Roadside Assistance

Valentine’s Day would have been easy to dismiss for us, we’ve been there, seen it, done it, fought over the t shirt with our ex’s.
We’d discussed that it’s just a commercial opportunity, that love needs no cross on a calendar that you have to present product to your partner upon.
But the fact that we’re both just kids at heart and are full of the joys of life meant that it was kinda disappointing that we wouldn’t see each other at all from Thursday to Sunday at the earliest because of work.
So we made Thursday Valentine’s Day.
February 13th was also the 50th anniversary of the release of Black Sabbath’s first album, so it was a day to be celebrated on many levels.

With schedules rejigged, suitably colourful clothes picked out, it was perhaps unavoidably, and a definitely little wonderfully late when we left.

The clouds cleared as we passed Loch Lomond on our way north. There was blue above in increasing amounts.
The hills had snow, not too thick, but it was a fine sight. In Glen Falloch the snow cover thickened to a smooth blanket on the higher slopes.
The little flutter in my chest wasn’t just from the back to back coffees or the girl in the passenger seat, this was country I love at it’s most glorious.
I know what could lie ahead on this wondrous ribbon of northbound ashfalt, Linda doesn’t. I hoped it would be clear for her, I hoped it would be perfect, I hope I wouldn’t shriek like a little girl when I pulled up the hill over Loch Tulla.

Breakfast in the afternoon got in the way though. Ben Lui was in cloud which I took very personally, saying “Look! Look!” only works when there’s something dramatic to see.
But fueling up at Tyndrum soothed the disappointment. Macaroni cheese with ham in it. Baby Jebus.
Linda thought “We could just go up there…” looking at the snow covered lead mines across the glen. “I just want to play in the snow!”. Yes, yes.

The pull up from Tyndrum was too long, the sun was bright, the sky was clear, the hills were hidden but then we were there. I shrieked like a little girl far too many corners too early.
Glorious, just glorious.
Shining white against azure as far as we could see. It was late but the light was still clear, no warm filter yet, but it was close. We pushed on.

We stopped at the Black Mount, you know, the bit where everyone stops. Time to play in the snow.

The light was slipping, but I had to show Linda more. Back in the car, keep going. The Glencoe ski centre was full to overflowing, literally, cars all along the roadside. The police would be sorting it when we passed on the way back.
The sun shone up Glen Etive, low and yellow. It tracked us through the gaps all the way to Bidean where we pulled in to have a quick wander up the old road. It’s a nice wee walk this, overlooked in this grand neighbourhood. We shared laughs and photies as gold bled into the blue overhead.

One stop on the way home. It’s the eternal photie opportunity this spot.

We were tired when we got back, it was late and it was dark. The fridge was full with the dinner we’d planned and it was more bravado that enthusiasm that put the contents on the worktop and started heating the pan.
The smells fired the enthusiasm for real after a quick cooking rethink because the steaks (M&S meal deal, awesome btw) were too thick to cook and eat today without still being raw inside to some degree.
Sizzling, chopping, bubbling.
A perfect end.

I suppose highlighted days on the calendar are what you make of them. Turns out making them a whole different day works just fine.

Time Out

Doing a bit of admin and I found this post from ages back that I never published. It’s grey and stormy out there, so a few thoughts of a summer evening past will brighten my day.

Let’s go dad, let’s go.

That must have been about eight o’clock, so we had to shift. The sun was already well down and the last folk were trickling down the paths towards the Lang Craigs car park. Had the place to ourselves.

We used to hide the seedlings under this tree until it was time to plant them. I thought it would be a neds den by now, but it’s not. I am pleasantly surprised.

It got cold fast and we marched back down to the truck.

A short one tonight but we’ll be back. Oh what would we do if this place wasn’t so close?

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.

One foot in the past, the other in the bath

Linda was on Groupon again and my journey from no life to fancy life continues. However, note to self: Photobucket shat the bed and was down for over a month, so you did this ages ago. Okay?

Couldn’t remember the name of the place at all, I knew it was Ardrishaig, but on the road we went from White Goose, Angry Swan, Startled Duck, Unlikely Albatross to reality, the Grey Gull. What a boring name.

However, there was a bath with lights on it in the bedroom. And Arran was soaking up the sunset from the window.

Okay.

Went a wee wander before dinner and it was freezing, ice on the ground, fingers in my gloves.

I’ve been here many times over the years, the first time was in the early 70s when we sailed through the Crinan Canal on the boat that was my home at the time.
The harbour is quieter now, some timber operations, a few shellfish boats and leisure craft and very cute wee lighthouse.

It’s nice though, money has been spend and there’s cafe and a visitor centre of sorts. I wonder of they get footfall? The mini Kelpies must attract some visitors, they look magic, just lacking the height of the grand Falkirk spectacle.

Crinan itself was the first port of call. Very grey, very quiet, very wintry. The water had kept its green hue which I’m glad about as I’d been predicting it and I’d have looked like a liar if had been standard blue or blue/grey mix. These things are important in a relationship, it’s all about trust and honesty, accuracy and reliability. One minute you describe a view inaccurately, the next you’re in a street fight defending against a broken bottle with the one you hold dearest.

Kilmartin Church feels like home. I spend so much time in cold deserted churches, I felt life I should be sitting on a pew with a cuppa wondering how much more pipe I should have ordered and whether the client will pay for it or a have a heart attack.

The church isn’t used but left open and empty, maintained to display the stones and it lives on trust. I was so glad to see no graffiti or shite left lying around.
Plenty of skulls and crossbones in the graveyard too. Awesome.

It was cold and raining but we took to the discovery trail after a fine lunch at the visitor centre and wander round the museum.
I think the weather brought the right atmosphere for visiting the stones, dark, quiet, cloaked. It was somber despite the signposts and well trimmed grass.

However, Linda soon solved it. No more wondering, no more digging, no more historical and archaeological arguing. We ave the meaning, we have the purpose, the new agers can take off the tiedye and reach for the hairbrush…
“Hmm, it’s just cock and balls isn’t it?”
Ah, er..
“And look done that end, you know what that is”
Mmmm… Let’s go and look at the other bit.

Carnasserie Castle Is brilliant, the walls are so high and so dark even on a bright day. Today it was just evil feeling inside the wet stonework. We loved it.

It was just such a good wee trip. Not so far from home, but full of laughs and a with a splash of adventure here and there.
There was even a lovely christmas tree in the hotel restaurant too. I just smiled the whole time.

2019, aye. I could do it all again.

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.

Time to leave

I thought autumn had burned out fast this year. A blaze of colour and cold clear mornings or windy days with leaves in the air where I had to be somewhere in a hurry gave the fear, I was going to miss it again.

It clung on though.

The leaves are sparse now, looking outside I’d say nearly gone now, but the last of them were the brightest.

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.

Black Friday

I refuse to worship at the altar on my knees, no Prophets of Product shall finger my wallet this day.

Since the Hammersmith Odeon in 1987, this is the only black Friday for me.

I may buy lunch though, sue me.

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.

The nights are fair drawin’ in ’19

I’m not the biggest fan of summer, it saps me of energy, strength and enthusiasm. Autumn is like fresh batteries and winter is like rocket fuel but I am taking a little time adjusting the creeping darkness this year.

Maybe it’s age, maybe it’s all the awesome big dinners from online vouchers, maybe it’s time to get my arse in gear. Easier said than done, especially from under a PHD down quilt.

It’ll get better I’m sure.

 

Strapped in the electric chair

I’ve done a lot of tourist stuff this year and it’s been nice to slow down a bit after many years of driving these roads chasing sunsets from a summit.

It’s been good for my soul.

It’s taken me to new places too, or should I say to familiar places from different angles. Like this here, I’ve never been up the Glencoe charlift. Been round the back, over the top and up the side, but never been on this, what appears to be a park bench hanging from a washing line.
It was fun though and we’d picked a perfect day for it, especially since it was a last minute dash. Lunch at the cafe was magic and the air circled pleasantly round my legs on the way up as this was one of those rare shorts wearing days.

There was a downhill mountain biking meet on as well and if you know #911 below tell him and I’ll send him the photie.

There’s a nice wee trail from the top of the chairlift to the lovely little top of Creag Dubh and there can’t be many better spots available for so little effort, or £12.
We took a meander round the little lochan to explore then sat with some snacks and gazed into Glen Etive and across at the Buachaille.
I could have stayed there all day, the girls laughing, a wisp of a cooling breeze and the best wee country in the world all around me.

Linda did of course fall over on the way back, into some mud this time. It was a minor incident though and no harm came to anyone.

The chairlift gives you a little Ooh… moment or two on the way down, much more feeling of height going this way. Holly was rocking their chair in attempts to see all around here and I thought Linda was going to have seizure but we got there. After it stopped dead for a couple of minutes. That was really funny. Aye.

And of course, lightweight footwear was worn.

The Trossachs Incident

Callander is pretty local but it’s nice to be places when you wake up, it’s like camping on Ben Lomond or the Arrochar Alps, logistically pointless but in reality: awesome.

Also Linda got us a voucher for a night in The Highland Guest House in the heart of the village, or is it a town now? Took a leisurely wander up and booked in.
What a lovely wee place. Warm and clean, hot drinks machine 24hrs and friendly banter. We also were handed two glasses of Prosecco and asked to come back down for afternoon tea whenever we were ready. We were ready.

It was a spire of sammidges and cakes, a crescendo of snacks, a comet of taste and when the owners misses came back and saw when what he’d given us the shock and surprise was evident, I think we’d got the whole week’s allowance on one table. Magic.

It was getting dark and the rain was battering down, so we decided to go for a walk. Callander was deserted and rather pleasant to stoat about.
The river was over it’s banks and the car parks were shallow seas where geese and ducks were fannying about oblivious to us and the car whose panic faced driver obviously thought they were trapped and doomed to drown. Misses, the exit was behind you.

We went back out later to the Tasty Fry chippy, long a destination of joy for me and it still doesn’t disappoint. Chips and a can of ginger in the rain as we wandered the main street raising an occasional eyebrow at the shop window displays and happy just being.

The morning brought a little brightness and and breaking mist around Ben Ledi from the window which I know would have been glorious to be amongst with a little height, but so was that breakfast. Cooked fast, served with a smile and joy to taste.

Nice morning chat over breakast too with a couple from down south who were touring and then we were off to somewhere Linda fancied and I’d never been despite hundreds of visits here, Bracklinn Falls.

Oh, via the bakery. Supplies were wisely secured.

It’s just beautiful. The last of the mist was clearing, it would have been full on Hammer Horror in the trees earlier, but enough lingered to make the light break past the branches in soft shafts as the leaves glowed a little golden as the summer green evaporated with the mist.

The falls are stunning and the bridge sits perfectly among the jumble of rocks and riot of branches. It makes it feel secret and intimate even with the vertigo inducting edges softened by the trees.

Really hard to get a photie too. Be back in the snow I think.

There’s an extended loop you can do upstream but we had not the rucksack of supplies so we wandered back through the sunshine and headed west for cuppas.
The lochs were still as the sky quietly clouded over again and we found ourselves heading to Loch Katrine for lunch with a vague plan of doing the forest drive which we have repeatedly failed to do.

It was gorgeous though so we thought we’d take a wee wander along the lochside to take in the colours, the air, the lack of midges. We spotted a wee track that looked like it cut a corner through the woodland and it was just magic, warm colours, soft underfoot and very quiet. If only we’d had a tent.

But with no tent we had to find the way out and the intermittent track led to a short steep slope onto the road. I skipped down and turned to take Linda’s hand or even say just go that way, it’s fine…
Linda looked at me for a second then threw herself sideways, flipped over and then rolled down into the ditch beside me. Screaming like she was going to burst her lungs.

I wasn’t entirely sure what to do and neither were the nearby family. I told them we’d be fine although I didn’t necessarily believe it.
She did eventually get up but refused all attempts of giving help up to and including the valiant but likely heart attack inducting coal bag carry back to base.
We stumbled along with tensions and pain levels rising until another family insisted on helping. This time Linda did let me carry her a bit but her wee legs were just slipping off and I think it just made her pain worse so the attempt was abandoned.

The bloke of the family had stayed with us and the mum and daughter had gone for help which soon arrived in the shape on the wee golf cart they use around the jetty.
Linda got a ride back and I ran for it. Bless the kind folk we met that day.

I got her into the car and off we went. All we had to do now was choose a hospital.

The Vale of Leven minor injuries unit was nearest and that’s where we went, mud, blood, tears and all. the Vale has a patchy reputation and deservedly so, but here they did good.
Linda was Xrayed which meant passing through reception there and back with some embarrassment and amusement and after about 90 minutes of treatment appears around the corner with the walking stick I’d seen going the other way in it’s plastic bag. We looked at each other and just burst out laughing.

She stood there trying to stay upright with the support boot velcroed on up to her knee as she leaned on the walking stick and this time there were just tears of laughter. Medication is a wonderful thing.

Torn ligaments, it was bad and I still don’t know how she did it, what she was trying to do and how it was possible to do so many bad gymnastic moves in such a short descent.
I suppose it’s all because the water wasn’t there to break her fall this time. I’ll need to watch that.

And that is why we postponed Skye.