Early morning on the east shore of Loch Lomond. A deserted tent stands at the water’s edge and inside it two sleeping bags lie peeled open. On the beach two deck chairs gaze out onto the water. Between them the disposable barbecue is still warming two blackened burgers. Buttered rolls are ready on a paper plate and beside each chair, a pile of firmly pinched beer cans.
‘I just don’t understand it,’ says my friend Kenny, a 20 year veteran of the National Parks Ranger service and at first glance it does look a bit strange, it’s as if the occupants of the tent have simply evaporated with the morning mist. But this is not the start of a mystery, the scene of an abduction, or the end of a suicide pact, which leaves only one explanation: whoever spent the night here bought all this gear very cheaply then just left it behind because they couldn’t be bothered to take it home.
Adam is still shaking his head sadly, but not me, all I can feel is a rising sense of envy and admiration for whoever did this. In fact I’m beginning to realise that its more than just an act of antisocial behaviour, its a metaphor for a whole new way of life, an easier simpler one where I can dump my old wheelbarrow into the hedge with the same level of guilt that goes with tossing an apple core out of the car window. A life where I can let my dog foul the footpath with no more a backward glance than I’d spare for the supper dishes I’ve just left in the sink until morning.
On a recent visit to an iron age village in Kenmore we saw how, with a deal of effort, lovingly crafted and foraged materials can be brought together to create that greatest of all our discoveries – fire. I left just itching to try it, it would certainly be fun for family camping trips.
But now I realise there is no substitute for a disposable lighter, disposable barbecue and disposable food because with practically zero effort these easily acquired, cheap materials can be brought together to create something even better: ready to eat burgers in their buns. What’s more it can be done in less time than it would take to take to get the fire lit in the first place. But best of all, when they’re finished everything that remains can simply be left right here on the beach, then all I have to do is get the kids into the car and we can leave. Easy peasy.
But this lifestyle, the one which I now aspire to, is not just about leaving a mess for someone else to clear up – that’s just one facet of it. Its about mastering the appropriate level of ambivalence that allows double parking, queue jumping, verbal abuse and putting recyclable materials in the black bin instead of the blue one. For those who can master it the savings in time and effort alone are going to be life changing.
Iron age firelighting? I can just see myself feverishly sawing away with the firebow like a demented cellist , the midges crawling all over my face and the kids complaining about being hungry. ‘Any minute now lads and we’ll have the fire roaring,’ comes my tight lipped voice. What the hell was I thinking about?
Looking at this neat little tableau of deck chairs tent and beercans makes me think of Andy Dufrain cruising the coast road in his red Pontiac at the end of The Shawshank Redemption. It's the same feeling of unencumbered freedom and self empowerment. Its time to get antisocial.