Thursday, 29 December 2005


Christmas, wow what an experience that was. Rather interesting to be seeing it from a completely different perspective from usual. Best of all though was that it was really fun! The main challenge was to cook Christmas dinner over the fire, well it wasn't just a challenge it was more a necessity; failure to cook would mean a failure to eat anything decent and that really isn't an option on Christmas day. Cunningly I had decided to roast a venison joint in a pit oven, I say cunningly but I'm not sure whether deciding to do this when I had never used, or even seen a pit, oven in real life before was such a fine example of joined up thinking. I have read about the things and I did read a bit about them in Ray Mears' book on Christmas eve when I was in a book shop killing time as I waited for the return of my wallet. The trick is to dig a pit, build a fire in it and then add some big flat stones. Once the stones are heated through the fire is removed leaving behind a healthy pile of hot embers and the stones which are covered with a thin layer of earth, then comes the food wrapped in leaves, then another thin layer of earth followed by a large hot stone and then the whole lot is buried and left until the food is cooked. What could possibly go wrong?I had rekindled the fire from the previous night to make breakfast, tea, toast and mince pies so I transferred it to the pit. The advantage to this is that the sticks I was using could be leant up against the side of the pit rather than lain flat thus encouraging the flames to spread upwards; soon I had a roaring blaze going. There was a small problem when it came to large flat stones though. Lewknor soil yields a healthy crop of both chalk and flint whilst both stones have their uses neither appear to be available in either 'large' or 'flat'. Chalk appears to be to be rather porous and I assume that it would not therefore hold heat for very long. Flint is very hard and I thought this would make the perfect heat source for the oven but over Dinner a couple of days earlier my Brother in Law told me that Flint is prone to explode when heated. This soon got turned into my jugular being severed by a piece of flying flint and then collapsing face first into the fire; the post mortem concluding I had decided to cook myself. I decided against using flint. Fortunatly I had aquired two large pieces of cast iron that looked as though they maybe useful so one of those was put into the bottom of the pit before the fire was built up and the other was leant against the side ready to be tipped onto the food once suitably heated.

Thats all I have time for today I'm afraid - there should be some more by Tuesday.

Saturday, 24 December 2005

Shizzle my nizzle

Hey there, seasons greetings to y'all.

So I have seen my family, bought all the food and I need and gone back to the woods for a few days so what am I doing sending emails? Well, I thought I ought maybe to have some water so I have popped into town to buy some water, another A4 pad of writing paper and maybe buy some beer. Of these it was the need for water that drove me to be here, I developed a stong craving for it over the night; maybe I'm adicted?

Last night was excellent, I spent a happy few hours sitting by the fire listening to the radio and cooking some very nice food. I'm a complete convert to cooking over an open fire now, this is probably a good thing as the Jetboil seems to be taking a holiday from working. Come about midnight I realise that it is now Christmas Eve and it really is very special to be sat under a clear starry night basking in the orange glow of the fire as sparks dance in the air. To get into the Christmas mood a little more I change radio stations from listening to Fabio and Grooverider for a little while and as I tune into the Westminster cathedral Choir singing Silent Night the fire flared up giving off a brilliant white light. For a moment as I sit there it feels as though the people I have lost are there with me. It was really rather like those Christmas moments you see in films and did make me feel very christmassy indeed. After that it was back to the Drum and Bass as a sausage slowly cooked over the heat from the fire.

I like living in the woods

Tuesday, 20 December 2005


Well this evening I’m heading off, first to spend a night in the hills and then to visit lots of relatives before heading to Oxford to pick up supplies for Christmas on the 23rd and then back to the woods for a few days. I might not get the chance to write again before Christmas or even until the 28th / 29th of December. If this is the case then I wish you all a very happy Christmas.

I nearly forgot to mention that I saw a Deer on my walk to the bus this morning; it was about 20 meters from me staring at me and looking very tasty. After that I walked under a tree that had two Red Kites in it and they both took off and circled over head for a while I’m not sure if it was them or me that set it off but a rabbit went zooming to ground, it’s things like this that really make me think how lucky I am not to be crammed into the Jubilee Line every morning any more. Unfortunately though I left my wallet on the Oxford Tube this morning so now I have to get my way to Victoria Coach station after work, rush hour on the underground with a 100 litre rucksack full to the brim and a carrier bag full of Christmas presents, I’m going to be Mr Popular today.

Fishy business

The other day I somewhat nonchalantly mentioned that I had lit a fire using a firesteel (using a spark not matches or a lighter) and that I had then cooked trout and that the trout was perfectly cooked. At the time I felt as though I had conquered the elements and was now ready to take on anything. Having attempted to replicate this success last night by lighting a fire with the firesteel and then cooking salmon I realise that there was a little more luck than judgement going on.

The fire for a start wouldn’t. After a few strikes of the steel I could get the tinder to light but whenever I added twigs they succeeded only in putting the tinder out rather than lighting themselves which was my intention. Occasionally a couple of very tiny twigs would burn up but the only result of this was that I was soon out of very tiny twigs and so had to move up to the next size of twig; the almost very tiny twig. Almost very tiny twigs are far more efficient at putting kindling out. At this point I did consider using the time honoured paper and lighter approach to getting the fire going but decided to persevere. In the end I managed to get the not very tiny twigs burning but the problem was that these twigs are so small that they burn very quickly and by the time some slightly larger twigs have been put onto the blaze they have burnt themselves almost out. The thing to do at this point – I discovered eventually – is to push all that remains of the almost very tiny twigs together and blow on them, a lot. This causes the flames to flare up again and with a bit of perseverance the larger twigs will catch alight, one thing to remember when blowing onto a fire is to turn your face away from the smoke when breathing in, failure to do so will result in much comedy coughing and spluttering.

Once the fire was going I put a couple of shallots and some garlic to roast as close to the fire as I could get it without them catching fire, had the garlic not been off and had I left the shallots there for long enough to cook this would have been lovely. A few days ago when I had cooked the trout I had done so over the embers of the fire which threw off a lot of heat but little smoke. Yesterday I was impatient and started to cook the salmon shortly after the fire was lit and it was giving off a lot of smoke. Within a couple of minutes the fish had gone the waxy yellow colour of a chain-smoker’s finger and this colour deepened and became even less attractive as time passed. Whilst I was yellowing the fish I was also cooking some potato, this was going a lot better as it is pretty hard to mess up boiling potatoes. A stock cube added to the water gave them an interesting flavour and also meant that the water was drinkable and thus did not go to waste.

By the time the potatoes were cooked the fish was a dark yellow colour on the outside and still very raw on the inside. I guess that there was just not enough room over the fire to cook fish, potatoes and fry shallots and thus the fish ended up away from the heat. I cunningly thought I would bung the fish in with the shallots and speed up the cooking process that way. It kind of worked but the salmon steaks fell apart and started oozing a yellow fatty mixture that when mixed with the shallot produced the most acrid fumes I have yet experienced. There was no smoke as such but the atmosphere around the fire was barbed causing my breath to shorten and my eyes to water once again. I would not recommend serving salmon with shallots, at least not prepared like this, the taste was truly grim. The potatoes though had taken on the taste of the stock cube and when sprinkled with parmesan (mouldy bits chopped off) were rather nice.

After my feast I listened to the radio whilst trying to clean myself and the billy cans of soot, tears, oily fish and associated stains. I have not really cooked anything since June and it might take a while for what little talent I had back then to return. However, I am sure that by next June I will be giving Jamie Oliver a run for his money when it comes to cooking outdoors – Pheasant Twizzlers anyone?

Friday, 16 December 2005

Christmas dinner on an open fire?

Christmas dinner this year will not involve Turkey, there are some great butchers in the Covered Market in Oxford and it seems daft not to make full use of them. I am going to buy some venison or wild boar and spit roasting it; it seems appropriate seeing as I am living in the woods. Surely it is better to buy your meat from a butcher rather than a supermarket, if nothing else you don’t end up with loads of completely unnecessary packaging.

I did toy with the idea of making an oven and trying to roast my dinner but decided against it. I did make an oven in the garden once when I was a student. It did somewhat surprise the neighbours when I jemmied up a couple of paving slabs for the purpose. I managed to turn a chicken into carbon in 20 minutes and to burn a cake to a cinder in 7. On another occasion I was sharing with an Australian and a Kiwi and they would have barbeques for breakfast! In an attempt to out-do them my then girlfriend and I found a chimney pot and turned into in a tandoor. Well my girlfriend read Heat and looked on with what would probably best be described as great patients and I burnt my fingers a lot but the result was a fantastic all though possibly underdone tandoori chicken.

So currently the plan is to cook everything over an open fire with the Jetboil as back up. This plan is subject to change, I don't think I will be able to get pizza delivered to a grid reference on Christmas day though.

Ding Dong Merily

It’s nearly Christmas and, as the carol goes, “tis the season to be jolly tra la la la la la la la la” and who am I to disagree? In fact this Sunday those lovely people from Scram (Tim) and I are throwing a party which promises to be full to bursting with tra la la click here for more info If this party is anything like the usual Scram party it should be very good indeed. Hope I’ll see you there.

I was so impressed by the relative luxury of the woods that I have moved to (in comparison to the bush I was sleeping in previously) that I immediately fell in love with the place and decided that I wanted to spend Christmas there. This seemed like a good idea at the time, much like living in the woods for a yeast seemed like a good idea a the time but whilst there are a few obvious misgivings that I have about not going home for Christmas I think I will enjoy myself. The idea of spending Christmas relaxing under a giant Yew tree being warmed by an open fire and listening to the radio seems to me to be pretty close to perfect, if it snows then it will surely be perfect. It will be a shame not to see my family but I will go and visit them a couple of days beforehand and I am looking forward to having the excuse to do little more than sit about eating. I imagine that trying to cook Christmas dinner on an open fire could be construed as an invitation for things to go wrong and if past experience is anything to go by then pretty much everything will go wrong. Whatever does happen I will have one thing to be very grateful for, I won’t have to watch Eastenders.

Seeing as it is nearly Christmas I thought I would share a couple of things with you that have caught my eye of late.

First off why not save the planet and get fit? I’m not sure how much an exercise bike costs but surely one of these would be a much more sensible purchase.

Recently I have written a bit about a theory that I have, I have much more to say on the subject but so far I have only got as far as it being both possible and a good thing to replant the Rainforest. Well not only is it possible but it has slowly started already

Save the Planet and make money
I have been reading a bit about reforestation lately and it seems that the main draw back to reforestation is that it costs a lot of time and money to do. Another problem is that replanting the forest does not address the reason that the forest was cut down in the first place – to take the wood. It seems that there is an answer to both these problems

Stuck for a Christmas present? Why not give someone a tree or three?

Thursday, 15 December 2005

Hectic again

The last few days have been hectic, hugely hectic and not very exciting this, I’m afraid to say, is what happens when you are forced into the unhappy situation of working for a living. Admittedly the decision to live in the woods has not made life any easier, in fact it could be said to have complicated things beyond all reason. I did attempt to capture the essence of pure administrational chaos that my life has become by writing a little on the planning that goes into just keeping my life heading in vaguely the right direction for just one 48 hour period. However, I got a short way through writing it and realised that writing it was even more dull that living it, I read through it and discovered that to be duller still. I may try again sometime but right now there is the Staff Christmas party to look forward too as well as mince pies to eat and banter to be had.

Basically I ended up in the centre of town at about ten o’clock last night with my rucksack being somewhere else. I am, you may recall, also suffering from Bronchitis and the idea of a night out in the woods without a sleeping bag did not appeal. I also had had a worrying email from Mum. She has read the blog for the first time in a week and apparently I have to stop wearing wet clothes and sleeping in wet sleeping bags! If I “croak simply to make a point” she will be “severely displeased”. This is not good, severely displeased Mothers are best avoided; even mildly annoyed Mothers are things designed to strike fear to the very heart of a son. It seemed wise to stay in town for the night if for no other reason than to allow myself to recover from the Bronchitis thing. So I thought it best to get a hotel for the night, well I didn’t have any of my friends phone numbers on me so I was forced to get a hotel.

I don’t know if you have ever played Monopoly but if you have you will probably be well aware of the price of Hotels over in the Dark Blue section of the board. Yesterday and this morning I was working in Bond St (Dark Green) but there are no hotels there but Bond St is but a short walk from Park Lane (Dark Blue). Hotels in the real world on the Dark Blue sections of this world cost a frightening amount of money. I left the Hotel on Park Lane and asked the Concierge directions for Old Kent Road and he dutifully started unfolding a map and so I was forced to explain that I was joking and he looked at me blankly. I like it when people look at me blankly, it usually means that I have just got away with saying something incredibly rude and I probably have just enough time to get out of striking distance before the penny drops.

I ended up having to spend a hideously large amount of money for a room for the night as all the reasonably priced rooms within a 10,000 mile radius were taken. There was nothing for it; I would have to make the most of it. I collapsed on the large comfortable bed, put some mindless drivel on the TV and then walked about a bit switching lights on and off and boiling water. I then suddenly had the craving for a pot noodle (Bombay Bad Boy) so popped out to Whistlestop and bought one which I then felt the need to smuggle back into the hotel wrapped up in my jumper. So I watched an episode of Space Cadets ate Pot Noodle and went to bed. You can say what you like but I think being ill is excellent – I might do it again sometime. Not tonight though, back to the woods tonight (antics after the party permitting).

Tuesday, 13 December 2005


This Christmas I are be mainly cooking Christmas Dinner over an open fire.

Got to love your elbows

Yesterday I was walking down a very steep slope with by pack on and I stepped on a very slippery branch and my feet went from under me! I consider myself lucky indeed that my elbow was stuck out at such an angle that it could jam itself into the stony ground in such a way as to take the full force of the fall. Why if it had not been for my elbow I could have done myself a mischief! Today I am mostly giving thanks to my elbow, every time I put my elbow on the desk, roll over in my sleep, or even just brush against something with it a sensation of gratitude explodes up my arm.

Last Hoo Ha before Christmas

The Red Room @ Vibe Bar, Brick Lane, London

Sunday, 18 December 2005, 4pm – midnight

How much?
£7 on the door – no advance sales. All proceeds to The Woodland Trust.

Scram! DJs will be ably abetted by DJ Itchi & MC Lazy Habits from rising lounge-hop stalwarts Lazy Habits, beat-boxer extraordinaire WanDan, Bustawidemove & Agent Orange from live drum & bass nutters Step13, Troll 23 and Joe Driscole from Buttercuts.


The Doctor said I have bronchitis and gave me a bottle full of little red pills to take.

I went and bought a big potato, a carrot and a couple of trout fillets and then went home and lit a fire. The potato and carrot were boiled in my Swedish Billy can whilst I cooked the trout by placing the fillets on a Y shaped branch held about 8 inches above the glowing coals of the fire. The fat from the trout dripping into the fire created noxious clouds of black smoke and I spent a lot of the cooking time rolling around on the floor coughing with tears rolling freely down my face. It was, however, worth it, the Trout was cooked to perfection, the potatoes fluffy and the carrots still crunchy to the bite.

Went to bed early and entertained myself by coughing.

Monday, 12 December 2005


Much mischief was had on Saturday as Rob demonstrated the pleasures and conveniences of living in a city. I was a bit suspicious of going out for a walk with Rob, once when we were flat mates he persuaded me to go to the post office with him to post a letter. For some reason we took a detour to a micro brewery on the way and when we returned some seven hours later we had forgotten to post the letter.

We walked to Barnes and found a pub.
Went to a market, bought a pheasant to cook over the fire on Sunday and then went to a pub.
Walked back to Hammersmith stopping at a pub along the way
Then we found a traditional French market serving local produce? Next door there was a pub.
We went to the Riverside studios to check out the view from the terrace, the terrace was shut due to the filming of CDUK. We saw some pop stars (possibly McFly), lots of teenagers and a very fat bouncer. Fortunately the bar was open.
Mac Donald and Weee man came out, later on so did the squirrel dance.
Ate mince pies and sang Christmas songs.

I bailed out at about 8 in the evening to head back to the woods, there were suggestions that I was not well enough to go back and should stay another night, but I was missing home and was getting the distinct impression that if I stayed much longer I would go soft.

I spent most of Sunday night engaged in my new hobby; coughing. I don't know if you have a hobby but if not I can thoroughly recommend coughing, why it's so much fun that I didn't even sleep that night!

Sunday day time I woke to the usual damp, muddy miserable world that is my life and determined to put in greater effort into finding a more comfortable place to live. I have scouted around a few times but found no where suitable. Sunday was my lucky day, I found the perfect spot! It is absolutely brilliant - full description to follow sometime when I have more time but suffice to say for now that it is just right. Combine this with the fact that I finally buckled (after a mere sic months), went to Cotswold Camping and bought a Rucksack that is suitable for my needs and suddenly Sunday afternoon I felt like a king.

The feeling of well-being was emphasised when I managed to light a fire using the firesteel I got for my birthday! I was very happy as this was proper outdoor skills time, lighting a fire without matches or a lighter - UG Factor 15! For those of you interested I used a combination of Mayan dust, cotton wool and paper thin slivers of wood. The paper thin slivers of wood I remember collecting from a rotten branch and making a note to myself to remember where it was so I could go back and get more once I had run out. I have no idea where that was. Once the fire was burning nicely and I had had a cup of tea I decided to cook the Pheasant, the only difficulty I had with this was the fact that it was back in London in Rob's fridge. I had a Wayfarer boil in the bag Chicken Casserole instead and sat by the fire feeling hugely content (and coughing). I realised as I sat there watching the moon rise that my perception of the woods has changed and along with it so has my understanding of man's relationship with the natural world. I went to bed and thought quite profound thoughts, well they seemed profound to me.

One of the advantages of my new home is the fact that it is flat! Well pretty flat and so I did not roll off the Thermarest self inflating mattress (punctured) last night! I have to say those things are amazing, much more comfortable than the floor! Just right for lying about contemplating big issues, sadly such thoughts were interrupted by a desire to spend the entire night; coughing, feeling hugely off colour and rolling about questioning the wisdom of life in the woods. I eventually got off to sleep at about five in the morning and ended up sleeping till about mid-day on Monday. This is something work might well take a dim view on so I thought it best to come into Oxford to see my Doctor.

Here I am killing time as I wait for my appointment, I might not be in the best of health but I would rather be sitting on the side of a hill watching the Red Kite and listening to the radio than stuck in an internet cafe.


So last night I was invited to stay at Rob's, I'm sure the people in my ofice, who were becoming increasingly alarmed at my coughing and spluttering, put him up to it. Rob works for the same company as me but works in a diferent office anyway however the invitation came about I was glad of the oportunity to do some recovering from this cold that I have had all week. I have never had a cold like it; normaly one day you feel a bit achy then the next few days you cough and sneeze a bit and thats it. This cold has been a real monster, it just seemed to get worse each day, I could barely think straight and ached all over for days. Each time I coughed, which was quite often, it felt as though I was getting kicked in the side of the head (yes I do know what the feels like I used to play Rugby). Last night as Rob and I walked to the pub after dinner to meet a friend from Uni I stopped a couple of times for a brief coughing fit and was greeted with the sensation of being kicked in the back of the neck as well as the side of the head. I don't know why but at the time I found this hugely amusing and I must have looked quite a sight, coughing, grimacing with pain and then doubling up with laughter. Rob prescribed Whiskey Mac as a good cure for colds and I believed him, Rob is very good friends with two doctors so who am I to argue? The problem was that by the time I got to the pub I had nearly lost my voice and then the smokey atmosphere played havoc with my chest, so I had to leave pretty quick and go back to Rob's.

I sat on the sofa for a while and watched TV with Clare, Rob's long suffering housemate, and realised just how much of modern life revolves around tv, people just get back from work, watch tv go to bed then get up put the tv on whilt they get ready to go to work. If your a student then you just take the work bit out of the day and sit around watching Quincy and adverts for stairlifts. Missing all this TV is a bit of a double edged sword, on the one hand I am missing out on a shared cultural experience, a common reference point for conversations around the water cooler. It would, for example be great to watch Space Cadets. (Foreign readers might like to note that Space Cadets is a new reality tv show in which the contestants have been tricked into believing they are going into space, when in 'space' they are going to encounter aliens) Sure the program sounds cruel and the contestants will never be able to live it down but on the other hand it's a huge moment in TV history and it is a shame to miss that. On the plus side of not sitting around watching tv all evening I do feel as though I have a life and I'm not just sitting about dribbling to a flickering box of images as I slowly get old.

Friday, 9 December 2005


Sorry I have been a bit slack in posting things on the blog for the past week, I have been feeling rather under the weather and have mostly spent the week walking about like a zombie. Coherent thought has not been a forte of mine but now, at last, the fog of cloudy thought is lifting. Soon enough I will be back at 100% and writing the purest drivel for your entertainment.

Last night a chap from Sky News came out and did some filming for a piece to go out towards the end of this month. So whilst I may not have got pictures on the blog by then you might get to see proper moving pictures of chez monkey. As I was being filmed cooking risotto in the fog I suddenly got the impression that I was in some kind of low key episode of Cribs. What’s next, Pimp my Bus Pass? Once the risotto (mushroom and sweet corn) was cooked we discovered that we only had one spoon between us. After much searching through all the pockets of my rucksack I found the roughly hewn attempt at a hand carved spoon I had made a few weeks ago; it worked! Sure I had to open my mouth and bit further than normal to get the thing into my mouth and I was a bit worried about splinters, nevertheless I had made something useful. I was most happy with myself, and envisaged myself as some kind of latter-day cave man – UG factor 3. I just showed Mark the spoon that I carved, his first comment was “I would laugh if that wasn’t so sad”; his second was “That makes up for the olive oil and the parmesan grater”.

I was supposed to be going camping this weekend with Whiskey, that’s with my mate Whiskey. I’m not going to just walk off into the hills with a bottle of Whiskey – not a bad idea though. This was going to be a bit of a treat for me as Whiskey was insisting on bringing a tent (I’m saying nothing about my ‘tents are for girls’ theory right now). It would have been quite an interesting contrast with me living in comparative luxury and Whiskey giving up the comforts of home. Sadly Whiskey’s car broke down so now I think I’m going to be forced to go to a party on Saturday night instead, shame.

Thursday, 8 December 2005

still ill

December appears to be much like November, only worse. Maybe it’s just because I have a stinker of a cold and that is affecting my outlook but getting back last night to discover everything was cold, muddy and wet really was quite miserable. So I squatted under the gore tex sheet for a while and made some lemsip.

Put sleeping bag in wet bivi bag and went to bed at about 9, took ages trying to get comfortable but finally managed . Woke up about six feeling as though I had been beaten up, everything was aching but fortunately my lungs and throat had stopped feeling as though they were burning. Couldn’t really move so had a lie in.

Wednesday, 7 December 2005


Burning throat, nose and ears; blocked nose; ache all over, even my teeth ache! Chest feels a little raw.
Not hugely keen on having a cold and not really looking forward to sleeping outside tonight.

Tuesday, 6 December 2005

An Outline of a Theory Part 2

Carbon emissions = bad
Trees absorb carbon therefore trees = good
Cutting down trees = bad
Planting trees = good
Cutting down rainforest = very bad

As discussed in An Outline of a Theory Part 1 anything is possible.

If cutting down a rainforest = very bad then it stands to reason that replanting a rainforest = very good.

So replanting a rainforest is both possible and a very good thing to do.

Return of the Rucksack

I managed to get back my rucksack, my sense of humour and as an added bonus I also picked up a cold from somewhere and now I feel dreadful; it’s probably bird flu, or leprosy or the plauge. Lucky to be alive I reckon.

Foggy last night, ate rissotto - getting bored of rissotto now, must try something else soon best eat the rest of the rissotto rice first, that should take a few days.

Bruce is a dedicated follower of fashion and has gone for that 'few dead leaves hanging bravely on' look that is sweeping the woods this season. I'm going to pile lots of ash around him to give him plenty of nutriants.

Monday, 5 December 2005


I went to a club on Friday night, seemed a sensible thing to do what with it being Friday and all that. A very strange place it was as well, full to bursting with earnest Nathan Barley types chewing their faces and talking nonsense; how jolly it was to be surrounded by self important idjits all trying desperately hard to be cool. Having gotten out of there, falling out with the mate I had gone with in the process I took stock of my situation, I was in London, it was 2am and my rucksack was in my mate’s house. Hmmmm. I went to see if his girl friend was in, she wasn’t. I got a bagel and went back, still out, another bagel and a discussion about the relative values of Rice Crispies and Cornflakes with a guy who had a most fascinating collection of broken saucers in his back pack and then back to the flat; still out. I waited. It was cold and by three thirty I was bored of waiting so went for a walk to keep warm and less bored.

Brandy lives on the other side of town and is going to the same meeting as me in the morning so I decide to walk to his house. I don’t know my way around London but I manage to get to his house by 6am only to discover that all the lights are out. If he lived alone I would have no qualms about hammering on the door and waking him up. However, he has three house mates and I have never met any of them, I imagine they would take a dim view of being woken at 6am on a Saturday morning. Surely he will be up soon I think and do a quick calculation of what time he would get up in order to be at the meeting for 8; 6:15 would be a good guess. No not 6:15, a quick recalculation and I realise that he will be up by 6:30. In the end I wait in the cold getting more and more tired and the muscles in my legs beginning to seize, it is 7 before the lights go on and 7:10 before he gets down stairs and I can knock on the window to attract his attention.

Brandy is completely un-phased by my arrival and puts me to work making tea whilst he ponces about putting his shoes on. I’m not sure whether it was the coming in out of the cold or the stopping moving but I am suddenly grabbed by a violent shivering fit that sets my whole body shuddering. This makes life quite interesting as I try to smarten myself up for the meeting, fortunately my razor, tooth brush and toothpaste and already in my pocket. Cleaning your teeth whist shivering so had is easy, just hold the toothbrush to your mouth and let the convulsions do the rest. Shaving takes a little more focus.

Things not to do in a meeting

Reply to questions with a “huhn” a “uh” or a “what?”

Anyway got to hurry the story along a little now as I have to go
Basically my ‘mate’ whose house my rucksack was in has gone on holiday for a week not having my possessions has caused no end of chaos over the weekend. Now I discover that in his wisdom he has left the rucksack outside his east London flat. He left it there sometime on Sunday after I had spent most of Saturday trying to get it back so chances are all my stuff will have been stolen by the time I get to his flat.

Pretty much everything that could go wrong did and still is doing.

anyway its my birthday today and so the count down to the party on December 18th begins; find out all about it at, and please, please forward the link to all your chums - it's all for charidy, mate!

At last

had a sense of humour failure this morning.

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.