I think the best idea, before we go gallivanting off around the globe and more crucially before we start writing about it, is for us to get some practice in. I know this is ultimately a travel blog but it’s also partly about the journey (in a more X-factoresque sense) as we go from yammering keyboard monkeys to skilled typographical manipulators of the minds eye.
It’s also feasible (if unlikely) that someone, someday may travel deliberately to Birmingham and therefore a post about the UK’s second city could prove useful to those people at least. I should probably say at this stage that Birmingham really does get a bad rap. Despite its reputation, it is an exciting and welcoming city which, over the coming weeks, I hope we can do our bit to communicate to the wider world.
Cath and I are always on the lookout for new and interesting activities so it was no surprise when I got an e-mail from her one morning entitled – “Axe-throwing!!”. I’m not one for saying no to things, especially when those things will give me that feeling that I get so rarely – that of being indisputably manly, so we instantly agreed that we should go immediately. Once we’d rounded up a few friends to join us, we were signed up and ready to get going.
Now, I know I said that I’m not one for saying no to things, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t feel a certain twinge of reluctance before, during and after having said yes to them. Axe throwing is something that we really wanted to do but also something that, given my track record, I knew I probably shouldn’t.
I may as well admit early on that I am an extremely clumsy man who is unnervingly prone to self-injury. If there is something within my vicinity that should not be bumped, touched or sat on, you can bet that – despite my best efforts – that thing will be both bumped and touched before being sat upon with such vigour that it will disappear between my unsuspecting buttocks with a satisfying “pffft”, never to be seen again.
With this in mind, the thought of holding and then deliberately letting go of, an extremely sharp object, over and over again filled me with the sense that I was about to undergo a swift and very sloppy ear-ectomy. (The actual word is apparently – Auriculectomy – but I’d have come off like a right twat if I’d used that.)
Cath, on the other hand, is unerringly good at almost everything that we do. No matter the type of activity, no matter the number of times that I have practiced the aforementioned thing and the number of times that she has insisted that she’s never heard of it, she will inevitably beat me at it. Not just beat me in fact, but grind me into a fine dust before sprinkling that dust into an egg mixture, beating that and making a frustratingly good meringue.
We turned up at a very nondescript location in the south of Birmingham and after deducing that we were indeed in the right place, went inside.
From the outside, it looked like any slightly run-down office building in any town in the UK but once inside it was clear that this was no office, at least not anymore. The place had been gutted and its insides replaced by all manner of distinctly ‘un-officey’ fun. Straight away you were met by a reception desk which promised access to a plethora of activities that you would never expect to find in these surroundings. There was not just axe throwing but an airsoft arena, a rage room – where you pay to go into a room filled with old TV’s and smash them with baseball bats in order to relieve the stress that comes from not smashing things with bats – and an archery tag area. This was a place where you could be shot with a bow and arrow and release the anger at having suffered such a fate by subjecting things that must not be smashed to a damn good smashing – we would be coming back here soon.
After recomposing ourselves and remembering why we had come to this cave of wonders, we made our way over to the axe throwing zone. It was made up of three caged lanes, each with a timber floor and large wooden target on the back wall. It was obvious these targets had been used before as they bore the scars of a great number of deep axe wounds. The fact that those that had preceded us had been successful in hitting their goal so often, filled me with some hope that I might not be completely terrible.
At this point, the instructors made their way to the front and gave the assembled group a safety briefing, followed by a demonstration of the art of chucking axes into wood. With consummate ease they lobbed axe after axe into the battered pine planks, each one landing perfectly, blade first, into the heart of the intended target. They made it look so simple that we were all suddenly supremely confident, we were all going to be brilliant at this and a new career of extreme lumber-jacking beckoned.
It was finally our turn. The image of the perfect form displayed by the instructors freshly in our minds, we were ready and eagerly stepped up to the line.
It was a ritual humiliation.
Rather than spinning gracefully through the air, before plunging deep into the face of the target, ours waggled hopelessly in a barely controlled arc before slapping, handle first into a part of the board not intended for impact and tumbling pathetically onto the floor.
How could this happen? It looked so easy. Each of us felt that we were, in every possible way, replicating exactly the motion of our teachers but the results were so horribly inept. Turning around after a set of throws was harrowing. You were met with the disappointed looks of your co-throwers, the visible gulp of the following participant meant that they knew they were sure to suffer the same fate.
The instructors hid their sniggers well as they encouraged us to persevere and slowly but surely, one by one, the axes started to hit their mark.
Once a few rounds had been completed, the joy of repeated, accurate axe throwing started to force its way through the gloom. This was properly fun.
Cath picked it all up typically quickly and before long, was leading the way, her keenness to get back to the line increasing with every round of throws. The fact that she was already a national karate medallist and was now showing such prowess with the axe reaffirmed my intention to never, ever piss her off.
As the night went on a tournament was held and we scored actual points with our newly acquired skill. One of us actually won!
It would insufferably wanky to say such a thing in a blog if it was me but – it was me! I had won an axe throwing competition! Cath was unlucky to be knocked out in the semi-finals and was, in fact, the joint highest point scorer on the day and our group took three of the top four spots in the tournament portion. We could officially label ourselves as “Not bad”.
We adopted a new swagger to our walks which has to this day, not completely left me. It’s causing some serious chafing around the thighs but still, I think I’ll keep it going.
Once the tournament was complete, it was time to attempt some variations on the standards throw. We all tried some underarm throws and then progressed to double throws, where we sent an axe from each hand and felt like Mohican warriors while doing so.
Proud of our accomplishments, we had completed our experience with a certain degree of success and had a great time to boot – which was really the whole point anyway.
So, if you fancy a night out that’s different from the usual dinner and drinks, why not give axe throwing a go – even if the closest thing you’ve done to lumber jacking is punching trees in Minecraft, you might just surprise yourself.
The axe throwing event that we attended was run by Whistle Punks Urban Axe Throwing who have locations in Birmingham and London.