Friday, 22 June 2012

No such thing as a free launch ...

We were there early, the first people in the upstairs room of The Globe in Glossop High Street. Outside, it was midsummer but grey, cold and windswept. In the long thin room, unplastered walls, a low ceiling, rows of tables down each side, a bar, a sound deck and a lighting rig at one end, a small stage at the other. Onto this - you could really believe it - The Quarrymen were about to burst with a blazing set of untutored rhythm and blues, ready to shake the future. 

Instead, as if on cue, the pub filled with climbers, handshakes, grins, hasty anecdotes and wide-eyed listeners, friendly overtures to us strangers. Vegetarian hotpot appeared as well as heavy boxes full of the newly released ‘Over The Moors’. Beer was £1.80 a pint. Martin Kocsis, the editor of this mighty tome gave the first of what he termed ‘the wedding speeches.’ There was good humour and palpable support in the densely-packed crowd, many participants having toiled in all weathers on these upland crags during the ten long years that it took to compile this climbers’ guide book. As an outsider and mere observer of these amazing efforts, it was impossible not to be swayed by the common pride and sense of achievement within their ranks.               

I’m sure you do not have to be a climber to appreciate the wonderful production values, the years of hard slog and the love that created this book. Have a look at a sample chapter and see for yourself

We had been invited to this book launch because, out of the blue years ago, Martin had tracked me down to ask permission to use quotes from my writing. I hadn’t known in the intervening years which phrases, sentences, couplets or whatever he would be using so, when I finally had a copy in my hands, I attempted a detailed search among the fine print of more than 600 pages. 


Members of the noisy crowd now all seemed to be bent over their copies too, searching out personally pertinent sections or just absorbing the book’s overall grandeur.

I could find nothing but Vally could. Because I had been looking for a few words here or there, I hadn’t registered the paragraphs, the two whole and separate paragraphs from ‘While Giants Sleep’. What an honour. 

There may be no such thing as a free lunch. But a free launch? This one was freeing in the extreme, as wild and liberating as that high moorland grit cresting the skylines like a giant’s frown.

(Images from Google Image)

Friday, 1 June 2012

2nd Extract from 'Around Land's End'

 On day three, the special landscape of the north coast of West Penwith began to exert its presence. The green, furry lichen on the rocks, very familiar from my many climbing trips to the area, appeared and inland were the moody tors and scarps reminiscent of the Peak District and Dartmoor. We came to the big cliffs of Bosigran, Rob produced a rope and gear from his sac and we left Vally sketching and clambered around rocks to the foot of Alison Rib, the cliff's classic two-pitch ‘V Diff’. A young female instructor had a family of clients roped up ready to climb but let us go first. I employed a classic waist belay for Rob and tied myself on directly at the waist with a bowline. 'Look at this everybody' said the instructor 'this is how climbers used to climb back before they had any proper equipment'.

The afternoon stretched out in the bright hot sun. Gorgeous coves, filled with froth and forty shades of green, appeared beneath vantage points offered by each airy headland. At teatime we eventually reached the mining complex around Botallack, - towers, chimneys, settlement beds and engine houses, some decomposing elegantly, others restored by enthusiasts or in the process of being so. The stories of miners two miles out under the sea around here pull the gaze across metallic waters, the tragedy of some digging upwards following a seam and breaking into the seabed seems impossible to contemplate, in the same way that staring at the sun might be feasible but is also impossible. 

We came to Cape Cornwall gone six with the evening gathering. Rob told me that the beautiful little peninsula here was once thought to be the most western part of the country and it would make a dignified extremity. With the sun fading behind the tower set on the perfect hillock at the centre of the islet, even I could believe that King Arthur or whoever was sleeping here, awaiting a time with the nation in terrible need. 

(nb. 'While Giants Sleep' does not contain photographs. These have been included only for the purposes of this blog)