IF there’s one thing that annoys me – apart from those damned people who hog the middle lane of the motorway – it’s losing my keys. Or my pen. Or my glasses. Or my temper – which often happens when I can’t find something.
So how silly must I be to even consider taking up a hobby that is mostly about trying to find things?
And not just trying to find anything, either, but rather searching for Tupperware boxes that somebody with too much time on their hands has gone to the trouble of hiding.
This, in a nutshell – and sometimes they also hide stuff in nutshells, by the way – is what geocaching is all about, as I discovered when a friend introduced me to it at the weekend.
I had heard of geocaching before, but only when it was explained to me properly did I understand that you don’t necessarily need an expensive GPS to join in, because these days your phone will do it and you only have to shell out £6.99 for the app.
The technology does everything for you, from keeping track of how many of the little Tupperware treasure chests you’ve found, to leading you to the cache’s location.
And therein lies another problem, because whereas I have the skills necessary for navigating using an Ordnance Survey map and I’m nerdy enough to enjoy using one when I’m on holiday, the geocaching app on my phone takes me straight to my destination.
Although there is often still some searching to be done when you arrive at the location and the cache could be hidden, for instance, in a fake stone at the base of a tree, so little map reading skills are required that even women can do it. Getting there is so foolproof, in fact, that it seems like cheating.
But there’s another thing that is making me hesitant about taking up geocaching proper, and it’s this: it’s bound to be addictive.
Everything about it, in fact, seems geared to getting you hooked on it. There are probably illegal drugs that turn into less of a habit.
Then again, I doubt anybody ever really grows out of the thrill of looking for buried treasure, and there are other aspects that give geocaching a certain appeal.
I found this out when, guided by my trusty friend and my trusty iPhone, I left a message after finding my first cache.
Within hours I had received a cheery email from the person who had hidden it, welcoming me to the hobby and pointing out that if I could navigate to The Sun at Coate once a month I’d find a lot of geocachers having a social meet.
This particular geocacher, who goes by the handle of Mashcast, turned out to be part of a young family of treasure hunters who, rather than watching EastEnders or spending their Sunday afternoons twitching their thumbs in front of a games console, go out in the fresh air and get some exercise, and when they come across other geocachers, they go out of their way to be sociable.
In other words: nice people. I’m actually quite jealous that this sort of thing wasn’t around when our kids were little, but is this something that a moderately respectable man in his fifties ought to be getting involved in?
The answer is probably yes, so give it a go.
It’s fun and friendly, and even if you try it and don’t like it, you haven’t… um… lost much.