The only way out
at 3pm. I felt quite Miss Marple as we were greeted by a ‘detective’—he really was a retired policeman and you could tell: assured, authoritative, with a certain way of standing. Or perhaps I’ve watched too many TV detective series.
Anyway, he seemed the real deal as he showed us into a rather stuffy room and left us with minimal instructions. My first reaction was to sit down on the only chair.
The rest of the team set to work immediately, opening drawers, finding tarot cards, putting codes together that would unlock a padlock to the next room where the correct number sequence would set off a tank to fire a laser at a spot that would reveal another cipher that could be entered into a typewriter to reveal a code word and so on. I watched them grapple with a wall full of symbols that needed Alan Turing while I ate Starburst sweets that I found on the windowsill.
Wondering if I’d eaten a clue, I trailed after them into the next room having absent-mindedly picked up Zam’s jacket, which he’d hung on the chair. But it wasn’t his jacket, it was the victim’s —complete with incriminating letter. A crucial piece of evidence. This was to be my finest (only) moment.
‘Teamwork and co-operation,’ I reminded Zam as he elbowed Alfie out of the way to get to the next padlock into yet another room, where Alf found the invisible-ink trail that led to a chamber and then to another room full of Egyptian artifacts with riddles that, once solved, made it clear we had to leg it back to the first room pronto before all the doors shut again. Or something like that. I was in a lowlevel panic so I can’t quite remember.
When we finally emerged, rather dazed, the former policeman, who’d been watching us on a monitor, assured us that we hadn’t scored badly on time, ‘for beginners’. He and a couple of former colleagues had set up the business having visited an escape room in Australia. They’re now preparing a new ‘crime scene’ for the Christmas holidays and I wished them well while promising we’d return. I meant it. We had a great afternoon.
That evening at home, I tried to explain what we’d been doing to the other children: ‘It’s surprising how much fun you can have being locked into a house with five other people and a mild sense of claustrophobia.’
And then I realised the tables had truly turned. Usually, I refuse to pay to have fun—which is why we do little and Alf is on YouTube—but I could see from their expressions that they thought I was barmy. Week two, in the rain, and I’d just paid for something they experience for free.
‘The difference from our house was that we could escape using co-operation and teamwork