Thanks to the offer of a free ticket and an absence of jet lag, the Dishy Pharmacist and I pootled down to the NEC for our first ever visit to The Outdoors Show.
Others have expressed disappointment, but to me it seemed that there should be something for everyone here. We perused a plethora of gear as we sought a shot of caffeine (what was that about jet lag!) before ambling across to the Cumberland Arms.
Here there was a gathering of vaguely familiar faces, most of whom we had never met before. They were all ‘UK Outdoors Bloggers’, and this was an informal annual gathering. Great to meet you, folks.
We had met Andy Howell (The Blogfather) before and were soon nailed by him for an interview on our recent trip to NZ. This definitely does not afford us celebrity status – so far as I could see Andy was attempting to interview most of those attending the show.
We were also pleased to see Colin and Helen from Stockport Walking and Outdoor Group. Hopefully we will see more of them, and they may give us the chance to relive our Pyrenees HRP trip (two wonderful months in 2003) at one of their evening meetings later this year.
Nervy due to our temporary lack of income and the astonishing rises in prices in the UK during our 7 week absence, we abstained from significant purchases, though I found a fabulous map (IGN Chambeyron val Maira 1:25000 - £2) and the DP bought some socks but then got cold feet when it came to the rather more pricey waterproof housing for her new camera.
It was particularly good to see Darren and Alan again, and to meet Alan’s aristocratic walking companion and erstwhile saviour of Darren, Lord Elphus. I thought he might have set up Julia Bradbury (who was posing nearby) as his daughter Sophie, but no such luck.
Three-o-clock arrived – the duly appointed time for a ‘Petition Meeting’ concerning the attempt to legalise wild camping in England and Wales. I’ll comment elsewhere on this issue, the meeting on which took place in a ‘Void’ next to the WD-40 Bike Arena.
Sadly the arena commentator had a very loud and very proximate loudspeaker, possibly orchestrated by John Hee to keep his audience awake (several of them had very much enjoyed the splendid Cumberland Ale). Luckily the void was not quite a void, it contained some huge mattresses. John must have soon cottoned on to this and I can only assume that it was his triumph of telepathy that resulted in their removal and recovered the attention of the recumbent forms. The purpose of the meeting was thereby achieved…
[Some poetic licence here, as I now see that John is one of the recumbent forms!]
The DP and I then spent some time admiring the wonderful display of underwater photographs, and regretted we had not made better use of all the activities going on in the NEC’s theatres – numerous enticing talks and films – we missed most of them!
It had been a long day, so temporary lodgings in Solihull were much appreciated.