Photo: Jon Masters climbing at Ottawa’s Coyote indoor climbing centre, July 2005.

I took my youngest sister climbing at Craggy Island on Saturday. I had never climbed in the UK before and was pleased to see a good choice in this particular venue, but I was a little annoyed at the requirement to pass their competency test the moment I arrived. I wanted to go climbing and belay my sister as I had been climbing in Canada previously and be provided with sufficient instruction and training with their equipment as was necessary – but no, you can’t do it like that in this green and pleasant land. I had never used the type of gear they have and the only option turned out to be paying double the cost of hire to have a pointless hour of tuition which I patently didn’t need (they did it with different gear than they usually use – what I wanted was to pay to be instructed in the use of their particular environment, then take a test. But no.). Still, I climbed the four intro walls immediately and handled the kit correctly, then did a bit of boldering before leaving. I think my sister was interested in the experience but I don’t yet know if we’ll get her out there again. I’ll go back again, but my first UK climbing experience nearly didn’t happen at all, and when it actually did it was not really what I had in mind. Still, I’ve learned it’s more anal over here.

On the way to Craggy Island (it’s in Guildford, we had to take a train), we were waiting at Reading station for a train and drinking some coffee at Costa when there was an incident. Some youths sitting at a table were approached by a security guard who asked one of them to leave. He and his friends said they’d be happy to leave if the Costa staff asked them to do so and that their friend was finishing her drink. He asked again, then got a fellow security guard to drag the guy away from the table. Needless to say, I didn’t recall flying to the States last night and wasn’t willing to entertain this patent abuse of authority to cause needless harassment (one of the girls was obviously upset by this unnecessary action) so I approached the British Transport Police and asked that they look into why it was necessary to manhandle the Costa clientele. He confirmed with the coffeeshop staff that the group are often at the shop, never cause any trouble and regularly buy products like good little consumers that we are brought up to be.

They got back to me later to say it’s being looked into, I reminded them I don’t want to see anyone in trouble over the incident, I just want security reminded that they’re there to actually do a job, not abuse the power of their plastic badge to annoy people (I actually used the US analogy and said that we’re not living in the US and don’t expect to see people having their rights abused without good reason). We don’t need to live in a society where people with purple hair and “hoodies” are treated as gangland members just because they happen to enjoy drinking juice and occasional espresso. It’s not right, it’s not fair, and it’s certainly not something I expect to see happening where I live.


Comments are closed.