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.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Wine & Seek III: The Royal Botanical Gardens

The organization of the third installment of Wine & Seek (which I chose to call Wine & Seek III: the Revengening*) fell to me, by far the eldest of those engaging in what we’re not really allowed to call grown-up or adult play but no-one can really think of a better term for than that. Nonetheless, as Ben Franklin said; we don’t stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing. And if the opinion of a man who flies kites into thunderstorms and fakes other people’s deaths can’t be trusted, then whose can? So I summoned our intrepid crew to play in Edinburgh's Royal Botanical Gardens, confident of fine weather, lovely surroundings and rejuvenating fun.

The Palmhouse: not suitable for hiding in, but handy during unexpected hail.


A good attempt, but blue jeans are not a hider's friend!

The Botanic Gardens are quite possibly the ideal hide-and-seek location. Large areas of dense rhododendrons, bamboo thickets and various other forms of vegetation perfect for hiding in, under, behind or up are separated into obvious play areas by wide paths, allowing each new game to be played in a new location. Some worked better than others: the first area we tried, comprising the Demonstration Garden and Queen Mother’s Memorial Garden, provided few really great hiding places (though Lilliputian managed to successfully conceal herself inside a spiky bush which kept her hidden until last), with most people simply ducking behind the first tree they found at the garden’s edge. However, later areas provided sufficient camouflage to keep the hiders concealed even when the seeker was looking directly at them, and if we’d had time to play any area more than once we’d no doubt have found even better hiding spots.

One of the greatest benefits of a park like the Botanic Gardens over others is how well maintained it is. Thanks to the groundskeepers who patrol the gardens there is practically no rubbish to be seen, there are no dodgy characters hanging around, and there are no mysterious and frankly slightly creepy tents pitched in the bushes. I was slightly concerned while setting up the event that these same groundskeepers might not take kindly to our off-path charging around, but it seems that as long as one is not actively engaged in damaging the plant-life, you’re free to do as you wish. We were even cheerfully informed that we were free to “picnic” (drink wine) wherever we pleased, so long as we tidied up after ourselves.

The only drawback to this is that the gardens close at 6pm, and the groundskeepers make a sweep 15 minutes beforehand loudly blowing whistles and directing everyone to the nearest exit, which lead to our group being divided, with half sent out through the East Gate while the others made their way to the West. There was some concern that if the more adept hiders were not discovered, they’d be locked in and forced to fend for themselves until the next morning, but happily everyone made a safe exit in the end.

Best Hiding Places

The view from Marianne's hiding spot.

The Copse provided the greatest number of good hiding spots, but with most of the gardens left unexplored on this occasion it’s impossible to say where the best ones really are (especially since Lilliputian refused to reveal those she’d used).


Easier to set boundaries to play areas than Easter Craiglockhart Hill, and more pleasant to play in (and with a greater variety of hiding places) than Calton Hill, the Botanics were probably my favourite location so far. However, Wine & Seek has only just begun, and new locations await everywhere! The best may be yet to come.

*Like “The Revenge”, but times a million.

Monday, 30 April 2012

FUCK ART, LET'S BOUNCE: Reflections on playtime in Glasgow

Intrepid Edinburgh adventurers!  Fun-loving folk of all ages!  Consider this a call to arms - I have encountered a singularly cool spectacle, not of our fair city, that may have eclipsed our every effort at innovative play.  In Glasgow.

I speak, of course, of BOUNCY STONEHENGE.

It first came to light in this article, alerting the wider world to the presence of a particularly unusual iteration of the classic inflatable castle.  Now, if you actually read the piece, like I just did (previously I only looked at the photos), you can witness a plethora of disgruntled comments.  Most of them are centered around the alleged ineffectiveness of Glasgow council, the disgrace of having an iconic English monument commanding attention (and taxpayer money) in Scotland, the ultimate futility of art, and a host of other politically charged statements.  I guess Guardian readers are a bit touchy about these sorts of things.

All I can say is, haters gonna hate.  I came, I saw, I BOUNCED.  It was awesome.

We approached with caution.  This was a strange spectacle indeed, and it drew a crowd.

Now, I didn't make a special trip to Glasgow in order to take part in the serendipitous stonehenging.  In fact, I had already planned to be in Scotland's other city for alternate reasons, but I had the great fortune to be tipped off by a very astute friend, who knew this puffed-up piece of history was right up my alley.  Once she mentioned it existed, there was no question about it: I had to go see for myself.

We arranged to meet up and take a wander down to Glasgow Green, the site of the temporary prehistoric playground.  Before even catching sight of it, though, I was struck with indignation and envy.  Why, do you ask?  Please refer to the photograph below (figure 2).


The Glasgow Green has a freaking pirate ship.

Look, we've been around our share of Edinburgh playparks.  Heck, we even made a blog about it.
In all our rambles across the city (see our map for full details), not once have we seen anything even remotely approaching the excellence that is this nautical specimen.  It simply isn't fair.  After gibbering a bit about the indignity of it all, I managed to pull myself together and continue on towards our main goal.

Readers, I have never been to the real Stonehenge.  I have never gazed upon the legendary standing stones, nor have I basked in the shadows of its mysterious, astrological aspect.  But I tell you this: I truly felt the magnitude of an ancient power that day.  And I jumped aaaaalllllll over it.

A closer inflatable view
Jumping, as it turns out, is rather tiring.  All around us, there were pint-sized hooligans boinging, flipping, and ricocheting off the springy surfaces with seemingly limitless energy.  Most of their adult handlers, in contrast, were flopped in a heap, gasping for breath.  I'll admit that there were moments we felt rather wheezy ourselves, but we gamely bounced onwards for the full 15 minute session.  I found that flailing my arms like a windmill was a particularly effective way to derive maximum enjoyment from the experience.

When it was over, we schlumped off the surface and staggered away to let the next crowd have its turn.  Overall, I was quite impressed with Glasgow and, although I am loyal to Edinburgh, I suspect that future visits might be in order... especially to that fantastic pirate ship.  I think I might conquer it by force. 

Friday, 13 April 2012

Wine and Seek II: Calton Hill

For our second wine and seek I assembled a group of 6 people on top of Calton Hill.


Calton Hill is full of people including dog walkers, joggers and tourists snapping photos. This means that you can feel somewhat inhibited hiding. For instance in the first round I went to investigate a possible hiding space behind a bush, and the guy sat on the park bench reading a book nearby turned around and looked at me oddly, so I felt obliged to keep walking. Furthermore Calton Hill has a somewhat unsavoury reputation, at night at least, and one of the participants remarked afterwards that two of his hiding places were rather too close to used condom wrappers for his liking. I didn't notice any myself luckily. We also found a mysterious tent pitched in an obscured part of the hill, prompting worried speculation.
Best Hiding Places 

Lilliputian hiding
Lilliputian is snapped (to the left) up some rocks near the Nelson Monument. I found a good hiding place for the first round. It had excellent views over to the Forth, and the beautiful architecture of the St James Shopping Centre, and after not being discovered during the first round I emerged victorious. Hurrah! I was however spotted promptly in the third round as my hiding place was completely exposed from one angle.

However the prize for the best hiding must go to our friend G, who instead of hiding conventially changed his clothes completely, and followed our seeker around looking suspicious without getting caught for a long time...

Wine and Seek is a lie.

We just played hide and seek. No one drank wine, although I think some people might have brought some in their backpacks. Lilliputian's excuse is "I was already too hungover".  I didn't want to.

Edinburgh's Disgrace and the Nelson Monument


So far we have played hide and seek on Calton Hill and Easter Craiglockhart Hill. Calton Hill is smaller, meaning that it has less possibilties for different rounds, but it was easier to find people than in Craiglockhart where it had the potential to take hours. The search for the perfect hide and seek spot goes on. Does anyone have any suggestions for our next hide and seek venue?

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

There's Treasure Everywhere! Commemorating 25 years of brilliance with an urban wild-goose-chase of questionable quality!

There's Treasure Everywhere: Part 2: Hunting for Treasure

Discovering a clue
It was with anticipation I arrived at Lilliputian's flat on Easter Sunday to celebrate her birthday by going on a treasure hunt. Where would we end up?  I knew Lilliputian was planning a barbecue at the end with a borrowed Tesco Value gazebo for shelter. There were a limited number of places I could think of that seemed suitable for purpose (and some of the possible spaces I could imagine Lilliputian would think of might be...err...not places that encourage the public to turn up and pitch a gazebo). The answer in retrospect given Lilliputian's relaxed response to my "how are you going to manage to carry everything including a gazebo to some random field by yourself" type questions was obvious.

The clues were all lovingly typed out on a typewriter and dipped in tea (or whatever method Lilliputian used to make her clues look "olden" - tea is what I would have used), and hidden by Lilliputian in various ingenious locations.

The first clue mentioned a "battle of wits" so we set off on our intrepid adventure in the direction of Bruntsfield Links, where there is a giant chessboard. There amongst a pot with tulips was a beautiful red rose which on close inspection was made out of tissue paper and had a bag of chocolate eggs and toffee instead of roots.

St Kenigern's Church, by the Union Canal
Godforsaken Place
 The was a bit of dithering as we headed "downhill, downhill - a street promising views of the estuary" (Viewforth), We spent sometime debating whether Boroughmuir High School might be "a wasteland of destruction" and if Bruntsfield Evangelical Church was "godforsaken".

However it turns out the godforsaken place was St Kentigern's Church. (I only learnt its name from googling it as I was writing this post.)

We then headed along the Union Canal in search of some entrapped trees in Harrison Park.

The horse in Stable Lane
 By the time we reached "somewhere you keep a horse" - Stable Lane, spirits were flagging a little as we walked up and down the lane several times not  spotting the next clue. I cheated and phoned Lilliputian who informed us we weren't looking hard enough, and to look for a yellow table.

I have discovered the final clue in my purse while writing this so can quote it verbatim. It was found in a flag placed in a field and reads as follows:
 "Admire the view and RIDE ON... this library ain't big enough for the both of us.
(tumbleweed rolls by)
Judging by the smell of this Lilliputian did in fact made her clues look old with coffee, not tea.

In case, some of you many thousands of mostly imaginary readers, want to solve this clue themselves I have hidden the rest of this post. Although it may be difficult for anyone not familiar with Edinburgh, and who hasn't discovered this spot before.

Please click on the link below to find out where our last clue took us.

Monday, 9 April 2012

There's Treasure Everywhere! Commemorating 25 years of brilliance with an urban wild-goose-chase of questionable quality

There's Treasure Everywhere, Part 1: Organising the damn thing.

One of the best things about turning 25 is that, by this time, you've amassed a reasonable cadre of affable people willing to go along with your eccentric plans.  These lucky individuals are commonly referred to as 'friends.'  Now, ordinarily, I wouldn't necessarily recommend that people do as I do - there are often risks which range from the mundane (getting lost, wandering aimlessly) to the unpleasant (minor injuries, insufferable weather conditions, disagreements with law enforcement).  However, I am delighted when people join in of their own free will.  In honour of my 25th birthday (a brilliant excuse for an experimental adventure) I organised a treasure hunt around the Merchiston/Morningside area with the aim of introducing people to interesting or little-known corners of the city.

Not being a particularly organised person - and having very little experience of treasure hunts - it was a bit difficult to get this idea off the ground, but eventually it coalesced into some sort of order.  First, I identified a number of good spots to hide clues, all within a reasonable distance from my flat.  Then came the difficult part: writing them.  Quite fortuitously, I decided that I ought to do a walkthrough of my itinerary before writing anything (I later realised it would have been impossible not to).  Armed with my notebook, I spend a great deal of time stopping, scribbling, prodding and scrutinising my surroundings in order to assess their suitability.  When I finished, I had a list of 10 locations and copious notes on how to cryptically direct my participants from clue to clue.
"Downhill, downhill, on a street that promises vistas of our estuary… right before you reach a wasteland of destruction, turn right to find a god-forsaken edifice, and knock on the door…"

Rather stupidly, several of my clues involved props, which I then had to make - an expenditure of energy that could have been avoided if I were a cleverer person.  For example, two clues were hidden underneath fake flowers camouflaged in real flowerbeds.  I have no idea what possessed me to do it this way.  The clues themselves were written on my trusty typewriter, and I even went as far as to dye the paper with coffee and crumple it to give it the appearance of age. 

The final step involved actually laying out the clues, which I did in reverse order - presumably because of my habitual inclination to do things the wrong way round.  A friend recently pointed out this tendency when he witnessed me adding milk to his tea and subsequently checking to see if the milk was off.  (It wasn't.)

This canal-side clue involved an Otis Redding reference.
Laying the clues was a bit tricky because there were a number of passers-by loitering around my route.  In particular, I was tripped up by the Union Canal, where I found myself being watched intently by a creepy middle-aged man who was lurking in the bushes on the opposite bank.  In an attempt to avoid interacting with this specimen, I sat and pretended to be absorbed in writing.  Here is the result of my efforts:

scribble scribble scribble
go away old man!
I'll pretend I'm writing poetry
la de da de da
go away old man
stop watching me!!

He soon shuffled off.  I considered that my poem actually constituted some sort of creep-banishing voodoo spell.  Have resolved to look into this further.

When I'd successfully laid out all clues - some of which involved minor easter egg hunt diversions - I returned to my flat where the brave participants had assembled.  After a self-deprecating preamble during which I explained the gist of the operation, and my doubts as to the quality thereof, the hunters were given their first clue and summarily booted out to fend for themselves.   
(For an account of their experience, stay tuned for Part 2 of this series.)

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Disintegrated Confusion: Gorgie/Dalry Community Park

Today we visited Gorgie/Dalry Community Park. I have cycled past here a couple of times, and noted it seemed a little desolate, but I never really stopped. This evening I took Lilliputian with me to investigate.
Swirling Round device in Gorgie/Dalry Community Park
Roundabout in Gorgie/Dalry Community Park
We stood around feeling somewhat perplexed. Lilliputian ventured that perhaps if we were children we would understand how to use everything.

 The playpark featured woodchip and five items of equipment, none of them particularly resembling items from other playparks in Edinburgh. The silver roundabout is the most familiar item, with a very simple design. If spinning round is your thing you are also catered for by another piece of apparatus where there is space for three people to spin around with rests for your feet and handles for your hands.

Once you are feeling suitable dizzy you can try and balance on a sort of log thing which spins around when you try to balance on it. Or perhaps you might need to sit down. I thought the orange and blue piece of equipment might be a bench, but the "seat" was too high and slanted to sit on. Can anyone enlighten me?
Balancing device in Gorgie/Dalry Community ParkSeating area in Gorgie/Dalry Community Park?
Swing in Gorgie/Dalry Community ParkDisintegrated swing seat in Gorgie/Dalry Community Park

Lastly there is the swing . There were two seats on either side which seemed connected to each other like some sort of see-saw. This might have been fun once, but the seats seem to have disintegrated.

Next to the playpark was a large empty area, mostly covered by sand. Did there used to be something here? It could be a good sandpit, if it wasn't for the bit of broken glass I spotted.

Empty space in Gorgie/Dalry Community Park
Empty area with a person
A lot of the playparks in Edinburgh seem to be designed along similar lines. At least this one was different. My attempts at googling the history of the playpark have not turned up much but I wonder if it was designed in a less recent decade to some of the other parks we have been visiting.

Overall do I recommend this playpark for adults? Not really. We went for a walk to the Union Canal afterwards. I recommend that.

Monday, 26 March 2012

The man with the countdown is coming for you.

 There was nothing for it.  We grabbed what alcohol there was left, and we took to the woods.

Enduring what little supplies we had, we endured agonising moments, suspended from tree branches, hidden in gorse thickets and climbing through the undergrowth.

Some of us surrendered, beaten back by the terrible heat and the thirst for wine...

Before sundown our supplies were out. 

Wine and Seek: Competitive concealement on an Edinburgh hill-top

On Sunday, we rounded up a gang of fun-loving folk for the inaugural game of Wine and Seek, which is exactly what the name implies: a grown-up version of hide and seek, made better by the addition of alcohol.  The day was surprisingly warm and sunny, which called for a crisp, cool pinot grigio or perhaps a rosé... I foolishly purchased a bottle of rioja ahead of time, which - although a poor pairing with the heat and haziness - was nevertheless quite drinkable.  Wine, is there anything it can't improve?  Ah, but I've strayed from the point, which I think was about a game...

Anyway.  After carefully considering several options, we chose Easter Craiglockhart Hill for our stomping ground.  We needed a place that was big enough, and out-of-the-way enough, to accommodate our mischief without too many onlookers or passers-by.  

view of the Pentlands
After a strong first round (of drinks), we proceeded to our first round of play.  Our initial set of boundaries included most of the top of the hill, and surrounding bushes.  This proved to be convenient for Joe, our first "It," because it wasn't too big a space to search.  However, it was a bit prickly for the hiders due to the extraordinarily large number of gorse bushes adorning the area.  Oddly, many people chose to battle the thorns in order to achieve a hiding spot.
ouchy, prickly, sticky, pokey
seekers circling the nexus of horror

 Although some chose gorse, one participant elected to be a roaming hider, which proved an excellent strategy.  He was observed darting from place to place, carefully avoiding Joe and any other found players who became seekers as well.  I chose to hide in a tree; although I enjoy climbing and high places, I was found before I even had a chance to nap (one of my typical tree-climbing pastimes).

We convened at the top of the hill, where KT had appeared with a water bottle.  This precious water was greedily set upon by several desperate and dehydrated participants, who unfortunately forgot about the thirst-quenching properties of wine. For our next round we decided to expand our boundaries to include the forested part of the hill, and the grounds of the Napier University Craighouse buildings.

Our second round was decidedly more difficult for our hapless "It."  He very gamely traipsed around the varied landscape, searching in vain for each carefully concealed individual.  He found one or two within a reasonable time frame, but it took quite a while to discover everyone else. 
a few rather impressive edifices belonging to Napier Uni
After about a half-hour in a leafy tunnel, watching seekers scramble by periodically, I unfolded my stiff limbs and clambered out to join the rest of the group.  Another participant had been discovered by a small child (who did what small children do - pointed and yelled).  Joe spent the second round happily hiding in another tree, communicating with the squirrels.

Our third and final round had a very sensible 30 minute time limit.  As one of the seekers, I found myself circling aimlessly around a huge area, without discovering anyone.  I also had to constantly remind myself that I was supposed to be seeking, not looking for nice trees to climb - this did not bode well for my progress.  My resourceful co-seeker managed to procure a rather large, dangerous-looking metal pole, which made an excellent bushwhacker.  Fortunately, our hiders had abandoned the gorse by this point, so no-one was injured.  When the 30 minutes was up, we were summoned back to the top of the hill by the sonorous bellowing of one of our more vocally gifted participants.

the view from Marianne's hiding place
Afterwards, we decamped to the pub for some much-deserved food, and further drink.  General consensus held the event to be be a success, and our second game will be happening very soon.  Next time we may try another arena, possibly Calton Hill.  Stay tuned for details, intrepid adventurers, and keep playing!

Thursday, 22 March 2012

In which we fail at playing.

Morningside Public Park
The playpark at Morningside

Today after work dusk was approaching as Lilliputian and I assembled at Morningside Public Park. Here the crucial flaw in our plan to visit playparks became apparent: we simply don't know how to play on them. We half heartedly sat on the swings, and climbed on the apparatus, but mostly we talked about our plans for the weekend, work and boring adult dramas.

In contrast the wee boy who was playing by himself as I was waiting for Lilliputian to arrive was having a great time. He ran up the spiral slide, sat and spinned himself round in the metal cup thing, and went backwards and forwards on his scooter, totally absorbed in his own world.

We evaluated the playpark mostly as logical(ish) adults. One of the slides wasn't slippy enough, another wasn't wide enough. The metal frames of the climbing frame were cold and slightly damp. What were the weird toadstood things for? Was this yellow spiral part of the climbing frame for climbing up, or sliding down?
Weird toadstool things
As playgrounds go, Morningside Public Park is fairly typical for its size with several climbing frames, a choice of slides, and some swings.These follow a colour theme with primary colours and orange.

I was more excited by the discovery of a public tennis court, and basketball court next to the playpark, than the playpark itself. My mind turned to wondering if I could find a group of people to play tennis or  basketball (or badminton) with for free.

Why can't I spend self absorbed hours going backwards and forwards up and down a slide, spinning round and round? What can be done about this situation? Can I learn how to play? Do I want to learn how to play?

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Wobbly Coffee on the Union Canal

Harrison Park with tree in bloom and playpark in background
Harrison Park East
Today's outing did not involve playparks, unless walking past them counts. Nor did it involve the other activities this blog is about. However it did involve drinking hot chocolate on a narrowboat.

We headed to Harrison Park, next to the Union Canal in Merchiston/Polwarth, Edinburgh. It was a sunny day and a loud distant roar filled the park, which I have since worked out was coming from the Hearts/Hibs Derby at Tynecastle. Harrison Park contains two playparks, one in 'Harrison Park West' and the other in 'Harrison Park East'. Unsurprisingly on a Sunday afternoon, these were crammed with small people, so we did not stop at either.

Zazou Narrowboat Cafe Board outside the boat
Zazou cafe board at the Union Canal
H was suffering from caffeine withdrawal (a very adult syndrome), so we headed to the nearest cafe. Zazou is Edinburgh's only floating cafe, set in a narrowboat moored at the Union Canal. The seating space inside in extremely narrow, but somehow they have managed to cram in 4 rows of tables for 2. It's slightly surreal to go to a cafe that wobbles and slants, especially as people clamber in and out. The place is friendly and reasonably priced. Myself and J had hot chocolate, and H had her much needed fix of coffee.

However I have digressed into reviewing a cafe. In future we should endeavour to seek out emptier playparks in the weekends and evenings. Can anyone recommend somewhere that isn't too desolate? Hide and seek and kite flying are also in the pipeline for the coming weeks.
Boat moored at Union Canal
Zazou: floating cafe

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Old enough to know better

Left:  Unimpressed toddler in the park.  We had to wait our turn until she'd gone on practically EVERYTHING before we got our turn.

Because a bunch of grown, tax-paying adults pushing infront of a child to go on the helter-skelter smacks of a society not at peace with itself...

It's inter-generational WAR.


Right: Sketches of some flying toddlers, becoming airborne and then being told to 'come home, mummy's leaving without you'.