building blocks


How do you convey all the snares and banquets, peaks and deadfalls, of a difficult but intermittently joyous life like Parker’s? You get on stage and blow, and shape something so expressive, so technically ferocious, so emotionally acute, it obviates any need for oh-by-the-way footnotes.


He is as much concerned with ecstasy and suffering as with technical achievement. He takes triumph and death in his stride…

From the Guardian review of Conquistadors of the Useless by Lionel Terray


There is no… reason for believing that the truth, when it is discovered, will necessarily prove interesting.”


…there are four things that, particularly, beginning writers should do to make sure they’ll be in that mode, ready to write. it takes two hours a day, and it’s just as important as the time you spend at your desk.

Spend half an hour every day doing yoga, or aerobics, or playing handball — something physical to keep you in your physical body. Writers tend to live too much in heir heads. Too, too many thoughts. You need to be grounded in your physical body.

Two, you should spend half an hour a day reading poetry. It could be prose, as long as it’s not something that’s directly related to what you’re doing. Not research, but something that will get you excited about language. And, again, that can be different for different sensibilities.

Another half-hour a day should be spent looking at clouds, looking at the sky. Not necessarily a cloudy sky; it could be a night sky, a starry sky. The reason for this is that most of the great philosophical ideas of humankind have come from the sky. Our notions of time, our notions of change, of religion, all came from looking at stars and clouds. It’s just very good discipline, philosophically and poetically, to look at the sky.

And then you should spend thirty minutes a day looking at dirty pictures. Or thinking about sex. The purpose of this is to get yourself sexually excited, which builds tremendous amounts of energy, then carry that into your work. Get yourself in that intense state of being next to madness. Keep yourself in, not necessarily a frenzied state, but in a stage of great intensity. The kind of state you would be in before going to bed with your partner. That heightened state when you’re in a carnal embrace: Time stops and nothing else matters. You should always write with an erection. Even if you’re a woman.

Tom Robbins on writing, from a long interview I did with him in the late ’90s, dredged up for the front page of

(Source: billstrickland)

"… there are known knowns; there are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns; that is to say, there are things that we now know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns – there are things we do not know we don’t know.”

"This is the human paradox of altitude: that it both exalts the individual mind and erases it. Those who travel to mountain tops are half in love with themselves, and half in love with oblivion."

Robert Macfarlane, Mountains of the Mind.

"People who live by the consequences of the things they do…"

My guides now for sale on the Rapha site…



Having written about the Puy de Dôme recently @m_xl got in touch with some more photos from the French volcano.

Look closely at the second image and you can see the shadow of the volcano as the sun rises behind. The road is closed but wake up early and you can get up early.