Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Humility Amongst Kitchen Accessories

Trips to the US usually require spending at least an afternoon at a mall (everything is so cheap) and on this occasion I found myself in Macy’s looking for a garlic press to replace my mom’s essentially non-functioning one. Admittedly my intentions weren’t completely altruistic. I was more looking to preserving my fingertips.

A particularly bored sales associate demonstrated each brand in turn and illustrated the distinguishing features with different anecdotes. “The one with the good grip was ideal for people with arthritis.” Apparently a friend of hers volunteered to make food for the emergency services on 9/11 and ended up peeling vegetables all day. “If only she had a grip as good as that one…” But she seemed to manage; after all you ought to just make do, was the obvious conclusion.

Feeling that I needed a reason behind selecting a brand, I decided to go with the garlic press manufactured by the same company who made my pots and pans, Anolon. Adding a random yarn of my own to complete this banter, I added, “I’m a big fan of their pots and pans, the only problem is that they are rather heavy and I dread having to lug them around the kitchen”. I thought this would elect sympathy from the elderly sales associate. The reality was quite the opposite. “You think they are heavy!” She proclaimed. “I have to move entire box sets around the department and I’m 75.” “You want to talk about heavy; my mother had a cast iron skillet that she was quite happy using until she was 80.” But I have a shoulder injury... Um OK, 75 year old grannies think I’m a wuss, point taken.

“You sound like you have an accent, where are you from.” Sensing an opportunity to slightly redeem my pathetic self, I explained that I was originally from the area but have spent the past 8 years in London. “Oh that's nice. I lived abroad for most of my life. I learned Spanish when I was in Mexico and Portuguese in Brazil…” Erm, I have a friend from Glasgow and sometimes I can understand what he says. “Can I just pay for this please?”

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

The Long Haul

I’ve started climbing again in earnest. I have some residual pain, but the physio reckons it won’t do me any harm. For reasons still unknown, I apparently had a very, very bad case of SIS. It was much more painful and took longer to recover than usual. Lucky me. The good news is that I no longer have pain doing day to day tasks, which is an enormous change in quality of life for me. I don’t wake up in pain and dread each time I have to bend my arm. Anyway, back to climbing…

So I’ve been bimbling at The Arch for the past two weeks. I wouldn’t say that I lost all of my strength but quite a sizeable proportion. Oddly enough, one of my best days was my first day back. I was quite sore and had to rely on technique a lot. Next week I start feeling better and a bit stronger – technique immediately goes out the door. I’m sure there is a lesson here. I just can’t seem to take it on board (but I like cutting loose, grumble, grumble).

Where did this leave me – well at V3 (flash) or V4 (worked), if forced to put a number on it. I have a lot of work to do. I seem to take ages to recover as well. I just recently upped my protein intake and I’m interested to see how the next few sessions go.

At first, I very much had the ‘kid in a sweet shop’ attitude. There was a new wall to play at and I was so thankful just to be climbing again. That lasted about a week. Then as the guy from The Rock Warrior’s Way would say – my ego kicked in ‘but I’m not happy bimbling’, ‘I climb to achieve things’, etc.

Scarily enough, this time is different. Yes, V7 would be great and I still believe that I am more than capable, but for the first time I don’t feel like I need to do it. I guess that I changed enough of other things in my life that climbing now holds a much more realistic position. I’m still very motivated to climb, to train and push myself. It’s just not exactly everything anymore. I think that my focus has shifted ever so slightly, but ultimately I feel that I stand to gain from a slightly more laissez-faire approach.

It’s difficult to think about how much hard work it will be just to get back to where I was, let alone better. I’m optimistic though, which is of course odd for me. This past week I’ve been climbing by myself, which is a strange feeling at first, and I learned something. I climb because I believe that I can. Recently I’ve had quite a few long dark nights of the soul, but that basic belief hasn’t changed. And that’s what I’m going to use to get me though the long haul.

Tuesday, 8 April 2008


In keeping with the theme of changing everything - I now even have a different mode of transport. Last week I got a hardtail. It's the first proper bike I ever had an I love it. My only concern is navigating the traffic in London - I view it as an extreme sport :-) The aim is to become proficient enough to be able to commute to my course this autumn. I can't wait to take it off road as well... trails are hard to come by in London.

My bike

The Arch Update

I paid The Arch a second visit last Friday night. This trip confirmed my initial observations about the excellent quality of the problems, with one exception. They have reset the problems on the overhanging ‘wave’ wall at the back. Wow, is all that I can say. The idea of The Arch being a soft touch venue has now been completely erased from my mind. Lots of inspiring problems up to V10 (!) were to be found.

Now if only I could get some strength back…

Friday, 4 April 2008


I don’t have cancer.

I just got back from the Marsden where I was given the good news. To make a long story short, I have an increased risk of developing the disease at an early age due to family history. For years numerous doctors wanted me to undergo genetic testing and have screenings done in parallel. In the past I kept my head firmly in the sand and said, ‘I don’t have time for this now’, ‘I’m too young’, etc. After watching various family members suffer and die from the disease, I felt like I just didn’t have the capacity to take on board the possibility of going through this myself. Of course this attitude wasn’t in the least beneficial, so last winter I decided that enough was enough and I needed to deal with this. The genetic testing is going to be a long process however they did some preliminary cancer tests, which pointed out a potential problem. Could this really be happening now? Needless to say I have been in a state of shock. Part of me even wished that I never started this process.

I’ve actually had that same feeling about a lot of things in my life that I’m trying to change. It’s no secret that I spent years not dealing with anything that I needed to career wise, health wise and even climbing wise. Something did however change and I decided to work on turning my life around.

I was accepted on the MSc course that I applied to (ya) and will be starting next autumn. I stopped climbing and started seeing a physio for my shoulder problem. Finally and probably most importantly, I decided to start genetic testing.

All of this has been rather a lot to take on board. I don’t regret it and I never thought it was going to be easy, however that’s not to say it isn’t a difficult time. Strangely enough, UKC has provided a distraction this week while I was waiting for the test results. Ultimately though, I don’t feel it is a positive environment.

A more beneficial form of entertainment of late has been running. I started up again from a base of virtually nothing, but even in a short amount of time I have noticed a difference. Although I have always struggled with it, I feel that running does provide something that even climbing doesn’t. Maybe this happens because it is so difficult for me. Who knows.

As for climbing itself, well I went backwards a bit with my injury since I tried to do too much too soon. My physio was concerned it might be something more serious, such as a tear, but we agreed to just see if I improved at all in a weeks’ time and to take it from there.

I’ve also been reading The Rock Warrior’s Way as recommended to me by a friend. So far, I’ve found it quite interesting. I definitely identify with being too ego driven in my approach to climbing, but equally, I think that if I didn’t make any progress in my climbing, I would have had little base to work from when attempting to improve other areas.

I want to remember this moment. I still feel very shaken up by the whole process, but I also feel quietly thankful for everything that I have. I don’t ever want to lose sight of that. Life is way too short to waste it.

The sun is shining and it’s finally properly spring.

Tuesday, 1 April 2008