Wednesday, 29 May 2013

The Alchemist

Fatneck on the hunt for quality at Parbold
We have been on a quest.  We have purged ourselves of the familiar, forsaken the bouldering fleshpots littered with test pieces that can build a reputation or crush an ego with one slip of a foot.  We have journeyed both west and east from our fair, maritime city on the Mersey, followed sedimentary seams through sand and grit in search of something, something so rare that even to speak its name would make it disappear.  Our merry band have forsaken the luxuries of guides, descriptions, cleaned lines and stars and replaced them with a twilight world. The realm we now move through was once created by the hand of man, but is no longer part of his ambition; instead it has been reclaimed by the elements, earth, air, fire and water. The chemistry of nature dominates these spaces. Holes cut deep in the ground by the desires of industry- now kingdoms of moss and mud.  Lichens keep watch over these rippled quarried walls, and keep us from what we seek.

The Heath, Runcorn
We are not alone in these forgotten spaces, we share them with spectral beings, the youth that loom large in the twilight gloom.  Disenfranchised by daylight, diminished by darkness, their rituals and rights of initiation seek to harness the elements for their own fulfilment   They leap from the quarry walls during the summer months, draw power from the air and are reborn in the watery depths below- emboldened, indestructible heroes of a generation taught not to care.  Fire is the element prized above all else, it illuminates their lives, and destroys our desires with effortless ease!  The blackened, brittle walls demonstrate that we will never be alone - soot and sorrow will always blight our adventures through this twilight world. Our inquisitive eyes scan these walls in the hope we will find that rarefied thing that we seek, more often than not lamenting what could have been.

Andy Jones demonstrating Fatneck's finest creation 
What do we seek?  What could be so precious that it leads grown men to the margins, to a dappled world filled with broken glass and beings decorated with three stripes.  Like Ancient alchemists we seek perfection amongst the elemental forces, our spiritual and physical journey is one of discovery, to unearth the impossible: new amongst the old, quality in crap, first ascents in the subtextural landscapes created by a guide just written. The Alchemists attempted to turn base metals into the perfect, precious metals of gold and silver; in the same way we have attempted to find the aesthetic amongst the ugly, sport amongst the solidified silts.  Our dialectical journey has had us tread a knife edge, teetering along the margins of good and evil.  Some say you cannot polish a turd, it will simply smear in your hands, others know that a carbon rich material subjected to the intense forces of heat and pressure can create diamonds.   The proto chemists of the past did not achieve their aim of a life everlasting, or the extraordinary transformation of mundane materials, could we, however, discover a diamond in the rough??

Alec the Alchemist climbing the Arete that now bares his name (V7 sds V8)
Parbold and Runcorn both sport quarried hills that entertain the shady and the shy, shielding them  from the the glare of society.  Both quarries have built towns, neither have built reputations that might lure the boulderer to their muddied walls and yet, magnetised by their mystery, we have been drawn like moths by their shadowy light.  We have poured scorn on what they have offered, rock has turned to dust by the action of our eager limbs, our desires have been smeared by disappointment, and yet our quest continued, redoubled and intensified until out of the sand,lichen and slime gems began to crystallise and gleam in the gloom. One amongst us has taken on the the mantle of creator he has brought to life lines of movement that transcend what surrounds them.  He has turned the base elements of nature into something that will live on in the future pages of guides and the limitless landscapes of the information age.  For now he is the alchemist.

Jay Dog crimping hard on the Heath.
So our journey seemed to have come to an end.  Some have been bruised, battered by the experience. Blood has been shed and the twilight worlds through which we tiptoed have been tamed, claimed back for now from those who seek to destroy it through ignorance.  However it is naïve to think that we can ever stop travelling on this journey of discovery- the achievements of The Alchemist are just a way marker in the sandstone pointing to what can be created  through the intense scrutiny of our finite local resources.  A message from the man who looked like Marx and answers to the name 'Pop' has shown us the way to what comes next.  There is still sandstone in the suburbs, there are still gems to be found, we all have the ability to turn lead into gold, we can all be Alchemists if we journey long enough along the sedimentary seam of our desires.
Portrait of a punter!!

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