Monday, 31 August 2009

Hunting The Real France

Last time I was in france I left just before the season started (Aug 15th) and i reported on the European hunting tradition known as Battue - where whole villages hunt and feast together in a cooperative effort. This time I was a little nearer the mark, and I left only a couple of days after the season began. Bah!

I met these chaps by the side of the road one morning while I was cycling through vineyards and fields of sunflowers on my way to the bread shop - freshly made bread every day is still an article of faith in france. A proof that the modern world can be held at bay by sticking to your guns.

I may speak very little French but reading a couple of hunting mags had given me a start. I wont attempt to recreate my attempts to escape my shocking monoglotism in print, but it went something like this:

SBW: Good morning Gentlemen
Wotcha sunshine
SBW: I see you are hunting, how goes it?
We're chillin'
SBW: Where's the line? The beaters?
Boff. They're miles off
SBW: What are you Hunting today?
Boar, Deer, and if the Fox passes he's getting one too
SBW: When did you start?
Well yesterday was the 15th, so we had a big dinner to wish the season well...

It's been a while since I was last in France, and I still come away thinking; 'you've got to admire anyone who really doesn't care what anyone thinks about them'. The french are in equal parts authoritarian and freewheeling which creates some bemusing contrasts.

They do rude and stuck up every bit as well as the english. The look of horror on a middle aged middle class french persons face as our unruly kids trample on their sensibilities is worth the price of admission alone. However they don't temper stuck up and rude in the way english people do. They just don't seem to do 'self deprecating'. Any country where people feel the need to start a society to keep foreign words from getting into the language needs to learn to laugh at its self, and any country where such a society is taken even remotely seriously by publishers and politicians needs to get used to the sound of us laughing at them.

For all their uptightness they're also so good at sticking together against the sates interferences that they remind me of the USA's founding fathers.
Tax hike? Close the roads.
Change to working practices? Shut the ports.
Shorter lunch break? Is nothing sacred!!!! Set fire to the mayors office.
In france you can't really be a national hero with out having been to jail for deifying the courts.

As a nation the passion they show for a proper meal during the day is nothing short of magnificent. In my book if you were going to take something seriously, lunch would be a good choice. It's not a myth, you really can find restaurants that have closed for lunch. I find it quite appealing, that and the grub.

Your pal
SBW

Friday, 28 August 2009

Adventures Of A Plumber

OK so it's not that good, but it's good to be busy. So busy to that it's come to a choice between blogging and sleeping.

Some of you might like this plumbers blog, very english humor, see what you think

Have a good weekend, new projects and a campaign for common sense coming soon
SBW

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Mongol Rally - Making Life Less Boring

A few years ago in an attempt to make life less boring some nutters set out to drive to Mongolia. Obviously they failed but it wasn't the car that let them down. Their lack of visas was all it seemed that stood in the way of an adventure that would take them across some of the worlds most demanding roads in a car costing less than £1000 with an engine of only 1200 cc. A nine year old suburban shopping cart basically.

Of course the sensible thing to do would be to go in a Landrover, but where's the fun in that?

A year and an internet campaign later 6 teams set off - london to Ulan Bator - 10,000 miles or approximately one third of the earths surface. 4 of them made it. Every year a few more make the start and the number finishing goes up too.

The rules are hilariously simple.
Totally unsupported. Totally. The Adventureists will help you get started, get your papers in order but from the moment you leave it's all on you. here's the warning they issue to potential entrants

These adventures are genuinely dangerous things to do. The website is written in a light-hearted fashion but you cannot underestimate the risks involved in undertaking this kind of adventure. Your chance of dying can be very high, some past teams have been seriously injured. These adventures are not a glorified holiday. They are an adventure and so by their very nature extremely risky. You really are on your own. If it all goes wrong, that's it, tough.

No cars over 1200cc
No cars over £1000
If its over ten years old you must bring it back.
If it's under ten years old it's auctioned off for charity in Mongolia and you fly home.

This years start was four weeks ago from Goodwood house a massive stately home in the countryside just outside london. 300 teams set off, with a further 200 from Milan[o] and Barcelona between them. The Northern Monkey, Bushwacker Jnr, The Littlest Bushwacker and myself attended on your behalf.

Lots of different motors had been chosen by the teams, The Rally's rules stipulate that a participating car must "generally be considered to be crap." this crew had gone for the Daihatsu Hijet known for being cheap as chips a chugging on for ever. A recent rule change, the Mongolian government now asks that if your conveyance is over ten years old you have the common courtesy to scrap it in your own backyard, means that some of the better old school options are no longer practical. A citroen 2CV or Diane van is easily prepped into a serious off roader and with its air cooled 600 cc engine fits the rules and is easy to fix. The car with the highest number of successful finishes is that archytypal shopping trolly the Daihatsu Charade. One, bought for £150 on e-Bay, is credited with a 20 day finish with NO BREAKDOWNS.

We met Beth and Keith from Maine calling themselves The Mainiacs. Beth had wanted to go for five years, her husband had flat out refused to go, she'd spent most of the time looking for someone crazy enough to go with her, flown to england bought and prepared the car (a 2000 Hyundai Accent) covered it in inflatable lobsters and was setting off in high spirits. Four weeks later they've finished!
We also ran into the most excellent Henry from the UK arm of BUFFS, who are sponsoring the event. Proving himself to be one of the good guys he gave the kids a Buff each and then as if his good-guy-ness was in any doubt,he flashed up a buff each for myself and TNM. Top Chap.

Just in case any of you were wondering what a crazy pig-dog would look like in a Buff, The Northern Monkey was on hand to settle any debate!
The application time for next years event is coming up fast , have a look here to find out more.
Your pal
The Bushwacker.

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Guest Post: Learning To Hunt - Safely!


When I asked Mike if I could post his Learning to Hunt story as a guest post he said he'd like me to include this one, and when I read it I could see why. See what you think

The Most Important Lesson

Like most, as a young hunter I longed for my first buck. I didn't take a deer the first season despite numerous sightings. The deer were there. I just couldn't seem to get a clear shot. I saw only tails, or running deer instead of still deer offering their shoulders to me. As the second season opened, I wondered if I should take shots that I was not 100% sure of. I had a tag for antlered deer only, so I would at least have to make sure that the deer was a buck before I pulled the trigger. I resolved that I would take the first shot at a buck I saw. No more waiting for the perfect broadside pose. If I could just be sure it had antlers I would pull the trigger no matter what.

I had one glimpse of a departing tail opening day. My hunting companion bagged a nice six-point opening morning and so after that I was on my own, pitting my wits and knowledge of the terrain against the wily bucks I knew were there. The next day I saw three does trotting across an open field, but could not legally take them. By the afternoon of the third day I had buck fever. I thought I could see antlers in every clump of brush. Every fallen log was a buck in his bed to my eyes. I still-hunted away from home all morning. Without much thought, I crossed onto the next farm about noon. I did not doubt that access would be granted if I took the time to ask permission. We were on good terms with the neighbors and the area that I planned to hunt was cropland bordered by woods on one side and a brush-choked streambed well away from any livestock.

It was this stream that drew me over the fence line. I knew that any deer feeling pressured could duck into its gully to skirt the open field on one side and the open hardwoods on the other. I took a position overlooking where the gully ended. Any deer walking that brushy corridor would emerge into my view and either cross the field of corn stubble before me or work up the slope of open hardwoods on the far side of the stream. If a buck walked either of those routes my investment in cold toes and fingers would be well worthwhile. I chose to settle in for a long wait, watching the shadows grow as the afternoon wore on.

Just about the time I was thinking more of my damp seat and cold toes than watching the hedgerow, I became aware of something moving in the gully. A bird flew up at the far range of my vision. Then a moment later, the sound of a snapping twig reached me faintly over the gentle sound of running water. Long minutes passed without revealing the wary buck and I gradually became less alert, lulled by the gurgling stream and the motion of gently swaying saplings. The dappled leaves still holding to them occasionally drifted down to mingle with the berry bushes separating the watercourse from me.

Minutes had passed without any sign of life when a crackle of breaking brush at the near end of the gully shot adrenaline through my veins. There was something unmistakably moving just out of sight and coming my way! I saw the top of a sapling move as something out of sight brushed against its trunk. The yellow poplar leaves drifted against the thick hedge of briars below. The form under the saplings moved closer. Yes, I could see it now. The unmistakable gray of deer hair glimpsed between silver saplings and the screen of red berry stalks. A sneaky old buck must have walked straight down the streambed. The noise of his approach had been covered by the gentle gurgle of running water and muffled by the wall of brush.

My breathing became ragged. My heart pounded in my chest. I could feel every pulse in my shoulders and throat. My palms begin to sweat as my thumb reached for the safety on the rifle that lay heavily in my lap as the animal moved toward me. Oh if I could only see antlers!

I tightened my grip on the cold stock. I could see the shape of his body now. It was about 3-4 feet long, soft gray, 3 feet off the ground and moving slowly, steadily my way. He was nearly free of the saplings, which, at that point, had a few low branches. We were only separated by the screen of thick blackberry bushes. I thought about the powerful cartridge in the chamber and knew that the briar stems could not sufficiently deflect the bullet from its intended target. I would click off the safety, throw the rifle to my shoulder, and fire the instant I saw antlers. I contemplated the devastation a shot raking from chest to tail would create. Without a doubt the buck would slump in his tracks and I would have to drag him up the stream bank and out of those thorn bushes. Perhaps I should let him step clear? He was coming the right way. I realized that I was holding my breath. Then I saw the antlers.

I could not help but pause at the sight of them. I had dreamed of this moment for so very long. This was going to be my first buck, and, oh, what antlers they were! Powerfully thrusting through the thick berry bushes, the antlers shoved through the briar screen and broke into the open. With raking motions the rack moved toward me. I saw three long tines on each side and thick brow tines sweeping ahead of a gray hulking body almost as tall as the low sapling branches. I heard the briar stems breaking. I could even hear his breath and began to raise the rifle.

I never fired. I never finished clicking off the safety. In fact, I never even raised the rifle from my lap. I sat stone still with the kind of chill in my soul that I hope I never feel again. Long minutes later I was quite alone at the edge of that field. For what I saw as that matched set of perfect antlers was thrust clear of the briars, was that they quickly split apart and fell earthward when the man who held them stood up. This hunter, with rifle slung over his shoulder, had bent at the waist to move under the low branches and held his synthetic rattling antlers in either hand to push thorns away from his face as he climbed the stream bank. He never knew I was there. He never knew how close his tree bark camouflage had brought him to being a terrible statistic. As I look back now, more than a decade later, I do not recall seeing any red, or blaze clothing at all. What I do recall is that my hands shook as I took them off the unused rifle and silently thanked God that I had learned the most valuable lesson of hunting without tragedy.

I've taken eight deer from that same area in upstate NY over the ten seasons that followed. But two years ago I went deerless. I heard my buck working a rub, and caught glimpses of his gray hide moving away through the hardwoods in the last light of day on the last day of the season, but I let him walk into the shadows with my tag unfilled. I was 99% sure of my target. But 99% is not sure enough, because years before I had learned that safety is the most important hunting lesson of all.

Hope you enjoyed Mikes writing as much as I did.

Back to my inane prattlings very soon.

Your pal

SBW


Friday, 21 August 2009

Guest Post: Learning To Hunt

One of the really cool things about blogging is the way that your words become a calling card when reaching out to other people with similar interests. The last time I found someone who started to learn to hunt in 'middle youth' I met Holly the author of NorCal Cazadora and while we've never met up I've had a few hilarious and thought provoking conversations with her and enjoyed watching her journey unfold in leaps and bounds while my own has been a little more, erhm, sedentary.
While searching the 'tinterweb a few weeks back i came across this story written by Mike Skelly, simply entitled 'Learning to Hunt' I dropped him a line and he was kind enough to write back giving me permission to post it here as a guest post. Hope you like it too.

My name is Mike Skelly. And although I am a late starter, I love hunting. I grew up in the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains in New York State, but I never hunted until I took it on myself to buy a rifle and get my first license as a 20-year old in 1990. Hunting has grown from a couple of weekends in 1990 to a year round obsession in less than a decade, and I cannot get enough.

I had a lot of learning to do. I hunted solo the first year. The closest that I came to getting a shot when I was still-hunting up a small ridge. As I neared the summit, I could hear something moving fast on the other side. A fat doe popped over the top and skidded to a halt about five yards away. I didn't have an antlerless tag, and I'm not sure who was more surprised. She was so close that I could smell her. Our eyes locked, and then she gave a snort and trotted away, while I waited in vain for a buck to follow.

The second year went much the same except that I linked up with some older hunters who took pity on me and offered to help teach me to hunt. We hunted on my parents' 63 acres of rolling fields and hardwoods and these fellows took two nice deer that I pushed to them with many hours of walking while they kept watch. I sure learned a lot about driving, but not much about shooting. Every time that I wanted to hunt the ridges, these guys assured me that deer always stayed in the valleys, and that I should push the swamps to catch them in their beds. I began to think something was up when the same thing happened the next year. I saw a few tails and a few does, but ended up pushing bucks to my companions while my tags went unfilled. They even helped me by filling my doe tag for me on opening day. What pals! After their tags were filled, I began to walk the ridges and without any surprise found good rubs and scrapes wherever it was hard going to get to. I found tracks, beds, and saw a few tails. And I learned where the bucks bedded, but could not sneak up on those ridge bedded bucks no matter how I tried. The one shot I had misfired because the rifle had iced over during freezing rain. Yes, I was already hooked on hunting enough to stay out for hours in freezing rain!

The third year I told the older guys that I wanted to hunt the high ground opening day, but they convinced me to try "just one sweep" in the valley. Sure enough, they bagged a buck and by the time it was dressed and hauled to the house, it was lunchtime. After lunch, I decided to go to the high ground, even though it was the wrong time of day. I figured anything that had been chased out of the valleys might have holed up on top.

It was unusually warm that day. I slow stalked up a steep, shale covered slope in bright afternoon sunlight. I knew that there was a shelf just before the summit and could envision a big buck laying on that shelf watching the valley below. By taking the steepest route I could not be seen from the shelf. I was about 30 feet from the top after a forty minute climb when I thought that I heard movement ahead. Instinct took over and I ran to the top, just in time to see what seemed like a perfect buck gracefully bounding away. Breathing hard from my up-hill run, I put my rifle to my shoulder as the universe slipped into slow motion.

The deer was one bound away from a stone wall at the crest of the hill. If he cleared that, he would be out of sight. I put my sites on him, and took up the slack in the two stage trigger as he gathered himself for the jump. He was in mid air, over the wall, with antlers held high and the sun shining on his coat when I placed the sites perfectly behind, and just below his shoulder and pulled the trigger. It is an instant that will live forever in my memory, a scene so classic it could have been taken from an advertisement for hunting gear, the perfectly placed shot at last instant for a grand trophy. There was only one problem. Click.

That's right, after unloading the rifle for lunch in the house, I had refilled the magazine but failed to fill the chamber! It took 2 heartbeats (I felt them) for the disbelief to be turned to determination. I ran up the last slope, and looked over the stone wall at the disappearing form of my high bounding buck. After chambering the first bullet from the magazine I fired twice more just as he entered brush. The first shot knocked a branch off a sapling between us, but the second sent hair flying beyond him. He kept going, but I was convinced that he was hard hit.

Tracking revealed enough hair to cover a squirrel, and a set of tracks that got lost in a maze of deer trails, but not one drop of blood. Fearful that I had wounded him, I prayed that God would give me another chance at the same buck later.

Two weeks later, I came down sick. Fever, chills, body ache. No doubt about it, it was the flu. I was too sick to go to work, but when fresh snow started falling, I all but crawled outside. It was the first tracking snow of deer season, and I was home from work. You can't pass up a chance like that!

I hunted away from the house on the ridge tops for an hour when I began to wonder what had possessed me to get so far away from the bathroom, then I crossed fresh tracks still filling with snow (about 30 minutes old). I gratefully followed them back toward home. Through thickets, and finally to a just emptied bed in heavy pines when I heard a stone turn on the stone wall I knew was 100 yards ahead of me. Running to the wall I saw a buck cutting broadside downhill. I fired just once. I was so excited that I actually had my first buck (I thought).

I was now within sight of my house and had always heard that you should let a deer lay down and stiffen up if you wound him. 20 minutes later the snow had stopped when I went out again. At the point my bullet had hit him I found exactly one drop of blood. My heart sank. What kind of a hunter was I? But so long as he was wounded it was my obligation to follow. He had lain down about 500 yards away and there was about as much blood as would fill the palm of your hand in the bed, and a few drops every few feet beyond that. I knew by the tracks what had happened. He was walking on 3 legs. Somehow my perfect broadside shot (on a running deer 70 yards away and about 40 feet down hill through hardwoods) had hit a leg that bled when he used it.

If it wasn't for the snow I would never have been able to track him. I followed him for more than a mile before I saw him jump up from a thicket. Determined not to let him get away even if I had to take a shot from the rear, I fired again. That put him down and I put a finishing shot into his brain to end the chase. He had put up a good fight and I still admire that game little buck. He was only 100 lbs. dressed, and had only a pair of wide forks, but I was as proud as if he had been a bull elephant! He was mine, and I did it alone, hunting where I knew was best. He had a strip of hair shaved off his back from hip to shoulder, and I am convinced that he was the same buck that I missed on the high ridges opening morning. God had given me another chance at the same deer.

The next year I humored my aged companions one more time, but after fruitlessly pushing the swamps in two hours of cold rain, we came home to see three doe run across a neighbor's yard. This time I had a doe tag in my pocket. I sprinted to where I would have a shot directed safely away from the houses, and waited for the trio to step into view en route to the woods. I filled my tag with a clean head shot when one paused to look at my friend standing helplessly on the porch open mouthed and empty handed while his rifle lay unloaded on the kitchen table. None of us got a buck that year, but the doe was good eating. Last year my buddies came back to my parents' farm to hunt, but this time I went up the ridges to wait for dawn. I watched the world turn pink, and sunlight creep down the hill toward me as squirrels played and a partridge fed through. At 8 AM I heard the unmistakable sound of deer walking just out of sight, on my left. A short stalk showed me the hind end of a medium sized four point buck following a doe about 50 yards away. I put my SKS's sites on him, but didn't want to take a butt shot. Just as I resolved to take the shot instead of letting him slip away. He turned to look at me and exposed a shoulder. BAM. He went down 5 yards from where he had stood and I had my second buck by 8:30 opening morning.

I told my friends where the doe had gone, and where she was likely to go when I pushed the thicket she was in. I saw three deer bound away (through cover, without offering me good shots) right where I predicted the escape route would be, but my buddies had chosen to ignore my advice and watch other routes. Although I pushed a doe and fawn to them later that day, they let them pass (I would have too), and they did not see another deer all season.

On closing day I took my antlerless tag back to the high ridges and made a perfect heart shot on a little doe as she and 2 others fed along 50 yards in front of me. She folded up so quickly that the others didn't even leave the area until I showed myself and walked toward them. It was the first time that I had filled both tags in one season and the first time that I had taken a deer completely unaware of human presence.

Lessons learned? Follow your instincts. Be nice to your buddies, but make your own choices. If you have put in the time to learn where the deer are, trust yourself instead of someone who thinks they know more. This year, I'm going straight to the top of the hill before dawn. God willing, I'll get a shot at the really big buck that I know is there, but if not I'll hunt to the low ground in the afternoon and give the other fellows a chance at whatever comes out of the swamp for them. I may not have got my trophy deer yet, but every deer is a trophy when you are learning to hunt.

Stay tuned for part two where Mike learns to hunt SAFELY

Your pal
SBW

Saturday, 15 August 2009

I want One - A Not So Occasional Series Pt12.0

It's always good to get a new angle on things and just after i posted the 'I want one ' about these binos, quoting David Petzal a new copy of Field and Stream landed on the door mat. Whadda you know he was doing a feature on optics.

Last time he said

MYTH: Thousand-dollar binoculars are a waste of money.
TRUTH: I can’t tell you how many guides I’ve met who owned the clothes on their back, a pickup truck, and a pair of thousand-dollar binoculars. There’s a reason for that.

This time it was

'I don't know how many guides I've met who dressed in rags, lived on wallpaper paste and government cheese but who owned a pair of $2000 binoculars"

That's inflation for you, but it's good to see I'm not the only one taking recycling seriously!

See ya soon
SBW

Friday, 14 August 2009

Puff Pant - Sofa King Old

While I'm away here's one from the archives

It’s that time again: your pal SBW was forced off the sofa and the TV remote prised from his chubby little hand – “Off to the running club fat boy” said Mrs SBW.

And oh what torture it was, Greenwich Park is steep, way steep, and the guys from British Military Fitness had us hopping, (yes Hopping, you know travelling on ONE foot!) up the hill before we were allowed to run up the hill, it was murder. But as mentioned in a previous post at least it keeps the existential angst at bay.
I’ve taken to asking other victims, I mean participants, about their motivation. “ I just don’t want to be last” is quite a common one – myself I’m too busy not wanting this to be my last breath to care about anyone else.

After the hill-climb came the long jog, I’d have thought it was a long walk, but no we ran – well for most of it anyway. As we jogged we passed a rosy-cheeked young couple, enjoying the warm evening air, sitting on a park bench, happily drinking what looked like a bottle of whiskey. As people ran past they shouted encouragement. “You can do it” and “faster you’re winning”. I like to think of myself as the master of the witty retort, but all I could muster, through gritted teeth, was a “that’s easy for you to say” as my hart tried to leave my body.

The thought of tromping the hills of bonny Scotland with a pack and rifle in search of Red Stags and then later more of the same with a compound bow in my sub arctic search for the Elk of my dreams was all that kept me going. I’d rather die now than face coming home with no meat due to general laziness.

When I got home Bushwacker Jnr was eagerly awaiting my arrival: “Hey dad there’s a new film coming out, mum says you’d like it, its called Run Fat Boy Run!!

You’ve gotta love ‘em haven’t you? It’s not legal to use them as bear bait!
Bushwacker.
run fat boy run trailer
www.britmilfit.com/

Friday, 7 August 2009

Esplorazione For Beginners Pt6


As they say in french 'It' s toujours les grands grimpeurs qui meurent en absaling'
(Its always the great climbers who die abseiling - or it's a silly little mistake that causes disaster)

What was to be our last full day had started do well, we were taking so much exercise that we could feast on delicious fatty breakfasts and still be noticeably thinner by lunchtime. We'd done all of the lugging and carrying so we thought we'd do a little scouting in the morning, pop into the nearest town for supplies and a big lunch, a bit more scouting in the afternoon ending up at the bottom of the valley in time to fish the evening rise. Sounded so good didn't it?

We were on the hillside above the house when I heard the sounds which were to change our direction completely.
There was a series of dull thumps, like a big bag of spuds rolling down a stone staircase, and then the shouted

'BUSHWACKER I've broken my arm!!'

It wasn't the whiney 'oh oh aw aw i've broken my arm' of every day exaggeration, but the voice of stone cold certainty. When I got over to CHJ I could see that although not a medical man his diagnosis was spot on. His arm had an S bend in it and was dripping blood.

As we say in English 'BOLLOX!!'

I left him sitting on the path and went back to the house, gathered up everything I thought we'd need and we set off painfully slowly down the hillside. It must have only taken 10 minutes to get down to the car, seemed like ages.

As we drove cautiously up the track to the road CHJ's face was covered in the clammy sweat of a man burdened by pain. The road is made of potholes, we lurched in and out of them as slowly as we could. To make matter worse CMJ had to put up with my constant wisecracking and attempts to distract him.

Italian hospitals are really quite something; painted in a green that was never going to lift anyones spirits, each corridor came with it's own scowling bearded nun. The place was spotless, I kid you not i've eaten my dinner off things that weren't as clean as the floors in that place. One thing that I thought would lift CHJ's spirits was they had the prettiest nurses, but their shift had been meticulously timed to end as we arrived, so he had to rely on his natural stoicism.

It soon became clear that Italian hospitals were as cash-strapped as english hospitals, they just spend the money differently. His arm was re-set without anesthetic. Ouch.
I wasn't in the room but from the drinks machine at the other end of the corridor it sounded very painful. Double Ouch!

A very brave trooper, about to find out the horrific price of our flights home. Good job he's sitting down.

I certainly learned a few lessons in on the trip, but they'll have to wait for another post.
I'm in france for a few days grueling relaxation, back soon.
Your pal
SBW

PS Grueling Relaxation? WTF?
Kids, Parents and Ex Mrs SBW = grueling relaxation

SBW

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Happiness Delivered By Spork


"PINK! You did buy the one that I did want"
TLB (The Littlest Bushwacker)

It's been a while since the inital 'un-boxing' The Light My Fire meal set has been with us for a while now, and I'm still very happy with them, (not quite as delighted as the pink sets owner though) so i thought I'd revist the LMF lunch boxes.

While I was living in Leeds I used the set and a microwave for all my hotel cooking, and have to report how handy it was to have the chopping board/colander. If the set has a downside it's that the main bowl it only really suitable for transporting dry foods, any sauce has to travel in the smaller tub which really is leakproof.

Keep well
SBW

PS If you're thinking of having kids, and are the kind of person who likes things 'just so' bear this in mind:
The 'I am 3' T shirt we'd hoped to turn into a duster couldn't be thrown away and had to be customized into an 'I am 4' T shirt. Such is suburban life.