It has been truly said that chatter is the Opium of the Hashing classes, and if you need to be convinced about this you obviously weren't there at the start of Maggie's Hash. But perhaps it was just nervousness as people timidly wondered what sneaky-hare Maggie might throw at us that evening. In the past she has conjured up everything from torrential thunder storms and thick fog, through to her sneakily shortcutting while sending the longcutters on long and very wild goose chases - which always seem to involve mountainous terrain before ending up back within feet of where we started!
I was particularly concerned as a previous hash from the pub involved me shedding a good deal of blood. possibly as a sacrifice to the hashing god (whose name, incidentally is rumoured to be Fullers). I hoped to avoid the former and indulge in the latter – sadly, and on both counts, I hoped in vain. Or do I mean hashed in vain. Or considering the blood, hashed in vein?
Soon the pre-hash chatter quelled slightly, presumably so that everyone could ignore Hare Maggie's rules for the evening, and we were off. Or to be technically accurate four people went checking while 28 other people stood idly around and continued the jovial hubbub of chatter. On-On was called towards the trail in the corner of the cricket field and I checked down the road in what was to be the first of a whole swathe of checks I got wrong. Turning into Penn Wood we hashed almost due north before arriving at the next check (where I again checked in completely the wrong direction).
With the aid or my GPS I plotted the track we took that evening in the hope of understanding the Hare's overall plan. Actually her master strategy seems to have been quite simple. We would hash north into Penn Wood, followed by west, north east and almost every other direction under the sun, through Penn Wood, but wherever we went before losing the short-cutters, we would be in Penn Wood. The trail looks somewhat like the track of a drunken spider (aside, I must check if you can make a spider drunk) (second aside, if you Google "spider alcohol" you get tohttp://www.break.com/index/effect_of_drugs_and_alcohol_on_spider_webs.html which is quite good for a laugh!).
Eventually we got to the first long-short split – or long-short stop in the case of the shorties as it was an extra loop just for the longs. If we had but known it, this loop took us back almost to the pub. But we didn't and, instead, dutifully returned to the shorts before madly tearing off in all directions around the wood (or do I mean maze?), for the next 45 minutes.
Having lost our sense of direction we eventually hit a track that most of the more experienced hashers knew and thought, "Great, very much on the way back now." I remember passing the very spot where I moosed once before, surprisingly the blood stains I had left then seem to have vanished, but I remember feeling profound relief as the area disappeared behind me. Sadly, some 250 yards further on, sneaky-Maggie (who had probably realised that a group would make a break for home around here) put in a sadistic back-check. And yes, I went all the way back to the moosing site and yes I moosed again in almost exactly the same spot and yes it was the same knee and yes there was blood. Perhaps not as much as last time but what I gained in blood I lost in dignity as I got up, viciously kicked the offending root and had to hobble as well as bleed for a while.
At the next re-group, near Penn Church, Helen got peeved at all of the people that were walking through the now-dangerously darkening wood and thus making her wait, so went back to encourage them with what we shall call her "advice."
Merging onto the common and in plain sight of the pub, the hare broke rule five of hashing by telling the longcutters that had to go on anyway. (Incidentally rule three is there are no rules, which would have put any hashers with remaining mental ability into a dilemma, fortunately none of us suffered in this way and so we ran happily on.)
Unfortunately we suffered anyway, as we had to run through a totally drenching field of very tall, very close and very wet plants. Somebody suggested that Helen was probably running through it with a snorkel and periscope so that she could a) breath and b) see where she was running.
And so totally soaked, we returned to the pub. And, incidentally, whilst I was changing we had a torrential cloudburst, but by then it made little difference.
On back at the pub the rosy glow that comes from an infusion of beer, chips and being married to a girl called Rose, set my mind into a somewhat more tranquil and appreciative mood and I could gaze back approvingly on yet another excellent hash!