Sunday 17 April 2011

Intense Vanity!

Simon took some video of me climbing the other day and I only got round to watching it today.
And in a completely narcissistic manner, I couldn't help notice the musculature present.

I guess I was just really surprised because I assumed I just looked a bit flat across the back when climbing.

There's been many a time I have looked at good climbers such an Yann Genoux and felt intensely jealous, but also massively inspired by their tone.

Still, here is my vanity for all to see.

Pity I still suck at climbing.

My finger feels suspiciously good today.
3 days to font.
Thursday is the first on the rock.

Friday 15 April 2011

The Air is Fresher Outside of the Box

I was just talking to Pete online and I came up with that saying.

I guess you can take it to mean what you will,
but from my point of view it comes from living slightly outside the social norms.

And I dont mean that in a crazy person living in a cave sort of way,
but moreover in an avoiding peer pressure or conforming sense.
And I think that a lot of this attitude stems from my climbing habit.

The climbing scene has always been outside the box, in the old days the forefathers of the sport must have been slightly deranged to tie a hemp rope round their waist and set off up a rockface with nothing but their hands, a few chunks of metal and hobnail boots to protect them from a potentially life threatening fall.
And although climbing in the modern era prides itself on being a great deal safer than in the past, the truth is we still have nutjobs at the forefront of the sport who are placing their lives at risk on a daily basis to enjoy themselves (although that is a point for another day).

So its seems that the very act of going climbing will put you outside the perceived social norm, even if you only go a couple of times and then give it up. By putting yourself out there as a person who is willing to push the boundaries of what is perhaps sensible for survival (whether or not this is the case) you are taking part in something that many civilians just wont understand.

Back at school, if I wanted to fit in or impress my mates I should have taken up football or rugby - despite the fact that I was never all that good at them. But instead I took up climbing, Eton fives, badminton and kayaking and dedicated myself to them during my free time.
I think there must have been few pupils at the school who actually participated in more sport than myself, but because they were not mainstream activities they lacked the recognition that was given to the pastimes with greater participation.

I'm sure a lot of people know I climb, but I know that most of them have no idea at all how good or bad I am at it. If I come home and speak to them, the best I can do is try to show them what I did and that I have had a great time doing it - and this is all I can really hope for without getting them to take part. I can but hope that through my stories I may convince someone else to step outside the box and get bitten by the same climbing bug that I did, but it seems that only a select few will ever go beyond dabbling.

I think it would be nice if I could carry this same attitude over into other aspects of my life, for example:
I dont understand why I should want to get drunk and go out - beyond satisfying other peoples desires for me to conform.
The negative effects of a night out are stunningly apparent the next morning - tiredness, headache, sickness, lightness of wallet etc. etc.
and I know a few people who feel the same way.
I frequently hear my housemates bemoaning the fact that they have to go out (despite their own feelings) because they have been cajoled into thinking that it is what they should be doing.

In a parallel with climbing; I can understand that many civilians would never understand why I would want to pull so hard on a hold that I tear a flap of skin from my hand, and why in hell's name that should remotely please me. But the difference from my viewpoint is that I don't go out of my way to badger them to do something they have little interest in.
I would also point out that I rarely hear of people who are cajoled onto climbing trips that they don't want to take part in...

And it really goes for everything.
I know I am guilty of several charges.
For example: while I would shun Jack Wills in normal society, I am prepared to pay a small premium within the climbing world to enjoy a similar experience with Prana clothing (though I do restrict this to two pairs of shorts - one of which has a horrible design flaw)

I'm not saying conformity is bad - heck, I have an iPhone along with half the population of the UK!
But conformity that stops you doing what you really want to do is simply awful.

I guess what I am trying to say is that even if you just open the window of the box and dangle your legs outside, you are a lot closer to the fresh air than those who are stuck in the corner.

Thursday 14 April 2011

I feel oppressed!

I feel like Mr Messy fighting against the oppression of self expression that happens almost daily at the climbing academy!

As Mr Richardson rightly points out: here

If '1984' or 'The Trial' had been a children's book, Mr Messy would be it. No literary character has ever been so fully and categorically obliterated by the forces of social control. Hargreaves may well pay homage to Kafka and Orwell in this work, but he also goes beyond them.

We meet Mr Messy - a man whose entire day-to-day existence is the undiluted expression of his individuality. His very untidiness is a metaphor for his blissful and unselfconscious disregard for the Social Order. Yes, there are times when he himself is a victim of this individuality - as when he trips over a brush he has left on his garden path - but he goes through life with a smile on his face.

That is, until a chance meeting with Mr Neat and Mr Tidy - the archetypal men in suits. They set about a merciless programme of social engineering and indoctrination that we are left in no doubt is in flagrant violation of his free will. 'But I like being messy' he protests as they anonymize both his home and his person with their relentless cleaning activity, a symbolism thinly veiled.

This process is so thorough that by the end of it he is unrecognizable - a homogenized pink blob, no longer truly himself (that vibrant Pollock-like scribble of before). He smiles the smile of a brainwashed automaton, blandly accepting what he has been given no agency to question or refuse. It is in this very smile that the sheer horror of what we have seen to occur is at its most acute.

Somewhere behind this blank expression though is a latent anger - a trace of self-knowledge as to what he once was - in the barbed observation he makes to Neat and Tidy that they have even deprived him of his name.

The book ends with a dry reminder from Hargreaves that just as with the secret police in some totalitarian regime, our own small expressions of uniqueness and volition may also result in a visit from these sinister suited agents.

Perhaps it is possible that one day my oppressors will accept my use of shorts and unconventional footwear.

Though I hold little hope.


Sunday 3 April 2011

To make up for the downbeat nature of the last post I hope you enjoy this poor recital of one of my favourite songs.

I think you should put it on repeat.

Yeah...I started learning the harmonica...

Dont hate!

Saturday 2 April 2011


Sometimes I philosophise about life,
In fact, fairly often.
I guess some people might call me lame for not just 'getting on' with it,
but the way I view it is that we only get 1 shot - 1 chance at whatever it is that we should try and do while we are aware of ourselves in a corporeal sense.

If you haven't been put off this post by now, then I guess you might have some interest in reading the rest.

(there is some stuff about my every day life at the bottom)


Coming from my somewhat atheistic standpoint it seems to me that you have to accept that life,
on the whole,
and in the grand scheme of things,
is pretty pointless.

We come from nothing and we return to nothing.
As they say - Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust.
We return, in the form of chemical atoms and molecules, to the universe which spawned us.
After that, nothing remains of our bodies, no soul, no ghosts, no nothing.
As such it is a little hard to attach a great deal of meaning to life.

I for one dont particularly have a problem with this,
but it does raise the question about what I should do while I am still capable of walking, talking and even -at times- dancing.

A while ago, I read Richard Dawkins' book - 'The Selfish Gene',
and while it opened my mind to the way we are honed for passing on our genetic information,
it really just made me resent being held hostage to my body.
I want it to work for me - not the other way round.

For animals who dont get to make a decision the actions are ingrained,
but now we have evolved to think outside of, and overrule our base instincts...
Dare I say it...but is reproduction of your own genes actually that important?
is having a lineage something we should to aspire to - or is it something our genes are trying to influence?

Lots of people say that they want to be 'remembered'...and I guess I can understand where they are coming from,
but as with all things, I am wary of spouting the same old rhetoric as everyone else.
A simple question to ask yourself perhaps is:

'What does being remembered really entail?'
-Memories of your actions?
-Memories of what you looked like?
-Memories of how you made people feel?

Are any of these things actually at all important once you are dead?
Maybe through the actions taken in your own lifetime, you could change things in the world so that other people could have a better experience in their own?

For sure, Martin Luther King certainly set an entire race of people on the path to freedom from oppression, and this must have felt pretty good while he was doing it. It may also be worth pointing out - that as a Christian he probably felt (and I dont suggest that this was his main motive) that his actions would lead him to greater satisfaction as a member of heaven than would ever be possible on earth.

But I wonder how he would have felt about his life if he looked back on his life from the gloomy standpoint of my mind.
Would he feel he had gained sufficient satisfaction from his deeds to justify the way he spent his life?
Is it possible that he may have gained even greater satisfaction from going to every brothel in the US and overdosing on hallucinogens while having the time of his life?

Now to be clear, I also feel that this seems like a cheap way out.
Based on what I have said I might as well find myself a huge chunk of heroin and just bail out of life right now...
But I dont think that this is the case at all...
We are lucky enough to be conscious of ourselves, and be living on a planet with so many things to fascinate and keep us entertained.
As such, I feel like I should try my hardest to see, do and experience the maximum amount of things I can and to be the best collection of molecules I can possibly be?
(Obviously these feelings get pushed away when I consider eating an entire box of chocolates or something similar, Infact, even writing this seems to contradict what I am saying...but we are all prone to fail to certain urges. Maybe I feel like by explaining this standpoint I could encourage people to understand me better, or perhaps 'improve' their lives - god forbid such arrogance).

This video from TED got me thinking about things.

If you cant be bothered watching it (it is a bit long - but hugely interesting) - it essentially points out that people from different backgrounds either are or say that they are just as happy as each other, regardless of their position in the world.
Unfortunately, people with the most choices also end up being the grumpiest because they always feel like they are missing out on something.

Now for the past few years I have felt like I fall into this category,
I certainly don't feel like I have a firm grip on the best thing to be doing at any one time.
Should I go on this trip, should I go on that trip? This uni, that uni? This course, that course?
In the end I either dick about and don't do anything, or feel like I have made the wrong choice.
Which is definitely not ideal...

But the problem is I genuinely feel quite blessed.
I really feel like I could go and take on anything I want and become good at it.
But there is always that nagging I doing the right thing?
What if...after 10 years of climbing, I suddenly realise I was wrong all along, and I should have been working in an office so I could live in comfort and raise a family?
Should I have got a steady fulltime job and experienced as much as possible,
or just winged it - scrimping and saving so I could spend all my time on the road?
Should I pick my trips to inspire others to do something similar?

When it comes down to it though, I guess you have to make a call and go with it,
because to do nothing - will lead to the worst outcome of all.

Either way, I have written all this now.
So I hope you don't feel too overly depressed about the whole 'life' thing...


My finger is still a bit busted up, but I set some easy routes today and climbed a little to keep moving.
I have taken to doing right arm fingerboarding since I cant do much of anything else.
I will be alternating core and RAFingerboarding till my finger repairs.

And I wont be getting back on that traverse ever again.