Wednesday, 29 June 2005

Thundering and Lightning very very.

This morning I was met with smirks, smirks no less! Did I get wet last night? Last night you see there was one almighty humdinger of a thunderstorm with more lightening than I have ever seen in this country before. Loads of it, and rain by the bucket load and very impressive it was too. I had gone out for a quick game of rugby and a curry with some of the boys and as the heavens came down so did my spirits, I was going to get soaked I thought. I began to rue not having a bivi bag as the puddles grew, and the storm showed no sign of abating. However, by the time I got back to the woods at about midnight the storm had passed. So it was simply a matter of knocking up a shelter – this was a little tricky in the woods on an overcast night but it gave me something to do before going to bed.

This morning was pleasant enough, especially the bit when I sauntered into work having not got soaked. My workmates where not so pleased with this state of affairs, rumblings of discontent there were. I am convinced that before too long they will follow me into the woods with buckets of water.


The Brecon Beacon’s are very steep. If friends of yours demand that you get up at 6am on a Saturday in order to go walking up things that come under the category of very steep then I suggest you get new friends. B, W, you know who you are.

W, sorry about the rice.


Rice is nutritious and delicious but it can also be very annoying. Whilst I agree with Johnny Vegas who pointed out that rice is shorter than spaghetti I have to say that for me this renders it worse than spaghetti, not better. Mr Vegas might well take issue with this so I shall explain my reasoning in greater detail. A week or so ago I bought some Thai Sticky rice to have with a Thai curry (I believe that this is what is known as joined up thinking), having not finished the packet of rice I decided to pack the rice away for a later date, I diligently wrapped the packet of rice in another bag and put it in my pack. Now the rucksack I have is too small for the job in question so everything gets crammed in, I think this might have some bearing on the current state of the bag of rice; it is ripped open, exploded if you will. Rice has gone everywhere. I did not think that this would be much of an issue, all my clothes are waterproofed in separate bags, in fact everything is in a bag or box of some kind. This led me to believe that it would be simple to tip the rice out and be done with the thing. Oh no no, rice keeps appearing where ever I go, loads of it. If I visit anyone then when I come to leave there is rice scattered all over the carpet when I come to leave. I am getting a bit fed up of spending so much time crawling around on my hands and knees picking up grains of rice whilst someone hovers in the back ground talking about getting the vacuum out anyway and saying that I should not worry about it.

Cantonese chicken with cashew nuts is nutritious and delicious but it can also be annoying. I bought a ready meal from Sainsbury’s and jammed it into my pack. Tightening the strap I heard a hollow popping sound which I decided was best to ignore. Cleaning Cantonese chicken with cashew nuts from the inside of a rucksack and the outside of the various bags and boxes that live in the pack without a source of running water is an activity I will not recommend. Doing it with little more than some long grass is a hobby best left to others I feel.

Mirrors are shiny and reflective but are also fragile. So fragile in fact that if one where to pack ones shaving mirror in their wash bag that then got crammed into slightly less space than it would naturally inhabit then one could well end up with two mirrors where there had previously been one. Broken Mirrors are sharp. Toothpaste is sticky and tangy; toothpaste tubes are liable to be punctured by broken mirrors; toothpaste goes everywhere and is not easily removed by grass alone. Rice sticks to toothpaste.

Friday, 24 June 2005

Day 24

11 mossie bites on my face; attractive.

The rest of me is also covered in bites.

Today I are be mostly trying not to itch


Wednesday, 22 June 2005

Day 22, Sardines

Got back late last night and was too tired to cook, too tired to remember that I had an emergency can of sardines for just such an occurrence, lots of protein in a sardine you see. I basically just crashed out in the middle of a field at about half twelve. I had left work yesterday at dead on five and left my colleagues to finish off my work - feeling guilty I decided to come in early today and get amongst the days work before they got in. I had not planned on waking up at four but it happened. For some unknown reason the idea of getting out of my warm sleeping bag into the cold wet field did not appeal so I stayed in bed until five! Oh the decadence of it. My sleeping bag is a hopeless follower of fashion and had taken one look at the field's soggy look and decided to join in. I have a goose down sleeping bag and it does not hold the heat if it is wet. Seeing as I have no chance to dry it out it will only take a few more days of dewy mornings before the thing is properly wet, I can get it dried on Sunday but there is no time until then.

When I get to London a strange smell is emanating from the rucksack; sardine! The tin that I could have done with last night has been punctured and leaked some of the oil on to the sleeping bag. No time to get the thing cleaned before Sunday huh? Interesting. At work I was met with an interesting choice, leave the pack somewhere warm and hope the sleeping bag dries; or, leave it somewhere cool and slow the spread of the smell of fish.

Handy tip.

If you decide to spend a few weeks running about with heavy boots on be sure and pack nail clippers, if you don't you get big black bruises under you toe nails. Every one knows this, I knew that, just thought I'd mention it in case anyone didn't.

Tuesday, 21 June 2005

Day 21, Chiswick sofa workshop, full moon, fawn.

Huge tale back on the road out of London and the driver predicted that it would take at least 3 hours to get to Oxford and invited anyone who wanted to take the train to get off at the next stop. This idea was briefly tempting but the thought of negotiating my way across town in rush hour with a huge rucksack to squeeze onto an overcrowded train was somehow not appealing. Not only that I figured that it would take almost as long as taking the bus. Nevertheless most of the inhabitants of the bus chose to depart – nutters. I was OK, I had a book, some sandwiches and, well, everything. My entire house, my world was on a shelf behind the driver so what did I have to rush off for? It was a hugely liberating experience as I reclined all the seats on the back of the coach and made sure I was truly comfortable.

It was decided that as there was no one left on board for the next stop, which would take hours to get too according to the driver’s radio, then we should go on a “mystery tour” and try to get back to Oxford by other means. The driver seemed rather excited to be going off the beaten track and kept us updated and entertained with various jokes and pearls of wisdom. Some one knew an alternative route and went to direct the driver. One point of particular interest on the Mystery Tour was the Chiswick Sofa Workshop, which apparently was what we had diverted for it was by all accounts the greatest Sofa Workshop in the area. It was with some disappointment that the driver eventually announced that we were back on the M40, though this bitter pill was sweetened by the news that entertainments were being provided by a couple of students downstairs.

The intrepid nature of my journey thus far had caught hold of me and I decided to go for something new. Travellers of the Oxford Tube will know the stop at Lewknor well, but what is there? Seemingly in the middle of nowhere the bus pulls of the motorway into the wilderness and an unlikely amount of commuters get on or off depending on the direction of travel. There is nothing to be seen there, no houses just fields, woods and a great big hill. Just the thing for a sunny summer evening. I got off the bus to be greeted by the heady smell of elderflower in the breeze, and red poppies splashed across the countryside. The great big hill turned out to be part of the Ridgeway and also a nature reserve inhabited, according to the sign, by Red Kite (very rare bird of prey) and no end of wild flowers. I made it to the top of the hill in time to watch the sunset with the aid of a cup of tea. Lying in the long grass watching the day turn into night and the nearly full moon pass across the sky was far more entertaining than watching Eastenders. I slept were I lay and woke in the morning as the sun rose, as my eyes were adjusting to the light I noticed a fawn of about a foot and a half tall stood watching me from about 6 foot from me. Quite unperturbed by my presence it walked past me and disappeared into the long grass. There was no sign that I could see of it’s mother. Cows from the next field gathered curiously at the fence and watched as I got ready for the day.

Strolling back down the hill was relaxing in the sunlight and was a most excellent way to start the day. Got on the bus, grabbed a newspaper and Danish and went about the business of preparing myself for the world of work by promptly falling asleep in my seat.

Monday, 20 June 2005

Day 20, heat, mossies, water, sunburn.

What a lovely sunny weekend, how jolly to be out in the countryside. How lovely it is to be carrying about a bag that weighed between 40 and 50 lbs in temperatures that reached 33 degrees.

I found 15 moss's bites on my back this morning, wearing the rickshaws saved me the bother of having to itch them so that was OK.

I spent some time watching with interest as a horse fly tried to bite me through my shirt, it was quite amazing to see it's proboscis come through the other side of the material in it's fruitless search for my finest blood. I would have been content to watch this for hours had it not relocated it's search to my crotch. Out came the moss's Guard and within seconds I was dripping with the stuff.

I found 15 Mossie bites on my back alone this morning, fortunately wearing the rucksack saved me the bother of having to agrevate them by scratcing.

All in all it was a fun weekend but very tiring, it is amazing how much effort life is without electricity, running water or cupboards. I would write more but I am very tired and I’m not entirely sure that thinking straight is an option.

Friday, 17 June 2005

Day 17,

Last night was good, I managed to get four hours sleep, it rained and I stayed dry. It was windy and the poncho blew about like no one's business; mostly into my head. Got up early and had a relaxed time as opposed to the usual sprint to the bus. I got to the bus stop about ten minutes earlier than usual and so caught an earlier bus, I was most surprised to find that when the coach arrived it was full of people as opposed to being nearly empty which is what the bus I normal catch is. All the complimentary newspapers had gone but fortunately there were still plenty of Danish and Juice left. The trip into London only took an hour - sorted.

Lots of things have happened in the last couple of days, well two things but they are quite big so they seem like more. Firstly I challenged my friends to raise £1500 by July 15th, if they do then I have agreed to stay in the woods for year. Fortunately they have been a bit slow on the uptake so I could well be in the clear. Secondly, I was called by a documentary maker who is interested in making a documentary about all this ditch living thing. We are going to meet up on Wednesdayy and he is coming out to the woods for the night. Just when I thought life couldn't get any more sureal.

Thursday, 16 June 2005

Day 16, cheating?

A couple I’m friends with recently moved into their first flat together – awwww how sweet – and last night a bunch of us were invited over for dinner. Civilisation! How would I cope? Had I become wild in my ways? Would I eat with my fingers; snarl at the males in a bid to steal their territory and women? These worries and more, apparently, had been troubling various friends all day. My how we laughed. Did I wish to sleep in the rockery? How they kept coming; each the more funny than the last. As they laughed however, I did detect a slight sadness behind the eyes, a regret if you will I think that deep down they recognised what has become of them. Trapped they are, trapped. Trapped by the, erm… trappings of modern life. What with the walls and the sofas, duvets, tv, stereo, chairs, tables, fridge, freezer, roof and associated etceteras of life today. Whilst they may well have acted perplexed at my decision to leave all these things behind and live in a ditch I’m sure they longed for the chance to do the same themselves.

The thing was that if I was to go over for food I would have to sleep over or else there was little chance of getting back to the woods with time to sleep enough before heading back to work. The idea of this whole idea is to live as normal a life as possible whilst living in the woods so this does not mean never going out. It does kinda mean that if I’m out in London that I will have to stay over. Apparently this also means that I’m going to have too have people over for dinner, could be fun – I imagine that there maybe something of a barbecue sometime soon, I will keep you posted. The other thins that was suggested today was that I should have a party; fine idea. River, tree, beer and fire, again I’ll keep you posted.

Sleeping on the sofa was weird, I have to say that it was comfortable to the point of being a bit uncomfortable. The duvet was soft and warm, intrusive flora and fauna was noticeable by it’s absence. Having a lie in until 8 was luxurious as was being free of the pack – I skipped about the place without its weight to hold me back. However, the journey to work via the tube was horrible; I do not miss that at all. Given the choice I would rather live in a ditch.

Wednesday, 15 June 2005

Day 15, self inflating mattresses and the art of puncture repairs, more alarm clock nonsense, rain.

Last night I bumped into a friend of mine who had lent me his bivi bag (gore-tex sack designed to fit around a sleeping bag and person), it was, I discovered, time to give it back. By this time I had already decided to ditch my self-inflating mattress as it was punctured and I was not going to have time to fix it, the reasoning being that the bivi and sleeping bag combination should do the trick. There was a distinct possibility of rain so it was time to investigate the potential of the poncho shelter. It was dark when I got to the woods so it was clearly imperative not to misplace any tent pegs or bungee cords in the process of erecting the shelter. The best design plan was to build the shelter in a kind of < shape, using some of the poncho as a ground sheet and the rest folded back over as a roof. The trick is to pull the floor corners of the floor tight before attaching the roof to a handy tree; the trick then is to pull the roof tight enough so that it does not sag claustrophobically. There is another trick involved and that is being sure when increasing the tension on the roof to eliminate the sag not to pull too hard and free the floor from the tent pegs. If someone were to do this they would find themselves crawling around in the long grass in the dark looking for tent pegs. Having built the shelter and got into my sleeping bag I discovered that I had chosen the lumpiest patch of ground in Oxfordshire to build my shelter on, I was indeed glad not to have my mattress with me. Fortunately I was so tired that sleep came quickly

I slept very well in fact and awoke to the nagging suspicion that I had overslept, the world was grey, cold and damp; having left my radio alarm at work I had no idea of time and was thus hugely disorientated. The grey sky held a belly full of rain and served to give off an almost eerie light whilst hiding the sun, not being able to see the position of the sun in the sky or be able to compare the amount of light with that of previous days I was left completely in the dark as to the time. I hurriedly packed hoping that I was not late for work already. I got to the bus at 6.37, about quarter of an hour later than usual and just as I boarded the heavens opened. When my colleagues arrived at work to find me already showered, changed and off to get tea there were enthusiastic questions about the rain, ‘get wet did we?’ ‘Coping ok?’ they asked with barely concealed grins.

Monday, 13 June 2005

Day 13

Blimey, 13 days already.

What has happened over the past few days? Well, I have somewhere else to stay now, and this time I am a bit further out of the way and as yet I have not been disturbed by anyone. It’s a nice place, plenty of trees in the neighbourhood which seems quite appropriate seeing as that’s what the money is for. Talking of which, if you have not sponsored me yet –why not?

My alarm clock really does love resetting itself, leaving me with the option of listening to the radio until someone mentions the time or using guess work. Well obviously I settle for guess work. The other night I set my clock by judging the time by the amount of light there was and set the alarm for 5am (yurgh). I wake in the morning as my radio turns on to tell me that it’s 4am. Fantastic; another hour in bed. Later on when I catch the bus at 6.30 I am most surprised to find out that the clock on the bus says that it is 7.30, the girl next to me seems to believe in this propaganda and even says that it agrees with her watch and mobile. I suspect a conspiracy but keep it to myself, if it is a conspiracy then work is in on it also as the clock at work reads 8.47 when I get there. It was only this morning when my radio announced that it was 4.21 GMT did I realise what had happened, I had my radio tuned to the world service which is in GMT but the rest of us are in British add one hour Summer time.

The new place is great, it provides solitude and a view of the Sunset from my bed and it really is peaceful and makes a very nice contrast to London. The only problem really is being constantly tired but I assume that will go once I get used to this new regime.
Got to head off now if I want to get back with time before dark

Tuesday, 7 June 2005

Day 7; water, food, people

Bought a few ingredients and water before catching the bus, the journey passed quickly enough as I was engrossed in reading and drinking all the water.

There was still a couple of hours of daylight left when I reached my spot for the night; under a tree by the river, a perfect spot. I got my petrol stove out in order to make some tea before cooking, after a minor fireball which I survived with eyebrows in tact, I’m getting used to the thing now, I went to boil some water. It was here that things started to go wrong, not that I realised it at the time. I could choose between using river water and walking back to the nearest shop. In the spirit of this living outside thing I decided to go for the later. I then had three further options; use water purifying tablets; use a top of the range Ray Mears approved water filtering system or boiling the water, naturally I opted for boiling the water – traditional is best.

I boiled the water and made tea which I drank as I made a Tuscan Bean Stew with Rice, not that I’m sure any Tuscan would have recognised it as such but it was rather nice. It was turning into a rather pleasant evening sitting by the river listening to radio 4 and watching nature, it felt as though this was possibly the very pinnacle of civilised behaviour. Still, there were chores to do and I was washing up when some one appeared behind me, well I say appeared, it was more that he walked out of the bushes, I had a brief chat with him and then went about making more tea as he went on his way. I started to feel distinctly odd but carried on making my tea anyway. I could make the guy out about one hundred meters away just hovering about. I decided to keep an eye on him but was more concerned with making tea and the increasing feeling of sickness. I must have taken my eye off him for a bit as before I knew it he was twenty meters from me with something white over the lower part of his face as he walked closer to me I could make out that it was a bag, great, a thirty year old glue sniffer, that’s all I need. I lay back and put my feet up as he walked passed me. Then he stopped about five meters past me. Distinctly dodgy I thought and decided that he was trying to get up the courage to rob me. I lay there sipping my tea and fighting the by now almost irresistible urge to vomit. After a couple of minutes he walked off again back to the other end of the field.

Whatever his intentions were I was not going to be able to sleep with some shady character floating about the place, I was not really up for getting jumped in my sleep, so I decided to move. Not ideal as I had been considering going to sleep about this time, after all I was getting up at five. I was about half way through packing and it was getting quite dark when a huge wave of nausea hit me and forced me to run off to the nearest ditch to be sick. This was not what I needed right now, I knew if the guy came back he would not be able to make it very far with my entire pack but he could grab a couple of things whilst I was incapacitated. After a couple of minutes of being more ill than I have been since the “I have a strong stomach I can drink the tap water” incident in India I looked up to see laughing boy over by my stuff again. Fantastic. It took all my concentration to stop being sick and get back over to my stuff, when I got there he was hanging about a couple of meters from it but nothing had been touched, what was with him? As I finished packing I heard a motorbike drawing close and stopping at the exit to the field, he’s called his mates I thought; that’s what he was doing down at the other end of the field. As I packed a movement from laughing boy catches my eye, did he just try to punch me? If he did he missed by a good four feet, he takes a step towards me but I’m still unclear if his intentions are aggressive or not. “You alright mate?” I asked figuring that if he is about to kick off this will force his hand.
“hbwmpf” he replies and slowly realisation dawns on me.
“You been sniffing glue?” I asked.
“blunmwk amndnbe” came the reply. He was not about to attack any one, he probably was not even aware that he exited.
“hfad” he announces illustrating the point with an expansive arm gesture, so that’s what I thought had been his attempted punch.
The motorbike starts again, the rider guns the engine and it is gone; just some kids out for a burn up. Realising that I will not get much sleep with laughing boy staggering about the place and by now buzzing with adrenalin from the perceived near fight I decided to relocate anyway. Picking up my pack I check the time 10.22 and wander off. I say goodbye to laughing boy and he raises both hands above his head and gives me the big thumbs up before going back to his glue.

It takes an hour to walk to my alternative camp site; most of the journey is filled with concentrating, not always successfully, on not being violently ill. As I unpack my bed into a patch of nettles I remembered getting bitten by the mosquito that made my head swell up the last time I was here. It took about an hour to get too sleep as I had to get up and be sick some more.

Getting up at five after a blissful night’s sleep which was initially only disturbed by the mosquitoes but was later interrupted by the cold I walked the mile to the bus stop just in time to miss the bus. I caught the next one intending to read more of my book but sleep takes me over. I get to London in time to have a relaxed shower, change and breakfast before work.

Last night I learned that when sterilising water it is important to let it boil for a while rather than just bring it to the boil.

Monday, 6 June 2005

Day 6

Rotten friends have all decided that I am living in The Dorchester and not battling rabid badgers on a nightly basis. In their minds the closest I come to living by the river is eating Duck and drinking Perrier. They are demanding photographic evidence of my living outside and, get this, request images of a soggy and bedraggled nature.

Photos will follow oh you unbelievers, you finger pointers and when they do you will regret your unbelieving and pointing of fingering. Just have to; borrow a camera; make sure I don’t loose it or fall in the river with it; get somewhere whilst it is light enough to take a decent photo; figure out how the thing works; find somewhere on line to store the photos; figure out how this is done and swear a lot when I realise that I have not figured out how to do but deleted them all and have to start again.

Tonight’s challenges are:

Getting out of London during rush hour - not tried this before.


Cooking a proper meal with one pot, a Swiss army knife and a spoon

Staying dry

Have fun on your sofas

Weekend One

Seeing as I'm living outside I thought that this weekend I ought to go the full hog and visit somewhere a little more wild than Oxford. Ended up stomping about in the hills above Leeds.The weekend was again something of a learning experience; I learnt energy drinks are best drunk after vigorous exercise than before. If you drink them first all they do is give you a bunch of glucose etc that encourages your body to burn lots of energy, this does make you feel strong in the short term, in the longer term though you have less energy as your reserves have been depleted. Best thing to do is to save your energy drinks till after you have done the work as then they will replace what you have lost and aid with recovery.I also discovered that should you happen to be running down a stony hill with six weeks worth of kit strapped to your back you stumble over a stone that having your centre of gravity around your ears does not aid recovery. What six weeks worth of kit strapped to your back will do though is help propel you at some speed into the ground in front of about 20 people coming the other way.After a luxurious three hours sleep on Saturday night and a bit of a stomp in the hills on Sunday morning. I went back into Leeds to get the train back to London and to learn about train station food. I arrived in London with a massive rucksack and a couple of hours to kill, what to do? Lacking any ideas of my own I decided to do as the tourists do and wander aimlessly around Covent Garden getting in the way and annoying people. For an activity that is so popular with our antipodean friends I found this to be a somewhat dull and frustrating pastime, sure it was fun getting in the way. I even amused myself for a short time by watching shopkeepers' expressions as I made sudden display threatening turns in crowded shops. Ultimately though wandering around town with a pack is a bit of a hindrance and I really do not know why it is so popular.

Bottom of Form

Friday, 3 June 2005

Day Three, Rain and a Mosquito

I spent a happy day being told by my workmates that it was going to rain, true enough it started to rain. Not that I was worried as I had a cunning plan. After work I went down to the Cotswold camping shop on Piccadilly to buy a Bivi bag (a Gore-Tex sack that is big enough to stick yourself and your sleeping bag in), this way I would not break the no tent rule and I would get to stay dry."Sorry, we have to order them in, should be here in a week" said the chap in the shop helpfully. Hmmmm.Stocked up on food and jumped on the Oxford Tube.Oxford was looking a bit damp when I got there so I was forced to shelter from the elements in The Duke - hard business this sleeping out.Having fashioned a shelter from an Army poncho I had a very pleasant evening watching the river whilst sitting under a chestnut tree. Best of all the shelter kept me dry so I felt very pleased with my self. Earlier in the day I had bought a small radio alarm clock but had not set the time, I guessed what time it was before I went to sleep.Had quite a comfortable night that was only disturbed by a mosquito buzzing in my ear every hour or so. I awoke to the dulcet tones of radio 4. I looked over at my alarm clock not realising that when the radio was on it displayed the frequency rather than the time, 9.38 it said. Leaping from my bed I was packed in a flash, no afraid that is not true. Ah ha I thought, I am already late for work and it will take me a couple of hours to get there so what is the point in rushing? None. I turned the radio off and the time flashed up, it really was time to get up; dammit. Begrudgingly I got up, packed, checked I had left no sign of my presence other than crushed grass, and ran (ish) to the bus stop.The Oxford Tube in the morning is great; they give you a paper Danish and a carton of fruit juice. They also have a clock on board; it said it was 6.09, a very different time to my alarm clock which I had set by guess work. There is very little traffic on the road that early in the morning and so I was at work by seven thirty. I went for a shower before breakfast, looking at the mirror I discovered an egg shaped lump on my forehead - a gift from the mosquito.

Wednesday, 1 June 2005

Day One.

Having spent all weekend cleaning the flat, packing, organising etc, well sitting around putting it off until the last minute Monday got off to a good start. By midday I discovered that my possessions were in storage, by midafternoon there was a small issue of loosing a chunk of the deposit due to a misunderstanding of the word clean, I also discovered the key to the flat in my pocket. Apparantly rent has to be paid until the key is returned, strange.

The evening was spent running about returning keys finding my pack with all my stuff in it and generally running about London getting hot and annoyed. Eventualy I borded the bus for Oxford at about 11.30pm It was about 1am before I found myself a suitable place to sleep; the side of a hill. Getting ready for sleep I discovered that my alarm clock did not work anymore so I would have no idea of the time when I woke up - I have no watch or phone. This meant that I would have to get up when it got light or else risk being late for work on the first day of this experiment; hardly a good start when I have been bragging about how easy this will be. It gets light at about five so I was looking at about four hors sleep, not great but OK.

I discovered a number of things during the night.

I discovered during the night that placing a row of tent pegs half sticking out of the ground is a perfect was of preventing oneself from rolling down the hill into thistles.

I discovered that Badgers are very noisy.

I mainly discovered that I could not sleep. I must have managed it eventually as I woke up to find it had got light and it was thus time to get up.

I got to the office at about seven am, there was nothing to do so I went to the gym - you know just to make sure I was tired. It worked, by midday I was seeing double and having to stick a pen in my hand to keep awake. Why did I give up coffee? Looks like I will sleep well tonight, probably a good thing as it looks as though it is going to rain tonight and I don't have a tent, hopefully I will be tired enough to sleep through it.