Sunday 2 March 2014

Should you disarm the axe-murderer before torniqueting limbs?

So, this morning I packed my son off to Dartmoor for a practice hike and camp for the Ten Tors Challenge. I double-checked his rucksack, his rations, his waterproofs and overnight kit.  And felt a huge wave of nostalgia wash over me at the sight of him, in his girt big walking boots and gaiters.
James and I don't share much in the way of common pursuits.  Outside school, he lives for sport and gaming. He's a sociable animal on the whole.  Whereas, at his age, I spent the majority of my spare time in my room, painting, drawing, dreaming by candlelight, listening to music, strumming my guitar (poorly).
So it's pathetically pleasing to me that my fifteen-year old self and his share one pursuit - getting out into the countryside with a bunch of pals and doing stuff, usually in bad weather, usually in considerable discomfort. When I was fifteen or so we used to go to the wildest places we could (geography and funds allowing) and camp (usually in mud and rain and sleet) and then head off hiking or kayaking or whatever.  Return to our tents soggy and shattered, and usually try to brazen our way into the nearest pub in the hopes of drying out in front of the fire (if we managed to snaffle a pint or two of Old Peculier or similar, so much the better).
'You're so lucky,' I said to James.  'In my day...'
'You didn't even have a tent? And you walked barefoot.'
'Ha ha!  No.  But we didn't have all this high-tech kit.  It took weeks of blisters to break in a pair of walking boots.  We used to douse our feet in white spirit to toughen them up.'
'Not drink it?'
'Ho ho.  But seriously, my rucksack weighed a ton before I even put anything in it.  And there just weren't tiny super-warm lightweight sleeping bags and our waterproof gear wasn't breathable so, at the end of a day's hiking in the rain, we'd be all soggy and cold.'
He just nodded, blithely unaware of just how much has changed in the last forty years.
'Now turn off your phone, okay?' I said. 'So you don't run out of battery.'
I phones, for pity's sake!  Sat nav!  We had to rely solely on map and compass and orienteering skill.
In fact, we used to do bonkers extreme stuff, like hiking all through the night in teams with bizarre challenges being thrown at us.  For instance, you'd be wandering along when someone would come racing out the trees at you, waving his arms and shouting in some foreign language - the challenge being to discover what he wanted and how to help him (or, alternatively, how to disarm and disable him).  Or you'd come across a mocked-up accident scene and have to triage the whole thing.  Or get across a river using bits of wood and pulleys.  Or rescue people from smoke-filled basements.  Now I come to think of it, it was all a bit odd.  But the idea was that you had to work as a team, problem-solve, keep a clear head and just...manage.  I loved it.  So much so that, our team having retired after a few years, we used to return to take charge of the accident scene.  Having a dramatic and macabre turn of mind (and being overly partial to gory horror films at that point) I masterminded scenes of ever-increasing carnage until the organisers quietly thanked us and said our services were no longer required (this might have had something to do with the four boys who fainted when confronted with the dilemma of what to do first: take out the axe-wielding madman on the roof of the mini, torniquet the various stumps, put scattered limbs on ice or slap the hysterical shock victim.
I could never figure out pulleys, sheer legs and so on...that was Jennie's job. 
Anyhow.  I digress.  Today I am staying warm and dry (in the car, hopefully later by the fire) while outside it is pretty foul.  But, you know, I envy my son, I really do. Out on the moor.  In the wild.  In the wet and wind. Wonderful.



Ashen said...

Enjoyable post. Reminded of wild and scary games up my memory sleeves.
And it chimes a nostalgic note. My son, though no less adventurous, is now a 'grown up' in his 30s and to be married this year.

Wishing your son best fun ☼

Exmoorjane said...

Ah Ashen, my very best wishes to your son. And I would love to read of your wild and scary games some time. :)

I must confess that, several hours later, as the rain lashes and the wind whips and the dark has descended, I'm rather glad to be by the warmth of the fire and not in a tiny tent on Dartmoor. Though, then again... :)

Frances said...

Jane, as a child I loved to play in the woods with my friends, feeding our imaginations in the green thickets, jumping across creeks and climbing trees for wonderful vantage points. Nothing very dangerous though. No one fell from a tree or through ice on a creek. Poison ivy was about as bad as it got.

We were never as daring as your pals. It does sound like fun...except for the cold, rainy bits.

Thank you for the meditation instruction in your prior post I am going to try that technique. Meditation is something I've returned to over and over, over the years.


Anonymous said...

N ice.

Anonymous said...

Right. Then. So when are you coming into the mountains with us? I promise you rain and paper maps.

Anne Wareham said...

I can't believe what we were able to do as kids - school trips up mountains with no h&s, wandering the Yorkshire Dales with a friend, fending off amorous soldiers, adventures in the woods.... You could get away with a lot if you were prepared to get the blisters in order to look worthy...

Family Affairs said...

I really don't envy him - my worst nightmare being out in the elements - did he love it?? Lx

Irish Eyes said...

Right there with you. E.D., has taken up hiking with appropriate gear and h&s to the forefront. When I think of what we wandered off in.............those were the days and those were the blisters!