Saturday, 1 October 2005

A good night's sleep

The next night, flushed with the success of the previous night I decide to go for the hammock sleeping option again, there had only been two problems the night before, getting in was still a bit tricky and a lot of cold air was coming in through the hood. It occurred to me that there is probably a knack to getting into the hammock and a sleeping bag at the same time and that once that knack is learnt it would be really easy and then it would be fun to lend the hammock to other people and laugh at them trying to get in. I have to make my own entertainment you see. One lesson I have learnt time and time again is that cutting corners is not an option, cutting corners just leads to things going wrong and results in having to put in a whole lot more effort into rectafying the problem than would have been expended if the job had been done properly in the first place. Dad is a stickler for perfection, I used to find it infuriating when helping him out with jobs round the house that everything took so long, everything was done perfectly and his argument that he did this because he was lazy never really made sense. My position was that I was more lazy and was thus quite prepared to botchit and scarper off to the woods to play. His argument was that if it was done properly the first time around then we would not have to come back to the job in six months time and do it again. I am beginning to see his point, what worries me though is that this might well mean that I am turning into him! noooooooooo.

Anyway putting a hammock up is something one obviously puts a bit of effort into, it's something that needs to be got right first time around; obviously. Failure to do it right would involve getting up in the night and putting the problem right and that would not be good. Especially not when hugely tired and in desperate need of a decent amount of sleep having got up at stupid o'clock am and having had to work very hard all day. Tiredness, as the signs say, KILLS! Well it is easy to succumb to it's warm embrace and let standards slip. I was tired and could not be bothered to walk all the way back to the woods, I stopped on route convinced that the land owner of the bit of scrubland I was passing would not mind if I stayed there one night. It was a clear night, deep blue sky stars twinkling, bit of a breeze blowing - invigorating. I scouted around in the light of the moon looking for a spot to put the hammock up. There was only one tree, I don't know how much you know about hammocks but the general consensus is that a minimum of two things is needed to tie them too. Trees are a favorite thing to tie them to as they provide a bit of shelter and there is something rather aesthetically pleasing about a hammock tied between two trees, there being only one tree was thus a bit of an issue. In the area though there where a number of tall shrubs with woody branches, not quite trees but close enough so the decision was made to stay where I was. Sleep was nearing I could feel it encroaching on my thoughts and on my limbs; the hammock needed to be put up quickly so that I could get my head down.

I started to unpack and was greeted by the familiar smell of my rucksack - damp. The good thing though is that it always smells of fresh damp not that old stale damp. There are some advantages to always being wet. The distance between the tree (a beach by the way) and the nearest suitable scrub was just slightly longer than the hammock. There was a big thick branch coming from the tree to the scrub so it would be possible to tie it from the branch to the scrub. Knots tied hammock up tea drunk time for bed. It was only the knowledge that it is possible to get into the hammock and sleeping bag simultaneously and become comfortable that kept me going. About five minutes of wriggling about like a worm on ecstasy later and I was in position, better still after all that exertion I was nice and warm, I settled back a grin crept over my face, this was comfortable I could get used to this. I didn't get the chance, a brief and loud moment, that sounded very like nylon rope sliding over bark, later and I was sat on the ground, still in the hammock. Getting out of the hammock and sleeping bag proved to be as much fun as getting in, I was on a hill facing upwards tightly wrapped in sleeping bag hammock and mosquito net the exit was underneath me, I was soon glad of all the sit-ups I have been doing.

A very good friend on mine I used to hang out with went on to become a physics professor we used to sit about and discuss astro physics, drink Jack Daniels and listen to Led Zeplin late into the night (like you do). My finely tuned analytical brain turned itself to analyzing the problem at hand. The knot was still tied but now the hammock was lying on the ground, something had happened but what? I soon had the possibilities narrowed to one of two events having occurred; either, the end of the rope tied to the branch of the tree had slid down the branch; or, the trees had moved closer together. My money was on the former so I employed myself to the task of re-tieing the rope in such a way that it would not slide down the rope in future. the problem was that I was tired, annoyed, bare footed and there were branches everywhere. Branches grabbing at my clothes, catching at my laces when I did put my boots on and even getting up my nose. The rope was not helping much either seeming more interested in wrapping itself around branches and not being where I put it last than actually assisting in the business of getting itself tied to a tree. When I had finally succeeded I looked around to find that whilst I might well have securely tied the rope to the tree the sleeping bag was still on the ground. Start again. Eventual the Hammock is tied in such a way as it is not possible for it to slide down the rope and the sleeping bag is raised a sufficient height from the ground for me to be able to sleep in it. Result. I remove my boots again, step into the sleeping bag, open the velcro entrance to the hammock (which is in the bottom of the hammock - the top being covered by a mosquito net) and gingerly sit back to test the thing before committing my self to lying down. Now I used to be good at tying knots, I used to windsurf in remote spots on my own so knot tying was a matter of life and death. Imagine my surprise then to discover my self sitting on the ground coated in hammock and mosquito net. I was particularly pleased to find myself rolling down the hill becoming mummified in my bed as I went. After that everything went down hill. For some reason I couldn't remember how to tie the simplest of knots and found myself on the ground a further four time before I eventual had the thing secured.

I can lie back in the hammock and try to relax, bit of an effort to just chill out as all the activity has got my hear going and I need to chill out to slow it down and thus be able to sleep. I'm nearly there when the noise starts, it sounds like a gnawing as though some animal is chewing on something close by. Nice. The noise is getting louder, is it getting closer - what is it? A rat? Sounds like a big one if it is. I begin to think that maybe it's a person. This is worrying, why would someone be wondering about at this time of night and why are they so close to me. The noise comes again, even louder this time, by now the hairs on the back of my neck are on end, I amit a low but loud growl figuring that if it is an animal it will run away. No the noise is back louder still. It must be a person and they are invading my space and behaving very oddly. This is not a good thing, I can't see as I'm encased in hammock and mosquito net and there is a waterproof sheet over the top of the hammock obscuring any hope of being able to see out. I realise that if it comes to a fight I'm in a rather poor situation; I can't see and can hardly move. For some reason I imagine a knife coming through the bottom of the hammock at any moment. It is time to get out of the hammock, and quickly! It is only when I sit up that I recognize the noise for what it is; the sound of a branch breaking. With one final almighty creak the branch on the scrub behind my head finally gives way and I am once more on the floor. This time though it is with a huge sense of relief, I don't have to fight anyone.

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