fairly finite resource and sagacity

Beats there a manly heart whose pulse has not quickened at dreams of high adventure and derring-do? Beats there, indeed, a womanly heart likewise?

Who has not, in their imagination, baled out of their burning Spitfire to float down to a jungle clearing, fight off and/or eat a selection of wild beasts, organise the savage and superstitious natives into a ruthless (but ultimately fair) partisan group, defeat their arch-enemy (the wicked Erich Von Stalhein), introduce Modern Thinking and sanitation, and be invited to rule as absolute monarch, but have to politely decline as England called them, a call they mayn’t deny?

Well, quite.

I am old enough to remember the Clarks Commando shoe, and indeed was fortunate enough to own a pair in 1968 or thereabouts. Clarks Commandos were a nod in the direction of being equipped for anything. At least, the animal prints on the soles would allow you to identify any animal prints that you came across in your peregrinations. You simply trod in an obliging patch of mud to do a compare-and-contrast, and you could then say with confidence, “Ha! A xof!” or look a bit serious and remark “Hmm, many regdabs pass this way”, as the case may be. And, thanks to the tiny compass hidden in the heel, you would never be lost, as long as you didn’t mind hopping on one foot while  squinting into the shoe at the quivering needle, through the tiny, murky circle of glass that was coated with inside-shoe gunk. And then slipping and falling, because the animal footprints were a bit rubbish at gripping.

Times change, and we no longer spend our weekends on desolate moors or lonely islands, capturing transvestite gypsy criminals- “And I’d have got away with it, too, if it hadn’t been for those darned kids”. In our ordinary lives, we are become a nation of folk  who get a bit embarrassed and step around someone who has collapsed in the street, and pretend not to notice that a crime is taking place nearby, in case we get involved.

Still, we can do intrepid things in our spare time, as long as we are dressed for the part. There is now a uniform for everything, and it is a mark of your seriousness that you should be Properly Equipped. And there is a wealth of suppliers intent on offering state-of-the-art gear.

Not long back, I went to the Lake District for the first time in twenty years, and was astounded at the number of outdoor pursuits shops in Keswick, and the number of people, resplendent in the finest Goretex hats, jackets and boots, clacking along with their Leki trekking poles from one shop to the next. They were probably still there the next day, when my walking companion and I were alone, high on the Derwent Fells. You can’t be too well-equipped.

made for walking

Changing hats, Mr Benn-like, we find that cyclists too have a uniform; figure-hugging lycra, pointy streamlined helmet, bright yellow wrap-round safety glasses, and so on. I passed one of these cyclists last week, on my way through Ashton Court, and was surprised when he half-smiled and nodded to me, so I returned the salutation, and was immediately overtaken by the Proper Cyclist whom he had been looking at.

I saw a link to this piece of kit the other day. It’s the Gerber Bear Grylls Ultimate Survival Kit. As you see, and indeed as they say, it’s got everything you need. I am touched by the addition of the little sewing kit, so that, while you’re sitting in the forest warming yourself on the fire you’ve just lit with the waterproof matches, waiting for the fish to bite on the hooks and for the rabbits to choke themselves on the snare, with the keyring LED torch and signalling mirror at your side ready for communicating with passing aircraft, you can replace the button that was torn off your jacket when the 747 crashed into the mountain, was it only a week ago now?

semper paratus

semper paratus

It is not, perhaps, that you are likely to use any or all of these items. Simply having them is sending out the message that, in a survival situation, you will Know What To Do.

I am not that organised, and struggle with two conflicting ideals. On the one hand, it is nice to Be Prepared. On the other hand, as  Ivor Cutler said, “Thin shoes tell you more about the world than thick ones.” And I’m a bit of an inverted snob, as you’ve probably worked out by now.

My own survival kit has three categories:

  1. things that are completely essential and I wouldn’t want to leave home without
  2. Things that are completely essential and I wouldn’t want to leave home without, but just before leaving home I realised that I couldn’t find them, and so am oppressed by the sense of their absence until I’m home again and turned out not to need them after all
  3. things that are completely essential and I wouldn’t want to leave home without, but I completely forgot, and remembered ten minutes after passing the point of no return. See category 2.

I was going to add a picture of my ad hoc kit, but true to form, I can’t find either the camera or half the things in the kit. So you’ll have to wait. If you can bear to. I may even give instructions on How To Send An SOS With A Make-Up Mirror. But don’t hold your breath.

What are your essential items? -it’s never too late to pick up a good tip.

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16 Responses to fairly finite resource and sagacity

  1. Charlie says:

    Wonderful piece, Dru: I longed for that heel compass at one time. And how interesting the convicts turn out to have a special kind of footprint! Clearly Francis Galton was just looking at the wrong part of the human anatomy.

    My Don’t Leave Home Without It kit? Ideally, a map, a pair of binoculars, a torch, a tinderbox, some sphagnum moss and a sharp flint. In practice, a Renault Scenic.

  2. Deborah Harvey says:

    Wot, no Oxford English Dictionary or laptop with internet connection? I would also need a Sherpa to carry my make-up bag.

  3. anjiknut says:

    We have some neighbours (The Desperate Housewives) that go for walks with those ski sticks – the country side around here is as flat as flat could be. I manage not to laugh. Don’t forget the ones that don track suit and trainers on Sunday mornings to pop out in the car (two minutes drive) to fetch the newspaper.

    Comfortable shoes, that don’t mind wet and mud, that’s all I need

  4. Caroline says:

    I would have said Swiss Army Knife but I have lost three now and fear that a new one would just spoil my nail polish…

  5. Liz says:

    Oh I so wanted those shoes. But my mother, bless her, thought the Clarks “clompers” in brown were ore ladylike. For which read “more middle class”. She was fighting a losing battle but probably didn’t yet realise it.

    I hate the way all cheap sports and activities have become commoditised and you can’t even go for a walk with out 500 quid’s worth of gear. But I do enjoy the fact that someone is evidently having a laugh at the expense of people with more money than sense. We have a middle-aged chap at work who crams himself with sugar, runs 26 miles 385 yards to burn it all off, then collapses in a heap and has to cram in sugar to stop himself from dying. He’s done his health quite a lot of harm, and has been a constant visitor to the BRI of late, plus he is so stringy he looks like biltong as he paces up and down the office in his lycra showing off ermm I mean cooling down. This week he left the office at a run dressed in his new black lycra bodysuit and .. a lycra hat. I couldn’t help it, I stuffed my fist into my mouth and managed to wait till the door closed after him, then burst out laughing “omg, he’s dressed as a condom”. The young chap standing by me, who manages to run home in a mere 50 qiuds worth (plus shoes) ventured his own opinion that biltong boy looks like a performing seal.

    My one essential is a Swiss Army knife I’ve had for 20 years. My nails are, sadly not worth poliching.

  6. Mal says:

    Dru you make me SHOUT with laughter (startled Pig) cartoon reminded me of my first husband’s birth (he was a twin) when after a ten mile hike over Dartmoor two weeks overdue his mum went into labour on the Thursday… by the Saturday (20 October 1951) the two male doctors attending delivered him. Expecting the placenta to follow, one doubled-over doctor shouted back to the other “Good Lord Carruthers – there’s another one in there tucked up under the ribs!”.

    Can’t leave home without – checking the back door’s locked. Used to have to do this twice but now pinch my thigh as I’m sliding the bolt and by the time I get to the front door I can still feel the Italian waiter so I know I’ve done it.

  7. Dru says:

    I think my must-takes occupy concentric rings, Charlie, with maybe just a knife in the middle and ever-increasing numbers of things as the rings get bigger, so that the poetry and the art materials are near but not quite at the centre. But the optimal number of rings or things is just the right size for a small estate car. Lucky, that!

    You could double up there, surely, Deborah, as you can access the OED online using only your library ticket number. V useful if you want to work out the etymology of the machair you happen to be encamped on at the time, for instance. Probably. I wonder if you would need a kite for flying an aerial for the wifi, though?

    I do have some of those sticks, Anji, and powerful useful they were too, in Wales. But I put them away whenever we were anywhere near human settlements, for shame. Like brollies, but in reverse. (Apparently, it is not The Done Thing to use brollies in the countryside, unless one be a woman or clergyman. I have no idea why I know that, but I’m glad I’m allowed to use a brolly without having to be a clergyman. V useful for beating off wild beasts.)

    Three, Caroline? -goodness! You do have a corkscrew, though, surely?

    I love the description of Biltong Man, Liz. Doesn’t he pong when he gets into work? I’ve given up on my nails, too. I reckon it’s like that Emperor of China thing- long nails simply mean you don’t actually do anything. But maybe I’m just fooling myself, and it’s because I galumph.

    I started using similar techniques, Mal, when I was doing tasks at sea, because I was forever thinking “Now, did I really close that valve?” and so on. V unsettling, especially when lying in bunk wondering if we were going to sink because of it.

  8. Philip Watson says:

    There is a certain type of commercial delinquent (and I count myself among their happy number) who takes delight in not purchasing the ‘necessary’ accoutrements. On the golf course, one sees this salesman’s nightmare dragging around a mixed assortment of clubs, bought one at a time from second-hand shops, none matching any other: indeed, one may be wrong-handed, another named and not numbered. If a cyclist, he or she rides a contraption of parts covering several decades. If a runner, the latest trainers will not be worn, indeed owned, under any circumstances on the planet, nor will anything ‘day-glow’; no part of the garb will ‘wick away’ the perspiration. (I personally favoured a pair of wartime working trousers and my old army boots – hence, thirty years later, my knackered knee – and tied back my then-long hair with a length of mozzy net.)

  9. Dru says:

    Shocked, I am, Philip. -actually, I think my dodgy knees owe something to the rudimentary footwear that accompanied my feet on runs way back when, too…

  10. Marionette says:

    Essentials: combat boots, umbrella, ereader, MP3 player, and keys. There’s a guaranteed bulletproof 4GB USB stick on the key ring in case of emergency data requirements, and my sonic screwdriver makes an effective pen-light.

    While I walk a lot, as far as I’m concerned, being out in the wild mean I’m more than ten minutes from the nearest wifi hotspot.

  11. Dru says:

    My hippy boots are sort of like combat boots, but more hippy-ish. And a lot less waterproof, now I think of it. Maybe I should get some combat boots. A small child asked me why I had such big boots, the other day. “To put my big feet in”, I said. Is your brolly extra strong, tigers for the beating off with?

  12. Tara Ballance says:

    I don’t know which I’ve enjoyed more – the original post, or the followup comments! I’m almost afraid to add my own small contribution, as it’s not nearly as entertaining. But, here goes.

    Hubby & I enjoy cruising, the kind you do on large passenger ships. This is our list of must-have items.

    American dollars (welcome everywhere that cruises ship go, and quite a few places that they don’t).
    First aid kit (not needed under most circumstances, but the seasickness pills can come in handy; also, I did once use a bandaid).
    Comfortable walking shoes (learned that from my aching feet on our first cruise).
    Corkscrew (third cruise, needed one to open the complimentary bottle of wine after our cabin flooded when a pipe burst while heading for the Panama Canal, long story).
    Rain poncho (came in very handy on our last cruise when we got rained on during the downhill trek; see also Comfortable walking shoes).
    Sense of adventure (or as I prefer to call it, “Ship happens”; excursions get cancelled, destinations get changed, weather gets interesting, but you’re still on a cruise and somebody else is making the beds and cooking the food).

  13. Sallie says:

    Wow that was odd. I just wrote an incredibly long comment but after I clicked submit
    my comment didn’t appear. Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again.
    Anyhow, just wanted to say great blog!

  14. Deb Jacobs says:

    Always entertaining (and I am being passively entertained today rather than chucking something back)

    Money and keys. That’s it.

  15. Sackerson says:

    Love those shoes. Your drawings have a tactile quality, one’s fingers itch to handle the objects.

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