Thursday, March 30, 2017

I Miss Them!

‘I specialise,’ said Raoul, as we entered the uninspired repetitive landscape of the South Circular, ‘in phantom pain.’

Anyone recognize the book (obviously British) from which this sentence was taken? The book will appear in a later post. I quote the words now because there is a phenomenon —I believe—which could be known as phantom sound.

These guys, and their parents and big sister, stayed with us for a week. It was great. They are extremely well behaved, go to bed with no complaint and are utterly delightful. Same goes for the other family members. The children were not even noisy, though there was a time when I told my daughter I would send them all out to the curb if I had to listen to “The wheels on the bus go round and round” one more time. As a result of phantom sound, I still hear a little voice calling out “Dada" or "cheese.” He is a great devotee of them both. I wake and think I hear one singing and one making that little baby noise meaning “I am warm and cosy and happy for right now, but I’m going to want companionship/food/a dry diaper before too long”.

There also has to be a name for the grandparent reaction which causes us to climb the stairs on tip toe making no sound because the kids are in bed or taking a nap—but they have long departed. I’ve done it for years.

Yes, I miss them. And you are fortunate because I wanted to link to that silly bus song and couldn’t figure out how to do it without including another hour’s worth of chirpy music.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Two Days in March

It works out well for me to make a note here of dates I may want to mark—it certainly beats scribbling information on odd pieces of paper.

There are two dates to remember this March. The first was March 8, Michigan’s “wind event”, when record setting numbers of people lost power, some for as long as a week. Actually, the incident that had most people here on edge was the plane carrying the University of Michigan basketball team being blown off the edge of the runway at Willow Run. Amazingly, we were among the few who didn’t lose light and heat. We usually do when there is a storm which knocks down trees on our tree-lined streets. I hadn’t been feeling too great and had no need to go out, so I am ashamed to say I didn’t realize that a number of friends could have used a bed or a hot meal. I have sort of happy memories of past storms: there was a March ice storm when the children were small and the house was getting colder and colder. Thank goodness for a neighbor who showed us how to rig the furnace with a large voltage battery. I am sure it was dangerous, but it saved us hotel bills for five days and we got by with an occasional meal in a restaurant, usually surrounded by neighbors who were in the same predicament. I also remember a time after I switched from an electric stove to a gas one when my burners were kept busy as I made soup for the neighbors camped out around the kitchen table. There may have been a bottle or two of wine involved.

As I mentioned in the last paragraph, I had not been feeling too great, so when March 13 dawned, I was looking forward to a day with nowhere to go and the prospect of curling up with a book. So I was wearing a pair of grubby slippers (no socks), some tired yoga style pants, a grubby, baggy white turtleneck and some undies which had started out blue, but had found their way into a load of whites laced with bleach. They were a streaky looking disgrace. Sorry, Mum, I know what you always said! I wasn’t, however, knocked down by a bus, but I found myself in an ambulance on the way to the hospital with what was probably a reaction to the on-again, off-again prescribing of strong medication. I only stayed one night with orders to follow up with all the doctors involved, but I was poked and prodded, gave up a lot of blood and examined by a number of machines. They dragged me out of bed at 1:00 a.m. for an MRI and found myself being wheeled down a long corridor to an elevator. The floor was definitely on a slope and when we entered and exited the elevator there was a pronounced bump. The poor young woman pushing me was most concerned about the bump and apologized profusely. “It’s OK, it doesn’t bother me”, I said reassuringly,”but it could be hard on your older patients.”

A marked silence. I forgot I am seventy seven. And no-one showed any interest in my undies.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

It is Cold

Therefore I have been escaping into books which describe even worse conditions. I have written before about my attraction to K2 (and if you follow this link, please look up Jennifer Jordan’s book and Daphne’s post) and was happy to find two more books which were worth reading for different reasons.

This first book is rather over-dramatic (note the subtitle), but it does give a historical overview of all the attempts to climb K2  and highlights at length the first successful ascent by the Italians Compagnoni and Lacadelli in 1954. This expedition has led to a bitter “who carried the oxygen bottles, who hid the oxygen bottles?” controversy and much print dedicated to Walter Bonatti. Conefrey claims he has “new evidence” to dispute the accepted evidence, though I am not sure exactly what it is. He certainly has the most intriguing beginning to one of the chapters in his book—to any book come to that, “Aleister Crowley was a flamboyant, bisexual drug fiend with a fascination for the occult. He was not a typical twentieth century mountaineer, but for a few years at  least he was a very keen one.” While it is impossible to approve of his later life style, I couldn't help a smile when reading about the restrictions on gear.  Crowley was unwilling to give up his large collection of books, stating that while other mountaineers might be willing to forgo intellectual pleasures and behave like savages "when traveling through a savage country”, he could not live without his Milton. Needless to say he didn’t get far.

What didn’t I like about this book? Murky diagrams of the mountain and the various ridges and placement of camps and too few photographs.

The second book is Graham Bowley’s “No Way Down” which deals with just one expedition, the 2008 international ascent which resulted in the deaths of eleven climbers. While K2 has been climbed about three hundred times, something like a quarter of the successful climbers didn’t make it down. This was not a truly international expedition, it was several expeditions from a number of different countries, all climbing at the same time. Even if you are not interested in mountaineering, this book is worth reading as  a study in psychology or management or just plain logistics.

The author is not a mountain climber himself. Whether that makes a difference, I just don’t know.

What didn’t I like about this book? Strangely, too many maps, too many pictures. I say this in reference to this book because we get to know the characters so well. As yet another climber falls to his death, there is a compulsion to go back and look for his photograph. Text to photo, photo to text and a feeling of disappointment when a climber we have come to admire does not have more photographs

There is some kind of consolation in YouTube. I rarely look at this application, but I found myself enmeshed in video and photographs which brought the climbers to life, some more than others. (It is somewhat confusing trying to figure out what is “real” footage and what is re-creation.)

In the end, the one fact that remains is that none of the climbers is the central figure. The main protagonist is 28, 251 feet of vindictive rock, snow, ice and wind.