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.
page counter