Klaus

“Mum’s getting me a guinea pig!” That’s nice I thought to myself, Holly gets all the fun of a pet and as it’s at Joycee’s I won’t have to feed it, clean it or wheeze and itch as it sets off my allergies.

Now I’m not sure quite what happened next, I was busy doing other stuff and maybe not listening or whatever but the next thing I know I’m bringing a giant cage in the front door and trying to keep a shaky guinea pig in a cardboard box calm.

Holly is pleased obviously, and as much as I try to suppress it I was immediately melted by the cute hairy quirkiness of the little guy.
There was some quick research, some shopping and the only place we could put him right now was in the living room, so he’s immediately part of the family.

Aye, there’s inconvenience, but there is also joy. But the question still remains, how the hell did I come to have a guinea pig?
I really have no idea how this happened and I feel he needs a friend despite his two years (I believe) of solo living. Well, if he proves healthy and happy, we’ll sort that out.

But for now, welcome Klaus.

Frisky Wharf

If Bowling Harbour was in the USA there would be a kiosk selling guides and bumper stickers saying “I’ve been to Ghost Harbour”.

Originally the naturally formed shelter of Bowling Bay and visited by Glasgow’s tobacco lords and slave traders to get away from the city smoke it was built into an industrial hub which ran until the 60’s. Its in a unique position where the canal, two major railways, the main west coast roads and the River Clyde met on the north side of the river, close to the firth.

I saw a lot of the physical remains of this when I was young but the years have softened the edges from the abandoned to the archaeological and vandals have removed far more than the passage of time would have done alone.
Where I saw ships launched and heard sheds ringing with hammers there’s now expanses of flat concrete erupting with trees, smooth stone walls are split and tumbling into the river, metal shapes hacked away and stunted give few clues to what the once supported.

Yet I find it beautiful. The decay, the melancholy, the whole place bursts with memories and as quiet as it is when I sit out there with my camera waiting on the sun to set I can easily imagine the shouts, the idling engines of ships, the steam whistles, the laughter, the whole harbour full of life.

Frisky Wharf is the wooden pier now twisted and collapsing into the river. It used to have railway sidings carrying goods to the waterline and back and ships could dock there.
Now a single step onto it’s once mighty timbers would be a gamble with your life.

The swans don’t care. It did care when I was creeping up on it though, I found reverse quick enough. A swan can break your arm apparently. I think it would have to peck at it for long time. A very long time.

Listen to the money (Tales from the Toolbox #1)

With the approval of the Hydro schemes in Glen Etive this week there has much talk of backhanders, brown envelopes and bribes heading towards Highland Council members.

This is largely due to frustration and disbelief, folks just can’t believe that someone would approve these horrendous schemes so they look for the reasons why and self interest in the people responsible is usually top of the hit list.

The real answer is more complex. A lot of folk don’t care about the landscape in the way that we do as it’s a barrier to business and progress, so there is a financial element, but a more transparent one.

There’ll be an element of “don’t tell us what to do”, central belt internet warriors interfering in things they don’t understand being put in their place.

Lack of vision, lack of empathy, lack of care and disregard of the future all play a part, how many people have you met who care nothing for the world beyond the limits of their own bubble of personal interest.

It’s part of why we are where we are on a global scale. Stepping sideways and seeing things from someone else’s perspective is a rare and vital skill and brings with it an ability to see problems while they’re a possibility and before they become a reality.

People, you can’t live with them, and you can’t live… with them?

In saying all that, I’ve been asked for backhanders many times in my business life.

Some were casual inquiries, almost testing my commitment as a prospective contractor, some were exactly the seedy interactions that folks imagine.
I remember one in particular in a cafe with a local authority clerk of works who told me what the other contractor had offered him personally for the works under discussion and could I better it. I laughed in his face.
Had a similar proposal from another local authority figure, but probably most disappointingly was the “How much is it worth?” to get a contract from someone in a major learning institution in Glasgow.

There’s been plenty of that in more minor ways over the years along with abuses of position, pushing of luck and taking of liberties. Business really does run like your worst fears suspect it does and if you step over the line into the cesspit you’ll never get back out.

Blah blah blah moral high ground? It’s all very well but it’s also probably why I’m skint.

This has got me thinking though. 35 years of tales from the tool box? Aye, time I got that stuff down on here.

Munro #256

Been a lot of talk online and in the regular media about this being the 100th anniversary of Hugh Munro’s death and I’d just like to say: Good lad, thanks for the list that got us all started.
If it would have been today he was doing his list he’d have been a YouTuber and I’d have thought he was a dick, so I’m glad it happened the way it did.

I’d also like to make it official on this auspicious day, Beinn Narnain is my favourite Munro.
It’s a wee rugged hill that in turns over the years has welcomed me and fought me, has brought me joy and tears and has more memories of good times and friends hidden in it’s rocky flanks than any other hill I’ll ever climb.
I love it dearly and I will always return there until I can’t.

It’s maybe an odd photie choice, it gives nothing away and that’s very fitting. You have to go there, get up close, get off the path and find it for yourself.
That’s what Munro did and that’s why his list shouldn’t be a means to an end, something to tick. It should be a catalyst, an inspiration to explore.

The week that wis

Funny sort of a week the last week, vague plans and missed chances and unexpected calls meant lots of little things but not a lot of big things.

Did fill my phone with photies though.

Me and the girl had a run up the crags when I picked her up from school. No gear, we just went.

I got asked if my Montane beanie was a Rangers beanie. As odd as it may seem for someone growing up in west central Scotland I have never been to or actually had any desire to go to a football match. I just don’t get that stuff.

I also think that being completely out of that world has helped Holly stay clear of the dark side of fitba that thrives where we live, where unbelievably in the 21st Century, sectarianism is still an undercurrent in daily life.
One of the things that makes me most proud as she grows up and looks out into the world is she takes everyone she meets on an individual basis, no preconceptions based on the factors that shape bias be it religion, colour, dress code, gender or anything else that trends/offends/delights on Twitter.
She’s had a life full of meeting every different kind of person you’re likely to find, so to Holly you’re either a good guy or a wank. Awesome.

It was cold and we ran back down, is that a ghost in the woods? It wasn’t there when we looked again.

I’ll need to keep going back to check. Every couple of days. Because I do that anyway.

At my folks my Maw said “Look what I got…” and placed down two biscuits (I know, two biscuits, the joys of being an only child, aged 50) beside my cuppa.
In those wrappers I think we might see the start of a life long obsession forming in the hands of a skinny child eating these behind a chair in the 70’s.

Wasn’t the rucksacks after all.

The harbour looked nice on a couple of nights, not glorious like we had a couple of weeks ago, but definitely nice enough to go down and soak it in.
The lack of wild skies had me looking down at the details, the lichen on the breakwater almost looked luminescent in the sunset and skipping over the broken rocks was breathy fun in the wrong shoes and tighter than practical jeans. That’s a diet thing, not a fashion thing.

The treeline by the old Esso depot lined up amusingly with the collapsing pier to give the trees a fat ankles look.
So many birds down here, singing as well as skipping around the mud pecking for snacks. Nature is just so bloody close if you look for it.

It’s a Buff rip off, but it’s got my name on it so I had to have it. It’s a little stiffer than a regular weight Buff so feels a little tighter and it’s definitely more wind resistant. Early days, maybe do a write up later on. Although it’ll likely just be that previous sentence reformatted.

Me and the Girl again. This time with hot cuppas in the truck waiting for a gap in the sleet to run about the banks of Loch Lomond.

The snow is back in force, the hills bared their ridges a few times and looked impressive and alluring. We had other stuff to worry about though, playing Umbrella Academy “Guess Who” for starters, we’ll say it ended in a draw.

My life is full of metal, above is the not so fun kind. Two 80s or older ring pulls from long forgotten cans being washed around the shore with the pebbles.
These kinds of cans completely went out of use in the UK in 1989 and these look new. It’s not just plastic we have to worry about, it’s everything, we’re making such a mess of this place.

More metal was this potential murder weapon we found badly hidden in the woodland. Given our latest obsession of Brooklyn 99 Holly wanted to call Jake Peralta but I wanted to explore the possibilities of the macabre because of where we found it and call Sapphire and Steel. We were still arguing over it when we were back in the truck where we sent Taggart a text as a compromise.

Glasgow School of Art have been back up the Lang Craigs and there is wackiness to discover. Before the wind removes it.

The bookends of this post are our toaster. We were having toast, I was making tea and tuning out a little bit waiting for the clunk – schiinnggg that would herald the arrival of the toast.
Instead of that the toaster went on fire. Not just a smoky thing, a big flames coming out of it fire. Hmm I said as Holly whooped in a mixture of panic and amusement. I reached over, switched it off and pulled the plug out. I then threw a damp dish towel over it, because I wanted to look authoritative and knowledgeable in front of Holly. It was only when the dish towel went of fire that I picked the toaster up and ran outside with it where it could burn quite happily.

At this point it all settled down and I peered inside. Big chunk in there, charcoaly something, croissant maybe? That with all the crumbs, it was long over due to ignite.
Next morning I had another look. I shook it out, brushed it gently, it soon looked nice and clean.

That night I pushed the lever down and we stood and watched it together, waiting for… something? No fire, no popping fuse, just toast.
Yay, but mildly disappointing as well.

Toast as a metaphor for life.

Medical Assurance

I had a lot to do but at the back of my mind the whole week was that I couldn’t find my wee medical kit.
I have had it on every single trip I’ve done in maybe 15 years and I actually felt a wee undercurrent of panic in case I’d left it on Beinn Narnain when I stuck a bit of Spenco Adhesive Knit on my heel when it felt like I was getting a hotspot because I was in stiffer boots that normal.

I found it today, it was in my food bag where I keep my drinks sachets and snack bars etc. It was a proper sit down, breathe out slowly moment. A genuine relief.

Of course, the only thing that’s original is the little yellow bag it came in, it is/was an Adventure Medical Kits Ultralight .3.
But, until I thought I’d lost it I didn’t realise that the little yellow bag wasn’t just a quiet, constant rucksack lid passenger, it’s a full part of the team, it’s bore witness and it’s often been the star.

I took out tape and painkillers in Glen Falloch after midnight when I burst my feet walking the West Highland Way over a weekend, I’ve taped up friends feet many times too.
I’ve had indigestion tablets when camp food was fighting my stomach, a signal mirror when a sprig of heather got in my eye in the tent, I had Sudocrem in a tiny tub when a hot summer trek had me chaffed in the sunshine outside the tent at 1000m.
I’ve had scissors and dental floss when having neither would have made my life a little less fun until I got home.

Its a bag refilled by experience looking at its mostly in-date contents, but it’s a bag of memories looking at the outside.

Ha, I wonder how many miles it’s got on it.

Hazy Shade of Winter

No story here at all. I knew it was coming and I knew I wanted to catch it again.

I drove over the Erskine Bridge, whipped around the roundabouts on the south side and came straight back over to park at the top of Lusset Glen and hike up the walkway on the west side to catch the sun as it went down.

I forgot it’s still winter though, this bloody weather threw me. In summer the sun goes down over by the firth, right now, my lens is just wide enough to catch it and the scenery with my hands stretched through the big fence.

Still, it was gorgeous. Well, that’s not much of a story.

Next up something pale or light blue, this place is just a ticker tape of black and orange just now.

 

Wee piece of peace

It had been a glorious day and I was determined to get up the crags for tea time, catch the breeze, point the camera westwards, sit on my arse for a bit and take it all in.
However as the afternoon wore on the haze thickened, it grew dull and my enthusiasm waned dramatically.

I sat at my folks house having picked up Holly from school and we thought about what to do that evening as we’d just finished the brilliant Umbrella Academy on Netflix and we were feeling bereft.

Ah it’ll be a long year til season 2.

I was antsy anyway, there had been an arsehole in a white SUV parked like a prick outside the school who also wanted to reverse over me, Holly and some other kids, stopped only by my fist on his window.

The pre-fatherhood me was dragging him out of his seat onto the road but the current me gritted his teeth, went home and failed to get through to the local police on the phone multiple times.

The school is brilliant, awesome, amazing and at their wits end with dumb bastards in vehicles at home time. So they tell us to phone the local polis in the hopes that they’ll sent officers around at home time. We shall see how this progresses.

Through my own internal fog I caught something out of the window, a gable end along the road bright with the rays of a sun near the horizon. I ran to the window and whooped out loud. I’m away I shouted, grabbed the camera, pulled on my boots and legged it for the truck.

I parked up at the harbour and it was just awseome. The sky was stirring itself up, the sun was burning through the murk, the water was calm and the air was cooling.

I spent exactly an hour running up and down the crumbling harbour walls grinning and taking photies, sitting and watching and always listening too, so much birdsong.

This all brought me back to where I needed to be, I knew it would from the moment I saw that patch of light. You can’t underestimate the power of nature, our environment, the world out there and just being in it for a wee while.

Ships that pass

Oh for crying out loud.

I saw it too late, I fumbled with the settings, I leaned out of the windae, and that’s what I got.

A huge lightless freighter steaming under cover of darkness, guided by two tugs, slithering up the river like a silent dinosaur.

Awesome.

Nearly.

Tomorrow Belongs to Me

 

(Helps to know the tune)

The sun on the coire is wintry and low.
The stag in the forest makes a nice photie.
But gather together to read MWIS.
Tomorrow belongs to me.

The branch of the Scot’s Pine is spiky and green,
The loch rushes cold to the sea.
But somewhere a trig point awaits unseen.
Tomorrow belongs to me.

Now Forecast, Forecast, show us the sign
Your subscribers have waited to see
The morning will come
When the mountains are mine
Tomorrow belongs to me

The Pacifier

Petesy heard a creak, a splash and what could have been a muffled cry somewhere behind him.

“Holly, did you hear that?” he called as he blinked into the low winter sun.

There was no reply, but he got on with lining up that important selfie anyway.

Beach bum

I have got into the habit of sticking a camera in the truck most days and it’s good in that I can take photies, but bad in that I take photies when I should be doing something else.
I’ll live with it for the time being, the sun comes up at the perfect time around the school run which won’t last, so what the hell.

I love this spot by the river, the light, the birds, the water and currently the fact that everything is frozen solid, from the sand to the seaweed.
What a place to watch the sun rise.

The tide was coming in, the river every so gently flowing into the frozen depressions in the sand, circling the rocks and creeping up the blades of the seaweed melting the frost and turning them from sparkling white to glossy green. It was like watching a timelapse film, silent and hypnotic.

Retreating from the water towards breakfast there’s still things to see and I wander through the frozen trees like a schoolkid on a daytrip to the museum, swinging arms and head to the sky.

After all the stress and turmoil of the past few years I’m increasingly finding more of the me that I remember.
And, holding onto it.

Harbouring a secret

As much as I like running up the hills when I run out of things to do/abandon my responsibilities I couldn’t be arsed going home and getting changed this afternoon, so it was either cotton polo shirt versus the snowy crags or a wander down the harbour.

I made the right choice, bloody hell it was cold.

Maybe not the grandest of skies, but worth viewing and soaking in. The wrecks looked lovely in the fading light too, one side dark and frosty, the sunny side warm and orange until the sun hit the wrong side of the horizon.

A few other folk were out taking it in too. I love that, it gives me hope when folk just enjoy the world for no reason other that it’s awesome.

I went back to my folks for home made steak pie. This ended up being a good day.

Stay on target

I am sitting in front of the laptop looking at numbers that make no sense, shuffling through paperwork with my name on it that doesn’t look familiar.

The good part of that is that I have a desk of sorts again and the laptop is on it rather than in a bag all the time or on my er, lap.

However, I have a friend right now constantly sending me photies from the Lang Craigs and it looks exactly like it does above and below.
The top one is the first photie I ever posted on the blog. Aw.

Typing and counting like a bastard now, I will get there today.

Haglöfs Winter 2019/20 Preview Part #2

I’m quoting this important information from part #1
Now, the lighting in the new shed is horrible, so we have bunch of out of focus and oddly coloured photies coming up. 
My co-stars Gus and MT have never looked quite so strange.

Even when I had proper hair I loved hats. In good weather, a cap is likely, in the cold I put a beanie on as soon as I get out from under the duvet. Above looks like the accessory dumping area at my front door.

We have an interesting selection here in a bunch of different and blended materials and styles from “brilliant for the hills” to “look at my logo”.
Some come in different sizes, some are one size fits all. Amazingly my planet sized head fits in those just fine. It’s a miracle, it’s miracle.

Above MT has the Stipe Beanie in 50/50 merino/acrylic and I’ve got the Lava in the same mix. Chunky, yes please.
Below are Whooly Beanies in a polyester, nylon and recycled wool* blend. Now, I picked that because of the colour but now I read the workbook and see the materials this might actually be a cracker for the hills because of that mix. Close fit too, good for under a shell hood.

They have a Lowe Alpine Mountain Cap, ear flaps, brim, waterproof and fleece lined but the photies of it were too bad even for here. I’m sorry for this, because it’s a good take on the classic format. I’ll go to the kitchen for a while, put the kettle on and think about what I’ve done.

*I’m back with a coffee and have moved on from the cap remorse, what I’m wondering about now is the recycled wool. Where does it come from? Is is the tufts recovered from fences that we all know so well? Old jumpers from charity shops? WW2 army blankets? I should have asked, I’ll be up all night worrying about it.

Which is a proper point isn’t it, we’re so used to seeing “recycled” now, we really should be asking from what and where from.

For a while it looked like Haglöfs couldn’t be arsed with gloves which was frustrating because they had made some of the best gloves I’ve ever used.
The Helix winter gloves, insulated and mostly leather and the genius Paclite mitts are two of my favourites which are still in use, had them both out this week.

These new models are all out around September this year and there’s a chance I’ll get the names wrong as it’s a bunch of black gloves and the tiny workbook pictures aren’t helping at all.

Above and below are the Nengal Gloves. Leather, Gore-Tex, stretch nylon, QuadFusion insulation, velcro wrist, microfleece liner, it’s the replacement the  grym glove, but it kinda feels like a new Helix to me.
The fit and feel are excellent, the materials should make them durable and the dexterity was good with the precurving and outseam construction. Love them.

Niva Glove and Mitten above and below. Ski they say, mountain I say, the reinforcing works for axes and poles whatever your feet are attached to.
Leather, nylon faced Proof waterproof shell, microfleece lining, wrist adjusters and long cuffs.

Great fit, good dexterity, room for a liner for me so a good “system” component glove.

That’s the Touring Glove below. FlexAble soft shell, leather palm, microfleece backer.
Same excellent fit and dexterity and lightweight. It’s a go-to general use glove, much improved of the last version of this format they had.
Can’t remember the name, but the internal seams were huge and the fit helped suck the heat out of my fingers. It looks like the downtime away from making gloves was spent with their thinking caps on.

Oh. My. God.

This is the Bow Glove in Gore-Tex Infinium. Close fitting, soft, completely dexterous, warm, windproof and I want them.
I’ve always loved Powerstretch gloves and the Bow’s take all the reasons for that and extend them a little bit.

Haglöfs have got a lot right here in the glove range, the fit and features are excellent, but the colourways have the range looking all very similar unless you’re comparing A to B in your hands, I’d be worried that some the the magic here will slip past the shoppers eye in the ocean of black gloves already out there.

Essen’s Leftover Mimic Moccasins and Mittens.

I carry insulated feet and hands to every camp and can recommend that stuff to anyone. The story here is a good one, the fill is synthetic QuadFusion and the shell is Pertex Quantum off cuts left over from making other stuff.
Practical lightweight kit (65g for a pair of mitts) keeping material out of the bins.

Yes please.

The footwear has changed a lot since I last saw it. The Skuta Mid and Low here have a Proof waterproof inner, that’s the white thing above from the shoe version.
Interesting, I wonder how the durability is compared to a Gore liner, it’s tested to the same standards and used to the same construction standards, just need to rub some of the killer grit/heather fibre mix into it and flex that toe on the trails.
The Mid has mesh where it’ll help breathability with suede elsewhere and synthetic randing on both. It’s all a bit old school looking, I like that.

Nice flex to both, good looking sole units too.

Proof liner and suede again on the Kummel’s above. It’s a jeans compatible outdoor shoe, something which I have grown an appreciation of in recent times.

At the other end of the spectrum we have the Vertigo. The first thing I was expecting was a stupid flat scrambling outsole, but no, it’s got a grippy Vibram unit on there which makes it a proper usable trail shoe.
Nice looking upper, lacing to the toe, flexy suede and a stiffish sole. I wish they didn’t make samples in a UK 8 or I’d have tried this one on.

Proof waterproof liner, 510g for pair of UK8’s.

Above are the Trail Fuse variants, GTX version on the left. 325g for a pair of UK8’s for that one and 290g for the unlined version.

They feel good, flexy, good shape, nice big areas of mesh on the unlined one.

That’s the Gram Trail below, narrower more racy version.

The Grevbo Proof Eco. Suede, Proof liner, fur, fur, fur, synthetic fur!!!!
It’s got a wool footbed too. Sigh.

Haglöfs first ever product was a rucksack and it’s something that gets a little overlooked now in favour of the clothing I think which is a bit of a shame as there’s individuality and some clever thinking in there.
I’ve used a lot of Haglöfs packs over the years, the fit and comfort has always been good which is the deal maker or breaker, beyond that there’s the practical and the quirky, sometime both on the same pack.

The Roc Summit 40 is above, a beefy mountaineering pack and the the Spiri 20 daypack below, a whole kilo lighter at 575g.
I like the Spiri’s layout, good options for storage and attaching gear with webbing and hidden loops. Nice big hip fin pockets.

Below is the Spiri 33. the format is the same as above and Haglöfs expand it across six different capacities, sizes and back lengths. The harness was done at a Uni in Sweden, so it should fit well and have beer can shaped pockets.
The sizing variations are a good idea if a store has them in a line, you can try them on with a climbing rope or a tent in it to see what one fits best.

I mean, we all still do that don’t we, who the hell would buy a rucksack without trying it on first, right?

I like retro and the Torsång above brings me joy. My laptop (dare I say urban as well?) bag for the past few years has been a Haglöfs Vike 25 and this carries on that tradition with smooth lines, metal buckles and leather detailing.

The ShoSho below has some of this old schoolness, it’s based on an original 70’s model so it’s in a more hill friendly format with regular buckles. Both packs have a beefy polyamide fabric, so the looks are just that, they’ll be tough and usable.

These packs are like slices of cucumber on my eyes. The arms race of modern design tires them out, these packs soothe them.
It’s like Formula 1 cars, currently hideous, complicated and efficient and everyone misses the inefficient, sleek, sexy designs of the old days.

Humans, we’re an odd bunch.

A trio of Tight packs below. Haglöfs make a bunch of them, all different sizes, specs and colours including some vintage reissues.
Unassuming and practical, and I love the logo on that first one.

So, what did I learn? Well, I liked some of what I saw a lot and I know there’s more to come because of the work being done just now. In a year’s time the grins will be wide.

Maybe Haglöfs had a crisis of confidence or identity which I think they’ve got over, those little painted wooden horses speak to me more than a generic alpine climber hanging off a rope ever would.

The biggest thing for me though is from the text in the workbook and I touched on it a few times, the environmental aspect. So much of the small print is about the sourcing, manufacturing, recycling and the chemical impact aspects of the gear.
If big business really is taking this on and not just paying it lip service, maybe there’s hope. It’s the only way forward for all of us.

Shake and Bake

It was nice to see some other daft bugger catching the sunrise this morning.

I had the camera in the truck and I shot down to the shore after the school run.
It was cold, the seaweed was frosted but the sun was bright and warm as it rose, peeling off the layer frost as it crept past the deck of the Erskine Bridge.

What a lovely start to the day.