2013 was a funny year if a year can be funny. The year was preceded by me getting a bit lost in my own head trying to work out what this thing attached to it should do. Several months previous to the dawn of the year a funny conversation took place between myself and one of my best friends over a whisky in Scotland. Faced with the dawning realisation that training to be an architect in the current economic climate was a bit like training to be an ice cream vendor in the Antarctic, I began to let my head reveal its true desires (doubtless helped by a dram of cask strength Springbank 12 year old).
The ultimate realisation was that it was both unwise and undesirable to continue on the programme that I had now spent five years on. After applying or speaking to nearly every architectural practice in Leeds - to where I had moved for a year with my girlfriend for her job - I very quickly realised that if I wanted to stay up north, then this apparently daft dream of being an independent whisky bottler/blender might not actually be too foolhardy an endeavour in comparison. And so it began. I took up a position through a temporary agency to work at the NHS' Health and Social Care Information Centre and would rise at 6am most days cramming in 3 hours of whisky-related work prior to my working day. I would spend every lunch hour on the telephone piecing together a mental picture of industry stalwarts and potential brokers in order for me to be able to handle subsequent telephone conversations with some degree of aplomb. I purchased myself a dense squared pocket notebook from Paperchase and logged each and every phonecall and with whom it took place within its pages. Systematically, I broke each double page spread into a ruled format with designated calls to action after each call was made; who I would speak to, what was the outcome, what could it teach me about the industry etc. Remotely, I was day-by-day managing to enter the industry in which I truly dreamed of working. Toasted and charred stave samples were posted to me from various cooperages I managed to convince of the scope of my operation (then non-existent), telephone numbers of mythical brokers eventually revealed themselves to me, people laughed me out of town, others sided with the motivation that I appeared to be showing.
And so it continued; visits to every distillery in Islay during festival week, lowland distillery door knocking, the setting of self-examinations, note taking, befriending warehousemen on Islay, 20 phone calls a day, endless whiteboard exercises mapping the plan and processes out, visits to London to meet with a whisky maker I greatly respect, developing my USP etc. etc.
Our time in Leeds was time very well spent. I was able to forge some brilliant friendships and had the ultimate privilege of living around the corner from City Bloc where the scene is simply excellent. I managed to begin to regain some form of strength there and the time away from the pressure to commit to Part II of architecture gradually faded and allowed me to see that I could try to be precisely what my silly little head wanted to be - a whisky bottler/blender and a decent boulderer. Granted the latter has some way to go before I achieve the handful of life goals I have indelibly written down but the former is starting to happen. A beautiful cask has been bottled, the artwork legally approved by the Scotch Whisky Association and all in life is starting to come together.
After four months of dedicated board climbing and fingerboarding, I recently found myself at the Great Orme with the usual local suspects. Though some very decent goes at (the almost mythical) Clutch saw me slapping millimetres below the pocket on session one, my personal highlight came as a big surprise to me. John Gaskins' Pill Box problem might not mean much to many but to me, it epitomises every single last element of the perfect boulder problem.
An old game some of us would intermittently play was to take the Gaskins problem holds from standing and attempt to walk our feet in flush to the 'kicker'. None of us had ever managed to do this and it was merely the usual sort of daft Scouse challenge that would ensue at every crag we would visit. This time was different; I took the holds, walked my feet flush to the kicker and for between 12-15 seconds felt extremely comfortable. During previous manic bouts of training this had never been possible and I'm still not sure why it was possible during the day in question. I dubbed this 'The Johnny Walkin' on obvious account of the whisky-related pun and estimated Danny might give this Den 7a+. I'l take it. I've also started to smash the 4.5mm rung deadhang exercise by filing it down to the geometries of the left hand hold and am doing simulated hangs with a small right edge and smaller left edge much like on the Pill Box problem. I'm doing this partly for shits and giggles but partly because I'm an underachiever that believes in my own oddly motivated head that some day I can do the problem from standing. I know from frequent text conversations with Cattell junior that I'm not alone in wanting access to the work of the G (albeit I was with Danny some years ago when he was leaping for the high good edge on Whisky Bitch and looking very likely to do it). The future's bright, the future's weird.
In summary on the back of 2013, I'm in a happy place and confident about what the future can hold both in business and in climbing. I wish you all the very best with your desires for the year ahead and I hope it's and amazingly rewarding one for you.