Battle scarred Lord Horatio reporting for duty. Bloodied but unbowed I am still licking my wounds after fighting the good fight against an unholy alliance of ancient foes infamous for taking no prisoners.
I’m afraid a fatal combination of adventurous spirit and impatience to get to the pub took me off the beaten track while tackling one of the marvellous rambles featured on my nephew Simon’s wife Belinda’s excellent Facebook page Hiking In The UK.
Alas I was no match for the lacerating legions of brambles, thistles and stinging nettles lurking beneath the innocent looking canopy of bracken as I waded out of my depth towards the hostelry on the horizon. Blundering on I was reminded of the expression ‘death by a thousand cuts’.
Safely installed on a stool at the bar of the old Cock and Bull and cradling a pint of Not Into Yoga anaesthetic, I began to ponder the thorny issue of overgrown highways and byways. Unfortunately Her Majesty’s constabulary would take a decidedly dim view of me thrashing around in the undergrowth with my trusty silver topped swordstick, let alone the ceremonial cutlass I use to slice the corks off champagne bottles!
Whilst limping back to Dawdle Hall a cunning plan to resolve the problem began to gel. What was needed was some kind of legal cutting device wired up to a backpack and available at the touch of a button. A quick trawl of the internet yielded some fancy rucksacks with solar panels and gizmo storage or fearsome looking electrical gardening gear. Why not a customised combination of the two?
The answer, I felt certain, lay in our cavernous attic – nicknamed ‘the room of requirements‘ by my good lady wife – a big Harry Potter fan. Without further ado I set about rummaging through dusty corners full of long forgotten treasures. After numerous nostalgic dead-ends I came across a moth-eaten old military rucksack with a robust metal frame. My awesome power pack dream was about to become a reality.
A raid on the stable block liberated an old electric hedge trimmer complete with scabbard. This was going to deliver a dose of shock and awe to any vexatious vegetation that barred my way. Naturally any self respecting weed warrior marches on their stomach so a reliable supply of good quality refreshment was needed too. Once again the loft came up with the goods – to wit a 1955 Goblin Teasmade and a mini-fridge.
With determination I set about cannibalising the old rucksack. Stripped back to the frame and shoulder straps I began lashing on the equipment using cable ties. The bakelite creamery tray protruding from underneath the Teasmade was the perfect place to stow cutlery, cups and condiments, held in place by a liberal layering of cling film. The ice box nestled neatly alongside secured by wire and with the door facing to one side for easy access.
Communication in this modern age is essential so the old CB Radio kit from the Land Rover was brought back into harness – literally. Forget tweets and twits, slung under the teasmade and fridge with a bungee octopus, it provided instant access to the down to earth world of farmers, handy when checking the right to roam, truckers, useful when stranded far from home and, in a real emergency the odd cab firm.
An old bathroom roller blind strapped to the top of the metal frame provided instant weather proofing at the pull of a cord. Admittedly the yellow rubber duck pattern might look a little out of place in the field…or woods come to that, but necessity is the mother of invention. Having checked the bindings it was time to shoulder responsibility for the high tech pack to end all packs.
While I had the clever idea of trailing the hedge trimmer cable down one sleeve of my jacket and the Radio wire down the other I had reckoned without the power to weight ratio. I simply didn’t have the power to carry the weight. Undaunted I seconded four old snooker queues and wheels from a long defunct shopping bag. Tied securely in pairs to the frame a few screws quickly turned the poles into roller stilts.
Using the garage engine hoist I winched the pack upright and slipped my arms into the shoulder straps. The doors swung open and I stepped out into history with the first fully operational all electric trekking rucksack. All went well for the first couple of hundred yards, the gentle sounds of the countryside broken only by the squeaking of the shopping trolly wheels.
The first patch of brambles disintegrated as the teeth of the hedge cutter bit deep. It was a defining moment. Man and machine versus the power of nature. I was all ready to broadcast my triumph to the nation over the airwaves, before celebrating with a cup of tea, when the great outdoors bit back.
There was a bright flash and loud bang followed by the smell of burning. Sensing danger I quickly jettisoned the pack. As the whole apparatus erupted into flames I soon realised the inherent design fault. Whimsy my faithful hound had mistaken the long lead running from back of the pack for a snake and had wrenched it clear of its moorings.
Not only that, Lady Winifred was having trouble at the other end of the cable. She had been doing sterling work following along at snail’s pace in the Land Rover bearing the four extra car batteries needed to power the dream machine. Mother Nature was the least of my worries. I faced fire and fury!