For someone who enjoys travel and exploring so much, I have an appalling sense of direction. I am a trained tour guide, for heavens sakes, and still find referring to direction using compass points stressful. “North” means nothing to me, unless I am actually standing on the Southbank gazing across the river. And reading a map? Even worse. I always feel maps are but suggestions of where I might be and where I may end up…with endless, pointless, frustrating diversions in between.
However, if you want to see me leap from my couch, map clutched in hands, desperate for the challenge, then drop themed sculptures all over London and tell me to find them. OOOh I do love a good hunt!!
I have searched for elephants and eggs and Olympic mascots, crazy hats, more eggs, book benches and currently, simultaneously hunting buses and Paddington Bears. There is something about rouding a corner, shortly after moaning aloud “it has to be here somewhere…” and seeing it there in the distance….a bus covered in painted safety pins, Paddington doffing his hat, that fills me with joy.
What is about these treasure hunts that I love so much. Well I do love a challenge. And checking things off lists. And photo opportunities. And the sense of accomplishment. And the creativity that goes into the making and
planning of both the objects and the hunt. I love the excuse to drag children all over the city. I love the moments you share with strangers. “Oh Mummy is losing the will to live,” groaned a woman next to me in St. Paul’s churchyard….and then we both saw the object of our desire and bonded over this short term happiness. “If you are looking for the Paddington, he is right round the corner,” a young woman told us, clearly noticing the glazed desperate look in my eyes as I clutched the increasingly creased map. She has never heard such effusive thanks.
Of course it is vital that you have at least one child in tow. This not only makes the photography more acceptable, but creates the impression that you are on some sort of cultural outing.
And there are practical benefits. The only way I can begin to find my way round the West End (does no street run straight?) is that I spent hours and hours and hours trying to find the eggs, making endless navigational mistakes. And there are the unexpected moments. I would never have met the chewing gum graffiti man on Millennium Bridge had we not been in pursuit of 2 Paddingtons and 4 buses.
These hunts are, of course, largely fundraising exercises. I had a unnerving experience, years ago, when I boldly bid on an egg in order to be invited to the “supporters” party at Covent Garden. I felt quite sure I would be quickly outbid. But I wasn’t. Not for days and days and days. In fact it went down to the wire, with only hours to go before the auction ended. Was already well into planning the groveling, explanation speech for husband when some angel from heaven offered more money. The relief was overwhelming. That said….I do quite fancy having a bus…..
What are you waiting for? Download that map. Grab the nearest child and any photographic device and get out here with me. A great way to explore the city!