Blimey, what’s this? A blog? I’ve never had one of these before – I’ve always written diaries instead. However, I guess it’s time to admit that technology has moved on, and the HTML I used to use to publish my online diaries is, quite frankly, crap. So here we are. A blog.
Well, it all started a few months back. And rather than reinvent the wheel, here’s something I wrote back in September 2007:
Some time back in 1997, I had one of my dafter ideas. I wanted to go motorcycle racing. This isn’t the kind of decision to take lightly, or without due diligence and consideration. However, that is exactly what I did; I woke up one morning, decided to go and race bikes, and it pretty much took up my life for the next 8 years. At the end of 2005, I decided to call it a day. I was skint, I wasn’t getting any younger, and I wanted to spend more time with my family.
For about a year or so, everything was fine. I obviously spent more time with my family, and I spent a bit more time tinkering around with some other hobbies. But there’s the catch – they were hobbies – and didn’t give me the same rewards that racing had done. I was missing something in my life. I didn’t have a drive to achieve anything, or to challenge myself in any way. And this in turn made me irritable, lazy, fat and dull. I could see it happening, but didn’t really do anything to change it, as I was too dull and lazy. At some point in this period, someone or other suggested going climbing. I can’t remember who, or when now. But the idea was that it would get me out of the house for an evening, meet a few friends, and I might be quite good at it as I’m the right kind of build. (Apart from the aforementioned bit about getting fat…)
I hated it. Everyone was better than me, I didn’t know what I was doing, and I felt scared, incompetent, and entirely out of my depth. My arms ached, I fell off the wall numerous times, and while other climbers were gracefully making the most improbable moves with apparently zero effort, I was clumsily making awkward little moves and falling off again. I went home in a foul mood. And then I started thinking… Here was something I could improve at. Something to get me fit. Something to help set some goals to achieve. It may help overcome my edginess of high places. Not something I’d ever take seriously, of course. Not at all. Just something to do every couple of months on a slack night when there’s nothing good on telly, and I don’t fancy sitting around idly fantasising about my next plan for world domination.
So I went a few more times, just to get out of the house. And then, one evening, something strange happened. I suddenly realised that I was moving over the wall comfortably. It’s really very, very difficult to explain without resorting to tired old analogies, so that’s exactly what I’ll do. It’s almost like an out of body experience – it felt like my mind was hovering outside my body, watching me make moves on the wall without my making conscious decisions. My body was making almost imperceptible adjustments of position to maintain grip and balance in the face of the overwhelming force of gravity. Something inside me had flicked on like a lightbulb, and I suddenly could understand the wall, the challenges it was presenting me, and my own responses to those challenges. Eventually, of course, gravity became the dominant force once again, and I fell from the wall. But for a few moments, I had realised the secrets that could be revealed to me.
It’s now about nine months later, and I’m absolutely consumed with a passion to climb that easily matches the passion I experienced about motorcycle racing. I spend large parts of every day thinking about the next climb, and what I can do to get the most out of it. I try and get in at least two sessions a week at the local climbing wall, and am cycling furiously around The Fens trying to lose the fat I gained in my wilderness years.
So, where next from here? I want to climb outdoors. I want to lead climbs outdoors. To this end, I’ve taken a short introductory course in leading, and have read a few books to help me with the theory. But it looks like another diary is shortly to grace these pages. (I refuse to call it a blog. I’ve always written diaries, and I’m not about to change that now).
As you can see, at least one of the things listed previously turned out to be a wildly innacurate piece of wishful thinking, in that I obviously do now have a blog. The rest of that passage still holds true however, and I can be slightly more specific about my immediate ambitions, now I know a bit more about climbing: I want to lead something graded S 4a or S 4b by the end of the year. This may well prove to be beyond me, time will tell. But there’s no way I will ever reach that goal without trying, which is part of the reason for this blog – I’ll try and make a record of my training, and the numerous setbacks I expect over the course of the next year while I try and reach my goal. The main idea behind making this lot public is that it will give me some encouragement to get off my lazy arse and do something.
I guess the first step in reaching that goal will be to get outside and actually climb on something other than my local walls. This is easier said than done, as I live in the middle of The Fens. The nearest hill is about 4 metres high, and could hardly be described as tricky to negotiate. To this end, I shall be attempting to pop up to Birchen or somewhere over the next few weeks with my climbing partner Sol. Why Birchen? Well, in the absense of any inside knowledge, a quick flick through the Rockfax guide seems to list quite a few short climbs of Diff/VDiff that might be a useful introduction to trad climbing.
But before I do anything else, time for tea. I rather think that tea will feature prominently in this blog.
Of course, I may decide that I don’t have the head for trad climbing, and that I’m better off sticking to bolted routes. Or that I’ve made a dreadful mistake, and my next blog will be appearing at stamp collectors weekly or whatever.