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Free Solo

I don’t think I’ve ever held my breath for so long. Three hours and 56 minutes. The length of time Alex Honnold climbed from the base of El Capitan to its summit, solo, without a rope. El Capitan is the magnificent cloud-kissing marble boulder that rises in the midst of the Yosemite National Park, and…

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The Galilean Rider

Banjo Paterson’s famous poem, The Man from Snowy River, which is celebrated on the obverse of the Australian ten dollar note, just cost me 50 dollars. One of my sons rose to the challenge of reciting it from memory, all 104 lines, word perfect. He delivered, and I paid up. Actually I was glad that…

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A man like me

I think I must have been struck by lightning as a boy. Maybe around Year 2 or 3 at school, at the very time when the lesson for the day was the spelling of numbers, and just at the moment when we were working through the orderlies. I can pick the precise moment of the…

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Sweat, blood and tears

It takes some years to understand the way that adults talk. My mother, on those occasions when as a boy I pointed out that she was sweating, would announce, with aplomb, “Horses sweat, men perspire and ladies glow.” I thought she was speaking biological truth, until I was older, and realized her eloquent layer of…

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A Sword Reforged

In one of Tolkien’s tales, ‘The Children of Húrin’, a sword of one of those children is taken by some clever smiths to be reforged. In Tolkien’s tales, everything has a name, even the swords, and this one, once known as Anglachel, is reworked to become Gurthang, “Iron of Death”. And its blade is strong…

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Holy woodwork

A lady who attended a funeral at our church recently, looked up at the wooden ceiling, and said, “Ah, chestnut wood.” I was surprised, and intrigued, and asked her to explain. “No spider webs,” she said. “Spiders have an aversion to chestnut wood, which is why builders choose it to panel high ceilings in churches.”…

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Seeing the picture

“He who gets the jigsaw puzzle out of the box, must not boast like he who puts it away,” has the ring of a Biblical proverb (1 Kings 20:11). It’s one thing to start a 1,000 piece puzzle – to find the four corners and all the pieces with a straight edge. It’s another to…

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Living dangerously

Are spiders deaf? I ask the question because a spider has apparently been living in the smoke-alarm outside my bedroom door, and from time to time, taking responsibility for setting it off. Usually about 1.00am in the morning. For ages I thought it was a faulty battery. But the smoke-alarm man who visited recently discovered…

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One Day in a Lockdown

Reading about a man doing twenty-five years in a Russian gulag is always a good antidote to grumbling about doing six weeks in a lockdown at home. Today I spent with Ivan Denisovich, and listened as he told me about his day in a freezing labour camp. I got to meet some of the 400…

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Merrily, merrily

The claim that life is but a dream is rightly attributed to Shakespeare. In his play ‘The Tempest’, the words run as follows: ‘We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep.’ However what’s often omitted is that these words proceed from the mouth of a…

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