Percy Hid

We’d been looking forward to the Perseid Meteorites for ages and it looked like we were getting solid cloud until it miraculously cleared for a few hours, just a the right time.
So off we went down to the beach at 1am to see what we could see. Turns out we could see more than the camera, there’s one very light streak and a few possibles but my wee old Panasonics just weren’t up to it.

Still it was nice to watch the flashes and zooms over our heads, light pollution where I am isn’t too bad at all.
It got cold and the lens fogged several times and the bridge below is the amusing result.
Top is full fog, next is through a sleeve wiped lens and the last is thumb wiped lens. Happy times.

Fire and Water

I do love my west coast skies, from the tops, the water or my living room window.

I was flicking through the local news before bed and saw that the last covid stranded Azamara cruise ship was leaving Glasgow on the high tide just before midnight. It would be passing me at some point so I found a live boat tracker and watched it progress surprisingly fast up river. When it got to Clydebank I threw my clothes back on, grabbed the camera and tripod and bolted for the shore.

Been a while since I ran and I probably should have grabbed any jacket but the down one that had been hanging on the back on the door since last winter.
However while I sputtered and wheezed, I managed to catch a few shots of the silent giant as it slipped towards Inverclyde to restock with square sausage and buckie for its voyage home.

The Wee Spark gets doon and oot, Part 2

The next day it was mostly waiting for the tide. The Wee Spark was looking shiny and oh so bright, but also a little odd swinging gently up in the air still cradled in the boatlift.
But it’s not as if it needs a lot of water under its wee flat arse, so as soon as the Leven was high enough to drive the boatlift down the slip into it, they took us down and dropped us in.
Time to head home.

It was cool out on the water, there was a welcome breeze and the Clyde was empty, all ours. At Dumbarton Rock there’s a huge sandbank to turn round before you can head up river and you find yourself right in the shipping lane a stones throw from the south bank before you take a hard left.

Calm waters, blue skies and my first time at the wheel out on the river. Bill sat in the sun, Jimmy made tea and I found that the channel isn’t as wide as you’d think given the size of the ships I see gliding past on a daily basis. On the canal, a little adjustment can be seen pretty fast in your course direction, out here with not so many reference points it took a minute to dial in the little extra subtlety I needed.

Then I had it, one hand on the wheel, tea in the other, a breeze in the window and the chug chug chug of vintage diesel power. It was glorious.

I was enjoying the surroundings as much as the driving, or is that sailing, seeing all the familiar sights from a different angle, it’s been a while since I was on the river.
Being so close the the Lang Dyke and it’s stone built buoys is a bit of a treat. It was originally built in the 18th Century to speed up the tidal flow and scour the mud from the river bed to deepen it. It worked perfectly and opened Glasgow up to shipping, now it’s crumbling stones are more part of the landscape than an engineering curiosity, but it’s still doing it’s original job.

We were buzzed by a drone, but no one ever got in touch so I don’t know if there’s footage out there somewhere. The Bell Monument and Dunglass Castle is well seen from the river and with work finally starting on the old Esso site around it, the day where folks can visit are maybe not too far away.
At this point Jimmy was just giving me instructions on how to get into the harbour. “Er, are you sure…” was my first thought, but he seemed unfazed, so what the hell.

There are two white markers cleverly hidden in the undergrowth by the railway on the far side of the harbour which you line up with to come in from the river so you follow the channel. We’re not deep in the water, but still, I was concentrating hard.
In we went, I didn’t hit anything “Hard right” says Jimmy, which sounds more dramatic than it actually was given the low revs and sedate pace. That right turn lined my up with the deep sea lock which would lift us back up into the basin.
The Wee Spark really is wee, but the lock looked like a tight fit. Gentle on the wheel, back on the throttle, we glided in perfectly. I was heading for the cill at the far lock gate, so a wee bit of reverse gear to centre us was all I needed and… stalled it. Revs too low, all thumbs on the controls. Ah dammit.

I loved it. Even on that short run from Dumbarton it was the best fun sitting on that chair with the wheel.

We were in the lock with a family of swans which would not be lured away from the gushing waters by bread, Mars Bar or shouting. The did however bask in cheers and applause from the wee gathered crowd when the water level got high enough for the cygnets to unglamorously chuck themselves over the gap at the top of the lock and into the basin. Swans are so graceful on water and in the air, but put them on webbed feet and given them a slippery obstacle to tackle and it’s a Friday night drunk trying to get on a bus in Partick in the 1970’s.

We were home and the boat looked great, all fresh and I didn’t scrape any of the new paint getting it there. I was buzzing, mildly sunburnt and thirsty. Let’s go again.

The Wee Spark gets doon and oot, Part 1

Boats sit in the water and that water wants to get in and so does the plant life swirling around in it, so your hull need cleaned and repainted to keep things watertight and rot free. But your boat sits in the water.
So, you if you want to get into it you’ve got to get out of it. That’s where a trip down the Clyde come sin, a sail down to Dumbarton to Sandpoint Marina to get lifted out and onto shore for a frantic couple of days work. We were hoping the sun would shine.

The crew for the day was Jimmy, Bill and John, the usual suspects. The Wee Spark was in the canal so had to come down through the lock into the top basin, drop the mast and funnel to get under the broken and therefor unopenable bascule bridge then get prepped for going through the sea lock into the harbour and the river beyond.
This prep was putting the mast and funnel back up and waiting for the tide while enjoin tea and pieces on the deck while waiting for the tide.

 

We had a wee bunch of well wishers to send us off when we got into the sea lock. The Wee Spark draws folk in and just makes them smile, it’s quite something.  Even water in the air pipe going to the whistle meaning the cheery toot as they sailed into the harbour was actually a gurgley squeak was endearing.
Off the went with me waving a white hankie as the chugged away onto the Clyde.

I swapped the hankie for my phone pretty quick though “Can you see that coming up river, huge bow wave?”
They did and were getting ready for it, but the speeding tug threw on the brakes and passed the Spark safely. That would have not been fun.
Fair play to the tug captain and good observation spotting them, but they shouldn’t have been horsing on like that.
However, it was back to the motor and down to Dumbarton to wait for them.
I didn’t have too long and they made quite an entrance, that wee splash of colour stands out well on the crags of Dumbarton Rock.

The boat lift is quite a machine. It drives into the Leven, cradles the boat and drives back out with it swinging inside the frame. The Spark is surprisingly beefy at eight tons but the lift has a forty ton rating so this thing is strong enough not to notice us and it has no cross bracing except at the drive end. I’m always dead impressed by it.
More impressive is the convenience of it as they leave is hanging at a good working height to get into the flat bottom and get it prepped for painting. We were all scrapers and wire brushes until Frank who was working on his yacht offered his pressure washer. Oh happy day, hours saved, knees saved and never was a bottle so well deserved. Bless you sir.

The intense heat dried the hull fast and by the time dusk came we had two coats of black on. We sat by the Leven with fish suppers raided from the High Street, tea in dirty old mugs, faces dirty and a just a little sunburnt.
Job nearly done, just got to get back in the water tomorrow and race for home.

Blink and you’ll miss it

I’ll knew the eclipse was coming but I still forgot a camera. It was cloudy too, maybe that was a subconscious gremlin in my pocket filling routine for the day ahead.

Whatever, when it broke through the gloom I was having a fly cuppa with Linda and was many miles away from base and any camera.

I didn’t want to miss it so I snapped away on my phone and got several shots over bright blurry disappointment. I sat in the motor ready to leave and saw my clip-on Polaroid shades. Oh, says I.

Scratched sunglasses over phone camera lens. Day saved.

Morar Ramorra

It’s amazing how having freedom back has meant that I’ve been next to nowhere for weeks. It’s not been for the lack of desire, it’s just stuff getting in the way. Some of it is good stuff and I’ll get to that later.

This trip however was booked and we were going whatever, the Morar Hotel on a Woucher Voucher.

Of course we left just ten minutes late and that mean being stuck behind a police escorted industrial load all the way to the big passing place just at Loch Ba. That was emotional, we should have been digesting lunch and on the last few miles outside of Mallaig by the time we cleared the lorry. But hey ho, it was pleasant enough outside, and oh look, mountains an’ that.

Fed and watered at busy Ft Bill we were then on Linda’s first trip up the A830. Ah what joy, not too busy apart from Glenfinnan and it’s a stunner of a road is this. The hills aren’t as high as some, but they loom close over the road on both sides and it the middle of it in the now gloomy light it felt both oppressive and epic. It’s like Glen Shiel but ramped up in awesomeness. I need into these hills one day.

We caught Morar with the level crossing closed and some dumb bastards crossing on foot regardless. The train horn from a few feet away made them move a little faster. Good grief.

The hotel is basic and looked well prepared for covid friendly use, until we found a packet of crisps had been emptied behind a night stand as we hunted for a lost hair clip.
The manager’s response had an air of disinterest, add that to the 55 minute wait for our pre booked breakfast next morning and you can say that the hotel will not be visited again by us. Bummer, it’s in a fine spot.

We walked the silver sands before dinner in bare feet until there was no more sand to walk on, just open sea ahead. Cthulu was visiting and we were careful not to stand on the poor bugger.
When we got back we both noticed our feet had never been smoother, salt water and exfoliation, I’d recommend it. Just watch out for shells.

After dinner we went back out and headed round the coast a little in the hopes of a sunset. Across the machair and onto the rocks, we got enough colour to keep even us two happy.
There was a warm breeze, kids playing along the beach and nothing more to be done that day but just sit and watch.

After the breakfast adventure we made a last run down to the sands and then up the road to Mallaig for a wee wander around and some fantastic pastries from the bakehouse on the pier. Brought a loaf back too, great wee place.
While we were there the Jacobite steam train arrived which felt like it doubled the population of the village when the passengers disembarked.
We did a nosy at the station and watched while the train swapped ends, a convoluted process for the return journey to Fort William where the 1963 diesel goes to the back and the 1937 steam engine stays at the photogenic front.

The smell of the steam engine gave me flashbacks to when we had steam traction engines, hot oil and grease, burning coal and the sounds of hissing steam and ratting metal. Didn’t know I’d miss that.
The old Class 37 diesel though, I was 12 again as it rumbled past me on the platform. I love the sound of the engines, the personality the 50s and 60s locos had. Aye, I was almost giddy with excitement.
The best bit was when Linda waved at the driver from around three feet away and he completely ignored her with extreme prejudice. We were howling with laughter all the way back down the platform. Some folk take themselves way too seriously.

The gulls have moved into the rarely used right hand platform with newly hatched chicks bobbing away on makeshift nests around the rails.
The parent was giving the eye though, we didn’t hang around.

It was good to get away, even for a mad dash. Saw lots to give us smiles that haven’t worn off.

It was interesting that we spoke to so many random folk through the trip, even for us pair of banter merchants there was a noticeable increase in stranger engagement. People seemed to have time and wanted to talk, is this a legacy of lockdown, are we interested in people again? Oh I hope so, and I hope it lasts.

So, I wonder what’s next.

Jumping back in time

My old pal Rab from School scanned a bunch of old photies and shared them online with most of the folks in them, including me, mostly with a guitar.
I haven’t seen or heard of some of the folk in there since the 80’s. So many memories and also so many things I just do not remember at all.

From pals to nothing, how does that happen. Glad to say I regularly bump into some of them along at the old folks social club, Facebook that is.

One thing is for sure though, I was a skinny hairy bugger in my late teens. While I wouldn’t mind being lighter and maybe having some extra living follicles up top, I like the man I became better than that daft boy.

Oh, the stupid things he is about to do and say. For years to come. Don’t do it Peter… Too late.

Tomorrow’s Dream Vol 12

I think this was the first photie I ever posted on here and that’s getting on for a long time ago now.
It still looks something the same, the view as well as this dark mode bucket of digital consciousness. The rhododendrons have gone from around the pines now which has changed the whole feel of Black Wood.
It’s not so black for a start, the light shines right through. I suppose that gives a clearer shot at the deer…

So lockdown is gone and when we finally got out it was on the day when the heaviest rain we’d had in weeks arrived, maybe even in months. We looked at the hills from the motor and ate our lunch.
That’s a lie actually, we looked at where the hills probably were.
I’m trying to take positives from the experience but other that the company I was keeping there’s nothing to report, the roads are full of stupids and there’s litter everywhere, the A82 is like the access road to a landfill site where overfilled bin lorries are dropping crap from their load as they trundle towards the gate. It’s actually quite dispiriting.

Not the glorious return I was hoping for. It’ll be better next time.

I think it’s a A5 variant

While I spent a lot of time looking out tents and stoves and whatnot, it turns out that packing for the studio would actually lead to my first post lockdown escape.

It’s nearly five months since we last stood socially distanced in this room. Still keeping our distance, but with a few vaccinations around the room now we tried to get stiff fingers and quiet voices back into full working order.
There really is nothing quite like creating and playing music with other people. These folks here give me energy and inspiration even though I was genuinely in extreme pain with the last chords of the last song before we ground to a happy halt after three hours of non stop playing.

We found our groove pretty fast which is a very good sign, a few bars of Black Sabbath before getting straight into our own tunes.
We’ll be ready to record soon, I think a couple of songs are shouting “pick me” at us. It’s not metal, not even close. Folks that know me are going to be raising an eyebrow, can’t wait to share it.

Back in next week, work to do. Ah what a joy.

Tomorrow’s Dream Vol 11

This trip was notable in several ways and it’s stayed in my mind because of that. It was a glorious day whatever way you look at it and I had an excellent long walk in up Glen Nevis to have a wander over the Aonachs’ Beag and Mor in fine snowy conditions.

I met a fella as we both worked our way through some icy rocks in the sun, I think on Aonach Beag. We stopped and chatted for a bit and went back on our opposing directions.

I spend some time on Aonach Mor as the light was dimming and as the sun set behind Ben Nevis a little patch of cloud appeared and wrapped around the Ben below the summit and over the edge of the CMD arete. Very atmospheric, very pretty, worth some cold fingers to watch with a cuppa.

As I left to take a steep line down west to lose height quickly I bumped into another lonely figure with a ginger beard and a fancy Rab eVent shell suit on. We stopped and chatted for a bit and went our separate ways.

Later on my way down the line of the burn to Steall I caught a bright silver flash in the water under my headtorch beam and went to look. A bright shiny quartz boulder. Lovely.
I dug it out and put it in my pack. It was too big, it was too heavy, it’s still at my front door today.

Back at home the wonders of the internet surprisingly filled in some blanks. I went on the old OutdoorsMagic website to share my fun times and it turned out my first chance meeting was with Steve Morley, a familiar name from the forums and someone who I hadn’t met in real life yet. One of many from that place I can still counts as friends today.

When he thought I’d stole his photie because it was so similar to one of his own taken when we were standing just a few feet apart, the other stranger turned out to be Steve Perry, now sadly passed, who was on his continuous round of the winter Munros.

It’s a small world but it can give you big memories and bigger smiles.

 

A quick wee daydream

I think I was either away looking to see where the purple had gone or I had left a light on in case the purple came home.

I’ve been bombarding a pal with wild camping photies to let him know what he’s in for on his first trip to a night on the tops.
As usual I get sucked into buckets of files full of joy.
I wonder if I can still do this stuff.

Going to see awfy soon.

Paint on my cruel or happy face

It wasn’t ideal, we had planned for running away on the 26th but freedom was granted early, what else could we do but improvise.

The cool bag was ready, the blanket and down jackets were packed and the 4am start was as clear headed as it was ever going to be.
The road was nearly empty, the A82. Ha.

We drove north under a brightening sky, dark silhouettes lined the road, every shape had a name, a story, a time and a place and of course, I had to tell them about it.

We reached the edge of Loch Ba with the sun set to rise in around 10 minutes. It was still frosty, the air chilled and the sky a cold pale blue but the east was a burning orange, ready to burst upwards through a thin layer of swirling mist.
Blanket down by the loch, breakfast laid out, eyes to the east.

The first sun rise seen from a grid square that didn’t start with NS in what, a year?

We made the most of it, familiar places, familiar roads, new thoughts and feelings, it had been a week for memories in more ways than one.
The traffic was coming out way as we headed south, it was going to be busy.
We’ll be back soon enough, not doing a 4am start though. I think it will have to be late when I leave. Tradition isn’t it.

Linda took that last two on here phone. Nice misses.

Tomorrow’s Dream Vol 10

Above was taken on whatever low res camera loaded into the Sony Ericsson phone I had at the time, below was taken on whatever borrowed camera I had at the time, and just before the solitary battery died too leaving me with just the phone to capture what I have to say was an absolutely perfect morning.

Easter, space year 2000 and something and it was like yesterday in my mind. I was camped on Carn Dearg, north of Rannoch Station, an easy walk and a fine pleasant camp, but with that morning, oh what a morning.

I was in a first gen Alpkit down bag the night before, Alpine Dream was it? Great warm bag with a shite hood that was barely a pillow, glad they changed that. It was frosty but that sun was instantly warm and the glens, hell the whole landscape, flooded with fog as soon as the first rays broke the horizon, just over a wee bit from Schiehallion if memory serves me right.

That was a multi cuppa breakfast, I didn’t leave until the mist lifted and the sun was high up. The run across to Sgor Gaibhre does not linger sharply, I think I was still stunned by the preceding hours, but I do remember gladly reaching water in the coire and seeing the first of the days’ fresh feet ascending towards me. Too late folks, you missed it all.

Now, I wrote that first bit above over my morning coffee before I went out to meet a client. By the time I got back to base everything had changed.
Travel restrictions are being lifted on Friday this week, not on the 26th.

This has spun me right onto my arse, the dream is a reality etc. But I’m getting my first jag on Saturday and I’m expecting having some sort of reaction to it, I don’t see me getting anywhere right away.
It’s not theoretical anymore, I’m planning for reality. It’s like an out of body experience, what do I do, I know what to do, what did I forget, what do I need?

Bloody hell.

That big grin below, he had no idea what the next few years would bring to him in the outdoors. But now I’m looking ahead too. Time to make a brand new grin to catch and keep with all these old ones.

 

Deep blue see

I was in a dungeon in the dark with the water on the floor actually drying up rather than deepening as I usually tend to find it since I’d actually stopped the leak and then the call came.
It was an international call, it meant a border crossing.

I had all I needed, I could go then and there. “It’s 12 miles to Argyle and Bute, we got a half tank of gas, half a pack of Wrigley’s Extra, it’s sunny and my sunglasses are in Linda’s car”. In my head: “Hit it”.

I put my feet on foreign soil for the first time in a long time. Funny, it felt like home. Fresh snow, blue skies, cold dark water, a chill breeze, a tingle in my toes and a tear in my eye.
I laughed out loud, a nervous reaction I think. All the lockdown breaking arseholes who have seen this and walked or driven through it without worry or consequence and I’m playing in my head how I would explain to the police where I was going and what I was doing if I got pulled.
I had the set of church keys in my pocket, my tools in the back and a documented loss of pressure to investigate. And I was still a little worried.

Come the 26th I don’t care, I’ve done my bit. I played the game to the letter, if there’s a third wave due to dumb bastards mixing willy-nilly over Easter and consequently another lockdown I’m declaring myself the ambassador of a small independent Scottish protectorate and I’m going wherever the hell I like with diplomatic immunity.

Aye.

Done.

The journey ended in another dungeon of course and with a few fancy moves I left it all in fine working order. Amusingly I’ll have to got back next week though because it needs a pump. Bummer.

Tomorrow’s Dream Vol 9

This is still borrowed camera time and also my first iPod days, so I think it’s spring 2008. I know exactly where this is, the Laserlite above is parked on the ridge of Meall Coire Lochan (ish) west of Meall na Teanga above Loch Lochy.

I remember this one vividly, mind you I think if you show me any photie it pretty much all comes back as I’ve discovered these past few weeks.
See, that’s why we should take always photies, that’s why we should blog. Memories might bring mixed emotions but there’s a real joy in it, and I don’t feel any stronger inspiration that realising what I can do myself after so long of not doing it.
Seeing others adventures can be aspirational, seeing my own makes it all feel accessible. Sometimes that’s just enough where you’re a bit rusty.

It was raining all the way up. I’d dumped my pack at the bealach to run up Sron a Choire Ghairbh and then enjoyed a little clearer air on the fine traverse over Meall na Teanga.
I had music on in the rain, metal in my earbuds and I had Celtic Frost’s then recent new album on repeat. Singing Os, abysmi os in my best death metal voice as I went. Can’t believe that detail has stuck so fast in my mind.

I was damp getting in the tent but warm enough, staring out to a distant Fort William as the sky darkened. I only saw the sky by accident and it had me scrabbling for wet shoes and my jacket to get out and see it.
Vivid red out to the west with a window to a pale clear sky that had been hidden all day. It kinda makes it all worth it, these wee moments.

I must have slept well, I have no horror stories of wind or rain, animal attacks or seismic events to recall. It was a lovely morning too.

I feel it’s my duty to point out that the fuzzy pastel scenes here are exactly as seen on the day. I haven’t done that, it’s a combination of cheap camera and actual weather conditions.
Mist on Loch Arkaig, the last of the snows clinging onto Ben Nevis’ gullies. I sat there for hours, it was nearly lunch time before the rising sun burnt off the soft sheen and I descended in unexpected bright sunshine, bare skin cooking well before I got to the treeline.

The trees are gone now, Gleann Chia-aig having been dynamited end to end for a hydro scheme. I was there with Gus a few years later and the whole place was devastated.
I do remember walking down through the tall pines on a winding trail, rushing water below and the occasional whisper of wildlife far above. Now I just immediately think of bare rock and bulldozed slopes.

That’s another reason to go somewhere, to take photies and to write it down. Some bastard is always ready to take it all away.