This was my first camping trip since… blimey… since I were a lad, bah gum. I had been hiking on my own for a couple of days, my mate Gary Clarke having dropped out on the third morning, buggered off back home on the train. Walking along all on my lonesome, I had become pretty damned chilly in my inadequate clothes, a constant right-to-left wind blowing my body heat away as the afternoon wore on.
Ancient woodlands are places of indescribable beauty, places of chaos and irregular geometry which speak of the deep mathematics of multi-species evolution untouched by human hand. In contrast, the obscene ranks of fir trees being planted by subsidy-scrounging agro-business is a million miles away from being natural. It's as stupid as squandering public funds for music on ringtones rather than symphony orchestras. The few square miles of ancient woodland which remain in Britain must be defended. They are riches which our descendants deserve to inherit.
Late at night I hear voices and see torchlight on the walls. I've been rumbled. Best to surrender now. I approached the two women saying in a loud voice, "OK! You got me! I know I shouldn't be here so I'll just gather my stuff and move on." Once the two women had recovered from the shock of a deranged wildcat camper emerging from the darkness they explained that they were just having a look around and I could do what the hell I liked as far as they were concerned.
Upon getting back home I found that this wilderness experience had changed me in two unexpected ways: in writing and in bathing.
In order to write something in the business desk-diary I had to take into my hand a strange stick-like implement which left a trace of dark fluid on paper - ink I think they call it. Of course I am exaggerating, but I swear that the everyday task of jotting something down with a pen is everyday only because we do it every day. It's a thin veneer of habit, I submit. Unlike oral communication which goes back millions of years, I submit that handwriting is not deeply embedded by our evolution; is a cultural activity which can be unlearned.
Sitting in the bath at our Telford bungalow I was entranced by the streams of clear liquid treasure coming out of the taps, one cold and the other - woo-hoo! - pre-heated, would you believe?! And this stuff - hundreds of litres of it! - was pure, drinking-quality water. We use this treasure without giving it a thought!
Again, lest a reader (a thick one) go away under the misapprehension that I had genuinely forgotten that Severn Trent Water plc existed, my point here is that this habit of taking unlimited water from a tap is a very recent one in man's history. One of the philosophical benefits of temporarily depriving oneself of luxury is a greater appreciation of it upon one's return. One of them - I think Epicureanism - has wrongly been associated with advocating gluttony when in fact it advocates annual periods of abstention. Abstinence makes the heart grow fonder is just one part of that healthy process of counting our blessings, especially those.... (oh, you know what I was about to write.... you clever people deserve an apology from the thick ones who insist that we explain why a bathfull of hot water is such a wonder!)