I told stories. The room was full of faces waiting for something worth their time, I had no notes and no real plan, but I did have a head full of words.
I always have a head full of words. Big ones, small ones, funny ones, sad ones, totally made up ones and this was the first time in a long time I’d loaded them up and fired them.
90 minutes without a pause or a prompt and with only the slightest of trip-ups (I’m pretty sure I got away with it, but for next time I must remember that the sun rises in the “East” not “Eh… er… that way”) in front of the harshest of critics and the most unforgiving of audiences. Holly’s primary 6 class.
I had my jacket in my hand, but we had one more tale instead of the prep they were supposed to be doing for the exam next day, so it was late when I left. Joyfully late.
Keeping words to yourself would on the face it appear to be a good idea. I don’t know though.
I’ve missed my words.
My latest review is up here and is backpacking rucksacks. I suppose given my predisposition for wanting not-heavy and having pockets the winners were never in doubt but the big beasts in there still had their good points.
More than that is the fact that I am now desperate to get out into the hills for the night after finishing the write up. I missed my chances with the recent fantastic weather and it’s pish out there just now.
When nature does straight lines, it does them right.
A flick through these pages shows some of the Highland sunsets I’ve seen in the past few years, but I’m sure the best of all might be the ones seen from this window.
Wherever I go in future years, this window is coming with me.
More of a footnote than a review, I thought do a quick mention of Chimpanzee energy snacks.
I picked some samples up at a trade show earlier in the year and they are now all gone. The company is from the Czech Republic and are just coming into the UK now with new distribution. There’s the usual wide range of energy and protein bars as well as less sugary fuel bars for the weight conscious and bars for kids too.
The good news is that they’re following the current trend to having these kinds of food actually resemble real food by having textures and taste as well as the fuel hidden within. So they’re pleasant to eat, taste good and I’ve had no ill effects to my plumbing. There’s some left field flavourings too, it’s nice to see something different.
You could debate the nutritional and fuel aspect of all of these kinds of food into the night and beyond depending on where you stand on such things.
I just like this kind of thing because it’s handy for a rucksack or a pocket, the good ones are tasty and it keeps hunger away without having to eat big while climbing a hill or putting the miles in down the trail.
Had a long day around the Lang Craigs and surrounding hills. There was a few things to be done and more were discovered along the way. It was chilly, the mist was down and I left my camera behind because I wouldn’t be needing that. Idiot.
In mist and rain you do notice the wee stuff around your feet more so the pellet full of chewed bones and tiny feathers had the three of us (Roy site manager and Jo fellow ranger and wildlife fan) pondering. It was quite big, so what coughed it up? They said buzzard and other sensible things, my imagination says other things. The wee furry guy nearby says nothing except that springs’s on its way.
One of the wilder parts of the site is where the Black Burn has made itself a little waterfall. It’s actually a lovely spot, if it were closer to the road end it would be a popular spot for picnics. Maybe the fact its in a steep sided grassy gorge is as much of an issue.
We were checking the water gate here, unfortunately the site boundary line is right on the edge of the waterfall so the fence ruins the aesthetics and also it means the water gate hangs over a drop. Do deer get in here? They’re bloody brave if they do and deserve a seedling or two. Don’t tell them I said that.
Across the northern end is a favourite place, easy in snow shoes when the conditions are right, a triparama when the grass grabs your ankles after every second step the rest of the year. It’s where ooh views start and this time it’s where the temperature shot up and the cloud cleared. Dammit.
The light was getting lower and it picked out perfectly the prehistoric dyke that runs over the hills and climbs into the crags. One survey puts a Roman road up here too, there’s a lot of unexcavated and uninspected up here. Maybe one day we’ll have some proof and some finds to show? But then again its nice just having stories to tell, possibility can fire the imagination more than fact.
The Arrochar Alps were hazy and still streaked with white, and beyond the powers of my phone to record them. The pines of Black Wood were as wonderful as ever and soon to be free of the rhoddy blight around their feet. It’s a magical place this wood, it feels separate from the rest of the site with an atmosphere all of its own and the rhododendron growth has choked its heart to the extant it’s not worth the grief to try and get through it any more.
The site is still evolving, change can be difficult to watch at times and always it’s either too fast or too slow. Just got to hang on though, it can be worth it, for example the old quarry is looking great now it’s been cleared giving us a new little rocky outcrop viewpoint with new paths slowly growing around it. You should go and see it.
My duties as a Woodland Trust Ranger at the Lang Craigs in the Kilpatricks Hills keep me in the hills in all weathers which is sometime welcome motivation and it’s also handy for testing kit, 6 miles of deer fence through the roughest terrain shows the difference between different designs better than a collection random hillwalks. It’s also a lot of fun, met a bunch of good folks and I get involved in some oddball stuff on the site which I can just roll with as I’ve been married to a artist for 14 years.
Right now we have an event involving some students from Glasgow School of Art featuring lights and sound. The girls did a great job installing it and when I went back at night the effects were just fantastic. My shots give some hints but you can’y see the signal beaming into space, you’ll have to go and hear that, if you can find it.
From Overtoun House take the path that follows the right hand bank of the burn, you’ll cross the burn on the way but don’t stray far from in. Keep your eyes and ears open.
Not the first creature you associated with the hills maybe, but last night we were tiptoeing through them all the way. Awesome wee guys and gals.
Tom, one half of our degu team died yesterday. He lived a happy six months after losing and eye and having a lot of scarring to recover from received during what turns out to be common degu feature: hormone fueled battles with cage mates.
I never wanted pets but these wee guys won me over instantly and they both have, had, their own characters. I look forward to the wee squeaks when I come home and despite myself I like having them around.
Holly was distraught as expected, Tom was everyone’s favourite and we had a proper farewell in the pouring rain just like we were in a movie. Quite right too.
Jerry’s on his own now, he’s family so here he stays, we’ll just see what to do next, he’s lonely now. We’re a little at a loss today.
Bloody hell, who’d have thought.
Just finishing up my next review for Walkhighlands which is, should I say what it is? It’s good anyway, something a bit old school. As much as the brands and technology want to keep moving us forward onto the next thing, some basic stuff just works. I think it works better with a hood too.
The next few months is what’s making me think, the seasonal range changes can make a review only a few months old out of date which is kind of annoying, gear really shouldn’t date so fast.
But I still don’t want to repeat any of last years review subjects so I’m trying to get to winter 2016 without a single retread of something. I’ll be cutting it close at times, lightweight waterproofs where I did winter weight last time around, backpacking and larger capacity rucksacks where I’ve just recently done day sacks. Hey, if it all gets too much I’ll do socks. Oh, socks, the difference between a good day and a bad day? Goes to look at 2016 socks…
While I think about that, here’s me in the recording studio thinking about why I’m trying the 17th take on a guitar solo I’ve been playing live and in rehearsal for a year.
The world this weekend is too big for me to talk about, but while all is turmoil on whatever channel you turn to, there’s always something to lift you.
I spotted a light slowly heading upriver through the storm. It was silent at first then the throb of diesel engines could be heard, maybe felt just a little too. The lights picked out shimmering cones of light as the rain blasted through the beams and the drops splashed then ran down the hull plates giving them a glittery sheen. The windows all had a warm glow and as they slipped past in the deep darkness they seemed like a little island of calm and coziness. No one could be seen on deck struggling with equipment or the wind, it all looked calm and under control as the two tugs and the ship in their care moved as one past us and on towards the bridge.
One thing that used to regularly punctuate all the other shite I put on here was the view from the living room window. It’s WSW so catches the sunset from autumn to spring and it’s as glorious as an summit sunset.
I’ve missed catching so many, but last week the camera was where I could find it quick. The colours are as real as Panasonic will let them be, nature knows her stuff.
I’ve had a few little flutters, I’ve had to catch my breath and let it out slowly so I didn’t blurt out the wrong words, but today the flow of thoughts and emotions finally ran through all their little gullies and into a river flowing the same way.
My last spark of inspiration came from the original source, voices and images from nearly 25 years ago and I was suddenly both then and now. It’s a rare thing to catch once again the feelings of your first step and I think I’ve been very lucky, I think I got away with it.
Better do some house keeping.
It’s with mixed emotions I’ve just submitted my last route to Trail, for the time being at least.
I’ve always run close to the deadlines for submitting these, there’s no other way to do it than with the most recent information possible or you’re as well just having a page saying “Buy the SMC books”. This has worked for me, with forestry operation changing long established route, new deer fences etc, but also against me as I have spent far too many days sitting in laybys in the pissing rain waiting for a clear hour to run up a hill I know well to get new photies.
Doing the routes has seen me visit or revisit many wonderful places and try to spread the joy of what I see there but I think it’s time for me to chase the patches of blue sky wherever they are, camp on a hill I hadn’t thought of until that day and look at the calendar to see how far away Christmas is, not how close a felt tipped pen cross through a day is.
It’s been an absolute joy the past few years, and the fact that everyone hates Trail amuses me no end as despite it being the most popular mag, as a hate figure it’s made me feel a little bit counter culture having been involved in it.
It’s product, like every other magazine or website out there despite any pretensions of being an authority on its subject, it’s made to sell, but that doesn’t mean there’s not good folk in there. Matt Swaine who brought me in originally was a good lad, Phoebe Smith, now editor of Wanderlust, who I did two of the hardest days on the trail I’ve ever done is passionate about wild places and instantly made my wants list as a post apocalypse team member. More recently Dan Aspel is who has suffered from my oblique approach to scheduling and deadlines, he’s man who loves the mountains and who I’ve enjoyed bantering with but unfortunately never managed out on the hill with. Yet.
“Tell Petesy to stop writing about music and go back to the mountains”. Someone said that to Joycee a few weeks back, someone she didn’t know either, I guess that’s the power and reach of the internet.
It won’t happen overnight, but now I wouldn’t be writing about every trip twice it might encourage me to write my trips up on the blog again. For the blog it has to be done right away, I have to get my thoughts down when I come back, if I leave it too late it’s just a description of where I’ve been and I don’t want to read that kind of shite on here when I’m 70. I want to read about the mistakes, the swearing, the donuts, the song in my head and just how awesome that sunrise is.
Aye. We’ll see.
The always excellent BBC Radio Scotland ‘s Out of Doors have me and fellow Kilpatrick Hills ranger Jo on this weekend talking to Mark Stephen on a walk around the Lang Craigs. Plenty of banter and laughs, we had a great time and the sun shone all day.
Did a piece on the long forgotten hydro scheme at Overtoun for the same show as well which we’d only recently found out about, lots of clues if you dig around.
Nice to see Mark again and do a show where we’re not sticking it to the national park for extending their bans and byelaws.
Catchup is here.