As one of the organisers said, you can learn a lot about yourself. One thing I learned very quickly is that I do not like being shot at — and being hit even less. Ten minutes into the first game and I foolishly went to investigate a noise behind me only to be promptly shot by a camouﬂaged figure lurking in the undergrowth ﬁve yards away. Very early on I decided I wasn’t going to enjoy the Survival Game very much.
In the car on the way to the 125 acre game site near Dryman, Philip Barnes one of the directors of organisers Alternative Leisure, told me that being shot stung a bit, but
wasn’t a real disincentive to playing. Personally I thought it hurt like hell even if the stinging did soon wear off — unlike the livid red marks which can remain for up to a week afterwards. I suppose there has to be some deterrent to rushing about like Audie Murphy and if the pain doesn’t stop you, the thought of spending an average £25 a day, only to pass most of it in the neutral zone wiping gallons of vegetable dye off your person is sure to. I wasn’t sure what to think about the Survival Game when it was first suggested to me. My first thoughts were along the ‘right-wing, militaristic, unpleasant‘ lines, but the closer to the day I got, the more I began to look forward to it. Standing about with a throbbing leg and shoulder, I wasn’t so sure. I had started to worry, when one of the judges, after a school-masterish introductory speech: ‘don’t shoot the judges and don’t shoot the sheep, it lowers their market value’, demonstrated the very expensive, gas-powered Splatmaster pistols. ‘ Even from 20 yards the round, gelatin capsules burst against the board with sufﬁcient force to make me wince. Another reason for my unease lay in the opposition team. Whitecraigs rugby team had turned up looking ominously organised — every man in camouflage fatigues and forage caps — some even had their faces blacked up. After they were five games to nil up, it emerged that one of their number was an ex-marine which did seem to give an unfair advantage.
After 45 minutes, the first game was abandoned as a draw and we moved on to another location for the second. This time I was taking no chances and found myself a cosy little hiding place in the long grass where I felt sure no one would find me. In actual fact, the name, the
Acton man Graham Caldwell goes down to the woods and gets a big surprise.
base. Since this is the object of the game, his team consequently won and we broke for lunch.
George Graham who used to rebuild houses before he went into the Survival Game business told me that of the nine Survival Games operations in the country, the Scottish one has very possibly the best site and it is one they came Survival Game, is a bit ofa misnomer. It is relatively easy to survive a game by hiding sufficiently far away and this is just what I did. After about 20 minutes, I was getting rather bored. I could hear the sound of shots being exchanged in the distance and was beginning to think that I should be where the action was — after all that is how Ed Morrow made his name. As ifon cue a cap began to move towards me through the bracken. Receiving no reply to my challenge, I shot it. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a member of my own team, but since I had hit him in the face (he was wearing protective goggles) and head shots don’t count, he wasn’t out. He did, however, talk me into going closer to where the action was. This time the enemy was in clear view and we had a jolly time taking pot shots at one another from behind trees until one of them grabbed our flag and made off with it back to his across by accident. George, Philip and the third member of the company, Andrew Park were looking for a business venture before deciding on this one. Their decision was beginning to look as though it was the wrong one when they could not find a suitable piece of land. They had given themselves a limit of one more week when they found the Killearn Estate on the way to explore another. Luckily enough the owner, a sheep farmer, had no use for the hillier/woodier/wetter parts of his land and was easily persuaded to make some extra money by letting it out. The Survival Game has now been running since June and has had coverage from television and newspapers, although Rosemary Long wrote a predictably anti piece
in the Evening Times (‘Sick. That’s what I call them.’).
They haven’t, in fact, come in for the kind of stick which may have been expected. The Survival Game after all is linked with the deeply disreputable Survivalist movement in America, although it has now moved on to become a mega-buck industry moving into management consultancy and hence, respectability. Apart from that, the thought of pe0ple rushing around the countryside in military gear shooting at each other is bound to be treated by suspicion in some quarters. Alternative Leisure are
. currently wondering what will
happen when their application for planning permission comes up in front of the distincly leftish Stirling District Council -— the one who can’t (or won’t) let the Army recruit in the town centre. In actual fact it is all good, clean fun — apart from the drawbacks inherent in rolling about on a sheep farm.
In the afternoon I donned a judge’s a
yellow vest, which in theory meant that I couldn’t be shot at and went tramping off to get a spectator’s eye view. For the disinterested it all looks rather comical: groups of young men (and one woman) reliving every war movie they’ve ever seen — crawling through long grass, waving their arms about and rolling theatrically over walls. In
between times they banged away
: ineffectually at each other. ‘What
these peOple don’t realise,’ opined George, ‘is that not many people can
§ actually shoot.’ After a lot of
shouting and a few more shots the orange team came tearing away with
' the flag again and won in a canter.
For the next game I found a really big bush and settled myselfdeep into it. Here I remained for quite some time until, with a whoop and a shout, one of the opposition tore into the clearing, grabbed our flag and dived for cover. . . into my bush. As we lay winded together a member of my team put a Splatmaster to his head and invited him to surrender. Dazed and bruised I crawled out of my bush into the open and was promptly shot. I didn’t get my own back until my last game. Set to defend a wooded area surrounded by a shallow river on three sides, I banged away in fine style, splatting three of the opposition by my reckoning, in a stout rearguard action, before, in an uncharacteristic act of bravado, making a dash towards the opposition , who shot me. He who lives by the Splatgun must die by the Splatgun.
The Survival Game runs most weekends but games can be organised during the week. The basic cost is £1 7. 50 per person, but extra ammunition and gas capsules can inﬂate this drastically unless you are careful. Camouﬂage gear although not obligatory, is advantageous — Alternative Leisure hope shortly to get a stock of such clothing to hire out. The day runs between 9.30am and 6pm approx. Each game lasts about three quarters of an hour and is played on a different course. Further details and booking forms can be obtained from Alternative Leisure, Ltd, 3/] 42 Minard Road, Glasgow G41 2H W or by telephoning 041 632
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The List 19 Sept — 2 Oct 33