Monday, 23 June 2014

Back to School

Since my last post I've been through a bit of a schooling - both physical and mental; Finale is a hard but fair teacher.

To start with I was only managing a few routes a day in the 6a to 6b range and left feeling broken.

My skin hurt. My fingers hurt. My back hurt. My arms hurt. My feet hurt.

After a few days of this, I began to feel frustrated - I was desperate to get back to where I was before the injuries, illness and van building duties that kept me out of action since September.

I was throwing myself at the rock with gusto, but the climbing here is very technical; Finale rewards patience (and footwork) over enthusiasm.

The frustration ruined my crag psych, which spilled over to affect Clare as well - I wasn't a fun person to climb with.

I should have known better, I've been here before.

After a bit of "heated discussion" on the matter, on Tuesday I realised I was behaving like a child, and resolved to try harder to relax and enjoy where I am, instead of thinking of where I want to be and immediately things began to improve.

On Wednesday we went up to Falesia della Luna - a short crag with quite cruxy routes that didn't really suit my style - and onsighted six routes up to 6b.

After a rest day, Nic appeared in town for the weekend, so I headed up with him to Bric Scimarco - Superior for a Friday evening climb. Nic's non ti prioccupare attitude to climbing (and life in general) was just what I needed to help settle me down, and the sector proved to be an ideal place to show myself I wasn't doing too badly.

After warming up on a couple of long easy routes, I went for Tutti Questi Temerari Uccelli - a 32m 6c. It was more my usual style of climbing with a steep, powerful crux on good holds.

On my onsight attempt I lost composure, concentrated too much on my hands, cut loose, tried to campus, and failed.

Getting back on I tried the same sequence, but took the time to really place my feet well; I comfortably reached over to the jug at the end of the crux. There was a bit of climbing left, but nothing too difficult and as I clipped the chains I was a little annoyed: Just a bit more composure, or a bit more finger strength, and I'd have onsighted that!

By the time I reached the ground I was already in a better mindset; I read the route well and picked the right sequence for me at the crux, and in a few weeks time my composure will be better, my fingers stronger and my footwork tidier; in fact it was good that I didn't have the strength to campus - I wouldn't have learned anything from it.

I sent the route first redpoint, which left time for one more line. Nic went up Hyperzot (34m, 7a) and watching him climb I tossed up in my mind - have a go or take a sensible warm down?

Nic got to the chains and asked:

"What do you want me to do?"

"How was it?"

"Crux is tricky but I think the rest is quite climbable."

"OK, leave the draws in and I'll have a go."

Having already watching him climb it, I pumped Nic for the beta and went for the flash. The crux was high on the route with a rest immediately below, and I climbed everything up to it pretty cleanly.

I phsyched myself up and went for it - some crimpy moves round an arete, then a reach to a tufa blob at the back of a dihedral. I set my feet well and stretched over. As my left hand touched the rock, the fingers of my right hand popped off and I was in the air.

So close, yet this time I was not annoyed. I'd read the footwork correctly, kept my composure, and executed the moves well - I simply didn't have the strength to stick it.

That will come. Just like a route, project Get In Shape needs a little patience - and if there's one thing I have a lot of right now it's time.

After another rest day to let the fingers recover, we joined Nic and Simone at Placca dei Maleducati - another new crag for us, this time just down the road from our home base at Monte Cucco.

Clare and I started on some shorter lines to the left of the crag - these were quite dirty, technical and hard. One line - Via Centrale (6b) - defeated me and I had to pull on a draw to finish and clean the route.

Further along the routes became longer and better, but still with a very technical style - Nic tells me the alpine club take students here to learn footwork and I can see why.

Il Falcetto Picheitto E Il Mangiatore Di Mosche was a beautiful 20m 6a that made me think a bit at times, then next to it was K-pax (6b+, 20m). Simone had some difficulty working the crux, and as I tied in to have a go he said to me "let's see your style". I immediately felt under pressure to perform, to make a good impression on the locals.

Once I got under way however this fell away, and I climbed with much more freedom than I have to date. I nailed the crux, and apart from wasting energy stopping to clip just before reaching a good rest, I knew I was climbing well. I clipped the chains and let out a whoop of joy... the numbers did not matter - I was as proud of that onsight as I would have been on a steep 7a.

I may seek out some "harder" lines in my style again before I leave Finale, but for now I'm going to stick with the technical climbing - see if I can learn to climb these 6bs like a local.

First lesson learnt.


Crux of K-pax - photo by Nicola Ciancaglini
Then a super-strenous clip, two moves from a jug... D'OH! Photo by Nicola Ciancaglini.
Simone on the super-wild looking Les Couleurs d'un Autre Monde (6b)...

... and sending in style.


Bit of rest day fun...

Thursday, 12 June 2014

On the road at last!

It's a year and a half since we decided to quit the rat race and live on the road for a while. Having dinner in the Monte Cucco car park in Finale, watching the fireflies dance after a morning at the crag and an afternoon at the beach, it's hard not to feel smug. The hard work and sacrifices of the last 18 months are fading into memory now we're into the payoff. And what a payoff - we've hit the jackpot.

I finished working six weeks ago, and after a bit of time in Scotland seeing my family then down in the west country with Clare's, we popped back into London to get a fresh MOT for the van, get drunk one last time with old friends, and head for Dover.

With time on our hands, we avoided the toll roads and ambled down France on les routes national passing by Paris, Lyon and Grenoble to cross the alps at Briancon last friday afternoon. We went down to Turin to see Nic and Elo for the evening, then after a lazy morning and trip to an open air market for fresh fruit and veg we headed south for Liguria.

Clare hasn't been here before, and as soon as we left Savona on the coast road she was blown away by the scenery. We were sweltering and it would be too late for a climb, so we parked up at the first free spot and hit the beach, before heading up to the car park for the night.

Between work, van building and injury, neither of us have climbed for a long time so Sunday morning we looked for somewhere easy. One of the sectors at Monte Cucco seemed to fit the bill - the historic settore Della Torre. After a couple of 4b climbs to warmup I got on the first pitch of La Torre - a 5c first climbed in 1969 by Gianni Calcagno and Allesandro Grillo. Boy did I have to fight for the onsight... it may be much more polished than the day it was graded but if I needed a reminder of the old school style and grading in Finale, here it was.

Monday lunchtime (after a long lie and a slow breakfast), we decided we'd better find a north facing crag and went for La Goletta in Rian Cornei. It was a 20 minute uphill hike from the Ponte Cornei and despite the tree cover we were drenched in sweat by the time we arrived. It was worth the walk though - Goletta is a small but beautiful crag that deserves more traffic than it obviously gets. The bottom of the routes was dirty and vegetated, and the pockets filled with cobwebs, weeds and dead spiders. We didn't see a soul between parking the car and getting back to it.

The highlight of the crag was an overhanging groove called Alle Cinque Della Sera (6a+), of which the Tomassini guide book says:

"Whoever goes to climb at the Goletta cannot help noticing the corner masterpiece... sometimes you ask yourself whether it's worth taking a trip just to climb one route... in this case Fabio (Bigo) Peirpaoli and the Association Outdoor Liguria think it is."

I think they're right, and I'm glad I got on it while I wasn't fit enough to make it an unfair fight. Whilst not quite the old school grading of some of the earlier bolted crags it still packed a punch for the grade; it took a strong dose of determination and good tactics to bag the onsight. It's a line I won't forget for a while, for more than one reason.

Powerful moves between pockets up the groove led to an uncomfortably stretched bridging rest, before pulling over to a short vertical face climb to the chains. My first three attempts to get established on the slab resulted in a scrabbling retreat to the rest, before I finally saw the missing jigsaw piece. A couple of moves later I was somewhat precariously onto the slab and breathing heavily. There was a line of three pockets in front of my face; the middle one wasn't so positive so I took a double gaston position on the outer two to sort my feet and get pressed into the wall to recover.

My face was against the rock with the middle pocket just by my temple when from the corner of my eye I noticed there was a twig inside it... wait a minute... that wasn't there before... I pulled back to focus and realised it was a small arm complete with claw - I'd been resting with my head against a scorpion's front door and he was coming out to tell me I wasn't invited. So much for getting the heart rate down!

I didn't want to blow the onsight, and I knew I wasn't yet recovered enough to bolt for the top, so I leaned back and watched him - all the while wondering if the three open-backed pockets were connected and whether his family were in there. As it turned out, standing watching him was less scary than moving off - as soon as he was out of sight by my feet all I could think about was him scuttling out and up my leg to sting me, so it was with considerable joy and relief that I high-stepped onto the ledge above to clip the chains.

We got back to the beach in time to catch the last hour of sunshine. As we swum around cooling off we started laughing and I think it finally sunk in... WE MADE IT OUT!!!

For so long Monday has been a day to dread - the start of the working week. One day we may have to go back to that but for now it's just another day to climb and visit the beach. The hard work and sacrifices to get here were definitely worthwhile.

Deer in the highlands of Scotland

Summer in Ullapool... not quite the heat of the italian riviera

Beautiful beaches though

Church in Albertville.
French wheat fields

Crossing the Alps

Fruit market in Turin
This little fella climbed onto my shirt as we arrived at the crag...



And had finished transforming when we left.

Lo scorpione...

The beach we go to most afternoons, between Finale and Noli - free beach and usually free parking within a 5 minute walk.

A selfie... since all the kids are doing it these days...

View from the beach.

I had no idea there were scorpions here, but it turns out they may be quite common - found this one a day later on the toilet wall at Monte Cucco car park.

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Push the button

My hand shook slightly as I sat at the computer, the mouse pointer hovering over the Send button. My heart raced and my body felt electrified as a torrent of conflicting emotions fought for my attention.

I sat for a while and let them linger, savouring the delicious uncertainty.




It was a simple e-mail, and my boss was expecting it. I'd been working towards being able to send it with single-minded determination for so long, yet now that the moment had arrived it was terrifying. Sending it would be a step beyond the point of no return.

Sending it meant I was starting a 4 week notice period.

Sending it meant it was 4 weeks until I would officially become an unemployed climbing bum.







I hit send.

A few moments later, my boss looked over his shoulder and gave me a smile and a thumbs up... it was done.

The doubt gave way and a wave of euphoria washed through me. I was free. I felt giddy.

At some point I got an e-mail from HR outlining the exit procedures, and a few congratulations came in, but most of the afternoon was a blur.

After a decade in the city of London, I've called time. Time to try a new life at the opposite end of the spectrum - from my small part in greasing the path for large amounts of money to flow around the beating heart of the capitalist machine, to no fixed job and no fixed abode - an itinerant climber.

I've no doubt there will be moments over the next few weeks when I'll wonder if I've done the right thing, but when those moments come, I'll just have to remind myself of this simple truth:






See you all in the next life!

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Rehab Psych

The last six months or so have been frustrated by injuries - shoulder, knee, hand, elbow... then just when I thought I was back on the road to fitness, another slipped disk. To use an old Scots phrase, I was fair scunnered.

I went to see a new physio who had some new ideas to compliment advice I'd had before, and initial progress was really good. However after a few weeks I got to a bit of a plateau of my own making.

I'm no stranger to injury, and I'm usually pretty good at taking a positive mental attitude to my rehab; but physio sucks at the best of times, and when nerve pain is involved it's excruciating. This is the third time my L5/S1 disk has gone in the space of a couple of years, and I've been finding it hard to push through the pain barrier.

I started casting around the web for inspiration, but UKC and /r/climbing didn't seem to be cutting it; fortunately help was at hand from sources closer to home.

First came the news that Tom "Slab Master" Le Fanu had climbed his first 8a. Next up were grainy pictures of a head-torch 8a+ ascent from rock athlete Jerome Mowat. Then along came the news that Adam "Beast" Brown had also ticked his first 8a.

Wow.
Le Fanu clearly had nothing left to even raise a celebratory smile after La Crema (8a) - photo by Adam Brown

Jerome making his outrageous head-torch ascent of  Brot de Fonol (8a+) - photo by Adam Brown

News of some incredible feat by a top climber is really just that; news. But hearing of friends achievements is something else - you know the work they've put in, the highs and the lows, because you've been there with them.

You can feel the buzz they felt when they first thought "this can go". You can feel the deflation they felt when for the next few attempts it didn't. And you can feel the elation they felt when they clipped the chains.

And as great as those vicarious feelings are, you want it all back for real.

Next morning, two insightful blog posts appeared with some excellent photographs and a bit of an old-school vibe. Ramon "discovering Suirana" with the afore-mentioned team of UK based crankers, and Nicola going back to the world of multi-pitch slabs in Italy. It was particularly useful to see new pictures of Finale... I'm going to be there in a few months time, and it reminded me I want to be fit.

A couple of days later, Jerome also put up a great account of his end to the trip.

Thanks to these guys, I've been back in the basement shower room before work, during lunchtimes and after hours for the last two weeks doing back bends till I think I'm going to vomit and poking around in my lower back and glutes with tennis balls, golf balls and rollers till I feel close to passing out.

And it's working.

I *will* make it back to full fitness before our departure date, with a bit of hard work, gritted teeth, and a little help from my friends.

I'll leave you with a great reply and picture I got from Adam when I mailed him for the lowdown:

The one attached is of us just after we each ticked our projects in a very crazy 2 hour window on the last night of the trip. It was honestly the craziest couple of hours of my life. We'd gone back down to the crag (after a 4 hour siesta!) all feeling weak and lazy and unable even to do the easy bits of our project to get warmed up - I think objectively I gave Tom a 30% chance of getting the tick; me 10% and Jerome (on a different proj) also 10%. Then suddenly it all happened - 30 mins later Tom had ticked his second 8a; then I had done my first; but the fact that we'd both succeeded meant Jerome had to crank in the dark. Instead of being down on his chances (esp since he hadn't even managed the crux move in isolation at that point) he just tied on and did the thing. I think we were all in a state of shock (Fatima and Rachel saw us and I think they thought we were mad!). Psyche like that is definitely contagious...!

Indeed it is, Mr Brown. Indeed it is.

Team Psych after a their night of glory


Tuesday, 4 March 2014

London

Tower Bridge


Coming into London at 7:30 on a sunny morning, you see a city at peace.

Early risers stroll to the office across London Bridge while behind them the sun rises over Tower Bridge, creating a spectacular silhouette of another time.

Joggers pad along the Thames embankment to the sound of water pushing past concrete. Seagulls cry out as they circle the river looking for food. A boat goes past, creating a wash that swooshes through rotting timbers, perhaps depositing another old clay pipe on the stony bank.

For a time, it's almost enough to make me forget the madness I'm so keen to escape...

A peaceful Thames

... almost.

It's hard to relax in this city - quiet moments are snatched but you always know that chaos is just around the corner.

The traffic will swell and in an hour London Bridge will once more become a teeming mass of suits, streaming out from the station like ants leaving the nest. Desperate to reach their financial factories on time, they probably won't notice the beauty of tower bridge or the contrasting steel and glass buildings shining in the sun. London does that - it blinkers you.

Some will escape the confines of the office for a lunchtime stroll or a run by the river, but most won't - they'll have lunchtime meetings and sandwiches at desks; wasting away lives in the pursuit of a better postcode, a faster car, a bigger bonus, and perhaps a trophy wife... or maybe just - as I did for so long - to blow it all on going out in the evenings.

I arrive at the gym for my physio appointment - many who like a physical challenge are here before work, pumping iron or pounding away on stationary bikes and treadmills under LED lighting, while the sun shines on a beautiful day outside.

It reminds me of myself over the last few years.

The climbing gym was my second home. Pulling on plastic till my fingers blistered, my elbows inflamed and my body ached in pursuit of strength and stamina... yet seldom did I touch rock.

Endless laps of the pool, following the black line, trying to improve speed and endurance... but rarely tasting salt in place of chlorine.

Even on the bike, I spent more time circling Richmond park to see if I was getting faster than I did exploring new places.

Everything became results driven - training for sport climbing grades and triathlon race times. Constantly living for that next great experience, not the good one I could be having today.


The Walkie Talkie building


Looking back, I don't really understand how I fell into this world. I remember the choices that got me here, I just don't know why I took them. It was never an ambition to work in the city - I grew up fishing, mountain biking and hill walking, getting stoned, taking mushrooms and dancing the night away shit-faced on amphetamines and alcohol. Life was about the now, never about the future, and I thought it would always be like that.

I remember laughing at a high school classmate who told me of his plan to come down here, work hard, make his fortune and retire early. To me, back then, it sounded like a lot of effort into something you wouldn't enjoy. As it does now. Somehow, somewhere in between, I lost sight of that.

Yes, on reflection there just aren't enough of the beautiful moments here to justify putting up with the hectic pace. I've made a lot of good friends in this city - and those I will miss dearly - but the rat race? I don't think so.

It's time to go back to being true to myself, living life for the kicks and the creation of memories; spending my energy on having fun... except perhaps this time with less of the drink and drugs.

I'll leave you with one of the best little life philosophy videos I've come across in some time. If I ever question the wisdom of what I'm doing between now quitting my job to get on the road, I'll just have to play this one again.

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Facing the voice

Crippling self-doubt is an insidious enemy. A whispering voice, so persistent and pervasive it becomes invisible - like the tip of your nose, always in your field of vision but never seen.

But like your nose, if you choose to look there it is. A voice that puts a negative spin on everything.

you can't do this....you'll embarrass yourself.... what are you doing?... what if this goes wrong?

Over the past six months of counselling I've become much more aware of that voice in my daily life. I knew negative self-image was a problem, but it took a while to see this mechanism controlling my behaviour.

As I progressed, it became apparent that although I'd broken the mold for new activities, I'd yet to improve an established negative pattern. I decided I wanted to challenge this, but I wanted to start with something fairly unimportant - something that wouldn't push me back into my shell if I failed.

My pool game seemed to fit the bill. I played for most of my life but gave away my cue a couple of years ago, telling people who asked that I'd become bored of the game. In truth I'd grown frustrated at my inability to progress.

So a couple of months ago I began popping into my old local a couple of evenings a week. I was rusty so to begin with I avoided the urge to take things seriously; concentrating on having fun and getting my cue arm into working order.

After a few weeks I started to pay attention to the internal monologue and sure enough there was a strong correlation between the quality of my shots and my state of mind - negative thoughts resulting in cueing across the white, snatching at shots, standing up before I'd finished the stroke... all the classic mistakes.

As I started to get a bit more into the flow, it was interesting to see the difference between my self-image and others perceptions; I was still getting frustrated at my lack of consistency while Paul was joking about looking forward to me leaving the country so he wouldn't have to play me.

Last week however, I felt I was cueing nicely from my first game. Chris got on the black first and tried a trick shot - normal etiquette would require I do the same, but I was only thinking of testing my striking so I set up a long straight pot and hit it hard.

Much to my satisfaction it went straight down the middle of the bag, but it riled Chris a bit and the banter he took as I won the next two didn't help. When I asked if the hat-trick meant I could take him home and put him on the mantle piece he issued a challenge: play for a drink, first to four, you get to keep your three frame head start.

Sounds easy, but Chris is a good player and very strong tactically, which makes him a hard man to beat when he's taking things seriously.

The next game was a tight, tactical battle and although Chris came out on top, I was pleased with the way I'd played it.

3-1

Another tactical affair followed and this time I engineered a good chance to clean up, but couldn't close it out.

3-2

See? You're no good under pressure, never were.... not even a friendly bet with a mate.... always bottling it when you get near the finish line... he's going to humiliate you from 3-0 up...

Game six I was first to a decent chance - easy starter pot, all my reds available, just the black tied up. I put together a solid break, potting cleanly up to the last red. I looked at the black - it was nestled between two yellows on the top cushion.

I didn't have the intended angle to disturb it off the pot, and I could see only one possibility to finish - play it off the cushion and catch the yellow to stun two feet along the rail. The balls were so close together that the margins were ridiculous.

You'll never make that, and you'll look a fool for trying... lay the red over the bag and see if Chris makes a mess of it... there's no shame if he closes out, you gave it your best shot... don't risk making an arse of yourself...

I decided to knock the red in and screw back a couple of inches to have a go at the black.

I addressed the table.

You'll never make it now, you've put yourself under pressure with that daft black idea, you won't even pot the red... how stupid are you going to look lining up an outrageous black and not even making the red...

I stood up off the shot.

Now you've done it... don't get up once you're lining the shot... if you go down again and miss you look foolish for not going through with the first attempt...

Time to interrupt.

The red is well within your repertoire. Ignore the black. Relax, pot the red, and put the white right there. That's your crux move for now, so focus on it. Nothing else. Do you know you can pot this? Good. Are you relaxed? Good. Now get down to the shot. Line it up. Relax your cue hand. Keep your head still. Push through the shot. Perfect.

Have a good look at the angles, take your time, nothing else matters. Don't be distracted by the other people in the room. Happy? Good. Repeat the drill.


The black cannoned almost perfectly and rolled down the rail. It jawed in the pocket... and stayed up.

With a wry grin on my face I stamped a foot in mock frustration as I turned away, but in truth I was happy. Whether I got back to the table or not, I'd won my first small victory in the war against that voice, and that was a lot more important that proving a point to an old friend.

Back in the pub last night the nagging was still there but it was much easier to keep it down, and I found myself taking on pots with great confidence. In one game alone I pulled three straight out of the top drawer - the last dead weight up and down the length of the full table to get out of a snooker, pot my last ball, flick the black and land perfectly on it to the same pocket. I'd have been absolutely stoked with that shot when I was playing regularly.

It's a shame I won't be hanging around long enough to have a crack at getting back in the team, and there is of course a huge difference between silencing the voice in a friendly environment and doing it under genuine pressure, but I've proven a valuable point to myself: breaking established patterns can be done.

I know that turning around a lifetime of negative thinking will be a long, hard road, but it's good to know I've taken those first baby steps.

Thanks Chris, your timing was impeccable.

Chris sinking a confident long pot.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

The perfect day

Sitting in the dark, scooping beans from the tin with a spoon fashioned from the top of the empty milk carton that will later become my breakfast bowl, I feel happy. A deeply relaxed happiness I haven't felt for some time. I'm content just to be. Just to sit. Just to listen to the sea.

I drift off to sleep to the sound of a guitar from the camp in the trees behind the beach. Some time later I wake feeling cold and climb into my sleeping bag. The moon is unusually bright now, lighting up the beach like a weak, white sun. I fall asleep again easily, and sleep soundly until the real daylight arrives - waking in time to wander across the beach and sit on the rocks, watching the sun come up over the sea.

A man in a loin cloth and sandals appears and walks to the water's edge, stripping naked and swimming out towards the rising sun. The dog that had been sleeping outside a tent further up the beach wanders over to say hello. The naked swimmer returns to the beach and stands facing the sun, eyes closed, meditating. His partner arrives and joins him. Two more people come down onto the sand with rugs to do morning yoga.

I take my sleeping mat and walk out to face the sun too. 


Normally I'm distracted while I practice - it's hard not to think about getting finished and the day that is to come. Today is not like that. I'm not counting breaths till the next pose, I'm listening to my body as it awakens. Relaxing into the stretches with each outward breath until I reach my limit, then holding for a while. Waiting. My mind is with my body in the asana today.

After resting a while, I strip too and go for a swim, feeling the warm Mediterranean lapping against my skin, then come out to lie in the sun.

This feels like how life should be.


The previous morning I was in a hurry. I'd arrived in the airport at Palma with the intention of climbing non-stop for 9 days, super-psyched for the Deep Water Soloing. I was rather unprepared - I'd packed in a last-minute scramble and couldn't find my guidebook. I was planning on bivying, but I'd come with hand luggage only so I couldn't bring a knife. I'd left my plate, cup, fork and spoon sitting on the bed in the van.

I'd driven straight across the island, hooked up with Jerome at Cala Barques and got stuck into the climbing. I warmed up on Hercules (6c) with surprising ease and then tried to repeat Metrosexual (7a+), taking a lot of falls on the high crux. Despite my lack of recent sport climbing, I felt in decent form.

I almost changed my mind on bivying when Delphine said they had a spare bed, but I'm glad I didn't. Waking up on the beach I realised I had a lot more to gain from kicking back and getting in tune with myself on this holiday than I would from obsessing about cranking out projects.

I decided to leave my climbing shoes in my bag and sit on the beach watching the day go past.

The guys in the camp made their way down to the beach as the morning progressed and spent the day there - some doing DWS, some having a swim, some having a beer. They had a sea kayak and every so often someone would take it for a paddle along the coast. One girl had a little stall selling earrings to the tourists. They sang a lot. They laughed a lot. They give the impression that life is rather good when you stop taking it seriously.

The guitar player, with a rough but tuneful voice - ideally suited to the reggae beats he favoured - played with boundless enthusiasm. He started in the morning as everyone else was stretching and making coffee. He had a blast in the afternoon while the tourists covered the beach. And round the campfire at night, off he went again. Another guitar joined in sometimes, and a couple of djembe drums, but at the heart of it was always his voice.

The beach swelled with tourists in the afternoon, boats appeared and moored up in the bay. Large catamarans teeming with sight-seers swung past - stopping to take pictures of the caves, before heading to the next attraction.

I sat on the beach. When I got tired I snoozed. When I got hungry I ate. When I got thirsty I drank. When I got hot, I swam. And in between I did nothing more than sit and think.

The boats left. The sun started to disappear over the hill. The sunbathers began to pack up, the beach slowly emptying until all that was left was that group sitting round a guitar.

The light faded out and they too made their way back into the trees.

I lay on my back watching the stars come out. The moon rose casting it's cold light across the beach once more. I climbed into my sleeping bag and drifted off to sleep. I'd spoken to nobody and distracted myself with no books, no games, no internet. I'd spent the day with the company of my own head and felt neither restless nor concerned.

Content. Happy to just be. The perfect day.

Sunrise at Cala Barques