Dipping a toe

…into the loch and into trail shoes. Did I mention my toe? I imagine I’ll remember vividly how running across the living room into a guitar case that I’d left there giving me no one to blame but myself stopped me dead in my tracks from enjoying the recent spell of awesome weather.

The toe is black, the sky is grey and my mood is, I dunno, multicolored probably. May is going to be quite the month on this old place, just got to get to next week when mountain Mayday #1 arrives.

Whispers to self, don’t screw it up… don’t screw it up… don’t screw it up…

Hardware Headache

The new camera is taking a while to get my head around. Everything I take is out of focus, which is my job description, not the camera’s. May is full of stuff and I really hope I can get this thing to do what i want it to before I put in the miles and stick pegs in the ground with no decent photies to show for it.

Back to the manual it is. Page 113…

Seventy Nine

I would never have known it was there. It was mother’s birthday dinner, we were having a lovely time but I had to slip outside for some cool air as the kitchen was like sauna.

It was cool and grey and I sighed and sat in a garden chair, leaned back and looked up. Well, all the good weather was just there in a wee oasis in the sky.

Lovely.

Also, that’s not my fringe, it’s a bush.

 

37 116

Since my up close train encounter at Bridge of Orchy a couple of weeks back I’ve been seeing vintage diesel locomotives everywhere.

I say seeing, but hearing then glimpsing is probably more accurate. The west coast main line might run past my window but the sound is mostly blocked until it’s right there in front on me. Been missing all sorts of 50s and 60s wonders.

Still, got this bugger just in time as it growled through the station and past the workshop. 1962 and still going strong, there’s a little bit of hope for us all.

 

Congregating in Paisley

It’s always a little odd going to Paisley as I spent almost every day of my early working life there, years of it in fact. Once the local authority revamp came in and a wholesale change of personnel in change of maintenance with it, with us unwilling to bribe our way into keeping the work we’d been doing to a high standard for many years I was suddenly never ever in Paisley again for years.

I’ve picked up a few customers there since so I’ve still seen the town evolve and it really does try pull itself up with continual remodeling and also a string of fantastic events over the past few years.
It’s a town that had everything it was built on taken away and I wish it well as it keeps trying to rebuild and find its place again.

The photies here are from a recent light show that saw the history of the planet projected onto Paisley Abbey. It was an absolute joy to witness as the animations lit up the abbey in precise detail, even picking out the window frames while other installation around the area featured other animations and videos of people telling the story of what we were watching.
Despite being outside on a cold night it managed to be immersive and captivating for the three of us. I even stopped talking about how I’d worked in every building in sight for the whole show. The girls must have been pleased.

A live choir sang while we watched plants and animals evolve until we finished on a current note with digital information flowing across the stonework. In the middle of it all a projection as bright as day turned the abbey into an ancient Egyptian temple.

Brilliant to see. It times of such worry when we are being governed by self serving arseholes in Westminster, a Russian madman wants to eat the world and we’ll burning our furniture for heat next winter if we haven’t already eaten it, it’s good to know that we can create some wonder and beauty and also that we will turn out in big numbers to enjoy it.

Valentines Day

All we needed was each other, the road, somewhere to eat and this to look at. After the greyest of weekends this light and shade and colour brought joy to our hearts.

Well, more joy I should say. The unlikeliness of our original meeting and windy road to our joining has own forever joy.

It’s never too late, for love, for hope, for life for putting things right and yes, making new mistakes to try and fix.
I sometimes feel like I’m walking a path of largely undeserved second chances, but I will take every gladly one offered and try to make the most of it. For me and for you, the kind soul who offered it.

By the way, Saint Valentine’s skull is on display in the Basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin in Rome. It’s got missing teeth and is crowned with flowers. That’s got to be the most heavy metal thing I’ve heard for a wee while.

Here’s to love (picture a parma violet gin and diet lemonade held aloft in a jaunty fashion).

Banned

I have been immune to advertising since 1999.

Might be better to say I’ve been unmoved by advertising since 1999. Back then Karrimor’s new owners launched into a huge campaign that went well outside the outdoor world and into billboards and the sides of buses.

I loved the look, the colours and the cheeky attitude. I loved that it quickly got the brand into trouble and the adverts got banned in case the message was taken too literally and workplaces were suddenly devoid of colleagues who had gone to the hills.

They reacted to the bans by changing the tagline from Phone In Sick to Go To Work. Ha.

 

I found these tidying up old magazines and they made me smile. Still my favourite gear and the early days of my love of colour.

In general the 90s were a golden era for gear I think. Leafing through the old mags I can see rapid gear evolution which has not continued at the same pace in the years from then to now.  Aye we’ve got lighter and better fabrics and cleaner construction, but that’s tweaking, not making leaps. Maybe there are none to be made, I certainly don’t find my 90s gear to be lacking so much it’s unusable or even compromised, they got so much right back then.

With that in the back of my mind I’m undertaking some gear grouptests for a well respected magazine over the next few months. I’m not expecting to be stunned by anything, but I hope I’m pleased on occasion, and if I’m properly impressed any point that’ll be a joy.

I just hope they send some bright colours.

 

Game Boy

One thing that’s kept me sane this past month is Descenders, a video game based around downhill mountain biking. It’s got Fort William in it (kinda) and plenty other venues that folk from the bike world would recognise. As well as handling that feels like the game’s been made by bikers it has the sensations of speed and peril that I’ve never felt in any other game, and I started with Pong over 40 years ago. I’ve shut my eyes when I know I’m going to crash several tiomes. It’s magic.

Still, the sun going down made me look up and run for the camera.

Christmas Behind Bars

I’d spent the best part of two years doing my best. I’ve never feared for myself, but worrying about my daughter and my parents has made me catch my breath many times.

I’d heard Linda struggling for breath on the phone in the early days of lockdown and wondered if this was it, when we were just starting out, had we been fast forwarded to our end by the stupidity and inaction of others?

I’d watched incredulous as the Tories laughed at us, fattening their own and their friends’ wallets as we slipped into chaos, and all the while a large number of this islands’ inhabitants still cheered them on because you know, Brexit.
“Who’s the more foolish? The fool or the fool who follows him?”
I’d like to say that Obi Wan nailed it in ’77, but Boris is no fool, he’s a cynical, devious liar and the only fool in that picture is anyone who voted for him.

I’d got my jags; support band, headliner and encore. Am I now being tracked by Bill Gates, Wee Nicky or MI5? Not any more than I have been since I first signed up for something on the internet and started carrying a smartphone.
This really pisses me off. Conspiracy theorists are dicks. Actually, that’s a little harsh, they’re terrified dicks. Rather than accept that in reality there is uncontrollable chaos waiting at the edge of every choice we make, they invent the “enemy”, the big plan that’s behind it all because that’s easier to understand and gives them something to fight. It’s the adult version of sleeping with the light on.

I wonder if antivaxxers and antimaskers go straight onto the internet rather than see a doctor when they have other medical problems? I mean, “they” might implant a tracking device when they reset that broken wrist, they might be irradiating you when you get that scan, they’re might be an explosive device in that filling…
Idiots.

So my luck finally ran out. A customer pinged me as a close contact and he had omicron no less, back from before it was popular. I had been masked up, I’d been jagged, I waited in and watched the clock for ten days.
With no symptoms and and consistent negative tests I got back to work on the Thursday and Friday.
On the Sunday I didn’t feel so good, on the Monday I booked a PCR test and my temperature didn’t slow down as it headed north of 38.
Within 24 hours I was conformed as positive, and a day or so later so was Holly.

I watched the clock again, not for the days to freedom, but to track the progress of the symptoms in both of us. There were a few rough days but we stayed level and Holly recovered pretty fast but after ten days we were both still testing positive.
The two red lines on a LFT had more of an impact on me that the official results over text, email and phone (oh they really like to keep in touch). It’s somehow more real, it’s right there in your hand: you have Covid 19.

I eventually tested negative on the 23rd, my 53rd birthday, woohoo etc. It meant that we could cautiously actually have Christmas.
Linda was back, we had dinner at my folks and although more than a little nervy being so close to the ones I love again, it was okay.

Holly had already her jag too, her choice, she didn’t even want to talk it over with me. She’s asthmatic and a few years ago I saw her life saved by the NHS after a blue light ambulance ride when she wasn’t breathing.
I don’t need to look hard to find the synergy in those previous points.

The last time I was officially asthmatic was around 13 years ago when mold or dust on a job caused a flare up and reminded me of the weedy, pale, skinny boy of long ago.
Didn’t take any thought for me either when I got my blue letter, let’s keep that wheezing boy in the past. Plus, if it helps stops the spread?

Which is another very important point, despite numerous interactions while I was likely most infectious, not one of my contacts developed covid.
That’s because as well as jagged, I was masked and I kept my distance.
All these easy precautions aren’t for yourself, they’re for others and I don’t think your dumb bastard antimaskers get that. I’ve heard “I’m fine” by the bare faced many times, and that’s just great, but what about your mother, the old boy with COPD on the bus, the asthamtic kid on Morrisons?
Not wearing a mask is just sticking your head in the sand, it’s fingers in yours ears and “la-la-la-not listening”, but worse than that it’s a blatant “I don’t care about anyone else”.

I’m still exhausted, maybe little better every day, but covid has put my on my arse and I’m still only back up on one knee.
We had a lovely Hogmany on the Wee Spark but I haven’t felt joy yet, the future is too uncertain and very much reliant on the conduct of the worst and most stupid amongst us.

So Christmas, December in fact, was spend behind bars, two red bars.
I’m not bitter, those dear to me are currently still safe and there is nothing more important to me.

I think my patience is gone though. I might even be angry when my energy comes back.

A little joy first, let’s see what tomorrow brings.

And don’t be an arsehole, wear a mask.

The Bowline

I live in Bowling, a little village lost between the towns of Clydebank and Dumbarton. It’s mostly quiet and uneventful and I have the Kilpatrick Hills at my back door and the River Clyde at my living room window.
Once upon a time it was a hub of industry with shipbuilding, engineering, weaving, distilling, quarrying, mining, pottery and more while by it’s location it served at the western terminus of the Forth and Clyde Canal.
Squeezing through it’s houses it also had two railways and their stations and the only two roads that run up the west coast from Glasgow. The railways brought goods yards and sidings, cranes for filling and emptying wagons and boats and enough infrastructure to define the shape and look of the village to this day.
The harbour was also where the Clyde steamer fleet sheltered the winter, with the Waverley being amongst the vessels so tightly packed in you cold walk across from sea wall to shore from deck to deck.

It looked like this.

By the 60’s decline was set in, tracks were taken up, one railway line shut altogether and the station became a lockup garage and the trackbed a race track for dirtbikes until the cycle track was built and gave access back to the thousands that use it now.
I saw the last of it leave, the pottery, the flue for steam boilers that powered the bridge mechanism were all places we played, the viaduct that bisected the village was a shortcut to the woods and the beach. It was all part of the landscape and decaying, Bowling was forgotten, stuck between tow local authorities and neither was interested in us.

Bowling became a dormitory village. We went from three shops to one, three pubs to one, we lost our post office, our butchers and our Victorian brick railway station building. Buy hey, the plastic bus shelter on the platform keeps the rain off, who needs that coal fire in the wood paneled waiting room.
The only remains of the shipyard are our workshop, the harbour is crumbling after decades of abuse and neglect and Littlemill Distillery is now flats.

This air of neglect is something we’ve learned to live with and when something new comes along the reaction can be varied. Some are happy with the way it is, indeed some folk move here to hide in plain site, away from the world but still near the shopping centres. I have no time for this, my village is not a mausoleum, it needs to thrive to survive.
I do live in fear of housing though, over the years many plans have been put forward and they are still on the table to destroy the waterfront for profit with high value new build garbage boxes between the river and the canal. The canal is the problem though, and the savior to date, it’s acting as a castle moat.
We shall see what the future brings. Locals lying in front of diggers heading for the woods by the river most likely.

When Scottish Canals announced the development of the basin and the viaduct after the reopening of the Forth and Clyde canal there was the usual mix of wailing and gnashing of teeth and guarded optimism. It was ambitious and expensive and it would bring people in, do we want people in the village, spending their money, walking on our pavements etc etc etc
We’d see, work was started and change was on the way.

The viaduct is a series of red concrete arches and three metal bridges. One swing bridge over the canal, one over the railway and one over the road. The arches had always been occupied, usually storage, workshops or garages, but now we would have shops, cafes, they would be clean and dry inside too.
The track bed above used to be open and accessible but over the years trees and bushes had made it all but impassable, these would be c;leared for something new.
The bridges would be taken back to the bare metal and brought back life. This was important to me, so many places have lost their heritage infrastructure and it changes the place, Strathblane and Lochearnhead being two obvious ones who lost their railway bridges and just don’t look, well, right anymore.
If it can be made safe, keep it, use it, incorporate it into current life. The only barrier is imagination. And money.

Before and after?
That black boat with the white stripe, I lived on that for ten years.

This was the plan for Bowling’s viaduct, make it into the Bowline, a liner feature with gardens and viewpoints with industrial history at every step.
The centrepiece is the old swing bridge, where the postcard above was shot, actually from the signal box over the tacks. This was a fantastic thing, it would be saved, even if it would forever remain non operational.
Funny though, me and Jimmy are among the few who still know how it worked, and among the even fewer who could have had a go at fixing it. Well, with a team.

It’s now been a few years in the doing with lockdown slowing the process too and while the arches have thrived and the basins have been attracting even more visitors (including waves of disruptive neds, but that’s not the fault of the works, that’s a whole bigger issue) the works eventually completed above it all and opened a few weeks ago.
Amusingly, Jimmy was cycling for his papers one morning and met the basin staff as they were faffing around the barriers at the village end. “Ah, is it opening today?” said Jimmy. Aye was the reply and the barrier was removed, so Jimmy became the first visitor to cross the Bowline.

There was a low key opening event which I was sorry to miss, but we got there soon after and have been frequent visitors ever since. Dusk is the best time to visit, the views are excellent, the lights are on and the whole place takes on a little air of magic.
There is a wide walkway the whole way and there are plants and trees all along in boxes or beds, there are lights for your feet and also to illuminate the bridges mostly in a rainbow of colours, but it seems to stick a lot now and we get one colour a day, maybe another 50p in the meter?

There’s are viewing platforms and interpretation boars which are amongst the best I’ve seen, good research was done for these are there is good information to go with some excellent photies. Well worth slowing down to read them all.
The beach is just there and hidden in the undergrowth you’ll find wooden tracks for young (and old) to follow and that level of detail can be found all over the Bowline with metal tracks in the surface to reference the past and carvings to examine.
I was pleased to see little things like the painted numbers had survives and here and there scraps of the old steel gantries are still fixed to the concrete, the history is still there if you look.

 

It gives villagers and visitors something new, something different. We can see our homes in a different way, it expands our horizons a little bit and you know what, at the very least it’s taken the bare look off the village.
I think the reaction has been mostly positive and we are all using it, there’s always someone walking a dog or standing on a viewing platform when I’m walking or riding over.

And I just like looking out by back window and seeing the bridge lit up. I love it, I think you will too, come and visit.
But mind and go a little further, there’s the tunnel and old station to see to your north, do that first maybe and come back to the Bowline as the sun goes down, stand on the platform on the swing bridge and watch the sky light up and reflect in the river.

Maybe the restaurant in the old custom house will be open by the time you visit. I remember the last live-in harbour master there, Mr Lee. Still have the leather bound book he gave me when I was wee and lived on the boat in the basin.

History, life, environment, it’s all closer than you realise.

 

 

Monday Part #1

I just don’t remember enjoying an autumn as much as this one for a very long time. It’s lasted so long and we’ve taken every chance we could to be in amongst it.
The hard frost we had overnight feels like the end of it though. The lying leaves are all brown, the trees are so bare and the sun is low, it’s a winter sun now.

There’s still flashes of colour, like paint splashes on overalls. They catch the eye, but not for long, the nights are drawing in.

We walked through it for our lunch break, the morning’s blue sky now washed away by a high blanket of thin cloud. There were lone clouds skittering about underneath it like fluffy submarines, trapped out of the sun, they just seemed to be heading for Glasgow.

The light was golden at times, but soft, and the woods remained dark but for the scattering of leaves that who took that light and threw it back out as far as they could into the gloom.

I was happy as we left if a little melancholy, I have loved this autumn and I am so very sorry it’s going. The frost had welcome, the chill, the scraping of glass, the thoughts of days away when the snow… Aye, we’ll see.

However, the day was not over.

Folks

Maw and paw in the 60s. I found this when I nipped in for a cuppa in an old frame by the hall window with yellowed plastic hiding the photie.

I was by the hall window as I was watching for them. They weren’t in, they were at Morrison’s. In their van.

Nearly sixty years later, they’re really just the same.

So glad and so lucky to have them.