Thursday, 15 June 2006

Creature comforts

It's warm by the river the weir keeps us clean
The wood smoke and cigarettes are all that we need.

The Levellers

The first sensation upon waking is usually one of discomfort and if I don’t have to rush away for work it is very easy to lie wallowing in some small amount of self-pity. However, once up the feeling dissipates and the world is a fine place to be. Should there be clean clothes to wear then I find myself feeling on top of the world. The other morning I was up and about before Mike, he was sleeping in his hammock but didn’t look very comfortable. One end was much higher than the other and consequently he was balled up in one end of it, it looked most uncomfortable.

“You’ve tied the hammock up and different heights” I called our cheerily.
“I know, I had to get up in the night and re-tie it” Mike didn’t sound very cheery so I told him that things get better once up but he didn’t even respond to that one. Not even using his gas burner to make tea got him up, I thought it would as the last time I had borrowed it there had been an explosion and this time I made sure I lit it especially close to his hammock.
“Is your hammock flammable?” there was muttering from deep within the cocoon but I couldn’t quite make out what he was saying “you want me to what off?”

Eventually Mike was enticed into getting up, I’m sure my incessant chatter of a general cheery nature is what did it. Since moving to the woods I have gone from being virtually nocturnal to being very much a morning person. Mornings are good and I feel it is my duty to inflict such a view of the world on to Mike. Over a cup of tea he agreed that it was better to get up than stay lying in discomfort, it’s just a bit difficult to persuade yourself to get up sometimes.

After breakfast of Bagels and honey Mike got on with writing the business plan for the travel guide and I went and met a reported from the Daily Mail who was coming out to interview me. It’s necessary to go and meet visitors and show them the way to my home, otherwise people would never find it.

Being interviewed is a curious affair, rather like going on a blind date; meet a stranger, talk about yourself, try to impress, worry in case you come across as an idiot, realise what you should have said after they have gone and then worry about what they are going to say about you. The other thing about interviews is that after the usually questions that every one asks (why, was it cold, why no tent etc) come novel questions and these are often things that I have not thought about but they require an answer. If an Oxford education teaches you nothing else it teaches you how to answer questions on subjects you know nothing about. . The difference with being interviewed though is that the response to an answer I give isn’t met with “have you read any of the reading list?” but is accepted as being accurate. It is quite fun being asked these new questions, it makes me view new angles of this whole experience. I am beginning to have doubts though about one thing that I have been accepting as a truth. I’m beginning to come round to the way of thinking that living in the woods is not necessarily better than living in doors.

Later that day Mike and I had a meeting to discuss the business plan, I’m not sure how usual it is to hold business meetings in the woods whilst frying mushrooms on a gas burner. Before the meeting was declared quorate by didn’t of the number of flies in attendance Mike said that he knew what I meant.
“What I meant by what”
“You know living in the woods, just sitting by a fire, not needing anything else”
It’s true, living a simple life is great, we don’t need half the things that we think we need and I have come to the conclusion over the past few months that life is silly. It strikes me as odd that we spend so much time in pursuit of wealth in order to buy things that ultimately don’t bring happiness just a desire to have more things. Living in the woods is the answer, the antidote to mindless consumption. Apart from anything else I have nowhere to store things so I have been forced to live with little and have found myself happier as a result of it. Then I went to visit Toby.

Toby is a surfer, absolutely impossible to see him as anything else, if you cut him I doubt that he would bleed salt water, he would probably punch you or at least ask why you dinged his arm. I don’t think it’s possible to be more of a surfer than Toby. I went round for dinner, discovered he had moved house and then went to his new house where I discovered he was engaged to the beautiful Marieke. We ate, drank, watched a couple of surf movies and it got late. It would have been very late by the time I got home so I crashed out on a futon. I slept so well; I haven’t slept like that for a very long time – over a year probably. The best way of describing it can be to compare it to eating; it felt as though I was giving my body something it desperately needed. I woke feeling refreshed, like a new person; by the time I had had a shower (running water!), breakfast (fridge, stove, dishwasher!) I felt like a king. Perhaps there is some wisdom to having a house rather than a rucksack. Perhaps it would have been sensible to be moving into a flat rather than into the rainforest. Toby, who is knowledgeable about such things, said that there is good surf in Ecuador, in some places the jungle comes right down to the beach.


jason palmer said...

You may find the chapter on epicurus of some interest, in 'consolations of philosophy' by alain de botton who had the same 'live simply,is cool' ideas.

Also I noted while watching a program based on 'The Last River Rat' about Kenny Salwey that he had a small cabin for sleeping,bad weather but was usually outdoors moving about or sat outside his cabin.

Living rough in moderation ?

Hugh Sawyer said...

I will look out for the book.

Living rough in moderation will probably be the conclusion I take from this. Like most things in life it is all about balancing the diferent requirements. I think an element of luxury whilst not a necessity it certainly a requirement, maybe a solar powered beach shack with a big four poster bed and a fridge would be the way forward.

jason palmer said...

Indeed, though water power maybe more reliable, you can get some amazingly good small water powered generators and can use running water as a kind of fridge.

You need to be not too far from water anyways :)

The only really modern things I want in my future shack are a radio and cd player, as I love music. I should be able to do this via solar recharged AA batteries and radio / cd walkman :)

I have been looking into this stuff for a long time, main thing is to find out what people used before electrics and then add in where its a good idea and where not.

Matthew Coombes said...

You must all be planning on staying single?

jason palmer said...


or finding an eco friendly, nature loving babe :)

Hugh Sawyer said...

For various reasons I decided not to talk about girls on the blog. Mike and I have agreed to carry this rule on over in to Mission Improbable (the jungle thing). We most especially aren't allowed to talk about each other's love life. in some ways this is a shame for it would be the source of much comedy but it would end in tears.

Jason - music. I do miss my stereo (now scatterd over three counties). My vinyl (Greece, Oxford, London, Edinburgh), CDs (Greece, London) Mini discs (London) and decks (under my desk at work). To swap all this for a portable radio alarm was a bit of a blow but it has made me listen to the radio a lot more and so discover a whole new set of music to listen to. I don't often get to the music that I really like but when I do it's invariably somewhere with a very good soundsystem (The End or somewhere) and it's all the better for having been missing from my life for so long.

jason palmer said...

Apart from cds ( which can also be rented from the library ) I am generally a radio 3 type, they do a good evening concert and nightwaves is usually good. You sound like an ideal candidate for an IPOD :)

Your right about less music often being good, as you work in london you could always pop along to concerts after work anyways.