Friday, 2 December 2005

Happy Happy Joy Joy

Well that sucked.

It started off OK on Wednesday night, it was quite amusing walking home from the bus as it had been raining all day and the chalky mud managed to achieve a level of slipperiness akin to that of ice. Once back home I had dual pleasures to look forward to; cooking and the new sleeping bag. All in all Wednesday evening, save for the incessant rain, was turning out to be all things good, I had just put new batteries in my radio and despite a snapped Ariel and having been left out in the rain most nights it managed to receive a signal.


Boil a jetboil mug of water.
Whilst boiling slice, onion, garlic and a pepper (Capsicum).
Use the cup from the bottom of the Jetboil to make tea.
Keep the rest of the water in the Jetboil mug to keep warm.
Using tent pegs as a tripod to hold a Billy can fry off the onion, garlic and peppers.
Add Risotto rice (I used some sun dried tomato flavoured rice that only takes 12 mins to cook.
Stir around to make sure the rice is coated in oil.
Add the hot water, bring to the boil and then simmer for however long the risotto rice you are cooking tells you to cook it for – mine was 12 mins. Stir regularly when simmering or the pan will burn and that would be a nightmare to clean and chances are you would get cross and begin to wish that you were not living in the woods but where sat on a sofa watching a movie or something.

Tips when simmering put a lid on your pan to keep the heat in as this means less gas is needed. Don’t put the lid on whilst frying as this would result in you stewing the vegetables rather than frying them.

According to his web site the sleeping bag that I bought was designed by Ray Mears, if this is the case than I have to say that the chap has obviously done his fair share of sleeping outside. It is brilliantly designed and I am prepared to say that in terms of bits of kit it is up there with the Jetboil. I got in and did up both the draw cords to stop cold air from getting in and then found that the thing is so thick that within a few minutes that I was so hot, due to the thing being so thick, that the cords had to be undone to let some cold air in.

That night I had the most amazingly comfortable nights sleep imaginable, it was like being wrapped up in an enormous fluffy duvet and I contentedly drifted off whilst the rain poured down and all around me everything became more and more soaked. I was content, warm, dry and comfortable. More comfortable than I had been for a very long time and so I really did not care that all around me was mud and everything that I owned was wet and filthy, I was content.

I was a little less than content when I was woken by the feeling that there were fishhooks in my brain pulling in all directions. In fact I was so far from content that I was sick, twice. I couldn’t think straight and all around me was pain, I took the day off work favouring lying curled up moaning to myself than pretending I have a clue what I’m supposed to be doing. By mid afternoon I started to feel better and took stock of my situation, it was getting dark and I was lying in a pool of mud. The rain had been coming down steadily all night and from every direction so despite the best effort of the gore tex sheet the ground I was lying on was soaking. I had been thrashing about in pain and this had churned the ground into mud. I felt miserable and this feeling was compounded by the useless bivi bag I use, as I have mentioned previously the bivi bag has two settings when it rains – suffocate or drown. I chose drown and so my new sleeping bag was quite wet around the hood and shoulders. Fortunately though it is made of synthetic materials and so it stayed warm. Nevertheless the mere fact that it was wet was enough to add to the feeling of despondency as it grew darker. Stupid idea living in the woods. To snap out of it I forced myself to get up and try to sort out the gore tex sheet in such a way as to cover me from rain from all directions. All I achieved was to give myself a smaller space in which to sleep but doing something, albeit fruitless, did cheer me up and so I decided to cook something.

Note to self.

If eat the emergency supply of food over the weekend do be sure to replace it in case an emergency occurs.

I sat huddled in my newly restricted living space drinking tea and reading a book whilst all around me the rain came down, water pooled around the foot of the bed and the wind blew the soaking gore tex sheet onto me with monotonous regularity. By six o’clock I was feeling fit enough and hungry enough to go to the pub and so walked down there through a gale of sideways rain.

Guinness is good for you they say, I had three just to make sure and also had Garlic Bread, a huge plate of Sausage and Mash and Treacle Sponge Pudding with custard. I left the Oasis of warmth, laugher, beamed ceilings and running water and weaved my way soggily back home through the rain, it rained all night. Quite often water would drop right onto one or other eye and wake me up so it came as a huge relief when 6am finally came round and I could get out of my nice warm (yet wet) sleeping bag and get into my soaking wet trousers (letting out a yelp as I did so) and make my way to work.


SameOld said...

DM, why don't you rig up a hootchi? It's not a tent so you are OK there, but it should keep even tropical storms out.

BTW, pubs are an amazing invention on dank winter nights, don't you think? :-)

ODM (Original Ditch Monkey) said...

The Gore Tex Sheet / Poncho is pretty much a hoochie by another name. Or so I believe.

Might have another go at sleeping in the hammock over the weekend.

Penny Munn said...

DM what a terrible night you had! Every time I read about one of your disastrous nights where you ended up soaking wet and muddy I find that post-hoc solutions to your problems come to mind unbidden. However, I shall restrain myself. Suggestions from the sidelines are superfluous - you have an enormous amount of courage and resilience to endure all of this, and we should all just applaud you and keep our suggestions to ourselves. However, when your year is up I'm sure I'm not alone in expecting that you'll be able to run courses on sleeping out in the woods for urban commuters.

oryacharlotte said...

Hi Hugh,

Is there an an e-mail address I could reach you at? I'm a U.S. based writer interested in writing a story on your year in the woods. You can reach me at Look forward to hearing from you.



sudoduck said...

hope you stay warm.
or at least dry.
or at least positive...
it's the weekend!