Last year I became friends with Nick Weston when I went to stay with him in his treehouse.
I’ve just finished reading his book and it’s great. I asked him to send through an excerpt I could share with you all on here. Have a read, then go buy his book!
At 11.55pm I got down to the river having already chosen where I was going to set the lines during daylight hours. Armed with a bottle of nettle beer to see in the fishing season, and all my nightlines, I set up shop on the roots of the big alder. I needn’t have bothered giving the beer a shake, as I twisted off the cap, the froth exploded out over the river at midnight: a fitting toast to the river’s health and mine.
I set all the lines in their designated spots and 15 minutes later I was back up in the tree house. I sat there counting the minutes … well, in actual fact I read for a while, and drank what was left of the nettle beer. Then I opened another – might as well have a party. At 1am I stumbled through the trees back to the river (because it was dark – not because of the beer). Few things fill me with more
excitement than creeping up on a line to see it stretched taut into the water – and that is exactly what I found with line no.1. The next bit is equally exhilarating:
you never know what is on the other end of the line. Will it be a tiddler you can tug up to the bank? Or will it be the start of an epic battle between man and denizen of the deep? Quite often, it is an eel. And it was with no surprise that I hauled one very angry, slimy Anguilla anguilla up the bank.
Unlike my furry and feathery protein providers, you don’t have to kill fish as soon as you get your hands on them. This is where the freshwater fridge comes into play. Quite simply it is a keep net: a series of rings with netting wrapped around them. They are often used by the most pointless of fisherman – match anglers – who sit on top of boxes and throw endless bait into the river, in the hope of catching as many small fry as they can, to win the match with the greatest weight. For people who think fishing is dull, this is the perfect example. When the fish you seek are for food, fishing becomes an entirely different ball game.
My original motive for spending six months living a simplistic lifestyle in the woods was the desire to rid myself of the unnecessary costs of modern day life, which were being dictated to me by a higher authority. Was it really essential for me to pay for things like rent, electricity and gas bills, Council Tax and, above all, food? The simple answer is yes it is, if I wanted to remain part of modern day society.
Those who do not wish to conform are pushed to the edge of society. The people that create their own communities or eco-settlements in a bid to live off the land, manage it sustainably, and harness the power of the elements for basic electrical needs, are regarded as non-conformists, wierdos and outcasts. It also seems that society tries to penalise these people, when in fact they are just trying to live a cheaper, more sensible lifestyle, which is more considerate towards the environment. For instance, even though a person might own his land, he may not be granted permission to build himself the sort of home that would save him money, and have a negligible impact on the environment.
John Zerzan, a leading figure of the Primitivism movement, believes that humans began their downhill slide with the domestication of plants and animals. His theories are based on an assessment of human prehistory, that for an incredible two million years, our ancestors existed as hunter- gatherers. Zerzan is one of many who now believe that this form of existence is the only truly successful human adaptation to this planet. However much I support the lifestyle, I know the world is now too over populated to return to a hunter-gatherer state. Presently the world population stands at 6.8 billion, up 83 million from last year!
I have enjoyed taking a step back from technology, albeit I do still use a phone, and occasionally the computer. I believe the Luddites were right when they voiced their objections to the mechanization of British industry over two centuries ago. Technology, for all its fantastic advances, is also an insidious thing. Today people live their lives vicariously through the medium of television and the media; people eat their meals around the television rather than the table, and children play computer games and interact in a virtual world, rather than simply play with each other in the great outdoors. On the other hand, the Internet has allowed me to share my experience here through my blog, and has given me access to much of the information I needed to get me started on my project.
Another day, another rant; this ‘hammock time’ can wreak havoc with the brain sometimes.
Autumn is well under way now: the patch is tailing off, the leaves are turning, and the evenings are drawing in (dusk came in at 7.30pm). I used to like autumn as child, with piles of leaves to jump in and kick (just after my father had slaved for hours to collect them all), stoves bubbling away with comforting stew, and welcoming log fires in the sitting room.
I don’t appreciate it now. It seems so sad, like watching a close friend wasting away. The fields, meadows and woods are slowly dying and there is nothing I can do to stop it.
Never before have the seasons had such an impact on my life: shorts have been exchanged for trousers, the hammock has come down, the unpatched eaves of the tree house need sorting out, and the wood pile needs supplementing. SAD is amplified in the countryside; I do feel down. It is at times like this the tree house comes into its own, and makes me realize what a comforting, warm home it is.