This, that, the next thing and the thing after that too.

I’m glad this week is nearly over. I’ve achieved heehaw really.
I have learned to monitor my movement and posture, and being careful and strict has seen my back twinge go from being eyewatering with every movement eight days ago, to a mere light stiffness when leaving the mattress this morning. That’s not really a victory though as it was my own stupidity that brought it all about.
Thinking time is what I’ve had, but I didn’t really use that either. I have read some books, but a Commando compendium is hardly increasing my quality of knowledge, so that’s another fail. The sheer offensiveness of some of the “national stereotypes” attached to the characters is noteworthy though, some sort of social comment or history on display maybe.
I cleaned the bike, but I didn’t ride it. I sorted my camping box, but didn’t take anything out and use it. I’ve unwrapped test kit, but I haven’t tested it.
And hey, I’ve got a blog and I haven’t blogged. That’s good though, it should be a diary of stuff I’ve done and not a reason to do stuff.

I did get Holly to myself yesterday, and we had a fine time. You know Starbucks is great for weans, you get a Babyccino for free with dad’s latte, whereas some cafes won’t even lift their gaze from their shoes to try and cater for you and wee yin. There’s always notable exceptions, like the O’brien’s on Bothwell Street, which is brilliant, and most Costa’s are good too, but Starbucks seem to have it sorted for families.
We were in a model shop where Holly got some animals for her farm, and she took some persuading that the knight in armour on the horse didn’t really fit into her usual rural scene. Mind you, neither does the monkey that lives on the roof of the barn, or the elephant family that went home with, so what the hell does dad know?
In the car is funny just now, she’s picked up on my current fad of Rammstein and ask for Amerika as soon as we get on the road. So what we have is her wee hied bobbing away in my rear view mirror shouting “Am-e-ee-ah, wun-ah-bahh, On daddy, on!” Brilliant.

I haven’ t talked about my Trail stuff, and there’s been a few bits in there.
A few months ago there was my first ever proper article. It took me ages to read it because I knew there would be more edits since my l;ast revision and I didn’t want to know, and in fact I couldn’t be arsed as I was sick of looking at the text. But, it came out okay I think. When I read it I still see me in it, although the style is a bit bland I think, there’s some of my usual banter in there. It’s funny, I had to go back and shoehorn all the lightweight stuff into it as is was very thin on such references in the first draught.
One disappointment was the cut of some text that I kinda knew wouldn’t get through, and that was near the beginning where I said something about setting off overloaded like a “badly advised DofE hopeful”. It ended up as something lame, which escapes me for the moment! I’ll dig out a first draught at some point and post it on here.
Tim Glasby’s (they spelled his second name wrong by the way) photies were brilliant, he sat and waited for the sun to be where he wanted it to be instead of running around daft like me looking for the best view. Professionals eh?
I’m proud of it though, a heating engineer getting something like eight pages in a magazine to tell a wee story about his way of going into the mountains? That’s pretty cool.
There was a bunch of other stuff, gear bits and pieces and that, but the funniest one in that issue was the subscription offer pages. It’s a lovely shot by Tim with a giant copy of Trail pasted across me standing by the lochside. Quite right too, weatherbeaten old bastard that I am.
I’ve had a few routes in the mag now, I’m not sure where we are, but I think the Lurg Mhor one is in the current or last issue, and it gives the details and info of the route I took a few months back. See, I do actually know what I’m doing out there. Well, I look it up once I’m back of course. Ben Lomond “roon the back” is out about now and them we’re onto a bunch of other stuff. I’ve got routes running through to next August and I have to be honest, I enjoy that more than doing the column. It’s being oot, and if you look at the photies, the bloke in there is wearing trail shoes. That’s what we need.
My Used & Abused reviews are ongoing too, I’ve got a huge list I’m working through and as reviews go, these are good ones. Every item has been properly thrashed by the writer.

I got a purple woolly bunnet yesterday as well. It’s really nice, but I’m kinda worried that it’ll shrink in the wash.
Ach well, you can’t have it all.

ABBA’s best song is “Angelo”

I’m always saying that I don’t take the hills for granted, but sometimes it’s beyond me to raise the enthusiasm to get there, even when it would be glorious.
I’ve had a “challenging” week, and frankly I’m bloody knackered. I had planned to pack and run for somewhere localish late yesterday afternoon but I when I got out of bed I knew there was no way it was happening. I watched the sun set in a burst of colour, streaks of pink soared over me as I watched the day die from behind the double glazing. I was melancholy, but not frustrated, and that’s how I knew I’d made the right call. Never go because you feel you must, you have to want to go.
So maybe there was a little bit of taking-for-granted there, the hills are only a few miles away, I’ll see them soon.
Staying at home had a surprise in store though. We were woken up the back of 6 by a huge horn sounding on the Clyde. I shot out of bed to look outside, recognising the fog horn of something big.
The horn sounded again and again, and louder each time before the great shape of a cargo vessel slipped silently from upstream on its way to the sea. It’s engines became audible as the stern came into view, and the wheelhouse was near the top of the thick layer of fog clinging to the river. The crew must have been standing on their tiptoes trying to see the sunlight so tantalisingly close to them. As they passed, the tug behind them slipped into sight, lit up like a Christmas tree, concentrating in keeping their charge in the deep channel and off of the sandbanks. Not as easy as you’d think, we’ve had a beached freighter at Dumbarton very recently.
It would have been a wonderful sight from the Kilpatricks, blue sky and rising sun over the mist with the hills, Erskine Bridge and the tip of the ship’s funnel rising through it. But, I slipped back under the duvet and fell asleep to the sound of their horn being answered by a higher pitched horn further down stream. The slow duet that they sang became a lullaby and I was gone again.

Good luck tae ye!

Outdoors again, and nowhere near a mountain. It looks like getting the miles in on the bike is taking over at the moment, but I’m heading to the Arrochar Alps as soon as there’s a gap in the weather. I’m not missing taking a right turn at Tarbet on Loch Lomond though, I’ve seen enough of the A82 for a wee while.
Instead, I watched Jimmy get the Wee Spark towed along the canal by a horse for the first time which was fun. The Wee Spark is a 1/3 size Clyde Puffer which he built in our workshop and is now a legend in the world of boats an’ that.
Holly got to pat the horse and was very pleased with that, and the speed at which the horse could pull the boat was frightening, horses are badass.

I did many hours in the saddle as well, racking up 60km on Sunday, with about half of it in the rain. The new bike feels good (that’s it above) and covers the ground well for a full-susser. I’ve dropped a good bit of weight off it already since I replaced some of its low-rent stock items with the good kit off my old frame, and I’ll get another kilo or two off it before the WHW trip as well. Bikes are the realm of the super-geek, tinkering, replacing, fettling, improving, feeding that bottomless pit that eats your money and laughs when it’s still “Hmmm, not quite right yet”.
The glorious apparel I’m sporting above is a Honey Stinger/Big Agnes team jersey that was presented to me when I was through at the UK HQ a few weeks back. I’ve worn it a few times now and it’s actually really good. The fit is spot on, the zip goes down to my navel and the fabric is pretty much all-conditions specific. And I thought that cycle gear looked crap and performed as convincingly as a hamster on a stick. Being wrong is good.
The photie above also captures the moment when I was distracted whilst waiting for the timer to go off and was thinking “That dug coming towards me is helluva big…”

I took a wee run around the harbour on the way home after tearing round the woods on the singletrack with the last of my energy as hunger took a firm hold. It was both dismal and magnetic watching the greys shift and change as the rain flowed over the water and onto the hills.
I was soaked to the skin when I got home, and decided to have a bath to enjoy some of that therapeutic stuff that baths are supposed to provide. I fitted a corner bath in our Mickey Mouse bathroom to save space however, and jammed in there with bubbles and myriad toys and tea-set components I must have looked like a murder victim in a wheelie bin.
Still, with my feet sticking out over the side, I fell asleep with Rammstein’s Reise, Reise on the iPod, quite happy with my lot.

The light at the middle of the tunnel

I didn’t get out for a ride tonight, which was annoying as I’ve just fitted new bars and stem to the bike. I also stuck on my hand-built wheels and was depressed to find that the new cheapos that came with the bike might be lighter as the rims are actually top notch. But, the hubs are pish.
Ach, I’ll deal with it later.
Minging weather, dinner, Cat visiting and having little energy left after spending the afternoon having to hotwire some equipment in a flooded plantroom to enable it all to run for two days before I strip it all out has had me fastened to the chair since I came in and still in my working gear too.
I did have lunch with my best pal from primary school though, only the second time we’ve met in over 20 years, and apparently the passage of time, is in some cases kind of irrelevant.
It really was great, and interesting to see how much and indeed how little we change through the years.

There’s talk of pressing pause on the Empire Strikes Back to make tea. I’m playing dumb and hoping someone else’s nerve/patience goes. I hate making multiple cuppas, it dilutes the art, it’s mass production … or some other nonsense that covers for my laziness. 

So, back to writing KORS Part 2, what can I say about Rab’s use of yellow and purple? This’ll delay me ever more…

Go West!

After being a bit wiped out over the last couple of days, I got my arse in gear and me and the girls headed out. We ended up cutting about Argyle, playing on the swings and having cuppas and cake in Lochgilphead, having ice cream at Crinan while watching the boats and finally having dinner at the RFC. Mountains? Aye, drove past lots of them.
Magic.

Playaway

The three of us went for a wander today, around the tracks and trails from Balmaha. A little bit of the West Highland Way, a little bit of throwing stones into Loch Lomond from the beach and a little bit of looking up at the mountains just up the Loch.
We strolled around under blue skies full of sunshine and showers and had a smashing time. Holly loves her high vantage point in the carrier and Joycee loves the storage compartment under the seat for all manner of “stuff” that Holly “needs”. Just worrying about nappies, juice and wee gingerbread men in my rucksack is really rather nice.
It’s so good to have these places just up the road, a family day out with only minutes driving at either end of it. There were a lot of folk out and about and there was space for everybody. If the pundits are to be believed then more folks will be discovering such places this summer for the first time rather than flying to somewhere else to drink all night and sleep all day. I wonder.

It’s been a few weeks since I was above the 900m contour and I haven’t missed it. Since coming back from Glen Affric I’ve been busy with one thing and another and I think there was a lingering discontentment following that anyway which meant that I haven’t had the notion. I just haven’t felt like driving North.
I like that, it means that I’m not obsessed, I don’t need to go. But, the past few days I’ve been looking at the weather a lot, I was pointing out all the peaks to Holly, I’ve been rumaging through kit and now I want to go again.
The tops are calling. Alright!

Bank Holiday Jam

Holly had a fine time sitting in the bluebells in the Duchess Wood in Helensburgh. She loves being outside, and everything she sees is just the best, most interesting thing ever.
I had the girl all on my own you see, Joycee had organised at a project in the wood. So we faffed about drawing pictures and the like, and when the rain stopped we nipped over to Helensburgh to see what Mum was up to.

There were folk there from BTCV and Buglife, with locals turning up to see what was happening and welly-wearing volunteers at every turn.
There’s a whole series of initiatives at work here, all trying to get folk off the couch and into whatever green spaces they have access to. The woods are very nice, accessible and as it turns out full of life. Above we had all sorts of minibeasts on display for folk to see (right there, they’re watching a Caddisfly edging out of its case), all the stuff you never get to see unless you’re really looking for it.
While we were having a picnic Holly pointed repeatedly at a stone which turned out to have a snail on it and the Buglife fella told us it was a Garlic Snail, which isn’t a recipe, it’s its real name.
It was great to meet folk who know not only the names of things, but also the latin names and all the details. Cool.
In the trees was an old railway wagon, now devoid of its wooden sides and roof, leaving only the rusting metal ends to blend slowly into the scenery.
It reminded me of the one that sat very visibly next to the road a few miles South of Fort William. It took many years for it to disappear completely which it now has, just a pile of metal spars and a few jagged wooden shapes left from it now.

On the way home we visited Ardardan Farm where Holly got to see Heilan Coos, lambs and millions of chickens. Her favourite were the two huge pigs who fell asleep while we were all (Joycee met up with us there after she finshed) in the cafe. They were sitting snoring in the sunshine and Holly though that one of them should wear her sunglasses, and would not be persuaded otherwise.
The jam from the title? That would be the pot of jam that Holly found on the table in the cafe, with spoon and hand, the jam was hers. Oh yes.
Family, outdoors, happy.

As you can see, the Ardardan sheep are tonally complimentary and not exactly suffering from overcrowding!