Last Tuesday the Locale team headed to Oxford Castle to take part in their Jailbreak Escape Room as our latest staff social. One of our developers, Justin, shares his account of the evening… 

Collared to put up ‘two sentences’ for the weekly blog, I briefly considered the subject matter: a recent outing to Oxford Castle’s ‘Escape Room’. Egged on by the mellifluous sounds filtering through from The Bear next door, I hastily penned the following in an email to the editor and hit SEND:

1. We got locked up.

2. We escaped.

3. Nothing. There is no third thing…

Job done! I’m off home for tea and medals (via The Bear!).

Or so I thought… SWMBO (She Who Must Be Obeyed) called me over & I was invited to step into her office; The door was closed and there was a click followed by a soft hum and, as the glass panels went opaque, all sounds from the rest of the office faded away. Is this ever a good sign? Er… No.

This is never a good sign. This is never, EVER a good sign.

It doesn’t take Einstein to realise that praise does not require a hermetically sealed room with sound-proofing turned ON and any chance of witnesses actually being able to witness anything, turned OFF. My mind races and I’m hit by the sudden recollection of a little bit of typically, utterly unbelievable office gossip that now seems all too real; a coffee machine moment intimating the editor’s former career as an interrogation consultant to the security services. Who the hell ‘consults’ in this line of work? Bones broken and teeth extracted at £5 each, 3 for a tenner & I’ll throw in the fingernails…? It’s Albert Pierrepoint all over again, being this country’s longest serving hangman wasn’t his day job (greengrocer by day, publican by night), it was his hobby! I’m staring down the barrel of a rendition flight to Gitmo and a sartorially challenging orange jumpsuit (it turns out that I didn’t escape that little gem as you’ll soon discover) and my mind is accelerating furiously in reverse for that J-turn to see if I had remembered to pack the parachute. No, of course I hadn’t.

In a word, #*$@!

Now on the receiving end of a fusillade of rainbow invective, I have insight into Captain Nolan’s first thought when he realised the Light Brigade had taken a bit of a wrong turn. Sounds like ‘duck’.

In fact, I suspect it was probably more like an allegro assai of ‘Duck! Duck! Duck! Duck! Duck! Duck!’ But I digress…

I couldn’t possibly lay such invective before your sensitive eyes, dear readers but suffice it to say that I was subjected to a raised eyebrow and a stern look that I once heard referred to as a ‘glare’. Hell hath no fury and all that… But I am an intelligent man; I’ve been about a bit; I’ve seen this look before and can read between the lines – she was slightly miffed. What was all the fuss about, I wondered? Asked for two sentences I delivered three. Short, to the point and humorous – the perfect delivery reminiscent of Truman and Underwood or even today’s young gun, #613 Anderson. Surely worse things have happened at sea?

With a heavy sigh and her Zen dialed up to 11, I was invited to review, for my edification, recent submissions by esteemed colleagues, consider my position and resubmit. You and I both know this wasn’t an ‘invitation’ and I slunk off to peruse the blog and be duly ‘edified’. 350 words!??! It’s meant to be a short anecdote, not the OED! Bloody do-gooders…

So, what did happen, that fateful Tuesday evening?

It was a dark and stormy night… well, no, it wasn’t, but I thought I’d grab your attention.

It all began with a warning order that everyone had 5 minutes to wind up that thing they pretended to call ‘work’ (Ha! As if…) and be ready to leave – promptly. Some 20 minutes later the shore party finally disembarked the good ship Blue Boar and, pausing briefly for a gargle at one of the many taverns en route, arrived at Oxford Castle to be presented with a glass of wine (I sense a pattern here).

X-Rays and strip-searches robbed us of all contraband: padlock keys (duh!), metal files, rope ladders, crockery set, cuddly toy, general escape equipment and the like. Our host delivered a most illuminating instruction in the form of “You have to escape” at which point the gaoler arrived to incarcerate this motley collection of miscreants.

On entry to the cell, team Locale pooled their amoebic minds (I hear yells of ‘Speak for yourself!’) into a functioning collective and dove into a series of conundrums involving, amongst other things, a map, a game of scrabble, some coins, a jigsaw puzzle, a deck of cards, a couple of substitution ciphers, some more coins, a Ouija board and a walkie-talkie in a hamster cage. Given that the previous occupant of the cage had clearly managed to leg it, we felt confident. After all, if a hamster could do it… and WE still had our glasses of wine!


There was some head scratching and frustrated lock rattling and at one point, there was even a brief discussion that someone should fall on their sword to effect a suitable distraction. TDC was volunteered, she’s always threatening to stab someone – KARMA! 🙂 In the end, this ignoble sacrifice wasn’t necessary and, without giving the game away for those who have not yet had the pleasure, the sequence of clues was successfully navigated in the right order(ish), leading to the necking a bottle of gin and bribery with cold, hard cash. As if by magic, a pile of the aforementioned sartorially challenging orange (I can’t bring myself to call it cloth) appeared and everyone donned their ‘disguises’.

It was at this point that the team briefly departed reality as a dozen Oompa-Loompahs in badly fitting and, frankly, visually shocking onesies made their bid for freedom. The gaoler must have been blind, drunk, and probably blind drunk to think that this dubious crew were, in her reality, a team of contractors coming off shift – she even held the door open!







Once back in the sanctuary of the Castle reception area (and, I note, tactically placed gift shop!), contraband was returned and normality resumed, well, in terms of clothing that is. The team were proud to hear that Locale now held the record as the quickest team to complete the escape and, on a personal note of glory, I was the only person they had seen complete the map challenge without help. So there! (it wasn’t that hard…)

In conclusion:

1. We got locked up.

2. We escaped.

3. Nothing. There is no third thing…

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