The Angry Corrie 53: Apr-May 2002
Adventures in hypertension reality
As has been remarked in these pages previously, in the decade-plus of its existence TAC has never had any genuine rival-cum-imitator. Hence no duality, creative or otherwise, has sprung up along the lines of Oasis versus Blur, Henman versus Rusedski or - er - TGO versus Trail. A shame, as a second stallion kicking wildly in the angry stable might prove stimulating (or at least entertainingly noisy). Occasionally, however, something vaguely similar does stumble into view - a home-produced zine that recoils from the world of commerce and gloss. One such distantly kindred spirit is Loose Scree, and it merits a review - not least because any such standing-start venture deserves whatever publicity it can find.
LOOSE SCREE is a bimonthly A5-size publication running to around 40 pages. According to its own editorial description, it occupies a conceptual space somewhere "between a club newsletter and the national glossies." As for the target readership, the colours are firmly nailed to the mast - it is aimed at, and largely written by, "Bumblies, Charismatic Old Farts and Climbing's Bedrock."
My review copies are from November 2001 and January 2002 and, if they are at all typical, Loose Scree is certainly hitting its mark. A lot of space is devoted to personal accounts of long-ago epics. Michael Greene's "A Day in the Cuillin" opens in typical manner: "In April 1948 I was demobilised after serving for three years in the Royal Navy during which time there had been too few opportunities for any climbing ..." Other pages are faintly luminescent with the dim but nevertheless rosy glow of better, bygone days. Roger Bland's "Escaping to the Freedom of the Fells" gives the overall tone with a single sentence: "I had a card from my old scout master (now over 90) which recollected his gratitude in the late 1940's when I had apparently carried his greatcoat up Skiddaw for him." In places, you can hardly turn a page without finding another mention of tricouni nails and hemp ropes.
But it's not all reminiscence. Loose Scree's contributors are still climbing, albeit with their outings now enlivened by angina, hypertension and failing eyesight as well as the inevitable dodgy knees. Some modification of aspiration is required in these circumstances and I enjoyed the self-deprecating detail given in "Zimmer Rats". Climbing stances no longer involve "standing on a sloping foot-hold tied on by a piece of line barely down the back of a small, loose flake" - they are now "large enough for tea and sandwiches and, if the day be warm, a doze afterwards." In general, modern climbing trends are viewed with weary amusement. Things are (of course) too easy for today's brightly-clad young climbers: "Where now are the guidebooks of yesteryear which identified the mountain and then advised '1000ft straight up'?"
There is one book review - an adulatory piece on The Wilderness World of Cameron McNeish which was a startling change of viewpoint for this war-weary TACer. And the mixture is completed with a few poems, a little fiction, and some well-chosen extracts from nineteenth-century climbing books. Oh, and there's the occasional double entendre to gladden Gordon Smith's heart: "He asked if I would like to see his Friend. I nodded wanly. He produced it. It was enormous ..."
Where do I find fault? Well, the magazine's back page does declare that it "has a co-ordinator not an editor," but a little more proof-reading would have improved readability enormously. Commas often seem to have been scattered in random handfuls - this makes reading, difficult; and re-reading, a necessity. And I think I detect signs of a scanner and optical character recognition software in the occasional uncorrected substitution of "1" for "I".
There's a lot of good, often amusing writing, but many of the contributors spent their formative years in an era when arch polysyllabic humour was considered the apogee of humorous climbing writing. This is difficult stuff to do well, though, and a little goes a very long way. (And I do realise that I'm very much in danger of playing Mr Pot to Loose Scree's large Kettle family here.) So phrases like "their first attempt to essay the [climb]" and "divesting his bowels" might have been better not essayed in the first place.
Overall, I enjoyed my time with Loose Scree, although it won't become a habit for me - these folk are fine folk, but not really my kind of folk. Still, I'm glad to hear from the Charismatic Old Farts, and glad to see that they're enjoying themselves so much.
I hope to be one myself, some day.