The return of the bluebells

In our currently limited scope I’m finding joy in the smallest detail, like a mountain in the fog where patches of lichen spring out bright and vivid in a sea of grey.
Our daily walk route is changing with the season and the biggest joy has been the return of the bluebells.

It’s such a lovely little flower, a wee bit sleepy looking, maybe a wee bit melancholy, a wee bit reserved in demeanour but beaming with vibrant colour.
Seen in swathes in woodland it’s the essence of spring, a flush of new life through trees who have been hanging their heads for the months of long winter nights.
Seen by itself it’s a delicate, fancy wee soul. It’s shy for all its frills though, happy in it’s own company.

That wee flower is a sign of change, a sign of life, it’s nature knowing the way. I hope we can follow it.

Catching some rays

Two days in the year the sun slips down to the horizon between the old church and the tenement building. It was a clear sky so we caught it tonight.
I hope by the time it comes back to peek through this gap in autumn we are watching the sun setting from somewhere higher, somewhere outside, or maybe best of all, somewhere, anywhere, with all the ones we love.

Pandemic Denim

My favourite fabric is denim. I think I like polycotton outdoor trousers because they wear in just little bit like denim.
I like that denim tells a story, like the duct tape patch in my Kimmlite down vest, the scars and wear lines got there through use and abuse.
Except modern denim is a big fat liar.

Pre faded denim is on the surface a nice looking thing, faded in all the right places, that lived in look without any of the living. But there are problems with this.

One is that the fading never actually lines up with the natural creases your body starts forming as soon as you pull the jeans on.
Another is the chemical use and water waste that comes from making your jeans look old. Indigo coloured rivers and potassium permanganate in the air. Pre faded denim is environmentally and ethically unsustainable and I am as guilty here as anyone for supporting it.

Another thing is stretch denim. Comfort and freedom of movement at the expense of a non recyclable fabric and microplastic down the drain as the elastane wears away in every wash.
Still guilty here.

So what are my options? Easy: Raw, rigid denim. 100& cotton, unwashed at the factory, stiff as a board, ready to be made into whatever your body and time decides.
Like lightweight outdoors there is a hardcore of obsessives that break raw denim in as a lifestyle defining choice and thrive on the minutiae of the process which will alienate most casual observers.
There is though a simple method which is all you need to know, wear it and don’t wash it. Yet.

There are a great many specialist jeans makers who will sell you a pair of jeans crafted from raw Japanese denim for a weeks wages and have you believe that your life will now be much improved, but isn’t it always the way with anything non-essential?
There are other ways.

Hidden at the back of their shop, the ugly sibling, the last one to be chosen at the high school dance, Wrangler’s 11MWZ. A reissue of a classic design I wore back in the 80s and early 90s with all the detailing pretty much perfect.
Wrangler are an odd brand, #2 in the world behind Levi’s, but around here they seem to be something of an old man brand, shapeless, high waisted, zip flied middle aged comfort pants.
Which isn’t actually the case, the range is modern and sleek if you look online. Like everything else, there’s just no shops to see stuff in anymore.
To me though, they are the jeans of my youth, so I’ve come home. In a larger size.

The 11MWZ’s are a slim fit but not tight at all and after a day’s wear I had full movement, just a little tightening on the thighs when crouching. After washing they will close in a bit more, but they’ll be in molded into my shape by then so it’ll still be fine.
The denim was cardboard stiff with a notable texture to it, something missing from stretch denim. The colour, described by Wrangler as “New” was deep, deep indigo with maybe some battleship grey in there which is now taking on a little more blue overall, especially in the creases and other wear areas which you can see in the photies.

The denim is broken twill which means the pattern is reversed every few runs resulting in the internal zigzag pattern you can see above. This removes the mechanical pull of a standard weave, the very thing that twists a jeans legs round over time.
In the same photie you can see that zip fly. Oh yes please, button flies now feel so awkward, like the designers are deliberately trying to  piss you off and make public toilet visits longer and more awkward.

So what is this all about? Well, I’m going to wear these in, make those whisker lines and worn knees all by myself, all in high contrast indigo and white like you buy in the shops. But I’m just doing it by wearing. And not washing.

Indeed. The not washing is vital for the wear to be high contrast and look just right, so these have become my lockdown loungewear, my pandemic denim. I think I’ve had them on most days for 3 or 4 weeks now, airing at night, always wearing underwear and being super careful when I eat, drink and cook.

Dabbing a few light splashes turns a slightly damp cloth blue instantly, indigo really hates being on fabric. Big molecules they say, just sits on the surface of the fibres, ready to get scraped away.
Also fun fact, indigo dye is yellow, it’s oxidation during drying after the dying process that makes it blue.

My intention is to wear these as much as is possible until life goes back to normal, or whatever the new normal turns out to be. I hope they look great, but I’m prepared for whatever happens.

“In my day, we just wore our denim” was a nice quote I saw a while back regarding modern overworked jeans and I’m doing that but taking it too far probably.
It’s oddly fun though, seeing the lines come out purely by light abrasion.
It’ll be so tense that first wash.

I can still get in this 80s pair. I seem to have grown about two inches since then, up the way I might add, not round the middle. Although, that’s also grown…

Right, on with the wearing. More later.

Locked In Syndrome

It’s like something out of a made for telly science fiction mini series. But no, this really is the world we find ourselves in.

I’m not making light of it, I have some near to me who are very precious and vulnerable and no amount of inconvenience or freedom limiting in my life is too much to try and protect them.

It’s all an unknown, but I do expect the best and worst of people to be made plain. We’ll see noble and heroic, selfish and exploitative.
I’d like to think lessons will be learned, but when we’re at the other side it’ll eventually fade into anecdotes and stories. It’s now we cope as humans, belittle our pain, ridicule our enemy.

The hills have never felt so welcoming and now that schools are closed, so accessible for me on a weekday. Not had that for a long time.

Talking of that, Holly took and edited this last week. She’s got a good eye, but there’s something prophetic about it too.

Wicked Garden

There was a day not too long ago where the sunset was so dramatic it made the news.

Social media was flooded with gorgeous purple and orange skies that I would normally have burned rubber to get myself in the right position to view.

Instead me and the girl were joyfully fannying about in Granny’s garden.

She’s a high school girl now with interests and opinions expanding ever outwards but she’ll always be my girl and I’ll take and keep every moment of our banter filled messing around that I can.

Tide Marks

The storms have have caused a lot of very real problems elsewhere but here by the River Clyde we’re just been having some of the highest tides in living memory.

The old stone harbour breakwater is underwater, it’s just the grassy clumps and bollards that are sticking up. I really wanted to go out there with the camera but the walkway was under a foot of water just over the railway bridge where you access it. Naw, I’m good.

From the old ship yard the wooden dock looked like a raft. The river was red with sediment from the hills, the same red that causes me so much trouble at the Lang Craigs.
The rain was battering down, the drops clearly visible in the river like bullets landing despite the wind and choppy surface.

I was soaked within 30 seconds, the rain saturated my jeans and ran down to fill my boots, but I had to get one last wee look over at the other dock.
My camera was soaked, the lens was wet and I knew I was pushing my luck with it. I took the last snap below which when I downloaded I couldn’t believe had a spot of perfect rain free focus right in the middle.

It’s wild, it’s dramatic, it’s photogenic. But lets stay safe.

 

The Year

My life is more than a year away from the last day of 2018. 50 was my year.

No, not my year. There were others so closely entwined in the journey that they were as much a part of me as the stupid grin I’ve found so easy to wear again.

It was a year where I found love, old and new. Love in life, in the world, in myself and most unexpectedly, for a girl.

There were moments where I tripped up, real lows, but I never stayed down and that’s what’s different from the past few years.

I have hope if I can’t always find optimism and my biggest fear was that the year coming to an end was somehow closing a book on it all and then starting an uncertain new story.
I have been assured that it isn’t like that. I have hope, and a little optimism.

I spent the rather fine last day of 19 visiting my favourite places with the camera and the first moments of 20 in a place I love with people I love.
We saw the fireworks from the crags, from Gourock to Glasgow as the sleet landed on our three pairs of glasses.

I’m lucky, in so many ways. If I think about how many second chances I’ve had this past year I’ll have seizure.
So lets just simmer down and get on with it.

Fifty One

If I wanted anything to represent this past year that I’ve spend being 50 it’s probably this photie.

It wasn’t always an easy route to walk, and I know the next year will be no different. But the balance has shifted because these days I’m happy more often than I thought I could be and simply more than I remember being for, well, forever.

I have a bit more focus, a bit more energy and a lot more smiles. The joy in just being me is there again when I look for it.

50 was a good year and I celebrate it’s passing with joy and with hope for the future in my 51st state.

Whatever the hell that will be.

Listening in

The two burds sitting on the old telly aerial and looking at the sun through the thinning fog on the Clyde. What are they thinking?
“It’s clearing up, those seagulls will be back on our arses”
“Big spot in cloud, cannot fly when big spot in cloud, big spot should be in sky. I’m scared”

“You know, you only notice the little things when the weather is bad. I mean, never even noticed this low aerial before. We can get to the bin outside the shop so fast from here”
“Aye, if the gulls don’t beat us to it”
“True, true…”

Or do they sit like they have a pause button on waiting for things to go back to normal.
I can spend hours on questions like this. It’s easy to see why it’s been said I lack focus.

Top and Tail

I had a magic wee run of trips to the shore in the mornings. Biting cold and glorious sunrises. That extra hour out and about in the mornings with Holly at high school is a joy indeed.

The burds I caught about was a complete accident, I was looking across the river and they flew past me a few feet away. I tracked them as best I could with the camera at arms length and clicked. Happy with that.

Below is through the living room window that night. Beauty and wonder really is all around us. It’s your head that got to be in the right place to see it, not your feet.
That’s the thing though, easy to move your feet, not so easy to shift your state of mind.

Lunch

It’s not often we manage now. In Linda’s old job her hours meant we could nip into McDonalds for a latte and a catch up a few times through the week.
Now we don’t get much of a chance at all, but today we were at opposite side of the Erskine Bridge with an unexpected hour to spare.

It was a glorious day, mist on the Clyde, blue skies above and low winter light trying cut a gap through them. Not cold, just right, a great day for a walk.
We didn’t get far though, no time, but it was still beautiful.

We did have early an Christmas lunch though. Sandwiches with turkey, bacon and stuffing and coffee with ginger, toffee and nut flavours.
It was just perfect.

My life has always been a riot of chaos, stress, joy and excitement. I think that this year, the good guys are winning that battle.

While everyone else was in the snow…

I’m endlessly drawn to the shore and the harbour at dusk and dawn in winter.

The light is magical, the contrasts stark, the joy constant.

There is blue in between though. The sun is still warm, arms length warmth though, family you only see at funerals warmth.

The trees at the crags are nearly bare but the leaves that cling on shine bright.

The angels share from the nearby bond makes the bark black and the orange burns all the brighter for it.

Late at Aberfoyle the sun strikes the trees higher on the slopes and then just the highest tops.

Whole a snow capped Ben Lomond summit is scraped by a streak of thin cloud. Oh to be standing there.

The river is edged with ice, mist swirls on the water, a cormorant reluctantly takes flight as I realise I should have worn thicker gloves.

He doesn’t know that he’s evil, he doesn’t know he’s vermin, he’s just being himself.

And he’s good at that.

After School care

I’ve started taking a camera around with me again. I used to do it all the time and not too long ago I couldn’t even find the camera, or a battery to go in it.
The charger was a whole other level of missing.

It’s the winter evenings that get me. Dark at four and the blaze of colours just before it, the creep of black shadows, the bite of cold on my nose and standing alone in places where if anyone sees me they think I’m up to no good.

Bowling is a great pace for this. The ever faster crumbling harbour pulls me down with optimism and whatever warm jacket was to hand.
It’s not always spectacular but is always pleasant or interesting, calming or melancholy.

I like fooling the camera, making it take darker shots than it really wanted. I now fully accept that I am very limited as a photographer and I just like doing my own thing.
Magic.