From my childhood in Borneo, I have fond memories of dashing through jungle vegetation, in a horde of other kids, and being baptised with Seven-up in a silver cup after having completed ten of such runs. I am talking about: the Hash.
More specifically; the children’s hash. The adult hash, who’s full name is ‘Hash House Harriers’ was invented in Malaysia by the Brits, and involves running through the jungle to cure hangovers and, not unsurprisingly, a lot of beer.
When we moved to Singapore, my father, fan of hashes of all kind, immediately said I ought to take the kids on a hash. Now the adult me, as many of you know, likes a spot of jungle more than the next girl, but I do think it is best enjoyed at a leisurely pace. Linde and Tijm take after their very sporty dad, yet Jasmijn, at only five, is rather young, and like me, not known for endurance in physical endeavours. So after more than three years, I still had not done more than join the Facebook group of Singapore’s children hash group ‘Hash House Horrors’, and get jealous watching other people’s photos.
But when a friend of mine told me that there were plenty of my kind, and even little ones so young that that they had to be carried in arms, there were no more excuses: We were going to hash! And it took all of five minutes for the whole family to get hooked.
Roel darts off with Tijm and Linde, top of the pack, breaking circles and finding the way. Jasmijn and I hike behind, in the back, where we enjoy our surroundings, pick flowers, and no, we are not even close to finishing last.
Hashes take you through every kind of scenery. Dense vegetation, drains, roads, open grassy bits, jungle, woodland, forbidden area’s, water ways, steep slopes, where you grasp branches to clamber up, declines that you can slip on, or slide down on your bum. The more mud and tree roots that need to be navigated the better, and last week, when Jasmijn got home and found her shoes were still clean, her dismay was profound.
The run is set by the hares, that mark the way to go with flour, chalk and white loo paper. The pack, or hounds, need to follow, and to make it harder, particularly for the front runners, false leads are included. There is the ‘circle,’ that is drawn on the floor with flour, from which the route will continue in any direction, and the ones arriving there first need to spread out and find new marks in a 50 metre radius. When they have done so, they ‘break the circle,’ that means mark which way the people following must go, by erasing flour from the circle in that direction. If an adult breaks the circle, and execution will follow. Executions don’t include shotguns, but sticky orange juice that is much more annoying.
Needless to say Jasmijn, unlike Tijm and Linde, has never had the pleasure to break a circle first, but we have gotten lost, made detours, or puzzled over a murkily broken circle to decide which way to go next. Luckily there is usually a colourful shirt to be spotted in the distance, and when we see a new scrap of loo paper, Jasmijn will call out ‘on-on’ to let everyone know we are back on track.
|Me, in yellow in the middle, at my 10th hash in 1982
With the Hash House Horrors the seven-up from my youth has been replaced with orange juice, but other traditions still stand strong. New people, or ones celebration 10th, 50th or more runs, are called in the circle to drink, and whether you drink or throw your drink at friend or foe, the cup has to end upside down on your head. You can imagine how much gets drunk…