The sun beat down on your purple and green rucksack covers as Team Alpha and £45 Jeans, like giant caterpillars, wormed through the dry Lincolnshire countryside. Up hill and down vale you explored villages brought low by the enclosures and plague; you wandered tiny Hamlets that nestled within hidden valleys and as you explored you sang, ‘Sound off! Fall out!…one, two..!’
The temperatures reached 28 degrees and still you hardy adventurers cracked on. Team Alpha spurred on by both the Sun’s and George’s radio-active glares, broached no capitulation, ‘No! We won’t get on the bus! We’re finishing this!’ Then Walsby Hill’s false summits taunted your bleeding feet and the sun torched you remorselessly and yet still you sung, ‘Sound off!’
Mr Lound’s vigilance, humour and poised camera, like a war photographer recording painful rites of passage, captured telling moments on film, visual evidence of hard battles won against tents, mosquitos and unforgiving hills.
Back at camp, stoves are lit and horrible meals, unpalatable anywhere else at any time but there and then it’s a banquet with friends who also know the red burn of shoulders, the abrasive rub of rucksacks on hips (just ask Issie) and the nagging pain of blisters between toes or bone deep on the heel. As stomachs fill, the pain for now subsides and natural humour returns and Ethan could at last find peace playing ball with his doting dog (no, you can’t keep him).
Impromptu a cappella from Lilly, Beth and Ruby, in every genre, made the bus journeys rock and middle-aged ears ring. All played their part and left their mark: Quartermaster Sam allocated kit with military precision; Maya fell over and slept a lot, Sarah, smaller than her rucksack, never stopped, never whinged; John’s navigation was mathematically precise and Laurence’s fencing injuries made us wince – note to self: ‘never straddle an electric fence’. Maisie’s shoulder, rubbed raw by a 16Kg rucksack and 30 miles of hills, – yet still we had to insist to take it off her. All the time the mosquitos chewed everywhere the blisters weren’t and ticks haunted your minds like biting ghouls as you waded through reeds and bracken. And still you sung.
On Sunday night these quiet villages – never recovered from the enclosures 600 years before – were temporarily enriched by the sound of music. Dust was blown from piano keys that chimed into life at Maestro Jones’ touch accompanied by your voices singing show tunes, Queen and Bond Themes. So Ludford awoke, briefly, from its centuries slumber and resonated with youth and joy.
Then your presentations – weirdly on road kill, broken eggs and murder most ‘fowl’. Bemused, assessor Clarkson’s dulcet tones could only extol the virtues of your teamwork, camp craft and gold level navigation – ‘strong passes all’.
Last day and white vans waiting at junction and side road urge you forward and your is water topped up and just as you think you can’t walk another step and you curse yourself for signing up and curse the b****y teachers for being so damned perky. Yet you walk another mile, then another, in fact you sprint the last bit, up hill, because you can. Because you are stronger.
What’s more, you know that life (which can be cruel) can also be great just when it’s hardest and you now know that you can look everything in the eye and sing out, ‘Sound off… – bring it on!’
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