Formula1 – final race

October 30, 2009 2 Comments

Just in case a place is required to predict results of the final F1 race due to site issues.

New Worlds

October 13, 2009 7 Comments

A few years ago I went out for birthday drinks, and I was introduced to a world that I hadn’t known existed up until that time.

The place we went to was a bar at the end of the street I lived on, and somewhere I had been many times before. It was called the Kick Bar and when I had been there all previous times it felt normal for a themed bar – simply a place that sold alcohol, played music and, for the theme, allowed you to play on one of several fußball tables that they had.

Only this celebratory night it happened to coincide with a monthly tournament that the bar held. I’m okay at fußball, not great by any standards but I guess I would class myself as average, so for fun I didn’t mind entering the tournament – which was actually a doubles tournament and it paired you up with a random partner.

I was partnered with a French guy who said he just plays for fun, and was glad that I did also so he did not let me down or take it too seriously.

It seems we had different ideas on what ‘just for fun’ actually means, as this guy was amazing and could kick my ass with one hand. Still, against the other people in the tournament he was nothing but cannon fodder – they killed us in our first game with their abilities.

It turns out the UK #1 was there along with the European #2, and these guys can do things I never thought was possible with a few men on a pole and a plastic ball – it was amazing to watch (when you could actually see the ball other than a blur) and laughable to play against.

I had no idea such an underground world existed, with their European players, oil, spare handles and gloves to aid in control. It really did blow me away and I was easily outclassed by everyone there. “I play a little” was really translated to “I play a little every day, and have done so for the past 12 years”.

I haven’t been back to the Kick Bar since.

I have been introduced to something else that I didn’t know existed recently, due to the introduction to my life of my significant other. She’s gorgeous, understands what I want and need and, unlike those in my past, she’s always there for me when I need her to amuse, entertain, distract, whatever I need at that time really.

She is my lovely iPhone 3Gs, and recently whilst browsing the App Store I stumbled across Geocaching.

I downloaded the free app as it had a couple of good ratings in some sort of category, and played around with it without really knowing what it was.

If you don’t know what Geocaching is then take, firstly, Geohashing – basically looking at two co-ordinates to establish a location on a grid; you’re likely to use it daily in your life using some sort of GPS system.

Geocaching is the treasure hunter’s equivalent. Basically, someone hides a box, they give you the co-ordinates and a clue, and then you use this information to find the box they have hidden.

Unlike a treasure hunt the caches are not filled with gold, but more than often just contain a tatty piece of paper you can sign your name on to show you’ve found it.

I had no idea that people were secretly stuffing things around the planet for others to find.

I had no idea there were thousands of them in the very city I live in.

I had no idea there were several in between my home and my workplace.

Until a few days ago that is, when I stumbled on this app over the weekend and decided to give it a go. Monday lunchtime I scouted an area that was closest to work where they stated a cache was hidden. I used the GPS on my lovely girlfriend iPhone to find the right area (an area I know well and pretty much walk past daily), and used the clue ‘Lion’s lamp’ to notice a set of 6 street lamps I had never paid attention to before, and even more so the lion faces which were carved into each of them. Being a scouting mission I left knowing I would come back prepared later on so I can do some proper looking for it.

Later on that evening I returned, armed with a pen (to sign a log book) and a workmate (so I didn’t feel like such a twat) and started my investigations. The first lamp was the one the GPS was closest to, and where I started my search. I’ve never done this before, all I knew was that I was looking for a hidden object of quite a small size – that was the extent of my knowledge.

The street lamps were on a concrete plinth, and quite tall, and so I scaled the plinth where possible, cast my hand in amongst the iron into as many crevices as possible and came out empty handed – unless you count the thick layer of black dirt from touching central London scenery that hasn’t been washed – ever.

A little disheartened I moved onto the second lamp, closer to the main road and viewable by more people. Again I climbed the stone plinth and cast my hand in amongst the iron – again I came out empty handed. I didn’t want to repeat this for the rest of the street lamps which were in more awkward places, and so I was going to give up. Then, as I was stepping down from the plinth and giving the iron lamp one last cursive stare I noticed a strange shape silhouetted against the night sky – I knew straight away this was the item I was looking for.

It was by chance I saw it, but by delight that I reached in with my hand for the object and grabbed it. It was a 35mm film case, covered in black tape with a bump on the outside where a magnet was taped, ideal for keeping it held in place against the metal. I opened it imagining the wonderful secrets it held, the trinkets I had read about on the geocaching website, and the stories it might tell of who had been there before.

Out fell 5 strips of worn paper, signed by many people over the last 10 months stating they had been there already; they had found it before me; that there was nothing here left to find.

I didn’t care. I was in a tailspin of delight at finding a treasure I had not know was there. I happily found the last entry in the ‘log book’ that was no more, replaced by a few strips of paper, and put my stamp on finding it.

murphyz 12/10/2009

That’s the date of my first geocache. That’s the date I found the ‘treasure’ hidden near my work, and where I will give a knowing glance everytime I walk past it from here on in.

That’s also the date of my last cache, as I didn’t do any today…but my story doesn’t end there.

I clicked on the ‘Found It!’ link beaming at me from my iPhone, expecting a congratulatory tune and perhaps a message stating I must be the last in a long line of pirates or explorers and have finally found my calling.

Instead I was left with the initial search page I had been on, with a nice tick against the cache I had found, and two non-ticks – let’s call them ‘challenges’ – on the ones that remained hidden from me.

One of them, I saw, was 0.1 miles away.

Well…that’s just around the corner!

And so off I went, following the GPS to the new location around the corner in search of my next treasure.

Now, the next one wasn’t as obvious as the first. The clue was a cryptic one – something about ‘In between black and blue Rain, eye level’. I found that I stood in front of a couple of buildings – one with a black door, one with a blue door – bingo! Rain I didn’t understand, though eye level was obvious. The only things at eye level were a few bushes, and a good dig around those resulted in nothing. I looked back at my iPhone to find that the GPS hadn’t really triangulated properly – if that’s what they do – and I had overshot the mark, so I retreated back down the street and found a couple of buildings, one black, one blue – not the doors this time, the whole building was this colour. In between them was a drainpipe. Of course! Rain = drainpipe. I thrust my hand behind it at eye level and immediately touched the concealed 35mm film case which was hidden there – again this one was full of the worn paper of people who had already found it before me.

Searching around these places gave me a guilty pleasure (also a feeling of acting suspiciously as if I were hiding drugs) – but I was hooked.

Since finding these I’ve had a look on the website today and it seems there are over 800,000 of these hidden worldwide. I don’t expect to get them all, of course, not even a tenth of them; but I only have 2 so far so can happily get more.

It does make me imagine back to last month though, when I was forced to go to Copenhagen and spent a few hours wandering aimlessly around; or a couple of years ago when I was forced to go to Prague and had a weekend to do nothing. I dislike travelling, even more so when travelling alone, but with a treasure hunt in store no matter where I go surely this gives it some purpose in the future. No matter where I am, what language is spoken, I can look at a map and a clue and find things that have been hidden away just for a few people to find.

As with the fußball, some people seem to take it too seriously for my liking. They have their own stickers, or ink stamps, to place on a cache showing they have been there. For those placing these caches in secret locations you can buy rocks, which aren’t really rocks but fake ones with a space to hide the log book and a little trinket.

It’s fun though.

When mentioning it to people over the past few days I get the same response as when I mention a love of riddling. The vacant look, the not understanding, the ‘what’s the point?’ attitude.

I enjoy these things. There is something extremely satisfactory in solving a riddle that someone else has created. There is a sense of deep joy in figuring out how someone elses mind works when they think of something that is meant to challenge you, not in a life changing or meaningful way, but in a way that makes you think differently to how you normally would, to come at things from a different angle, and to look at a lamp or a drainpipe as you walk past it and smile a little inside as you know that it is hiding something.

Something of no great significance to anyone, I agree, but something secret all the same.