Pipe Dream

Hmm, did I find an ancestor on our travels this day?

We wanted to get out and up into some cool air but energy levels were a bit low. I’d promised the top of the Sloy pipes long ago, it felt like a good fit for an easy day.

Any slower and we’d have been in reverse. We stopped and had Lunch #1 while Holly fired some photies onto Instagram. A medium to which I too have finally posted a photie. I don’t feel my life has improved for that but it’s early days.

We can’t help ourselves. We spent way too much time trying to make a shot the rear cover of our album. I think it looks like an 80s rap album, Holly says that’s fine because the 80s are cool again? I don’t know, we’ll see what happens.

Talking of that I put the first three Public Enemy albums on my phone. I keep getting caught out when I’m driving around with the playlist set to Songs: random.

I keep expecting them to fence this area off but I suppose it doesn’t see much footfall.

What I would give to get inside those tunnels and maintence doors. A lifetime of going through doors marked Authorised Access Only only makes it worse, I’ve paid my dues, let me in dammit.

It’s a fine second lunch spot at the road end a bit above the pipe buildings. Properly good views. Passed through here a few times on my way up Vorlich, which is great way to go, you will never see another soul.

The road’s a wee bit alpine feeling and folk go “Where the hell is that?” when you show them a photie.

The girl did well as always, legs stretched a wee bit and we did find some cool air.

A wee bit of colour too on the way too, it is Macfarlane country after all.

 

Blue, sweets and no tears

You know all the telly adds asking you to sign up for being bombarded with vouchers? I always saw them as personal detail hovering schemes.
This still may be true, but Linda is fully vouchertronic and we’ve got some rather nice deals in return for our retail souls.

A sail around Lock Katrine on the Sir Walter Scott and afternoon tea in the cafe for two jam jars and  bundle of old newspapers was too good an opportunity to miss and the weather came along for free.

Got there early and had a wander with an ice cream. Saw the new pods they’ve got for camping by the loch and they look really nice, wonder if there’s a voucher for those?
Chatted to a fella staying in the camper van slot. He had his wee dug in hos bike basket. Poor wee bugger was smaller than Klaus.

Watched the boat come in, it was mobbed with pensioners in regulation shades of beige. It gracefully cruised in and swung gently onto the pier, ready for the next sailing. That was us, get a move on misses…

Wasn’t as busy for us although the bow and stern seats were instantly taken up by particularly aggressive and fast moving pensioners who then sat there guarding their spots for the entire sail. I’m not so far from that age now, I wonder what I’ll be like. Not in beige, that’s for sure.

We took a big lazy loop around the loch and it was glorious. A cool breeze on the move while the sun beat down and the banter from the crew came thick and fast over the tannoy. It was funny as hell, they were having as much fun as we were.

You’re on the water for an hour but it’s over too fast. Familiar mountains seen from unfamiliar angles, less trodden hills and woodland line the lochside and I could have stayed on there all day. I mean, they have cuppas and everything.

I hadn’t been on the boat for years, definitely recommended. Height of summer with a full boat though? Might be a different experience.

I think the cafe had been caught out but the midweek busyness, they were mobbed and harassed.
Worth the wait though, we had old school sammidges, pastries and tray bakes on the wee three tiered plate thing that I’m too lazy to google the real name of.
We sat in the sun, ate and grinned.

The longer days and the good weather mean more time to explore and we just couldn’t drive past the forest park above Aberfoyle.
Super quiet in there today, more ice cream and wandering. It was quiet enough to watch a red squirrel fannying around from the hide where usually the screaming weans keep them away.

The light in the trees was gorgeous. Always loved it here.
Although popular and accessible it somehow keeps a little wildness about it.

I say “best day” quite a lot and mean it every time, and this was a best day. I hope to have more best days.

50? Easy.

 

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.

Panic! At The Disco

It’s easy to lose track of popular culture. As I age it seems increasing like vapid white noise produced by shallow celebrity and I’m quite happy to tune it out.
However Holly is a music fan in the right way and exposed me to all sorts of real music, First Aid Kit and Billie Eilish were on in the truck long before wide appeal took them and P!ATD have been an enduring favourite whose songs I now know as well as any from my 70s metal icons after constant exposure.
So when the Glasgow show was announced I was sitting with the laptop with Tickemaster on wifi and my phone with Ticketmaster via data to make sure we got tickets one way or another. It took me fifteen minutes to finally get through by which time all that was left was the back row in the gods.
Not complaining, it was sold out by the time I got my confirmation email. Popular boy it appears.

Holly’s been to big shows, including Black Sabbath in the same hall, the Hydro. But this was her big night, her first show with her favourite band and she was stoked.
The seats were fine, great view and as it turned out, great sound and more importantly no loss of atmosphere. The whole place was in Brendan Urie’s hands, the entire show. It was quite remarkable.
The production was huge, pyro, lights, holes in the floor for pianos and drums to appear and disappear and another piano that flew through the air during Dying in L.A. A genuinely heart tugging moment in a night made from magic. Really. I couldn’t tell you how many shows I’ve been since that first night in 1981 in the Glasgow Apollo, hundreds of bands, and this is up there with the best.

I knew every song too. Ha. I liked the message, the sentiment in the banter and I liked that they young folks idolise a man with a positive persona and genuine talent, the only voice I have ever heard that matches Urie’s live performance is Glenn Hughes.
A fantastic show, emotional in it’s depth and hey, one of my favourite bands. Fight me.

Holly got her t shirt and was so proud of it. I just teared up as we walked back to the truck. I’ve been there too, it’s pure magic and tonight was perfect for everyone. Holly got a perfect memory and I got a perfect night with my every growing girl.

The definition of happy times.

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.

Out of Range

Having just filled in an official survey about my (six years!) of volunteering for the Woodland Trust Scotland at the Lang Craigs the wording of the questions and my own answers had me thinking about what it has all meant to me and all about what me and my small band of fellow rangers do in the Lang Craigs.
Now I say ranger, but the Trust want to call us wardens and I take extreme exception to that for a number of reasons, but Wikipedia can go first:

Exhibit A:
Ranger most often refers to:
Park ranger or forest ranger, a person charged with protecting and preserving protected parklands.

Exhibit B:
A warden is a person who has been entrusted with the oversight of something important to the community, such as a college, church, prison, wild game or firefighting.

As a ranger the folks I meet and chat with (which is everyone, it’s me remember) see us as odd outdoor types who live in the hills somehow, foraging for food etc.
As a warden we’re apparently the folk telling you to get your dog on a lead and trying to knock mountain bikers off their saddles.
This is how people see us, I’ve asked.

So, here’s day in the life of a ranger or two.

The Lang Craigs is a big site, there’s much more to it than the area immediately above Overtoun that’s most frequented and there’s a lot to do. There’s also scope for using the tasks we have for other ends.
When I was grinding through equipment grouptests running the same long cross country deer fence route gave me benchmarks to judge like for like performance, something you just don’t get using different kit in different places.
Today was another example, two youngsters from a local Boy’s Brigade troop needed community volunteering experience and we love extra pairs of hands and eyes.

I’d helped build some bat roosting boxes and the first task of the day was checking some of them for occupancy, something that my buddy and fellow ranger Jo has the proper tickets for and I constantly rib her for, I don’t care, Bat Girl jokes just never get old okay. She even has the tattoos.

There’s no such thing as a single task though, I’d already spotted a path creeping sideways because a wooden post was missing and a gate padlock was sticking. I’d already replaced it a few weeks ago, welding a new one onto a chain and it’s away again. On the list.

The sun and fresh snow made the walking up to the very top of the site pleasant indeed. It was cool, but just right for moving and even having lunch by the gate were here to work with didn’t need an extra layer.
The sun was starting to win anyway, the snow was disappearing as we watched and it was raising water levels everywhere, quite impressively so in the burns and on the ground it made progress boggier.

Ben Lomond was looking grand, folks were having a fine time, I saw facebook that night.
The new metal signs fitted, the gate tested both ways to make sure if swung shut and locked itself we decided to follow the fence down towards Maryland.
I walk the deer fence to check for gaps, damage, animal tunnels but it is easy to tune out and miss stuff, there’s around six miles of it, so extra eyes do help at times.

The fence is vital, the deer that get in could undo our work quickly by killing off the young trees, so preventing that rather than having to get the stalker in is the best option.
The enemies of the fence are the weather, regular decay of the wooden posts and more annoyingly local ne’er-do-wells cutting the wire to let the deer in so they can chase them with lurchers in a contained space.
Nothing is ever simple or straightforward.

We did find some breakages, luckily not too bad so the fence tension and integrity wasn’t compromised and it was the boys that saw it first, those extra eyes.
I was too bust route finding, we were coming up to a water crossing.
I usually carry zip ties and wire for these occasions so I can do some sort of repair, most times you see me up here my rucksack has more tools and spares parts in it than snacks.

Repair and maintain all you want, nature will always win, the tree that has eaten the original fence below will testify to that.

Water is friend and enemy. Every water crossing the fence makes is a gap that deer can get in and the free swinging wooden water gates that fill the gap between fence and burn need watching.
Even small burns have very mobile beds and it’s surprising how big the boulders are that move down hill when the water rises and can jam in the gates holding them open for critters to get through.
I saw two gates today that need some attention but the water was too fast and deep to get in at it. I’m up here on my own most of the time and I know the score, safety first.

There’s a lot of standing water too, and most of it has frog spawn. A lot looks healthy which is good, the early temperature rise would have messd with the frogs heads and there was lot I saw that was too early.

Saw a newt too, a fast wee bugger, never even got the camera near it. Lot’s of life in the water, always worth sitting quite for a while, see what’s moving.
That goes for the trees as well now I think about it, the bird life we see around them is ever richer and varied. On the way up a kestrel settled close to the path, sitting on a young tree sunning itself seemingly oblivious to us and the red face grinning bloke with the huge telephoto lens pointed right at it from just 20 feet away. It only swooped away when its audience got bigger and boisterous.

It’s a lovey spot here, quiet and the views are magic, the Luss hills just a hop and a skip away. There’s a rough trail to here but no proper path, the gate here must be one of the least used on the site, but it’s still gets checked. Lots to find beyond here, ruins, ancient cairns and cistes, the Kilpatricks are so overlooked and yet you can explore or lose yourself up here as satisfyingly as anywhere further north.

The sun brought out some of the locals. A big meaty bugger was this, I’m sure he’ll turn into something graceful and pretty before he gets eaten.

I was just looking around me now as the team checked on the endless collection of bat boxes in the woodland. Standing around I became aware of the colours and patterns in the water and on the trees. It was all rather striking and I felt like I’d never noticed it before. maybe it was the perfect light to see it, maybe the furry trees brought it out, maybe I just had the time see it properly today.
It just shows you, there’s always something new. Big or small it doesn’t matter, the joy is the same.

I loved the sci-fi roots of the partly keeled over tree. They wondered what the hell I was doing lying on my belly with my head underground.

Nearby the Starfish Bunker made for a fun wee diversion, although the water went over the top of everyone’s boots. Deep in there today.
From front line WW2 defences to crumbling hillside curio, it’s worth a visit.
The flat top made a great snack stop spot as the cloud moved in a little. I could see some slightly tired faces and a long way to go if we stuck to the original plan.

Plan B would be much more fun. And quicker of course.

Never has a tree fallen so serendipitously. I tested it, I threw my pack over so I kinda had too and it was fine, well grounded and jammed in tight.
The spikes made the traverse a little tricky, by no cardigans were snagged and the primroses on the climb back out of the glen calmed everyone back down.

The burn as seen is why the water gate had to be left for another day. Standing in the middle of that pulling at boulders, aye, good luck with that.

A last rest stop by the Scots pines of Black Wood and views to the Arrochar Alps before getting back onto the well trodden tracks to our final tasks of the day, a couple more bat boxes and some dog poop warning signs on the gates.
We can’t catch the dicks that leave their poop bags at their arses or hanging from trees and hit them with a big stick so we’ll threaten them with a fine instead. It’s something I suppose, but you can’t fix stupid so I don’t know if it’ll have any effect.

We were on the hill for six and a half hours, not a bad day out especially for the youngsters and although were doing work and stopping here and there it shows you the scale of the place and the possibilities there are for getting out there and really exploring, even just within the Lang Craigs fence line.

I had a great day. I love this place dearly and I love what I do here, on my own or for the Trust.
I’m not an hardcore eco warrior or a tree hugger, I got into this because I wanted to make sure they weren’t going to ruin my hills but my motivations have definitely evolved over time.
The Woodland Trust seem to be doing the right thing most of the time and because of that the recent purchase of Ben Shieldaig brings me joy.

Volunteering is what you make it. Your motivations for doing it are important, if you get your reasons right it’s rewarding, fun and you get the occasion free lunch. If you’re looking for something more you’re in the wrong place.

Although these sites and their regeneration cost big money, there is no money in having them, no profit in preserving our landscape.  What we do is important, it keeps the Woodland Trust and many more bodies running but more importantly by extension it helps keep the bastards from building wind turbines and digging hydro schemes into our scenery.

So when you see someone threatening the hills and forests with development and think “Someone should do something…” we are doing sonething. Come and help.

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.

Haglöfs Proteus Jacket Review

Some months ago in the Ben Lawers car park as we were kitting up for a night on the hill Gus said to me “Here, try some of this”. I poked around the wee cardboard box and pulled out a shiny red jacket, “That’s what you’ve got on isn’t it? I’ll wear that.”
This was my first try at the Haglöfs Proteus Jacket. Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

I’d seen one of these before, Gus had worn one on our trip a year or so ago and although it looked a little odd, in a 70’s see-through raincoat sort of way, he was very much singing its praises. But, you’ll never know unless you go.

Two things are immediate and clashing when you pick up a Proteus. It’s very light at 270g (the Haglöfs website weight is accurate to the gram) for a large but it also feels beefy because it has a lining and a shell.
This probably makes it a softshell, or perhaps windproof insulation? I don’t know, it’s maybe a bit like a Polaterc Alpha shirt, a bit Driclime, a bit Vapour Rise but most of all it’s like what I used to wear years back, a light grid backed fleece pull on and a windshirt. Except half the weight.

The layout is simple with a full zip, single chest pocket, lycra cuffs and hem and a non-adjustable hood.

Haglöfs have made some of the best hoods I’ve used, but only on shells, their hoods on midlayers and fleeces are very inconsistent. Here they’ve gambled a bit on pre-shaping with no adjustment, but on my head at least it’s hit the mark.
The shaping is subtle but definite and the hood shadows my head rather than hugs it which means I can wear a powerstretch beanie or a Buff under it and even a low profile peaked cap isn’t too bad.
It means that the hood moves well with my head, even when not zipped up fully. The lycra around the face gives form but doesn’t over tighten, it’s right in the middle.
The main zip has a chinguard/zipper garage so I haven’t snagged my beard yet, the zip has a decent sized zip pull too for grabbing with gloved hands.

Features are few to discuss. The single pocket is a decent size, it’ll take gloves and a beanie no problem and has a reversed zip and good zip pull.

The form of the jacket is nicely done. The arms have subtle but effective curving and good gusseting at the pit, the Proteus doesn’t pull up, even when swinging an ice axe overhead. The articulation is good.

You can see above the back has a stitched vertical line which pulls the body in a little, suit jacket style. A closer fit is always a good thing for fabric performance and I wonder if it helps with keeping the hem put as well. Sometimes little things add up, sometime it’s cosmetic, hey what do I know.

Haglöfs have put a lot of little details in here that I like. The cuffs and hem have lycra binding which is largely internal so the stretch surface grips the layer below, something I’m sure helps the hem stay down, like I say, the little things add up.

The cuffs are well finished but they also have the biggest “but” on the Proteus for me. The fit and articulation are excellent, neat but not tight. This means that the jacket layers incredibly well. It slips under other insulation and shells and the hood is so low profile it feels no different from wearing a beanie under a shell hood.
With this in mind the forearms and cuffs are pretty slim. Not a problem most of the time, but the fit and forget nature of the Proteus means that I put it on at home and don’t take it off until I get back. On ascents or out of the wind and in the sun (it happens, really) I like to cool off a little, hood down, zip undone and collar wide, cuffs rolled up… about three inches from my wrist.

I really want to roll the sleeves up to my elbow, the rest of the jacket copes with a very wide range of temperatures but this aggravates me that I can’t cool my arms and it’s it’s going to have me retire it earlier in the year than I want to as it gets consistently warmer.
I wouldn’t want adjustable cuffs or anything daft like that, just a tiny bit more volume on the forearms.

The inside is well finished, the seams are capped which will slow wear and also help cap wicking in moisture from the outside. Ever wondered why rucksack internal seams are capped like this? Same thing, keeps the rain out a wee bit better.

The fabrics are what makes the Proteus. Haglöfs use their own outer shell, nylon for strength but very light at 15D 31gsm. It’s also see-through and the liner colour blends with the shell to make the red into a deeper crimson. There’s a bunch of colour combinations across the range and although it’s a little thing, it’s kinda fun and outdoor stuff should be fun.

The shell fabric is excellent in use, as windproof as I’ll need before it’s so cold I need another later anyway and the water resistance is very good too. It keeps out snow and light rain while I’m on the move and it’s rare I’ll put a shell over it in mixed conditions, the rain would have to be persistent.

It has a slight rustle and swish to it’s movement in a Pertex 4 (folk thinking back to their Buffalo windshirts…) sort of a way, but I can live with that for the performance.

Inside is Haglöfs’ own Quadfusion polyester er, I want to say fleece, but is it? It’s a fine weave with a gridded inner face like you see on lots of microfleece, but this doesn’t feel like it would be used on its own, it’s too fine. It feels like it was designed to be a liner, like the examples I mentioned above, Alpha being the closest in my mind just because of the pattern of material and air gaps rather than anything actually scientific.

The Quadfusion is light and soft, very pleasant to wear against the skin. The performance is also exceptional.

I’ve never used anything that wicks as well and dries as fast as this. The first time I used it, I was thinking it was because of the very cold and dry conditions but having used it on almost every hill day big or small since I have found consistency.
Wearing merino baselayers is always a trade off, slower drying for comfort and sweat smelling nights in a tent. Quadfusion seems to suck the sweat out of the merino faster and I’ve been out of polyprop and back in merino pretty much all the time the past few months.

The nylon shell plays it’s part obviously as it’s carrying the moisture to the outside, and I hate to use a buzzword but it’s proper synergy at work here.
It’s just so incredibly comfortable to wear across a wide range of conditions, I have never known a jacket to be so consistent and reliable at both keeping me dry from the inside and outside at the same time regardless of what the weather is doing.
I’ve been wearing it under vintage Gore-Tex and brand new Gore-Tex, I’m as dry in both, the GTX inner scrim itself shows the difference in their performance, but my midlayer doesn’t care.

I’ve been matching the Proteus to a couple of Haglöfs pieces a lot which has been a good combo and I’ll be talking about them soon, but the Proteus has been on it’s own most of the time.
It’s constant trips around the Lang Craigs has seen a lot of wash and wear cycles and I tend to notice some smells after 3 to 5 trips after which some 30degC techwash bubbles have it coming up as new.
I haven’t noticed any real signs of wear, I had expected the inner to flatten at the pack compression points but it’s looking okay, the inner has just fuzzed up a little as a whole.

Being objective the Proteus won’t suit everyone, it is what it is and if you don’t like the features and if that hood doesn’t fit you it’s not going to work for you.
There’s the matter of hand warmer pockets too. I initially thought it needed them, now I don’t care the idea. If there were a couple of simple lycra bound pouches it might be okay, but then there’s another layer of fabric and I really don’t want that.
Then there’s the cuffs. The Proteus is a cool weather jacket, but it’s also an all-day jacket that operates across a very wide range of conditions and the lack of cooling on the arms annoys me because it’ll get to the point I just have to take it off.

Despite that wee personal niggle, the Proteus is an outstanding jacket. The fit is excellent and the fabric performance has been exceptional, I have never been so consistently comfortable across so many different scenarios in the same bit of kit.

As a cool or cold weather midlayer it’s a no brainer for me, I just put it on when I go out now. And look, the snow’s back.

Thanks to Gus for some of the action shots of me in the Proteus. Good lad.