18 September 2011 (Sunday) - Old Smokey

I was rather late to bed last night, and just after I’d dozed off, work phoned at 1am. The poor girl who was on duty was so apologetic that she’d had to phone me – she knew she shouldn’t, and she knew I’d not been there for three weeks, but there was no one else she could call.
Having been woken, it took me a little while to doze off again. And I was sleeping very peacefully when I was woken at 6am by what sounded like the entire county exploding. For those of my loyal readers across the world who also heard the explosion and wondered what it was, there is no need to worry – it was just “My Boy TMcoming home quietly.
He’d been to France with a gaggle of his mates and, as always after a skinful, he comes home to me because he doesn’t want to disturb his girlfriend. How thoughtful (!)

Apropos of nothing, I weighed myself just after brekkie. Since I last weighed myself (a month ago) I’ve lost over a stone and a half without really trying. That’s impressive. So I thought I might make the most of this by embarking on a diet and fitness regime. I’ve signed up with myfitnesspal.com, the idea being that science has shown that people lose twice as much weight if they actually write down what they eat and what exercise they do.
The problem I’ve had with diets in the past is that I have absolutely no idea what the calorific content of any food is. But this website tells me, and tots it all up for me. Did you know that my two slices of peanut butter on toast and a cup of coffee contained 317 calories. That was one seventh of the day’s worth.

Having counted calories we then popped round to Chippy’s for a sausage sandwich (302 calories), and I slept through the rugby whilst we waited for our lift. Paul soon arrived, and we set off to Dover’s Western Heights to review some old haunts.
We arrived to find that two thirds of our number were already there, but “Daddy’s Little Angel TMwas delayed having a tiddle. So whilst some of our number did sightseeing, together with Paul and Chip, I clambered into St Martin’s deep shelter. We had a good scramble about in the dark, and soon the stragglers had arrived, and all ten of us were underground in the dark. At the deepest part of the tunnel (several hundred yards in and down) we found we could go no further unless we got on our bellies and scrubbled. So I got on my belly and scrubbled. Unfortunately it turned out that you couldn’t actually scrubble very far, but you don’t know that until you try.

We came back up to reality, and our plan was to try to get into the Grand Shaft. It was open, but unfortunately the area was swarming with hundreds of cub scouts. The Grand Shaft had been opened for them, and we were told to shove off by a po-faced old twat (in scout leader uniform) who clearly did not care about the public perception he created of the Scout Association.
We then had a plan about how best to proceed, and we found another tunnel and an anti-aircraft pill box. I then led the way round to the Drop Redoubt via various footpaths and tracks. And there’s no denying that I might have taken a wrong turn somewhere along the way. But we eventually found our way out of the brambles and back to civilisation.

Through the rabbit hole, and avoiding all the cubs swarming everywhere we met some people from the Western Heights Preservation Society who told us that they were having an open day in a few weeks’ time. We might just go back mob-handed and have a look-see. If any of my loyal readers are up for it, there are details to be found here.

We’d (arguably) chosen the wrong day to go to the Western Heights – cub scouts were swarming everywhere. So once we’d met up with Pete, we thought we’d go where there wouldn’t be any cubs.
Old Smokey is behind two “Keep Out” signs. Once past the second of these signs we made our way to the tiny little hole in the wall which allows the brave, foolhardy and plain daft access to the inside of the North Gate. Most of our number scrabbled through a very small hole to get inside. The last time we were there we found a rusting spiral staircase leading up. The last time we were there we’d looked at that staircase in fear and trepidation. This time we just climbed it. It has to be said that it wasn’t worth the climb. At the top was a very dull area and a bricked-up door. So I climbed down, and was amazed.
The last time we’d been in this bit we’d looked at the upper gallery, and wondered how on Earth we’d ever climb up there. I looked up to see three faces peering down at me from that gallery; including the face of the most recent fruit of my loin.

Deciding that faint heart ne’er scrabbled up the insides of very dangerous Napoleonic forts, I started to scrabble. As did everyone else. There was a dodgy five minutes when over-zealous scrabbling on Paul’s part ripped out the arse of his trousers, but in a serious triumph of idiot enthusiasm over common sense, eight of us climbed up something which only three months ago I had confidently decided was un-climbable.
Once in the upper gallery of the North Gate we made our way to some windows, and waved at the three sensible members of our party who’d remained in (relative) safety. And assuring ourselves that they were safe (sitting outside in the sunshine) we blundered off in pitch darkness with no idea where we were or where we were going. At one point Stevey recognised a vertical shaft as one he’d fallen into (as a teenager) and broken his ankle.

Time was pushing on, so we decided to move on. Getting up to the upper gallery had been tricky. Getting down would be easy. Getting down safely, not so. But we scrabbled, scrambled, climbed, and clung desperately to wooden beams. Eventually we were all out, and we made our way to the detached bastion – “Old Smokey”.

This time all of us managed the climb in. We scrambled about quite successfully. “Old Smokey” has the advantage of having a lot of windows, and so not all of it is in pitch darkness. So this time we could see what we were doing. We wandered around, we found some used condoms (and they say romance is dead), we climbed to the top, and made our way onto the top, where we sat and enjoyed the view. Wonderful!

We then realised we were hungry – it was after four o’clock. So we made our way back to the cars and went on to the Eight Bells in Dover for a spot of Sunday lunch (503 calories) and a crafty pint (220 calories). We’d timed lunch just right – we’d had a smashing day, and we came out of the pub to find that whilst we’d been eating, the heavens had opened.

We had a great day – as always there are photos of the event on-line. And as I mentioned, we’ll be going back in a few weeks’ time, admittedly in a much more controlled manner…

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