Latecomer

I was a latecomer to Podcasts. I don’t think I owned a smart phone until 2013 and have never owned any Apple products. When I was travelling through Canada in 2015 I wanted a distraction for some of the longer sections of the journey and someone mentioned Podcasts.

The daft thing is I’d been listening to radio and audio books for years. I used to work as a sales rep and spent hundreds of hours a month in the car listening. Yet it had never occurred to me to download a podcast.

I got off to a good start – with an episode from This American Life which then pointed me towards Season 1 of Serial. I was hooked. I was engrossed in the style of the story telling, the mix of good journalism, story structure and emotive interviews. I’d also discovered that there was an enormous backlog of free content to download and listen to, new shows to discover, offshoots from existing shows and more. There’s a whole world in there that I didn’t even know existed.

A few months in it occurred to me that this was what I’d been looking for. Not as a listener (although I had) but as a journalist. I’d grown frustrated with the nature of working in news journalism and couldn’t see a way forward that would get me to writing and sharing the stories that were important to me. I was disappointed that the long form journalism that I loved seemed to be so niche, in any form, in the UK.

While this obsession was growing I started sharing some of the pieces with my Grandmother. She’s 93, with failing eyesight but a sharp wit and a wonderful curiousity about the world. I copied some of the episodes to CD to post to her. Then I realised that I could also record some chapters from books I’d read, or short stories. I began making recordings of some of my own writing, adding in pieces of music and learning the difference between the word on the page and in your ears.

It took a while to dawn on me that I could do this professionally, that those This American Life documentaries that I loved required a little bit of equipment, a little bit of knowledge and a lot of enthusiasm to learn along the way – That really this was the avenue for my writing that I’d been looking for for the past decade. So I’ve taken the plunge.

A Grand Day Out

I have an article on climbing the Grand Wall in Squamish in this month’s Climber Magazine for anyone interested.
Harry on Pitch 3 of Grand Wall, 5.11a, Squamish, British Columbia

The article is about capturing the deep sense of well being that I get from climbing. It’s elusive. I don’t seek it every time I climb, but it is the thing which makes climbing special for me. Those days spent with friends where you feel a real sense of peace with the world, and that paradoxically, a seemingly stressful hobby can actually produce a very calm result.

Aldous Huxley writes in his introduction to later editions of Brave New World about how he sees it as a flawed piece of art. He adds that he considered changing it, but ultimately felt that those flaws are important markers. I’m not sure I feel the same with this. I like this article, but I’m not sure it conveys the same message in someone else’s head that it does in mine. There are phrases which jar, words which repeat at awkward intervals and an odd mix of use of “I” and “We” – there should be more “We” in this really.
Anyway, if you get the chance to read it I hope you enjoy it.

Rock Idol

There seems to be a bit of a trend of climbing articles in the press over the last few months. Probably because they’ve cottoned onto the fact that they get some great pictures for it, and it looks good online.

Unfortunately, they aren’t always very accurate. Here’s a recent one from the Daily Mail. When I started climbing Leo’s efforts at trying The Prophet, with no pre-inspection, were some of the most inspiring bits of climbing around. The images from his early efforts are iconic, and I think the whole climbing community applauded when he completed this route. But the Daily Mail article shows no understanding of what he’s achieved. He’s not the first Brit to climb El Cap – he’s the first person to climb this route up it, and he’s done it in reasonably good style. Brits have been climbing El Cap for years, I know several people who have done it, Leo has done it before too.

But, still, it’s good to see such great photos getting more airing, and Leo’s achievements here are internationally significant for climbers. A little bit of effort from journalists on these articles wouldn’t go amiss though.