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

Friday, 31 December 2010

New Year lessons

Good blog by Ian Parnell about keeping "life's little speed bumps" in perspective.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Cold climbs

Andy Kirkpatrick often hits the mark when he writes about climbing. His latest blog is about how today's middle-grade winter climbers can make a step up to grade 5+. His post includes this classic observation about the differences between climbing today compared with 40 or more years ago:
Buy [Cold Climbs] and sit and look at the pictures over and over. Look at the crap gear they had, cutting steps or swinging axes people wouldn't want to climb grade I gullies with. These men weren't gods, they just had balls. You on the other hand are also not a god, but to those guys you'd look like the ice climbing version of Predator; decked out with alien technology curved axes and mono points, boots that together weigh less than one of theirs, and clothing that you could nip up Everest with - not to mention 8.5mm dry coated ropes, cams, nuts, ice hooks, tri cams, helmets, GPS, up to the second weather and avalanche forecasts and UKC posts about conditions. So instead of flicking through Cold Climbs and looking how hard all the routes look, just think about the outrageous advantage you have over those guys. Frankly it's cheating.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Penshurst Place

On Sunday I took a train down to Leigh, in Kent, and set off to walk through the snow to Penshurst. The walk takes you up a short hill and onto a ridge with views into a valley to the south. Soon a great house comes into sight, lying in the valley surrounded by fields and low hills.

I'm not a great frequentor of stately homes but the old house at Penshurst is fascinating. Parts of the house are medieval, but it was extended in the time of Elizabeth I. Other parts were added later but the house retains its ancient character. The great hall (below) was built in 1341 and is completely unaltered.

In the grounds is an old oak tree. Ben Jonson claimed that it was planted at the time of the birth (in the house) of Philip Sidney, the Elizabethan poet, in 1554. The tree is now known to be much older - nearly a thousand years old. It may have been a sapling at the time of the Norman invasion of Britain in 1066. Certainly the oak was already at least a century old when the original house was being built in the twelfth century.

Here's a short video I took on my walk:

Jeff Lowe documentary

I'll definitely be getting this film about the life and climbs of Jeff Lowe when it comes out. More information, and an opportunity to back the project here.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Miso soup

There's nothing more warming, healthy, and homely than a bowl of miso soup. Perfect after a day in the snow. Here's a recipe for 4:

1. Grind 100g toasted white sesame seeds in a pestle and mortar until sticky, almost like a paste.

2. Heat 800ml dashi stock in a saucepan. Before it comes to a boil, add 300g soft/silken tofu, tearing it into pieces first.

3. Gradually add 4-5 tablespoons of awase miso, stirring until dissolved.

4. Add the sesame paste to the soup and stir in well.

5. Bring almost to the boil then remove from the heat. Serve sprinkled with some ground sesame seeds and, if available a sancho leaf or some finely sliced spring onion.

So simple.

In our house we're working our way through a fine cookbook by Harumi Kurihara called Everyday Harumi: Simple Japanese Food for Family and Friends. Thoroughly recommended.

A snowy day in London

I woke up this morning to find fox tracks in fresh snow in the back garden.

For someone who doesn't know what London's foxes are like, that opening sentence might conjure up a bit too romantic an image. City foxes here live on mouldy frankfurters and other stuff from bins. They smell pungent and earthy like the old tramps you sometimes find sleeping on the Tube. But they are truly wild, and when you meet them under the street lamps at night they're likeable for their insouciance. So it was a good to see that a fox had been about.

After doing some work this morning I walked through Green Park to Piccadilly to do some Christmas shopping in the West End. Green Park is one of my favourite London parks, and it was lovely under snow today. Here's a short video from the walk.

Snowy day in London 18/12/10 from Jim on Vimeo.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Extreme soloing

Just seen this video of Alex Huber climbing Hasse Brandler, without ropes.

At one point he tests a hold with his fist to see whether it's attached to the face, before pulling on it. Terrifying.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Snow (1963)

Britain is in deep freeze at the moment. Here's a good seasonal video, made for British Railways, showing what things were like in 1963.