The outdoors. Fresh wind. Clean, cold air.
Friends. Conversations. Banter (lots of banter, all friendly). Deep thoughts. Light thoughts. Chats about things going great for all. Chats about things causing stress. Giving pats on back for the positives. Giving support for the difficulties.
Fun. Always fun.
A lovely day out in Wicklow last weekend with great friends at the little venue of Lough Bray (Google Map). Pretty cold in the wind but that's to be expected in this strange winter, with swings of 10 degrees in the space of a week, snow, and who knows what else. It's been a long time since I was last there, with only a few boulders to go at anyway, it's never going to be your regular destination - although to drive there is probably the nicest drive into Wicklow, giving reminders of the drive from Sheffield out to the Peak District for it's wide open expanses of countryside.
Right now, I'm slowly making my way back to form. I'm very rusty and while I know much of it is partly due to taking a good break for a couple of months before Christmas, I'm looking forward to ironing out the kinks. Still though, each week....actually scratch that, each session I see progressive improvements all round. Accuracy in my movement, fluidity, better route reading, better efficiency, better enjoyment, comfort in my level and I am constantly in awe at the standard of the new generation coming along - even if much of what they're doing is next-gen-indoor-style climbing (as an aside to this: they'll be crushing when the time comes for them to experience the wonders of outdoor rock and as their climbing evolves). I still have work to do with dynamic moves, bunched moves, actually a whole range of moves. Give it time!
One insight that has come from the lay-off - I may not be too upset about my overall performance standard (i.e. I'm not bothered by the 'grade, etc.) at present, but I have a personal standard I like to keep at for my climbing and I'm definitely not there yet - there was one session where I was genuinely annoyed at the state of affairs. Still though, the old quote from golfer Jerry Barber that I noticed printed in Derval O'Rourke's new cookbook (highly recommended) holds true:
The harder you practice, the luckier you get.
I'd better get practicing.
Lastly, if you're on an Apple device and looking for a fantastic image editor comparable to Photoshop, I can't recommend PixelMator (App Store link) enough - intuitive controls, great advanced features, full iCloud support (saving your images to the cloud) and, since last year a full specced version for the iPad too - start editing on a Macbook and continue on the iPad, or vice versa. An aside, what's the equivalent on Windows or Android?