What’s on my bookshelf? A Little History of the World

I just finished reading “A little history of the world” by E H Gombrich. It is basically a history book for kids. Written in 1935 by a Austrian art historian it was originally produced in German. More recently it was re-released in English.
I really enjoyed it as an easy read. It focused on European history (from pre-historic to modern day) mainly as this is what has impacted him most plus doing a history of the whole world would surely mean years worth of reading.
Of course when it was first written back in 1935 there was a lot that wasn’t known at the time. However, in the recent English update he has added a last chapter correcting errors he had made now with hindsight to his advantage. I liked that. Often we think history is set in stone but it is only with distance from something that we can begin to understand particular motivations or situations differently.
I will be keeping this book on my shelf not for reference for historical facts but to see how history continues to be rounded and understood the further we move away from that point.

Book cover

Kendal Mountain Festival 2009

Well the weekend in Kendal has been and gone. Despite the horrific flooding happening in the Cumbria region the festival continued as Kendal had not been terribly affected. They had a bit of flooding on the Thursday but no where near the devastation that was happening further into the Lake District.

We had originally planned to stay at the same B&B in Ambleside as last year but it was booked out. Thankfully this didn’t go ahead as we wouldn’t have been able to get into the area anyway as they were blocked off by flooding.

Friday morning we headed up to the Lake District after having checked the forecast and road closures. All were looking well. We arrived in the area about 1pm and headed straight into Kendal Mountain Festival Basecamp to see what tickets we could pick up. We chose a Ski and Board movie session Friday night, Climbing movie session on Saturday morning, Andy Kirkpatrick’s talk in the afternoon, followed by Alain Robert’s talk Saturday evening, Free Flight movie session then a final Mountaineering movie session on Sunday morning before heading home in the afternoon. Phew, a jam packed weekend.

Our main reason for going this year was Alain Robert, one of Steve’s climbing heroes. You may know Alain better as “Spiderman” or the “Human Spider”. His more well known expertise is “builderring” or climbing buildings instead of rocks/mountains. He’s most recent conquest was the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur.

Imagine our surprise when on Friday night before we headed off to our first movie session, there he was, Monsieur Robert himself. Steve had recently finished reading Alain’s book “With Bare Hands” and had it on him in case an opportune moment such as this presented itself. Not wanting to interrupt other peoples opportunities to speak to their own hero, Steve waited for his chance to say hello. His patience and respectful nature was not lost on Alain who seemed to have noticed Steve waiting. When Alain had finished speaking to some others Steve approached him for an autograph and was treated to not only an autograph but a long conversation with this incredible man. They sat down and chatted away happily for over an hour and a beer later. It was a privilege to chat to Alain but most importantly it was really insightful to see that this is a guy that clearly has a passion for what he does and is not quite sure why he is so popular. He sees himself as just a normal guy doing what he enjoys.

I think Steve could quite happily have turned around and gone home at that point having meet Alain but I was really keen to get intake of movies. The ones that stood out for me most this year were “20 seconds of joy” and “The Asgard Project”. Actually I would also add “Welsh Connections” and “Slab Monkeys”. It was a shame that Karina Hollekim couldn’t make it to talk after “20 seconds of joy” which went through her journey to becoming a base jumper.

It was a fab weekend. Not many photos though as the weather was shocking!

Avebury Stone Circle – Wiltshire

I have said it before, and I will say it again. If you wait for a sunny day here to do anything, you never will do it. So Saturday morning saw us getting all rugged up, wet weather gear on and off to find the Avebury Stone Circle in Wiltshire.

Having not had breakfast before we left Steve spotted a fab looking pub called the Waggon and Horses. No I have not spelt it incorrectly, this is “ye olde English” spelling. Thank goodness Steve spotted this place. Thatch roofed with fires blazing we had a hearty meal before heading out into the horrid weather again.

If you are into going to Stonehenge then I would suggest a trip to Avebury as well. In all honesty I actually prefer Avebury as here you get complete access to the stones directly in the fields that they stand. They are free to explore and there are a lot more of the stones that what you get at Stonehenge. I would still recommend seeing Stonehenge though.

The area covers 28 acres of which there is a large, deep ditch that circles the monument site. Then there is a stone circle inside the ditch area which encloses two more stone circles. The stones are said to date from 2850 to 2200 BC. Not all the stones are still intact as they have been demolished, rebuilt, taken to help build the local town of Avebury etc over the years.

The weather was tragic with high winds and driving rain. This did give me an opportunity to test my new down jacket. It is a RAB Neutrino made for high altitude mountaineering conditions and does this jacket work or what. This winter I am NOT NOT NOT going to freeze! It worked like a charm. We are heading to Finland in January for a holiday with some mates where it can get down to -30 Celsius so by the time we head off there I should be well convinced of its suitability. So far, I love it.

The Waggon and Horses pub

Ditch surrounding the concentric stone circles
Remaining stones on the outer circle
National Trust do a good job
You can see the groups of circles a bit better

Artistic, I am not

I enjoy art, but often don’t understand the new stuff.
I love art supply stores, but prefer to leave the supplies in more capable hands.
I admire arty folk and their ability to produce something from very little.
Alas, artistic talents have not been blessed to me. I’m fine with this (grumble, grumble, gripe, gripe)

I remember my grandmother taking my cousin and I to see a Monet exhibition. This is where I came to appreciate art. Years later my first date with Steve was to see the Rembrandt to Renoir exhibition in Auckland. Then even years later, wandering the Louvre in Paris.

What fascinates we most I think is often not the subject of the piece but the tiny details. The hairs from the paintbrush still stuck in the paint, the fingerprint where the artist has touched the canvas, the detail given to a face carved from marble. The little stories that go with the piece intrigue me.

Here’s a piece that I thought was incredible. My photos don’t do it justice, however I found some photos on another website www.house42.com which I will provide a link to. They have taken some stunning photos of him. The Boy with Frog by Charles Ray is made of aluminium and just glows white like marble. His whole body is incredibly smooth looking and his face is captivating. I just stood and stared at him as I couldn’t pull my eyes away from him. Standing at 8ft he is of a size that doesn’t feel daunting standing next to him nor too small to be lost in amongst the tourists. He stands, staring at the frog he holds, from his vantage point at the tip of the Punta della Dogana.

Boy with frog

is the link to more photos that do the piece much better justice than mine.