If you live in a Daily Mail induced bubble that believes people arriving in small boats on our south coast are a greater threat to our lives than our government's failure to process and deal efficiently with fellow human beings claiming asylum, or otherwise, then it's probably best not to read on…
James McHaffie is one of the outstanding climbers of a generation. His exploits on rock are quite overwhelming with absurd numbers of routes of E7 and beyond having been climbed typically on sight. His climbing CV includes 9a on sport and 9a on trad. Just check out his bio on the DMM website for a full list of his extraordinary accomplishments on rock. But here I'll just mention the incredibly impressive achievement of completing all the routes in Extreme Rock and another one that just gets me shaking my head every time I think about it is managing to climb 100 extreme routes in the Lake District in a day.
So when James said he was writing a book. It was not an unreasonable assumption to presume it was about his climbing. It was, however, a poor assumption which underestimated James.
'Caff' raised eyebrows when working as a young instructor at Plas y Brenin he chose to talk about the climate catastrophe and its impact on climbing and mountaineering. Climbers of lesser stature may have been steered away from such politicisation of the game we play. But when James clearly and intelligently articulated his points of view there was no arguing with him. He was absolutely right and we all should have done, and should be doing, far more to lessen our impact on the climate. James continues to take action to raise the profile of climate change. But over the last few years until quite recently, he worked for the BMC as the Youth and Equity Officer. This period has really brought into focus, for James, how unfair life has become for so many British people.
The novel that Caff has written is a tirade about contemporary British government. As soon as I read it, it made sense. This was the best way to get it off his chest and to urge us all to take notice of the terrible state of affairs which now prevail in our country. Taking current affairs and outlining their impact on the characters he shares with us gives the reader a greater empathy and understanding of how this modern world is such an unequal, inequitable and divided one.
The plot is grounded in North Wales. It describes the lives of people with whom anyone who has spent time in that region can identify. Similar characters exist across the United Kingdom. Whilst mainstream commentators like Corbyn and Monbiot get demonised and undermined by the media they can't do that to Caff. He's a big figure in our world, but he's not known on the mainstream media stage. Read this book and think carefully about how the world is, how it should be and how the world could be.
Yes, he's angry, but a lot more of us should be too. Whilst he gets a little fantastical towards the end I think it's done extremely well and he takes the reader on the voyage with Eleri.
Oh, and, there is some climbing in the book. Eleri’s solo of Central Sadness will get you reaching for your chalk bag. Read this book with an open mind, then do something about it.