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February 21, 2008

Hacking Timbuktu taster

Extract from a work in progress - Hacking Timbuktu - a parkour and hacking fest set in London and Timbuktu.


At the point where the bridge crossed the embankment walk, Danny Temple stopped, stood up on the rail, swung his arms and jumped. The time in the air, 'hang-time' as his teacher called it, was as euphoric as ever.

The huge antique lamppost did not even sway when Danny landed on it. He adjusted his grip, slid down, landed lightly on the concrete footpath and ran. Pedestrians on the bridge gasped in admiration. Adrenalin coursed through Danny's body. Obstacles stretched out in front of him, all of them surmountable.

The embankment walk is parkour paradise - along its length are walls, railings, steps, hedges, bollards and trees. Open your mind to parkour vision; flow like water over your course. Kong vault, dash vault, tic-tac, kash vault, cat pass, gap jump, dismount, drop. Your will chooses your path, your feeling guides you, your energy propels you.

Parkour is not so very different from hacking. The traceur and the hacker both require special techniques, special vision. Both move freely to surpass the barriers erected by man to enclose and restrict. The electron jungle of cyberspace and the concrete jungle of the city are both there for the exploring - there for the overcoming. As far as Danny is concerned, parkour and hacking are about one thing only: freedom.

Danny resists any big gap jumps on the embankment path. Big jumps mean hard landings so you need to dissipate the shock with a forward roll - left forearm, upper back, lower back, right foot - 'la roulade' as his teacher calls it. An important technique but hardly laptop-friendly. Today the smaller, more technical jumps will have to do.

He is approaching Battersea High Street. He runs full pelt towards the apartment block on the corner, kicks up off the wall, reaches for the railing of a first-floor balcony, pulls himself up, hops onto the rail, precision jumps onto a fire-escape and heads for the roof.

Urban monkey. Traceur extraordinaire. Master of all I survey. I stand on the roofs of Battersea High Street and before me stretches half a mile of concrete, walls, rails and chimneys. Chelsea Harbour down to my left, London Eye away to my right. How many days have I run this roof, and in how many different ways? How many nights has my dream self flowed across the city skyline, swan dived over chimney stacks, cat jumped from one skyscraper to the next? How many mornings have I pulled on my trainers and felt the dizzy thrill of freedom? I'm alive and I'm coming out to play!

Danny sets his stopwatch and runs across the roofs, vaulting the low walls which separate one flat from the next. If martial arts teach you fight, parkour teaches you flight - an efficient way of evading pursuers and moving smoothly over obstacles in your path. Kong vault, dash vault, tic-tac, kash vault, cat pass, gap jump, dismount, drop. Danny runs quickly and silently, imagining, just for kicks, that he is being pursued.

Little does he know, he is.

Posted by sahelsteve at February 21, 2008 05:45 PM