Journal Entry for August 16, 2000

I was walking home from work the other day and as I got to our street I came upon an old lady sorta limping as she carried her bag on one shoulder and some shopping in the other hand. I asked her if I could help by carrying anything for her. She said no thanks, he house was just ahead. I said okay & Merry Christmas.

This little encounter reminded me of something that I learned by example from my Dad (instead of learning it by someone telling me, he just got on with doing it, probably unaware that he was teaching me anything at all).

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Who's the grandson and who's the granddad?

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At about 4pm on the Monday we arrived at this huge "stately home" (the kind of places you'd see in those Period Costume Dramas--if you watched them) and checked into our rooms. I was thinking, "I hope I don't get put with anyone who snores" but was amazed to see that my room was very big and "posh" and that I had it all to myself! Their was a phone near the bed, a phone at the desk accross the room, and even a phone on the wall in the bathroom (why, I can't imagine!). This is definitely the fanciest room I've ever stayed in. The bathroom had two basins (sinks) and next to the toilet wasone of those "beday"things (for washing your feet--I understand).

I took my high-tech plastic braile room door sorta key thing and found some colleagues already starting to run up a tab at the bar. It seems that last time we had one of these things the department managed to spend £800 ( about $1200 ) on drinks. People were getting an early start on trying to beat that record.

Another story I picked up is that the boss, Steve, was quite drunk last time. His door key (the plastic credit card thingy looking thingy) was sticking out of his back pocket. So at about three AM, some guys decided to snatch his key from his pocket and turn all the furniture in his room upside down. Juvenile? unoriginal? He's a good guy, and I'm sure he laughed about it. I can't imagine it being done meanly or spitefully.

Anyway, the reason I'm writing is about the "activities" which started right after breakfast on the Tuesday. It was raining. Not a downpour, but that kind of consistent mist coming down that soaks you with wet and cold in about thirty minutes. I know this because we were out the whole morning! They company hired to organize our "activities" had these disposable (very thin plastic) body-suit things that zipped up and had hoods to keep us all dry and any mud off our clothes. Have you heard of TeleTubbies over in the US? I remember when they were all the rage here and hearing they'd been exported to America (with US dubbing for the voiceover and everything). These plastic yellow suits were nick-named "Telly Tubby suits" We looked like La La, or is it Po who is yellow and La La read?

I'll skip telling you about the "Jenga" game and "Connect Four" and go on to the Ax trowing. Yup, these axes with handles longer than my forearm were all ready for us to hurl at a wooden target. They were really too heavy for me to do properly, but then there were only a few guys who really got the hang of them. The guy on our team who was the best was a German dude we nick-named "Ax Man"

It sounded much cleverer when laughing about it hopping up and down trying to stay warm and feel whether your toes are cold and wet or just cold and numb.

The last three events were my real favorites.

CrossBows. They guy had a hinged lever thingy to cock the cross-bow easily--which I'd never seen and thought was cool. Don't know whether they were sighted very acurately, I'll use that excuse rather than "the sun was in my eyes". It was fun still. At about this time someone from the hotel staff brought out some coffe and tea in thermoses. It was "surreal" to see these guys walk out in their tuxedos and sterotypical waiters outfits, going accross the nicely manicured lawns, and meeting up with us in our silly yellow outfits trying to stay warm and mumbling either complaints about the cold or grattitude for warm drinks!

Before long it was finally lunchtime and we all went inside. I almost managed to take off my Telly Tubby suit without ripping it, some did better and some didn't even try. As fancy as this place was, as much money as the company spent on our day out, I was surprised to see our lunch was only the usual cold assortment that most catering companies offer for buisiness lunchtimes:

cheese sandwiches, smoked salmon sandwiches, cold spring rolls and cold deep fried shrimps. Somehow having that "outdoor-all-morning in the

cold and wet" kind of appetite made even this boring stuff enjoyable.

We were told that because of the unrelenting rain, we could go back out after lunch or stay inside--the decision was ours. I hadn't done the pellet air rifles target shooting or.... the ..... QUAD BIKE RACING!!!!

So there was no doubt that I'd go back out. I felt a bit like an Army Grunt putting my yellow stuff back on and rushing accross the grass to join the action again.

In the evening when we first arrived there had been about 60 of us, after the boozing took it's toll there must have been at least 12 people who didn't make it to breakfast or the morning activities. Lunchtime and the warm dry chairs in the bar took most of the rest as "casualties" because by now I only had about 10 people outside with me in total!

So, First I squelched and squished my way through the mud to the air pellet rifles. We were supposed to get 5 practice shots each and three scored shots. But since there were only a few of us out there, we were allowed to fire just about as much as we wanted. One of the rifles has a scope, so the three of us took turns playing with it, once we'd had a go with the others. There were paper targets, little spinning things that you could shoot and make spin, and a few clay "pigeon" targets tide to a string for us to shoot up.

Lastly was the Quad Bikes (the real reason for my writing this little story, Dad). I put on a helmet and waited with the other 7 guys. The guy running this activity gave us the safety briefing thing, showing the throttle, breaks, etc. He said not to stand up because sometimes people get caught off balance and fall off (What, you have to stand up to let your legs act as shock absorbers, especially when going over bumps!)

He put it in first or second gear and said to leave it in that gear. The track was a large loop, with a few bumps up and down, and red flags for us to avoid hitting as we "slalomed" around them. We were to ride one lap, then tag the next guy in our team, so he could jump on and do the next lap of the relay race. There must have been some kind of scoring system to keep tabs on which team had the best score (minus deductions for hitting the flags) but it all seemed very unorganized by now, the pages of the sheets getting very wet, were hard to write our names on!

Dad, how would you have felt in this scenario? I know you're much better at following rules than I am. But would it have been too frustrating to ride under such limited conditions? Would you have not bothered at all? I'm curious. I went around doing my lap, then next time it was my turn I did another. Then I hung around and asked if I could do a few more laps. By now I had it down to a science: shifting gears to about third or fourth, making sure I put it back in first by the time I finished my turn. I COULDN'T stay sitting the whole time, and got "corrected" by the bloke, who explained that he knew I knew what I was doing, but that his boss didn't and could see me. I said sorry and did the rest of my laps as fast as I could while keeping my bottom on the seat. It was worth it. It was fun. It was too muddy to get the front wheel off the ground, but you sure could slide left and right easily!

Funnyist thing is that when the "award ceremony" got canceled along with everything else, the department secretary gave me this medal as my prize, for first place in Quad Bikes.  (^;