Saturday, 29 April 2006

Italian Man in White Pointy Hat Believed to be Catholic.

I have, you might have noticed, been living in the woods for quite some time now, and in all that time I have not seen a single Bear engaged in any kind of activity whatsoever, it makes you think what else we take for granted might not be true.

Dan Brown if you are reading this one is on me.

In other news

This morning I had a bit of a breakthrough on the online business that Mike and I are due to be running from the Jungle; I figured out how to make money from it! Things are coming on in leaps and bounds.

In response to The Jam Man's commnent about how we are going to go wireless in the jungle which has thick tree cover.

We face a great many problems, thank you for pointing out another.

Friday, 28 April 2006

Making Tinder

One of the best bits of kit that I have is my Firesteel, it is a simple device made from a composite of seven different metals that will create a spark. With a little practice the spark can be used to make a flame and the flame can then be used to make a fire. I bought the Firesteel long before moving to the woods, it was dead handy to try to impress girls with at festivals when they asked for a light. Mostly I think they thought I was sad but my mates were all impressed, making fire out of nothing? That’s got to be an Ug factor 5 on the primitive scale of many activities. After living in the woods for a bit I stopped using my petrol stove, it broke, then I stopped using my Jet Boil, it wore out, and so I started cooking over an open fire. At first I had difficulty lighting a fire even using the left over petrol. Soon enough though I was lighting fires as efficiently as when I was a kid playing in the woods, I seem to recall an occasion when the fire brigade were called after an attempt to bake a potato (Mum I’m only joking, it was the big kids they made me do it). The next step from lighting a fire with matches was to use the Firesteel; this took a little while to get used to as there is a different technique to building the fire. Still I was using tissue paper to catch the sparks with and I soon came to thinking that this was cheating. I knew that it was possible to find natural tinders but I had not idea what they were. I tried all kinds of things but never got anything to work, I later discovered that some of the things I tried were suitable to use as tinder but I couldn’t get them to work. I guess if I knew that they did work I would have persevered. Eventually I remembered seeing Ray Mears making char cloth on TV and that is what gave me the idea for the following.

To make the tinder you do need to have a fire going in the first place so it is best to think ahead :)

First find some very rotten wood; you know those branches that you pick up only to discover that they weigh about a 6th of what you would imagine they would? That's the kind of wood you need. Carve off some very thin strips; if they are not dry let them dry out. Put these dry slivers in an air tight tin - a tobacco tin would be perfect - then put the tin into the fire with a log or something on top to stop the lid from popping of when it gets hot. Leave the tin in the fire for just the right amount of time, this is the tricky bit. What you are aiming for is wood that has burnt off almost completely but is not quite black; trial and error is the key I find forgetting about the tin and putting a brew on and drinking it before remembering about it is far too long. The wood in the tin does not burn evenly so whilst some bits may be black others will be "raw" somewhere in amongst will be the perfectly cooked material. I should be a very dark brown, almost black, and will crumble to dust between fingers and thumb. The dust will, if you get it right, be ignited on the first strike with a Fire Steel. I now always carry my tin of home made tinder alongside my Fire Steel and have stashed some dry rotten wood in a plastic bag in my rucksack so whenever I get low I can make some more.


I hadn’t realised how unfit I now am, rugby practice was quite hard work, I guess I will have to get in training before the walk. Drat.

Last night I ended up in the woods without any of my kit, again, so it was a matter of relying on the emergency sleeping bag. The emergency sleeping bag is designed for summer use so I was quite cold last night and kept waking up; it was just like winter all over again. I didn’t get much sleep at all, seeing as I couldn’t sleep anyway I got up at quarter to six and caught the ten past six bus and missed the traffic into London. This knocked at least half an hour off the journey time and so by getting up half an hour early I gained at least an hour extra day. Brilliant! What though is there to do in Shepherds Bush at seven o’clock in the morning? It has long been an ambition of mine to get to the gym before work and now I had the perfect opportunity. So at half past seven this morning I went to the gym! I expected to be the only one their but there were quite a few other people about. Or I assume there were as lots of lockers were in use; I didn’t see many people though I suspect that they were in the actual ‘gym’ part of the gym. I had a sauna and a shower and left feeling thoroughly invigorated and good about myself. Getting to the gym before work is pretty hardcore. Sure I hadn’t actually done any exercise but I just wanted to prove that it was possible before doing anything rash like exercise. Next week I will do something once I get there.

I made use of the extra time by going to Tescos, much better to go before work when there is no one else about, it saves lots of time overall. I am trying to only cook using local produce so I picked out the usual selection of winter vegetables before walking past the spring onions. I like spring onions, they are fun to cook with, I looked at them longingly before walking past. Somewhere deep in my sleep deprived brain a message was trying to get through “it is spring, it is spring, it is spring” eventually the penny dropped. If it is spring then maybe the spring onions are local? They were! This was an amazing piece of fortune as far as I was concerned, not only is this something new to eat but it is also just the kind of thing that I want to eat. Big hearty protein rich meals centred around root vegetables have been fine during the winter when I needed all the energy I could get to stay warm, now I want something fresh and green to go with the changing mood and scenery. Investigating further I found some little smile potatoes, they are the ones with the red skin, (I have just moved the shopping bag and the smell of spring onions is very strong). Then I found some cherry tomatoes from the UK, I have been looking forward to fresh tomatoes for a very long time and have just had my first tomato sandwich of the year. I even found a cucumber. I got so enthusiastic that I also went and bought some bread flower and yeast.

Tonight then I’m having barbecued rainbow trout with boiled smile potatoes covered in shallots cooked in melted butter, on the side I shall have a simple tomato and cucumber salad.
Tomorrow I will investigate the possibilities of cooking bread.

I blame the parents

The following bet is open to all except for big game hunters, David Attenborough, members of the circus community and Ninjas.

Picture the scene; you are walking home late at night all is quite and there is not soul in site, you take a shortcut across a car park, the car park is huge and completely flat, it takes a couple of minutes to make it half way across. Once in the middle of the car park you are suddenly faced with a great big hungry looking lion with a snarling growl and pointy teeth. If you ran as fast as you could it would take at least 30 seconds to reach the nearest thing that you could climb, the lion gets down into a crouch, the sort of crouch that suggest it is about to leap on you and tear you limb from limb. I bet you that you would be alarmed.

Picture, if you will, feeling this level of alarm and try to imagine what you would want in this situation. Perhaps a helicopter, or an elephant would help or at the very least someone to offer some advice on what to do in this situation. How would you feel if someone coming along and put a sticker reading “this person is alarmed” on your forehead? Whilst it could be said that the sticker would be factually accurate I can see no argument that would suggest the sticking of the sticker on the forehead was an action of any value whatsoever. If someone did this to you, and you somehow survived the encounter with the lion I would imagine that you would be very cross indeed with the stickeror. Such behaviour, you might well think, would be unacceptable. I would say that you would be right in considering such behaviour as unacceptable and so I just don’t understand why such behaviour is tolerated in our society. I witnessed just such an event today on the way to Tescos, someone had slapped a “This Door is Alarmed” sign on a door! How inconsiderate can you get?

Thursday, 27 April 2006


Been really busy this week hence a lack of writing. As usually I have long hand notes and I do intend to type them up. Honest.

A synopsis then

I have just edited yesterday’s blog to include the mention of the fact that I’m aiming to walk the Ridgeway in 24 hours in July (forgot to mention this yesterday). So if living in the woods doesn’t tickle your fancy enough to give some money to the Woodland Trust then maybe the idea of the walk will. The more I think about it the more I realise how much of a bad idea the walk is. I think it will hurt a bit, ho hum.

We have reached the half way stage of the target to raise £8000, thank you everyone.

The woods are incredibly beautiful at the moment; it is truly breath taking, stunning in fact. I believe this weekend is a bank holiday weekend. Might I suggest a trip into the countryside and maybe a picnic? I think that the Woodland Trust might well have a few woods that are open to the public; you could have a look on their web site.

This weekend it is May Day, it was May the first last year. Sat in the University Park in Oxford with; people floating by on punts, more Pimms than you could shake a stick at (though why anyone would be so uncivilised whilst drinking Pimms I do not know), blue skies, bees buzzing and a general feeling of well being that I decided to live in the woods. It was so nice that I decided to do it without a punt. May day in Oxford, one of the best parties in the world, the entire city goes nuts.

Got to go, Rugby practice.

Wednesday, 26 April 2006

So the thing with the walking the Ridgeway

Neph and I are going to be walking the Ridgeway, 85 miles, over the 20th and 21st of May, we will be carrying everything that we need to live for the two days. The only thing that we will be collecting along the way will be water, only there are not that many places to get water on the way so we will be carrying a lot of that. After that I’m going to be getting into serious training, the ultimate aim is to walk the Ridgeway in 85 in 24 hours one weekend in Jully. In case I don’t make it and find myself needing to sleep I will be carrying everything that I need to live for 48 hours. I’m not sure on the date for this yet; I imagine it will happen in July.

Why? Why do this stupid thing? Partly because it is there, partly in training for Operation Eric and partly because the aim is to raise £8000 for the Woodland Trust, unfortunately after nearly 11 months in the woods not quite half that amount has been raised.
Stay tuned for the latest news as it breaks on the idiocy that is my life.

Monday, 24 April 2006


The Queen got 20,000 birthday cards, how many of them contained book tokens though? Or pound coins held down with a bit of jaggedly torn sellotape?

I saw Mike last night, the last time I had seen him had been on Tuesday morning when he went back up North to find out how seriously injured his car was. There was a lot of crashing about in the dark followed by a couple of glimpses of torch light followed by what sounded distinctly like someone going very fast down a very steep hill covered in branches and filled with holes. The sound of a rapidly approaching Mike came to an abrupt halt. The ensuing silence was swiftly broken by swearing. “You know that *&^% hole you told me to watch out for?” I did, “Well I didn’t”. Mike was hobbling but otherwise uninjured, this was a disappointment, I was sure that anyone who fell into that hole travelling at any speed would have found their clumsiness rewarded with at least a broken shin bone. Never mind.

Mike wasn’t in the best mood, although he has a new car now; it is outside a friend of his house, not because he had forgotten it but because it didn’t work any more. When it had broken down he had looked on the map and sees a wooded area in between him and the railway station and had so decided to head for that, sleep the night there. He was offered a place to stay by his friend but declined on the basis that he is a woodland dweller now; that’s the spirit. The plan was to walk on to the station from the woods in the morning. Having spent about 2 hours packing and re packing, and being sure to take a steak for dinner he set off. Mike discovered just how much longer it takes to walk carrying about 60lbs than it does to drive in the car, by the time he got to the woods it was time to leave for the station. He got to the station just in time to grab a soggy bacon sandwich before catching the train to Brighton. Two and a half hours later he woke up to discover that the train had not left the station, or rather it had; it had been to Brighton and back. I’m not sure what else happened but by 10pm last night when he fell into the hole at the bottom of the hill he wasn’t looking best pleased.

The fire had died down to embers so he had timed it perfectly to stick his steak on to cook. I even took pity on him and made a shelter for him whilst he ate; apparently he had not slept properly for days. He was still going strong though, no complaining and no hint of giving up and that’s what count’s I guess. I had been reading Lofty Wiseman’s survival book on Sunday, the bit about survival in the Tropics, I told Mike what I had learned. He was interested to learn if I had ever thought it would be nice. I kept quite about the images of sitting under palm trees drinking cocktails with umbrellas in.
“It’s going to be horrible” he said “we couldn’t have picked a worse place to go”.
“There is going to be a period of at least two months when we don’t speak at all” I said “followed by another ten”.
That was before the snoring. By the end of the night I had gone from feeling sorry for Mike to waking him up to stop him snoring by banging a pie tin repeatedly on the ground. In the jungle snoring like that could well result in someone meeting with an accident with a blow dart.

As unlikely as it sounds

It is not possible to tap Birch sap from a Beech tree.

Friday, 21 April 2006

Jessie's tips

This summer is mostly going to be long and hot.

the final countdown da da da da, de dum de dum

Two months today is my last night. I guess this is the beginning of the countdown then.

That would also make it two months until the Great Big Sleep Out, hope you have your sleeping bags at the ready and the tents packed away in the attic in preparation.

A while ago I had an idea; I thought I might like to watch some TV, just so as to have some point of reference in popular culture. I don’t have a TV, I sometimes take a lap top to the woods with me and once I tried to watch a movie but I got bored with it about half way through. The cunning bit was I decided to ask the BBC for tickets so that I could be an audience member at the filming of something topical. I chose comedy, I like comedy, and applied for tickets for a sketch show called “Recorded for Training Purposes” this way I get to see some comedy and can chat about it with people when it is shown on TV but I don’t have to have a TV. Cunning huh? Well it would be if “Recorded for Training Purposes” wasn’t a radio 4 comedy, I don’t think it will be very visual.


It’s the Queen’s birthday, happy birthday the Queen. I expect she is a regular reader, partial to a bit of ditch dwelling is the Queen, it’s all those moats round her castles that did it. Chased a runaway corgi down one in 1968 and hasn’t looked back since. I had a birthday once, Rob came, we went to the pub to celebrate and we were introduced to a celebration drink. Mostly celebration drinks tend towards being drinkable, Champagne for example can be very drinkable I like Champagne; it is a good thing to have in ones life. I had kind of thought that Champagne would be a good thing to drink on my Birthday Rob went to the bar and I sat back chatting to friends looking forward to something in a bottle that gives a reassuring pop when opened. Rob came back, he had met someone called Bones at the bar, the name alone should have put him on guard. Bones had talked Rob out of buying Champagne in favour of something “better”. I like green things, trees and all that business, lovely, drinks shouldn’t be green though and they especially should not be muddy green; the drinks he returned with were muddy green. They tasted, well wrong, not the sort of thing that anyone would voluntarily clean the bath with. Apparently it is rude to refuse a birthday present. The night out was a short lived affair.

The drink in question is called a Bull Rush; it is made of Absinth and Red Bull its effects are interesting. Since then the Bull Rush has become a favourite celebratory drink. No that’s wrong, there is nothing favourite about them at all, they do however get bought when either Rob or I has a birthday and it would be a sign of great weakness to refuse one. Last night was Rob’s drinks, apparently the rules of leaving drinks are the same as birthdays, I wasn’t aware of this. Most places refuse to serve Bull Rushes on the grounds that the sort of people that would drink them are not welcome, we found a bar that was more than happy to give them to us; mind you I had a burger there and it did lead me to suspect that the chef at least held the sanctity of human life in very low regard. I have never had a burger that tasted of calamari before. Four of us hit the dance floor and made lots of friends; I think there was random hugging of strangers. Mind you they were playing the Prodigy so that kind of thing is expected. I wonder if the Queen will eschew the fizzy wine option this year and plump for the Bull Rush option. If she does no doubt she will make friends with two slightly deranged guys on a night bus. Night buses in London are great, you meet the nicest people and its not at all worrying when you get off and they start following you about.

Thursday, 20 April 2006

Ha ha

Whiling away a sunny bank holiday afternoon in the University Parks with Devil Boy we got to swapping jokes. It occured to me that being stuck in the jungle with Mike for a year we would soon run out of jokes and have to start making up our own, these would no doubt be on a jungle theme. On hearing this Devil Boy thought for a moment and said "what's a foot wide and got eight legs? I don't know either but there is one behind you". Sometimes I really don't like my friends.

Its going on

Whoever said that money can’t buy happiness never spent his last fiver on a brace of passion fruit martinis.


I’m not sure how true this is but it appears that tonight I’m going to find out, I have hit the skint part of the month but tonight is Rob’s leaving do. He is leaving Sotheby’s to go and work elsewhere. This is London though, if I find a brace of any drinks for a fiver I’ll be sure and snap them up.

Oh yes, I remember, ages ago I was sat next to the fire and I figured out how to save the world. I think I’m going to be on line for a Nobel Prize with this one. I’ll explain slowly as there is a little bit of complex science going on.


There are three problems

1 Global warming due to carbon emissions

2 Lots of rubbish going to land fill sites, rotting and producing methane which also causes global warming

3 The resultant rise in sea level

There is a solution to these problems.

1 Gather up all the empty plastic bottles that would otherwise go to the tip.

2 Fill them with sea water (thus fighting the rising sea levels)

3 This is the real genius bit. Get a soda stream and carbonate all the sea water bottles thus using up lots of carbon.

4 Take the bottles back to the Arctic / Antarctic (depends if you want to see polar bears or penguins)

5 Home in time for tea and medals.

Wednesday, 19 April 2006

Green Stuff, loads of it.

It was kind of sunny when I walked to the bus this morning. It was lovely. I had gone back to the woods last night in shirt sleeves and with no other top, I left my rucksack at work so was unencumbered by possessions other than a sleeping bag packed very tightly into a day sack. I didn’t get back until after 8pm but it was still light, not very light but nevertheless it seemed like a luxury. Having not had much sleep over the weekend I went to bed at about 9 and lay there for a while feeling perfectly warm. Again a complete luxury; it was even warm enough not to have to do up the draw cords of the sleeping bag. I even discovered that I didn’t need to have my head inside the hood of the sleeping bag at all. It was absolute bliss to be lying out under the stars again without being wrapped up like a mummy against the cold with just a small hole for oxygen. I guess the best way of describing it would be as liberating, bit it is also taking a bit of getting used to, the winter was so long and so cold that I do have a bit of a problem with getting used to it being nice. It is a little like going on holiday I suppose, lying in bed not shivering is so nice an experience that it is almost like chilling on a beach somewhere. In a lot of ways it is better, there is no sunburn and no one trying to sell you tatty jewellery every five minutes.

I woke with the light at 6 and quite happily got up at about 6.15, not a sign of staying in bed huddled against the cold and then there being a mad panic and rush to the bus. It was all very civilised and most enjoyable walking sedately to the bus. I have noticed that over the past few weeks since it has become light enough to see that my view of my environment has been rather like that of time lapse photography. I have only really caught glimpses of the world around me. It started with jagged grey and brown branches, then the slow appearance of buds which have started to crack open revealing the very start of leaves I all shades of green. Slowly these buds explode like slow green fireworks all around me. At first just a suggestion of green would slide across the hedgerows but now, today, down the hill by the bus the hawthorn hedge is almost fully green. In the trees the fat buds on the Beech trees gently open revealing soft green roses of collected leaves ready to spread, grow and catch the sun. It really is amazing to see. Everything seemed dead, all was quiet but now the world around me is teeming with life.

Each dawn is met by the birds marking out their territory; it is, especially after the long silent winter with just the Kites and the Owls for company, a beautiful symphony. If one listens carefully it is possible to pick up layer upon layer of rhythm, tune and harmony that peaks about an hour after dawn. To a lesser extent the birds sing all day, song birds in the trees, a sky lark high above and the occasionally call of a Kite high above that. But just before dark a hush comes over the woods, calm descends and all is still. It is a good time to stop whatever task is at hand and relax a while with a cup of tea and mull awhile.

Life is good.

Tuesday, 18 April 2006


So Mike arrived, things got a bit crazy for the weekend. I’m very tired, Mike snores. I have told Mike that the only way he is going to learn how to do things properly is to go off and figure it out for himself and so he should go off and fend for himself. This is not because he snores this is for his own sense of well being, imagine how accomplished he will feel when he has figured it all out for himself. Something like that.

Mike brought a gas stove with him, I thought I would be nice and make a brew one morning, you know wake the new guy up with a cup of tea. I guess I should have read the instructions; I have never seen anyone get out of a hammock so quickly. After we had finished hiding behind a tree and gone to inspected the remains I promised I would buy Mike a new stove. Well I didn't wan't to feel left out, Mike had blown his car up on the way down. He ended up having to push it off the motorway. This meant that he arived without most of the stuff that he had in the car, it turned out that this was the usefull stuff. The stove was usefull though, or it would have been had it not gone a bit flamey.

Mike is getting good at lighting fires. He is also good at finding things, he found a shop in Lewknor, I'm sure there has not been one there for the last ten months. He found some other things as well that I have been looking for but I'm not going to go into that. He is lucky is all, how was I supposed to know that Boots sell nail brushes?

Friday, 14 April 2006

Crazy World of Arthur Brown

I found a new way of lighting a fire this morning. Well, it’s not strictly speaking new, I’m sure people have been doing it for years and I have read about it but it was new to me. I was trying to light the fire in the usual way, home made tinder on a leaf and sparks from the Fire Steel, normally the tinder catches and a small flame is produced, from this I light some dried grass and so on until I’m sitting back with a cup of tea and warm feet. It was probably the rain and the mist that stopped this working today; either that or I had messed up making the tinder. In either event I could not get the fire going, occasionally the tinder would flare up but the grass would not catch. In the end I was left with a very delicate ember of glowing tinder about the size of half a five pence piece on the leaf. I carefully transferred this piece of tinder to the charred end of one of yesterday’s logs and sandwiched it in place with a piece of charcoal that I had previously made. My gently blowing onto the ember of tinder, most of which blew away; I encouraged a small spot on the charred log to start glowing. Over the course of about a minute I continued to blow and with each breath the area of log that was glowing expanded. An orange glow that expanded on every breath, I assume that the underside of the charcoal was undergoing the same process. For soon a flame appeared only to go out again as soon as I had stopped blowing on it. Holding the dried grass over the charcoal and log ensured, a few breaths later, that the grass caught light.

Hugely satisfying experience

Gotta rush


Adding to my brain

I have been learning stuff. Not by choice really, I really think there is enough in my brain already and adding more stuff is just liable to confuse matters. It is necessity really that drives this learning, Mike and I are going to live in the Rainforest and so it seemed wise to learn something of the place. My learnings are not all happy. Last night when I was walking home with my rucksack I did feel a bit hot, I don’t like being hot. I ended up stripped to the waist as I was feeling uncomfortable. It was pretty grim in the summer, people think sleeping out in the summer would be nice, the sleeping out bit was but the lugging the rucksack about was not so good. I was constantly hot, sticky and drenched with sweat, this I did not enjoy at all. As I say my learnings about the Rainforest we are going to live in have not all been good. Ecuador is so called because it is on the equator; if I remember my schooling properly the equator is the really hot bit in the middle. In the UK if it gets too hot in the summer the woods are the perfect place to go, they are shady and nicely cool in comparison to the glare of the sun or the baking heat of the cities. I was talking to Ralph from Aqua Firma the other night, he is arranging our introduction to Ecuador and the Rainforest, apparently the atmosphere in the rainforest is very hot. Not only that it is 90% humidity, that sounds absolutely horrible apart from anything else how is it possible to breath air that is 90% water?

There are other things to be worried about as well

Mosquitos – millions of em, everywhere all the time
Snakes, poisonous ones
Snakes, big ones
Spiders, big ones with hairs all over
Poisonous frogs
People with spears and definite views on ramblers
Drug dealers with guns
Oil companies with dim views on environmentalists
Logging companies
There are no bars deep in the rainforest
It might also be tricky to find somewhere to get a cup of tea and a newspaper on a Sunday.
Various creatures with teeth

I think perhaps what I meant to say was that Mike and I were going to go and live in the Rainforest for an afternoon and then we were going to go surfing, somewhere with cocktails and girls. Arduous business the surfing and cocktail lifestyle.
The thing is that I think I might actually have given Mike the impression that we were going to go and live on the beach; you know, sleep in hammocks, catch fish, surf, chase girls and drink Mojitos. Ralph is organising a survival course for us and some treks into the rainforest to see some of the work that Rainforest Concern is doing and Mike is very keen on doing this but I’m not sure how pleased he will be when we end up staying.

Does anyone know where we might get a waterproof laptop from? Apparently the humidity plays havoc with electronic equipment.

Thursday, 13 April 2006


Whatever it was that followed me home in the dark the other night (see Night on Bear Mountain entry) was about again last night. True to form it followed me home again. I have no idea what it was but it sounded small so I decided not to worry about it. Nevertheless, all the hairs on my neck stood up again. Like I said I didn’t worry about it at all. Instead of worrying about it I lay in bed listening to the Tawny Owl making some very weird noises; the sort of noises that no director would ever get away with adding to a film on account of the fact that they sounded so exactly like the noises you would expect to hear in a horror film. I especially didn’t worry about it when I heard what sounded exactly like footsteps and a dark shape appeared. Quite what a deer was doing crashing about in the woods at that time of night I just don’t know, if it was some kind of practical joke designed to make me jump out of the skin it didn’t work. Cool as a cucumber I was. Coincidently I decided that this was the perfect time to practice my “leaping suddenly to my feet in a defensive yet aggressive manner” manoeuvre, you know just to make sure that should anything more threatening than a deer suddenly appear I would be ready for it. I would recommend you try such a thing yourself, try lying on the floor or bed if you have such a thing, and then leap suddenly to your feet, be sure to land in a nice poised position ready to fight off any intruders. Done correctly it is a move that should strike fear into the heart of all but the most hardened of advisory. It is not a move that it is possible to pull off to any great effect when zipped up to the neck in a sleeping bag. I did make briefly to my feet before crashing, like a sack of spuds to the ground. The deer left of its own accord.

After that the night passed without adventure. I was far too hot so I gave up on sleeping on the Thermarest mattress, it works as an insulating layer against the ground and so keeps the cold out in the winter. Rolling off the mattress allowed me to cool down, the cooler ground acted as a heat sink for my body heat. The ground did seem a little hard after a couple of months of sleeping on the Thermarest but I’m sure I will get used to it some time. This morning was good in a grey kind of way; I found £14 worth of pound coins in the bottom of my sleeping bag. I was rich; that £14 plus the money I had left over from last night meant that I had about £30. Strangely though I couldn’t find the money from last night anywhere, I must have had about £15 left over.

On the way to the bus I might have discovered the identity of the whatever it was that follows me about in the woods. There was a pet ferret, or some such creature running about in the area where I normally get followed. Could be it, then again it ran away when it saw me coming; hardly the actions of something that stalked me the night before. The whole matter is intriguing.

I discovered where the Owl lives last weekend; I will try to get a photograph if I can. Well I would if it hadn’t been for that incident with the camera and the rain. Mike is moving in tomorrow, he has a really nice camera so I asked him to bring it. Apparently there was an incident involving his camera and the ground, or to be more accurate with the speed with which it hit the ground. We are going to be unstopable in the Jungle.

Have a good Easter

Tuesday, 11 April 2006


job = busy therefore blog = not written, possibly for a few days.

Monday, 10 April 2006


I ask you. April the 9th and there was snow, loads of it. Not that fun crispy slide about on and throw at your friends kind of snow either. No it was snow as an after thought following a day’s rain wet miserable drip down your back kind of snow. I can assure you that this kind of snow is not the kind of snow that fills one with enthusiasm at the prospect of going to sleep in it. Mind you it was very pretty, just the sort of pretty that is best left for Christmas cards or at least looking at through a window. I went to bed at about 9 on account of there being nothing else to do and, having just got back, I couldn’t be bothered to light a fire using damp or wet wood. I reasoned that I could stay warm in my sleeping bag and get a good night’s sleep and so get up nice and early in the morning. Because it was so cold I went and dug out my emergency reserve sleeping bag from where it was stashed. A second sleeping bag should keep me warm and so I was guaranteed a good night’s sleep. I awoke after a night when I had kept waking, it had been horrible but at least now I was ready to go to work, it was still dark. I might even have time to go to the gym before work; this would be good the idea of a swim and a sauna was just the thing. I looked at my watch to find out how early it was. Midnight! It was midnight and I was fully awake. Drat. I forced my self back to sleep, only to wake a little later feeling parched and groggy, I was too hot. So I had to kick off the second sleeping bag.

Actually I’m too tired and annoyed to go through the entire list of what went wrong last night. I woke up about every half hour, felt lethargic and miserable. Got soaked through, then frozen because the temperature dipped again after the cloud burst. It was grim, probably one of the worst nights that I have had. Utterly horrible. When I did wake up the first thing I thought was that I don’t want to do this any more. Then I realised that not only am I in the woods until June the 21st that then I’m going to the Jungle with Mike. I was not happy at all at this prospect. The jungle is going to be very hard work indeed.

Oh well.

In other news

Mike moves in on Saturday. His blog will be up and running from Thursday.

Friday, 7 April 2006

Tricky business.

I have just been over at the BCUK site, well worth a visit if you are into all this out door lark. It occured to me, Mike and I are heading to Ecuador, but I have a ticket to Brazil that I bought by mistake - well I was trying to go to see the Rolling Stones. I cunningly learnt some Spanish - En que direccion esta Ecuador? - In what direction is Ecuador? The problem is that they speak Portuguese in Brazil.

There is a lot more to going to live in the Jungle than you might think.

I have started a kit list,

Jungle Kit List; First Draft.


Disgruntled of Oxfordshire

I blame our illustrious leader. Illustrious? Lacklustre? I dunno, political commentary is best left for people who care about that sort of thing. I’ll just say our leader and leave you to make your mind up about the monkey in charge. OK I admit it; today I have issues with the Right Hon Tony Blair PM, not since the great salt debacle of July 1st have I had been so saddened and dismayed by the follies over the present incumbent of No 10 Downing st. For who is to blame if not Mr Blair for these extended drinking hours that now blight our land? Were it not for these I would have got to bed in good time last night instead of whiling away the hours with friends I had not seen for months. What kind of irresponsibility is it that allows people to enjoy themselves on a week night? It’s just not British.

What though can I, a mere citizen, do against the might of New Labour? I considered sending a sternly worded letter and a request for asprin but have decided on a far more effective from of protest. Tonight I will not go out, I’m going to go home and have an early night, that’ll lean him.

I wrote this a couple of weeks ago, it might explain.

Who is the happier man, he who has braved the storm of life and lived, or he who has stayed securely on the shore and merely existed?

Hunter S. Thompson

I moved out to the woods on June the 1st of 2005 and, after a six week trial run, said that I would live out for a year. It seemed like a good idea at the time, it was nice and warm and light and quite a lot of fun. 9 months and 2 weeks later I find my life has been turned upside down, I've been on the TV, radio and in Newspapers and had all manner of people demanding my opinions on a range of subjects I know nothing about. Living in the woods is one thing, suddenly finding yourself answering calls from the worlds media is quite another, it has been a bit of a whirlwind ride I can tell you. On occasion I have been at risk of starting to take myself seriously and for a little while I thought I could change the world, it's a bit embarrassing to think of now but I did think that I could have an influence on things. Mostly though the thing that has changed has been me, I am a very different person now to the one that went to sleep on the side of a hill and woke up at the bottom of it on the morning of June 2 nd. Not only have I changed but the way that I view world is completely different now, I had rather thought that a year in the woods raising money for the Woodland Trust would salve my conscience and that I would then be able to get on with making money. It would be very nice to make lots of money but I have realised that material possessions are not the key to any kind of happiness. Being out in the woods I have gained some kind of freedom, a freedom from the trappings of owning things and whilst the cost of this freedom has been a lack of comfort I get the distinct impression that it is better to be uncomfortable and free than comfortable and trapped. More and more of my friends are buying flats and so trapping themselves for the foreseeable future to live and work to pay for their homes.

The other thing that being in the woods has done is to make me realise just how important the natural world is. Now that might sound a bit obvious but it really struck home over Christmas that the natural world is really very fragile and that the influence of humans on it is really rather destructive. OK this isn't the most shocking news in the world and I'm not going to harp on about it, I'm not really into that doom and gloom business. The trouble is that for some reason I feel obligated to do something and there are three factors behind this; firstly, something has to be done; secondly, I have managed to free myself from the trappings of modern existence and so I have the opportunity to do something, and thirdly there is all kinds of press interest in this living in the woods thing still and I should try to use this for positive ends. Combine this with some utter stupidity and that ticket to Brazil I bought and all of a sudden you have a plan to go live in the Rainforest for a year.

Thursday, 6 April 2006

Mission Improbable

I'm useless at keeping secrets.

Mike and I are going to go and live in the forest for another year, only this time we are going to do it in South America. We hope to raise lots of money for a reforestatino project. Hope so, those woods are full of spiders and snakes and all kinds of things that you probably don't want to think about too much. Obviously we won't be able to commute to work from South America, I looked on the map it is a long way. So we are going to run an online business from the Jungle, as you do.

Handy tips for woodland life

If someone told you that it was going to be -4 degrees C at night and that you should take lots of warm clothes with you for your night in the woods, would you:

A Take lots of warm clothes with you?
B Not?

I tell you advice like “it’s going to be cold, take warm clothes with you” is advice that you should not ignore. To do so for three nights in a row is just silly, the trouble is that now I’m a bit determined that it is spring and accordingly I’m not going to need a fleece or warm layers. I have been waking up shivering quite a lot lately. Stupid winter not stupid ending when it stupid should.

One thing that I find very pleasing, I know simple things simple minds, is having a stick stuck in the ground supported by a Y shaped stick that can be used for hanging a cooking pot over the fire. Reading Ray Mears book a while back I even learnt the best way of cutting a notch into the stick to prevent the pot sliding down the stick and away from the fire. A number of notches along the stick mean that I can move the pot closer to the heat if I need things to be hotter and further away if they need to be cooler. Instant control it is, far superior to gas. What was not mentioned in Mr Mears, or indeed any other survival book, is the fact that these sticks over fire devices whilst both practical and aesthetically pleasing in a rustic kind of way can be highly dangerous. If you are going to be walking around in the dark in the vicinity of your unlit fire do be sure to make sure that the end of the stick that is not stuck into the ground is not at crotch height. You could do yourself a mischief, should you do yourself such a mischief might I suggest somewhere other than your log pile for rolling about in pain?

Tuesday, 4 April 2006

Do try this at home

This is just to set out what the GREAT BIG SLEEP OUT is all about as there has been some confusion. Basically it is an invitation to you all to sleep out on my last night wherever you are in the country, or even world wide. My last night out is June the 21st, that’s the summer solstice; the longest day of the year. Now if that’s not the reason to get out into the wilds and celebrate I don’t know what is. So for one night only cast aside your mobile phones, your houses and, preferably your tents, and grab your friends and a picnic (beer) and head to the countryside for a GREAT BIG SLEEP OUT. So what counts as countryside? The woods, meadows, parks, beaches (check the tide times), hills, mountains, roof gardens or wherever else you might find. If you fancied it you could always raise some sponsorship for the Woodland Trust.

If you are going to go for this please leave a comment bellow or email me with Great Big Sleep Out (GBSO) in the title, so far positive responses have come in from England, Thailand, France, Japan and even as far afield as Wales! I’m thinking it would be good if whoever slept out sent me stories of the night and then they could get stuck together on a blog for posterity.

Remember: do get permission from the landowner.

step back

“Slow down you move to fast;
you’ve got to make the morning last”

Simon and Garfunkel

So yesterday was a bit of a whirlwind, at one point I was having email conversations with about 20 people about all manner of subjects and it got a bit confusing after a while. I eventually spun out of the office at about 6:30 with my mind travelling at a thousand miles an hour in every kind of direction. Time to chill out. The plan was to hit the gym and start training for the great big walk – 85 miles in 48 hours carrying all I need with me – I was surprised to find myself actually going to the gym and not sloping off home and putting it off until tomorrow. There I was though walking into the gym and picking up my towels and struggling to cram my rucksack into the locker. The trick is to unzip the side pouches first and put them at the bottom of the locker, open the top of the rucksack, pull the sleeping bag up a little to create a bit more space, jump up and down on it a few times and then shove it in as hard as possible. People stop and stare. What I found yesterday was that whilst this is an effective way of getting my rucksack into the locker it would probably be a good idea to take my shorts out of the side pouch first. Due to a lack of suitable footwear and a general inertia I opted to go for a swim rather that go into that room with all the weights and machines, the pool was a bit full. I’m a slow swimmer and I thought it would be rude to hold all those people up so I had a sauna instead; I had three goes on the sauna, one in the steam room and a shower and left feeling really good. I’m going to get into this training business I can tell.

I still hadn’t managed to properly stop my mind from racing and all the way back to Lewknor on the bus I kept remembering things to do, people to call and all kinds of twists on the general intricacies that make up my life at the moment. I wrote a list on my hand and coveted the lady across the aisle’s lap top. If only I could send a few emails I would get back on track with everything I thought. It was a clear night, starry, moonlit and utterly beautiful. I’m guessing I’m probably one of the few 33 year olds out there who went and climbed a tree to get a better view of the moon last night. It was there in the tree that I finally managed to switch off and relax. Well a bit, not much, a lot of exciting things have come up as a result of the piece in the Sunday Times article and I found myself with some very important decisions to make. I did a bit of walking about, full of nervous energy I could not settle. The night was so clear that I decided again not to put up the tarp but to lie out under the stars and it was there that a clarity of thought started to seep into my over active brain. It’s easier to see what is important in life whilst cut off from the distractions of modern existence. No adverts, no phones, no demands on my thoughts. It is also easier to realise that what is important might well be the avoidance of such things.

I was woken by the sounds of a large bird flapping its wings, the sound cracked above me as the first light just broke through the darkness. When it was lighter I discovered that the bird was a Red Kite which was roosting high above me in the top of a Beech tree, maybe the same bird that landed just by me the other day. I lay awhile in the frost, not at all tempted to leave the comparative warmth of my sleeping bag. It was only comparatively warm for it felt quite nippy in the sleeping bag. I was massively disinclined to get up into the cold and so it was that it became, without my being aware of it doing so, just too late to catch the last bus I could possibly catch and get to work on time. I was up like a shot and set off eyes watering with sleep and the cold. As dazed as I was I could not help but notice that the ground had become green. All through the winter it had been grey in the dark of the morning light, the last couple of weeks it has been brown, a carpet of dead leaves and broken branches with the odd bit of moss to lighten the tone. Now though the green frondy things that are poking from the ground have gained sufficient height and number to give a green sheen to the ground all about. Even the moss looks brighter.

I got to the bus stop just in time; I had run, often at speeds I did not know I could manage. Was I just in time though? It was 15 minutes until the next bus came which led me to believe that I had got there just in time to miss the bus that I wanted. I employed myself in the 15 minutes wait in the investigation of the state of affairs of the hedgerow. The gnarled twisted thorny plants are all awash with buds. The buds on the Hawthorn have just started to open, revealing brilliant green leaves, the heady green smell reminiscent of summer days. A bumble bee shot past, the third I have seen in as many days. Already feeling invigorated from my run I was by now feeling fantastic. Running from the bus stop to work at the other end of the journey, whist far from enjoyable at the time, added to my sense of well being so by the time I arrived at my desk, just three minutes late, I was on top of the world. I realised that I could probably count all that running as training for the great big walk and so I had by 9:03 am achieved something. I’m quite pleased, I can go for days on end sometimes without achieving a thing.

Monday, 3 April 2006

Thank you

Thank you to everyone for all the support, emails, offers and everything else that has been coming in today. I'm sorry if I haven't written back just yet, things have been a little crazy today. It's great, really really nice to have all this support but I haven't quite managed to keep up with everything and now I'm going to tear myself away from this computer, go for a swim and then go home. No phone and no computer for a few hours, that can be a double edged sword sometime.

Another take on it all

Check this out, it is the blog of a friend of mine who through no fault of her own has ended up homeless and has been living in her car since June. By a strange coincidence she ended in the Sunday New York Times on, er Sunday and this is an audio file of her being interviewed.

Bit of a different perspective on living out and about .


As some of you will know Unoriginal Ditch Monkey (UDM) aka Scottish Mike will be coming to stay from Easter. This weekend he took his hammock to the woods for the first time; this is what he said.

I went to the woods last night. Lit a fire, drank some tininies with Martin. Put the hammock up and once used to getting in and out found it quite comfortable (until I woke with my arse on the ground). It was good, fresh air, scenery, and quiet. The stars and the quiet were amazing. A full sky emblazened with little dots sparkling amid a silent night. Could have got a special bottle of it and sold it for a fortune.


Last night I ended up not cooking the Thai curry on account of a disparity between the ingredients needed and what I actually had. I was missing cumin, nam plam and coriander root, I could of got away without the fish sauce and the root but it just wasn’t going to happen without cumin. Instead I made a kind of chilli; again it really needed cumin but whatever.

Pork loin, cubed, seasoned and coated with smoked paprika
Shallots, sliced
Chick peas, 1 tin
Kidney beans, 1 tin
Salt pepper
Smoked paprika
Dried coriander powder
Fresh Corriander

Sweat the shallots until soft and then add the pork, increase the heat (put billy can closer to flame) and brown the meat. Add a hearty amount of smoked paprika, coriander powder and tobasco to taste. Add the chick peas and kidney beans (water and all if you are low on water) and simmer for an hour. Serve with freshly chopped coriander served through and some crusty bread on the side. The chick peas are quite dry so it really needed some sour cream or something. It could have done with some rice, my rice came out of its bag; there is a small hole in the side pouch of my rucksack for a couple of days I was highly amused by the fact that I was leaving a small trail of rice wherever I went. When I found I had no rice left I was not so amused.

Good morning

I awoke this morning quite easily at 6, favouring a gentle start I declined the morning chorus’ invitation to rouse myself. So I lay looking up, for once not at the underside of my tarpaulin but at the boughs of the yew tree and the trunks of some half dozen Beeches silhouetted against the lightening sky. Rolling over to face the east I was treated to the sight of the first direct light from the sun cracking white across the horizon. Normally I would lie cut off from such a view closed in by the tarpaulin, the hood of the sleeping bag closed tight across my face and the darkness of the night. Now that spring is here I have cast aside the tarp, perhaps none too wise in light of all the April showers the night so readily provided, and taken a step closer to nature. It was in this spirit that I turned off my radio and let the sound of the bird song wash over me and the minutes gently roll past. A Red Kite sailed overhead as I stretched the sleep from my limbs. It was a slow introduction to the day and by far the nicest I have had for some time.

Sunday, 2 April 2006

Can't be bothered with the boat race, going back to the woods to cook up a Thai pork and caremelised apple curry with a chick pea salad. If it isn't a complete disaster I'll give you the recipe tomorrow.


Just a reminder

21st June is my last night out and if you like the idea of spending a night under the stars, no tents mind, why not go off into the countryside that night and spend the night. You could even raise money for the Woodland Trust by doing so. It would be nice to think that on my last night there were people all over the country spending a night out.

Ah g'wan