Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Sparks, roots and starry night.

1. We learn to use flint and steel to light tinder and start a fire. The combination of patience and dexterity is almost beyond me, but with tonnes of encouragement: 'Try with my flint.' 'You need a bigger bit of charcloth.' 'Take it slowly. Be patient.' 'You're making sparks at least, now just get them on the cloth... that's an ember! Careful, careful.' And suddenly there was a ball of smouldering hay in my hands -- 'Blow on it... now waft it down while you breathe in... bring it up... blow... hold it tightly...' and everyone cheers as the flames begin, and dizzy from hyperventilating, I drop my kindling into the campfire.

2. It's raining and we are crouched under a yew tree digging for long roots. I like this sort of exercise much better than carving or making fires. It's very satisfying to grub down in the earth and find a root, follow first in one direction and then in another and then pull it free.

3. I am sleeping under a tarpaulin strung between two trees. It was raining when I crawled into my bivi bag. I wake in the night to find stars in a clear sky sparkling between the chestnut leaves. In the morning, it's raining again.