Portland: Here be Dragons

Climbing, Poetry

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


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


Costa Blanca: Book of Wonders

Climbing, Poetry

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


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


The Western Isles: Checkmate

Climbing, Poetry

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


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

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:



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 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

Judge’s Special Mention

Climbing, News, Performance, Poetry

The Salty Dance Floor got a Highly Commended! Sat next to Sandro at SHAFF and it was fun and everyone was friendly and the panel was great. As is this ace quote from Niall Grimes, one of the three judges:

“I love it when people try to do something different. What made The Salty Dance Floor stand out for me was its attempt to express an emotion that I have felt as a climber…and it used the medium of film to not try to explain or verbalise this feeling, but to put the feeling across. What was the film saying? I have no idea, but I understood it”.