We organised a bushcraft party for my son last week. This involved him and five friends going feral and wandering off to camp overnight in the woods behind our farm. The two bushcrafters overseeing the party were going to teach them to make traps, start fires and skin and cook a deer. This they did, and, judging by their demeanours when I picked them up next morning, they'd had a fabulous time.
It was all a bit Lord of the Flies. Overnight they had gone from TV-reliant children to forest vagabonds, covered in camouflage paint and singing a rather spooky tribal song. In true, 21st-century parental style, I had to get all the parents of the little ferals to sign a consent form saying that they were happy for their little ones to be exposed to the "hardships" of a night in a very nice bell tent. It was best I checked, however. One of Jackson's new friends introduced himself as "the most intelligent boy in the school" and announced that both his parents worked at nearby GCHQ.
These are not parents that I want to clash with. Presumably, if relations went sour I would suddenly find my personal emails and phone calls splashed all over the Gloucestershire Echo. No, I need to keep GCHQ parents very happy. If I become very friendly, then maybe I could use them for my own nefarious purposes. We've already had a big celebrity cull with the arrests surrounding the hacking scandal. All I need to do is pick off a couple more and the turning on of the Cheltenham Christmas lights will be mine.
Meanwhile, back in the woods, I was regretting having not asked the bushcraft instructors to teach me a couple of tricks. Personally, I've never been a huge fan of the whole Ray Mears-type experience. I'll never forget seeing him in some rainforest in South America asking a couple of local tribesmen to show him how they made fire. After a couple of puzzled looks, one of the tribesmen whipped out a cigarette lighter. Mears looked so depressed he ended up teaching them their own ancient methods of fire lighting.
I have just read Max Brooks's fabulous book, World War Z. Brooks relates what happens to the world after a mass zombie outbreak. The thing that really sticks in my craw is that television people are almost always the first to be wiped out, the reasons being that we are totally useless, have zero real-life skills and are totally unable to survive in a post-apocalyptic world where we are unable to grab a vox pop or get per diems.
Maybe I should learn some basic survival skills, just in case the world goes pear-shaped or the Chipping Norton/Cheltenham wars break out again. It could be vital for me to know how to hunt down and trap an armed Jeremy Clarkson or a rogue Rebekah Brooks.
You never know, but one does need to think ahead to keep ahead down here in the Cotswolds.