Klaus II

Klaus is gone. Rescue pets are always a risk and whatever happened in his previous life to give him his PTSD and swollen belly caught up with him. It was all very quick, the vet was kind but realistic and a pain relief shot eased him through his last day.
We are heartbroken.

I know it sounds stupid and if was reading it instead of writing it I might roll my eyes, but I really bonded with the wee guy. He knew my voice and he was happy to be handled, I cut his claws without any fuss and he was quite at home, running around the place in the evenings like he was at home. Which he was.

I can’t explain how much having this wee guy helped my head.  We are going to miss him.

Chicken Maryland

 

Maryland is the Lang Craigs area where the fire started before blowing across our fence line and down towards Bonhill where folk started to care about it and post photies online.
The chickens are the ned bastards that started it.

We were lucky, we didn’t lose a lot of trees but we did lose habitat. Just earlier in the day something rare and green was recorded in the charred broom bushes by one of the other rangers (can’t remember the name of it which would have helped with the drama, but I’m the fence guy, what do I know).

I saw the smoke from miles away and ran up with Holly to see what I could do but there were four appliances already there and some very busy firefighters with beaters.
The action had moved west but we still got another engine up beside us just in case.

I came back to survey the damage the next day and the ground was still hot and smoking, the fence line was intact was needed urgent repairs.
Folk were letting their dogs run through the burned areas, oblivious to the yelping of soft paws on hot ashes. Folk, eh.

Disneyland Paris

I hadn’t been abroad for years, hadn’t been on a holiday in years. It came as a great surprise when my folks came home all smiles and excitement “Guess what we’ve booked!”
It was confusion and stress, panic and desperation all through the run up to going but when I got to the airport, I was fine. Better than fine.

The flight was uneventful and an easy first step into the air for Holly.

France was warm and misty as the bus took us the short journey to the Disneyland Hotel where we were greeted by cast not staff in the set of a movie from my childhood and from that moment on, it was pure magic.

Dinner was bizarre, the food was excellent and we had company at every meal. The real deal too, no impostors here. Minnie was lovely, saw her and Mickey a lot. They certainly put in the hours.

The parks are amazing and we spent the next few days working around every ride, catching every show, being flipped upside down and having faces that were sore from smiling.
Me and Holly walking the park late at night and catching the last ThunderMountain ride before wandering home through the dark and the lights is something I will take to the grave.
The adverts always talk about making memories here and it turns out it’s true. They are very clever these Disney folk. Yes you pay for it (well, Jimmy did, bless him for all time), but they come through on the deal perfectly.

One dinner was constantly interrupted by these women visiting the tables. Holly seemed to know them all.

Snow White swung by first and I swear to you it was the girl straight out the 1937 movie, the look and the voice, it was her. It’s amazing.

The nightly shows are epic and beautiful. It’s clean and friendly and we all got so tired it took us a week to recover.
The food was excellent, I was with those dearest to me and loved every second of it. So many memories made and so hard to articulate it.

It was important in ways I didn’t expect. Dealing with the airport and travel confusion, not speaking much French, I found my old confidence was right there where I’d left it and I came back home feeling the best I had done in years. And, that hasn’t faded at all, everything changed on that trip and it’ll stay with me for the rest of my life.

What will also stay with me is the time I spend with Minnie and also the bizarre experience of the Star Wars ride with C3PO screaming at me in French. Just brilliant.

Grab your coat, you’ve pulled

It’s not all about plastic. I find these ring pulls all the time by Loch Lomond, more than 30 years after they became obsolete.

It shows that the lochside has long been a magnet for stupidity, it’s not all about a sudden influx of car carried stupids the past few years.

Maybe you can’t educate some folk to see what they’re doing wrong or get them to care about it.
One of my worries was a mile away from this photie where the Park were charging folk to camp on a manky badly angled patch of scrub at Firkin Point. If they charged me for that I’d want to throw litter and burn my tent in the morning.

Maybe treat people better and they will care.

See, it really is that colour

I should do more video, but this is a good advert for why I don’t. Sitting watching this beautiful scene with birdsong as a companion then I bark in your ear.

Still, this might have been the best sunset of recent times and it’s right ootside my door.

Jealousy in Gentian Blue

Being 50 and a single parent with various other stuff going on to fill every waking minute would appear to remove many tasty options from the buffet table of possibility.
So it was with some surprise I found myself getting ready to go out on my first date in not a kick in the arse off of 20 years.

It’s lucky that my date knows me already, purple Converse and my old truck weren’t a deal breaker in any way when I picked her up. Even shouting over the vintage engine tones on the way into the city centre was expected and was just fine.
The truck was parked up where we eventually found space away from the action and off we went into bright lights and a brave new world. This was at a reasonable hour of course, I am well aware I’m not 19.

It went really well, with nice food and easy laughter which continued all the way back to the truck which I could now see was parked on a dark and deserted side street. It looked a little sad on its own.
The engine kicked into life easy enough if not enthusiastically but it seemed that the lights were dimmer somehow. Maybe just because I don’t drive at night very much I thought? My mind elsewhere, the truck set off onto the road home just like it always has.
I think though, it was listening.

Things were going well, the night was the youngest of any of us and we thought we’d nip into the M&S garage for some supplies. I parked up and in we went for snacks.
We sat back in the truck and I turned the key. Uch! Ahhhooooo… click. What the hell? I pulled the key out, looked to my left with a grin made more of optimism than amusement and tried the ignition again. Kchuk.
Ha,the truck’s dead.
Haha, good try, we’re not teenagers anymore.
No really, the truck’s dead.
The reaction was laughter, genuine, big laughter and I just had to join in. I think I had already been a sketchy choice as a date and I just got away with this as well. I think I used up the very last of my life’s supply of luck right here.

Laughter doesn’t keep you warm for too long though and although pretty close to home, we were very much stranded on garage forecourt late at night with a worry in my mind that the conversation would run out before hypothermia set in.
I phoned the RAC and a disinterested girl somewhere far away informed me that it might take three hours to send someone, although due to the truck being in a priority location (garage forecourt) they would try and get someone there in two hours.
What’s the point of paying this? is what I took away from this interaction.

We sat for a bit, thought of other options. Taxi, walking, praying, pushing etc None would work.
I’m going to phone home.
Oh my god, don’t you dare…
Jimmy will save us, it’ll be fine

Sure enough, a little later Jimmy pulled into the forecourt in pyjama bottoms and rigger boots with the jump leads that could save the day.
Say hi I said indicating the embarrassed face and waving hand behind the passenger window.
Oh, er, hello ventured Jimmy, not quite sure what to make of it as I just grinned at the ridiculousness of the situation.

I knew it was the alternator, the dim lights, the slightly sluggish start in town. I should have caught it, but my mind was elsewhere.
Right now though that elsewhere was maybe 33 years ago, a seventeen year old in his first car, broken down with a torn faced girl in the passenger seat wanting to get home home while they waited for his dad to rescue them.
2019 style it’s a fifty year old man waiting on his eighty old dad to rescue them. How the hell did this happen? How am I still the daft boy? I really just don’t believe it.
This is one big difference however. The girl this time laughed through the whole thing.
We’re still laughing in fact.

It’s all my fault though. I was thoughtless and insensitive, I should have known something like this would happen.
All the love and support, they were always there for me and threw this in their face with no warning or explanation when a word or two in advance would have meant no surprises and then no trouble at all.
So, my dear old truck, I’m sorry. But there was no need to be jealous and act up like that, we’re going to be great friends, all of us together.
I hope the new alternator and my burst knuckles from fitting it show you how much you mean to me.

Onwards and upwards.

With special thanks to the fine spring sunsets at Bowling harbour April ’19

…little April showers

The last week in March was all about panic (! at the disco, I’ll get to that next) and prepping for my first flight overseas in many years and the month since has been a total blur.
I never even logged in here in April at all.

However, note to self: get it down over the next week so some of it sticks.

Been all change. Spring started to burn into summer, I realised I was never going to be the old me, the new me is making sure of that, and then there’s Minnie.
That bloody mouse has changed everything.

And the crags? They have never loomed to large in my story. Good days right now.

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.