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Paperback – 31 May 2017
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Firstly, it isn't often that a book makes me both laugh out loud as well as to re-read phrases and descriptions in order to savour them over again. John has a very engaging style in telling stories; the 'poison' one placed me right into his shoes, as did the 'primus stove' tale. His descriptions and use of language are skilled and thoughtful; even the first sentence is perfectly constructed: "I have climbed into a place where nothing works." - brilliant!
Secondly, the stories and decades resonate very strongly with my own history. Same places, times, music, mistakes and anxieties; it was all there. John describes well his thought processes behind decisions and choices, and I found myself empathising and nodding in agreement.
This is not a story teller who wants glory or praise. Indeed, he sets out his failings and mistakes as much as his successes. To be accepted on the Cairngorm MRT is a huge achievement, for example, yet he not only under-states the clearly very significant work he must have done for mountain rescue, but he also chooses not to go into the detail of his time with the team. He doesn't need to, and we get it, and it wouldn't be John's way.
The book is about friendships, challenges, and a love of being in a place that you find in yourself when you are in the outdoors. In the last chapter, he asks himself at one point 'What the hell am I doing here?', but he doesn't need to answer; the journey through his life answers the question for us, and we share the craving for the situations that serve to remind us that we are alive and that we are living in a beautiful world.
From my perspective it was great to read about someone who loves hillwalking and the outdoors but isn't a super athlete type (no offence John !) as I can totally relate to that aspect.
I have been lucky enough to have done most of the hills that are referred to in the book and the stories really resonate with me.
I hate to admit that I am indeed a munro-bagger who loves lists, and therefore will be a disappointment to John , but as an accountant it is fair to point out that this is my approach to most things.
There is a nice sense of humour running through the book and , all in all, it was a pleasure to read.
As a fellow mountaineer, whose experiences greatly reflect John's, I really was able to relate directly to much of this book ... including many of the climbs John had completed.
It's all written in a funny and entertaining way too.
I really loved reading this book and have recommended it to friends at our local climbing centre.
It deserves a wide audience.
John's timeline was the same as my own.
I don't know how any of us survived it in our basic clothing and climbing gear.
John has caught the mood of those times perfectly in this brilliant book.
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