RSPB Loch Lomond

The weather was a bit crap on Sunday morning and we were lounging around with snacks and Steven Universe reruns.
“Want to go out?” I asked halfheartedly.
Nah, I’m good.

However, the window seemed to be getting brighter. Hmm, look… ?
Hmm, maybe…
I pulled up the map on my phone. Where could we go wasn’t the question, where haven’t we been was the tricky thing. Every quickly accessible track and trail has been well worn by us in recent times.
“Here, what about the RSPB thing at Gartocharn, burds an’ that? We’ve actually never been.”
A flurry of thrown pyjamas, a filling of water bottles and we were on the road.

In my mind I’d assumed their car park was a muddy layby that the truck would get stuck in, but to our surprise there’s a nice car park not too far from the main road with a wooden ranger station and a pop up marquee complete with a ranger and a volunteer ready to greet us.
We stopped for banter and information. Holly signed up once again having lapsed for a year and immediately found herself with arms full of RSPB stuff, which I later discovered is all really rather useful and interesting.

Armed with a leaf checklist and a big marker, we headed onto the first trail, detouring into the den building area first of course. This was a theme through the site, get involved, reach out and touch, leave the path, all messages that visitors might find unusual and it shows how things are changing for the better, “Keep off the Grass” is definitely a thing of the past.

The little trail reaches a lookout point that’s in the photie right at the top, a plywood hut that frames the view, will no doubt shelter a pensioner or two and provide kids with hide and seek opportunities.
The view is outstanding of course looking north to the Loch, Conic Hill, Ben Lomond and beyond, But it’s all a little far away. Some folks will love that, it just makes me want to get closer, and you can do that if you want to. The RSPB site extends right down to the lochside and it’s just asking to be explored.
We weren’t kitted out for that and it was getting late, the ranger station was locked by the time we got back, but we’ll be back sooner rather than later.

There’s some dry stone stumps here and there and some beautifully carved benches as well as some hidden sculptures in the woods, just keep your eyes open.
The signage is home made feeling, very unpretentious which I like. Everything feels new and shiny, the structures and the path, but it’s not obtrusive and it’ll weather quickly here.

The little pond had Holly whooping with joy as she ran out on the boardwalk. You can kneel and pond dip with bug identifiers posted nearby and there’s open edges by the water, they’re relying on people to get it right. I absolutely love that attitude.

We sat in the little shelter and had lunch. We did indeed see some of the creatures on the guide, in fact that really is another theme here. The place is bursting with life.
Birds swoop down to a feeder by the hut, all colours and shapes, songs in every key. You really could just sit here and spend your time just sitting.

It was getting grey again and was that a few spots of rain? But we headed into the open country to see what was doing and within a couple of minutes you’ve left the path and huts behind and your in the wilds. All it really takes is a step or two off the surfaced path, do it people, you’ll love it.

A little group of trees had the wackiest fungal infection I’ve seen with this clump home to some spiders. Just so sci-fi.
The ground dweller below was colourful but likely deadly? I might be a Woodland Trust ranger, but I do the fence, don’t ask me about the greenery.

This longer loop through the woods and past the pond is excellent, accessible and atmospheric, it subtlety feeds you the feeling of the wilds and lets you escape to them if you just step off that path.

We loved it. The short trails will be great for folks looking for their country park fix, but I think it’ll plant a seed of wanting more, because of where it is and how they’ve set it up. For us though, the possibilities for going further are actually kinda exciting. Rucksacks packed for next time.

I’ll tell you though, we never did find a chessie tree, I think it’s a trick question on the checklist so you can’t win the prize.

Obōz Sawtooth Low Review

Obōz were a new brand to me earlier in the year and I took the Sawtooth Low’s on test.
They’re somewhere between a trail shoe and that horrible old designation, an approach shoe. This just means I wouldn’t want to run in them, but everything else is fine. They’re chunky, but the exactly 900g for a UK9 doesn’t offend me at all and they feel light on my feet.

The fit out of the box cast my mind wistfully back to the days of Montrail before Columbia ransacked them for their intellectual properties. Tight heel cup, stiff under the heel and a wide forefoot with good flex. That was pretty much my perfect shoe right there.
However, over time the heel cup has stretched out quite a bit and I have to watch for that over longer distances in case I get a hot spot from heel movement as the laces slacken off over the miles. It’s a bit of a shame really, while not a show stopper, it’s limiting the use of the Sawtooths now to wee hills, Lang Craigs kickabouts and general gadding about.

The Sawtooth soles are decent, chunky enough and grippy even as we started to finally get some wet conditions underfoot. The rubber seems to be middle ground, not so soft that it’s wearing out fast and not to hard to grip, so longevity seems likely.
The sole is chunky at the sides which works well as it protects all that fancy stitching on the upper from a good bit of abrasion.

One thing though is the heel. It’s very rounded which is brillinat for walking your steps just curve gently into the ground on ever footfall, but try and dig your heel in on a steep descent and there’s nothing there to catch you.
I’ve had this design on plenty footwear over the years and it’s a trade off which works fine as long as you adjust yourself accordingly.

The Sawtooth’s upper are light and flexible with plenty mesh around the suede for letting the water back out and letting my feet dry off. The tongue is padded just right and the lacing is smooth and comfortable, not had a single rub under the laces, even if I’ve been pulling the laces up a bit more since the heels have slackened off a bit.

Obōz have stuck in a decent footbed which I’ve never changed. It’s the right volume, has kept it’s shape, doesn’t trap water and sits there and does it’s job. Easy to just stick in a throwaway cardboard foot shape these days.
There’s a nice toe bumper, protective but not overly stiff, although the sole is starting to peel off both shoes there a little now, we’ll see how that goes.

I’ve worn the Obōz Sawtooth Low’s for a few months now, as much with jeans as with outdoor gear. They have a user friendly feel which you don’t often get from pretentious lightweight trail shoes.
I like the Sawtooth’s and although the heel stretch was a disappointment, it just put them into a different category of use for me. I had them on yesterday as the RSPB site at Loch Lomond but no more Munro’s for them and that’s fine, I’ll still be wearing these until they come apart.

I cast an eye across Google shopping and these non waterproof versions (the only one worth considering of course) are going for £60 to £70 on average and that’s pretty good.

GUNSHIP

I was a teenager in the 80’s so I know what it was really like, in those ten years I went from child to man (ish…). It wasn’t a straight line between the two either and I still remember so much of it.
’80 was a big deal, the future was here and I was ready for it with one hand slowly letting go of my Hornby train set controller and the other hand on a leather jacket putting badges on the lapel. By ’81 I was going to the Glasgow Apollo and I was set in a new direction which I’ve never strayed from: music.
In ’83 there were suddenly girls, practical rather than theoretical. ’84 I got my first electric guitar. The next two years were a scrabble for a plan for my future but having discovered girls and guitars I blew it and left school wondering what to do next.
Still, by the end of the decade I was an engineer and had hair down past my waist.
And a 32″ waist. Oof.

All through this, what folk now call “The 80’s” was happening around me at arms length. The horrendous fashion and the universal neon highlights didn’t come anywhere near me but the sound of synthesizers was never far away if you were a movie fan and in the very early 80’s synths were still a bit counter culture and unusual in popular music. Their initial other worldliness softened as new wave absorbed them into regular pop and their voice became as unremarkable as a distorted guitar had become.

So when 80’s cultural references became increasingly popular I was a little dismissive, I remember Reagan, Thatcher and the birth of AIDS as much as anything from that time and I wasn’t a fan of Miami Vice. There wasn’t much in a revival for me, the music I loved back then is mostly still alive and well.
This attitude persisted until Stranger Things gripped me and didn’t let go. Googling the composers of the soundtrack started a chain of events thanks to the hardcore spying techniques used by the popular search engine and led me discover what is called synthwave by some – new artists making new music inspired by the sounds of the 80’s.

A lot of it just sounds like Jan Hammer or Tangerine Dream but one band has shone bright and pink out of the crowd for me, GUNSHIP. They write songs, not soundtrack pieces and the vocals bring the retro synth sounds alive. With a fat modern production and an ocean of analogue tones their debut album has been my favourite music for months.
There’s lots of cues from the past in their songs, but they still sound fresh, not recycled in any way. Their videos are brilliant too, plenty of cultural reference liberties taken with style and humour.

It’s so rare for me to find new music I really love, but GUNSHIP have done it for me and I have preordered a signed copy of the second album.
Hey, I’m not 50 just yet, so what the hell.

 

Tilley LTM6 Airflo Multicam Review

I like hats in general, but in the outdoors I feel odd without one. They keep the sun off my skin and out of my eyes, they slow down the sweat heading for my eyebrows, they compensate for poor hood design and they give me a handy bowl to drop in my keys and change.
Most importantly, a hat on me is like a picture hanging on a magnolia painted wall, it takes the bare look off me.

I like wide brims, it’s a sun and rain repeller, hats aren’t just for summer. I’ve spent years with cheapo bush hats from ebay and army surplus and at the same time always tried on Tilleys in the shops but found them both expensive and frankly, a bit dull. So my wallet played safe.
When I got the press release about this new airflo vented design and saw it also in came in the nice camo, it was a chance to see what the score was.

I read the instructions on the website, I measured my head and went for one size up from what I go for in Kromer welding caps, 7 1/2. When it arrived it fitted okay but as I wore it, it slackened off a little and I did think I’d got it wrong. Because although it says the hat shrinks a little in the wash, and bravely advises you to wash it often, I always think these statements are an exercise in arse covering, so they can say “we warned you” when someone boil washes and tumble dries their hat down to a size that only fits the teddy bear sitting on the chair in their bedroom (not from experience before you ask, totally random scenario).
However, after a couple of days of heavy sweating I washed it. When dry I pulled it on and it was perfect, size 7 3/8 perfect. It sat securely but not tightly just above my ears.
Since then it’s been worn almost daily and washed maybe every couple of weeks or just when it needs it. It has maintained it’s size and shape perfectly through this, even when crushed or rolled into a rucksack for a couple of days at a time.

The brim will shape to your preference to an extent, if you look at the top photie, that more pronounced front to back curve is me rolling it up at night.

This style has a wider brim that many Tilleys and it’s the one to go for, the extra coverage has been entirely necessary in the is horrendous sunshine we’ve had this summer.
The front and back extent a little further than the sides, capping the gap between hair (what’s left of it) and collar it channels rain away as much as it keeps the sun off.
The wider brim hasn’t been a problem in the wind, it’s flexible enough that the brims deflects and folds in strong gusts and the hat stays on my head.
In constant wind I pull down the lace which I leave loose round my neck as an anchor of sorts, but it tightens in as well if you want that drill instructor look.

You can see the lace below as well as the Airflo vent around the crown. This does works, heat rises out and because the mesh is on the vertical plane, rain doesn’t really get in either.
The fabric SPF is 50+ which I suppose matters on the crown where the fabric is single layer, so a bare scalp is pretty well protected.
The fabric’s water resistant as well, but only to an extent which is actually a good thing. Rain does run off and the fabric doesn’t get saturated so that the brim flops around my face, but it does absorb enough water so that you can dunk it in a burn and get it wet enough so that you can enjoy the cooling evaporation action as you walk.

I have suffered all summer in the +30degC heat we had, but out and about I was cooler in this hat than I was without it, mobile sunshade and aircon.

The inner sweatband is low profile so probably contributes to the size remaining consistent once washed as it won’t crush down over time. It’s smooth and wicks well, there’s been no irritation under heavy sweating at all.
There’s a wee pocket in the crown as you’ll see below, for mini Haribos or something. The hat floats too, just as advertised. I have tried it several times, mostly on purpose.

It’s nylon so it’s tough and it dries fast, it’s very well made indeed too, there’s not a stitch wrong on it. It’s very light at 108g and very packable too, fits into a pocket or rucksack lid. It’s £70…

…and I would pay that for a new one if this one got lost.
Not not even getting one cheek up on the fence here, I absolutely love this hat. It’s been everywhere with me the past few months and it’s instantly vital kit.
What I will say though is get the size right, I made a gamble and it worked out. Get in a shop and try them on.

Aye, get in a shop. Shops, while we still have them.

 

Calvin B Marshall

A ship out of water is a very odd thing. It’s the wring shape, it’s suddenly got a whole other bit at the bottom you never really see.
This summer, lying under it scraping the clatty stuff off the hull was one of the coolest places I found myself.

I did make the mistake of rubbing my face with white spirit to get the layer of bitumen off after the painting was done. For one thing, the diluted bitumen dyed my beard back to it’s original browny colour and when I saw it in the mirror I nearly passed out with the shock.
Next was the deep burning sensation on my face that lasted overnight. What an idiot. I blame the heat.

It’s nearly over.

It was an exciting moment. We lit some candles in the fireplace, the dusty ones that have been neglected for months, sitting randomly on rocks and logs taken from peaks and woods all over this awesome wee country.
It was exciting because it means that the large chrome fan isn’t blowing all the time as the temperature has dropped and that the nights are coming in a little bit earlier every day.
This is good.

I’ve always hated summer. This one didn’t change my perspective. My blood came close to stopping flowing numerous times.

The hills were horrific, I sweated and wheezed up dry tracks and found no joy in it. I abandoned it all as I after have over the years and did other stuff until the good times came back.

It’s not far away now, the trees are tired, there’s gold in those leaves crying to come out, the clouds are dark and full of promise and I can breathe again.

While some evenings out were I hate to say it, near perfect, where the blue skies and the warm rock felt soft rather than angry, I can’t help but think of one message: Autumn, don’t let me down.

Phone In Sick

There are few things better in life that passing on a spark or joy or enthusiasm or interest and watching it catch in someone else.

The school knew of my outdoor stuff, a parallel career of sorts I accidentally fell into about 11 years ago and when it came to World at Work week they asked if I’d talk to some of the classes about it all. I love the school and the folk in it, it would be a privilege and a joy.

I put together a slide show and I was amazed at how much I’ve done over the years and how varied it’s been. It was easy to put a wee talk together.
Every frame on the screen was a story, an explanation, a joke and possibly a practical demonstration too.

I had the kids as base camp, expedition and summiteers. Their task was to make camp and get their leader to the top. All with a ten second timer on the camera to get the summit shot.
This meant a tent, bag and mat, stove, sarcastically warm down jacket and an ice axe. It also meant moving furniture, we piled chairs and tables and all the classes soon has a mountain to climb. Some summits were on the teachers desks, some were on a cupboard. All were conquered, with a photo to prove it.

I did a couple of classes in the morning and it went so well I ended up staying all day and getting round most of the school. The kids were brilliant, they were interested, full of questions and ideas and I had a total blast.
We broke a pole on the tent and they had to fix it, I let them do it and they made a splint with pencils and tape. It worked fine and it held through two other classes pitching it.
They were wielding an ice axe without rubber or tape on it, I said it was sharp and they were all careful, even the ones climbing the furniture with it to take the summit photie. Kids are young, not daft.

It was funny in Holly’s class, they had no idea that she goes into the hills and the photies of us in action got a good reaction.
Best of all for me though, they all listened. I talked for an hour per class and they never tuned out once.

I think it did me good too. Seeing what I’ve done and explaining the why and how attached to it made me realise how much knowledge and experience I’ve got filed away in my head. I don’t exploit it nearly enough. Just need to acquire some discipline and application to mix in with it.

A fantastic day.

Angus and The Stone Giant

While this hot weather has brought joy to many, its allure rather passes us by and we’ve been hiding. We cheered when it rained for half an hour the other day.

Wee quick jaunts aren’t always enough and Holly wanted to go further north despite the heat. The weather looked to have it wrong again, no rain in sight, so off we went in a blaze of sunshine, ELO’s Discovery album loud on the stereo.
Apparently there is no parking available in Scotland this summer unless you know some secrets, so we used one of those and parked up around a mile from the main road right at the start of the track.

It was a little grey to the north but the blue skies everywhere else were dazzling, and the beasties were biting hard so we didn’t stand around for too long.
It was warm. I’m really not a fan of walking in summer, but once we were clear of the trees there was an occasional breeze to keep sanity in close proximity.
The tadpoles are getting a bit froggy, can’t be far way from them all bursting out of their disguises and croaking it up at the Lang Craigs back home. When the old mill pond is full of frogs you can here them from the edge of the woods and it looks like a soup pot on the boil when you get closer.

A few spots of rain were very welcome. No jackets needed, it just felt delightfully cool as it soaked in and dried off quickly. We were on the edge of the cloud, we were stuck with the sunshine.
“Here”. The girl had decided we were having lunch, right here and right now. I got the stove on, ran in a circle to lose some of the midges, unpacked the mugs, ran in a circle… Everything was ready, just had to wait for the water to boil.

Boof. The rain came down and we pulled out our waterproofs. They were fine for a bout ten seconds when the rained upped the pressure. It was hosing down, the coffee was being bounced back out of my mug, our trousers were instantly saturated and water was running down my legs. I dragged all the gear under a little overhang by the track, including the still-lit stove and then just had to strand there and take it, no shelter nearby at all. Holly stood and ate her pasta with her hood up “Dad, it’s a bit rainy”. Yes thanks for that. I could feel the rain hitting my feet through the mesh on the top of my shoes. Heavy man.

Then it was gone. The sun split the clouds again and we were back on the edge of the action in time for part 2 of lunch, the sugary stuff.
The gear was all manky, there was something in suspension in the rain, sand or dust or ash from somewhere far away, seen it many times over the years. So I stuffed more than packed and we decided to head up the glen, see what was there. We got 20 feet when the first flash went off ahead of us, without a word, we turned and walk back to the trail junction. Let’s get back to the truck, maybe the weather man got it right.

The thunder was loud, overhead loud and the flashes cast a shadow around our feet. It fitted our story very well, The Stone Giant (we’ll come back to this later), as every crack and rumble was a plot point and a took us a few feet nearer the truck.
Long time since I’ve been out in such an active storm and this definitely made up for it, jackets went back on as the sky unloaded on us again. No wind though, so our wide brimmed hats were perfect. The rain ran off our brims as we marched back, laughing at the ridiculousness of it all.

The tadpoles were now swimming in fresh water and a DofE group were hiding in a group shelter as we hurried by, now exposed to the open sky and soaked through but so close to the truck. The biggest flash and loudest crash was just as we crossed the bridge and ran for the doors laughing and screaming.
We weren’t high up at all, but it really felt like being in amongst it. The first day in weeks the weather forecast got it right meteorologically and geographically for where we were going that day. Just a few hours out though. You buggers.

The Cobbler looked menacing on the way back out, there was flash flooding in Arrochar and terrified drivers doing 15mph on the A82.
This was brilliant day, a day to remember too.
Holly won’t let me forget it anyway.

I blame Mike Oldfield

I coexist quite easily with almost everything in life, that which I don’t understand I’ll investigate, that which I don’t like I’ll avoid if I can, that which I enjoy I will obsess over and wear it out like a favourite 7″ single on a cheap turntable.

Virgin Media have conspired to twist these elements into a cocktail of annoyance and inconvenience that has seen me without internet at home for the best part of a month (note to future self, that’s why there are no posts on here before this, you didn’t lose your enthusiasm again or throw yourself on the floor and bang your little fists helplessly shouting “I don’t want to do it anymore” etc).

Virgin are utterly infuriating to deal with, totally garbage on an organisational and corporate level and that’s quite apart from the cheeky call centre operatives, one of which stood out as I could see in my mind that he was leaning back, feet up, trying to show off in front of his friends with his gallus dismissive replies and impressive lack of knowledge.
Going back to my initial thoughts, it must be said that after enjoying something, then having to investigate it, I really don’t like it. Unfortunately I can’t avoid it and now I can say with total certainty that I despise Virgin Media and all they stand for.

I want to keep my landline number, how else will Green Deal call centres fill there day without my number to call, but that means reaching an agreement with Virgin. This is unlikely.
Going to SKY feels like collaborating with Murdoch which leaves BT. Sigh.

I deal with companies and institutions every day at work and occasionally play and never have I felt that the web of society is at full stretch held together only by a pair of crossed fingers and the power of greed.

 

Woop-woop!

Adric: It’s very distinctive.
4th Doctor: Yes. I’m not sure we should be distinctive.

I realise that my vintage wheels, a Ford P100, are not everyone’s idea of a classic car, but I love my old pickup truck. Amusingly so do a lot of other folk and as well as teenager’s stares and points (I’m assuming there’s a truck like mine in Fortnite, Overwatch or GTA), I’m forever turning down offers from strangers trying to buy it.
I was waved down in what I thought was a carjacking by an enthusiastic collector, I upset security guards when the lorry leaving the factory was abandoned half way through the gate as the driver jumped from the cab and started talking cash options.
At the queue in a BP garage, the bloke behind leaned over my shoulder “Is it the turbo diesel?”. Yes, with the five speed box. I had to run for it while tightly clutching the keys.
Best still was the group of car modders in a McDonalds car park, pointing at bits of it and looking underneath, they knew what they were looking at, more than me. Apparently the P100 is an excellent base for bigger Cosworth engines and fancy bodywork, and the rear wheel drive which makes life difficult for me in winter is a big hit for track-day drift fans. Who knew.

Mine is all original though, and in decent nick, maybe partly why it sticks out as well as there not being many around now. It’s not even worth a lot of money, just distinctive and fun.

The police liked it too. So when I went by the parked-up bike cop yesterday, he dropped his donut and chased me down with the “follow me” lights and gestures.

Yay, check point full of commercial vehicles. Polis, Driving Standards Agency and Trading Standards. Triple the fun while one mile ahead I had a control engineer and a property convener standing waiting for me to look at a new job.

I engaged them as politely as I could with white knuckles on the steering wheel, if they’re pulling rogue traders and genuinely dangerous vans off the road, it’s a job well done. While I know I’m one of the good guys, they have to find this out for themselves, and that’s not instant.
All my details checked out with the somewhat apologetic police girl, but Trading Standards were instantly annoying. They wanted to make sure I knew about a customers right to cancel. I pointed out the customer I was going to right there and then I had been working for since 1988 and we don’t even issue paperwork other than a final invoice anymore. I asked what the Tradings Standards policy was on trust built through years of delivering, understanding, reliability and cheerfulness under duress. They’re sending me an email on it.

The DSA were next. He eyed my 30 year old wheels. I’ll admit it, doesn’t matter how much I know this truck outside in, how much I constantly check it over as I go, it’s old and I was nervous.
Lights okay, steering tight, tyres good. Press the footbrake again? Once again.
Dammit, the crack in the lens must have let water in the other night in the rain. One brake bulb to change. Got a spare one in the cab.

He seemed unhappy, how could this old truck not have an obvious fault to get it off the road? The police were letting me go, wait he said, he wanted to look further. I could see his legs sticking out from underneath the body in the wing mirror.
Press the brake.
Press again.
Press it, keep it pressed… You’ve got fluid.

What? I was out of the cab and underneath. He was right. The brake line goes from the caliper to a boss in a chassis member and out the other side towards the front. The nut was leaking under pressure, it was one of the new ones too. Christ. There was a pool of brake fluid on the road now.
This was a defect, this was notifiable, this was a trailered-away job. It was all over.

I dismissed that train of thought instantly and took a small shifting spanner out of my pocket, I’ll just fix it right now.
After some more testing it looked like both sides were weeping. Ah well.
I layed on the road on my back and fixed it, not just get-me-home style, it was repaired permanently and passed by the DSA style fixed. I got a certificate and everything.

By this point I was chatty with the DSA fella and as we washed up (I was covered in brake fluid) at his van I was talking through the possible outcomes. The brake reservoir had been full on Saturday morning, it was now just enough to get me back to base to top up. It had been leaking every time I pressed the brake, in maybe a day or two if I hadn’t caught it, the brake pedal would have gone to the floor and would have been in a vintage torpedo.

Close.

So, three things from this experience. Maybe four.
1/ On getting pulled over. As much as it’s an inconvenience, as much as we’re all “the good guy” and innocent of any bad intent, this spot check did its job today. I’m not annoyed at the folk doing their job there*. I am relieved and thankful.
2/ I’ve spent my whole life fixing or creating things and problem solving. A pocketful of tools and the ability to use them is something I got from Jimmy** and for that I am eternally grateful.
3/ Check the fluid levels more than once a week.

Optional 4/ How did the nut loosen suddenly after 6 months? A82 vibration or something more? I do wonder.

*Except Trading Standards
**Faither

In every bluebell, there hides a fairy

The bluebells are out and fading already, a short wave of glorious colour across flooding across the woodland carpet.

This photie is one I have on the wall. This time of year but becoming a long time ago now.
Where do the days go? If I find them, I’m grabbing them and holding on, there’s some I want to live again. And again.
Life really is too short.

Slow Traffic

I just realised something today.

I have relatively recently come to properly appreciate the joys of Netflix. Been signed up for years but just saw it as a virtual video rental shop, pretty much ignoring the first selection you see, the “own brand” titles, as low budget nonsense populated by down on their luck actors.
The Good Place, Stranger Things, Star Trek Discovery and a few others have changed my mind as they’re among the best things I’ve ever seen on the telly and I can’t help but see Netflix in the same light as the “regular” channels at their money-no-object creative best.

But, the way we pay for it is taking the piss. We have the licence fee, I mean, it’s the only way to get Doctor Who live on a Saturday without constant threatening letters. Then we have our TV/phone (a landline exclusively for calls about PPI, new windows, solar panels and folk looking for my ex wife)/internet package and then the optional cost of subscription to PS+ or X-Box Live if you swing that way.

It’s like a pyramid scheme or something, Netflix is cheap enough, but christ, you really have to prop it up with other money to get to it. Even on my phone in a tent I’m paying a subscription to access my subscription.

Media folk are just laughing at us all. Give us a taste, get us hooked then bend us over. They’re all in it together.

Can’t wait until Stranger Things Season 3 though “throws money at the screen”.

Too tired last week, didn’t stray far from home. Luckily home is in a nice place.

The green is getting really green, the showers had the leaves bursting with colour and life. Things are flying around and biting me enthusiastically. Summer “yay”.

The beach is awesome. Creatures in rock pools, what seems as many ships passing as there was when I was wee. The river is very much alive.

All this is on my phone, I really need to carry my camera all the time.

Mair wanders wi’ the wean

We had tents pitched on the lawn, trying them out for size and a wander up the crags never got further than the Overtoun House tea room.
Holly was making sure we weren’t wasting this new day.
There was still time for tattie scones though. I mean, the Russian invaders would have to be visible from the windae before we let that go on a weekend.

We thought we’d try some new socks this time around. Holly got her fancy Wigwam anniversaries on and I found an old pair of Injinji’s that I was probably supposed to review in 1975. She was still laughing at my feet a mile up the road.

We took the Loch Long road, the A82 was choked once again.
Hmm, instant self edit. I just wrote a rant and deleted it. You know what, I actually don’t care what other folk do. We got in the truck to find fun and that lingering air of positivety has sapped my enthusiasm for tearing into Loch Lomond day trippers.
Instead, the most memorable part of the journey is always going to be ELO’s Shine a Little Love with us singing along and doing the clapping part in the chorus high-5 style as we went.
Don’t let the bastards grind you down? Sometimes.

It was a funny sort of a day. At Butterbridge it was was very warm, the sun was splashed on the hills but we were in a patch of gloom that seemed quite keen to follow us.
We got the occasional burst of unedited sunshine and thought about reaching for the sun cream, but then it would slip away once again.
Still warm though, hats were dipped in the burn, chilled Robinson’s lemon was sipped often.

The banter was exceptional and hanging out with Holly like this has reconnected me to the outdoors in subtle ways as well as sharing the “Wow, look at that” moments.
The pace is slower, there’s a lot of looking ahead and looking up. I’m explaining and pointing, recounting old tales from the trail and making up just as much as well.
Volume 2 of the Loch Sloy Trolls was sketched out on this walk. Oh the drama, the tension, the bloodshed. The claws

I’m looking up and thinking, oh I’d like to go there, even when I’ve been there repeatedly. I’m looking and I’m thinking “Have I got time for this?” and I don’t mean hours of daylight, I mean miles left in my legs and useful years of life past the end of this one.
It’s odd feeling older but also feeling, I suppose, hungry? Am I finally feeling what it is to be 49?

Glen Kinglas isn’t overly glamourous I suppose, it’s a landrover track serving forestry, farming and the arse end on the Loch Sloy hydro scheme. It’s good going underfoot and the views are as awesome as they are unusual. Indeed, the views were also new to me.
As well traveled as I am around here I’ve never been beyond the Abyssinia hut on this track. I’ve walked down to here, climbed up the slopes above the hut and walked to the top of Beinn Choranach and I’ve walked the widely ignored ridge on the other side of the glen from Creag Bhrosgan to Stoban Dubha and down to the hut through the crags. Never beyond though, the next steps were actually kinda exciting.

Beinn an Lochain looks amazing from here, sharp and er, mountainous. Beinn Ime looks unfamiliar, the broken east ridge definitely looks a wee bit racey and Beinn Narnain is a dark, sheer sided ridgeline.
It’s like looking at your best friend from the back in a crowd when they’re wearing a hat they’ve just bought that day.

Met a couple from the Netherlands here, on their last full day before their flight home and looking for the most fun route back before a night at Ardgarten. We chatted, I talked too much and fired too much information at them as usual but they smiled as it hit them like a box of tangerines from the top deck of a multi storey carpark (suspiciously specific?).
Damn me though, as we looked back, they took the route up I suggested. I kept looking back as they wound their way uphill. The ridge cleared and stayed clear, it must have been eye watering up there. Fantastic.

The tail of Loch Sloy was annoyingly invisible. Grassy hillside and forest were the dual inconveniences. Lunch, it is was about 1800, so dinner really, was warm and tasty. Protracted too, we had music and everything. And pastries.
Energy renewed, focus regained, we’d go and find the loch. The map said this was unlikely without a lot of effort possibly mixed with re-ascent and some bog hopping. Ach, we’ll see.

The forest track seemed more fun, it was a better venue for a story as we walked. I mean, that’s a troll bridge if I ever there was.
The riverside was boggy and we stumbled and slopped along it before coming out onto the grass and the sunshine. Here a culvert come aqueduct thing meets the river. It’s very like the one that goes to Blackwater Dam from the top of the pipes, being roofed with concrete strips. It curves around to Gleann Uaine picking up the burns around there to feed them into Loch Sloy.
Never seen it mentioned and it was a complete surprise, not really on a hill approach I suppose. So much of the hydro scheme tendrils to stumble upon in these hills.

We stood on a grassy knoll and finally spied the loch. We looked at each other and knew that was enough, it was nearly 100m vertical descent to the waters edge which we’d have to reverse. Nah.
The water level is very low just now so it looks a bit nasty and bare down there anyway, we can reenact the moon landings another time.

The culvert was fun to follow back, the sound of invisible rushing water was an odd accompaniment, like having a broken radio on in the background all the time.

Holly was tired, I checked when I got back and she did 8 miles all in today. The three miles back were fueled by constant banter and Morrisons Marathon* rip-offs, Sprinters bars.
She did so well, at times it was a roaster before the breeze arrived and she put in the miles in good cheer. I am proud as The Dad, but more than that I am so pleased for The Girl. I can see how these wee adventures are affecting her thinking and her bearing.

We had cows staring at us in an alarming fashion, birdlife swooping and bobbing, lambs displaying unbearable cuteness and then pleasantly cold air that came with a darkening sky.
One lamb had the best face ever with a perfect black metal corpse paint look. It had a wee limp as well. I definitely wasn’t up late worrying about it.

Might go back and see it this week though, you know, just in case.

*Stick your Snickers re-designation Mr Mars

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It rains all the time here, little particles of ancient volcanic ash trickle down over the harder basalt layers. The ash dunes are soft and hard to climb but sharp on bare fingertips.
Come back a day later and your footsteps are gone, the rain washes them away again.

There’s a trail to take you here now, a quiet little grassy loop so, it’s not as hidden as it was. The trees on the opposite slope will grow and the long distance view will change, but this corner will become a magical little place.
The trees will bow and swish in the wind, their leaves will be carried away on the peaty water and the black rain will keep falling and carry the little crag a little further north. I’m not worried, it took ten thousand years to get it this far, I know I’ll miss the end of that story.

Always worth looking left or right, especially at the Lang Craigs. While there’s route markers now, they don’t tell you everything. We’ve made it accessible, but there’s still room to explore.

Don’t forget to look down too.

 

They came to hear the story, They came to sing the song*

Let me hear your battle cry*

Loch Sloidh!

I was sitting with a fresh cuppa and despite an annoying amount of sunlight coming through the window I thinking about video games, it had been a busy and rather stressful week. Holly however was packing her rucksack.
Sometimes you just need a bigger spark when your powder’s damp.

We had talked about taking the stove next time, she was getting into the zone for wild camping and bigger trips so a quick detour to pick up some bits and pieces and we were rumbling north on the A82 again.
The sky was blue from right to left but as we moved onwards, a huge fat pulse of rain rolled slowly across the loch onto Ben Lomond where it seemed to stop dead, both hands round the summit.
We drove into its grey curtain and although the girl was happy enough contemplating a wet walk while sitting in her shiny new test jacket as the windscreen wipers ground the dust across the windscreen and then slung it away along with the fresh rain, I could see it far enough. I’ve paid my weather dues in full, many years ago, I was wanting it to clear up.

Wumph, we drove out the other side, like tripping out of the emergency exit shortcut from the cinema on a summer’s evening (specifically the old ODEON on Glasgow’s Renfield Street, where a manky wee spiral  stairwell took you straight into the alley at the back avoiding the jostle of neds at the proper doors), from dark to light in an instant.
The girl kept humming along to the music, I just grinned wider.

Parked the truck and paid for the pleasure of it at Inveruglas where there were a lot of folk milling around and a closed cafe. Welcome to Scotland, bring a packed lunch. Ah, it’s as true as ever.

Holly’s all about stuff, she loves stuff. I’m glad she applies this to what might appear to be boring stuff to many youngsters: her heritage.
This is Macfarlane country we were in, the name belongs here and because we wear it, we can draw a line though time to put ourselves here, regardless of gaps in our family tree.
Names tie everyone to something, often an occupation, but old Scottish names are very definite on the map. It took me until my late 30’s I think to appreciate this stuff and I happily embrace now, there will be a piper at my funeral playing Flowers of the Forest and MacFarlane’s Gathering. Hell yeah.
So, this was a heritage walk, one we’d talked about for years. We look at the castle every time we pass Inveruglas, but she’d never been to see Loch Sloy, the little loch turned hydro storage tank and the origin of the Macfarlane cry Loch Sloidh!

We took the wee detour through the woods just past the railway bridge, the detour seems to be the main route now, the official “We hate Campers” sign has been posted here.
I fell straight on my face too, the moss slipped off the rock when I put my weight on it and took my foot sideways with it. Idiot. I deserved the sore hip I got.
I walked off the embarrassment and pain, explaining the sheep placenta we found to Holly took my mind off it too. Sheep and lambs became a feature of the day actually. I made have taken a blow to the head in the fall, the sheep began looking er, majestic and I took their photies. Often.

The tarmac makes life easy but the sun beat down on us. meaning the cool breeze wasn’t quite enough to keep us cool. Much rolling up of sleeves and legs took place until we got into the shade on Ben Vane later on.
It’s a glorious wee trek this, been around, through and across the meeting of tracks and trails more times that I can count and I still walk along with my head in the air looking at the tops. I love these hills, steep and rocky but so easy to grab a hold of.

Holly was in her stride now, she wasn’t even noticing the distance or the heat. The bridge ahead looked exciting “That’s the dam, look next to it…” Oh, there’s a cave next to the bridge! “It’s a tunnel, it’s… wait for me…”.

She wasn’t keen on going into the big echoey arch in the dam, besides there were more sheep to see. So nice, today’s sheep. So nice.
Nice top see the former water treatment plant site all cleaned up and blended into the terrain now, the photos I took all through it few years back are suddenly historical. I’ll need to dig them out at some point.

The tunnel was funny, Holly all stiff armed and serious. It was properly dark in there, I broke into a run near the far side and she shrieked and ran out into the daylight. Brilliant.
We picked a spot out of the breeze and unpacked the stove, dinner time. Absolutely perfect.

It was getting late, the light changed and Ben Vorlich took on an evening glow. Still no hurry though, there was exploring to be done.
A wander around the construction areas on the west just slowed us down from the main task, getting across the dam. She had no fear at all, straight on she went, standing on tiptoes to peer over the edge and running onwards to find the next likely looking vantage point.
The dam has grown into the landscape, it’s taken on the look of the rock its anchored too as best it can. The moss growing from the concrete doesn’t know any different.
The low water level currently exposes a bleached strip of beach around the loch, it’s hideous looking, but the dam really isn’t, it’s part of the place now.

On the far side we skipped over the gate and clambered down. Holly was now fearless and every arch was to be explored and tested for echo.
The gated entrance showed quite far into the tunnels under the dam, the lights being conveniently left on. Within a minute of leaving we were already into the story of the Sloy Troll, whose home was destroyed by the dam builders and who now lurks, ready to snare and eat any unwary workman… that’s why the lights are on you see. This story will be coming soon.

The walk out in dimming light was pleasant and punctuated by more frankly awesome sheep. I do hope this fresh ovine appreciation subsides again.

When Holly saw Loch Lomond back within easy reach her energy just went. The pace slowed and we played Guess Who and I-Spy to keep us going.
The sounds of geese reached us before the traffic noise and it wasn’t long before we reached the truck in the now empty car park.

The road was empty and the Stranger Things soundtrack’s retro synth sounds smoothed out the bumps on the way back down the road. Holly was quiet, her eyes closing and flicking back open, dead beat but not ready to let the day go just yet.

Not a bad way to look at life.

*All quoted from Saxon’s “Battle Cry” from the ’86 Rock The Nations album. One of the finest songs written about Scotland and it was written by Yorkshiremen. Bless you.