I am sitting in the sun drinking coffee. I would usually be at a yoga class right now but I was unwell overnight. So this morning finds me having a rare moment to myself, sitting in the wonderful Peak Sports Village, Stirling, watching youngsters spider their way up the climbing wall.
Two things strike me. First of all, when do we stop having fun?
The children, boys and girls, are having a great time. They are focussed on climbing to very top and their flexible limbs and lack of fearallow them to pick the hand and toe holds effortlessly. When they get to the top they fling themselves off and bounce their abseil to the ground.
There is such fun in climbing things. As children my brothers and I used to cycle a couple of miles to a small copse which we grandly called Green Wood. Climbing trees, and avoiding the farmer who owned the woodland, was part of our daily routine during the long summer holidays.As our road on the edge of town became circled by more and more new houses the building sites became our climbing ground.
Now I know that it is impossible to do that now, all building sites are fenced off to prevent accident and injuryto kids making a playground of the bricks and scaffolding but my point remains that climbing is fun and as kids we will climb anything!
At some point, probably in my early teens, I stopped climbing. Girls don’t climb trees, but actually the boys stopped climbing too so it’s not all about gender. It is about putting aside childish pleasures and engaging with the world of study, school and work.
I was talking to my pal Barry earlier in the week and he had taken his 3 year old daughter to nursery for the first time that morning. This had meant getting her up at 8 o’ clock that morning in order to get her ready and to the nursery by 9. What struck him was that he was startingher out, aged 3, on the treadmill of real-life; having to get up at a certain time and be at some place at another time; up for shool, up for college, up for work. Real-life had started for his daughter. When to wake up and what to do with her day would no longer be entirely under her control.
And the secnd thing that struck me is, when dio we stop trying new things?
At school we are encouraged to specialise. We are an arts person or a science person. Once a college course is selected our choices narrow further; an arts person becomes a linguist or actor perhaps. A science person becomes a zoologist or maybe a doctor. Once a job is chosen then the horizon closes in yet again. While the world has changed such that there are fewer and fewer jobs for life our choices are still prescribed; an accountant will seek work in finance; a teacher will look to say in education. While retraining after redundancy is commonplace it is still unusual for people to actively seek career change.
My own career is a mosaic and the path from zoologist to magazine proprietor via sculptor and engineering appears exotic but every step made perfect logical sense at the time. People say to me “I couldn’t do what you have done”. Yes, they can. All it takes is the willingness to actively court, or at least embrace, change.
I took up climbing again about 10 years ago, when my son was about 8. He loved it and so did I. I redeiscovered the simple pleasure of climbing. There is just you and the wall and a rope. Maybe it’s a primate thing but there is a primitive pleasure in working arms and legs together and scrambling to the top.
I’m not a keen abseiler as the descent forces me to cede control to whoever is in charge of the belay. My descent is a little tentative compared to the children who abandon themselves to gravity and the rope. So I have lost some of the carefree aspects of climbing as I am aware, in a way that the children are not, of the dangers involved. But the fear of the fall does not stop me climbing. the fear of failure has never stopped me trying anything new.
So I encourage you all to try something new, to embrace change and, who knows, ypou may just rediscover fun!