2012 was the year that everything happened at once, both in London and in my life. It’s not really a topic that I imagine anyone would be terribly interested in; the narrative of London’s marvellous summer of sport and all things royal has been covered to death on every slow news day from here to Little Rock, and the vagaries of my year are of interest primarily to me.
I’ll write the whole shebang down anyway. I seem to have mislaid my diary, so it’ll most probably just ramble on in that stream-of-consciousness style that often fails to actually convey to me in later years how these events unfolded. It’s rather hard to remember what actually happened even 12 months ago, so I’ll have to anchor it by films I went to see, as that tends to remind me of preceding or subsequent activities.
New Year’s Eve was wonderful, and completely optimistic, for no particular reason, about the year to come. I was quite overweight, for me anyway, but that also seemed perfectly surmountable. The main plans for the year were to improve my climbing, and finally finish this interminable project so that I could disappear for six months of unplanned travelling. I would leaf through the classifieds in the back of climbing magazines, offering crazy-sounding trips to climb stuff with groups of people. I generally pictured this as a totally chaotic collection of stoners in their early twenties, whose idea of “organising” the trip probably meant they’d remembered a gas cooker. So I wasn’t very likely to join them, but it was a nice scene to daydream about when looking out of the window over Liverpool Street station.
January film: Margin call. Great movie, perhaps mainly because it underlined to me how poisonous these city jobs I do are: http://wp.me/pWLZa-iI
January was extremely busy at work, but quite motivating. There was still time to make a difference, to make this project work. I loved the sense of progress and achievement in trying to get all the business processes pertaining to derivatives settlement documented and transitioned as planned, so I worked all the time, but also managed to fit in quite a lot of exercise.
I wanted to go and see the Descendants, but missed it due to some sort of mix-up probably involving work. The news event was the sinking of the Costa Concordia, which still seems quite incredible – both that only 0.1% of the passengers died, and that it was the result of the captain showing off by travelling too close to the shore.
February film: The Woman in Black. It was an impressive film in the sense that some scenes seem to recurrently crop up in my worst nightmares, but I have quite enough of those, so it wasn’t particularly enriching. My friend found my shrieking very amusing at any rate. My diary tells me that my friends from America came over, but unfortunately I can’t quite remember the evening. Work was still quite good, although if anything somewhat busier. I felt on top of it, and was fitting the running and a bit of bouldering in quite well around it. I went to see the Banff mountain film festival (or whatever it’s called) at Highbury. There were some dumb BMX clips, and a particularly dumb clip, filmed entirely on shaky headcams, about a South African guy who decided he was going to canoe the entire length of an African river. The well-known crocodile hazard put paid to his ambitions rather permanently. It seemed like a really pointless way to die, seeking out danger, which is ironic considering that I thought the film about the first successful winter ascent of Gasherbrum II was completely inspiring. Mountaineering just seems like a better challenge, although it’s also pretty pointless if it’s more than a hobby. I went to see Uli Steck talk at the Royal Geographical society in November, and his seriousness put me off.
March film: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. I wanted to please my mother, so I went to see this in Edinburgh, after driving up from London for a weeks’ climbing course. It was a very patronising film, full of trite truisms about how similar all societies and cultures are, and how deleterious the material wealth of the average British couple is to their soul, in apparent contrast to a vast Indian family living in a slum – as if very poor Indians would not want to trade hunger for arguing about hues of Farrow and Ball.
I apparently also went to see Romeo and Juliet at the Royal Ballet on 6th March. I bought the £6 tickets in the slips the day before the performance. I’ve seen it a few times now, and having seen Tamara Rojo in it, everyone else becomes a slight disappointment. I think it was Marianela Nunez. Perhaps it was just the poor view from our seats that made it less engaging. I do so love Macmillan though, always elegant.
I loved driving up to Edinburgh on my own so much that it was a highlight of the year. I drove rather too fast, but if I’m on my own I don’t feel like an irresponsible idiot doing it, because no one I know can see me accidentally getting to 100 mph and turning the volume on the stereo up so high that the windows vibrate – sooo childish.
In fact, March 2012 was the best month of my life in many respects. I spent a week in Ballachulish doing an introductory winter mountaineering course, and making substantial progress with running. There’s nothing like a day’s fairly hard walking and/or practicing endless ice axe arrests, followed or preceded by a run along the bottom of Glencoe, for increasing both strength and fitness. I posted a couple of photos of the unusually sunny weather on Facebook, and some chat ensued with a climber friend of mine about climbing in general. This led to an invitation to go climbing with him in the peaks at the end of March, which was nice. In fact, it was so nice that he’s still sitting here with me, at my mother’s house, on Christmas Day.
April film: Cabin in the Woods. I wrote about it here, great movie: http://wp.me/pWLZa-nW
I also went to see a very disappointing play at the National, which I had booked many months previously. Its main draw was that it featured Cillian Murphy. I failed to realise that the plot was literally rather one-dimensional, as Murphy was the only actor. It was a commentary on the isolationism of rural Irish society, and didn’t really have much to say apart from the novel fact that mental health issues don’t usually lead to positive outcomes. I got 53 minutes in a practice 10k, which was nice.
A young woman died of a heart attack in the London marathon. I went down to watch a friend and found the crowds rather challenging.
Richard and I spent a more substantial amount of time at the climbing wall, although I can’t find a record of us having gone anywhere.
May film: None.
We went to Germany for a long weekend on the 4th May – landed in Frankfurt and drove across to the Frankenjura (or fränkische Schweiz, which is of course in Bavaria), where we spent an enjoyable few days climbing and eating a lot of sausages. I went to a great wedding in Ireland, went to visit a friend’s new baby in Oxford and attended a boat club reunion, which was rather disappointing (the dinner, not the baby).
June film: Prometheus. There were various reasons I hated that film, while at the same time hugely admiring it. I kind of liked the nihilism, but hated the more pronounced theme of contamination; the black liquid dropped into a glass – it’s the kind of thing that drives me very slightly mad.
We went climbing in Font, or rather bouldering, and had a fantastic weekend, although felt rather guilty about the fact our friends ended up with a twisted ankle and major childcare issues. We also spent a week in the French Alps, which for me was the first climbing trip to the Alps – I had otherwise only been walking a bit in Switzerland while I was still at school. It was a great trip, although I came up against limits that seemed rather pathetically psychological in nature. The campsite was beautiful, and I acquired many more memories of walking across snow, like that day just before New Year 2009, when there was thick snow blanketing the Lakes, and I was trailing along behind my friends after a long and sometimes slightly frightening day on Scafell, while the full moon came out and reflected the light in every direction.
The best part was almost certainly the night we spent on the scree slopes, listening to the rockfall all around us, wrapped up against the howling wind. I was vaguely hoping we wouldn’t get blown off the slope, which seemed a distinct possibility. It was good because it was frightening, we were both equally at the mercy of the elements, and his face was still there every time I poked my head out of my sleeping bag. It was in many ways a very difficult month for me. There were so many changes, all of them positive, but still increasingly hard to absorb the older I get. You end up feeling that everything is caving in simply because things are moving on. I seem to remember work being particularly frustrating, and of course it rained for most of the month. We spent a lovely evening in Beaune, in the worst hotel in the world, talking about the future and sheltering from a massive hailstorm in a shop doorway before dinner.
July film: The Dark Knight Rises. It was better than the previous one in the series, I thought. The Michael Caine character is ever more irritating, but the whole anarchy and chaos stuff was pretty well done.
We drove to Ludlow for Richard’s parents’ 60th wedding anniversary, which was lovely. We also went back to the peaks for another weekend. For about six weeks I think all I did at weekends was drive somewhere, and sometimes climb, which was nice. The Olympics were fun to watch, although increasingly strange to realise that now all the competitors in all the sports are younger than me. I used to watch it as a teenager, and be completely inspired to exercise more, obviously not in the hope of becoming an athlete, but just realising how much further I could push myself, how much more was physically possible.
August film: The Bourne Legacy.
We didn’t go overseas for a change. Instead we drove to St. David’s, in South Wales, for a weekend’s sea cliff climbing, and combined this with meeting my father for coffee, who happened to be there on holiday. He was so very down on the Olympics, as he always has been about every kind of organised sporting endeavour. I seem to remember being pretty bored in August, doing a lot of cycling to and from work, which certainly helped keep life spicy, but there wasn’t a whole lot else going on. We went up to the Edinburgh festival for a weekend, which was quite fun. Watched some rubbish comedy, drank some cider. My training runs got longer, but mostly easier, and since I usually just ran the 3.5 miles to and from work, relatively easy to combine with other activities.
September film: Looper. I found it strangely unrewarding, although a lot of people seem to love the ending, the idea that retribution is never the answer.
It was ridiculously busy at work, my end date having moved from November to March, so for some reason this meant I was taking on twice as much work as there were fewer people left on the project to do it. We spent a weekend in Chamonix, climbing the Arete des Cosmiques and having some fun on a glacier, although I was really much more frightened of the vertical step ladders to reach the glacier than of the rather strange route the climb took.
The Berlin marathon was quite special in hindsight, although at the time I couldn’t quite understand why I was doing it (like most things I enjoy). The crowds, music and enthusiasm were a surprise to me, and the variety of areas of Berlin I had never seen. Running through the Brandenburg gate seemed as if I was leaving Germany behind forever, and I had tears in my eyes for the past I could not change. I suppose by the time I got to the 25th mile, everything took on a heightened and fairly meaningless emotional colour.
October film: Skyfall. People have said enough great things about it.
We went on holiday to the Lake District, and got a house in Patterdale. It was a slightly disappointing house, since the furniture was all absolutely ancient, but such a lovely location. We played a lot of cards, got very wet on several walks across marshland, skipped across the rather jagged slabs of Striding Edge, and bought whisky for £5 in Penrith Aldi. I also spent a weekend in Hawes with my mother, going around the Wensleydale factory.
November film: Argo. Fantastic film about the replacement of one totalitarian regime with another. Most of November was entirely occupied with packing and moving house. I was only moving from Northwest London to Northeast London, but it felt like a massive change, although it was one I was very excited about. We moved on the 24th November, and on the 25th November I got a phone call from a friend with some very sad news.
December film: Seven Psychopaths. I found it hard to like as it was too violent, which was a shame given it was otherwise a great movie about forgiveness.
We went to see the Macmillan Triple Bill at the Royal Ballet on our birthday. It was the third time I had seen Requiem, and it never ages at all. Las Hermanas was somewhat disturbing, and I didn’t really quite buy Alina Cojocaru in the main role. Rhapsody wasn’t hugely engaging but I loved the choreography. It was a beautiful evening.
Later in the month, I went to a funeral that I can’t seem to cast out of my mind. It preys on me, the speed at which a perfectly nice life can change, and it seems hard to enjoy myself, thinking all the time about how easily it can all be ripped away.
- Everest 2012: Cory Richards on Climbing Everest’s West Ridge (adventureblog.nationalgeographic.com)
- London’s Best Independent Cinemas (onefinestay.com)
- Best of the Fest: Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival (mec.ca)