Wednesday, 15 February 2006

Valentines Day

I don’t know if you were out and about in sunny Oxfordshire last night, if you were you would have noticed that it wasn’t, sunny that is. In fact it was absolutely pouring down. As I believe I mentioned when I wrote about the weekend I have learnt my lesson about taking it for granted that it will not rain and therefore to be prepared for it, well that’s the theory. The reality, when it struck home in last night’s downpour with attached high winds, was rather different. The thing I have noticed with living in the woods is, that each time I figure out how to survive comfortably in a season and I’m resting on my Laurels thinking that things are getting dull the season goes and changes on me. All of a sudden I’m faced with a new set of challenges and by the time I figure out how to cope with them they change on me again. I am fairly well adapted to coping with cold weather, sadly though it has started to rain. I heard on the radio the other day that it would take 8 weeks of solid rain to refill the reservoirs. My money is on there now being 8 weeks of solid rain.

Before it started raining and I had to go out in it I was having a really very good day, these first signs of spring have put a bit of a spring in my step. It was possibly with this in mind, or maybe because of the fact that the jeans I had bought just before Christmas fell apart on Monday night, that I went out and bought some new ones. I’m not entirely sure why I decided to wear my running shoes rather than my boots and I am not really certain what I was thinking about when I decided to leave the tarp, the spare tarp, the thermarest mattress, the roll mat, the jet boil and the two side pouches from my rucksack behind when I left the office on Monday. I knew I would not be back in that office for a few days as I am working in another part of town, I guess I was just concentrating on transporting a couple of suits, my shoes and some shirts. My mind was probably also tied up with trying to figure out how to get them into a vaguely presentable condition when I’m going to be constantly moving about for a few days.

So I found myself in Oxford at midnight with a bit of a dilemma, where to go? It was pouring down with rain and I didn’t have much shelter, well none really. I walked around for a while trying to figure out what to do. I could go back to the shelter of the Yew Tree in Oxford but the rain will have turned the track there to mud and that would trash my shoes and my new jeans. There were two other options, sit on the bus to London going back and forth all night, that’s not much fun and sounds like cheating, or sleep in a field down by the river and get a bit damp. I bought some chips and cheese from Hassan and trudged around for a while weighing up my options, pools of students laughed their way by huddling together for shelter. A couple of lads in T shirts try to start a fight with me on George St as I walk past lost in thought a trickle of rain running down my back. My jeans are getting wet, I hope they are not getting dirty it’s nice to be wearing trousers out of work that are not full of holes and covered in filth. What I could do is wear the waterproof trousers I got back in the summer, I don’t think I have ever warn them but if I put them on when I get off the bus in Lewknor I could walk back to the Yew tree without ruining the new jeans. The waterproof trousers are in one of the side pouches under my desk. I remember looking at them when I was deciding if I should leave the pouches behind and thinking to myself “I don’t need these, I never wear them”. In the end then I went down to the river got out my sleeping bag and bivi bag put my trainers on top of my rucksack which I then covered with my coat and went to sleep. I did wake up a few times, it was the usual business of having zipped up the bivi bag to stop the rain getting in and then not being able to breath that woke me the most often. Second most often was the cold wet inside of the bivi bag clinging to my face, it’s just not waterproof in the slightest you see. After that the thing that woke me the most was rain falling in my face because I had unzipped the bivi bag to allow me to breath.

When the radio alarm woke me this morning it felt as though I had not slept at all, so I slept for another hour. That was good. One big advantage of wearing trainers rather than boots and not carrying all that weight is that running for the bus is a lot less effort.


Xphjklyfg said...

You may be suceeding in your attempt to prove that someone can live without all the luxuries we are used to, but you are certainly making me glad I am not you!

Would it be feasible to carry a mini-tarp (aka a small sheet of plastic) that could be rigged into a roof that just covered your head? Maybe put big stones or logs as stoppers to prevent yourself rolling our from under? The same mini-tarp could be used for sitting on at other times.

(Do you know how to tie to ordinary plastic sheeting without making a hole that may tear? Put a stone on the corner of the plastic, gather the plastic up around the stone and tie the cord round the neck of the bobble of plastic-cobvered stone.)

ODM (Original Ditch Monkey) said...

What do you mean your glad you are not with me? Don't you think this will catch on? This time next year everyone will be living in the woodsm mark my words.

Any fool can be uncomfortable they say, hmmmm. I might start altering the way I do things to make life easier but that would take away some of the challenge

The tarp I have is an army poncho so it's small, light and highly transportable. No need not to have it with me at all times you might think. The back up one is equally small but lacking in eyelets for pegs and bungees, so I use the stone trick with that one.

Penny Munn said...

Keep on going Hugh.You are an inspiration to us all.

steph said...

Is the wetness inside your bivi condensation? I heard Ray Mears say once not to put your head inside your sleeping bag because you will get colder as your breath condenses and makes you wet. But you would have thought it would be o.k in a bivi. Well you're the expert you know best.