#7 – Do the ‘SPICE rack’

This one is going to need a bit of explaining!  Let’s start with SPICE: it’s the adventure, activity and social club that I belong to and spend a lot of my time doing crazy and fun stuff with (www.spiceuk.com).   I’ve been a member for 10 years now and it has been a massive influence in my life.  Through SPICE I have met many new friends, all over the country, and been to places and done things I never would have done otherwise.   For example, with SPICE I have spent the night in a Mongolian ger, raced a Dragon Boat, won It’s a Knockout, dowsed for ley lines inside Stonehenge’s inner circle, dined on a submarine, tried my hand at glass blowing, spent Hallowe’en at a fancy dress Ball in a candlelit cave, partied at my first ever Music Festival, tried pole dancing, done a firewalk and celebrated Hogmanay in Edinburgh.  SPICE is responsible for the revival of skiing in my life and it was only with the support and guidance of Spicers that I completed challenge number 27 of The List; to ski a black run.  With SPICE I have drunk several bars dry, laughed til I cried on too many occasions to count, danced the night away, still been in the bar when the sun came up and invaded Center Parcs in various outrageous fancy dress costumes.  In fact, SPICE is one of the reasons that writing The List was tough – I’ve already done a lot of the things on most people’s bucket lists, and many of those through SPICE.

Trying to explain what SPICE is to someone who is not a Spicer is pretty tough, because as an organisation it does so much.  But, I’ll try.  Basically, SPICE operates on a regional franchise basis:  eight areas in the UK who all organise local events plus a national office who look after holidays and some key weekends away.  It’s a membership club, so you join and become a member of your local group but are then free to book events with any of the eight regions or the holidays or weekends which are shared with all groups. In common with most members,  I’ve tended to do the majority of my events with my home group (SPICE Thames Valley) but have in the past ventured out on safari to SPICE Scotland for the Edinburgh Festival and Hogmanay, SPICE Yorkshire for a fantastic camping weekend with brewery trip at Masham, SPICE London for various touristy visits including BBC TV Centre and the Houses of Parliament, SPICE Bristol for a walk and SPICE Manchester for a memorable ‘School Disco’.  From the national office I’ve enjoyed a number of weekends and holidays including Mongolia, Moscow and St Petersburg, Rome and a Turkish gulet cruise.

The main mistake people make about SPICE is to assume that it’s a singles club.  It isn’t – but it is singles friendly.  About 70% of the membership is single so I never feel out of place on events.  Also, I can opt to book a holiday, share a twin room and not pay a single supplement, plus be guaranteed a fun set of people to go away with.  It’s perfect.

SPICE is such a big part of my life that it had to feature in the 40 before 40 somewhere but where?  I realised that after 10 years, I’ve got very comfortable with my local group, I know most of the people in it and I do a lot with them and with my SPICE friends generally but I tend to focus on the social stuff and I don’t go out there and play with the other groups enough.  So, this challenge is about seeing what the other regions have to offer, experiencing some of the range of events SPICE puts on as well as going back to basics and being the new girl on events where (for a change) I don’t know the majority of the people there.  With this in mind, the SPICE rack was born; doing one event with each of the eight SPICE groups in the country, plus a national event.  Nine in total.  To make it a proper challenge, I’ve decided to try to do it in one calendar year.

I may have left it a little late…  My first event of the rack was with SPICE West Midlands, during May.  (Note: nine events to do, already five months into the year.  Doh!)  I chose their Camping Afloat weekend.  It’s pretty unique to that part of the world and a pretty iconic event in the SPICE world so it was a good one to start with; spend the weekend on a converted coal barge, cruising the canals around Wolverhampton.  We were warned to expect basic.  After my years backpacking, I was pleasantly surprised with our accommodation!

Moored up in the heart of Wolverhampton City Centre

Moored up in the heart of Wolverhampton City Centre

Bunk beds on board!

Bunk beds on board!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I had a fantastic time.  I arrived on Friday evening, found my bed then headed off to the pub to meet some of my ‘ship’ mates and enjoy a real ale or three.  In the morning we devoured bacon and sausage butties before setting off down the 21 lock Wolverhampton flight.

Heading into the first of 21 locks!

Heading into the first of 21 locks!

Last time I did locks was on a school trip in the Black Country when I was ten and many on the boat had never been on a canal before, but completing this flight meant we learnt quickly!  They were close together so many of us walked down the flight, doing the locks as we went.  As someone said “This canal boating makes a good walk!”

Learning to do locks...

Learning to do locks…

Action shot!  Me working a lock

Action shot! Me working a lock

Fortunately once we’d finished the lock flight there was time to genuinely appreciate the peace of the waterways with a gentle cruise, gossip and a g&t in the sunshine before a pub lunch.

Cruising with a g&t in the sunshine

Cruising with a g&t in the sunshine

After some more cruising and some more locks we reached our evening mooring and adjourned to the pub again (different pub!) for a night of drinking and dancing.  Sunday saw us tucking into a full English canalside before making the return trip, ending with racing the other boat up the 21 lock flight!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The glorious weather helped to make it an incredibly enjoyable and relaxing weekend but it was really made by a great bunch of people.  It was genuinely like being the new girl again – normally I turn up on a SPICE event knowing at least half of the people there but this time I had met just one of the crew, once before.  It was great to get right back to basics and put the effort in to get to know new people and make new friends as well as enjoy a fun activity (and some good beer!) together.  A successful first outing and SPICE West Midlands ticked off.

One down, eight to go!

Our boat, finishing the 21 lock flight

Our boat, finishing the 21 lock flight

Breakfast on the tow path

Breakfast on the tow path

Back at the top of the 21 lock flight.  We did it!

Back at the top of the 21 lock flight. We did it!

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