Happily amazed to be announced as a Finalist! Fiction & Poetry Category, Banff Mountain Book Competition 2021. Just brilliant news. See the spine of the book on their publicity thumbnail!?! Ridiculously excited about that.
Writing poetry in the van, funding self-publishing, paying the postage sending books off to Canada all require a certain stubbornness and faith. This announcement from Banff is like being given some clean water to play in, after digging in the dirt. I like the dirt too! But this feels pretty special.
Another short film! 20 minutes which seems to capture everything about days out on rock. Sandro Gromen-Hayes made it as part of his “Tales from the Wild” series. Here’s his intro: “A glorious day chatting and climbing with the one of my Bristol besties Sarah-Jane Dobner. From trad to poetry to privilege we explore various themes, highs and lows.” Sandro summited Everest a few weeks ago, which rather puts Whitt in Symonds Yat into perspective. His Instagram feed is a feast: https://www.instagram.com/sandro.g.h/?hl=en
This was heartwarming. Ian Parnell published a lot of articles for me when he was editor of Climb magazine, for which I will ever be indebted. Everyone needs a champion and, early on, he championed me. One thing I love in this review is his tally of contents. I’d never counted up the parts of the book myself – as I can’t keep track of lengths in the swimming pool doing a slow breaststroke – but I really appreciate the rigour of it. Also my favourite line is: “One of the pleasures of reading this book is you rarely know what Dobner is going to come up with next.”
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
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
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.