugh was, “I can do a Bloody Mary for you and that is about it!”. A no then, so it had to be something else instead. Lunch was good, but perhaps not as filling as I had wanted. Si had ordered diet coke but with the intention of leaving room for desert. A big fat chocolate fudge cake, which he demolished in less than a few minutes. Then it was back to the reality of the camp. Back at the camp, it was all hands on for the fire making. Quite manly stuff. I had a go at a few of the options but had a bit of a disaster with the wire wool with nine volt battery. While trying to break a small piece off I inadvertently set alight the big piece of wool, then I panicked and just threw the lot into the fire and walked away. Kev noticed and just laughed that I could not have picked a bigger piece. I decided after that bad move to take a back seat and try the sunlight option with Jeremy. After we had all had a go at everything, it was time for another drink before we headed for a little walk. First to the stream and to find out how we would purify the water, then on a walk around the grounds to find food. There were a number of edible plants the details of which I have forgotten now but I am sure someone else from the group does. The draw drew to a close, it had been very useful. We had learnt that it was nearly impossible to start a fire using friction. Best to stick with electrical, chemical or a flint spark. By now it was coming close to 4pm and we about to head back to the cars and down off to Brighton. It was a beautiful spring day as we drove down to the coast. I was very envious of Kev and Jez in their bright blue (Atlantis Blue?) SLK top down. Although the Rover 216i does have a sunroof, so that is something! It took us an hour and we got into the town just after 5pm. We found the hotel but the ‘garage’ was closed, so we had to use the public underground car park. Well, it was full but Si in his wisdom moved the sign and we took all our cars in. To the frank annoyance of the parking attendant. He was jolly about it and said he would give us some spaces reserved for the hotel (60 apparently). Meanwhile Pav in a urge to get onto the beach, just grabbed his stuff out the car and walked out of the car park. I had to grab his keys and tell him I would park the car for him. I found a space soon enough. Then spend a good few minutes trying to work out how to close the sunroof! I headed back to the hotel and was rooming with Si! Room 508 which I eventually found (the hotel – The Old Ship, is split over two levels so one section only goes up to level three) I had to check if the television in the room picked up FiveLive. Just my luck it did not, even though there was a Radio 5 channel on the menu, it was just dead silence. I would have to find out the latest score from Wembley by other means. We got ready as we were on a tight schedule. We had to get to the restaurant for 6.30pm (having been moved half an hour early due to another party). Not a problem, everything was within walking distance and Jez had provided us all with a map with the areas marked with clear time windows plus a list of all the boys and their mobile number. Excellent work, I hope my best man is as organised as this. Some of Kev’s school friends had come up from Southampton, so it was a big crowd of fourteen of us now. The restaurant, The Blue Man was around the corner and some of us noticed the sign and went the right way (the short route) while the rest, by rest I mean, Foxy, Pav, José and stag Kev headed around the corner but eventually got some bearings. We headed in and had a table downstairs. I sat next to José and opposite Julian at the end of the table. It was a good meal, and as we had to leave at 8.30pm sharp the service was relatively quick. We decided to opt for the banquet which made life easier for the staff and easier for us. It was very good, my first time having North African cuisine and I would definitely come back again. After the meal we then headed out into the night and what an evening it would be. Being a such a big group of lads we would have difficulty getting into certain places, as we found with the first pub we decided to venture into around the corner. So when we walked back to the Seven Stars we spilt up into smaller groups. Although it was a very nice pub, well more a trendy wine bar, it was far too quiet for us. We then headed to Yates for something a little more lively and the party could really get started. We walked across to the bar and queued up as you do. Everyone else went in, but when they asked Si for ID he did not have any. So, I thought I would go in and speak to Jez but I was stopped from going in. Even though I had identification to proof that I was some nine years over the legal limit. (A problem with two Asian guys was it Mr. Bouncer?). So I called Jez and he then came outside to help us. The head bouncer explained that everyone was asked for proof of age due to licensing restrictions. However we had spotted that many people ahead of us had just walked in, so it was not being enforced across the board. In the end, to appease the chap, Jez had to hand over his driving licence and confirm that he would vouch for Si! What a joke! You would think on a Saturday night they would be letting you in with open arms. Never mind, we were in and now the party could officially begin. The main thing was we were all in one piece, we still had Kev with us and everyone was in the mood to celebrate the momentous occasion. Rather than go into the details of what happened and what we got up I believe it is better for the pictures to tell the story. However, here is the problem, I did not take my camera out in the evening. There was no point it was too bulky plus everyone else would have a camera. Well, I am afraid that the only photographs from the evening are on Facebook, so if you are one of my friends (and have not been put on the limited profile or worse still removed completely). I pick up the story around midnight, when I take a very nervous Kev (now in red dress and flats) down to the water front. He believes we are about to throw him into the sea, when in fact we are just in the queue to get into Digital night club on the waterfront. After a fair word with the head bouncer we are allowed in and the night continues. The club was just outrageous! There was a bouncy castle outside (but only two people allowed on at a time due to health and safety apparently). In the back room there were Space Hoppers, dominoes, Connect Four. There was the atmosphere more of a playground than a nightclub but it was all good fun. I really enjoyed the night. I really would like to go to Brighton again, it has a different vibe to it. Being are much more friendlier and pleasant than some of the other places I have been to. Pav is already trying to organise our next trip down to the South Coast, perhaps as early as June. We left the club around 3am and were back in the hotel room around 3.30am, after getting some food from the local chippy (which was packed out). At 8.30am, I was half awake and switched on my mobile, I had a text message, “Could you please get Pav to call me urgently”. Looks like someone either left their mobile in the hotel before the night’s festivities began or the battery died. Still half asleep I replied and then eventually got up and got ready. It was a lovely sunny day and it felt a shame to be heading back to West Berkshire so soon. We headed down to breakfast and joined Jez. The rest of the gang were still asleep and would be for a while. Pav and Foxy only got up with twenty minutes to kill before check out at 11am. As we were already ready to roll, Si, Julian and I went for a walk down the beach. The sun had disappeared behind some clouds and the wind picked up. It was very cold and my coat was still in the back of Pav’s car. When we got back to the hotel, Kev and José were just about to check out and then get some breakfast before we finally would leave. Kev’s school mates were the worse for wear. They had been playing Poker until 6am and even had to stop by the 24 hour off licence at 4am to refill on supplies. Rob perhaps looked the worse and the other guys were taking full advantage, throwing his shoes and holdall over a barrier to some street works. Lucky for them, they just had a short drive over to Southampton. We in the other hand were driving to Reading, then off to Newbury (the final destination). I feel I have rambled on far too much in this post and should just quit while I am ahead. In conclusion, a great night out, good laugh, Kev enjoyed himself and arrived back to his fiancé in one piece which I am sure she is most grateful. I am sure there are many moments I have forgotten to disclosure, one liners from Foxy or José. Too late now. Pav dropped me off around 2pm. I got a few little things done, like check my e-mail and then sorted myself out before heading to the gym. I completed my cardio programme as it had been so long since I had been on the equipment, plus I made the decision to switch cardio back to Thursday mornings so Sunday could be spent on the legs and abdominal programme which takes the most amount of my time. The rest of the day was spent resting, it had been a heavy weekend and I was not really ready for the working week. Well I have actually got to clean my shoes from all the mud and watch the second FA Cup Semi Final, now that Arsenal are out I hope Everton win!

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