Monday 22 December 2008

overdoing it

I think I may be in need of a full blown sports massage - bloomin’ hell do I ache today. Ok so it’s all self-inflicted and deserved, I mean it’s fairly obvious if I have 3 full on indoor climbing sessions, 3 days in a row (including one mammoth session at The Works), then I am going to hurt. Oh and yesterday’s session was also preceded by a 3 hour walk wearing my winter boots.
Stupid, stupid, stupid. B3 fully rigid ice climbing boots are not fun to walk in. Really not – so why did I wear them? Well, Phil and I are off up to Scotland over new year and I’m hoping to get some routes in, so basically I thought it would be a good idea to dust the boots off and start getting used to them again. Hmm.

I’m excited – I love Scottish winter climbing so much and can’t wait to get my season kicked off. I will hopefully be meeting up with some new partners up there too – all good! It will be great for my super sexy axes to finally pop their cherry too…

In other news, the flying hasn’t been going too well lately – the weather doesn’t want to play ball. I had an afternoon booked with the lovely Steve last Thursday that didn’t happen because of low cloud. Now, the most frustrating part of this was that Wednesday had been a stunner – absolutely perfect flying conditions, and Friday was too!!! Grrrrrrr!!!

Still, Steve did take me up in the 182 and let me have a play for half an hour so all was not lost. Plus I got to experience just what a machine that aeroplane is. I’ll definitely have to get rated on it once I’ve got my license and the necessary hours…

I’m currently trying to study for the Met exam. It’s painful going I can tell you. All these pressures and clouds and bizarre forecast codes…it seems that I can read something, think I understand it and then an hour later realise it just hasn’t gone in. Argh. Nevermind, we’ll get there eventually.

Thursday 11 December 2008

another one down

This week has been an odd one really. Things haven't gone to plan at all but even so I've managed to mostly enjoy myself.

We had another RT groundschool with Steve on Monday for which I decided to make chocolate brownies - these were outrageous and actually a touch too chocolatey possibly, even for me! The evening was great fun as usual and a fantastic learning experience.

I also got to fly with Steve again on Tuesday. Sadly the plan for us to land away (my first time) didn't come to fruition because the cloud base was really low. Steve took me up anyway and we played around in the clouds a bit (he showed me what true IMC is like - scary!) before we landed after having decided the conditions really weren't good enough for our planned route.
Once on the ground again it started to look like it would clear, and sure enough it did so I got to do another nav ex. My navigation seems to be pretty good and this time I was introduced to radio nav aids. All brilliant fun and a fantastic day out (even though we didn't actually get to do what we'd planned).

Anyway I was supposed to fly again today with James - unfortunately the weather was crap. Absolutely useless. Needless to say no-one got airborne.
So, rather than completely waste another day off I decided to finally sit down and do the RT theory exam. Happily I passed and so all in all it was another good day in my flying career!

I've also just got back from the gym totally knackered. I've been a bit of a slacker since saturday what with one thing and another. I did go climbing last night and had a semi-reasonable session but I'm feeling pretty unfit, hence a serious trash at the gym today...

Monday 8 December 2008


On Saturday Phil and I went to Baslow (Peak district) so I could go and try some new boulder problems. I got sucked into this one - The Walnut. Apparently it's a classic. I found it quite fun (if hard - think it goes at Font 6C or maybe even as high as V5). Anyway, I didn't quite finish it but still, it was a good session.

Tuesday 2 December 2008

work again

Still crap.

Why is it that people like to play politics? Back-stabbing malicious nastiness abounds here at the moment. I just don't get it - all this type of behaviour achieves is a self-perpetuation of the stress and frustration that is the initial cause of the problems!

Why do people insist on playing the games? Deliberately making life as difficult and painful as possible for others? I just want to be allowed to get on with my job...

...actually, as I've said before - I have had enough. I just want a way out now.

On a more positive note, I finally have an idea for a career change that is fast becoming a fixation in my mind...

Monday 1 December 2008

second first solo

A combination of scheduling nightmares and the horrendous British weather meant that until Friday, I hadn't flown for over a month! It hadn't really been bothering me if I'm honest, but having been flying again, I'm once again intensely addicted and desperate to do more!

It was my first ever flight with the ever-lovely Steve, the instructor who has been running the RT groundschool sessions. I'd been looking forward to flying with him for a while - his calm yet authoritative teaching style and insanely positive attitude gave me the impression that he might be quite good in the air (he also has a good sense of humour - essential for anyone who has to cope with me!). I was right - he's a brilliant instructor to fly with, and I hope to have the opportunity again in the future.

Anyway, the weather was actually pretty good in the afternoon (I spent the morning on a rooftop in central london, getting very very wet and miserable), so Steve got me airborn flying circuits.
I had kinda been hoping to finally do my first nav flight, but circuits actually were a much better idea bearing in mind how long it had been since my last time at the controls. Anyway, they started out pretty badly. I wasn't concentrating properly (still lots of work stress on my mind) and probably gave off an air of utter incompetance. Thankfully the calm guidance provided by the long-suffering chap in the right seat meant that after a couple of touch and gos I was getting back into it and beginning to focus properly.

My speed control was good, as was my altitude control, trimming and turning (well, the turns got sorted out after a while - Steve wanted me to be doing 30° turns when in the cruise, rather than the gently 15° turns I had been doing with James. I'm actually happier with the 30's now - it makes far more sense for a nice tight circuit pattern).

Lining up base - reduce rpm to 15000 (cruise was 22500), keep the nose on the horizon and put the flaps down - airspeed will reduce, trim at 65kts (20° flap) and turn onto final at leisure - this should be a nice gentle turn of no more than 15° because you're slow. Once lined up, make final call and then land. Simple...

...I need to work on my landings - my flare isn't exactly brilliant. I need to land on the rear wheels, not the nose!!!

Ok so I did 5 circuits of varying quality with Steve, then he got out. I really wasn't expecting to fly solo again so when he told me he wanted me to do one on my own I was a bit surprised (especially as I hadn't exactly been brilliant to start with).

Anyway, once again it was an awesome feeling. I annoyed myself by 'ballooning' horribly on my landing (stupid, stupid, stupid - get your flare sorted woman!!!), only to find that Steve and a couple of others had been watching me. Cue the sarcastic round of applause - so embarrasing but brilliant at the same time...

An excellent afternoon was had, all in all - I even had help washing the aeroplane for a change!

Tuesday 25 November 2008

the phone box mystery

Life is full of little mysteries and unanswered questions, questions like 'why do men have nipples?', 'why do we hiccup?', 'why does drinking tea always make me desperately need the toilet?', and 'why are there random video cassettes in my local phone box?'.

Yes, video cassettes.
Each time I walk past the phone box on the way to the local shop there are a selection of videos balanced in different places in the cubicle.
Phil and I have been puzzling over this for a while. The videos are usually in boxes but sometimes just have stickers on them. They are always 'innocent' (or at least marked as such) - things like 'Watch with Mother' or 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs' or 'Pride and Prejudice'.

The weirdest part though is the fact that they are changed regularly. The first time we noticed the cassettes we assumed they had just been left there as a one off. Sure enough the next time we walked past they had gone and the cubicle was empty - we assumed that someone had simply thrown them away, however, on our next trip past the phone box there were more videos - and they were different.
We don't walk past all that often, but each time we do there seems to be a new selection available, always seemingly of an innocent nature just like the first crop.

We don't have a TV or VCR and so haven't picked any of them up to find out what is actually on them, and to be honest I'm not really sure I want to know anyway...

Several theories have been discussed - is this the base of a porn exchange ring? Are these stolen CCTV tapes? Or have we stumbled upon something even more sinister?

One thing is for sure - I really don't get it!

Wednesday 19 November 2008

new problems

What can I say? Work is still just as bad as when I last posted. I wake up in the morning and dread going in - this isn't healthy, I need a way out! I'm just going to have to bide my time until something presents itself.

On a more positive note I have been to the wall a couple of times since they put up a whole load of new boulder problems - yay! My first time seeing the new problems I was described by a mate as being 'like a kid in a candy store' - new challenges are just what I need to keep motivation high. What is even better about it all is that they have put up lots more hard problems than last time - I did everything V3 and below in the first session (apart from one exceptionally hard V3 that I think could easily be V4 or maybe even V5). There is a V4 project, a couple of V5s and even some V6s and V7s up now - I wonder if I'll manage any of those?

I have managed one of the V5s already (apart from the move to the bar which is a huge jump and completely out of keeping with the balancy and highly technical nature of the rest of the climb) - it is a green sloper and crimp problem involving huge amounts of balance and technique - perfect for me really :)

The orange V4 on the bulge is my next challenge - I think it could actually be V5 but hey, it will go! Unfortunately the holds are super sharp and really effective at removing skin, hence I'm only really getting a couple of good go's on it in a session.

Hopefully we will be heading up to the Peak district again on Saturday and I will be able to get a session in on Trackside...fingers crossed :)

Monday 17 November 2008


Crap. B*llocks. Sh*te. Balls. F*ck.

This is how I feel pretty much every day I have to work now. This place is driving me insane. Take the last real job I did for example - I travel out to the lovely city of Barcelona to be met by an equally lovely engineer (a kind and not altogether unattractive chap who spoke good english and had very nice manners) - all good so far yes?
Not good, not at all.
Because I know what's yet to come - grovelling and apologising for the poor service, lack of care and technical incompetance of the company I work for.

Sadly it was worse than I had feared. I did manage to sort most of the mess out fortunately but I am left feeling worn out, abused and taken advantage of, again.
It's especially hard and humiliating when the customer is so nice and kind and understanding - you end up feeling a horrible kind of guilt on top of all the other bullsh*t.

The thing is, when I was sent, the people sending me knew I would be playing the part of the company scape goat, there to take a kicking for all the combined inadequacies of a once proud and capable company that is now slowly winding and trickling its way down the proverbial toilet...

Yes, I want out. In the mean time I will continue to sit here, going through the motions, pretending I still maintain a sense of loyalty and positive work ethic, even though all I really want to do is tell them all to f*ck off.

Tuesday 11 November 2008


I went to Curbar with Scott on Saturday - it was wet. We had breakfast then went to check out Trackside (font 7A) - it was wet. We waited half an hour, during which it didn't rain and then proceeded to have a few go's each - then it started to rain again.
Anyway, even though it was wet and I didn't get a hugely long way with it, I am now convinced that I can climb it. Just need to get back up there!!!

Friday 7 November 2008

gym, RT and climbing


Hard work, pain, suffering. Good isn't it? Ok so it feels hateful at the time, but it will all be worth it in the long run.
I've been to the gym twice since my last posting - once on sunday afternoon instead of flying (the weather was atrocious) and once yesterday afternoon. Sunday's session was pretty standard, except my treadmill warmup lasted 20mins at a constant 12km/h - it nearly killed me but I feel like it's a good step forward fitness-wise. Sadly yesterday's cardio had to be stepped back - I only managed 9mins because my cold/flu/illness meant that breathing was actually quite difficult.

Nevermind, I decided to 'up the ante' with the weights and resistance work as the cardio was next to impossible - I basically increased everything by 5 - 10kg and also did some more different exercises (including some weighted pull downs, wide grip pull ups 3 x 5, L-hang pull ups 3 x 3...)
The L-hang pull ups are probably the single hardest body weight exercise I have ever attempted - dear goodness do they hurt! I can only just manage a set of 3 before my abs give up and start screaming agony at me...I must do more :)


Radio-Telephony, again. Had another groundschool last night, and this time I was one of the main participants! There were only four of us there, and one was a new guy who was doing the 'sitting in and listening' thing. It was hard work. Think I'm beginning to get the hang of it all though - I just need to do some more studying and practice really. Got another session on Sunday...


New problems on the woody = frustration. I flashed all the easy V1s, and the V3s (maybe I am getting stronger!!). Sadly there are no V4s so I'm now stuck with trying to work the V5s. Now, ok I'm managing V5 on the featured walls - the woody is considerably more difficult for me though as there is basically no way to 'technique' your way around the strength and power moves. I guess this is good because it means that by simply trying I will be getting stronger. It is, however, really frustrating to keep getting shut down by the same moves, over and over and over again.
Still, I have managed to repeat the two hardest problems on the feature walls again - the green V5 and the red V4. Interestingly I am now finding the green easier than the red with its heinous tall person's finish.

I have also been thinking about bouldering standards a bit of late, and discussing it with others have come to think that the green 'V5' is probably actually V6 - or would be if it were anywhere else. The red V4 is also probably the same grade as the green - it's certainly the hardest 'V4' up at the moment...

Anyway, all these indoor grades mean nothing in the grand scheme of things - I need a proper project! I have my mind on a couple up in the Peak district now actually, Scott should also be in with me on these as projects so this winter could prove to be a good season - the psyche is high!

Saturday 1 November 2008

proper climbing again at last

Yay! I've finally been out on some rock again!


I took the day off work to go to the Peak District with Scott - we had one particular route in mind - Long Tall Sally at Burbage North. This route is a line that just calls out to me to climb it - honestly just a beautiful line. I can visualise the sequence up it and just desperately want to get on and do it. Unfortunately, Long Tall Sally is a groove and crack - this meant that when we got to Burbage on Friday, she had a wet bottom. Dripping. Literally. This was probably a result of all the snow melting and running down the crack from the top.
Now I'm not normally such a coward - the top section (crux) was dry, I just really didn't want to risk a) blowing the onsight or b) breaking my ankle slipping off the first easy moves on an E1.
Anyway, long story short, we left it. I wobbled my way up a heinously green and slimy HVD further along the crag, just so that Scott could belay and second it (he's a great climber but has never done any trad climbing before, so I'm teaching him).

After completing the route ordeal and starting to get really cold we decided to head over to Stanage Plantation to do some bouldering. It was getting late in the afternoon by the time we got there so we didn't actually do much - the only problem we worked on (and both finished) was the right hand arete of Deliverance - a Font 6a+ sit start problem. Happily I managed to complete it in only 4 or 5 tries - a record for me, I must genuinely be improving!


Phil and I went to Nesscliffe today for the first time ever. I've had the guidebook for a little while now but for one reason or another we have never actually been, so today we decided to go and check it out - I wanted to do some more bouldering and this seemed like a plausible alternative to the honeypot crags of the Peak District (always horrendously crowded on a nice weekend day).

Now, the rock at Nesscliffe is a soft sandstone, meaning that the routes on the [very impressive] main walls are pretty much all in the medium to high extremes (there are an awful lot of E7's and E8's for instance). This may be partly due to the relatively holdless and technical nature of the climbing but also because of the inherant insecurity of any gear placement (gear could rip quite easily because of how soft the rock is). So why am I explaining all this? Well, basically I just wanted to boulder - not try any of the death routes, not because I'm a coward, but because I am genuinely not good enough to do this crag justice.

So anyway, the bouldering. Nice place, pleasant walk in through the woods. Some interesting problems with decent landings. Sadly not that many of them though. And my god, some of them are hard! There was a V2 I thought of trying but simply couldn't see any way of getting off the ground!

I did manage a few V1's and V2's, but spent most of my time working on a V4 called 'Berlin's Fallen'. I didn't actually manage to finish it - unfortunately the second part of the problem involved a hand traverse along a break where all the holds were damp and greasy. Even so, I did have fun working the first half - Phil even took a couple of videos on his camera:

Tuesday 28 October 2008

welcome to my office...

Today I went to Arran and the weather was stunning...I was gutted to be working and not climbing...

Check out my office for the day! Absolutely beautiful. Not as glamorous as it first seems, however. The wind was bitter - windchill must have been below freezing and we were out in it all day. Plus the mud. Boy was it muddy. I was extremely grateful for my gore-tex walking boots...and Phil may hate me for the muddy trousers I will be putting in for washing...

Monday 27 October 2008


I'm currently sat in a hotel room in Scotland - tomorrow I head over to Lochranza on the Isle of Arran for the day, sadly working - I would love to come up here to climb on the island some time...

Anyway, I thought it was about time I posted a training progress report seeing as there have been a couple of developments since my last posting:

The green V5 project is done. Gone. Finished. As is the yellow V4. And what's more, I have repeated both of them and in the words of Scott, I 'pissed all over' them. Awesome.
Actually, when I repeated the green it really did feel easy - I felt really strong on the crux power moves.

On Saturday, Scott and I went to the Peak district so I could teach him all about trad - gear placement and ropework and stuff. Sadly the weather turned horrendous so we bailed without actually doing any routes - we did manage to do lots of useful gear bits though so it wasn't a total waste. I also had a proper look at 'Long Tall Sally' at Burbage North - an E1 5b that I really want to do. I can now confirm, having sussed the route out from the ground, that I genuinely believe I can climb it without any major difficulties - it's just a matter of getting up there and doing it. Scott is super psyched to follow so all is good (maybe we'll even get up there next weekend...)

Having bailed to a cafe in Hathersage, we decided to head into Sheffield and check out the Climbing Works (indoor bouldering wall). It is an awesome place! We must have spent a solid 3 hours climbing. We were both managing to flash Fb6B's and work what must have been 6C's and 6C+'s. Hell, we may even have managed 7A's (the gradings were in a band rather than individually graded problems - we were playing on problems in the 6B-7A band).
One problem involved a semi-dyno to a sloper that I just could not do. Lots of other guys were showing off doing the move, but falling higher up from a pinch - eventually I managed to find a static way of doing the move and then proceeded to cruise the rest of the moves - Scott was ecstatic, the other guys sat around all looked a bit gobsmacked. I think there's a bit of a show off buried within me because that felt awesome - the reactions of these strong guys being burnt off by a young lass ;)

I was really surprised to be flashing so many of the problems (5 or 6 graded at least 6B) - I guess my training must be working :)

Thursday 23 October 2008

flying solo

Oh yes. Uh huh. Yep.

Yesterday I finally did it - my first solo, and I have to say that it was one of the most fantastic experiences of my life. I still can't stop smiling about it a day later. Actually I think this smile will last quite a while.

It was a bit of a weird one actually, as I really didn't expect to be flying at all yesterday. When James called me at about a quarter to ten and asked if I still wanted to go solo I couldn't say no now could I? I was told to be at the airfield for 11 when one of the other instructors would fly with me and make sure I was safe to go solo (I think James still has some kind of restriction on his instruction so legally he couldn't just send me off for my first solo without someone else checking that I'm not likely to embed the aircraft in someone's front lawn...).
It wasn't all plane sailing (geddit? no? oh well...) as this guy wanted me to do some things 'his way' rather than the way I'd been taught - so I got progressively more stressed and less neat the longer I was flying with him, I mean, telling me to use an entirely different set of flap configurations for my base and final legs right before I was meant to go up on my own for the first time surely isn't the best of practices.
(When I landed and taxiied back to the hangar James asked me what had gone on and really wasn't pleased. It would seem that trying to teach a student different methods immdiately before sending them solo genuinely isn't good practice. Will be interesting to find out what the CFI says about it...)

Anyway, despite the stress and horror of the check flight (which included an Engine Failure After Take Off - EFATO, a flapless landing and a glide landing), I was left alone in the aeroplane, on the taxiway, with the engine still running. Oh my god. It felt weird, eerie even - the cockpit felt so empty - I couldn't stop grinning though.

Run through my power checks, pre-take off checks, spin around to check out the downwind, base and final legs of the circuit - make sure nobody else is around to hit, initial radio call "G-XXXX, ready for departure", listen out to see if anyone's on final - nothing. I'm nervous. I can hear my heart beating inside my headset. I'm nervous but elated, thrilled that I am, for the first time ever, the pilot-in-command of an aeroplane!
So no-one's on final - better take off then!
Radio call "G-XXXX, lining up and taking off". Taxi onto the runway - flaps down to 10degrees, line up, breathe...
Full throttle and we're rolling. She's alot quicker with only me in the cockpit. 55kts, pull back and we're airborne. This is it. I'm flying!

65kts, trimmed for the climb, wow - she climbs fast with so little weight on board. Turn over to the lake to follow the noise abatement route, we're at 300' already - lose the flaps...I'm over the lake now, turn back onto runway heading, still climbing. I can see my visual references - the road and the railway line. Start turning onto crosswind, still climbing, still 65kts. Now we're at 1000' - level out, throttle back, still turning. We're on crosswind - I can see the runway perpendicular to the right wing. Wow, I'm doing it, I'm really doing it!

Ok so I'm over the golf course and the runway is no longer visible over my shoulder. I'm trimmed perfectly, flying straight and level, altitude a stable 1000', engine rpm around 2200, I'm cruising between 85 and 90kts. Perfect. Time to turn downwind. Must maintain a level turn - don't lose or gain any altitude - I can do this. Yes, perfect. Ok I'm nearly level with the end of the runway, time for a radio call "G-XXXX downwind runway 26, to land". Now for the checks.

Brakes - yes there's pressure through the pedals. Slight wobble as I press them (they're the top half of the foot pedals, the bottom half are the rudder controls, hence the slight shimmy when I press them). Good. Undercarriage - they're permanently fixed so this is just a memory formality. Mixture - is fully rich because I haven't changed it at all since taking off. Good. Fuel, yep. Flaps - they're fully up just as they should be. Instruments - all looking good, serviceable, the DI (Direction Indicator) is still aligned with the compass, excellent. Carb heat - check this, the engine rpm should drop a little when I put this on - it does, good. Turn it off again - I don't need this until I cut the power on base/final. Hatches and harnesses, yep, everything's still fixed in. Ok - downwind checks done, we're all good!

I've been talking to myself pretty much the whole time - it helps me to think everything through.

Ok the end of the runway is on my wingtip, I need to think about turning base soon. Right, pull the power out - about 1700rpm should do. Carb heat on and I'm turning. Flaps down, airspeed down to 75kts and trimmed, I'm slowly descending now. Nice and stable. Right, time to turn final - pull more power out and get the airspeed down to 65kts. 20degrees of flap now. Line it up - the end of the runway is stable in my view, I'm trimmed and using the throttle to control my rate of descent.
I can see no-one else is ahead of me so I call final - "G-XXXX, final runway 26 to land". Cool. I'm stable, confident and smiling. Looking left out of the window for a second I see that I'm coming in with a glider as my wingman - he's landing on the glider side of the runway. He's close but everything's exactly as it should be. This feels amazing...

Ok the runway's getting bigger in my view now, time to cut the power right back. Nearly down now - it's time to flare - we float for a second then bang. I'm on the ground...

Braking, braking, rolling off to the left. I stop. I'm down. It's done. Breathe. Ok don't relax just yet - still got to get back to the hangar. Do the after-landing checks - flaps up, carb heat off, electrics off. Ok, time to taxi back.
One last radio call "G-XXXX crossing threshold, runway 08" - checking, looking, making sure no-one's landing or taking off while I cross. Ok I'm over. Back to the fuel pump.

Parked, engine idling, 1200rpm. Final electronics off. Radio off. Kill the throttle, lean the fuel mixture and wait for the engine to stop. Key out, master switches off, headset off (my ears can breathe again!)

I've done it. My first solo flight. James comes over and shakes my hand - I can't stop smiling. I guess now I can call myself a pilot...

Wednesday 22 October 2008

gym training, part 2

I went to the gym again last night for a couple of hours to work through 'the plan' formulated previously. Now, whilst I did stick to it for the most part, there were a few differences with what I did last night:

The initial run - rather than doing 15mins with 1min fast intervals I ran for 20mins with the following fast intervals: 1min, 1min, 1.5mins, 2mins. Hard going, but not as hard as I may have originally imagined. I think in future I may try to up the basic speed (maybe try to run at 12km/hr rather than 11.5km/hr?), we shall see.

I also added a couple of sets of pull-ups before the lat pull-downs. I think I did a set of 10, then another set of 7. I felt rather self-conscious doing them but hey, it doesn't really matter now does it?

The last 10mins on the treadmill didn't happen - I did 2 mins before getting a horrendous stitch (too much water? not enough? too much ab work?) so I decided to go for a serious caning session on the cross-trainer instead. 12minutes of hell. Honestly, I thought I was going to pass out - I was obviously doing it right!!

7mins cooldown on the reclined bike and that was me done. All the other resistance exercises listed previously were carried out with no real differences.

It's going well I think. I feel like I'm making an effort and that it may well start to pay off soon - all is good!

Monday 20 October 2008


Phil and I went to pick up the new car. It's lovely. I'm actually really pleased - it may not be a good car, it may not be anywhere near new but, it has electronic central locking and actually starts when you turn the key in the ignition!!! I'm delighted. Simple things huh?

I also went to the gym for a couple of hours, and I followed 'the plan', I ended up totally knackered - I think it may be working!

I had a lay in. Until 1pm. Awesome. Then we went to pick Dave up and go to one of the big climbing walls for an afternoon session. It was good - I didn't think I would climb at all well seeing as the muscles in my arms ached really badly from my gym session the day before. How wrong I was - it was actually a rather good session - I managed to repeat the hard crimpy (English) 6a boulder problem I worked last time and flash another 6a! I've never flashed a problem of that grade before - ok so I don't think the problem actually warranted the 6a grade, 5c maybe, but still - I did feel good about it!
We also did some top-roping. I'm managing to get myself back into the route mentality and thought that trying to top-rope some hard ones might be fun (in truth, I couldn't be bothered to get the rope out).

Tried a 6b+ - couldn't get off the floor. Tried the 6b and then the 6a+ on the same panel - same problem. All three were set by the same person - hmm. The 6a on the panel was nice though, I did it clean, first go.
Next we moved on to a different panel where I settled on trying a 6c - I think I must be mad. Had lots of gos on it, getting further each time and making each move cleaner with each attempt. I didn't finish it but am pretty sure I could if I had a few more tries. I gave up because I think Dave was getting bored belaying me. We then did another 6a+ that was pretty horrible.
Had a quick campus - not feeling particularly strong on it, but I had just had a pretty heavy session so I guess it's understandable.

Today I am drinking far too much tea - we may have an interesting tea-o-meter reading tomorrow.
I am also seriously struggling to finish the report I was supposed to have finished days ago. Oh well.
I keep thinking about the contracting job I've applied for and am a bit worried that I may have gotten my hopes up too high. I only sent my CV off last week though so I just need to be patient I guess. I could really do with getting out of here...

Friday 17 October 2008

I'm definitely getting stronger!

Phil came to the wall with me tonight! He climbed really well too actually - I was genuinely really impressed by just how he's progressed and how much his footwork has improved with his new shoes. Awesome stuff.

I tried the green V5 project again and managed to do the first and last halves in isolation. I also managed to link through the crux once - this thing will go, I know that now!!

I also got drawn into trying the current hardest set woody problem again, even though I was getting nowhere with it before - it is a crimpy V5 on a 4o degree overhung training board (aka 'the woody'), with super small holds requiring lots of body tension.
I was doing all but the last move pretty much static! I stunned myself - honestly I had no idea I would be anywhere near strong enough to pull on those holds tonight (on wednesday I really was nowhere near it). I think it will go and this makes me phenomenally happy - tonight was another indication of progression and increasing strength.

I really have moved off the plateau - bring on the hard stuff!!!

I just want to go solo, dammit

Today should have been the day. Really, it should. The weather conditons were absolutely perfect, I had a lesson lined up at 2pm and another at 5pm so in theory I should have gone solo in one of those sessions. Sadly, once again, it wasn't to be. This time it wasn't anything to do with me though - it was a combination of the club only having one 152 airworthy (out of 3, how did that happen?!) and one of the other students getting 'lost' on a qualifying solo cross country flight. Goodness knows what actually happened but my instructor had to go and 'rescue' her from Gloucester. He was also the only instructor at the club today, so my 2 o'clock lesson simply didn't happen.

I did get an hour's flying in (the 5pm slot), but unfortunately wasn't allowed to solo because there were no other instructors around (I think there's some kind of procedural thing), even though my circuits were brilliant.

We flew from the 'other' runway today - the one I have never used, and despite this I flew the circuits as close to perfect as I think is ever likely to happen. It was beautiful. Every radio call, every air speed, every altitude, every angle of turn, every landing - spot on! I'm really, really happy with my performance today.

There is a slim chance that tomorrow morning may see a solo opportunity, it all depends on the club and the volunteer glider squadron who operate on Saturdays...we shall see - fingers crossed!

gym training, part 1a

The gym session went well last night, and for an added bonus I don't actually ache that much today because of it (I think today's aches and pains may be attributed to other things - car accident, cold/flu type thing, time of the month...)

So, the amended gym program has now been formulated and tweaked and will be followed for the next few sessions. I just need to make sure I start going more regularly...

The program:

15 min run (broken down as 0-4mins @11.5km/h, 4-5mins @13.5km/h, 5-9mins @11.5km/h, 9-10mins @13.5km/h, 10-13mins @11.5km/h, 13-14mins @13.5km.h, 14-15mins @11.5km/h, 15-18mins cooldown)

Machine Row 3 x 10reps @ 20kg
Lat Raise 3 x 10reps @ 20kg
Shoulder Press 3 x 10reps @ 15kg
Lat Pulldown 3 x 8 reps @ 42kg

L-hangs/sits 2 x 10secs
Leg Raises 2 x 10 left
Leg Raises 2 x 10 right
Leg Raises 2 x 10 front
Crunch Machine 3 x 10reps @ 30kg

Press-ups 2 x 15reps

10 min run @11.5km/h plus 2min cooldown
12min Cross-trainer

Reclined bike cooldown (approx 5 mins low resistance)

This took around 2 hours to complete last night, but I did spend quite alot of time faffing between machines and trying to find a pen to write stuff down.
If I only have time for a short session then I will probably not do the leg raises, as these felt like they took a while with all the resting between sets. I would also probably only do 2 sets on each of the resistance machines to cut the time down.

Thursday 16 October 2008

gym training, part 1

Despite crashing the car earlier I still plan on going to the gym tonight (Phil is off out to see a friend so I need to amuse myself somehow!).

More conversation with Scott has gotten me to write stage 1 of 'the plan', and here it is.

Gym session

15min run

Shoulder press 3 x 10reps
Machine row 3 x 10reps
Lat pulldown 3 x 10reps

L-hangs 3 x 10seconds
Leg raises 3 x 10reps left
Leg raises 3 x 10reps right
Leg raises 3 x 10reps front
Crunch machine 3 x 10reps

Press ups 4 x 15 reps

15min run
10min Crosstrainer

The weights and speeds used are currently undetermined, tonight should provide a good opportunity to set some standards (I intend starting easy and not overdoing it, hopefully).


This morning I wrote off my car. Brilliant.
No-one was hurt (my neck aches a little but nothing major) and that's the main thing. Irritatingly I now need to find another car. Money I could really do with keeping and spending on more important things - like flying.

Tomorrow I have a couple of lessons booked. At the moment the forecast looks good - dry and not much wind. My instructor messed me around yesterday (long story short - he went flying with someone else during my lesson slot, and didn't tell me - mucho annoying) and has promised to make tomorrow a good one and *hopefully* send me solo at last. I just need to not mess up like last time. To that end, I have drawn myself a nice little diagram of the circuit with all the things I need to remember (see below).

Wednesday 15 October 2008


I've just been having a rather interesting email conversation with a friend who is super keen on training and improvement. His climbing has come on hugely in the time I've known him (or more to the point, have known of him - we only started talking and became friends very recently).
He seems to think that I, and I quote, "have all the attitributes of a top class climber" and I just need to apply myself more, train more effectively and generally get my a*se in gear (my words, not his).

It's nice to know that someone believes in me, personally I don't think I will ever be anything like a 'top class climber', but I do hope to position myself in the 'well above average' bracket.
To do this I need to sort myself out. My higgledy-piggledy approach to 'training' just won't cut it. I need to structure my efforts.

So, Scott has offered to train with me one day a week - I will bite his hand off at this offer as firstly, training with a partner is much more fun, and secondly it may well provide me with the incentive/motivation/kick up the backside I so sorely need.

So anyway, in my current state of positivity and determination, I have decided to heed Scott's advice to sit down and write out a training plan - complete with goals/targets and a 'structured plan' for attaining them. Goodness only knows how long it is going to take me to do the first run of this plan but I shall use this blog as a public admission of progress (so hopefully I will stick to it!)

Tuesday 14 October 2008


I've just sent my CV off to a nice chap who may well hold in his hand the opportunity to give me the most fantastic job in the world (or at least that's what I'm thinking at the moment in my fevered, caffeine ridden mind).
Maintaining remote radio sites in the Highlands and on the Islands of Scotland, contracting. Honestly, I can't think of a single job I'd rather have, and I've been trying to for the past few weeks.

Anyway, it is done. I've sent all the stuff off - my overloaded CV and snivelling covering email. Hopefully he'll still be interested even once he's read it all. All I have to do now is wait.

Scary stuff!

On a side note, I went the the wall again last night and had an abysmal session. I knew it wasn't going to be a good one when I fluffed a traverse problem (this is completely unheard of). Not good.
I was weak and pathetic but never mind. I think I spent most of the session chatting to people anyway.
It wasn't all bad, however. Nat persuaded me to try a woody problem I had previously dismissed as simply being far too reachy. Long story short, I did it. Even the deadpointy type dyno move I got wired in the end, and I am notoriously crap at these.
At least I achieved something, even though it was only a V3 ;-)

I did have an entertaining drink in the pub afterwards - Richard and I may well have arranged a climbing trip for some time in November and I met and had a good laugh with a couple of medically inclined women who [I think] were new at the wall. Much hilarity was had. All good really!

Monday 13 October 2008

glider circuits...

...are definitely easier than the circuits I have to fly in the 152. I mean, there's hardly anything to think about and do! No fuel, mixture or carb heat, no flaps, no trimming, no fixed levels and speeds to adhere to - it's all quite simple really - just point and go!

Landing a glider is also [I think] easier than landing the 152. Maybe it's just that I felt more relaxed at not having so many things rushing through my head, but the glider landings I did on Sunday actually felt quite calm and simple. I think I could get the hang of this gliding malarky quite quickly if I really wanted to...

Sunday 12 October 2008

climbing when tired may not necessarily be the disaster you'd expect

Just to even things out with the flying being a total nightmare when tired, bouldering indoors whilst being totally knackered actually worked out pretty well on Friday...

I got in from work at about 6am, slept 'til about 12:15pm and then went flying again. It wasn't as bad as the previous days but was far too windy for soloing to even be the remotest of possibilities.
I got home, rested for a bit and did some work on my CV (which incidentally may now be in a usable state - oh the excitement!).

Next, I decided to go climbing (my other option was another RT groundschool, but as Phil pointed out I probably wouldn't have really been able to concentrate).
No-one else was there! Ok I exaggerate but it was really quite empty, apart from the massive group of screaming kids...nice.
Anyway, I managed to get climbing with Simon and Richard - they just happened to be trying my red project and I couldn't resist joining in...
I watched them struggle on the start and then proceeded to cruise the first half, including the crux throw to the crimp! Sadly the last section that I had assumed would be easy, proved to actually be really rather awkward and involved a move that I had already fluffed by the time I realised what needed to be done. I came down and cursed myself, assuming that I wouldn't be able to do the crux again (as had been previous experience).
I cruised it. Or as Scott would say, I "smashed it out". Bless.

I can't even begin to say how happy I was over this miniscule victory, I mean, I managed to climb up 5m of plastic using some weirdly shaped red pieces of plastic and I was exstatic. Mad isn't it? I'm now left with a bit of a dilemma now though - I've finished my current project and need a new one...oh joy...

flying when tired really doesn't work

Last week I had volunteered to work nights at Heathrow. My logic was that if I was working the nights, I would have the days to do whatever I wanted - in this case being to go flying. It seemed to have worked out great too, the weather was good, I managed to pass my Air Law exam (big yay!!!) and was all set to go solo...
Sadly, flying after only having had about 4 hours sleep really doesn't work that well - I flew really badly on both good days (wed and thur). I was even struggling to focus properly. Needless to say, I didn't get to go solo :(

Oh well, at least I know now...

Tuesday 7 October 2008

pulling on plastic

My fingers are wrecked. Not properly, horrendously damaged or anything, just pleasantly worn.

Phil and I went to the Castle to boulder on Sunday and I had a reasonably good session. I flashed lots of English 5bs and 5cs and managed to work a 6a (I had done all but the last move with ease, despite it being overhung with desperately small, crimpy holds - the last move was really awkward). By the time I had finished the 6a (after many, many tries - always falling off the last move) I was too knackered to climb anything much harder than 5c.
Yesterday I went to the wall in the evening and had a rubbish session - mainly due to the fact that the skin on my fingers definitely needed more time to recover. Ok I say it was a rubbish session but in reality it wasn't all that bad - the red project nearly went. I made the hard move to the crimp with ease! Solid! Unfortunately it was at that moment that one of the instructors set about tightening a hold directly beneath me so I had to just hang on the crimp for ages until he'd finished. I managed the next couple of moves but then fell off, pumped. Still, it was my best go yet. I couldn't get that far again though in that session - I really was too fatigued.

Met a guy I hadn't seen for ages - one of the 'old school' from a couple of years back - turns out he'd had a nasty MTB accident (broken legs and arm), hence the long absence. Anyway, he's keen to get back into the swing of things so I may have yet another potential 'hardcore' climbing partner...excellent.

Today I was hoping to fly. Sadly the British weather doesn't want me to - it's raining and windy. Great. Still, I can hopefully finish going through my Air Law stuff this afternoon instead*

*This week I am working nights at Heathrow - lovely. On the plus side, it does mean that if the weather clears, I should be able to fly :)

Monday 6 October 2008

medical abnormalities...

Saturday was a day dedicated to nausea, tedium and general pain - I went to have my CAA class 2 medical. The medical itself wasn't actually that bad, although admittedly I was a little worried/freaked out when I was told to 'strip and put on the gown', it was ok though - I was allowed to keep my pants on! This was all for the ECG - the doctor had to stick the little sensor probe things on my chest and other areas.

Everything was fine for the most part, although he started off looking a little worried when he measured my pulse - 'do you normally have a low heart rate? I can feel some abnormalities in the rhythm...' GULP.
The ECG revealed that yes, I do indeed have a low heart rate and I do also have a bit of a weird rhythm - apparently my heart misses a beat fairly regularly. I was also told that while this isn't 'normal', it's nothing to worry about as it can be attributed to my high level of fitness (I think he must mainly have been referring to the low heart rate though, possibly...). He did explain that this is why I would feel light headed if I got up quickly (I must admit to being fairly amazed he knew, even though he's a doctor and would know these things) - apparently my heart sometimes needs to 'catch up' with the blood flow. Fascinating stuff...

Urine and blood tests too! Lovely. Still, at least I know I still don't have diabetes and my heamoglobin levels look ok.

The next major pain - I needed another form filled in by my optician. This meant an afternoon of faffing arounf in town waiting for an appointment and then having the most obtrusive, in-depth eye test I could ever possibly have imagined. The CAA don't want much!

An expensive day out all in all.

Friday 3 October 2008

thank goodness it's the weekend...

Today was a trial. So much admin. Horrible.

Tea-o-meter reading of 4, 87.5% so not massively stressful but getting ever so slightly desperate!

Anyway, I just got home from a session at the wall. I was feeling really weak, achey and sluggish but nevertheless actually had a remarkably good session.
I had a few more goes at the red project and whilst I still didn't finish the thing, I did manage to latch the crux crimp. I also managed the moves on from the crux but then fell off due to surprise/getting the sequence muddled/generally pumping out. This baby will go!
The blue project was also attempted tonight (this is what happens when you get involved in a really enthusiastic group) and happily - finished. Well, sort of. I didn't do the last move to the bar which appears to be a ridiculously uncontrolled slappy dyno for the big guys - it was far too daunting and scary for me. I have no real desire to break my legs/back by fluffing that move. Anyway, I'm happy to take the tick without it (the others all approved too) :)

Now - I'm sitting here munching my way through a warm fresh baked bread roll with blackberry jam on it - yummmm :D

Thursday 2 October 2008

pain and frustration

Yesterday's tea-o-meter reading: 3, 100% + 1 EHC

And what is an EHC? Emergency Hot Chocolate. Yes, things got that bad yesterday afternoon.

Anyway, last night I went climbing again and dispatched some more of the new boulder problems. I also managed to seriously struggle on a couple I had already done on Monday - serves me right for being such a show-off hehe.

Not a bad session, although I was feeling pretty sluggish after eating a humongous plate of Phil's amazing home made Chilli con Carne (this is my absolute favourite meal of all time - we really have cracked the perfect Chilli recipe!)
Anyway, Scott and I had a fair few goes at the red problem on the bulge - the current project. The grades have now been put up and it is apparently a V4, the same as the white I did a little while ago (and also the same grade as a problem I did second go and now consider a fun warm-up - hmm). Anyway, it's hard. I think I've got my sequence sorted for the first few moves, I'm just struggling to latch the hard crimp. Scott was managing this better than me and will [almost] certainly finish it next session.

There were also a couple of rather good looking chaps at the wall last night that I have never seen before - all good. Hopefully I will see them again :)

Now, my fingers hurt. I must have had 20+ tries on the red, plus repeats of other V3s and V4s and attempts at the other V4 project problem (ridiculous blue foot follow thing. This will probably go before the red if I really try it - there's only one slightly awkward move I need to find the balance for).

So in conclusion, I have definitely got stronger and it's looking like it may be a good time to get back to the more serious training again seeing as progress is being made :)

Climbing is painful...

Wednesday 1 October 2008

is it wrong... maim someone for extreme technical incompetance?

Not having a good afternoon...

Ok, to elaborate somewhat - is it wrong to hurt somebody for failing to do their job properly, potentially jeopardising a £1.3m project, attending meetings drunk and pissing off one of our favourite customers/partners and creating a sh*tload of work for me to try to fix the mess before any real damage is done?

Ok so yes, it would be wrong to actually hurt them but even so, right now it would make me feel so much better...

Tuesday 30 September 2008

the plateau...

Progress. That's what it's all about. Improvement, feeling like you are actually getting somewhere after being at a standstill for what seems like an eternity.

This is part of what I love about climbing - the challenge isn't against anyone or anything else, it's all about you - what you can do, what your mind can pull you through and how far your body can follow.

Last night I went to the wall. They had finally put up some new boulder problems so despite feeling decidedly unmotivated and possibly even a touch depressed at first (that's another story), I did actually have a remarkably good session.

I have always liked the onsight style of climbing, and although it doesn't really apply to bouldering all that much (and certainly not to indoor bouldering), by definition that was what I was doing last night. And I was cruising. Onsighting/flashing V3s! Doing V4s on the second try! This is definitely progress.

I feel stronger and more technically capable than ever before despite being physically exhausted. I'm climbing better than ever before, even when my body is fatigued and weak.

I think I have broken through the plateau!

Sunday 28 September 2008

mountain biking...

...really isn't my sport. Ok so today's little foray was actually really good fun but I still don't think I'm cut out to ever be a mountain biker.

Dave took me up around one of the local hills on some basic scraggy tracks and trails in the woods and down the chalk slopes. It was quite a long session actually - I left home at 2:00, met Dave at 2:40 and got back home at about 6:15 - all that time spent on a bike. That is a very long time for me.
Ok so we weren't on the bikes the entire time - we did stop at the top of the hill for an ice cream (a 99 with strawberry sauce no less...) and on the way back we stopped at the local chocolate shop/cafe for a hot choccy. Even so, I spent longer in the saddle today than I have for the previous 3 months combined! (possibly a slight exaggeration).

Going up hill is hard work and I'm evidently not as fit as I'd thought. Admittedly the gearing on my bike really isn't ideal for any great climbing effort but that doesn't change the fact that I was pathetic.

Going down hill is fun until you start making it really steep and/or technical. Once it gets really steep and/or technical my brain starts to twitch and get all unhappy - the most likely cause of this is a deeply engrained sense of cowardice or possibly a firmly rooted desire not to hit a tree. Either way I'm not that good at going down hill either. Slowly is bad as it makes it really hard to control where you're going, but fast increases the tree impact risk. Somehow I managed to ride almost all of it today though, not resorting to walking anywhere near as much as I could have, so I guess I should be proud in a way...

I did really enjoy riding back down the path we'd previously slogged up (yes, we went up and down the hill twice via different routes). It was steep, fast and only semi-technical but had the critical advantage of not being particularly bendy and therefore not carrying a high tree impact risk rating. Hence I rode fast - I hardly touched the brakes :D

The hot chocolate was also very very nice...

Now, I'm knackered. Great isn't it?

sunny bolt clipping

I'm not a sport climber. I don't even like sport climbing. I'm not sure why I don't really like it, I mean I find trad scary so surely sport climbing should be better, what with there being whacking great bolts in the rock for you to fall on. Somehow though I find climbing on bolts deeply unnerving. I always end up thinking - I should be able to climb harder routes than this - I'm strong (ish), I'm technically competant (relatively speaking) SO WHY THE F*CK AM I CRAPPING MYSELF?!

Anyway, I managed to convince myself that I wanted to have another crack at it all. Last time I went sport climbing Dave and I went to Portland and I managed to pick routes that had ridiculously spaced bolt or were stupidly polished. We ended up going bouldering because I freaked myself out so much. So yesterday I was determined I was going to climb something.
We went to Trevor Rocks in Clywd - I've climbed trad routes on this escarpment many times in the past and really enjoy the style of climbing so it seemed like a nice idea to try some bolted stuff there. Turns out I was right!

I managed to scare myself up a 4 (first time on bolts and indeed on a rope for quite a while). The level of fear I experienced didn't really bode well I have to say, but anyway, what with Dave and Phil being all enthusiastic and a load of really friendly and psyched people also at the crag I eventually set my sights on a technical looking 6a. Small holds, crap footholds but a very easy looking top section - perfect! Happily I managed to onsight it, and enjoy it (a bonus!). Dave also enjoyed it.
Next Dave and Phil had a crack at a 5+ - Dave led and Phil [very competantly!] top-roped it afterwards. I was impressed! I didn't fancy that route so played with the video camera instead (hopefully I will manage to edit down some of the days footage so I can post some up here).

I had noticed a route next to the 6a I had just onsighted that looked to be of a similar nature but was a grade harder (6a+) - so that was the next challenge and after a little faffage, it was done! Ok so I fluffed the crux on my first go but second time around - cruised it.

We didn't try anything harder, even though I probably should. I certainly hadn't been operating at anywhere near my limit, so I suppose in a way it's nice to know that I should be able to climb considerably harder. I just wish I could convince my head that my body is able. Ah well, it's all part of the game isn't it?

The last route of the day was a 5. We figured it would make a nice simple, easy warm down. How wrong we were. I bottled it, completely. Dave managed to lead the thing - I'm still not quite sure how! I decided to top-rope it to see if I really had just been making a fuss about nothing...
It was horrible! Awkward, scary and potentially very painful if you fell between the 2nd and 3rd bolt (crux - awkward nasty holdless squoozing up and out of a really awkward groove.)
I'm sure there must be an easier way! Fair play to Dave though on what I considered to be a fairly legendary effort.

I need to do more sport climbing. Every sport climber that knows me is shocked and horrified when I admit I only operate around the 6a grade area - they all seem to expect me to be climbing more like 7a. I can't help but agree with them - I am certainly capable of climbing ALOT harder than I currently do. Hmm.

Friday 26 September 2008


Glasgow. The airport and the railways - these are all I ever get to see! Not that I've any particular desire to go sightseeing. Ok so there probably are some cool things to see, and I must admit there are some nice places to eat and the nightlife is good - there are a few rock clubs I wouldn't mind venturing into at some point.
Anyway, I digress, today I was back on the railway, again. Joy of joys. Dressed up like the tango man's sister, trogging along scummy sections of track hoping that I would be able to fix the problem quickly and go home. Thankfully I did, and the guys at EasyJet even managed to get me on an earlier flight home (I had booked the very last one in case the job had gone tits up, and yes, that is a technical term).
On a side note - I went to Burger King. I had an XL Bacon Double Cheeseburger and dear lord did it taste good. It was filth and floorshavings but it tasted fantastic after being stood trackside for ages. I normally avoid junk food of this ilk like the plague- it's bad for you and really doesn't taste that great in reality. I did suffer afterwards - I always end up imagining I can feel my arteries contracting and the fat cells starting to form and clump together on my stomach. Melodramatic I know, but it also wasn't helped by the fact that I also had cake. Yes, today I was very, very bad.

Phil very kindly picked me up from the airport and took me home. I'm glad he did because airports aren't good places to stay.

I have sort of developed a knack for dealing with airports - lord knows I spend enough time either working in them or travelling through them!

My reasoning on airports is: when travelling through the terminals, and indeed whilst on the planes themselves, there is no reason to let yourself get stressed (except pehaps because of the airport arseholes, and even they needn't be a cause of stress if you take the right viewpoint*.)

My tips on avoiding airport stress (and note that it is all about the art of queueing):
  • when travelling alone try to be at the end of the queue. Yes, I said the end. The back. The rear. Call it what you will, you just don't want to be at the front - that is where the airport arseholes tend to congregate (see footnote).
  • the only important queue is the one at check-in (and possibly the ones in the shops and cafes, but that's obvious). Don't be late for this queue as being late may mean you miss the flight, and even if you just scrape in, you will be stressed - being late and having to rush is stressful!
  • don't panic and rush through security in a flurry - for one thing, some airports have virtually no facilities once you are through security (I'm thinking here of domestic departures at Glasgow International for example), and for another - getting through security is much less traumatic if you are relaxed and organised. Make sure you have sorted youself out (empty pockets, laptops out of bags, jackets and shoes off if necessary etc) and remember the security staff are there to help you!
  • RELAX!!! Once you have checked in there is absolutely no reason to rush around like a headless chicken - it will always be easier for the airline staff to get you onto the plane than to get your bag off again. Hence, no need to rush. Plus, by not rushing you have a much better chance of being at the back of the boarding queue.
  • when you are travelling alone it is always better to be at the back of the boarding queue (see point 1) - if you have an allocated seat number it doesn't matter how many people board in front of you as you will be sat in the same place no matter what. If you don't have an allocated seat number (as with most budget airlines) you are better off at the back of the queue as you will get to pick the best seat - if you are at the front of the queue and pick what you think will be a good seat, you have a whole row to yourself, you can virtually guarantee that you'll either get the fat bloke with the serious B.O. problem or the screaming brat sat next to you. By being the last person to pick a seat you can choose to avoid such irritations. Simple.
  • ipods are you friend. They can block out a surprising amount of noise, including snoring, squelchy chewing noises, children crying (to a degree- don't expect miracles with this one).
  • if you do still find yourself feeling stressed at the airport for one reason or another, just think yourself lucky - you're only passing through!

*I will concede only two genuine causes of stress at airports - badly behaved children (and their parents), and arseholes.
My definition of an airport arsehole is one of those people who just have to be at the front of every queue and won't consider that there actually are other people alive and breathing who are in fact also entitled to a little standing room. I pity these people in a way because they are just making the whole sorry process unnecessarily painful for themselves! I still laugh when they trip over though...

Thursday 25 September 2008

oh god, my head!!

Today was awful. What more can I say? It started badly - I had a headache. I got into work knowing I had to conduct a 'departmental technical review' to try to sort out all the balls-ups. Even more of a headache.
I didn't actually drink all that much tea, well, not until the afternoon when the dung hit the twirly thing rather forcefully - major fault in a major situation. This thing had been brewing all week so it wasn't entirely surprising when I got the call at around lunchtime informing me of how dire the situation had got. Anyway, to cut a long story short, I am flying to Glasgow first thing tomorrow to try to perform an engineering miracle - I have to fix a system for which we have no spare parts! Lovely! So, I've got a 6am start, to have a day of pain and perplexity and will probably get home at some time between 11:30pm and midnight. On a Friday. Grrrreat.

reading: 6, 100% (spread uneven - only 2 cups were drunk before 2pm!) . Major, major stress today! I got home in an absolutely foul mood, especially as someone stole my parking space just as I was about to put the car in it!

On a slightly more positive, but even more headache inducing note, I went over the the aero club to participate in a Radio Telephony groundschool training evening. This was my first one and seeing as I have no clue about any of it as yet (including the basics of even understanding the charts), it was rather hard work. Really entertaining though, and apparently it will get easier!

I am hoping to go sport climbing somewhere on saturday - it will all depend on just how tired I am after tomorrow's efforts and, of course, on what the weather is doing. Ho hum.

new boulder problems

I went to the wall last night to do some more bouldering. In 3 months they have only put up 4 new problems - very frustrating.
So once again I cruised up some of the old problems (in itself not entirely unsatisfying - doing V3 and V4 probelms you previously struggled on, as a warm up is a pleasant gauge of how well you're doing). Next, meeting up with some of the other guys I often climb with, we embarked on a mission to complete the 4 new problems on the super overhanging bulge (yes, I may be exaggerating a little).
One is easy, one is hard and two are super hard (for me anyway). Did the easy one, then worked the hard one. Eventually managed it - that felt good, especially as I managed it when some of the much stronger guys didn't!

I have some 'different' methods of climbing to most - being a weak and feeble woman I had to learn all kinds of different techniques and tricks from early on, simply because I didn't have the strength to get up things without these techniques. Hence, I am a big fan of the heel hook, toe hook, small footholds, drop knees and use of ridiculous amounts of flexibility...I often do things in ways that make the guys scratch their heads!

I do enjoy watching others climb, especially people who are better than/climb harder than me - you can often learn alot from the way they approach things, the subtleties of their movements, the simplicity of ways in which they often attempt things. (I especially enjoy watching if they're male, ripped and topless...but I digress).
Yesterday I got to climb with a guy I often 'problem solve' with - he's definitely one of those climbers I consider to be better than I am, but there are some things that I match and sometimes even exceed his abilities with - hence we usually have a good time trying stuff. Last night he was on form though - cruised both of the new 'super hard' problems, one of which I don't think I'm likely to do at all. He did manage to convince me to try the other one though - a powerful problem with awkward holds and needing lots of body tension. I spent my first few tries unceremoniously plopping off onto the floor. Anyway, to cut a long story short - I think I will be able to do it. This isn't exactly a big deal, and the only reason I mention it is because it feels a stage harder than anything I've ever done before (it may not be), it feels like the first tiny step off of the plateau - I hope!

(Photo below is an example of abnormal flexibility apparently. It didn't feel all that bad to me!)

Wednesday 24 September 2008

lots of tea, rain and windy circuits

Today's tea-o-meter reading was 5, 100% for just the morning. I had this afternoon off so the tea-o-meter covers a half day and to hazard a guess - I probably would have had another 3 or 4 cups had I stayed at work. So all in all not a good day at work. Ok it wasn't actually catastrophically bad but did include a certain level of stress.

This afternoon I went for a walk and got wet. I said to Jim just before we left - "do you think I should wear my waterproof jacket?", "no", says he, "it won't rain again - trust me, I'm a glider pilot!".
I swear, the next time he uses the 'glider pilot' line when talking about the weather I am just going to stay indoors - every time he comments on the weather it does the exact opposite!

Anyway, despite the wet, wind and really low cloudbase, my flying lesson did actually go ahead today. More circuits, but this time with wind to make them more interesting!
I didn't do well. I might even go so far as to say that it was my first 'bad' lesson - I did everything wrong. All my procedures went out the window. I forgot my radio calls. I fluffed the circuit in a variety of ways including: turning too late, turning too early, getting blown off track and not correcting, not trimming properly, using too much power, using too little name it, I fluffed it!
Eventually it did all start to fall into place again and my last couple weren't too bad. I am happy to say that all my landings were good though, and general control is becoming alot more instinctive - so it wasn't all bad.

Before my next lesson, I must read through my notes and refresh myself on exactly what I should be doing - hopefully this will help.

On a side note, my copy of the PPL confuser arrived today so I will have no excuse to not get on and do my Air Law exam next week. My medical is also booked!


Have you ever had a climbing partner let you down? Ever been fooled into thinking you're safe: they're solid, reliable, completely trustworthy, only then to be let down when it really mattered? Maybe they were simply looking the other way, focussing on something else, just for a second...just long enough for a hold to snap, a foot to slip...

I was dropped once. I didn't really know my belayer - I'd only met him an hour or so beforehand but hey - he said the right things, he was a climber, he was safe.
It hurt a bit when I hit the ground, nothing major but it was enough to make me think - who am I trusting? What reason do I have to believe that I'm not going to be let down?

I wrote the above in a late night email to a friend a couple of days ago - I was annoyed and trying to make a point about something rather more menial (something along the lines of not responding to phone calls or texts). Reading back over it has made me think.

The past few days have been hard. One of my close family members is critically ill in hospital and has been since friday - thankfully now she's beginning to improve and we're all hopeful of a good outcome. I've felt stressed at work and haven't been able to keep with the normal routines of climbing and exercise. All of this I feel has triggered some philosphical thinking.

So why do we trust people without reason? Is this a normal aspect of human nature or am I just a fool? I just don't know. I like to trust people, it's just the way I am but sometimes you get let down, it's all part of the game I suppose.

Tuesday 23 September 2008

not much happening

Yesterday's (Monday) tea-o-meter rating was 5, 100%

I made and drank 5 cups of tea during my working day. It hadn't been hugely stressful but certainly wasn't stress free - the rating matches the scale.

I should have gone climbing but didn't. I did manage to get the rock rings up and have a bit of a play. I was feeling pretty weak though so didn't do too much, although I did manage to do 13 full pull ups in one set - an improvement on my previous record of 12.

Monday 22 September 2008

the tea-o-meter©

Today I am introducing the tea-o-meter as a system of measuring the state of my working day. The system is as follows:

Each day the tea-o-meter will generate a figure displaying the type of day (see "Day Scale" below) and the desperation factor (displayed as a percentage - the lower the percentage, the greater the desperation).
E.g. 4, 75%

The Day Scale

The day scale is a measure of the status of the day as determined by the number of cups of tea I have made.

0 - 3 cups = Fairly normal, everything pretty much ok. Nothing of note.
4 - 6 cups = Slightly stressful and/or mildly boring
7 - 8 cups = Not good. A bad day in fact, possibly including meetings. Too much crap.
8+ cups = Really should have stayed at home. Day has taken 1 year off my life span.

The Desperation Factor

The desperation factor is an additional indicator of the day's highs and lows (well only the lows really I guess).

The desperation factor is calculated thus:

(Number of teas drunk/Number of teas made) x 100

I felt the need to introduce this factor to the tea-o-meter as there are a number of reasons why tea might be made but not actually drunk:
  • Tea has been made purely for the sake of making it, i.e. as a means of getting away from the pc.
  • Tea has gone cold and therefore not been drunk due to high volume of work and forgetfulness
  • Tea has gone cold as it has been left due to a work based emergency

I shall endeavor to generate a tea-o-meter reading whenever I have a day based in the office and will update and improve the system whenever new methods and ideas come to light.

more circuits and gliding

Friday - went to the climbing wall to have a crack at the new boulder problems - was very disappointed to find they'd only put up a couple of new ones. Never mind. Had a fairly light session as I was still feeling a bit achey from a session with the rock rings on thursday.

Saturday - morning flying lesson. Flew some more circuits and I'm actually beginning to get the hang of it! My landings have improved massively - I actually feel more than happy with them now :) My instructor also introduce the radio calls into the circuit for me so I'm now doing everything. Apparently I'm doing really well and should be a 'low hours solo' - excellent!!!
Admittedly this does mean I need to get my finger out and do my medical and air law exam :S

We also did some stalling practice - can't say I found this particularly easy or pleasant - it's so instinctive to do exactly the wrong thing and make it so much worse! I'm sure it will get easier and less unnerving the more we do it. Maybe even do some fully developed spins...hmm.

Sunday - went gliding with Jim! Had an excellent afternoon - managed to stay airborne for over an hour, gaining over 2000' from our tow altitude. I'm sure this isn't stunning but for my first go at soaring I was impressed and really enjoyed myself. (Jim, if you're reading this - thanks for another excellent afternoon!)

Thursday 18 September 2008

psyche and motivation

Ok so I didn't mention last night's trip to the climbing wall - it was rubbish. They still hadn't changed any of the boulder problems despite the current ones having been up for something like 3 months! I'm not sure how long it's actually been but I know it's much longer than usual.
I had gone to the wall really psyched to do some new problems and to see how strong or weak I was after spending a week out in Font. Walking in and seeing the same old stuff still up was a huge motivation killer - I just really didn't have any desire to climb anything [again]!
Anyway, I eventually got myself moving - I just did some of my usual problems again and whilst it was boring and generally naff, it did provide a good gauge of my progress - I am definitely stronger :)

Tonight (having been stood up for my trip to the pub - apparently there was a good reason ;) ) I was hoping to dig out the knee supports and go for a run (I really, really want to be properly hill fit for the winter climbing season) but when it came to it - I just couldn't be arsed. I think it was mainly due to the fact that I have no idea where my running tights or shorts are actually, but the whole idea of going out just didn't appeal either.
So I didn't go running. Instead I got the rock rings* out in the garden and gave myself a bit of a strength and body tension workout - I also used this workout as an opportunity to test the mini dv camera and I must say the results were most impressive (not so much my gymnastic prowess as the video quality!).

Ooh and excitement of excitement - heard this strange noise in the sky. Definitely an aeroplane over the airfield but not one I could easily recognise from the sound...
Phil and I went out front to see what it was and saw a Spitfire showing off over the airfield! Awesome! I just wish he'd been there yesterday so I could have seen him from the air, maybe even exchanged acknowledgements. Never mind, it was still pretty cool to watch a spit doing low level steep turns and maneouvers from such close range :)

*rock rings - basically funny shaped gymnastic rings with small finger holds, designed for climbers

learning circuits

Following a crappy day at work yesterday that seemed never ending, I managed to get away early to get over to the airfield for another lesson.
The whole week I was in Font I kept wanting to go flying, I think I could probably get as obsessive about it as a hobby as I am about climbing. Ok, maybe not ;)

Anyway, it was a slightly shorter lesson than usual because I was a tiny bit late, and you can't fly circuits after 1800. Yes, this was my first go at flying proper circuits! Woo!

I am amazed at just how much I had forgotten, in a week. The basic skills were still there - I could still fly the aircraft passably competantly, it was just that I could not for the life of me remember the appropriate airspeeds, altitudes, flap configurations, engine rpm's etc for each stage of the circuit (to be fair to myself, I had never actually done it before and so it was all just theory I'd been told).

Anyway, notes to self:
  • Take off - airspeed around 55kts when you pull up, 10degrees of flap, climbout at 65kts, trimmed
  • 300ft raise flap
  • 1000ft level out, reduce power to 2100rpm to settle at 85kts (this is just for my first starting circuit training lessons, there are other things to do for real apparently)
  • Turn 90degrees onto crosswind
  • Turn 90 degress onto downwind (there is a point at which you commence turn)
  • Trim for straight and level at 85-90kts, 1000ft, do downwind checks (BUMFFICH)
  • Turn onto base leg, reduce power in turn to allow base leg configuration
  • Base configuration: 75kts, 10degrees of flap, descending
  • Turn onto final - long sweeping 10degree turn to straighten out in line with runway. 20degrees of flap, 65kts, trim (not much throttle at this point)
  • Use throttle to control rate of descent, not pressure on control column - 65kts needs to be maintained!
  • Once getting close in to the runway drop the power back, allow airspeed to stay at 65kts (the aircraft will nose down of its own accord), flare at last minute to glide down onto runway
  • Once touched down, immediate take off needs: 10degrees of flap (reduced from the 20 used to land), full power and pull up at 55kts
Other points of note: my [new] headset from John works great :)
I need to read the Aero club notes and sign myself off on the T-card system (this is all new, very painful)

I still love flying!

Tuesday 16 September 2008


Engineering. What a crap profession it is sometimes. God I wish I could just quit and spend my time sleeping. Eating, flying and climbing all require funds though, come to think of it so does having a roof over your head.
I know I know, I should think myself lucky that in these times of economic turmoil I have a reasonably paying and relatively secure job. Shame I find myself hating the company now, it never used to be this way...

Ok I think I'm being unfair - engineering is a fantastic profession - I love the job itself, I just hate the company politics.

Monday 15 September 2008

my neck hurts

Whiplash isn't fun. Even sleeping is hard work - everytime I move/fidget in my sleep the pain wakes me up. I've spent the whole day trying to avoid moving my head.

I spent the day working from home. This included having lunch at the Cafe in the Woods with Phil and going shopping for a mini DV camera - it is awesome. I just need something to film now - I kept wishing I'd had one in Font so now I do! Yes I know it's too late, but the next bouldering/climbing trips will now be possible with video :)

I'm not looking forward to work tomorrow - I've got to present a training course somehow without moving my head...

font day 9: going home

Today we had a quick visit back to 95.2 so I could have yet another go at La Mur de la Fosse aux Ours, my 7a project. Needless to say I still didn't finish it. I did get to watch a rather nice young German chap try it and also not get any further than I did, although he did seem to be somewhat stronger than me so that was nice.
I blame the fact that I'm just not a very good climber, and I'm weak. But also - I think I have whiplash. Stupid stupid woman. NEVER get wrapped in a bouldering mat, not for any reason, ever.

The journey back was fairly straightforward, although we did see some kind of weirdness going on at one of the motorway services - it was closed and ALOT of fire brigade vehicles were turing up, including the chemical unit and the big vehicle lifting airbag thing. Not quite sure what was going on but it did spawn some interesting conversations in the car.
I also had a really nice panini for lunch - chicken curry in a toasted ciabatta! Amazing! French motorway services clearly aren't all bad.

We had dinner at Cite Europe even though all the shops were shut. I only mention this because I had a huge bowl of mussels and they were lovely!

font day 8: stupidity

Cleared out of the Gite then back to 91.1 for a chilled out day bouldering. I swear the grades there are harder than at other areas. Or maybe the climbing's just a different style that really doesn't suit me, I don't know. Anyway I think Dave enjoyed himself - he certainly managed to get into some interesting positions at times.

Anyway the main point of this post is to emphasize just how immensely stupid it is to be wrapped up inside a bouldering mat and then participate in your friends challenges. Ok so the wrestling (see above) wasn't so bad - I only ended up with a face full of sand. And the race round the boulder was tame enough. The falling over backwards thing however, was a REALLY REALLY crap idea. I cracked my head really hard on the ground and very nearly passed out. Stupid woman.

Ok so after the day's antics we went to the restaurant near Elephant - I had the Kangaroo steak - it was lovely :)
Then we made our way over to the Formule 1 hotel at Moret for the night. Cheap but, umm, well, kinda crappy - but hey, for around 10 euros each it was a bargain!

Friday 12 September 2008

font day 7: condoms and climbing

Bas Cuvier. Who's idea was it to go there? Ok so I wanted to have a go at 'La Marie Rose' - the first 6a in the forest, and we wanted to see why the area is so popular.
I didn't finish the problem and we didn't stay very long - the place is littered with all kinds of nastiness (it's also a major dogging spot).

We moved on, firstly to the Intermarche for dinner supplies, then to 91.1 to climb.

We accidentally overshot and ended up at Cul du Chien temporarily and then I got lost as we ventured back towards 91.1. Anyway, we got there eventually and I had a mission - a 5b that had defeated me on my last visit to the forest.
Jen cruised it. I got spat off repeatedly. I may have had a bit of a paddy.
Did some easy problems then went back. Long story short, eventually I got it! Thank god! It's amazing what difference a subtle hand movement can make.

Not sure what's on the cards for tomorrow...

font day 6: pain

A good day all round. Dave's first day in Font - I think he enjoyed it.

Ok so I didn't get anywhere near to doing the 7a but I tried and I suffered for it. Nearly split a tip and ended up feeling incredibly battered. Such hard moves!
Anyway, my excuse was that the conditions were too bad - it was roasting! Apparently 32 degrees for alot of the day - the rock sweats. Jen and I failed to do a 5b we'd both flashed earlier in the week, purely because the rock was sweating so much!
Phil and Alex managed to finish their project so the day was still a good result.

Ok so I gave up on the 7a and we went off and explored 95.2 a bit more - it's a cool area. Found a nice arete problem, graded 6a that we decided to work. I managed it first (not that I want to brag ;) ) and then repeated it a couple of times (see bottom photo). Jen and Dave both did it too and were really chuffed :)

Again a nice dinner - Phil cooked a curry of sorts, once again lots and lots of good food. Oh, and crepes for dessert - amazingly fun. We even discovered that Dave truly is 'a great tosser' (his words not mine!).

Wednesday 10 September 2008

font day 5: rest

So today was a forced rest day. Think I've been going stir crazy.

Just got in after having a short but entertaining session on the training wall. Admittedly most of the time was actually spent chatting but hey!

Once again a big meal with a ridiculous dessert - was a bit of a shame that the entire tub of ice cream had melted in the freezer and was more of a fluid mousse type thing. Not great but still.

Picking Dave up from the station tomorrow morning, still undecided as to where we're going to climb (I do however have a desire to head back to 95.2 for a 7a re-match)!

font day 4: de-motivation, rain and the world's biggest spag-bol

Ok so day 4 was a bit of a washout. We went to La Roche aux Sabots with doing the whole yellow circuit in mind (this was mainly Alex's goal so we all thought - great a nice day of fun climbing!). Anyway, we only managed 12 out of 34 problems before we all got fed up and went to sit down to eat lunch. Unfortunately it then started to rain quite hard so we beat a hasty retreat back to the car.

We had a bit of a play back at the training wall, doing some endurancy type circuit work (I felt the need to do more exercise after eating a fair amount for lunch).

Dinner was, well, large. Jen and Alex cooked Spaghetti Bolognese, or at least they would have if they'd found the spaghetti in the cupboard. Instead we had pasta bolognese. All fine so far, the trouble was they had decided to use a whole packet of pasta plus the remains of another for a meal for 4 people! Honestly, there was enough to feed 7 or 8! Plus we then finished the massive chocolate gateau from Monday night. Dear goodness was I full!

Tomorrow is a forced rest day. Slightly depressing as I'm desperate to get back to 95.2 to do battle with my 7a project again (a problem called La mur de la Fosse aux Ours).

Monday 8 September 2008

font day 3: I am a glutton for punishment

Day 3: 95.2

Ok so we got off to a late start. No-one got up particularly early and then we had to go shopping. Lots of fun in the Intermarche. We were so late that we decided to have lunch at the gite and just take snacks for the afternoon.

Ok next I managed to navigate us to completely the wrong area. A combination of Phil and Jen being sensible managed to actually get us to the start of the blue circuit at 95.2.

We never intended doing particularly much, just the problems we saw that took our fancy. Anyway, I managed to get a few 4s and 5s done - the hardest being another 5c. Then we stumbled upon a really nice 5a (managed to flash - nice) which had a similar problem next to it that I thought I would have a crack at - vertical wall completely covered in calcite (so no real friction) with small crimps and edges, my sort of thing! Anyway, it transpires that the problem is a 7a - way beyond my current capabilities. Anyway I had a few goes and I actually think I can do it. It will be a struggle and a bit of a siege but maybe, just maybe it will happen later in the week when we go back :D Fingers crossed!

Sunday 7 September 2008

font day 2: a punter's paradise

Ok so it's day 2 of our Font trip. Today we actually got to climb! Yay!
The plan was to try to do a complete circuit somewhere, so we went to Canche aux Merciers to try to do the entire Orange circuit. No problem. Ok so we started late and it rained half way through but we did it, along with a couple of other interesting problems along the way - the hardest of which was a rather nice overhung, juggy 5c.
I felt good, fine, full of energy and having no problems right the way through the circuit until around about problem 35/36ish (out of 44 total, plus others), at which point it all became hard, scary and rather lacking in technique. Still, we finished and all is good.

Had a rather nice meal and am now sitting watching climbing DVDs with the others. The shower is awesome.

Plan for tomorrow is a mammoth shopping trip to get [hopefully] everything for the week. Then we go to 95.2 and just try stuff we like the look of. We may start out on the blue circuit or something, just as a means of getting moving. I'm looking forward to it :)