Have I finally waved goodbye to the big city of Bristol after 30 years? Apart from two years living in Cheptsow, Bristol’s been my home for my whole life. But no more. I’ve given it up for two acres in the Welsh countryside. Two acres and a large shed. Well, a barn really.
After months of planning and talking endlessly about it, my partner, Dominique, and I have finally gone and upped sticks to live an off-grid life. Well, as off-grid as you can get for a property owner with a day job.
We’ve been here almost a month and it’s as different and challenging as we expected. We’ve decided to move ourselves quietly onto our land, or more specifically, into our shed. Under the thick canvas of a trailer tent, we’ve set up a temporary home for ourselves and our lop-eared house rabbit, Gary.
Perched halfway up a hill overlooking the valley, we’ve had some weather, as the locals say. That means we’ve been heavily pissed on and suffered gale force winds for three weeks solid. A baptism of fire? Sounds like a doddle compared to this!
The weather is becoming slightly less mental and settling down. Brits are often criticised for going on and on about the weather, but that’s because it’s so bloody changeable. I write things like “the weather is becoming slightly less mental” and then I look outside and to see everyone’s bins being blown down the road. Except, I haven’t got a window from a house in a street anymore, and I can’t see any wheelie bins, either.
So what creature comforts do we have in a shed and what on Earth are we going to do in a 2 acre field?
To answer the first question – we’re warm, fed and everyone’s sleeping well so, we can cook, fuel something to heat ourselves and sleep comfortably. What more do you need? Television? Oh yes, offgrid’s one thing but not without my DVD box sets. Electric lighting? Indeedy, yes. Internet? We’re working on it but with poxy, measly, 2G there’s not a lot of point. I bet you forgot G’s could get lower-than 3 didn’t you? I certainly did, and I’d certainly forgotten about web pages loading in four-minute intervals. So internet, yes but if w want to be connected (and I don’t see much point of being off grid if we do), we may have to wait that one out a bit. Honestly, this back-to-basics life isn’t for everyone. We’ve given up a lot of creature comforts. I crap in a bucket.
The up-side? Well, the idea is to become more self-sufficient as time goes on and I shall write more about that another time. So, No Script For Life will be the place where I write candidly about what this off-grid lark is really all about.
I’ve spent over a year researching information on the internet about how to achieve an Off-grid life, and while there’s plenty of articles with practical information, there’s also lots and lots of ‘blogs’ written by people sponsored by manufacturers and sellers of this and that to push something specific. There’s a lot of dross out there, aimed to get you to buy something, or think a certain way. There are genuine sites out there, of course, and they are helpful, but nowhere have I found anything that tells you what it’s actually like.
Here’s an example. There’s websites that tell you how to set yourself up in the woods for a spot of rogue camping, or possibly rogue living but not many explain much about how it feels. To be honest, it feels fun but kind of scary too. We’ve all seen horror films where people get stalked through the woods or slashed to bits in a forest clearing, so there’s this little voice that keeps saying “I know we’re in the middle of nowhere and we’ve seen one cyclist in 3 days but what was that?!” The rational bits of your brain are telling you it was nothing, just a badger snuffling or possibly a bat in the trees but the irrational bit of your brain is hell-bent on making you a hysterical wreck. “Ssshhh! What was that?”. I’d strongly recommend you don’t do it alone. You need another person, a voice of reason, to reassure you that it really was “just another fucking owl” and to remind you to “go back to sleep!” Of course, we’re in a shed but we can still hear the noises from the wood immediately next door, and nocturnal animals in the field just outside. With a tin roof over our heads, we could lose our minds if we started freaking out every time a cascade of debris fell from the trees and clattered loudly on the roof.
The sounds of the city are reassuring in their way. You get to know the sounds next door’s cat makes in your garden, and what time that bloke across the road comes home from his night shift and slams the car door. Even being woken by a siren as the emergency vehicle zooms down your street, as annoying as it may be in the moment, is re-assuring it’s own way.
Getting used to the silence is easy. Getting used to unfamiliar sounds that break the silence is the tricky bit. I sat upright in bed for over an hour on our first night here. My ears must have been twitching as I listened intently, quietly shitting myself every time the gate rattled in the wind, every time the wind made tree branches bash against the metal roof. Three weeks in and I’m more or less used to the sounds now. That voice in my head occasionally resurfaces though, fueled by horror movie memories, “but that’s what those kids in the cabin said before the crazed axe murder came in the night!” Not often though, and one of the joys has been hearing the birds sing in the wood next door. Since that first night, which was almost six weeks ago, and our trial to boot, the bird song has increased from a lonely solo from a single tit to a chorus of five, six and now well into double figures.
I’m a town mouse at heart, but there’s a country mouse screaming to get out and plant some potatos. More soon.