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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