Thursday, 7 April 2011

Notes from Nowhere

If you’re wondering where the hell I’ve got to, the answer is that I’ve slipped out of existence for a few months to lie up in a state of stasis.
A climber is measured by his achievements on the rock, and mine have been few and far between recently. Therefore, I have disappeared, even though I have carried on with other aspects of my life (if you can call it that).
In physics, this is called the climbing anthropic principle.
Anyway, it turns out that this netherworld of non-climbing can be quite interesting. As I assume most readers are not familiar with it, I shall include a few notes for your amusement.
Before moving to Edinburgh I thought it might eat me alive, as one hears of happening to country boys who move to the big smoke. But actually, life is quite easy because there’s lots of shops and bars and everything’s in walking distance.
There’s lots of people around, too, but the daily walk to work lacks the easy conviviality of a mooch to the crag, where people might reasonably be expected to pass the time day by sandbagging each other into preposterously dangerous undertakings in a spirit of happy bonhomie.
People in this shadow world eat something called haggis. It’s like a spiced sausage with barley mixed in, and it’s pretty good. Obviously I long for a more rustic approach to cooking, but my paella pan has already got me into trouble and barbecuing in the park attracts gangs of smelly, unintelligible men who have climber’s haircuts but even worse fashion sense.
There is also, in Edinburgh, a place called a climbing wall, that allows you to keep fit while in a state of stasis (ascents made indoors do not count in the climbing anthropic principle.) Anyway, the people who go to the wall are mostly climbers, so you can keep up a semblance of a social life while being unable to get to a crag.
The walls of the bouldering facility I’ve been frequenting are extremely steep, and I’ve been making the most of every visit because you have to pay to go there, so I now have the body of a gibbon. When I was younger I used to think this would make me climb hard outdoors, but now I know that it will just mean my trousers are too long.
Still, going to the wall has kept me sane, by giving me access to a little bit of the world I know in this otherwise strange place.
As you can see, I quickly run out of things to talk about when I haven’t been climbing, but fortunately I have now moved to the edge of a park, in the middle of the city, which has a big crag running along one side.
On an evening, you can wander up to a nice spot next to a sign saying climbing is forbidden and boulder out a small traverse. I did it the other day, with my dog who I’ve recently been re-united with. At the end of the session I sat in a sort of stunned condition of bliss, almost overcome at the joy of linking the half-dozen moves on polished rock. I’d almost forgotten the feel of rock under the fingers and breeze in your hair, the thrill of trusting a smear or slapping for a hold without knowing what it will be like.
Which is weird, because I’d had a brilliant day at Bowden Doors a couple of weeks before.
Still, most people think bouldering doesn’t count towards the climbing anthropic principle either (some schismatics say only t’grit counts) so I’m still in stasis - for now.

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