War of the Worlds. Again.

Holly has a problem. Every time she discovers a new “thing”, like fossils, pirates, Victorian dresses, Alice Cooper or whatever, we like miracle workers say “Oh, hand on a minute…” and after some rummaging appear with a selection of items relevant to her new and sometimes fleeting interest.
And there’s Holly’s problem, she’s just like us. Doomed to life of finding interest in almost everything and the inescapable urge to know more about whatever it is.
Awesome.

So we’re driving in the £100 Ka and fishing out a tape to play I found sides 3 and 4 of Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds on an old TDK C90. Some guitar, some synth, some disco, some rock, flood of melody and then Richard Burton. Holly was captured. We listened through the tape twice.
What about the Martians? What happened to Carrie? What’s wrong with the man’s digging? Did this happen a long time ago? When I told her she still had the first half to listen to I thought she was going to explode.

So, rummaging back at base I found the DVD of the 2006 live show we saw in Glasgow which was fantastic, Chris Spedding, Herbie Flowers and a Martian fighting machine on stage? Yes please. She sat transfixed by the DVD before examining in great detail the ’78 album and it’s wonderful book with all the iconic paintings. Then there were drawings and more questions.
At the back of my mind an email was ringing bells, so a wee search found the head’s-up for the latest and apparently final live tour. Next week in the Glasgow Hydro.

The question was popped “What do you want for this year’s pantomime? You can have Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, that ballet thing your mum mentioned or War of the Worlds…”
Granny, grandpa, mummy, the girl and me will be in the nosebleed seats at the Hydro next week. Merry Christmas and Ulla!

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7 and 7 Is

Perfect day for the hills. Unfortunately the scratchy throat of Friday turned into lethargic snuffles on Saturday which needed fed by a large curry and a tub of Ben & Jerry’s and a bottle of red wine. What can I say, the girls are away visiting this weekend and I turn into a lone male cliche when they do that.

So while Sunday felt better it started awfy late and I enjoyed the peaks I could see from the window just fine as I worked my way through a backlog of stuff recorded on the V+ box.
Ah well.

However, the end of the day was worth all the potential I wasted. Since I started this bog, which was just over seven years ago and I totally missed marking the anniversary, I’ve always posted the view out the living room windae and it’s something I’ve missed out for too long. I think this makes up for it.

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Remembering

None of us can really remember where this day of remembrance started, they’re all gone now. But I wish we would learn from their experiences, their stories and their losses.

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Woo Who!

I’ve really enjoyed watching Peter Capaldi making the role of the doctor his own. He’s more like the Doctors of my childhood, unpredicable, odd, alien.
I thought Matt Smith was going the same way but they pushed him into a much softer portrayal, all zany waving arms instead of using the mad steely eyes he started out with.

The Master is now a burd which is brilliant, she knew that painful to watch kiss she gave the Doctor would mess with his head even more when he realised who she really was, and that is just what kind of mind games the Master of the old days would have played.
Doctor Who feels like it’s gone full circle, darker and stranger and as much as I’ve enjoyed it since it came back, this current series (even with its faults) has made me realise what I’d been missing.
Magic.

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Woo!

It’s Halloween and of course Holly is at ramming speed levels of madness. The table was set for Halloween dinner last night and we we warned not to touch it.

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And her dressing up? A Victorian ghost. With shades of Alice Cooper. Awesome.

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Black September

I don’t want to talk about it anymore, but I have to mark the moment here so that years from now when I look back through these pages I’ll know where that lingering feeling started.

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US TOUR ’78

It seems like that was when I last wrote a post. Don’t even know where to begin, so much has been happening.
Most importantly, my band TwoMetresDeep are playing the Glasgow ABC this Friday. I’m going, so should you.

Once that’s done, on with other stuff. I’m scared of it to be honest, too big, gear, mountains, environmental disaster, nudity, guitars, the news of being the new gear editor at WalkHighlands.
It’ll be good to be back.

In the meantime, don’y worry, he’s been watching all the time.

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The Munro Show

Other than the many companions I’ve spent time with in the hills only two people have ever inspired or engaged me when talking about the Scottish Mountains*, one is Tom Weir and the other is Muriel Gray.

I’ve spoken about Tom Weir many times, his books and Weir’s Way TV show are an endless source of joy to me and while Muriel Gray’s contribution to my bubble of mountain consciousness is a smaller body of work it is no less important. It’s also suddenly to the front of my mind with the new 2 x DVD set of the complete Munro Show series from the early 90s which is currently playing on my telly having arrived today ( it pays to pre-order).

I’ve always been outdoors. I was bivying under tree branches and brushing mountain snow off my nylon cagoule in the 70s, but it wasn’t until the mid 80s I really thought about mountains as goals to achieve and it was the early 90s before climbing Munros as a collection seemed like a good idea. That’s when the Munro Show came along.

I’ve always had the VHS tapes and later the DVD releases but they only had a small edited selection from the show so there’s a huge amount of material I haven’t seen for 20 odd years. I’ve watched a few episodes already and it’s an absolute joy which the passage of time and accumulation of experience hasn’t diminished but instead enhanced.
There’s few footsteps she makes that I can’t recall making myself now but there’s a pleasantly tangible reality to it, no filtering, no overly arty framing, the mountains look real in it, I could be standing right there beside her despite the cheap STV video tape it was made on.

The music is of its age and Sorley MacLean is timeless but I love them both. The issues discussed are both historic and relevant, erosion is worse than ever but the No Access signs are gone (mostly and/or forever?). Mountain biking has been the saving of many hill or forest areas and the midges are still clouds of ravenous misery.
So while some of the points of discussion are as historic as the fashions on display, the hills and the words about them from Muriel are timeless. She has a cheeky irreverence which is the perfect contrast to the weighty, sincere, ponderous. thesaurus-fueled prose which did my head in back then just as much as it did now. Smile people, you’re on a mountain.

Outdoor media has changed out of all recognition since The Munro Show was on, readers and viewers are scattered and mobile which makes this old show almost perfect. It’s a snapshot of time, presented as a complete chunk of fun and inspiration that won’t lose readers, have to chase advertising revenue or constantly have to recycle or repeat itself.
Just like Tom Weirs work in fact and that’s why it’s just as important to me.
Plus, it takes me back to when there were still some places I hadn’t been, summits I hadn’t seen and things were a lot bloody simpler.

It’s a joy, buy it. The book too, it fills in some background to the show as well as plenty other good stories.

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*I reserve the right to add other sources of joy as they come to mind, Scotland’s Mountains Before the Mountaineers by
Ian R. Mitchell being the obvious one. But modern guidebooks? Don’t start me on that.

Legend of the Jellyfish

Just back from a cracking wee trip where we were enraged by environmental vandalism, eaten by many many flying and crawling insects, had some quality hill time and slept in very clever lightweight sleeping bags that will get launched in Friedrichshafen in a couple of weeks.

Plenty to talk about, so I’ll start with the Legend of the Jellyfish. The Jellyfish was originally a real fish, but with legs, and this is truncated as much as possible, it was tricked by the dragon king in going to the jungle to bring back a monkey so that the dragon queen could eat its liver because she was “sad”.
The monkey wasn’t daft, it got out of the deal and the Jellyfish went home monkeyless. The dragon king was raging and ordered his men to beat the Jelly fish and break every bone in his body, which they did.
The Jellyfish was horribly mutilated, right down to DNA level and that’s where the present jellyfish come from. They gloss over the whole initial breeding partner bit.
The good news was that the dragon queen was much amused by all this and felt much better.

This is from one of my fairytale books which we found at my folks and now terrify Holly with. The tone of the stories are a little different to current versions, possibly due to being written by someone fresh back from a tour in ‘Nam.
The illustrations are brilliant and fit the publishing date of 1969 very well. The whole thing makes current kids stuff look like the beige adventure it really is.

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People in glass houses

My working day takes me to a lot of old buildings of which many are churches. They’re probably my favourite places to work, quiet, mostly empty and with kitchens full of tea bags and biscuits.
They’re also lovely places to look at, even the post war concrete horrors have their charms because of their quirky designs and all the older elements that creep into them, from a beaten up piano or a carved chair taken from the old demolished or bombed-out original. War is never far from a church.

One of my favourite elements are the windows, stained glass is a wonderful art form and one that still survives. If you think of modern stained glass you might think of the angular, simplified designs that often just seem to be coloured patterns rather than a depiction of a story or an event. That’s down to style and cost, not a lack of talent or that the medium is a lost art.
I’ve seen 40 foot high impossibly intricate 150 year old windows removed to be taken apart and rebuilt with new lead as big windows collapse and stretch over time. clever stuff and very expensive to do.

The glass is indeed stained but it’s painted too and getting up close reveals the details. No doubt the bible-aware will know what it all means but to the neutral observer it’s just a joy to look at. Earnest faces, fantastic creatures and landscapes to inspire, reassure and no doubt remind customers of why they’re there.

This last one earns and  extra grin for the viewer. It has to be the campest walk I’ve ever seen as the figure cuts across the Italian countryside themed fashion show catwalk displaying the next season’s velvet creation for the flamboyant man about town.

 

Taxi

CBS Action have been rerunning Taxi, the classic US sitcom that ran from ’78 to ’83. I’ve been taping the whole lot and watching episodes when I can and while I’m always a bit retro-minded, this has been carrying some unexpected extra resonance.

It’s a brilliant show. The old-school presentation might look dated to younger eyes but beyond that are performances that got better show by show, or in the case of Jeff Conaway his performance became almost bearable. The writing also got better although there was often a misogynistic tone which doesn’t sit so well with the older me, but Elaine Nardo and any other female characters were strongly written and performed, so maybe it’s something of the flavour of the age that rising to the surface.

There’s three standout turns. The first comes from Danny DeVito who makes the cartoon garage adversary Louie De Palma both the meanest and funniest thing in the room. You can tell he relishes playing the character, the energy is high and he can overplay as hard as he wants and it doesn’t matter as he stays in character. He gets all the best lines and it’s a work of genius.

DeVito plays off Andy Kaufman’s foreign mechanic Latka Gravas all the time and the two of them can be seen just holding it together many scenes as they trade lines with each other.
Kaufman’s funny voice and gibberish language should probably grate but they don’t and his character is allowed to progress so the comedy evolves. In the Man in The Moon bio-pic Kaufman was make to look like he hated Taxi but the showrunners recently came out and said that he was issue free and quite happy. Truth is never so interesting as legend is it?

Christopher Lloyd played Reverend Jim ‘Iggy’ Ignatowski as a one-off in season one and was a such a hit they worked him back in as a regular in season two where he steals second place in the best lines competition. The character quickly finds its groove and you wonder how the show worked without it. He’s remembered as the acid casualty with the wacky answers but he also had the heart of the show, often deeper emotional story content was often given to him to deal with as the rest of the cast didn’t have the depth or believability to carry it and show lead Judd Hirsch as Alex Rieger always had the middle ground to hold.

I haven’t seen the show for 30 years but it’s making me laugh again today, some episodes don’t stand so well because of the passage of time and change of attitudes up but most do and it’s a joy to see it again. It’s odd as well though, I can remember every episode like it was yesterday and kinda know what’s coming. I watched Taxi at my grandparents every week during its first run and it’s taking me back there to the younger me, the sounds, the faces and so much more.
The music, Angela by Bob James which is always on my iPod, is gentle jazz, a little melancholy in places and uplifting in others and the credit sequence of the never ending bridge crossing can be seen as a clever bit of editing to fill in the time they needed to run the title or as an allegory of the journey of life.
It was actually the first thing therein reality, but what the hell.

I like when I rediscover things from my past and they neither disappoint nor embarrass. It means that while maybe I’ve never been going in the right direction, I’ve been going in my direction and I went to the right places along the way.

Ibi da indeed.

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Charley Pride: The Country Way

Was out on another bat survey at the Lang Craigs with fellow ranger Jo. The summer nights mean a late start to try and get some darkness around us so it was about half ten before we started to look for any bats. I say look for bats, I mean stand still and wait for bat voices to pop up on the batatron.
Happy to be at 1000ft under clear skies as you might imagine but the warm windless night soon brought with it the ultimate horror – clouds of ravenous midges. And bastard clegs.

I got eaten alive. My ring finger got multiple bites and it swelled so much back at home it started to turn purple and I had to get my wedding ring off sharpish. That wasn’t easy to do and it now feels bloody strange not wearing it, it’s a part of me and a reminder that I was very lucky 14 years ago.

Bats were found and it was a lovely night to be out with good banter to keep me the right side of insane. The crags looked great under the low sun and the sky was fine and colourful. We also saw one of the deer that’s been eating the new tress and all I had to shoot with was my old camera.
I took lots of photies, mostly on random settings as I stood on the edge of midge induced panic until we finished up at half one under a full moon. Didn’t even know there was a black and white setting on the wee wheel. Nice.

Nice to play at home.

 

The possibility of unperceived existence

If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound? Well Montague in the white vest thinks she head something but since she didn’t see it she’s not sure what to make of it.
Giles didn’t hear a thing, she’s too busy trying to identify the species of ladyburd she’s found on the bracken. There’s no use peering at like that, wear your glasses, there’s no shame it. It happens to the best of us.

Anyway. I’ll take pointless philosophy by it’s smug sideburns and plant some trees in this recently unfrequented vitual forest of random nonsense. After lunch.

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Less is also less. More or less.

It’s been busy one way or another. Where the hell have the last two weeks gone? Some of it was in Glen Affric which was, well, hurried. But I’ll get to that soon. We had an epic day at the Lang Craigs with the final community tree planting day and two family members in hospital. One of whom is still there with a new knee having been applied.

Maybe it’s age that makes time slip away from me, maybe it’s just piss poor application to the tasks in hand.
Still, I’d rather be confused than running under capacity.

This was the first face I saw at work today. Can’t beat a Monday morning smile.

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Ping!

Timing is everything. The sun was shining all through easter and I wasn’t anywhere near being able to take advantage of it which was a bit frustrating given the nice places I have to be going.
But going out to play ’round the back kept me in a good mood. I’m getting used to the old camera again, it feels a bit clunky and it’s way more contrasty than its replacement at the same settings, but I’m happy enough for now.

That’s Jo my fellow ranger below. We did a bit of extra exploring, the Lang Craigs is only a wee part of the Kilpatricks and it’s good to see it in context with a bit of height and distance. We also saw and heard bats, yes heard, via the magical powers of a bat detector which picks up their wee voices and can be used to unnerve the wary and terrify the nervous.

The other good news is that the weather means I’m back in an outdoor shirt rather than a baselayer. Happy, and more on that at some point.