‘Tides’ found me during my own time of upheaval. Moving house and changing job in the same month, my first dip into the world of audiobooks provided my partner and I with a welcome soundtrack as we dismantled our life and prepared to start a new one in the north of England.
Nick’s lyrical prose lulled us along the M62 as we ferried our belongings between houses, his Northern twang recalling with stark clarity the ups and downs of an impressive career in the mountains.
This is a memoir with many faces, rattling from Chamonix in the French Alps to the peaks of the Himalaya and back to the UK. Bullock shifts between the years with each chapter, detailing impressive accents of routes in Alaska, Canada and Scotland. His accomplishments are numerous, with many first accents of Himalayan peaks and a Piolet d’Or to his name.
A logbook of ticks and accents though, this memoir is not. Bullock deals with all aspects of climbing: the challenges of balancing serious mountaineering with personal relationships, the ache of loss experienced when risks become consequences in the mountains, the sting of loneliness on the road, the longing for connection and its discovery in the most remarkable of places.
Nick captures the seduction of the mountains and the liberating unpredictability of life outside of your comfort zone. He describes the visceral fear of running out of time and grapples with questions of risk, selfishness and freedom. The snapshots of the quieter moments in his van give a fascinating insight into Bullock’s mind; a single raindrop falling from the roof of his van precedes the question ‘is there such a thing as to live too long?’
‘Tides’ is a brilliant, incredibly honest and personal insight into a life devoted to climbing – its joys and its discontents as rhythmic as the tides. Bullock’s philosophical reflections on life in the mountains often had me searching for a pencil in our moving boxes to scribble excerpts in a notebook, or interrupting my partner as we packed our life away and forcing him to listen to whole paragraphs. A rich and energetic celebration of non-conformity and the pursuit of passion, ‘Tides’, describes a life lived with intent, affirming ‘at whatever level, at whatever frailty, life has to be worth living’.