SAT on the corner of my screen at work is a Post-It note with two numbers scrawled on it which are updated each morning.
It started a couple of months ago at 100/82 and has marked the daily countdown to heading off to Africa and, 18 days earlier, my last day at work.
When that first Post-It note was stuck there, those were pretty big numbers and there seemed loads of time to work the way down the list of things which needed doing before both had reached zero.
But, all of a sudden, the numbers have tumbled down to 36/18 and the clock is starting to click loudly.
At times, a glance at what is still left to do is enough to provoke mild panic attacks – especially when the daily to-do list has been forsaken in favour of lying on the sofa watching the Ryder Cup.
But at others, the mood is pretty relaxed. Those 18 days – minus a couple set aside for watching rugby, saying a few farewells and recovering from what that may entail – will be pretty much split in half, one week preparing for Africa, one week packing up my life at home.
That last task, essentially moving out of my flat and finding a new home (temporary, permanent or consigned to the rubbish tip) for its contents, will be reserved for the second week, leaving my remaining spare time and that first week to getting sorted for Africa.
Much of what remains to do involves kitting myself out and, given the limited space available and the amount of gear already on the shortlist to travel with me (particularly with all the added cables and plugs) the shopping list will need to be strictly rationed.
The bulkier bits of kit are sat on the sofa, waiting to be taken down to Oasis HQ in the morning (hopefully considerably quicker than the traffic-jam laden journey down to their Open Day and my first encounter with one of their trucks).
While the sofa is not designed for sleeping on, those pieces of kit have been assembled with the simple idea of making a good night’s sleep a priority over the coming months – while a fair amount of discomfort ahead is no major concern, being comfortable at night is one things worth pursuing (hence a decent pillow will be top of the shopping list once we have flown out and met up with the truck in Gibraltar).
And so, with the emphasis more on learning how to pack it away than set it up, my Sansbug mosquito net/tent, airbed and sleeping bag saw the light of day together for the first time in my sister’s garden.
Setting them up was pretty easy – although suggest my lung power may need some working on to inflate the air bed every night – and, with a bit of jiggling, packing it all up was not too bad.
That is until it came time to fold up the Sansbug. Several viewings of the instructional video and the instructions made it look fairly simple and it probably is. Let’s just say, it took a few goes to “Use your right hand to fold the top down to the ground and inwards, so it stays put against the ground” and, as it suggests, “have my right hand free”.
To say nothing of having the whole thing folded into three discs resting on each other.
But we got there eventually, much to the delight of my sister’s Labrador, who had taken one look at the new green arrival as it sprung up in his garden and hid under the table, peaking out from under the seat.
Labradors are unlikely to feature too heavily on the journey around Africa – there is more to worry about with some of the creatures than him opting to go to sleep sprawled across my lap – but suggest some of my fellow travellers may opt for a similar hiding routine as one of their number struggles to fold up his home for the night.
They may be even more keen to hide as my latest shiny new toy is given some early outings.
The camera debate has been going on for a while. My little idiot proof point and shoot is unlikely to do justice to a lot of what lies ahead, but there’s a reason it was chosen in the first place – it’s idiot proof.
The guy in the camera shop was ever so nice, ever so helpful and explained everything the camera could do and – more importantly – what it could do for me. At least, think he was because it made absolutely no sense and the only thing that really stuck in my head was the price and how much precious space it would take up (especially among all the other shiny electrical mod cons and accompanying cables).
So the point and shoot stays, but now it is paired with a GoPro video camera.
That didn’t break the bank and won’t take up too much room. Unfortunately, that does not hold true about the stuff which goes with it and proved impossible to resist.
So that’s all ticked off the list, along with a Ghanaian visa application (although there remains that feeling of trepidation until my passport in which it sits is safely back in my hand) and every day off in the last few weeks has kicked off with an appointment to get pretty much every part of my body checked out, scraped, pummelled and tested.
Osteopath, doctor, dentist, hygenist and opticians have all had their say as a plan to hold me together for the next year and allow me to see some of the most amazing places on earth – to say nothing of the succession of jabs which have made their way into my arms (just the one more this week, along with a final decision on malaria treatment).
The opticians beckons again in the morning to collect new glasses and decide on which contact lenses come with me – the daily disposals they want me to have, the monthly ones which have served me well for 20-odd years and which are stockpiled in one of my cupboards but are deemed old-fashioned and need daily attention or the weekly ones which only have to be touched once every seven days.
Decision time has not been helped that the test pairs they gave me have not been tried out that thoroughly. My excuse? They are not the right prescription so it is pretty difficult to read anything.
And how are you supposed to follow tent folding instructions if you can’t read them?