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?
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.
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?
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:
- things that are completely essential and I wouldn’t want to leave home without
- 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
- 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.