Woodland Trustworthy

We’ve got a bit better at operating in a bubble of isolation, it means we can have worry and guilt free mini adventures.
Finding a parking space, that’s the trick.

The road was busy and populated by a mix of angry swervers and timid trundlers with very little inbetween. Lockdown has indeed seen the populace move as one into the outdoors. It’s a nightmare. I’m sure that petrol stations are pleased along with Sports Direct who are kitting the new army out.

Never been to Glen Finglas, not on foot any way. I’ve passed by countless times and never stopped but today it was our X on the map. We genuinely got the last parking space between Callander and Aberfoyle too. Never seen it like this.
I’m not being elitist or precious here (probably) but I do hope winter sees some hibernation before Scotland goes full on Lakes levels of constant busyness.

It is fantastic though with stunning surroundings and beautiful horizons. The colours were on the change and we got some light spilling across the glen to bring out the autumn glow.

The orangey marked track to the dam takes you up surprisingly high up. It’s a hill feeling here, not a woodland walk and there waterfall you come across is both well hidden by trees and too tall to see the bottom. So, no photies. Be back in the middle of winter I think.


I spend ten minutes waiting for the two coos to look up and when one finally did we had moved and I didn’t get the photie I was after. The grass right there must be super tasty.

What a scene though, all those trees, craggy wee Ben Venue. It’s just the Trossachs and it’s still epic.

The trail is easy and the miles passed quickly with banter and laughter. This was a real spirit raiser. And a decent wee work out, we were all feeling it when we got down to Brig o Turk for the last leg back to the car park.

Lockdown has made me soft. But, since this trip a couple of weeks ago I’ve been working on that with more miles round that crags that I’ve done in years and some indoor exercising. We’ll see if I can sustain it.

Folk just wander past this stuff, look down dammit.

The pigs had fun. They are of course lightweight pigs. One is 1000 fill down with a 15 denier windproof outer shell while the other is an experimental Primaloft Ubertronic pig which emanates heat after 10pm at night after storing it up all day. The tech comes from the energy recovery systems used on the brakes on Formula 1 cars and my over active scifi mind. And a love of bacon.

The fairies were pleased, their wee village remained safe for another day.
The big footsteps almost always hurry past them while they hide behind their curtains, wishing the big folk would go away.
Sometimes though the footsteps stop and a giant shape bends down to peer into their little homes. They stay very still, they’ll never be seen, the big folk don’t believe anymore, there’s no magic in that busy, noisy world. The big face will leave in a minute.
Ha, the big face softly chuckled and a smile ringed with sliver bristles beamed over at the little houses.
Wait… Can, can he see us… ?

Mr. Magoo

Forty odd years with perfect vision and without wearing glasses and now I can’t see for shit.
I know my prescription has changed again but I can’t face it, even now that we’re allowed to go and be breathed on at close quarters by an optician again. I’ll get to it.

It does mean that I miss stuff though. I took the photie above of the sunset the other day and had no idea that there were birds having a stramash just outside the window. Ah well.

I saw the spider though. I see it every day. It mocks me with its safe position over a long drop and my choice to have incredibly awkward windows to clean from the inside and my reluctance to get a proper windae cleaner in because he will see stuff that he won’t understand through the glass from his far too tall and most likely wobbly ladder.
Aye, so the spider lives for now. Unlike that mummified winged buffet it has lashed up all around it, it’s a dab hand at catching a free lunch. Crafty wee bugger.

A new Xperiance

Three years I had my phone. Not a scratch on it, sure the battery didn’t have the stamina of its youth, but it worked fine, just fine.
The case though, that was getting past it’s best. The flip front leather kind works for me now, it’s an extra layer of protection and It means I don’t bother with a screen protector and you can stand it up sideways on itself for watching YouTube and whatnot.
However, the little leather clasp was well worn and hanging off so I had to repair it, again. It’s been done before, “why bother” I have been asked, just get a new one.  Because I can fix things is why, makes me citizen or an activist or just a functional human being or something, not just a bloody consumer. However, it doesn’t make me actually clever.
I took the phone out of the case and dropped it onto my tiled hearth, smashing the screen. Some tiny shards of which ended up in my thumb for over a week until I dug them out with a nicely chunky sewing needle.
So I’m not claiming any moral or social high ground with my propensity for making repairs, I can be just as handless and the next guy.

I sellotaped the screen up and resigned myself to a new phone, a new screen was £50. Nah, I’m good.
I hate Apple, they have popularized the concept of in built and instant obsolescence and have become the thing they set out to undermine. The Big Big Brand.
So it was always going to be another Sony. Plain phones for old folk. Except their recent phones didn’t have a headphone jack socket. What the hell man.
However, timing is everything. Their newest Xperia 1 had the jack reinstated due to customer feedback but it’s just too big and I hovered over the Order Now button just long enough to hear about the Xperia 5 II coming out in a couple of weeks.
Jack socket, apparently good camera, not too big, not full of unnecessary bloatware and dead end apps and not an iPhone. Sold.

Now I liked a lot right away, I managed to get a case to arrive on the same day so it’s never even been in the open air. I barely charge it too, oh I love these early days of limitless power.
Then there’s the camera. Jeezo.

I’d messed with it but hadn’t really taken any proper photies with it that I’d use on here. Three lenses, quick shooting or fully manual Sony Alpha modes and by Jimmy’s Sacred Stillsons it’s now the best camera I own.
I’ve just compared the phone and camera photies and I’m a melancholy mixture of impressed and sad. How do things evolve so fast?
It’s going to be nice to have this in my pocket, it’s going to be fun. These photies of my home from home are all from the phone.

I need a new camera now though. Aw, dammit.

Sing a Rainbow

As I was heading up the crags yesterday my head was spinning round looking at all the trees, splashes of red and yellow reigning over the creeping brown and fading green.
It’s utterly glorious and it was only improved as I gained some height and the sun broke through the shifting clouds with searchlight beams that flashed across the landscape lighting up even more autumn flags through the patchy rain and haze.

On my way back down as I got closer to the trees it occurred to me that nature isn’t just painting in beautiful broad strokes here, the joy is also in the detail.
I picked up leaf after leaf, finding in each infinite shades of the colours that usually melt together with distance to give the autumn blanket.
Impossibly diverse and wonderfully individual, every leaf shouted out to me and I soon had a pocketful to take home and make a little centerpiece for the dinner table.
Outdoors brought indoors. And, everytime something new. Ah, the joy of it all.

 

15th Wish

I’m rarely disappointed now. It’s taken a lifetime to be like that, to hope but not to expect, to imagine and not demand.
Today I had cold hands and rain on my glasses, my base layer was overloaded with sweat and the best of the blue skies were hours earlier.
I grinned the entire time.

The rainbow was just cream on top.

Which reminds me, I didn’t get cream at the shops so we’re not firing up the vintage coffee percolator tonight which has become a Friday dinner ritual.
Dammit, I’m so disappointed.
Hey, it’s not the hills it’s fine, I’m allowed, shut up.

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.