Archive for the ramblings Category

George Osbourne has moved me to poetry

Posted in culture, ramblings with tags on March 28, 2012 by bridbeast

 

Georgie and the Pies,

by Bridbeast

 

If you want a pasty, roll or pie.

Heated up, the price is high.

But if you should be short of brass

You’ve now joined the cold pie class

So you wanted something warming

Forget it son, George is transforming

Our tax system for the wealthy

And who cares for warm pies in Chelsea?

 

But seriously.

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Forbidden places

Posted in culture, ramblings with tags , , , , on February 20, 2012 by bridbeast

Going through a stack of old files yesterday I found a set of CDs with lots of scans of old slides on them. The pictures are a random mish-mash from about 1990 to 2008. I’m going to post a few of them up here over the next few weeks. To start with are a few pics from places which are a bit more off-limits these days than they were then.

Euphrates River, Syria

Farmer girl by Euphrates, Syria

Mahmoud, Painter and Decorater, Pakistan

Mahmoud, Painter and Artist, Pakistan

Woman, Kabul, Afghanistan.

Woman, Kabul, Afghanistan.

Porters descending to Hispar glacier, Pakistan.

Porters descending to Hispar glacier, Pakistan.

Goals for 2012

Posted in Climbing, ramblings with tags , , , , on January 10, 2012 by bridbeast

It’s that time of year again – putting down in writing a few of the things I hope to achieve this year.

I’m planning a year of two halves. For the first six months, it’s time to get as good at cragging as possible. Pretty much like last year, really, and some of the aims remain the same, ie I didn’t tick them last year:

Sort out niggling shoulder problem.

Get my onsight level up to F6c. I’ve done this a couple of times last year, now I want to be able to do this regularly.

Redpoint lots of F7a (say five to ten routes at this level), mainly at Portland or Cheddar. Try a 7a+ or possibly 7b.

I’m going to the Verdon at Easter, target routes include: Riviere d’argent, Debiloff, Durandal and Le Demande. Given the tough grading, spaced bolting, massive scale and overall in-your-face scariness of the Gorge, I’d be very pleased to get any one of these routes ticked.

Continue to improve at British trad climbing. Climb some classic Pembroke E2s such as Deranged or Silver Shadow, if I get really fit then I’d like to get on one of the E3s there, Pleasure Dome or Space Cadet. On the grit I’d like to do the likes of Billy Whiz or Insanity before attempting a solid E3 crack such as Gates of Mordor, Sentinel Crack or Emerald Crack.

That in itself seems quite a lot. Obviously I don’t think I’ll get it all done but that’s the sort of thing I’m aiming for. Then in July/August I want to go on a road trip to the US. The rough plan at the moment is to climb in the high-up areas during the summer: Rocky Mountain National Park, the Needles, Tuolumne, Lake Tahoe and the High Sierras, working on my crack climbing and getting fitter for long routes, before hitting Yosemite Valley.

In the Valley I want to do some long free routes and beginner walls, such as Leaning Tower, culminating in an ascent of El Cap. I’m flexible over which route: the Nose, Salathe, Zodiac or Tangerine Trip are the main ones I’d be interested in.

So, some big ambitions. Lifetime stuff in fact. I’m not sure how much of this is outside my ability or will be done with some hard work and scary moments. In addition, I want to see if it’s possible to mix an athletic life with a writing one. In 2012 I want to read some of the classics I’ve never got around to, Dickens, George Elliot and so on, and to start work on some of my own stories. That’s a bit vague because I’m not sure exactly what I want to do, and unlike my climbing plans, I feel a need to keep my writing ideas to myself for the moment. They’re too fragile for the scrutiny of the wider world right now! In the meantime, here’s a few photos of El Cap.

 

Headwall of the Salathe

Salathe headwall © Duncan Critchley

 

Climbing on Tangerine Trip

Tangerine Trip, El Capitan © chrisbevins

 

 

2011 goals redux

Posted in Climbing, ramblings with tags , , , on December 31, 2011 by bridbeast

Back in January this year I wrote out a list of goals for the year. Now it’s the last day of 2011, time to see how I did:

I’d like to fulfil the long-standing goal of climbing F7a again, and onsighting F6c.

Ticked the F7a in Catalunya in November after coming very close around Easter time. Flashed a couple of F6cs but not quite an onsight. I think that’s 3/4 of a tick.

More unlikely is climbing F7a+.

Yes, that was unlikely. Fail.

Trad climbing – I’d like to get up to E2 and possibly E3. Something steep and safe at Pembroke or Gogarth. Pleasure Dome is on the list, maybe also Ocean Boulevard or Soul Survivor at Swanage. Some steep and savage grit cracks, with the ultimate aim of doing Sentinel Crack at Chatsworth – ouch!

A bit ambitious this one, given that before this year my trad climbing was seriously out of shape. I hadn’t taken a fall onto my own gear or climbed an extreme in years. I was reasonably on it this year, with my best lead being Brown’s Crack at Ramshaw. E1 in the guide but E2 on UKC, it is most definitely steep and savage. I didn’t do Sentinel Crack but this was a step in the right direction. Tick.

Unfortunately my dreams of E3 at Swanage or Pembroke didn’t materialise. I think that was a bit too much. Fail, but rematch for 2012!

Ramshaw climbing

My idea of fun.

Places to visit: Cornwall, Verdon, North Wales. Spend much more time at Swanage and Portland to get fit.

Didn’t go to Cornwall or  North Wales as my plans of long weekends away were scuppered by getting a new job. I did go to the Verdon even if it was too rainy to get anything properly done. Went to Swanage and Portland a bit, but perhaps not as much as I’d envisioned. Still, mostly a tick.

Actually write a short story. Try to write a radio play.

Big fat fail on both these aims.

Get at least one article published in the national media.

Got a ghost-written piece into the Huffington Post. Half a tick I think.

Looking back on it, 2011 was a pretty good year. I did loads of climbing, chopped and changed jobs (hopefully for the best), got tattooed and had a great visit to Sri Lanka. I’m unhappy that I failed in any of my writing aims but I’m hoping for a better year in 2012 on that front. I’m also keen to realise some big, lifetime climbing goals in 2012. Bring it on!

 

Yosemite Valley. El Cap.

The mighty El Capitan. ©ChrisJD

Big wall climbing on the Capitan. ©Enty

Masters of the universe

Posted in culture, current affairs, ramblings on December 4, 2011 by bridbeast

I had a deeply depressing conversation last night. My cousin started a course at the London School of Economics this year and reports back that all of his contemporaries want to become investment bankers. Even his friend, a physics undergraduate at another London university, has in the space of months changed her ambitions from academia to finance.

I suppose part of it is youthful skittishness and enthusiasm. Bless them, they’re barely a few months away from school and A-levels and all of a sudden they think they’re ready for Goldman Sachs. Partly it’s the sense of entitlement that comes from attending fee paying schools and arriving at an elite university.

But it still troubles me.

They’re smart kids who’ve lived through the biggest financial disaster for 80 years, the result of a credit bubble whose formation was mainly due to the actions of the financial sector and the politicians who pandered to it. All they have to do is read a newspaper for a week and they’d discover that Britain really doesn’t need too many more bankers. Instead we need innovation and science. We need to nurture our creative companies, whether they’re creating green technology or world-beating TV formats. We need the smartest kids to teach our most disadvantaged to raise up the dismal standards of education and productivity.

But no. Already the talk is of internships, of preferring research to trading, of how they’ll only do it for a few years before getting out. As D said of his friend: “She wants to do research in physics, but she doesn’t want to be poor.”

Well no one is claiming you’ll make big bucks as an academic, in fact given the effort to get there it’s shoddy. I found this in a few minutes this morning, and whilst the upper thirties is hardly a great salary for someone with seven or eight years of higher education plus a bunch of experience, it’s not poor.

Poor is the ladies who serve in the university canteen, or the cleaners who vacuum the office blocks of Canary Wharf in the dead of night. Poor is the white van man pulling £250 a week and trying to raise a family on it. Poor is the dole and JD sports and spliffs at lunchtime, the waste of smart kids who can’t get a foot in the door and go quietly mad with frustration, poor is two jumpers from November to April and reusing tea bags.

What poor isn’t, is an intellectually demanding job with a good salary that unfortunately happens to be ten times less than that offered by a bank.

Perhaps I’m expecting too much in the way of imagination from what is, essentially, a school for technocrats. Perhaps I’m expecting too much from kids, barely a few months away from school and A-levels, to resist these warped temptations, or to understand that right now something different is required of them if our society is to recover from this disaster.

Stuck in America

Posted in culture, ramblings with tags , , , on July 14, 2011 by bridbeast

The classic DJ mix “Too Many DJs” has many superb tracks, but one of my favourites is “I was born for made for lovin’ you”  – a prime cut of sleazy German electro if ever I heard it.

Except of course it isn’t, at least not quite. As I only recently found out, it was originally performed by American spandex pantomime rockers Kiss. I was quite surprised, being a bit of a heavy metal/hard rock fan, but there you go. In a way it’s no wonder I didn’t know this; although it was one of Kiss’ few chart successes in the UK, it only reached the heady heights of No 51 back in’79.

Yet Kiss are – or were – massive in the States. I think all you can say is: “America – what the fuck?!” I mean, men made up as kitty cats?! Kiss are one of those very few pieces of American culture that don’t make it across the Atlantic. Obviously there’s something about a bunch of guys dressing up as the Star Man and the Star Child and singing “Detroit Rock City” that doesn’t chime with a British audience. Only David Bowie could get away with it, and then only as a phase. They have Kiss, we have Spinal Tap.

Kiss’ failure is unusual. From JR to Woody Allen to Elvis to Jane Fonda’s workout video to OJ’s glove to Jay-Z, we’re saturated in American culture. So it got me thinking as to what else doesn’t travel so well to our shores.

First up: the Grateful Dead. I mean, I’ve never heard a Grateful Dead song, as far as I know, and I used to have dreadlocks. That’s saying something. Yet once again, they’re massive in America. They’ve been touring continually since the sixties and, as I write this, their next date is Saturday 16 July in Bethel, NY, should you feel inclined to catch them.

I just looked at “dead.net” and found this: “It’s hard to believe that a year like 1982, which included so many excellent shows, has only been represented once on an authorized Grateful Dead release. We’re making that “wrong” a “right” with Road Trips Vol. 4 No. 4. This awesome three-disc set delivers an indisputably fine show from that underrated year: the complete Philly Spectrum 4/6/82 concert, with a heapin’ helpin’ of the 4/5/82 Spectrum show to round things out.”

People will buy an album from live shows from 1982? That’s what I call a fanbase.

I feel in the nature of research I should go and listen to a Grateful Dead song but I can’t bring myself to. At least not right yet. I guess they’re not going anywhere fast (except to Saratoga Springs next Tuesday).

Third up in my transatlantic no-shows: Ayn Rand. The only time I’ve seen Ayn Rand mentioned on mainstream TV in the UK was a month or so back in Adam Curtis’ documentary “Machines of Loving Grace”. She was the scary Russian lady, a fanatical rationalist and anti-communist who wrote long books that no one has heard of in England but which are massively popular in the US. When the Republicans don’t cut enough taxes for you, then head over to the Rand camp where you can, erm, live for yourself and campaing against taxes. She was the house philosopher for Alan Greenspan, number cruncher, chairman of the Federal Reserve and overseer of the financial crisis.

It would be too easy to note that a lack of irony runs through my three choices of American culture without a passport. When I discussed this idea with a friend, well travelled in America, he suggested including the American breakfast. Now there is indeed no trace of irony about an American breakfast, no sneaky saying one thing but meaning another. It is what is is – a massive Saturn Five of a meal to launch your day in calorific orbit, amped up with enough free coffee refills to wake the dead. The all American breakfast is a glorious thing. And unlike Kiss songs, Grateful Dead shows, and The Fountainhead, I have enjoyed many a three-egg omlette and blueberry pancake, nodded yes to that fourth cup of coffee, and left a few spare dollar bills atop the formica.

Reminder/humiliation

Posted in Climbing, ramblings, Uncategorized with tags , , , on June 30, 2011 by bridbeast

In the depths of winter I wrote on this blog a little list of goals for the year – “to check up on later this year and see how I’m progressing.” Well, later is now and with six months of the year down it’s time to check on my progress.

This is going to hurt.

First, sports climbing. Onsighting 6c and redpointing 7a. Nearly there – I flashed a 6c in Portland very early on in the year, came to within an ace of redpointing a 7a at Swanage just before Easter. Our trip to France was supposed to give a final boost to my sports climbing and see my hit the magic mark, but that didn’t happen thanks to the weather. I missed quite a bit of training and a couple of trips away due to getting tattooed and injuring my shoulder, and once the summer arrived I’ve been trying to concentrate on trad climbing. So nearly, but not quite. Hopefully that’ll be rectified in the autumn with some south coast sports trips.

Trad climbing. I’ve been trying hard on this one in the last few weeks, with trips to Pembroke, the Peak and Swanage. It’s been tough. I’ve been wracked with nerves and though the climbing has felt easy, the overall leading of harder routes felt a bit beyond me at first. But it’s slowly coming back, I threw myself on an E1 last weekend and though I didn’t get up it, I wasn’t too far off. More confidence and speed with my gear placements is what I need. So with a bit of luck, some good weather, and the right route, I still hope to get up an E2 this year. Not so sure about an E3.

I’ve visited the Verdon, and spent a bit more time at Swanage and Portland, tho the Bill still has plenty of crags I’ve yet to even visit. Unfortunately I don’t think I’ll make it to Cornwall or N Wales this year. I had plenty of time off with my old job and was planning to take a bunch of long weekends to get far away from London, but my new position has fewer holiday days and most of them will be used up in our trip to Sri Lanka later in the summer.

Despite not actually ticking any of my main climbing goals, I feel I’m getting there which is great. Unfortunately climbing a lot is really, really detrimental to writing. It takes up a lot of time and energy. So my ambition of writing a play or short story remains very much unfulfilled, even unworked upon. Getting a newspaper article published hasn’t happened yet either, though I hope with work to get a few ghosted op-eds out there in the next few months, which is at least half a tick.

However I’ve been writing much more on here which is proving to be a good way of working on a few ideas and keeping my hand in.

Two big projects I’ve achieved this year didn’t even rate in my list, but I’m very happy about achieving them. I got a new job, which is really exciting, promises some interesting travel and is a whole lot more stimulating than my previous one. Result! And I’ve gotten tattooed, a very long-standing desire which I’ve fulfilled big style. I’m very pleased about getting that done, even if the result was to make me too skint and knackered to manage all the other things.

I’ll check in with this list again at the end of December.