Saturday, 13 April 2013

Treasure Hunt Review: Us versus professionals

A couple of weeks ago myself and a friend participated in a treasure hunt that was specifically designed for adults, as part of the Glasgow Film Festival.

The advert stated: "Cinema City Treasure Hunt lasts about an hour and asks you to perform tasks and answer questions as you explore 100 years of cinema history in the city centre." Just about enough incentive for me to drag myself onto the train across to Scotland's other city.

Readers of this blog, and Edinburgh based acquaintances of ours will know that last year we went on a couple of treasure hunts we organised ourselves. One organised by Lilliputian (read about it here) and another excellent one by our friend G (which has unfortunately still not got its deserved blogpost). G's treasure hunt was genius in design involving clever drawings of landmarks, a specially positioned postcard, locating specific books in bookshops and a trail of cutouts of a famous figure whose identity I have forgotten.

How then did this more professional treasure hunt rate against our own treasure hunts? Well I would argue that ours were better.

The problems with the Cinema City Treasure Hunt were as follows:

Reliance on technology

To participate in the treasure hunt you needed to download an audiotape onto a smartphone to listen to it. This was our first stumbling block as for some reason it wouldn't work for ages when we tried, although the staff did their best to help.

Having to listen to an audiotape the whole way through

The treasure hunt was a combined with a walking tour giving the details of Glasgow's cinema history, which you occasionally needed to pause to complete tasks. Glasgow's cinema history is very interesting but this was problematic in that:

  1. We only had one smart phone which meant that only one of us could listen to the tape. This means I learnt very little about Glasgow's cinema history.
  2. The tape was over an hour long. To do the treasure hunt we had to listen to every single bit of it. The organisers also appeared to think that because the tape lasted an hour most people would only take an hour to complete the hunt. Apparently it did not occur to them that trying to carry out the required tasks also takes time... especially for the tricky ones and bits where we got confused.
Unfair scoring system

At the start of the quiz we were given a quiz sheet. This contained a combination of questions we had to answer and also some tasks which involved taking photos of specific items. The sheet specified that different parts were worth different points, for example some of the photos were worth 5 points.

My team were somewhat miffed that (outrage of outrage) the scoring system we were given was not followed. Only the questions with written down answers were counted in the scores, the photographs were ignored, apart from to identify one as the winner in the "best photograph" category.

I imagine this was a decision taken for practical reasons at the last minute when they realised that it was complicated to mark when half the photographs were on smartphones, and it was getting late as they hadn't actually specified a time for teams to be back by.

Unfortunately as we are adults we are constrained from the freedom to throw temper tantrums saying not fair. Instead we left disappointed and muttering to ourselves about it. We wouldn't have won anyway - it is just the principle...

What makes a good treasure hunt

The main way in which the Cinema City Treasure Hunt fell down was that they did not treat us like children. By that I mean I think they needed to approach it more like a school teacher organising a bunch of rowdy school children by thinking through every detail. It was too shambolic and I think the people organising it had the attitude that they were arranging something for a small bunch of friends, not a large number of paying people (some participants clearly were friends of the organisers).

We have organised treasure hunts for a bunch of friends too, which is obviously a lot easier. I think they were better too, for not relying on technology and audio tapes.

(NOTE: I forgot to post this when I first wrote this, and I can't actually remember when this treasure hunt was now (its August), apart from that it was in spring some time, so I have assigned the post to April)

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Board games

It's winter again, time to put on the heating, and cosy up inside spending long drawn out afternoons playing board games. I am undecided whether board games are actually really 'fun'. Nevertheless recently I have had a new found enthusiasm for them. I have a slight competitive streak for which I blame my family. I tend to take playing board games seriously, and suffer from liking them best when I win. After one incident at University all my friends vowed never to play me at Monopoly ever again.

Here are some new board games I recently tried:

War on Terror' the board game

The aim is to build the most powerful empire. You earn income from oil, declare war on your neighbours, train terrorist units, and use nuclear weapons. If the axis of evil is spun and lands on your colour you have to wear a 'balaclava of evil'. We played for a about 5 hours. I highly recommend this game, but as the game warns 'it will bring out the nastiest, greediest, darkest , most paranoid aspects of your character.' I formed an alliance for most of the game with L, but ended up turning on her, due to a mixture of distrust and desire to take over her countries. I genuinely think I learnt something about the paranoia that has led to the terrorism and dictators.

221b Baker Street- the board game:

This is a version of Cluedo, except more confusing, and with a big booklet of clues. At the beginning you select a card from the pack which contains the lengthy details of the case to be solved. Everyone then has to go around different rooms, collecting clues until someone solves the case. It took a while to get the hang of, and having played one game and got the hang of it everyone had to leave, but next time it will be better. It also only cost me £2.50 from a charity shop, and was about 25 years old and had never been played.


You could argue that board games are in fact the antithesis of the unstructured, fun, outdoorsy thing that this blog is designed to be about with all their strict rules. But I think they are also a good form of 'playtime for grownups'. Suggestions of good board games to try are very welcome.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012


A bicycle I once hired to cycle round Cumbrae
There are many valid reasons to go cycling. For example from the top of my head:

1. It can be a good way to get from A to B
2. It can be good exercise
3. You could become the next Chris Hoy.
4. You might already be Chris Hoy

But I don't want to discuss cycling for those reasons. I want to discussing cycling for fun, or as "playtime". Cycling for fun is one example of an activity which I have enjoyed more as an adult than as a child.

As a child I lived near one of many old railway lines in Edinburgh that now make excellent cycle tracks. I went on outings with my dad and siblings, and strongly remember feeling a great sense of accomplishment on reaching Haymarket train station at the "end" of the cycle path. However there were limits -  I was never allowed to go too far on my own, and I was scared of the cars on the busy roads nearby anyway. Most of the time I spent as a child on my bicycle was spent going up two short streets. Now I can go further and have no parent telling me what to do (although my mother's voice saying 'be careful' is still ingrained in my psyche, and I am afraid of double decker buses)

These days I sometimes use my bicycle to get from A to B. I also feel a sense of self satisfaction after a bike ride for having done exercise. However the main reason I like cycling is the feeling of being outside, and freedom, especially when I can coast along without pedaling, admiring the scenery.

Some recommended cycle routes:

The Union Canal

  • From Haymarket along the Silverknowes Esplanade to Cramond and back through Barton and Blackhall.

The best part of this is cycling along the sea front. Be warned that you have to dismount and carry your bike up and down some steps along the path in Cramond.

  • Along the Water of Leith

This runs from Leith to Balerno. It is a bit muddy so less suitable for road bikes, but I find it extra fun when you have to splash through the mud.

  • Along the Union Canal

The Union Canal starts in Fountainbridge, and you can cycle along to Ratho and further to Falkirk, and eventually Glasgow if you keep going. It has the advantage of being flat. Watch out for oblivious children, dogs and cyclists going too fast through blind tunnels. Bicycle bell highly recommended.

For more information on cycling in Edinburgh please see the following links:

Spokes- The Lothian Cycle Campaign  - produce really good cycle maps (at a price)

Edinburgh City Council: Explore Edinburgh by Bike Leaflets - these are also useful maps that show cycle routes

The Bike Station Innertube Map - these people have made a tube map of Edinburgh.

CycleStreets Journey planner - you can type in your starting point and destination point and this will suggest the best cycling routes (although it is still in beta mode and I have noticed it doesn't know everything!)

CityCycling Edinburgh - this is a forum used by lots of  local people obsessed by cycling so a good place to ask questions

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Further afield: Joue-ing in rural France

-Translated from the original French

Although this particular contributor has been on a brief hiatus from posting (an absence for which I must apologise profusely), I am returning from dormancy bearing the fruits of my numerous labours and exceptional research carried out on the continent.  By which I mean: I have been living in France.  Let me tell you about it.

Let us leave aside the hows and whys of my sojourns in the land of wine and cheese, and skip straight to the relevant bits.  I have discovered that in the French countryside there exists a plethora of opportunities for playtime, many of which differ wildly from the sorts of diversions that we urbanites have now become accustomed to (see our Playpark map, for example).  And while most activities are dependent on the rural landscape for their essential functioning components, the reader would do well to bear in mind that it is, above all, a spirited imagination which brings such adventures to fruition, regardless of locale.  

My observations commenced in the sunny south, in the foothills of the Pyrenees.  I would also like to take this moment to preface my account with a brief note on the accompanying photographs: there aren’t any.  My camera is broken and I very much doubt it would have occurred to me to take photos anyway.  Please kindly make do with the primitive illustrations I have so generously furnished you with.

Part un: the south.  

So, the south.  When it is hot in the south (or anywhere, really) adults find all manner of dull ways to avoid the heat.  Sitting inside somewhere is by far the most common, often accompanied by drinking copious amounts of n’importe quoi.  As I was blessed to be in the company of several other highly spirited young people with inclinations towards the outdoors, I was happily able to avoid this pitfall.  We decided the best thing was to head for a really high place that we could fling ourselves off of, ideally into the water.  This place exists in the form of les vasques, a series of three deep, cold water holes situated on river cascades that make for a fine jumping ground.  As soon as we could render our bodies suitably numb, off we went, climbing up the waterfalls and inching towards the edge until – hop! – off we went.  PLOOSH!   

pondering the void
The more daring among us opted to try somersaults, whilst the more antagonistic (cough cough) decided to heckle a bit and loudly hum the theme from ‘Jaws.’  Afterwards we decamped to the river below and spent some quality time building dams out of river stones and sending little leaf-and-stick boats into the eddying currents.  

On other occasions in the south we found it wise to escape heat or boredom by climbing trees in the cool forest.  A side note: this is also how I learned a lot of useful vocabulary such as ‘monkey,’ ‘squirrel,’ and ‘look out!’  Although tree climbing was not a frequent occurrence, it proved an excellent way to enjoy the mountain views and catch a bit of breeze (please refer to fig. 2, below).
what a person in a tree might look like
Part deux: the north.  

What do adults in the northern countryside do when they fancy a bit of playtime of an afternoon?   The answer of course is hay bales.  Once again in the company of like-minded miscreants, I stumbled across a free source of entertainment that is as limitless as those blonde blobs of straw dotted across the landscape.  Just what does one do with a field full of hay bales?  Well, I suppose you could spend some time looking at them.  If you’re Monet you could paint them – at sunrise, during the afternoon, when the clouds get fluffier, when they dissipate, and again in the dusk, and once again the next morning when the light looks slightly more pinkish… but I digress.  Absolutely the best thing to do with round hay bales is to jump on top of them and attempt to walk or run while your friends roll it from below.  It’s trickier than it looks and you fall a lot.  

please note: doodle is not to scale
It’s even better when there are two of you up there, each one trying to stay on the longest.  Once we twigged that this was hilarious to watch and even better to do yourself, we tried every style – forwards, backwards, down a bit of a hill (difficult), slow, fast, in between – well, admittedly there are limits to this game but it was certainly never dull, especially when people went thudding to the ground and landed in an ungainly heap.

What can we glean from all this exhaustive research into the playtime habits of rural types?  Not much at the moment.  In fact, if there’s any type of analysis to be done or quantitative data to consult, I really can’t be bothered.  I’ve got wine to drink, more cakes than I’ve seen in my life, and a lot of stuff to explore.  A bientot…

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Contributions welcome

Over a month since the last (not particularly inspired post)! This blog has fallen into a slumber. Why is this? Lilliputian is away enjoying adventures further afield. Also I think we have all just been busy with other things. Adult things like working so we can pay rent and so on, and many other frivolous things, which don't translate into this blog. 
And the weather hasn't helped.

Therefore I thought I would post to say that contributions are welcome. If anyone has any thoughts on our topics, or has recently taken part in an event that fits into the spirit of our blog please get in touch.

We started this blog as "Edinburgh Playparks for Adults", with the intention of writing about our experiences of exploring playparks. We have since renamed the blog "Edinburgh Playtime for Grownups" because we didn't want the blog to be just about playparks, but other fun outdoor things for adults to do, such as play hide and seek, or go on treasure hunts. Also I personally found that playparks aren't really much fun, and tend to be occupied. Please see the about us page.

We are getting a regular trickle of hits to this blog, the biggest traffic source is people searching for the words "old swingers". I doubt they are finding what they are looking for, and it somewhat amuses me they end up here.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Row, row, row your boat

Over the last couple of weeks we went on a brilliant treasure hunt designed by our friend G, and hired a rowing boat and went rowing along the Union Canal. Sadly for this blog our attempts to update the blog have been a little lacklustre.

The day we went rowing we met in Harrison Park with the declared  intention of playing rounders, but we omitted to bring any sort of whacking device with us. So after a bit of lazing about in the sun, we  hired a rowing boat and lazed about on the boat (apart from Andrew who did most of the rowing of the boat)

The sun shone, and I concluded there is no better way to spend an afternoon, except maybe with a cold beer on board, or champagne, with strawberries and cream.

The treasure hunt will get its own very much deserved post one day. I promise.

Thursday, 31 May 2012

Scandinavian moon craters, whales, and sunken ships.

One of the disappointments of playparks in Edinburgh is how similar they sometimes are. I was excited recently when I discovered the existence of a Danish company called Monstrum. Their designs of playparks include ships sunk into the grounds, whales you can crawl into, giant spiders...

I recommend looking at all the pretty pictures on their website (visiting might be fun too- if anyone has been please let me know)

 "Why only play on a monkey frame and a sandbox, when you can play in a moon crater or a submarine or a giant spider or an enormous snail or a Trojans horse or a rocket or an ant or a princess castle?" - Monstrum

I hope something like this comes to Edinburgh soon.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Let's cycle to the beach at Portobello and play frisbee: top tips

Until a few weeks ago, it was at least a year since I had been to the beach. Considering that I gaze out of my office window everyday and see the Forth behind Arthur's Seat, and that I am rarely ever more than 6 miles away from the sea, this is a long time. 

Despite being a native Edinburger, until a couple of weeks ago I had never been to Portobello. I have now been to Portobello twice. 

The first time was one Saturday after my friend B suggested we cycle there. Arriving on a sunny day I was instantly reminded of exactly why visiting the beach and seeing the sea can be exhilarating. Unfortunately I lack adequate poetic ability to properly capture the reasons in words.We didn't hang around long that day, as Lilliputian had organised a pinata smashing party we needed to get to (which it turned out was to be followed by rearranging her living room into a fort), so we resolved we should go back in two weeks time and play frisbee. 

Here are my tips for "cycling to Portobello and playing frisbee".

1. Don't leave your bike outside in the rain for 2 days beforehand

When I left work on Thursday it was bucketing down with rain so I did what any sensible person would do and abandoned my bike at work in favour of a less wet form of transport. When I went to collect my bike to cycle to Portobello my seat was completely soaked through and sodden, and we had to borrow a plastic bag from a nearby shop.

2. Don't throw your frisbee in the sea

One of our friends brought along an extra special (apparently it cost £12) frisbee with a hole in the middle called an aerobie. A group of us played with it for about five minutes until it he threw it in the sea. Despite many of us (not me) bravely wading in and searching for it, it was never seen again.

3. Bring Kites

It was a windy day, so kite flying worked quite well. Apart from my "easy to fly" Tesco family kite which didn't want to stay in the air for more than thirty seconds.

4. Don't over complicate rules when playing games

We played piggy in the middle with our frisbee. I always thought this was a simple game not needing long discussions about rules, but apparently not.

5. Meet near a nice cafe

We met on the part of the promenade which is outside the Beach House Cafe. Convenient on a freezing day as you can disappear inside with a warm drink and still see the sea.

6. Get a friend to wear their camera on their head.

Andrew did this. The resulting footage will be available to view soon.

7. Bring your bike, and if you don't have one get one

You can't cycle to Portobello without one, and there is a pleasant cycle route along the Innocent Railway. Some of our friends were forced to walk.

8. Bring a change of socks

No explanation needed.

9. Bring a bucket and spade to help build sandcastles

We didn't do this, but next time I think we should.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

In which we travel to Leith to prove we aren't snobs, and succeed in proving ourselves lazy

Are we unwitting snobs?  Personally, I don't really know that I can provide a clear answer. On one hand, I live in Morningside, went to St Andrews, and enjoy things like craft beers, irony, and dinner parties.  On the other hand I am poor, I avoid George Street, and I once ate roadkill.  I also like putting ketchup on things.  In my life, at least, things may even themselves out, but upon glancing at our excellent map of visits I noticed a little geographic snobbery beginning to take root - specifically, a bias towards Old Town.

Today we decided to rectify this apparent discrimination by heading Leithwards, to Pilrig Park.   Why Pilrig Park? Why not?!  We needed to branch out and we knew this park existed, and that was good enough for me.

the sun obscures things somewhat

When I arrived, I did a little reconnaissance along the perimeters, observing the local flora and fauna.  Parents with kids hogging the swings? Check.  Teenagers sitting in sullen circles? Check. Junkie passed out on a bench?  Check.  There were several other classifiable specimens, notably dog-walkers, barbecue maestros, and racquet-wielding sport aficionados.  The sun was up, the day was warm, and even at half past 6, the park was lively.

I took an immediate liking to Pilrig Park - there is an abundance of good sturdy shade trees, and enough variety in the terrain to keep things interesting.  Although I noticed the detritus of the shadier side of Leith (beer bottles strewn near benches, the lingering smell of weed, one or two creepy looking men in tracksuits), the park still managed to effect a pleasant, welcoming vibe.

me doing my thing
 Did we actually play?  Well, not really.  In fact, hardly at all.  I clambered up on a giant revolving child-trap, and Marianne kindly gave it a spin.  The swings and flying fox were being bogarted by the aforementioned children.  Also, and perhaps most importantly, we were being inundated by the delicious smells of BBQ.  It was nearly dinner time.  The cruel wafting scents eventually drove us to leave the park in search of food.

To sum up: what do adults do when they try to play?  It depends on the circumstances.  Sometimes we are truly in the spirit of things, and we go off on adventures, or hiding and seeking, or building forts, or bouncing around on inflatable things, or playing monkey in the middle with frisbees.  These are the good times.  On other occasions, however, we may be a bit preoccupied, tired, or downright uninspired.  These are the days we end up going for a nice walk to a park in Leith and stopping for coffee and croissants on the way home.

So there you have it, dear readers: In attempting to prove we weren't guilty of a bit of anti-Leith snobbery, we only succeeded in proving ourselves to be a bit unimaginative and lazy.  And susceptible to burger envy.  And still a little bit snobby.

Friday, 11 May 2012

It's raining, it's pouring: why not turn the living room into a fort?

Fort from the outside
Fort from the inside
Last week we were in the pub and Lilliputian was having a conversation with GM. I was daydreaming so I am not sure what it was about, but one of them said 'let's build a fort', and someone else said 'yes lets', and someone else said 'right now' and everyone said 'yes now'.

And we hurried back along the 10 minute walk to a flat, went into the living room and started to pull the cushions off the sofa, turn the sofas upside down, and find some rope which we tied around the room so that we could create a canopy out of curtains and sheets. (I might see if Lilliputian can write a post about the construction, because I left a lot of that to the experts, and mostly enjoyed the crawling through the tunnel)

This is something your parents would never let you do - so there are advantages to being an adult!

We have been a little lucklustre about visiting places over the past few weeks - I blame this partly on the weather being awful and erratic leading to days when doing anything more energetic than curling up on the sofa seems like a terrible idea, so we need to think of more activities that can take place inside. Or we need to go to the pub until someone comes up with more ideas, and makes them happen then and there.