Sunday, 31 March 2013

The Holy Tree of Shoes.

I had been keen to get on some U.K. rock for weeks since returning from El Chorro. I posted messages on UK Climbing forums asking for help.
 I've got "no gear and no idea" but I'm willing, was the theme of my post. I didn't expect any offers to be honest, I thought I may get a few remarks of laughter. I sat looking at my post, and looking and looking. 20 people viewed the post ... 80 people viewed the post ... 200 people viewed the post! Still no offers! Refresh the page .. .refresh the page ... refresh ... refresh ... ref ... my forefinger was starting to wear away. I gave up after a week. I didn't mind really, who would want to start trying to teach a 40yr old idiot how to climb? Most people can't be bothered to let their foot off the gas in traffic to help you out of a sticky situation. What was I expecting? Alex Honnold to jump on the next flight to Wigan to free solo the local multi storey car park?

After a few weeks I messaged my mate Tom from El Chorro. You should check out his blog if you're a climber. He's a really cool guy with some cool stories to tell. Especially the tale of sheep rescue!

                                          Tom Ireson's Climbing Stories

 Tom, has become my climbing guru and agony aunt it seems. I'm not sure if that's more my doing or Tom's, I suspect mine.  I was almost ready for giving up on climbing, the usual self  doubt and reality checks were taking their toll. Tom told me that another mate Robbie was back from El Chorro with his brother Henry and I should get in touch. I messaged Robbie but didn't expect any serious offers.

I waited ... waited ...waited ... he wasn't going to reply ... it had been all of 3 minutes since I sent the message. I checked my Junk emails out of boredom and found that I had 3 offers of climbing from UKC! I read them, then clicked back on Facebook and Robbie had messaged too. I checked the UKC forum and saw more offers! Within a matter of hours, my dark, depressing life had turned into a new climbing adventure. That's when the snow started to fall ... it didn't let up ... I had  climbing planned all over the place ... the snow didn't care, it just kept falling.

I knew it wasn't to be ... work,weather, the world, it was all against me!

Messages ...emails ...messages ...emails ... messages ... Robbie ...Robbie ... Robbie ...Tom ...Tom ...Tom ... snow ... snow ... snow ... I was annoying myself as much as  reading those last few words must have annoyed you. Just imagine if Xmas morning was dependant on the weather. Now I know why Santa has a sleigh.

My luck got worse but the offers kept on coming.

So, 2 weeks down the line I'm on the road to pick up Robbie and Henry and hit some grit. I'm nervous knowing the grit is going to hit back hard, bend me over and spank my novice ass. It's a 2 hour drive up to Robbie's place and a long time to wonder what the hell I'm doing? I'm seriously thinking of turning back and making some lame excuse or just holding my hands up and saying "listen, I need to get a grip (pardon the pun)  I'm never gonna be a climber".

Then appears the "Holy Tree of Shoes"! It was divine intervention, well not really but for dramatic purposes it could have been.

This tree is in the middle of nowhere, with no reason or clues as to why it's there. It made me think of Monty Python's The Life of Brian. Follow the "Holy Tree of Shoes".  I carried on driving, safe in the knowledge that life is just weird and wonderful at times.

I arrived at Robbie's and was greeted with smiles and a big hug. I still don't now if the hug was for me or for the big bag of Pork Scratchings he knew I'd hidden in my rucksack.

I'd love to tell you that I was scared, and intimidated e.t.c but I was with friends now and was keen to hit the grit. Just thinking about climbing makes my heart beat faster and gives me shivers, thinking about not climbing scares me.

Brimham Rocks was like a winter wonderland. It's the most amazing place and the snow just made it magical.

This place was awesome, I was so glad that it had snowed for all those days and nights. Strange how everything that had made me miserable was now making me happy!

I could tell you how Robbie was nervous on his first Trad lead for a while (sorry Robbie). I could tell you how my nerves stopped me from tying my shoe laces, never mind my rope! I could tell you how we all got to grips with a killer off width crack, which was laced with Pigeon excrement and thawing snow making our top out unpleasant and unlikely. Yeah, some things are actually impossible at the time, although I'm gonna go back in the dry weather and try again.

I could tell you the whole story of the day but I think the picture of Robbie and Henry below says it all.

We decided to go and play on some boulders as they all looked so cool. I was lagging behind being unfit and slow when Robbie and Henry stopped to look at a boulder. I stopped and wondered what they were gazing at? It was a high ball problem that looked impossible to me. Were they actually thinking of trying this? Henry took off his jacket, " no point looking at it, shall we have a go?" 

All credit to Henry for big Kahuna's in the first place. I didn't know his ability, I didn't know if he could do it, I'm not sure Henry knew if he could do it either.

There were a couple of pockets which I aimed to get a hand to as my goal. Looking at the problem, it was obvious that once you got your feet in the pockets it was full commitment from there on.

 Henry got his feet  in the pockets with ease ... no turning back now. I'm not afraid to say I was nervous as hell for him and so was Robbie by the look on his face. Henry crimped a pebble ... it fell off ... not good, he crimped another, that fell off too. The holds were becoming less and less along with my confidence. A heel hook here,  a slap on an arĂȘte there and Henry looked as though he'd almost nailed the crux.


The problem looked as though it wasn't gonna be a "problem" for much longer! None of us knew what the top out was going to be like? In hindsight, maybe we should have had a look before Henry set about this boulder. Luckily for Henry  ... and my shorts there were no life threatening slopers lurking about! He flew up with the same amount of relief as my stomach had settled back down with.

Robbie and I looked at each other and giggled like big kids, we felt every move with Henry and felt the joy with him when he nailed it.

That high ball made my day ... For those few minutes ... Henry was as awesome as any professional climber, in any magazine or film. Not because of the grade, or the fear factor but because he totally committed to something he wasn't sure he could finish. 

Making  the impossible, possible is a big driving force behind me wanting to climb.

Maybe we should all look for hero's closer to home ... maybe there are more than you think ... Maybe The Holy Tree of Shoes was watching over us!  

Thursday, 28 March 2013


I quit!

We have all had this feeling, your chest pounds, the breathing goes shallow, up pops that blood pressure problem which never reared its ugly head until the Quitting Gremlin was clawing at your abdomen trying to climb out of your existence. You cry tears of pain, rain and confusion, it comes flying out of your mouth screaming  I QUIT ...I QUIT...OH FUCK IT...I QUIT!!!

I've been there, you've been there, we all have. Even multi million pound earning athletes have the same problem, it’s a human gene flaw and should be seen as nothing more. Maybe David Beckham appears to be devoid of the quitting  gene  but  whether that’s a sign of courage, intent and psychological training or just a low IQ is debatable? I would prefer to think it’s his courage, ambition and persistence but I'm not sure most of you would agree? I am sure though that he would, so Beck’s I got your back mate.

So back to the athletes...all of them have the quitting gene but they have hired help. Dr Anozolical who has a rate of £1000 an hour will within this price use all his knowledge, training and genius to help with this inferiority complex or the innate problem of quitting within human beings. He will monitor your heart rate, he will test your stamina and fitness levels but this will be at an additional cost to yourself. Also you will have to pay his colleague who is a sports physio and then there’s the nutritionalist because your diet needs a little tweaking and before you know it that £2000 has turned into £3000. These monumental heroes of sport can justify such an expenditure, they earn third world country national debt sums on a weekly basis but yes even these super heroes are susceptible to the Gremlin.

Look at David Beckham in the world cup when he lashed out at someone ... that wasn’t our loved hero that was the Quit Gremlin which took over.

Mike Tyson when he bit Evander Holyfield’s ear off ... would Iron Mike have resorted to such cheating violence when he was 21? No, the Gremlin was only a twinkle in Daddy’s eye in those days.

John McEnroe ... he was riddled with it but it just came out in anger. What he was really saying is ... I can’t cope with this rejection, I’m gonna explode.

Now Dr whateverhisface is now richer than the athletes he serves. After hours and hours sat in the chair, weeks upon weeks training, analysing, reading charts, listening to his self help CD, the athlete is improving his psyche but not necessarily his performance. These things take time and you can always come back for more help if needed, which it could be, How ambiguous is that?

So I think I could do the same job for a fraction of the price how?

You are not as useless as you think you are!

That’s it!

 Plain, simple and easy!

 I would hazard a guess that after releasing £20,000 from their bank accounts, this is ultimately the kind of psychological evaluation they receive.

So that’s the athlete’s sorted.

How does a mere mortal murder the soul of the quitting gremlins?

Well firstly, I suppose we should try to rationalise the decision behind our resignation to the gremlin. Unfortunately, this could be for an infinite number of reasons depending on your situation.

What does the dictionary say about this most shameful of words? How does it describe the loser who uses the term quit? Are we a nasty little abortion of humanity at the end of its tether and not fit for human consumption?

Google the word “Quit”. It isn't as bad as you may think: I've highlighted my positive answers in red.

1.     To depart from; leave:  so I quit my house this morning I can live with that     
2. To leave the company of: I left John in the pub last night does that make me a bad person?.
3. To give up; relinquish: I gave up cigarettes 2 years ago a good thing to me
4. To abandon or put aside; forsake:I don't use swear words or curse in public any more would be a good start.
5. To cease or discontinue I've stopped having negative thoughts.
6. Computer Science To exit (an application). Never a bad thing turning the P.C. off.
a. To rid oneself of by paying: I'm not sure I like this one but we all have to pay somewhere.
b. To release from a burden or responsibility. Work!!! 
8. To conduct (oneself) in a specified way: Quit yourselves like adults.
1. To cease performing an action. See work above
2. To give up, as in defeat; stop. OK this one sounds a little bad but 1 in 10 ain't bad

Read the points above slowly. Read them again.

According to the Dictionary, the evil that is known as quitting, in reality isn't too scary. In fact the dictionary would tell us the complete opposite! All these above reactions promote a sense of freedom.

We are quitting because there is something we don’t agree with or maybe something we don’t like.

 I hate cottage cheese; do I eat it just to prove to the world I'm not a quitter? No do I hell. I don’t like it, why should I eat it?

When it snows I don’t shiver naked while proclaiming my Neanderthal heritage. I hate the cold; I put some warm clothes on.  I dare to say even Andy Kirkpatrick and Sir Ranulph Fiennes do too.  Are they quitters?

So the next time you decide to quit don’t feel disgrace or shame. Embrace your decision ... celebrate your new found freedom. You may have just taken the first step towards positivity and a better life.

Some people will try to ridicule you, ignore them.  Try to surround yourself with positive friends who encourage you.

And if all else fails.


 You are never as useless as you think you are!

Monday, 25 March 2013

Are Doctors Really Muppets in Disguise?

 Everything hurts, all I recognise is pain. I'm undecided as if I can now feel anything else. I’m beginning to wonder if some how I've brought all this on my self. The obvious usual suspects come to mind. Maybe some inner consciousness had demanded that I be unhappy. Am I the creator of my own bad Karma? Do I thrive off the hurting? Is there some heavenly body at work? Am I too soft? Am I an emotional coward? I could go on and probably will.
I've been down as far as I can go and I picked myself up before but this time? Why does every time feel as though I can’t handle any more? Am I addicted to the pain?
Stop! This self abuse is not the answer. It isn't my fault I didn't command all this hell. I am guilty though of becoming a conscientious objector. It seems that in real life this is a sin. If my country were fighting an unjust war I could later be deemed a hero, an innovator. I just feel as though this is an act of cowardice and my brain is going to fry.
At what point does a person’s brain cease to function? I reckon I must be up there somewhere. I’m not sure how much more I can handle. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger they say. I say that’s a load of bollocks. What doesn't kill you just waits for another chance.
O.K. what do I know? It seems I am one of three emotional states. 1. I'm treading the fine line to a nervous breakdown. 2. I'm actually in the eye of the breakdown itself. 3. I have suffered said breakdown and am on the road to recovery. The problem is if I am aware of my being involved in 1, 2 or 3 does that mean that I can’t actually be there yet? Do people recognise they are breaking down or does someone else have to tell you? Get’s rather confusing doesn't it?  I'm writing this apparently to no-one and for no reason except self preservation maybe, so are my fingers guilty of lunacy? What makes me any less of a nutter than someone sat in a corner rocking and mumbling to their self about de-constructing the evolutionary process of Miss Piggy and Kermit the Frog? I have tried that too which I suppose answers my own question.
But what if that person has found a happy place or at the very least a release from the pain. If the brain and body can’t function properly something must shut down, something must give way. Who are we to say that our bodies and what conscious part of our brain we do use is superior to the little men who really control our minds?
 Let me explain: Our bodies will run at a healthy 36 ° C constantly. Once we drop below 35 ° C, we reach stage 1 of hyperthermia, shivering, teeth chattering, you know the drill. Drop below 33 ° C, welcome to stage 2, the muscles begin to shut down, you can’t walk or speak properly. The heart is still pumping warm blood to protect the brain. Just 1 ° C colder to 32 ° C and all hell breaks loose; there is just not enough warm blood to pass round. The body has ceased to function; you’re no longer breathing but guess what? The brain is still hanging on in there, not that you would notice but there is still hope even for hours after sometimes.
So maybe, just maybe some part of our brain which strangely enough understands our bodies more than we as conscious beings probably ever will, makes an informed decision. Shut something down cause this isn't working. The brain is obviously equipped with many innate survival tools. I wouldn't know at what rate to stop the flow of blood to my cooling organs. Even if I did know I couldn't flip the manual switch to perform the operation. Would you? I had to Google the temperatures just to sound informative and factual. I then Googled what percentage of our brain we actually use?  I though it was around 10%. Apparently this is a myth. We actually use around 70% but possibly only 10% at any one time.
So I'm getting a little off track here. Sorry a bad habit.
Let’s get back to the nutter in the corner, who has now decided that Kermit and Miss Piggy were never revolutionaries in their own right so are of no historical importance. Is his brain just protecting him until he can be snapped out of his situation? Mental and physical problems are a whole different ball game. We can slowly warm up the hyperthermia patient and fingers crossed she will be back on the ski slopes next winter with a whole new outlook on life and telling  the most interesting Gin and Tonic story of the season.
What of our Muppets fan? Doctors will presumably pump him full of all kinds of drugs. There will be meetings as to which drugs and what dosage. There will be arguments over the benefits of barbiturates over counselling  Ultimately we may as well get Fozzy Bear to treat him with a bucket of leaches. Which by the way are making a come back after 200 years.
If 2000 or so years of medicine, doctors and minds far superior to mine can’t solve mental problems what chance do I have?

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Who Am I?

Am I a father, a husband, a brother? Am I the product of my occupation? Am I a rock climber? Do these self adhered labels of society actually give you a clearer insight into my life? I would say no.

I will choose one label ... I am a Manic depressive, I always have been and always will be! It's taken me 40 years to realise this.

I would suggest we ignore any  labels connected with who we are, anyone from any walk of life can suffer from depression. You could be a multi-millionaire relaxing around  idyllic beaches in the Caribbean, you could be a struggling artist trying to sell his work, you could be the local post man who smiles and whistles his way to work every morning. It's all irrelevant the end result is the same. Comedians are renowned for suffering with depression, ironic but true.

I also think that why we are depressed in the short term is less important than dealing with the "problem" as a whole. People should not try to rate their depression on an imaginary scale of importance. The person who just lost his child to cancer does not deserve any more sympathy than the person who just realised she gained 2 dress sizes in the last 6 months. I've been just as depressed when I couldn't open a tin of beans as I have when a close friend has passed away. In fact one of my worse ever episodes was because of a damn tin opener. We can land human beings on the moon. we can explore the deepest depths of the sea but can't design a decent tool for opening a tin can. This illness is not judgemental which is a trait most of us could do well to put into practice, myself included.

Am I a rock climber?

I know I said we were going to do away with labels but it seems necessity over rules philosophy in this case, sorry.  

I'm a 40 year old, ordinary, working class man. I have a wife and children, I have a car and a dog called Neil. Apart from the dog's name I'm as average as you get.

I prefer to think of myself as semi-alcoholic rather than full blown alcoholic. I drink every night to help me sleep, I don't need alcohol to get through the day. I say that's a justifiable excuse, my wife would say otherwise but me being the consumer I would defend my rights wouldn't I?

I smoke far too many cigarettes than I care to admit to you or myself.

I'm over weight, super-unfit and sometimes I have problems dragging my self out of bed.

I'm an aspiring rock climber shall we say.

Why the blog?

My aim is to help raise awareness for people with mental health problems. If along the way I can inspire one person for only one minute to go and follow their dreams I will be ex-static.

Every day there's a new celebrity coming out and revealing that they suffer from depression, this is a brave thing to do and I commend them but it isn't relevant to 99% of the population.

So where do we find help?

There is help out there through various doctors and organisation but for me it wasn't enough, the system didn't work. I do not wish to take medication and it's unbelievable how many organisations and self-help books there are which demand you part with your  money for their "cure"!

I am no expert, I have no qualifications ... besides a 100m swimming badge from when I was 9. I'm not sure that will suffice for psychotherapy so please do not take anything in this blog as " the given word" or medical advice.

I just feel that people who are low need other people they can relate to. It's hard to get through to friends and family no matter how good their intentions may be.

What can we expect from this blog?

I really can't answer that as yet?  I'm just one man attempting to be true and honest to myself and anyone who may read this.

I just want to help others in my situation and in turn I hope that others can help me too. I will try to write as much as possible, as honestly as possible. I'm sure some of the stuff will be really dark but I'll attempt to lighten it as much as possible.