DofE v real life

Today I’ve been in London with a three and five year old, to perform the near-obligatory shuffle through the dinosaur halls of hell. After lunch it was back to the rockets, planes and trains museum, then we hopped onto a London bus that took us about three miles in an hour. I’ve been mentally comparing this outing with a day’s DofE supervision, and frankly the latter is easier to control and a whole lot more pleasurable in many ways, for the following reasons…

1. DofE has a supervision plan. We’ve got a lot better at these in recent years, especially with more teams out at any one time. The most recent one encompassed four days, four teams and 5 staff, and although clearly after Day 2 the plan became rather more loosely adhered to, it was still a much thumbed and well used document.

On the other hand, trying to formulate any sort of agreed plan for a family of four is so difficult I am having to train myself into spontaneity (never been a genetic or nurtured trait in my family). Having spent time researching train options, we then went for a different station at a different time. I’d pored over Tripadvisor city guide, found great burger place near the museums, as we set off to it son #2 said ‘no burger, just pizza’ in the sort of voice that hinted at an impending paddy. Joy.

2. Two young boys will inevitably need a wee/poo at THE most inconvenient time possible, including (having been to the loo on the train) singing in a loud pair of voices ‘I’ve had a high speed weeeeee’ amongst loads of commuters. Conversely, much of the time on DofE there is a convenient bush/rock/public loo, and few audience members to which to broadcast your toilet related news (although if your DofE team are close knit enough this can prove popular).

3. On DofE, I have a stock in my bag of carb based foodstuffs, bought in advance, which I can dip into whenever the hypoglycaemia niggles. In London, trying to pack light, the boys had snaffled all the grazing materials by 11am, and despite the streets lined with pizza/pasta/burger/other fooderies, nothing was quite right. Invoking the usual narky walk round several blocks with boys getting more mopey and me getting more cross. If only the Fox Tor Cafe had pop up branches.

4. Supervising DofE pretty much guarantees that you’ll bump into people either doing the same thing, and end up having a chinwag, or at least people enjoying the outdoors in the same vein – walking or strolling, bird watching etc.

In London today I have felt more alien than ever, wondering why on earth people would choose to go shopping in Oxford Street in this weather when they could at least go to the park. The last straw was walking through the station and seeing a square of AstroTurf with ten deck chairs on it and a sign trying to persuade people they’d feel happier if they sat there. With a view of an escalator!

5. The return to normality. Last week brought a serious case of Post-Expedition blues (see previous post) mainly as a result of cutting the bonded ties between great teams, and primarily a great staff team after 7 days away to the Welsh mountains. Today it’s a massive sigh of relief at departing the traffic, people and noise of central London for getting back to the coast. That feeling of being re-anchored because the sea is ‘just there’ and all is well with the world.

Is it just my age, or do cities get less appealing year by year?