Age of Minority

It was a little muted as we slipped from twenty to twenty one. The three of us were happy to be together, to be healthy, but beyond the front door, the world is still a whirlpool of chaos and stupidity ready to catch an ankle or a sleeve and pull you in. It’s a new year, but nothing has changed but the number.
No New Year dinner at the folks, a socially distanced hello in the cold morning air and steak pie back at home for us.

It’s brutal, but we stick to the rules because we’re protecting our vulnerable family members, ourselves, everyone else. I will speak more of this concept with a detailed explanation from experience with graphs and diagrams of why it’s dumb bastards are perpetuating this nightmare time. It’s not the government, it’s not a conspiracy, it’s not even the virus itself, it’s stupidity that’s keeping the train rolling. And it drives me mad.

And then there’s Brexit too. Christ.

We had a little light in the dark though, the rather perfectly named Wee Spark. I’ve been a more frequent visitor of late, keeping Jimmy a little less worried about it as he’s been either shielding or watching my mother with here new hip. Aye, that was an unexpected pre Christmas joy after an ASDA car park mishap. What a year.
But I’ve been going aboard for a little peace too, it’s a happy place, no matter how many times I bang my head on the low insides.

This evening the three of us went with cuppas and snacks and lit the fire as the sun sank and the sky’s blue was washed away by the blackest of cold, clear winter nights.
The stove lit first time and warmed fast. Coffee and toasted shortbread helped smooth the mood as the steel hull had sucked the life out of EE’s 4G for the girls.
I had my new Black Sabbath book made of old fashioned paper, I was just fine. In fact I got a pile of books for birthday and Christmas this year, it’s magic.

Oh aye, birthday, I’ve been 52 for a couple of weeks. So has Linda, we were born minutes apart in the same hospital in ’68. And here we are. What’s the chances.
52 is grown up I think? I think I’m feeling that anyway. A wee bit at least.

I think we’ll be seeing more of the Wee Spark. I like it here. And I’m learning how to drive it solo. Steer it? Ach, it’s early days.

And 2021? I suppose we’ll be seeing more of that too. It’s already a shitshow if you look at the news.

I reserve the right to maintain an easily accessible pot of joy and wear an unlikely hat of optimism though. It’s my thing after all, and I mean look at the weather? Alright!

Waters of Mars

This feels like a lifetime away. We found ourselves in Arbroath with a little time on our hands and weather that was keeping everyone else in their cars on the seafront looking at the waves crashing over their windscreens from the restless North Sea.

The clifftop path was pretty exciting at times, wind and spray were constant and there was so much noise we had to shout at each other to be heard.
It was glorious.

The red rock, the leaden skies. Looking back from here and now, we might as well be on Mars.

Run Deep

Still just playing at home. But that’s okay.

Covid was started in mystery, spread by ignorance and now perpetuated by stupidity.
I’m not playing a part of that last phase and staying off of outdoor social media helps me keep my cool as dumb bastards gad about the countryside regardless because “we’ll be fine, and we don’t have the virus anyway”.
Aye, until they slip and mountain rescue comes out, the police come out, then people are out of place without choice and that’s when there’s unnecessary contact and the associated risk.
If you have kids at school or you’ve been to any shop in the last ten days you’re an infection risk and should just suck it up and stay home.
If folk had wore masks, washing their hands and not been arseholes nine months ago we wouldn’t be where we are now. Makes me mad.

Still, just playing at home isn’t too bad. West coast skies are the best, and it’s cold now, dark so early too.

It’s getting popular here, cameras and drones are here most nights when I had the place to myself a year ago. How did folk not know all this stuff was here already, that every setting sun was a potential breath taker? 2020, it’s changed so much.

I had to run down the waters edge waiting for the floating balls to line up just right. I was so pleased when I caught it and I did a wee Whoop. I got looks from the proper photographers. So many humourless bastards out there.

The mist never really formed properly, it stayed just a haze and the lighting was subtle. You don’t always need the fireworks though, I liked the quiet mystery of it, the softness and the calm.

I like this phone, the Xperia 5 II camera does okay in low light. It doesn’t bear up on laptop screen size, but blog size smooths it out just nice.

Aye, still just playing at home.

And Baby Makes Three

Perhaps not a classic sea of cloud vista, but the possibility of just that had me diverting to the crags on my way somewhere else.
I wasn’t disappointed at all, it was cool with bright blue skies and some of last week’s snow still lingering here and there.

It was frozen underfoot too and I had a well worn pair of old Keens on, now entirely gripless but very comfy. There was frequent unexpected, speedy and barely controlled lateral and horizontal movement throughout the journey.

I met a couple on the crag edge who had often wondered how to get up here having seen the silhouettes of the few stravaigers who take the high road to avoid the increasingly busy trails below.
When they asked about it, I tried to explain how to get down from various points in the direction they were heading and of the three options I would usually take myself, two were steep, frozen and a long roll to the bottom and the other one was about three miles extra walking. I think they went back the way they had came after I was out of sight.
Which was a long wait with that jumper I was wearing.

Met a crumbo* of runners doing a route I used to run on the early pages of this place, up The Slacks from Old Kilpatrick, round Loch Humphrey, down through the crags and along the cycle track to the start. Every version of this is 20km± and it’s a lot of fun, what a glorious day for it.

Then I sat in a frozen church hall for two hours waiting for an inspector. I think that’s what they call paying the piper.

*That’s the imperial measurement of a group of three runners.

A Tale of Two Donuts

I had taken some time out. A niggle in a tooth early in lockdown had turned into pulsating agony from the top of my head to my neck. I was advised to take painkillers until my emergency appointment, over two weeks later.
I was close to a bottle of whisky and pliers. I have never know the like of this, and I’ve been blown up and set on fire in my career.

Then suddenly five days before my appointment, the pain ebbed away overnight. Oh aye, we were heading out while the sun shone and I was smiling.

No looking at council borders, no counting five miles on the map, just turn a corner and we were there. A different goal in mind, for all the time we’ve been up here together, we’d never climbed Donut Hill.
Low winter afternoon sun, a chill wind and a joy in our steps. And a flask full of Kenco 3in1.

It’s scary muddy on the main, so many folk are coming up the crags now. Lockdown has brought people outdoors somewhat paradoxically.
I don’t know quite how to process that, folk should be out there seeing what I’ve spent my life being enriched by, but ffs, is basic stuff like not dropping litter or leaving shitty hankies by the track not something you learn in a city, do you have to be told not to down in the outdoors?

My eternal love/hate relationship with humanity has entered a critical phase of negotiation.

Wind stinging our cheeks the wee summit was an island of joy.
The views from here more than you paid for, the loch stretches north to the oh so familiar tops I increasingly long for.
But this grassy lump isn’t second best, it’s not just enough, it’s glorious. Smiles, cuppas and cake before a descent where arse touched mud on more that one occasion.
Aye, that path is ruined. So much dried red mud in the porch now.

Four days, still nearly pain free. I looked across the rover at the Hill of Stake, there was snow, quite even looking snow too.

Of course I was going.

The arrow points to adventure after all…

The sky was so blue, eyewateringly so in fact. But it wasn’t clear, snow clouds moved across the plateau and caught the wee tops and the ridges bring an atmosphere that takes the crags into another level.

I love it when it’s like this, it does feel wild, it’s instant accessible winter mountain fun and it’s round the corner. Rarely have I been so pleased to be trapped in West Dunbartonshire.

I never went to Donut again, I took a right onto the edge of the crags as it disappeared under the cloud again. Only the fence reminds you that you’re almost urban exploring.

A few conifers cling onto the crag edge. They’re a few feet inside the Woodland Trust border so they survived the onslaught of the Forestry Commission on the other side of the fence. Christmas tree, ooh Christmas tree.

I lingered, the pace was slow and the level of joy remained high. Linda should have been here I think, that would have book ended our week just nice.

I write this after the first dental work installment. There will be more to come on that.

But how so I know this wee corner of the world is for me? Because it smiles at me. And you.

 

 

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.