Portland: Here be Dragons

Climbing, Poetry

It took me years to love Portland. So many monsters!

https://www.ukclimbing.com/articles/features/portland_here_be_dragons-12979

Gunslingers, Part I: Coppola

Dinner at the chippy on Weston Road
Codfathers. Mafia allusions, gangster, tongue-in-cheek
Nod to Francis Ford Coppola
But fish and chips, night after night?

Monday evening. Every pub kitchen shut. No restaurants
Drive through the prefabs and estates, looking for food
And fail. Boil up some pasta and grate on cheddar
Sleep in the van, barely satisfied

Next morning in the lay-by, jot verbatim
The words of a young man to his climbing companion
Can you be fucked with more of these giant ciabattas?
As they pack their rucksacks for Cheyne Weares

A new, potty-mouthed mob. Only a question of time, surely
Before Portland gentrifies. It’s coastal, beautiful
Well-connected with a magnificent climate
But it’s an island, with its own code, and doesn’t need outsiders

Codfathers…

Costa Blanca: Book of Wonders

Climbing, Poetry

The rock-climber’s classic winter refuge. More rock than you will ever eat!

https://www.ukclimbing.com/articles/features/costa_blanca_-_book_of_wonders-12615

Fruit (Xaló)

Naranja! Naranja! tres euros, seis kilos
Dutch you? English? juice eat – yes! – these – juice!
you try – take, take! tomates? green, red?
this – doesn’t matter! – medio kilo? lekker, lekker!

She proffers tissues for our sticky orange-hands
but I’ve already wiped mine on my trousers
Ha! where wife, wife? she mimes – slapping the
air-husband who smears his shorts whilst always insisting

on wearing white. Siete euros cincuenta. We pay and turn
then hear her call – Venga! two huge, yellow suckable lemons
hitched up at breast-level – then! guttural laughter –
she drops them lower – offers us, gratis, sour fruity balls

Venga!

The Western Isles: Checkmate

Climbing, Poetry

Skye and the Outer Hebrides. Where desire and grief seem one and the same.

https://www.ukclimbing.com/articles/features/the_western_isles_checkmate-12449

Peat (Skinidin, Skye)

Usually the earth is hard
A crust
I’m used to this
Where I put the past behind me

But on the Islands
Reach into the peat and
Your hands slide down through
Centuries

Spooky. The undead
Exes and myths
Clasp my wrists
From the black water

Gogarth: A Gala Performance

Climbing, News, Performance, Poetry

Gogarth as the best theatre on earth. Poems and chunks of prose:

https://www.ukclimbing.com/articles/features/gogarth_-_a_gala_performance-12183

West

Head West, always. As the Joad family in Grapes of Wrath or Otis in Dock of the Bay. Adventurers, pioneers and runaways. The dreamers and desperate. Years ago, hitch-hiking the deserts, flagged a ride with New Jersey kids jumping bail. Headed to California. Drive West. Leaving Llanberis, light rain closing in on the windscreen, peppering the glass. Not forecast. But there it is. Nature of the mountains. Keep driving. Roundabouts. A bridge, squat and self-promoting. Irksome to the island, one would think. Centuries of the Menai Straits thwarting casual visitors and conquerors. Drive over. Look at the state of the tide. You’ve checked online. But seeing it, the mud or gleaming water, confirms the iPhone’s information. Drive on. Through the town. Beyond all conurbations. Beyond fields and into heathland. Sea beyond the passenger seat. Sea ahead. Only sea, and the end of the track where the road runs out. The Western edge of Wales. Crumpled cliffs, high cliffs, red cliffs, yellow cliffs, mud cliffs, crystal cliffs, lichen cliffs, loose cliffs, clean cliffs. It’s all there. You can reinvent yourself, out West. Be whoever you like. Be who you are. Start again, each time, and hope for better results.

The (im)Perfect Line

Uncategorized

A few thoughts on new routing ethics, habits and implications…

https://www.ukclimbing.com/articles/features/the_perfect_line_naming_and_claiming-12053

“…The trouble is, there is no one, simple, correct answer. We’re all looking for the Perfect Line. But that line can be smudged, chalked, rubbed out and redrawn depending on myriad factors including personality, gender, location, faith and time…”

Kalymnos: The Smooth and the Rough

Uncategorized

Poems of a mishmash trip: https://www.ukclimbing.com/articles/features/kalymnos_the_smooth_and_the_rough-11965

Guesthouse

On arrival, I knew I couldn’t stay here happily
Squeezed in together like stuffed vine leaves
Dim, north-facing balcony, non-working light bulb
Shower-hose hand-held in the toilet cubicle

Soaking the seat (before the shower head broke off
And landed with a smash in the porcelain) and the
Noisiest, stompiest, brashest matriarch
Yelling Greek at her husband and daughter and us

We looked elsewhere immediately. Saw hotel rooms
Without kitchens, places being Spring cleaned
Establishments with barking, chained dogs and then
Got yelled at again for looking. Word gets around

So we climbed. Now, a week later, plastic chair
Dragged to the patch of sun in a walkway corridor
Propping my tea on the out-of-date fire extinguisher
The power cuts, disappearing cooking pots

Lack of hot water, the way a full set of keys
For every apartment is left, publicly, on a hook
Our proprietress patrolling and yelling. I’ve become
Oddly attached, like one of the many stray cats

The Song of Bare Blåbær

Climbing, News, Poetry

Thanks to UKC for supporting poetry on World Poetry Day: https://www.ukclimbing.com/articles/features/poetry_-_song_of_bare_blabaer-11834


Foundations (Henningsvær)

The buildings amphibian
Half in water, half on land
Decks and jetties project into the
Salty tide

Kitchens dangle over water
Yachts and motorboats
Lashed alongside as
Fifty percent of the accommodation

Onshore, the structures
Teeter on frameworks of granite
Whilst seaward sections
Prop on top of

Seaweed-covered, rotting, wooden poles
And corroded metal piles
Listing and murmuring and dripping
Between each semi-diurnal dunking

And so the houses balance
On the edge of the sea, the edge of stone
Never quite belonging
Dwarfed by the mountains and the Arctic Ocean