Morphine and Memories. It's all I seem to have these days.
Ok, perhaps a tad dramatic but I am writing this hunched and twisted in agony. Another night of fitful sleep saw me turn up to ER at 06:30 this morning seeking pain relief. I am pinned by a trapped nerve in my back which is particularly excruciating. It means that yet another week goes by in which I cannot get close to doing what I want; namely spending time outdoors. Walking boots gather dust and a new packraft lies deflated and unloved.
To compound things I cannot do the necessary physio on my leg, to allow me to start going for walks or indeed running again, because my movement is so restricted. Woe is me!
So, mug of coffee in hand, I sit, stiffly, tapping at the keyboard, remembering times past and grumbling that I am unable to profit from another beautiful sunny, late winter's day.
Right. Now that you are reaching for your handkerchieves, I should add that I am documenting all this personal misery on the morning that my wife found out a good friend of her's has been diagnosed with cancer.
So, suck it up Smallwood. You have nothing to complain about. Smile at the sunshine through the window, smile at the daffodils in the garden, smile at the coffee in the cup, smile at politics, smile at the pile of washing up, at the discarded McDonalds on the street, at the pain in your back, at the things you have to eat. Smile, because all of this can change, and some things in life can't.
I have spent the last three days looking back at one of my earliest experiences of hiking / climbing in the Alps. I have gone through old photos and dug into my memory bank to write an article about it. The process has been enjoyable - a welcome relief from the frustration of inactivity. But, as nostalgic as we humans like to be, what we really need is the present and the future. I will (eventually) run an ultra marathon. I will climb again. I will go packrafting with my daughter. I will, presumably, be able to turn my head to the left without nauseous waves of pain stabbing me in the back.
I remain very, very fortunate.
More about the article "Bridging the Gap" and the multi-generationional influencers I had.
In 1993, aged 18 and enjoying my first summer holidaying free of the parental yolk, my best friend Paul, and I, headed to uhm... the same place I had holidayed for the last 18 years, but this time with the intention of graduating as mountaineers (we didn't really in the end, but it was a start).
Beyond Paul, who had been doing some mountain walking, I had no peers who were interested in climbing mountains at that age - I certainly didn't know anyone like the lycra-clad monkeys or fluorescent-daubed climbers in the magazines.
In fact I was heavily influenced by older generations. When I was 16 I was introduced to rock climbing by the wonderful Terry Gifford (my senior by a good many years) who came with us on a school day out to the Peak District (I believe his son was at my school).
In Italy most of my cousins and friends had no interest in anything beyond a stroll, or those who were climbers seemed overly protective of their hobby. My desire to join them, to try, to see what moving over rock and snow felt like was largely met with resistance and a touch of cynicism.
My mother's childhood friend, Dino (again many years my senior) was an exception. He encouraged curiosity in this regard. He persuaded my parents that a 2 day walk with a night in a hut was a good idea and that the dangers were not really as massive as one might imagine, even for a weedy 17 year old, like myself.
These "older" people with whom I spent a few moments in the hills and mountains had really quite a profound influence on me, enabling me to discover something I would go on to enjoy, giving me something to look forward to. I hope one day I can do the same and create a present and a future for someone else.