originally posted on my previous site Nov 2015.
This writing malarkey is all new to me, but after reading the posts by a fellow artist Anika Badderley
I think I will give it a go, if nothing else it will fulfill a past desire to write…..something.
Shell Island 2015, my own experiment in returning to camping as a solo (+ dog, Spot) and since the “illegal function” my brain decided to do a couple of years ago, unfortunately a brain replacement and software reinstilation us out of the question so it’s up to me to re-evaluate life as I now perceive it and formulate an updated user manual. The steps in the camping exposure were thus;
- Complete the packing process
- Journey into the unknown ( and yet slightly familiar)
- Keep myself sustained ( Meds, Food, Water)
- Find out what OCD type routines are now required
- Rediscover what it was about camping, I have a distant memory of, that was so enticing.
- Oh and most important…STAY till the END!
- It looks like an experiment which requires a lab coat and clip board, but this is presently ( don’t you just hate it when due to your phonetic spelling, a word has to be changed due to auto correct going “What???”) how I have to introduce or re-introduce changes to my schedule or lifestyle.
And off we start with the packing, I know through fishing that this was going to be awkward. Each time I have a fishing trip the bag has to be completely unpacked and then repacked with everything in its place the day, not the night, the day,before. Each container of assorted pellets, opened, checked and topped up if required, even if never used, ever! It took days to get it originally sorted. With this in mind I gave myself eight days, this I posited, gave me ample time to pack, and repack, whilst trying to grasp at virtual straws of memory past as to the best way I did it.
Now, memory recall requires quite oft a trigger, but the list of new had been growing over the two years of stalling, “I can’t go because I need such and such”, so much so the list of potential triggers had become:- the tent, my old Trangia and my rucksack, which I believe was new, and may never have been used, but has remained with me for over half a decade so therefore is old. Not good. Every day, pack unpack, werrit, consult the list. A list! Formed to try and extrapolate a near mathematical formula for the most efficient placement of equipment whilst still keeping the centre of gravity close to the back and low down. I might as well been given the order – you are leaving to live on Mars in the morning, pack what you think will be required, here is your box. I could not work it out, could not tap into prior experience and knowledge. The box became the car!
Now the itinerary. Simple, follow a rote similar to that of one taken a month ago. Has to bypass Wrexham and Llangollen, not go directly to llanbedr but instead go via penmaenpool bridge, a 136ish year old wooden bridge that has become part of my routine of going to the Gwynedd coastal area, even if it adds time onto a journey. The wooden thunkity thunk resonating below the sticky rubber tyre sound going over the Jenga style blocks now signals the beginning of a holiday, as the mind and heart race a little at the thought of the wood just collapsing under the weight it now holds. It never does of course, but my inner child will play. The difference this time is I am not meeting family at the destination and I have the tide to race against or wait three hours on the wrong side of the causeway and crossing in the dark. I just knew it would be close as delays would be inevitable. Every slow vehicle between Stoke and Bala on the road that day was in front of me, time sped past so fast that at Bala I gave up trying to get there for the tide and decided to enjoy the Autumn scenery of the journey and stop at Barmouth for sausage and chips for me n spot and a cup of tea, which we did. Only after the first bite of a chip did I look at the phone, the clock! The bloody clock is wrong, the car one has to be altered manually,last night was the clocks going back an hour, the sausage and chips were placed aside, much to Spot’s disappointment, and the race with the tide was back on. It was close, an inch spare or one wee wave before it became impassable, now to find a place to set up camp.
It would be wrong of me not to mention that Shell Island is informal in placement of pitching a tent, there are some no dogs allowed fields and then there are areas in between fields, trees and dunes that you can look for a place to fit your tent. This is my kind of pitch, a little more private and less people.
I panicked as the light was quickly fading, I had totally forgot how dark it got with no light pollution filling the sky. It was down to two choices as I had no more time to search, one offered more protection from the strong winds I could remember flattening tents, the other more privacy, but might be more of a slope. That was it my mind went into a mini meltdown, it could not find the knowledge it knew was there. Back and forth I went ,site to site, this angle to that. Car headlights shining on potential tent positions, time ticking away. “This one, I will go with this one!” Spoken so loudly that anybody walking by would have thought it directed toward them. Got to try and slow down, mistakes will happen if I panic, too late as the tent inner went up it became clear the position I chose to sleep was 90° out and the tent doors would either be over a hole or in the bushes, adjust the tent and hope for the best. The tent was erected by the light of car headlamps in the end, sleeping mat down, self inflating mat down on top, it is October end, sleeping bag unpacked, done for the night! Head pounding, as often occurs with over stimulation comedown, I just wanted to slide into the bag and go to sleep, hide from what is oppressing, even though it was quarter past six. Time for a rather cool sausage and chips with an even cooler cup of tea.
In the morning after an awful night of little sleep, the tent was moved to the other location.
Food taken was as follows:-
•Salad potatoes, a bag of, rather than a few as they were reduced.
•Six sweet peppers, enough for a couple of days.
•Six red onion.
•One garlic bulb.
•One large punnet of cherry tomatoes.
•Pre bagged cup worth of rice (3) and macaroni pasta (5)
•A selection of camping foods (6), pre done meals in a bag you can eat hot or cold. A taste trial/ backup plan.
Water was taken in the farm of a five litre bottle, this I concluded would then be used as a refillable water carrier with handle when empty. The Meds were in my weekly slotted container as usual this itself in a waterproof bag.
The plan was simple one meal would be tomatoe based stir fry with either noodles or rice plus whatever meat I picked up that day and one would be stew using the remaining meat, breakfast was eggs. Nothing fancy, I was after all getting reacquainted with the cooker, plus it’s newer version, son of Trangia. Just in case of really wet and or windy weather, my flameless cooker was taken. My hypothesise being I could use the camping meals with them, open a minimal amount of door to slide it out, close door,wait for the time on the packet, open the door enough to slide it back in and eat. Breakfast ended up Brunch, Dinner, well Dinner ended up mid to late afternoon and Tea started at dusk. After picking up more supplies from a not so local supermarket, Breakfast went from humble eggs to eggs,sweet pepper , garlic, onion and tomatoes, with bacon for three Days and baps for three more! It didn’t matter that the sir fry was repeated twice a day, I was enjoying the sweet peppers too much. And so with a change of bacon, sausage, burgers and a chicken breast, the meals went to plan. A flask was prepared at the afternoon filled with green tea, enough to last till hot chocolate time. And so a shakey routine of sorts was created to help feel more in Conrol and less like the leaves been blown from the trees. On overcast days my Teatime meal was prepped an put into the pan ready at the same time as my Brunch. This sense of preparedness added light to a dull day.
That was the first OCD type of routine to help me cope, I call it OCD type as I have never been give any other name from psychiatrist to psychologist to therapist; it is recognised, wrote down then ignored. Leaving me feeling like I’m just on the edge of the line that crosses over to it being crippling rather than enabling to get by. Like heading to Rapids without a paddle to steer with. “If he gets through a little worse for wear but generally ok then fine, but if he hits a rock and gets broken, we have some medication for that and therapy” I imagine them writing. Down stream medical care I have heard it called. I can add to the list of “for next time” more kayak bags or dry bags. I have a few, various colours and sizes, but now I want more! I can colour coordinate the bags with there contents and arrange them by size in the tent, thus knowing the smartly organised interior is easily processed. And an empty one for the washing. They keep smelly sock odours in, they are in fact just brilliant.
It took four full days to come to a rather relaxed blend in with nature moment to remember what it was I used to get out of camping, a real eureka moment. It was that simple, just listen, take all you could in and become part of. My anxiety has never been happier, it could do what it does best without having to fight or run, just be aware, knowing this natural state of noise is safe. So far unapproachable in the man made world. A rediscovered foundation on to which I build this new me? Maybe not but, it is a place to start.
STAY TILL THE END! Why? What is so important about staying to the end?
Shell island has for many a year held a firework display on the last weekend of the season. This brings with it an increase in the number of campers from the Thursday onward. More people more noise, more social interactions. Hell! Throw into the mix a Halloween party in a marquee on the Friday night and all soothing nature sounds get drowned out. A time to run. But if I can manage this weekend of tribulations, I will have freed my mind, to the possibilities of a normal campsite in the warmer weather of next year,insitu for a better placement for some hill/mountain walking, that are out of day trip feasibility. Toilet trips were uncomfortably timed till after they had been cleaned, shop trips were dashes and of the daytime? Friday was spent up a mountain looking at a waterfall and Saturday was spent in the dunes, trying to find and then follow a footpath I know is there, but failed to find a significant portion of it all with light of the sun setting to a deep red. A mad scramble to the camp left me soaked and wheezing, even poor spot was panting, we had heard, still deep within the dunes a blast of music. The fire works already? I had planned to record the event but we were no where near a place to film it, and the tripod was at camp. But it was just a sound check. Relived, I decided it was time for something to eat before the event, not in the mood for cooking and knowing a food stall had opened up at the camp enterence, I ventured for a kebab.
With food in our bellies we chose a spot for the display upon a dune not far from camp. In hindsite I should have checked the display times, but there was far too many people to do anything other than act like a thief and get in and out unnoticed, kebab in hand. So for hours it seemed we sat on the cold dune, wrapped in a survival shelter to try and stay out of the now breezing in mist from the sea, we waited. Colder and colder we got, spot inside my jacket for my warmth as much as hers. Butt numb and legs aching we were just about to risk not seeing the fireworks to go to the car and warm up, when “Are you ready for the fireworks?” Boomed from speakers unseen. “Yesss” from the crowd, more interactions from the speaker to the crowd till…”10,9,8,7,6″, time to power on the equipment,”5″, uncover the lense,”4″, press record, “3,2,1”, whoosh went the first firework, “boom, crackle”, the flickering light sprinkled toward the earth. The camcorder recording all….badly! Quickly getting out my camera I pressed record, and so now hands exposed to the damp,cold,air; the event would be recorded in focus, if not a little shaky. Too easy, the low battery sign came up on the display, so a quick change at a suitable lull, enabled, with some future editing, a hopefully watchable video.
It is at this point I should like to point out I am not an experienced photographer or videographer, and for most of the equipment this was its first major voyage. Equipment that has previously been loved by another, was now being asked to do something it cannot and been sworn at. But without experimentation, limits are not found.
After the display ended a party began, and we retired to burn the last of the wood in the bucket fire. Hot chocolate was had and as the fire burnt to glowing embers we retired, warmed by the fire, to the sleeping bag. Sleep on any other night would have come quickly after the energy sapping wander through the dunes, but not tonight, catchy tunes were in in invading my mind and it danced a wistful dance. Sleep came in the end and I woke with the satisfaction of completing my week of camping.
Now, pack up and head home, in a round about way………