I’ve been speaking to Mark Kalch and some other mates alot recently about us all choosing to follow the dream but not actually living the dream each day. We spend inordinate amounts of time (that means lots Mark) in front of the computer rather than outside in the elements. I decided this needed fixing-even if it’s just for a day. I was going to immerse myself in the four elements-fire, air, earth and water. I chose the second shortest day of the year-best to start off slow; and the intention was to spend all day from sunrise to sunset outdoors doing old school man stuff. I was going to make a fire and cook on it, I was going spend time walking in the countryside, I was going to breathe in and out as much as possible and I was going to go for a swim in the river.
I woke up at 6:30 to a text from Tom and Andy saying that they were running late due to the heavy snowfall-super excited-I jumped out of bed and ran to the window to see…nothing. Once again the snow had stopped a few miles away from us. Rubbish.
Tom and Andy turned up just before sunrise and we grabbed the axes and loaded the bags with meat and bread. Starting the day with an axe in your hand just makes you feel cool. We trekked through the fields to the Haddon Wood and recce’d the place for a decent fire site. I think we were all a bit over excited as we chose the first place we came to that had a tree with a low branch we could sit on! There was loads of wood scattered around so within minutes we’d got a small blaze going-this grew and grew until the wood was stacked about three foot high on it and you couldn’t sit within a couple of metres without being singed! We copped some branches down and my axe broke so that soon became zero fun.
With the fire in the worst possible state for cooking-it was a surging flame-we set about cooking. We’d brought sausages and bacon and set about putting butter on the pan. With the pan on two bits of wood near the fire and the butter sizzling away we added the sausages and a rasher of bacon expecting them to be done in seconds but no. The pan was on the north side of the fire and there was an icy wind blowing meaning that one side of the pan was hot and the other was ice cold-this buckled the pan and pooled the butter at one end essentially deep fat frying the sausages. We adjusted things and it all tasted nice. We toasted some break using a stick that gave the two slices a Christmas tree V shape burn on them.
All this had taken hours and we’d sat around putting the world to rights so so far Man Day was a huge success! We kicked the raging inferno out just as the snow began to fall and tramped back to the house to pick up some swimming kit to head to the river!
I swim in the river alot, it’s about 7miles away so I usually drive down-today, though, we were walking.
It took forever to get down to the river at Tansor but the snow was stunning and the walk challenging enough to keep in interesting (we had to ford a stream and walk past some gypsys)! Yesterday the river had been nearly completely iced up but today there was only and icy sludge on the top so the swim was ON!
I went in first and did a brisk 100metres. It was warmer than yesterday but bizarre swimming through the soupy ice water. My hands stung for a while but the swim transformed me from relatively worn down and achey into buzzing and alive! Andy managed to swim out of his trunks on his swim and Tom did a decent 80metres-SUCCESS!
Invigorated and alive we walked back down the road to Warmington and at 3:30pm just made it to the Red Lion in time for one of the best tasting beers I’ve had in a long time (served with crisps and complimentary mince pies!). It’s amazing what a fire, a walk and a river swim will do to you!
We necked these and walked on to Elton and set about a few more beers and a game of cards at The Black Horse. The sunset was an amazing end to an incredible elemental day. Fire, Water, Earth and Air all ticked off in style! Three hours in the pool to do now and my sleep will be well earned tonight!
Big thanks to Tom and Andy for coming over and being excellent blokes all round! Tomorrow they’re both coming back and we’re swimming with Ed Stafford, Sarah Outen, Mark Kalch and a few other hardy souls! Can’t wait for the beers after that!