As the 7:45 start time approached on what promised to be one of the wettest hashes of the year, and having parked across the road from the Osborne Arms, there seemed to be a distinct lack of numbers, namely 4. But then the hare emerged from the pub and in no uncertain terms, told us we were in the wrong place! Why didn't we go to the car park? Who reads instructions!
Anyway, once we got to the starting point, we were all issued with walnut whips and then promptly told not to eat them.
This was going to be a Valentine hash, where everyone was expected to be involved in a kind of kissing gate game where at every kissing gate, hashers, you guessed it, were expected to exchange kisses for a walnut whip. There were a couple of drawbacks to this plan. 1) there were only 3 girls on the hash, which meant that there was going to be a slight imbalance of the sexes, and I could sense that quite a few males were feeling distinctly uneasy. 2) No-one was quite sure who was supposed to pass the walnut whip to whom.
Off we went, and headed towards Fining Wood. Dick immediately got himself into pole position at every kissing gate, and started picking up walnut whips from anyone who would oblige, this included all the girls and presumably some of the male hashers. The shiggy in Fining Wood was excellent, just the right consistency, nowhere to go round it, and extremely deep. Perfect conditions to start the hash. As more kissing gates came and went, the lads started to lose their inhibitions, and a few were even seen to embrace, and I couldn't be sure there was no tounging going on. You see, by this time my torch had packed up, leaving me pretty well in the dark for the duration. Even Twist got into the action and delivered what looked like a perfectly formed Walnut Whippette, but there didn't seem to be any takers.
More surprises were to follow. There were special onbacks for Helen, boys only and Matt, who finally turned up with Ros, thereby swelling the female numbers by another 33%. Also anybody who refused to do an onback was told to donate £1 to charity. Even Ken saved a £1 or 2. I forgot to mention that Gerry will be donating to orphans in Africa in lieu of chips. (Ed's aside: we sent £120 - which will keep one poor orphan going for six months - so we may have to do another in a few month's time)
At some point in Mousells wood, the shortcutters headed off towards Frieth, while the longs carried on eventually passing Little Frieth and on up towards Hill's wood. After turning left towards Moor End, Helen suddenly remarked that we seem to have less long cutters than we started with, surely someone was missing. After about 10 secs serious deliberation, we forged on, even though I was sure we had left Paul behind somewhere along the way. Later we found out he had indeed gone short, so we needn't have had that momentary concern for a lost hasher wondering around the woods.
Before we got to Moor End Common, Gerry decided it would have been too cruel to send us through even more shiggy on a false trail, so we were spared from this and headed off over the common. We even managed to avoid another extra loop, when someone picked up the shortcutter's trail on the road up to the conference centre. We followed the trail up towards Lane End, and onto a narrow path, where Gerry had kindly organised a refreshing shower courtesy of the pub, which miraculously appeared before we realised we had finished. The best end to a hash for a long time.
In the pub Audrey was awarded the prize for the most kisses (7 I believe), and surplus walnut whips were greedily consumed.