"A word on the spot is worth a cartload of recollections"
James Maggs, Southwold diarist 1797-1890

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Virgin Ice

Here's Ines Papert climbing very steep ice on the Argentière glacier near Chamonix. Click on the link and watch full screen.

At one point she turns to the camera and you can see the intensity of the climb in her face. Give me axe hooks on a well-travelled route any time.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Bimbo... and Fanny

Steve House and Marko Prezelj on Cayesh, Cordillera Blanca, Peru in 2005

If you're disappointed after reading that headline you may be looking at the wrong website...

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

The Suffolk coast

The Suffolk coast is my home. This thought struck me, incongruously, halfway along a 3 week walk through the Nepali Himalaya in 1997. On the other side of the planet, surrounded by huge mountains, I suddenly understood that if I have a home anywhere it's on the flat east Suffolk coast. This wasn't homesickness: I was having the time of my life. It was simply that I suddenly understood what Suffolk meant to me.

My mum and her side of the family came from Suffolk, and when my brother and sisters and I were growing up we spent lots of holidays on the coast there:

It's difficult to explain why this coastline has such a deep hold. Family connections and childhood memories are a part of it, but it's more than that. Somehow, over time, the place itself finds its own way into your soul.

Andrew Hurst, in his introduction to Carl White's book of photographs of this coastline, puts it well:
All counties are old; but Suffolk gives us age that resonates. To reach the coast one drives for some time, or takes a train with changes to branch lines, passing through rich wool country with its prosperous Cathedral churches and its Constable pasture and woodlands. At last, after the confines of car or carriage, there comes the long walk over pebbles that steal your stride and make you work - really work, if laden with kit or children - before you come over two or three heavy drops to stand on the shore and watch the big waves crashing in and hiss away in retreat over the stones. Here is the big sky, the vast sea, the buffeting wind and mile after mile of shore - bending, curving, rounding, but going on and on to the unseen horizon.

This is no sun-spot or fairground attraction; there are no warm blue sea or crystal wave - yet for many it is the best coast that we know in all seasons, the most compelling, arresting and awe-inspiring. It dwarfs us, soaks us and chills us, yet it is hard to turn away from[...] It tells us [...] that we are small, insignificant in the end, and only here on terms that are not our own, but part of something which we cannot really comprehend. And this sense acknowledged, realised so gently, can leave us happier, cleaner, reappraised and refreshed, in ways a hot-sand beach never could.

Monday, 22 November 2010

MMmmm ....

Nick and I drove up to Milton Keynes on Saturday, to the excellent Outdoor Shop. We bought snowshoes and other kit for our trip to Norway in February.

I had a rush of blood to the head and came back with a pair of Petzl Nomic axes. Of course, I'll climb at least 3 grades harder with these beauties... (ahem)

On Sunday Claire and I ran in the second annual Adnams 10K race in Southwold. Neither of us had been running much recently so weren't surprised at our slow finish times. I felt like I was running with a chest full of glue for the first 5K. After that my breathing eased but my legs wouldn't propel me any faster. We enjoyed it though.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Ice climbing is fun, really

Demonstrate or riot?

Here's a good analysis of the way in which demonstrations get hijacked.

Burma's lonely battle

Victoria Brittain writes about what makes the Burmese struggle different.

With China's economic support, the junta can afford to continue to ignore the rest of the international community. Whatever Obama and other world leaders say or do, they appear to have no traction with the Generals. It's interesting how powerless the US and UN have been.

I guess that the leaders of the regime feel much more threatened by Suu Kyi and her potential mobilisation of the Burmese people just now. How long will it be before they lock her up again?

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Freedom from fear

The Guardian reports today that
After seven years under house arrest and 15 of the last 21 incarcerated in some form by Burma's military regime, Aung San Suu Kyi today chose one last night of imprisonment so that she might walk truly free.
I doubt Aung San Suu Kyi is thinking in those terms at all.

I remember watching an interview of Suu Kyi filmed in her Rangoon home during one of the brief periods of her "liberty". I can't remember the details but her main point was a powerful one, about what it means to be free.

Even during her periods of house arrest, she said, she considered herself freer than many people in Burma - including those who had locked her up - because, for much of the time, she was free from fear.

In 1990 Suu Kyi gave a speech about what freedom means:
The quintessential revolution is that of the spirit [...] A revolution which aims merely at changing official policies and institutions with a view to an improvement in material conditions has little chance of genuine success. Without a revolution of the spirit, the forces which produced the iniquities of the old order would continue to be operative, posing a constant threat to the process of reform and regeneration. It is not enough merely to call for freedom, democracy and human rights. There has to be a united determination to persevere in the struggle, to make sacrifices in the name of enduring truths, to resist the corrupting influences of desire, ill will, ignorance and fear.

Saints, it has been said, are the sinners who go on trying. So free men are the oppressed who go on trying and who in the process make themselves fit to bear the responsibilities and to uphold the disciplines which will maintain a free society. Among the basic freedoms to which men aspire that their lives might be full and uncramped, freedom from fear stands out as both a means and an end. A people who would build a nation in which strong, democratic institutions are firmly established as a guarantee against state-induced power must first learn to liberate their own minds from apathy and fear.
As Aung San Suu Kyi leaves her house today and walks past the barbed wire into a city where (according to the Guardian) truckloads of police, dressed in riot gear and carrying assault rifles are stationed at key intersections, I doubt she will consider herself freer today than she was yesterday.

But while people like her exist there's still hope for Burma, and for the rest of us.

UPDATE at 12:00:

Suu Kyi has said a few words to the crowd outside her home and the first picture has been released.

She told the crowd: "we must work together to achieve our goals."

Monday, 8 November 2010

A beautiful tune

Its called Comptine d'un autre été - L'après-midi by Yann Tierson

Monday, 1 November 2010

Scottish Wings

Here's some inspiration for winter....