Second set up day in Swierklaniec

Second day of set up done and dusted here in sunny Swierkalniec.

Spend the day chasing one thing after another… great atmosphere though, everybody busy doing stuff. Got some great panning shots of footlock with our DSLR stabilizing rig, will post them in due course.

Got to do some work on setting Footlock, which I enjoyed.

More and more folk arriving, I love this meeting of the Arb tribe. Definitively I experience these two days, the Thursday and Friday prior to a competition, as the most intense of the lot, where the challenge is to get people feeling comfortable, appreciated and accepted – and playing nicely together. Once the teams are up and running, the rest is pretty straightforward.

Tomorrow is signing off on set up, then walk though of the events at 12.30, followed by gear check, rounded off nicely by the pre-competition meeting in the evening. In between there’s all sorts of things to be sorted out and delegated, but step for step – and anyways, that one is for tomorrow.

What the BBC says

Ok then, so WHY can I hear raindrops against the roof? C’mooooon, I want to set this event up dry! And no, I do not want to have to dry about a billion kilometers of rope when I get home…

Oh, and while we’re at it, Mr. or Mrs. BBC Weather Person, you might want to work on that Saturday and Sunday forecast a bit – don’t like the look of that so much yet, thank you.


Arrived in Świerklaniec!

Finished the second leg of the trip, this one in driving rain all the way from Prague.

Good, good, get it all out of the system, so there is none left for the weekend! It would be such a novelty to have a TCC with no rain!

Just been for a walk in the park… the location is spectacular.

A beautiful, natural park with loads of interesting features, trees in various states of decline, standing dead wood, really interesting structures and fungi – but also beautiful, mature trees that have just been left alone to grow.

Oh, and did I mention that we are staying in a palace-like hotel? We are. I feel a bit like old European nobility, fallen upon hard times (ok, stretching the imagination a bit, there – and come to that, who wants to be nobility, anyway?).

Sadly, there is not Świerklaniec castle anymore, as the Russians dynamited it after the War, apparently they were not so keen on its former German owner (Świerklaniec is in Silesia, which used to be on the border of Prussia and Russia), but still, the park gives you an inkling of the former grandeur of this place.

En route

En route to Świerklaniec… stopped off in Prague for the night and met up with David, Svetalana and Jan from the Czech Arb Association for a meal and a couple of beers (when in Rome…). I love Prague, it is such a vibrant place full of history and culture. And it has a really good buzz to it, too. Definitively not the last time I will have been here.

Another five hours of driving tomorrow. The Hilux is all over the place. It feels as though someone has loaded the back up to the gunwales with ropes and other heavy stuff. Oh, that’s exactly the case, of course!

I have said it before and will say it again, climbing stuff is just sooooo heavy. In my next life I am determined to be something that involves light equipment only, such as a professional dominos player, or a jogger or something like that. Just no ropes.

This is an example for non-heavy kit...

The Danger of Silence

Another TED talk, this one by Clint Smith, filmed at a NYC TED event.

What can I say, sometimes you see something that touches you deeply and feels true, for me that was the case with this talk.

It reminded me of how important it is to be authentic and to speak ones mind. To speak the truth, even if this can be hard sometimes and not just to parrot phrases that I think may please the person opposite me…

I think one of the reasons this affected me is that in many ways it reflects some of the responsibilities I feel that teaching and training people brings with it. It demonstrates the importance of being strong and being clear and honest as to where your strengths lie, but also to admit where your competence ends, you lack answers or you have a weakness.

Tell your own truth.

Yes. And further, I would add to that the need to differentiate fact and opinion. Fact is objective, whereas opinion is subjective. So your truth can be based upon fact and can reflect your opinion – but you should not bend fact to make it suit your truth.

Travelling East

On Monday we take off in the direction of Swierklaniec to be there in time to start set up for the European Tree Climbing Competition on Wednesday. We will be stopping off in Prague to spend the night there on Monday to break up the trip into more manageable drives.

This is the second time in the past couple of years that ETCC has been hosted by a Eastern European chapter and I am greatly looking forwards to it, the last time having been in Prague in 2010. Well, outside Prague, strictly speaking. It was a very positive experience working with the folk from the Czech Republic, I loved the way they just got things sorted in a very quite and efficient way, which is far from self-evident. Apart from that, Prague is just a stunning city, vibrant, friendly and very beautify – definitively worth a detour. Not that this is much of a detour, the other route being via Dresden. Weighing up the two, I’m afraid Prague wins hands down – not that I wouldn’t be interested to have a potter around Dresden, mind you.

Apart from that, I love the drive east. To me, this feels like a direct connect to what Europe must have been like before the catastrophe of the First World War, or the Great War, as it way known, the War to end all Wars – but the another one came along.

This vision of Europe extends far eastwards – and seen that way, Poland really is very central! (Hmmm, just did a web search on  the Geographical Centre of Europe… depending upon how you define the borders of Europe, different nations stake claim to it, such as Lithuania, as well as the Ukraine).

Driving through this region alway feels to me as though it is seeped in history and culture, made up of many people and ethnicities. It represents Europe in its full diversity of landscapes, languages and cultures.

Pre-set up meeting in Swierkalniec Park on Tuesday afternoon – and then we get going Wednesday morning. I will keep you posted.

A Trip Down Memory Lane

Wow, after Dr. Seuss yesterday, today was Thomas the Tank Engine’s turn! A blast from the past indeed… !

We went to do a take down of two dead willows just outside of Basle. Bit of rigging involved, Serge mentioned.

Well, when we got there, it turns out that it’s a full blown 1 gauge (i.e. 1:32 scale) model railway, complete with a 50m tunnel, suspension bridges, water features, stations, engine sheds, turn tables – the works.

I felt a bit like Gulliver in the land of Lilliput!

I wonder what’s in store for me tomorrow? The rate we’re going at probably the Magic Roundabout, Rainbow or Captain Pugwash!

Lorax… eco warrior or defeatist?

He was shortish. And oldish.
And brownish. And mossy.
And he spoke with a voice
that was sharpish and bossy.
“Mister!” he said with a sawdusty sneeze,
“I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees.”

On the ISA booth at the ISA trade show in Milwaukee I was looking at a copy of the Lorax by Dr. Seuss – a book I have known and loved for as long as I can think.

Dr. Seuss – or Theodor Geisel, as he was actually called – had a quirky and often psychedelic view of the world that affected me a lot as a child. Hell, affects me today, come to that. His is a biography worth reading, as an artist he had a much wider scope than he is remembered for today. In recent years his widow, Audrey, has gone to extensive efforts to publish some of his less well know work, such as the political cartoons, the sculptures or his abstract art.

One of his most memorable figures, apart from the Cat in the Hat, is without a doubt the Lorax (I am the Lorax and I speak for the trees). In many ways the story is a parable or commentary on our world, where a paradise inhabited by Swomee-Swans, the Brown Bar-Ba-Loots and the Humming-Fish – and most important of all, the Truffula Trees, is lost to the Once-ler who recognizes the potential that the Truffulas offer by turning them into Thneeds (today, I suppose that would be an iThneed) and, with his clan, manages to devastate the former paradise in a short period of time – until the very last Truffula is cut down.

Only then, when everyone has deserted him, does the Once-ler realize what he has destroyed. The Lorax lifts himself – by the seat of his pants – through the last speck of blue sky, never to be seen again. At the end of the story, the Once-ler hands a seed – the seed of the very last Truffula tree – to a boy who has come from town to visit him in his eyrie, with these words:

“But now,” says the Once-ler,
“Now that you’re here,
the word of the Lorax seems perfectly clear.
UNLESS someone like you
cares a whole awful lot,
nothing is going to get better.
It’s not.


Catch!” calls the Once-ler.
He lets something fall.
“It’s a Truffula Seed.
It’s the last one of all!
You’re in charge of the last of the Truffula Seeds.
And Truffula Trees are what everyone needs.
Plant a new Truffula. Treat it with care.
Give it clean water. And feed it fresh air.
Grow a forest. Protect it from axes that hack.
Then the Lorax and his friends
may come back.”

Speaking about the Lorax, Theo Geissel says that he never intended it to be seen as a call to arms to defend nature, but of course, the story being written in 1972, he would have been affected by the zeitgeist of that time all the same. Since then, I can’t help but feel, the Lorax  has been instrumentalised as something it was not intended to be.

Apart from that, despite it being a timeless story, I am not at all clear that the message holds true, seen in an environmental context, as it could be read a that even when you have destroyed everything, there is always that last Truffula seed left that will make everything ok.

This message, whilst endearing, seems somewhat simplistic in a world that is beyond all reasonable doubt changing rapidly due to mankind’s activities over the past couple of millennia, with receding polar caps, droughts and flooding only representing part of a bigger shift in climate. In view of the decades of inactivity by global leaders in politics and business and the number of tipping points we have passed by – and ultimately our reluctance to modify our lifestyles to prevent our world from turning into a Dystopia such as Hollywood seems so enamored with, judging a plethora of recent film releases, it seems very optimistic to believe that somewhere there is a Once-ler with a Truffula seed up his Snuvv, his strange secret hole in his gruvvulous glove, that will undo all this damage.

The Truffula seed, again, drawing the parallel to today’s world would be the technical fixes to the pickle we find ourselves in, such as giant sun shades in orbit, seeding the oceans with iron and all the other geo-engineering schemes being put forth.

Really, what we need today is an updated version of the Lorax, maybe crossed with a dash of Sea Sheperd or Earth First! And, even more importantly, the insight that it is our responsibility to take charge of our planet.

As I have said before, part of the answer lies with each one of us, and here I think Dr. Seuss’ message still hold true. In a sense, the future has overtaken Dr. Seuss’ narration, a bit like the development of the internet overtook William Gibson’s Neuromancerwhen he writes:

“Sir! You are crazy with greed.
There is no one on earth
who would buy that fool Thneed!”

Ho-hum… yes, indeed, imagine how it would be if we surrounded ourselves with useless gadgets! Perish the thought!

It is essential that we question what we need, and whether we really need it, to reduce our carbon footprint where possible, maybe by consuming less meat, by flying less (yes, your honor, guilty as charged!) or by simply getting on your bike.

Pretty ineffectual in the big picture? Maybe so, but on the other hand, it could be that the sum of each of our individual actions is like a small Truffula seed of hope… which is the hope that I chose to hold on to.

So that leaves us with the question, what is the Lorax? Eco warrior or defeatist? And I feel that the answer is neither the one nor the other, or both: He is fallible, angry and irate, he is indignant in the face of blatant greed and at the same time resigned. In many ways, he behaves the way we do. Except that we cannot lift ourselves through that patch of blue sky by the seat of our pants at the end of our story, so we need to make sure we get this one right.

Sunday Night Quiz

Q: Is it possible to transport two 3x3m Mastertents, side panels, stakes and straps and a 45m CEclimb on a bike – if you are not in Saigon or Chennai, that is?

A: Yes, it is. All you need is a Big Dummy and a bit of determination…

Mind you, road handling left a bit to be wished for… 😉