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Team Building with the Bear ……………. Grylls!

As a thank you for all our hard work at the end of another successful year we have been treated to an afternoon of (mainly) fun at the Bear Grylls Adventure Centre in Birmingham. There is a serious side as well as it is valuable opportunity to develop our team building skills … Honestly 😉

As soon as we got the news we were going we all googled the website to see what we were letting ourselves into ….. Marine assault course including 6 foot wall to scale, an escape room, a maze (akin to something from “I’m a celeb get me out of here” including bug eating), Archery for the terrified and finally an indoor sky dive – Perfect training for a load of Accountants who want to start working for MI6 in their forensics department (To all those spies down at Govt HQ – Your jobs are safe!)

The day has arrived and we have all arrived at the office in our finest lycra and trainers. Thankfully we all have brand new Superdry hoodies to cover up all our lumps and bumps. There is a general level of anticipation with lots of nervous chatter going on as we try to concentrate on our normal accountancy tasks. Hopefully the intense training we will be getting this afternoon will sharpen up all our minds.

We arrive at the camp (Sandwiched between the Arena and the main Exhibition Halls complex at the NEC) and have a couple of Team photos in front of the building then enter through the jaws of an Army helicopter into a dimly lit building serenaded by various jungly bird tweeting. We collect our watches from reception which have all our activities and timings on – they vibrate when it’s time to start a new activity. Wait a minute … Can we get Quickbooks on these watches?

There is about three quarters of an hour before we need to sign in for the Maze so we have a wander around to get our bearings. The most striking thing we can see is the giant fish tank so we stop to gaze at the brightly coloured tropical fish and the sharks hoping it will have a much needed calming effect on our nerves. The tank is there for an optional activity of diving (with the sharks) and I think we are all relieved this isn’t on our itinerary today.

The team leader approaches us and asks if we are ready to go a few minutes earlier than planned – he has his group of 16 people lined up (We make a group of 10 soft handed accountants plus 3 other pairs) Jake introduces himself to us and explains that we are about to go into the jungle and we would need all our survival skills to make it through the afternoon. We are asked if we are allergic to Bugs and other creepy crawlies and if anyone has a significant phobia to spiders (Tarantulas) and snakes – Expecting him to go easy on us he then grins as if he has identified his prey!

We are taken through into an anti-room (after walking past tanks of Tarantulas, Cockroaches and Locusts) where we watch a short safety video and are instructed that the safety word for the session is Ranger Ranger. This must only be shouted in an emergency! We are told that there are millions of insects in there and not to stand under holes in the ceiling and that it is very likely that someone will ends up with a Tarantula on their back at some point. Then just as we are all thinking “Is it too late to go for a coffee?” Jake gives us all a blindfold hood and tells us to start moving into the maze by following the rope in front of us……………… We all do as he says! (He has a very loud voice and has all the personality of an army commander)

It is pitch black and there are lots of dangly things (Snakes maybe) hanging from the ceiling and we all follow each other very closely. After a couple of minutes we emerge to the foot of a waterfall where we have to inch across one at a time avoiding the water. After reaching the other side we could stop and watch the last few team members making their way across the waterfall only to see Jake splashing water over them! I think at this point some of us were starting to lose the sense of danger and suspense.

We were then sent through a “cave” full of bat-poo and arrived in the snake room where we were introduced to cobras, black mambas and other snakes who were all thankfully lazing behind glass. Jake then picked on Logan (who had admitted he didn’t like snakes or spiders) and asked him to put on a large pair of safety gloves. He explained that he was about to lift the lid of the glass box in front of him and lift out a Cobra (The snakes that are used by snake charmers) and lay the snake over Logan’s hands – Logan’s face was a picture! After explaining a few safety points (If it spits venom at you don’t worry there is a defibrillator in the room!) Jake opened the box and then…… all the lights went out! Ahhhhh! A few seconds later the lights came back on and (surprise surprise) we were all still standing and there was no sign of any snake …. Jake mumbled something about Health and Safety regulations and ushered us into the next room.

The last task in the maze was to sample the delights of the jungle diet. The vegan and vegetarian option was handed out first – Cow’s urine (Apparently human urine was the preferred option but they weren’t allowed to serve it to us!) I am not sure how this was supposed to class as Vegan either but he assured us it was. Apparently it tasted disgusting so I don’t think that was the soft option. The rest of us were treated do a handful of bugs and mealworms. I inspected them very carefully in the hope that nothing I was about to eat was still alive! I am glad to report that all us hardy accountants did pass this challenge!

After surviving the maze it was on to the escape room. The 10 of us were allocated a room to and we were given 7 minutes to crack the code to open the door to the chute that would lead us out to safety. We were almost out of time and so very close to cracking the code when Jake stuck his head round the door and dropped a huge clue and off we went – one at a time down the dark tunnel and straight into another escape room! Another code to crack but this time I think it was a case of too many accountants and not enough organisation so we failed! Thankfully all the other pairs from our team of 16 had also failed so the task had obviously been super hard!

Next up was the Assault course! We did a quick warm up then we were set off 2 at a time. All the other non-accountants went before us giving us chance to suss out what we were about to do. Then it was the lads turn, Ted and Conrad, setting the pace for the rest of us. There were various challenges …. Ropes to crawl under and over, a wobbly bridge and a couple of beams to cross and obstacles to climb over, then it finished with the 6 foot wall and the monkey bars. Well done Ted for being the only one to get across both of those two and Conrad for managing to scale the giant wall. The rest of us had to “cheat”

After finishing with the fireman’s pole (thankfully no Bridget Jones mishaps) we were now ready for the final challenge – Archery. We were all given a safety brief and then sent to the target room where we selected our bows and were shown how to aim and fire. We had about 10 arrows each to fire. Some hit the target, some hit the wall and quite a few hit the mat in front of the target. I’m not sure how many of us are now equipped to enter the jungle and survive with our physical fitness, code cracking skills and hunting capabilities …. I think it will be back to the day job!

After surviving the jungle we had a quick drink then the watches buzzed…. It was time for the Grand Finale. The I-fly experience (an indoor skydive). We headed off to the wind tunnel – a vertical glass tube with massive blowers at the bottom that force you up into the air to simulate the sensation of sky-diving! Scary stuff!

We were suited up and shown a quick safety film and given a few simple hand signals to look out for during our flight then out to the waiting area where we could watch all our fellow accountants enter the tube one at a time. Thankfully we were helped by our instructor Tiago who was there to make sure we held the right position and didn’t flip over or nose dive.

We had two 1 minute goes each. The first was probably the most scary as you made the leap of faith into the very noisy wind tunnel. I think most of us held our breath for most of that first minute as we got used to the sensation of having our faces pulled back to our ears (Who needs Botox!) Then the second minute was the best part – After taking a few seconds to get into position Tiago then grabbed a handle on the back of our jump suits and took us up to the top of the tank and spun us around so we could actually imagine the sensation of being thrown out of a plane. That was amazing but very glad we were so close to the ground – I for one am not signing up to the real deal!

We ended up with a quick drink across the road at the resorts world bar to share our experiences then it was back to Lichfield! We all had a great afternoon – Thank you Logan! I think it is safe to say that none of us has signed up to go on a jungle expedition … Yet… but I am sure we are all better accountants for having had the experience

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