Saturday, 17 March 2012

Blaming others for your own stupidity.

Warning. This post is a rant.

I have the pleasure of being a member at Craggy Island Climbing Centre in Guildford, it is a great place to go and climb, there is a fantastic atmosphere in the centre, the staff are friendly, helpful and knowledgeable and, thankfully, there are routes that cater to all abilities. I suppose what I’m trying to say is the place has a great vibe and I love climbing there.

Then, yesterday, while taking a break from housework and admin stuff for the search team I went to the UK Climbing website and had a glance through the forums and I came across a thread about this article –

I have long been opposed to the “compensation culture”. Don’t get me wrong, the right in law to sue someone for compensation when they, through their error, have caused you harm is an important one and if I was to be injured through the action or inaction of another then I’d be all for exercising that right.
However, what I object to, and boy oh boy do I object, is blaming someone for your own damn stupidity and I’m afraid to say that Ms Pinchbeck is guilty of just that. She chose to take part in an activity that is inherently dangerous (don’t look at me like that, the adrenaline is part of why we do it) and she took a decision to jump from a wall and in doing so broke her ankle. I say again Ms Pinchbeck CHOSE to take part. She didn’t HAVE to.

There is no requirement at Craggy to leave your common sense at the door, no locker in which to pop your innate understanding that “if I fall down, I might hurt myself”. There is, of course, the BMC participation statement writ large –

The BMC recognises that climbing and mountaineering are activities with a danger of personal injury or death. Participants in these activities should be aware of and accept these risks and be responsible for their own actions.

A version of which you have to sign as part of the registration process before climbing, there is no addendum which states

“That is unless I hurt myself, abrogate my own personal responsibility and decide to blame someone else”

The Telegraph article states that Ms Pinchbeck was a keen runner, I ask her, if you’d slipped from the curb whilst out running and caused the same injury who would you have blamed then?

It enrages me that the judiciary appear unwilling to look at these cases rationally and say “Sorry, you were stupid, you made a mistake and now you’re trying to blame someone else, get out of my court room and stop wasting my time”.

This whole sorry episode is indicative of the blame culture, where personal responsibility appears to be a thing of the past and no one is willing to admit that they may have made a mistake or been a tad stupid. So I say lets have a return to common sense, if you climb there is a likelihood that at some point you’re going to injure yourself and it will be no one’s fault but your own, just as there is risk in any sport which involves physical activity. I recently took part in a session of laser tag, outdoors in the woods; I tripped while jumping a log and cracked some ribs, and it was nobody’s fault but mine. I’m not about to start blaming the owner of the site, or the bloke who chopped the tree down or anyone BUT ME.

The people who bring these ridiculous lawsuits because they cannot face taking responsibility for their own actions are setting a terrible and dangerous precedent. Its time Ms Pinchbeck and her ilk took a long hard look at themselves and realised the error of their ways.

I will continue to climb at Craggy, as will I continue to recommend it to anyone, and if they have to raise their prices to pay their insurance premiums, which will inevitably rise, then I’ll pay the extra because it’s a great place and I love climbing, but when I do I’ll be thinking “Thank you Ms Pinchbeck, for making the experience a little less pleasant.”

Friday, 16 March 2012

A Very Gallant Gentleman.

Captain Lawrence Edward Grace Oates
Born 17th March 1880
Died 16th March 1912
100 years ago today Captain Oates uttered the immortal line "I am just going outside and may be some time" and left his companions to walk to his certain death hoping that by sacrificing himself he would by some slight chance ensure the safety of Scott, Wilson and Bowers.

Captain Lawrence Edward "Titus" Oates was born on the 17th March 1880 in Putney, London. In 1898, Oates joined the 3rd (Militia) Battalion of the West Yorkshire Regiment. He saw military service during the Second Boer War as a junior officer in the 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons, having joined in 1900 and been promoted to Lieutenant in 1902, then to Captain in 1906. In March 1901, during the Boer War, he suffered a gunshot wound to his thigh which left it shattered and his left leg an inch shorter than his right leg when it eventually healed.

Oates and his charges
Oates applied to join the Terra Nova Expedition and was accepted on the strength of his experience of animal husbandry gained whilst serving in the Dragoons in order to care for the ponies that Scott intended to use to haul large loads in the initial stages of the expedition, he was later chosen as one of the final five to make the attempt on the pole.

It was on the return journey that Oates began to suffer terribly, his feet became very badly damaged by frostbite and there is suggestion that the old wound to his leg was opened up as a result of scurvy. He was failing rapidly. He was aware that he was causing the team to fall behind schedule and placing the others at greater risk. On the 15th March he requested that they left him behind - they refused - but so severely weakened was Oates that they only managed another few miles before camping.

"A Very Gallant Gentleman"
Artist: James Charles Dollman
On the morning of the 16th March, Oates recognised that without him; Scott, Wilson and Bowers stood a greater chance of survival and so, forgoing the pain of putting his boots on he stated "I am just going outside and may be some time" and walked out into the blizzard. Scott wrote at the time "We knew that poor Oates was walking to his death, but though we tried to dissuade him, we knew it was the act of a brave man and an English gentleman". Although, in the end, Oates sacrifice was made for nought he was without doubt an incredibly brave man. His ultimate sacrifice a shining example of what it is to have courage. Captain Oates' body has never been found.

His famous utterance is oft used in jest but we should all remember the horrendous circumstances under which it was first said and today of all days we should raise a glass to Captain Lawrence Oates, a true hero.