Friday, May 3, 2013

Fragments: The secret life of essays


I was sorting through various files and papers and rediscovered a number of old essays,short stories poems and even some short plays which I'd written years ago. Mostly pre word processor and typewritten-complete with tippex corrections- or scrawled in Biro. Amongst the collection of stuff-from a horror story set on a whaling ship in Newfoundland to agitprop plays- were some old climbing articles and related poetry. Some of these poems were so high flown they would have made a Victorian romantic disciple of Wordsworth blush, but I was surprised to find that some of these pieces still worked reasonably well.

It was interesting to re-read some old articles which had either been written as part of a collection of essays, originally intended to be brought together in book form-only half completed- or as magazine articles. These had either been rejected or never submitted. I found an old article a few years ago which was originally accepted for publication in Climber when Cameron MacNeish was editor but as it coincided with him moving out of the editors chair, his successor obviously wasn't so keen and he never used it.

It had gathered dust for ten years or so until I decided to dust it down and put it out on Footless Crow. Ironically, the article about Alistair Crowley's Himalayan misadventures-'Mountains and other Goats' is the most popular article ever published on FC,regularly topping the most read features despite it being on site for three years. Incidentally, I don't think it's particularly good-Robin Campbell's Crowley piece also published on FC is much more rounded and scholarly but hey...a lot of people out there like it so I shouldn't complain!

Amongst the material is a collection of articles which had been commissioned for a now defunct outdoor magazine called Outdoor Action. I had completed six features which were to be published in monthly intervals as 'Classic scrambles in England and Wales.'. Once again fate intervened.The magazine folded and the feature ended up never seeing the light of day.As did the 'action' slides I'd taken on each route.

Some of these essays are incredibly personal and poignant. One recalls a magic week on the Argyll coast 15 years ago with my kids and female friend and her two youngsters where under a roaring sun and sublime indigo skies we lived high on the hog and swam in green waters and climbed on virgin sea cliffs. Sadly she died suddenly two years ago after Leukemia took hold and went through her like wild fire. It took her life just three weeks after diagnoses.Re-reading it again and looking at the photographs taken at the time raises a tear and a smile

Another essay details the time I spread my Father and his dog Gypsy's ashes on Bryn Castell in Snowdonia. An event which bore incredible similarities, with regard to the elemental forces at work that day,with someone else whose mortal remains ended up on this little Scot's Pine topped knoll-Menlove Edwards.

I might use some of these essays online in the future.After all,what good are these pieces gathering dust and unread. Someone out these might find something in them hopefully. I might even give some of the poems an airing......Now,that IS a high risk strategy from which my reputation might never recover!

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