Wednesday 3 October 2012

I’m A 50-Year-Old... Get Me Out Of Here!

It gets worse. I’m hiking up an Iron Age fort with my rucksack on my back and three dogs scooting back and forth, noses to the ground, when a loud bark makes me jump. I spin round, but there are no other dogs in sight. Woof! There it is again, really close. In fact... it's coming from my pocket. Lily, wretched child, meddling with my phone again! 

It’s Rose, reminding me that her son Augustus did a Raleigh International expedition to Borneo in his gap year. ‘I’ve got him right here,’ she says. There’s a muffled grunt as she hands the phone over.   

‘Hi Augustus,’ I puff. ‘So, tell me.'

'Borneo was cool.'

'But did you have to do an assessment weekend in East Grinstead?’

‘Oh yeah.'

'How was that?'


I stop in my tracks. ‘Why?’

‘We had to make our own like, basher?’


‘It’s like, a sort of tent and a hammock thing? We had to cut down these like, branches? And build these like, shelters? So you have like, a pole, which is basically a branch, and like, a tarp over the top? It was like, winter, and it was pouring with rain and like, freezing?’

Oh God. Worse than my worst fears. 

‘But Borneo was cool,’ he adds. ‘Apart from these like, leeches? There’s nothing you can do about them. One girl wore like, plastic bags on her feet? But they still got in. But they don’t hurt. Just take lots of like, plasters?’

Oh God. If it’s not ticks it’s leeches. Strike Borneo off the list.

I trek back to the cottage, and am just sipping a nice cup of mint tea, when my pocket starts barking again. It's Rose’s cousin whose father was a friend of John Blashford-Snell who set up Operation Raleigh which grew into Raleigh International.

‘Rose tells me you want to know all about Operation Raleigh.’

‘Well…’ I stutter.

‘With all your touring and trekking experience, you’ll be fine. Presume you’re an old hand at bivvying...’

What? All my trekking experience amounts to one Himalayan trek about 20 years ago, with a full team of sherpas. And I’ve never knowingly bivvied, whatever that may mean.

‘They’ll have a few surprises in store for you,' he continues, 'but nothing someone adventurous like you can’t handle. My favourite is the nine-foot python. They ask you to weigh it.’

Oh God.

‘And then they present you with some bathroom scales, so of course you have to drape the python round your neck and weigh yourself with it…’

Honestly! This is beyond a joke. I thought I was volunteering for a gentle admin post at field base to augment my tourleading skills, not for I’m A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here!

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