For my birthday this week my partner Mary gave me Alistair Humphreys’s inspirational book ‘Microadventures’. According to Humphreys, a microadventure is an adventure that is short, simple, local, cheap – yet still fun, exciting, challenging, refreshing and rewarding. Last night I undertook my first mission – to go and sleep under the stars in the garden. As adventures go this reads as really not very challenging at all, but I was surprised by how unorthodox it felt.
Being near Mid-Summer, I had to wait until it would be dark enough to go to sleep. I was also keen to avoid the rain that had been forecast for earlier in the evening. I set off at 10pm with my roll mat, sleeping bag and pillow under my arm. On my journey across the decking I noticed a small toad scampering around the edges. I would not be alone.
Having reached my destination, I got into my bag, lay back and listened. For what felt like an hour, I could hear the muffled noises from the households around me: coughs and the clink of cutlery from one side; occasional swearing from a computer gamer on the other. Overhearing people doing ’normal’ Tuesday night things made it feel all the more strange to be sleeping under the stars in the garden. It feels taboo – I hope nobody sees me.
I have been alive for 39 years and of those 14,244 nights I’ve never spent a single one sleeping in the garden. And yet it is such a simple thing to do. It brings home the message for me of Alistair Humphrey’s book, that adventure is a state of mind, and that you can easily tap into it by challenging everyday habits.
The noise from the neighbours subsides (maybe they are going to bed) but I’m kept awake by the glow of the flood lights above the carpark behind my garden. The sodium lights the undersides of leaves on a nearby apple tree, and I enjoy following the shapes of the yellow branches against the night sky.
Rain interupts play
I start to drift off but I’m woken by rain on my nose. The forecast shower was late rather than cancelled as I had hoped. Being new to micro adventuring, I don’t yet have a bivvy bag and so I am sleeping with no waterproofing. I pull the zip up tight to my face and hope the drizzle will move on, figuring that I can weather a short shower.
The rain intensifies. At this point I could just go inside but that would be Game Over. Instead, without breaking my chrysalis, I shuffle sideways across the lawn, like a slug doing dressage, until I reach the shelter of the apple tree. I know this will only provide me temporary respite before the precipitation finds its way through but it is enough to let me drift off to sleep.
At some point later I wake again. The ground under the apple tree was sloping and I am somewhat adrift of where I started, but the rain has stopped so I return to my initial resting spot in the open. Cracks open in the cloud floe and the first stars catch my eye.
Next thing I know it is dawn and I’m listening to the call and response of the blackbirds. The chorus is joined by a bragging crow and the nervous chatter of goldfinches. I’m tired but happy, a bit like when you get off a night train. I certainly feel like I’ve been on an overnight journey. Time to get up and travel home.