This is the Christmas Training Camp at Center Parcs with SuperZak and SuperHarry our world protecting Superheroes.
We arrive at the camp late afternoon on The Winter Solstice so the light is fading and the wooded glades are beginning to take on an eerie atmosphere as mist begins to swirl through the trees.
SuperZak and SuperHarry have been here for a good half hour before my arrival and are busy being briefed in the secret wooden lodge that is emerging and then disappearing again in the swirling mist.
SuperMum is telling them to don their training clothes. To the general public it looks like they’re wearing bathing shorts and that’s just the way they want it.
I manage to find the lodge with a mix of GPS and secret signage and arrive just as darkness is revealing the LED lit reindeer and Christmas Tree. There are the brightly lit hoops with ornate bench seats that have been set up purely to allow budding photographers to practice their night photography skills with friends and family.
I’m no sooner in the lodge than I’m out again en-route to the huge pool with training flumes and amazing water rapids designed to test endurance and swimming skills.
SuperZak and SuperHarry are darting from one shadowy area to another and melting into each like fading silhouettes – the bad guys just better watch out.
We’re in the changing area now and ready for the walk through the tropical jungle area that’s hiding the Orange Leader of a former friendly state with a strange hairstyle he’s surrounding himself with SuperMeanies that may not be very bright but they could be in any of this vegetation and need to be kept in check.
There’s a warm-up exercise in the main pool and the sudden appearance of another agent who arrived in the dark last night. Uncle SuperTom has been holding back in case of ealy intervention of the SuperVillains but the two Heros are delighted to see him and immediately insist on the River Rapids Endurance Test.
There’s very little preparation for this and we assemble in the feeder pool that enables the SuperHeroes to prepare themselves for the exit into the gently swirling water that’s washing back and forth through the plastic ribbons that are pretending to stop the cold air entering the main cocoon; they don’t work; however, the upside is that they prepare the SuperHeroes for the shock of the cold air as we surface in the dark open air.
There’s plenty of light from the illuminated rocks and animals and the lights under the water are enhanced by both jets and currents as SuperHarry climbs over the first cataract followed closely and enthusiastically by SuperZak. The water current grabs them immediately and they disappear around the first bend in a ballet of flailing limbs and excited screams as they pretend to be completely out of control.
The first drop is only a few feet and the competing currents throw us around like matchsticks then we surface in a pool deliberately added to allow a short break to reestablish control and plan the next stage through angry rapids and fierce undercurrents. This time SuperZak goes first and much against the rules of the operation ends up going through the first cataract head first and on his back. It’s all planned of course so that any bad guys watching the camera action from the monitors scattered around the site are given a false sense of security. SuperHarry follows with an elegant twist just at the right moment and both SuperHeroes end up in the receiving pool the right way up and pretending to gasp for breath. This again is a ruse, they need to give the impression of being helpless when the reality it they’re ready for the worst that any SuperVillains can throw at them.
We regroup and make our way to the plastic straps that guard the entrance to the main building. As we emerge from the tsunami of eddies the wind from outside is biting and raises goosebumps where goosebumps shouldn’t be and the supervising gentlemen emerge from the exercise with three Adams apples, oh boy is that wind cold.
We regroup at the head of the steps with a view to move on to the second test. It involves the taller of the two SuperHeroes tackling the yellow flume. SuperZak is going to the Pirates Cove to secure the dome from unwelcome raiders from the east and finds himself under a torrent of water from a huge container that periodically empties itself onto the victims below. It’s another test of course and he passes with flying colours as he clings to his bathers that have filled with water and threatening to remove themselves, no chance this time though, he’s on to it.
SuperHarry has climbed onto the yellow-transport-float with SuperGranddad and SuperDad and is being pushed towards the huge tube that will hoover them into oblivion. SuperGranddad’s feeling a little apprehensive as he’s got his back to the action; however, SuperHarry has it covered. He’s keeping an eye on the twists, turns and drops but gives the game away when he laughs at the ludicrous fall that materialises as the yellow-transport-float rounds a blind corner and exposes a drop of gargantuan proportions. There are thousands of litres of water per minute going over the edge and the float is approaching at an alarming rate. SuperGranddad has his back to this and is oblivious until the whole unit, complete with occupants, falls off the cliff edge and the SuperHero and his SuperDad laughs like the evil dudes that lurk in the forest…
**You always love the people that you love, but sometimes you really don’t like them – but it’s only transient**
We manage to survive the receiving pool and the two SuperHeroes return together and discuss the prospect of flushing out the SuperVillains from the trees so a return to the Pirates Cove is arranged and we’re off via a second visit to the River Rapids to hone the acrobatic swimming and diving skills learned in the initial test.
The Lazy River is next on the list and, although a more laid back experience, does have an equal chance of hiding the SuperVillains who are prone to hiding in the exotic bushes and rubber plants that line the way. After much splashing, diving and floating on rubber rings that, at the drop of a hat, could be transformed into deadly inner-tube-thingies that can be spun through the air to lasso any escaping ‘SuperMeanies’.
There are two further tests for the larger SuperHero and his SuperDad. It will require the supervision of SuperMum and SuperGranddad though so after a tense few minutes deciding who would accompany the perilous mission to the Double-Green-Float Flume and the Twister. SuperMum wins and SuperGranddad can be stood down for a leisurely, well earned, relaxation in the pool – or that’s what he thinks!
SuperMum, SuperDad and SuperHarry disappear into the tropical greenery to return for mission debriefing in a few minutes.
SuperZak and SuperGranddad are floating gently in the placid water when there are three blood curdling screams sounding like Tarzan on a mission. There’s a green light, and now it’s flashing. The water that that has been so calm seems to be running out of the pool then it’s running back in and it’s doing it with a vengeance. The first wave hits them from behind and SuperZak disappears for a few seconds and reappears spluttering and laughing at the same time. We’re ready for the next wave and he dives directly into it as it rolls along the length of the training pool brushing swimmers and paddlers out of the way in its wake. This scene is repeated many times in the four minutes of activity then everything returns to flat calm and the little Superhero expresses disappointment but gets over it very quickly when he decides to show SuperGranddad how he can do five forward rolls underwater without surfacing.
The larger superhero returns with his two trainees in tow. Their mission turned out to be completely successful in terms of the Double-Green-Float-Flume where despite the ups, downs and drops there were no villains; however, the Twister had left its mark on SuperDad. It’s a perilous mission that involves navigating through dark tubes with water flowing at a fantastic rate. There are the usual turns, drops and even some minor ups but the real danger is having to look out for villains whilst being spun at the same time.
SuperDad is limping a bit but remains stoic as we issue the training diplomas.
The two SuperHeroes have passed and now progress to the next level. SuperDad and SuperMum also get their diplomas but SuperDad gets an “I am brave” badge for his act of stoicism following the agony inducing Twister.