Wednesday, 30 November 2005


I am far to inept to get pictures on here myself.

My mate Rob has agreed to do it for me, he was somewhat scathing when I explained that I have not managed to do it myself.

Soon soon

An outline of a theory

Basically there is a country over there to the left of the UK (that’s on the map not politically by the way) and it goes by the name of the USA. This Summer myself and some friends, or buddies as they say over there, went for a bit of a walkabout in the countryside over there, there is considerably more countryside in the States than there is over here. Whilst we were there we did some of the typical touristy things including going to Mount Rushmore which is where the faces of American Presidents have been carved out of a mountain. A somewhat impressive undertaking I’m sure you will agree.

A couple of miles from Mount Rushmore there is a far more impressive monument. The Monument is to a Dakota Indian Chief named Crazy Horse and is of him riding his stallion. The Monument is a massive 3D carving being hacked out of a mountain and it dwarfs Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse’s face alone is bigger than all of Mount Rushmore put together!

Now why I’m bringing this up is the story behind how this monument came about. Basically a sculpture by the name of Korczak Ziolkowski (he was of Polish decent) was approached by, amongst others, Chief Henry Standing Bear and asked to make a monument to Crazy Horse in the Black Hills. Korczak accepted and took on the challenge of carving an entire mountain into an image that symbolised Crazy Horse and what he stood for. Korczak started off his task on his own armed with just hand tools, vision and no small measure of determination; he worked for 36 years until his death and accepted no salary for his work. I really wish that I could find the words to describe the magnitude of the task he took on, it is huge. 50 years after the start of the project and there is a massive team of engineers working on the site with all the modern equipment you can shake a stick at and still they are a very very long way from completion. For one man to have had the vision and belief to walk to the top of a mountain every morning with a hammer, chisel, pick, shovel and what little dynamite that he could afford is truly stunning.

I was listening to radio 4 a couple of nights ago and apparently we have 20 to 50 years to take action to prevent catastrophic climate change; some people ignore this and others say that it’s too late to do anything. I look at the example of Korczak and think to myself that if one person can achieve so much surely if a whole bunch of people got together then they could achieve anything. There would probably even be time to make some money and go to a few parties as well.

“My lands are where my dead lie buried.” Crazy Horse.

Tuesday, 29 November 2005


I figured that seeing as it is so cold that I would be able to buy and store milk without it going off and so last night I had the first decent cup of tea for a very long time.

The tent pegs worked fine as a base to hold the billy can over the jetboil and the billy can only fell off the once. Fortunately the lid was on so not very much food spilled out. I cooked a sun dried tomato rissotto with pork and apple sausages.

There is reason why pork should be cooked properly and I can heartily recomend doing so.

Interesting weather last night, freezing fog and snow. Not much snow unfortunately but plenty fog.

Monday, 28 November 2005


Curiously I have become bored of shivering in my sleeping bag and wishing it was warm. So I have logged on to Ray Mears' site and ordered a sleeping bag from their, I imagine that seeing as it is claimed to be good enough for winter that it will indeed be just that. I will keep you posted.

I had a cunningly plan over the the weekend, surely it is possible to make a tripod out of three tent pegs and put my billy can on that and the jet boil underneath and then I would be able to cook proper food rather than packaged nonsence. I'll let you know how that goes as well.

Anyway I have been sat in work all day in an office with the heating turned up to full and so I am feeling distinctly unwell as a result and I now feel in no mood to go to the gym, go home, or infact do anything other than go to bed. Sadly I have no bed. The plan is to go to the gym, go back to the woods pick more Sloes by torch light and then go to Rob's and start the Sloe Gin making process there. Rob was a little hesitant about the idea at first as there is a bit of work involved but when he learnt that he would be getting a share of the proceeds he inexorably became most helpful.



I’ve had another enquiry about his New Puritan business.

A few weeks The Observer ago accused me of being a New Puritan, not only that but I was apparently the poster boy of New Puritanism! First off it became immediately apparent that whoever had written that had never seen me, if I’m going to be a poster boy for anything it’s going to be for Balaclavas or paper bags. I decided to let that one go but was intrigued as to what a New Puritan is, like most people I had not heard of New Puritanism before so I decided to investigate. I was shocked! If I’m a Puritan, New or otherwise, then Hunter S Thompson was a nun.

From what I understand a New Puritan is a muesli knitting weirdo who is hell bent on inflicting their own dreary humourless lifestyle on all around them. They propose the banning of drinking, smoking, sweets, SUV’s, air travel and just about anything else that makes life enjoyable. For entertainment I can only assume that they sit around and punch themselves in the face with bricks, everything else it appears is strictly off limits. To my mind these New Puritan loons are nothing better than the idiotic spawn of those yoghurt weavers we used to find so amusing.

If these New Puritans want to deny themselves all the pleasures of life then more power to them, at least I won’t have to talk to them at parties like their yoghurt weaving ancestors. The problem is that they seem to have decided that they are the ‘moral minority’ and wish to enforce their views on everyone else by banning pretty much everything. This I take issue with on a number of grounds and so I find my being accused of being no less than a poster boy for such a movement highly insulting. I am, I suppose, an environmentalist, I am raising money for the Woodland Trust by living in the woods for a year. I have said that I would like to encourage people consume less and recycle more and that, as far as I know is about the extent of it. The key is that I would just like to encourage people not inflict my opinions on them, if people don’t want to do as I think best then, as annoying as that may be, that’s their choice. I personally would defend anyone’s freedom of choice and that includes their freedom to disagree with me. New Puritans cross the line by trying to inflict their views on others and so get big thumbs down from me.

The other thing with the ban everything approach is that it is ultimately self defeating. Running around the place preaching to people and trying to brow beat them into acquiescence really is not going to work. It is just going to put people off, who the hell is going to listen to some self opinionated wazzock telling them not to give their kids sweets and not to go on holiday? Other wazzocks perhaps.

What I’m trying to do is show that it is possible to live a full and modern life in harmony with nature. My response to being called a New Puritan was to fly to Barbados for the weekend and then off-set my carbon emissions by giving some money towards replanting the rain forest. There is no need to do without and lead a life devoid of enjoyment but there is a need to be a bit responsible about our actions though. I hope that by proving that it is possible to live in the woods whilst having a full and fulfilling life that others will realise that maybe it is possible to put in a bit of effort and do some recycling. Maybe some people will decide that maybe they should do something to offset their carbon footprint. If so then I’m happy.

I’m going to sound like a bit of a nutter here but I believe that we can, if we so choose find a way as a society to live in harmony with nature whilst still having all the trappings of modern life that we currently enjoy. The first step towards achieving this goal is realising, in theory at least, that the concept is a valid one. I personally believe that everything is possible, apart from understanding women, and that the only limit on human achievement is self belief. The road to a better world comes not from banning the fun things but from finding ways to accommodate the things we enjoy.

Sloes are nutritious and delicious, discuss.

Sloes, the small round small round purple / black fruit of the Blackthorn fruit towards the end of the summer and are best left to harvest after the first frost. As the name suggests Blackthorn bushes are covered in vicious thorns, some an inch or more in length this in combination with the cold and wet weather that is inevitably in attendance at the time of harvest needs to be balanced against any nutritional value the fruit may posses. After an hour of picking it is not unusual for the picker to discover that his fingers are in some considerable pain that appears to be going right to the bone. Whether this discomfort is in time offset by the nutritional value of the fruit remains to be seen, from the low mutterings heard from this picker, viz ‘it better be bloody worth it’ that this is a question of some relevance at the time of picking.

Moving briefly to the question of taste; ‘delicious’ is of course a subjective term, it is well known that some people, sick twisted devious types, believe Artichokes to be delicious whereas sane well balanced individuals, such as myself do not. However, I believe there are certain flavours that transcend subjectivity to the point where they can be objectively agreed upon as being gross. Sloes being a perfect example of this; upon the slightest contact the bitterness sucks all the moisture from the mouth and attacks the central nervous system so as to produce a shiver down the spine that can be seen from some 23 meters away. Worst of all, the taster is left with distinct impression that they are now in possession of furry teeth, a sensation that is not swift to leave.

It might appear from the initial analysis that there would be no point spending time in the cold and wet battling deadly thorns in order to pick fruit that tastes somewhat less fruity than a Sumo Wrestlers Armpit. However, there is reason, good reason and that reason is Booze. Oh yes, a simple concoction made of gin, sugar, Sloes and time produces a heady liquor that is allegedly worth the effort. After an hour of picking I had gathered enough Sloes for an estimated Gallon of Gin, more than enough to give some bottles as gifts and keep some for myself.

It is at this point that the discussion necessarily turns to the other possible meaning of Nutritious and Delicious. Regular readers will recognise the term as a simple comedic technique used to flag up impending disaster. For instance if I were to discuss the nutritional value of rice it would only be a matter of time before it was revealed that the bag of rice in question had burst and was currently congealing in the bottom of my rucksack with a delicious yoghurt that had burst the day before. What could possibly happen to a Sainsbury’s carrier bag half full of soft fruit? I was immediately aware of the peril the fruit of my toil was in so made it my mission to treat it with ultimate tenderness.
When I got back to my camp I placed it on the floor near my sleeping bag but nearly trod on it so had to move it out of the way of harm. When it got so bitterly cold that I had to light a fire for fear my arms would fall off as a result of the shivering I moved the bag to protect them from stewing. As I packed my rucksack last night so that I would be ready to leave with the minimum of fuss in the morning I caught myself packing the Sloes. A very bad plan seeing as all previous things that could be categorised as either nutritious or delicious that had been put in their had met a sticky end. I removed the bad of Sloes and replaced it with the rubbish bag. This way I could carry the Sloes carefully in my hand and ensure their safe passage. In my rush to leave this morning I almost left them behind but remembered them at the last minute. I had done it, picked and transported the Sloes safely – brilliant!

I had left in good time to catch the bus, this was mainly due to my already having missed the bus that I wanted, so I strolled gently down the hill admiring the view and taking stock of the weekend. It had been a bit of a rollercoaster of a couple of days, clubbing till five am on Saturday, sleeping in whilst the sleet pelted down on Sunday such a lot had happened. I’m not sure whether it was a branch or a root that tripped me but whatever it was it did it ever so well. I toppled forward and the combination of the steepness of the slope I was going down and the pack on my back conspired to tip me past my centre of gravity and’ with arms wind-milling’ on to my face. The momentum of the pack on my back being such as to send me somersaulting further down the hill. Smiling to myself I stood up only to discover that the carrier bag was now completely empty, the bag had split all along the bottom edge on contact with the ground and Sloes now covered the slope. I stopped to gather as many of the small dark round fruit as time and light allowed before stomping miserably off to the bus. It was only once I was on the bus that it occurred to me that the field in which I had fallen is mainly inhabited by sheep and rabbits. There could well be a number of small dark round objects gathered whose deliciousness and nutritional value I really do not wish to gather.

I took advantage of the light in the bus on the way to work to pick thorns out of my fingers and reflect on a successful weekend.

Thursday, 24 November 2005


Mum sent me a great big fluffy hat yesterday with instructions to wear it in bed. So last night I wrapped a scarf around my face, so that I could breath warm air whilst I slept, put the hat on then pulled the hood of my hoodie up and tied the draw cord under my chin to hold both the hat and the scarf in place. I then got into bed, getting into two sleeping bags is not the easiest thing in the world; they need to be aligned rather than twisted like a strudel. Getting into two sleeping bags that are in turn wrapped in a bivi bag that appears to have decided to take on a day job as a boa constrictor is hugely amusing. By the time I had got comfortable I was put of breath and too hot, so the scarf had to be loosened and my fleece removed and folded up to be used as a pillow. Pillows have to be put inside the hood of the bivi bag to keep dry, this is tricky if the hood has worked its way round to be on top rather than bellow you. Having got myself organised I clambered back into the sleeping bags and drew the draw cord of the inner sleeping bag around my neck as tightly as I could without cutting the blood supply to my head off. I woke with a start at about 3am, there was something over my face, I was suffocating, in a panic I went to tear whatever it was from my face but found my arms were trapped inside the sleeping bag which was still tightly tied around my neck, I tore at the cord and freed my arms from being pinned to my sides and went to tear this thing from over my mouth and nose, it was only then that I realised that it was in fact just the scarf that I had tied over my face and that I could breath just fine with it there. Nevertheless I decided to remove it anyway, and spent the next few minutes struggling with the draw cord of my hoodie that I had tied under my chin and was holding the scarf in place.

I woke late with barely enough time to get to the bus so decided to hide my rucksack as I would be able to move faster without it. Grabbing a few essentials and stuffing them in my pockets. I legged it for the bus.

Walking down Bond Street this morning I became aware that I was attracting very odd looks, I took a look at myself and discovered why. I was covered in mud, all the pockets on my trousers were bulging to overflowing, the pouch on the front of my hoodie was so full that I looked pregnant, my boots scuffed and covered in mud contrasted heavily with the shiny black brogues that I was carrying and at every step I took I jingled like half a dozen Christmases at once.

I was carrying

Pouch of Hoodie

One toothbrush (new) covered in fluff, second new toothbrush this week – other toothbrush missing presumed somewhere.
One tube tooth paste (new) second tube tooth paste this week – other tube tooth paste presumed with toothbrush.
One Razor.
One very large Russian Cossack Hat – presumed source of fluff found on toothbrush.

Trouser pocket on right thigh

One Book; The Weekenders (Travels in the Heart of Africa) very good
One lighter / knife / bottle opener – presumed result of love of gadgets
One spoon (soup)
One large padlock (for locker at gym)
2 x double A batteries (just in case)
£3.68 in small change

Trouser Pocket right front

Seven Napkins (paper)
Four old bus tickets
One sock (black) source unknown

Trouser pocket left front

Three Napkins (paper)
£3.80 in small change
Garmin forerunner (kit for running with)
Cufflinks, blue (tatty)

Trouser Pocket left thigh

Scarf long (black)
Two Napkins (paper)
One Petzl Head torch (helps to see the way when running for bus in the dark)
One packet replacement razor heads (Gillete Mach 3)
One Bus ticket (used)
Assorted sheets of A4 paper with useful information scrawled all over
Bank statement
Credit card statement
Passport (why?)
Nail clippers

It would have been useful to have brought the following

Towel, it appears that these are useful things to have after a shower
Swimming trunks, might cause a bit of a stir in the pool without these

Wednesday, 23 November 2005


Fog is great, fog gets everywhere. It's not like rain that usually comes down and quite often comes accross, rain you can hide from and what is the fun in that? Fog on the other hand is much more interesting, it is completely indiscriminate. Why it cold wet tendrils will even, if you are lucky, reach inside a sleeping bag and make it all nice and cold and wet.

Fog is ace.

Tuesday, 22 November 2005

It's just so crazy it could work

Does anyone know how to get in touch with the people who run Blogspot? For some reason all the links and history have disappeared and it would be good to figure out how to get them back.

Also I was talking with Neil the other day, Neil does something with computers and banking by day and is an international trance DJ by night, you know the type. Anyway Neil is full of good idea and we were discussing what happens after the end of the year and coming up with some interesting ideas. Anyway as a result of this conversation we had concluded that it really was necessary for me to have some kind of power source so I could charge up my lap top; how better to live a full life whilst having a minimum environmental impact? Solar Cells are out of the question for the obvious reason that there is no sun, wind is an option but is not hugely reliable. There is an answer, Steam.

I will have a steam powered lap top. If you were to see the laptop you would probably think it was steam powered, it's a huge old thing that Emma gave me on account of it being obsolete. Now all there is to do is simply find a small steam engine and producing electricity from it. The idea is to also use the heat source to cook on and to make tea and or wash with hot water - no point in wasting anything. I will probably have to plant a few trees to counter any carbon produced in the process, but that's no problem, trees are cool.

All the fun of the fair

Friday's predominant weather for Oxford is, according to the BBC, sleet with a 23 mph wind. I had forgotten about sleet, all the cold of snow with none of the fun, all the misery of rain with none of the warmth. I guess if the wind is blowing at 23 mph that means that it will be coming in sideways. Saturday is forcast sleet showers and a 12 mph wind.

Red Wine and White Russian

I went swimming last night, didn't get very far in terms of distance, as it is not something that I'm very good at but I got wet at least. What was good though was going into the steam room afterwards. So gloriously hot! I'm not sure how long I was in there for but however long it was was the best that period of time I have had for ages. Not only was it nice and warm but it also felt like being massaged and I could feel myself almost melting into the floor I was that relaxed. I'm going swimming again today.

I had to leave the pool as I was going off to meet Rob and have some food. I used to share a flat with Rob and it's been a long time since we have met up so there was some catching up to be done. I'm normally a fairly positive kind of person so I would like to recommend things to you from time to time today though I have to un-recommend some things. Comedy drinking for one, silly game and it doesn't win you any friends. I play it every year about this time – only the once per year is enough – and it entails going to the off licence and buying the most garishly coloured disgusting looking drinks you can find and then insisting your friends drink them with you. I also really really really would un-recommend the bank robber game, that's the game where your friends think it would be funny to pretend that they are bank robbers and loudly plan a robbery in a very quiet pub whilst you try very hard to pretend that you don't know the people that you are sharing a table with. One thing I would recommend is drinking lots of water before going to bed.

I slept in a bed last night, crashed out in Rob's spare room and then woke at about 4am with my head pounding and my tongue stuck to the roof of my mouth. Nevertheless it really was very nice to sleep in a bed, and warm too. I had not realised how cold I have been sleeping in the woods, by comparison sleeping in a bed under a duvet was roasting hot – lovely. I got up about five and could stand up straight and walk about with no shoes on, no need to shiver, jump up and down or any of that usual morning stuff. Strolled down to the kitchen and spent a happy 5 minutes looking for the kettle and had tea, with milk, made properly. One think that really annoys me is that every café I go to can make blinding cappuccinos but none of them can make tea properly so this was my first decent cup of tea in weeks. So I'm sitting here in this centrally heated flat that is a mere ten minutes walk from work drinking tea and eating breakfast (cold garlic bread) the question obviously becomes 'have I done a wise thing, or would it be better to live here?' Rob is looking for a flat mate for the spare room and where I in a position to take it I could, for a rather reasonable rent, live ten minutes walk from work. They are talking about the Thames freezing over this winter Dave gleefully told me last night, sometimes, just sometimes, I can see why all this 'living indoors' that's so fashionable nowadays is something that people would choose to do.

I prefer my walk to work than the one through London although I did get to have a go on an escalator.

Monday, 21 November 2005


Note to self

get one of those thermometers that record the highs and lows of tempratures.

Note to everyone else

very very cold is how cold it is; do feel free to dontate some money to the Woodland Trust by clicking on 'Sponsor Me' over to the right or your screen there.

Covet the Duvet

I just went to the café at work to get a cup of tea and a can of pop and what did I see? Some chap in there with a big thick winter coat, you know the sort huge things, like a duvet with a zip up the front. I found myself tempted to knock him out and take his coat, I settled for the cup of tea and a bit of banter with Silvie.

If you see headlines tomorrow morning reading “Frost Bitten Man Drowns in Shallow End” you will that this evenings attempts to teach myself to swim did not go so well.

Wavey Gravey

Blimey gosh! It’s a bit cold out there I can tell you. There are areas that don’t get hit by sunlight, my camping spot for example, that have been covered in frost day and night for three days, or is it four? Ice crystals are growing on top of each other and then on top of each other again covering everything in a layer nearly 2cm thick in places. The Gore Tex Sheet is what you might call crunchy; it is now white, rather heavier than it was seeing as both sides of it are covered in ice. Bits of it have clumps of my hair that have frozen to it and then ripped out when I moved. The bungee cords that hold the Gore Tex sheet in place are frozen solid and stay stretched even when there is nothing holding them.

Staying warm is proving to be a bit of an issue, I went for a run with a friend of mine on Saturday and for a couple of hours I was very warm. We ended up in the Leathern Bottle in Lewknor and that was quite warm as well. On leaving I heard that there was a rave on up by the motorway so I walked up there (walking is quite warm) and found that it was over so walked home (still quite warm). Sitting down I immediately started to become cold so put on all my clothes (bit warmer but becoming very cold quite quickly), thought about buying a warm coat for a bit (no improvement in warmth). I made tea (just as cold) drank it (briefly warmer) ended up going to bed at twenty past five.

Going to bed with all your clothes on, two fluffy hats and a scarf pulled over your face is reasonably warm. I found that the only way to stop cold air coming in through the hole in the sleeping bag that is required to let oxygen in was to wrap my head in as many layers as I could and then pull the draw cord around my neck. Last night was reasonably warm but I woke up at about 3am, I guess this might be something to do with going to bed at 5.20. There is nothing in the woods at 3am on a freezing cold November night that is appealing enough to drag this monkey out of bed so I slept some more until 6am and then got up feeling rotten from having slept too much.

The jet boil (my stove) is a clever thing the cooking pad doubles as a mug and the gas canister and burner fit neatly inside and slip easily out. At least they slip easily out unless the cup is wet when you put it away and it is very cold out, should these things happen then all the workings will get frozen in place. Hugely enjoyable getting up into the ice and finding you can’t make tea because your stove is frozen to the inside of your mug.

From the edge of the woods I saw the bus disappearing into the distance, five minutes early! I swore, now I would get to stand around in the freezing cold for half an hour to wait for the next one and then I would have the joy of getting to work late and probably not having a chance to get a shower. I grumbled away to myself right the way down to the road, I turned the corner and what did I see? The bus! And it was indicating to pull out and leave. I sprinted the 200 meters to the bus willing the driver to take pity and wait for me my temperature rising as you can imagine it would; I was wearing a coat, a fleece, a jumper, another jumper, a hat and a scarf; I was also carrying a rucksack with pretty much all my possessions in it. It was only when I got close to the bus that I noticed that the bus had the words “Sorry not in service” scrolling across the display on the front. I swore again, in my head this time I would have sworn out loud but my lungs felt as though they would burst at any moment. The bus had broken down and it’s inhabitants had spilled out and were milling around waiting for the next one. A couple of girls took time out from milling to look disdainfully at me as I bent over double gulping in huge lungfuls of air whilst simultaneously shedding layers of clothes.

A couple of minutes later and another bus arrived and soon I was on my way to start another week of work. It might be bitterly cold out there but I would rather be there than at work. Some things brighten the day though, David called through from Bond St where I was working up until a month or so ago, he was worried about my I was told he asked if I was dead yet? I informed him I was not and that I was very sorry about this. He said that he was cold in his flat even with his central heating on so I invited him out to stay at mine saying that I won’t take no for an answer, he hung up.

Friday, 18 November 2005


Last night was stunning. It was a hugely bright night, there was a full moon a couple of nights ago and so the moon was still really full and this combined with a cloudless night meant that the world was bright. There was also a hard frost so the ground was covered with a sheen of white that reflected the moonlight even more, occasionally a piece of ice would catch the moonlight and sparkle in the moonlight. The overall effect was stunning. Once I had got away from the light pollution of the road I paused a while just to marvel at the scene, the pure spectacle of the route home put me into a fine mood and by the time I was nearly home I was singing to myself. It’s usually best if I sing to myself as singing to other people just results in them going pale. The owl passed comment by screeching in return and somewhere in the distance a pheasant shot into the air, clearly spooked by something. I stopped singing and walked on passed the fluttery bush.

Have I told you about the fluttery bush? I don’t think so. There is a bush that lots of small birds roost in, I have never seen them but I assume that they are sparrows, and if I make a nose as I walk past at night the bush comes alive with the sound of dozens of pairs of wings – a fluttery bush. I went home, said hi to Bruce as I went past and noticed that something has been having a bit of a nibble at him and he is looking a bit smaller than previously. As I was getting my meal ready I kept hearing the sound of nibbling coming from just behind the log pile. I had left a corn on the cob out a couple of days ago to see what if anything it would attract, I was hoping for it not to be rats. The gnawing was quite loud so the worrying thought was that it might be a rat. I shone a light and discovered to my relief a small grey mouse was eating the corn, well more to the truth there was a small grey mouse that was running away from the beam of light but I think I had my culprit. It seemed appropriate to name the mouse so I did, Dave, Dave Gorman and to celebrate the fact I left him some chocolate as well.

The owl Screeched again, probably just seen one of Dave’s cousins. It seemed odd to have named a mouse that I had only know for a couple of minutes but not to have named an owl that I had been living next door to for months. I toyed with the idea of calling it Dave but eschewed this option on the basis that it could soon get confusing. What then? Sadly my copy of Great Owls from History is in storage so I would have to use memory to come up with a name. The only owl that I could think of was the owl from Winnie the Poo and that owl was called Owl which is just a little too generic for my tastes so I settled on Eeyore. Flushed with success of naming things I decided to come up with a name for the spooky thing that does things in the night, sitting there eating beans and frankfurters the name Arthur seemed appropriate.

It was cold, very cold, so I got into bed with all my clothes on. I have a scarf that I have used for the last couple of nights to wrap over my nose and mouth so that I can breath warm air. I looked everywhere but could not find it. It was cold last night even with a big fluffy shirt, a jumper, a fleece and two hats on inside my sleeping bags. One of the great things about sleeping in your clothes is the fact that it saves having to get dressed in the morning, this is hugely handy when you wake at 6.57 and you have to catch a bus a mile away at 7.15. After running with a rucksack for five minutes wearing a big fluffy shirt, a jumper, a fleece, two hats and a scarf that you have just discovered was around your neck all along things get a little warm, so I broke into a fast walk instead and tried to shed a few layers as I went. The morning as I glimpsed it from between the layers I was casting off was beautiful, the sun was just coming up and throwing a staw coloured glow onto the clear blue sky. Frost covered the ground leaving it white and it was only the tufts of dead grass that rose above the sea of white the brown colour perfectly complementing the straw glow from the sunrise at the bottom of this hill two trees with russet leaves finish off the scene perfectly.

Thursday, 17 November 2005

Monday Monday

Seemingly it being cold on Sunday night is not basis on which to assume that it will also be cold on Monday night. If someone were to wear trainers on Monday night rather than boots as usual having presumed that it would be frosty in the morning and therefore that persons feet would not get wet, all the dew being frozen you see, that person would be wrong. Should that person also be wearing his last pair of clean socks he would then be treated to an entire day of standing about with wet feet. It should also be noted that whilst it might not have been cold enough for frost on Monday night that this would not neccessarily prevent a persons newly exposed ankles from getting very cold.

In other news

Tried a diferent flavour soup.

Monday, 14 November 2005

First Frost


Having walked most of the day we arrived at a junction in the path a mile or so out of Wattlington. For my walking companions there was a choice between; going to Wattlington, getting something to eat and catching a train to London; or, walking the tree or four miles to Lewknor to sample the much lauded food at the Leathern bottle and then getting the bus back to London. I mentioned how good the food is and they decided to come on to Lewknor, this was not a decision that was made lightly as feet were aching and energy was running low and it was pretty dark. Walking along a muddy track in the dark at the end of the day is a much less appealing prospect than walking through the woods at the beginning of the day with the sun out. Nevertheless on they all came to Lewknor, and the walk was stunning despite the ground being very soggy and there being few occasions on which people nearly slipped into the soggyness. The moon was nearly full and shone so brightly that our shadows walked along side us. The last few miles did drag on a bit, but eventually we got to within a mile of the pub, then half a mile, quarter of a mile, the end was in site. Dreams of a well deserved pint and huge portions of very good food led us to almost sprint the last 200 meters to the pub.

The pub was shut; we were there an hour before it opened. Julie, the landlady, took pity on us and brought us out some drinks. The others headed back to London and I stuck about waiting for opening time and enjoyed a plate heaped with Gammon, Egg, Chips and peas, bread and butter pudding and custard and another pint. Having stopped in the pub the journey home was at a much slower pace. I was glad to be reunited with my ground mat – albeit punctured – and the second sleeping bag. The extra insulation meaning that I did not have to rely on the bivi bag for added warmth, however my sleeping bag was still wet from the condensation from the night before, lovely. I fell into a very deep sleep.


I woke about ten minutes before my alarm went off, I was aching from the exertion of the past couple of days but feeling good about having achieved something. I rolled over and was greeted to the site of the Beech tree I live next to being silhouetted against a brilliant pink and pastel blue sky it truly was a magnificent site. There was something else though, a thin sheen of white coated the grass and the log pile; frost! At last, I had slept through a frost, which means that the sloes will be ready to be picked. I celebrated by staying in bed until half past seven, somehow cold enough for frost was not an inviting temperature.

The walk / rush to the bus was beautiful and I don’t think I have walked through a field of frost since I was at school. It was very much fun and I walked with a double sense of achievement; I had done a bit of exercise and had got through the first cold night. It had not seemed cold at all to me, the night before had been cold. It’s all down to having the right kit, I’m sure there will come a time when the kit I have is not sufficient to keep me warm at night. I prepared for this during the summer, all that time spent without a bivi bag sleeping in a wet sleeping bag and not using the roll mat was intentional. I was doing all this to toughen myself up for the winter. The idea being that it is better to get used to discomfort in the Summer that to suddenly experience it in the winter when my health and safety could be at risk. Will the training have paid off? No idea, I’m unfettered by knowledge.

A day out in the country

I decided to rough it on Saturday night, I had as has been pointed out, become a little soft; two sleeping bags! Outrageous. So I packed up one sleeping bag, the bivi bag, loads of food, loads of water and a few emergency items – lap top, radio, book etc – and was ready to go. My destination was 17 miles away and it occurred to me that it would be a good idea to have a big meal before I left, it would save me having to carry so much food after all.

I had woken at about 10am and was not hugely impressed by the world around me, everything was damp and covered in a thin layer of mud. The gore tex sheet that I have stretched out between trees was supposed to both keep the rain off me and the ground thus ensuring that I have a dry patch of ground to call my own. Sadly it mostly fails in the aim, sure it keeps most of the rain out but when there is a fog everything gets wet any way, most of the time the rain comes in sideways as opposed to down and I’m sure on a few occasions that the rain has even been coming up out of the ground. So I start the day as usual bent double because the gore tex sheet is strung up at a height that prevents me from standing and trying to get dressed without standing on the ground. This requires me to be standing on the small bit of my sleeping bag that is accessible through the neck of my bivi bag, the bivi bag itself like everything else being covered in a thin layer of mud. Once I had got up my mind turned towards food, it seemed practical to cook sausages for breakfast as these needed to be cooked on an open fire (the Jet Boil is not designed for frying things) and whilst all the wood was damp at least it was light. Come the evening (which was when I had planned to have them) it would be too dark to find wood and besides if it rained again any wood I did find would be hard to light a fire with.

So I stomped around looking for suitable wood to light a fire with and managed to get a fair bit of cold water up my sleeve in the process. I was feeling grumpy and generally fed up so rather than lighting a fire properly I just piled up some twigs through on some petrol and one satisfying woompf later I had a fire. I then spent the next half an hour or so playing avoid the smoke, what a great way to start a day; trudging about in the mud with eyes stinging and tears streaming down my face from the acrid smoke not being able to sit down because everything is wet and muddy. Once the wood had dried and the smoke died down I set about the task of sticking sausages to the bottom of a pan. Once I had achieved this aim it occurred to me that I could deglaze the pan and make a stew with the vegetables I had, so I fried off some stewing steak and an onion through in a carrot, a parsnip and a potato gave it all a bit of a stir before adding lots of water with the intention of deglazing the pan. It did indeed deglaze the pan but what I had not realised was that the bottom of the pan was burnt so now my stew was cooking away in black water with little specks of charcoal floating in it. After a few minutes the potatoes started to give off a bit of foam which immediately took on an oily brown colour, the stew was soon looking for all the world like a patch of stagnant water. Not the kind of thing you would want to stand in with wellies on. Occasionally more wood had to be added and I was treated to another spell of running about trying to avoid the smoke from getting in my eyes.

After lunching on one of the worst meals I had ever cooked I put my pack on and set out on my walk, the destination being a pub 17 miles away where I was due to meet some friends the next morning. By the time I arrived it was dark and my trousers were caked in mud up to my knees, and my boots were steaming in the cold air. The Leathern Bottle in Goring looks like a very nice pub, in fact it looks more like a very smart restaurant, it looks very nice indeed, one look at it and I realised that the mud to monkey ratio was such that I would get thrown out pretty much as soon as I walked in so I knocked the idea of a pint on the head and went to look for somewhere to sleep. It was a beautiful clear night so it would be cold, not only that but I was next to the Thames and being that close to water reduced the temperature even further. Best of all there was a low level of mist that clung to the ground around the river so I could get all the disadvantages of a clear night (cold) with all the disadvantages of an overcast night (wet) at the same time. I began to regret only brining one sleeping bag and no ground mat.

What a fun night I had battling between the need to breath and the need to keep warm; my bivi bag is cunningly designed to zip up which is a great way of keeping warmer but is not so good if breathing is on your to-do list. The trick is to leave the zip open a little bit and then to pull the draw string on my sleeping bag up so that the only gap in the hood is by my mouth and then try to match up the whole in the hood with the hole in the bivi bag and thus be able to breath whilst letting the minimum amount of cold air in. This is fine until I roll over as soon as I roll over the holes no longer match up and after a while the need for Oxygen wakes me up and I have to wriggle about until I can breath again. I probably would not have needed to be rolling about so much had I not been lying on a couple of pine planks I thought it would be better to be sleeping on something uncomfortable rather than directly onto the cold ground that would have sapped my body heat. What I was particularly happy about, again, was the fact that the bivi bag is nylon not gore tex (although it came at gore tex price) and because it it not gore tex it is not breathable. I had spent the night with the bivi bag zipped up as far as I dared and as a result the inside was full of condensation from my breathing and by morning my sleeping bag was wet. I am really hugely unimpressed by that bivi bag, it is supposed to keep my dry not make me wet.

Friday, 11 November 2005


Friends are great aren't they? Nothing better than having a good friend, especially when they phone you up and remind that your supposed to be spending the weekend turning nettles into rope without the aid of gloves.

Where would we be without friends?


So there I was deep in the forest, Caruthers to the left of me, Ginger to the right up ahead a native tracker was scouting for spore. The tension was palpable; the clink of glasses as we silently toasted the success of this most deadly mission was the only sound of human activity. Caruthers has eyes like a hawk and noticed a slight change in the demeanour of the tracker and indicated to us that the game was on. Sure enough the scout let out the unmistakeable call of a pregnant Dragonfly to signal that he had found a track. At last the long months of preparation, planning and waiting were over, the tension that had been with us for the last week dissolved at last to be replaced with pure adrenalin; the chase was on!

Gently we made our way up to the scout acutely aware of our surroundings as we proceeded in single file, each man standing in the footprints of the man ahead to lessen the chance of alerting our quarry with a carelessly broken twig. The tracker crouched triumphantly by a damp patch of earth a huge smile beaming from his face. With an expansive gesture he indicated with his right hand to the patch of darker ground, inviting us to check his find. Could it be? After all this time could it really be? I could not bring myself to look for fear of disappointment; Caruthers and Ginger are made of sterner stuff and crowded in to check the find. The silence of the moment was broken by the sound of a sharp intake of breath being sucked in over Ginger’s teeth ‘jingers!’ he whispered obviously unable to control his excitement. This was enough for me, we had found it! I jostled with the other two wanting now to confirm for myself what they had seen. And there it was, the cloven hoof print perfectly captured in the earth right here in front of us.

Islington seemed so far away, both in time and distance. This was a different world, a world that was but a dream a year ago when I had first come up with the plan. The others had laughed it down at first, but the seed of adventure was planted in our collective consciousness and over the next six months we would revisit the idea time and again, usually over a bottle of Port. Slowly it occurred to us that such a mission might be possible, perhaps we could walk in the footsteps of the greats; Hillary, Polo and Armstrong all men unperturbed by the impossible. It is to them that we owe a debt of gratitude for brining us closer to our goal, our very own impossible goal; to see a sheep. We have heard tell of such creature and even seem small parts of them on polystyrene trays, wrapped in Clingfilm and placed in fridges. But to see the creature in it’s home environment, a fantastic idea.

Ginger had always claimed to have been to the country once as a child but we had not believed him, it seems we had underestimated dear Ginger. He had contacts, and came through with a phone number for Jethrow our tracker. At first the number was dismissed as a ruse, surely they did not have phones in the country, I had seen a documentary once and was convinced it to be all cider and loin clothes. Ginger assured me that the telephone was no long treated with fear just suspicion and that we could indeed talk with Jethrow in the heart of the Countryside!

At first Jethrow thought us mad to want to leave the city in search of the legendary sheep and treated us with as much suspicion as we did him. Eventually we struck an accord, he would take us to see a sheep but only if we agreed to do exactly as he said. He did not want a repeat of the last time, when one of the party had snuck off on his own and had been savaged to death by a pair of lambs. Sheep, he informed us, are highly dangerous nocturnal creatures that will bite a man’s throat out and then fly off as soon as look at you. He could get us to see a sheep and get us safely away but only if we obeyed his every command, who could refuse such an offer? It was to be the adventure of a lifetime.

Once Jethrow had confirmed the receipt of £15,000 in his Swiss bank account as down payment on the safari he sent us details of our training program. I must admit I felt silly at first crawling around the flat with a big fluffy rug taped to my back singing baa baa black sheep but I had been told that this could save my life should things turn bad; little did I know then how bad things could get on a big sheep safari.

To be continued…

Thursday, 10 November 2005

Clarity of vision

Last night was beautiful; the sky was a clear dark blue black contrasting deeply against the brilliantly shining stars. The stars were the first thing that I noticed when I got off the bus at Lewknor, you don’t see stars in London. One of the advantages of a clear sky is that it means all the pesky heat that builds up during the day escapes leaving the ditch dweller with a nice cool atmosphere to live in. The lack of temperature gave me the opportunity to put on all of the clothes that I had with me as well as my hat (thanks Helen), if it had not been so cold last night I would not have realised that I am going to need to get some gloves, and a winter coat, and some better boots. Still cheaper than central heating though, that’s the thing that I have realised we don’t really need central heating just more clothes. The heating on the bus home last night was turned right up and all it did was make me feel a bit sick and a lot uncomfortable. I guess if people maintain their, house, work place and car at the same temperature all winter then they get used to it and are comfortable with it but it must be a real shock when they go outside into the cold – would probably make them ill. Am I convincing anyone here? Am I even convincing myself that a lack of heating is good?

I also had what you might call a ‘moment of clarity’ there I was sitting on my sleeping bag eating soup and drinking tea when it struck me. I’m living in the woods! For a year! Suddenly it seemed like a very long time, not only that but it also seemed like a very silly thing to be doing indeed. Not that I’m going to give up; I have pretty much figured out how to stay dry and be comfortable and staying warm will simply be a matter of wearing lots of cloths – it’s not rocket science. I am enjoying it but the whole thing suddenly struck me as being somewhat daft. Finger on the pulse, that’s me.

Wednesday, 9 November 2005

The Daily Mirror

The Daily Mirror sent a journalist out to spend the night in the woods with me a while back. They didn’t publish the story but nevertheless sent me a cheque for £200 and told me I could do what I like with it. They didn’t say it’s a donation it’s to do with as I like. If it was a donation it would have gone straight into the Just Giving Site (see the sponsor me link to the right). Seeing as it was given to me to be used at my discretion I decided to use it to pay for the hire of the room for the Party, hopefully the party will be a huge success and the money will be recouped along with a profit. Then the profit will be put into the Just Giving Site and the original £200 will be reinvested in another fundraising scheme.

So a big thanks to The Daily Mirror.



Lots and lots of rain

Rain coming straight down

Rain coming in sideways

Rain resting on branches just waiting for me to brush past so it call all jump inside my collar and down my back.

Rain all over the ground

Rain in my face

Rain in my hot dogs

Rain rain rain


Went to bed at 9 to get away from the rain

It wasn’t raining this morning. It was cold. Cold cold cold.

Not freezing but not far off.

Everything was cold, except for my bed.

Bed was warm bed was lovely.

Outside world was cold and horrible and lots of it appeared to be wet still from the rain.

Tuesday, 8 November 2005

back to it

Last night I was not looking forward to going back to the woods. After three days in the sun the idea of sleeping in the woods was all a bit of a miserable prospect. I was also very very tired and really wanted a bed to sleep in. I left work and dropped by the Laundry to pick up my sleeping bag and then went to buy some Covent Garden Lentil and Bacon soup and some Herta Frankfurters to put in it, comfort food really but also a pretty effective was of keeping warm.

Despite falling asleep on the bus and consequently feeling completely disorientated when I got off the bus it was remarkably good to be back in Lewknor. The air was cool with a bit of a cold bite in the air but nothing too bad, besides walking about with a rucksack on is a good way of warming up. It was really good to be back, it wasn’t raining which helped but it was more than that; I was home. I have two sleeping bags, my original one and the one that Andy gave me. Last night I put one inside the other, the freshly laundered one being in the inside it was very comfortable indeed. Best of all the draw string on the hood of my original sleeping bag is designed so that the hood can be closed over all but my eyes. This means that last night I could breathe air that had been filtered through the sleeping bag rather than cold damp air. I had a lot of difficulty getting out of bed this morning, it was very comfortable in bed.

Another explanation

What I’m doing is living in the woods for a year, the wood’s is my home and I’m treating it as such. What I’m trying to do is prove it is possible to lead a full and normal life whilst having as little an environmental impact as possible, this means that I lead my life as normally as possible whilst I just happen to live in the woods. Leading my life as normally as possible means that I do all the normal stuff that I would do if I was living in a house or a flat. I visit people occasionally and if I go out clubbing in London I might well stay over at a friends place if it turns into a late one, I also go on holiday occasionally. I had a two week break in the summer but this I spent trekking in America so that was pretty much the same as living in the woods, only it was an awful lot hotter. So going to Barbados was not cheating, it was very much part of what I am trying to do.

The question that some people might well be asking is what about all the carbon emissions caused by my flying all that way. It is a good point, but a bit of a trawl around the internet reveals that there are a lot of places to work out how much Carbon my taking the flight would have caused to be released into the atmosphere, there are even a few sites out there that work out the cost of offsetting the damage done by taking a flight (or driving a car / using electricity in your house). The option is available to invest that money into various schemes designed to offset carbon emissions; this is what I am looking into at the moment.

I don’t have that much time to be doing research at the moment. However, I have found this site apparently a donation of just over £12 will offset the carbon emissions caused by my flying to Barbados. They have different projects that the money is used on. One in particular got my attention; money is used to replant areas of rainforest that have been cleared by logging.

Monday, 7 November 2005


Just in case you missed anything here is a little recap.

Living in the woods

Raising money for The Woodland Trust

Press interest

Couple of papers call me a ‘New Puritan’

Took offence to this term and respond by going to the Caribbean for the weekend, and let that be a lesson to you!

So I spent the weekend lounging about on the beach and dancing like a loon. But it wasn’t all rum punches, reggae and sun burn. No no no. I learned stuff as well.

1) If you become ill having eaten in two different places it is possible, but not advisable, to deduce which of the places it was that made you ill by following the following.
A) Wait until you feel better.
B) Go to the more dubious looking of the two eating establishments and order food.
C) Do not be put off by the fact that it is luke warm and has probably been sitting about in the sun all day.
D) Ignore your instincts that are telling you to throw the food away and run.
E) Eat as much as you can manage.
f) Compare symptoms of this bout of illness with the last – if they are the same then you have found the source of your original illness and know to avoid eating at that place in future
g) Spend the next day running to the bathroom more times than Pete Doerty at, well at anywhere.
2) From the perspective of the shade of a palm tree on a golden beach next to crystal clear waters of the Caribbean the cold, grey damp woods of Oxfordshire seem less than appealing.
3) A weekend is not long enough.
4) There are 550,000 ways of parting a gullible tourist from his money.
5) It is possible to sprain your ankle whilst dancing to Reggae, but it requires a lot of determination
6) Fresh Aloe Vera does indeed stain sheets and, just as the notice on the door to my room said, should be kept away from the linen, and towels.

Whilst lying under a palm tree (there was a lot of that sort of thing) yesterday it occurred to me that if I was at home I would be lying under a beach tree in the cold looking up at a grey November sky. I started to think, what if there was an organisation out there called The Palm Tree Trust out there somewhere, perhaps I could spend a year lazing about on the beach in order to raise money for The Palm Tree Trust. It seemed like a good idea, arduous in the extreme but hey, someone’s got to do it. According to the internet there is no ‘The Palm Tree Trust’.

I did meet a guy who had been living on the beach for years and made a living my selling fresh aloe vera and coconuts to tourists, coming to arrangements whereby he would deliver coconuts to hotel rooms in the morning ready for breakfast.

I went over to his for dinner one night, I’ll write about it later.

Wednesday, 2 November 2005

Party time


It’s been time.

Sunday 18th December 2005 come join us at the Vibe Bar in Brick Lane for an all day mash up in the Red Room. Come celebrate the Winter Solstice, my Birthday and Andy’s Birthday against a back drop of Beats and Art.

Ticket details we be announced later and 100% of the profits will be going to The Woodland Trust.

A big thank you to Tim from Scram for pulling all the strings together and making this happen.

Line up tbc.

Five months and one day

Blimey! Someone asked me how long I have been living in the woods for just now. Five months and 1 night, my life before this seems a dim and distant memory but at the same time it does not seem as though I have been doing it for very long. I guess the reason for this is that the environment in which I am living is constantly changing so just as soon as I learn how to get by the weather changes again and I’m facing a whole new bunch of challenges. It’s probably the fact that I never quite manage to get on top of things that makes it feel as though I have only just set out on this mission.

It is the constantly changing nature of the woods and the countryside at large that was the main reason for my deciding to live out for a year. After all if I’m living in amongst the natural cycle of the countryside for an entire year then I end up gaining a much clearer understanding of the way everything holds together. Sure most of the conclusions I now have reached are based purely on subjective thought rather than any kind of scientific study but, frankly, this does not bother me. I am really getting a lot out of getting a proper feel for the woods rather than reducing the experience to a bunch of figures plotted on a graph.

This is not to say that life is a bed of roses, well it is but I’m lying in the thorny bit right now. I woke this morning to a headache, blocked sinuses, aching muscles, stomach cramps, sickness and a complete and utter lack of energy. I had put the gore tex sheet up above me as usual last night to keep the rain from falling on me. The rain had obviously got used to this trick and decided to come in sideways rather than straight down last night. This meant that I awoke to discover everything was wet and covered in slimey dead leaves. Sure I have waterproofed all (most of (some)) of my possessions so there was no great worry about my stuff getting wet. It was a little tiring to wake up feeling rotten only to have to pick through all my wet things in order to get my life in order. I was soon covered in water and a thin layer of grime as I rolled up by bivi bag with sleeping bag still in it and prepared for the journey to work. All around me where dead and dying leaves against a grey sky laden with rain. It reflected my mood perfectly. ‘What kind of idiot decides to live in the woods for a year without even a tent’ I thought, and started laughing. It was still a bit of an effort walking to the bus as I was feeling sapped of energy and I was swinging between being too hot and too cold but now I was in a good mood again.

Tuesday, 1 November 2005

a bit parky

It was cold when I woke up this morning; no amount of retreating deeper into my sleeping bag rectified the problem. I was tempted to take both sleeping bags with me tonight but it is too early on to do this just yet. I want to save the second sleeping bag for the depths of winter. In the mean time then I’m going to have to just build up some sort of tolerance to the cold. After all (see my blog of August 15th) it is going to be a cold winter.

To get warm I ran most of the way to the bus and got there at 6.15 thinking that I could stop at a café in London for a cup of tea on the way into work. I had to wait half an hour for the bus, bang went the café idea.