The only way out

Country Life Every Week - - Spectator -

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

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