A Wainwright Gem

An excerpt from a Wainwright guide. Courtesy of Conrad Walks.

One of the things I do at the moment is tutor Latin – my Classics degree was not for naught, I tell myself!

As I was reading the famous account of Hannibal’s crossing of the Alps from Livy’s History of Rome, I discovered the word proclivis, meaning ‘downhill’, in this context:

cetera plana, proclivia fore; uno aut summum altero proelio arcem et caput Italiae in manu ac potestate habituros

‘The rest of the way would be level or downhill; and with one or, at most, two battles, they would have the citadel and capital of Italy in their hands and power.’ Livy XXI, 35:8-9

Now, any readers of Wainwright will be aware of his colourful use of language when describing topography. One of his classic words is, of course, ‘proclivity’, which, thanks to Livy, can be deduced to mean ‘a steep slope’.

You could Google it, but where would be the fun in that!

Live for the Day, but Live to Fight Another One too

Two years ago today climber and mountaineer, Will Wilkinson, died in an avalanche on Ben Nevis. This is the second year I have chosen to mark the occasion, and I explained my reasons for doing so last year.

Sometimes this time of year becomes bogged down with self-reflection and analysis. I found a fellow-blogger’s take on it refreshing: ‘No analysis. No predictions. No resolutions.’ McAlisterium

However, as a father with a small family set to increase, I increasingly find myself reflecting on the consequences of danger and risk on the mountain. Also, as it is more difficult to find time to get out with more responsibility, but when I do, I really savour it. Surprisingly enough, I also find myself missing my little family fairly quickly! This is nothing new, but a healthy way to approach mountain activities.

Live for the day, but live to fight another one too.

When I was writing a recent post about Remembrance Day, I came across an article in The Guardian. An interview of children left fatherless by the First World War. One young boy, now an old man, was thrust forward to become the head of the household after his father was killed, but it left him emotionally scarred. Standing at his father’s grave in 2007, he said:

‘I’m an old man, I am supposed to be tough. I thought I was hard, but I’m not. He’s my dad. I miss him. I missed him as a boy and I miss him as an old man. It is very important that I have come back. I feel closer now than I have ever been. That time he carried me to bed was the last time and this is the next time.’

This is more a note to myself than anything. Have fun, enjoy the wide, open spaces, especially when they are wild, and your time has been hard fought. Also, stay safe and remember the ones who you leave behind. Little girls and boys need their fathers.


Will Wilkinson’s Tales from the Hills

Scottish avalanche victim named

Last year’s post

McAlisterium post

Guardian article

Who Dies if England Live?

The Vimy Ridge memorial, Northern France

This all started with Robert Fisk’s article for the Independent a month ago, so is belated, but has been at the back of my mind ever since:

Do those who flaunt the poppy on their lapel know that they mock the war dead?

Fisk is clearly being provocative, but makes some important points, namely, that a poppy is not a fashion symbol, but carries a great deal of meaning and significance in human history.

Cox's who fell at Vimy Ridge

However, having been living in France for several months now, I have begun to realise the worth of physical memorials. Without a visual reminder of what has passed, it is all too easy to forget. And I was grateful for the reminder from ‘all the boys and girls of BBC World wearing their little poppies’ that it was that time of the year again to pause, reflect and be thankful for the sacrifice of others.

Of course, we can never understand the sacrifice itself, as we were never there in the trenches. And of course, we do not deserve to wear the poppy, as if to pretend we stand with the fallen, never having chosen to put our bodies on the line.

Who dies if England lives?

However, we owe it to the glorious dead to keep the memory of their sacrifice alive, and wearing a poppy is one of many ways in which we can do that. A nation which chooses corporately to wear a poppy, is one that is unconsciously united, and I am grateful for the little red reminder that I saw on the BBC in the days leading up to Armistice Day.

It helped me to remember.

No easy hope or lies
Shall bring us to our goal,
But iron sacrifice
Of body, will, and soul.
There is but one task for all—
One life for each to give.
What stands if Freedom fall?
Who dies if England live?

Rudyard Kipling, ‘For All We Have and Are’, Stanza 4

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