Thursday, 13 June 2013


It's official - I'm not really competitive. Which will amuse a significant proportion of my friends. And various of my bikes. And anyone I've played Monopoly with over the years. I know this how?

I know this courtesy of work team-building games which saw groups of adult journalists, sales-people and high-ranking administrators tear-arsing around central London looking for places to buy obscure fruit and spices, a thing with feathers on that's not alive and a sports car - look, evidence.

The stakes were high - a bottle of champagne and a day's extra holiday. But honestly. The functional skeleton of stuff like this sticks out in a starving wildebeest stylee, you will learn to work together. You will develop strategies. You will get to know your colleagues in different environments. You will hang around Harrods Food Hall trying to buy exactly £1.01-worth of chirimoya and get a receipt.

Somewhere in the middle of that I realised I had a choice. I could choose to enjoy the ambience of central London, G8 riot police and all, to marvel at the new strangeness of streets I used to race down eight hours a day on a courier motorcycles more than 20 years ago and chat to the nice people I'd been arbitrarily teamed with. Or I could throw myself into the game and pretend that all this was important.

I chose rationality. I have no doubt that the folk who won the the thing and are, even now, drinking bubbly for breakfast had no such qualms.

Ironically of course, I also choose to similarly pointlessly race mountain bikes, but here's the thing, it's a better game altogether. But of course it's still a game.

And occasionally I choose to climb up big mountains in distant places. Which is a game too, but a game with proper consequences, which maybe means it's not a game at all. Or a game with very high stakes. Or 'deep play'.

Because if you decide you're not playing any more halfway up an Andean south face, you can't just stop, buy an ice cream and kickback on a park bench, because, aside from the logistical issues - carrying the bench up, sourcing ice cream and so on, you will almost certainly die.

So ironically, what I took from our urban treasure hunt wasn't so different from what I'd take from a walk in the mountains. Entertaining company and chat. Some welcome exercise with the animal feel of muscles working and feet rolling over ground. And most of all a sense of wonder at my surroundings, the sights, the smells, the noticing of small details and the people watching. We had to navigate too - hurrah for GPS.

And that competitiveness is a choice even when it's shoved ostensibly in your face. But hey, well still managed to bag a photo in a brand new sports car - result...

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