The Story of the Chopster
From sand in my cucumber sandwiches, on the beaches of Cornwall, to bungee jumping, on the other side of the world; it seems I’ve always had a sense of adventure and an appreciation for the great outdoors.
Born in the summer of 1980, to my wonderful parents, I grew up in an army family and lived in Germany, Wales and eventually England.
Being on the move was in my blood, allowed my mind to wonder and gave me the opportunity to make new friends wherever I went.
Whether it was somewhere new or familiar; I was always excited to meet new people.
Some of my fondest memories growing up were spent with my granddad on walks with Prince, the family border collie.
We'd often lose track of time walking and exploring the countryside for miles and, when we did eventually come home, my anxious mum would often ask what we'd been doing for hours on end.
- Not all those who wonder are lost.
My mum would often find me jumping in puddles and exploring all sorts of weird and wonderful places.
One time she searched high and low for me, in the pouring rain, only to find me dry and comfy in a tree house... sorry mum!
These are precious memories for me. Even now, with my granddad gone, I can still go to the old gate that we'd creep through to get to the other side.
It’s things like that that help me realise how fleeting time is and how we must cherish it as much as we can.
Aside from family holidays and Christmases, some of my best memories are from when I first joined the Scouts.
It was at the Scouts that I was able to channel my energy into building camps, fires, tents and anything else that needed a mallet or setting fire too.
Looking back I can fondly remember potholing, abseiling, trekking in the woods and all sorts of rough and tumble.
I remember my mum sending me away for a week with the Scouts in Wales, rucksack packed for the whole adventure, only to return in the same clothes she sent me in... (sorry again mum!)
After the mayhem, we'd kick back and relax with an open fire, roasting marshmallows or sausages on sticks and singing songs.
Probably why, even today, I enjoy a good sing-song around a fire.
After settling in England when I was around 13, my holidays where trips away to the sandy beaches of the UK with occasional trips abroad, to places like Turkey and Greece. It wasn’t until I got to college, however, that I got an opportunity of a lifetime.
- There's a great sense of achievement, testosterone, fun, being able to live out your masculinity when you play an action role or an action-adventure or a real tough-guy role.
- Gerard Butler
Without a doubt, my most memorable travel experience was when I had the opportunity to go to Kenya when I was 17.
I was at college, studying Art & Design, when the opportunity came to fill in some numbers and I jumped at the chance.
Little did I know how the trip would change me as an individual.
Our first day, in Nairobi, was a visit to a local aids orphanage, where we gave out supplies like; pens, medicine, stationery and a big inflatable banana for the kids to play with.
I remember seeing the joy on the children faces and how much they enjoyed spending time with us.
Later the next day, we visited a school in the slum and again supplies of stationary where warmly welcomed.
As the only male of the group, I was invited to be a P.E. teacher for the day. I got stuck straight in and soon became a spectacle as I tried to keep up with the youngsters in my fancy trainers, whilst they ran barefoot.
Tired, I sat down and spoke to some of the children. It quickly became apparent the luxuries we take for granted and despite how little they have; they were so humble, kind and full of joy.
I came back a changed man and sought out new adventures.
A humbling experience where I rapidly gained an appreciation for life and what I had back home.
Travelling to Morocco in 2005, with my friend Scott, was one of the early holidays without my parents.
Arriving in Marrakesh and exploring the city was a big eye opener. Green behind the ears, it was clear we were an easy target for some of the folk, who tried to sell us everything and anything vastly overpriced.
Quick to learn their tricks, we almost got into a heated argument with some snake handlers when they tried to charge us double! It was only when they realised that the snakes had done a runner that they gave up and let us get on our way.
The best place in Morocco for me was an old Portuguese town on the west coast.
We travelled up in an old-fashioned (but really comfortable) Mercedes taxi (whatever you do, don’t go via bus!) where we were met by a tour guide. He spent the day taking us around all the back streets, which allowed us to see the Morocco people don’t usually see.
I even got to watch a market in action with some of the Blue People, a people from the Sahara who come up to trade. It was mesmerising to see them and I highly recommend finding this town and going off the traditional routes.
We Are Vikings
When I moved to Shrivenham, I was lucky enough to join a Viking community, where I could have a good old fight with an axe, sit around fires and sing songs.
From Hastings to Corfe, I travelled and entertained people wherever I went.
I soon became known as Uncle Chopper, as I ended up looking after all the kids and left the fighting to everyone else.
Top tip when looking after Viking children, it’s often like looking after Viking adults. Just 3 basic rules:
- Don’t Eat that
- Don’t stick that in there!
- Come here and give us a cuddle
Maybe I’m showing my age, but there's something about a campfire and good company that just recharges the soul.
# New Zealand
New Zealand, so good I went twice!
Back in 2003 I decided to go to New Zealand. Travelling across to the other side of the world didn’t seem daunting until I realised, on arrival, that I'd included all the paperwork EXCEPT the information for the hotel we were staying in. This definitely made me panic!
After my initial mishap, we had the opportunity to travel around both the South and North of the Island. A real point of interest for me was when we went quad biking in a little town Te Anua on the South Island.
Initially, I thought we were just going around the farm on some old quad bikes, but it turned out that we were actually spending the day going through rivers, valleys, up hills and across mountains. I enjoyed it so much and took to the quad bike like a duck to water. I even ended up challenging the organiser to race back to the farm, which we both admitted at the end was a little bit hairy but thoroughly enjoyable. We promised not to tell anyone ;)
Another memory of New Zealand in 2003 was of Rotorua, a Roura Zealand stronghold for the Maori, where I was able to take part in a traditional ceremony. I thoroughly recommend this as a stopping place, if you're heading to New Zealand.
In 2017 I got the opportunity to go to New Zealand again. Having loved it so much the last time, I jumped at the chance to go again.
This time around I had the opportunity to bungee jump off one of the largest or tallest bungee jumps in the world, a staggering 144m high.
It started in the morning where I meet the group that was to join me in the bungee jump. I couldn't help noticing the age gap (I felt old).
At first the room was full of high spirits and confidence but, it wasn't long before we arrived at the actual bungee jump, that they looked to me to take the first leap.
I took up the mantle, followed the instructions, and with arms stretched and a little jump, I thrust myself out of the suspended metal shed and fell all the way down praying the bungee would hold!
The biggest and best days out for me would have to be the Chap Olympiad and Goodwood Festivals, annual events that would capture my attention and eventually be a big part of my life.
The Chap Olympics is definitely something special. Trying to describe this event to an outsider (let alone a Brit) can be a challenge. It’s a celebration of the eccentric Britain, where the aim isn’t to come first but to entertain like-minded folk whilst enjoying a Pimms and lemonade. Dressing up, playing all sorts of silly games and taking part in the shenanigans, is all part of the fun.
Whilst becoming a bronze and silver medal winner during the many years at the Chap Olympiad, I also got invited to perform at the actual Olympics back in 2012. Where we showed the public that the cucumber discus was just as important as any other fine Olympic sport.
A few years back, after building a close friendship with the organisers, I got invited to perform at the Goodwood Revival, festival for car enthusiasts that yearn for a by-gone era of fast cars and glamorous lifestyle of motor racing. Naturally, I fitted right in and once we had demonstrated our prowess on the field it was off to watch the classic cars with an ice cream!
Here I would meet and make so many diverse friends, from all walks of life. It was also here I cemented a friendship, that became the very best of friendships, with the one and only Bonster Monster.
The Chap is now a way of life!
- So whether it’s sand in our cucumber sandwiches, bungee jumping off bridges, or vintage parties and shenanigans join the Bonster & Me as we discover what experiences lie out there in the great adventure called life.
- Chopster, Monster Voyage