Monday, 24 August 2009

Spartan Rigours

I do like a well turned phrase. I have been reading the Guardian Book of Mountains, an anthology charting the surprisingly frequent appearances of mountaineering in the paper’s pages, in both its current form and its previous guise as the Manchester Guardian. A series of editors and leader writers were enthusiastic and almost evangelical in their treatment of climbing and walking.

In a strange little piece entitled Meals Out Of Doors, published August 27th 1925, the mysteriously initialed AJA writes of the ‘greatest earthly joy’ of the al fresco dinner. ‘To get the full flavour’ he says, ‘one should spend a week tramping over the passes of the Dolomites, sleeping in the Alpine Club huts and enduring the spartan rigours.’

What a delicious phrase ‘spartan rigours’ is: dated, descriptive and suggestive.