Wednesday, 31 August 2005


It is not possible to sample every whiskey made in Scotland in one night.

Sunday, 28 August 2005


Thursday I flew to Scotland with work for a Sale in Gleneagles and got christened ‘Wild Man’ en route. We are staying in a very nice hotel and my reaction to it became the subject of some interest. How would I cope with; sleeping in a bed; electricity; running water; a roof; walls; carpet or even TV? These questions and more came at me thick and fast from colleagues who seem to view me as some form of oddity.

Running water, I have to say, is a good thing. Hot running water is even better. Having the opportunity to have a shower without walking for an hour and then spending the same time again on a bus is admittedly rather convenient. As is this electricity business that allows me to boil a kettle at merely the flick of a switch. I also admit that having a floor that is clean, dry and warm has something going for it. After some grilling I also conceded that I was quite looking forward to sleeping in a bed that is wider than it is long.

Having not drunk any thing on Thursday night I was quite surprised to wake up feeling hung-over on Friday morning. I assume this was due to the comparatively stuffy nature of sleeping indoors. I had the same experience this morning but I’m suspicious that the feeling may have been compounded by the copious amounts of wine I drank at the party the night before.

I am missing sleeping out though, I feel as though I am going soft. It is a bit of a shock to the old system to go from living out doors to staying in a Hotel, being weighted on hand and foot and having full access to the pool and spa. Not a bad shock.

Hammock – any fool can be uncomfortable.

What could possibly go wrong? Thought I when I purchased the Hammock. All I could think of was the risk of rolling out of the thing and ending up on the floor, and there is no chance of that with a Hennessey Hammock as they have a built in mosquito net across the top that would, I reasoned, prevent the spoilage of the inhabitant. The Hennessey Hammock is the space age of Hammock design; you can lie flat, stay dry in rain, not get bitten my insects and even (so they say) stay dry in a storm. Indeed I did stay dry, though it did not rain, and I didn't roll out of it. So all is well. Best of all it comes with a special devices they call 'Tree Huggers' that prevent the ropes from damaging the bark of trees. I had been a little worried that putting it up would be complicated having read a couple of reviews on the internet from people complaining that they had an awful lot of problems in putting the thing up. Ultimately though it turns out that what you have to do is tie each end to a tree - simple?

One problem with hammocks is the fact that they are bad for your back, the Hennessey Hamock though claims to allow the sleeper to lie flat and I am happy to say that it is indeed possible to lie flat and not bowed; I know, I discovered how about five minutes before my alarm went off in the morning. I headed off to work feeling incredibly good, there is a lot to be said for not sleeping on rocks, roots, nettles and lumps. However, should you miss all these ground borne impediments to sleep it is still possible to experience them from the comfort of the hammock - space age or not! All that is required is to tie the hammock not so very far from the ground then once you are in and the knots have slipped a little you will soon find yourself on the ground once again, but this time completely cocooned. A Hennessey Hammock is entered from underneath and cleverly seals itself once the trusting inhabitant reclines, it is rather tricky to exit when standing is prohibited by the mosquito net and one is comfortable reclined upon the exit. Should you venture off into the happy world of Hammocking and you too find yourself and Hammock recumbent together on the floor I can recommend a solution to the problem; raise both ends of the Hammock. If you were to only raise one end you would discover, to your immense discomfort, in the middle of the night that you were rolled up like a hedgehog in toffee at the lower end of the hammock with a sleeping bag wrapped around you like an angry octopus. Whilst toffee covered hedgehogs may not be the natural prey of the octopus (it isn't I checked on Google) I'm sure you get the idea that doing an impression of a hedgehog in such a scenario is an activity probably best left to occasions when you are not trying to get to sleep because you have to get up early to get to the airport.

Another thing that I discovered is that hammocks are the perfect way of keeping cool in hot weather as the cool air surrounds you on all sides, well this is more of a presumption based on the fact that a hammock on a chilly night is a great way of ensuring a prolonged and uncomfortable bout of shivering.

All in all it was the best nights sleep I have had in ages, and I am a big big fan of the Hennessey. I walked to the bus stop in the morning feeling refreshed, alert and better than I had for months. It is indeed a top purchase I just need a new sleeping bag now.

Wednesday, 24 August 2005


Went to a Hawaiian Pool party on Friday night and then a Wedding on Saturday so I had a place to stay both nights, cunningly I managed to avoid the benefit of both these by not getting much sleep at either. Got back home on Sunday afternoon to discover that it was a very nice day, bees where buzzing, butterflies were flapping, sun was out and everything was good. I caught up with a couple of hours sleep in the afternoon and awoke to find that it had started to rain and that I did not have the gore tex poncho with me. Nothing for it but to get wet – I did this admirably.

The next night, as I had still not found the poncho, I found a very big low lying branch that afforded some shelter from the rain and slept there. The ground under the branch was quite dry so it was OK my sleep was only disturbed by the unevenness of the ground. I know that I have previously stated that I am now immune to the ill effects of sleeping on bumpy ground but this was ridiculously bumpy. Something is wrong with my stove and it took about 45 minutes to heat up my soup, some how this does not seem to matter as the pace of life in the woods (for me at least) is rather relaxed and it is quite pleasant to lie back, listen to some tunes and let the food heat in its own time. I can imagine this becoming an issue when I am hungry and tired though so something needs to be done about it.

Ankle needs resting for ten days according to my doctor, tomorrow I am going to Gleneagles with work as we have a sale there next week and I will be staying in an Hotel, I guess that it can be considered as a medicinal break then.

Off to look at Hammocks on the way back from work.

Managed to take the sleeping bag back without buying anything else, this might be due to my not being served by the pretty blonde this time.

Friday, 19 August 2005


I’m sure the theory of gravity is something of which you have at least a rudimentary understanding, basically the earth sucks; some bits suck more than others which and you never hear of people getting stuck in places that don't suck - Mauritius but barely a summer goes by without thousands of people getting stuck in places that do -Heathrow. For some reason the bottom of hills suck more than the top; so if you where to put a smooth surface (thermarest mattress) on the side of a hill and then put a moving object (me trying to get to sleep) soon the moving object would be off the end of the smooth surface. It was with this in mind that I made sure that there where no nettles or brambles at the end of my bed last night. 'I have been doing this for a while now' thought I as I carefully selected my sleeping spot, 'I am nearly an expert, nothing can go wrong'.

So why, when I have been so keen to extol the virtues of a flat sleeping surface of late, did I sleep on the side of a hill? Well yesterday I was interviewed by the Observer, in the pub, and after a fairly hefty meal and what with it being late and all that I really couldn’t be bothered to go all the way back to chez ditch monkey, so I didn’t. The interview had gone well, I guess, I tried my hardest to sound knowledgeable and sage like, “here be blackberries”, “it’s going to be a cold winter for sure”, “no it won’t rain tonight”. It was that last one that really wouldn’t have stood up to closer scrutiny seeing as how the sky was filled with ominous looking clouds. We had a chat some, photos were taken and I tried very hard to sound as though I had something intelligent to say but was probably a little too concerned with battered Plaice stuffed with Prawn and Mushrooms to actually structure a coherent sentence.

It was quite late by the time I headed home and so I ended up, as I say, on the side of a hill clothes being used as a pillow, suit underneath a Gore-Tex jacket just in case it rained, the Gore- Tex poncho that gets strung between trees over me in case it rains was cunningly rolled up in a ball by my side. I’m not sure what time it started raining but whenever it was it was making sure to get in as much raining as possible in as short a period of time as possible. Whatever time it was it was long enough after I had gone to sleep fo Gravity to have taken over and so I was lying at the foot of the mattress but cunningly not in a pile of nettles or brambles. I grabbed the Gore- Tex poncho, eschewed the ‘getting out of the nice warm sleeping bag into the rain and attaching it between the trees to keep me dry’ option. Instead I went for the ‘pull it over me like a sheet’ option, this has many benefits over the first option; first it channelled rain water down my neck, so I pulled it over my head until I ran out of oxygen and went back to the water down the neck option. Time flew by, before I knew it it was six am and the alarm clock was going off. There is nothing like waking up wet, cold, tired and in a heap. At least I was not lying in nettles – man I’m good. There was no way I was going to get out of bed until I located my clothes, I was going to put them straight on as it was a little chilly. My clothes were where I left them, at the top end of the mattress and thus had managed to avoid the protection of the Poncho. Imagine my delight as I stepped into sodden clothes – I told you the earth sucks.

Thursday, 18 August 2005

Pretty Blonde Girl

I decided that seeing as I’m in this ditch living business for the long haul I ought to get a new sleeping bag. Mine is very old, very tatty and no longer works so well in the old keeping it’s inhabitant warm. The problem I guess having arisen from it getting wet so often and not getting dried out properly resulting in the feathers all getting stuck together in clumps. These clumps tend to be better at sticking into me that actually keeping me warm. After work I went sleeping bag shopping, well I actually went out to get a shirt for a Hawaiian party I’m going to and then found my self in Snow and Rock on Kensington High St. I was just looking and had no intention of buying anything and was just looking through the sleeping bags when a rather pretty blonde assistant asked if she could help. Quarter of an hour later I was happily walking back down the street now the proud owner of a brand spanking new sleeping bag.

It’s water proof so no need to worry about the goose down getting wet, it weighs half a kilo pack down small enough to get into a coat pocket and is suitable for use down to -5 degrees with comfort! Indeed the day was good so I celebrated by buying some Thai Chicken and Lemmon Grass soup to heat when I got back and headed back to the woods. I was anxious to check out the new sleeping bag; It does everything that my old one does but takes up about a sixteenth of the space, space is at a premium when you have to carry what you need. I went to bed hugely impressed that technology has come on so far a to be able to create a sleeping bag so small yet so warm, I awoke at three slightly less impressed and rather less warm than I would have liked. It appears that somewhere along the line of buying the sleeping bag I got distracted and picked one that is suitable for use down to 5 degrees not minus 5. Maybe I should have spent more time checking the stats and less chatting up the blonde girl.

Tonight I’m taking the sleeping bag back and fully intend to get a refund and leave with nothing but the catalogue that I can peruse at my leisure and come to a sensible decision as to what I need.

Wednesday, 17 August 2005

Bridget Jones' Diary

Bridget Jones’ Diary

Apparently this blog has got dull. Now I guess I shouldn’t really be listening to ‘constructive’ criticism from a close friend who has to date refused to sponsor me.

One suggestion was that I add some pictures, as you can see I have added a picture of a lady riding a rocking horse in the desert.

Another suggestion was that I write this diary in the Style of Bridget Jones, now I have not seen the film or read the book but I will do my best.

My Name is Bridget Jones and this is my diary

Not much happened yesterday although I did drip melting nylon onto my hand whilst sealing off the ends of a length of para cord, this stuck to my hand and was quite warm. 0 calories.

Tuesday, 16 August 2005

Ankles and associated mischief

Ankles and associated mischief

A friend of mine who has been off camping at festivals this summer and has come down with some unidentified illness as a result asked how come I manage to stay healthy. Well, I thought, preparing a lecture on how being prepared, fit and well organised is the way to be and how it must be this that wins through for me (regular readers of this blog will not immediately realise that I was talking about my self there). But then it struck me that over the past few weeks whilst I have not been writing this blog things have not all been a bed of Roses. Had it been a bed of Roses I would have fallen in it cut myself on the thorns and come down with septicaemia. This is something I know all about having fallen in a ditch one time and landed in a Hawthorn bush, an adventure that did indeed result in septicaemia. However that was not since I catapulted myself to the illustrious social level of ditch dweller so does not count towards this listing of woes.

Ankles, knobbly things twixt foot and leg and a source of much amusement to Spike Milligan but other than that not much attention is paid to them. Until that is they swell up to the size of your head and don an interesting purple colour. Elevate it; rest it for two weeks and put ice on it said the doctor. A nice theory but not one that is oh so practical when you are in the wilds of Wyoming and the temperatures are reaching about 38 c not so much ice to be found. It is also not so easy to get back to civilisation with your ankle elevated. Thought it was better but then went to the local pub, well it would be rude not to, just to say hello and check out the food. The big problem was that my pack weighed 70lbs and so my centre of gravity was all askew. Anyway on the way back to where I had decided to sleep that night, which is up a very steep and dark path whose main characteristic is rough ground I managed to fall over and sprain the ankle again twice. Like I say steep path, rough ground, dark. Luckily I did not fall over on the pavement outside the pub underneath the street lights; that would have been silly. A couple of days later I was checking out my new Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) device; it tells you how fast you are going, even in the dark! I was heading down hill (10% gradient) in a north easterly direction at 7.8 mph when I hit the rabbit hole and sprained my ankle again. Yesterday I was told that there I have probably damaged a nerve and that I should rest my ankle until the swelling goes down for fear of causing permanent damage. So I walked home very carefully last night up the hill of steepness and rabbit holes whilst carrying hardly and weight. When you are running about you see your foot can hit an obstacle or hole and before you are even aware of this you are spitting out lumps of tera firma. Walking slowly quite avoids this, I was very much aware that my foot had gone into the rabbit hole long before I was face down in the grass.

Mosquitos in Wyoming do not carry Malaria, they do carry a bug whose symptoms are very much akin to that of flu. I remember waking up one night because I was shivering so much all my muscles hurt. I was particularly glad to discover that I also needed to be sick and so had to get up out of the relative warmth of my sleeping bag and into the thunder storm that was raging to go and be sick. Whilst I did welcome getting back into bed you can imagine my delight upon being woken up an hour later to take part in a search party for two of our party who had wandered off and got lost. An hour and a half trudging about in the rain hopefully shining my torch into crevasses was just the thing to raise the spirits. The missing pair later turned up again having been found by the National Guard.

There was also a certain amount of getting dehydrated which I have to say is not plesent, but was possible more plesent than the thing that happened with my toes. Grazes down the back are quite usefull for taking the mind of the pain in the shins. Food poisoning (again) is a sure fire way to take your mind off everything. Some times I think living in a ditch may not be all its cracked up to be.


Sleeping in the woods throws up some interesting challenges, the most obvious of which is that the comfort levels are not quite what they are in a soft double bed with crisp linen sheets and a fluffy duvet. Sorry, did I drift off into fantasy there? It’s not even that it is not as comfortable as sleeping in a bed it can sometimes be down right uncomfortable. For a start the ground is very seldom flat it goes up and it goes down sometimes with such alarming regularity that an attempt to sleep on such ground results in my contorting into the shape of some of the more exciting letters of the alphabet like W, Z or on one occasion even M. Flat ground is rare there appears to be very few places where the ground is neither going up or down, in fact after two and a half months in the wilds I believe the only such place is on the motorway. One good thing about trying o sleep on a slope is that gravity will ensure that you get to the flattest bit over the course of the night, either that or in a; bush, nettle patch, stream or Badger set.

I have now developed the ability to sleep on nearly flat ground without too much disturbance the problem now is the ground itself, it’s lumpy. I have also built up a bit of a resistance to all the lumps, bumps and biting things that so prevented sleep at the beginning of this experiment. I have built a tolerance to nettles so that rolling into them in my sleep no longer wakes me. All then should be good, and indeed it is for the moment. Last night I spent a very pleasant evening lying back listening to the sounds of the forest, watching the clouds go by and thinking about nothing much. This morning though I realised that the ground was cold and that this had been sapping my body heat during the night. Now obviously it is August and so the ground was not that cold and so it is not really an issue. However, come February it will be rather chilly and so I am hoping that I will acclimatise and so not feel it, this is not a theory that stands up to very close scrutiny so I will not scrutinise it. There is an alternative to getting cold and that is to use the thermarest self inflating mattress of ultimate comfort, a tempting prospect but one that comes at a price. I stopped using it as it requires rolling up in the morning and this takes two or three minutes which in turn requires getting up that little bit earlier. I’ll stick with cold.

Have just had a spelling mistake in my last blog pointed out to me by one of my friends – I best go put it right before the entire world falls apart.

Monday, 15 August 2005

et voila as if by magic I reapear.

Hello monkey lovers, I was gone but now I’m back.

First work got real busy and so I had to send my time doing that rather than writing my blog.
Then I went on Holiday two weeks trekking in America, less a holiday more of the same.
Then I got back and I was, frankly, just too damn lazy to bother writing anything favouring to sit about drinking tea. However, I am now back in the rhythm of things and back in action.

The decision has been made over the last few days to continue living out until either a year is up or I can take it no more. Which will come first? Place your bets.

Obviously things have come along a bit since I last wrote, I am now much more organised and settled in. Preparations have begun for the winter which I have reason to believe will be cold. I am especially looking forward to getting up before dawn and getting home after dark.

At the moment though all is good, I had wild raspberries for breakfast the other day although this was followed by a Danish and a bacon sandwich when I got to work. I have found a couple of plum trees with ripe fruit and the first few blackberries are out, it is quite pleasing to see the change in the season and to have a connection to the countryside that is missing in the city. When combined with working in what I am led to believe is the most cosmopolitan city in the world (I can’t say that this is trust as I have not been to all the other cities) this provides a hugely fulfilling existence. I have to say that I am glad about this as one of the original motives for beginning this experiment was to show that it is possible to reduce ones environmental impact to a minimum whilst still having an enjoyable life. OK so maybe you need to be a freak to go to the extents that I am but everyone can maybe make a change to lifestyle or maybe just recycle some things. If it is possible to live in the woods for a year without a tent and still have a lot of fun then surely it is possible to recycle a couple of wine bottles.

There are a lot of developments that have happened over the last few weeks and I guess that it would leave a bit of a hole in the story if they where to be left out so I should add them in. However I am not going to stay behind all night tonight and write it all up. What I shall endeavour to do is mention relevant developments in future blogs; kind of like a flashback in a movie or something.