Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Show us your Steak: Men's mental health awareness campaign

Uncle Hazy... Haze Outdoors, creator of the 'Show us your Steak' challenge. Aimed at tackling the taboo subject of male mental health problems.
I've been tempted out of temporary blogging retirement to write about something which I've found to be pretty inspiring and moving. The often taboo subject of men's mental health and depression which leads to men being three times more like to commit suicide than women and sees suicide as the biggest cause of death in male under 50's.

I recently discovered on YouTube an outdoorsy/Bushcraft vlogger called Haze Outdoors. I actually don't know his real name but he seems to go by 'Hazy' to his friends. I really love his off the wall vlogs which mix genuine bushcraft skills with real ale appreciation. The Leeds brewer Northern Monk figures highly in his vlogs. Above all, I love his irreverent humour. Often accompanied by his laconic sidekick 'Joey D' , his videos which cover everything from wild camping, wild swimming and campfire cooking are highly entertaining.

It was the latter element however, which marked Hazy out as more than just a bushcrafter who likes to play the role of the macho outdoorsman. A month ago he instigated a 'Show us your steak' challenge where YouTube outdoors vloggers are tagged and expected to go off into the woods and give free rein to their inner caveman and cook a steak however they see fit. Lobbed onto hot coals, grilled on a rack, dangled over the flames etc. The important element though was not the epicurean creativity displayed by hairy arsed outdoors folk, but to use the task to talk honestly about men's mental health. A subject so many who suffer from depression find so difficult to talk about.

I had a black dog: His name was depression
The 'Show us your steak' challenge has pretty much gone viral and last night I was browsing the outdoors vloggers who were taking part and I was knocked out by the sheer numbers and the status of those involved. Some of the biggest outdoor/ bushcraft names on Youtube, including those in the US and Canada, can be seen, rustling up their steaks and talking movingly about their personal experiences of depression. Urging those who are suffering to share their pain with friends and family or if they can't face those closest to them, to seek help from organisations like Mind and the Samaritans.

It's a brilliant idea from a totally sound guy who deserves all the praise he can get for his inspiring initiative. I've included a few videos here and hope it might inspire others to check out this beautiful community project and perhaps it might help those who suffer to realise that they are not alone. The black dog can be tamed.
PS...if you are Vegan or Vegetarian..'Show us your nut cutlet' !

Haze Outdoors. the video that kicked it all off 

Simon Outdoors 

Thursday, October 18, 2018

All at Sea

 All at Sea
Sorry for not posting anything recently. Sometimes life gets in the way of creative activities and something like an occasional blog gets pushed right down one's list of priorities. THAC has always been a something of a strange beast. Originally set up as an offshoot of Footless Crow to publish reviews whilst leaving features on the main FC page, it went on the re-publish outdoors and environmental news from other outlets before being re-launched again as a personal blog.

After continuing the outdoorsy theme for a while, I decided to include politics-another lifelong interest of mine-which perhaps not surprisingly scared off a lot of readers more used to the outdoors stuff!

Several times over the years I've considered just finishing the blog altogether. However, there are some interesting past features in the archives which are still being picked up so for the time being I'll let it be until I decide what to do with it. One thought is turning the whole enterprise over to others for them to promote their own material and channel their own ideas through? Any suggestions, let me know.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Jeff Lowe's Metanoia: Whose life is it anyway?

 Connie Self and Jeff Lowe at the Kendal Festival; Image KMF
Following Jeff Lowe's death two days ago, the brilliant Metanoia was quickly released the day after, on to YouTube. Rumours abound that the film was downloaded on to the YT platform by Jeff's daughter Sonja. However, it appears that Jeff's one time partner, Connie Self, who is named as the film's producer, is not exactly happy about it. Rather cryptic comments quickly appeared in the comments section from a couple of YouTube subscribers with long dormant accounts who magically appeared out of the woodwork to question the downloaders' rights and motives. 

Comments since removed. Now Connie Self herself has weighed in on the comments section- also since deleted- offering 'The legal penalties for copyright infringement are: Infringer pays the actual dollar amount of damages and profits. The law provides a range from $200 to $150,000 for each work infringed. Infringer pays for all attorneys fees and court costs.'

The implied threat of litigation here is spelt out loud. Now, the social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter are not exactly the best places to sieve fact from fiction, but as a Facebook friend of Jeff Lowe, I had gathered through posting attributed to Jeff, that he and Connie had fallen out at least 12 months ago and the suggestion was that a family feud had gathered momentum between his family and former partner. Either way, it is terribly sad how often this happens. Especially when someone re-marries or gets involved with a new partner who doesn't hit it off with the biological family.

Now I'm 8000 miles away in North Wales and far from having my finger on the pulse of the US climbing scene. But even from here, one can pick up that things are not exactly hunk-dory between Ms Self and Jeff's friends and family. As in any separation, there will inevitably be a splitting off into Team A and Team B. It's just so sad for Jeff that, in the words of Yeats 'Things fall apart'.

Since posting this afternoon, Jeff's daughter Sonja Lowe has issued this statement through Jeff's Facebook page....

Thank you all for the outpouring of support, love, and memories of my father following his death. I know he is missed immensely by many, and reading your comments has been wonderful these past few days.
My dad asked me last Wednesday, when hospice informed him he was dying imminently, to write the final chapter to the book he’d been working on, called “Many Climbs, Many Lessons.” He was disappointed that he wouldn’t be able to finish it. He wanted the final chapter to recap the events of this traumatic last year of his life. Unfortunately, due to threats of calling the police and threats of a lawsuit against me starting just hours after his death by Connie Self, his former “partner,” I am concerned I may never get to fulfill this promise I made to my father if I wait. I hate to be doing this now, and feel it’s incredibly unfair given that I’ve just lost my father, but I have an obligation to him to do so. I’ve attached just a fraction of the extensive documentation I have on this, including text messages between my dad and Connie, proving I’m not lying or exaggerating as I know I’ll be accused of by Connie. The abuse and bullying my father dealt with for years continues, even following my father’s death, and is directed now at me for fulfilling his dying wishes. My dad told Connie in June of this year when she had the audacity to claim that he was the abusive one (I find that difficult to imagine, given his inability to move or talk), “Connie that delusional in the extreme. I've begged you over the years to stop the yelling and screaming in my face. You have screamed your hate for me and blamed everything on me. After what seems like hours of this abuse you expect me to focus only on your professed love? I can't abide it anymore. I took the opportunity last September to remove myself from you.You also made your hate for Sonja clear in terms that any father could not abide. I could go on but I want once again to ask you to let it be and move forward.” So I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by this but find it incredibly unfortunate that she is attempting to tarnish his memory even after his death. So here’s the short version of the final chapter:
Last September, my dad confided in me that he was leaving Connie due to her abusing him. He wrote me the following email on September 6, 2017:
“I am not leaving Connie for another woman. I'm leaving her because of her repeated angry rages against me which she saves for when we are alone and which continue one-sided while she screams inches from my face with snarling lips and hate-filled eyes. In such tantrums she demeans, belittles and taunts my disabled condition. These rages are frequent enough that in 2013 I started keeping wirebound notebooks of them, filling up at least half a dozen before Connie started reading them and cutting out the worst pages. I tried to talk with Greg and Melinda about this, but never showed them the journals and didn't want to burden them further. Connie says she has the journals somewhere but doesn't know where. She doesn't deny her anger or cutting up the journals. She sometimes puctuatetes her rant with solid punches to my shoulder that actually do hurt a bit. Rent the movie, MISERY, if you want to see a Hollywood version of the type of existence I've been leading.”
2 days later, Adult Protective Services visited my dad and Connie’s home, due to 5 of his home health agency nurses, CNA’s and/or administrators reporting the abuse they’d witnessed firsthand. I have attached some of these reports. My dad, being the kind and forgiving person he was, did not want charges pressed. He just wanted to be free from her. This turned out to be a big mistake.
The last year of his life was filled with a lawsuit which consumed every last bit of energy my father had left, and destroyed what little time we had left with him as Connie claimed to own 100% of Adaptable Man, the film, etc. when in fact the Jeff Lowe Mountain Foundation owns 50% and my dad’s Living trust owns the rest, and all businesses are registered in my father’s name. Following mediation in May, where my dad agreed to settle given that he wanted it to be over, a resolution seemed to have been reached. After that, however, Connie continued to harass my father and failed to fulfill the terms of her side of the settlement agreement. Far worse, the abuse continued, to the point that she had to be escorted out of his nursing home by staff due to her rage and abuse towards my father. I have attached some of their text messages which I personally find incredibly disturbing.
The night of my father’s death, I had to call our attorney to request he warn Connie that there was still a no contact order, she wasn’t welcome there or wanted by my father at his deathbed, and not to send any more unwelcome visitors aka spies to report back to her, like she did with Paul Beiser. I told Paul how disrespectful it was for him to do this, dropping by unannounced, uninvited and unwelcome to report back to Connie when my father was on his deathbed, and requested that he leave which he did-but not before he’d relayed everything about my dad’s condition to Connie (or a third party who relayed the info to her), interrogated me with inappropriate questions to ask a grieving daughter, and wasted some of the last precious moments I had with my father. I was, and still am, horrified that they think this is even remotely acceptable.
I refuse to disregard what my father asked of me, even though I’ll probably get sued. At this point, I really just don’t care because it’s the right thing to do and I can’t live with myself if I break my promises to my dad. He’s been through enough and I hope this stops the facade that has been presented for years. It’s hard to imagine how awful he felt, or how I feel, having someone who abused him and demeaned him represent him publicly. He made it clear to her that she was not to represent him, yet she continued to do so. He wanted the final chapter of his book written, which may never be possible if Connie files a lawsuit against me. Which is why I’m writing this now while I still can. While it isn’t the complete final chapter and there’s many more horrific parts of it, it’s the best I can do at the moment to fulfill that promise to my dad sharing what he’d been through. Hopefully I’ll be able to write the entire thing someday, because the toughest battle he had to go through was this past year, being disabled, terminally ill, and abused by someone claiming to love him. Maybe that’s love, but like my dad and I discussed many times, that’s not our idea of love. My dad knew he was in a position to bring awareness to a common issue that typically is kept hidden. Anyone can be a victim of abuse, no matter how strong of a person they are or, as in my dad’s case, once were. There’s nothing to be embarrassed of and by hiding what happened we enable the abuse to continue.
Thank you to all who truly loved my father. And to those who want to believe Connie’s various versions of the stories, maybe you should read these texts from recent months to get an idea of who you’re really dealing with. I, for one, hope that this gets her to leave me and my family alone, once and for all so we can grieve the loss of a man that we all truly loved.
Thank you,
Sonja Lowe

Iconic ships caught in a perfect storm

It was sad to hear that the iconic Duke of Lancaster which has spent the last 30 years shipwrecked on dry land, at Mostyn Dock in Flintshire, has had the internationally acclaimed murals on its hull painted over. I blogged about the sorry state of the vessel 5 years ago and praised the Du-Dug art collective for using the abandoned vessel in such an imaginative way. European street artists had painted colourful giant murals on the rusting hull, their activity drawing the attention of the national and international media. Five years on and somewhat bizarrely, the art work has been brutally destroyed after the ship which has sported a white hull for most of active service life, was painted black.

Paint it Black: Image-Daily Post

Given the cost and scale of the task-painting a ship's hull is not something someone could achieve in a few hours with a couple of tins of paint from B&Q- I'm at a loss to understand why the owner-presumably?-wanted to destroy at considerable cost, the one thing which attracted people to The Duke of Lancaster. After all, the ship is fenced off behind barbed wire at the dock and last time I was there, there were security guys living in a caravan on the dock?

There are parallels here with another iconic ship, The Royal Iris which once plied its trade as a 'Ferry cross the Mersey'.In the sixties it was a popular ferry and cruise ship. The Beatles played there and Elvis Costello held his wedding reception on the ship. 

However, just like the Duke of Lancaster, its purpose and utilisation as a mode of transport became increasingly out of time to the point that refurbishment costs outweighed its value to the owners. In the case of The Duke-British Rail and The Royal Iris-The Mersey Passenger Transport Executive. 

Since then both ships have been sold and re-sold several times. Inevitably to individuals and business consortiums who believe they can make a fast buck out of the ageing vessels by converting them into nightclubs, galleries, leisure complexes etc. etc. In every case, those acquiring the vessels either lack the funds for their grand designs, run up against local government officialdom or just give up and lose interest. Selling on to yet another buyer/s without the money or motivation to take their project forward.

Of course refurbishing a ship and repurposing it requires very deep pockets. Sadly, just about every buyer of the Royal Iris and Duke of Lancaster have not had the funds to carry out what would be expensive and extensive work. However, with regard to the Duke of Lancaster and its current owner, John Rowley - who apparently lives in Romania- he has had to deal with a local authority-Flintshire- which has sabotaged every effort to make the Duke of Lancaster into a viable business. Presumably because it is seen as a threat to local businesses in neighbouring towns like Flint and Holywell and as is in the case of most local authorities in north Wales, many members of the council and planning board are small businessmen with vested financial interests in maintaining the status quo.

It doesn't excuse the fact that the owner has allowed an act of vandalism to be carried out on the vessel. Turning a beautifully adorned pale, rusting hulk into a brutal, black aesthetic void. Why....God knows???

The Royal Iris today. Slowly disintegrating into the Thames mud.
As for the owner of the Royal Iris, whose ship is now half sunken in the Thames mud, 500 nautical miles from its spiritual home, Again...why? Its hard to understand given the enthusiasm and good will generated back on Merseyside to save the Royal Iris and bring her home, why the owner would rather let her fall into total dereliction and reach a point beyond repair? 

In both cases, you have to wonder why-despite the financial investment of the owners of both ships-they didn't they just give them to trusts who would endeavour to save and restore them? Both the Royal Iris and The Duke of Lancaster have organisations with the drive and sense of purpose to have saved these iconic ships before it became too late. The sorry state of the Duke of Lancaster and The Royal Iris reveal a perfect storm of hubris, petty political officialdom, plans beyond adequate funding and plain ignorance and philistinism.

Further Reading



Wednesday, August 1, 2018

The Guardian verses Jeremy Corbyn : An Orwellian farce!

The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those who speak it
George Orwell

Another day, another manufactured Corbyn/ Anti Semitism smear story in the Guardian. Or more accurately, manufactured Corbyn/ Anti Semitism smear 'stories', for the paper has gone into hyper-drive in its Goebbelesque repackaging of the truth. Yesterday however, irony really did go on holiday, for a Guardian editorial offered an earnest, hang wringing appeal to Corbyn and the Labour Party to fulfil its role as her majesty's opposition and provide an alternative to the terrible Tories when it has spent every minute since Corbyn became leader, setting its Blairite attack dogs on him.

Spinning the lies of Jewish conservatives ad nauseam, complaining about his acceptance of the referendum result- despite his regret at the result and putting in more hours on the Remain campaign trail than any other Labour MP. They constantly nit pick his PMQT performances, regurgitate endless Blairite drivel from the likes of Rawnsley, Freedman, Kettle Cohen, Behr et al. Give platforms to appalling reactionaries in the PLP to spout their bile. In truth, it has been a tidal wave of anti Corbyn/ anti Left propaganda for two years.

A couple of months ago I wrote a blog about the slow death of the Guardian which has accelerated since ex Murdoch hack, Katherine Viner was brought in as editor to replace the popular and objective Alan Rushbridger. Since her appointment, the papers' trajectory has a been firmly set on a rightward course. The result being, it has alienated a wide swathe of its traditional, progressive readership and in the process its sales and number of readers has fallen off a cliff. Down 13% in the last 12 months alone.

However, it is the phony anti Semitism angle which has really dragged the paper into the gutter in the last few months. Despite many Jewish members of the Labour Party claiming that they have never experienced ANY Anti Semitism in all the time they have been members. And this includes respected Jewish voices like children's author Michael Rosen- the paper spins the lies of Jewish conservatives like the appalling Stephen Pollard, Corbyn troll and editor of the Jewish Chronicle. It also offers a platform to the right wing Labour Friends of Israel ,who to a man and woman are Neo Liberal in their politics, ferociously anti Corbyn and very much on message when it comes to sticking to the script when it comes to Netanyahu's war crimes in Gaza.

Recently Margaret Hodge-the failed London council leader who whitewashed away a child abuse scandal in her borough that she was aware of, and whose multi million pound family business tax affairs are creatively managed! -and the olegenous Ian Austin, have both been reported for foul mouthed abuse of colleagues. In Hodge's case it was to call Jeremy Corbyn a 'Fucking racist anti Semite' while Austin called Labour chair a 'fucking bastard and wanker'. In a normal profession this would be grounds for instant dismissal or at least suspension. Sadly however, the Labour Party's antediluvian methods for dealing with cases like this has seen the instigators continuing to draw their fat salaries and continue to undermine the party from within.

However, somewhat bizarrely, their reward for hurling abuse and behaving like unhinged dolts is to be granted a front page column, the very next day in the Guardian where they can continue their abusive, anti Labour campaign.
But bizarre is the operative word these days for The Guardian. Not content in leaving the phony anti Semitism to its political hacks and long term Corbyn opponents. It even has allowed its frocks and flics columnist, Hadley Freeman the chance to put the boot in and accuse Corbyn of anti Semitism. ..” Today I'll be reviewing this years top bikinis and tomorrow I'll be writing about the Armenian genocide of 1915-17. Did Turkey get a bum rap?'

What remains clear is that the whole Corbyn Anti Semitism smear campaign has the Israeli government's dirty finger prints all over it and the Guardian-as a firmly Centrist-Neo Liberal media outlet these days, are only to happy to fire the bullets that Neyanyahu's goons are loading for them. Ditto, The Labour Friends of Israel, The Board of Deputies of British Jews and various other Zionist and Jewish conservative organisations. The $64.000 question is can Corbyn survive this onslaught from the Right. Particularly as his mild mannered character and sadly misplaced hopes for a 'kinder and gentler politics' appears to have been exploited mercilessly by his many enemies.

Personally, I'm not hopeful. With some of his Momentum supporters going off at a tangent on a pointless campaign for a second referendum- instead of keeping their eyes on the prize-a Labour victory at the next General Election,and given what he is up against with at least half the PLP clutching blood stained knives to stick in his back at every opportunity. And finally, the lies circulated daily by a biased, right wing MSM, it would appear that the odds are against him. The one scintilla of hope I have is that decent folk of a progressive ilk will wake up to what is going on and rally behind him and that Britain's 3 million Muslims will recognize Corbyn's traditional support for Palestinian rights and this will see them turn out in droves when the next election comes. It was be ironic if the phony AS campaign orchestrated by the likes of Berger, Mann, Austin, Viner and Pollard, backfired to the extent that it actually helped Corbyn into Downing Street ! Now that would be poetic justice!

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Touching the Void : When writers lose the plot!

Acclaimed climbing writer, Boardman-Tasker winning author and Guardian Country diarist Jim Perrin, has controversially claimed that 'many in the mountaineering world 'have 'grave doubts' about Joe Simpson's account of his dramatic mountaineering survival tale, Touching the Void . Simpson's 1988 best seller which described how with climbing partner, Simon Yates, he successfully ascended the difficult Peruvian (20,813 foot) Siula Grande but almost died after miraculously surviving a fall and landing in a crevasse. Touching the Void has so far sold over half a million copies and has been translated into over 20 languages. It was also made into a successful film by director, Kevin McDonald.

Writing on his Facebook page, Perrin praised the heroism of the Thai school football team and the divers who carried out the successful rescue mission and when a 'Friend' claimed 'it was an epic of Joe Simpson proportions' Perrin responded 'Except this was real'. Going on to claim that an orthopedic friend had examined Joe Simpson's leg and concluded that 'he could not have possibly suffered the injuries described in Touching the Void'

Perrin himself has a reputation for fall outs with other writers and casting aspersions on those considered literary rivals in the world of mountaineering literature. The late Jim Curran, Robert McFarlane and now Joe Simpson have all been roasted by the famously acerbic writer. 

I have to say that this writer has absolutely no doubts about the veracity of Joe Simpson's remarkable story. However, it just goes to prove that even in the sober world of mountain literature, conspiracy theorists abound! 

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Talking lost crag blues...

Craig y Dwr, Cwm Crafnant taken last week.
The climbing community both here in north Wales and further afield in areas like the English Lake District, have in recent years, been much more more pro-active in trying to save traditional crags from disappearing under vegetation. Holding crag clean-up days where activists gather with loppers, saws and spades and clear the pathways to the crags, or dangle on shunts and hack out gorse and heather from cracks, or brush off moss and lichen which render routes un-climbable.
Tremadog has in recent years seen 'Tremfest'; organized by the BMC, this gathering is aimed at extending the range of routes at Tremadog to include those less popular but nevertheless, still worthwhile routes which- compared to the classics like Poor Man Peuterey, Vector, Merlin and One Step in the Clouds- get relatively little traffic.

Late last year I attended a crag clean up at Craig Dinas near Betws y Coed. A crag which despite the quality of its routes, its incredible location looking out on the beautiful Lledr Valley, its sunny, south facing aspect and the fact that it has a good pub-The Silver Fountain-at its base, is relatively unfrequented and the approaches can become unpleasant bushwhacks without regular attention. When I was up there last week,the approach was still fairly clear although the horrible gorse which runs riot at the top of the crag is starting to encroach on the path again.

A crag clean up was planned for Craig y Dwr, the imposing crag in Cwm Crafnant for this week, but a quick reccee by the organiser earlier this week, revealed that at this moment in time, in the height of summer, the bracken and heather beneath and above the crag would make it a difficult undertaking so its been postponed until later in the year when its died back a bit.

Although Craig y Dwr has never been a major Snowdonia crag, it does nevertheless hold some quality climbs. Not least 'Ron Jame's 'Vypon' which has in the past, been included in compendiums of North Wales classic climbs. I climbed there once. Nearly 20 years ago and it was still approachable and the routes were clean. Now it appears that the crag has been totally abandoned and never sees any visitors.

With crags like Dinas, Dwr and even Tremadog climbs getting little or no traffic these days, it speaks volumes about climbing's changing culture. There is no one reason why few people climb in Crafnant Valley any more. Despite its beauty, the quality of its climbs and its accessibility. Rather, there are several factors at work. Probably the main reason is the fact that Traditional Climbing has fallen victim to what younger climbers in particular seek from the activity. Why slog up to a crag which is outside of the popular orbit of most climbers, when you can play around on road side boulders or sport yourself on a bolted sports route? Then there is the ease by which you can climb abroad where sunshine and dry rock is almost guaranteed.

Another factor is competition from other activities which now entice would be climbers away from rock and winter climbing. Road and Mountain biking in particular has become phenomenally popular in the last decade. Parascending, Skiing, Fell Running, etc. etc. All activities more popular than ever.

So...in 2018, what is the future for crags like Craig Dinas and Craig Dwr? Trying to be positive, one would hope that these crag clean up days and the subsequent publicity, will entice more climbers to sample what's on offer hereabouts. The alternative and for me at least, the more likely scenario will be that these crags and areas like Crafnant will eventually return entirely back to nature.

Craig Dinas Clean Up Day.