I'm Alan Hubbard, who are you?

Independent Publishing Network £15.95.  ISBN: 978-1-80049-140-3

The journey starts in the smog-ridden industrial streets of Salford during the Second World War. Having lost his father to cancer before reaching the age of two, Alan and his two elder brothers were brought up by his mother in relative poverty. We are then taken on a journey through derelict post-war Salford and the playgrounds that youth can find in such chaos. Like myself, Alan started his working life in engineering but, after finding climbing through a youth club, work is a distraction to the lures of moors and mountains. The folly of youth, the mistakes made and the voyage to adulthood are all depicted against the backdrop of a gloomy city and the escapes to the beautiful places that climbing takes you to. 

We are then taken on a journey through decades when, like most climbers, he was working to fund the next adventure, be it the Highlands of Scotland, the sea cliffs of Cornwall, the Alps and beyond. The big difference with this book is the philosophies that are underlying the whole of the narrative. Alan has a love of nature and of fairness and the often harsh reality of the politics that shape our lives are in juxtaposition with this.  So, if you're after a read purely in the interests of climbing, this is not for you. If you want to read something with substance and meaning it is without doubt worth a read. If you cross Perrin's 'The Villain' with Gibran's 'The Prophet', you are somewhere near.

The contrast in the chapters keep you constantly interested.  Chapter 7 explores the wild sea cliffs of Cornwall and the ensuing adventures. Chapter 14, Dogs, is about the love you have for these amazing companions that enrich your life for a brief time and Chapter 19 is an impassioned rant on the state of politics now. This chapter is absolutely unapologetic, chillingly accurate and will be uncomfortable for anyone on the wrong side of politics. 

The book has a beauty in the depiction of our natural world and the love for his wife Jenny and all his friends and a contrast in trying to understand the cruelty that political decisions can make to normal people.  It is a true autobiography of a fascinating life. This has been a labour of love for Alan over the last few years and this is clear in the quality of writing.

All profits from this book are being distributed to various charities including Amnesty International and Médecins Sans Frontières.

Stuart Wood, Climber magazine, April 2021

The book includes a brief glossary of climbing terms for non-climbers

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Bildungsroman goes biographical

The esteemed author's occasionally questioned comfort zone seems to lie somewhere between being water boarded by the CIA and being interrogated by the KGB (given the esteemed author's opinion of their political masters, they would go about their task with due diligence). The answer to the title's rhetorical question "who are you?" would be "a bit of a wimp".

After a too long gap in my reading this book was pure unalloyed pleasure. As near contemporaries the chapters about childhood during the war and the subsequent hand to mouth existence of the 40's resonated deeply. The esteemed author in Salford, your correspondent in Hulme, few people can now remember the eerie sounds of a gaslit house with its deep shadows and the forensic skill needed to change a gas mantle in the dark.

This book is ostensibly about a life in climbing and the esteemed author's lifelong obsession with it, the dramatis personae of friends and climbing partners are a disparate eclectic bunch that range across the professions from plasterers to professors.

One of the great adornments of this book is the the way that the climbing obsession becomes blended with abiding love of nature. No one gets closer to nature than a climber, the texture of the rock, the intense concentration at the crux of a route, the next two metres the difference between success and failure. The descriptions of landscapes and their fauna are truly lyrical and should be read whilst listening to something by Vaughan Williams.

The Demography of the past four generations ending with the current generation Z labels the 1928-45 as the silent generation. The esteemed author's political treatise 'The politics of unreason' proves a stentorian exception to that definition. On these pages the esteemed author dons the mantle of Cassandra (the late Mirror columnist AND the Trojan prophet) and in the best democratic tradition releases volleys of high velocity abuse at politicians of all political stripes and nationalities for their lack of principle and egregious abuse of power. Historically our generation that benefited from the post war Attlee government look back wistfully to the fact that real political principles died with ending of its tenure.

It lifts my heart to read that this is no way an octogenarian farewell memoir. For the esteemed author new horizons always beckon, long may he and Jenny journey towards them.

Sent in by Lynda Johnson

Response from Alan: "Whoever you are, Lynda, please get in touch. You seem like my kind of woman!"