2020 Summer Update: Part Two

The last post about my degree was a little longer and more in depth than i had intended. I was going to tie it in with something else that’s been going on but it got away with me and i thought it best to leave it on its own. Who’d have thought finishing a postgraduate degree would be such a thing?

Anyway, for Part Two, i’m going to discuss something more usual: climbing. Obviously going climbing was tricky over the past few months and only really possible with the right ethical standpoint. That said, as lockdown has slowly eased, people have slowly been getting back out to the crags – even in Wales – to the point where from Monday coming, it’s all fair game again. Within reason, you know.

For me personally, the biggest disappointment has been that the hiatus has crossed over my birthday: a time when for the past ten years, i’ve managed to find a different country. Ten years, ten countries. Until now.

The Birthday Tradition Finally Ends?

First and foremost, please do not misunderstand me: there are myriad of more important things in the world right now than the fact i can’t take my annual holiday. It does not matter how important this trip is to me, or how long the tradition has been going, measured against even a single death and any personal gratification is nothing. And we have not seen just a single death. I have stayed home because it is the right thing to do, in every possible way.

But doing the right thing doesn’t mean you have to like it and it doesn’t mean you can’t be sad that this is the way it has to be. And that is what i am: sad, melancholy and disappointed.

I specifically asked for there to be no hoopla for my birthday this year, knowing it would just remind me what i’m missing out on. I also knew that no matter how much work needed doing on my thesis, i was taking the 23rd June off. Ten years is a long time and this was a real shock to the system. I was 24 the last time i had a “normal” birthday, at home with the same old routine, so i was determined to try and make it at least slightly special.

The bright side is, as i said to a friend on text in the evening, if i dind’t live in North Wales, it would most definitely be right up there on my list of places to be. The climbing is superb, the area is stunning and there is a sure fire reason i live here. The only reason i don’t want to be here for my birthday is that i’m here most of the rest of the year and i want a bit of a change. Otherwise, there are not many better places to be anywhere.

But here i was and the one thing that is missing every other year is family. Last year i was in Finland with my father-in-law, the year before in Germany with Em. In fact, since Rosie was born, i’ve only spent any birthday with one of our girls on one occasion. And even then she was four months old. It’s been something like fifteen years since i’ve seen my parents. So it seemed like a good way to spend the day. Everything being an opportunity and all that.

Family breakfast of pancakes and playing and an afternoon seeing my folks, watching the stone walls outside to see them dry was the order of the day. The plan was always to try and get a climb in somehow, preferably outside, so a few options had been planned to see how things went. I make it sound like climbing was all i had in mind but actually that time with family made the day really. The climbing topped it off nicely.

Around half four, i figured it wasn’t getting any drier and i better head out and hope for the best. Some deluded part of my brain totally misjudged the aspect of my target crag, thinking the Boss Cuvier area of Gelert Forest was open enough to have dried, depsite it still raining at noon. Thankfully, i had a backup plan at a roadside venue (and Tess loved the walk in and out).

Twenty minutes of setting up and walking in, fifteen minutes back and i should’ve felt slightly defeated but even before i set off, i knew it might not (massive understatement in hindsight) be dry and almost went straight to the Pop Bloc first time around. I’d been years ago, on the way to see my folks one evening, and have noticed a resurgence in recent months. Keen for another look, i took the short trip up to Rhyd Ddu, took the road over to Nantlle and found myself with bone dry rock in a sunny setting, as good as any other year thus far.

The climbing went pretty well too, albeit lines that were retro flashes rather than flashes. Not that i remembered them in the slightest. I noticed Alex Megos posted a caption on Instagram claiming a “retro onsight” which seems the most stupid thing ever but i genuinely couldn’t remember anything about these climbs. I didn’t even realise i’d done one of them until i went to tick it on 27crags.

Last time, i vaguely recalled – after finishing the climbs, memories slowly eeked out of the depths of my memory – the last session and looking at the other lines, thinking them too brutal and difficult for me. It’s called the Pop Bloc for a reason: the effect it can have on one’s tendons/pulleys. This time, though, i’m fitter, stronger and frankly, didn’t want to go home so i started to work on the next appealing line: Pop Art 7b+.

By the end of the session, by which point the shot hole had cut a nice round hole in my ring finger, i’d managed all the moves in two halves, not quite linking it together thus avoiding the slightly nerving top out with no one around but a sleeping dog. Nevertheless, it felt a very successful session, a very enjoyable evening and on the whole, a great day.

I’m still sad i couldn’t get away, no matter how substantial the reasons. 2020 will have an asterisk over it for so many of us for so many reasons and i’ll always be a little sad about mine. But the reasons were sound and you know what, it turned out to be a pretty damned good day after all.

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#itsadogslife a quick snap from my birthday playing yesterday evening. 2010: Val Daone, Italy 2011: Squamish, Canada 2012: Fontainebleau, France 2013: Zillertal, Austria 2014: Albarracin, Spain 2015: Magic Wood, Switzerland 2016: Stockholm, Sweden 2017: Glendalough, Ireland 2018: Garmisch, Germany 2019: Helsinki, Finland 2020: … I love where I live but at the end of the day, I live here and the 23rd June is a day, for me, to explore somewhere different. But not this year, for obvious reasons that are far more important than my summer trip. Nevertheless, and despite a lovely day yesterday, still a little melancholy. We'll see what happens next year . . . #worldclasswales #NorthWales #northwalesbouldering #bouldering #bouldering_pictures_of_instagram #rockclimbing #grimpeur #escalada #escalade #Climbing #climbing_photos_of_instagram #climbing_is_my_passion #climbinglife

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2020 Summer Update: Part One

It seems i’ve missed over a month since my last update and not just any month, June. Any other year that would be unthinkable. Unlike much of the rest of the world, i can’t use the excuse that nothing much has been happening. In fact, it’s been the opposite: i honestly haven’t had chance to write and what’s more, when i have had even a half chance, the idea of writing in this style would’ve been counter productive to what i was doing.

It has been a very hectic and intense month; far too much to put into one catch up post as i’ve been known to do in the past. So instead this is Part One of my 2020 Summer Update. Over the next few posts, i’ll fill you in on the latest comings and goings (now that we can come and go a little more) and doubtless, that will include what happens between now and the end of the updates! The tough thing now is where to start…

Mastering My Time

Let’s start with the biggest single impact on my entire life for the past two weeks. As a brief recap, i’ve spent the past two years studying a part time professional master’s degree, distance learning with the University of Central Lancashire. I’ve been studying climbing coaching and along the way, started Prowess Climbing Coaching, becoming a far better coach than i ever would without the degree to teach me areas that i never would’ve known existed otherwise.

As anyone who has taken further education will know, eventually it comes to a head and that last step is the toughest one. And for me, my two years are up and that has meant not just drafting a thesis, but finishing it properly. And it has been suitably epic; even more so with young two children continually kicking around the house.

Em has been the sole reason i’ve managed to get over the line. She’s taken care of the kids to give me eight hour working days, over and over, sometimes for three or four days in a row. This is no exaggeration. Over the space of three days, i roughly calculated 24 hours of tinkering, writing, rewriting before eventually, i came to the conclusion that i wasn’t going to make it any better and handed it in.

The bright side of a professional masters is that i didn’t need an undergraduate degree to enrol on the course; which was handy as i don’t have an undergraduate degree… I did study one, for three years, in Lancaster between 2002 and 2005. I read Physics, or was supposed to be, where in reality i did no work and failed. Not dropped out, i failed the final exams. And yes, i did resit them and failed them too. While they weren’t the first exams i’d failed, they were the first resits i failed; my luck finally ran out.

So this course has been a sort of personal redemption for me; a chance to prove to myself as much as anyone else that i am actually capable of achieving in further education, despite my previous folly. In fairness, having studied at undergraduate level doubtless helped me get onto the course and they say you don’t use what you learned at uni. Well, i didn’t do any work because i went climbing and now i’m finishing a postgraduate degree all about climbing.

I’m obviously hoping to pass but more than that, i’m hoping to excel in this. Where the first time around, i coasted, hadn’t grown up, had no work ethic and paid the price, this time i have thrown my heart and soul into it and given it my all. I even quit my job half way through to become a climbing coach proper. My first failure actually developed the work ethic i’ve needed to complete this one so it wasn’t all wasted.

Now it’s a waiting game, to see if it is indeed good enough. To see if there is redemption for me. And then to see where we go from here. You’ll hear me cheer if it goes well.

The Rosie Effect

Time seems to  be moving in ways it has never done before; a point realised when i read the last post and found out it’s been nearly five weeks since my last post. It is understandable though given absolutely nothing has happened worth posting about. I could almost leave this post at that!

Still, a blog is supposed to be a regularly updated record of one’s actions and feelings so leaving it to drift off simply because nothing of any note has happened seems a bit of a cop out. There are still things going on around here, still progress being made and still things to talk about

An Insight Into Motivations

What seems telling about this long lay off is how it doesn’t seem to have faltered my motivation to climb at all. Nine long weeks of abstinence and the desire to get out is just as strong as it was back when Boris came on the tele for what is surey the most watched national broadcast in decades.

Just picturing getting back out on rock again seems so normal, so natural and as if it’s only been a few days since the last time. I’ve got a crag in mind for that first time out again (although i’ll keep that close to my chest for fear of creating a crowd) and i can picture the feeling, the setting, the movement.

It almost seems to fit the old adage of absence making the heart grow fonder but at the same time, i think the drive to climb hasn’t actually changed at all.

Training? What Training?

Saturday morning, i came downstairs and before i even made it past the end of the stairs, Rosie appeared badgering to do some exercise with me. It’s what she’s been calling it when we get the gym rings out in the kitchen; me with 30 seconds of exercise, her playing around, spinning, dangling and laughing in my 2 minute rests. She loves it but sadly even the joy it brings hasn’t been enough to spur me. Nothing has.

The initial enthusiasm waned after a few weeks and as with so much of my training in the past, without a clear and specific goal, i lost that bit of interest. The same can be said of my biking, despite the enjoyment it brought that made me feel like a kid again (although to be fair, the mechanical issues that put me off those years ago contributed a lot). And again with running.

My latest run gave a time and speed that i really can’t be proud of, despite some progress several weeks ago. All those early runs coupled with a few bike rides have made no  gains as i’ve not kept it up.

Perhaps she will spur me on and with lockdown beginning to ease, it good be good timing to get my backside back in the groove.

An Elbow of Consolation

If there is a consolation it’s that i should probably have been taking this time off anyway. I realised earlier that i hadn’t even thought about the pain in my elbow for a little while and stretching now doesn’t hurt either. It seems this lay off might prove just what i needed.

I had thought it had turned chronic back when Boris put everyone on house arrest. Nothing seems to have made the difference: exercises, stretching, conditioning. Despite toying with the idea of getting further advice but typically – for me and for most climbers – i didn’t. However i’ve perhaps turned a corner.

Half way through Saturday’s exercises i realised it wasn’t hurting at all, although i did feel a bit of pain when waking in the morning. Only time will tell and that first session back on the wall will be the real acid test. Hopefully, i’ll pass with flying colours ; i’d hate to have to take another 8 weeks off again!

Continuing on the Unknown Route

Now deep into week four of UK Lockdown, psyche is starting to drain, motivation to train is starting to wane and a slightly monotonous routine is beginning to set in. For me personally, there is also a real and upsetting realisation that the great liklihood is that – just like so many other people and events – my dream may be about to die after 11 long years.

There are some bright sides to this downtime (many mentioned in the last post still apply) including injury rehab but even that isn’t going as smoothly as i was hoping and the concern now is that once this is over, i’ll still have this niggling issue that will hold me back.

While the last post was filled with optimism, this one is less so and more centres on some very real feelings of worry and sadness. Sorry if i bring you down.

Note: i’ll try and finish on a happier note so if this post does get a bit maudlin, keep reading to the end. 

End of the Birthday Tradition?

With events such as Glastonbury and the Tour de France now being cancelled or postponed – which usually take place around the end of June – the very real probability, not possibility, is now starting to dawn on me that the VERY long standing Birthday Tradition may be finally coming to an end.

To recap very briefly, back in 2010 i spent my birthday in Val Daone: a beautiful Italian valley in the Dolomites. Every year since then has been a different country: Canada, France, Austria, Spain, Switzerland, Sweden, Ireland, Germany and Finland, last year. This year had yet to be planned.

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What a day! That's gotta be one of the best days in a trip ever. A late start pushed itself into the afternoon but after that, it's been all go. Firstly we headed to Koivusaari and the most impressive boulder in the most astounding scene. Right in the shore again, the lines were outstanding, even if I did leave with Peppu 7a+ agonisingly close. Then we shifted the focus and headed to Taivaskallio With a stack of Simon friendly problems. He blasted them out, one after another, flashing problem after problem. Taivaskallio is a very historical crag for Finnish bouldering too and it was great to experience such a fantastic crag. We're now back, battered and beaten by buoyed by a brilliant day off quality Finnish bouldering #Helsinki #Finland #helsinkibouldering #finnishbouldering #bouldering #bouldering_pictures_of_instagram #climbing #grimpeur #rockclimbing #escalada #escalade #climbing_photos_of_instagram #climbinglife #climbing_is_my_passion #birthdaytradition #sunsoutgunsout

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The fact is it was always going to end one day. Granted there may be 195 countries in the world and i’m certainly not going to live that long but let’s face it, a two week jaunt to Kiribati isn’t gonna happen; there are a finite and much smaller number of suitable countries. Throw in the fact that they need climbing (ideally) and that number reduces further. If we assume i live to 85, that’s 60 countries that fit the criteria of affordable, logistically possible, with boulders, and decent conditions in June. It would appear that 10 might be the max.

I do have the consolation that at least this tradition was halted by a worldwide pandemic, totally out of my control, and not due to lack of funds or friends or by family constraints. There is also the point that i could easily pick it up again next year instead, with a small gap.

However my little jaunts were all well and good when i was young, free and single but now are significantly less popular at home and a rather frank conversation suggested this was not expected to be rekindled later. Either which way, i know first hand time and again that once a tradition is broken, it will most likely die.

It’s not over yet and many of these trips have been pulled out of the bag at the last minute but i must start facing the reality that after ten long years and some phenomenal experiences – some of which i have no desire to repeat – this year i might be at home in Wales.

Not Turning the Corner with My Elbow

Fun pun aside, this is a bit of a worry: the tendinitis in my left elbow is not improving. Rehab exercises have only yielded more discomfort, bordering on pain, while resting hasn’t helped and sees me wake every morning feeling sore. I need to keep going with something but its difficult to know what when everything seems to make it worse. The only thing that’s helped it lately: climbing. And i can’t exactly do that right now.

I’d almost be tempted to go and get it checked out but the LAST thing the NHS needs right now is some dickhead with a self-inflicted and non-serious injury whinging about his hurty elbow.

What i do need to do is figure out how to fix this. I have several very good physios and medical professionals that i could contact and need to get on it before the lockdown lifts and i’m free to play again but left unable. Either which way, lethargy just won’t cut it any more.

Starting to Drain

My lack of action to deal with my epichondilytis isn’t the only thing lacking. Despite the initial enthusiasm after putting up the gym rings in the kitchen, i’ve not been using them and not been doing much else either.

The exception is running. After a couple of weeks without dusting off the running shoes, i’ve been working hard and getting the mileage in and have been enjoying it, to be fair, but the SAID principle does suggest this will only go so far.

The previous section demonstrates how any use of fingerboards is totally out right now – especially given there’s not exactly any nice comfy holds i can use on the two here – so it’s conditioning work or bust. Yet despite the fact i was actually enjoying the rings, i can’t seem to fit it in. It seems the Groundhog Sunday is starting to get to me a little and motivation is waning.

Some Good News To Finish

We’ll finish on a lighter note, as promised. I’ve been using my time well (something to be happy about at least) and have lined up insurance for the business to be able to run outdoor bouldering courses with Prowess Coaching!

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I'm thrilled to announce that I am now adding outdoor bouldering to the Prowess Coaching repertoire! (once lockdown is lifted, obviously) I've been using this time to do the necessary research and have finally put the pieces in place to offer outdoor bouldering courses, just like this day with @kellymariehenry just before we were all kept away from the mountains. Now this will be part of my day job! Cannot wait to get going again, gonna use the next few weeks to set everything up so we're ready to go. Please get in touch for more information and spread the good word. . . . #worldclasswales #NorthWales #northwalesbouldering #bouldering #bouldering_pictures_of_instagram #rockclimbing #grimpeur #escalada #escalade #Climbing #climbing_photos_of_instagram #climbing_is_my_passion #climbinglife #klettern #coaching #tryclimbing #prowesscoaching

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My expertise is extensive and well established but a quirk of the qualification system says that in order to teach outdoor bouldering, i need to be proficient at trad climbing (proof of proficiency isn’t actually a condition by the way). Being as i’ve not managed to finish that off, i’ve been stuck. Until now.

This downtime has meant i could do some research and have found an insurer that doesn’t look solely at qualification. As such, once the lockdown lifts, i’ll be expanding the repertoire out into the mountains that got me climbing in the first place. And i’ll be paid to do it!

I love my job, i really do, to the point where it rarely actually feels like work. It is truly my dream and this addition means i am now in heaven with it. The plan now is to use this to spur me on to get my act together, get the injury sorted, get strong and fit and stop feeling sorry for myself.

Yes, i’ll likely be here for my birthday. I might even be working. But if i imagine that that i’ll be working in the place i love doing what i love in a job that isn’t work, what more could i possibly ask for.

Coping Around Covid: How I’m Trying To Make the Best of It

We all know the current global situation and it is not worth me even offering a summary; this has affected you, me and everyone around us. Despite it all, though, i’m actually feeling fairly optimistic and am definitely having a damn good stab of making this work for me. I thought i’d share how.

How the situation has affected me

As a professional climbing coach, once the walls shut, i effectively had no clients. I don’t currently offer outdoor work as part of my courses and while exceptions can – and indeed were – made, we all know this didn’t last long; the hordes coming to my local area not exactly helping the situation.

In an attempt to keep going, i have and continue to to offer online consultations (click here for more information), but this has had very little take up. It seems there is currently next to no work for a climbing coach in the early stages of building a business.

Those early stages have also negated any government help in terms of self-employed schemes. I’ll be honest and say i have been very impressed with the various methods the government has tried to protect it’s citizens incomes and there are so many different types of earner out there, it was always going to be an impossible task to cover EVERYONE. I’m just one of those that has fallen through the cracks.

Still, as above, time at home to work on the business is certainly a good thing, if done the right way and as long as i don’t make a substantial loss, i should be in a good position to come back pretty much where i left off – hopefully even stronger – once life returns to normal.

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I finally dug out the gymnastics rings that have been kicking around the house (two houses, they moved with us nearly three years ago) asking with some coach bolts, some hangers and a couple of old karabiners and put them up in our unusually (he suddenly very useful) very tall kitchen today; new additions to the home training facilities. Only taken a global pandemic and nationwide lock down to get around to it… If this is what it takes to stop the urge to go out, to not socialise for a short while and to remind me of the sacrifices made by so many wonderful people around the country working tirelessly to fight this virus then so be it. Not that we should need reminding: these people have always been there and deserve a round of applause such as they received this week every week of the year. Perhaps some of the good of this difficult situation is that we start appreciating people more and stop taking our lives for granted. Wishing the best of health to all. Thanks to @emks93 for taking the pictures and apologies for the starter of our kitchen. . . . #northwales #worldclasswales #northwalesbouldering #bouldering #rockclimbing #grimpeur #escalada #escalade #Climbing #climbing_photos_of_instagram #climbing_is_my_passion #climbinglife #athometraining #hometraining #gymrings

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Caring About My Clients

This is based on a core client base who are all great people and will likely come back when they can. They have all worked with me for a while and all deserve some attention right now. Looking after my regular clients as best i can isn’t just good business sense, it’s the decent thing to do and something i didn’t think twice about.

It needn’t be much and i’m cautious of badgering people; more just to inform them i’m around if they need me. Occasional check ins and some snippets of useful information, such as the New Years concept, are all that’s needed. For small businesses, this really is the bread and butter of customer service and one of the big advantages. It should not be overlooked

Building Online Presence

While my core clients are highly valued, the fact is i need more in the future to sustain the business. This downtime, with most people trawling the internet, is a great time to reach out to new climbers.

My business mainly relies on two things: a website (click here) and a Facebook page (click here). I’ve also utilised my own personal Vimeo page but am considering changing to YouTube for more traffic, opinions welcome on this. So as long as i’ve got good and useful things to say, this is a great opportunity to plug my services far and wide.

Cue the At Home Exercises series of videos, dotted up and down the page. These have been shared pretty much everywhere that is appropriate and the Facebook likes have leapt up with 44 new likes in the last 28 days, a 4300% rise. Turning this into actual paid work will have to wait – obviously – but for now, the more i can build this, the better i’ll be using my time. Please do help and share videos and posts as much as possible.

27 Crags

One job i have that i’ve put on the back burner has been creating online topos for 27 crags; the Finnish website that covers crags all over the world who got in touch with me to work on the North Wales section of their site.

In the last few days before total lockdown was announced, i quickly went out and got some photos of one of the local crags in Beddgelert on a walk with the kids, ready to spend time working on this once we were locked in. Annoyingly, i didn’t work hard enough at this and wish now that i’d gone out to every crag i could and got as many photos as possible. Alas, this can’t be helped and i’ve had to make do trawling the archives for suitable images.

It’s worked though, including my forethought way back in 2011 when i was at Cwm Dyli and got photos ready to do just this. There are now 11 Premium crags maintained by my group with more to come in the next few days.

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One of the best bouldering venues in North Wales, Sheep Pen, is published in Premium! 💎 Even though Sheep Pen has a bit of an heavy approach, it's a must even for passing tourists. Once at the boulders, you will be rewarded with excellent quality rock and routes. 💪 Download the app from link in bio and check full info! 🙌 #27crags #rockfirstplasticsecond . . These great topos are made by @edwards.pete 💪 📸: Charlotte Evans . . [NOTE 17/03/2020: Please respect the official guidances regarding hygiene, traveling, social gatherings and climbing due to the COVID-19.] . . . #northwales #sheeppen #boulderinguk #ukbouldering #ukclimbing #climbinguk #bouldering #bouldern #arrampicata #escalada #escalade #klättra #klettern #klatring #rockclimbing #climbing #bouldering_pictures_of_instagram #climbingapp #climbing_pictures_of_instagram #iloveclimbing #bouldering_came_first #climbingpics #onbouldering

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Writing More

Despite my lack of posts on here, i have been writing feverishly whenever there is a lull in the crying around the house (more on that in a minute). So far, i have articles queued up with Chalkbloc, the Professional Mountaineer and possibly ukclimbing, with more still to come.

There will be more on the Prowess website too, assuming i get the chance. Weirdly, articles for the website have taken a back seat in favour of spreading the word elsewhere and desperately trying to find some paid articles. Still, anything published is a good thing for sure and it’s great to develop these channels further. Publishers welcome for my upcoming pieces.

Time With the Kids and Job on the House

In a normal week, there’s only so much time i get to spend with the kids, especially with tying this in with work and jobs on the house. This is a golden opportunity to make the most of this time to do both.

Almost immediately, i got to work: i cut and split to massive pile of wood in the garden that’s been there for months; i emptied, organised and lined the walls of the shed, that’s again been waiting for weeks for some free time; and i painted the outside of the kitchen, recruiting Rosie to help me out along the way.

We are allowed one GADE (Government Approved Daily Exercise) per day and spending that exploring different parts of the village with Rosie and Hannah has actually been really nice. Granted, it would be nice to be able to travel a little further but actually, given where we live, it’s been nice to stay local and remove the stresses and logistics that come with packing everything into the car that every parent will know only too well.

Finishing Study

This hasn’t really taken off yet but it will very soon i’m sure. My masters degree was due to finish in June and being forced back inside has removed the temptation to go climbing instead of studying. I’m on the final module now, the thesis, and it will be crucial to now crack on and get this done and finished.

I still can’t quite believe that i’m so close to achieving this and whatever happens with graduation, will be thrilled when it is done. Anyone who knows my past will know i did not do well with my undergrad degree, failing the finals, and this Professional degree has offered me a chance of redemption. Granted, trying to do this while having a young family and starting my own business has not been ideal but i’ve passed every hurdle along the way with aplomb and am so close to finally having letters after my name.

As time ticks along, this will become a greater priority and in a funny sort of way, i could do with the lockdown actually lasting longer to get this done. Not that i’m wishing for that in any possible way; i’d rather rely on self-control than curfew to get my thesis finished.

Learning More About My Weak Points

As much as i am a movement specialist and professional climbing coach, my knowledge in the strength and conditioning side of coaching isn’t as good as it could – or possibly should – be. That is until now.

I’ve got the books, just haven’t had the time or the inclination to read them, digest them and learn what i need to know. Now, i have no excuses and have been using this time to learn about agonists, ATP, fast twitch muscle fibres, disinhibition and so much more.

What’s more, with my academic connections, i have the unusual ability to be able to really dig deep into the science of training and develop a much deeper understanding of principles. Watch this space.

Getting Strong and Working Antagonists

Of course, i’m working on my own weaknesses too, having found and installed the gym rings i’ve owned for years in the kitchen ceiling. Today, i’m still aching from the Covid 100 challenge (100 press ups, pull ups, sit ups and squats) two days ago. The plan is to build muscle mass not only where i need it but also the antagonists to prevent further injury.

I’m also hoping this extended break will calm the tendon injury in my elbow that has plagued me all year. More research will be needed and more exercises completed as it is not improving (and not helped by the aforementioned work on the house) but hopefully, i can get it nice and strong again ready for the open door later in the year.

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For those living far away from the mountains of North Wales, rest assured they're still here and still the same. For those of us right on the doorstep, they are similarly off limits and today's GADE (Government Approved Daily Exercise) was pretty much down the main road, one short footpath aside. Many of the locals' signs discouraging anyone from from venturing into the hills remain, and clearly they are being strictly followed by all. It seems that even for those of us within walking distance of the pass are staying home, just as requested. Just in case you wondered if we were making hay while the crowds are away. #stayhome . . . #GADE #worldclasswales #NorthWales #snowdonia #snowdon #snowdonianationalpark #ilivehere #lifeinlockdown

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Summary: Making the Most Of This Time

I have certainly had itchy feet and a bit of cabin fever over the past week or so but writing this post has helped to make me realise quite how much i’ve actually done, less than two weeks into lockdown. I keep being told to pace myself and not go too mad but this pace is working, and working incredibly well.

We never know what is around the corner, what might happen with life in the next phase. The old TV show Stingray was actually remarkably on point: anything can happen in the next half hour.

We have a choice: mope or adapt. We could sit here and lament what is missing in our lives or we can make an assessment and see how we can use this situation to our advantage. This isn’t house arrest, this is an opportunity and only the strongest of us will use the next few months and weeks to put ourselves in a better position than we were before. The question now is which choice will you make.

 

Please remember to follow government advice/requests to help combat the coronavirus and save lives. The hills will still be there when all this is done. Stay home and stay safe. 

 

Happy New Year: March 2020

For those who don’t know, my new year runs from when the clocks go forward, giving a much better point of the year for resolutions and goal setting. There is also a Solstice when the clocks go back. For more information, click here.

Well this is going to be a weird one… Let’s point out that these sorts of posts now appear on “memories” often so in the interest of our future selves looking back on this, let us set the scene of the current situation.

We’re locked down. Basically, thanks to the global pandemic of Covid-19 (commonly referred to as Coronavirus) we have all been instructed by our various governments to stay in our homes, only to leave for essentials and one GADE (or Government Approved Daily Exercise; an acronym of my own devising). This last point has proven some consternation but due to the closure of various different outdoor spaces – as well as not wanting to be that guy – all climbing, indoor or outdoor, has ceased. Indefinitely at this point.

Which basically makes setting ANY goals for this season nigh on impossible, as no one has any idea how long this is going to last or what is going to happen when it does finally end.

It has been a totally suppressing end to a slightly dour season that started so well before it all came crashing down.

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If you're going to push your limits, sooner or later you'll have to do some conditioning work. If you don't, you'll either plateau or worse, get injured. Recently I've been walking that line pretty close and I'm now on an enforced rest week. Part of this involves trying these smart bits of kit from @the_powerfingers. They come recommended by @neil.gresham and help to area the imbalance in the muscles, tendons and ligaments in the hands and wrists. I think, I'm not 100% sure yet as I'm still getting to grips with them and have some reading to do. Considering I'm struggling to open my fingers fully now though, I'm certainly hoping they'll help! #bouldering #bouldering_pictures_of_instagram #grimpeur #escalada #escalade #climbing #climbing_photos_of_instagram #climbinglife #climbing_is_my_passion #training #conditioning #stayingfit #avoidinginjury

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Season Review

The end of last season held so much promise and the outstanding form continued unabated into the winter, although this was primarily indoors. The winter rains came in and my logbook shows only two outdoor climbs between Solstice 2019 and the end of the year; and even these were repeat entries from Sheep Pen.

Nevertheless, whether it was indoors or out, this winter has seen me crushing like a machine, climbing any and all in sight. Given my new job – Prowess Climbing Coaching remember – i found myself at the climbing walls every other day and decided to try and take on not just the annual Indy Aggregate but the Beacon bouldering aggregate too.

I have written a post on this slightly foolish endeavour that will be posted soon but in short, the pure volume of climbing got me in the end, after a mammoth 85-problem session, and damaged a tendon in my left elbow that is still giving me grief.

Before this setback, though, i’d managed several impressive climbs in one wall or the other, including at least two 7c+ and my first 8a at the Indy as well as several gold grade climbs at the Beacon.

There was another unexpected highlight this season. What feels like an eternity ago now – in a different world, with the way it feels right now – i was given the chance, by my wonderful partner, the go to Spain for a week to get some climbing in. My good friend Sally was already out there and had asked me to go and Em actually encouraged me, rearranged her shifts and sorted out cover with the kids; all so i could have a few days playing in Albarracin.

It was a mixed trip with various different problems that probably added to the experience but one that yielded some great ascents (El Plus de Autobus 7b, Eclipse 7b and El Rompededos 7a+) and a fantastic, albeit exhausting, trip.

This was my third trip to Spain’s bouldering jewel in a burgeoning crown and one that brought back many memories and showed new haunts to explore with new friends. It also reminded me of the enjoyment to be had on a good climbing trip and has made me long for more again; or at least reminisce for the great trips i’ve had in the past.

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The one that got away again; the climb, not the guy. I mean, Pedro is super cool, super chill and great to climb with but it's what he's climbing that I really wanted to do. El Orgasmo was one that we tried back in 2014 and it was the only think I really wanted to get while there. I did give it a damn good go but again, no joy, I was too tired after climbing two 7b roofs! Another amazing photo from @sallylizzle who is on an epic Spanish climbing trip and is well worth following. . . . #Spain #spanishbouldering #albarracin #bouldering #bouldering_pictures_of_instagram #rockclimbing #grimpeur #escalada #escalade #Climbing #climbing_photos_of_instagram #climbing_is_my_passion #climbinglife

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And of course there’s business, which i’m glad to say is still going (albeit temporarily halted, as with everyone else). I have a strong, if small, core of clients which will hopefully grow as soon as i’m able to get back on it.

This season has seen me consolidate the business substantially, with the acquisition of both my Development Coach Award and my Climbing Wall Development Instructor Award meaning i am now a fully qualified climbing coach that can add lead climbing in to my repertoire. The next step is outdoor top ropes and (far more importantly) outdoor bouldering before the tickets end with outdoor leading, although that seems a little fanciful. So far though, so good. Very good from the reviews i have read.

Previous Season Goals

  • Goal: 8a
  • Between 85-90% completion in both aggregate competitions
  • Complete the vast majority of the Masters work
  • Still be in business at the end of the season
  • Take Rosie climbing semi-regularly (including once on rock if possible)

How Did It Go?

Goal: 8a was going very well and the last session i had on Sway On saw me complete the route from one move in, even stroking the hold of the first move. I was soooo close… and then got crocked. Granted, i was six months ahead of schedule but was still a kick in the teeth. This will go on for at least another season.

The results of both aggregate competitions have yet to be released (i know i keep going on about the disruptions but it’s hard to convey quite how much the world is on it’s knees right now) but i do know that the Indy comp was pretty much done and i’d managed a completion of 94.1% with 373 completed climbs out of 393. The Beacon had been less successful, given i still had an entire room to complete when they closed, but if you eliminate that, completion was at – i gasped when i saw this – 86.4% with 476 from 551. Average between them sits around 90%. A win, if only just; a good goal after all!

What’s more astounding is this means a mammoth 849 completed boulder problems since the start of October. To give this perspective, my entire climbing career has yielded 739 outdoor boulder problems over the last 14 years. It is a ludicrous amount and one i shall think very carefully before attempting again. Oh and a dozen Spanish routes were this season too.

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And here it is: likely my final @indyclimbingwall aggregate score for the season. 372 problems completed out of 392 set. That's 20 problems not finished and a completion of 94.1% well within my goal of 85-90% back at the start of October. I still have a week but am unlikely to finish any more given my elbow trouble and other commitments and of course, everyone else still has time to get a few more. The reason I'm posting this now is that this season, I'm not measuring my success based on anyone else. Instead I'm driven by Personally Referenced Excellence: the desire to do the best I can. That doesn't rely on anyone else, it's just me and the climbs. And I'm pretty chuffed to have done this well. Climbing gives us the chance to set our own goals, to draw our own lines in the sand and to keep getting better. So go choose your own path and see where that takes you. . . . #northwales #worldclasswales #northwalesbouldering #bouldering #boulderingpicturesofinstagram #rockclimbing #grimpeur #escalada #escalade #Climbing #climbing_photos_of_instagram #climbing_is_my_passion #climbinglife #goals #achievement #passion

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As for the Masters work, i am now writing up my thesis and look to complete that very soon, hopefully even before the original deadline. I’m now reliant on supervisors – which was already complicated before coronavirus as my supervisor of the last two years has left the university – but hopefully, this will all be completed very soon.

And i am still in business! which brings a huge smile to my face. As above, i have a strong client base and hope that once i can back to work, things will start to get rolling quickly. In the meantime, i continue to try and continue as best i can, making training videos and building exposure to the business with the public.

Sadly the last goal has not come to fruition. We have taken Rosie once or twice but she hasn’t taken to it much. We will continue to offer her climbing and will try and take her again as soon as is possible. However i’ve always said that i’ll not push either her or Hannah to take up climbing; we’ll simply put it on the plate for her and see if they take it. The choice, as with everything in life, will be entirely theirs.

Next Season Goals

This is where things get really difficult. The lock down is supposed to be reviewed after three-weeks but Wuhan province in China is due to come out of it’s own lock down in early April; several months after it began. If that continues here, we’re looking at early June before we’re even allowed out of the village.

For context, the Premier League and Football Association don’t even know when, and even if, the football season will complete. The whole world waits to see how this will turn out and so making any sort of goals at all hinges on, well, no one knows.

That being said, i am supposed to be a professional climbing coach and making the best of things seems to be my bread and butter for the foreseeable. So that is what i shall do.

Goal: 8a hasn’t really changed that much, apart from being able to actually try the route, as training will still be tailored to attack Sway On at the earliest opportunity. Training can continue at home quite easily, especially due to the two bolt hangers now installed in our rather high kitchen from which gymnastics rings, a pull up bar or pinch grips can easily be attached to compliment to two fingerboards in the house already. And this will all rely on my golfer’s elbow subsiding; something which the current situation may actually help with.

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I finally dug out the gymnastics rings that have been kicking around the house (two houses, they moved with us nearly three years ago) asking with some coach bolts, some hangers and a couple of old karabiners and put them up in our unusually (he suddenly very useful) very tall kitchen today; new additions to the home training facilities. Only taken a global pandemic and nationwide lock down to get around to it… If this is what it takes to stop the urge to go out, to not socialise for a short while and to remind me of the sacrifices made by so many wonderful people around the country working tirelessly to fight this virus then so be it. Not that we should need reminding: these people have always been there and deserve a round of applause such as they received this week every week of the year. Perhaps some of the good of this difficult situation is that we start appreciating people more and stop taking our lives for granted. Wishing the best of health to all. Thanks to @emks93 for taking the pictures and apologies for the starter of our kitchen. . . . #northwales #worldclasswales #northwalesbouldering #bouldering #rockclimbing #grimpeur #escalada #escalade #Climbing #climbing_photos_of_instagram #climbing_is_my_passion #climbinglife #athometraining #hometraining #gymrings

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Finishing the master’s will be crucial, although staying in business will continue from wherever i’ve left off as finances should theoretically remain there to be used once i go back to work, hopefully with some top ups either from online coaching (book a consultation please) or online articles in the interim.

  • Goal: 8a
  • Conduct Home Training
  • Let elbow heal
  • Finish master’s degree
  • Publish articles and find online consultancy work
  • Continue to offer climbing to the kids

Sadly the idea of takings the kids more than two miles from home is currently fanciful but as and when we can, i will offer climbing to them as before and as such, it can go on the list. They are both still so young but are becoming such wonderful human beings that it really matters not. Now more than ever, they are there to remind us what classifies as “the least important things”.

Happy New Year!

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I once told a close friend that there is no reason for having children. Today, I think I might be right: there is no single reason I've found, no one enlightening experience that explains it all, no single moment that I've had that makes it all make sense. I don't think you suddenly realise how much you could love someone, I haven't found it's suddenly given my life meaning and I don't feel my kids complete me; not as a single part. It's not about looking for that one defining quality. It's about the look in her face when she says "check it out this!" because she wants to show me something. Its the look on her face when she tells me off for not finishing my dinner. It's about her hand on my shoulder, comforting me because her infant sister won't stop crying. It's about the way she finds comfort in me when she's hurt, just by holding me. It's the way we make each other laugh, simply by staring at each other across the kitchen table and giggling hysterically for absolutely no reason. It's the way she almost instantly forgives me when I've shouted at her wrongfully. It's three years of these moments that you could forget in an instant but you don't because these that are the reason you so desperately care for and love your children; moments that are impossible to explain to anyone that doesn't instantly understand first hand. Three years that I could never have imagined that have been, and continue to be, wonderful. Happy birthday Rosie and thank you. I hope this never ends. Photo, as usual, by @emks93 who captures the pictures so much better than I

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Stress, Excitement and Climbing

“Tomorrow” in the last post was now several days ago and i’m back in damp, cold, blustery North Wales. This trip was a whirlwind of stress, excitement and climbing that both seemed to last for a long time and fly past in an instant. In the end, there were a total of two full days and an hour on the third in which to send something. That something didn’t disapoint.

Two in Two

The only problem i had in mind in the build up to this trip was the one that got away last time: El Orgasmo 7a+ at La Fuente. In a nice twist of fate, it turned out Sally’s other project was also in La Fuente and i was definitely psyched to head back up there.

El Plus de Autobus 7b is another roof problem for which Albarracin is famed. Thankfully, with giant holes in the roof, it was exactly the type of problem that wasn’t aggrevating my injured elbow; especially with tape around my arm both above and below the joint. The top, however, was slightly crimpy and more technical but did have the benefit of being a separate stand up problem at 6c+, meaning i’d likely leave with something for my efforts. While i’m not a huge fan of splitting a problem in half to create two climbs, it does have it’s benefits and for someone operating at (in this case) 7a, would give them the chance to complete at least one climb.

What made it all the better was that my ascent of the stand start actually came from the theory i’ve been developing on climbing movement. My left hand was a sidepull pulling towards three o’clock, my left heel holding me up and i realised i needed a right foot on something to comply with my ideas of opposing forces and stable positions (blatant self promotion: book a session to find out what the hell i’m talking about here…). The second i realised this, i found the perfect place for my right foot and a move that would’ve been insanely powerful on an injured arm suddenly became a simple step up. It seems the ideas i’m peddling hold water!

My goal was most definitely the sit start though and i was now fighting with my poor fitness levels after weeks of resting my poorly arm. Getting the resting periods just right proved a struggle, just as on the day before but soon enough, i clutched on to the higher holds and pulled through the same (now easy) move to reach the top and the blank walrus-style top out.

Now time for El Orgasmo and i was optimistic. Surely with my increased levels of climbing and my heightened tactics, it would likely go? One less project left lying around Europe somewhere, that would be nice. Only those poor fitness levels seemed to rear their ugly heads once again and the grapple with the lip on the problem proved to be my undoing. Perhaps i could’ve fought my way through it with sheer belligerence but it would’ve killed me and probably not gone anyway. Besides, the theory wasn’t really working as well this time and i’ve got some more thinking to do once the feet get high up in the air.

I was right to leave it alone as i tried pulling on a couple of other nearby problems only to find myself exhausted the second i stepped off the floor. It seems i was done for the day, not that i was complaining! Two 7bs and a 7a+ in two days was much more than i expected this week and ensured i made the long drive home with a smile on my face.

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The one that got away again; the climb, not the guy. I mean, Pedro is super cool, super chill and great to climb with but it's what he's climbing that I really wanted to do. El Orgasmo was one that we tried back in 2014 and it was the only think I really wanted to get while there. I did give it a damn good go but again, no joy, I was too tired after climbing two 7b roofs! Another amazing photo from @sallylizzle who is on an epic Spanish climbing trip and is well worth following. . . . #Spain #spanishbouldering #albarracin #bouldering #bouldering_pictures_of_instagram #rockclimbing #grimpeur #escalada #escalade #Climbing #climbing_photos_of_instagram #climbing_is_my_passion #climbinglife

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Friday morning, i awoke early, showered and packed quickly (i didn’t exactly have a lot with me for a week in a hostel!) and headed for one quick last blast. But with aching shoulders, i was never going to do much, especially in that last hour before my time was up. Nevertheless, it was nice to stretch the muscles and say goodbye to Sally. I owe her an enormous thanks for getting me out there for what was a stunning week; one i’d dearly love to repeat!

I’ve grown accustomed to the idea of staying local for the foreseeable and this week reminded me of the joys and excitement that can come from visiting foreign fields. Granted, that comes with it’s fair share of stress but in the end, these are the experiences we can’t buy and ones that remind us of the millions of fantastic people all over the world. I am so grateful to Sally for reminding me of this, no matter how brief it may have been.

Making the best of it

My travails in Barcelona – as enjoyable as they were – cost me a day of bouldering. With not being able to collect the car until 1pm and a five hour drive at least, by the time i got here, found the Airbnb, met up with Sally and ate, it was practically the middle of the night again with nought but a glance at the amazing red sandstone blocks i hadn’t seen since the week of my thirtieth birthday.

However, given our collective crippled state, this didn’t turn out to be the crisis we thought. My elbow has deteriorated again and i was nervous i wouldn’t be able to climb, while Sally – on her extended Spanish adventure and the reason i flew out here – had strained some abnominal muscles and wasn’t climbing for a couple of days anyway. Another rest day wouldn’t hurt. Getting stuck in might. Besides, that gave time to build a plan and some psyche…

I’m actually here to coach, not just on a jolly and arriving to find your client is crocked is not ideal. Instead, we decided to chat movement theory, goals and objectives with a view to seeing if any of it worked in practice later. With clients, i’m generally available any time people wish to chat so running over various ideas in person passed the time nicely.

There are several theories and academics related to climbing that i have developed and Sally is just the right type of person to take it on board. She’s also just the right one to tell me if i’m talking total shit and so far, seems very taken with the ideas; able to confirm through her own experiences or question when something doesn’t seem right. Not being able to climb sucks but  i think we are making the best of a bad situation.

The late night led to a late start which was no bad thing! Once up though, i headed into town for supplies, including food and some chalk from the excellent Sofa Boulder. They had not long opened when i was here last in 2014 and are just as friendly now as they were then. If you’re here, check them out.

After several cups of tea, in early afternoon, we finally headed up for a climb. I say we, i was the only one climbing and even then, i was being very cautious not to overdo myself and make the trip effectively pointless. A few 5s in and no pain, the tape holding my arm together and everything seeming pretty good.

A couple of 6bs and a 6c in and i tried the 6b stand start to some more appealing lines. However, when i paused mid route to assess my options (and test my ideas of movement theory on a wall) a nearby Spaniard mistook my musings for confusion and ran over to give me some beta. I wouldn’t ordinarily mind but the beta he was spraying me with was wrong and wasn’t going to work, confusing me further. Eventually i ignored his suggestions, pulled off a slightly harder-looking move and topped out to a round of applause that made me feel slightly embarrassed. 6b isn’t exactly that challenging for me (not that they were to know that).

Given all of this, they must have seemed slightly surprised to see me pull on to the 7a+ sit start version. From the noises they were making as i crept through the crux moves, i don’t think they were expecting me to get that far on El Rompededos. The look on my face at the top probably suggested i wasn’t either.

Sally had missed this taking a phone call and once she returned, found all the stuff had been moved around the corner. We’d looked at Eclipse 7b on our way in; the problem being one of Sally’s projects and she was keen for my beta. I quickly glanced through the moves again, dropped pads down and within about ten minutes had done it in about three sections, working out how to cope with my own issues and apply my own style.

Annoyingly, i mucked up the one attempt that felt like it would be fluid and easy, leaving my foot on a hold too long before it snatched from the hold and smacked the floor. As i rested, Sally grew cold and increasingly frustrated – not at me, at the fact she couldn’t climb – and eventually decided to call it a day, relieved of spotting duties by a group of Germans who had just arrived. If only she’d given it five more minutes, she’d have seen me fight my way through the roof and on to the top. Not a bad return for the day and with next to no pain to speak of!

Certainly psyched for tomorrow.

Unexpected Pleasures

As I board a metro train heading away from the airport, Louis Armstrong sings “I guess I’m just a lucky so and so” in my ears and, in that typical way with music lyrics, it feels oddly apt.

All the stress and worry suddenly disappeared last night as I watched the shutter on the Gold Car desk close in front of me, without car keys in my hand. Weirdly, knowing I have to deal with what’s gone wrong changed my attitude and relaxed me. Now what? Well, you’ve got all your stuff, money in the bank and crucially – certainly compared to the many other sticky spots I’ve found myself in the past – a piece of technology in my pocket that tells me everything I could possibly wish to know.

The counter to this is it told me too much, leaving me struggling to pick through the options and in the end, I opted for a different counter; or an information desk. There, the lovely girl helped enormously, suggesting what turned out to be a fantastic hostel before pointing out to me the gentleman stood behind me was in the same boat and we could share a cab.

Soon after, we were parked on the hard shoulder, the two Spaniards conversing wildly trying to figure out where we were heading while I placed an enormous amount of trust in these two strangers. My faith in humanity paid off as quickly we were in suburban Barcelona checking in.

I’ve got to give huge credit to Indigo Car Hire as they’ve been very helpful and could’ve easily held me over a barrel. They haven’t, have answered late night phone calls and been very helpful. My replacement car – much more expensive but with other benefits – is now booked for 1pm today, giving me a few hours to check out this famous city; something I was slightly sad not to be able to do before.

So now I can add the Barcelona metro onto my collection of London, Paris, Helsinki and Toronto as I head for the city centre to check it out, having checked out from Airhostel Barcelona (another recommendation). And even better, I’m nicely well rested and have even had a nice cup of tea. Failure for the win I’d say!

Uncomfortable excitement

Organising the logistics of a trip are stressful, worrisome and uncomfortable: both uncomfortable to plan and predict what will happen and, for me at least, physically uncomfortable once I get going.

After the usual anxiety that comes before any trip – have I got everything? Have I got too much? What do I actually need?! – and what I imagine will always be a slightly upsetting goodbye to my children, worries did ease as I got my lift to the airport. How I was planning on doing this leg was still a mystery and yet again, dad saved the day. But then I always knew he would.

Downside: arriving four hours before my flight. Cue some discomfort trying to last out a cup of tea in Nero for as long as possible. Then of course there’s security and no matter what I say, there is always an element of worry that they’ll confiscate my rock shoes or something, claiming they can’t possibly fit me and I must have stolen them.

Due to my desire to leave security checks for a bit longer, there were no seats and I stood waiting for the longest queue to file aboard our small plane. Just as I was starting to consider sitting on the floor, I needed to join said queue and proceed to shuffle along the floor with the dozens around me.

Once we land, the nerves will kick back in with worry about collecting my hire car a) in time before they close b) that they won’t accept my card as deposit or c) that I fart too much to sit on their car seats.

Get all that right and I’m still four hours from my bunkhouse. Oh and I can’t check in until tomorrow at some point. An uncomfortable night sleeping in the car on the desert in the middle of Spain sounded cheaper and reasonable enough. Now it’s near, I’m looking forward to it less and less.

The flip side of the centime

But you know what, this is all part of travelling. I haven’t done it much over the last three years (for obvious reasons) but this is all part of the pay off to see the world and have new experiences; totally worth it too.

The best stories are of when things went wrong or weren’t perfectly comfortable. The best experiences are the ones that challenge you and force you to think and work and figure out what the fuck to do next.

Yes, tonight is gonna be a stress fest and I’m not reveling sleeping on a hire car without dinner. But tomorrow at some point I’ll rock up in an historic village in the middle of Spain, meet up with my friend, look around me and say “shit the bed, am I actually here again?!”

I hope at least

UPDATE: the delay in my flight meant I arrived at Gold Car just to watch them close the shutter and the delightful gentleman there tell me, basically, I’m on my own. Stuck on Barcelona.

What has followed is an hour and a half of wandering, asking if people speak English and trying to find somewhere to stay tonight. Where Gold Car were gold level crap, the info service at the airport is outstanding, friendly and helpful.

So I’ve ended up in a taxi sharing the fee with a nice bloke who doesn’t speak English, on our way to a hostel somewhere in town that I don’t know in the slightest. Then in the morning, I’ll get a call from indigo Car Hire (also friendly and helpful) and try again.

It’s all a bit surreal but oddly very exciting and enjoyable! Certainly won’t forget this one in a hurry…

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