Up until now, the away-day had been indoors - but everyone knew that, rain or shine, the afternoon sessions would be outside and energetic. A few people had come with notes from doctors and one had got pregnant, but no ther excuses were allowed by Kelly Pattrick, supervising the creation of teams with a zeal that suggested Girl Guides meet Hitler Jugend. That was Mike Finnegan's thought and he promptly filed it away as a potential book proposal.
Outside, the sun shone on grassed areas,a stream and bare-floored woodland soggy with the morning's rain. The Outdoor Centre's Director, a bald, heavy-bearded goblin, had appeared and Kenneth Spotlessnob buried himself in conversation with the man while the teams received their instructions from Kelly and her cohorts.
The first event involved two people in each team lying on their backs in the middle of the woodland holding hands. The rest of the team had to lift them up and carry them over various obstacles, over the stream by a bridge and out to the open grass without the hand contact being broken. Reema's team triumphed, as did most of the others, though one carrier tripped, lurched forward and brought down the load, breaking the contact, while another team came to grief entirely while trying to traverse the narrow bridge.
The second was more competitive. Each team had to get five full buckets of water across the stream, aided by a rope, stout wooden stakes and a chunky plank long enough to stretch across two thirds of the stream. The exercise was time-limited to twenty minutes and the water each team had conveyed would be measured at the end. Various ingenious solutions were tried with varying success and Dale Brashcon, who seemed to be entirely in his element, fell in while reaching for a bucket from the far side. The Napoleon of the event was Gwilym, who stuck one of the stakes in the stream to measure its depth and then organised his team to stand in a line in the stream passing the buckets across. Even the goblin seemed surprised.
The third event was familiar to some. People paired up and one was blindfolded: he or she had to tranverse the area guided by the other's instructions. Then the roles were reversed. How exactly it happened that after Neil Balderson had guided Scott Fitzwilliam across, a misunderstanding had led to Neil stepping into the stream, would be a mystery for all time.
The fourth event was a treasure hunt. Having finished his discussions with the goblin, Kenneth Spotlessnob joined in this, mimicking Dale's undiminished enthusiasm. One item of treasure was lost and never recovered. For the last activity, Kenneth, Kelly and the gnome acted as observers.
The fifth and last event took them to the assault course. Each team had to traverse the course and was timed. They could complete the course only if everybody had overcome every obstacle, which involved teamwork and improvisation. Gwilym, abandoning all thoughts of what the whole business cost if you totted up the pay of those participating, had started enjoying himself - but he was about to face a moral and practical dilemma.
One stage of the course involved a high wall made of a series of planks laid horizontally. Only the best of climbers could scale the thing unaided, but the worst could in principle make it if pushed from below and caught and pulled from above. Lucy Marlowe was organising at ground level and so it happened naturally that she was the last to ascend and had to do without help from below. She was young but not of athletic build. She made it most of the way and then froze. Reema had grabbed her arms, but she was small and slight, so found Lucy's weight too much to cope with. Gwilym could see that shortly Reema would either let go or be dragged over the edge. He could see a solution - one solution and one only - but there was a problem.
"Help!" cried Reema. It was now or never. Gwilym reached down, clasped Lucy's backside and hauled her up. He was not in the habit of touching work colleagues inappropriately, but it had worked, but he was having trouble with his Methodist upbringing, but Kenneth had noticed and was making notes... He could of course broach the subject with Lucy afterwards, but the chances of that being misunderstood seemed around 50%. He was also a bit embarrassed about being forced into the he-man role: he was bigger and stronger than Reema, true, but probably had no more muscle power than Kelly. Anyway...
"Get through that hoop, Gwilym!" yelled Reema. And so it was finished; and Kenneth and Kelly compared notes; and the rain came back; and Kenneth sent an e-mail the next day saying how much he'd enjoyed participating, how much they'd learnt about working as a team and how he knew they had too.
NOTE; THE ODANGLESEX CHRONICLES. I know some people have followed this, so I'm letting you know that I'm resting it for a while because I've run out of inspiration. Of course, I'd welcome new ideas for it. I received one that worked very well. In the meantime, though, I'll dredge up and repost some old episodes bit by bit, reworking them a bit if I see the need.
By the way: Gwilym's dilemma was based on reality.