Sunday, 16 March 2014

Chatsworth, old man

2014-03-16 13.31.37 A sequel to Stanage, Youth.

Howard had the 16th or March available. The forecast was acceptable. Unfortunately Daniel was homebound, finishing his electronic project. But Steve McCann and Chris X turned up later.

We initially went to Stanage but it was overcast - although the sky had been clear in Cambridge, and for the drive up - and really rather windy, not unlike Aviemore carpark. For the sake of form we walked up to the crag but it wasn't one of those days when the wind blows from off the moors and the face itself is sheltered.

So we went to Chatsworth. Which I've only been to once before, also with Howard I think. You park in the Robin Hood Inn park (bring your National Trust card) 2-3 miles East of Baslow, then cross the road and follow a just-about-signed concessionary footpath for a little while. Then all of a sudden buttresses loom above you like giants, in particular Sentinel Buttress where we stopped initially. And its a good place to start climbing, and a good reference point.

My picture shows SB. Its big, it has a giant prow (which we went nowhere near) and it stands above the path like a... Sentinel.

Our tally for the day:

* Choked crack, Diff, HKR lead. This one just a warm up.
* Choked chimney, VD. Ditto, but for my lead. All the rest are mine too, except the last.
* Cave climb **, Diff. An HKR signature route. The crux is escaping the "cave" formed by the chockstone at the top. Its awkward, and for anyone except the very slim you need to remove everything from your breast pockets. Chris didn't escape, so had to lower off, walk round to the top, and belay Steve to get the gear out.
* Stranglers crack *, VD.
* Stranglers grove S. These two are a pair: SC is nominally the R of twin cracks, leading straight up to what looks like a very hard finish but isn't, due to a tiny edge just under a curving lip. SG is nominally the L crack, and goes slightly L to a prow, which would be easy were it not for the tree growing above it, so you get the choice of grovelling on your belly on the prow or boldly treating the tree as an overhang. Just to make things fun, I lead the L crack up the SC finish, then the R crack up the SG finish.
1956781_10152275196462350_823807951_o* Cave crack, S 4a. To the right of CC is this wide flared crack, which is very awkward and thrutchy to start. And I only get severe for that?
* Double cave, Diff. A bit like Cave climb, only the exit hole is somewhat bigger, but its a proper cave. Deep and mossy.
* Empress crack S 4b. Laybacking. Very good, and strenuous, at the start of the season.
* Emperor flake climb **, VD. Really quite airy at the top.
* Princes crack, HS 4b. This one is a right bastard to start - completely out of balance and reaching-around into blindness on smears. Steve had lead this, and there was a spare rope to second so I took it. Perhaps because I was seconding I didn't care quite so much, so didn't climb as well as I might - less care over the feet, too much "oh the rope will save me". Still hard work even done that way.

Nothing above HS you'll notice, but, well, its early days yet. And the conditions weren't perfect. And the grades there aren't easy, I'd say. And it was fun anyway.

My closing pic shows HKR peeking cheekily from Double cave climb.

And, in case its useful, here's a GPS trace of Sentinel buttress back to the Robin Hood Inn car park.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Book review: The Gift / The Riddle

These are two teenage fantasy novels, the start of a series of four. Wiki has an article if you want details. They are lightweight fun; Miranda was given them by Becky for Christmas, though I think she hasn't read them yet. They are lightweight in the way that, say, the Owl Service is not. I'm likely to finish off the series.

They most remind me of Dragonflight, but also a host of others (the Galadriel /Lothlorien bit is a touch blatant); the story is not strikingly original but its fairly well told. One thing that always slightly winds me up (because I've done a bit of travelling on cold weather, and I know how hard it can be, with modern kit etc) is how the protagonists always survive extensive journeys across frozen plains or lofty mountains despite minimal equipement. But that's just me picking flaws.

Monday, 27 January 2014

Book review: The Owl Service

Good? Yes. Read again? Probably not.

The Owl Service: a low fantasy novel for young adults by Alan Garner, published by Collins in 1967. Set in modern Wales, it is an adaptation of the story of the mythical Welsh woman Blodeuwedd, an "expression of the myth" in the author's words. Or so says wiki. The image I've inlined, for wiki, is the cover of the copy I have.

I enjoyed it. Bits of it are genuinely creepy / scarey and well done; I found myself slightly reading ahead to make sure it was "all right". There's a bit of social comment thrown in too; or perhaps that's the purpose.

This book feels like its part of my childhood - or at least the title is - but I'm sure I've never read it. Because my interpretation of the title, as a book about, errrm, something like a secret society, or a postal-service-via-owls, is completely wrong: the "service" refers to merely a dinner service (I give little away there, because that's revealed in the first few pages).

The book I have is "An Armada Lion" and I think that confirms the "young adult", i.e. (I presume) teenager bit. That may explain the curious-in-context total absence of sex, or sexual tension, that would naturally be present: the three key players in the story are two teenage boys and a teenage girl, and yet nothing happens or comes even close to happening along conventional teenage lines. That seemed rather odd to me; in a strange way it works, because it makes the story retain a supernatural flavour.

I found the ending confusing or unsatisfactory, and having re-read the last few pages still didn't fully understand it. Don't read this bit if you don't want spoilers. Perhaps the Author couldn't quite work it out either. The problem is: in this turn of the legend, its going to end happily: flowers, not owls. That leaves, in a sense, Alison choosing sides. The "natural" side for her to choose would be Gwyn, because he's the low-caste clever engaging character who deserves to succeed. But at the end she is unconcious; she doesn't choose; instead, Gwyn chooses by doing nothing / retaining his hate; and Roger chooses by not retaining hate. But apart from that, Roger is fairly unappealling, and his late sympathy for Gywn / Huw jars; Alison's rather forced choosing of her tennis club reads more like an author's convenience that in-character, as does Gwyn's retention of his hate.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

The Good Crocodile

A story by Daniel, with some help from teacher and friends, some time early - perhaps even in pre-school.


Once upon a time there was a nasty sea witch.


She sent the crocodile to go and bite the Pirates.


The pirates couldn't walk because they had no legs.


The sea witch gave the crocodile a treat.


(rear cover)

DSC_3269 (apologies for the slightly rubbish quality of some of the pictures. But I thought just for once I'd get it done, rather than agonise about details)

Sunday, 19 January 2014

A trip to the Cairngorms, 1996

Clearing up or heap of post and related stuff, I found the picture Howard Roscoe sent me back when he was clearing out his office last year. See-also the trip in 2013. Anyway, here's the pic. Its a digital photograph of a colour photocopy of a photomontage that Howard made, so if any details survive its doing well. Top Right and bottom left is Me; top left and center is Howard. Middle top is in the Shelter Stone, just below that is at the top of the Aviemore ski lifts, Debbie Fish is holding the map. Anyone who can identify the rest, please comment. DSC_3263-cairngorms-1996

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Exercise stats, 2013

According to heiaheia, in 2013 I

* rowed 113 times, for a total of 1162 km (2012: 1297; 2011: 1280)
* ran 85 times, total 1095 km (2012: 879; 2011: 1155)
* cycled 50 times, total 3182 km (I amalgamate each week's commuting into one entry)
* erged 13 times, total 113 km (feeble; this wasn't a year for erging. 2012: 238; 2011: 381).

There are also entries for climbing and gardening and stuff.

Tuesday, 31 December 2013

The book of the old year: 2013

This is a sort-of chain letter for our family for the year 2013. But really its assembled from a sequence of blog posts I wrote, so its rather heavily biased towards me. Miriam writes lots of exciting diary, but no-one gets to read it except her.

General: Miriam and I continue and even flourish at CSR; work remains interesting and engrossing. Miranda left Coton primary - an emotional event - but is now enjoying her first year at the Perse with new friends, but still keeps up with the old. Daniel took his "early maths" GCSE and got the desired A*, and as the year ends is buried in revision for mock GCSEs and work experience forms.

February: Howard "flee you fools" Roscoe dragged me out winter climbing in Coire an t-Sneachda which was lovely. I'll hope, somewhat wistfully, to do more next year.

March: was an extended family stay at English Heritage properties inside Dover Castle. It was a particularly bleak time of year, weatherwise, but perhaps that allowed us to get into the spirit of how it must once have been.

April: I ran the Brighton marathon for the third time, and got my first quasi-respectable time: 3:46:34. Amsterdam in October was even better; overall, it was a good year for my running.

May: more climbing, again featuring the Old Man of the Mountains, and all of us: Stanage, Youth. This year has been a year of Daniel taking up climbing; he is now technically slightly better than me, if you discount leading. Even better he is doing competitions with school, and going off bouldering with friends.

May also saw the welcome return of the bees: my old lot didn't survive the very long cold winter, poor things, but a new lot started sniffing around and to my delight moved in.

June saw some flowering in the sadly neglected garden. But peonies are reliable.


July: as for the last few years, the focus of my life in early summer is rowing, and in particular the town bumps. This year I was effectively men's captain and through a mixture of luck, perseverance, enthusiasm, reliance on home-grown talent and skill we ended up with a good crew: up 3, and it could have been blades if only Nines 2 weren't so slow.

After bumps M+J were once again kind enough to look after the infants for a week and Miriam and I sneaked off to the Stubai to go mountaineering. Woo! It was great. Unseasonally snowy which gave us a hard time trekking between huts and meant I had to retreat off the Habicht, but wonderful anyway.

In August I took our club to Peterborough regatta and I finally got my point! After all these years. And we won it at IM3, too, against a pretty decent Twyk-men crew. If you don't row, it will mean nothing to you; if you're still Novice at 50 you'll know what I mean.

And of course we had a family summer holiday. Having made no plans at all we ended up with a "drive through France and do some climbing" sort of holiday, which worked very well, especially the three days in Fontainebleau.

September saw the end of the rowing season with the Boston rowing marathon in the VIII, and my personal view. You're safe now: there's no more rowing on this page.

October: Amsterdam marathon - even closer to a respectable time -3:43:06. One day I hope to get down to 3:30; I really can't decide if its likely I ever will: at some point my general-fade-off-due-to-old-age will start becoming more important than my improvements from fitness. Miranda came along for the trip, though she didn't run. We stayed with Si+B in their apartment, and Miranda went shopping with Becky.

December: Miranda gets her grade 4 piano with 80/100, which is a merit. We draw a discrete veil over an earlier episode. Grade 4 clarinet is next summer.

Christmas-to-New-Year is the familiar round of staying with my Mother - who will be 80 next year, and I'll be 50, the horror - and M+J. A quiet life, and a pleasant one.