We took a punt on Cambridge

There is nothing — absolutely nothing — half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.

Ratty, The Wind in The Willows

This was my second year in charge of organising another top-secret birthday bash and, as I’ve learned, it always comes with its challenges. Thankfully, the pleasures far outweigh them. Despite all the planning and logistics, it was incredibly rewarding to see the team so excited, wondering where we were going and what crazy antics we’d be up to.

This year, I arranged to whisk us all to Cambridge for some upmarket culture. It all began with breakfast butties in the office on arrival, swiftly followed by prosecco on the coach down with fun and games from the outset; bingo cards for “Guess who’s” over the 2 days of frivolities and a quiz to work out what our birthday destination was going to be.

Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to arrange the wall-to-wall sunshine we enjoyed last year in Chester, so we were all decked out in raincoats and trainers for a day of activities.

First up was some chauffeured punting on the River Cam courtesy of the Cambridge Punt Company. We set sail with two fabulous crew members, who steered us gently down the river to take in the beauty of Cambridge. When asked if anyone wanted to have a go, Claire B, Abbas, Harriet and I jumped at the opportunity. Now clearly, any form of jumping is inadvisable on a punt. I pushed off confidently, getting the boat moving well. Unfortunately, not in the right direction. I mean come on! Thankfully, Claire was a natural and off we went. Meanwhile, on boat 2, Abbas and Harriet had nailed it and were steaming off down the Cam well ahead of us (sorry team). As we glided along, our punting team told us about the City, its famous University, history and culture. Meanwhile, our lovely Harriet was busy heckling the local builders!

Back on dry land, we headed to the Hilton Cambridge to drop our bags and enjoy some well-earned lunch. Our second activity was an iSpy scavenger hunt around the city. Splitting up into 4 teams, we headed out armed with interactive iPads showing locations around the city to solve clues about local attractions, collect random objects and locate secret characters. One moment we were chasing about trying to apprehend a comedy prisoner, the next we were solving clues and photo/video challenges. Over the next couple of hours some fairly competitive personalities emerged. For others, a trip to the pub could not be avoided.

Back at the hotel, we handed in our haul, exhausted after walking 15,000 steps around Cambridge. A very surprising and shocked team won… yes, my team (not a setup…. promise). This was even more of an achievement as we had lost half our team to the lure of the pub halfway round. So, we were very proud to raise the Born + Raised trophy!

Our final adventure took us to the Old Bicycle Shop restaurant, a short walk from the hotel. The food was outstanding and the service was top notch. 24 very happy bunnies. Then it was time to work off our dinner with some outrageous dance moves in Revolution. Things got a little random after 1am with a handful of diehards having an impromptu mini party in the lift lobby of the hotel, rapping to Eminem and talking Hobbiton, until moved on by hotel security.

Breakfast the following morning was exceptional, followed by a slightly more subdued journey back to Sheffield in the rain. But not without announcing our bingo winners, lots of post-celebratory banter and plenty of snoozing.

All in all, it was brilliant fun in the company of an exceptional group of people. Thank you to everyone for making it such a pleasure and to all the people who were involved in making it a success. Now onto my next challenge… the Big 10th birthday!

Out-takes from the night:

  • “It’s because you have hot hands”
  • “I’ve got a bachelor of science degree. I mean… I’m basically Professor Hawkings!”
  • “I ain’t bovered”
  • “Those toes!”

Special thanks to:

Ashley Travel, Cambridge Punt Company, Hilton Cambridge City Centre, CCC Events, The Old Bicycle Shop and Revolution Cambridge.