St Selleck, patron saint of…

I hate the financial institutions, their attitudes, their accents of the phone, their treatment of you and I as a resource instead of a person, and basically everything that holds their very being together. As one of the many who are out there skinning their knuckles to earn money, be it employed or as a free agent, getting to slap their smarmy shiny bastard faces once in a while makes me very happy.

I am owed a lot of money by customers, all at the same time, which will make eating and buying diesel a risky affair until the cheques are in the bank. It’s the price you pay for freedom, sometimes when the sun shines and I’m heading north on a Wednesday, it’s worth every heartache, other times when the pressure is on I wonder just how much peace of mind a regular pay would bring.
“Dear Mr Macfarlane,
You are dead in the water, you’re not putting any money into your account, we think you’ve gone away and hid under a rock, leaving a gaping hole tens of pounds wide in our bank, which may well topple this mighty financial institution. We have cut you off.
Screw You,
The Bank xx”
So, they killed my business account before telling me, resulting in scheduled payment armageddon. I phoned, I was passed from one voice without an IQ to another. I left contact details and went away to strangle pipes.

“Mr Macfarlane? I’m reviewing your account after your communications earlier today and I have to say that there’s no future for you at our bank. You have no income, no overdraught, no balance, no hope and indeed I am only here to patronise you from my nice office while I count the minutes until I go home this Friday afternoon, try paying your bills now”.
“I see. You realise there’s a recession on, and demanding money with menaces is frowned upon unless you work for the authorities? So, I just have to wait until the money comes in, times are hard for everyone”.
“It’s your responsibility to look after your finances responsibly”.
“So after asking for nothing for years, waiting  patiently in queues in your understaffed bank, paying all the charges a business account accrues without complaint, when it looks like I might have some issues, rather than a letter or a phone call to ask if I was okay, if there was anything you could do to help, you cut through my achilles tendons when I’m not looking and just watch me fall?”
“Yes”
“Thanks for the support. You’re in front of your computer aren’t you? What’s your email address?”
I was just back at base, so I shuffled through my virtual paperwork and sent through some copies of as-yet unpaid invoices I’d sent to customers.
“Yes Mr Macfarlane, but that’s not quite enough to… ” I sent some more, “Ah, okay. Well I can see that business is…”
I sent through some work orders I’ve got for stuff that’s coming up. “Well, Mr Macfarlane, that changes everything…”
“So now that you know what’s coming you want to be my best pal again don’t you, eh?”
“Well, I wouldn’t put it like that…”
“Why not just ask me, why not pretend just for a minute that we’re all people doing our best in currently difficult circumstances, and phone me to see what’s happening to save either of us getting into a situation?”
“It’s not our culture, and it’s automated…” Both parts of that sentence gave me all the answers I needed.

They makes the rules and then change them once we’re in the game so they can squeeze and exploit us. We are food, no more than that. What about humanity and consideration.
I dunno, could we starve them? Put in exactly enough money to cover our direct debits, standing orders and cheques see how they do with no money to play with,  then stand with our arms folded until they agree to whatever demands we feel like presenting them with. If they try any fancy shit we’ll go all-cash and watch the bastards stew in their own pish.

The next bandwagon will be leaving town in five minutes.

That will kill you, and if it doesn’t this certainly will” You do get immune to the constant health scare misery-go-round, sensible choices in life would seem to be the way forward through the sea of bullshit. It’s like driving, you can either look at the speedometer all the time and make sure you’re glued to 30 or you can watch the traffic and keep and eye out for suicidal pedestrians while flicking your eyes down to the speedo now and again.
The latest is that every material you can make a water bottle out of is deadly, deadly I say, except stainless steel. Okay, the BPA scare had some substance it seems, and polycarbonate is barred in this household, even down to old dented pre-August 2008 (when the lining went polyester) Sigg bottles which it turns out have trace amounts of BPA in the lining. Holly uses them on picnics, so I’m taking no chances.
The polyester-based materials now used in bottles from Nalgene and Camelbak is fine, still no taste from the material in your drink which is great, although I think they are more easily damaged. But the lingering aura around plastic has had an effect, Camelbak producing their 750ml Better Bottle is stainless steel for example.

So, reacting with the speed of a change in fickle public opinion, various brands have thrown their lot into the stainless steel bucket and you can now get pretty much any shape, colour or capacity of stainless steel bottle you want. The quality will vary dramatically, from the finishing down to the steel itself. Stainless steel does rust, and if it’s a cheapo mix their beating the bottles out of there’ll be tears when you look into your bottle and see brown speckles.
Sigg have a few models in Stainless, and they do it well as you’d expect, they also have them made in the far east like everyone else.
One common design you’ll see is the Klean Kanteen one below, there’s a few folk out there using the same mold, including the UK’s One Green Bottle.
I have to say they’re a lovely bit of kit, great shape, nice feel in the hand and that wide top is great for drinking and filling from a flowing water source in the field. The colours they have absolutely rock as well.
The bumff that comes with them is all chest beating bollocks though, “Our bottles will save both you and the planet”, my arse. It’s still a mass produced product being shipped around the world burning resources, their hygiene claims are slightly annoying as well. The top edge is rolled to make that nice rounded lip to drink from, but also creating a deep crease that could be a breeding ground for horror if it’s not actively kept clean. Sigg’s machined insert is better.

I am overjoyed that the ripples through the market have brought us some brilliant new gear, these Klean Kanteens are my new best pals, but all the regular names caught up immediately and all the materials or coatings are really fighting on a level playing field.
Don’t believe the hype, the adverts or the bumff. Do what I do, get your favourite colours and keep watching the traffic. 

Answer?

My mobile phone is like a Caramac that’s been at the bottom of my schoolbag all week. It’ll still fulfil its basic purpose, but it’s not quite the right shape anymore and no one would thank you if you gave them it for nothing.
It switched itself off while I was talking to a customer today which really pissed me off as the conversation was straightening out the details which would bring a cheque that little bit closer.
The difficulty is that I have no enthusiasm for getting a new one, it’s on the same interest level as a toaster or a kettle. Nah, less in fact, toast and tea is better than phoning.
I had a quick look this afternoon and it’s all lifestyle enhancing multifunctional handheld devices on the shop displays, no phones. Oh dear.
I’m still working off the Bontempi laptop, and enjoying the more basic horizons, if merely tolerating the smaller screen.
Every new step I take with a piece of technology seems to be a strip of masking tape over the window, if I keep upgrading, adding apps, finding uses I didn’t know about without the thing I’m using and didn’t need anyway, then soon the light will be slipping in through the few cracks left between the strips of masking tape and I won’t want to look out any more. Just down at whatever plastic oblong is in my hand.
So, a simple phone. Yes, I’ll take basic internet, and I think I want a decent camera again, but that’s it. I don’t want to have to sit and try to delete all the games and shite off the next one only to find that I can’t.
I’m a 41 year old heating engineer, and I hate all your bollocks.

Loch Lomond Camping Byelaws Update

The radio piece went well, I got to say what I though was most important: ban the neds, watch out for folk on the WHW; folk like us will carry on as normal. The TV bit was all murder and mayhem, and after the live bit was cut where we were all geared up for giving a positive spin, we feared that the edited piece might be too negative, but it was better than I’d feared.
I spent the day with the Park folk, and went back to HQ to meet some of the other parties that are directly interested in the byelaws. It turns out there are as many reservations and concerns in there as there are out here.
The Park is full of outdoor folk who’ve sought the job out, looking for a change of life, so I don’t think we should regard this situation as “them & us”, it’s a necessary process that we should be involved in, so that we do keep them honest. For example, the WHW officer has exactly the same worries as me, that hikers will get caught out. The WHW isn’t affected until it reaches Balmaha, and after that it does cross Salochy, the worst affected area I think next to Rowardennan. But, they’re setting up an informal campsite in there with some facilities, so they’re not all problems without solutions.
If you know the area in question, you know its beautiful, and you know it’s almost an urban area too. From Drymen to Rowardennan is populated along its length, sometimes sparsely, but there are communties there, farms, houses. In Tom Weir’s day, maybe we could have camped at Salochy and been welcomed in for scones and tea at one of the houses, but we’ve changed all that, it hasn’t beed inflicted upon us. The world is what we’ve made it, we can either say stop or we can let the bastards grind us down.

I’ll be staying in comms with the Park, I’ll be watching this closely. If I’m worried by the way it’s going, I’ll stand up and shout.
But, we’ve got plans under discussion for a project to promote and explain low-impact wild camping to both Park users and the general public. Education by positive example is the way forward.

Loch Lomond Camping Byelaws

This came up this morning and got itself around fairly quickly. The idea being to make it an offence to “informally camp” on a strip a few hundred meters wide on average along the east shore of Loch Lomond from Drymen to a kilometre or so beyond Rowardennan.
We all knew that the neds on their carry-out consuming, log-burning and shite-dropping expeditions were going to spoil it for everyone, and they really do have to make these dicks arrestable I think.
It’s how they approach it is the thing, what worries me is (for example) the conscientious backpackers from Eastern Europe who get caught out between regular campsites on the West Highland Way and pitch in the dark where they can. They’ll leave a clean site early next day, and I wouldn’t like these folks to get the polis pulling them out of their sleeping bags at 2am.

Anyway, I’m meeting the BBC and a rep from the National Park Authority tomorrow to do a piece for Good Morning Scotland. I’ll get to speak for us folks and also get the inside line hopefully. Unless there’s a big story before breakfast, then we’ll get bumped.

Of course it’s entirely possible to camp by Loch Lomond and make no impact at all other than a positive on on your mood. As seen below.

You Can’t Stop Rock ‘n’ Roll

It’s bloody miserable out there. Cold too, and not that nice frosty cold, it’s a damp cold that you suck in with every breath, it lingers inside you, sapping your enthusiasm and draining joy reserves.
What of Creag Meagaidh? What indeed. I can’t face the drive without knowing I’ve got a good chance of it being clear, even patchy would do.
It’s such a great hill, and I know exactly the two shots I want for the Trail route (how’s that for uncharacteristic organisation?), but as nice as testing the Berghaus Temperance hood in a blizzard would be, those likely conditions do not help our mission.

So as I’m flicking through the computer at my folks’ I found some photies from a hike-a-bike to Gulvain a few years back. I remember it well, warm sun, cool air, a light haze softening the stark white streaks of snow lying late into the year. A fun ride in and out as well.

I want out. 

1% Progress

One again I’m sitting here at the last minute, ankle deep in bank statements doing absolutely anything other than actually filling in the blanks on my online tax return.
I looked in the cupboard to see if Moira Stewart was going to give me some words of encouragement, but all I found was biscuits. That’s probably a win then.

The (bastard) banks are phasing out cheques as you know, and I foresee something the (bastard) bankers may not have, or have and don’t care for mentioning. As a business I accept all forms of payment except credit and debit cards, I have used PayPal on occasion, BACS is simple, cheques are easy and help book-keeping and of course there’s cash.
Now small businesses dealing with the public, joiners, electricians etc almost always get paid by cheque or cash, few of us have swipe machines in our vans for cards, and not many punters want to set up an electronic payment account for getting their heating fixed.
So when cheques are dead, unless the banks are going to hand out card readers and drop any charges associated with accepting that form of payment, it’ll be cash for all. In fact, how many businesses will go all cash? Suddenly they’re paying for materials as well as getting paid in cash, and within a couple of years we’ve got a black economy where the money is untraceable and self employed people are dropping off the tax radar in their thousands.
It’s going to be as funny as hell when the government had to fund the poor (bastard) banks panicked reintroduction of cheques to save the economy. Again.

I dunno, is it time for a revolution yet?

That’s That

I had to stop at the usual spot and take a photie, just in case this ghost of winters past disappears when it realises it’s years too late and goes back to 1947.
Loch Ba was solid, the sky had a few holes of pale blue but the snow was coming back and filling them in as it sprinkled the land in a rather relaxed fashion.
Glen Coe was marvellous, me and the girls had lunch, a wander, we chatted to Australians, bought socks and returned home in good spirits with even the traffic failing to be bad enough to burst our bubble. It’s beautiful out there, just like the old days. This was a lovely day to finish the holidays on.

I never regard this place as an information centre, Press Releases just get read and filed, but the one that was waiting for me when I came back was different.
I’ve known for a long time that this was coming, but it’s still a rather melancholy moment to see it in print. Mike Parsons, who regular readers will have seen on here often, the inventor of milestones like the Karrimor Alpiniste packs and Alpiniste Fleece, and more recently brought us the brilliant range of OMM kit has parted company with OMM.
As a member of the OMM Lead User Group it’s been a joy and a privilege to be involved with Mike and the rest of the team over the past few years. To see gear go from an idea, to a discussion, to a drawing, to a sample, to a product in a shop was a fantastic experience. I’ve learned a lot, not just about process of design and production, but about the possibilities that lie within an apparently disparate bunch of folk given the right catalyst, or should that be the right ringmaster?!
I wish Mike all the best for the future, and for the OMM logo to continue to grace kit that’s at the front of the curve.

Mike’s blog post is here, as you’ll see he’s not putting his feet up.

That’s better.

I was nervous. I thought I’d wake up, peer out of the curtains and there would be three feet of snow and clear blue skies. But no, bogging pishy horror lay outside, now that’s a Monday.
This continued as the boilers I went to service lay inside an unexpectedly locked and empty building. My view of this being a proper Monday was reinforced.
I then went to my folks to see Holly who hangs out there while we’re at work and they were away to the shops. It was going well, until…

Phil texted me, which made me phone Elaina, which meant that we were all in the Tiso cafe within an hour eating Thai Green Curry and cake. (thank you misses). Joy! It came up in converstaion that a Decathalon store had opened at the Fort shopping centre out the east end, so we hurried away into some horrendous traffic to go and find it (via the bank, who wouldn’t accept a cash deposit, now there’s a story worth passing on).
The Fort apparently had no Decathalon, but with concerted use of mobile internet we discovered that it’s welded onto the big Morrisons on the way in, so a short hop and we were there. It’s a vast shed of stuff, but in a different way to GoOudoors, Decathalon at least make their own gear so it deserves to look like a supermarket, GoOutdoors is just cheap and nasty. 
We wandered the many aisles, poking, prodding, trying on. I wanted a pink camo sleeping bag for Holly and a brown padded jacket that looked very 70’s, but sense took over and I resisted. I was supposed to be taking dinner home, if I went in with outdoor gear instead there would be a “conversation”.
Elaina got into trouser mischief and made some purchases, Phil mostly stood grinning at my inner turmoil as I tortured myself with self doubt over buying an orange baselayer t-shirt.
“It’ll be rubbish”
“But it’s orange”

The journey home was fine, the roads were surprisingly quiet. I was now running late, so I took a gamble and got home with tasty hot pizza in a box. Luckily it was well received and I was hero for, oh, seconds at least.
“Where’s your car?” I asked Joycee.
“It’s broken down at your folks”
Ah, that’s right it was still Monday after all.

I went round and got it started. Hmm, low on fuel. I run around to the BP garage and fill it up, get some milk and bag of cola chews.
I put the milk on the passenger seat, fastened the seatbelt, pressed the button, ahaahaahahahah bump. Nothing.
My heart sank. Repeated button pressing brought nothing useful. My old man came round to help (all this is happening only a mile from home) and we couldn’t tow it as Renault don’t have proper tow loop, there’s  just a “hole” (Yes, yes, I found out later how to work it, but this at 2100 in the rain in a car that isn’t mine), so we pushed it away from the fuel pump and Jimmy went home as I went for a latte from the garage.
Two and half hours later the RAC arrived. The boy in the big orange jacket got in and it started first time for him. I’d been trying it every ten minutes and there was nothing happening for me, the only appropriate response was “Jammie bastard”.
It had been parked on a hill with low fuel, air had gotten into the injection system and screwed up the ignition. The constant trying had worked it out and it was now clear. Oh. Happy. Day.
I got home pretty much on Tuesday, pretty pissed off, and bloody cold too.

Hey, at least it was, by and large, a proper Monday.

Bastard Inconvenience featuring Feeble (courtesy of Atco Records)

I just knew the week was cooked on Monday when I went up the hills. I’ve spend every night since on the couch, wrapped in thedog blanket (that’s what I call the “guest duvet”, is that wrong?) coughing unabated along to garbage telly until 0400 where I pass out for a couple of blissful hours and gradually choke of snotters.

I’ve had a rucksack packed for days to no avail, and I am now totally stir crazy. I’ve been out, met up with Bobinson for lunch (which included an interesting proposition from an older lady, ask me later), and met up with the spark who does my panels and controls to give him some overdue payments. See, it’s a domino effect when you don’t get paid by a customers right away or contracts run askew due to ” a reason”. You have to pass on the misfortune down the line which affects other jobs, trade accounts, goodwill is eroded and the spindly scaffold which holds up the apparently innocently smiley advertising hoarding of daily life that motorists absent-mindedly gaze at while planning to beat the other guy away from the lights, but which actually covers the precariously worn gear wheels of society, takes another hit at its wee flat feet.
I don’t bring the banks into my worry bubble of payments here, they deserve all they get for preying on people’s weaknesses. They’re drug dealers selling credit hits, and damn the consequences because it’s all legal.

Joycee is away with the camera, so I am mercifully spared the option of photographing more unused gear indoors. I have been wearing the Chocolate Fish merino hoody every day though, it’s bloody marvellous. It’s not going on a hill though, the hood’s definitely casual in it’s approach, even a little Emperor Palpatine you might say. Cool.

So Monday’s imminent again. Will it be new opportunities with new energy? New ailments and new excuses? Will I get my thumb out of mY ass and get on with stuff?
Whatever, lets hope for a dismal day tomorrow so the week starts the right way up.

Quick Fix

I had in mind the wee sign on the cake from last week when we went into the same services for a cuppa on Monday. Imagine my disappointment when the wee sign had been changed for a regular one with the real words on it.
I asked the lassie why they’d changed it, and apparently there had been some sort of run-in with head office over the past few days because the “Hinger” sign had attracted unwanted attention. Hmmm…

Indigestion

I was walking down the street and I could hear raised voices, I then noticed the bus parked in the middle of the road, blocking the one-way street, with traffic now clogging up the signal-controlled junction behind, they obviously weren’t expecting this scenario as the road was completely clear ahead.
The raised voices were coming from a wheelchair user and their companion who were hurling abuse at the bus driver though his open door. It was an old bus, with a two-foot high step and an aisle that you have walk up slightly at an angle so you don’t dunt a hip-bone off of the handles at the edge of the seats.
The wheelchair user and friend were berating the driver for denying their right to use public transport, the driver was sitting there behind his spit-and-stab-proof shield looking confused saying. “But… but… but….”.
Utterly pointless, the whole affair. Both sides of that one will leave with slightly less understanding and a lot less tolerance.
Sometimes it’s good to stand up and be counted, others it really is best just to leave it.

I waited for the green man, I waited through several go signals for the traffic until it was my turn. I left the kerb in a manner not entirely dissimilar to the green man that indicated my freedom to cross, jaunty and yet purposeful. As I reached the other side a car decided to edge into the maelstrom of late Friday afternoon traffic and into my clearly marked safe walking zone when the green man was still flying high.
I didn’t leave than one.

I saw a woman having to stop on the steep hill as she approached the lights as they turned red. What with her arguing with her husband beside her, trying to ignore the unrestrained child in the back who appeared to be reaching for the stereo in the front and talking on her mobile phone, it really was inevitable that she would stall her motor as she tried to pull away steeply uphill when the lights changed. Her inability to apply the footbrake or handbrake during this and the consequent backwards freewheeling was the unexpected bonus.

If I had lunch in the city everyday my head would change shape with such constant shenanigans.

Left hand down a bit

What we have above is an example of modern life’s inability to enforce natural selection.

It’s a street in Glasgow’s city centre, and it’s one-way as you’ll see from the approaching cars and the cars parked at the kerb on the far side. The parking on my side is the 45°, gravity assisted, reverse-in type that saves space and packs the cars in if the street isn’t a main thoroughfare.
But as you’ll also see, it’s open day for stupids who have turned around 300° across two lanes to park nose-in.
Getting in this way is difficult enough, but reversing out when you’ve been too stupid to reverse in is a mammoth task for which the fool seen above was woefully under-equipped. I had tears in my eyes as the cars swerved, honked their horns and waved their hands in terror as this muppet eased themselves backwards and forwards randomly across the lanes trying to get the car pointing the right way.
If this was the stone age, such people would be knocked unconscious by the coconut they were trying to dislodge from the tree by throwing rocks at it, and then be eaten by a passing and most likely arthritic, and consequently somewhat un-threatening sabre-toothed tiger.

I would have loved to have sat with an ice cream and watched the other wrongly parked numpties make their mark on passing innocent motorists fortunes, but time and parking charges were against me.
I carried on to my destination, past office doorways with their clouds of enthusiastic perfume and frantic cigarette smoke, chuckling away to myself as I went.

The Ladybird Book of Everything

Here is a book that will give pleasure to locomotive enthusiasts of all ages.

Illustrated in full-colour are 48 British Railway locomotives which have been specially selected to show the most interesting types at present operating. These include many of the latest diesel and electric locomotives.

Firts published in 1958

1958? I found this book at my folks, it was mine when I was wee. And it is mine again, with a whole rake of Ladybird books in fact. I love the illustrations, the plain talking used to communicate ideas and concepts to a younger audience without being patronising or dumbing it down.
This is an important point. Writing and broadcasting being aimed at the lowest common denominator rather than encouraging the general standard to rise up up to meet a finer, more articulate level of communication and understanding.
I can forsee a time when magazines and newspapers are written in txt spk, and when television news changes it’s format to that of showing video footage of an event accompanied by the presenter merely shouting “This thing is baaaaad!” or “This thing is gooood!” just in case the footage is ambiguous. Actually that wouldn’t be any worse that the current trend of talking endless bollocks about a subject, most of which is opinion and padding. What happened to giving us just the hard facts?
It’s as bad as narrators recapping documentaries after ad breaks. I mean it’s only been four minutes at most, I can remember feeding dolphins in 1971, I think I can pick up the thread again after four minutes, even though I’ve spend some precious and apparently rare mental energy on making a cup of tea.
Stupid bastards.

1958? I’m sure mine’s a reprint, mid sixties at least. I’m not as old as steam trains. Am I?

Accept the expected

Sometimes you have to leap, even though you’ve looked.
You can plan, prepare and commit all you want, but until you’re actually there it’s all just a guessing game. I think knowing this in advance helps, not by making it easier, but by making you ready.
Knowledge is the keenest edge of all.

Michty Me!

I bought a thing on Amazon. I knew what I was looking for, I found it, I clicked the button and very soon it was mine to cherish and enjoy.
So why, when I go onto Amazon, do they now try to sell me the same thing again “Recommended for you: The same thing you just bought; The same thing you just bought but slightly different, The same thing you just bought but from a private seller; And now a completely unrelated item that we’re throwing in so that you think that we know you like our friend and we’re not a shop, we just like you visiting our internet home, you sap.”

Maybe I’m missing something, is my level of awareness above or below what they expect from me? Am I too dumb for their clever marketing ploy, or are they just a bunch of chancer bastards?
I mean, I bought a DVD, so why not sell me carpet slippers to wear while I’m watching it, or an easter egg to dip in my tea during the tense battle/chase/zombie awakening/Iggle Piggle losing his blanket moment, don’t try and sell me the same DVD in a two disc version, or the cookery book that you think will throw me off and make me impulse purchase.
No, I’m not your bitch, so stand down.

And then there’s ebay’s new “My Ebay” page, with special new features for the hard of thinking.

Mmmfffffffff.