After School care

I’ve started taking a camera around with me again. I used to do it all the time and not too long ago I couldn’t even find the camera, or a battery to go in it.
The charger was a whole other level of missing.

It’s the winter evenings that get me. Dark at four and the blaze of colours just before it, the creep of black shadows, the bite of cold on my nose and standing alone in places where if anyone sees me they think I’m up to no good.

Bowling is a great pace for this. The ever faster crumbling harbour pulls me down with optimism and whatever warm jacket was to hand.
It’s not always spectacular but is always pleasant or interesting, calming or melancholy.

I like fooling the camera, making it take darker shots than it really wanted. I now fully accept that I am very limited as a photographer and I just like doing my own thing.
Magic.

The nights are fair drawin’ in ’19

I’m not the biggest fan of summer, it saps me of energy, strength and enthusiasm. Autumn is like fresh batteries and winter is like rocket fuel but I am taking a little time adjusting the creeping darkness this year.

Maybe it’s age, maybe it’s all the awesome big dinners from online vouchers, maybe it’s time to get my arse in gear. Easier said than done, especially from under a PHD down quilt.

It’ll get better I’m sure.

 

Strapped in the electric chair

I’ve done a lot of tourist stuff this year and it’s been nice to slow down a bit after many years of driving these roads chasing sunsets from a summit.

It’s been good for my soul.

It’s taken me to new places too, or should I say to familiar places from different angles. Like this here, I’ve never been up the Glencoe charlift. Been round the back, over the top and up the side, but never been on this, what appears to be a park bench hanging from a washing line.
It was fun though and we’d picked a perfect day for it, especially since it was a last minute dash. Lunch at the cafe was magic and the air circled pleasantly round my legs on the way up as this was one of those rare shorts wearing days.

There was a downhill mountain biking meet on as well and if you know #911 below tell him and I’ll send him the photie.

There’s a nice wee trail from the top of the chairlift to the lovely little top of Creag Dubh and there can’t be many better spots available for so little effort, or £12.
We took a meander round the little lochan to explore then sat with some snacks and gazed into Glen Etive and across at the Buachaille.
I could have stayed there all day, the girls laughing, a wisp of a cooling breeze and the best wee country in the world all around me.

Linda did of course fall over on the way back, into some mud this time. It was a minor incident though and no harm came to anyone.

The chairlift gives you a little Ooh… moment or two on the way down, much more feeling of height going this way. Holly was rocking their chair in attempts to see all around here and I thought Linda was going to have seizure but we got there. After it stopped dead for a couple of minutes. That was really funny. Aye.

And of course, lightweight footwear was worn.

The Trossachs Incident

Callander is pretty local but it’s nice to be places when you wake up, it’s like camping on Ben Lomond or the Arrochar Alps, logistically pointless but in reality: awesome.

Also Linda got us a voucher for a night in The Highland Guest House in the heart of the village, or is it a town now? Took a leisurely wander up and booked in.
What a lovely wee place. Warm and clean, hot drinks machine 24hrs and friendly banter. We also were handed two glasses of Prosecco and asked to come back down for afternoon tea whenever we were ready. We were ready.

It was a spire of sammidges and cakes, a crescendo of snacks, a comet of taste and when the owners misses came back and saw when what he’d given us the shock and surprise was evident, I think we’d got the whole week’s allowance on one table. Magic.

It was getting dark and the rain was battering down, so we decided to go for a walk. Callander was deserted and rather pleasant to stoat about.
The river was over it’s banks and the car parks were shallow seas where geese and ducks were fannying about oblivious to us and the car whose panic faced driver obviously thought they were trapped and doomed to drown. Misses, the exit was behind you.

We went back out later to the Tasty Fry chippy, long a destination of joy for me and it still doesn’t disappoint. Chips and a can of ginger in the rain as we wandered the main street raising an occasional eyebrow at the shop window displays and happy just being.

The morning brought a little brightness and and breaking mist around Ben Ledi from the window which I know would have been glorious to be amongst with a little height, but so was that breakfast. Cooked fast, served with a smile and joy to taste.

Nice morning chat over breakast too with a couple from down south who were touring and then we were off to somewhere Linda fancied and I’d never been despite hundreds of visits here, Bracklinn Falls.

Oh, via the bakery. Supplies were wisely secured.

It’s just beautiful. The last of the mist was clearing, it would have been full on Hammer Horror in the trees earlier, but enough lingered to make the light break past the branches in soft shafts as the leaves glowed a little golden as the summer green evaporated with the mist.

The falls are stunning and the bridge sits perfectly among the jumble of rocks and riot of branches. It makes it feel secret and intimate even with the vertigo inducting edges softened by the trees.

Really hard to get a photie too. Be back in the snow I think.

There’s an extended loop you can do upstream but we had not the rucksack of supplies so we wandered back through the sunshine and headed west for cuppas.
The lochs were still as the sky quietly clouded over again and we found ourselves heading to Loch Katrine for lunch with a vague plan of doing the forest drive which we have repeatedly failed to do.

It was gorgeous though so we thought we’d take a wee wander along the lochside to take in the colours, the air, the lack of midges. We spotted a wee track that looked like it cut a corner through the woodland and it was just magic, warm colours, soft underfoot and very quiet. If only we’d had a tent.

But with no tent we had to find the way out and the intermittent track led to a short steep slope onto the road. I skipped down and turned to take Linda’s hand or even say just go that way, it’s fine…
Linda looked at me for a second then threw herself sideways, flipped over and then rolled down into the ditch beside me. Screaming like she was going to burst her lungs.

I wasn’t entirely sure what to do and neither were the nearby family. I told them we’d be fine although I didn’t necessarily believe it.
She did eventually get up but refused all attempts of giving help up to and including the valiant but likely heart attack inducting coal bag carry back to base.
We stumbled along with tensions and pain levels rising until another family insisted on helping. This time Linda did let me carry her a bit but her wee legs were just slipping off and I think it just made her pain worse so the attempt was abandoned.

The bloke of the family had stayed with us and the mum and daughter had gone for help which soon arrived in the shape on the wee golf cart they use around the jetty.
Linda got a ride back and I ran for it. Bless the kind folk we met that day.

I got her into the car and off we went. All we had to do now was choose a hospital.

The Vale of Leven minor injuries unit was nearest and that’s where we went, mud, blood, tears and all. the Vale has a patchy reputation and deservedly so, but here they did good.
Linda was Xrayed which meant passing through reception there and back with some embarrassment and amusement and after about 90 minutes of treatment appears around the corner with the walking stick I’d seen going the other way in it’s plastic bag. We looked at each other and just burst out laughing.

She stood there trying to stay upright with the support boot velcroed on up to her knee as she leaned on the walking stick and this time there were just tears of laughter. Medication is a wonderful thing.

Torn ligaments, it was bad and I still don’t know how she did it, what she was trying to do and how it was possible to do so many bad gymnastic moves in such a short descent.
I suppose it’s all because the water wasn’t there to break her fall this time. I’ll need to watch that.

And that is why we postponed Skye.

Outdoor Enthusiast Magazine

I have news. This box below is hiding my first test sample as reviewer at Outdoor Enthusiast Magazine.
I have a full schedule of joy lined up for 2020 and I am very happy indeed to be part of such a strong team of folks. David Lintern knows his shit (and me…) and I’ll enjoy working with him.

More later. And I think, regularly.

 

Skye with Linda

After 13 years of this place I think it was time for a literal post title.

Timing is everything. We should have been here two weeks ago but after the “Trossachs Incident” with the torn ligaments, the tears and snotters, the hilarious walking stick and velcro and metal boot etc we had to reschedule.

We were lucky and got the last slot we could use the voucher. Aye, Linda is a voucher ninja. We eat and now sleep for nearly free quite a lot and this was a belter, £79 dinner, bed and breakfast a night instead of £280. Yes please.

However, timing being everything and karma also being a bitch, we missed the northern lights which were splashed across the horizon the previous night.

What the hell man.

The weather had looked ropey. Ferry plans were cancelled and I think the road to Mallaig deserves more time than we had anyway. So a familiar road it was to be.
But, fresh snow brought out the grins and the giggles.

There’s something about that first light dusting that inspires and terrifies. The height is stretched upwards and every gully seems deeper cut, every boulder gains weight, every ridge sharpens it’s crest.  It brings me such joy.

Mostly car bound joy of course, this was to be a tourist trek only, the big blue ankle made sure of that. So, Glen Coe cafe it was.

Soup and a roll of bacon. Angles sang, birds chirped, a hedgehog smiled at me from the garden and the spider spinning its web in a corner in the conservatory winked four of its eyes. We were hungry you see, it was early when we left. Imagine that.

The road was a joy. Linda had never seen much of this and I must have been on the verge of being knocked unconscious from Spean Bridge to Shiel Bridge as I fired interesting stories and facts at her every time I saw a peak or loch that sparked a memory. Bless her for grinning and bearing it.

The colours were glorious through the waves of icy rain, the views came and went but the smiles stayed as the miles passed and I was in the mountains that I love so much.
My time at Trail Mag saw me here a lot, I wrote routes for most of the Kintail, Cluanie and Affric hills I think, easy after 20 years of frequent visits.
That familiarity hasn’t lessened their pull on me.
Oh to be back, to breathe the air, to fill my soul and let my heart fly to the summits.

And then you make the mistake of going to Eilean Donan vistor centre.

What an arsehole of a place. The sign to ask for hot drinks at the food counter is above your head on the ceiling it turns out and is completely invisible if you wear glasses unless you have superhero peripheral vision. The torn faced wummin at the till was very disappointed in us and sent us back to where one poor boy struggled on his own doing everything while five staff stood and watched from the till. Five.
The gift shop lady was nice.
But, the car park attendant stood by his guard box glowering at us and everyone else from a cloud of cigarette smoke. Just past him two other operatives merrily shouted at each other with delightful C and F bombs as families, kids and other visitors wandered around.

Totally unprofessional conduct throughout (other than nice gift shop lady) and I’m embarrassed that this is what’s representing my country to visitors.
Horrendous.
I once upset Visit Scotland with my slogan “Welcome to Scotland, Bring a Packed Lunch”. It’s as relevant as ever.

Bastards.

Skye at last though. Linda loved the bridge and we have to go back and walk it, you know, once she can walk again.

In total contrast to our previous stop the staff at The Dunollie Hotel were uniformly helpful and friendly. The place is clean and a bit bland but we got a sea view so I don’t care about any of that.

No time to rest though, we were straight back out and heading… Where do you want to go?
Don’t Know.
Okay.

The sun was going down and I had visions of a glorious sunset over Bla Bheinn so we headed west.
Ah, no. It was lovely though if bitterly cold.
It wasn’t too far to Elgol, we’d keep going, see what we could see.

It is undeniably picturesque here and even in the softening grey murk the Cuillin projects a wicked outline.

Linda’s mobility for the day had been used up in the soft grass at Torrin so I skipped down to the bouldery beach as the sky darkened and waves crashed onto the shore.
Quite beautiful.

The honeycomb crag contrasts so much with the beach of fat pebbles and the rock outcrops that break the waves. It’s like the place was designed to be explored and photographed.
Indeed, snappers had gathered in numbers for their evening feed, but today there were only morsels and many went home hungry.

I mean, look at the poor sod below.

I felt a mix of joy and guilt, poor Linda. At least I got photies. And a pebble. And big bit a seaweed. Which she wasn’t frightened of. Dammit.

Bla Bheinn was now bleakly and darkly atmospheric as we rushed back for dinner in the fading light. Starvin.

Dinner had the added amusement of a coach party having arrived and milling around the hotel bewildered and in slow motion. They looked at us with sad, lifeless eyes, “Are they one of us… ?” Must have a been a long journey.

The food was great, much to my surprise I have to say. The dining room is bland and soulless though, it’s like they went for low maintenance rather than interesting or even cozy.
But what do I know, I went to the 24hr CoOp for snacks for the movie so maybe I’m not the best judge.

We were woken by fishermen rattling around shellfish cages and setting off on the high tide. Really rather pleasant.

It’s stunning regardless of how many calendars or mugs it’s printed on. And today where the weather churned out one season after another, including another dump of snow during the night, just made it better.

The roadside views are still inspiring and the chilling rain was falling so hard at times we were glad to be near the motor most of the time.
Lunch in Portree was very fine indeed and the hills were dark and mysterious as we spun through them. This is actually Skye as I’ve usually seen it, blue skies and views have always been the exception and that’s fine, it works perfectly.

We made the most of it all, rolled over many miles and seen a lot that we want to go back to and we even squeezed in a cuppa in Plockton on the way south.

A great wee trip. I guess if Linda had been mobile we’d have been on a hill or a track somewhere the whole time so it kinda worked out and we’ve come home stoked for more.

I need these refuelling trips and Linda amplifies that, so much is new for her and I’m seeing it all as new again because of that. I love it. More thanks.

 

I, Assassin

I was not along in watching the sunset.

We both had snacks, mine were sweet, I think hers were savory.

We went to see Gary Numan at the O2 Academy in town, I think she just played at home. Still savory.

Still, could have worse neighbours.

Keeping Breakfast Down

With Holly at high school now our day starts at normal time, I’m ready for action at the same time as normal people. It also means I can be a skiving bastard much earlier in the day as well.
When I walked into the living room this morning and saw the fog and I knew what I was doing. Engineering kit went in a bag for later, hill gear went on.
I dropped the girl at the train and swung by my folks for a quick breakfast, filled a water bottle and made a dash for the crags.

The mist was thinner at the car park, light was forcing it’s way through in fuzzy spotlight beams around the trees and the pylons. I wanted to run for it but I was caught by the glistening spider webs that seems to be stringing every blade of grass on the hillside together into one shimmering blanket or wonder. And terror I dare say, the spiders at the centre of each web looked hungry. And there was a lot of them. A lot.

It was cool in the mist but got warmer as I climbed and breakfast was making it’s presence know too.
I had no need to hurry, it would be like this til lunchtime, I just wanted to be above the cloud.

I’ve done this countless time and it’s breaks a grin and girly laugh every time. I love it up here anyway, but some days shine a little brighter in my memory and my imagination.
This is happiness.

I went straight to the top and looked out, glorious. The higher tops, the real mountains are all far away but I don’t care, this is home, this is mine, this is pure magic.

I saw the Brocken Spectre follow me up, changing intensity and size with my height and the mist level all the way. It had the fogbow outer edge as well which seemed like it extended in an arc all the way to the Cowal peninsula, it was so distinct I felt I could step out onto it and walk on this ghost bridge high above the Firth of Clyde in the sunshine.

I sat and kept of sitting, I drank my cool Robinson’s lemon. Worry free just for a while, full of joy and wearing a smile under that manky old cap.

I eventually decided to wander the edge of the crags. It’s a lovely trail anyway, but the evolving view sells it even more today.

Ben Lomond was lying on it’s back under the clear blue skies, the trees have lost that angry summer green and the moon slips quietly across the sky, most likely wondering why the hell it’s here in the daytime. It’s used to shiftwork, but this isn’t right surely?

As the sun rose so did the fog, in tufts and waves it poured slowly up the glens and the gullies before finally running out of puff then breathing back in and fading into patches that would sit defiantly until I got back to the truck.

The little white dot on the ridge above is a pickup truck. The quarry track goes round the rim and I watched the big trucks driving round ferrying fresh stone downhill. What would that dashcam footage be like.

I stayed up there for hours. Wandering and watching, just letting time pass.

I came down the long way, checking on the cup marked stones (don’t ask, still not telling) and my gate repair. I was starvin’ too.
Back to my folks again.
“Oh, you want some lunch?”
Er, aye…
“How did you get on a work?”
Fine, just fine.

 

The View Remains the Same

It was only this week that I finally took the big chrome fan that’s kept us cool all summer out of the living room. Might have been a bit early looking at it out there on Saturday, but I’m sure that blue sky and sunshine was programming fault and the hotfix arrived in time for our day out on Sunday when it surely pissed down.

I can see the seasons change from this window just by the sky. The sun disappears from view when it hits the horizon for the summer, but autumn brings it back a few degrees a day and winter has it staring right back at me through the glass.

I’m glad the times are changing. I’m looking forward to golden leaves, cold days, weak sun and frost. So much has changed this year, I’ve had my very own seasons. Magic.

Nightflight

Haven’t been up the crags at night for a while. This was a definite attempt to catch the sun going down and we did okay, it was nice to watch the sunset play out and we sat on the highest bench for about 45 minutes with flasks and snacks until the last flames died into brown and deep blue.

It got cold then too, I had to put gloves on. I had to pull my hood up for a wee while too. I do like this.

We were prepared for the night time trails with headtorches fitted with fresh batteries. However Linda also decided to keep her prescription sunglasses on and by the time we noticed the Overtoun car park was far behind us.
So no glasses it was and this brought with it some arse to ground moments on the descent. But a wee rest on a bench to take in the lights and get distracted for a while and we were on the easy downhill.

Just feels like home.

Moon Landing

A few weeks back the moon was very strange. Dark and fuzzy, deep orange behind mist and ribbons of dark cloud.

I remembered it well, it happened a couple of nights in a row.

I was up the crags last night and took a bunch of photies. When I downloaded them when I got back there were a few of the moon from back then still on the card.
I must have taken them on a late dozy wander for a pee or a cuppa. The moon slipping down into Misty Law and Hill of Stake with the reflection on Bowling Harbour.

Magic.

Lock

It’s been a quick summer. It feels like I hardly sat down, even a month into the new school term feels like I blinked and it happened.

I’m going to go back through my files and try to piece some of it together so I can remember it in times to come.

Truth be told I won’t forget it, it’ll just be nice to see it again when my knees have finally gone completely.

It’s a bomber, hey hey

I spend so much time creeping up on wildlife just for it flit, flat, flut away. Especially in the crags where it’s all over the place all the time and I have no evidence of it whatsoever.
But, this time was different. I heard it first, the low jagged thrum of the wings was really close. We stopped and I tuned my ragged ears into it as best as I could.
There in the grass, just by the path.

I pulled my phone out, flapped open the case and pulled the camera up in what felt like 33 minutes.
Still it sat there, big eyes disinterested, wings wide and hanging from a blade of grass looking as gallus as as a cafe racer leaning on a BSA Goldstar.

I got a couple of shots. That’ll keep me going for a wee while.

Aff

Got behind in my explanationing. Blogging is old hat so that’s what I’m calling this now.

So I was rummaging behind the passenger seat of the truck for a folder of certificates and much to my surprise all I found was a sharp pain.
I pulled by hand back, saw the nail hanging off of my (former) ring finger, pressed it back on with my right hand then dropped my face onto the drivers seat before I puked all over myself.

I’ve had a lot of stupid injuries, but this was the winner, even better than being blown up. A fingernail. What the hell man.
So with bravado and pain killers, some help with cleaning and bandaging I got on with it. For a whole day and a half.

My finger started going a bit funny, red was creeping down past the knuckle and it was very swollen and angry looking.
The doctor went “Oof” and I nearly shat it.
“Take these for 48 hours, if there’s no improvement or you feel anything else before that, phone in and we’ll take it from there. Can’t be too careful with sepsis.”
Whatever he gave me knocked me flat, I slept for most of the next week and with a much less red finger, I must add. Caught in time.

It was a mess though and I was off for best part of three weeks, couldn’t hold tools, couldn’t play guitar or hold a PlayStation controller either for that matter.

All because of impatience. And putting the nail back on, apparently that was stupid. I like the new claw I’m growing in its place though. Much fancier.

Luckily Linda’s schedule is as all over the place as mine and there was much lunching, cuppas and gadding about.
And a blue ice lolly? Hell yes, maybe it was all worth it.