Hakuna Matata. What a wonderful phrase! Hakuna Matata – it ain’t no passin’ craze. It means no worries, for your DofE days… So for some insane reason, having completed Bronze, I decided to continue with Duke of Edinburgh and enrol in Silver. Utter madness.
For those of you who follow my ramblings, you’ll know that on my Bronze training day, I lost my phone. Well, unfortunately it seems to be a regular occurrence. On the way to Exmoor – where our three days of torture was to be hosted – we stopped at Fleet Service Station and, to cut a rather long and worrying story short, my phone and iPod were recovered by me and my dad Saturday night after a cleaner had found them in the toilets and handed them in to lost property. Excellent job well done, I think. I wrote on my previous DofE blog that the moral of my phone troubles is not to “put your phone in the front pocket of your hoodie, especially if you are walking through large fields”. I think the moral of this more recent episode is not to trust Fred with anything valuable whilst on an expedition. And that the idea of learning from your mistakes is really a lot easier in theory than in practice. Still, a month without your phone and Facebook proves that communication is underrated. And that half term can induce lunacy and an (increased) obsession with One Tree Hill.
Needless to say, it kind of marred the rest of the experience, though that was kind of done anyway by the three days of hill climbing and two nights of sleeping in a cold tent. I really shouldn’t be complaining as I did volunteer for this – an oversight explainable for Bronze, but not so much for Silver. Then again, what else is a blog for, except complaints and warnings? But to whichever genius told me and my team that Exmoor is “really flat” – let me ask, do you think Mount Everest is just a little hill? Either that or we got exceptionally lost and ended up near Snowdonia. Flat, yeah right. Let’s hope that New Forest is better.
A lot of your mood is based on sleep, food and weather. We were incredibly lucky to have enough sunshine to be dry but not too much to be uncomfortable. Well as unnecessarily uncomfortable as you can be when you are carrying around your own weight on your back and walking 13 miles uphill each day. At least it wasn’t the torrential downpour of my Bronze assessment. Food checked out, though I don’t think I’ll eat pasta two evenings in a row again, being a rather tedious meal, and I’ve definitely learnt to put my custard creams and Jaffa cakes in boxes rather than bags to ensure they remain separate and don’t merge to become Jaffa Creams. Oh, and if I find that in Tesco next week, I am claiming plagiarism. But snacky food is always good fun. In the words of a great team member “We’re so British, sitting on a hill side eating digestive biscuit”; I suppose you have to find a light in everything, even if that thing is being stranded in the middle of nowhere. Sleep, however, was an entirely different matter. On our first night, we were placed on a hill and ended up all rolling into each other. On top of that, I had issues sleeping and spend most of the night trekking between my cold tent and the warm, rather decadent-for-a-campsite toilets. At least I could see the stars, which literally lit my path. Cliché, I know.
However, it certainly taught me (again) how a little team work can go a long way, and lacking it can pull you to pieces. On a high, we roamed the hills singing a combination of Busted, “The Power of Love” and – our theme tune – Hakuna Matata. We made as many ginger jokes as possible when in the company of our red-headed teacher (especially when he got us lost in a field and we thought we were going to be shot by a farmer) and ridiculed a particular person who thought that Free Willy was a dolphin. On a low, there were tantrums and yelling and foot stamping. Not to embarrass anyone, of course. I think DofE is one of those rare moments in your life when you get to see someone as their raw selves. When you have no make-up to hide behind, are sleep deprived and hungry, your real self unwillingly slides through, sometimes surprising even yourself. You have heart-to-hearts with the people who normally wind you up; you re-connect with the best friend that you haven’t spoken to in far too long and you bond with the people who you thought you’d never know. Yet it works the other way too – you don’t speak to someone for three days and despite the fact that you’re physically closer than you normally are, you’ve never been further part. Most of the time it’s the pressure of the situation that causes irrelevant fissures to appear; but sometimes this strain can simply reveal the underlying issues, and you can realise that people aren’t who you thought they were. Not negatively, just different. Especially when they haven’t seen either mascara or eyeliner in three days and look like a zombie. I guess that just shows the reliance we place on little Benefits.