Thursday 6 November 2014

End of the Affair E8 6c


Since I am back writing, I suppose I should cover the most recent, and perhaps most 'significant' ascent of my climbing career so far.

On Monday 3rd Nov 2014, I succeeded in climbing The End of the Affair.

If you were to read UKC you might find the article on Team America's visit in 2008 where they took down many of the hardest lines on the grit. In it, you would find the route described:

Considered one of the easier E8's in the UK, End of the Affair was first climbed in 1986 by grit visionary Johnny Dawes. It has had many headpoint repeats and is reportedly around the F7b mark when top-roped. Leading this fearsome-smear-fest of an arete is very different to your average F7b bolt route though; tenuous smears, reachy, balancy moves and a bone breaking fall all add up to make a classic gritstone frightener.

 Which all sounds quite thrilling.

In November of 2012, I took a training class with Neil Gresham at the Westway Centre in London, where I told him my aim of climbing the Triple 8's (8a, 8A and E8) at some point in my life. At the time, I was climbing the odd 7C boulder, and feeling a bit beaten whenever I tied into a rope.
Cedar Spine 7C, Rocklands
I knew his background in trad climbing in the peak, so I asked him at the end, which E8 I should consider doing, and he replied - "If you reckon your headgame is alright then you should hop on End of the could do all the moves right now". With that in mind, I left the centre and didn't climb any trad until last week.

I've always thought my headgame has been pretty good. I can almost always force myself to go for a move above a boulder fall. In 2012 I did this numerous times in Rocklands, where I found a bit of a taste for highball boulder aretes. Cedar Spine, Zanzibar, and less arete-y and more highball-y Creaking Heights and Pinotage.

Anyway, back to the story at hand.

A couple of weeks ago I got back in contact with one of my old partners at Craggy, who moved up to Sheffield last year to start working Rope Access. Kyle and msyelf have had a very productive rivalry, with each of us pushing the other to perform one more, and one better for several years on routes, boulders and in competition. I can say without a doubt that he has been a large pushing force in my climbing for a while now.

When I got in touch, Kyle suggested that given the slightly improving conditions, that he wanted to throw a rope down End of the Affair at Curbar, but that owing to the difficult nature of the climbing, and the seriousness of the belay, he wasn't having much luck finding anyone to join him.
Calling back memories of Neil Gresham at Westway - I accepted. After all, the worst I could do would be to find out how the moves felt.

When we got out to the crag we soon found out that conditions were far from perfect, with windspeeds almost enough to push us off the biggest handholds and stances on the route...For a balancey technical route, this was not the best thing possible. However, we overcame our initial concerns and after a couple of hours of shivering, shouting into the wind, and beta wrangling, we had both completed all the moves on the climb, and put together some half decent links. Obviously, given the conditions, we were quite happy about this, but also aware that the moves could feel *very* different without the wind.

After a few days off, we went back to the climb on the 29th of October in slightly calmer conditions.
When we got to the climb we found a send team of Andre Hedger and Sam Hamer just setting up for a toprope attempt. The rain the previous night had washed the holds clean, but some were still a little damp, and Andre didn't know the sequence, so I talked it through with him until he had it straight and got to the top.
When he came down, both myself and Kyle had another burn on the route, working out the sequence again, linking in from the bottom a couple of times, and trying to figure out the beta for the precarious top move. I was using some smeary static beta, which felt very droppable. Kyle however, was favouring some airy dyno beta to skip out on some sketchy foot movements, and in fairness, once I tried it, it did save a lot of time.

When we had both finished, Kyle was starting to consider the lead, I was certain that I was going to wait for another day and better conditions. Andre had first dibs however, and despite only trying it for the first time that day, he tied on for the lead.

What happened next made for some pretty engaging viewing.

After watching this first hand, Kyle decided that he wasn't too keen on the idea of going for the lead, and we started to pack up our gear.

From then on, the route weighed pretty heavily in my thoughts.
I knew it was possible, and I had seen the fall from the top.
I just didn't know which way I was going to do the final move.

The weather looked good for the following Monday, so we made plans and headed back out to meet just before midday. I think we looked a bit silly walking in with all our pads, bags, ropes, coats and camera gear, but when needs must...

When we got to the base of the route, we decided that it would be best if we took it in turns to warm up and go for the lead, rather than both try, and risk cooling down on belay before the lead. Since I had gone first on all the previous sessions, I got to tie in first again.
As I set off on toprope, I tried to warm my hands up against the wind. End of the Affair is a short route, and most of the holds are pretty good, but not being able to feel them is a sure fire way to feel insecure. I did the route clean from the ground with Kyle's dyno beta, but felt pretty sketchy doing it, so before I came back down to the ground, I decided that it would be worthwhile trying out the other static beta again, which had felt so tough on the previous session.

When I came back to the ground, I had more questions than I left it with. The static beta had felt so good that I wasn't sure which to use now.
Dyno or Static?
Dyno or Static?
I had seen Andre fluff the static before, and I had never fallen off using the dyno...but it was a dyno...on a smeary dangerous a sloping hand hold.

I sat and contemplated for a while before pulling the rope and tying on for the lead. I knew that I needed to have my plan sorted before I found myself up there and the best place for that was the ground.

I tied in, put my helmet on, clipped the gear, still talking it over in my head exactly what I should do before turning to Kyle. He smiled up from his belay stance with a wicked grin and asked what I was planning. With a thin lipped shrug, I guessed that static would be best...

I took a deep breath, cleared my thoughts and stepped off the starting ledge. A few seconds later I was at the crux, I had climbed the bottom so fast and efficiently that it seemed to have barely happened. My mind made a quick check of how well I was keeping the fear out, and my right leg gave a slight wobble. At this point, I was standing on a half decent smear, but I knew that if the same happened on the next foothold, I would probably be facing a rapid descent to the ground. I kicked this thought quickly, and told my leg to stop wobbling. Grabbing the poor left hand sloper, and even poorer right hand crimp line, I pulled up, frogging the arete to get my foot on the flat gritstone smear. I was in the zone, and knew I was going to succeed. Locking hard, I reached out and placed my hand on the penultimate hold.
Breathing a sigh of relief, I moved my feet onto the slab and reached up for the final jug, teetering on the smears.

I topped out in beautiful sunshine, feeling calm and elated.

My first hard trad route done,
the first of the triple 8's in the bag,
and some solid evidence of a return to climbing form.

After I was done climbing, Kyle came up and congratulated me at the top with a handshake. He knew what he had to do now. We threw the rope back over the top, and repeated the exercise.

All I'll say is that my heart was beating far faster on his ascent than it was on mine...

Kyle's blog is HERE, so if you would like to read his side of the story, then please click through.

Sunday 2 November 2014

Starting Up

Here we are again, me not writing for a while, and you losing interest because of it.

I apologise.

I'm a terrible person, yadda yadda.

So much has happened in the last few months, that as time has gone by, it has seemed more and more overwhelming to catch people up on what has been going on. However, I feel that this has gone on a little too long, and it is really about time for me to start writing again.

I'll start this post by outlining some of the major plotpoints of the last few months.

  • I quit my job
  • I was offered a job in Fontainebleau with Maisonbleau
  • I was let down by that offer and had to come home
  • I found myself a girlfriend
  • I moved in with her in Nottingham
  • I now work at the Climbing Depot in Nottingham
  • I'm having a great time!
What follows is likely to contain a small portion of catharsis, a slump, and some redemption. I'm not sure where I am on the curve of life right now, but it has definitely started to take an upward turn. 

Without further ado, I will begin... 

Here we are at the Depot Halloween competition
Now that I am back working at a climbing wall, I am so much happier than I was working at the school. It's only now that I am out of that environment, and back doing something that I love - day in, day out- that I realise what a horrible idea it was to take the job in the first place. 

As a conduit for climbing trips, it was absolutely top class, I had money and loads of time, and I even had a facility on campus for daily training if I desired! However, all the climbing in the world couldn't stop me peeling apart at the edges while working at Cranleigh. It would get to the point where I was dreading turning up to my room in the morning, where I would sit - feeling completely ostracised from both the common room, and the students - while also finding myself unable to talk to the other technicians on even a remotely level basis.

I wont labour the subject, but after 2.5 years working a dead end job, with people I couldn't relate to, I was wrecked. I was waking up in the morning to drive into work, to arrive barely on time. I'd sit for hours, numb, staring at a screen, waiting for some form of human contact. 
Don't get me wrong, some people thrive in this environment, and it shows in the grades and the commitment to achievement at the school, but it was a complete non-starter for myself. By the end of my time there, I was driving home in the evenings in a total wreck, deeply unhappy for myself, and starting to consider seeing a therapist.

At Easter, I decided that enough, was enough. I couldn't keep going. I signed off a week before the holiday and packed up a van to go and live in Ceuse with my good friend Joseph Schenk. My plan while I was out there, was to try and clear my head, and make at least some sort of a plan for the future. 

Back in October, I had spoken to Neil Hart at Maisonbleau about doing some gite management for him while he focussed on his wider filming projects. And so it was, that I dropped him another line and found out that he was still interested in hiring someone for the role. To cut a long story short, after a series of letdowns, and the complete disorganisation on the part of Neil to sort out a meeting time, I had to head home without talking, and find myself another job. 

Fortunately, when I came back, there was a job posting for part time work in The Depot - Nottingham. Since I was already spending a lot of time driving up and down the country to see Abigail, the job seemed like an ideal opportunity to tick a bunch of my personal boxes - not least, making it easier to see her. As it turns out, I got the job, and we ended up moving in together at the start of July!

I'm very happy here.

After around a year of being down, and generally unhappy with my share in life, I find myself enjoying the prospect of going to work, of coming home in the evenings, and of living in such close proximity to such a wealth of climbing as can be found in the Peak, and being able to enjoy that with Abi.

After a spell of injuries (still not over) I finally feel that I am getting back to somewhere near my peak... I hadn't realised just how much I had lost over the previous months, but the change from when I started working at the centre, to now, is just monumental. Over just a few months I went from trying hard and falling off of V6/7, to routinely flashing them, and only having a couple of problems left to do in the centre.

All this has culminated in a new look at some of my goals that I set a while back. Depression has a way of making you lose sight of what you wanted, and making you forget about goals and targets. Now that I am back on a somewhat level sea again, I can get back to my year goal of Triple 8's.

It might not happen this *year*, but I hope that it might happen this *season*.

As you may, or may not, know - the Triple 8's goal is to complete an 8A boulder, an 8a sport route, and an E8 trad route.

I'll say no more, except that I am close to one, and that I made this video the other day...

Friday 2 May 2014

Back from the Continent

So here we are, a month and a bit down the line.

What have we done?

It started with some training, then proceeded to some job resignation and rounded out with a month long climbing trip and a blunt slap to the face by reality.

Exciting right?
Want to learn more?
Well then... read on intrepid site loader!.............

Training was...difficult, after coming back I realise how woefully under-prepared I was for the raw stamina nature of the climbing. I didn't struggle with any single move that I tried while in Ceuse, but I still fell off... a lot.

Training with a finger injury is always hard, especially when the only realistic method to improve stamina is to hang on your fingers for extended periods. Sadly, this is what I had to contend with during the weeks prior to the trip. I did what I could, but in hindsight, it was never going to be enough. I put on too much weight, and didn't do enough climbing before the trip to really stand a chance on anything serious that was longer than 10-15m. Unfortunately Ceuse is almost entirely populated by routes of at least this height and as a result I was given a bit of a schooling.

However, that said I still had a fantastic time.

The first few days there, we spent trying to find the path up the hill. You might have thought this would be easy what with the path markers existing all over the place, but you would be wrong.

The first time we walked up to the cliff it took us almost 2 hours, and we were thrilled to find that there was a crystal clear pool of snowmelt at the base of the waterfall. After drinking our fill, we moved along the cliff, checking out potential lines and standing in awe at the base of the famous classics.

Face de Rat
I'm not even sure if we climbed on the first day.
If we did it was only a couple of 6a's or so.

The next few trips up the hill proceeded in a similar vein, with us failing to find the appropriate path, and instead fighting our way up the hill for far longer than it should have taken, bushwhacking through bushes, grasses and weeds. All of which seemed designed to scratch and scrape at our arms, legs and faces for as long as it took for us to arrive at the path, covered in blood and sweat and panting hard.

I'd complain more, but damn! If it doesn't make you fit!

Once we had become a little more acquainted with the rock, and the climbing on offer, and a little more aware about the space between the bolts, it was time to start looking at a couple of harder lines and maybe some projects.

First port of call was an amazing line called Lapinerie. This route takes in the base of a slab in the 'Demi Lune' sector of the crag, before ploughing on up through the overhang via a series of jugs, big moves and then a tricky sequence before a dyno finish. It is probably a bit soft for 7b, but regardless of the grade I think it is definitely one of the most fun climbs that I have ever done outside. A range of angles and styles, a nice rest, and some fantastic expansive moves between some semi spaced clips to reach the chains. All in all, well deserving of its claim to 3 stars.

A French chap on the classic Cent Patates
After finishing off Lapinerie, I moved down the wall towards the Berlin sector to find a project to get stuck into. After looking at the guide, and looking up at the wall, I decided to try my luck with putting in the draws on the eponymous route - 'Berlin' 7c/+.

I soon found out, as many have before me, that the difference between a short, soft one and a long, hard one, is that the second will leave you feeling sore and bruised in the morning.

The route starts with a small crimp for the right hand, and a single pad two finger pocket for the left, from here, you get your feet high and go straight up to a fair right hand edge, a slight balance adjust and then into a filthy sharp undercling for the left, after working your feet up onto some polished smears you make an edgy slap to another bad crimp for the right hand and bring your feet up high and left to bring your hips high enough to make an accurate deadpoint to a left hand first joint pocket. After all that, you are now about 2 metres up and able to start the route proper.

I knew by the time I made it half way up the climb that I was never going to be able to do it this trip, I simply didnt have the stamina. I found good sequences, and gained the chains on my first go on it, but it was never seriously in my mind that I would be able to put the whole thing together in one single redpoint.

There was something quite nice about that though, a certain release from pressure, not that I felt particularly pressured to begin with, but now it just felt like training. I was simply climbing for the sake of enjoyment, and learning about a whole facet of the sport that up till now I literally had no comprehension of.

Despite this, I stuck with it, and trekked up the hill for my couple of burns a day on the route. By the end of the trip I was linking together 3 bolt segments in the top half, and had almost done the bottom half free.
Despite the beating I received, I am deeply in love with this route, and I can't wait to get back on it in a year or two's time once I am lighter, stronger, and most important of all - packing some unbelievable stamina credentials.

I'll leave it there for now, and come back to the rest of the story after the weekend.

Friday 7 March 2014

Training for Ceuse and Year Recap

In 4 weeks time, I expect to be making the daily hike in to Ceuse.

For those that don't know, what that means is a 1-2hr uphill trek with food, gear, ropes, clothing, and water all in tow!

As such, while I *am* on a diet right now, I'm pretty sure weight will be shed by the bucket load once I start doing that walk once a day.

Since the routes out there tend to be somewhere between 20m-50m long, and Craggy Island is only around 10m high, I have been forced to start working on my stamina. As such, Linkups and 4x4 training are taking up the majority of my training. I am also doing some sessions of add-on on the boulder wall, and working on my campusing for raw power.

However, since my foot is a bit sore still, and I have a pulley tweak right now, I have been getting on the Core Training and General conditioning.

Oh yeah, since I'm not climbing aaaaaalll the time, I started creating some more OC like the incredible works you see above.


A couple of weekends back I climbed one of my long term projects in the Peak!

Woop Woop!

For those that don't recognise it, that is the top out of the highball 7B+ super classic 'West Side Story' at Burbage West. 

Despite having climbed the crux section at the base of the route on 3 previous occasions, I had not managed to climb out the upper section. Mainly this has been due to the highball nature, freezing cold hands and wet holds. But this time, with 4 pads and several spotters below, I MTFU and made the move up to the flake.

Topping out while dodging the puddle of water was an interesting experience, but I haven't felt so exhilarated in a long time! 

Another classic down, and the road to recovery seems to be well trodden in.

Checking my UKC logbook while writing this tells me that I climbed Brad Pit over an entire year ago now. Time has veritably flown past while trying to combat various injuries and pursuing my sport climbing goals.
Running down the last year

January - Climbed Brad Pit and the Terrace

February - Went to Switzerland and climbed several 7Cs, tried some 8As

March/April - Lost Mojo and started training again.

May - Trained for sport with Pete and started knocking out the 7c's at Brean Down

June - Ripped stuff in my shoulder and took a long time off. 

July - Couldn't climb much, so started going crazy

August - Due to my shoulder injury I bailed on the sport climbing trip to Spain, and instead went to Thailand!
Found some climbing out there and did a 7B/+ boulder thing after several sessions.

September - Came back from Thailand and went straight out to Fontainebleau with my mates from Craggy Island. During which, I made this short video.

October - I went to Font again with a group of people from TCA and failed to climb anything of note, though I did do a super nails 6a that no one else manage. WORTH! 

November - I did my first Craggy 7c route. Again, for people who dont kow, Craggy sandbags with the best of them, so this was actually quite a big deal for me.

December - Took a really nice series of photos of Hamish on the Joker after his win at the Junior BBCs
Did my first Craggy 8a!!!! Just before New Years I managed to break the back of the problem and climbed all the way to the top in one! YYFY, very Very VERY happy about that ascent. Came at the end of a lot of training, and recovery from injury, and all the other crap that happened in the year.

January - Felt fat after Christmas, also, no climbing anywhere because of the eternal damp.
Started writing stories about pirates and other stuff.

Still only climbed on one hard boulder outside this year, and I wrote about that above.


Monday 3 March 2014

Part three - in which George gets a job.

George came to, his head was pounding and his eyelids throbbed.

"Wake up, you tiny membered, mast riding, son of a sea serpent," growled the Capitenne, "open your eyes and grow a spine, you lily-livered, sea cucumber!" The vitriol that came spewing from the Capitenne's mouth was made worse by its sheer volume.

George opened his eyes. Slowly at first, squinting carefully through the lashes as he tried to avoid accidentally catching another glimpse of the Capitenne's luscious legs. As his lids parted further, the room started to take shape. In front of him stood a man. Definitely a man this time, but grizzled, and sea worn. His long hair was matted and dark. His beard was the same and, despite its ragged nature, George couldn't help but be jealous. Ever since he had been a young child he had aspired to grow a beard like that.
Once, a travelling salesman had sold him some Mir'arrgh'cle pirate hair tincture® for his face, but it turned out to be cat's piss, and he was followed by strays for a week. George was an enterprising lad though and as a stubbleless youth he had experimented with a variety of prosthetic beards. After much trial and error - balancing warmth with form and function - he had found the best solution at the local baths. He would sneak in at the end of the day to gather the hair from the plugholes, and then stick it to his face with some tar from a local shipyard. This would last for a couple of weeks before he was forced to replace it, which was left just enough time to gather more hair for the next beard.
Eventually though, George had given up, and decided to let what happened, happen. Recently, after 10 years of refusing to shave, he had managed to grow a small moustache and goatee, and he was very protective of those wisps of hair.

Snapping back to the present, George brought his eyes back into focus and saw the pirate still standing in front of him.

And this really was a pirate. It was the pirate that you heard about from stories, the one that rampaged across the seven seas and sacked whole cities on a whim. Even his stance told stories, his cocky grin described a lifetime of pillaging and his swanky pirate-brand clothing betrayed a nonchalant yet superb sense of fashion.

When he saw George's eyes were open, the Capitenne took a step forward and brandished a gnarled fist "Y'ell be workin' in the kitchen wi the rest of the maggots," he said, and punched George in the gut. George's world grew dark and he passed into a deep and troubled sleep, filled with fanciful images of bearded mermaids and mountains of treasure. This, however, was not unusual.

Thursday 2 January 2014

Part two: In which George meets a god-ess?

The door creaked slowly open, and light flowed into the room. George squinted up and was able to make out two dark shapes silhouetted against the doorway. They moved closer and one of them grabbed him by the legs.

“All right Matey, we’re taking you to see the Capitenne,” said Gruff, his wooden leg made a hollow knocking sound on every step.

“The Captain?” said George. He’d never spoken to a captain before. He’d once been asked to find a new feather for the captain’s hat while they were in port, but he gave it to the First Mate - who promised to pass it on with his regards.

“No, 'Capitenne' – you aren’t saying it right,” growled Gruffer, moving round to his shoulders “Now shut your grog hole and be quiet.” They lifted him into the air and carried him through the door.

Once they entered the galley, the flickering light from the oil lamps gave George his first chance to look around at his captors. The one that he had been calling Gruff was holding his legs with his back to him, but he could tell from his slight frame he was much younger than most of the pirates he knew. His short hair was also unusual, most pirates let their hair grow long while at sea, sometimes cutting it when they went a’wenching on land.

The pirate he had named Gruffer was holding his shoulders, and George could see right up his nose, which, although he was an older pirate, was also well trimmed and unusually hairless. His jaw looked as though it had been chiselled from rock, and a slight stubble sat around the edges. In short, Gruffer was handsome, and that was by pirate standards. By landlubber standards, he was practically a god.

Step, knock, step, knock.

Step, knock, step, knock.

They walked down the ship toward the captain’s cabin. The rhythm of their steps sent George into a pleasant daze, he closed his eyes, relaxed into the trip and hummed a couple of bars of ‘The eye behind the patch’. He was just about to get to the chorus when a loud noise echoed round their heads. The ship rocked heavily to the side and George opened his eyes again in time to see Gruffer opened his manly mandible

 “BLOODY BILGERATS!” he bellowed “Those idiots upstairs need to tie the boats better! They’ll have us all down with Davey Jones at this rate.”

George used the break in movement to take a look around again. This time he found himself in the bunk room, hammocks were swinging between joists, and all around him stood a horde of unfamiliar men, staring at him with their eyes. Their beautiful, beautiful eyes.

Every one of the men that surrounded him was at least an 8/10. Accounting for personal tastes, they would all definitely be a 9 after a couple of swigs from a bottle of rum.  He marvelled at the splendour around him, and suddenly felt very self-conscious. It wasn’t that he was ugly. In his own crew he was probably above average., but if he went to a tavern with any of these guys, he would definitely be the ugly friend. He felt like a man that had accidentally walked into the ladies toilet - he decided to take the only honourable action, and shut his eyes.

He heard a few snickers, but the walking started up again soon enough and the noise eventually died away. After a while, they stopped again and he heard a knocking. He took the noise to mean that they had arrived at the captain’s quarters, but he didn’t open his eyes yet, the last time had been too harrowing. The door creaked open and they walked in.

“Capitenne, we have brought the prisoner,” said Gruff, or maybe it was Gruffer. He couldn’t tell. His brain was too addled by beauty.

The next voice that spoke was gruffer than both of them put together. Gruff like a buffalo gargling rocks, like the low rumbling of a volcano, or the rolling fullness of thunder after lightening.

“Put him in the seat. I want to talk to him alone.”

He felt himself being carried, and then lowered into a wooden chair. His eyes stayed firmly shut. There was no way that he could deal with the Adonis standing infront of him right now. His crew was dead, his self-esteem shattered, the last thing he needed right now was to have his sexuality be confused by what was undoubtedly the most handsome man in the world.

“Open your eyes, boy.” The words flowed over him like treacle over porridge. He felt them sink into him. They entered his head slowly, as though travelling through every orifice, resonating deeply in every pore. He felt compelled. Powerless to refuse.

He opened his eyes and prepared for the worst.
Infront of him stood a woman.

No. The facial hair stopped that train of thought.

A man?

No. The hips were too shapely.

A man wearing an incredibly seductive and flattering dress?

No. At least, maybe?

His eyes looked down at the jet black, high heel pirate boots ®.From there they moved up and saw the start of a perfectly smooth, toned and tanned leg. His stomach dropped, but his eyes continued upwards, drinking in the flawless calf. He lingered for a second at the kneecap, marvelling at its shape. He felt something stir within him. He was just a boy, no one had prepared him for this. He reeled and almost blacked out, but caught himself in time to take a deep breath. He held it for a second and tried to let it out slowly, letting the air blow through his lips like a soft breeze in summer. They were dry. So dry. He tried to lick them, but his tongue wouldn’t move, so enraptured was he by the sight he now beheld. His eyes seemed to move on their own; upwards they went, following the inner thigh high up into the fabric that concealed it from him. He strained against his bindings, trying to see an extra inch, another angle. He took in its curve, supple and gracious, as it rose up into the folds of white cloth that floated down from above. Tantalisingly short; the dress was revealing enough to cause hope, yet long enough to frustrate. It flowed like mist on a winter’s morning, outlining all that it contained, but concealing it from sight. He strained again at his bindings, yearning welling up inside, he forgot to breath, and fainted.

George the Pirate


George the pirate jumped down from the Crow's nest.
His arm was raised in his pirate-patented parrot claw pose.

"Yaaaaaaaaaaaargh!" He shouted again. "CAAAW," this time he added the parrot noise that his old captain had taught him.

He started moving forward menacingly, growling softly under his breath. He wasn't really sure if parrots growled or not, but the response made up for it.
All around him the invading pirates stopped what they were doing, and stared at him.

"Good stuff George," he thought to himself. He turned his eyes in a slow circle, taking in the surrounding chaos, and reached his non claw hand down towards his pirate belt.

It was at this point that George realised that he had left his sword in the nest.
He also noticed that all of his shipmates were on the floor, most of them not moving.

The boarders closed in on him...


He woke to the sound of keys rattling nearby, and tried to sit up from the floor. He gave up when he banged his head against something and found that his arms and legs had been tightly bound with a perplexing pirate knot.
He looked around, and instantly recognised the shabby interior from his long stint as an apprentice pirate potato peeler.

Four years ago, when George had started his pirate apprenticeship, he had been put to work in the galley with the other pirate peelers. He had worked hard, peeling faster than all the others, and led the rest of the crew in the sea shanty choruses. After only a couple of days, he had been given his own room in the back of the galley with the peelings.
As the head chef had said, it was more efficient this way; fewer people in the kitchen, and he could put the peelings straight into the bag.
He could also practice his sea shanties whenever he wanted, which was a nice, because none of the other pirates seemed to want to join in.

He had worked in the room for 2 years, loudly peeling potatoes to the sound of his own songs: 'Yar, it be a pirates life', 'My pirate lady (would you be)' and his proudest piece, 'The eye behind the patch'.
George had always wanted to be a pirate poet. Things at sea just seemed to rhyme; "Peg and leg", "Ship and Clip", "Gull and Skull". One of the best things about being a pirate was that you never saw an orange out at sea.

George could still hear muffled noise on the other side of the door, the keys were rattling and it sounded like two people were arguing in hushed voices.
He rolled over onto his front and squirmed and slithered his way over the peelings and put his ear to the rickety door.

"None o' the keys work," said a gruff voice.
"Are ye sure ye've tried them all?" replied another, slightly gruffer voice.
"Aye, I'm sure. She said it was the one with a potato on it," said the gruff voice.
George squirmed a bit, and put his eye to a hole near the floor. Looking through it, he could see four legs. Three of them were wearing official brand pirate boots (r). The fourth leg was stout and manly down to the knee, but from there the pirate's stripy shorts came to an abupt end and his leg continued to the floor as a lump of wood, scarred with gashes and chunks. Near the top someone had carved a small penis shape followed by "Billy wuz 'ere".

"Hello," George said.
"Oi, what was that?" George saw the peg-leg pirate swivel and look around - clearly that was Gruff
"I think it came from in there," said the other pirate - That was Gruffer.

"I like your boots," George said, "are they real?"
"Whassat?" said Gruffer, taken aback by the talking door, "O'course they be real. I plundered 'em for m'self from the pirate bay in port-au-prince, not three days ago."
George heard a soft thump followed by a curse.
"Are ye quite done talking about fashion?" growled Gruffer.
"I was only answering his question"
Another thump.
"Well stop 'only' answering questions, and help me open this door ya pox ridden dopewit".
"I've already tried all the keys!"
"Oh," said George, "you just need to wiggle it a bit. Some of the peelings accidentally got into the lock, and now it doesn't work so well."
George knew that the peelings hadn't been put in the lock accidentally. Work had been boring sometimes, so he had come up with a game he had called 'peelings in the keyhole'.
He could't remember how he scored it right now though...