The Pursuit of Purism

If you’ve ever made a conscious decision to take a break from something; create some healthy distance; curb your enthusiasm, then you’ll know that this usually has the opposite effect.  The thing you wish to wane seems to grow in power. Your vice becomes universal.

Me [me, the voice inside my head]:
“You should probably try and have interests, other than your interest in beer”.
Me [my actual voice, out loud]:
“Oh, just piss off”.

I decided on the following:
1. Mountain biking. I end up wearing brewery branded cyclewear, and finding pubs that I didn’t know existed. Fail.
2. Drawing. Which quickly became doodling. Doodling which manifested itself as #twattybeerdoodles. Fail.
3. Reading non beer related texts. I read the excellent – 8000m by Alan Hinkes. He mentions beer infrequently, and I chalked this up as a win.  I then start reading Walter Bonatti’s – The Mountains of My Life. Bonatti’s accounts of his climbing career are captivating.  This is a man who risked his life in pursuit of fulfilling his passion to climb the impossible, and if that wasn’t enough, he chose to do this under a self imposed purism.  Preparation, planning, peak physical fitness and bloody minded determination were the key to his successes. He climbed using only basic kit, traditional ways and means that have become redundant through the advances in technical methods. It was the ethos of the classical alpinism of the 1930s that inspired him. Reading his account of a treacherous and seemingly impossible solo attempt on the Southwest Pillar of the Dru (1955) – near to Chamonix, France. Equipped with an ice axe, hammer, hemp ropes, crude pitons and wooden wedges, he carried only what he needed to undertake the gruelling five day expedition. I was gripped by his blow by blow descriptions, which at times appeared to find him in circumstances which were beyond desperate. Then, I read this paragraph, where Bonatti is about to sleep on the exposed rock face, after being forced to lighten his load earlier that day – leaving behind his ice axe and other non essentials. What he wrote next made me smile, and then chuckle:

“I was soaked through, my hand injured, I had no ropes, and I was smack in the middle of the funnel of the Dru, a sitting duck for anything falling from above.  But that wasn’t all. I was also short of food. The previous evening I had been forced to throw away more than half of what little food I had to begin with, thanks to a piton* that had punctured the plastic flask of fuel-stove alcohol, which had leaked inside the sack and spoiled the food.  I had nothing left but two packets of biscuits, a tube of condensed milk, four little cheese triangles, a small tin of tuna, a tin of liver pate, a few lumps of sugar, some dried fruit, a small flask of cognac and two cans of beer”.

Fail? I think not. Even during one man’s pursuit of purism in mountaineering; literally risking life and limb to stay true to classical alpinism, there was beer.  I conclude that my resistance to fermented hopped wort, is futile.

*piton = In climbing, a piton, also called a pin or peg) is a metal spike (usually steel) that is driven into a crack or seam in the rock with a hammer, and which acts as an anchor to protect the climber against the consequences of a fall.

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6 thoughts on “The Pursuit of Purism

  1. Great read this Dave, I’ll have to seek out the book. I’m in a similar position, but career-wise. Seemingly every little project or idea I’ve turned my hand to in the last 12 months or so has crumbled on me. I’m at the point now of seeing if I can revalidate my merchant naval officer’s certificates and running away to sea (again). Either that or resign myself to nocturnal commenting on my friend’s blogs anyway…

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