Walking passed a small farm I saw hens foraging under trees and a small covered table with boxes of eggs for sale. I bought a box and hoped I would find someone willing to boil them for me. Hard boiled eggs make fantastic walking food. Filling and lightweight, they last for a week and a half as long as the shells are not cracked. Well, they may in fact last longer, but that was the longest I left them before ‘chickening’ out.
That night I camped in a campsite and they were kind enough to boil the eggs for me. It was also the first shower I’d had since Embercombe, but I hadn’t missed them. (Other people may have.)
A few years ago I lived for two months with indigenous First Nations in Canada who were returning to their traditional territory. They were and are blockading against a proposed gas pipeline. We used to carry our water from the river and heat it on a wood burning range. Showering was done in tin bath with a jug. I decided to take the opportunity there to stop washing my hair with shampoo.
I’d heard that if you stop shampooing your hair (but still rinse it) for six weeks, it will rebalance with natural oils and keep itself clean. I’d always wanted to try it, but been embarrassed about the transition stage. It turned out to take only five weeks. Five, greasy and itchy weeks, during which I kept it covered by a head scarf. At the end, removing the scarf was like coming out of a chrysalis to find shiny healthy hair that looked like it was from a shampoo ad. Several years later, the novelty of not needing to wash my hair still hasn’t worn off. Some disagreeable effects do arise when I swim in chlorinated water or use bath salts, but only for a few days.
During my time in Canada I also managed to wean myself off makeup. Without an income I had to get rid of all unnecessary spending. But make-up was surprisingly more difficult for my ego, because I did look less pretty. The last to go, after the foundation, was mascara.
After a while of not wearing lipstick, the colour comes back slightly to your lips. After a while of not wearing foundation, I stopped getting spots (and needing to buy spot cream). After a while of not wearing mascara, I stopped having itchy eyes with wrinkles and dark patches (and needing to buy eye cream). But, your eyes never look as striking. On the other hand, I think, our planet is dying, so get over it. Who really gives a shit if I wear makeup or not?
It was a clear sky that night on the hill, so with no insulating cloud cover the temperature dropped near freezing. Despite my allegedly four season sleeping bag I was really cold and didn’t sleep well. That could have had quite a lot to do with two acts of false economy. The first was buying the aforementioned sleeping bag second hand on ebay despite the comment ‘some stuffing missing, but can easily be repaired’. The second was taking only half a roll mat, to save on weight. The things weigh next to nothing, and cold legs and feet will stop you sleeping. On the bright side, during my nightly toilet stroll the stars and the milky way were vibrantly visible in the clear sky.
During the early days of the walk, my parents were somewhat concerned. Being daily readers of a tabloid, it appeared only a matter of days until I would be attacked. So they arranged to take a holiday in Devon for a couple of days, along my route, so we could all stay in a farm B&B. The luxury of another pub meal and a real bed gave me a nine and a half hour sleep. In the morning I surprised myself, and them, by managing to eat a large full English breakfast.
The farm we were staying at had pictures and ornaments of horses everywhere and in the large breakfast room models of horses or their heads, in all sorts of different materials, filled the deep window sills. The owner Jonathan, kept and trained work horses. In the yard we saw him lead two horses, clipped together, to a red two wheeled horse trap. The larger black and white shire horse was clearly much more adept and was mentoring a russet brown one. The mentor stepped neatly over the central tow bar, pulling the newbie alongside and Jonathan set off for a drive, with his black and white dog in the passenger seat.