This summer started with a funeral and a model shop, and it finished with a funeral and a model shop. That has a certain circularity, or symmetry, something I generally like. A sort of ontological neatness, of little consequence in the grand scheme of things, but pleasing to certain peculiar individuals. The climb that swallows all your cams but the only one needed for the belay (two left just wouldn't do), the last minute pub that has run out of most dishes except one meat dish for me and one veggie dish for some good-friend-but-dietary-freak I'm with, the road closed detour on the way back from a crag that takes me past a boulder that I've got just enough daylight to do, no more and no less, the Zillertal trip that starts with an evening doing a classic F6a+ at Ewige Jagdgründe, lustily eyeing up the amazing F6c+ next to it, and fuelling my desire in the Gasthof-Restaurant Perauer, and finishes with me fighting up that very same F6c+ as the last route at Ewige Jagdgründe, and celebrating the ascent at the same Gasthof-Restaurant Perauer. Do you see what I mean??
In general I would have preferred there to be less funerals involved in the whole procedure and I am somewhat tired of them - being familiar with the process is not something I'd really aspired to. Too many funerals is symptomatic of too many deaths and there have been a lot around me this year (apparently there have been many celebrity deaths too, however I'd have to calculate some 1/∞ anti-number to show just how few shits I give about that, and it might break blogspot). Simon's death made me shocked (his funeral being the early outlier of the summer bookends), and I still have moments of wondering when we'll next hook up for climbing before realising....oh fuck, we won't. Rachel's death had a sad sense of inevitability as it unfolded, but still felt strange. Asad Shah's death made me very angry about the sheer pointless stupidity of killing a nice, decent, if quirky man - his shop is less than 100m from my front door and was the regular stop off for soft drinks and emergency chocolate. Uncle Fred's death brought sad but calm acceptance, celebration of a life well lived, and a strengthening of family ties.
Mia's death made me feel utterly sick. I've been friends with Rosie for a decade and used to hang out regularly around the Peak District, enjoying her feisty banter and Mia's sparky, spirited presence. I found out via Rosie's emergency Facebook post while I was away climbing in Cornwall and it "did my fucking head in" for several days. It's simply the worst thing that could happen to a parent, I couldn't comprehend it and could barely comprehend how Rosie managed to be so communicative and informative. Everyone always says how lovely and wonderful children are and blindly sing their praises in any circumstances. I don't - in general I find breeding repugnant, parenthood an awful concept, and children pointless wee shitebags. But as I said then and say now, Mia really was an ace girl, astute and clever beyond her years, as well as being sharp-witted and gorgeous. Another pointless, stupid killing of someone who least deserved it, and I really don't want to see anyone else I know on the BBC News website for now.
Rosie has many vials of Mia's ashes, at some point I will get one to scatter at a crag in Northumberland where I first hung out with them - I think it's either Back Bowden or Kyloe Out in the first photograph of Mia in my bomber jacket in this article - if anyone can Id it then I can get the right crag, or maybe just a wee bit at both. And several boulder problems in her honour of course.
Mia's memorial service was the end of the summer, Fred's was the first. Fred was the co-founder of Steve Webb Models And Hobbies , where I hung out in my youth and glued balsa to my face and sliced into my fingers (a main finger ridge scar still being an annoying exacerbance to my continual skin problems), but didn't actually get involved in the radio control part of the hobby as my parents (rightly) thought I couldn't be trusted with such complex kits. My tribute to Fred highlighted the importance of hobbies and passions, although of course the shop was closed. It was, however, open when I drove from Llandridod Wells - where I had been nu-routing with Pylon King and Don Sargeant in the Elan Valley as well as fending off Don's relentlessly demented spaniel Cadi - to Wirksworth for the service. So a couple of decades late I treated myself to my first R/C car....
It is a blast, ridiculously fast and agile, although the learning curve is steeper than the skate ramp in that video. I've only broken two suspension ends, an axle, a suspension arm and suspension shaft in as many runs.... But it's all part of the fun even if R/C spare parts stores are swamping my bookmarks. I fully intend to strap an MP3 player and speaker on top and terrorise local quarries with pounding gabber once I've fixed the shocks. Well....maybe ;) Actually one of my main inspirations was getting out into the local limestone quarries near Bristol....vast gravelly wastelands, loads of raised hummocks and easy angled slabs, they'd be absolutely perfect. Pity I'm 400 cunting miles away now. Camby will have to do, but when I head back, I'm bagging the first R/C ascent of stuff like this:
This is Glacial Point at Fairy Cave. Definitive borderline E3/4 5c/6a and rather good fun with a pretty smeary crux. This was a pleasing micro-challenge but fairly indicative of the bumbly depths I had to sink to when my stamina, confidence, and skin dryness disappeared entirely up my arse. The list of inspiring routes I abandoned all hope on in the last month of being down South is probably longer than the list of great routes I did during the first month, so it was a fairly tail-between-legs end to my time down there. More on that later, but in the meantime I'm taking a week or so off climbing, which will then necessitate a full month of fighting hard to get back into it. Such is my climbing fragility.