Between a rock and a play

I have been terribly remiss in writing anything recently – not even my own paper diary (which contains even more endless chatter than this blog).

No, I didn't just lie on the ground and flip the picture...

There are several reasons for this, but the main one is that I went on a rock climbing holiday to Spain, in Gandia near Valencia. I have been climbing indoors for about a year, on a rather sporadic basis. I usually go to the wall at Mile End after work on Tuesdays, arse around on some top ropes for an hour or so, chat to my climbing partner, make pathetic attempt at an easy bouldering circuit, and go for a drink.

Climbing outside was a whole different ball game – not necessarily physically, although the intensity of climbing all day, every day for six days did kill my legs more than anything. I completely sucked, mainly because I was absolutely terrified of falling, but also because I’ve not exactly mastered the technique. When I came back, I was pretty obsessed with improving my skills, so I’ve been spending nearly all my time trekking around London to the various climbing walls. It is a sport that many people think is  a bit crazy, which is also what I used to think of it. I can’t even quite pinpoint the moment when that changed; it was probably near the top of a route on this holiday. I was not enjoying the moment at all. I had been standing on a small-ish ledge for about 20 minutes, at a complete loss as to how to progress. Every possible hold seemed too high to reach with my arms, the ones I could reach seemed tiny, and tiny hand-holds scare me possibly more than tiny foot-holds, because I have visions of falling straight backwards and smacking my head, wildly unlikely though it is.

I did not have the confidence to plant my feet on the rock, and did not trust the friction of the rubber soles. I stood there, and started crying quite self-indulgently, knowing that I was too high for the people at the bottom to hear me. All the times in my life that I have felt useless, or that other people have told me I was useless, seemed to collect in my head. I could hear my father’s voice from my childhood, and saw that image of him waiting for us to swim to him at the deep end of the pool. We were five, I think, and really, really scared of some aspect of what he wanted us to do – I can’t remember what exactly. We never did succeed, he got very, very angry, and took us home, and we cried for ages. He told us we were failures and would never swim. Oddly, I’ve been good at  swimming almost ever since.

So I thought about this moment of failure a bit more, thought about my fear, and planted my damn foot on the  rock. I tensed my stomach muscles, pushed my weight onto it, reached quite easily for the next hold above my hand, and clipped the rope into the last clip with the other hand. It was a pretty cheesy moment of victory over past and present fears. I do wish I could have been a bit better on the actual trip though, and not embarrassed myself quite so much in front of the guy we had coaching us, a pretty well-known climber and route setter called Gaz Parry.

When I have more time I’ll write a few more details on London climbing walls I go to, and general info.

And I was also going to write a bit about all the plays I’ve seen recently, but have run out of time. At any rate it was called In a Forest Dark and Deep, by Neil la Bute – it was about sibling rivalry and vanity, and apart from an unnecessary digression towards the end, was quite good. Olivia Williams was very good, Matthew Tom wasn’t particularly.

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