Tuesday 16 June 2009

I'm back

TLB and I have been living in the grounds of a stately home in the Purbeck Hills which has been very nice but all good things must come to an end. We are leaving because we want to pay our way in the world and we want our own home. We do not want to outstay our welcome but the tent is not an option at the moment as I need to be able to work from home. Thus, the house hunting started in earnest a few weeks ago.

The reason that TLB and I first moved into a tent was to clear debts and to have an adventure. We have certainly had an adventure and debts have been cleared but I still have a way to go, on both fronts. We have lived rather too well over the last 6 months, getting functioned up with alarming regularity and commuting from Dorset to Reading weekly has placed different pressures on my perpetually dwindling bank balance.

A few weeks ago some people that we know heard that we were house hunting and offered to let us a gorgeous little cottage on their estate. Being within walking distance from TLB's new job and within our budget we agreed instantly. We move in on the 4th July and have both vowed to make use of the tennis court in the garden to get fit. I do however think the role of ball boy will be well beyond the dogs meager capabilities, for he is a simpleton.

The dog is in excellent spirits and has had the best few months of his life, with the last 5 months spent staring at a hole in the garden. At his disposal have been woodlands, gardens (walled and otherwise), fields and pastures to roam about in and he has ignored them all in favour of his obsession with the hole. On day 4 of living here, he managed to catch a rat, a rat which came out of the hole into which he now gazes longingly. He hasn't caught one since. On the occasions that he has managed to make it further afield he has been to a local conservative party meeting in the big house (alone I hasten to add), has diced with death on the edges of the cliffs and spent lots of time squashing bluebells. His new home is bound to have a hole so he can hone his staring and loitering.

Between us TLB and I own enough things to fill one medium sized tent, which means we are starting from scratch. We have no TV, no sofa and no fridge. TV is very far down the list and I am going to start reading books and blogging more, first we are going to raid the auctions and freecyclers of the world so we don't have to sit on garden furniture in the living room. We do have a lovely wood burning stove, a trailer, some plastic crockery and a collection of lovely Afghan rugs.

I now have about £4k of debt, having paid off about £6k whilst we were living in the tent, I have abjectly failed to save since living here but am newly enthused about clearing the burden. The house we are moving to is within our means but we will have to be sensible about things if we wish to thrive. The combination of budgeting and incredulity at the world around me* made me miserable enough to stimulate my creative urges.

We have been incredibly lucky and have met some fantastic people along the way but now is the time to get serious about escaping from the shackles of debt and building ourselves a house. Key phrases to look out for will be vegetable box, on the wagon, joint account and dog grooming incident.

*Gordon Brown. In the land of the blind the one eyed man is king.

Wednesday 18 February 2009

Dear Boxshifters pt 2

Dear IT Support

Your swear filter is somewhat less effective that I thought it was. I have managed to call my colleague a cock muncher, shitbiscuit, gobshite, felcher, arse-eater, dog fluffer, wang daddy, cock beast, hootie mama, jizm gobbler, cum guzzling fuckslut, cumdrain, winnet eater, shitface, dog breath, bananaman, arsefucker and spunk bucket in the last few minutes alone.

However jerk, faggot, bitch and arse are all illegal, all of which could quite conceivably have meanings that are not considered abusive.

Muff diver gets flagged up as racist abuse but Paki and Nigger are completely fine. I cannot imagine what sort of perverse mind could mis-categorise so wildly.

Should you require me to provide consultancy regarding the correct configuration of your swear filter I would be very happy to provide a comprehensive list of abusive terms, racist abuse and sexually discriminatory remarks,



Dear Boxshifters...

Dear IT Support,

I have recently been having some problems with my dog in that he has been eating the cushions and soft furnishings in my house. When I was trying to explain to one of my colleagues what a little pillow biter he is, I was shocked to find that your profanity filter started flashing up worrying warnings about sexually discriminatory terms.Imagine my surprise when discussions about a friend of mine, a landscape artist who has been working on a number of uphill gardens, were flagged as profane. How very dare you!

I am all for sensitivity to our sexually diverse colleagues but I think this may be going a little far. I have decided to spend a little time working out exactly what I can and cannot say so that I will in the future be aware of when I transgress the very sensitive and somewhat prudish communication filter. If you do find a strange upsurge in the number of ambiguous sexual terms going through the swear filter please excuse me and be aware that it is a very short term period of experimentation.




Okay, so we moved house, to Dorset and have had a couple of weeks to acclimatise. I am going to have to change the name of the blog to something more suitable but feel that I should have sufficient adventures to keep what little readership remains amused.

When I first heard of the prospect of a free stately pile in the country I was overjoyed. My tent had collapsed only a week prior to it becoming available to us and we had camped in laundry rooms and in the houses of sympathetic farmers for the duration of the snow. The tent is now back up and running, sat in the garden of our new home and we are installed in what is possibly the most peculiar circumstances one could imagine.

TLB, the Dog and I are now part time house mates with an ex-General, a lovely chap who is equipped with the most dazzling array of stories and can name-drop for England, quite literally. He seems to be very close to the apparently small world of the rich and famous, the good and the great. He often talks about The Queen as if she were just another person, which to him I suppose she is. By virtue of TLB's job we now have at our disposal a cleaner and a gardener, a good supply of wine and endless supply of awesome scenery for the dog to piss on.

So imagine our surprise, a week after having moved in to be told that the Stately Home, the grounds of which we have been living in has been sold. There are 13 houses on site, a few businesses and all of them are being vacated. We have our marching order and until August to enact them so we may well be heading back to the tent after a brief bout of luxurious living.

Thursday 5 February 2009

Oh no, our little home, what has the evil snow done to you?

Today I worked from my friends flat where we have been holed up for the last few days, primarily because it had snowed and the journey would have been painful but also as it would enable me to go and check out the tent during my lunch break. I had not yet had a daylight opportunity to go to the farm and sort it out and today was a bit of a grizzly chore.

When I arrived the old girl was in a sorry state. Covered in snow and ice, the entrance was the only think that marked it as a tent rather than a pile of snowy lumps. I got out my ice shovel (thank you snowboarding brother who abandoned his kit with me last year) and set about clearing it. Once I had shovelled all of the ice and snow from the top I could lift the sopping wet canvas just enough to be able to get out the things that we knew would not survive. We grabbed bedding, rugs and clothes. Tuff-crates, stoves, air beds and the like would be relatively unharmed by a couple more days in the drink and time was very short.

The pole had bent clean in half. Monica (the farmers wife, I can talk about these things now that I am leaving!) came over and grabbed the pole insisting that it would be fine in 5 minutes and scuttled off with it. True enough, she appeared 5 minutes later with pole in hand. She had been to see Richard my welding buddy who had done a credible repair to the pole, chopping off the top that was bent and inserting a new, tougher bit of iron bar and welding it into place. Grand. We got a chance to quickly put it up to make sure it was strong enough and we then we laid it to rest for fear that it would collapse again under the predicted volume of snow.

When up, we could see that the tent had quite extensively flooded and where one of the rugs had been sat in standing water for some time, it had leached some dye into the water. This made the tent look like the floor was covered in blood. Which was then traipsed across the snow as rugs and the like were removed. It looked like serious violence had been done upon that spot, I tell thee.

So, we have been offered a bed tomorrow night on the farm which we are going to take up. We are going to get up nice and early on the Saturday morning and we are going to take down the tent and pack everything into the trailer, upon whence we shall bid farewell to our home since September last year. The atmosphere has been quite solemn since we got back after lunch. TLB remarked that she was sad and just wanted a few more days in the tent before we head off to Dorset. Life in the tent is just not possible now, bedding is with dry cleaners*, floor is flooded and there are not enough daylight hours available to sort it out whilst we are both working.

It has always struck me as a bit of a vulnerability of tent life. We often considered cleaning the tent but to do so would take at least 2 days. Clear the tent, take it somewhere to hose and scrub, apply waterproofing gubbins, take it home, allow to dry, reinstall stuff. Any major changes to the tent environment hinge around the fact that we have to sleep in it. We couldn't send off bits of the stove for repair as we needed them on a daily basis to cook and stay warm. We are now on our third airbed and each time, we have had to obtain a new one** within a day just to ensure that we did not have a miserable nights sleep.

I think what I am trying to say is thankyou to TLB without whom this whole caper would have been infinitely harder. Her day to day sprucing and stoking, hunting and gathering has given a dimension of domesticity to our little tent. Without her it would have been a great deal harder to maintain a reasonably civilised persona at work and at home. This has been her adventure more than mine and I am hugely looking forward to the adventures that she can take me on in our new home in Dorset.

This all sounds very final. On the upside we have a fantastic but slightly weathered tent and stove, trailer and towbar, loads of memories, new friends and money in the bank. When we get to Dorset I am going to take up Morris dancing. The adventure is far from over.

*It may seem to some that we are the epitome of middle class campers and this is probably not untrue, but we do require a certain degree of comfort in order to make this whole ventureworthwhile. When your £150 goose down duvet is stained and soaked through, I am inclined to give it to an expert to salvage rather than ruin it myself.

**I have fixed many a bike puncture, but trying to get an entire airbed underwater when every drop within a mile is frozen to find the leak is not something I can recommend.

Wednesday 4 February 2009


Well, what an adventure the last week or two has been. I seem to have recently lost a bit of momentum with regards to the blogging, partially because I have had no peace in which to scribe my whitterings but mainly because I have not been doing much camping.

I took a couple of days holiday at the start of this week and TLB and I decided to head down to Dorset for a long weekend and explore our new home. We arrived on Saturday morning, stocked up on cheese and bread from the local market and set about finding the beach, the garden etc. Sunday saw extreme weather warnings which we heeded and decided to cut short our trip to Dorset in case we got stranded. I had booked a day at a spa for TLB and I to celebrate her birthday which we very much wanted to get home for so we set off into the bright sunshine and clear skies, cursing the weather that had better come.

We went to stay with a friend, knowing full well that if it did snow, the farm would be cut off from vehicular access and we would be stranded. On Monday we woke up to a blanket of snow. We got a call from the Farmers who were sad to report that our tent had collapsed under the weight of the snow. There was no way to get to the tent, even the farmers, with quads and a tractor had not been able to get out so we went snowboarding for the day instead. Tuesday was the day on which we had to go to the spa, which we did. Today is the day when we are going to have to go and rescue the tent.

The farmers have done a little investigating and reckon that the canvas is not ripped and that it must be a bend in the central pole. The padlock that we fitted for security purposes has prevented them from investigating any further. My theory is that as the snow built up on one side of the tent, it caused the tent to lean which made the central pole slip on the cold ground and bought the lot down but until we can get there, there is really no way of knowing. All I am sure of is that all of my worldly possessions are currently in a large soggy pile in a field.

In many ways I am counting my blessings, we are neither stranded at the farm, nor were we in the tent at the time of collapse, which would have been truly horrible. We have a house available to us immediately which we can go to at any time we choose. We plan to move in this weekend so our homelessness is very brief and a very good friend has been putting us up for a couple of nights in the meantime.

It is absolutely typical that we have the coldest, snowiest winter for decades at the same time as I decide that camping out for Winter would be a brilliant idea. This may seem like a somewhat inglorious end to the camping odyssey and could mark the time we have spent in the tent as a failure. I do not believe this is the case for the following reasons:
  • We have now lived in the tent for 6 months in all but the most extreme weather, we have survived local flooding, temperatures below -10C and high winds, and have taken all in our stride.
  • My aim of saving money will be going from strength to strength as we now have a free roof over our heads and I will be working from home a lot more, saving further money on fuel and lunches and the like.
  • I have managed to pay off far more debts than I would have been able to living in the old house, and have not accrued any more.
  • We have both had a fantastic time, which we will one day tell our kids about, and hell, may even repeat when the summer comes if we fancy it.
I sometimes wonder if we are chickening out by making a dash for the Dorset house but I think I would have given considerable ammunition to my detractors and their claim that I am insane if I were to forsake a warm, dry, free house just to make a point. As I have often said, if the sole reason that you are doing something is the principle of the thing, it is probably not worth doing.

And for all those of you who need a top camp site, not too far from London but suitably out in the sticks, I can very strongly recommend Mellow Farm, near Dockenfield in Hampshire, James and Monica have been the best landlords we could have hoped for and we will miss them very much.

Tell them Ben and The Lovely Bella sent you.

Saturday 24 January 2009

From the sublime to the ridiculous.

This post may err on the scatological but I will do my best to keep it decent. As no honest person can deny, the clear up required after a hefty and satisfying discharging of ones bowels varies in it's involvement. On Thursday night I found myself at the wrong end of a serious clean up and decided that I would just skip the tissue and leap straight into the shower. As I went to get into the shower my family turned up and would not, despite my insistence, leave the bathroom. I remember the sensation of anger rising in me and I ended up screaming the house down, raging against my unwelcome intruders as I desperately wanted to get clean. Dreams can be most peculiar things.

Feeling the separation of the buttocks caused by an epic klingon, all I wanted to do was to get clean. I hysterically battled with my mother to leave the bathroom, the location of which remains a mystery, until eventually she took offence. Then it was tears, recrimination and blame as all I could think about was cleaning my polluted posterior. I was aware of a shower nearby and being naked as I already was I left the room and headed into the middle of the high street, covering myself as best I could, to find this surreal open air shower unit. It was not working so I returned to the shower room from whence I came. The room was clear, the shower was functional and just as I was about to get into it, one of my colleagues materialised in the shower and blocked my entry.

It was at this point that I woke up. Shocked at my sleepy adventure and pleasantly surprised to find I had not soiled myself in my sleep. My colleague was most surprised when I greeted him with a slightly harrowed 'I dreamt about you last night'. I am not usually one to read meaning into my dreams but I was acutely aware when I awoke that I do not have my own ablutionary facilities. No privacy in which to enjoy cleaning, it is all in public facilities, be they friends houses, the shower block or the shower at work. I cannot wait to have somewhere I can safely leave my soap.

That looks to be approaching very quickly. TLB returned from her meeting last night very excited and keen to talk about our new adventures in Dorset. I have asked her if it is okay to blog about the subject and she has kindly allowed me to share my excitement, as long as I do not mention names or places. So, the plan as it stands is to pack up the tent in 3 weeks and transplant our lives to Dorset.

TLB has managed to secure housing in a clock house in the grounds of a stately home on the Dorset coast. The house is the holiday home of a Knight who has been helping her to secure funding for a fossil museum and he has kindly offered to let us stay in it for the foreseeable future. The house, complete with walled garden, cleaner, wood burning stove, pool and horizon lake will be a world away from the tent. Wood will be delivered weekly and chopped for us and the track down to our private beach will make for excellent mountain biking. It would appear that we are going from the sublime to the ridiculous.

It all seems quite surreal. For many years I have always been the instigator, in matters of housing (or tenting) I have always been in the driving seat and for the first time I get to sit back and enjoy the ride, and what a ride it promises to be. TLB and I will both be working from home for quite a bit of the time. We will be able to share lunchtime walks with the dog, who will continue to be in seventh heaven, evening strolls to the seaside and balmy summer nights in our rural idyll. The mind boggles, I can hardly believe it is true.
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