20 January 2020


Category: Opinion

Our house burnt down last year, and what the fire didn’t destroy was destroyed by the firemen/persons/. How did it start? Well, it was one of our tenants, who had been praying to God and left the candle burning (make of that what you will). We’d been renting the house out for years as we’ve been wondering around the world in search of better life (I say ‘our’ house, but I still feel it’s Vanessa’s, plus my name’s not on any deeds, so it probably is hers, even if it’s a shell). When people go searching for more, which for me is about looking for less (listen to my podcast on happiness/misery), they usually end up back where they started, and declare that old trope, that ‘happiness was at the end of their garden all this time”, which is sort of true, as generally what you’re trying to run from is yourself, which like a shadow, or a poltergeist, is hard to shake.

Luckily for us, a garden is all we had, well until the house is made new again.  Luckily the only thing I really own, a load of climbing gear, was not in the house at the time, but over in Galway going mouldy, but the house did have all my slides there, up in the loft in a big box. Amazingly although the fire burned right through a closed door, somehow the plaster and loft insulation stopped it spreading up there, and so my slides survived.

When this thing called a house is reduced to a shell, all the inside walls knocked away by the builders, and what made it home stripped back to bricks, it’s a good time to question if it’s a castle or a prison, just where the value lies, for you and not the bank? I’d thought this before when my mums house was flooded out and took a lifetime of ‘stuff’ with it, that really none of that matters, that life is something you can’t do in one place, can’t be static or cosy or comfortable, and all that ‘stuff’ just anchors your there.

No, the only thing that really matters, the only thing to save, is always your pictures. Not that you need them now, as you still have the memories, and the people, but one day you might have neither, and so they’re the one thing you should save from the fire.


A Kit Kat bar costs 60p. Were these words worth as much?

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Andy Kirkpatrick
Andy Kirkpatrick

Andrew Kirkpatrick is a British mountaineer, author, motivational speaker and monologist. He is best known as a big wall climber, having scaled Yosemite's El Capitan 30+ times, including five solo ascents, and two one day ascents, as well as climbing in Patagonia, Africa, Alaska, Antarctica and the Alps.

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Books by Andy Kirkpatrick
Unknown Pleasures Higher Education
Me, Myself & I Nutcraft - The Climbing Nut Bible
Aid Basics 1000+ Tips for Climbers
Cold Wars Psychovertical
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