Friday, 26 December 2008

Cool Yule

This morning my brain feels very well connected to my body and that is something of a shame. If it were not then I might be spared the churning stomach, pulsating head and generally over indulged feeling that plagues my freshly awakened senses. It is boxing day, Christmas is over and save for a few new year festivities we are over the hump. Life can start to return to normal and I can start making new plans for the forthcoming year. I have quite a few plans blossoming in my withered brain and I should be back up to full power in no time.

There are quite a few people booked to come to the camp site on New years eve so TLB and I have taken it upon ourselves to bulk up their numbers. We will have fireworks, a BBQ, loads more brain rotting booze and a few good friends joining us, it should be a very good night and anyone feeling a little hardy would be most welcome. To be honest it has been incredibly mild so camping should not be a strain at all, a thick jumper and a good sleeping bag should be all that are required.

TLB is away for a couple of days this week as she is hoping to secure her new role as fossil queen of the UK. The job is based in the west country and is accompanied by a free house. It is too far to commute on a daily basis so we have been discussing the options should it all come together. Part of me is really quite disappointed that our camping odyssey may be cut short through the arrival of a pesky free house but if it means that TLB has a chance to thrive then it can only be a good thing. It is also rather good for the purposes of saving money, being cheaper than living in a tent, if such a thing is possible.

I am going to angle to work from home for a day or two a week and then camp and sofa surf for the evenings I am going to be required to be in the vicinity of work. We shall see, suffice to say my adventures are far from over.

As of the 1st of January, the company policy regarding non essential company car users is changing and at the expiry of the current lease, we will be required to hand the car back and have a car allowance instead. It would appear that the Lexus' days are numbered. I have opted to return the car as soon as possible as the combined relief from tax and the generous car allowance would make quite a difference to my monthly income, a Lexus is a nice if you like that sort of thing but it keeps getting stuck when off road and has all sorts of practical limitations, I cannot fit my bicycle into it, I cannot sleep in it should I want to and other annoyances.

I have been considering my next vehicle move and have been feeling myself irresistably drawn towards land rovers. For many years I have poured scorn onto the owners of SUV's, considering it to be much more of an image based decision than a practical one. In my former house, a school laid between myself and the main road each morning and a fleet of seven stone women in seven ton trucks used to play bumper cars up my road in order to deliver their precious offspring for the day.

It would appear that the seething resentment that I had for these creatures is now to be turned upon myself as a large landrover would provide me with a place to sleep during my weekly attendance at work, would allow me to permanently keep my bicycle with me and would last pretty much forever. It would probably also provide me with a chance to use the welding skills that I hope to acquire in the new year! It would go off road and it would play very well to my sense of adventure so I intend to take a test drive in the coming days to see if the sloth, discomfort and lack of sparkly buttons would be acceptable.

It would appear that the new year will be ushering in plenty of change, TLB and I have resolved that we are going to have a big party in the new year once everyone is recovered from Christmas and the spring starts to creep in. As a perfect opposite to the camping party that we had in my old house, we have decided to have a black tie coctail party in a field. More details of that to come when we have banished the post Christmas malaise. In the meantime, a very happy Christmas to you all and a merry new year.

Monday, 15 December 2008


Camping is often referred to as getting back to nature. I am not sure if people mean that it represents a communing with the ways of our ancestors, honouring the ancient behaviours of huddling around fires and sleeping in the open or whether it is to do with our proximity to spiders and other bits of nature. Both are accurate and since I started living in a tent I do feel a lot closer to nature in every sense. For some reason this makes me very happy, even tonight on a cold winter evening, surrounded by spiders, I am feeling quite perky.

Through my life I have had a few notable experiences that have immersed me in a feeling of utter joy, chance happenings that have made me feel euphoric, ecstatic beyond reason and utterly overwhelmed with emotion. I am a pretty level headed chap most of the time so these incidents stay in my mind. The catalysts to these states of mind are various but the ones that instantly spring to mind are sexual, musical and natural experiences.

One instant that I will remember to my dying day was when I was about 17 years old, I took my video camera out onto the moors where I lived, it was about 5 in the morning and I intended to film the sunrise. I set up the camera on a tripod, sat back and awaited the appearance of the sun. As it rose I found myself feeling incredibly small and was overwhelmed with the power and majesty of the enormous glowing orb before me. I remember laughing uncontrollably and saying aloud to myself, 'everything is going to be alright.' I knew to my core that no matter what happened in my life that the sun would keep on rising and falling and any trivial fears and aspirations I had meant nothing. The thing that I remember most was the feeling of connectedness, that I was only a tiny part of this huge universe but an important one nonetheless. An eye of nature looking back at itself with love.

Without wishing to get carried away, I have rarely experienced anything so powerful. A few other experiences are comparable, the intimacy that one feels whilst making love to someone you care about, the rippling cheer of an enraptured crowd or a deep immersion into the vibrations of music. These are the things that not only make us feel happy but make us feel fulfilled, connected to the world and all it's beauty.

It can't be bought, it can't be drunk or injected, it can't be given or taken. It is in all of us all of the time and only one thing can make us feel it. Nature. Be it an insight into our own nature or a connection to the earth, it is the realisation that we are all one entity, made out of the same stuff, endlessly feeding back on ourselves to greater levels of complexity. If you accept that, then how could you wish to harm another? When I look back on my life, it has been the sole source of solace in what can seem like a cruel world, the only reason that I have any faith in mankind and the only real way to experience uncomplicated joy.

The reason that I am writing about this is because in the last week whilst I have been on holiday I have felt this connectedness to TLB, my family and friends, the dog, the earth. It has reminded me that despite all of the evil in the world there is an overwhelming power that cannot be taken away by greedy banks and fraudulent governments, it is much bigger than them. That power is the power of Chuck Norris.

Erm, no, sorry, it's not Chuck, it is Love. As Captain Beefheart so sagely sang, 'the stars up above are running on love' and the more people realise it, the less likely we all are to end up, remortgaging our children to pay for our ipods. Life is simple and getting back to nature would do us all a lot of good. Buy a tent, you won't regret it.

Back from Holiday

Sorry for the lack of posts in the last week but we have been on holiday. We made it our mission for the week to take in some of the finest views available to man from around the west country, we spent the first half of the week on Exmoor and were very pleased to be able to upgrade from the tent to a shed in my fathers garden. When I say a shed, it is actually a wood panelled out house full of carpets and paintings with a glorious view of the sea, from which we could stage our various ascents up the hills in the area. The only notable failure was from the top of Dunkery Beacon where we found ourselves shrouded in cloud for our whole visit, other than that it was a most uplifting visit.

The second half of the week was spent visiting our mothers, reassuring them as to our well being and catching up on the gossip. It surprised me how much I have adapted to living in a tent in a relatively short time. Seemingly trivial things like taps and power sockets were amongst the most adored facilities, allowing us to run baths, charge phones and laptops and wash up with surprising ease. I have never been the most disciplined washer up but having spent a few months heating water on top of a wood burning stove, I will never again take for granted the convenience of taps.

By the end of the week both TLB and I were starting to miss the tent and we were very pleased to get back on Saturday to find a pallet of heat logs awaiting us and that nothing had been stolen from the trailer which had been left on the farm. All in all a very satisfying holiday with minimal cost incurred. I have now only a week or two until the Christmas season kicks on in earnest and can enjoy another healthy dose of leisure time.

I must admit that the fire logs feel like a bit of a cop out, they do exactly what they purport to do, but there is something of an artifice in their use. Without considerable facilities it would be nigh on impossible to manufacture them myself, but I can justify this through my lack of storage space to season and process my own wood. During my holiday I bought a fire steel, I have decided that whilst living in a tent it would serve me well to use some of my new found spare time in developing my skills as general wild man.

I have found the best thing to catch the sparks from the steel are those small cotton wool pads. One of these will very quickly take the spark and provide enough flame to catch the kindling. I look forward in due course to finding material that will replace the cotton wool pads with something that I can forage myself so I may spend a little time this week, gathering some different types of bark and seeing which will shred into the best sort of spark catcher. There is no huge shortage of disposable fire making apparatus in Hampshire but it does keep me entertained nonetheless.

In one of the buildings on the farm there is an metal artist's workshop. He installed a wood burning stove a couple of weeks ago and I popped in to say hello and enquire about the possibility of having a fire bowl made. I knew I was in good company when I spotted that he was wearing a Hendrix shirt whilst banging away in his workshop and we started to talk about the merits of US vs UK psychedelic rock and types of wood best suited to stove use. It turns out he is needing some work done to his website and is greeted by a barrage of tuts and um's everytime he seeks professional advice. I had a quick look at his website and he was very pleased to hear that I thought it would be a doddle to fix him up with a system he could easily manage himself. We have in principle agreed to do a skill swop, I will teach him to manage his website, and he will teach me to weld and to make my own fire bowl. No tax, no inflation, just good honest trading and sharing of resources. I very much look forward to starting my apprenticeship.

TLB looks like she may have found a job, which is excellent, but I am a little scared it may bring my tent oddessey to a premature end as it seems to be bundled with a free house but all of these details are to be ironed out in the new year but that is enough for now, I shall post a couple more entries in the next few days between the Christmas barrage of champagne cocktail parties and canapes.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Coldness ensues.

The dog is a very weird creature, he loves nothing more than chomping through a bowl of ice cubes. We have been known to sacrifice perfectly good G&T destined ice cubes to satiate his habit but the recent cold snap now means that he now has the monopoly on what is a very scarce resource. With glee he will toy with his newly frozen water bowl, taunting it with his nose as the dawn light emerges, daring it resist his attentions.

TLB and I of course have very few options when it comes to ice, we can buy it in bags only to see it dwindle away into slush or we could in theory leave a tray of water out overnight to freeze in the arctic cold that has befallen us. Sadly we are not that organised, though even if we were it would have melted away by the time the sun has passed the yard arm and we were actually allowed to have a booze. So it remains that the dog, each morning will wake up and check his bowl for ice, carefully removing it and then settling down to crunch his way through the cold morsels.

We have not yet gotten to the point where his bowl will freeze inside the tent which is most fortunate as I am not sure I would like my night time drooling to freeze on the pillow and rouse me from my sleep with a jump when I find it breaching the borders of my ear. We have employed a gas heater to subsidise the heat from the stove, not because it is vital but because it is nice to be able to relax without having to huddle too close to the fire.

The quality of wood has become of increasing importance, where before we could get away with slow burning wood, the variance in the combustibility of wood from local wood suppliers has become too hit and miss to risk so I have ordered a quarter of a ton of compressed sawdust blocks from a company on the internet, which should see us through the next couple of months in the utmost comfort. For £150 I am expecting to take delivery of 240kg of consistent, dry, highly flammable bricks which, whilst not having the charming personality of their tree based opposition will guarantee rapid cooking and heating.

Despite the cold TLB and I are very much enjoying freedom from the rigmarole of daily life in a rented house. I hear people at work complaining on a daily basis about the cold and it would seem that us tent dwellers are far from the worst off. Our only real priorities are to ensure we have enough wood and food to survive. Aside from that a small amount of money for our monthly rent and fuel for the car is all that is required to keep us capable of meeting our external responsibilities and thriving. I am currently sat in the tent wearing only a t-shirt and it is perfectly warm, the smell of fajitas cooking on the stove is making me hungry, the celebratory wine I am drinking tastes fantastic and the bed looks very cosy from here.

Bedding has also become a little more of an issue now that winter is upon us proper, the most satisfactory solution we have found is to use a large double sleeping bag (thankyou Mother) and then put my sumptuous goose down duvet inside. We have on occasion found ourselves over heating and had to fold back the top layer of sleeping bag but our feet are never exposed to the cold night air and we can zip ourselves in should we find that things are getting too chilly. Failing that, TLB has remarked that I make an excellent hot water bottle on the coldest of nights and I am very pleased to be of service.

I have made a few investments this month to ensure our continuing comfort. Aside from the gas fire (which was very kindly contributed by a friend) I must confess that I have been getting a slightly bad back from all the crouching and kneeling so I have bought a therma-rest camp chair to ensure that we can both sit in comfort when we need to. It is a bit of a comfort revelation and renders the cushions that we have used to prop ourselves up so far somewhat redundant. It also means that we have a spare bed for when visitors drop in to stay the night which I am sure will be most appreciated. Who'd have thought it, we have a sofa-bed!

For anyone who doubts that it is possible to be warm enough in a tent during the winter, I can very happily inform you that with a little preparation it is perfectly possible to be too hot, despite the limitations of our dwelling. To be honest I am rather looking forward to a decent dusting of snow, it would be the closest thing to curtains we will get and will no doubt provide a superb lie in.

Monday, 1 December 2008


I got home from work today to find TLB suffering from a headache because she had spent the day fretting about security. A couple of weeks ago her phone disappeared at about the same time as the charger vanished. This morning I decided to leave my phone for her to use so she could call me if she needed me to bring anything home from my travels.

When I got home she fixed me with a serious gaze and confessed that she had not got me my phone. It also seemed that the internet dongle was no where to be seen, which was a mixed blessing as I had been cursing her name for taking it away for the weekend and leaving me disconnected from the world. So, two phones, 1 charger and internet dongle down we were starting to realise that there has been a thief in our tent, not once, but 3 times.

She also reported that the other day while she was sitting in the tent, the dog had started to go nuts, barking and raising hackles and carrying on like he was some sort of Baskervelian hound. She decided to go and see what was going on and she saw a young guy running across the field away from the tent. The dog dashed off across the field in hot pursuit and apparently caught him, said hello and then decided to go and have a snuffle about in the wood pile. The dog is losing serious credibility with every week.

At this point I started to contemplate strategies for dealing with our unwelcome visitor, scowling and plotting the disposal of my car, dog and lover so I could sit in the tent and wait, for as long as necessary, until the scallywag in question came calling and I could use my fire extinguisher as a burglar suppository.

TLB was most relieved to hear that when I had put on my trousers this morning I had, by habit, picked up my phone and taken it with me to work without even noticing. I was still however rather worried that her phone and charger had simultaneously gone walkies and that the internet dongle was nowhere to be seen. She had been asked by the farmer to give him a lift to a local planning meeting this evening as he does not drive and Mrs Farmer was otherwise engaged so while she was out I started to tear apart the tent to see if things really were as bad as we thought.

Within 5 minutes I had managed to find her phone charger in one of the tuff crates and the internet dongle in her bag. Somewhat relieved that the only missing thing was her phone and that in all probability she had just lost it, I started to calm down. My violent mental tirade started to abate and the red mist cleared, reasoning that there are several emminently stealable items in the tent if you had time to rummage and they were all present and correct. Much better to have a scatterbrained girlfriend than a regular robber.

We have however had a chance to consider the worst and tommorow I will be buying a padlock to secure the tent door. At least that way if someone wants to break in they will have to cut the tent and we will be in no doubt that we are attracting unwanted attention. Meanwhile all is well in tentsville and I have a fab smelling sausage stew to eat. mmm.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

If only...

Dear Mr Brown,

It is with regret that I now find myself unable to continue my role as a citizen of this country and have decided to redeem my contractual obligations to the country and go it alone.

The reasons for my decision are various, I find the prospect of imprisonment should I continue to work and not pay tax rather disturbing, and quite bizarre when I consider that should I stop working, you would then give me money. I am no scrounger so I do not find this at all satisfactory, nor do I consider your efforts to make the world a safer place by engaging in wars around the globe to be very convincing. We are surrounded by allies and sea and think that we are in all probability quite safe.

I understand that you very much wanted to be prime minister, we all have to have ambitions, but I think you may better serve this country in a more community based role where you can do a little less damage, maybe as a lollipop man or a town crier. If you did this then maybe people would be pleased to see you, and I mean real people, not the political classes or your friends at the golf club. I suspect that if the real people formed a queue to put a cream pie in your face, we would all be busy for a very long time.

Your persistent disregard of the advisers that I have so very kindly paid for does very little to convince me that you are prime minister material. To be honest I do not really think that anyone is so you shouldn't blame yourself. I would think my friend Chris very arrogant were he to assume that he knew what was best for me and he knows what sort of pork pies I prefer and how I like to cut my hair. I like to think I know best too and am always finding myself dispensing advice where it is not really wanted but I am sure that I should not be given the power to imprison people if they don't take it. That is not just arrogance, that is lunacy!

Sorry if I am rambling on but I think I have paid enough of your salary to be allowed to bend your ear a little. If you would like me to attend an exit interview before I leave I would be very happy to give some full and frank feedback, though considering your treatment of the various committees on detention without trial, ID cards, the economy, drug classification and tax bands, I am not holding my breath. I guess for some people it is much easier to be able to blame you and settle back into slavery and reality television, I however have bought a tent and a trailer and am going to try my hand at some archery and subsistence farming.

With regards to the settling of outstanding matters, I would be very pleased if you would forward details of all monies paid to yourselves over the years so that we can start to negotiate a mutually beneficial settlement. My uses of your services thus far constitute:

  • 1 poor education.
  • 1 effective treatment for a twisted bollock, which may I add has been the high point of my interaction with your government.

I know you have racked up rather a lot of debts over the years in our name but I do not feel I am really to be held accountable for them, after all, I have paid my taxes and done what was asked of me, so I shall consider that policing, waste disposal, road provision and the like were actually covered by the cash I paid up front like council and road tax.

I do not expect to make use of my pension so I am expecting that quite a serious amount of money has accrued in my account which I am sure can be used to offset the costs incurred above. Any money still owed to me can be paid in gold, index linked to the date of our final settlement. I am afraid that I can no longer accept sterling as a form of remuneration as I suspect that it will simply not be worth the paper it is printed on before long.

I have attached a document detailing my national insurance, bank accounts etc to ease administration at your end and I very much look forward to receiving the relevant forms.

Yours Sincerely

*** ****

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Tea and cake.

We have just returned from what was supposed to be tea and cakes with our favourite farmers. We got rather more than we bargained for, with a delicious soup to start made from the pigs that we shared a field with. Excellent I thought, racking up mere food metres for a delicious feast. Then came the scary bit. Mrs Farmer emerged from the kitchen with a chopping board on which there was a strange looking sausage.

It was about a 14 inches long, sheathed in plastic and about the thickness of my arm, tied at each end with string. It, we learned was something called Brawn. When the pigs were slaughtered, 7 pigs worth of meat was returned from the abattoir, including heads, hearts, livers and all. Mrs Farmer has been diligently making pate, brawn, sausages and a huge variety of other pig based products, nothing from head to trotter was wasted.

We got to sample the head, which had been boiled until all of the meat emerged from the lips, cheeks and heaven knows where else. After establishing that there was no brain or tongue within this daunting looking parcel, we were instructed to put our allotted slice onto a bit of bread, smother it in raw onions and vinegar and then chomp away. TLB was not entirely enamoured by the idea and was looking quite green by the end. I actually quite enjoyed it, remarking that it was not unlike a multi textured pork pie. I was quite disappointed that there was no brain to sample, purely because I could have decided once and for all whether I preferred brains over brawn. I'll get my coat.

We talked about straw bale buildings and shower blocks and the farmer seems pretty keen to go and have a nose about at the Sustainability Centre so I reckon we may be onto something, I shall keep you posted on the result. The farmers do seem to be very forward thinking about the use of their land. They already have a sizeable wind turbine and though most of their farming activities are barely beyond subsistence, they could quite happily survive on veg and pig heads were the revolution to turn up unannounced.

We have asked about extending our stay here beyond the initially stated duration and were very warmly invited to stay for as long as we wanted which is really good to know. I have already bagsied a Turkey from amongst our neighbours and now all we need to do is work out how to roast the bugger in a tent. How exciting. It would appear that Christmas in the tent is a goer.


In the latter half of my weeks holiday I have been scheming. TLB and I went to visit the Sustainability Centre (home of Ben Law's publishers, Permanent Publications) in East Meon yesterday to walk the dog and see what sort of projects they currently have going on.

Our friendly farmer popped in just before we left to ask if we could pick up any literature about reed bed filtration systems whilst we were there and this got me thinking. It turns out that they are planning to build a new shower block for campers next year and they would like to do it with an environmentally sustainable twist. At the moment they are thinking about turf roofed semi subterranean buildings and are starting to think about planning permission and the best technologies to do this.

To my surprise, when we arrived at the sustainability centre they were in the process of building a shower block to service their own campers. There are a few yurts on site with hard standings and a few other projects in various stages of completion. A large pile of solar water heating units were stacked up next to the shower block ready for installation and one of the managers of the on site hostel informed me that they had the instruction manual and a little expertise and were going to wing it and see how they got on. Admirable.

The construction of the shower block was from straw bales with a south facing slanted roof, a design which I thought would be perfect for our farmer. The merits of building with straw bales are many but the main benefits to my mind are that they are very cheap and very quick to construct. With a little know how and a lot of effort it would be possible to knock up a straw bale house (or shower block) in no time.

I do not have the know how to be able to design and build such a thing but they sound like really useful skills to have so my plan is this: I intend to find a suitable teacher to run a course on straw bale construction. The course will be a week or so, or maybe split over a few weekends (to be honest I have no idea yet). The course would be spent building the shower block with eager volunteer aspirants like myself doing a lot of the hard work and learning how it is done in the process. The farmer would pay for materials and enough money to make it worthwhile for the expert, skivvies like me would earn knowledge in exchange for our labours and everyone is a winner. Not forgetting that TLB and I would get a newly souped up ecotastic shower block to make our lives a little easier.

The first stage in the process will of course be to persuade the farmer of what a groovy idea this is and my initial pitch to Mrs farmer was met with enthusiasm, we are in fact going round for tea and cake shortly.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008


The last couple of weeks have been very stressful, work has been the main issue with a very high pressure project but it didn't help that I was ill for the last week, which combined with the pressures of living in a tent made life feel hard.

This week is holiday. Hooray, finally I can spend my time with TLB and the dog, walking, camping, drinking and generally relaxing. Or not, as the case seems to be. TLB has also been under the weather so we had long weekend of snivelling, sleeping and hiding from the elements. The foul weather and the maladies ailing us both have gladly abated in the last 48 hours and in a bid to treat ourselves we decided to go to the local spa.

On arrival at the place we could tell it was not going to be the decadent indulgence that would have been ideal but the merits of a building full of warm water are not lost on two people who have lived under canvas for approaching 11 weeks. Having bought ourselves some swimming costumes we trundled in and made the most of the sauna, steam room, pools and relaxation lounge (3 loungers surrounded by very bad murals of lurid tropical fish). Languishing with your lover in a jacuzzi for an hour with not another soul about is heaven.

Sadly I was naive enough to make conversation with a man in the sauna. He turned out to be a fellow computer programmer and was all too eager to continue a conversation about SIP and TR/87 protocols in the jacuzzi. From now on, I will ensure that I maintain a gruff exterior when at the public baths in order to avoid that pernicious and predictable question, 'so, are you two, erm, together?' Sling yer hook pal, she's taken and now you have effectively announced your intentions toward my lover while we are all taking a nice friendly bath. Now I have to kill you, creepy man. And no I will not see you in the cafe, oddball.

We then preyed once again on the hospitality of my poetic friend who fed us G&Ts and popular media. Life would be a great deal more difficult without his assistance, his home is our favourite port in a storm. I keep asking him when he will purchase his tent, he retorts with 'If I did that where would you put all your stuff?'

The rest of the holiday, in accordance with my frugality drive will be spent walking and relaxing, with a day trip to the seaside somewhere on the cards. The frugality drive is hard. I have managed to pay off about £500 worth of debt and save a few hundred quid which is all good but once again, I am not awash in the surpluses of my efforts. If I am to be debt free and saving for some land, I will have to up the ante financially to make this all worthwhile, I do not want to be living in a tent in 5 years time.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Hard work

TLB has left me, I am ill, I have a huge deadline for Friday and the tent has blown down.

I know that the only reason that anyone reads this blog is to find out whether or not I develop some ghastly wood smoke based respiratory disease or get mauled by badgers in the night. Well, I am glad to say that today is not that day. TLB has gone back to stay with her father for a few days to catch up on some social engagements which has left me lots of time for clearing up snot and complaining. The huge deadline has been quite stressful but it was only the toilet tent that blew down. I thought a bit of drama might not go amiss as this blog does seem to be a bit mild most of the time.

I often wonder what my colleagues must make of me. Whilst TLB is away, I have been taking the dog into work with me. He spends the day in the car, though I hasten to add that he has three good length walks and half a dozen fag breaks today, before the animal rights crowd arrive and start ruining things. At work I always look like I am about to set off on an expedition but have thus far managed to resist the urge to rush back from the shower to my desk in a towel to retrieve the pants that I have stashed in my desk.

Some are genuinely interested and I know of at least a couple who may be reading (Hello!) but the comedy opportunities are not lost on a few. I sometimes hear people complain of the smell of firewood (which I rather like) and I am known as swampy in some departments, which in fairness I think completely misses the point but hey, it is with affection.

The new MD for the company turned up not long after I did and I had not once had reason to speak to him before a few weeks ago when he sidled up to my desk and asked how I was doing. I introduced myself and told him about the progress on the project, we chatted for a few minutes and then he said, 'So, tell me about your new digs.'

He is a Canadian man and seems very personable, though I am a little nonplussed that he doesn't look that much older than me and is in charge. Knowing that the Canadians are largely a pretty outdoorsy bunch I showed him a couple of the photos on this 'ere blog and let him know of my motives regarding saving and the like. He seemed to approve, which is good as I am sure he was trying to find out if I was a threat to the project.

As a computer programmer I am almost expected to be scruffy and have no taste in clothes, which is very handy when you live in a tent and have no taste in clothes. It is generally assumed by those in the know, the less a person appears to think about their hair, the more time they have to consider technical matters. So, with a sense of slight anarchy, I am throwing myself into my work and learning loads, tufts and all. For the last couple of months work has played far heavier on my mind than anything the mild British autumn could throw at us and I desperately hope that the terrible and inevitable crash of the world creditocracy won't put me out of a job.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008


A few weeks ago we had bestowed upon us a box filled with all sorts of pan related goodies. They were packed in paper to offer some protection and the box was discarded in a quiet corner for later disposal. It must be hard to believe but we do actually have a few quiet hinterlands within the tent, areas infrequently visited and it was into one of these that the box sat untouched for a couple of weeks. The weekend just passed was tent relocation time, we had an extra week on the last spot because it was wazzing it down all last weekend and we couldn't face moving.

During the move I grabbed the box and started to take it outside. The box started making scrabbling noises and I saw beasts scampering about within, to my shame I made a sound like a shocked girl. TLB found this most amusing. I took it outside and deposited it on the grass. Gingerly I peeled back the lid of the box and peered in. Nothing.

At this point my money was squarely on a mouse, but I had considered the possibility of a shrew or a vole or, horror of horrors, a rat. Please not a rat, I would certainly have to kill it with a hammer and would have to show no mercy when I eat it to strike fear into the hearts of its evil besnouted comrades. Hammer primed, safety glasses on, I lifted up the top layer of paper from the box. A tail darted about in the shredded paper that was clearly their home. Then came a bulging set of eyes. It is a mouse dammit, thank god. It was a field mouse I think, it froze and locked onto my gaze. There was a glint in his eye telling me to make my move, daring me to cross the line. I thought he was rather cute and resolved not to eat him.

It turned out it had a spouse as well, also cowering in the box and they had not yet worked out that they could jump free from the box so they sat there, staring at us. It was at this point that the dog bowled in wondering what all the fuss was about. The mice, previously inert were now fighting for survival. One of them burrowed into the paper and the other made a break for it.

It was at this point I knew that it did in fact have to die, because the little bastard was running back to the tent. I was there holding back the dog to ensure the little free loaders survival and he makes a dash for my food box. In a last minute save by TLB she managed to scare him away from the door so he burrowed under the tent and hid from the dog whom I had given up restraining. Meanwhile TLB managed to herd the other mouse into the hedge away from the attention of our somewhat over zealous amateur hunter-prancer.

The little swine must have been in paradise. There was quinoa and cous cous, rice and pasta. Vegetables and of course, cheese. What disappoints me most is the dog. When I bought him it was on the understanding that he would be excellent at killing small cute things and insects. It would appear that he can quite happily co-habit with whole families of furry fiends for weeks at a time without so much as raising a hackle. He has been in disgrace ever since.

It does raise the question of what I can do about vermin, or gorgeous little furballs as TLB would have it. It has become very apparent that we need to keep the food box closed and clean up spills quickly but what can I do about dog food? It gets put in his bowl each day and sometimes he saves it. I have never met a dog that saves its food before but Sometimes I can give him a sausage and he will squirrel it away for later use. He can't exactly stash his worldly morsels in Tupperware and would be stuffed with a zip lock bag. He can't even work a knife, let alone scissors, which has the fortunate upside of making him very easy to trap in a tent. So we have to accept that we may get the odd nocturnal visitor. The quiet backwaters of the tent are to be made useful so as to provide the maximum disruption to the nesting instincts of the neighbors and the dog will be required to meet strict targets on rodent rendition.

Monday, 3 November 2008

My mum

My mum has a camper van that she calls Bridget, the first vehicle she has ever named she hastens to add. She arrives with cakes and casseroles, dips and delights amid a flurry of furry jumpers and warm approval. A combination of motherly concern and camping zeal have bought her in our direction a few times since we arrived and it is always a joy to see her. Bridget represents my mothers freedom and her individuality. I have never seen her happier than when at the helm of her mobile domicile. I am dead proud.

The future

Sunday morning has turned out to be very mild which is lovely as I can open the door and lie in bed almost in the open air. There is a very light rain but the stove is burning away and the radio is helping me with my morning worship. Everything is in fact rather lovely. It makes me wonder why more people haven't made the jump into a tent to weather their financial storms. For a thousand quid you can equip yourself with home and hearth and live a very comfortable life.

I have been considering my options about the future. the prospect of saving up for a house just so that I can live in a home owned by a bank is far from the ideal resolution to this whole caper. I am starting to wonder if I can retain this feeling of freedom beyond the intended duration of our camping spree. Living largely off the grid is very satisfying, maintaining my usual scruffy work persona seems to have been no problem and TLB still seems to relish the romanticism of open fires and starry nights, I have no reason to want this adventure to end.

What I want to do is buy some woodland. I want to buy some woodland and then build us a house to live in. Legally it could get complicated but I believe that if I can build a sufficiently low impact dwelling as to arouse minimal opposition, we can easily make life very comfortable and maybe end up with our dream home for as little as £50k. These are only the seeds of a developing plan and the winter may bring to bear some degree of realism that I currently lack, but I reckon with determination we can pull it off.

One of my all time heroes is a chap called Ben Law, I stayed with him quite a few years ago whilst I was working for an environmental magazine as a boy and the recognition of what he stood for has stayed with me vividly ever since. He was the broker of a land deal in West Sussex and into the bargain he managed to wangle himself a few acres of chestnut wood for £10. When I went to visit he he had built a log cabin which was used as kitchen and living room and had a yurt in which he, his wife and his child slept. He manufactured charcoal and walking sticks from the chestnut coppice that he was cultivating and he ran woodland management workshops to teams of eager Good Lifer's.

Ben spent many years in perpetual legal wranglings with various authorities after a complaint from a local busy-body drew attention to him but after a great deal of stress he eventually won the right to build himself a house. The terms of the planning permission are that he can never sell the house, he can only pass it on to his children or spouse and should he wish to leave it, the land must be left as it was found.

I have only seen the finished house on Grand Designs but have resolved to go and visit him in the near future to find out more about both planning permission and the practicalities of establishing a life in the woods. It would also make the whole thing a lot more tangible for TLB and maybe give us some inspiration. Ben Law is a trailblazer and he has many lessons to teach the world in these times of impending environmental crisis. Lessons about self sufficiency, community, harmony with nature and resistance to authority. Who could ask for a better hero?

Wednesday, 29 October 2008


Last night was cold. Really cold. Outside the tent that is, not inside. Inside we were snug as could be, though I must confess we both slept in sleeping bags underneath a duvet with a fire going. The few other hardy souls who are camping at the moment were dusted with snow when I went out to turn on the heater in the car and there was ice on the dogs bowl.

The dog is not a cunning creature. Before bed last night TLB and I swaddled him in several layers of fleece blankets as we knew it was going to be cold. He has a good layer of fur but I am sure that is not sufficient to keep the little blighter warm in these most unseasonal conditions. In the middle of the night he decided to do a quick patrol of the inside of the tent and shed his insulation and was upon us in no time, shivering and asking to be re-swaddled. I have always thought that people who buy coats for their dogs are the worst sort of people but I am coming around to their way of thinking.

I think I have taken the fun out of these cold mornings for my colleagues in the office, they come in complaining about the cold and then see me, bright and breezy at my desk, realise that they have nothing to complain about and then get their heads down after enquiring as to whether I was ready to gracefully retire from my quest. They seem quite disappointed when I tell them that I was shedding blankets half way through the night to prevent perspiration. I think they now realise that I am quite serious about seeing this through till next summer.

The lowest recorded temperature in the area I am living in was a shade below -33C, but that was some 30 years ago. It is a little scary to consider that we have had no snow in October since 1976 so time will tell how cold it will actually get. I may be deeply unlucky and have starting my camping escapades just around the dawn of a mini ice age but I know that we can very comfortably cope with -4C.

It remains to be seen how much colder it will get. In a perverse way I am quite keen to find out at what temperature things start to get unbearable, though I am sure that TLB does not share my enthusiasm for extremes of temperature. Luckily the local Woolworths are selling big thick fleece blankets for £8 a pop so I think I may be making an investment, despite my pledge of frugality. Needs must.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008


In both spirit and function this is one of the best inventions I have seen in years. Last night was exceedingly cold and I am looking for ways to make the tent more habitable so I am going to buy one on pay day and will report back on it's effectiveness. It is powered by the stove and requires no external inputs, just pop it on top of the stove and it will blow the warm air rising from the stove around the tent very efficiently and it looks cool to boot. Click for more info.


Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Things I have learned

Acclimatising to living in a tent on a farm has been a learning process. So far I have learned:
  • Dogs and chickens will never be friends.
  • Petrol is very dangerous (to be fair I knew this before but it is at the front of my mind these days)
  • Chopping wood with a small axe is all in the hips.
  • Plastic bags should not be left where they can blow onto a hot stove.
  • I need to write a blog entry on cooking very soon.
  • Thursday is Radio 4's best night.
  • Always know where your head-torch is.
  • Boot fairs are full of junk that is not worth selling on ebay.
  • Toilet tents are rubbish.
  • Always shit at work. It is the ultimate expression of ones capitalist instincts and is warmer than a farm.
  • Cushions are brilliant.
  • Rivers are very cold in England, no matter how sunny you may think it is.
  • You can never buy enough tea lights.
  • There are a infinite uses for a log.
  • TLB is one of the most fantastic women in the world.
  • Owls compensate for their lack of serenading talent with enthusiasm.
  • Even the most minor burns can take over a week to heal.
  • The pleasure of a bath should never be underestimated.

Friday, 17 October 2008

Light relief

We had a competition in the office to come up with the best enviro-measures to combat the wastefulness of the office, here was my entry. I didn't win.


I managed to miss the last email from Tony so here are some ways that I have thought up to decrease our carbon footprint…

  • Sign up to to meet our power needs – 100% carbon free!
  • Join this group to enable us to recycle our toners more environmentally efficiently:
  • When disposing of old items we could start to use
  • Perform a full Environmental Impact Assessment on the company to establish our key areas of waste and environmental inefficiency (
  • Install a reed bed filtration system to process all of the companies grey water waste back into usable water
  • Install energy monitors to enable facilities staff to better monitor the usage of energy in the workplace (
  • Install wind turbines and solar panels on site to supplement grid supplied energy (from our sustainable source of course).
  • We should create small piles of wood and ponds around the office and site to encourage habitats for key environmental indicators like Toads and Newts.
  • Encourage the use of remote workers via VPN where possible to minimize the use of cars to and from work.
  • Start a cycle to work scheme like this one: to encourage people to reduce car usage
  • Allow people to have smaller cars (like say a Lotus Elise) so that emissions are reduced. If this is not acceptable, encourage the use of diesel vehicles and hybrids.
  • We should start to look into green burial options ( for employees that expire on the job.
  • Install compost toilets throughout the premises (making sure to separate fluids and solids!) to enable the grounds to be fertilized by home grown waste!
  • Instead of pointless pot plants we should have small fruit trees dotted about the office to encourage people to live healthier lifestyles.
  • Under the new European Carbon Trading scheme we could start to offset our carbon footprint by buying CO2 from small 3rd world countries that don’t use them!
  • In much the same way as Canopy Capital ( we could try to leverage the high availability of Rainforest for profit, social enterprise and environmental benefit.
  • Turf the roof of Innovation House to encourage wild flowers and wildlife habitats
  • Timed lights in the toilets that turn off after a period to ensure that lights are not left on.
  • Start to employ the principles of Permaculture in the design and implementation of new company projects. It is a design methodology that helps to develop systems that mimic the structure and interrelationship found in natural ecologies

These are just a few suggestions, if you need any more I am sure that I can find many more. I also know that were I to win the mountain bike, it would get well used by my very environmentally sound girlfriend.


Your Environmentally Suped-Up Technical Programmer

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

A new dawn of frugality

The routine is pretty apparent these days, we get home, chop some wood, make a fire, cook some grub, listen to the radio a bit and then go to sleep. The rain is pretty insistent this evening so the dog only got a casual amble around the field and TLB is out so I have the place to myself.

This was the month in which all was supposed to be well financially but things are turning out to be a bit of a struggle, after bills and £800 of debt paid off, I am grasping at the overdraft and feeling a bit miserable about it. I think I may be in some way incapable of being sensible with money, I certainly have no capacity to budget which means pretty much all financial transactions are a guess coloured by varying degrees of fear.

It seems to be very hard to live in the modern world but I can't blame that for my situation. Tax bothers me. 20% income tax rising to 40% over £35k, 17.5% vat, council tax, car tax and of course the fun taxes, petrol, fags, booze and gambling. Oh yeah, inheritance, insurance, air passenger, capital gains and farting taxes not forgetting national insurance and stamp duty. I don't earn a bean until after lunch.

Tax is not my biggest foe though, it is at least consistent. My worst enemy is temptation, luring me into dinner based traps or snaring me with convenience. I couldn't be further from my former house based lifestyle but still the expense of the modern world keeps abreast of my ability to out earn it. I think next month will be different, obtaining jumper and waterproof shoes and the like was vital this month and my only bills will be tent based next month.

I am resolved to sustain a degree of frugality hitherto unknown throughout November. No shopping or dinners of celebration, just head down to sort out some bulk wood and dog food acquisition. I hereby vow to keep the mpg on the car above 35 and will eat only in the subsidised canteen at work during the days. It will be hard not to buy jelly beans from the forecourt but I will try. Redemption will be mine.

Monday, 13 October 2008

IT and massacres

Firstly, thank you to Anonymous who pointed me in the direction of practical advice on how to resurrect the lantern which is now glowing away in the background. Sharply turning it off and then back on again seemed to fix it, presumably unblocking some internal nozzle or other. I am quite ashamed that as an IT person, I didn't consider turning it off and then on again, no matter how sharply.

So, we have moved the tent again, leaving a second huge but not quite as smelly, circle of dying grass. I made a small effort to persuade the farmer that if I was to leave the tent in one place for the duration of our stay, it would mean that their field would suffer only one pock mark rather than a series of them, depicting the antics of some alien craft in it's initial forays into drunken crop circling. I reckon that when the weather gets grim he will be much happier to let us stay in one spot as the grass will recover more slowly. We shall see.

One factor that has provided quite some considerable mirth has been the varying inclines that we have camped on. Our first spot was almost perfectly level, the second resulted in us sleeping with our feet a couple of inches above our heads and on our third location we are finding it rather hard to stay in bed at all. The stove door swings open where before it swung shut and it feels like a small climb to get further into the tent.

The reason we chose this orientation was to ensure that the flue from the stove was in the lee of the tent, hoping to avoid the belches of smoke that the wind can be forced inwards. It seems to have worked, and should we fear suffocation then we can just let go of whatever we are clinging onto and fall to safety through the door and into the valley below. Okay, it is not really that bad but the difference is noticeable. We are quickly amassing a set of criteria that need to be met to qualify as camp site material.

Sleeping out in a tent every night gives you a much better idea of what happens at night out in the darkness of the countryside down the singletrack lanes. Every night we are sung to by owls, most of whom are not very tuneful. If the cows are unhappy we can endure an evening of loud dissatisfied mooing but this is far from the most disconcerting of our evening serenades.

The thing that disturbs us most is the constant pitched battle between the various competing species of the valley. We have had a great variety of different death throes echoing through the camp. It is impossible to identify which animals make which noises but I reckon between cats, foxes, badgers and rabbits, it is a massacre out there. I think they all retire for a bit of a time out at about bed time, or maybe I am just asleep when the action really hots up.

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Everything breaks.

The lantern has packed up, I get the impression most camping gear is designed to be used once and then put at the back of a garage. The fuel supply seems to have stopped flowing so I need to take it apart and find out what is going on within. I suspect a blockage of some sort and now I have daylight hours, I can set about fixing it.

We have survived using candles for the week and it is quite amazing how much light you can get out of half a dozen strategically placed tea lights. Moreso when the dog catches fire. It has all been rather romantic really, candlelit dinners and open fires every night, radio 4 bumbling away in the background keeping us posted on the continuing financial catastrophe.

I have been considering the impact of the forthcoming reccesion on TLB and I and trying to decipher what the hell is going on. The way I see it the financial system is like a horribly complicated engine. Money is like the oil that keeps all of the parts working together and a healthy flow of it is required to ensure that I can work well with other economic entities in this great big wheezing, farting machine. I get paid, I buy chocolate with it but I never actually see it, it is like this intangible thing that at best, I can get tokens that represent it.

Some people have worked out how to syphon the oil out of the system into reserves that are of no use to anyone in the real economy as we now have to call it. Eventually too much gets removed and the engine seizes up. The big question for me is can we repair the engine or will we need a whole spangling new one? Personally, I like new cars. Even if the old one isn't fully broken I quite like an upgrade. I think I will avoid the Icelandic range though.

Monday, 6 October 2008

Loo update

The toilet tent is on it's knees, unusable and decrepit, kept upright only by tenacious guy ropes clinging on stubbornly in the face of certain futility. Part of me wants to burn it down, it is completely unfit for purpose and an eyesore but I have resolved to keep it until I get around to getting a boat for it to propel, for it's true destiny must surely be to serve as a sail. Another victory for the Ministry of Silly Design.

I now have to think about my options in this department, should I replace it with something equally likely to fail or some other option. TLB and I did even consider placing the porta loo bit of it inside the main tent but I can see that it would be a nightmare of both privacy and hygiene. I am on the hunt for an awning of some sort under which I can place a somewhat sturdier protector of dignity. In the meantime TLB may get a chance to get to know the she-pee I got her at a festival some months ago. Okay, okay, I shall start looking right now.


The quest to find the ultimate combination of materials to incinerate to ensure a constant supply of heat continues apace. The logs sold by the farmers here are largely unseasoned pine which I have learned is very prone to the creation of creosote in the flue. This can build up and will eventually catch fire with undoubtedly disastrous effects. Being the lazy man that I am I have resolved to avoid the pine in a bid to avoid both fires and regular, grizzly chimney cleaning antics.

Since this discovery I have been working my way through the various types of British countryside, setting fire with glee to as many different varieties of the Earth's lungs as possible. When we want to cook we have to get it up to temperature as quickly as possible and compressed sawdust fire blocks are perfect, but they are expensive at about £7 for 10kg. They are easy to light and form very hot embers but they do burn a bit quickly for use all the time.

Having cooked we tend to move onto sturdier logs that burn less ferociously but last a lot longer. Oak logs are very good but I cannot imagine that they are too sustainable as the trees grow pretty slowly. There are various bags of miscellaneous hardwood logs available in the garages and hardware stores of the world and all seem to be quite long burning but we have to be careful not to buy logs that are too long. A brief experiment proved that it takes a while and a not inconsiderable amount of sawdust to split a log across the grain.

I have found a bulk source of fire bricks but would require space to store them and I do not really think I can do it. I am investigating the cheapest local source and have found out about a local sawmill that makes them and is likely to much cheaper than a forecourt. I shall investigate when I get time. The farm shop over the road sells good sized bags of appropriately cut hardwood at 5 bags for £15 which is excellent value, though we will have to be a bit organised to ensure we do not run out. Our supply lines are assured.

Saturday, 4 October 2008

A rainy day in the tent.

Today has turned out to be quite interesting so far. We awoke to find the first frost of the Autumn had landed which was quite reassuring as we were very cosy in bed despite the freeze. The group of Duke of Edinburgh goblins that arrived last night were leaving gratifyingly early, grumbling and regretting staying up, screaming and scampering about the place until 3 this morning. I am kind of looking forward to the winter in that we will have far fewer neighbours each weekend.

We then resolved to go to a trendy camping shop and equip ourselves with fleeces, waterproof shoes, head torches and extremely sturdy tent pegs. Why would we purchase hardcore tent pegs I hear you ask. Well, the toilet tent decided it was feeling a bit tied down by the whole arrangement and made a bid for freedom, tearing free of its puny anchors and making a dash for the hedge. It is the perfect combination of low footprint and high wind resistance to make it deeply untrustworthy and almost guaranteed to fail.

A small fortune later, TLB and I are newly shod and looking like we are sponsored by North Face. They also had gloves and shoes and hats that I really like but they are all plastered with the flinking logo so I didn't buy them. Maybe I could get them to sponsor me, I might feel like less of a fan boy if they were paying me. Damn these companies and their highly functional logo spattered garb. TLB was almost completely free of any clothing adapted to her new lifestyle and we had to put that to rights.

We got home and while the stove was cold, we decided to clear the flue of the chimney and fit the new flashing, the unmelted one that is. I also spent 10 minutes attatching the guy ropes that hold it solid as it looks like the wind is picking up and may be here to stay. The tent feels very solid in the wind, occasionally there is a small eddy in the vicinity which will force air down the chimney and blow smoke into the tent.

There have been a few problems with the stove, I am not sure if it is my unreasonably high expectations but the quality of the flue has not been as good as I expected. Aside from the melting of the flashing, I am a little bothered by the seeming flimsiness of it, having already seen it glow cherry red once whilst we were cooking. I have been considering a few strips of fire proof blanket to lag the pipe and insulate it from contact points but I am going to have to find out if it would burn us down or not.

It is a learning process and I am sure we can overcome all niggles, the stove is a very good source of heat and I think we would be utterly miserable without it, in fact we are very cosy. Later on today, we have been invited by our benevloent landlords to a night of skittles at the local village hall with BYO booze and a barbecue. We are both a little concerned about being asked where we live. At the moment our location and status is a closely guarded secret, we have various degrees of cover story depending on whom we are speaking to.

Any casual camper can see that we are pretty well bedded in, when asked by them we tend to tell them that we are staying for a couple of weeks whilst I am working locally. As far as the farmers are concerned I am on a three month contract working in Reading and everyone else gets told nothing. I visit the garage around the corner frequently and engage in casual counter chat with the chap who works there. I dread the day that he asks me where I have moved in as I will lie.

The reason for this secrecy is pretty obvious. We have effectively no security and depend on everything we have which means that we cannot afford a break in, or rather an unzipping. There are also a lot of small minded people about who would complain if they knew that we are holed up here semi permanently, and that would almost certainly threaten our ability to stay here. Technically the farmers are breaking the rules by letting us camp here so I am keen to avoid attracting and attention to him or us. Time will tell how easy this is.

In the meantime I am going to save my insights into the best wood to burn and the relative merits of tent pegs for another day as my battery is running out and I have to put on the lamp as it is getting dark.

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

The [Financial] cost of camping

Having now been camped out for nearly a month I can start to estimate how much money I am going to be able to save. In terms of the relative cost of living in a tent versus living in a house it is undeniably cheaper. The main comparative costs are rent, heat, the ability to cook and illumination. I say illumination but I am sat here writing this by candlelight with a head torchstrapped to my bonce so I can see the keyboard. This is mainly because TLB is away for the evening and I can't be bothered to refill the lantern, but there has certainly been a drop in the standard of provision of the basic utilities on which I rely.

When living in a house it is easy to just turn on the hob and cook on 4 rings, an oven and a microwave all at the same time. Now I have to get the stove up to heat, it holds a maximum of 2 pans and can heat a few pints of water at the same time. I then have to keep the stove up to heat for the duration of my cooking. The savings are considerable but I would certainly not pay the sums I was before for such a diminished service. It takes about 3 or 4 decent sized logs to keep the stove burning for the evening and I get about 15 logs in a bag. A bag costs roughly a fiver but I am buying from the farmer here or from hardware stores and forecourts. At the weekends we tend to have a good sized fire outside which can easily eat through 2 bags of wood so I reckon all in all we probably spend about £15 per week on wood.

This has been lower this week though as I managed to forage a load of fly tipped wood that had been deposited near my workplace. As I parked up and started loading the boot with the planks that had been abandoned, one of my colleagues drove past and gave me a very peculiar look as if I was some sort of scavenger, which I suppose I am.

£15 per week, or £60 per month, to provide me with both warmth and heat on which to cook is, quite frankly, a bargain compared to the combined gas and electricity bills of about £150 per month. I also get to make fires which is a considerable bonus as I am, like most overgrown children, endlessly hypnotised by a flickering fire.

At the moment we have no form of electricity but it has not really inconvenienced us, we both have laptops with batteries and a very good lantern that more than capably illuminates the tent (when I can be bothered to top it up!). The lantern takes 600ml of fuel and lasts for about four days, running for maybe 3 or 4 hours per day. This will obviously go up as the nights draw in so I can assume that I will need to refill it every couple of days but this will still only set me back about £5 per week or £20 per month.

I no longer pay council tax, a land line telephone or water and sewerage bills which between them account for another £250 extra per month and rent which cost me £750 per month. Added to the electricity and gas that totals roughly £1150 per month, reduced to about £250 per month on bills. Result. This is of course a simplistic analysis as I am spending a bit more on fuel for the car but we are spending less on food as we are cooking more, the cost of dog sitting has not started yet as TLB has been here a great deal of the time whilst looking for work. All in all, I am confident that I can hit my unofficial target of saving a £1000 per month and tomorrow is pay day which will be a huge relief as I have been struggling a bit this month having had to cough up about £1600 at the start of the month on trailers, stoves and the like.

The physical cost of camping is also beginning to show, not in any major way but I have various splinters and burns that I am sure I would not have were I still holed up in a house. anyway, I have rambled enough, I am now going to tend the fire and await TLB's return from the capital where she has been living it up and dining in actual buildings.

Sunday, 28 September 2008

The Cost of Camping

Today has been a mad day and TLB and I are very pleased to see the end of it. Some friends have been to visit which led to predictable festivities last night, helping to ensure that waking up this morning to a chorus of moos less than pleasant. With a stinking head I emerged from the tent to find a sea of chaos, booze bottles, barbecuing equipment, children's toys and fireside detritus. The day proceeded to get more interesting.

We have now been camped for just shy of 3 weeks and in accordance with the wishes of our landlords, we had to move the tent. Once the weekenders had made their regular Sunday exodus from the site we set about moving the tent. With pulsating head we evacuated the contents, dropped the tent, and found that the ground underneath us has started to go bad. I knew from my upbringing in Somerset what silage smells like, having regularly been submerged in a fug of it for days on end. The underside of the tent smelled of silage and the smell has lingered, maliciously, for the duration of our move.

It did occcur once we had felled the tent and were sitting amid our worldly possesions in the middle of a field that we are now homeless. An hour later we were little less homeless having re-pitched the tent but I had considerable fears about the reaction of our farmers to the highly conspicuous 5 metre circle of freshly mulched campsite.

Mrs farmer came trotting over a little while later, and I feared the worst expecting a reappraisal of our agreement. To my utter horror the dog bolted across the field in hot pursuit of one of the various idiot chickens that risk their lives by taunting him. Luckily a playful dog is not as a quick as a hen that is running for it's life and by the time I caught up with him, he knew he was in trouble. I managed to catch him, scold him and then tethered him in the middle of the field. Back to Mrs farmer. She duly informed me that a doggy deposit had appeared in her garden that it was of a scale that assured her that it was not her own flirty bitch. I apologised profusely for the scarred land, the chicken chasing and the poo and she brushed it off like an everyday occurence. Thank god for the forgiving, pragmatic people of the world. Then came the rub.

Mr farmer is currently spending a lot of time in hospital attending to their sick daughter and in the absence of any farmer flavoured manpower I spent the next hour assisting with a pressing chore. The task for which I was required was to seperate her pigs into boys and girls. All of the pigs are siblings and are untampered with which means that they are likely to breed amongst themselves with very undesirable results. TLB was on standby at the switch to the electric fence whilst the two of us stalked through the undergrowth trying to divide the swine.

The pigs are clearly very loving creatures and had formed pairs which they most reluctant to de-couple. I am told that pigs are capable of having a 30 minute orgasm so I can kind of understand why, but nevertheless, the next 40 or so minutes were dedicated to overcoming the will of the amourous hogs. I have never had to rugby tackle a pig before and the things I landed in were less than lovely but we got the job done and it gave me a chance to sweat off my hangover at the same time. On our mark, TLB reactivated the electric fence and I was finally free to clean myself and continue with my persecution of the evil hound.

All in all it has been a long day but I think we have secured ourselves as invaluable farm hands during the hard times that the farm owners are going through. We have been assured that our small silage installation and the mischievious dog are not a problem and can now think about sleeping once again in our field, with a new vista and a few weeks before we have to think about relocating to a different spot. This entry was supposed to be about my new insights into how much it is going to cost to maintain our new lifestyle but I think I will leave the title as it is as it seems somewhat pertinent.

Monday, 22 September 2008

2 weeks later...

We have now been camped out for two weeks, and it has been a doddle. Life is cheap, I eat much more healthily than I have in ages, visitors seem to be very forthcoming and I get to make fires all the time. I think I even managed to impress TLB with my wood cutting skills.

It turns up that when the chimney is very hot, it can melt through the plastic protector that is supposed to shield the flue from the canvas. There is no major damage yet but it is a bit of a concern. I bet the stove people will be really glad to hear from me again.

It has just started raining and I can hear the rain building up it's tempo on the canvas, the drops getting gradually bigger until we have to turn the radio up. Radio 4 has become like audio wallpaper, constantly reminding us how completely screwed the world is so occasionally we take shelter in Radio 2. It appears that the entire financial system is finally getting it's comeuppance, and the left are back in force. Bush seems to be doing his best to avoid the economy going down on his watch by selling out the public and it wouldn't surprise me if our government do the same. I reckon soon there will be loads of people living in tents.

The dog has fallen madly in love with the farm dog here, a girly little Jack Russell with whom he seems content to chase and flirt with for hours. He has a lot more freedom here than I was expecting which is excellent. There are chickens and turkeys and a variety of other fowl in a couple of pens on on side of the field. There are also a few pigs. Silas's initial reaction was to try and chase things. The chickens got him very soundly scolded but the pig situation seemed to resolve itself. As he crept gradually closer to the pig in it's pen he gained a very valuable lesson about electric fences and ran away whelping. I suspect he won't make that mistake again.

Today is the equinox and I think I now need to start reckoning with the realities of weeknights of exclusive darkness. The lantern I bought is fantastic and should make life a lot easier but chopping wood, making it out of bed and a loads of other things will be constantly challenged by the lack of light. Headtorches all round, including the dog.

Saturday, 20 September 2008

Some pictures

The current installation of the tent for your perusal...

Some stove...

and the flue, reaching for the skies.

Thursday, 18 September 2008


The stove is finally here. I installed it last night and have gleefully been stoking and fuelling and gazing into it ever since, aside from a brief and very distracting bout of work. Slow cooking is apparently all the rage at the moment which is good for morale as TLB and I both require a little practice getting the thing hot enough to rapidly heat things up, but once we were up to cooking temperature there was no stopping us.

It is just an object, a few bits of metal organised to perform a function but in only 24 hours it already feels like the heart of the tent. It exudes heat and charm in equal measure and with a little practice will smoulder away in perpetuity, providing for our most basic needs. As you can probably tell, I am a bit rapt with the romanticism of it all.

We now have everything we need and more, why anyone would doubt that this is the perfect way to live completely escapes me. I had a guest last night as TLB had gone to see her father and when he arrived I was most gratified to hear him exclaim 'wow, I thought we were going to be roughing it'. The landlords have also been showing a keen interest in our progress, considering us something of a novelty, and were eager to rush over and see the stove in action when they were on their turkey and pig feeding rounds this evening. I also noticed that the latest round of split logs from this evening were cut much smaller than usual and I suspect that this was because they know that the larger logs will not fit in the stove. I think that we may have to cook them dinner.

We have some guests, including my mother, coming to camp out with us on Saturday which should be lovely. Mum has been dying to make some excursions in her new camper van, Bridget, so we will be able to make the most of chairs and tables and the like but I have a feeling we will all gravitate back in the direction of the stove, to bask in it's glow. I am sure that all of this gushing happiness is rather annoying so I promise to find some proper hardships to endure over the coming days.

In the meantime I am going to put a good sized log on the fire, set the stove to a slow burn and crawl into a nice clean, parentally laundered bed. Nunnight.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Waste and Winter

The floor of the tent is now our kitchen. At the moment all of the cooking is done on a Trangia which is a compact little unit or on the barbecue but it is very easy to cover the entire floor with pans and bags of food and chopping boards and dirty cutlery. It requires a level of organisation that I am hitherto completely unfamiliar with. I have a bin the size of a thimble which can be filled up with the waste from a single meal which has been making me think a lot about waste.

Today I popped into a supermarket on the way home from work and grabbed the things I needed to make a spaghetti bolognaise which resulted in yet another full carrier bag of rubbish to add to the pile whereas the same ingredients bought from the farm shop would be minimal. No plastic trays, no tins, no plastic bags, just nice burnable paper bags. It is only when you have to walk to the camp site bin on a daily basis that I have started to realise how much mess I actually make.

It is quite a novelty to have to dispose of my own personal waste as well, if you know what I mean. The facilities provided by houses are eminently convenient but I am not missing them as much as I thought I might. Bumbling across the field and decanting my weird blue loo mix into the porta-loo is a small price to pay for avoiding a chilly midnight walk across a field to the toilet when caught short. Come the winter I may be slightly less chipper about the whole affair though.

As I languish in this rural idyll my thoughts are turning to winter. TLB reported yesterday that she was frustrated when she dropped her towel whilst taking a shower in the shower block. I am sure she would have been considerably more distraught if it has frozen to the floor on impact and it is these little things that will determine our quality of life. Damp clothes can make for a very miserable morning, especially when you can see your breath.

I have been shrugging off peoples accusations of hardship with flippant remarks about the mildness of the British winter and insisting that it will be a breeze but I have no doubt that I will value these months of gentle practise when the going gets tougher. The nights are already drawing in and within a few weeks it will be dark by the time I return from work. Whilst I can survive in a t-shirt at the moment, I have a feeling we will be purchasing some new jumpers before long in a bid to stave off the inevitable chilliness of the winter. Long live micro-fleece.

On the whole though I do feel very optimistic, there is no reason that we cannot be very cosy in our little home with a little discipline and now that I have paid for (if not received) all of the major items that we will will require, the savings we will be able to make should serve to motivate during the autumnal decline. In the meantime we will make hay while the sun shines, or rather, make barbecues whilst the sun sets.

Stove Update

I have just had a call from the stove people and they have apologised and informed me it will definitely be here tomorrow. I live in hope.

Monday, 15 September 2008

1 week on...

Tonight will be the seventh night that we have spent under canvas away from the confines of the back garden and life is very peaceful and enjoyable. The weather has been pretty good to us though the weekend was a bit of an eye opener. The camp site is an ocean of calm during the week, a single other tent sits at the far side of the camp site and it's occupants seem quite content to exchange the odd wave and enjoy the surroundings in private peace.

The weekend however was quite different. I got home on Friday to find about 30 other tents had cropped up like mushrooms across the field. A gaggle of 15 year old girls were celebrating a birthday and were kind enough to serenade us late into the night with a medley of Abba and Spice Girls classics. On the upside there was an endless supply of children to play with the dog and we got home from some shopping on Sunday to find that our former neighbours had left us a couple of bottles of wine that they had not used to fuel their guitar playing antics the night before.

We have found a fantastic farm shop just up the road which has been keeping us in chutney, cheese and vegetables, an organic butcher and a pet shop. Our eggs are coming from the farm we are staying on and we can get firewood, charcoal and most of the other things locally. We even have a blacksmith up the road from whom I am going to get a decent fire bowl and some other bits and bobs.

My wood burning stove has still not turned up and I am getting increasingly aggravated about it. Despite calling them a couple of times a day they still have not provided me with any sort of commitment as to when it will arrive. I think they have failed to appreciate that I am actually living in my tent and I do know that each one is hand made by some chap up north so I shall allow them a couple of days to redeem themselves.

Other than that gripe though, life in the tent is turning out to be very good indeed and is providing a nice gentle run in before the weather starts to cool and Autumn kicks in proper. Then I am sure I will provide much more interesting reading!

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Day 1

The hard part is over and the tent is in its new home. TLB and I are now living in a glorious valley. We have just had a lovely barbecue over an open fire whilst watching the sun set and are now settling down to relax and enjoy our new surroundings and scribe an update for the blog to post in the morning when I get to work.

The move from the house was very stressful indeed and I have more vengeance to visit upon my former letting agents after they misinformed me regarding the checkout process and then refused to honour their promise. I suppose it was my fault for naively not recording every phone interaction with the slippery swine’s. Ah well, we are now free of the evils of estate agencies and I am very happy to leave them all behind for the time being.

My new landlords, a very friendly farmer and his wife seem to be very relaxed and welcoming and I have already managed to score some points by offering to fix his computer. They also volunteered information about a young chap who they let live on the farm for some months when he was kicked out by his mum, which bodes very well. Not for him of course but just in terms of the potential longevity of our stay.

It is simply idyllic here and we feel very comfortable and safe. We shared a moment of utter joy over dinner, bathing in the aftermath of a very stressful few days and knowing that a somewhat simpler life starts here. Wine always tastes better by the flickering light of an open fire.

The lantern I bought is superb and provides more than enough light and quite a bit of warmth which will keep us going till the wood burner turns up. The lantern runs on unleaded and has these weird little bags that burn fuel which is sprayed into them. All in all, an invaluable purchase. TLB and I are both very excited about the arrival of the wood burner and are fully expecting to have the best weekend in years, pottering about, exploring and cooking on open fires. Let the good times roll.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Penultimate night

I have a trailer.

I still do not have a wood burner.

I will not have internet for a few days whilst my account is activated.

Have to sleep now after days of carting things about.

See you in a few days.


Sunday, 7 September 2008

Scarily close to C-Day

The party was a roaring success and the hardcore were bedding down as the sun came up. It was most amusing to note that at one point there were 20 people and a dog in the tent and not a soul in the house. The beloved Haley Glennie-Smith serenaded the party with her soulful tones and eventually most of the guests slept in their own tents which were pitched throughout the house. I also found willing helpers for the mammoth task of sorting out the garden and a lot of the house, thank you so much to those who helped, I could not have done it without you.

The house is de-partied and the tent is down and packed up in a large pile in the living room. It is only now that all of the bits are in one place that I can see how big a pile of stuff I have accrued to live on. The idea of this whole adventure was to downscale and downscale I have but there is still a huge pile of stuff. There is a tent and a toilet and dozen or so camp friendly bags filled with chairs and spare tents and air beds and the like. A few tuff-crates and a wicker pig top off the pile nicely making me very pleased that I now have a tow bar, all I need now is a trailer. TLB's car will mean we can make it there on day one without a trailer but it will be a squeeze and a trailer is very high on the list of things to obtain.

I have tomorrow evening to clean the kitchen and then a van on Tuesday to deliver the last of things to people and to the storage depot. I am finding as I dig though things there are various things that I cannot decide what to do. I really like my tennis racket, but do I really want to cart it about when realistically I only play tennis half a dozen times a year? Well, we are less than 48 hours from C-day and all of these questions will be answered very soon.

I am also pretty concerned that my wood burning stove has not turned up yet, hopefully it will come tomorrow or Tuesday or I am going to be a bit stuffed. I have an option to borrow a gas heater for a few days so I shall survive but you can't cook on it, and I can only survive on a trangia for so long before my taste buds try some sort of industrial action around the use of methylated spirits in the workplace. There will be trying times ahead but if I can get over the hump of the next week then I am in the clear and can just get on with the business of living. Happy days.

Thursday, 4 September 2008


At some point somewhere, once in the distant prehistoric past a man was the very first man to actually make fire. Sure, the other cavemen had witnessed forest fires, lightning and maybe even volcanoes but at some point one clever soul found a way to create fire, from scratch, with his hands and some bits of tree. Imagine the satisfaction, I doubt it was some great scientific endeavour as we have these days, standing on the shoulders of giants, rather it was a moment of inspiration. An epiphany that results in the arrival of my wood burning stove tomorrow.

Fire is already starting to become part of the routine, putting on 6 candles when I get in, 5 for the tables and 1 for the lantern. Soon there will be a fire to consider on a pretty much full time basis. I have been recommended an excellent lantern which I have ordered but on the heat and cooking front fire will remain supreme. Come the revolution, wood burning stoves will be huge. It is possible I now know to light a fire on a quarter of a firelighter. Soon I am going to promote myself to kindling and then who knows, I may be rubbing sticks together before long, although the convenience of lighters is pretty undeniable.

The house is not yet cleared and people start arriving tomorrow, so the foolish early comers will be put to work clearing the house whilst I dash about in a van. Need sleep now, huge couple of days ahead.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Toilet Humour

Today I got a message from TLB informing me that my new toilet has turned up. This is the first toilet that I have ever actually owned in my life, finally I will be able to relieve myself into a receptacle of my very own. Finally, that most grounding of moments when I finally own the means to dispose of my own waste is upon me. I have been elevated from the prolootariat to the bourgeWC and I have been saving up for it all day.

First I erected the toilet tent in the living room, it came with a free set of shelves on which I placed my expectant toilet roll. I spent quite a frustrating few moments working out how to detach the top tank (including bowl and 2 piece seat) of the toilet from the lower tank (which holds the waste). I then fill up the lower section with the right mix of chemicals and water, fill up the top section with clean water, plonk it down in the toilet tent, which is erected amongst the mayhem of the living room, reverse in and admire the fittings.

The interior of the toilet tent has a set of very utterly useless shelves, an attachment on the ceiling for a shower head, a very well ventilated roof and a toilet roll holder. They were even nice enough to include a vacant/busy sign. The actual loo itself is about 2cm lower than a normal toilet but that is barely perceptible and the sturdy moulded plastic seat provides ample width without making you feel scarily in danger of plunging down onto your latest creations below.

I can imagine that in a good gale one may feel slightly vulnerable in the dangerously high centre of gravity environment that is a cubicle tent. The prospect of the tent disappearing randomly during an afternoon trip to the throne to find oneself compromised by a gust is not a good one. A decision has been made to find industrial strength tent pegs to nail it down with.

I am counting the minutes until the wood burning stove gets here on Friday and I have a very practical friend on standby to ensure that I measure twice and cut once in my glee. Then I am set to leave the confines of the garden and venture out into the world.

Monday, 1 September 2008

Slings and Arrows

On Saturday during what seemed like an endless torrent of rain, there was a lone thunderclap in the distance. It then occurred that I am now living in a tent whose main structural feature is a 3.5m metal pole. A decision has been made to try and find a nice wooden pole.

On Saturday I had a van booked and an appointment with Greg at the storage centre to deposit a few items I wish to keep. When I called the storage centre I couldn't help but laugh when they told me about the procedure to grant me a locking mechanism. I queried, suggesting "what, I have to buy a padlock?", and he replied in exactly the style of the guy in the Big Lebowski who is trying to flog an urn, "All of our our locking mechanisms are very reasonably priced."

8:45 Saturday and the phone goes off, I stagger around the tent looking for the phone to be greeted by the van company duly informing me that the largest van that they have is the size of a ford fiesta, despite me having pre-booked a long wheelbase transit sized job. Rubbish. I ask when they will have a bigger one and he tells me that there should be one coming in around 11:30. So I sit and I wait and when I call at 12:00 no one answers till the time when they close at 13:00. I bet someone died in it and he couldn't be bothered to clean it. I then call up Greg and tell him that I am not going to be coming to see him today because some work shy swine had denied me transport and he now thinks I am madder than he did before.

This Saturday the house is scheduled to be the venue for quite a good knees up at which many will erect tents through the house and stay up till morning. This may prove slightly awkward in light of the amount of mayhem in the living room. The evil car (which broke down the other day) should be equipped with a tow bar on Thursday, which means that if I can sort out a trailer on Friday then I will be able to move stuff Saturday morning. If not then back to the van hire companies, but certainly not bastard Europcar.

They have royally stitched me up with their stupid antics and I intend to seek revenge of some sort when my priorities settle down. Meanwhile I have to get on with the very serious and time consuming business of getting rid of all my stuff and throwing a wild party.
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