People who participate in Backpacking and/or love all aspects of The Great Outdoors can’t have escaped his name over the last twenty plus years. If you don’t know the name should just think of any decent piece of outdoor equipment - it has probably been used and/or reviewed by him at some point. Chris is the veritable Backpackers Guru when it comes to the kit many of us chose to use!
The conversation related to his article - How Outdoor Gear Has Changed Since 1978 and the much used (and loved) ‘Moving On’ windshirt; once manufactured by Rohan but sadly, now no longer in production.
I found the article both interesting and heart-warming. Interesting not just because of the many advancements in much of the gear we use, or how it has become ever lighter or more technically improved but also, how ’fashion’ can sometimes impact upon that equipment. The heart-warming aspect was born out of (a) the nostalgia aspects in his piece (b), the fact that Chris and I are of a similar age and (c), have joint experiences of ownership and use of similar pieces of kit over the years. Perhaps the latter should be attributed to the fact; I (and others) have valued his equipment reviews for many years.
Apart from the informative insight (and the nostalgia fix) provided by Chris, his undoubted passion for being out in and at one with our wild and wonderous countryside shone through, as ever. This was succinctly summed up by his last paragraph.
But my final thoughts are that gear doesn’t really matter. It’s only a tool, a means to an end. The wild places, the glorious hills and awe-inspiring forests through which our narrow trails wind, are still out there, still the reason we carry packs and camp wild. When it comes down to it which rucksack, which footwear and which shelter we use really don’t matter. Being out there. That’s what it’s all about…(Chris Townsend)
For more years than I care to remember now, Chris has ranked highly in my list of outdoor heroes. One that includes mountaineers like Sir Chris Bonnington CBE (conqurer of Mount Everest and Annapurna), Don Whillans (famed climbing harness designer) and latterly Alan Hinkes OBE, the first British mountaineer to have claimed all 14 mountains with elevations greater than 8000 metres.
More recently my list includes the likes of Terry Abraham, a wild camping landscape videographer and Lyle Brotherton, who lectures Mountain Rescue Teams (MRT) and Search & Rescue Teams (SAR) throughout the world in the ‘art’ of micronavigation. Along with many others who help to show us the wonders of our natural world but more importantly, how to value and protect those natural resources for all who follow.
Chris was the first person to walk the length of the Canadian Rockies, a distance of 1600 miles. He’s hiked the 2600 mile Pacific Crest Trail, the 3100 mile Continental Divide Trail, Lands End to John o’Groats in the UK 1250 miles, South-North through the Scandinavian mountains 1300 miles, 1000 miles South-North through the Yukon Territory and the 800 mile Arizona Trail.
Between his adventures Chris has authored 17 books including the best-selling Backpacker’s Handbook, now in its fourth edition. He has contributed to The Great Outdoors Magazine as equipment editor for more than 20 years. He is a member of The Society of Authors and the Outdoor Writers & Photographers Guild.
Chris also recently starred in ‘The Cairngorms in Winter’, a stunningly good film shot by Terry Abraham and he will also feature in Terry’s forthcoming film, Life Of A Mountain – Scafell Pike (see below).
I like my beer and this week I sampled two new ones, or new to me at least. Not my usual prefered Cask Ale tipple from one of our UK microbrewerys but some of that bottled “foreign muck” – shock horror!
These ‘new’ beers were actually ancillary to grabbing a bite to eat at Casa Rustica, a small and relatively new Mediterranean style Cafe/Deli, tucked away down Barker’s Arcade in Northallerton.
We’d heard several positive comments from friends about the “great coffee” or “authentic ingredients” and the majority of the reviews at tripadvisor.co.uk also looked promising. Despite the fact they can’t always be used as evidence for a positive experience, we decided to give it a try.
- Lovely Spot: ”Worth a visit, lovely selection of patisseries as well as savoury food hot and cold. Always looks really fresh and well presented. Good selection of Italian pasta etc to buy as well” (tripadvisor.co.uk)
- Fantastic Cafe: ”my favourite café from the day it opened. Not only do they serve the best coffee in town but the food is superb, the cakes especially” (tripadvisor.co.uk)
- Non buono come previsto: “very high expectations soon became tempered by experience” (tripadvisor.co.uk)
With a maximum 20 covers on two floors, six of which are in the ‘busy’ ground floor shop counter and service area, to say the place is a little compact and bijou is probably something of an understatement. All that said, the promise of “excellent ingredients” all ‘translated’ into a simple menu designed for those who like to chat, love to eat and drink in a friendly environment, had me salivating.
Our first visit to Casa Rustica was in the evening. A fairly limited hot/cold selection of mainly Tapas type fayre was on offer, complemented by a selection (also small) of wine and beer. I have to admit, we have always been great fans of the tapas and meze eating experience. The serving of tapas is designed to encourage conversation, more a ‘grazing’ than eating event. In general, you’re less focused upon the consumption of an entire meal set before you.
There weren’t any problems with any of the food or drink, except for it being a little pricey in (my opinion). The service was professional, attentive and all was enjoyed in clean, comfortable and convivial surroundings. We both left having thoroughly enjoyed our experience, suitably sustained with tasty food which was washed down with good beer and a nice bottle of Prosecco. Two happy bellies wobbled home, vowing to return again soon and sample some more of what they had to offer. Little was I to know it would actually be the very next day.
Our second visit turned out to be during the very next afternoon. Walking up the High Street it seemed the perfect venue for a late light lunch; fingers crossed as to availability of a table. The increasing popularity of this venue locally, along with the limited space already mentioned, means the place is often full to busting point.
Day two and my second beer sampling event saw each of us enjoy one of their very tasty panini offerings. The type of easy light-lunch food that’s de rigueur and staple fayre, at least in most of the self-respecting ’trendy cafes’ aspiring to or operating within, today’s ’socially’ endorsed restaurant world. On that point, despite finding the Casa Rustica Facebook page, I’ve (so far) been unable to locate any company website or Twitter account. I can’t help thinking they may be missing a ‘Social Media’ trick here. Either that or they’ve simply acknowledged the fact; word of mouth recommendations locally are probably all they can cope with – at least in these premises.
But this blog post was supposed to be about the beer and not the cafe so, without further ado here we go with the drinking! My wife said the Prosecco was very nice and to be fair, I did try a sip (merely for review purposes you understand) and I can concur with her but, what about the beer?
The only beer available was bottles from Birra Amarcord SpA classico line. These beers are brewed in the “splendid natural landscape” of Apecchio, situated South West of their head office in Rimini in Northern Eastern Italy. Thanks to SmartPhone t’internet I found; they’re named after ”the four great ladies of Amarcord” an Italian comedy-drama film directed by Federico Fellini. They subsequently became Italy’s bestselling craft beers.
Gradisca, Midòna, Volpina and Tabachèra are not only among the stars of the film Amarcord, but are also the stars of our finest moments, of our evenings with friends, of our dinners by candlelight, of our passion for outstanding beer…(birraamarcord.it)
- Day 1 Beer – La Gradisca (Special ‘low fermentation’ lager 5.2% abv)
- About the beer (from the brewer): “This beer has a bright color and forms a light, compact head. The flavor is full and rounded, with a pleasant taste of hops and a delicate scent of flowers. It presents to the palate with a pleasantly fruity aroma accompanied by a refreshing aftertaste of hops that makes it particularly refreshing.”
- About the beer (from me): despite all the pretentiousness you often find in ‘craft beer’ marketing blurb and descriptions, I can honestly say I enjoyed a refreshing and tasty brew, although it could have done with being a tad cooler. It fully lived up to the brewers hype and complimented the tapas admirably.
- Day 2 Beer – La Midòna (Premium Double Malt 6.5% abv)
- About the beer (from the brewer): “This beer has a golden color, a fine and compact head and an intense aroma of malt and hops. It has a full rounded body with a persistent finish.”
- About the beer (from me): previous pretentiousness comments aside, this was a more ‘solid’ brew, slightly reminiscent of ‘old-world’ barley wines. Those drinks that were once popular with little old ladies (or blokes) in UK pubs. A once in the week personal treat, consumed with a sandwich on the way home after collecting your pension from the Post Office. Perhaps my advancing years are starting to impact upon my taste buds!
All said, both beers were very enjoyable, if perhaps a little strong for any excessive daytime consumption. After what I’ve sampled from Birra Amarcord SpA (so far) I for one have no reason to think Apecchio couldn’t be “an international craft beer capital” – just the two remaining classico offerings to try now!
Popular perception suggests that, despite being contrary to most employment legislation, Ageism is alive and well and still thriving within many UK employers.
But is that perception factual or, as many HR professionals sifting applications from the over 50s job hunters would claim; simply a convenient excuse for lack lustre personal performance when seeking employment?
Any personal perceptions aside, the issues here will be tainted by your own age but, as AgeUK point out, many more people are working until far later in their life. Some may be seeking work for simple lifestyle reasons however; many others are actually obliged to seek work because of financial reasons. Whatever the reason behind older people seeking work, it remains an escalating factor of life in our ageing society.
In a partly frivolous but wholly indicative example of the ageist issues; back in 2009 the Disney cartoon ’Up‘ was given the thumbs down by investors. Apparently they were saying it was ”considered commercially unattractive” but why? Simply because the main character was an ‘old’ man.
This type of attitude abounds within the workplace, especially where the ’movers and shakers’ (aka ‘decision makers’) are substantially younger than fifty. The young always know more (and better) than their elders…don’t they?
Ageism is discrimination or unfair treatment based on a person’s age. It can impact on someone’s confidence, job prospects, financial situation and quality of life…(ageuk.org.uk)
My wife and I have both experienced the difficulties and impacts of being 50+ job hunters. Redundancy necessitated her search for work at the ’critical age’ refered to. Mine was due to a length of service and age related retirement from the police.
Our free-fall into the traffic-jam of job searching hasn’t been without a good deal of pain and frustration, it also couldn’t have come at a worse time. A period when all the prominent employers in this area are public sector organisation making cuts. Employers like the NHS, Local Authorities and Councils, Emergency Services and Govt. Agencies. They are all struggling to comply with austerity measures and cutting back.
Add to this the difficulties of adapting thirty years of policing experiences and training to ‘civvy’ street, often without any formal/acceptable documentary ‘evidence’ or ‘qualifications’ and you have problems. There is much that can be applied to any ’normal’ job however, trying to get prospective employers to understand that is often another contributory factor to your car crash of over fifty unemployment. And all before you even worry about trying to manage the age issues.
In a way I’m lucky, I only ‘need’ part-time work to boost my modest pension income and to get by. My wife on the other hand would ‘like’ something a little more substantial in terms of income. We’ve been obliged to scale back our desires around the income we need/would like. Now we work towards simply preventing our standard of living from falling any further than it has already. Trying to carry on with life, with a reasonable level of comfort and the odd luxury, after your household income has reduced to one-third of what it was is no easy task.
Apart from having little or no interest in the ethos of getting a job at any cost, we also have no desire to relocate or commute excessive distances each day. Our lack of success during a period of ’enforced’ career change has been worrying and stressful, for both of us. But we know we’re not alone in this predicament, many other families are suffering reduced incomes, higher costs and many cash-strapped older women are forced back to work. Even though my wife wasn’t forced ’back’ per se, she’d never actually been away from the workplace, until now.
No women over 50 allowed (unless it’s Helen Mirren): …a generation of women is being bundled out of jobs at an alarming rate, dumped into low-paid, part-time slots. Since 2010 there has been a 30% increase in unemployment among women in their 50s, compared to a general increase of 5%…(The Guardian)
The TUC say, “more than three-quarters of the rise in female employment, which hit record levels last December, is the result of women aged over 50 taking on jobs.”
A report by the TUC to be released this week has established that 2,278,000 more women are now working than in 1992, and that 1,645,000 (72%) of these are aged 50 or over…(guardian.co.uk)
Most people know that if an employer turns you down for a job because you are too old (or too young), this is ageist and is actually unlawful, but it happens and unfortunately, it looks like it’s all set to get far worse in te future.
MILLIONS more women will be forced back to work because their pensions will not be enough to live on, says a damning new report…(express.co.uk)
Working in a pub I hear the content of many differing conversations, from a broad range of people. Some of the comments I’ve overheard recently tend to support my assumptions on ageism.
- “We just throw the ‘oldies’ applications in the bin” (Retail Manager)
- “They ['Old buggers'] are no good to me, they’re past it” (Local Building Contractor)
- “We tend to ‘lose’ most of the older ones at the paper sift” (HR staff NHS)
- “Older people usually want more than minimum wage so we don’t take them on” (Status/Sector Unknown)
- “You can make the selection process documentation ‘fit’ the job description if you like the person” (Local Authority HR staff)
- “I just marked my score sheet up to fit the one I liked, he was lush” (Interview Board Member – Sector Unknown)
- “Why would anyone over forty want to be working, if they haven’t made it by then they don’t deserve a bloody job” (Status/Sector Unknown)
- “Why would someone like you [me] want a job anyway? You’ve got a massive f—ing pension! Just stops us getting them [jobs]“ (Unemployed Council Worker)
I suspect the latter comment was mostly ‘sour grapes’ but still indicative of my assumption. All anecdotal some would say, not so say I. But even if I introduced you to the originator of each and every comment, most would probably have denied ever having spoken those words. Despite what politicians, recruitment agencies and anyone else involved in human resource management would have you believe – Ageism is still rife in the workplace.
Our anti-discrimination laws are designed to protect you when you apply for a job (as well as while you’re working) however; Ageism during any recruitment process can be extremely difficult to prove. Obviously an employer isn’t going to advertise the fact they’re ageist. They’re also unlikely to make their reasons for not employing someone, due to their age, common knowledge. Are they?
It’s worth noting that if you think a prospective employer has discriminated against you, because of your age (or any other discriminatory factor for that matter), you can get help from the Home Office website. There is a questionnaire that will help you to gather evidence of your complaint, should you decide to bring a claim against that prospective employer. A useful resource but, like the legislation, not one that I would have a great deal of confidence in.
The problem with any equality legislation, like others designed to prevent discrimination and/or promote diversity is, they are often little more than politically based platitudes. The appeasement of public angst that will (hopefully) improve or increase party political popularity at the time of enactment.
The Say NO To Ageism campaign which ran in the Irish Republic was (probably) a prime example (and victim) of this political thought process. Great whilst these noble efforts are current and happen to be political ’flavour-of-the-month’ but, as soon as the heat dies down, they swiftly fall into obscurity. The last Say No To Ageism Week ran from the 4th to the 8th June…2012. From that are we to assume that Ageism is no longer a problem, at least in the Republic of Ireland?
These laws and campaigns don’t change attitudes, they just dictate that people will adjust their attitudes, at least within any public forum. They also ensure that those who hold these views are very careful to cover their tracks, with appropriate but imaginative paper trails.
So sorry to be the Harbinger Of Doom and rain on your job parade however; it is insufficient to place your trust in the benefits of equality legislation alone. If you’re over fifty and searching for work you will have to work far harder than you should really have to. And, if you read employment news and forecasts for the future, it’s going to get much worse. Doing anything less than hard-selling yourself in the current job market is tantamount to employment suicide.
Far better that you work from the premiss; no matter how good you are, or how you actually go about securing your new job, ageism during the selection process IS rife… Understand that and you might not be quiet so upset about all the rejections you’re going to get.