Woodnotes wild

31May13

Life is very different once you know you can make fire. Of course, anyone with a box of matches or a lighter can make fire, but that’s not REAL fire. Not the sort you make with a firestarter thingy, a ball of cotton wool and, if you’re feeling particularly skittish, a blob of Vaseline. Because yes – I survived Surrey and came back Prometheus. I haven’t been stretched and pegged on a rock to have my liver pecked out every day by birds sent by vengeful gods, but by Zeus I’m good enough to deserve it.

This is Andy the instructor demonstrating a considerably more professional looking effort than anyone else managed

This is Andy the instructor demonstrating a considerably more professional looking effort than anyone else managed

Actually, it wasn’t just the newly minted capacity for arson that’s making me as triumphant as I prophesied in the last post. It’s also making your own shelter, gathering wood in a sun-dappled forest, and finding out what five degrees at 2am can do to a body already cooled by sleep. Interestingly, while those five degrees are flaying your face off, they will probably also drive one of your campmates out of his much-thinner sleeping bag to restoke the fire two, three, four times during the night, generating a sheet of flame that will illuminate a) his grim rictus and b) three to five surrounding parishes. Poor Brendon. He’s Australian.

That's Brendon, before the night stole 10 years of his life

There’s Brendon, before the night stole 10 years of his life

Anyway, we learned lots of other things. Like that PG Tips with chunks of leaf mould and wood ash and no milk is absolutely delicious when made over your own campfire. Like that a packet of Malted Milks make nearly every situation a bit better. Like that if four people really put their minds to it, not one of them will need to crap in the woods.

That's Jane cooking. Good, isn't she?

That’s Jane cooking. Bless her for examining the meat so closely – it’s just about to get coated in airborne dreck from the fire.

But beyond the personal journeys that we four friends made together, the macro group of 14 of us gained knowledge of more general application. Such as, testosterone and axes can put you in hospital. In any emergency situation, ignore the blowhards and get on with saving yourself – the waverers will come round once you’ve built a shelter and got a brew on (and then they’ll make you their queen. After which you can crush your enemies. Crush them). Foraging for mushrooms in a survival situation is a really bad idea – they’re calorically useless and might well put you in a coma. And finally (get out the bunting, Gladys), no matter how bad things get, says Andy The Structor, don’t drink piss.

Everything I'm wearing here has since been washed, and yet I still leave a waft of woodsmoke

Forest floor – not as uncomfortable as it looks, unless you fall asleep with a torch in your trouser pocket.

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