Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Calamity Camping ......................

Last Sunday, the day of reckoning finally arrived. There was no avoiding it, and I needed to face it like a man ......... I was going camping. As one reader (Martin from the blog 'A View from the Dark Side') commented, what doesn't kill you, makes you stronger.

My camp-mates were my cousin Jane, and her baby Mitchell, and we had arranged to meet at a campsite in Northamptonshire. We figured that if we could cope on our own for a weekend, then we would be able to go camping more extensively throughout the summer months.

Once at the campsite, we checked in and were allocated a pitch. When I say pitch, I mean a square piece of grass.

I looked at it in dismay; "we are spending the weekend on that grass, like rabbits?" 

"Yep," replied Jane, before adding cheerfully, "let's put up the tent!"

"Have you put it up before?" I asked her suspiciously.

"No, not exactly, but I am sure we'll be fine," Jane assured me, "anyway you're an engineer, you are supposed to be good at these things."

I grimaced, "I might be an engineer but the closest I have come to erecting a tent is booking into a four star, instead of a five star hotel."

Jane ploughed on like a trooper, unfurling the tent and assembling a lot of stick-type things which I was told were poles to hold the tent up.

"What shape is the tent?" I said, looking at what appeared to be a deflated hot air balloon.

"I think it is shaped a bit like a hedgehog, big in the centre and smaller at the ends," Jane replied. 

Pic.No.1 This is the tent once we had laid it out ready for assembly

"Ok, let's put it up," I grinned with a new sense of optimism.

Suffice to say that we wrestled with the bastard for over an hour, whilst the wind was blowing a gale. We managed to get the poles in, but every time we tried to erect it, we found sections of the tent snarled by a myriad of internal restraining straps. It wasn't helped by the fact that the tent was considerably larger than we first anticipated. A Rubiks cube seemed like a doddle in comparison ...... and I have never managed to complete a Rubiks cube. It wasn't looking good. 

"Jane, maybe we should give up and go and stay in a hotel instead," I suggested, "we have been at it for over an hour and it still resembles a squashed spider with a thousand legs. Plus those people over there are laughing at us," I said gesturing at a group of chaps and chapesses playing softball.

"Laughing at us?" Jane queried, before adding, "right I am going to have a word," and she headed over to them.

I have no idea what she said, but within minutes we had five softball players erecting our tent. Jane is like that - she will chat to anybody, whereas I view all strangers as potential murderers.

Pic.No.2 A group of strangers erecting our tent. They really seemed like they knew what they were doing, but even then it took them an hour. Which made me feel a bit less of a joey

When they had finished, we tried giving them some money, but they wouldn't have any of it. So we offered to buy them a drink later that evening, but they told us that they were leaving that day, and made their excuses. 

Once they had left, I stood back and regarded our new residence. It was in three sections; one large pod with two smaller sleeping pods branching off it.

"It doesn't look anything like a hedgehog," I pointed out, "more like a bit of DNA strand."

Pic.No.3 This was the inside of the tent. Jane's bedroom was on the left and mine was on the right. I was immediately struck by the fact that there was no en-suite bathroom or heating system

Pic.No.4 Naughty George viewed the baby hungrily

Pic.No.5 This is me doing camping. As you can see, I have blended into my environment like a chameleon

Pic.No.6 This was Mitchell's face after I told him that we were going to be living under a weird blue sheet. That's my nephew - he obviously already appreciates the finer things in life 

Jane and I sat in the tent for a while and looked around.

"What are we supposed to do now?" I asked her. "Do we have to make like Steve Irwin, capturing and killing our dinner?"

"No, I think there is a restaurant on site," Jane mused, "how about we have a wonder around and explore?"

So that's exactly what we bally well did, and here is what we found ..........

Pic.No.7 A lake. You can see how dull the English weather is, and Naughty George was sniffing at that tree with a view to pissing on it - that's my mutt

Pic.No.8 Another lake. In fact lakes and rivers abounded. But it was hardly what I would call the wilderness

Pic.No.9 A miniature steam train. I tried to book a ticket back to Oxford but the man said they only go round the lake. Shame really, I fancied arriving back home in comedy style

Pic.No.10 We had forgotten to bring any food with us, so we ended up buying a hot-dog from a catering van. This is a picture of the Jane after she had quaffed hers

After wondering around, we returned to the tent to get ready to go out for the evening. I wanted to perform various ablutions, so I asked where my bathroom was. 

"Over there," Jane motioned, and it soon became abundantly clear that I didn't have my own bathroom at all. They were communal ones. For the sake of all things holy! How much can a girl endure? Why would one leave a perfectly serviceable home to scrub around on the land?

Pic.No.11 Gag. A communal toilet. Jane told me that it was a normal state of affairs on a campsite. Looking on the bright side - it was going to help my immune system

Eventually we were ready to head out for the evening ........................

Pic.No.12 We walked past one of the lakes which looked quite atmospheric in the darkening evening light. Even better, the darkness hid the horrors of camping

Pic.No.13 We spent the evening in a small local bar on the campsite. This is a picture of Jane with a tenner stuck to her forehead. It's her superhero skill, much to the perplexedness of the old boy in the background

Pic.No.14 Once the night was over, we headed back to the tent. It took us bloody ages because there were no lights on the campsite, meaning that we were wondering around in the pitch dark. After trying to accidentally enter the tents of various strangers, we finally located ours, and I noticed that Naughty George had gone missing

Yep, my mutt had found a small opening in the bedroom section of the tent, and had squeezed himself out. What a git.

I spent an hour walking around the campsite in the dark calling his name, but to no avail. Occasionally I would pass people who said they had seen a small black dog earlier in the evening, but each lead turned out to be fruitless. Eventually I decided to go to bed, but kept waking up every few hours to see if he had returned. Each time the answer was negative.

Finally morning dawned, and I was greeted by the following sight ...............................

Pic.No.15 The wonderer had returned and was fast asleep on Jane's bed. Bloody knob. He had obviously had a long night out because he slept solidly for almost two days afterwards

Pic.No.16 I made a cup of tea to celebrate, because I realised that it would look dodgy on my blog if Naughty George suddenly 'disappeared'. I had to make the tea using what's called a 'camping stove' and it had froth on it. That's not right

Pic.No.17 Whilst Jane and Mitchell were asleep, I took a picture of the inside of the tent. The reason being that Jane's second superhero skill (after sticking tenners to her forehead) is covering surfaces. Give her a surface, any surface, and she can fill it up within minutes ........... it's bloody amazing

As I was sipping my sump oil tea, I suddenly heard the sound of rain pitter-pattering on the tent; gentle at first but increasing in intensity. Sacre-bloody-bleu, this camping milarky was relentless infringement of human rights.

The sound of the rain awoke Jane and she emerged from her bedroom, greeting me with, "shit it's raining."

"How about we go and get a full English breakfast?" I suggested, "we haven't got any food."

"PLAN," Jane shouted, and we jumped into the car and headed for a local restaurant.

Pic.No.18 This was our English breakfast. After sleeping under a sheet, sharing communal toilets and scrabbling around in the dark, it was just what the doctor ordered. But they served the tea in polystyrene cups - how weird is that?

Pic.No.19 Once breakfast was over, we commenced taking down the tent. I told my gorgeous nephew, Mitchell about it, and he seemed chuffed to be going home

Have you every tried taking a tent down in the rain? Well I can tell you now that it is totally manky. We were soaked through and covered in mud by the time we eventually shoe-horned the bloody thing into the back of Jane's car.

It was time for home.

I surveyed the scene, "I think that went rather well for a first attempt at camping," I said.

Jane nodded, "we are like Bear Grylls."

And so we said our goodbyes and jumped into our cars and headed home.

I reflected on the whole camping thing on the way home and concluded that it is weird. You give up all the comforts of home to forage off the land like a guinea pig. It's the reason that hotels were invented. 

P.S. What do you think of camping dahlink?

Annie (Lady m) x
Tell me what you think by leaving me a comment otherwise your house will turn into a tent

Saturday, 28 May 2011

If you like the Supernatural, you'll like this post about Hell-Fire Caves

Huzzar! I've been granted a reprieve (albeit temporary), from a weekend of living off the land and fighting wild boars, whilst donning a loincloth made from donkey pelt (probably).

'What are you on about you daft bint?' I hear you cry.

Well, it's like this; as you probably know (from yesterday's blog), I was supposed to go camping today. But because the weather was a bit changeable, the camping trip was put off until tomorrow. So I was left with a whole free day to do some 'exploring'. Excrement!

Steve (friend) was also up for exploring, so he, Izzy (daughter) and I hooked up in order to visit some amazing caves that were supposedly located in an ancient village called West Wycombe, about 25 miles from Oxford.

The exciting thing about our expedition, was that the caves were named 'Hell-Fire Caves', which made them seem all sinister and spooky. And indeed, they were all sinister and spooky: Hell-Fire caves were featured on an episode of 'Most Haunted' (you can watch a clip of the programme by clicking on the image below), because they are considered to be one of the most haunted locations in the UK.

 Vid.No.1 A Clip from the 'Most Haunted' programme filmed at Hell-Fire Caves

Apparently, the most commonly spotted ghost at Hell-Fire Caves is that of a chambermaid called Sukie, who was murdered there. As well as that, lights and orbs are seen a lot, particularly behind children. If you want to read a bit more about the ghostly goings-on, click here (opens in a new window).

And because I am kind like Mother Theresa (except I don't have as much of a tan), I have taken loads of photographs of our expedition for you to have a squiz at ......................(including a picture where we captured an orb - Pic.No.15).

Pic.No.1 This is the entrance to Hell-Fire Caves

Pic.No.2 But before entering the caves, we had a spot of lunch at the nearby cafe. This is Izzy quaffing a baby-ccino. It is a cappuccino but without any coffee in it

Pic.No.3 Steve and Izzy in the entrance to Hell-Fire Caves

Pic.No.4 This is a plaque describing the history behind Hell-Fire Caves. The caves were dug by employees of Sir Francis Dashwood during the years 1748 - 1752. And at the time, Sir Francis lived nearby in his stately home, the skiving git. The tunnels extend a quarter of a mile into the rock

Pic.No.5 Sir Francis formed the notorious 'Hell-Fire Club' in 1742 (click on the picture above to enlarge), and once his elaborate underground caves were finished that's where they met. The Hell-Fire club was a group of highly influential people and the club kept all their 'doings' secret from Joe Public. But legend has it that it involved sorcery, satanism and the occult

Pic.No.6 And in case you were wondering what Sir Francis Dashwood looked like - here is a portrait. He's a bit of a minger

Pic.No.7 Shortly after entering the caves, it became apparent that it consisted of a myriad of small passageways

Pic.No.8 Carved tunnel-ways were everywhere, and Izzy got a bit scared. When I asked her what she was scared of, she couldn't put her finger on it, and as such, she became un-scared really quickly in the face of blinding logic

Pic.No.9 We found some manikins in one of the caves. They looked a bit moth-eaten 

Pic.No.10 This is me (left) and Izzy after we found a rather large chamber carved into the rock

Pic.No.11 This is a picture of Izzy and Steve. I deliberately turned the flash on my camera off so that you can get a feel for how dark it was

Pic.No.12 At the lowest point of the caves, there was a river running underneath the tunnels. And there were amazing stalactites and stalagmites which featured a rainbow of colours

Pic.No.13 I turned the flash on to take this picture and it severely detracted from the atmosphere of the underground river

Pic.No.14 This is the Inner Temple where the Hell-Fire Club used to meet. Shame about the manky manikins. Also for some reason, this picture makes them look like they are miniature, but they were really life-sized

Pic.No.15 This is Izzy and me. We were appreciating the excellent-ness of the caves by striking a pose. But look closer - is that an orb on my coat? And are there two shadowy figures right at the back of the tunnel?

Pic.No.16 This picture gives you a feel of how complex all the cave tunnels were

Pic.No.17 Every so often, we would come across macabre faces carved into the stone

Pic.No.18 Isn't it amazing that these caves were all caved by hand? In the 1700's .......

Pic.No.19 Another macabre face cut into the rock that we spotted just before we left the caves

Vid.No.1 Looky here! I took a video inside Hell-Fire Caves to see if I could capture some ghostly goings-on. What is that mysterious blue line at the start of the film? (not the spookiest of paranormal happenings). Have a look and see if you can spot anything (and get a feel for how dark it was)

Pic.No.20 This is a picture of me and Izzy sat in the courtyard outside Hell-Fire Caves

After finishing the tour of the caves, we continued our expedition by heading up a very steep hill behind the village of West Wycombe, because we had heard that there was an excellent church and Mausoleum.

Pic.No.21 There was indeed an excellent church: This is the entrance to the church yard at West Wycombe

Pic.No.22 This is the dead centre of West Wycombe (ha ha!)

Pic.No.23 English church-yards are amazing because they harbour so much ancient history. Take this grave-stone for example ......................

Pic.No.24 It was a memorial for 'Richard Finch' who died in 1769. And it is quite easy to find graves a lot older than that if you have a couple of hours to spare

Pic.No.25 This is St. Lawrence Church in West Wycombe. The architecture is very unusual which makes it difficult to date .................. I need to look into this one a bit more, but I suspect it was probably built in the 1750's. The unusual globe on the top of the tower is said to hold up to 8 people and was formerly used for secret meetings

 Pic.No.26 A close-up of a fallen tree in the grave-yard

 Pic.No.27 West Wycombe church-yard - People are dying to get in here

Pic.No.28 The church sign - St Lawrence Church, West Wycombe

Pic.No.29 The Church entrance

And then just behind the church (which is perched on top of a steep hill) we happened upon a most bizarre Mausoleum (A mausoleum is an external free-standing building constructed as a monument enclosing the interment space or burial chamber of a deceased person or persons - in the case, the ashes of the Dashwood family who lived in nearby West Wycombe Park - a stately home).
Pic.No.30 The mausoleum was a large elaborate stone circle which had been meticulously constructed on the hilltop

Pic.No.31 This is what it looked like from afar

Pic.No.32 There was a strange tomb-like thing in the middle of the mausoleum which I guess held the ashes of the Dashwoods

Pic.No.33 Steve and Izzy enjoying the amazing views from the front of the mausoleum

Pic.No.34 The gated entrance to the mausoleum. Look at the construction - the walls are made from small pebbles all cemented together. Bloody hell, I bet that took ages to make

Pic.No.35 A random, yet elaborate, stone sculpture inside the mausoleum. I would love to know the history behind that

What a marvellous day it was. So what are you up to this bank holiday weekend dahlink?

P.S. Do you believe in ghosts?

Annie (Lady m) x
Tell me what you think by leaving me a comment. But dahlink, don't forget to leave a link to your website otherwise you will be haunted by a old woman dressed in white (that's the most popular type of ghost I believe)

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