The start of 2017 finally heralded the launch of 'nnoodl - discovering your secret London life' . After a year of product testing, focus groups and brand and name concepts, this was the year to unleash the idea on the public. Weighing up people's enthusiasm for trying new things in the new year, along with finances being tight, I chose the date of Sat 25th February to hold the first event. I wanted to get the right balance of an event that was different, yet wouldn't put anyone TOO much out of their comfort zone, along with a nice food and drink finish to the experience. My main challenge was deciding how many places to book on the experience and so I decided to keep it fairly small so that people would have a nice,exclusive experience. In the spirit of nnoodl, about 4 days before, I sent an email around our group advising them of the essential information, where to meet, what to wear, how long it would last and, most importantly that there was nothing to be fearful of!
Our band of adventurers met near Whitechapel Station in a small cafe where rumours were rife an what we might be doing...was it curry cooking in East London? A Jack the Ripper tour perhaps? I was glad that I had managed to completely lead them off the scent and a small gasp went up from the group when I announced that we were going Axe Throwing! Yes this is actually an emerging urban sport, set in a (very) unassuming east end warehouse building. A couple of our group admitted they were slightly anxious that they might not be any good at it. I reassured them that they were in good company as no-one amongst us had any experience of this....although I had my suspicions about a guy on another team who had come dressed as a Viking.The team at Whistlepunks led us through some safety advice and a short demo. We nervously joked that our proximity to the Royal London Hospital meant that any axe wounds would be swiftly dealt with.
I have to admit that trying new things also makes me slightly edgy as it brings out my competitive side. This would have to be put to one side today though in favour of the encouraging team spirit.
We had a lovely couple with us, Cat and Bob, who were celebrating their 5th wedding anniversary. They had told me this in advance of booking and so I felt under extra pressure that they would enjoy this day! That's the thing about nnoodl, it appeals to so many people for so many reasons - a personal challenge, a milestone birthday year, a life changing moment, or a gift to yourself.
So who better to go first for a practice throw than Cat and Bob. Why do you never hear the term 'marital rivalry' as much as 'sibling rivalry' I wondered? Everyone had their practices, with varying degrees of success, and a lot of axes landing up on the floor. I stepped up last and seemed to be rubbish at this....I tried to hide my disappointment. We were shown the two types of throws, the single handed and the double handed overhead grip, which seemed to be my preference. We were told that this was not about brute force and strength but more about getting the stance right. The more you lunged forward, the less distance the axe had to travel, and so less opportunity to spin. After a few practices each it was time to do a few rounds of games. It was great to see that this is a sport that doesn't favour the fit, in fact as one of my running friends commented "It's refreshing to see something that you're c**p at!" Nice.
We all started to settle into it, even the apprehensive, as we cheered each other on, applauding when an axe actually sunk into the wooden target. There is a particularly nice moment on this video where Cat and Bob went up against each other and both sunk a bullseye. As an events organiser, I get my satisfaction from knowing that something has gone well, and to hear positive comments. Well, my favourite of the day was when Carol told us that she had posted a picture of her new skill on Instagram to the amazement of her son who said "Mum, you are so cool!" She beamed to me on receipt of this "I can die happy!"
Our very own Bob ended up in the final throw off with what turned out to be a rival English rugby fan. Sadly England defeated Wales on this occasion, despite our very vocal encouragement.
As this part of the morning drew to an end, I then led our merry band through the back streets of Whitechapel and Aldgate to our lunch venue. A suitably mysterious venue I believe, and underground in a more literal way. An innocuous Smeg fridge door in a wall of The Breakfast Club near Liverpool Street leads downstairs to the wonderful 'Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town' This was a place that had been on my hotlist for a long time but had been notoriously difficult to get into. In fact, even the Breakfast Club upstairs had a queue out the door. I was glad I had secured my booking 2 months before. We felt like VIPs as we whispered our password and slipped through the doorway. Downstairs we were greeted by a fantastic little speakeasy style bar. Here we enjoyed cocktails and brunch as we regaled each other with tales of our new found axe prowess. Adhering to the rules of Scaredy Cat Town, we all left via the exit from the toilets and into the Breakfast Club with a nonchalant swagger. For some the day was still young - new friendships had been formed and so it was off to the Pride of Spitalfields to watch the rugby. And who knew, Scotland actually won - my day was now complete!
Watch this space as I put the final touches to the next nnoodl adventure. This is likely to be in May, final date to be confirmed....but of course final details always a closely guarded secret! Go to www.nnoodl.co.uk for more info.
Denise Yeats is an events director, communications consultant, endurance athlete and avid adventurer.