New Year's Eve onExmoor

It was Monday 31st December 2001, and four young men, with apparently very little sense, decided it might be a good idea to drive down to Devon (or wherever we stopped really) and spend the night in a camper van, at about ten degrees below zero. Anyway, we all survived, and actually even enjoyed it, and here are the photos to prove it. For any of you that want to relive the fun (?!) of Porlock Hill which we drove up on the way to where we stayed, there's a page about it here.

Original comments (in black) by John. Extra comments in red added by Rob.

This was the animation that had John going for about 20 minutes:

[Rob is pringle king]

14:23 And we're off! Just after a quick visit to the supermarket in Reading.We left Highmead at about 13:20, so not bad really.

14:23 Rob, the driver, complete with driving (actually technically flying) gloves.

14:23 Myself, nominated the navigator (as I was the only one who had brought a map, despite it being printed about 20 years ago). And you navigated quite well, at first.

14:50 Somewhere on the M4, Mark enjoying Coke from a stylish Barbie plastic cup. In a stylish VW Camper Van. ahem

14:51 Oooooooh unnecessary bonsai tree. None of us know why John bought a Bonsai Tree. It set a new level of randomness

14:55 Erm, I think I was trying to take a picture of this road sign, but actually seem to have mainly got the back of Rob's tax disc.

15:23 Mark, emmersed in Game Boy land. Makes a change from Gayboy Land

15:23 Byrnie endluges in more literary pursuits. Reading 'Noddy Goes Hunting for Bitches'

15:43 We'd barely got a few miles down the motorway and already the sun was beginning to set! The idea was to get there before sunset, ne'ermind, eh?

15:43 Rob asked for a Tim-esque picture, and this is what he got. I soon realised that it was missing Tim.

16:00 Nice effect of the smoke from those cooling towers in front of the sunset, unfortunately it was a bit too small here! Looked like an eerie purple colour.

16:04 The cooling fan probably wasn't needed on this trip. That's the Aircon

16:10 If only the scenery wouldn't keep getting in the way of the sunset. Pity the M4/M5 didn't yield much interesting scenery.

16:11 The sky was looking worryingly cloudless at this point. We were in for a cold night! Here here.

16:18 That fan again. I love it. It's sooo crap.

16:30 Here we are appreciating the facilities in the famous Sedgemoor services on the M5. A classy joint.

16:46 As an aside, for any interested vegetarians, Wimpy, at least the one in Sedgemoor services, are doing proper Quorn burgers rather than the usual mashed tasteless cheap mixed vegetables crap you normally get in places like that.

16:47 The boys (minus myself) plus the new map - unlike the one we were using up until now, this one, rather usefully, was printed after the M5 was built. By this point we'd actually decided more or less where we were actually going. We also set down the previso that roads with arrows on were bad.

16:47 Me, possibly for the first time ever enjoying a cup of Wimpy's finest tea. What we like to call a 'Cheers to Camera' shot.

17:14 Outside Sedgemoor services on the way back to the van. Which is totally unlike any other services. Not.

18:07 The van, parked temporarily somewhere along the A39 (I think). Spot on, we'd stopped to allow the convoy of 12 cars behind us pass and to clean the murky windscreen.

18:32 Yep, it was really quite cold by now. But at no time did they take up the offer of putting a duvet across them in the back. A sort of solidarity, I guess.

18:32 Disproving the myth that there are no working tin mines in the South West any more. Oddness

18:55 Finally at our final destination errr, finally. Amazingly there was snow on the ground. There's absolutely no truth in the rumour that we only stopped here because we'd parked temporarily, and then Rob realised reverse wasn't working any more. Temporarily not working, it does now. No idea why.

18:56 Taken using the slow shutter - this really needs to be on a tripod, and not held by someone shivering violently. You can see right across the Bristol Channel to the lights of South Wales. All running on Gas still.

18:57 Yep, it's dark, and yep it's cold, and yep, it's in the middle of nowhere. Literally, without windchill, it was 5 degrees.

19:06 Probably about time to get back in the van. Marginally more comfortable in there.

19:23 The inside of the van in the earlier configuration involving the table. John goes a bit 'configuration' mad. There's not a lot of room in a VW Camper to move about.

19:24 Byrnie is already light-headed.... hahahahahaha Well, I laughed.

19:37 Not sure why I'm outside the van again already. You went to the toilet like an old person.

19:38 May have been trying to take a picture through the window. Pervert.

19:40 The second and preferred interior van configuration, involving Rob's duvet (aka the avalanche). This evening Rob will be mostly drinking gin and tonic, and Mark it appears is consuming some kind of red drink. It's a breezer. Mark drinks breezers. ha. ha. ha.

19:41 Byrnie, attempting desperately to conceal the fact that the orange juice carton is frozen solid to his upper lip. Welded there by the cold. I was surprised he hadn't started drinking.

20:05 Oh, hello, Mark appears also to be going for a juice interlude. He was more probably holding my glass so that I could pour a G&T.

20:06 I was drinking Carlsberg on the premise of wanting to stay sober.Liar.

20:06 Well, sort of. Why did you buy 12 then?

20:06 Beginning to wonder if Byrnie has shares in Tropicana. He does and they are doing very favourably at the moment.

20:07 Mark falling foul of hat hair. It was the sort of look salons take years trying to perfect.

20:21 Mark's highly useful gas free gas lamp. Ok, errr, it's just an electric lamp really. Marvellous, lit the whole inside.

20:29 Must be a self portrait. Also a chance to admire the fine German workmanship on the side door handle. It was a prezzie from Mum this year.

20:34 If I've told you once, I've told you a thousand times, no fnerking. I look dreadful in this photo.

20:34 Rob still imbibing red drink. It's Gasson, you fool.

20:42 Due to the cold weather and slightly cramped conditions, none of us really moved about much. Thus the pictures are starting to look a bit samey... We had a nice conversation going to start with, though.

20:42 What you might have seen if the film Aliens was set in a colder climate. And been made on a budget of forty quid.

20:42 Erm. This one was supposed to look like an alien.

20:43 I thought you were changing at Crewe? Note also, Byrnie has 8882 written on his hand. This was the mileage on the clock before we left.

20:43 The crevass. If you can't find it, it's in the crevass.

20:43 Hmmm, a bit too close up really.This is a shot of what it looks like under an avalanche.

20:43 I'm sure there's a pun about drink driving to be had here. Don't go there.

21:02 Byrnie, I still can't see any beer in your hands! It does need to be documented that at 21:02 on 31st December 2001, Byrnie did not have an alcoholic drink in his hands.

21:07 Cheers everyone! Nice dismembered hand shot there.

21:14 Note the addition of a further sleeping bag at this point. Because some bastard was stealing half the avalanche!

21:14 Byrnie demonstrates how he can draw curtains by telepathy. Still no drink.

21:14 For no apparent reason, I recorded an audio clip (45 seconds, 717kb) at this point, note the Frank Sinatra playing in the background. Nice.

21:26 A brief musical interlude. I have no idea why I thought it was a good point to play my harmonica at this juncture.

21:29 Mark fails yet again to blow through his eye socket. Not what I heard.

21:34 Oooh Oooh someone is actually moving! It took you enough attempts to get up.

21:34 ...and back down again. Muppet

21:34 ...and up again! Demonstrating what exactly?

21:34 Byrnie thinks better of the whole standing up thing. Very wise. Standing up = cold.

21:35 A brief simulation of how a gnome terrorist might hijack a van. By sitting on the passenger side?

21:38 The picture you've all been waiting for!!!! Me throwing away an EMPTY BOTTLE!!!! Erm. Yea. It was a context picture.

21:50 A demonstration of the unpleasant alternatives one faces when the pretzels run out. I love my brick.

21:50 Lesson four in Mark's world famous course on how not to wear hats. This actually looks rather strange as there are no discernable human shapes.

21:51 Rob with Pringles. See animation.

21:51 Rob with Pringles again. How we laughed.

21:51 I made a small animation out of this and the previous picture which worringly kept me laughing for the next 20 minutes or so. We all laughed, at the animation at first and then at John.

21:54 Rob decides he no longer needs his right hand. Because I have a girlfriend.

22:06 I suppose technically, Rob and Mark are in bed together here. Ahem. Again.

22:07 Still laughing at the animation. I need help. You were in the wrong place for help, miles from anywhere.

22:07 It's famously hard to find psychiatric help at gone 10 on new year's eve, somwhere in the middle of Exmoor though. Still, could be worse.

22:07 Oh dear. We'd lost John at this point, he could not hold a conversation or anything. At least the van interior was warming up.

22:07 Byrnie thankfully has not succumb to the same insanity. Or he was not showing it.

22:17 Rob attempting to recreate the animated daftness with grapes... I thought it was funny.

22:17 ...conveniently it didn't have the same effect. But I was wrong.

22:22 A stealth Pringles can. Designed to see if we could make John bleed with laughter.

22:22 No, I'm not looking any more. You no longer need to.

22:22 Take it away! Simple thing please simple minds.

22:22 Stop it! Why?

22:22 Schtop! Schtop! You were the one taking photos of it!

22:24 John Hawkins - a mental wreck at 24. At 12, still not recovered at 24.

22:24 A very chinny picture of Rob and Mark. We do good chin, do Mark and I.

22:25 The first picture all night of Byrnie actually drinking! Hurrah, only 3 hours late.

22:25 Ladies and gentlemen, now playing, Cake's Fashion Nugget. Shocker!

22:29 Mark appears to be fading already. We were all tired, after all.

22:30 Rob also is staggering wearily towards the land of nod. Come on! It's only ten thirty! But I had driven for 3 1/2 hours, the last of which was quite stressful!!!

22:38 Nope, he's definitely asleep. Then wake me up and give me a drink.

22:39 Rob's clock, which doubles as a thermometer. Coincidentally, I've also got the same clock at home. Anyway, can't quite make out the temperature reading. Maybe about 0.8 degrees? Luxury. You were lucky to have 0.8 degrees, we used to dream of 0.8 degrees.

22:40 Getting closer doesn't seem to have helped much. Mark, in an uncharacteristic bout of what you might almost identify as optimism, had a theory that probably the colder the ambient temperature was, the warmer we'd be, as it meant we were better insulating ourselves. Or something. Sounds scientific, anyway.

22:48 Honeslty, it wasn't that cold. Not under the avalanche.

22:51 Mark has unforuntately been lost once more to the game boy. Poor chap.

23:00 Things were beginning to look bleak. With still an hour to go before midnight, we had one asleep, and one in a game boy enduced trance. The you should have done something about it.

23:00 Nope, no breaking away from it. Punch him in the face.

23:38 Even the bonsai tree had given up adding to the conversation. It only spoke Japanese anyway.

23:40 Oh dear. Who gave it to him in the first place?

23:41 If only I'd brought my own matches, I could have used this time effectively setting up some fireworks. Moan, moan, whinge, whinge. Yeah, like extra time would have helped.

23:41 Rob still dozing away. Aren't I sweeet?

23:41 Just me and Brynie left then really. Then you should have woken me up.

23:58 At about three minutes to midnight I was finally allowed the matches so I could set up some fireworks... Which was bloody genius.

00:11 ...this of course meant I totally missed the actual bit between 11:59 and 12:00, and hadn't realised it had happened until about ten minutes later. Anyway, HAPPY NEW YEAR everybody! Also, there's another accidental audio clip (very short) taken at this point.

00:19 Very surreal, bricks in carrier bags (don't worry, we cleared these up afterwards). Top marks for effort, John. Those little bastard rockets would not light.

00:19 The van, blissfully ignorant of what year it is. Probably a good thing, otherwise it would have said 'I'm too old for Porlock hill'.

00:20 Another attempt at a slow shutter picture over the sea. Very arty.

00:21 Erm, a wing mirror! That's the newer one.

00:22 Back in the van now, and despite me being happy to stay up a few hours, it seemed everyone else wanted to go to bed. Should have said. I would have stayed up.

00:31 The frenzy of unravelling sleeping bags and so on. Very little space, lots of people.

00:31 Rob is actually asleep at this point, despite what you might think. Lies

00:31 Me in bed. You had the prime spot, too.

00:33 Mark taking some joy in informing us all how cold it is. The old scrooge.

00:33 OK maybe Rob is awake then, but not for long! I was up on a bunk, a damn tricky place to sleep.

00:33 Get your act together, Marky. He faffs like an old woman.

00:34 ...not sure what the point of all this is... Faffing, he's a pro at it.

00:35 ... hmmm .... errr ... Testimony to how damn difficult it was moving around in this restricted space.

00:36 Dull picture of me in bed, again. Let's not have it be heard that you are dull in bed, though.

00:36 ...and again...

00:36 ...get on with it!

00:39 A nice picture taken by Mark demonstrating sleeping arrangements. And the fact that there was sod all room.

00:39 ...and another. It is difficult to understand up damn narrow these beds are. You lot must have been quite chummy.

00:39 Mark finally gets into bed. Only 6 minutes of faff.

00:41 I took this picture to remember where I'd put my torch. I then rather stupidly stored the camera in the same place. Muppet.

00:45 Random picture of blankets. Good night everybody! Good night, John.

09:02 In case any of you that didn't already know wondered what Mark looks like first thing in the morning. In feel sorry for those who already know.

09:02 Well, at least some of Byrnie is still there. Where else would he be?

09:02 ...and here's Rob. Morning!

09:10 One of the really nice views we couldn't really appreciate the night before. They were stunning.

09:10 The van. Can also see my shadow on it. A very cool, arty photo, that.

09:10 The van looking out to sea, I wonder if it had ever seen the sea before.

09:11 The van, the rest of the car park, and some of Exmoor. Lovely big hills in the background.

09:12 I was trying to take a picture of the moon - I've always liked it when you can still see it in the daytime. Unfortunately it is a bit too small!

09:15 Self portrait including stylish Barbie cup. As stylish as the photographer.

09:20 The signpost near where we stayed, I think I was hoping I might be able to pinpoin where we were based on these distances... or something like that. Funny to think there were signposts all the way up here!

09:20 That signpost again... plus Mark! What no warmth.

09:21 Byrnie comes over to see what all the fuss is about. I was sorting out the bedding the van... or at least making a start.

09:21 The signpost again, but this time you can see the word "Somerset". It turns out we were just a mile or so short of Devon. Shit.

09:21 In case there was any doubt that we'd come along the A39. With any arrows on it?

09:22 The open road, from where (whence, wheresoever?) we'd came... Toward Porlock bloody Hill.

09:22 ...and where we'd be going shortly... Up and down a bit more 1 in 4.

09:25 Possibly the only picture in existence of Mark and Brynie standing on the A39. Looks like Byrn is describing GPS.

09:27 An incredibly difficult to read sign (especially late at night). We weren't camping, we had no tent.

09:30 Rob joins us outside. Interesting contrast in clothing styles. Where am I?

09:32 Rob, John, and, yes, it's that signpost again. I am brilliantly camouflaged against the roadside.

09:32 A cat's eye close up. Fab

09:32 A cat's eye view of the road. Oh dear.

09:33 The same but a bit further down. Nice tarmac. You're not turning into a Tarmac spotter, I hope John.

09:35 The leftovers from our fireworks display. Again - don't worry we cleared this all up! Pity it was so damn cold, we could have done some more the night before.

09:36 More bits of fireworks.

09:38 Another nice view, down towards Porlock. And its bastard steep hill.

10:12 Byrnie and Mark looking very rugged. And not camp for once.

10:12 Byrnie, Mark, and the sign. Fab.

10:12 Same thing again really, but I wanted to get some more scenery in.

10:13 ...errr, and some different bits of scenery.

10:14 Given reverse was still a bit dodgy, the van needed a bit of a push. Ahem.

10:14 All ready to go now, time to leave our nice little car park! A good morning of teamwork allowed us to leave quite early. Everyone chipped in.

10:36 Some way along the A39, a nice view, but difficult to really do it justice from inside a moving vehicle! I was never going to stop though, hell bent for leather.

10:39 Ermmm, I wanted to take a picture of the house over there, but again, difficult from inside a moving vehicle. A lot easier to drive during the day.

10:47 The A39 winds up through the Glen Lyn gorge which is quite picturesque. Along the way I managed to persuade Rob to stop off for a few minutes so I could try and take some arty pictures... Mark said that he grew up in the country so it was no big thing.

10:47 ...hmmm needed a bit more time methinks.

10:48 There were some much more impressive falls further downstream, but a bit difficult to get to in a hurry.

10:50 An attempt at a group picture using the self timer thingy... Not particularly successful! Very artistic, turned out ok.

10:51 Right, enough nature for the time being... Damn right.

10:52 ...although just time for Rob to get another picture of the van... John looked away as I was taking it so...

10:52 ...and another... I took another.

10:52 Just before heading off again, The sign we all found oddly amusing. "Large Car Park. 200 Yards" Mark tries to arf inch the tree.

12:20 Later on, we stopped off in Tiverton to try and find somewhere to eat. An extraordinarily dull place.

12:22 Novelty toilet seats - 29.99 each. Welcome to Tiverton.

12:32 Group frustration at the lack of just about anything really in Tiverton. All shhut on New Year's day, madness!

13:20 Finally we found a nice enough fish and chips place with a small cafe at the back. Top banana.

13:32 Right, back in the van once more. Shedloads more driving to do.

15:58 The last picture, at Leigh Delamere services on the M4, about an hour away from Reading, after an enormous amount of diffculty with petrol caps. A bit of an odd ending really, but there you go. I was not a happy bunny, a new cap and all.