Let me tell you how lovely the lovely Miss Cockayne was – she convinced me that cross country running was a great idea – thats how lovely she was. A woman who could sell something like cross country running to a group of otherwise lethargic 17 year olds held immense power in her hands, indeed she held us all in the palm of her hand, metaphorically if not literally, more is the shame.
It was actually orienteering, a sort of cross between Cluedo and cross country running, it was running across open countryside whilst at the same time trying to read a map and compass and look for hidden clues, some of which may also be cryptic clues.
It was the sort of thing that the sturdy girl, outdoor loving, lovely Miss Cockayne would excel at and we all went along in the vain hope that she’d appear in tight shorts and a tight singlet and we could all run along behind, thus are teenagers dreams construed.
The reality is that the lovely Miss Cockayne did not participate at all in our fantasy orienteering, she merely organised it, it was us dribbling idiots who had to wear the shorts and singlets and line up in pairs at the foot of Otley Chevin every Tuesday afternoon with Miss Cockayne having arrived there before us and walked a course leaving behind eight small envelopes with the answers to her clues written inside – these envelopes would be pinned to trees or sellotaped to rocks, map co-ordinates taken and offered to us in clue form.
I paired up with Rick Thorpe and at regular intervals each pair was released to go and search for the clues – Otley Chevin is a huge escarpment to the North of Leeds, the whole long side of an ancient glaciated Wharfedale valley and as is typical with such Dales glaciated valleys the sides are high and steep and are now thickly wooded with pines – somewhere in the hundred or so acres of our patch were eight clues to find, read and report back on in one hours time.
We didn’t do very well the first week, other than utterly exhaust ourselves we returned muddy and flushed with just the two clues and we’d only found those because we’d caught up with another pair of boys and forced them to tell us where they were – Rick Thorpe had a reputation as school bully to upkeep, had been suspended for bullying at one point, went on to join the police, there’s a coincidence.
The following week we had a plan, we volunteered to go off first and having got the hang of this map reading thing started to find the hidden envelopes with ease – having read and noted the answers to the clues we then tore up the envelope and threw the evidence away – it was a master plan for even if we didn’t get to all of them then at least no-one else would find the clues after us.
Worked like a charm too, we all arrived back at the meeting point muddy and flushed, me and Rick Thorpe with seven of the eight correct answers to the clues, everyone else looking downcast and forlorn, we would surely be Miss Cockaynes star pupils this day…
Apart from the obvious.
We were the only pair who had found any of the envelopes at all, and we were the first pair to go onto the course, no-one else had found anything at all after us even though some had even drawn on their maps where they had run and they had run right past where the envelopes had been. Miss Cockayne surveyed the evidence with a suspicious eye, clearly there had been some subterfuge and being an expert on the art of orienteering she obviously knew what it was, her attention turned immediately to us two.
“What did you do with the envelopes after you’d read the answers” she asked, nothing escaped the lovely Miss Cockayne
“We pinned them back on the tree of course” we both lied through our teeth
“Are you sure”
“You didn’t thrown them away did you ?”
We turned to each other and stared feigning shock for fifteen seconds before turning back to the lovely Miss Cockayne
“Why no the lovely Miss Cockayne, why we never thought of such a thing, why that would be, well … cheating”
No-one believed us.
We were asked to find something else to occupy our time the following week.