Text by Fiona
Pictures by Cookie & co.
Purple comments by Evilweavil
Red comments by Marleena
Cookies minion Marleena first spotted this task and got very excited because she remembered absolutely the perfect tree. Unfortunately, we live on a small Island and the tree in question is a couple of hundred miles away, on the 'mainland' as us Caulkheads like to call it (You have to be born Islander to be called that.. that counts me out.)
. Then we realised that in February me (Fiona), Evilweavil and Cookie (and his minion Marleena), would be doing our big trip up North to the city of York for the Viking Festival (we are part time vikings), and if we took a short detour we could drop off there on the way. Excitement. Adventure
We left a day early, to allow an overnight stay. We were determined to complete the whole task in that one special tree, including the 'sleeping in part', even though February is the coldest month of the year and this year is the coldest winter on record in England for twenty years (brrrr!). The weather gods where on our side as it had started to spring up quite nicely by that weekend.
The tree is in a large area of woodland and quite difficult to find. My brother lives a mile or so away and I hardly ever get to see him, so the plan was for us to scout the place out in daylight, go to my brothers for beer and a delicious meal, and then bimble back to the tree in the middle of the night using the route we had carefully memorised. So we scouted. It took us quite a long time to find it as the woods are very confusing, filled with hundreds of little hills and troughs so each route looks the same and you can rarely see more that a couple hundred feet in any direction. Also, I kept having to go on side quests because I kept spotting giant bracket fungus on trees and having to go off on random mini missions to investigate, as I was hoping I would find a delicious beefsteak fungus. I didn't. -and we sang "the fungus song" quite alot!!
We found the tree and gave it a big hug. Evilweavil hadn't seen it before and was particularly amazed. - I think i said WOW and pulled this face alot.....ok so you cant see my face, but you get the idea :)
Then we plotted the shortest route back to my brothers house in preparation, via a shop which had the most amazing selection of domestic and imported beers I have ever seen. MMM Ale..
We bought a couple of bags full. Dinner was consumed, beer was consumed, we had a lovely time with my brother and his wife. Midnight came, we opened the door to leave, it was peeing with rain.
After a quick consultation we decided that sleeping in the rain when we had five days of holiday left, all camping out in the back of my van, which is a very nice home for one but not so great for three people with wet things, was a bad idea. We would retire for the night, go to the tree in the morning, complete as many of the ten items as we could before leaving, then return for the final night of our trip, whatever the weather.
In the morning we packed stuff for half the tasks, including our extra special, nobodys-ever-done-that-before idea for creating art in a tree. It was quite a trudge with all our kit but we didn't get lost this time. It was a crisp but beautiful morning, and we were all very excited about doing an epic task. This is my biggest task so far...
First was tea and breakfast. They don't allow fires in the woods, for good reason, but I took my storm kettle, an amazing contraption which is a sort of chimney shaped water container with a pan on the bottom in which you light a small fire. The fire burns up through the middle, heating the thin layer of water all around, and you can boil a fair amount just using a handful of twigs. The fire is enclosed and I trust myself to be careful. I tried to invent a wood stove at my workshops so we could cook pancakes in a tree, but failed... I ran out of time. :-(
We sat with tea and bowls of cereal. First task complete - eat a meal in a tree. Next we brushed our teeth - second task complete.
Then to carry out our special plan - create art in a tree. Body art! Cookies minion does tattoos without a machine, just by hand with a fine needle. She is incredibly good, can do work so fine it would be very hard to achieve any other way. But it is slow, so I went for a small tattoo. If you look at the pictures you will see it is a stick figure of a punk with a bottle (of whiskey) and a knife. It is very meaningfull to me. It is a representation of an old friend of mine, and also my alter ego. Giggle
It was also designed by another one of my best friends who has always had an uncanny knack for capturing people in the simplest little stick people, I plan to get her little stick self-portrait tattooed on me some other time, its so cute! We had to be very careful. A full sterile kit had been packed and latex gloves and alcohol wipes etcetera were employed. It was all very professional APART FROM THE FACT WE WERE DOING A TATTOO IN A TREE! Woot. The tattoo itself didn't hurt, they don't tend to much when done this way, it is so gentle compared to a gun, but we were both in pain by the end of it as sitting still on a knobbly bit for two hours really sucks, even when you have a nice big padded butt! Evilweavil was kindly our photographer for this bit. - i was also incredibly jealous!! I hope to get a mini-marleena-tattoo myself on a rock in tintagel later this year.
Then the financial transaction, I payed her for the tattoo. It was only a token payment as fuel and ferry fare for the trip, and the bag of beer, had left me fairly poor. But I gave her a shiny pound coin and a hand shake. There was also another cost, she set a goblin market price, so I have an obligation to fulfill at a later date. I am looking forward to that. No cheating thought...
That was our lot for the day. We had a long drive ahead (almost another five hours as it turned out) and another sister to visit for dinner, and we had to make it into the city of York early enough to get with the partying with the vikings. - mmmmmm vikings
Much fun was had in York for two days. We walked round the ancient walls and explored the pubs and drank with friends and watched a fantastic viking battle (we didn't take part because none of us are in fighting training at the moment) which ended with a firework show of epic proportions in time to 'Ride of the Valkyries'. - and an awesome fire poi/staff display by said vikings....mmmmm
Then we went further North to Whitby where we went on a mini copy of the ship 'Endeavor', ate traditional fish and chips of the highest quality, plundered an arcade, saw a baby seal, and climbed the famous (from the tale of Dracula) steps to the ruins of Whitby Abbey. - the acrcade was made even better by the fact there were mysterious treats left in several of the trays! Then there also was the whale gate and oysters on the quay and the most coolest scarf ever!
Then the long drive back to our fantastic tree.
We had dinner at my brothers again then grabbed our stuff a little after midnight and headed out. It was a pretty dark night and there was just the lightest misting of rain. We made no wrong turns in the dark but it was still a long walk with heavy winter sleeping bags, roll mats, blankets and hot water bottles, which we filled before we left and wrapped up in our bedding. We arrived a little after one and picked our sleeping spots. We weren't going to sleep up a tree, but we were going to sleep in it. As you can see, it is an amazing tree. The whole area was a gravel quarry a long time ago, and this tree is on a ridge. A lot of the gravel has washed out from under it leaving the most fantastic exposed root system. There are several big 'caverns' and one tunnel which leads right under the tree and out the other side. I hope you can see it well enough in the pictures, it really has to be seen to be believed. I actually chose my spot last, I was a bit slow. Marleena chose the big cavern on one side where she could hang her poncho over her. Evilweavil chose the open end of the tunnel. The only good place left was the tight end and middle of the tunnel. I had initially thought that would seem a bit creepy crawly but I squeezed in and it was actually perfect, dry and not in the least bit scary. It is hard to describe. I had roots and earth to my left and under me, a thick wall of roots to my right with little holes between them where I could see out into the night, and the whole tree above me. It was really beautiful, and wierdly - really warm, even in February. I'll let the other two tell you about their sleeping spots. Marleena can certainly tell hers better herself! Suffice to say I heard some very interesting noises before I dropped off. Yeah. My sleeping bag is really slippery on the camping mats and being on a 20 degree incline didn't help, so I found myself sliding from under the tree. So I secured a belt around my waist and tied it onto 2 points on the tree roots. I had a choice of 2 positions and if I moved I would loose friction and slide down until the tethers where digging under my arms, as the belt had gravitated towards my upper body. Then I would grap hold of them and pull myself back up the slope. I am glad it wasn't any colder, as I couldn't close my sleeping bag completely. Nevertheless I slept. Unsurprisingly I was up a couple of hours before the other two. Back to Fiona:
The ground was hard but I slept really well. It was strange as hell. I was so psychologically comfortable. I got the most physically comfortable spot too, but I didn't feel guilty because I had the last choice, guess I was just lucky. I did wake up to the sound of heavier rain in the night but I was entirely sheleterd by the main body of the tree and marleena had a waterproof poncho in the roots over her. Kerry only had a loose tangle of roots over her but somehow she stayed dry, I don't know how. The tree looked after her. I slept right through till about nine. It was glorious.
-the tree was definately my friend...however the slopey ground was not. And nor were the strategicaly positioned rocks i discovered under my head the next morning...doh!
In the morning we trudged back to my van for breakfast, to drop off our bedding, and pick up things for the final few tasks. Back in the tree we first set about our art installation. We had to create more art for this, and it was a nice process. We used sticks and wool, because we didn't want to leave anything too unfriendly in the tree, although the wool was, unfortunately, part synthetic. Marleena did beautiful webs in the roots, with Cookies supervision. Evilweavil did effigies of the three of us and a spider and put them in one of the webs. I think the spider was going to eat us! I wove a Gods Eye thingy and installed it as far up the tree as I could get without being too terrified I would fall and break my neck. It all looked very jolly.
Then we had a nice read. I would love to say here that I was reading Jay Griffiths "Wild" in a tree, but instead it was a soppy romantic scifi novel, that Fiona got me reading...
For a game we had Horror Top Trumps. Very good fun, but tends to go on a bit.
Then the singing. We couldn't decide who should go behind the camera and which two would be shown doing the singing bit, so we decided that Cookie should be the star. He's very good. Then my monster was a bit jealous. He looks very much like he should sing opera, but we didn't know any to teach him. The only thing I could think of was an old icecream advert from when I was a kid, which was kind of opera-ish. Enjoy the films! They where a bastard to upload as I didn't know what format to convert them to. Got there in the end thought.
Oh yes, and we had a little kiss, but nothing too saucy, which is not like us at all.
Yay for tasking in a tree.
Need more adventure... New forest next!