11 Nov 2004, Clapham, London
Announcement: Roz to row the Atlantic
Departing in November 2005, I will set out to row from the Canaries to Barbados. More details coming soon. Watch this space!
23 Oct 2004, Clapham, London
Thank you for your incisive feedback. You didn't provide your e-mail address with your comments, so I'm hoping that you will get to see this.
In my last update, I intended no disrespect for Ray Mears - I have the greatest admiration for his values. I was particularly impressed that he took the time and trouble to respond to a question I'd asked him - I'd asked what charities he has seen working directly with indigenous peoples to encourage them to value and nurture their traditional skills. He couldn't think of one at the time, but sent me a handwritten note a couple of days later to suggest such a charity, the Tribes Foundation. (Incidentally, he has beautiful handwriting.)
The reason that I'd asked him this question is that I'm planning a major expedition, and am looking for a tie-in with a charity that supports indigenous cultures in an appropriate manner so that I can help promote their cause. As you seem interested in this kind of thing yourself, maybe you can suggest one?
You wrote that I entirely missed the point of the course. It's intriguing that you feel able to judge me without knowing me. On the contrary, I believe that I completely got the point of the course. However, my perception of the point is rooted in a very personal view of the world's future, which I generally prefer not to publicise. If you're interested in bushcraft and indigenous skills, maybe you've come across the Hopi tribe. If so, you may have some idea what informed my decision to take the course.
The contact details you provided were:
ADDRESS: The, Forest, Somewhere, Some code
TELEPHONE: Who knows
But maybe you could provide me with more accurate contact details, so that we can keep future correspondence confidential.
12 Oct 2004, Tunbridge Wells
You know Ray Mears, the guy on the TV who is passionate about bushcraft and who teaches essential survival skills? Like lighting a fire without matches?
Well, last week I went on a course run by his Woodlore company, to learn the firestarting trick and other survival-type skills. We were taken from the rendezvous point into the depths of woodlands on a private estate on the Sussex Weald, near Tunbridge Wells, where we pitched camp.
Our leader for the week was Woody, an ex-forces man with an unsettlingly good knowledge of stalking and tracking... of the human variety. He was ably assisted by Stanni (an action-man lookalike from the Netherlands) and Willow (who, in her green hooded jacket and broad-brimmed woodsman's hat looked exactly like a spirit of the trees).
Over the next six days they drilled us in the techniques of survival, and patiently patched us up after numerous mishaps with bushcraft knives. We built shelters out of sticks and leaves, made cord out of nettles (painful), fashioned spoons out of wood, skinned and gutted rabbits, and set snares for birds. We learned how to navigate by the sun, moon and stars, and how to forage for food in the wild. We soon discovered there's a very good reason most wild foods are not found on supermarket shelves - when an instructor said something was 'delicious', it just meant it tasted less disgusting than the rest.
And yes, we started fires without matches - very hard work, involving lots of vigorous elbow action with a bow and drill. Even if you don't manage to get your fire started, you get pretty damn warm in the attempt.
It wasn't always fun. The schedule was busy, and there never seemed to be enough hours in the day to get all our projects finished and collect our firewood. Personal hygiene went out the window very early in the week - stripping off for an al fresco shower in October didn't appeal, so I resorted to baby-wipe baths in a vague attempt to maintain respectability. And everything, I mean EVERYTHING, got covered in mud.
There were times during the week when I wondered why I'd paid so much money to do this course, when I seem to remember Girl Guide camp could be equally cold, damp and character-building, and an awful lot cheaper. But with hindsight, it was definitely worthwhile - although I hope never to be in a survival situation, it's good to know that if it happens, I'll have some idea of how to fend for myself... although after a less than impressive performance on the firestarting front, I'll be making sure I've got some matches with me.
Finally, huge thanks to Mike and Melanie Norris, who have shown generosity above and beyond the call of duty. They uncomplainingly took in a smelly, muddy, cut and bruised stray, and have plied me with hot baths and good food. Very much appreciated.
26 Sep 2004, Leeds
Methodist minister, husband, father.
Genealogist, book-lover, amateur cosmologist.
Autodidact, thinker, dreamer.
Unique, beloved, loving.
Rest in peace.