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.)

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