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A Bedside Book for Older Cavers
  • A Bedside Book for Older Cavers
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A Bedside Book for Older Cavers


Cavers ... Folk with attitude. At least, any that are over seventy years old have attitude (of the good sort!), says John Gillett as he maintains a positive approach to life.

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A Bedside Book for Older Cavers

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Every so often a book comes along that has a wide appeal, wider even that for cavers alone. In his 'bedside book', John Gillett explains how older cavers develop and maintain a positive attitude; it is filled with his stories and anecdotes, philosophies and stimulating thoughts. Younger cavers will one day become older and might wish to see where they are going. Older readers will surely recognise themselves and their friends, at least by reason of having experienced similar thoughts and escapades. But for everyone, just sit down and read and enjoy.

A Bedside Book for Older Cavers was positively reviewed in Descent (235): see under the Reviews tab.

We also stock John's 2018 book: Sixty Years of Caves and Caving

While stocks last, receive a free caving-related, laminated bookmark with your book order.

VAT is not charged on UK publications. Orders to the EU are posted without tax paid (code DDU): you are responsible for VAT and any other charges on delivery

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No dustjacket issued when published
152mm x 228mm approx
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John Gillett

A Bedside Book for Older Cavers


Mirador, Langport. 2013. 142pp, 17 b&w illustrations. Softback, 152mm × 229mm. £8.99

ISBN 978-1-909220-75-1

JOHN Gillett’s first book, Of Caves and Caving (see Descent 168 and 201), saw him detail his life story – at least, the part of it that relates to caving and this produced his subtitle: A way and a life. In essence, John wrote a series of cameos covering significant events or caving trips in a manner that would appeal to any caver. The book did well and the original 2002 printing went into a second edition in 2007.

Time has continued apace and John is now over seventy years old – but he remains active and, as his new title suggests, A Bedside Book for Older Cavers is intended to give all aging cavers something to read in their armchairs. More than that, his theme threading throughout the thirty stories is that everyone faces a daily challenge at some level and, no matter your age and ability, you should get out there, get on with it and do what you most desire. You might be surprised, after all, at what you can achieve and each of John’s trips, from the lava tubes of Lanzarote to Giant’s Hole, and from Sell Gill Holes to the huge French chamber of La Verna, were undertaken as a septuagenarian.

Along the way, John explores ideas such as what it means to be ‘experienced’, how risk might be quantified, the value of keeping a diary (and reading widely, including Descent), how to encourage folk of his age to take up the sport, what the loss of pubs means to our culture and, back to the theme of every caver taking on a personal goal, how ascending six floors on foot might be a personal Everest to overcome. In this, younger cavers might learn much – including, for some, a better understanding of the limitations of age; those more mature are more likely to nod, knowingly. His comparison of geriatric cavers with old banger cars forms a lovely anecdote, complete with a plea for anyone seeing an aged one struggle under a load, to please help him out.

As with Of Caves and Caving, delightful pencil drawings are scattered through the pages of what is produced by print-on-demand publishing, so while these are perfectly acceptable they are not reproduced at the highest quality, but it does mean that the book is attractively priced. The Kindle edition is even less at a shade over £3, complete with an amusing bit of legalese which does not appear in the paper edition: ‘Any reference to real names and places are purely fictional and are constructs of the author’. Yes, right!

For some light reading (including a few fictional stories), to dip into and out while relaxing by a fire, John has filled a niche that hitherto has lain empty. As he says, ‘older folk ... are time-machines for visiting the past’ (so younger cavers, ask and ye shall learn) and ‘if you are long in the tooth, caver, or non-caver, you can still be young at heart.’

One piece of text by John’s seven-year-old granddaughter Clare, written after a trip to Thistle Cave, says much: ‘My Grandad likes to go into caves. He goes into lots of caves. Granny says he is too old to go in caves now but she says it keeps him happy.’ Having described her sojourn underground, Clare ends with: ‘It was good fun. I love caving.’

Get ‘em while they’re young, eh? Keep on caving, John.

Chris Howes

First published in Descent (235), December 2013

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If stock is limited, for example with a single copy of a second-hand book, it will be assigned to UK stock. If you require posting to an address outside the UK, selecting your options may not allow an order to be placed, even though stock is available. If this is the case, please contact us to enable the options you require.

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We regret that due to the volatility of Royal Mail postage charges, we have been forced to remove the option for two-year subscriptions. We have also been forced to remove the option for economy mail to the EU, given indications that Royal Mail intends to remove this service.

All international mail is now being despatched in paper wrapping using Royal Mail customs and address labels mandated by them. We also regret this means we can no longer indicate the last issue of your subscription on the mailing sheet or supply a reminder to renew with the final edition. Please track your own subscription ending or check with us at any time. Subscriptions begun since September 2021 have a comment added in your account (under the tab for the order) which records the final issue to be supplied.


On 1 July 2021 the EU removed all exemptions for tax and customs duty on low value items posted from the UK to the EU, meaning that although VAT is 0% on books and magazines in the UK, it is charged within the EU and the VAT (potentially plus a handling fee) now apply to all orders to the EU.

Ideally, the VAT should be paid at the point of posting, but doing so requires registration with an agent to handle the payments, and this is incredibly expensive and not financially viable. To be clear, all small publishers in the UK are in the same position and we are unable to post any items to the EU with VAT or other duties paid.

Ordering any item from Wild Places, including a Descent subscription, requires that you accept responsibility of paying the VAT and any other local charges on delivery.

To be clear: Wild Places will NOT cover any charges levied by your country; it is your responsibility to accept these when placing an order.

We apologise for the situation, but it is outside our control. We will maintain a link from the left-hand column on the home page with the latest updates. If you are an existing subscriber to Descent and have not replied yet to our enquiries concerning your deliveries, please make contact.

NOTE: Subscribers in Norway or Switzerland (which are outside the EU) should place your order on the Subscription International page or contact us first.


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A Bedside Book for Older Cavers

Cavers ... Folk with attitude. At least, any that are over seventy years old have attitude (of the good sort!), says John Gillett as he maintains a positive approach to life.

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