Me. My boots. My tea.
Me. My boots. My tea.

So. It’s day 3. I wake up exhausted. It’s been pretty damn cold, the futon mattress in the tent is a little too thin to provide full protection to my delicate, over-privileged hips and shoulders, and the run last night had worn me out a bit. And i’m just emotionally exhausted from the sheer brilliance of everything I’ve had to take in. At the risk of sounding fluffy and pretentious, it’s a very nourishing experience, both in terms of body and brain. But there’s a part of me that wants a day of comfy sofas, take-aways, and trash telly. Weird, huh?

The feeling doesn’t last though because we’re whisked straight from breakfast into the first two lectures of the day. One on axes, and one on ornithology (or more specifically the testicle size of the aquatic warbler). Seriously.

And they are both brilliant. Utterly, utterly inspiring stuff to shake off the lethargy. Gabriel Branby, director of Gränsfors Bruks axe factory in Sweden, delivers a talk about stripping back the “bulk” of your product, and adding information. Remove all extraneous details and return it to its essence. He talks of the Tao (a favourite subject of mine), and the need for values in the company (“Write your values down!!”). After all “you can lower the price of an axe to zero, but it still won’t compete with a chainsaw”. In other words, make sure it is the best at being an axe, and not at being a thing that just chops down trees.

Ace volunteers Naomi, Ian and Charlotte
Ace volunteers Naomi, Ian and Charlotte

Tim Birkhead seems to have been kept awake all night by a rogue snorer in his tent. He couldn’t identify exactly who he was, which was probably a good thing given how close Gabriel’s box of axes was. However, he delivered a fascinating and hilarious talk about ornithology, the training of whistling bullfinches, the cultural significance and history of birds alongside humans, and how we HAVE to wake up at 4am next may to glory in the dawn chorus. Oh, and that thing about the aquatic warbler’s massive balls….

Rolf Potts touched on the subject of time as true wealth as well. He’s an advocate of vagabonding (a deliberate way of living that makes the freedom to travel possible). Being someone who intends taking some time out to travel extensively over the next few years, it was great to hear him advise us to slow down on our trips in order to experience more. Too many of us try to tick boxes (“seen that, seen that, seen that….”) and over-intellectualise our trips. Let the trip take you, not vice versa.

Alan Moore’s talk was great for anyone interested in technology, social media, the internet etc. I have pages of fascinating stats from his talk. Here’s a few:

  • We are living in the very last days of industrial, mass media consumer society.
  • This communications revolution will be as big as the one caused by the introduction of Gutenberg’s moveable type printing press.
  • By 2012 twenty five percent of media will be “made by us” (according to Nokia research).
  • Technology only succeeds if it truly meets human needs.
  • Embed sociability into your tech for success.

Tom Taylor is the web’s equivalent of a garden shed tinkerer. He makes really cool stuff. He’s really into the concept of building on other people’s work, gluing it together in different ways. He spoke of how you can’t really go wrong if you’re delighting and inspiring. I just wish I was as clever as him!

Given the state of me when I woke up, I half expected to be asleep over dinner but first there was the small matter of taking part in “Paul Deegan’s Mini-Base Camp Clean-up”. In other words, Paul had found a load of junk just dumped in the forest near the site, and had asked for volunteers to join him in clearing it up. Along with Paul there was Emma (about to travel the world collecting stories of climate change), Gerald (anti-GM protester extraordinaire), Matthew a poet and Do Lectures founder member, Simon (who was filming the whole excursion as part of his DO documentary), and me.

I chose to do the bottom one, when the top one was the obvious choice. Doh!
I chose to do the bottom one, when the top one was the obvious choice. Doh!

Paul had delivered the first lecture on Thursday and had inspired me to pick up one piece of litter a day. As he sees it,a piece of litter on the floor is permission for other people to drop more. And so we set off to remove some permissions from the wood. We were regaled with great tales of mountaineering adventure (who ever knew that condoms could be so useful 8000m above sea level!), and started to enjoy the countryside as a woman went past with a pony and trap:

Nope, i didnt imagine it....
Nope, i didn't imagine it....

When we arrived at “ground zero” it had clearly been the site of lots of teenage partying. Beer cans, burnt wood, makeshift shelters, condom wrappers (bleurgh!) etc etc. Paul had neatly neglected to tell us there was a 3-man crew seat from a transit van that had somehow made its way there too. Once we’d collected all the rubbish into bin bags, we voted to take the seats back too, despite the tiny foot bridges, steep muddy climbs, and streams that needed to be crossed on our way back. Half an hour of blood, sweat and tears later and we’d got the massively heavy hulk of rubbish to the top of the site. But only after the guys behind me had decided to silently put the seat down without telling me, leaving me to drag it up a muddy cliff-face* on my own. I would have laughed with them if I had the breath…. 😉

I’ll save Gerald’s reputation (and the secrets of his clearly criminal genius) by not revealing how he hotwired a small tractor so we could borrow it and return victorious with the spoils of our labour, Paul and I riding treacherously on the seat balanced on the back of the mini-tractor.

Matt and the rubbish we brought back...
Matt and the rubbish we brought back...

It’s been a long time since I’ve felt that good about myself. Most human beings (myself very much included) are so driven by selfish ends it’s sometimes rare to do something that will hopefully benefit people you’ll never meet. It’s like the glow of giving big sums to charity. Or that could still just be the burning in my chest from the carrying of the seat.

It had been *another* amazing day. And despite all this, I still wasn’t dead on my feet. Well, I was. But i had to stay out on party night, right….?

* That statement might contain some mild exaggeration.

READ PART FOUR

Typical iPhone evangelist, trying to convert a farmer to his cult!
Typical iPhone evangelist, trying to convert a farmer to his cult!
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