Skinning Up with Simon Marley

The reader will recall the iconic movie scene: Ursulla Andrews emerges from the sea, pure immaculate, whilst Bond, Sean Connery, lurks in the shrubbery. That’s how I felt Sunday past at EICA, Ratho, when, just as I went to leave post lunch, who should enter the foyer but the remarkably fresh faced yet weather-beaten Simon “Grizzly” Marley, survivalist and “King of the Hand Jammers” . However, as we are to discover, Simon does not let 4 foot of snow beat him.

We approached each other like close friends and discussed the artic conditions, the transport infrastructure and the shortage of bread and milk. Simon told of how, stuck in his Scottish home in East Lothian, he had ventured up into his attic where, luckily, he had discovered an old pair of cross country skies. These had allowed him to emerge from his property from an upper floor window, forsaking the luxury of his new wood burning stove to forage, and thus supplies had thus been fairly easy to obtain. To be honest, it did not surprise me.

Furthermore, Simon divulged, he had skied all the way to Ratho that very morning via the Pentlands. He had left his loyal canine companion, Grylls, at home given the ardour of the journey and had himself swapped his usual Stone Island artic jacket for a CP Company one, again with goggles, as he felt it marginally warmer under a gale force 3. He had taken a route via the Pentland Hills with only two Mars bars and an organic flapjack as sustenance, however he had managed to catch, kill, and eat a rabbit at Flotterstone.  I pressed more on the rabbit.

“It’s simple”, Simon explained. You find a rabbit which is static; lying low above ground. You walk towards it but you must, must, avoid eye contact or it will bolt.  Then you place your walking stick in the ground vertically, albeit I just used a ski on this occasion. Then walk in ever decreasing circles around both the rabbit and the stick until, when you are close enough, you jump on the rabbit. Then you cut bits of flesh and toast them on a stick on a fire, like an American boy scout toasts a S’more.

Then Simon took off his Rab rucksack and, from an outer pocket, produced a sandwich bag with what looked like a squashed rabbit inside it. “The skin” he announced, “another three like this and I’ll have enough to complete the skin of my hand made birch-skeleton canoe”.

Time was pressing on and I could see Simon was eager to leave however I asked him if he intended to ski all the way home and perhaps catch another rabbit. It appeared though that he intended to simply ski down the canal to Fountainbridge where he would purchase a LRT daysaver and travel home, in comfort, to dry his skins.




The Judge and the Crow, a true story

It was a Monday and, as he walked, he thought. It had been a strange and strained episode since he donned the yellow tunic of judge, a very strange and strained episode indeed.

His heart was heavy as he recalled the events: the dubiety of the rules, the unseen use of  illegal apparatus, his faux pas concerning the length of a luncheon break and worst, worst of all, the pen slip and the resulting melee, hordes of angry spectators hurling abuse and worse. He still felt the shame, his head hung heavy.

And then, again, it was there. His eyes lifted as he heard the KARRACH, his gaze rose upon it, it’s shiny sleek feathers a magnificent purple-black triumph of nature. He was puzzled, this was at least the fifth time he had seen the bird in the last 24 hours, yet these occasions had been miles apart. However, there was no mistaking it was the same.

As he turned into the lane he felt a curious breeze, his head lifted again and the bird struck with the accuracy of Jocky Wilson. He reeled back and fell.

The crow chapped the window, the curtains twitched, the window opened and the bird hopped in.

3rd February 2018, Perth (Take me into insanity)

Perth.  What better a venue could there possibly be for the final round of the preliminary 2018 Youth Climbing Series, given her nickname of The Fair City. The climbing wall is part of Perth College and is purpose built. It’s fairly narrow compared with the rejuvenated churches of Glasgow and Dundee but the walls are of a similar height and it has a large bouldering area too. It’s fairly easy to get to if you don’t go through Perth centre, whilst parking is a doddle. There’s a coffee shop/snackbar which I frequented in the purposes of research. On offer were sausages and beans at £1.70 or sausages and pasta and tomato sauce at £1.60 (both approx), to be honest I skipped them, it wasn’t the proper tinned Heinz sausages and beans, rather just a mishmash. It’s probably ambrosia to the students, pure ambrosia; it’s a different clientele to that of Glasgow CC, I’m not dissing it, far from it.

There was a healthy turnout for the Quickdraw pre-comp visit with Steph, Matthew, Jamie, Niambh, Louise, Lachlan, Holly, Emma, Daniel, Ella, Kasha and an extremely “late” Duncan ! The routes are apparently great : tough, reachy and technical, most of the Irn Bru coloured ones are girders. It’s great to see how the older squad members, the young adults, encourage and help the younger ones, it builds a good spirit and they should be commended. We should perhaps give them awards, like in Animal Farm.

The staff at the complex are sweet, the receptionists are most pleasant and efficient, the actual “coaches” are always on hand to help. There’s a viewing window “upstairs”, a bit like Dundee but smaller.

Towards the end of the day many members retired to the adjacent gym. DJ Dave “Sherlock” Holmes operated the “decks” and plumped for “Take me into Insanity” as backing track to the member’s trapeze antics: a truly commendable choice indeed.

There’s no more outings till May, many ongoing thanks, again, to Alan and Dorothy.



A Warm Welcome, at Glasgow C.C.

It was a bitterly cold and frosty Saturday past when the Quickdraw Club visited Glasgow Climbing Centre, the pavements so treacherous both at home and in Glasgow that Underworld’s “Born Slippy” would have been an appropriate backing track to any video of the event. However, the chill to the bone was soon replaced by a warm glow: the heating of the old church, which serves a skeleton for an indoor climbing centre, matched by the friendliness of the staff, both in the arena and upstairs where a multiple award winning eaterie offers a veritable gastronomic treasure trove for the tastebuds. I’m not sure if the “cafe” has a name, if not perhaps The Eyrie the Tiger, or the Pie o Near, from a climbing perspective ?


Members abounded : Steph, Matthew, Holly, Finlay, Ella, Emma, Hannah, Lachlan, Rosa and last, but not least Kasha. Also present were Ava and Anna from Ratho Youth Squad and two squads of children from Glasgow, one attired in the manner of ninja warriors. We were there to savour the walls, soak in the ambience and prepare for preliminary round two of the death or glory event that is the Youth Climbing Series, Twenty Eighteen. I’ll skip on the floral metaphor this time, we all know the dark truth, the proverbial “rat in the kitchen“.

The centre was busy but not too busy, the climbing routes as always challenging and well set, according to the climbers that is; for someone who doesn’t climb, looking at a route is similar to looking in a butcher’s window whilst a vegetarian.  All the children seemed happy, there was a lot of activity downstairs in the, again well set,  bouldering basement and everyone had a good day with plenty smiling and curly-wurly cake.

I thought it best to skip on the “looky in the lunchbox” this time round.

Thanks, as always, to Dorothy and Alan for their ongoing commitment and hard work, hopefully at the next event, just next week, we will see the first Partridge of the year, as we head closer to their native habitat.

Jamming – with Simon Marley

Most of you will have met Simon at a Quickdraw outing at some time. He resembles the stereotypical climber, weatherbeaten with woolly hat, but most importantly of all he has a beard,  a prerequisite for any true mountaineer survivalist explorer; a beard not of the hipster variety, but, rather, a true grizzly.  I’ve personally witnessed him erect a six man tent, single handed, quicker than a Bosi brother climbs a speed wall. That’s the calibre of the man.


Now, through an elite climbers’ ropevine I heard a tale of Simon’s climbing prowess back in the very early eighties, a prowess which led to his “secret” moniker : The King of the Jammers. In my capacity as Quickdraw board member I felt obliged to ask him if he would share his story with the club. I suggested a “the King and I” scenario, The March of the Siamese Children,  starring Simon as Yul Brynner with the children sitting around, cross legged, but he would have none of it, he is far too modest for that as you will soon find out. Instead, he suggested we rendezvous at the cafeteria at EICA, Ratho, one chilly December early Sunday morning, so he could utilise myself as a medium.

It was so cold that Sunday morning, that Simon had dressed his faithful Golden Retriever, Grylls, in a tartan dog-coat whilst he had donned a Stone Island reversible Artic insulated jacket, the one with the goggles. They looked dapper. I was shivering.

Inside the venue we opted for latte. Two latte, one each. We sat in a quiet corner and Simon told his tale, the frozen latte froth on his multicoloured whiskers twinkling like fairy lights:

“It was back in 1981 and the place to climb was Dumbarton. Well, attempt to climb, no one had got any higher than the graffiti which read : BUZ DUMBY YOUTH SQUAD. I think it was June and it was the football close season so I’d parked my camper van in Dumbarton FC’S car park which was adjacent to the crag and was staying for a week. It was day 4 and I had made no progress. I nipped down to the corner shop to pick up some milk and the Daily Record, on the way back I passed a bored Weedgie on a street corner. Suddenly, I had a vision, three scrabble tiles juggled in my mind, J A and M. Eureka !, it was like a strawberry or similar soft fruit had fallen on my head, I needed to jam. Have you been to Dumby” he asked?”

“I have indeed” , I replied. “I went last year, ambled through the hole in the fence, past the skull and crossbone danger of death signs and onto the “beach”. It was remarkable, a juxtaposition of Lowry’s Matchstick Men, the last few pages of Golding’s, Lord of the Flies, and the final scenes of the original Planet of the Apes movie with the cave and human fossils”.

Simon nodded and continued:

“So I went back to the crag, raced up to the graffiti, found a fissure, inserted my fist vertically then twisted it horizontally, like a key in a lock. Then I pulled my body up a couple of inches, got another hold, a left handed jam, looked down and my Scarpas were well above BUZ. Then I topped it, went back to the van, read the Record, then the next day I discovered an even harder  route which branched out from the original. The first  was later to be climbed by Dave Cuthbertson in 1983, graded E8 6c and named Requiem, the second took until 2006 to be topped, this time by Dave McLeod and named Rhapsody.

I briefly interjected:  “So, you topped them first Simon, utilising the hand jam, and took no credit, you didn’t even name them?”

“That’s correct” said Simon, downing the last of his latte, “it’s as simple as that”.

Three other quickdraw fathers and myself went out with our children to try Simon’s technique. Our brave quartet of Buffalo Soldiers simultaneously attempted a jam, their Wails curiously forming a harmonious melody:

“No hand jam, no cry”.


A big hand for Simon Marley from all at Quickdraw.


Visit to Avertical World in Dundee 30/12/17

It was a typical dreich morning in Dundee as the fresh faced children and rather bleary eyed  parents arrived at Avertical World in Dundee, an old church converted, extremely  well, into an indoor climbing facility.

The Falls: stalwarts of Quickdraw Climbing

They were there to practice, to have a  “taste of the walls”, given the imminent first round of the double-edged sword that is the United Kingdom Youth Climbing Series competition. If your bairn wins, it’s wine and roses; if they lose, it’s whisky and daisies – you can potentially find yourself sitting outside in the garden, alone, for a spell, contemplating the meaning of life.

Avertical World is fairly easy to get to and parking is not too bad, if you are rich you can use the big giant car park at I think £7 per day, otherwise just move your car from bay to bay every 75 minutes. It’s very clean and fresh, the staff are most friendly and helpful, the routes are well set and challenging and all the children, that’s : Steph, Matthew,  Holly, Daniel, Lachlan, Ella, Finlay, Another Ella, Niamh and last but not least, Rosa, had a great time, the “cave climb” area seemed popular. There were two extras as well, Anna and her mother Lucy who had travelled to the wall unaware of the impending stampede.


That’s really about it, I thought maybe I could spice up the site slightly by incorporating a new feature as I said in the accompanying e mail, and it appears to me that, and please don’t take this personally anyone, many of the children are eating unsuitable food for “promising athletes”. At Avertical World one of the dustbins was overflowing with multiple empty Cadbury’s Animal bags, coke cans, mars bar wrappers and loads of empty supermarket pre-packed sandwich wrapper, all marked with a red in the salt content section. And red means bad.

So, my suggestion is this. Each outing we will dissect, at random, one child’s lunchbox, it’s contents to be analysed, photographed and published. That can only be for everyone’s benefit in the long run. It could be called : A Looky in the Lunchbox, it sounds less intimidating than “nutribiology”

In addition to the report on each outing and the constructive nutritional advice, I will endeavour to produce one “article” per month on climbing tips, competition tips ?, whatever suits. I have one already in mind, a mind blowing interview with the undisputed “King of the Hand Jammers“, Simon Marley.

It should be out by the end of the week.

Thanks, as always, to Dorothy and Alan for organising the trip.