Your Mission…

Or, a brief story in which I saved the world.

Well, I finally completed what is IMHO the best geocache ever: “Your Mission…” I started it back in September ’17 and finished it just over a year later on the 10th of November. I didn’t want to give anything away before but the owner has now archived it so I felt a celebratory post was in order.

In case you don’t know, the premise of “Your Mission…” is that Wolverine, a SIS agent, has managed to rescue and hide an “Anti-Matter” bomb and your mission (should you choose to accept it) is to locate and defuse the bomb, thus saving the planet. So, it’s a cache with many stages, with episodes of Wolverine’s escape from the enemy “Muggelovians” hidden in various places. Most cachers have chosen to write their “find” logs in the spirit of the cache narrative, taking on the persona of a secret agent. I was no exception.

Rather than rewrite my experiences for this blog, I’ve chosen to reproduce my logs pretty much as originally written (maybe with the addition of a picture or several). 

Assuming you’re still reading this, here goes!

Oh and by the way, my choice of callsign: Bluebottle = blue arsed fly. 😉

Day 1

Wednesday: I’m driving at full pelt across Hertfordshire with the words of my boss, Harry Pearce, running on an infinite loop in my head. “Adam is dead, Danny is dead. Tom went mad, Jo got shot and Zoe is on the run. Believe it or not, you are our last hope. Don’t screw it up. I’m sending Bob with you as he is the one with the brains. Your callsign is “Bluebottle”, although if you are caught you are totally deniable. Oh, one more thing: leave your gun in the armoury. If it comes to a shoot out you will already be beyond help.”

So, here we are – Callsign Bluebottle – arriving at the coords we gleaned from Wolverine’s last transmission. We set off in what we hope is the correct direction. Following the minimal clues, we press on, through the ruins of an old military installation, deeper into the unknown. After some time we unearth a dead drop left by Wolverine which sends us off to a second location. At least we don’t seem to be pursued by Muggelovian agents at this stage, although how long our luck will hold up is anyone’s guess. Now we have the next piece of info, it’s back to the car and a dash across country to the next location.

Remains of WW2 military camp

Later: We find ourselves creeping through a dank, dark structure. A flashlight would be useful. (Note to self: don’t leave flashlight in car). Suddenly something snags my foot, I try to shake it free to no avail. Have the Muggelovians set booby traps? Nope, turns out to be a tangle of thin wire. Disentangling myself, we carry on, emerging into a wooded area where we find ourselves skirting around a small group of tents, partially hidden in a clearing. This looks worrying, could this be a Muggelovian base camp? Luckily there are no sign of life, so we press on, following the information which Wolverine had managed to leave behind. After a considerable hike, we at last find the next dead drop and acquire the intelligence needed for the next location. We retrace our route back to the car, sneaking past the Muggelovian camp once more. It’s at this point I’m beginning to wish I’d brought Mr. Nine Millimetre. (Note to self: don’t listen to Harry Pearce).

hill with sheep

Later still: Trekking across a broad expanse of land dotted with sheep. I hope they are all actually sheep. I don’t know what the average size and build of a Muggelovian agent is but I’m hoping that they aren’t able to disguise themselves as sheep. That would be unfortunate. And a bit weird. This is turning out to be quite a trek. We take a wrong turning. Consult the OS Map. (Doh!). Take the correct path. Gather some more information. Now we need to use our brains. Getting to the location entails some off-piste action. And a barbed wire fence. Make that 2 barbed wire fences. If only I hadn’t skipped the barbed-wire-fence-climbing lesson on that Special Forces training course. Finally, we have got our hands on the next piece of intel. Darn! Wolverine must have been worried about interception – this one is in code! A bit of a hike now as we head back to the car and a pause while we decode that latest message.

geocache container

One of Wolverine’s dead drops

 

Day 2

The last message I received from Wolverine was encoded and not something I could decipher in the field. Plus it was tea time. Later on, back at base and fuelled by a nice mug of English tea and some Hobnobs, I successfully decoded the message. Today, armed with a transcript of the message, we’ve arrived at the edge of a wooded area. Securing our transport and camouflaging it against possible detection by Muggelovian agents, Agent Bob and I set off for the latest coordinates. After a while we emerge into a large clearing where several Muggelovian agents are stood in a group, chatting. What worries me the most is that they have several attack dogs and I know we will be in severe trouble if they set them on us. We decide to brazen it out and, disguising ourselves as harmless geocachers, we continue nonchalantly on our way. Once back in the safety of the woods, we listen for sounds of pursuit but as the silence surrounds us once more we know we’ve got away with it. After a while, we find the area mentioned in Wolverine’s message and obtain the next piece of intel. After that, we press on back to our transport where we pause for iron rations before heading off to the next location. Was that hill really steep or am I just out of condition? Hrm, moving on…

It seems that Wolverine has been getting ever more careful, he must have been concerned that his messages might be intercepted by the opposition, and the intel he left contained several layers of obfuscation to confound them. Confounds me too at times. Having gathered some more info, we are off again, finally arriving at a promising location. Fortunately we have the place to ourselves as retrieving the next piece of intel is not easy and it’s a good thing that we remain unobserved. I’m getting too old for this secret agent lark. Let’s have a look… What the what? Now I need all my secret agent training to figure this one out!

military pill box in the woods

Back to the transport once more and another change of location. Out in the open now and we feel very exposed, visible to any Muggelovians who have managed to follow us. We seem to be without a tail so we continue to the next point of interest to which Wolverine has led us. From this we figure out where we need to be, so we carry on, dodging a couple of friendly muggles (phew) before homing in on the coords we’ve calculated. Finding Wolverine’s dead drop (and getting to it) requires some special secret agent agility by Agent Bob but in due course we have it.

One of Wolverine's hidden notes

One of Wolverine’s hidden notes

Armed with this latest info we take stock of our situation. The transport is at bingo fuel so we reluctantly make the decision to return to base. Saving the world will have to wait for a bit longer. Oh, and it’s nearly tea time. 

Odometer reading for the day 112.5 miles

This is typical of the mileage on each day!

 

Day 3

Callsign Bluebottle reporting. Back in the summer I thought there would be plenty of time to complete this operation. Just recently I discovered that there really is not much time left in which to save the planet. Things have just got serious. No time to lose, then!

<Slurps tea, stuffs emergency Hobnobs into pocket, grabs car keys. Exit stage left>

I collect Agent Bob and floor it up the Mike One. I’ve worked out where we need to be from the info we picked up at the end of Day 2 and we make good time from one county to the next. Plus the sun is shining. For now.

Later: There are a couple of vehicles at our chosen parking spot: fellow agents or Muggelovians? Remaining vigilant, we approach the area in question. There is a solitary gent some 50 metres away, could be a Muggelovian but maybe not. Seems harmless and anyway isn’t looking in our direction. Picking our way cautiously to the prospective hiding place, we find the next of Wolverine’s hidden containers and retrieve the information he has left. As we head back to the track, we encounter the suspicious gent directly in our path. He has a mobile phone in his hand – have we been compromised? We pass him on the path with a nonchalant exchange of pleasantries. I’m sure he’s an innocent civilian and we press on. Just as we get back to the car, a tractor towing a large covered trailer pulls up and lots of people brandishing sticks jump out of the back. Muggelovians!

We’re about to make a dash for it when we realise it’s nothing more than a beating party, heading off into an adjacent field to frighten some pheasants. Phew! 

Back in the car we examine Wolverine’s latest and calculate the next location. He’s had to be very devious in an effort to put off the Muggelovians (always assuming they’ve managed to do as well as us…) Better punch those coords into the Satnav and get moving. 

A bit later: Belting along, I nearly overshoot the spot.  Что за черт? Can’t park here. Back the way we came and slip into a convenient lay-by. A bit of a walk, looks like. Set off. Realise I’ve forgotten my secret agent reading glasses. Go back for them. OK, off we go again. Bet James Bond never has these problems.

A bit later still: More information acquired. Do you know, I think this is it. We have the coords for the Anti Matter device! We set off on a fairly long hike. Not another soul around, we seem to have the place to ourselves. I’m pretty certain we’ve lost any possible Muggelovian tail so we can head to the device “clean”. Hopefully we’re not too late. If we are, being this close we won’t know anything about it.

Ammo box cache

Even later still: The GPS says we are here. We search a couple of likely spots. There it is! It’s up to me to save the planet! I open the device. Heart in mouth stuff, this! Secret agents should be calm in situations like this. Darn! With trembling fingers I enter the deactivation code and…

BEEP ! BEEP ! BEEP ! …

Silence. Distant birdsong.

I’ve save the world! Well, me and Agent Bob. Also thanks to Wolverine, I couldn’t have done it without him, the fortunately devious Ублюдок! 

The Anti-matter bomb

The device de-activated!

There is still one more task to complete for mission end. Ecstatic from my achievement, we relocate to the place where we complete the paperwork. Typical Civil Service, there’s always paperwork!

Callsign Bluebottle to base: Mission complete. Returning to base, put the kettle on.

And Finally:

A note to the cache owner:

Pharisee, what can I say? This has been the most fun I’ve had geocaching, bar none. An amazing cache: the amount of work that has gone into creating, setting and maintaining this cache is incredible. I’m so pleased that you’ve held off archiving it. Like many others I just wish I could award more than one favourite point. 

Thank you ! 

So, that was it. My version of “Your Mission…”. If you’ve read all the way to the end, I hope you enjoyed my story. 

 

Postscript

The cache owner archived “Your Mission…” because he is relocating. As he said in his final log, maybe Wolverine isn’t dead. Maybe he will resurface with another mission. I hope so!

 

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Friendface

Or, the day I deactivated Facebook.

The IT Crowd using Friendface

The IT Crowd – obsessed by Friendface.

I’ve not used Facebook for months so I was already wondering whether I could live without it. (Spoiler Alert: I can).

So with the latest furore around Cambridge Analytica and Mr. Zuckerberg declining requests to reduce the amount of our personal data Facebook hoovers up, I thought it would be interesting to see what data Facebook holds on me.

Facebook can also tell you whether your data was harvested by Cambridge Analytica. In my case apparently not. I guess it would be unlikely as I’m not a US citizen but well, you never know for sure, do you? Have a look for yourself.

Facebook tells me Facebook didn't share my data

Anyhoo, I downloaded my Facebook data. Turned out not to be too bad, which was good news considering I’d always taken steps to nail down my privacy settings. You can download your FB data too, here’s how.

So, goodbye Facebook. I’m not deleting it completely just yet, I’m taking the soft option of deactivating it. Here’s how to do that.

If you know me, you’ll know that I’m on Instagram – which isn’t linked to my Facebook account – and I still emit the occasional Tweet. People who like Westies, Land Rovers and Geocaching will no doubt be pleased to learn that I’m not going off the grid. 😉

Now, where did I put my Flickr logon credentials…

 

 

 

So I’m not the master of timing…

In our local geocaching circles, the Geolympix 2016 has been a long time coming and has been something I have been looking forward to. As it turned out, something better has taken priority in the form of the NHS. They gave me a date of Thursday 28th July for my second cataract operation which, for me, was fantastic and not something I would postpone for anything. It’s so good to get my “proper” sight back but it’s a pity that I can’t sensibly attend the Geolympix. The hospital’s do’s & don’ts mean it’s unadvisable to risk damage or infection by going geocaching, plus there’s the issue of regular application of eye drops, etc…

So I’m reluctantly going to be missing out on this Mega Event. Once I’m “allowed out” again I fully intend to mop up all the new geocaches the Geolympix team have placed specifically for the Mega. It will be fantastic to be able to search for caches using the unbeatable “Human Eyeball Mk I” once again!

By the way, there was another special moment this evening:  an excellent overhead pass by the International Space Station which I was able to see with my newly restored vision. Haven’t seen one of those for a long while. Fan-bloody-tastic!

Anyway, in case this is the first you’ve heard, here’s a last minute plug for my dear friends’ Mega Event:

Geolympix banner

If you haven’t heard and fancy going, see these links:

The GC5XXYY cache page and the official GEOLYMPIX 2016 web site

And if you know nothing about the Geolympix or Geocaching, there’s this on the BBC.

Oh, and if you are interested in reading more about the saga of my retinal surgery, etc., you are welcome to visit my eye surgery blog, see the link towards the bottom of the sidebar under “Quite Interesting”.

 

 

The 4th Element

So this evening the oven element went U/S. Luckily we had just turned it on and hadn’t put any food in. I’ve ordered one for next day delivery so at least we will be able to cook stuff but what about the long term future of this piece of kitchen crap?

I’m not happy, TBH. The original element failed and was replaced under warranty, then that one blew last December.Now its replacement has gone. So this latest replacement will be the 4th element. Time to junk the oven for something more reliable? Or just wait for the 5th element?

5th element

I F*ing love Hogwarts!

Flourish & Blotts - Diagon Alley

Just under 2 weeks ago we went back to the Harry Potter Studios. This was our 3rd visit. It’s worth doing a return trip every once in a while because Warner Bros. add things and change sets around every so often. This time we got to go on The Hogwarts Express!

inside Hogwarts Express

In Olivander’s, every wand box bears the name of a cast or crew member. This visit was especially poignant.

alan

My Lego goes geocaching!

Just before Christmas, my slightly Lego-obsessed friend David (see his blog here) sent me some brilliant customised Lego on a geocaching theme. I promised him I’d set up a Mini-figure geocaching adventure.  I’m sorry it’s taken so long but here it is!

comic strip 1comic strip 2comic strip 3comic strip 4

Thank you once again David for the mini geocaching supplies – I think these may feature in my online logs for some future (full sized) geocaches! 🙂

 

Oh, Bugger. Another geocaching slump.

Back in September we had a late family holiday after the school holidays ended. By now I would have posted something about my geocaching activities (especially as I managed to drag Mrs. WP and both my daughters along on a caching trip). So, where is that very interesting post? I hear you ask. (Ok so you might not actually have vocalised that particular question but it’s a convenient link).

Soon after we got back from Devon I had another retinal detachment, this time in my left eye.

My eye post surgery

While I could see perfectly well before the surgery, afterwards I couldn’t see a thing for a couple of weeks and it is only recently that my eye has recovered sufficiently to return me to something approaching normal allowing me to break radio silence.

Last time, my enforced sabbatical from geocaching resulted in a slump (no finds) of 49 days. As of today, I’ve equalled my existing record and if I don’t find a cache tomorrow I will have set a new one. While I’ve been tempted to take a leaf out of the book of the only blind geocacher I know, the intrepid Washknight, my eye has not yet fully recovered from its surgery so I’m not ready to risk getting it poked with a branch or some such while I rummage under the hedgerow for a small item of tupperware. I am, however suffering from the geocaching equivalent of cabin fever.

Maybe I’ll get around to writing that Devon geocaching post to stop myself looking at all those new caches on the map…

 

Un-Common Caching

Last week I finally managed to solve a puzzle cache that had been bugging me, Hope2pigs’ Conjuring Card Cache (GC5CDAZ). Not a subject I was at all familiar with (I’m still not!) but once more I’ve learned about something hitherto unknown thanks to Geocaching. Actually, it turned out I’d been on the right track with my solving method and it was a simple error with my maths that had prevented geochecker from giving me the green light. Hope2pigs had set a small series around Bricket Wood Common and I had visited there once on a FTF attempt (we got STF) but I had held off going back for the others, until now.

Having done a spot of research, I decided to go for the Multi of the series first for reasons which will become clear. Bricket Wood Common has SSSI classification, so is an interesting location. You can find more information about the Common here.

So Skye and I parked the Freelander in one of the designated parking spots and headed off towards the first cache, Hear or There (GC570QC). I had decided to do this one first as I suspected it might take some time and I wanted to make sure I bagged the “important” ones first in case I ran out of time. The cache page describes quite well what is required without giving the game away completely, so I’m not going to spoil it for you (should you wish to attempt it for yourself). The task is first to locate the first stage (at the published coords) which I did without difficulty. Once I had retrieved the container and opened it, I was then in possession of a “tool” (as the CO describes it). I’m not giving anything way by saying that I had to operate the “tool” and listen for a response. As the CO states, this cache is not suitable for the hard of hearing. Not knowing what to expect, I stood motionless and waited for what passed for silence before operating the tool. Nothing. I moved a few paces away and tried again. At which point the birds started singing. Then a truck trundled along the nearby road. Silence descended once more. I operated the tool. Just as I did so the birds started tweeting again. Damn! I waited for the next quiet period and tried again. As I strained my ears to listen (not actually knowing what I was listening for) Skye decided she was a bit bored of standing around and she started scuffling about in the leaves. “BE QUIET, SKYE!”. Hmm, that didn’t help. Once more I moved my position, thinking, correctly as it turned out, that my range to the “thing” might be critical. Then, faintly, I heard it! For a minute or two I moved around, homing in on the source…

After a bit more to-ing and fro-ing, I identified the location of the final but, before I could move in for the “kill”, a chap appeared along the nearby path with his German Shepherd. What now! Trying to be nonchalant, Skye and I engaged him and his canine companion in a friendly conversation until he decided to move on. Once he was a safe distance away I homed in on where I thought the final cache would be, at which point it was easily spotted behind some camouflage. Result! Once I had signed the log etc. we retraced out steps and replaced the “tool” in its hiding place. That is one novel, well thought out and prepared cache.

Next, it was on to the Conjuring Card Cache, by way of a small detour to pick up First Class?, a more traditional cache. Even this “Trad” was cleverly constructed, so much so that it was really hidden in plain sight. I love those!

Anyway, on to the puzzle cache. The coords were spot on, I think this may have been helped by us attempting these before the trees develop their full foliage and bugger up the GPS signal. As it was, it seemed a short search indeed before I spotted the very well constructed natural camouflaged container.

Once we’d put everything back, it was time to cross the railway line (via a footbridge) for a longer, circular, walk around another part of the common where we picked up three more caches (Will you take offence?, nano sect and Uncommon in the common), all of which had ingenious containers. Then it was back to the car – which we found without drama – a relief as I had failed to waypoint it before we left it.

The Common is a lovely location only minutes from main roads and houses, yet it seems a world away. The woodland, soon to be carpeted in bluebells (I hope) and the birdsong soundtrack make this a great place to find a few caches. The containers and their camouflage are brilliantly designed and constructed and a joy to find. I recommend a visit, just as soon as you’ve solved that Card puzzle!

Geocaching once more

In which I get my geocaching mojo back.

Two months after my retina detached itself, curtailing my geocaching activities, I finally made it out onto the footpaths of Bucks.

Obviously I can see where I’m going but I was sceptical about my ability to spot a nano in an ICT, so I decided that I’d go for slightly larger containers on my first outing. I’d been following with interest the fate of some Chiltern Hundred caches which I had previously DNFd. Fortunately, my fellow cacher (and geo-blogger), Washknight, had started to work his way round the series and was actively undertaking maintenance when necessary. So I figured if a blind man could manage it, a one-and-three-quarter-sighted bloke like myself should have no problems. Actually (and of course you’ll know this if you read his blog) Washknight is actually Paul, his wife/partner-in-crime and his son, but you get my drift. 🙂

So, having parked up somewhere familiar once more, Skye and I set off along a footpath towards CH002 – Chiltern Hundred, bridge. This one was a bit out on its own for us but a necessary find for completeness. This turned out to be the smallest cache of the trip and it did involve Ivy! After that we retraced our route towards the car, picking up CH005 – Chiltern Hundred, Chesham back and CH003 – Chiltern Hundred, Chesham heights. Stopping for coffee and a biscuit by the car, we then set off to find CH008 – Chiltern Hundred, bridleway. Last time we were here, the bridleway was a quagmire of gloopy mud and Skye got completely covered in mud. It was such heavy going that I ended up carrying her. And of course we couldn’t find the cache.  Since then the path has been resurfaced and we found it to be mud free. Until we got to within 50 yards of GZ. There must be something strange going on from a geological point of view because that section of path was very muddy. Significant churning up by passing horses didn’t help the situation. This time I decided to pick Skye up before she got muddy and I’m sure she appreciated the lift. When we got to GZ I could see that there was only one place that the cache could be and it was. Very pleased to get a quick find. As we returned back the way we came, we made a detour into a small wood (owned and looked after by The Woodland Trust) which bypassed the muddy section of path. Result!

The next two caches I wanted to find were up near the village of Botley, so we went back to the car and drove there, parking in the carpark of the Hen & Chicken pub. From there it was a short walk to CH012 – Chiltern Hundred, Lee farm although spotting the footpath sign pointing into what looked like a private farm yard took me a few minutes. Finding the cache took a further few minutes but having the knowledge that Washknight had been there and maintained the cache just a couple of days before gave me the confidence to a) search in an exposed area and b) ignore the many muggle vehicles which drove past me. Of course nobody paid me the slightest attention! After that it was on to the last one of the day, CH013 – Chiltern Hundred, Codmore view. The funny thing about this one was that Washknight had found 2 containers on his visit. He performed maintenance on the original container and removed the other, temporary, one. I was therefore surprised to spot the container in a place which didn’t fit the hint and was a few metres off. A look at the log showed me that this was yet another “throw-down”, albeit a nice container and not just a film pot. Shortly afterwards I located the correct, original, container with Washknight’s new log and laminated card with the bonus code! So I signed that log and removed the other container. I wonder if there are any more?

I was pleased with the day. Skye had a really nice long walk and I got my caching eye back in. I filled in a matrix day and my six finds brought my total Chiltern Hundred finds up to 99, excluding the bonus. I really just need to find one more of my DNFs and that will be sufficient, I think.

Lastly, a big thank you to team Washknight for their cache maintenance which certainly helped to make those DNFs more “findable”.