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What I learnt at Zombie School

Wow, I can’t believe it has been over a month since my last blog post! For anyone who has been anxiously awaiting an update I do apologise, and hopefully this epic post will make up for it! I have had such a hectic month, quite possibly the busiest month of my life in terms of socialising and work: a trip to visit family; a Snoop Dogg concert; 20 events to coordinate at work; two fundraising days for Marie Curie; a Fairytale Ball and most excitingly three separate zombie experiences! Probably a few other things along the way, but that’s what springs to mind right now. I won’t bore you with all the details, but I will tell you about my zombie experiences…. in three separate posts in the hope that I don’t bore you to death! I’ll state now that I have written the blog posts pretty quickly in an effort to get them posted before the weekend is over (and I want to chill with a bottle of Bud before bed). The spelling and grammar may be off, but to be honest I’m just too exhausted to go through it all with a fine-toothed comb so I hope you’ll forgive me :-)

Perhaps you recall my post earlier this year about 2.8 Hours Later: Asylum, the city wide zombie chase game? If you didn’t, or you’ve forgotten all about it then you can recap my post here. Well 2.8 Hours Later came to Newcastle this month. My first experience was Zombie School, yes that’s right, Zombie School! On arrival at Zombie School (in a real school might I add) my fellow classmates and I started with a briefing session where we learnt all about the game, the rules, the different types of zombies used in the game etc, etc. We also learnt that it was possible to fail zombie school… I’m pleased to say that I wasn’t the only person who looked a bit concerned at that point, I mean, imagine FAILING Zombie School, wow that would be embarrassing! Having never taken drama classes before or even practised my zombie roar I anxiously asked the people sitting around me if they had any experience… of course they did, they were both taking A-level Drama, that really had me worried!

After our briefing session we all trailed outside to the local park (public park might I add, and on a Saturday morning) where we were shown how to make a multitude of different zombie noises; squeals, groans, shrieks and anything else you can think of. We were taught, by one terrifying zombie (see here for a video), how to walk like a zombie, and not just one type of walk but at least five different styles of zombie walk – dragging one foot behind you, leading with one particular limb, sky-hook zombie (imagine you have a meat hook in your nose that is practically lifting you off the ground), the knock-kneed zombie, drunken stagger. But it didn’t stop there; we were shown how to sit or lie on the floor and how to get up off the floor like a zombie – very important in case you need a rest on the night as you must ALWAYS stay in zombie character unless it’s an emergency. We were shown how to turn around, how to start chasing people, how to safely chase and safely tag players, all the while being assessed on your zombie skills so that the organisers knew your strengths and could decide on where best to place you within the game. As mentioned, all of this was taught and practiced with an audience of passers-by. At that point I was so grateful that I was 20+ miles from home and didn’t know anyone in the area!

I’m pleased to say that my fellow classmates and I all passed zombie school, yay! Unfortunately we didn’t get a certificate, I’d quite like to hang something like that on my wall at home, but we did get a free ticket to play the game so beggars can’t be choosers as the saying goes. I signed up to my ‘zombie night’ and was on my merry way, anxious to play the game. After Zombie School I was a little apprehensive about being a zombie, as less than 90 minutes of practice had left me achy from using muscles that have never been used before, and a rather sore throat from all of the unworldly noises I’d been making.

To read about my experience of running away from the zombies please click here.

To read about my experiences as a zombie please click here.

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Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse

Ok, I might as well just put it out there straight away, I mean, you may have guessed by the heading anyway, but when I played the game I survived! Can you tell that I’m immensely proud of myself? No? Well I am. Very pleased too.

Feeling keen (well I was at least) my friend and I arrived at the start with half an hour to spare… waiting around for so long certainly added to the suspense and tension as we awaited our briefing, not to mention the need for a toilet break before we got going! Eventually we were led in to the briefing building as group of 8 – the two people in front of us and the group of four behind. Our first set of instructions set the scene; we were currently in a safe zone of a city that has been overrun by the living dead. Our mission was to leave the safe zone and explore the city for a supply of clean and safe water. To do this we were issued with a map with our first checkpoint highlighted. At each checkpoint we would need to hack a computer terminal to discover if water was available there, if not it would provide us with the grid reference to the next checkpoint. A member of the group was issued with a backpack to carry the water in and the rest of us were given instructions to protect the water carrier at all costs.

Our next set of instructions advised that we would encounter zombies along the way, which we were to avoid at all costs. Zombies are attracted to human voices and the sound of clapping, and we were informed that it is possible to sneak by them if you are very quiet and don’t run. If we were caught we would be marked on the hand by the zombie and could carry on with the mission. It was very important that the water was kept safe from the potentially infected, so if the water carrier was caught someone else would have to carry the backpack and the water. Once the water had been located we were to return to the safe zone as marked on the map, where we would find out whether those who had been caught were infected or not. It was all pretty simple really – go to the check point, hack the computer, don’t get caught, protect the water and return to the safe zone.

Fully briefed off we set off to find the first checkpoint. At this point my bladder was feeling particularly full and I was very anxious not to encounter a zombie until after a toilet break… just in case! The first set of toilets available was in the same location as the first check point, but of course you had to go through the building (and past the zombies) before you could get to the bathroom. Thankfully the first checkpoint was pretty tame, clearly to ease us in to the swing of things, and no accidents occurred!

Our second checkpoint seemed pretty tame to start with, a couple of zombies locked in a room but making loads of noise (see first section of video clip below) but on exiting the building we encountered the undead stalking the street ahead of us. As a group we began to slowly make our way forwards, until one got a little close and someone in the group panicked and began running which inevitably started the chase. All instructions forgotten, and self-preservation kicking in, I didn’t hesitate to sprint as fast as I could towards the end, at which point I turned around to watch my team mates come in safely behind me.

We managed to make it through four check points unscathed until we reached a viaduct where two zombies awaited their next snack. With their backs to us we began to slowly make our way through the passage until out of nowhere came another four zombies! Once again the self-preservation kicked in and I just ran… I didn’t look to see where my team mates were or whether they needed help, I just ran. At the end of the zone, helpfully marked out with traffic cones, we had an audience of approximately 30 locals who were lined up on the street having a few drinks and a good laugh at all these crazy people who had paid to get chased by other people (see the second section of the video clip below). It was in this short section where five of my team mates were caught… five! That was more than half the team, what the hell happened? Well, teamwork certainly didn’t! Oops.

Carrying on we made it through a few more checkpoints, wondering whether we had missed the vital water supply… particularly as we hadn’t even looked for it! Carrying on we could then see the BIG one (zone) in the distance. A huge car park on the quayside, (Spillers for any locals reading this) and what looked* to be at least 30 or 40 zombies stationed around it ready to eat the brains of any who wandered through…..shiiiiiiiiiiit! Not taking any chances we stopped at a nearby pub for a toilet break.

Arriving at the zone/checkpoint we received our instructions from a fellow survivor (actor). Clean, safe water was at the very end of the car park, but we would have to avoid the zombies first, and then avoid the corrupt SWAT team stationed in front of the water reservoir. There were two safe areas in the zone, both marked by blue barriers. We had to make it to the furthest barrier where another survivor would give us our instructions. Wanting to have my facts right, and also to satisfy my curiosity, I have just used a map to figure out the length of the zone, which was approximately 250 metres. Standing there, looking out on to the car park as other teams battled their way through, listening to the shouts and squeals at the other end of the car park as the SWAT team battled with zombies, it was pretty damn intimidating! (See the third and final section of the video below – it may not look intimidating in the video, but I promise you it was!)

Self-preservation kicked again… I saw two guys from another team wearing onesies and felt that my best chance of survival was to use them as a decoy (what a heartless bitch I am!) as what self-respecting zombie wouldn’t be attracted to a dragon or a Tigger onesie? The two guys split up and travelled up the opposite lengths of the car park. I kind of followed the guy on the left, whilst also sticking to the middle. Sure enough the zombies started going for him and I was able to spring right up the middle to the first safe area. Once I got to safety I turned back and suddenly remembered my fellow team mates once again! Half of the group were close behind me, but the other half of the group were still close to the start…oops!

Not hanging around as zombies were on the other side of our safe blue barrier, and my decoy onesie survivors were on the move again, I set off for the next safe point where we would receive our next set of instructions. This part of the zone felt like chaos, it seemed like there were zombies everywhere and by this point I had one hell of a stitch in my side. Close to safety I found myself very close to a zombie but I physically couldn’t push myself and harder, thankfully I didn’t have to as she didn’t get close enough to tag me…phew! At this point I was able to enjoy a lovely rest as I waited for the rest of my team mates… half close-by and half nowhere to be seen! I even made a video of the chaos (not displayed as very bad quality), it was only days later when I watched it back that I realised my decoy onesie survivors were still struggling to make it through long after (at least a minute or two…but a minute or two in that kind of situation feels like an eternity!) I had made it to safety. Clearly my plan for self-preservation worked a treat, and as the half of the group who were still with me had made it through by following my route it was a great success!

Our next set of instructions involved sending a volunteer out to collect the water, by climbing through a hole in a fence and back out again, whilst the others dodged the SWAT team. After making it this far there was NO WAY I was volunteering to collect the water (self-preservation!) so we let one of the group members who had already been caught take on that task…. it may have broken the rules slightly but we weren’t explicitly told that the volunteer had to be free of infection. Our volunteer took off in one direction and off we went in the other, quickly making it to safety.

After this we had only one more encounter; a long and narrow cycle path, with zombies lurking in the bushes along the way. We encountered a fellow survivor (actor) who informed us that we were very close to safety, we just had to make it a bit further along the path and we would find a set of steps on the right which would lead us to the back door. The survivor, well equipped with a riot shield, would show us the way. At this point I considered making a video of the last run to freedom, but then I thought better of it. I’d come all this way without even being caught, why risk it for a video? I should add at this point that somewhere along the way a sixth member of the team had been caught, so there were only two definite survivors. I’d also realised by this point that the person at the front seemed to be safest – the zombies could be quite slow in reacting to human noise so if you were at the front the chances were you would get past them before they were fully ‘alert’ and they’d go for those in the middle of the group.

Off we set with our riot-shield-carrying survivor when out of nowhere (ok, a bush) comes the very zombie who taught us at Zombie School (see here for a clip of him in action!). Our survivor holds him off with the riot shield and tells us to run… I didn’t hesitate for a second – I’d seen this guy move at Zombie School, he was bloody fast and bloody scary, so I sprinted, quite possibly the fastest sprint in my entire life, dodging other zombies as they emerged from other bushes… to safety.

Aaaah, safety, no more zombies, no risk of being caught…. I could finally relax, knowing that I DO have a chance of surviving a zombie apocalypse!

The end result

The end result

 

With the 2.8 Hours Later Zombieboss at the Zombie Disco

With the 2.8 Hours Later Zombieboss at the Zombie Disco

 

 

 

 

 

*After being a zombie a week later in this very zone I would say the more accurate number would be between 15 and 20, but whilst playing the game this looked like a LOT more!

To read about Zombie School please click here.

To read about my experiences as a zombie please click here.

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I would make a great zombie

So a week after I survived the zombie apocalypse, it was MY turn to be the zombie and hunt down those pesky little humans running around. I arrived at Zombie HQ on my own (I didn’t volunteer with anyone, and this worked out quite well as I saw a lot of groups/friends/couples being split up), feeling a little nervous, and hoping to get a ‘nice, easy role’ as I was still feeling the aches in my legs from playing the game and I didn’t fancy any more of that thank you very much. I got chatting with a few people in the queue as I waited to check in, they had already volunteered the night before so were able to tell me what I could expect.

All zombied up and ready to eat some brains

All zombied up and ready to eat some brains

On check-in I learnt that I wasn’t going to have an easy night. Oh no, I was going to be put to work as a type 2 zombie (fast, think World War Z) in the largest zone of the game, zone 9 (Spillers) which I had already identified as the hardest part of the game when I played it as a survivor the week before. As our zone was towards the end of the route we were the last group to be briefed (a short replay of Zombie School), warmed up and sent to costume and make-up. Make-up was quite fun, first off we were covered in white face paint with a bit of black to hollow out the face and the eyes, and then splattered with fake blood. The end result looked pretty good I thought…

Once ready we boarded the bus and were deposited at our location where we checked the area to ensure it was safe, i.e. no broken bottles or piles of dog mess to fall in to, did a warm up of the body and the vocal chords and got ourselves in to position ready for the first group of victims survivors.

Zone 9 (Spillers) zombies - 27th June

Zone 9 (Spillers) zombies – 27th June

As a fast zombie I was armed with a pen to mark anyone I caught in the hope that they would then be infected. I felt a lot of pressure at this point – what if I didn’t catch anyone?! I was stationed at the very last stretch across the car park, maybe 50 – 75 metres from safety… hoping that players would be exhausted by the time they got to me, and hopefully easier to catch!

The first couple of groups got through ok, a little bit of intimidation and chase but no one was caught I don’t think. I was definitely a bit nervous to start with, I don’t know about my fellow zombies, so I felt it took me a few times to get in to the swing of things. It was hard being the chaser on the last stretch as I constantly found myself at the ‘safety zone’ just as I was getting up to speed, so I’d have to back off and turn around… and boy was it a long zombie stagger back to my original position!

I don’t want to go in to too much detail and give away any valuable information on how to survive as there are still games to be played in other cities and we don’t want to give any players the upper hand! But, after a while I did develop a tactic which helped me. As the players ran across the car park and began to get close to being level with me I would start hobbling towards them, slowly gaining momentum until they were level with me and would then break out in to an all out sprint… I caught a lot of people off guard, helping me to catch at least 10 people (I didn’t keep an exact count as it was all too busy and crazy to be keeping numbers in my head). As someone who was a bit chubby at school and was never one for sports or athletics I can’t describe how great it was to hear some of the players remark at how fast I was, it was quite hard to stay in character whilst you’re trying not to smile with self-satisfaction. It was funny to see some people who clearly thought they were running as fast as they could and then realised I was right behind them, all of a sudden the adrenaline would kick in and they found a new high speed – it was great to watch! In some ways that was better than actually catching players, as the game is all about getting the adrenaline flowing and trying to survive – but I couldn’t let everyone slip through like that, what about my ego?!

If I’d thought it was hard work surviving the apocalypse the week before, that was nothing compared to being one of the zombies. The area I was in was by far the hardest zone to get through as a player (at least in my experience as a player) so to spend three hours in that zone chasing hundreds of people (fair enough it wasn’t the whole length of the zone) over and over again was exhausting. There were a few times I chased people to the edge of the safe zone and would turn around to drag/stagger/hobble my way back to my starting position (and my bottle of water!) ready for a nice lie down on the floor and a little rest, only to find more groups entering the zone – no rest for the wicked I suppose!

As it began to get dark we were told that the last group had made it through and we would soon be back on the bus and headed to the zombie disco. I was shocked to see that it was nearly 11pm and we had been on the go for nearly three hours, but I was definitely ready to sit down and chill out! After de-briefing, returning costumes etc my fellow zone zombies and I made our way to the zombie disco. At the entrance to the disco we bumped in to a player who recognised us from our zone and informed me that loads of players had been talking about the fast blonde zombie at the end, and that they thought I must’ve caught the most people. I have no idea how accurate that is, and I doubt I caught the most people, but nonetheless I was absolutely thrilled to be described in such a way!

On arrival at the zombie disco I was hyper, but one quick drink and a sit down and I realised how exhausted I was! Would I do it again? Definitely… both as a runner and as a player. Bring on 2015!

To read all about Zombie School please click here.

To read about my experience of running away from the zombies please click here.

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This time next year we’ll be millionaires!

This time next year we'll be millionaires

Not likely, unless I finally win the EuroMillions, but as someone who has watched a lot of Only Fools and Horses that just felt like the obvious end to the start of that sentence. In actual fact this time next year I will be in Peru ready to tackle the great Inca Trail Trek! (For more information about my great challenge see my I know what I’m doing blog post)

It’s quite scary really, I signed up to the challenge six short months ago and I do not know where that time has gone! When I signed up I was scared of what I was getting myself in to, I didn’t do a great deal of exercise (mainly walking and pole dance class), I didn’t really know anything about the Inca Trail (I now know a little bit about it) and I was terrified of committing myself to raising a minimum of £3800 – a huge sum of money, substantially more than any figure I have raised for charity previously.

Six short months down the line and I’ve already raised well over half of that amount, and a whole year of fundraising to go! My fitness levels are at the best they have ever been, and although I haven’t started training for long walks I’m pretty confident that my fitness and stamina will be a great help when I finally get around to long walks and hikes….which I WILL get around to soon, I promise!

I’ve suddenly realised that I haven’t actually updated you all on my fundraising activities. At my last update I mentioned that I’d reached the halfway point, and that raffle ticket sales were going well as I’d raised £500 at that point. After the last ticket was sold I’d actually made £706 from the raffle, a fantastic result and a hell of a lot more than the £250 I had hoped for!

Just a small selection of the books I'll be clearing out of my house

Just a small selection of the books I’ll be clearing out of my house

My next fundraising activity is going to be a book sale at work next month. I have a load of books lying around the house that I don’t need, and could certainly do with freeing up the space they are currently occupying…. I could always do with freeing up space in my house! I also have some fantastic colleagues who have generously offered to donate loads of books they no longer want or need so we’re freeing up space all over the place at the minute…. until we spend our pennies at the book sale and bring fresh reading material home that is!

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Weekly Photo Challenge: On the Move

When I saw the topic for this week’s Weekly Photo Challenge, the topic of which is ‘On the Move’ I just couldn’t resist sharing another holiday snap, which totally sums up the description…

Whether on foot, in a kayak, or on a train, we can document our lives easily. More than ever, the moments of our in-betweens are photo-worthy and shareable.

This is a screenshot taken from a video which the hubby made whilst we rode the cable car in San Francisco down to Fisherman’s Wharf. This was hubby’s first ride in a cable car, which just so happened to be so busy that we had to stand and hang on to the sides… he loved it! He had a look on his face like a kid at Christmas… I suppose a photo of him would probably be more appropriate now that I’ve set the scene, but I was holding on to a bag and drink so wasn’t letting go for anything, so here’s a photo of me instead.

On the move in San Francisco

On the move in San Francisco

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Spring

Far too much time passes between blog posts regarding the preparations for my upcoming charity challenge, to raise £3800 for my local Hospice to trek the Inca Trail next year (read all about it here). So, I am going to combine an update with my entry to this week’s Weekly Photo Challenge, the topic of which is Spring.

Last Monday, (Bank Holiday Monday) I had a pleasant surprise in that my other half finished work a lot earlier than we expected – 12pm instead of 8pm, which was a huge bonus. Not wanting to waste his new-found freedom we decided that we’d go out for a drive around the countryside, which quickly turned in to an adventure to High Force, a stunningly beautiful waterfall near Middleton-in-Teesdale .

High Force waterfall

High Force waterfall

We’ve been to High Force many times but have always stuck to one particular route, for those who are familiar with High Force we have always parked at the pub and taken the trail which leads to the bottom of the waterfall. Every time we have taken this route we have seen people at the top on the other sides of the falls and wondered how the hell they got there. On Monday we decided that we would finally find the route and experience the falls from the other side, which involved a 2-mile walk from our starting point (Bowlees picnic area) to the falls. This provided a fantastic opportunity to finally get the brand spanking new walking boots out of the box and begin ‘breaking them in’ ahead of the Inca Trail next year.

Putting the hiking boots to good use!

Putting the hiking boots to good use!

A couple of friends joined us and we had a lovely afternoon exploring the new trail and delighting in the wonders of Spring…finally bringing me around to the Weekly Photo Challenge that is Spring! I love spring, it is without a doubt my favourite season of the year. Spring is a new dawn, full of life and injecting colour back in to the world, which is so dull and grey and depressing throughout winter. I actually feel myself becoming happier and more positive in spring, it’s almost like I’m part of the whole process!

The best part of spring for me is watching the spring lambs as they find their confidence. You can always tell the new born lambs as they don’t venture too far from their mothers, but then they get to a certain age and all of a sudden they are the most adventurous little balls of white fluff you ever laid eyes on. And have you ever noticed how they seem to become ‘cliquey’ and run around in little gangs? Seriously, I could just watch them frolicking around the countryside all day, they are so damn cute!

Spring lambs causing mischief

Spring lambs causing mischief

Spring lambs

 

Not only did we see many a cute lamb on our little adventure, but also ducklings! If I love anything as much as spring lambs it has got to be ducklings! Unfortunately they were on the far side of the river and didn’t venture our way, but I was still pretty excited to see my first ducklings of the year….that’s right, I know what you’re thinking…I clearly have issues! What can I say? I just love animals!Ducklings

Anyway, all in all we had a lovely afternoon, took a load of photo’s (at which point I should clarify that some of the photo’s I have posted as part of the challenge were taken by me, and some by the other half) and finally began my training (if a 4 mile stroll through the countryside can be classed as training?) for the Inca Challenge.