All I Do is Eat and Shit

It seems to me the word 'adventure' is sorely misused.

Simple travelling could hardly be thought of as adventurous, despite the insistence of the more insular among us. Unless we're fording raging jungle rivers to the accompaniment of distant cannibal drums, or at the very least while shitfaced, I think we should refrain from such aggrandising language. The majority of Facebook photo albums I've seen with the word 'adventure' in the title seem to involve little more than its advocate gawping at the camera, holding a pint.

If this is what passes for adventure, I'm Doc fucking Savage. However, it is true that alcohol infuses enterprise with exploit. This is its purpose, after all. Thus, it could be said drunk people are society's foremost adventurers, because they face jeopardy in the most mundane of deeds: negotiating a kerb, for example, or unlocking their front door, or whipping up a snack without setting fire to the kitchen. Additionally, drunk decision-making is notoriously perilous, and adventure, by definition, should involve risk. Columbus, Cabot, Magellan and Cook were teetotallers all*; they were forced to ridiculous lengths to find similarly stout adversity, so they don't impress me any more than a drunk does, and shouldn't you. Now, if they'd been sailing into those tropical cyclones on their third bottles of sherry...

Many of the most exciting times in my life involved alcohol. For example, I've woken up in cities I didn't start out in with women I don't know, who've bizarrely introduced me to their children over breakfast. Or during one particularly memorable morning, a husband. He gave me a ride to work. And then there's the one about the brothelkeeper's daughters. But these are stories for a different day.

The biggest problem with inebriation is forgetting stuff, so a lot of adventures, or rather the hugely-entertaining lessons of injurious misadventures, often go to waste. However, the colossal advantage we have nowadays is camera phones. Now we can record events to remind ourselves in the mornings, and if we forget to push the button, someone else invariably pushes theirs. Technology is bringing light to the dark corners of our memories, reminding us to embrace the things we'd rather forget. We're starting to weave much healthier 'warts and all' narratives. Attempting to dismiss a difficult episode from our consciousness is to forgo the benefit to our personalities. Hardship breeds character and perspective, no matter how it's induced.

Before you steeple your fingers in condescending concern: life, I firmly believe, is about the acquisition of anecdotes. When the battery on my mobile runs out, I've often sat back by the campfire to contemplate the things I've done and seen, and sweet Jesus, has it been fun. I chuckle myself to sleep like a loon. Now, there still exists those in society who frown on enjoyment and hold austerity dear. They espouse hard work but consider 'work' sitting at a desk. These people are dying off, thankfully, as automation and outsourcing shifts our western focus from industry to entertainment. After all, we only get one life, we may as well whoop it up.

It's no coincidence that religion preaches such drab virtues: work hard and create lots more workers. Keep quiet. Don't think. Do as we say. The powerful and parasitic love these teachings, which is obviously why they nurture them: they need workers to keep working, after all. And what better motivator than the threat of damning their eternal souls? It's the biggest scam in human history. One has to step back, as George Carlin said, in fucking awe. The enormous, outrageous gall of these people beggars belief. It's only over the last few years I've begun to realise the magnitude of the deception. I was a worker ant for a long time, but since turning professional with this writing malarkey four years ago I've had a lot more space to read, observe, and think; time-dependent luxuries rarely afforded us working class scum. This blinkered veil, thickened by decades, nay, generations of rudimentary, incessant, infectious social propaganda, is lifting.

And will, no doubt, reveal some real adventure.

* * *

I decamped and backtracked into Bamburgh for breakfast. A cracking little delicatessen called The Pantry caught my eye, so I went in for a cup of tea and delicious handmade turkey and coleslaw sandwich. This tiny place is much more than a sandwich shop, though: the shelves crowd with local artisanal produce, including the first beef jerky I'd seen in the UK. A couple of decades in Texas has made me a huge fan of the stuff, but I wasn't sure how well it would suit a fruit pastille-popping cyclist, and it'd be an expensive experiment. I repaired to a nearby park bench to eat, then went back in for another cuppa and a cheese and onion flan, famished after yesterday's gastro-intestinal hostilities. I wish I'd tried this place rather than the Castle Inn.

I chatted with Julie the owner for a while over yet another cup of tea and some local fudge, herself a budding writer. She'd been in Bamburgh thirty years and obviously loved the place, and was determined, she said, to write a memoir about it. She displayed the common reticence of the unpublished, however, which I consider a very British trait. I had it myself the first time I wrote something for public consumption. (It seems so long ago. Probably because it was.) I gave her as much encouragement as I could while attending closely to any possible churn or glop stomachward.

I bought half a pound of back bacon from R. Carter and Son's butcher's a few doors up (Est. 1887. I seem to have adopted the innocent Yank-like wonder for such prestigious longevity) and hit the road north.

Even after my hobbit-like first, second and third breakfasts I was feeling very drained and tired. So much so when it started raining around midday I fucked this shit, set up camp in a roadside forest, and was deep into the first season of Arrested Development when Bowel Hell II: Revenge of the Quiche held its first guerrilla screening. After a trouble free morning, I'd thought the bug gone, but it wasn't. It'd been lurking, bibbed-up, cutlery poised, waiting for a meal.

The next sixteen hours were spent howling liquid brown destruction into a hastily dug hole. I spent so much time squatting outside the tent I set up a tarp shelter to divert what little rain breached the natural forest canopy, primarily to keep my Nexus 7 dry so I could continue enjoying the dysfunctions of the Bluth family while crouched to my berserking toilet. Shitting into a bag in a tent is all unicorns and lollipops when it's only once every day or two, but this kind of persistent onslaught calls for infrastructure.

Day 14
Depleted to a point where the beast in my belly could but growl and belch malignant whiffs, I pushed on for Holy Island. I stopped for supplies at a service station on the A1 crossing point, but found it so ridiculously overpriced I didn't buy anything, and went to the nearby Lindisfarne Inn instead for lunch and to do a bit of work. I ordered two sides instead of a main: chips and onion rings. Hand made, generously portioned, perfectly cooked, and quite possibly the best onion rings I've ever had. What a refreshing, non-grasping, astute attempt to acquire, keep, and grow a reputation by delivering excellence rather than a Bamburgh Castle Inn wallet raping. I washed down the delicious repast with three pints of ice cold Carlsberg, and headed coastward to the Barn at the Beal campsite in glorious sunshine, burping happily.

I camped down next to a couple from Newcastle who'd driven up with their mountain bikes for the weekend. They'd brought not just a tent, but tables, chairs, a three ring gas stove, crockery, cutlery, you name it. That evening I felt very underequipped breaking out my backpacking Trangia to fry up some bacon, pan size necessitating a single rasher at a time. I silently resolved to buy a bigger set. (Judging by the uneventful elapsed time since lunch, the stomach bug seemed to have relented.)

The Barn at the Beal is probably the best campsite I stayed at the whole trip; in truth, it's more a destination than a campsite, which is more of an addendum to the facility. It's essentially a hugely popular bar/restaurant/coffee shop that acts like a nightclub/pub on Saturday nights, and it was Saturday. But I had to work, and the view from my tent across the causeway to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne was stirring enough to hold my attention. This was the home of St. Aidan and St. Cuthbert, and where the Viking age began in Britain, with Norsemen coming ashore to raid the isolated monastery on the island in 793 AD.

I took a break from work and rode the mile down to take a look at the famous causeway, which was hidden by the tide.

I checked the posted times and figured I could cross in the morning, and cycled back to the site, my front tyre picking up a huge thorn twig on the way. I literally had to stop and pry the bastard loose. And here's the curious bit: an hour or two after getting back to camp the tyre was flat. In the daylight next morning I pulled the wheel off to fix the flat, but couldn't find an obvious puncture. I went to the bathroom, filled up the sink, inflated the tube and rotated it through the water. Not a bubble. What the hell? I put it back on the bike, pumped it up, and it didn't go flat again until the next puncture about five weeks later. EXPLAIN THAT, SCIENCE!

Fucking Holy Island of Lindisfarne. Out-of-work Christian miracles just lounging around, picking on innocent passersby instead of looking for jobs among the poor and sick. It's a bloody disgrace!

Judging by the noise that night, the Barn at the Beal knows how to party down. I resisted the temptation to join them, knowing full well if I did, no work would get done tomorrow, and quite possibly the day after, and I had deadlines.

The next day I cycled the couple of miles over the causeway on a gloriously unloaded bike to Lindisfarne, and very nice it was too, though very touristy, even mid-October. I wanted to check out the church, but it was Sunday morning and religious people were gathering for a preachin', so I made myself scarce before they could capture me and turn me into their anal fuck gimp, or whatever it is they do in there.

I wandered through the priory to discover there was precious little left of the 8th century buildings. The existing ruins are the remains of the 11th century replacement. Shit. Still, they're impressive, and for someone who's spent the vast majority of his life in construction, intriguing.

I rode up to the castle but didn't go in, because I'm not fond of paying to be disappointed, then rode back to the campsite for bacon sandwiches and a mug of tea. It was a beautiful day, so I had the tent wide open for the view, and found if I laid down using my backpack as a pillow, with my knees propped up, feet wedged against the tub groundsheet wall to prevent them sliding away, I could rest my laptop against my thighs and write with Lindisfarne as a backdrop. Travelgasm number two.

Safety retreat if you get caught on the causeway when the tide comes in

And I seem to have invented a way to write lying down, which is quite easily the most momentous discovery in the history of literature. I'd just made the easiest job in the world even easier. See? This is the kind of innovative laziness I bring to the table.

Obviously, I didn't present any kind of threat whatsoever.

By midafternoon, I decided it was time for a break from the doing of nothing, and figured I'd head up to the coffee shop for something sticky and sweet. Plus I had that morning's shitbag in my tent's redundant second foyer to dispose of, so I'd chuck that in a bin on the way.

Unfortunately, as I rounded the corner of an obscuring hedge, I bumped into a whole herd of elderly hikers standing around their cars chatting, and me carrying a translucent bag of shit. I had my laptop in my other hand, so quickly put the offending article in the same hand in an unsuccessful effort to shield it from their view. I faltered a step, and considered turning back, but my inner monologue piped up BRAZEN IT OUT, MAN, BRAZEN IT OUT! THEY'LL THINK IT'S OLD FOOD OR SOMETHING, WELL IT IS, IN A SENSE. This forced me to stifle an involuntary laugh, which emerged as a loud staccato snort, and drew everybody's attention. This in turn, of course, gave me the giggles.

I viciously clamped them down. Straining purple with suppression, veins popping like a power-lifter, I strode stiffly to the rubbish bin, struggled for an awkward eon to get the lid off, and discovered it was full. But of course.

Time slowed to a smear as I weighed up my options. By now, they'd figured out I was carrying a bag of shit. This was the only bin between the campsite and the coffee shop. At a loss for alternatives, I gently placed the bag on top of the trash, and carefully replaced the lid so as not to burst the bag. 'Bloody dogs,' I said.

I was really in the mood for a scone with jam and cream, but they had already run out, which is testament to the popularity of the place. I went with a fudge slice and a pot of tea, and outstanding it was, too.

*I made this bit up.


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