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Archive for November, 2011

Virgin train

my first time on a Virgin train

Yesterday saw me heading north on the Virgin train from Euston to Milton Keynes.  It was my very first time on a Virgin train and (even though I really admire Richard B) I felt like a bit of a traitor supporting the brand when not only has Richard Branson moved his business interests out the country to save on taxes, but now he has bought Northern Rock and is now the owner of a bank he wanted, we the tax payers are left with a massive £400million loss.  Not that I can blame him really, what with the taxes we pay here and if he wants a bank….well then why not! It’s certainly better than having to go cap in hand to the bank manager when you want a loan! 🙂

But I digress.  I was heading north to take part in my birthday present…. Spy Games Academy 🙂    Ever since I was a young girl I was fascinated by and read WW2 stories of spies and mystery, women who parachuted behind enemy lines into France and Germany on secret missions…..right up my alley.  I desperately wanted to be a brave heroine and read every book I could lay my hands on.   As I grew up, so my desire changed course, and I wanted to be an FBI Agent, thoroughly fascinated by conspiracy theories and stories of clandestine meetings and secret codes posted in dead-letter boxes.  My daughter grew up hearing me say these things over and over again.    So this year for my birthday she bought me an excursion to the Spy Games Academy!!! OMGosh!!!!!   That was back in April and now finally I was able to go on the excursion; booked for the 19th November.

The past week my excitement had been building by the day and by Saturday morning I was bursting with excitement….stirred not shaken, 008 and NotJustAGranny 🙂

The train journey was fab as always, the UK is so beautiful.  Tranquil canals, barges slowly meandering along, lush green fields dotted with white sheep, clumps of ancient woodland, towering hedges that twist and wind following the country roads that lead to quintessential English villages.   I never tire of whizzing along through this country’s marvellous landscape.  The weather was fabulous and we are in the midst of a very warm November.

After a very quick 30 minute journey we arrived in Milton Keynes and from there a 20 minute cab journey to Thornton Village in the heart of the Buckinghamshire countryside.   By that stage my heart was racing and my tummy filled with butterflies.  Finally!   Spy Games Academy!

spy games academy green fields

Spy Games Academy in Buckinghamshire

The green fields ahead and a massive aeroplane hanger to the right I trotted on over and registered.  First up a briefing and into our respective teams.  Then a course in unarmed combat where I learned how to knock someone out with a sock full of stones…..very useful for when I am meandering on my own through the countryside ( 🙂 ).  We also learned how to use a pen as a weapon and how to down a fully grown man with moves that I know for sure I have not a chance of replicating.  I’ll stick to screaming, thank you!!

Then it was off across the fields to the the guns!!! whoo hoo!!! I love target shooting and the last time I had the opportunity was in 1976 when I was dating a guy who used to go target shooting with handguns.  I loved it then and now I was to have another chance!   We were given a brief run down of what and what not to do…..like point the barrel at our compatriots.   Then I got to lift this beautiful piece of wood and metal that slid into my hand like it lived there.  I love the feel of guns and so enjoy the challenge of aiming and firing….at a non-living target of course.   So first things first….we had to cock the barrel and insert the pellets (not real bullets…I doubt they wanted to let us bunch of amateurs loose with that kind of thing).  I had to use both hands to cock the barrel… no strength at all in my arms.  hahaha!  Then it was eye to glass and my target 500 meters away sprang into view.  I took a deep breath, swung the cross-hairs till I had the bulls-eye in my sights, aimed and gently squeezed the trigger.  What a thrill to hear the thwack of the pellet hitting the target…..5 times!!!

my first attempt 🙂

I had absolutely no expectations of actually having hit the target so you can imagine my surprise and delight when we got to the boards and whoaaaa!!! All my shots had hit the mark with two right in the black!!  The instructor was really complimentary and I felt so chuffed!!!  Then yay!!! we got to do it all over again.  Another 5 shots!!

After we had all shot off our quota we walked back to the target and OMG!!!! I had hit the black circle another 3 times out of 5, all tightly grouped.  All the shots were within the inner circles and the instructor cheered when he saw my target and gave me a huge hug!!! heehee.

spy games academy

results of my 2nd attempt 🙂

I felt so thrilled especially as I was the oldest by about 20 years easily of the next oldest person in the group and the rest of the group bar one, were all guys!! whey hey….Not Just a Granny 🙂   What a thrill.  We were then given carte-blanche to shoot off as many pellets as we liked at small metal targets hanging from a metal frame suited about a hundred yards away….and hey hey hey…. I hit this very small swinging target 5 times out of 7!!  One of the instructors behind me exclaimed each time I hit the target with “geez look at that…she can’t miss!”   They were really impressed and apparently I got the accolade for the best shot of the afternoon!!!  Bloody marvellous.

Then we headed over to the assault rifle section and got to heft an assault gun, not  real of course, but close enough to make it feel like the real thing.  Filled with pellets, we had two targets to hit this time, one of which was beyond a pile of tyres that we had to run towards, sink behind then aim and fire!  Way Cool.

spy games academy

the assault rifle course...so much fun!

So first the instruction…again a little reminder not to aim the gun at anyone, then safety glasses on and so we lined up behind a barrel and on the command of ‘UP!’ we fired……whoaaa!!!! a stream of pellets went flying through the air and pounded the target!!   I was in my element.

spy games academy

safety glasses on, and assault rifle in hand....008 strikes again!

We got to do this about 5 or 6 times and then the game changed and our next exercise was to first shoot the front target, run across the field, fall down and hide behind the tyres take aim and shoot the target down field.   What a blast….needless to say I came absolutely last in the group getting back to the start.  Once I am down on my knees it takes a massive effort to get back up again! hysterical.  I was laughing so much I could barely stand.  We got to this about 5 times.   So much fun!

Then over to the axe throwing section where I got to let my inner tiger out in a war-cry that I defy anyone to beat.  Fortunately I am of the age where I no longer care what people think and I got right into the spirit of the game and really let fly with the axes and the war-cries.   Shame, but the fellas were far more tame and no-one besides me did the whole war-cry thing.  Man, did it feel good.  The instructor was quite impressed hahaha.   Called me ‘sweetpea’….can you imagine!!! Sweetpea…of all the names!! hysterical.

Next we were given instruction and hints and tips of how they do surveillance, using cameras so small you could not imagine.  Evasive techniques, trailing techniques and how they use groups to tail someone.   Scary stuff.   Then as the day started to come to a close and the sun slipped down the sky, and dusk began to fall, the last 40 minutes was spent strapping on webbing round our waists with leg holster gear and so we learned how to draw, aim and shoot a hand gun (all plastic guns of course).

spy games academy

dusk in Buckinghamshire, near the village of Thornton

Then we were given replicas of machine guns, donned red or blue coloured vests and army type helmets and guns charged, off we went.  Piles of tyres, metal barrels, piles of hay bundles and what not.  The aim of the game was to run around a replicated combat zone and shoot the other team.   The guns had a limited lifespan and you had 10 lifetimes.   Once you had shot off all your ammo and your quota of grenades, that was it….you were dead!   Well, all I can say is that I must have died about 50 times, I ended up shooting my own team (my night vision is non-existent) and I laughed so much that I could barely stand.   By the time my gun ran out (which was very quick in comparison to the others) I had sneaked up on someone behind a pile of barrels and pam pam shot him dead, my pants were all muddied from falling down onto my knees behind piles of tyres and I had killed most of my team!!!   Hysterical.

What a brilliant afternoon!  I can highly recommend letting your inner child out and having a blast!  I can’t wait to go back again.  Spy Games Academy – Summer 2012 for sure!!!

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