Bob Wightman

This article appeared in Climber magazine in December 1991. It recounts, in a peculiar way, the scene at Malham Cove in the mid to late 1980’s.

Looking back at it, there are more subtle digs than I remember! If anything the climbing scene has become more like this than it should.

A Dog’s Life

Tut! He’s at it again. Leaving me with the sacks at the bottom of the crag while he’s off enjoying himself with his mates. Though that squeal just now sounded suspiciously like his distress call. What does he expect me to do? Climb the route and rescue him?

Today's just like every other day off, never any time together. No straight off to his mates or if I’m lucky he stops in and trains, virtually ignoring me. I hope he hasn’t hurt himself.

I wouldn’t mind if just occasionally we did what I want. I mean I do like going out to the hills, who doesn’t? But we never seem to get there even with all his promises.

It’s always like this; doing what he wants to do every weekend, never “Oh would you like to go for a walk then?” Always “We’ll go to ‘The Crag’.” No we have to do what he wants all the time. I don’t know what he gets out of it anyway.

Well we did go to a mountain crag once but it was a disaster, I had to sit there and watch him all day. I could have gone for a walk, seen the sights and sounds and aromas of the area, just do something interesting while he had a play on his bit of rock. But no, I had to stop around to congratulate him and give his ego a boost. There was quite a bit of shouting going on then as well. I don't think he did too well either because we've never been again. He says the climbing’s no good, so that put paid to that.

Mmm there’s still a bit of moaning going on, wonder if I should go and see what’s happened.

Uh oh! It's that John character again. I wish he’d understand that I can’t stand him and leave me alone. Just watch if I did anything to him though. It’d be, “What do you think you’re doing? Upsetting my friends?” I’d be an outcast all the way home, I’d be surprised if I were allowed to sleep in the same bed as him.

I’ve got my way round him though. The sad look gets a little attention, mainly because his mates embarrass him into showing sympathy for me. Best though is a good old barney, He has to take notice of me then, I’ll get at least a cuddle, better if he feels he’s been bad to me.

Well no great commotion now from wherever he’s at, can’t have been serious or he’d have asked for me. God! Look at all these Prima Donnas, you’d think that they were entering Mr Universe or something from the way they carry on. Still we can’t all be perfect.

Brrr! It’s chilly sitting around all day. I’ll have a wander over to the other end of the terrace, I think there’s a couple I know over there. I’m sure it’s her perfume I can smell, she always did overdo it, be no good at hide and seek that’s for sure!

"Hello there lass! You look a bit down." I can’t help but smile at Steve’s welcome, it’s more than I ever get from Billy. “Want a buttie?”

Before I can reply I’ve got a lovely beef sandwich, much better than those veggy things Billy brings. I’d go and live with Steve anyway, I muse as I munch the sandwich, but he’s with Jane so no go on that score. More pleasantries follow and I’m beginning to feel much better.

“Hoi!” A familiar voice disturbs the peace, “What are you doing over there?”

“He treats you rough” Says Jane apologetically, “I think you’d better go before he gets mad.”

Billy’s in a foul mood when I reach him, he’s failed on his route for the umpteenth time. I rub against him trying to cheer him up.

“I nearly had it then but fell off one move before the belay.” He exploded “I’m going to give it one more go and then we’re going home.”

I looked at a passing couple obviously in love and at ease with one another. Why couldn’t we be like that? Not this constant nagging. Billy sits ignoring me as usual, he calls it psyching up, it looks like a sulk to me. It must be, he’s even ignoring his friends.

Everyone is so engrossed in what they are doing that they don't realise how foolish they look, miming every move, every genuflexion to their peers, looking like Marcel Marceau in drag.

Because Billy doesn’t want to speak to anyone, no-one comes near us, so although we are together I might as well be alone.

Oh dear he’s off again, back to his little project, not so much as a word to me as usual. I wish he would smile a little now and again and not be so intense, it drives me mad, he’s supposed to be having a good time. Supposed to be enjoying himself. God knows what he’s like when he’s not. The rest of them are just the same, hardly a smile among them, what a miserable bunch! They’re just like animals, licking each others’ backsides, all the hierarchy of a bunch of baboons. All the social graces too.

I’ll wander up and see how he’s getting on, I’ll not let on that I'm watching.

He’s failed again. Tonight’s going to be misery I can tell. I go back to our gear before he sees me.

What a temper! No-one goes near him as he returns. No-one speaks to him. He sits by me, his mood is frightening, suddenly he lashes out with his fist and strikes me in the face. There’s a flash of white light tinged with red - anger. This, finally, is too much. My hackles are up now, it’s time he had a taste of my temper for a change.

I cower momentarily then bite him in the leg as hard as I can, trying to saw my way down to the bone.

“You mad dog!” He erupts, “Let go of me!”

I cling on, drawing blood, before strong hands pull me away. He’s too concerned with the state of his leg to kick at me, so I scurry off back to Jane and Steve.

People notice me now in my own right, most of them draw away as I come near them, They’ve seen what I did to Billy. I don’t mean them any harm though. Jane puts a soothing arm around me, gently stroking my fur.

“I think you’d better come home with us tonight.” I wag my tail. “I don’t think Billy will be too happy with you after that little episode.”

Billy is still swearing and sulking across the way. It’s a dog’s life.