Book Review – Out of Chingford by Tanis & Martin Jordan

2015-01-20 18.21.23Since first seeing the wonderful cover of this book I felt sure that I would enjoy it. I am of course, an adventurer myself, and so to read a book about such amazing exploits as those undertaken by Martin and Tanis was wonderful.

At first their approach to their whole life amazed me. I have trouble actually getting on and doing things, not because I can’t be bothered, but because there is always other things that get in the way. With microadventures, I even get caught up thinking about where you should or shouldn’t go? If you go where you think you will be allowed and you get caught, what do you do? In essence, there are many things that can stop you doing what you want, and Out of Chingford is a shining example (along with Alastair Humphreys and others like him) that you’ve just gotta do it. I grant you, stepping outside the back door isn’t quite as big a step as disappearing into the Amazon. The commitment to live life in that way and to have the tenacity and patience to spend what was sometimes 18 months preparing for a trip was truly astounding.

But the real meat of the book, the part that drew me in and kept me reading was the adventures themselves. I felt that I relaxed along with Martin and Tanis when they finally got back to the parts of the world that they identified with and I was in part living along with all of their exploits as they went up and down the various rivers and in and around the rainforests. I have to admit that I have sat in a boat a short distance from what was a very small large Caiman crocodile in Australia and the thought of being any closer to much bigger animals would far from fill me with happy thoughts. The book therefore allowed me not only to discover an Amazon that is no longer there, but also to experience second hand a multitude of situations that I know I will never see. I might manage to hit a few, but not all, definitely not all, and that makes me feel sad.

I have indicated in other posts that I gave this book 5/5 on goodreads. You will see at the bottom that I have scored it 9/10 in this review. Why so high? I think it’s largely because:-

  • Because I identified with Martin and Tanis.
  • And because they were both so unerringly honest that you really got to know them during that time.
  • And because it was in many parts funny, emotional, conflicting and almost everything in between. It is one of the most complete descriptions that I have read, even though not everything is written down and sometimes the narrative flicks around, particularly at the start.
  • And because I think I was lucky to find the book at all. I don’t think that it was a massive best seller?
  • And because I was lucky that Martin and Tanis were able to go on their adventures, and that they decided to write it all down, edit it together and get it published.

A perfect storm for me, and I appreciated it hugely as I read.

So, there you go. Go read it!

Good reads link

Rating 9/10

P.S. just because it is fun, here are the other travel titles listed in the back of the book that you could have bought ‘back in the day’ when Out of Chinford first came out.

A Traveller on Horseback by Christina Dodwell

Up Mount Everest without a paddle by Derek Nimmo

To the Navel of the World by Peter Somerville-Large (Yaks and unheroic travels in Nepal and Tibet)

We bought and Island by Evelyn Atkins

My First Microadventure

I have always like “the out doors” I suppose that it is one of the many reasons why I am interested in green, sustainable, post consumer, ecologically responsible things. Lets face it, nature is really nice 🙂

Back in the summer when I started my post consumer book club (membership one) and simultaneously created this blog and my twitter account, I started following people who like books and reading. I also followed people who like ecology and the environment. After a while I began to find an unexpected group of people cropping up in my searches – Adventurers! Obviously, I instantly started following a few, well you would wouldn’t you? One of the first I found was Alastair Humphreys. He not only does proper big boy adventures, but also has ideas that cater for all stratum of adventures that can be had! There is Adenture1000 (#adventure1000) in which you should save £1000 or 1000 of whatever your local currency is, then adventure as much as you can with it. That one will stay in the back of my mind for possible later use. I think intentionally, it is about the amount you would spend on a normal holiday, and why wouldn’t you prefer to go as far from the beaten track as you can for your cash??

Anyway, back to my more modest adventuring beginnings… Alastair also imagined and has created the Micro Adventure (#microadventure). The blurb on Alastair’s website describes these as:-

trying to encourage people to get outside, get out of their comfort zone, go somewhere they’ve never been. A microadventure is an adventure that is close to home, cheap, simple, short, and yet very effective.

I loved the idea of that. I go to work on the train and there are loads of places where I could happily disappear for a night beside a river or in a bit of the woods… But that still seems too big for me, at least for now. I love camping but it doesn’t get that far up my agenda as often as I would like, especially as Mrs.PoCoBooC isn’t quite as interested! I also have trouble breaking away from the need to go to a campsite. I yearn to disappear into any old field and sleep under a bush (no honestly, I do) but I still struggle with how you go about actually doing that. Maybe this is because it really as devilishly simple as just going and doing it?

Thankfully Alastair took one final step down the rungs of the adventure ladder, descending to one where I could actually step up without too much wailing or gnashing of teeth. He actually made a year of 12 microadventures for the year, but the first is “camp in the back garden”. It’s a first step, and it is January, so it is still something that you wouldn’t normally do. Brilliant. So that was the challenge for January and the astute amongst you will notice that it’s february, but hey, better to do it than not do it, and as I said, Mrs.PoCoBooC would be a long way from pleased if I tried to spring the February challenge on her!

I took the opportunity to get adventuring on Friday night. I stayed at a friends house for the night as we had a curry and films night planned. Instead of sleeping in the spare room I announced that I would be camping in the garden 🙂 Great fun. The adventure was booked. Now, as you may have realised, curry and films meant that I didn’t need to eat in the great outdoors, but I can add cooking into future adventures. I also went with what I have, so didn’t take the bivvy bag route. I had been seriously planning a real micro adventure with a bivvy bag, but I’m still not sure yet. Anyway, I own 3 tents, so why not just use them? In my own special way, my choice of tent for the event also added to the fun. My tents are:-

  • Tent 1 – Vango “Icarus” 6 man – The family weekend or longer tent
  • Tent 2 – Vango “cant.remember” 3 man tunnel tent. This is my oldest tent and is the one I take as my one person tent (What? I like the space!)
  • Tent 3 – Eurohike Flash Fuse II – Oh my, the pinnacle of tent engineering, the pop up tent. I got this for me to actually use to camp in (it is one of the dual skin ones no less) but it has spent most of its life in the garden on sunny days with the kids in it, usually accompanied by a decent number of plastic balls! To add to the fun the single continuous pole in this tent snapped last year. I managed to repair it, but the pole is now a little short and the overall aesthetic of the tent could be described as “slightly wonky”.

Obviously it was Tent 3 that I took out on Friday night. Partly as it is very quick to erect and pack away, and partly because a VERY cheap and slightly broken tent felt like the right accommodation for this epic adventure attempt.

So Friday afternoon stumbled into existence and this is the heavenly accommodation that I setup for that night.

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The tent took about 5 minutes to put up. I actually took longer to blow up the air-bed than put up the tent. Yes, Yes, I used an air-bed. I have a self inflatable mat, but I forgot to take it. OK! I also went one step further and added even more “luxury”… Because the tent is old and exceedingly cheap, I discovered almost as soon as I crawled into it that the integral ground sheet leaks, a lot! I carried on setting up, but got two wet knees for my trouble. My host for the evening provided a genius solution –  a bit of old carpet from the shed!! This micro adventure was getting odder and odder, but who doesn’t pass up the offer of a carpeted abode for a night under the stars?? In addition to the carpet and the air-bed, I had 2 mid season sleeping bags and 3 blankets. All set.

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*** various films and a decent curry later ***

It was 1 am when I step out of the back door towards the tent. It was obviously pretty cold, but not anything as extreme as I thought it would be. I didn’t take a coat out, but I did have a woolly hat which stayed in place of the duration! I disappeared into the tent and what I expected to be very cold sleeping bags were also not too bad. It took quite a bit of faffing to get clothes off and arrange one sleeping bag inside the other and me inside that as quickly as possible. I think more haste less speed would have been a good idea, but I was in a tent in my mates garden wrapped up like a caterpillar. Quite comfy and quite warm. Content in my decision to do this, I fell asleep pretty quickly.

I woke a few times in the night, but for no reason that I could discern. I wasn’t overly cold, and I know what being woken by the cold feels like (yeuk.) All I can imagine is that a “big” cat, or a “wild” pigeon might have broken the silence of the night (the part not filled by other noises!) Anyway, I went back to sleep each time and that was that.

The next morning I woke up at around 8. That’s later than I usually get to sleep in at home 🙂 I was woken by a drip from the ceiling… Oh bugger, I thought, it must be really dewy outside and it is coming through the tent. But I was to discover that it wasn’t. I put up with the situation for a bit, I love that bright morning light inside a tent and I was honestly really comfy and warm. By the 5th or 6th big drip I decided I should get up. By the 10th or 11th I began to get up! Clothes came into the sleeping bag with me to warm up before I put them on, then I was dressed and out of the tent. Oh…

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There wasn’t any dew on the tent. It was frozen! From this I concluded that the drips were condensation. According to the weather report it got down to -1.5 degC. Not the coldest, but I’m pretty proud that I slept out in it. Especially as I had a good time and a good sleep. Here is another nice picture to record the temperature of the event.

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And that is that. First micro adventure complete. It invigorated me. Even with the odd “curry and film” approach that I took, it showed me that you can camp in most places at most times. Im not sure that tent would have coped with rain and wind, but it did well under the circumstances. To conclude this whistle stop diary entry, the total cost of my first ever micro adventure?

£0

For that price I will be doing it a lot more 🙂

Next Book – Out of Chingford by Tanis & Martin Jordan

Hello everyone on the interweb 🙂 How the devil are you? 2015-01-20 18.21.23You’re looking good, must be those new years resolutions to stop eating bad things? For myself, I resolved to not make new years resolutions this year, and it is going really well. Slightly more gut, and I have just finished off a few After Eights (it’s only 18:41!!!)

This is the usual quick post to announce the next book that I will read. I am really enjoying Lord Foul’s Bane. I find myself half way through it and picking up speed. I might tail off as work has stopped play quite a bit recently, but I think I should be able to keep up the pace and power to the end. Just in case I do manage to polish Lord Foul off quickly, I am being all proactive and choosing my next book early. I would be amazingly surprised if anyone has this book to read along with me, but then again I’m not getting hundreds of you reading in parallel yet anyway. I think that’s partly down to volume of followers and partly down to my slightly odd mixture of books. I like the odd mixture and I think that is one thing that is fun about my challenge. I would really like more followers though, so if you know anyone at all, tell them about my blog and my horrendously interesting twitter feed (@pocobooc)

I found Out of Chingford in a second hand book stall at my kids school. It was one of a pile of books that I picked up and dutifully gave to my wife so that I could have them for Christmas as stipulated in my rules. I’m really looking forward to finding out what happens out of Chingford. It’s a wild world out there!!