And Win For The Crow - competition time

Wanna win a prize? Sure you do. Wanna win John Redhead's book, And One For The Crow, personalisedg and dedicated to you by none other than JR himself? Not so sure now, huh?

Anyway, stick with it.

To be in with a chance of winning this amazine prize all you have to do is share your favourite episode of Jam Crack Podcast on Facebook or Twitter. Do this by:

going to the podcast page,

scrolling to your fave episode;

click on the episode title (ie, JCPC 007...) This will take you to that show's entry;

copy the link from the address bar;

share on FB or Twitter, then either, on Twitter, tage me (@grimerclimber) or on FB, tag me (hit me up fotr a friend request if we are not riends already). Also, tag both methods with the hashtag, #spreadthejamcrack

then sit back.

Easy! See you on the other side.


Photo: Dora DC.

Photo: Dora DC.

“Was that you in the fountain?” she asked. “Someone saw you from the office and we all came over to the window to look.”

“What,” I asked, “Was I like the hot guy from a Coke ad?” I imagined myself awakening the pent-up passions of bored office girls as they stared at me through frosted glass, beads of perspiration rising on their necks.

“No. We just wondered who the arsehole in the blow-up boat was.”


A call from Matt Heason. I can’t remember exactly what he asked me to do - something to do with a voiceover on a promo film he was doing for the Sheffield Adventure Film Festival. It didn’t sound like a lot. I said Yes. A, few weeks later, me, Claire-Jane CarterEd Birch and Dora were stood in the centre of Sheffield thinking we have to think of an idea for a promo film then film it.

We went for coffee to thrash through ideas. Swear to god, it was like one of those piss-take ‘creativity’ sessions I had seen on TV. We could do this…. We could do that… Unworkable ideas were flying back and forth. Think typewriters frantically clacking, and scrunched-up pages going in the bin, artistic angst, air punching, then a bit of an argument over who was going to pay the bill. You get the idea. 

It was a hoot. Ed and Dora are trained-up film makers and photographers.  Claire was on the backwash of a film she had created having won big awards at film festivals. I was a pumped up Fearless Francie Brady-type character looking for an angle. Together we came up with a plan. We strode off towards the cinema where we were going to do it and realised it was a shit plan.

Need a new idea. Time to freestyle. Time to get urban.

It just so happens that Ed simply lives to have adventures, and never travels anywhere without a canoe, a bike trainer, some skis, abseil kit, a tent, a Rock 6 and a BASE rig in the back of his Nissan Micra. We grabbed them and employed these to great effect on a cold and sunny Sheffield Friday morning. Camping, canoeing, climbing over the furniture of the city. I cycled without going anywhere on a set of well-lubed bobbins that had me fighting for balance millimetres away from passing HGVs. I snowploughed across pelican crossings in Ed’s expensive skis.

It was all a bit mad, but in a really great spirit, and all four of us felt that we were on the same mission. We came up with ideas and followed them through, sometimes having not to think of how you looked, with everyone bringing something to the show.

About noon, once we knew we had everything we could get, we called it a day. We packed up the rattle and went for some Mexican streetfood, a phrase I don’t understand. We ordered, sat down, and tucked in. It was delicious.

It was the perfect full stop to a great morning. We had expressed ourselves artistically and had a crack doing it. How could things be any different? And when things are like that, that’s great.

But the interesting thing about the day was that it soon became obvious that we were a spectacle that some homeless people would freely interact with. I’d be sitting in the ornamental fountain that amphitheatres Sheffield train station in my blow-up canoe and someone would ask me what I was doing.

It brought a real thing to the day, getting to hear some stories I don’t get to hear very often. I sometimes felt too buzzing-around to slow down, but we did slow down. It was civil, but edgy. This was partially because talking with a homeless person makes me feel like a bit of a wanker, the way I look at the ultra-privileged, and think them wankers.

Anyway, job’s a good one. The film is made. Ed’s done a great job that recalls a great day. And check out Shaff while you’re at it, and get along if you possibly can. It a sweet thing, and Matt does a great job of bringing things out of people.

See our film here, jerks.

Making an ass out of me and me

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Had a great evening at the BMC London Area meeting tonight.

These are the regional quarterly get-togethers where BMC volunteers and members chat over things of interest to climbers and walkers in that area, have a chinwag drink a beer and catch up with folk.

The first friendly face I saw was Shirin Shabestari. I had met Shirin once before at the Kendal Film Festival. I was hosting BMC Breakfast Club, a bloody-mary infused Sunday morning film session where film makers showed their wares and answered the audience’s questions about their work. Shirin showed the film she had made along with Paul Diffley, Damavand, an Iranian Dream. It followed her as she travelled from London back to her native Iran where she climbed Damavand, the nation’s highest mountain, first shown to her as a child by her mountain loving father. Old photos showed a young girl free from the restraints of a male-led society, bare-headed on rocky summits. After she had shown her film, her parents joined her on stage and everyone was overjoyed. Her dad did that thing that people in Muslim countries do, touching their heart and making a small sideways nod. It was very touching, the highlight of the session.

She was along at the London Area meeting to show her film and talk about it as the post-meeting entertainment. We had a bit of a chat before the meeting kicked off.

There’s always a good vibe at the London Area meeting. It seems full of people who have most of their life ahead of them, young and old. Rik, the chair, called the meeting to order. Now, no one ever likes to hear themselves summed up in a few words by a stranger and this won’t be any different so here goes; Rik looks like the sort of person you would want to be on your side in the English Civil War. We all looked at him and he swiftly began to attack agenda and slaughter items items.

A common occurrence at area meetings is when the chair flags up the need for a new volunteer – a club rep or a youth rep or what have you – and there then follows an awkward silence. Many people would like to while few want to but somebody has to. The question hung in the air and people tried to avoid making eye contact with Rik. To his right was the door to the room. It looked like the only chance of escape for anyone who might be a potential candidate. Then to the assembled surprise, the door opened.

A man appeared. Everyone looked at him. He was well dressed, the way I only see people dressed in London, with very well-fitted wools, a long coat and a suit. He had tight grey and black curls and eastern skin. His head had a slight tilt suggesting a toughness and he gave me a sense of a Humphry Bogart character. He returned everyone’s stare, but did not enter the room.

“Hello,” welcomed Rik.

“Is this where the film about the Iranian mountain is?”

“Indeed it is.” Someone pointed at Shirin.

As I looked on I judged the situation; here goes. It appeared if he did not quite understand what was happening. I presumed he had been to a camping shop and seen a flier advertising the film. Perhaps he was one of those people who subscribe to National Geographic or something, who would turn up to talks by people like Julia Bradbury, Bear Grills or Andy Kirkpatrick. So when he arrived in a room that looked more like a 1979 TUC Conference than the local Odeon he didn’t compute.

Sharing my thoughts, someone chimed in:

“It’s a meeting for climbers and walkers. The talk will be on after.”

“I see,” he said, the stranger still framed by the doorway. “Do I have to stay for the meeting?”

“No, no! Run away!” howled many from the audience. Everyone was enjoying the situation, none more so than the potential candidates for roles as reps.

“Come on in,” ushered Rik.

“Very well,” he said, and made his way in. Almost immediately the non-climbing stranger was proposed and seconded as club rep and while his back was turned a quick show of hands sealed the deal. Suddenly everyone was in good mood.

Later in the meeting, as the representative from the BMC office, I stood up and told the assembly about all the good things that were going on. As another task, I was there to find out where Londoners actually went climbing.

I would call out the names of crags, see how many people stuck their hands up. The local ones, like Southern Sandstone, got lots of hands. The further away and more adventurous they became, the number of hands declined.

“Avon. High Tor. Cheddar. Swanage.”

Four or five hands. But I noticed that Humphry Bogart kept sticking his hand up. I reckoned he was taking the piss.

“Do you know what I’m talking about,” I asked him. “It’s climbing. Rock climbing.”

“Of course I do.”

“But you don’t go climbing.”

“What makes you say that?”

“Because someone had to explain what was going on when you arrived.”

“Of course I go climbing.”

“You’ve been to all these places?”


“Very well, if you’re sure.”

I finished my number crunching and the meeting carried on and was soon finished. In the break, while Shirin was setting up her show, I was sat near the front row having the crack with some gadge sat beside me. Then Bogart appeared in front of me and his look summoned my attention.

“Hey, I don’t think much of your prejudice.”

Although he didn’t use the ‘prejudice’. He used some word less loaded but more accurate, something like ‘bias’, but not bias either. He was calling me out for assuming he was a non-climber. Assumptions. Maybe that was the word he used.

He was tough and full of front and was calling me out for my judgements. But there was the tiniest hint of a smirk on his face that made me realise he was doing it for the crack. Instantly I trusted him because I realised he trusted me not to be threatened by his words. But still, I had to apologise.

“Well it was just that you looked like you didn’t know what any of this was all about,” I told him. “So you climb, then?”

“I did, man, I did. But I haven’t done in a while. Now I do more photography, and I have a little baby. Takes so much time. And you?”

“Yeah. But I struggle to get out as much as I used to, kids, life and all that.”

“Yeah man. But you know what. I miss it. I really miss it.”

He nodded, and I nodded, then something in him had to say it again.

“I mean, I really miss it.”

And as he walked away we looked at each other in the eyes. Then deeper, and I saw in him that amazing climbing thing and he saw in me that amazing climbing thing and we couldn’t help but burst into laughter at the sight of it.

I had to leave before Shirin did her talk and showed her film. I was gutted because I have seen her film before, but I hadn’t heard her talk about it. I went to say goodbye.

“And what about that guy?” I said to her, jacking a thumb in Bogey’s direction.

“Oh him? He contacted me in the week to say he wanted to come and see the film.”

“Interesting character.”

“Yes, after he was in touch I googled him. He’s Iranian, cleared out of Iran years ago, but had done some climbing out there. Now he’s a photographer. One of the queen’s favourites I read.”


“I should say hello to him,” she said.

She waved, and he made his way over to her. I decided to let them talk so said goodbye, and gave him a wave as I went. He grinned, and I totally got it. Recognised his life and experiences and struggles and triumphs and joys and regrets and the mountains and all the great times they gave. No wonder he was tweaked when I suggested he wasn’t a climber. That guy’s tasted bear meat.

I left the cosy pub and made my way down to the riverside where people were handing out hot drinks to homeless people. At least, I assume that’s what was happening.

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Podcasting my net wide

It’s a podcast, and it makes perfect sense to me! Reading is terminally dull, we can all agree on that. Writing is not as bad as reading but still, it’s up there with the rubbish things to to in life. That leaves rithmatic and chatting. Now, I like sums as much as the next man, but just as long as the next man is Paul Macintyre who I sat beside in Vinnie Brown’s maths class. He HATED sums. So, that leaves chatting.

Do you listen to podcasts already? If so, nice one. I do too and I think they are great. If you don’t then I’m sorry, but you’re going to have to start.

Jam Crack is my new thing; my new podcast thing. I have already pumped out an episode, have one with Tommy Caldwell in the can ready to go and, as I type, I am waiting to go and pick up a reading from someone. So it’s a goer. I’m in the game, as Gus would say.

Speaking of Gus, he lives in my road. I’ve known him for years, initially through working on guidebooks then later while working on life. He is the subject of my first podcast. Getting as far as the first one wasn’t easy. First I had to:

Think about doing a podcast

Think some more about doing a podcast

Read up on podcasts

Research recording gear

Buy the gear

Think about not doing a podcast

Learn how to set up recording gear

Work out what podcast hosting is

Decide what to call it

Create an RSS feed

Work out what an RSS feed is

Finish my website

Work out how to get on iTunes

Decide who to interview

Pluck up the courage

Think about not doing a podcast

Phone Gus

Well enough of these things happened that I got my tush round to Gus and did him. It was fun. Then edit, tweak, upload, download, shake-it-all-about-load and oi presto! Here it is.

Do you get podcasts? I got into them listening to an American one called The Enormocast. I’ve listened to nearly them all over the years and think they are great. Click here and I’ll do a list of the shows I’ve enjoyed most. He spends an hour or so chatting with climbers.

The other one I’m a fan of is Scrobius Pip’s Distraction Pieces. He’s a spoken word poet and rapper who speaks mainly to people involved in music, comedy, TV and other general culture. Again, if you don’t already listen, click here for a selection that I have really enjoyed, just to get you started. Again his are hour-long interviews. So that’s what I’m doing; copying those two.

I hope you get it and like it. My plan is to release one every four weeks for a year – keep it manageable. And inbetween times I would like to read, or have someone else read, a classic climbing or mountaineering story. This will all take some organising I guess, so let’s see how it goes, and let’s not get too uptight about schedules.

So, a quick lowdown on podcasts if you’re not used to them. The best way to listen is to subscribe on iTunes. Follow this here link and go to View in iTunes and click the subscribe button. That way it will download to your device and you’ll have it when you’re offline. If you do use iTunes, it’d be nice if you subscribed. If in time you like it, it would be nice if you would rate it and review it. The other way is to go to the Jam Crack Podcast page on my website and listen to the player. On this you can stream, download and subscribe.

I’d love to know what you think, what you like or don’t like, and what you would like in the future. Comment on here or on Facebook or Twitter. I’d love to have a mixture of famous and not-so-famous, as long as everybody has a story. I’m not going to probe them for info, just have a chat. My ideal is that at the end of the hour we had an idea of whet the person we’re talking to is about. So no training info, no deadhanging stories, no nutritional facts etc; soz.

I’ve not got it planned too far ahead. I will release the Tommy Caldwell one soon. I was editing it last night and it tickled me. Time will make lots of decisions for me I think.

Anyway, Jam Crack Podcast now exists. It’s a bit of a personal triumph in terms of how many barriers I feel I had to overcome to make it happen. It’s been mostly my own effort, although I got help and advice from Chris Kalous, John Roberts, John Blomquist, Andrew White and probably some others. My brain feels well clever now.

So I hope you stay on board. It’s all about you, whoever you are, so make your voice heard. Chip in, slag off, take the piss. If you like it I’d love you to share the podcast and spread the word.

I’ve got a good feeling about this.

A flash in the pan

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My first blog, on my new site. If I manage to get words out there using this medium then it will be a personal triumph and as far as I have yet come in the world of technology-wrangling. And there’s more to come.

If Pancake Tuesday has taught me one thing it’s this. Don’t expect too much of the first one out of the pan. The old advice was to throw that one away, but it has a place on the stack as much as any other.

Which is what this blog is. I’m testing the consistency, seeing how it fries. Smell the butter release. Can I flip it? Yes I can. This is the first blog and I have put this off long enough thinking I will find the right first blog and realeasing I wouldn’t so thought I’d go with what I had.

It’s clearing my throat. In writing, which I do, sometimes I think of my version of Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies when it comes to advice to myself or others. A strategy I like is 'Ditch the first paragraph'.  Sometimes, if you’re not sure about yourself when you are saying something, you’ll start off by excusing the fact you’re even there there. And it spoils things a bit; just get on with it! It’s like saying:

“Unaccustomed as I am to public speaking.”

Well, unaccustomed as I am to public blogging, here’s a first post. It’s just there, so don’t be staring at it. And I hope it’s not a flash in the pan. I hope more follow, and fairly regularly. And if I do then I’ll explain what I’m looking to do and some plans I have; there are some ideas I have to run by you. So stay tuned, let’s see where this goes. The next big thing, in case you haven’t heard, is…..