The Climber


Public transport in the UK has countless failings, but if you are looking for a silver lining to the big, grey cloud of its many inadequacies, it might be that they provide a reason to bond with your fellow travellers. Sometimes that bonding just involves rolling your eyes at your neighbour in a wordless "Buses, eh? What can you do...", but at other times, it turns into something a bit deeper. A distinct dearth of buses last Friday resulted in Mr. Bsag and I talking to a gentleman I'll call The Climber1.

After the Chris Wood gig last week, we had a couple of transport choices. Moseley is in an awkward transport location relative to hour house, so we could either take a bus into the city then get the train out, or we could get a different bus to a main road and then catch a second bus. Arriving at the bus stop for the first option, we read the live bus departure ticker with a sinking heart: 20 minutes to the next bus. Never mind, we thought, there's always Plan B, and walked a short distance to the stop for the other bus. As we looked at the departure ticker there in disbelief, a tall, slim man sitting on a wall by the stop said, "I wouldn't look at that, if I were you. It will just depress you." He was right: the next bus was due in 25 minutes. Progressing reluctantly to Plan C, we told him we'd walk to the main road, a distance of about a mile. He then asked if we'd mind if he walked some of the way with us, since he was heading in our general direction, but wasn't sure of the route. We were quite happy to have company, and so, we made the acquaintance of The Climber.

He was an enthusiastic, bouncy sort of chap — like a half-grown puppy — and as he loped along beside us in the dark and drizzle, he started to tell us about his interests. It turned out that he had been climbing for four hours that evening, on an indoor climbing wall, working out by doing 50 pull-ups, 50 sit-ups and 100 press-ups. Clearly we were in the presence of some kind of Iron Man.

Now, Mr. Bsag always claims that he is shy, but he invariably chats happily away to perfect strangers, while I go all shy and just listen. So as we walked and Mr. B. and The Climber (TC) chatted, more and more details emerged of TC's energetic exploits. We heard about his epic peak-climbing weekends (also involving gargantuan bacon and egg consumption) and his competitive downhill biking (1 mile downhill in 1 minute, which means speeds greater than 60 mph, of course). As the walk progressed, and Mr. B. asked speculatively about other outdoor activities, stories about show jumping and even tall ship racing emerged. I was captivated, silently daring Mr. B to ask him if he'd crossed Antarctica, or raced Formula 1 cars, or gone into space.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not accusing TC of telling tall tales. He seemed very genuine and talked in great technical detail about everything he'd done, but it just seemed amazing to be walking in the rain to a bus stop with such an athlete. I remembered something that Chris Wood had said earlier in the evening (paraphrasing slightly): "All of my stories are true, but some are truer than others."

1 I wouldn't use his real name even if I knew it, but we never actually found out what it was.

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