Monday, May 26, 2014

Be A Haymaker

"When the sun shines, make hay.  Which is to say: take time when time comes, lest time steals away"

Wednesday, May 21, 2014


Seek a pastime that demands the development of patience: an activity with no final whistle; no finish line; no scoreboard.  Find something that you love and can lose yourself in for hours and hours without realising.  These days it seems that many of us can't handle being alone with ourselves for more than about twenty seconds - just take a look around next time you're stood on a railway platform or in the queue at the supermarket and watch all of the humanity around you reaching for their phones because they're so uncomfortable just being in the present.  There's real value in having to wait for a reward, be it waiting for the tide to turn, for the fish to start to rise or for the rock to dry out after a rain shower.  It gives you the sort of time needed to let things settle and to subconsciously process your thoughts.  Patience is becoming a lost art, and whilst there are many benefits to the immediacy of modern culture, the loss of our ability to wait for things to happen in their own god time is surely something that we ought to make efforts to salvage.  It's said that patient men win the day, after all.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Outside Food: Camp Stove Hash

It's May and, despite the long fingers of winter still doing their best to cling on, the weather is by-and-large improving.  For the next six months the light is green for living a more complete life outdoors - eating, sleeping and doing all of the fun stuff in-between out in the fresh air.  So, over the summer months, I hope to drop in a few posts featuring recipes that are best enjoyed when prepared and eaten outside - and I'm going to get the ball rolling with a dish that I have a personal (and so far unbroken) rule to never cook and consume under a roof:  Camp Stove Hash.

Camping food often falls into two categories:  dehydrated or boil-in-the-bag "mystery meals" that were invented for astronauts and are now eaten by kids on Duke of Edinburgh expeditions, or food that doesn't need a lot of preparation or cooking like tinned ravioli, packet couscous and stale sandwiches.  Camp stove hash is another story, with easily transportable ingredients that make a brightly-coloured meal that I'd probably pick off a cafe menu if given half a choice.  It's a two stage process though - so the first stage can be done at home before setting off if you anticipate working up a hunger and wanting to refuel as swiftly as possible.  Prior preparation and all that…

Stage 1:  Potato Wedges

  • Potatoes - quartered lengthways, par-boiled, dusted with salt, pepper and a heap of paprika and then shallow-fried in batches until crispy. 
Stage 2:  Camp Stove Hash

  • Equipment: Camp stove, pan, pocket knife and a wooden spoon.  Fork and fresh air to eat with.
  • Ingredients: Potato wedges (see stage 1), onion (optional), chorizo sausage (the ready to eat sort), small bottle of cooking oil or butter,  bag of spinach, salt, pepper and paprika. 
  • Method:  Find a level, sheltered, spot out of the wind and get your camp stove lit.  Heat a touch of oil and roughly cut your onion straight into the pan taking care not to add any bits of finger or a thumb to the ingredients.  Soften.  Cut the chorizo into slices about as thick as a pound coin and add these, allowing them to release their bright red oil and crispen up.  Tip in as many potato wedges as you want to balance out the dish or satisfy your hunger and stir the whole lot together, breaking down the wedges a bit and combining all of the ingredients - add a little more paprika at this point if you fancy it.  Heat through.  Add spinach a handful at a time, stirring it in and allowing it to wilt down before adding a bit more.  Season to taste.  Keep over the heat for a few minutes then share it straight from the pan.

Monday, May 5, 2014


Me, a big baked bean and some deep-winter wedges.

What with it having been a long weekend here in the UK and many other countries, I should really have written this post a week ago so that the classic long weekend of DIY hammering and sawing could be channeled into producing one of these wonderful little surf craft.  But I've just moved house and spent the last few weeks without internet access, so now the challenge is for you to make one of these in two days instead of three next weekend…
But just what is it?

When Captain James Cook dropped anchor in a Hawaiian bay in 1778 he witnessed many of the locals riding waves lying down on wooden boards.  These basic wave riding craft are called paipos (pronounced pipe-oh) and the name is derived from the Hawaiian "Pae Po'o" which means "to surf headfirst".  Generally around 3 feet long, the paipo is the little brother of larger finless Hawaiian designs such as the alaia and olo, the alaia having experienced a resurrection of sorts over the past decade in alternative surf-craft circles.  Travellers to and from the Hawaiian islands at the turn of the last century exported the paipo and it was adapted at various coastal locations around the world, becoming known most commonly as a "bellyboard".  In the 1970's Tom Morey introduced the boogie board and foam bodyboards instantly overshadowed the traditional paipo, with just a few small pockets of traditionalists keeping the flame burning - mostly in Hawaii.

I made my paipo a few years ago, and it's the sort of board that sits in my quiver waiting for a time when I've surfed enough good waves on my regular stick to make heading out on something a little different not seem like much of a risk to my monthly wave-count.  I managed to get hold of a 3'6" long paulownia kitchen worktop off-cut from a friend (the same wood that the majority of alaias are made from) and wondered for a while what I could make with it.  The worktop was made from a number of planks of varying widths, all glued together.  I cut these apart, trimmed them to uniform widths and then glued them back together with thin strips of a random hardwood (that I had some strips of lying around my workshop) sandwiched in between them.  I planed down the hardwood stringers and then drew out a template for my paipo.  It looked like a giant baked bean.  Once I'd cut out the shape of the board I shaped the rails using a small block plane (turned down at the tail, up at the nose and 50/50 through the middle section) with the board clamped against a workbench.  Because I have a bit of a thing for not wasting off-cuts I cut a band to go around nose on the deck, using the same template, and once it was glued in place I routed a groove into it to act as a hand-grip.  The whole thing was sanded smooth and then had a few coats of linseed oil to seal it before being taken for a splash in the sea.  All up it was a fun way to spend some time and I came out the other side with a new surfboard, of sorts.  It takes the bare minimum of tools (a pencil, saw, a few sash-cramps, glue, a block plane and abrasive paper) if you want to try making one yourself.  Essentially it's just a wooden bodyboard which makes it the ideal choice for shorebreaks, but it's also great just to run in with for a quick half hour in summer to catch a few waves and ride some whitewater back towards the beach.  It depends how seriously you take your surfing, I guess.  If you're open to different ways of experiencing waves though then I would definitely recommend sliding in on a few head first.

Ride anything: wave-wise and board-wise.

Check out the stoke that the crew at The Paipo Society have for these things, and keep your eyes peeled for the next Approaching Lines Slyder Cup event - celebrating finless surfing in all of it's many forms.