Nightflight II

A walk in the chill air to a door I can’t pass through.
To look back at a face I have known and loved all my life from two metres distant.
To see a hand wave back that I can’t hold in reassurance and that little frame that needs so much a wee cuddle.

It’s the cruelest of times.
Started by accident, spread by ignorance, perpetuated by stupidity and suffered by us all.

Hindsight will always have 2020 vision now.

Southside

I look every day. It’s not too far really and if I could fly or swim I could get there pretty fast. But it’s not that easy.
But actually it is that easy, you just just have to get off your arse. So we did.

It’s close enough to feel at home but’s far enough to feel like a rucksack with supplies in it is justified. Mind you, visiting the garden is all the justification I ever need for snacking preparedness, so pieces, flask and mixed chocolate peanuts and raisins were packed.
A quick spin over the Erskine Bridge got us to the start where we got distracted by some banter with a friendly dog walker.
I’m a born sunset chaser, but unfortunately I’m also a compulsive chatterer and that fun mix of styles has had me horsing on towards a view or a horizon way too many times for my heart or knees.
Luckily the dope smoking aresholes watching their weans trying to fall off the “play” equipment in Boden Boo were easier to walk past.

We marched on as the light slipped, the low sun soon broken by the trees and a little coolness crept into the air. Perfect walking weather, even on this wee jaunt.
The tide was well out making the Clyde look like just a narrow sliver of water cutting us off from the comforts of home on the far bank. No big ships passing with the water level this low, so we got to smile at a pair of kayakers heading upriver in the evening light. Bet it was lovely out there.

Not often I get a photie of my living room window from the outside on here, which one is it now…

The sand was firm, the air was still and and the river was quiet as we reached the point we’d looked at the night before from home.
The sun was gone but the colours it had left were deep and warm and glorious.
The banks had grown instantly black as the light left them and light flashed clear and bright against their depths from as far as Greenock.

The Bell Memorial pointed grand and silent from glories past to an empty sky, the jetties lie abandoned and the castle has long since retired. The shipyard has crumbled and sunk, broken concrete and splintered wood that are only a storm or two away from being flotsam and jetsam, the last ship has long since sailed.

We sipped and munched, taking it all in. So much new to see, maybe I should say so much old to see anew.
Aye, another cuppa.

It was dark when we left towards the ribbon of lights that showed us where the bridge would be when we got there. The moon forcing its’ way through the clouds between us.
The return in darkness was much louder though, the birds called and sang, chirped and cawed. Some splashed unseen, wings beat to us closer that they would have dared in daylight.

But the lights weren’t far enough away, the park was soon there again and with it voices, ones with words instead of feathers this time.
But that’s okay, the moon was waiting too, reflecting proudly in the now rising tide.

 

Don’t Look Back in Amber

Chronology isn’t something that’s going to be applied to much on here for the moment. I’ve taken so many photies this year and named the folders so badly I’ve just reordered everything in order of date and I’m working backwards through that mess trying to remember what the hell we were doing in the photies.
It’s a little chaotic, but rather fun. Despite the zombie apocalypse, there have been many good days.

It felt weird being in the crags the first few times back. The Woodland Trust shut up shop for lockdown so we were just going for fun but you can never quite shake the feeling that something was different. People you meet being a little more hesitant, or even more scary, having no concept of social distancing at all. These dumb bastards are why we’re in the second wave.

But the higher you get the clearer the view and your mind becomes. The worries are less, not something I’ve really had before I think.
I’ve always scoffed and folk who go to the hills to find themselves, or indeed lose themselves. I don’t really get it,I’ve always been right here, just where I know I am, good and bad. I’m just going out to play.
But these summer and autumn walks definitely diluted the sense of horror from the news and continuing tension of daily life in the new normal. Now I think being out there has always had that effect, I just didn’t feel it so acutely.

So maybe I do need the hills after all. Nice. I foresee using that as an excuse in the future.

It’s getting cold after sundown now. I’m carrying gloves again, been wearing too. Had properly cold fingers a couple of times last week.
Been rearranging the cupboards too, shirts are folded and away, down jackets are puffed up and accessible.

I’m looking at winter with optimism. My fitness is in the toilet and I really hurt my old back injury crawling under a far too tight for an old fat bloke church floor a couple of weeks back, but I am really looking forward to the winter skies, frost under foot, ice axe in hand maybe?
Still got autumn to enjoy, despite the fattened up restrictions which have postponed out Kintail cabin trip from next week to next year.

Hey, I’ve got to go, I need it now.

 

No Rest for the Thankful

I’m a reasonably frequent flyer of the Rest and Be Thankful road from Arrochar to Loch Fyne and I’m a constant viewer of local road signs telling me that Beinn Luibhean has shoveled some of its excess onto the road after the rain and closed it meaning that if you’re lucky you get a wee trip up the original road or if you’re unlucky you’re on a hysterically long detour round half of Scotland.
It always was a stupid place to put the new road, the hillsides are cut deep with water fueled movement on that side of the glen. The schemes in recent years of catchment pits and fences were a waste of time, all that money and effort could have been spend on what they’re finally looking at – a permanent fix.

However, the official document on the subject is hilarious Project Corridor Options – Access to Argyll and Bute (A83). There are some sensible options on show but it’s the wacky sci–fi ones I like best. I thought the councilors in Inverclyde fact finding about running a cable car service four miles across the Clyde from Greenock to Helensburgh was good, but these new plans are a clear winner.

Option 1 is the most sensible probably unless they get some Italian engineers in to tunnel it, it moves the road onto the other side of the glen, just where we are in the photie below in fact.
The hillsides are very different over here with no major water runoff channeling comparable to the existing problem area but there’s long established forestry that won’t be there for ever so it could all change.

Option 2 is horrific, cutting a road through the lovely empty lands from Butterbridge past the tail end of Loch Sloy to come out north of Ardlui. The east end here is a problem area, very steep, but they managed to do a steep climb for the new Glen Fruin military road a few years back, so it’s a worry that they might have a go at this one.
I would drive it though, often.

Option 3 takes a similar cross country route but through a glen that’s more developed, less remote feeling. Still steep to the east, I just can’t see it.

And then we’re into fairy tail land. A land where they have unlimited money to build their dreams, to cross oceans, scale mountains all the while unrolling a new road behind them from their magical bag of infrastructure spells.
Their document is worth a read in general, but in particular that they’re so worried about nuclear submarines hitting their new bridges.

In an ideal world a lot of these other crazy roads would actually exist, but Scotland has mostly been there as a resource for others not as somewhere needing to be developed so it all feels a little late.
That new Glen Fruin road I mentioned? Built for the military to use then handed to down to us when they were done with it. The newer roads and bridges up north seems to have got money from somewhere, maybe it’s that logo I see on them, a blue background with gold stars? I look forward to see what else these folks manage to help with…

In the meantime, Argyll and Bute, Italy’s dialing code is +39. Get on with it.

Push to the back to the front to the back again

I like the daily movement of it. Not the predictable east to west, it’s the daily creep of the point where the sun hits the horizon which is so very noticeable from this window. even if the daily increments of it’s travel into winter positions are probably actually awfy wee.

The variations are endless too and I still get caught by surprise after a hundred years of watching it through my apparently slightly grubby mid range double glazing.
The colours, the shapes, the brevity of the show and the times where I just catch the last whisper of red on a cloud because I was in the kitchednand missed it all.
I’ve seen a lot of glorious skies in my time, from sea level hands in pockets to summit tears in my eyes and this window has the power to beat them all.

Even this rather subtle showing, a few scattered clouds like still glowing ashes blown from a bonfire, it brings me joy. I’m always lifted by it.
It really is the little things.

 

Caught

It’s not all the denim, it’s not that we’re both wearing the best shoes in the world and it’s not that I thought it was my dad in the photie at first glance.
It’s just a perfect moment caught by Linda.
It’s a real moment too, crossing the burn with a mix of laughter and mild terror with both of us secretly hoping the other would slip into the water. Not because we’re cruel, but because we know we’d both be helpless with laughter whoever got soaked.

It’s a metaphor as well. What I saw there was instantly symbolic for how I feel as Holly gets older and faces a difficult, confusing and often unfriendly world. Wherever she is in that world, that’ll always be me, right there, one hand out to catch her.
Maybe sometimes one of us, maybe even both of us will slip. That’s okay, we’ll get it right next time.

Never felt more of a dad as I do looking at this. So proud of that wee lassie.

Sunsetting

I’ve taken more photies in the past 18 months that I did probably in about five years before that.
I went from not being able to find a camera then not being able to find the batteries or their charger to having it all ready to go every day.
I’m still relying on stuff to point it at that doesn’t need much fixing and my usual three idiot proof settings but it’s just magic.

We’ve been exploring local as well as beyond and seeing the familiar and well as the new and it’s just a joy. Oh, there’s going to be so much sunsetting on here in the coming days.

Missed It Again

It was the anniversary of starting this thing last month and I not only missed it I forgot. Ah how priorities change.
From the #1 outdoor blog in the world – really, I have the numbers and the analyst agency figures so fight me – to an occasional accidental clicked on destination on my phone. Ah, silly bugger what am I doing.
Waiting actually. I was waiting to see if Photobucket really had shat the bed and and I was going to to have thousands of images stuck in a host that I couldn’t use anymore. I would never redo this place with another host, I couldn’t face it. Plus my photos are are so badly labelled on hard drives etc that I would never find anything to do it all again.
It was actually very dispiriting.

However, Photobucket seems to have turned a corner. It’s early days but their new site and new regime is doing the right thing today, we’ll just have to see what tomorrow brings.
So this is a fresh start of sorts. Let’s see what I can do with it.

Hiding in darkened churches for the most part. How a huge building with so many windows can be so perpetually dark I don’t know. Even with the sun beaming through a break in the clouds it just lights one single spot.
I love it.

 

Testing Photobucket

I’ve hosted my photies on Photobucket since Day #1 on this place and it’s many management changes in recent times has made life very difficult for users, not even mentioning the continuous bugs and downtime.
How do I move so many years, so many thousands of photies to a more reliable host?

However, let’s see if this is visible and I might get some stuff up.

I’d Forgotten

I’d forgotten how big the sky was. With height it grows, the horizons slips away from you and my sharply focused perimeter of the past few months was suddenly replaced by something distant and hazy.
So familiar though, I still know this skyline better than the windowsill I’ve peered over at unreachable scenery for three months or more.
But still it feels fresh, it’s makes my heart sing, my sleeping soul stirs and my feet find new ways to old views.

 

Linda is seeing a new part of the hills tonight and her face shines as warm as the soon setting sun while she smiles brighter and wider than I do.
The air was getting cold, but the sun slipped into view as it found a gap in the clouds beyond the Luss Hills so we didn’t really feel it.
It shone golden searchlights over the landscape picking out slopes and ridges, lighting up the flighty cottontails and the long grass with bowed, seed-laden heads before it sank into a glowing hearth, edging the beautifully torn clouds in orange before leaving us for it’s quick subterranean summer journey east.

The sounds of the birds and the whispering wind-teased moorland growth, the smells of the the blossoms and the unnoticed green below, the hilltop breeze on our faces and that sky above.
So full of colour, full of movement, full of life and full of joy. Damn I’d forgotten how big it was.

 

Of wet and of wildness?

It rained from the moment we left home and barely let up. We actually thought of postponing the trip but it’s not too far away and it was a present and well, what the hell, we’ve got waterproofs.

I’ve been in Oban countless times, mostly work related or just passing through and grabbing food so it was interesting to just be here.
It’s kind of Dumbarton by the sea, although Dumbarton is also kind of by the sea, Oban is actually hanging over the water, so it wins the “by the sea” contest by a good margin.

We checked into the Columba Hotel after nabbing the last parking space, this wee bit of good timing decided we were staying in town too, it was that or cooncil rates parking all night.
There was much joy inside the old hotel building, the old lift with the folding doors was still active. Oh what fun watching the ancient hand painted floor numbers pass by as you slowly rattle up the Victorian brick lift shaft.
Yes, we used the lift an unnecessary numbers of times.

The cloud broke for a bit as we wandered the ghost town that is an Oban winter evening. It was very pretty if very cold and the water was dark and choppy.
A couple of ferries came and went, but passengers were few.
The shops around the harbour are diverse but closing for the day, we’d have a better look in the morning and bring back a bunch of tourist tat. Magic fun.

Dinner was in a little bistro on the ground floor, accessible internally from the hotel but kind of a separate in atmosphere and we had mixed results with the food. It don’t think they could be arsed on a quiet night like this, Linda had a plate of sauce and I had stuff in my sauce. She didn’t want to swap, I think it was the sauce. All of it.

We had a bottle and glasses left for us in the room and McCaigs Towers lights twinkling through the raindrops running down the window. Early night.

It was howling in the morning, wind and constant rain. So we went to the beach after the shops.

I can’t remember even being at Ganavan Bay before but it’s definitely worth a detour to see the ugly expensive houses next to the carpark and wonder what will happen when all the homes are either second homes or are filled with wealthy retirees and the young folk are all in Glasgow. Whose serving you for minimum wage in the supermarket now eh?

It’s a lovely bay though, beautiful sand and rocks with wild water pushing in from the west. Could hardly walk straight in it the wind was so strong.

And no swings for Linda. So sad, so sad.

We were wringing back at the motor, any plans for exploring were cancelled without debate and we drove. The plan was Glen Coe, swing back the long way. But we only got as far as the Castle Stalker cafe to dry out and refuel. Nice wee place, was here with Holly a couple of years back.
It was battering down now and the thoughts were getting back down the road so we doubled back, windscreen wipers on fast mode.

Every burn and river we saw was white and churning, every gully high on a hill was now a waterfall. That was fast.
We shot past the Cruachan visitor centre and with a brief exchange decided to spin round and go back for a wee look.

I have over the years decried Scotland’s approach to visitors, I have often found that the indigenous people I deal with in tourist situations just can’t be arsed, but on my travels with Linda, I’m finding more positives. Today especially.

We went in and looked around, the lassie approached and said hello and asked if we had booked a tour. We hadn’t, we just dropped in. She looked in the book and they were full but for one space which I thought would be great for Linda, I’d been years ago and but she’d never seen inside the mountain.
No go, we play as a team or not at all, so the lassie pointed out other stuff and sent us into the building for a look and a cuppa.

It’s actually really interesting in the centre and we worked out way round actually reading the display before heading to the cafe. Then a voice “Ah, you’re still here, do you want to go on the tour?”.
There had a been a family no show and rather than take the next folk from the queue at the door, she’d come to find us.
I found that very thoughtful and I’m ashamed to say I was surprised too given my years of experience on the receiving end of Scottish tourist service.

We were delighted and were soon on the transit minibus going into the heart of Cruachan. It was magic, we really enjoyed it, the guides were friendly and ready to banter too.
Tourism done right from start to finish.

The weather had worsened since we stopped. Loch Awe had risen so high that Kilchurn Castle was very much an island again and the waters of the River Orchy  lapped at the roadside all the way past Dalmally until the rise up towards Strone Hill. It was bloody scary, we never even stopped for one photie.
Over the pass the Rover Lochy had enveloped both the land and the railway. Never seen it this high.

We had to stop at the falls of Falloch, we knew what it would be like and the roads here were fine.
Never seen it like this, a boiling pot fed by a thundering torrent in a cloud of steam. It was deafening loud and our faces were wet from the spray.

We were glad to be home safe, it was exciting, but a little scary at times.

I’d swap it for lockdown any time.

Glass Menagerie

I spend so much time in empty churches. And I tell you, I can feel something standing there, looking up the images of stories centuries old… cold usually. Churches are always cold, even in the height of summer. My job of 30 odd years is to fix that for when the people are on the pews, and it takes time to test stuff.
Big systems are slow to react, slow to change despite my efforts. Hmm is there a message for the wider world in there somewhere.

So I wander around, feeling pipes or checking my strap-on thermostats for flow and return temperatures and maybe I’ll sit on the worn varnish of a pew with a cuppa and listen to the silence as it’s subtly punctuated by the creak of an expanding steel pipe under the floor or the burble of an air pocket that keeps escaping me.

Sometimes things just line up perfectly while I’m not even looking for them. Old churches are dark by design, high and thick stone walls and tall slim windows dimmed further by their intricate patterns of leadwork holding painted glass.
I could spend hours wandering around at these windows and even places I’ve been visiting for nearly 20 years like the church here I can still see something new.

This day though, on a dark winter’s afternoon as I sat in the gloom wishing I had a phone signal, the low sun broke through the cloud and shot a kaleidoscope of colour and shape across me and whatever surface in the church it could find.

It lasted for about ten minutes until the pulsing light source dimmed once more and didn’t come back.

I took less shots than usual probably as I sat or stood waiting for the light to come up to full brightness for a couple of seconds and relocate to try and capture something else.
I had a great time, running around snapping on my phone as its weary battery dropped power noticeably as I kept the camera live. It was close to dusk or dawn on a summit, that level of grinning and chuckling. I think I actually just love doing photies, wherever that may be. Never thought about that before.

It was over too quick, but I got what I saw. That’s actually very true too, no editing on the phone or laptop other than a couple of crops.

And now, the nearly versions… Or the better? I have long learned that its our eyes that are different, everything is beautiful to someone.

Tales from the Toolbox

The tales of sending apprentices for left handed screwdrivers, long stands or a set of fallopian tubes are all true.
There are more practical lessons though.

Using Stillsons, everyone’s favourite adjustable pipewrench, I was always told to keep my hand on my nose. So ridiculous was this tip that it stuck.
What it means of course is keep one hand on the the nose of the Stillsons as well as the handle so that if, indeed when it slips off, it doesn’t swing back and break your nose.
See how that works by clever association.

Using a hacksaw is not as easy as you’d think. The secret is to “let the saw do the work” which is true of many tools actually and although it might seem obvious saying it, you also have to use the whole of the blade.
Apprentices often find tools scary, they’re sharp and heavy and youngsters can be a bit handless until they gain their confidence. So you often find the middle few inches of a hacksaw blade are worn down and scraped clean of paint.
Asking for a new blade isn’t a good idea, you’d get sent back to use the other ends until they were just as worn. You’d quickly learn to use the whole blade, which is more efficient and so much easier on the elbows.

Another fear is swinging a hammer full pelt from behind your head with accuracy. When I do it now I can see other folk look on with terror like I’m going to hit them, myself or fire the hammer into the scenery. But I don’t.
So, apprentices pick up hammers and hold them just below the head and swing them softly from a few inches above the target because it feels safer. It’s actually not, your hand is near the impact area and the heavy head of an engineers hammer needs the length of that shaft to give you control over the swing. It’s just a really bad thing to do as well as being inefficient.
So I saw an old timer take a boy’s hammer and say “I’ll fix that for you son..”. He sawed off all but three inches of the shaft and handed it back to him.
He now had a heavy, expensive and useless tool.
I saw a lot of improved swinging technique after that.

I was also told to always tidy up my tools, they’re my livelihood blah blah blah.
I usually do, but sometimes there’s a happy accident when I don’t.

The Railway Children

It seems like a lifetime ago now.

We headed north on the A9 with a mission, a mission and a gift. The gift was a night in The Boat Country Inn in boat of Garten and the mission was to go and enjoy it.
We left early so there was no rush with time to stop and play on the way. First stop was Dunkeld to meet Gus and Rach for lunch at The Scottish Deli.
Can’t remember the last time I was in Dunkeld and the deli itself was lovely, half Victorian kitchen and half big city lunch stop. Great food, great banter.
They went off to the hills with their bikes, we headed north.

The winter sun was low but bright, we just couldn’t see it. A few flakes of snow would drift towards the windscreen but there was always blue sky ahead.

House of Bruar is a faceless tourist trap that could be anywhere in Scotland, but given that it’s exploded outwards into it’s surroundings it must be doing very well.
The restaurant is also amazing.
We’d went into Blair Atholl for fuel and of course we now needed cuppas after those difficulties.
There were no difficulties and we didn’t really need a cuppa but what the hell. And there was cake, dear god, the cake.

It was still bright, still early enough, so we thought we’d take a wander up to the falls behind the tartan metropolis. An easy track, beautiful surroundings and the sun just out of reach the whole time.
Like the rest of the trip, my camera was elsewhere, I’ve got so used to using my phone now. And wearing Converse in the hills. And it’s fine.

It’s worth an hour of your time this wee loop, there’s big drops, gnarly trees and snatches of views across the wide strath below. The bridges and falls are very fine and it slows the pace a little.
I really enjoy these little side quests, for so many years it was all about the hills, now I’m just loving being out there, wherever that is.

The Boat Inn is a lovely place. Even out of season the room was warm and clean, everything stocked for us on arrival.
Downstairs had a few locals eating and at the bar and a sprinkling of guests for dinner too.
Dinner is where it all went wrong. It was gorgeous, the food, by the open fire. But we’d already snacked way too much, but we couldn’t leave it, it was too good.

A romantic retreat is not lying flat on your back all night holding your belly going O0000hhhhhh……..
Lesson learned? Unlikely.
But the morning was bright, the hills were white across the roof of the station and we had exploring to do. We’d just start it slowly.
After breakfast. A light breakfast.

Aviemore was briefly visited for supplies. It’s getting ever more newtownesque. I suppose it has to as it grows, but it’s such a characterless place anyway and it’s not improving with time.
Better but feeling like it’s turning to the Lake District for how to present itself to the world was Glenmore. Within minutes though, it’s Scots Pine, blue sky and snow fringed tops.
I don’t come here enough.

The walk to An Lochan Uaine is glorious. Clear, colourful, cool and bright. It was smiles all the way and a fair few others on foot or saddles felt the same.

The water was indeed green, choppy too as a wind flowed freely down the Ryvoan Pass. We found shelter at the far end and warmed up with a cuppa as the sun sparkled on the wee waves breaking on the rocky banks.

It’s a pace you could just sit, empty your head and fill your heart and soul.

We pushed on up the pass and by the bothy. The views down to Strath Nethy were inviting but inconvenient, we’d be far from the motor with along walk back round in the dark before the drive home.
Another day maybe. We say that a lot, our wish list grows ever longer. Lockdown is not helping it.

I used to say that “we’re all just dressing up to go out and play” and it’s never been truer. We just fanny about out here, there’s such a joy to just being out.

The joy was strained a little for Linda when we took the alternative track at the lochan which climbs steeply up the lower slopes of Meall a’ Buachaille.
It is steep and rough and if the awesome pines didn’t line it all the way it would actually feel pretty exposed in places, plus Linda was convinced that my “It levels out soon…” was just a big fat lie.

It does level out around 430m and all was forgiven. It’s a stunning wee trail this, the trees are beautiful and the occasional views are wee wow moments.

The last of lunch was taken on the most random on benches. You just walk out of the trees and there’s the forest road and a bench.
A combination of relief, joy and disappointment really.

Ruthven Barracks on the way home was a must. The warm, low light, the winter horizon and the chill wind brought it great atmosphere.

Such an odd place on its wee island.

We had snow on the road south, a hidden sunset and very tired cuppas at a garage on the A9.

A mad dash in many ways, but that’s kinda what we do. So much time lost, so much to catch up on, new memories to make and life to live.

It’s waiting for us all again. Not long, , I’ll keep myself that.

Plush

I saw the skies I saw a year ago.
Still through the window, this time not by choice.
My hands aren’t cold. But I wish that they were.
Sandy boots left by the door, kettle quickly on.
That was nice I said.
Look, I got nice selfies confirms the girl.
If it’s nice we’ll go down again tomorrow.
Yes, I hope tomorrow is soon.

The return of the bluebells

In our currently limited scope I’m finding joy in the smallest detail, like a mountain in the fog where patches of lichen spring out bright and vivid in a sea of grey.
Our daily walk route is changing with the season and the biggest joy has been the return of the bluebells.

It’s such a lovely little flower, a wee bit sleepy looking, maybe a wee bit melancholy, a wee bit reserved in demeanour but beaming with vibrant colour.
Seen in swathes in woodland it’s the essence of spring, a flush of new life through trees who have been hanging their heads for the months of long winter nights.
Seen by itself it’s a delicate, fancy wee soul. It’s shy for all its frills though, happy in it’s own company.

That wee flower is a sign of change, a sign of life, it’s nature knowing the way. I hope we can follow it.