110305 & 6

The weekend of my brother Martin’s stag do. I drove down to Southsea early on Saturday morning, dressed in the manner of a country gent. Sort of. Arriving at Tristan’s at 0650, everyone ready, Martin in his military fancy dress, chosen by the best men. We left for the new forest, all in cords, tweeds, wax, arriving early at the New Forest Outdoor Centre for the weekend’s activities. While the staff got ready, we hung out in the centre’s main building, trying to warm up as the log stove got going.

The first activity was archery. Probably my favourite of the day. We learnt the basic techniques and took it in turns in rounds of five arrows. While waiting we could try out the crossbow. Very powerful. I feel I could happily take up archery, with something about the precision, the steadyness of aim really appealing to me. We had a competition, with Martin and I both getting exactly 100. Out of – what? – 150 disregarding the tin can bonuses. After a tea break, shooting guns – first pistols and then air rifles. It was like being in the Bailey’s back garden, shooting down the cans. Quite weedy power but again great fun. Then came the axe throwing and ninja stars. This was harder but very satisfying as the axes or stars thunked into the tree stumps. We had to wear flack jackets and metal helmets for this so we couldn’t thunk the axes into our heads instead.

After a break for lunch, time for the climbing. First a climbing wall wrapped round a tower, then a high and fast zip wire. The assistant seemed to take some time to learn to stop us correctly, with Martin reaching the end at high speed and his hemetted head hitting the wire, then Tristan and Gavin being stopped suddenly by their harnesses. I was glad he had sussed it by my turn. Then the high ropes section, the highest we climbed, balancing across beams and wires way way up.

Martin on the zip wire:

Me on the high ropes course:

I really enjoyed doing all these activities, all things I wouldn’t normally do and haven’t tried for years. The high ropes were comparable to Go Ape, but the sense of trying all these things together was much stronger here. It was a great choice for a stag weekend.

Things got more traditionally staggy by evening; with the sun going down and the fire lit, the drinking started. And continued 12 hours until 5am, for some. We got the heat of the fire well up with an ample supply of logs. I was meeting Martin’s old friends for the first time in over twenty years, as well as meeting newer friends for the first or second time. I went to bed at around midnight, after such an enjoyable, varied day and an evening around the camp fire. There were no pranks on the groom; why do that?

Today, Sunday, of course everyone hung over, or me just tired from the intense day before, and the odd night in a shepherd’s hut, we walked to Emery Down for lunch and sunshine in the pub garden, before the minbus took us back to Southsea for late afternoon, all of us, I think feeling it was a good weekend, and a great send-off for Martin.

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