This week I visited Dr Vish, in the woodland home shared with his partner and experienced home envy once again.
I was envious at the woodland turning to autumn and the deer coming to visit. Envious at the pattern on the canvas sides as I sat on the bed made of pallets and foam and Vish obligingly danced around outside showering the tent with handfuls of leaves and a kaleidoscope of woodland life played across the walls and made me laugh. Envious that that they had found a spot to live this life and I had not.
I was envious of their youth and energy. That they could hack three months in a tent, chop wood, cycle miles to work, survive on a diet of foraged apples and, in Vish’s own words, “crotch washes.”
Mostly I was envious that they were doing it, living a life close to nature in the woods. That he had dreamed it up one weekend on a camping trip in Devon, had a partner who wanted it too, had asked around, taken the risk, made it a reality.
Over green tea and satsumas we dreamed some more, of owning land, of creating a place of peace where others could connect back with the earth. Our own personal dreams feeding off each other.
Vish said my life in the caravan had inspired them, that he and his girlfriend Prag had hope in the fact that someone almost 20 years older than them had not succumbed to expectations but still attempted to live a life true to their values but really the admiration was all mine.
Their youth, their energy, their ideals, their dreams made mine a bit closer to being fulfilled.
A chat with a health and fitness expert in my office this morning led me to discover that REAL MEN are now going Palaeolithic.
Men who wish to look like MEN and feel like MEN have now turned their back on the 21st century and are only eating the kinds of food cavemen would have recognised.
For a moment I am interested. After all we all know our food is way too messed around with nowadays to be good for us. I’m all for a bit of organic but it seems this trend has gone further.
Men, I am told, are also turning their back on the gym and instead are doing real work.
“Like hitting things with a hammer.” The guy says.
“Great,” I say. “So are they building things?”
I get a look of incomprehension.
“No,” he says. “They just hit tyres with a hammer. It’s the exercise that’s the important thing.”
Here is postmodernism gone mad. We don’t create, we don’t do work which involves sweat and has a purpose. We just go through the motions to look like the kind of man that might have a manly job. Maybe this is what passes for normality these days. Maybe if I didn’t work in a world where people got their muscles from chopping down trees and scything their way along rivers then I wouldn’t think this was odd.
Something is missing in this equation and I can’t quite put my finger on what. It has something to do with value. It has something to do with purpose and worth. It is, as Jean Baudrillard said, a simulacrum, something where the image bears no relation to reality.
So the Palaeolithic men look like cave men, they can bash hammers against tyres and get the physique of a cavemen but I wouldn’t fancy their chances against a sabre toothed tiger.
Saltmarsh and sky at Bradwell
Essex, home of fake tan, crazy eyelashes and X Factor contestants. A coastline blighted by industry and pylons. England’s national joke. If you think you know what Essex is all about think again. Essex is also unspoilt beauty, lonely coastlines, secret islands and a place where time and again people have been drawn to step away from the ills of modern life and try to forge a better world.
St Peter’s on the Wall, Bradwell
I spent the weekend at Othona at Bradwell on Sea on the Dengie Peninsula, working, eating and laughing alongside a great bunch of people from all over the world who had chosen to step aside from the modern world and enjoy a simpler, kinder, communal way of life for a few days.
Othona’s original accommodation used in the 1950’s
Things have got a bit more comfortable nowadays