This query: ‘How to make Ray Mears out of napkins’, is one of the things someone has searched for on Google this week, and found my blog in the process. Usually I would answer/debate this in my weekly round up of questions which is due to be published at some point today, when I can be bothered to compile it. I started it some while back, but this was the first query I found and it has stopped me dead in my tracks. It is an awesome, awesome thing to want to know. I am so impressed of you I could weep.
I have sat staring at this line of text for some time, thinking about why a person would want to make a model of Ray Mears out of a napkin. Perhaps they are going to feature on that Channel Four show: ‘Come Dine With Me’ and are doing a wilderness style paeon to King Ray complete with tables made out of roughly hewn logs situated in a bivouac, complete with tiny Ray Mears lookie likey napkins. Perhaps it’s Heston Blumenthal on his ever expanding quest for perfection, hosting a celebrity dinner in which the first course will be essence of wood louse in a spray can, which one mists lightly over a napkinalike Ray whilst eating twig fondue with wild mushroom coulis.
Whatever it is, for the extreme joy you have given me over the last half an hour of my life I dedicate this blog entry to you, whoever you may be. Long may you spend fashioning napkins into images of UK based, BBC celebrities.
Here is Ray Mears:
Here is a napkin:
Trying to merge one with the other to create a Ray Mears lookie likey napkinalike is a problematic venture which is going to take time, dedication and fortitude on your part. Here are the steps to take in achieving your dream:
First choose which type of napkin you will be using. You may decide on a) the vulgar, yet infinitely more versatile paper napkin or b) the stylish, classy and more environmentally friendly cloth napkin. This decision is crucial and should not be taken lightly. The outcome will affect the whole of the rest of your project. My advice would be to weigh up whether you want a disposable Ray or a long, lasting, hard wearing Ray that will keep you satisfied for years to come.
If you are a throwaway kind of person I would opt for the paper version. This has the added attractions of being easier to achieve, lighter for the purposes of carrying the napkinalike round with you, and cheaper. This cost consideration will come in particularly handy if Ray suddenly decides to change his image and you need to produce a more up to date model of Ray wearing an ultra fashionable jump suit and moon boots ensemble instead of his usual woodsman’s gear. If you are a person who believes in a solid bit of lasting workmanship, that will also soak up messy stains without tearing, I would go for cloth.
Once you are happy with your decision you will then need, in the best traditions of the man himself, to manufacture the napkin of your choice using nature as your guide. If you are going for paper you will need to either plant your own natural woodland area, using plants indigenous to your local habitat and then wait for a few hundred years for a bumper harvest of sustainable wood, or you could indulge in some coppicing in an already existing wood. I would suggest that this option is preferable, especially if your dinner party is some time in the next couple of hundred years and you haven’t got time to wait.
Once you have chosen a suitable tree for your purposes (I would estimate that one medium sized horse chestnut tree will provide you with enough material for about forty napkins. This, using standard four napkins per Ray scale of measurement will give you enough for ten Rays, six for your guests, two prototypes and two left over in case of emergencies), you need to fell it. There will undoubtedly be footage of Ray on YouTube doing just such a task, which you can utilise as a guide. Remember to take your laptop into the woods with you and make sure you have enough battery left for the whole clip.
Trim off any extraneous branches and leaves, rehome all dispossessed wildlife and then drag your tree home with you. I then suggest sawing it into manageable pieces, because the trunks can be quite long, and if you leave it sticking out of the door you’re either going to have to pay off the postman when he trips over it on the way up the path, or you will be burgled by a common peasant with no sense of decency and the need for a new DVD player to sell down the pub.
Once you have your manageable chunks you need to render them down to make paper pulp. Doing this at home your best bet will be a very fine microplane or mouli grater. You may want to take it in turns with a friend as it is quite a labour intensive job and excessive grating can lead to wear and tear on the fingers. On no account must you mix blood with your pulp. This is very unprofessional and may well attract sharks.
Add such ingredients as you consider necessary to your pulp in order to make it more paper like. At this point I suggest shredding some paper into it as a Delia style short cut. If you’re too tired to shred it yourself after all that intensive grating you could hire a hamster to do it for you from the local pet emporium, thus keeping it ‘real’ and as nature intended.
You will now need a binding agent to stick your pulp together. Porridge is very good, and the right sort of colour for paper based products. If after the liberal application of porridge you still feel the need to make it more adhesive, add the juice of two eggs, stir and strain through a sock.
The resulting mixture must be laid on napkin shaped moulds (Swiss Roll tins are quite good. Two napkins per one Swiss Roll tin is standard) and beaten with a rolling pin firmly and vigorously until the mixture is flat and thin enough to resemble a napkin.
If you live in sunny climes, pop the resultant mixture on the window sill to bake in the warmth of the sun for three days. If you live in the UK, stick it in the back of the airing cupboard for a week, taking it out once daily for a quick prod and a prayer. After this you may remove them gently from the moulds.
Voila! Napkins, ready for action.
If you are using the cotton napkins I suggest the same steps but replacing the word ‘tree’ with cotton plants or plantations. My other top tip in this scenario would be to avoid any form of slavery during harvesting and processing, as this is now frowned upon. I also recommend replacing porridge with icing sugar as your main pulping/glue agent. The end result will be perfect napkins.
Once you have assembled your napkins you will need four per Ray. One for the head, one for the torso and one each for the arms and legs.
Take the ‘head’ napkin and scrunch it into a ball. Douse generously in varnish to stop it unravelling and to give it that ‘sweaty, I’ve just hacked my way through the jungle’ look. Currants for eyes are good. I would use a bit of upturned glace cherry as a mouth, and orange wool for hair. Remember, not too neatly styled. He’s a man of the woods, after all. If you want complete verisimilitude, steal a hot weather combat style hat from your son’s Action Man collection and glue it onto the varnished head.
If you are nervous about using fruit based products to make your basic Ray you can always cheat. Print out some tiny photographs of Ray’s head, cut round them with a pair of very sharp nail scissors (mind your fingers here please. You may want to get a child to help you) and stick the faces onto the varnished napkin ball using glue, or Calpol if you haven’t got any glue handy.
Take your torso napkin and fold it in two lengthways to make a body. At the top end, thread through the arm napkin so that it crosses the body. Remember to make the arms of equal length. You don’t want him to look ‘special’.
Staple the bottom ends of the torso napkin together and thread through the leg napkin, again remembering equal lengths. Ray does not walk with a limp, and we are aiming for the recognition factor here.
Attach the head to the completed body using home made string, calpol or a light application of porridge. You will now need to dress the body in the survival outfit of your choice. I recommend again the delights of raiding your son’s Action Man wardrobe. If you have daughters, please don’t think you can get away with Barbie. It won’t work. Ray looks stupid in off the shoulder ruffles with a matching clutch. He just does. Spend the extra money and go to Toys R Us, or knit your own survival outfit using remnants of wool that you were saving in case they ever did another blankets for the Third World drive at the local church. You won’t regret it.
Hands and feet last. I recommend pipe cleaners for fingers and varnished prunes for feet. They look a lot like Army boots and can be really effective, particularly by the light of some dinner party candles, or even survival flares, if you’re going all out for the look.
You can either sit them by each plate, or use a chopstick down the back of each napkinalike, embedded in some plasticine or a bread roll to give them a naturalistic standing pose. The choice is yours and will depend on how you decide to stage the rest of your dinner. If you want to send in pictures of your event, I will be more than happy to publish them as a guide for other interested parties.
Finally, use a picture of Ray for reference at all times. Remember. You want something that looks like this:
Do enjoy your Ray napkinalikes. Next week, we render Celine Dion entirely from pig fat and offal.