Friday, 30 June 2006

The lasting memory

"Ditch Monkey" by Peter Kavanagh

Thursday, 29 June 2006

Topic of Conversation

Since I have decided to go and live in the Rainforest there is one topic of conversation that comes up where ever I go; dangerous creatures. People now seem to find discussing snakes, spiders, anacondas, malaria infested mosquitoes, creatures that burrow into flesh, millipedes, cockroaches and no end of things with teeth to be something that needs to be done in my company. I think I need some new friends.

Wednesday, 28 June 2006

Fire starter

Photo by Mark Bassett

Tuesday, 27 June 2006

Ok so this isn't entirely over

A couple of nights ago I was visited by a photographer who came out and spent a couple of hours taking photos, the odd thing is that I have kind of got used to this now, anyway one of the things he wanted to be taking shots of was me cooking. Ordinarily this wouldn’t be a problem, I quite like showing off when I’m cooking; maybe not at the last dinner party, some things got a little bit singed – one trout even caught fire but nevertheless cooking is a passion and I like people taking an interest in it. The problem was that I had nothing to cook, so it was decided that a few shots of a blackened billy can hanging from the tripod of hazel sticks into the orange glow of the fire would be good. After a few minutes of messing about with different angles and filters I started to get worried that the pot would melt, there was no water so the only options was to pout in another liquid but which; sloe gin, liquid soap, Talisker or tonic? In went the tonic and it happily bubbled away for a while. Then came the request to be putting something in to the pot, I did have some rice. Some? I have kilos of the stuff so I was happy to pour a load in whilst the flash went off and filters were changed once more. Have you ever cooked rice in tonic water? No? I don’t see why not, it gives off a delicate aroma somewhat reminiscent of cat sick in the sunshine; this isn’t really the smell that you need when being photographed with spoon to mouth and an expression designed to suit the request to “look like you are enjoying it”.

If you have found this site in the kind hope of sponsoring me then please go to that’s very kind of you. If you have just happened across this site then please feel free to give some money to the Woodland Trust if you like.

If you are here looking for all the stuff on the trip to the Jungle and the Travel guide that is at

Thursday, 22 June 2006

Thank you and goodbye

I guess what I'm trying to say is, I don't think you can measure life in terms of years. I think longevity doesn't necessarily have anything to do with happiness. I mean happiness comes from facing challenges and going out on a limb and taking risks. If you're not willing to take a risk for something you really care about, you might as well be dead.

Diane Frolov and Andrew Schneider, Northern Exposure, Northern Lights, 1993

Having people over for dinner is lots of fun, but there a few inherent problems when you live in the woods. For one thing how do people find you? Very specific directions and a trail of bits of what was once a white work shirt tied to branches to guide the way along the twisty route of rabbit tracks to my home is the answer. Having left a trail I set about lighting a fairly large fire that would provide enough embers to barbecue quite a lot of food on and then go on with cooking some new potatoes for a potato salad, and continuing to work on the tomato sauce that I had started the day before. I have been making a lot of tomato sauces recently, I think it is probably because I have only been eating local seasonal food and so I had no tomatoes during the winter and now I am really appreciating them.

The thing with making a good Italian tomato sauce is that it's not really something that can be contained in a recipe, it is very much a matter of adapting to the taste of the tomatoes and not being to restricted by 'rules'. There are thousands of variations but this is the one I made for last night's soiree.

Loads of fresh tomatoes chopped in half
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Clove of garlic

Warm the oil in a pan and add the tomatoes salt and pepper. Cook with the lid off (leaving the lid on will dull the colour and stop the sauce from reducing) stirring occasionally until the tomatoes have broken down. If you have good tomatoes then the sauce would be fine like this. I got mine from Tesco and they weren't great so I added balsamic vinegar, a finely sliced clove of garlic and sugar to cut though the tannin. The trick is to cook over a gentle heat for at least a couple of hours, this way the sauce reduces down and becomes rich and full on flavour. If you have any white wine floating about the place it would be worth splashing a bit in.

Good stirred through pasta, used on pizza or even served with bread, olives, tzatsiki and the like. The other thing is that if you have such new fangled niceties as a fridge or freezer it would be worth making loads extra as it has a multitude of uses, a base for bolognaise for instance.

People arrived all within 10 minutes of each other and we eat and drink and spend a little while sat around a fire talking nonsense without even a radio as a concession to modernity. Really a timeless scene if you think about it, people have been burning fish and fingers over an open fire, getting smoke in their eyes, not being quite comfortable sitting on the ground and tripping over things in the dark for ever. It was a shame when all to soon everyone left to get back to their lives, not least because I then had to go and untie all the bits of shirt from the branches.

There was a fair bit of clearing up to be done, bit's of left over potato, a few burnt bits of meat, that kind of thing. That's one of the good things about living in the woods, biodegradable rubbish can be scattered about the place; not too close to home for fear of encouraging rats. Later on when I heard rustling in the undergrowth where I had thrown the leftover food I quietly made my way back to within view of it and was rewarded with the site of a Badger feasting away. That's the second one I have seen this week, I think they are getting used to me.

So that's it then, a year in the woods is up. Little did I think when I started out what an effect this would have on my life. Never for a minute did I expect that anyone other than my close circle of friends would get to hear about this and I certainly didn't think it would inspire me to quit my job and take off to live in the jungle for a year. I had different plans, very different plans and thought life would be going in a very different direction right now. Among other things on my agenda, but far from the most important, was to become a multi millionaire art dealer, instead of which at the end of this month I'm cunningly leaving my job, career, pension and health care and so becoming both homeless and unemployed. Some might say unemployable. I have no money saved up or any idea how I'm going to pay to store the few possessions I still have but that will not fit into a rucksack. Mike and I are going to Ecuador to try to raise money to protect the Rainforest, I have a ticket to Brazil and Mike has a car so getting there will be challenging. Neither of us has even been to a jungle so we have no idea how we will cope. Mike is scared of Spiders. If you had asked me a year ago when I moved to the woods where I would be in a year’s time I doubt that this is what I would have pictured.

The thing is though that living in such close proximity to nature for so long has led me to realise a few things. They are things that have been said before a thousand times and will no doubt sound a little trite but they have a real resonance. Firstly money can't buy happiness. Secondly the natural world as we know it is on the verge of destruction and it is up to us to do something. Thirdly girls often have unrealistic expectations of personal hygiene for someone who has just spent a few days without running water.

It's game over time to say goodbye and good luck to you all what ever thing it is that you are doing. I would also like to say thank you for all your comments, support, emails, gifts and advice that has come in over the months; it really has made all the difference. Now I have started saying thank you I best get a bit "Oscars" and thank everyone.

I would like to thank my family and friends for not being the slightest bit surprised and for being so forthcoming with the cups of tea and loans of washing machines. I should especially thank Rob for being so scathing in so many interviews and Mark for being inspired to Upshift if this is what downshifting is. A big thank you to Les and Julie at The Leather Bottle in Lewknor for such a warm welcome and for looking out for me. Thank you all those people who have offered me beer, food, showers, and tempted me with comfortable beds along the way. I really should thank my colleagues in Sotheby's for putting up with the mountains of possessions in the filing cabinet, and the constant smell of damp, wood smoke and mould that marks out my corner of the office. The Oxford Tube deserves a mention for often being the most comfortable place I have been in any one day, many was the night in winter when I was tempted just to stay on the bus all night going back and forth between Oxford and London. Samantha Hemmingway deserves a medal for all her hard work in organising the part at The End back in March. I should thank Rowan for passing on the news of this to Anushka at the Observer and Anushka for writing such a good article, if it had not been for them no were near as much money would have been raised.

Most of all I would like to thank everyone who has donated money to the Woodland Trust.

Further adventures, including Neph and I attempting to walk 85 miles in 48 hours followed by my attempt to do the walk in 24 hours and of course the build up to Mission Improbable (the trip to the jungle) can be read by going to clicking on Mission Improbable and then Preparation.

It's been real.


Bit of a late night last night, few people over for dinner, much fun. Clearing alway any left over food was easy enough - take it a small distance from home and throw it into the undergrowth for the animals. As a result I managed to see a Badger last night, that's the second one this week.

I have a question, does anyone know the easiest / cheapest way to get to Ecuador from Rio de Janeiro? A quick look at a map of the world suggests that walking is out of the question.

Wednesday, 21 June 2006


I have been so busy rushing about doing stuff I almost forgot to write on this, the official last day of the year in the woods. Crikey! I’ve done it. It’s been a year; I have just spent a year living in the woods. What a very very odd thing to do.So tonight a couple of friends are coming over for a bite to eat, trout, a tomato sauce, new potato salad in a lemon and olive oil dressing and a bit of traditional barbecue fayre; black sausages, chicken, bread. It’s a shame that tonight is a work night as lots of people can’t make it out tonight; maybe they are just scared of the sloe gin.

I feel as though I should have something profound to say, I’m not sure I have enough depth of character to come up with something profound but maybe I should share a thought that I had with you. I have been mulling over whether to write about this for a while now but have always put it off as I think it will make me sound weird. Then again what does it matter, my family and friends, those close to me, already know that I am weird so why shouldn’t you.

I have mentioned before that when I was in America last year I went to the monument to Crazy Horse being carved out of the mountain just around the corner from Mount Rushmore. The blog that I wrote at the time could be read by clicking here. So basically some guy with a shovel, vision and a bunch of enthusiasm took on a mountain and won, seeing this really had an effect on me at the time and it got me to thinking that if one man can move a mountain then a society could change the world. It is my view that there is enough will power in the UK at the moment to do exactly that, it’s time to stop thinking that the state of the world is someone else’s responsibitly because the cold truth of the matter is that if we don’t do something no one else will. Lets replant the rainforest.

See I told you I was weird.

It will be possible to follow the progress of Mission Improbable (Trip to live in the jungle) at I can't shake the idea that I should maybe have told Mike that the idea was to replant the whole forest not just a part of it, he'll be up for it I'm sure - he bought a small shovel the other day, just the thing for planting trees.

remember they laughed at the Nolan Sisters, the Wright Brothers, they laughed at the Wright Brothers.

Tuesday, 20 June 2006

Gin Trap

So it seems as though I have libelled Rob, he has not evaporated off vast quantities of Sloe Gin, it was all there at his new flat when I went over last night. We thought we better taste it to see what it was like, three bottles three completely separate tastes, I didn’t follow a recipe I just put various quantities of sloes, gin and sugar into bottles and then left them. At one point I ran out of Caster sugar and moved on to Demerara. I have no idea which bottle was which, it is easy enough to tell which bottle didn’t have enough sugar in it though, that one makes teeth feel furry when drunk. The curious thing is that one bottle of gin has no sloes in it at all, Rob and I mulled that one over for quite some time but neither of us could come up with an explanation. Stranger still it doesn’t taste like gin and it has gone a kind of golden brown colour, it is almost as though someone had poured Demerara into the bottle and then couldn’t be bothered to put all those fiddly little sloes in so had just poured the gin back in and left the bottle under the cupboard; surely that can’t be the explanation.

Rob lives very close to two very good clubs, just around the corner from lots of cool bars, twenty minutes from his work and not only has walls, floorboards, electricity, running water and a lack of mosquitoes but also has a cleaner that comes in to keep the place clean. Best of all he lives in the same area as lots of friends. I did have a small moment of coveting my mates flat, somehow sleeping on the ground miles from any one I know whilst constantly being grubby lost its lustre in the comparison to such a place. Not that I’m regretting not moving back into a house at the moment, I’m sure a year in the jungle will be luxurious beyond any comparison.

Monday, 19 June 2006


This week I are mostly living off rice cooked with a stock cube, nettles and burdock roots.

Someone got a little carried away with the going out for dinner this month and is now having to live a little frugally till the end of the month.


Boy am I glad to be back at work


Eric Cartmen

I read in the Times on Saturday that this blog has a cult following. That would make me Keith Moon and you lot the Moonies right? I have always wanted a cult, although cult is such an ugly word, I prefer Misunderstood Religious Organisation Who Actually Will Save The World And Your Soul And Make You More Attractive To The Opposite Sex And Stuff; this is a rather clever acronym MROWAWSTWAYSAMYMATTOSAS.

All members of MROWAWSTWAYSAMYMATTOSAS need to do is place 80% of their income into my Swiss bank account and sign over all rights to everything you own to me. Now this is for your own good, you can’t go finding enlightenment by having stuff, what you need to do is to go and live in the woods and eat nettles not gallivant about the place buying things. I, at great personal cost, will look after all your money by investing it in a mansion on the beach in Hawaii, and will live in it to make sure no one steels it. Just to be extra safe I will have a crack team of bodyguards (Swedish National Bikini Team) on hand heavily armed with bottles of champagne in case evil doers need fighting off. Look what I do for you, I think I deserve a Blue Peter badge me.

Oh and if the FBI come looking - "you ain't seen me, right?"

Friday, 16 June 2006

A walk in the country

I saw the first ladybird of the year the other day; a bright red Tonka truck beastie making it's way through the jungle of short grass at an amazing speed with it's little legs piston-ing twenty to the dozen from out of the sides of it's armored shell. Zooming it was, positively zooming along taking all obstacles at maximum speed like one of the minis in the Italian Job (the original of course not the dodgy remake). Five black spots on it's back and three white on it's face but where was it going? What can one patch of grass offer that another can't? Up one blade of grass, down the underside, this jaggedy landscape of the ladybird is like something from a Tim Burton film, our rules just don't apply, across a thistle, rolling with the flow, across down up round. The most curious thing was that whatever obstacle presented itself the lil critter would take it at full pelt and never deviate from it's overall direction, just a little to the left of the sun was where she would end up given enough time, nothing could stop it. Until that is it got to my shoelace then there was a one hundred and eighty degree turn a run up to the top of the nearest seed baring grass stem (those being the longest), spotty wing casing opened there was a brief blur of wings and it was up and away on the wind, a rapidly disappearing red dot in the air. I know my trainers are old and that I should really get some new ones but that is just rude.

Feeling a little disgruntled I continued my walk and almost immediately was distracted by two butterflies with electric blue wings dancing briefly together in the wind before one landed on a flower to my left. Opening it's wings in the sunlight briefly revealed them to be edged with almost luminescent blue before it fluttered off again as a result of my shadow falling across it. Out of the heat of the sun and into the cool of the woods it was three fat bubble bees buzzing busily in the undergrowth that caught my eye. Being on holiday I had time to stop and watch them for a while and I was rather glad I did as the flowers that attracted them were the flowers of a reasonably sized wild raspberry plant. I will be keeping an eye on that patch. All around the woods and hedgerows are full of the promise of nature's bounty to come, raspberries, strawberries, sloes, blackberries, hazelnuts, damsons, beech nuts, all this to come.
Walking on a little I must have disturbed a deer as there was a flash in the distance and the sound of something large crashing off through the undergrowth. Overhead a squirrel leaps gracefully from branch to branch, and away. Here there are dog rose pastel pink with butter yellow pollen hanging thickly in the middle, over there the flowers draped across the lower branches of a yew tree are white. Next a few meters beside the path is heavy with pink campion and goose-grass then the wide open leaves of a burdock which is appropriately enough bordered by some dandelions. Then buttercups, saplings, various grasses locked into a struggle for survival as they race for the light. Bellow them all last years fallen leaves and dead stems slowly decomposing bringing life to the future generations of plants that rise to take their place in the never ending cycle of nature. This is life in the woods, the fragile balance of life, death and rebirth; autumn follows summer follows spring follows winter and so it goes on. This is were the money that you donate to the Woodland Trust by sponsoring me goes . So far £4,400 has been donated and that's about four and a half acres of woodland that the Trust can now protect. Four and a half acres is quite a lot, but if you think about it in terms of the size of this country and also consider the fact that once upon a time the whole place was wild it is not a huge amount. If you consider also the amount of harm that each and everyone of us does to the planet through our waste materials, use of natural resources and polluting journeys then you might well be tempted to give a little back to try to offset this harm. If you are so minded might I ask you to give a little to the Woodland Trust to protect the environment we have on our own doorsteps.

You can do so either by sponsoring me by clicking here

or go directly to the Woodland Trust by clicking here.

Shameless plug

So today we launch Be The Jam, the travel guide that Mike and I hope will help finance our trip to live in the Jungle. I'm really excited by this, we have some really interesting people writing for us and we fully intend to expand rapidly so if you would like to write for us please let us know. Who knows one day we might even be able to pay you? There is a bit of swearing and talk of drink, drugs, sex and all the sorts of things people get up to on holiday so if you find such things offensive you may wish not to take a look. The section that Mike and I will be writing about our time in the jungle; Mission Improbable, will be free from all such things, we just thought we should give people the freedom to tell it like it is.

Might I suggest that you have a look at Toby's entries under “Sailing from Indonesia to the UK”, the journey is incredible it is indeed an adventure beyond anything I would ever imagine experiencing, truly amazing things happened on the trip. Fortunately Toby kept a diary along the way and he will be publishing it day by day in real time.
So pop on over to


ARGH! I have lots to write and not nearly enough time to do it in. Best not waist my time writing about how I don't have enough time to write then.
First up – a bit of a reminder. The 21st is both the Summer Solstice and my official stopping date and it is also the night of The Great Big Sleep Out (TGBSO), that's where you lot get to go and sleep out for the night. Take friends, loved ones (or leave them at home and take some friends and a bottle of gin), picnics and plenty of tea and head to the hills and gardens to appreciate the wonder of the natural world. I have a couple of friends coming over for a champagne breakfast, just the way to watch a sunrise I feel. So please do head to the hills, maybe even get sponsored to do so and give the money to the Woodland Trust.
People are going to be sleeping out all over the world, it's true! Well not all over the world just in bits of it, and I would love to hear your stories after the event.

What else?
Mike has decided that he needs a different nickname than Scottish Mike, we have been having a bit of a heated debate about whether he should be called Danger Mike or Mike Dangerous. Which do you think?

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.

Tuesday, 13 June 2006

Photo from last autumn

This was from last autumn, just about the time that it started getting dark in the evening I was trying to figure out how to get light. That's two candles with the light being reflected off two empty boil in the bag camping meal container stuck on t tent pegs. Things have changed, now I have a head torch and I don't eat boil in the bag camping meals any more.

Not that my new improved candle and boil in the bag free existence is free from danger. Last night I discovered that strenuous activity necessitating breathing through the mouth whilst wearing a head torch is not something that should be undertaken lightly during the summer months. The problem is that moths are attracted to the light and having them flitting around my face whilst gasping for breath isn't great - they taste horrid.

Bit of a party in Oxford

Neph, him of the interesting music collection, has organised this fundraising party and by pure collection it is the day after I finish work at Sotheby's. Promises to be a belter.

Monday, 12 June 2006


In case you are interested I did manage to successfully capture the sweet aroma of elderflower in water and add it to rhubarb. Elderflower is not a flavour that can be said to go well with rhubarb.

Summer appears to be here, it kind of snuck up on me whilst I was out celebrating the arival of spring.

I spent most of Saturday in Oxford working and getting supplies of food for the next few days, in fact the supplies only lasted a day and a half, I forget that food lasts so short a time when living outside. A pasta with a few big fat English tomatoes cooked with olive oil and plenty of salt and pepper and a barbecued duck breast under the shade of the trees really got my weekend back on track after the heat and hecticness of town. The flavour of fresh local tomatoes is fantastic, well worth waiting for them to come into season.

Having run out of water it was necessary to walk the half mile or so to the stream to get some more. It being hot and summer I went bare foot, treading gingerly to avoid sharp stones and thorns, barefoot huhn? Well one needs to take this devolution thing seriously. I found myself lulled by the beauty of the surroundings and the warm weather into taking the scenic route home and taking a swing over the hill I lived on for a while last summer, the hill on which I woke at dawn on the solstice last year to find myself being watched by a fawn. Leaving the shade of the trees the heat hit washed over me and I was once again struck by the splendour of the view from up there. Stretching out before me like a proverbial patchwork quilt lay Oxfordshire, snaking through the middle of fields, woodlands and sleepy villages runs the every busy motorway taking busy people to and from London, not me though. I'm content to sit and watch the modern world rushing to and fro on business and pleasure whilst surrounded by the best of the countryside.

The top of the chalk hill is covered in short grass that has never been cultivated, grazed occasionally but that is all. Occasional seed heads stick above the level of the level of the grass softly swaying in the breeze. The whole area is interspersed with mounds, ant's nests I assume, and the occasional rabbit burrow. Thousands of yellow flowers cover the hill top giving the place a warm golden glow. Sitting amongst them, having adjusted a couple of time so as not to be sitting on a thistle I looked out towards Oxford and felt glad that for today at least I was not taking part in the hectic rush along the motorway, well not apart from the trip into Oxford and back. The air smelt somewhat familiar, like the mountains in Greece; the heady scent of Oregano. Focusing more closely on the ground around me I spotted a large number of small purple flower buds covered in tiny pinky purple flowers. Without thinking I picked and ate one, it tasted of Oregano, so did the next. I think I shall make a Greek Salad sometime soon. In the mean time the next tomato sauce I make I shall pick and add some of this wild Oregano (if that is what it is). It might well even be a good idea to pick some and dry some for the winter.
Eating seasonal produce is excellent, or at least it is at the moment; ever week it seems that there is some new long awaited delight in the market, not only that but as if by magic the food on offer really goes with the season, strange that. On Saturday the market brought forth broad beans, I have never been very fond of broad beans, when I was young my parents and I used to have issues regarding them and I still treat them with suspicion. I bought some anyway. It turned out to be a bit premature as the beans were tiny in their protective pods of duvet softness but they brought with the promise of things to come.

Saturday, 10 June 2006

Home Sweet Home

Photo by James Rudman

I'm off on me Holls.

That's me digging out charcoal back in the early spring, now the whole area is covered in bright green leaves. Photo courtesy of James Rudman

So it's nearly at an end and life seems to be getting pretty hectic right now. However, I'm off on holiday this week so I'm going to be working my way down to the south coast to find a ditch to call my own for a few days and possibly somewhere to live once I quit work at the end of the month. Perfect weather for it.

Tonight I'm going to try a bit of experimental cookery, I hope it works.

Heat an espresso cup worth of water and stir in a goodly quality of honey (local and organic if possible), in this steep a couple of handfuls of elderflowers and allow to cool. Strain (no idea how I'm going to do this yet - an old sock doesn't sound appealing in the slightest) and use the water to stew a massive great load of rhubarb. Allow to cool (should let the flavour of the elderflowers come out) and stir through with a carton on single cream.

Sounds good but I'm a bit suspicious that I may end up with more of the flavour of elder stalks than elder flower. If I'm found dead perhaps it would be wise to give this pudding a miss.

Right well it's lovely out there and this whole project is about saving trees and woodlands so I best go and appreciate them - I suggest you do so as well. The woods are plenty shaded and peacefull, much more fun than sitting in front of a computer.

Travel guide launches next week but take a peek if you like

Friday, 9 June 2006

More sleep

Last night it was nearly nine by time I got back home and yet it was still light and warm, a distinct advantage over dark and cold. It was also dry, I like dry, dry is good. Wet is ok but it gets a little tiresome after a while. A warm breeze gently stirred the overhanging leaves along the avenue of beach trees along the Ridgeway bringing with it the sweet aroma of elderflowers. The peacefulness of the gently swaying waist height corn in the field started to slow my mind that was racing from a hectic day, a few birds wheeling lazily in the sky as the last of the sun dripped red from the sky, collecting on the horizon promising another good day to come.

Not having my rucksack with me due to needing to rest my shoulder can be a little problematic, I carry it with me because it is full of things that I need. I can get by with just what I have in my pockets but it’s not that much fun although I find I can get an awful lot in my pockets. I strolled the last of the way through the woods and dug out the emergency sleeping bag, fortunately I had managed to dry it out over the weekend so sleeping in it was a much more appealing prospect than the last time I wanted to use. It had become a little musty again though, must can be quite an overpowering smell but one that it is possible to get used to after a while.

Quite recently I discovered a combination of clothes that if folded together can create a rather comfortable pillow. Jeans and a hoodie are not that combination it was, however, the only option. After about an hour or so of not being able to sleep I decided that being uncomfortable was the deciding factor and decided to do something about it. It was a warm night, about 11 degrees C, and so it should be possible to sleep in my clothes and use the sleeping bag as a pillow. This wasn’t much more comfortable as the pockets of my jeans were stuffed full of useful things and therefore were a bit lumpy to lie on but this was nothing that scooping great handfuls of flotsam and casting it about me wouldn’t cure.

It wasn’t as warm as I had thought when I woke I found that I had somehow wriggled back into the sleeping bag and was using a root from the yew tree as a non to comfortable pillow. One of the things that I had taken out of my pocket was a pen, in taking the pen out of the pocket I had also taken the lid off. I had then slept on the pen without the lid thus getting ink all over the last of my relatively clean clothes. They were also the only clothes that I had, not ideal when the first thing I had to do was to meet a photographer who was coming out to take some photos for the Observer.

Thursday, 8 June 2006

An invention

I invented something, I’m dead pleased best of all it works! I have invented things in the past, mostly excuses, but none of them worked, at least not for long. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone else invented the same thing before so it might turn out that I’m not an inventor but more of a re-discoverer but nevertheless I’m rather happy with my work.

I am now the proud owner / creator of a fire with temperature control.

First make a tripod out of three four foot lengths of hazel and tying them together with an old boot lace about three foot along the length. Open the tripod out and put it over the fire so that any thing dangled from the middle of the tripod would dangle over / into the fire.

Stick a tent peg into the ground about a hand’s width out from one of the hazel branches. Take a length of paracord and attach a hook or tie a loop in one end. Tie the other end to the tent peg but, and this is what I call the clever bit, use one of those knots that get used for tying guy ropes. This Knot is adjustable so when the end of the cord with the hook / loop is dangled over the fire with a cooking pot hanging from it the pot can be lowered or raised with very little effort.

Who needs sleep?

Mostly not having any form of water supply is annoying, running water is a good thing to have. I believe I have authority to say this having spent a lot of time over the last year without water to drink or keep clean with. Having to walk for a mile or so to get it and then only bringing back a few litres at a time is very annoying, especially if such activity coincides with a massive hangover. There are some advantages about not living close to a water source, for one thing I have got very good at conserving water and should I live in a house again, when, when I live in a house again, I imagine I will have very low water bills. A much more immediate advantage of being far from a water source when living outside is that mosquitoes tend not to travel more than 200 meters from water, or so I was led to believe. The mosquitoes that were buzzing around my head at four o’clock this morning obviously had not been led to believe any such thing. I was far too tired, warm and comfortable to get up, dig out my insect repellent, smother myself in it and go back to bed. Instead I contented my self with listening to their incessant whine with increasing frustration only punctuated by occasionally slapping myself in the face in the vain hope of squashing one of the blighters. Eventually it occurred to me that the best thing to do would be to just let them feed and worry about the bites later.

It is now later, with retrospect it would have been better to get up and get busy with the repellent. It would have been a good idea to stay up, that way I could have caught an earlier bus, not that there was any particular need to get to work early today but at least I would not have had to sit behind that minging couple with the combined IQ of half a jelly fish who took great delight in talking loudly about their sex life whilst I was trying to read. It wasn’t so bad, after half an hour a seat became free further down the bus I found myself settling in to have the phone conversation of the slack jawed idiot behind me was having inflicted on me. I was hugely tempted to punch him but, being English, contented myself with sighing loudly and sharing disapproving glances with the lady across the aisle. Why is it that people feel the need to talk on their phones all the time on the bus? What is wrong with people? Are they afraid of their own thoughts, are they that insecure that they have to have loud phone calls with plenty of banter in the hope that all around people will think they are popular?

I find I think a lot more clearly when I haven’t had much sleep and I don’t find myself having to be concerned with such things as tolerance.

Wednesday, 7 June 2006

Civilisation of sorts

Life is doing that being hectic thing again. Currently it is zooming along at a thousand miles an hour; I never imagined that living in the woods would make life more hectic. I somehow imagined it would be all lazing by the fire, watching the stars and all that kind of thing. What with, writing the blog and trying to organise the trip to Ecuador and attempting to start three, it was three at the last count anyway, businesses in the hope that one of them will finance the trip life has got pretty busy. Now that the end of the year is here I’m starting to get lots of requests for interviews and dealing with them is taking up yet more time. Oh and I have a job, that is pretty busy at the moment as well. So time is of a premium at the moment, I hardly get a moment and unfortunately I haven’t been able to keep writing as much as I would have liked to of late.

Key events

Went to collect Sloe Gin from Rob, found not a lot of Sloe Gin left, that which there was is absolutely lethal.

Due to my working out of town on Monday and Tuesday work put me up in a hotel on Monday night, apart from the place being rather dirty and unkempt it was surprisingly nice to sleep in a bed; a four poster no less. I was delighted to discover that ‘Have I Got News For You’ was on as this is my favourite program, better yet it was being presented by Jeremy Clarkson who is the presenter of my second favourite program. I got myself as comfortable as it is possible to be on a four poster bed (that’s pretty comfortable) and entertained myself by not only watching the program but by turning the volume up and down via remote control! I fell asleep before I got the chance to use the electric kettle but not before I had had a long relaxing bath. By morning I felt like a new person, as though the bath and bed had conspired to wash away months of grime and hard living. I think the lie in until 7:30 also helped with my sense of well being. Having a shower before getting dressed was rather a nice change, as was having breakfast before I left for work. Getting to work and not having to go and get a shower before getting changed and eating breakfast at my desk was also a pleasure.

This morning I woke to the first pink light of the rising sun at around about five and lay there watching it for a while feeling uncomfortable and generally unhappy with my lot in life. An hour and a half later when I woke up again I didn’t have time to feel sorry for myself, I had 10 minutes to get up get dressed, and run to the bus. Due to my injured shoulder I’m not carrying my rucksack about at the moment and for the last week I have been wearing trainers rather than big heavy boots for the first time in a year. For the first time in my life running was fun. Leaping over fallen tree trunks, ducking under branches avoiding trampling flowers, vaulting fences (perhaps stopping to catch my breath before clambering over fences would be closer to the truth). I got to the bus stop just as the bus arrived, which is the best time to arrive, feeling invigorated and happy. Life was good again, especially as there was hardly anyone on the bus and so there was a glut of complimentary bacon sandwiches.

Sunday, 4 June 2006

Shut that door

I had never realised just how much an impact television had on my poor young impressionable eyes until recently, today if you like. It seems that the combination of TV and Japanese food can have a terrible impact on ones view of the world.

When I was young the major TV program on a Saturday just before bedtime was The Generation Game, a show infamous for its conveyer built full to the brim with desirable consumer goods. Such an impact that show had on the collective consciousness of the nation that it is still referred back to in sketch shows today. At least it was a year ago when I last had a television to watch. It is hardly possible to mention the words cuddly toy without picturing grainy images of Larry Grayson and bemused contestants resplendent in kipper ties and extra wide lapels. Ultimately it was that conveyer belt full of oh so desirable goods that I now realise had such a lasting effect upon me. It wouldn’t have been so bad if it had just been The Generation Game, but it was more than that, my skewed view of the world was reinforced by a recent trip to Yo Sushi. Have you been? It’s that Japanese style sushi bar where all the food goes round and round on a conveyer built and you take of what you fancy and pay for what you had at the end. Like the generation game but no cuddly toy.

So this afternoon I decided to go for a walk to the University Parks in Oxford, just the thing for a sunny Sunday afternoon. It’s all blue sky, happy people, punts, ducks and picnics. Nothing could be better. Imagine my amazement when upon reaching the park I find that the main path has been cordoned off with pink bunting and there are hundreds of girls walking and running as though displayed on one large conveyer belt. Better yet each and every one of them had a number on her front. Having made my selection, and a couple of back ups just in case my selection had gone by the time I made it to the big marquee that appeared to be at the centre of things.

Apparently I’m not funny.


Summer is here, summer is nice, very nice indeed. Yesterday I spent the entire day lying under a tree. Occasionally I drank tea, I read a bit, listened to the radio and generally had an absolutely brilliant day. It couldn't get much better, the odd thing is that people often say that it must be boring. Going to work is boring, day time TV is boring lazing about doing nothing isn't, I might possibly even be able to create and argument that it is an art form but the sun is shining and I'm not wishing to stay in this internet cafe all day.

So it's 17 days until my official last night and also 17 days till the great big sleep out (GBSO) for the uninitiated that is my invitation to you lot to take to the hills, woods or back gardens of your lives and spend a night under the stars.

This morning was rather agreeable, I woke late and took breakfast of scrambled eggs, toast and tea. Admitedly the tea was rather milker than I would have liked on account of having run out of water the day before but other than that it was a fine way to breakfast. It was only when I was clearing up that I got the fear. Inside the egg cartod writen clearly in black on green I read the following words "These free range eggs are both delicious and nutritious", I have been in a constant state of barely controlled anxiety ever since.

My shoulder seems fine, resting it, not carrying a big heavy rucksack all day, is going very well as well. It is most enjoyable. I did climb a couple of trees though and that did put a bit of strain on it but the choice was between putting a bit of strain on it and falling out.

Friday, 2 June 2006

Mwa ha ha

Being green can be fun, especially if you are slightly mischievous. The cafĂ© at work gives out those cardboard rings around cups of takeaway tea and coffee; you know the ones that stop people from burning their fingers on the cups. Well they recycle them and to encourage people to bring them back they give a free drink upon the return of a handful of them, all good stuff. Only thing is I’m collecting them and I think I have got at least half of the ones in the building. My reasoning is that if I have enough of them then the value of them will go up, I’m waiting until they double in value, when half a handful of paper hoops are worth a drink I’m going to trade mine in, quickly. Sure the bottom will have fallen out of the market, it could cause a recession and a lack of confidence in the market that could take years to recover from but it doesn’t bother me. I will have doubled my money and I’m leaving at the end of the month.

A friend of mine is a metal trader; well he is on his way to being a metal trader. A while back he looked at his computer screen and realised that he had done something really stupid and had just lost half a million pounds. He couldn’t quite bring himself to mention it but spent the next half an hour staring ashen faced at the screen wishing it not to be true. After fifteen minutes he realised that it wasn’t true, his maths was off, he had actually just done something really clever and he was up half a million pounds. After another fifteen minutes that involved minor cavorting and a feeling of general well being resultant upon not just being out of trouble but also being half a million up on the morning he looked at his sums again. It turned out that he hadn’t done anything at all and things were just as they should be.

Maybe he will invest in my cardboard hoops scheme.

Midnight feast

I got back late the other night, late and hungry. I did a quick stock take of my food supplies and discovered that there was no way I was going to go hungry; 10 kilos of rice, four tomatoes, a cabbage and a kilo of rhubarb should be enough food to get through the night. Would it be possible to cook anything edible though? Certainly the ratio of rice to anything else, even everything else, was not favourable. I settled for putting on a portion of basmati; that would give me a few minutes to decide what to have with it. Rice and cabbage? Nah.

In the end I made something that was really nice, I was very surprised.

Heat some olive oil, quite a few drops of tobasco and a finely sliced clove of garlic in a frying pan / pie tin.
Add four chopped up tomatoes.
Sprinkle liberally with parmesan; think about it for a bit then sprinkle liberally again.
If the tomatoes look in danger of not being cooked by the time the rice is add a few twigs to the fire to make it flare up.
Add salt and pepper to taste.

It made a really nice spicy tomato sauce that complimented the rice nicely.

Bit tired at the moment so whilst I have a lot of things that I would like to write about my brain seems to have atriphee atrafied atriphe brokne. Hmmm Broken. My brain needs sleep, that's the one.

As for the shoulder, it's fine I just need to rest it in case there is something wrong with it. Find out if anything is wrong next Friday, in the mean time I'm enjoying not carrying stuff about all the time. I'm quite energetic what with not carrying lots of weight and having trainers on, it's a lot of fun.

What else is happening?

Lots of newspapers and TV stations want to interview me. I'm not sure why, they seem to think I will have something insightful to say. What have I learnt?

Living in the woods is fun but hard work.
Working in London is easy but not fun.
Working in London costs more than it seems possible to earn.
Life is better without having to be constantly worrying about, buying, looking after, storing or wanting more possessions.
Nothing matters.
All you really need is a bit of food and some shelter.
Friends and family are good.
Life is for living not spending watching other people's on TV.
People spend far to much time trying to fill the gaps in their lives through the acquisition of needless possession, the gap they are trying to fill is the one caused by spending all the time in pursuit of possessions.
Things don't make you happy, except for maybe a Supersports Bike and a pocket full of plane tickets.
It is a rat race
I aint a rat.

Crumbs I sound pretentious.

Thursday, 1 June 2006


It appears that I have partially dislocated my left shoulder; well I’m not sure that I dislocated it I had a bit of help from Tom and a concrete floor. The result of this is that I have to rest my shoulder for a bit whilst I wait to see another doctor to find out if there is any damage that needs “treatment” I don’t like the sound of that, “treatment”, bit of an ominous word. I would have rather to have been told I needed to see another doctor to see if my shoulder needed to go on holiday, never mind. The problem is that I need to rest it, not easy to rest a shoulder when ones lifestyle necessitates carrying about the place a rucksack that weighs roughly as much as a mini full of lead.

I have hidden my rucksack in a tree, getting it in the tree without pushing with my left arm was interesting; I ended up getting cross with it and using my left arm anyway. Once I had said “ow” I was ready to head off to work, not carrying the pack I didn’t need to be wearing boots to give my ankles support against falling over. Walking about without a rucksack and wearing trainers is excellent, it felt as though I was flying when I ran for the bus, until my lungs started to explode that is. Once in London there is a 20 minute walk to the office, as I gleefully bounced along I tried to figure out how to explain how good it felt to be walking unencumbered, the best I could come up with was that it felt as though I was getting a very good shoulder massage whilst someone, probably a few people, girls, pretty ones, threw rose petals in my path.