Mr WithaY was away all last week, on the final instalment of his 10-month training course, which will (assuming his portfolio is accepted) provide him with an excellent bushcraft instructor's qualification. He's worked really hard at it for almost a year, and I am tremendously proud of him.
Sunday was billed as the Families Day, and the friends and families of the trainees were invited to go along and spend the day doing various bushcrafty things. We were asked to bring a picnic. I got up early, packed the picnic and headed off. According to my satnav, it would take about an hour and a half to get there, and Mr WithaY had asked me to try and be there as close to 1000 as possible, as the day was due to kick off at about 1030-ish.
I had a very pleasant and uneventful journey, finding the location (almost) first time, where Mr WithaY met me with black fingernails, a five day woodsmoke aura and a huge grin on his face.
We made our way along a rutted muddy track (in a LandRover...well, there was a picnic to carry) to a seemingly featureless bit of woodland. We'd arrived.
Mr WithaY proudly gave me a tour of the site. And now I shall do the same for you.
A couple of the teaching areas, and the tea point. They don't have a water cooler to stand around and chat, but the giant kettle did the job nicely.
I had tea. In the woods.
Look. Outdoor tea. From some sort of metal tea-bucket.
This is a view of the kitchen. There, far away, under that tarpaulin. When I arrived, they were all washing up after a giant fry-up fat-boy breakfast, apparently.
Anyway, tea drunk and tour completed, more people arrived and the day kicked off in fine style. I had a go at starting a fire using a bowdrill.
It was very interesting to watch other people doing it though, and most of them managed to at least get some smoke, if not actual fire, so the chaps doing the instructing were pleased.
Then I went and had a go at making damper bread. This is a very simple bread dough which you wrap around a stick and bake over the fire. I made mine - made it a bit too wet, unfortunately - but I got it wrapped and placed over the fire, and wandered off to see what Mr WithaY was up to.
We chatted for a bit, and he asked what I'd had a go at. I said "I'm making damper bread."
"Where is it?" he enquired.
"Cooking..." I replied.
"Yeah. You need to go and watch it. Make sure it doesn't burn."
Anyway, I had added cinnamon and sugar to the dough, so in fact it is simply caramelising nicely. Nom nom nom.
Here are some other people not burning their damper bread.
One of the trainees' family included a teeny baby. They constructed a fantastic Bushcraft Baby Rocker device.
Every so often one of the parents wandered over and gave it* a gentle push, and she slept happily for ages in there.
Anyway, here's my damper bread, proudly held aloft before vanishing into my gaping maw.
The picnic was a success. Several years ago, when we both still had "proper" jobs, and therefore disposable income, we bought a ridiculously fancy picnic basket/backpack thing.
It contains a cheeseboard, napkins, salt and pepper pots, one of those fancy cork things with a silver top to put in your bottle of wine to save some for later, and all the crockery and cutlery you might expect to need when you're eating off the floor. In the woods.
And a picnic rug. We're not savages.
I do like the combination of mud-encrusted bushcrafting chap's boot, and dainty gingham napkins. We went for a stroll after lunch and collected up some logs that needed to be moved from one woodland glade to another, and then it was almost time for me to go home.
The weather was perfect. The first properly sunny day for bloody ages, which made it a thoroughly enjoyable time.
Mr WithaY and I walked back down the rutted muddy track to where all the cars were parked, I changed out of my wellies into sensible driving trainers, said our goodbyes and I set off for home. Before I left, I pressed the GO HOME button on my satnav.
The anticipated arrival time seemed a bit optimistic, but I decided that it was just due to traffic. Or roadworks having finished. Or goblins. Let's just say I didn't give it much thought, and leave it at that.
I headed off through the little country lanes, listening to the radio, and enjoying the sunshine. I drove some distance, several times thinking "I don't remember coming along this road on the way here..."
I have a bit of a track record re: navigating, though, so I suppressed my anxiety and put all my faith in my satnav.
I had been driving for about half an hour, and still hadn't seen any signs to where I thought I was headed, and then suddenly I was off the tiny back road meandering through the pretty country villages, and on the A3, heading for London. I swore. Apparently I was on the Hog's Back, where there are no places to turn around. My satnav was still insisting that I was heading in the right direction.
I did not believe it.
Then, as if that wasn't bad enough, I then went into the Hindhead Tunnel. Readers, I had never heard of such a thing before, but I assure you it is a very, very long tunnel indeed. I had to drive through it, with my radio and satnav both cutting out, the message on the display screen simply stating "Satellite Not Located" in a blunt refusal to help.
Once out the other side, I turned down the first side street I found, pulled over and looked at my satnav.
Readers, a valuable lesson:
When you press the GO HOME button, please ensure that you have previously programmed it to point to your home. If you have failed to do this, it will default, and send you to the satnav factory's home, somewhere in central London.
I arrived home some considerable time later.
Let's never speak of this again.
*The seat thing, not the actual baby. That would have been unkind.