Friday, 29 August 2008

To summarise...

I am now 10 days from moving out of my house. I have bought a tent, I have filled it with fabric based furnishings and I have learned a great deal about starting fires, sewing and kilowatt hours. My wood burning stove is due to arrive shortly, the camp site has confirmed my booking and the dog is now tent trained.

It may seem a trifle odd to some that a successful 30 year old man would want to move from his comfy accommodation with its pocket sprung bed, power shower and huge high definition television to go and live in a tent. You wouldn't be the first person to call me a fool for wanting to endure the British winter under canvas, but I have my reasons and most people have been quite easy to persuade of the merits of the idea.

The foremost of these merits is that I want to rid myself of all debt. I owe about ten thousand pounds and I feel it like a stone around my neck. I wear the yoke of idiotic consumerism and it is dragging me down. I shall not go into the where's and why for's of how I came by this rotten burden, suffice to say it is the result of living fractionally beyond my means for years. I know that I could sit tight for a couple more years and keep making the repayments but I am an impatient man, which is probably why I am in the situation I am in. By moving into a tent, I can accelerate the process of redemption and maybe even save some money to buy a house.

Debt is not my only reason though, the whole idea has other incidental benefits. One major part of moving into a tent has been disposing of my many useless possessions. I have been able to free myself of a huge amount of actual and emotional baggage just by letting it all go. Goodbye toaster. I promise to miss you occasionally. By reducing the amount of space I have and having to cart all my garb about often, it will be hard to accumulate dross without having to sacrifice something useful.

My carbon footprint will turn from a stomp to a tiptoe overnight and I will be free to travel where I choose. I will be able to take in a variety of vistas from a front door that I have permission to decorate and if I don't like the neighbours I can just move. The freedom, the savings and the communing with nature that will inevitably accompany this adventure will make even the lowest, dampest times a bit more bearable.

Hopefully though, with a little ingenuity and resourcefulness this whole caper can be a comfortable one. The tent is now very cosy and will soon offer most of the creature comforts I am used to, I will get wetter more often but I spend half my time shambling about in the drizzle with the dog anyway. I reckon I can be debt free by spring and the summer will be a joy of light evenings and barbecues. In the land of real people I am but a man living in a tent but when festival season comes, I will be king.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008


I thought I would post a few pictures just to give you an idea of where I am now living (in the garden).

The sleeping area, very comfy now, you can also see the edge of my wardrobe, my wash bag and various other odds and sods. The fan heater is temporary until my wood burner turns up later this week.

This is the seating area, I have been sawing the legs off of all my tables to provide suitable flat surfaces for the storing of G&T and candles.

This is the arse end of the dog, set against a backdrop of dappled leaves on canvas and the boudoir.

I will give a full guided tour when the interior is finalised which should be sometime this week, about which I am very excited.

I have now crammed the entire house worth of stuff into the living room of the house so that I can start cleaning all of the rooms, which effectively renders the house unusable, so I am now pretty much permanently installed in the garden.

I will be sure to furnish you all with more information and pictures as it comes, it is now 2 weeks to the day until I will be moving to my new location and I am very excited.

Saturday, 23 August 2008

Mum and Politics

I was called by my Mother a couple of days ago and she had clearly been dedicating some time and thought to my current antics. She was kind enough to share with me a couple of her insights and to my enormous surprise she suggested that it was actually a very sensible idea to be moving into my tent at the start of the winter. Somewhat puzzled, I asked her why?

She pointed out that for the first few months of my camping exploits I would be enchanted by the whole adventure and that the novelty of it may go a great distance towards making the discomfort of winter more bearable. By the time the winter starts to subside I will probably be pretty bored of getting home to a damp tent in the dark and the spring will be just around the corner.

I had not considered this so far but was happy to accept mums accusation of wisdom whilst pretending that this had been an integral part of my scheme from the outset. The other nugget of insight that she had to offer was that my blog has been becoming a bit ranty. I read back through the last few posts and realised she was quite correct but I am not so sure this is a bad thing.

I have spent the last few days in Zurich on business and have discovered that I am possibly the worst imaginable ambassador for our country. I spent a very pleasant evening in the company of one of the members of the naturalisation committee for the country who was very happy to indulge my interest in his country's government and people.

From the moment I set foot on Swiss soil I realised that they are streets ahead of us. They have electric trams that hurtle about the city and whilst the abundance of electric cables overhead and the noise are not the most discreet they are powered by the nations considerable Hydroelectric installations. Also admirable is the way that throughout the day they sell their hydroelectric power to their neighbours at peak prices and then during the night they buy power from the very same people and use it pump water back to the tops of their reservoirs, providing them with enough juice to be able to unleash the flood gates come morning and start selling it back. Now that I thought was cunning.

I also asked if the Swiss economy was prey to the dangers of the Global credit crunch and the response I got was very interesting. It seems that only about 30% of the Swiss actually own their homes, housing associations are king. For those that do own their homes, the vast majority are very committed to using them as actual homes, as tax is paid on housing at the point of sale and not the point of purchase. The longer you have owned your home, the less tax you pay on it, which makes speculating on the property market a far harder prospect. This both increases social mobility as less people buy homes but also serves to resist the temptation to commoditise the housing market.

Here in the UK most noteworthy manufacturing has dwindled to the production of call centre staff and home grown marijuana and we have become increasingly dependent on our housing market to provide the primary economic activity of the country. It wouldn't surprise me at all if we were all compelled by new legislation to play musical houses with our friends in order to keep up the momentum of our insane property market but the Swiss seem to have it pretty well under control.

Oh, and the swiss are largely governed by referendum. Shuh, like that is possible. Actually, it is. An old saying goes, Governments do not gain power by taking our freedoms but by assuming our responsibilities and all of the Swiss that I talked to in my very limited visit seemed aware of their country and their responsibilities. As one chap said to me, "we have very little violence here, but then everyone knows that everyone else has a gun at home."

They pay less tax but have greater social responsibility, they have cleaner streets, less obesity, smokers, binge drinkers... I could go on and on. But that may upset my rantaphobic mother. So I won't. Suffice to say, I am going to be buying a Teach-Yourself-German CD and put it in the car, just in case.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

An open letter to the Residents Association

Dear Residents Association,

A couple of months ago I got a knock on the door from a distressed woman asking me if I had anything to do with a letter that she was brandishing. It contained a legal threat from your good selves regarding her daughter. The lady in question was from the next road along from our little haven and was most upset that her daughter was being banned from playing on our green.

It stated that she was a menace to the area, that she was putting cars at risk with her improvised go carts, that as the child of people who do not live in the road, they were not insured in the event that she managed to injure herself and that local residents were intimidated by her presence. This 12 year old girl represented a sufficient threat to the neighbourhood that legal advice had been sought and the letter in front of me was the culmination of these consultations.

The upshot of this is that the girl is no longer allowed to play with her friends who live on our precious avenue, her family feel alienated from the community because a small clique of self appointed representatives have chosen to mount a massively disproportionate campaign to achieve their own small minded ends. Frankly, I could not be more ashamed to count myself among the people who live on this road.

I personally apologised to the tearful lady on my doorstep and assured her that I had no objection to her daughter playing on the green outside my house. It brings me considerable pleasure to see children playing outside, reminding of those carefree days when my greatest concern was whether or not I would be allowed to play after dinner.

In the time that I have lived here I have witnessed heated debates erupt outside my house between members of the RA and parents whose children were playing on the wrong part of the green. I have seen police style cordons put in place to ensure that children do not play on parts of the green that are being reseeded, assuring that the birds eating the seeds remain undisturbed. I have received minutes from meetings to which I have never been invited because I merely rent a house here and am thus not considered to be a valuable enough member of the community.

The horrible hypocrisy of the matter is that I suspect that the complaining members of the residents association are the very same type of Daily Mail reading authoritarian who routinely berate the council for not providing enough facilities for children. Instead of taking this as a chance to effect positive change for the local kids, helping to resolve your differences with this family through discussion and tolerance, you deferred your responsibility to act as a community to the authorities, hiding behind the law to ensure your petty agenda is met.

I am leaving this road shortly and will remember it as a road full of very kind families whose desires are in no way reflected by the group of small minded, fearful middle Englanders that have appointed themselves to represent them. You should be ashamed of yourselves.

Yours Sincerely

etc etc

Monday, 18 August 2008

Tow Bar Envy

One of the challenges of this whole caper is going to be transporting my stuff about when I want to relocate so I have been looking into trailers, not literally you understand, people may take offence at me ogling their stuff.

Very shortly after I started considering what sort of trailer to get I began to notice them everywhere. I put this down to the fact that I was now looking for them and that they have been in abundance all along. I approached the fleet manager of the company about getting a tow bar fitted to the car and he said it was fine. He also said that mine was the fourth request he has had this month for tow bars. To my mind either these people are so inspired by the beautiful simplicity of my plan that they are following suit with their own nomadic lifestyle ideas or (much less likely) more people are starting to invest in their own ability to holiday in England and are shunning the usual summer migration to sunnier climes for a week of grockling.

I called Lexus to find out about getting the tow bar affixed to the car and they said it was a swift procedure and for the utterly insane sum of £860 I would be fully kitted out. Once I had picked myself up from the floor and dusted myself off I politely declined before reminding them what a bunch of robbing pirates they are and hanging up. An alternative plan is clearly required. The car has to be returned to the lease company in the same shape it was delivered which means no tow bar. A contact of the fleet manager gave me a quote for about £400 but this would require him to cut through the bumper. This would solve the problem in the short term but would probably require me to part exchange my soul with Lexus for a new bumper in a year or two which is a price I am very reluctant to pay. So back to the drawing board.

I called up a few companies who informed me that there are kits which can be installed without having to perforate the platinum posterior of the car but they are more expensive. Things were not looking too jolly when I was then approached by the fleet manager who had been doing a little homework on the matter and had found a kit that would effectively cover the hole in the bumper and it would cost about £30. He did insist that he wouldn't sort it out if I kept kissing him so I resumed my work, happy in the knowledge that lexus would not be getting any of my money and a tow bar will be mine within a matter of weeks. Next stop, Trailerworld...

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Getting our ducks in a row

In a bid to talk about something other than my tent, I have been waffling with TLB about the merits or otherwise of management speak. A couple of days ago I overheard some suited monkey in a pub announce announce to his fellow primates that they needed to 'touch base regarding the leveraging of our new product'. I think what he was trying to say was that he and his colleagues should have a meeting about marketing but I cannot be sure.

Anyone who works in an office will have been subjected to similarly inane drivel and for some reason most people seem to object to the profusion of meaningless waffle within managerial circles. I personally think it is a good thing and wholeheartedly encourage anyone who wishes to adopt this bizarre vernacular to do so.

Nearly all professions have their own vocabulary. In the IT industry I am particularly exposed to the extremes of highly specialised language, entire conversations can be conducted in acronyms and industry relevant terms that to the outsider can sound like gobbledegook. I heard myself say the other day that we need to 'UAT the API of the CMS'. I am not going to even try to explain, suffice to say, some people out there will understand and I would not deign to bore those of you who don't. It is not just specific to IT though, all professions have their own acronyms, abbreviations and specialised lexicon. A Surrey flange may sound like something you could find staggering the streets of Guildford in a miniskirt but a plumber would know otherwise.

The problem with management is that when it comes down to it there are only so many ways you can talk about people and tasks. In order to avoid sounding boring one must talk instead of peopleware and meta priorities. There seems to be an overwhelmingly positive correlation between the lack of actual skills at a managers disposal and the amount of obfuscation required to distract everyone from the fact. It is for this reason that I believe management speak is a good thing, for it allows us to spot the frauds. In a room full of technical people, you can have absolute confidence in the fact that the person who is talking about strategic content and blue sky thinking is the one whose thinking should be completely disregarded.

I often like to counter with some unintelligible nonsense myself, like announcing that our creative soufflé is collapsing and that we should stop opening the oven, not solely to ridicule the management apes but also to ensure that we are all singing from the same hymn sheet.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Everything must go

This morning I put out an email to all staff detailing the things that I wish to sell. The response was pretty immense and I spent a large amout of the morning fielding questions and apologising to the management for abusing their email system. I have managed to rid myself of my TV, the Playstation, a large coffee table, 1 sofa, 1 comfy chair and a pair of very dangerous stilts. There are a few other things which people have shown interest in and most have agreed to collect the bulkier items. There are still bookshelves, 2 beds , a chest of drawers and various other detritus to sift through.

My uncle was kind enough to send me a list of things which he feared I have forgotten about so to allay the fears of those of you who think I may going into this whole endeavor woefully unprepared I have a list of things that I intend to purchase in advance of my departure. These include:
  • a wood burning stove
  • a couple of sealed plastic boxes for food storage.
  • some Tupperware
  • a portable barbecue
  • 1 low folding table
  • a 10 litre collapsible water container
  • 2 camping saucepans and a frying pan
  • a good thick mattress topper
  • 2 large cushions
  • a pair of sheepskins
  • a pair of large fleece throws
  • 2 packs of 5 plastic floor tiles for door entrance and stepping stones to the toilet
  • a Coleman portable toilet
  • enviro-chemicals for the aforementioned receptacle
  • a toilet tent
  • 1 big rechargeable caravan battery
  • 2 lanterns (not decided on LED or oil yet)
  • a tow bar for my car
  • a trailer and probably some bungees.
Of these items the trailer/tow bar and the wood burning stove will be the expensive ones but I can easily cover those costs with the proceeds of the items I have sold today. I will also get a months wages with no rent to pay and the deposit from the house so I should not struggle when it comes to getting set up. There are now only 28 days to go and it is all getting quite exciting.

Saturday, 9 August 2008


This morning in the wind and the rain TLB and I set off to have a look at some local camp-sites, a reconnaissance mission designed to help me gauge the likelihood of finding somewhere nice to live in my tent. It took us about half an hour to find the first one tucked away down a tiny road. The wending stream cut through a verdant valley and a packhorse bridge separates the 2 camping fields that are on the site.

For a fiver a day the dog and I can sleep on their land and when asked if I could extend my tenure with them after their 28 day limit, the lovely lady said that all I would have to do is leave for a day and then I could come back. Result. Joy. My main fear was allayed on the first site we went to, they have farm foul, rustic cottages and 2 different camp-sites on their land which appears to be massive and the lady I spoke to seemed very nice to boot. Happy days.

The second site we visited was somewhat less idyllic. On arrival it became painfully obvious that it was in fact a trailer park with a small field next to it for campers. Not just a touring park but an actual trailer park, with static caravans, dirty children and incredibly white plastic picket fences. We didn't even get out of the car. Mercifully it wasn't the first place we visited or my spirits may have taken a downturn.

The third place we visited was the pub and the second camp-site was quickly forgotten. This beautiful little discovery in the valley means that my rent and bills are about to drop from about £1300 per month to £150 which is fantastic. The extra fuel to get to work will add a few quid to my monthly budget but that is an acceptable loss. At that price it will be hard to leave though I am sure at some point I will feel compelled to go elsewhere, after all, that is beauty of living in a tent.

Friday, 8 August 2008

Home sweet home.

and from the inside...


TLB and I spent a third night sleeping in the garden last night and much to my horror, when I woke up I was slightly damp. As we chatted and prepared food in the tent yesterday evening, the rain started lashing down upon my new home for the very first time. It held up well and did not leak, which I was informed it may well do during the first downpour. The theory goes that the tent will shrink the first time it gets wet which will seal any slight imperfections in the canvas and the seams and afer that, it should be splendidly weatherproof. I am hoping so.

I think one mistake we made was closing all of the windows before actually hitting the sack, this meant that there was no where for any condensation to go and it lingered in the air. I am also not yet equipped with a wood burner so there was no heat source to deter the damp and it was this combination of factors which gave me my first insights into the potential for misery that lies ahead. I am not discouraged though, people have lived comfortably in tents for generations and I am sure that with a little experience and cunning I can assure my comfort and moisturelessness.

Having now had a few days of living in the garden I am enthused. The circular space is very 'soothing to the soul' as TLB put it and the thick Afghan rugs on the floor make it very comfortable to lounge about. I have now robbed cushions from the sofa, dismembered a variety of tables to make them a more suitable height for life in a tent, reappropriated the speakers from my computer and a small bin as I was starting to need somewhere to put waste.

Last nights dinner of vegetable and Haloumi skewers marinaded in our own home made peanut butter and sweet chilli satay sauce was eaten in the style of a Roman banquet with my poet friend, TLB and I sprawled decadently across the floor, picking and guzzling as we saw fit. I could definitely get used to it which is rather good as it looks like I am going to have to.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

more rubbish for you to read

I now have my tent. I slept in it last night and it is fantastic. It takes up the entire width of the garden and could be considered to be massive overkill. I suspect that in time the extra height and floorspace will be a blessing.

My next task is to clear the house. Not an inconsiderable task either I tell you, a friend has suggested that local charity shops and hospices will happily remove whatever I do not wish to sell, store, chuck or return to their rightful owners.

The latter includes various DVD's, a couple of very sizeable pot plants, some drums, books and more. It is strange how one can accumulate the most varied and inane detritus to fill every possible cranny. In my rummaging I have found various alcohol bottles that I have been keeping for posterity (?!?), several derelict computers, a very expensive razor that takes old style blades which was used half a dozen times before I gave it up in fear of decapitating myself and a variety of books which I had not heard of let alone read. It will persist for some time, upstairs I have yet to discover a huge set of Yamaha speakers, reference quality but sadly utterly buggered and in need of restoration (as if), some of the most disgusting curtains you have ever seen, some sandals that hurt and a man-sized tie dye baby grow. I'll stop. Suffice to say I have my work cut out.

Did I mention the tent that currently lords it over the trees in the garden? It has beautiful cream canvas walls that are ambient in the daytime and romantic in the evening, it feels robust like a barnacle and I am quite smitten with the cunningly placed metal ring 3/4 of the way up the center pole.

Last night a slug seems to have crawled up the outside wall of the tent and exploded about a foot from the floor. It has left a small brown stain (1cm across maybe) and a slime trail that I find quite inexplicable. It is quite sad that it was the first thing that I noticed when I woke up and I scuttled outside in my pants to see what on earth was going on. The gradual encroachment of nature will have a whole different meaning to merely removing the grass from between the patio slabs.

I am so enthused in fact that I plan to move into the tent and clear the top floor of the house first over the next week or so. What will the neighbours think? In the meantime my best mate has been writing poetry and here it is for your entertainment...


dining on the grass
reclining while the sun is shining
mojitos and champagne combining
neural signals realigning

sitting in small world fingers curled
round a brandy hot chocolate swirled
with cream as music at my head is hurled
and the festival unfurls

a nighttime diversion fuelled by aversion
to steep hills leads to an unplanned excursion
into the woods but we undergo a conversion
and ultimately a direction reversion

at the bell tents is where lots of time is spent
ben's hell bent on buying one to escape from rent
but looking only fuels his intent
so the visits become a regular event

the rain abstains and we're entertained
by dancers with fireworks on chains
the bonfire goes up the crowd goes insane
and grandmas house gets engulfed in flames

staying up all night drinking chai
watching the sky waiting for the sun to rise
but it defies and behind the hill it lies
for it knows what the dawn of the new day implies

i'd just like to append that after sunrise ends
there'll be another to attend
because i've enjoyed having time to spend
with you my friends :)

Monday, 4 August 2008

mmmm, lovely tents

I have been at the Big Chill this weekend having a generally splendid time. While I was there I came across the the good people from who were full of practical advice and had loads of display models for me to check out. I managed to bore the pants from my various friends with my enthusiasm for the canvas creations and by sporadically dragging them in to sit in one of the various different models of tent.

I have ordered a 5 metre* tent with a fixed heavy duty groundsheet, just like the one you can see here. The extra metre in diameter above that of the 4 metre tent is very noticable with a huge increase in headroom and floor space. As my only living space I know that I will come to appreciate the extra space. The fixed groundsheet should protect me from all but the most severe flooding and is thick enough to take quite a lot of abuse.

It was well ventilated with 4 large semicircular flaps that can be unzipped to reveal a mosquito netted windows about a foot from the floor. They seem to work very well, it was a very hot day and it was perfectly comfortable inside. The whole tent stands 3.5 metres high which is a pretty damn big space, I may get my geometry out at some point and calculate the internal volume of the shape when I am suitably bored.

He also had a couple of stoves which I have become unreasonably excited about but I will get some pictures and do a post in due course. Seeing the tents in the flesh has really enthused me and I can see that with a bit of cunning and discipline I will be able to live very happily in one. This weekend I intend to go on recon missions to a few campsites and make some casual enquiries under the cover story of a contract worker coming to the are for a few months and see how I get on, I may even take my new tent if it arrives before the weekend.

* Metres are best. Anyone who insists on clinging to the arcane witchcraft that is the imperial system should be denied computers and given pencils. How many yards are there in a mile? 1760. What on earth does that number have to do with anything? How many yards in 13 miles? Eh? Eh? It is a system so arbritrary that 16 ounces make 1 pound, 14 pounds make a stone, 2240 stones make a ton and you have to start doing fractions if you want to measure anything smaller than a yappy dog. We have ten fingers and all of our day to day mathematics are decimal so please, government signage people, quoters of fuel efficiency stats, watchers of weight, just let it go. I know that 202kg is a bigger number than 32stone but it doesn't make a difference to the size of your ass. Really, it's true, I promise. Come with us, join the advanced computer using people of the 21st century and gaze upon our transparent matrices of numbers, all perfectly lined up with flashy lights whizzing along them and the elegant, logical nomenclature. Welcome to the future luddites.
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