On Tuesday 19th October, Bleeding Cool was joyfully complicit in the gentle torture of Ben Mortimer. Here, in diary form, are Ben’s impressions of his day in the service of Predators.
Sometimes this movie blogging lark is great. Not only do I get to write about films, and have people actually read my scribbling, but once in a while there’s junket, and a chance to talk to fascinating people, or, at the very least, indulge in some free food and booze. Of course, the flip side of this is when someone phones to tell me that I’m going on a ‘survival day’ for the DVD release of Predators.
When I got the phone call, I wasn’t entirely sure what a survival day would entail. All I knew is that I could probably expect to be wet, almost certainly cold, and definitely outside. As a man who spends most of his working life sat at a computer screen, the prospect didn’t exactly fill me with joy. However, I did go, and I did survive, and below, for your amusement is a log of my escapades throughout the day.
05:25 – Acton – I’m awake. Worse, I’m lying on a sofa in Acton. In two hours I need to be at Paddington Station. Checking my phone I realise the alarm won’t go off for another twenty minutes. I roll over and go back to sleep.
06:30 – Acton – I’m awake again – still lying on a sofa. It would appear that I’ve slept through my alarm, which is somewhat problematic. The next few minutes are a frantic rush. I stuff everything that could possibly be of use into a rucksack, managing to forget water, or a change of clothes. I do, however, remember a hip flask and two books to read on the train. I may have made something of an error.
06:55 – Acton Main Line Station – Arriving at the station nine minutes early, I feel like an utter twat for rushing so much. I could, at least, have cleaned my teeth in comfort, maybe even jumped in the shower for a couple of minutes. Instead I look, and smell, like a tramp.
07:15 – Paddington Station – Surrounded by city-types wearing suits, I stand out like a sore thumb, and I’m utterly convinced that, at any minute, the station staff may approach me and ask me to leave. Worse, I’m stood entirely on my own, as I can’t find the PRs, and I’m too much of a skinflint to ring them.
07:25 – Paddington – I finally bite the bullet and ring the PRs. Once we meet up I get some good news: We’re travelling first class.
07:50 – London Paddington to Cheltenham Spa Train – Curtains in the windows, big leather seats, and a desk to work at. I could get used to this. Thank you First Great Western.
08:50 – The London Paddington to Cheltenham Spa Train – It’s clear that we’re not in London any more, The scenery has become a great deal more picturesque, with motorways and office buildings replaced by hillside cottages and country lanes.
09:20 – Stroud Station – Like many of the little villages we’ve been through, Stroud is beautiful. Not only that, but the bacon butty I managed to grab at the station cafe was just what the doctor ordered.
09:22 – Stroud Station – Getting a taxi is a little more difficult than would be hoped. Although most of the drivers know roughly where we want to go, few of them have any idea specifically where it is, and even fewer particularly want to drive out to it. This wouldn’t happen back in civilisation.
09:50 – Roadside, Stroud – At the foot of a dirt track, about half a mile from our ultimate destination, the taxi driver has just informed us that his car can’t get us any closer because ‘it’ll take my exhaust off’. Which is nice. Grabbing our bags from the boot, we disembark, and start our slow plod uphill.
10:00 – Woods, Clearing Along Dirt Track – Two 4x4s are parked up near a rickety wooden structure, which is currently sheltering a pile of logs. Our instructor for the day, Conrad, introduced himself, and his assistant, Wes, while we waited for a final member of our party to join us.
10:20 – Woods, Clearing Along Dirt Track – All present and correct, and with the noise of a chainsaw in the background, we were issued with our kit for the day:
- 1 x Survival Tin (a tobacco tin containing survival equipment)
- 2 x Bottle of water
- 1 x Bottle of Coke
- 2 x Lengths of paracord
10:22 – Woods, Clearing Along Dirt Track – Conrad is talking us through the contents of our survival kit, which he has just described, rather optimistically, as ‘one size fits nothing’. The lid of the tin is secured with green electrical tape. At almost the exact point that each member of the group has removed this tape, and scrunched it up for disposal later, Conrad points out ‘The tape is an integral part of the tin, so don’t just take it off and throw it away like most people do’. Cue much tape-de-scrunching from the group.
As we take the lid off we discover it can be used as a heliograph, as well as a clean surface on which to take out contact lenses.
Inside the tin are:
- A wire saw – which apparently can go through wood, mild steel and aluminium, as well as flesh and bone
- A flint and steel – used for fire lighting
- Matches – Also used for fire lighting
- A tea light candle – to be lit with the matches to help in lighting fires
- Brass snare wire – Used for snaring. Also useful as a water/fire-proof tie, and for making fishing hooks. Also, apparently, good to replace the tiny screws in glasses
- A 2” lock knife – Tiny, not particularly useful, but apparently illegal to carry in public without good cause
- A small, orange whistle
- Needle and thread
- Safety pins
- Tiny, probably useless fishing kit – works for ordinary fishing, as well as a way of catching small animals
- Tiny compass
- Water treatment tablets
12:00 – Harbour area – After a discussion of the possible uses for the items in the survival tin, we move walk along a woodland path, to the harbour area. At this point Conrad explains the art of fire lighting to us. Apparently, ‘everything will burn if you get it hot enough’.
12:15 – Harbour area – In spite of his best efforts, and to the amusement of everyone present, Conrad is failing to set fire to a small pile of sticks using only a candle. Eventually, after much waiting, during which we all realised just how cold a hillside in Gloucestershire can be, we saw a small amount of smoke.
12:20 – Harbour area – We have fire! The small, smoking pile of kindling has been transformed into a large, roaring source of heat. Sadly none of us will get the full benefit of it, as we are dispatched off in pairs to make our own. I buddy up with a chap named Trevor.
12:50 – Harbour area – After thirty minutes of abject failure to light a fire on my part, Trevor has succeeded.
13:00 – Harbour area – The small fire we set has, through the application of more wood, become a large fire. If we’re very fortunate it will stay alight, unattended, while we are given more instruction.
13:25 – Harbour area – Conrad has demonstrated that it is possible to boil water by suspending a coke bottle over a fire. We each make an attempt, but I somehow fail. On the up side, I did manage to make a tripod out of nothing but sticks and vines.
13:45 – Harbour area – Lunch, consisting of sausages, partially cooked but also burned on the campfire, was surprisingly edible. I fear I may have food poisoning tomorrow, but at this moment, I actually feel pretty cheerful.
14:15 – Harbour area – In keeping with the Predators theme, we are being given instruction in making traps. Apparently it’s pretty much useless trying to trap game when trying to survive, because unless you are an expert, you’ll burn off more energy than you’ll gain. What a cheerful thought.
14:45 – Harbour area – Conrad appears to have gone insane. Having taught us how to make small traps, he has now begun instruction in man-sized traps. Most of these consist of small, sharp bits of tree, lashed to larger, heavier bits of tree. Some of them use the elasticity inherent in branches to spring out, some use the force of gravity to swing down. Each and every one of them looks lethal. Apparently, if these were used in real life, the sharp bits would be coated in shit, just for good measure. The day may have started as a way of promoting Predators, but all of a sudden, it’s becoming increasingly Apocalypse Now.
15:00 – Harbour area – The final trap is a replica of the ‘deadfall log trap’ used in the Predators movie. A large log, suspended several feet in the air, which swings down like an automated battering ram. It’s not quite what you’d see in the film, but I certainly wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of it.
16:00 – A Pub, Stroud – Mission accomplished. I survived. I’m not entirely sure that I enjoyed it, and I certainly won’t do it again, but it was interesting, and it’s certainly given me an insight into something. I’m just not sure what that something is.