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!

 

Advertisements

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…

 

 

 

Puzzles

Recently, I have been mainly solving puzzles. And finding some of them.

I first looked at 1321 many moons ago but didn’t get anywhere with the puzzle. However, a recent conversation with the Cache Owner gave me a hint as to how it might be solved. So, here’s a hint from me, gratis. Try googling RFC1321. There you go. 😉

As is often the case with me and puzzles, all did not go smoothly to begin with, as I spent a long time trying to do the wrong thing. Eventually (with more hints from the CO and a lot of perseverance) I was rewarded with a ‘Yes’ from geochecker.

Having offered my daughters a lift to their equine activities I was ideally placed to visit this cache. No coincidence.  Skye and I were soon enjoying a longish walk through parkland to the cache location. At GZ I had a good GPS signal and soon narrowed the search area down, and I was working my way through the likely places when, unexpectedly, I got a phone call from Daughter.2 requesting a pickup. “Darn”, I thought, “I haven’t found the cache yet”. Just then I looked down and spotted the cache peeking out from its hiding place! Result!

Then, this Wednesday, I decided to collect a puzzle cache I’d solved the coords for in 2014. I really enjoyed solving 6 Degrees, this was a film-based puzzle featuring the  well known premise that every Hollywood actor can be linked to Kevin Bacon within 6 steps. Once again I learnt some (probably useless) information as a direct result of geocaching.

The reason I’d not gone for the find after solving the puzzle was due to the long running saga of my eye problems (documented elsewhere) but, with my eyesight now back to normal, I’d started to work through my list of solved but unfound puzzles, so here we are.

I’m not going to give the game away re. location, etc., but I took the precaution of running  my coords through geochecker once again just in case the cache had been relocated in the intervening years. Thus reassured,  I found a good parking spot for me and Skye to head off for an enjoyable walk in the autumn sunshine. No spoilers, but this was an ingeniously created hiding place and well worth the trip.

Then, later on the same Wednesday (2nd Nov) the estimable Dr. Solly published a new cache. Now, his puzzle caches are always worth a look and I find them especially interesting as the puzzles are often technology-based. This was no exception. If you look at the cache page for GC6WBNZ you’ll see he hasn’t given you a lot to go on. As I said, it’s a “techie” cache and, while I had an idea, I did do a bit of research to check I was on the right track. So, I knew what I had to do, so I employed that method and…

Nothing!

This was not what I expected. I checked with my mate Bob, who also being very techie, had arrived at the same method as me.He couldn’t get it to work either. The same day, another cacher FTF’d it. Hmm. By now I was somewhat puzzled. Maybe I had got it wrong. I decided to leave it for a while and yesterday evening, in a random moment, I gave it another go. Imagine my surprise when the coords appeared on my screen. The very thing which didn’t work before, worked this time, and I had the coords! The only explanation I’ve got for this anomaly is that either some sort of technical issue befell Dr. Solly’s servers, or The Elders of the Internet were having an extended tea break.

I contacted Bob who confirmed that he too had obtained the coords. Itchy geocaching feet or not, we weren’t able to go for it that same evening. This afternoon we both had a free slot in our diaries so we made the trip over to GZ, where we were rewarded with a typically enormous container crammed with loads of Dr Solly loot. Second to Find. Happy with that! 🙂

 

 

Valley of Gold

View - The Golden Valley panorama

As part of this summer’s Geolympix event, the team set some caches in the gorgeous ‘Golden Valley’ on the Ashridge Estate. Landscaped by ‘Capability’ Brown, the Golden Valley is a lovely place to walk with magnificent views of Ashridge House.

Well, I missed the Geolympix due to eye ops, and today was the first chance I’ve had to start the huge, hopefully enjoyable, task of seeking out all the geocaches set for the Geolympix. I thought I’d start small with this mini series of 5 caches. Having said that, I started with a cache which had nothing to do with the Geolympix, a cache placed recently by my mate Bob – GC6P5ZD A Fine Pair #652 – Little Gaddesden. The national ‘Fine Pair’ series is all about combining a red telephone box with a red post box (more info on the cache page). That was an easy find so then Skye and I set off the the Golden Valley.

View - back along the valley

Aiming for the first cache, GC6K9ZE – VoG1: The Valley of Green, I arrived at the waypoint to find I hadn’t. What I was expecting wasn’t there, which was a bit puzzling until I realised I was at the second stage of a different cache. I must have selected the wrong WP! Knowing I would eventually need it later, I made a note of the information before plugging the correct WP for VoG1 into my GPSR and off we went again! VoG1 was itself a multi-stage and so first we had to get to its first stage. Once there I spotted an AAND which to be honest, based on the hint, was not what I was expecting. So I duly worked out the coords for the final and off we went again!

Finding the final was easy enough and I then thought, well I have part of the info I need for  VoG5 so I may as well pick up the rest. I had planned to do the caches in numerical order but what the heck! The second stage of VoG5 required me to find a plaque but arriving at the general location, a substantial brick-built bridge, there wasn’t anything which ‘leapt out’ at me. Skye and I spent a while scouting all around the bridge before I finally spotted the plaque. That gave me the info I needed so it was then time to ‘do the arithmetic’ and obtain the final coords.

view of the valley from an old bridge

Off we go again! From the map it was clear that this cache was not in the general direction of the remaining caches. I didn’t have time to do all of them on this trip so I decided to complete VoG5 and return for the others another day. And so it was that I arrived at GZ for GC6KA4R – The Hill of Pain. I have to say that yes, it was a steep hill but no, it wasn’t painful to climb. Maybe because I hadn’t walked the entire route. Whatever, the wet grass did make for a sometimes interesting ascent but, once we were on the flat once more, it was an easy walk to GZ. Now you know that I don’t include spoilers in my caching tales. Following the hint I homed in on the location. Low down in what I can only describe as a very bushy tree, there was the hint item and a convenient dark hollow. Which was empty! Casting my eyes around and about I spotted another likely hiding place and was rewarded with a tupperware box. Yay!

So that was it for today. It’s a great location and I now have to come back to get the other three caches.

 

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

Too busy to cache

Well I haven’t done any caching since the middle of May. Many other things occupying my time, even including doing some interior decorating (still not completed!) which I was determined to get underway before my latest trip to the eye surgeon.

Then there has been my recent procedure to remove the cataract from my right eye, which now means I have to be careful (no poking my face into bushes in search of tupperware) and I can’t drive for a week, either. Hopefully once all this eye stuff is out of the way I can get on with some serious geocaching. Once I’ve finished the decorating…

 

Geolympix 2016

Geolympix banner

This is a plug for ‘our’ very own local MEGA Event. Created by a dedicated team of super Beds, Bucks and Herts geocachers, this year’s Geolympix will carry on where the first Geolympix (Oxford 2012) left off.

With more than 300 ‘Will Attend’ logs, the event has already been awarded ‘MEGA’ status. It promises to be an awesome day so if you can make it I hope to see you there!

Here are a couple of very useful links:

The GC5XXYY cache page to log your ‘Will Attend’.

The official GEOLYMPIX 2016 web site – with more information, how to get involved and more.