Tomorrow’s Dream Vol 6

I think I’m wearing fleece pants there. Funny that’s the first thing I noticed before I realised that I had hair and that it’s dark brown. When the hell did I take this?

Bein Ime from Beinn Narnain, I can feel my feet there right now. My favourite hill.

That’s it really, no rambling insights, no tortuous ruminations on past deeds or melancholy observations, just an old photie.

Ach, I’ll maybe explain that last bit though. I got some very good advice once by Matt Swaine, the editor of Trail mag back in the day and a man who made a lot of sense, had great imagination and encouraged me a lot.
He told me to put myself in my photies after I submitted some landscapes to go along with something I’d done early on in my time there. He explained his reasons and I agreed once it had been pointed out.
I can easily tune out of looking at landscapes unless they’re unusual and different, but I can flick through my old mountain guide books again and again. That’s because there’s folk in the shots more often than not and I think that shows me subconsciously that I can do that, that I can be there too.

It won’t work for everyone, some folk want that blank canvas. Me, I want to be that figure, so I am. Or was? No, will be.
Also, I’ll admit there’s a certain joy at looking at the younger skinnier me. Oh if only he knew what was ahead.

Take photies, and get yourself in them. Capture yourself in the heart of the moment and give yourself a smile looking back in 20 years time.
Just don’t trip running for the timer.

You can pick your friends, but not your days of the week.

It was a Tuesday and that wasn’t the problem, it was the Monday before it, that was the problem.
Tuesday did everything right, it turned upon time, did a fantastic job, but everyone still talked about Monday.

I can see Tuesday’s point, you are what you are, just like Monday was and you can’t be anything but. And why should you try to be anything other than yourself anyway?
Be a Tuesday, be the best Tuesday you can be, just never mind what Monday id doing.

I’ll tell you though, Wednesday really was rubbish.

Ample Park(ing)

Balloch Park has become a regular leg stretcher. It’s got some height in it so it’s airy and there’s decent views to the Luss Hills and Ben Lomond which are noticeably closer than what we get to see from the crags. I mean, it’s something isn’t it.
The snow on those hills again btw. Good grief.

The Leven had flooded the woodland by the banks giving some nice reflections. A wee bit if fidgeting makes it look a big more heavy metal.

This was on Sunday, Mother’s Day. A wee chat at the door and gifts passed at arms length is what I managed.

Another important mark missed due to factors outwith my control. Aye.

 

Flicking the Vee

We’re being reroofed so I haven’t been opening the bedroom curtains. The steps up through the scaffolding run past the window and it’s not dirty laundry I want them to miss on their way up to painfully slowly and incompetently replace the slates, it’s everything else.

However has made this wee happy accident possible and the sliver of light that was slicing in through the gap in the curtains had to be caught.

I was nearly going to put a rucksack in to catch it, but this was way better. Another of my most favourite things.

Lockdown has kept this out of the studio for what feels like a lifetime.

I miss making music with other people as much as I miss the hills beyond my council border.

 

Football comes to the Lang Craigs

We had some messages from visitors that there were large groups of people drinking and shouting and that there was lots of smoke at the Lang Craigs on Sunday.

Some of the debris was picked up and bagged for pickup this morning before I did a sweep for damage. I found plenty. I could still smell the burning despite the heavy rain early on.

Apparently this was all due to football.

Don’t know quite how that works, but aye, thanks for that.

Monday on my mind.

Maybe this will be my last thought on it, or vaguely related to it. Maybe not.

It’s so grey now, you have to love the contrast. It’s like the bloke that worked on a job we were on for many weeks, I think he was in the ventilation squad.
Anyway, he quite anonymously and quietly worked away doing ducting and whatnot making no real impression or impact until one day at a general informal site meeting where we were standing around chatting about where we all were so were weren’t working over each other or getting too far ahead for each other he started juggling steel pipe fittings like a seasoned circus performer. And with a straight face too. You could have heard a pin drop.

Never underestimate anyone and never assume anything.

Gothika

Either solo or team, most nights are having a good walk with distance and urgency part of the agenda. Well, until it looks rather nice and we stop and get our phones out.
The nearly incessant rain hasn’t been a deterrent, it just means more jackets than ususal are hanging up and drying. It is giving some wonderful light though.
The old railway is mostly in a deep cut lined with tall mature trees, the A82 lights are high on one side and the village is low on the other so at night it really does feel a little like you’re adrift from the rest of the world.

The phone does its best to capture the darkness through shaky hands and repeated screen fumbling and I really like what it comes up with: atmospheric poor quality shots.

When we get back sometimes we find we’ve been out for a couple of hours which is brilliant, it’s hours not spent in front of Netflix. Oh, the new Snowpiercer episode came out last night. Dammit.

It’s a blur of muted tones in a blur of hard to measure time in this endless lockdown limbo state. It really is things like this that are saving the day, time spent not wasted. It’s been too easy to swing the wrong way on that equation but hard not to, and there’s no judging for that for any of us.

But just think, a year ago if we’d shut the borders, strictly adhered to social distancing and not let the stoopids run free would we be where we are now or would we be looking back at recent memories of the best winter for years spent playing in Highland snow with ice axes and the ones we love?

I’m directing blame quite precisely and I think I might have grown a little vein of bitterness to carry forward because of it. I’ve never fueled up on negative energy but you could also say that if you don’t ever get angry you don’t care enough. I do care, and I’m angry. I always have been. But joy motivates me more, it always has done.

There will be no closure for any of us after this has died down, because it will not ever be over, I think we just have to make our peace with the effects on our own lives and those close to us.
That’s going to be the hard part, right now we’re holding on, once we can relax our grip and have time to think, really think. That’s going to be a lot to work through.

Anger and joy, the cocktail of tomorrow.

Border Crossing

I never though Argyle and Bute would feel like a foreign land. With documents and accurate accent in place I headed into the unfamiliar on a solo mission of extreme urgency.
Church heating needed my attention.

It was a glorious day and a joy to be out. The previous perfect white blanket of snow on the hills is now streaks after the thaw but Ben Lomond still looks very fine, and oh so very close to where I was driving.

The church is familiar to me and my toolbox, most of them are around here, and I always try to do maintenance visits in Spring and Autumn because it’s the loveliest graveyard I’ve ever seen.

Colour bursts from the ground (thank you to those pushing it up from below) in Spring and rains down from the trees at the tail of the year, but this year it’s a veritable explosion and a very early one too that I found when I pulled off the road onto the gravel with crocus’ and snowdrops flooding the grass from stone to stone.

The currently rare sunshine has other delights that I was glad too see when I got inside, even my wee pal up the back was getting some warmth on her cheeks.

I was very happy indeed to be at my work and overjoyed to be out and about. It’s such a lovely world waiting for us.

You’re just copying me

I occasionally dig out my piles of old photies and leaf through the packets wondering what to do with them as well marveling at my original hair colour.

I took some shots of them, just to try and copy them on the cheap in a half arsed way. Of course it didn’t work apart from these two which threw up a couple of rather lovely surprises.

Above is the Five Sisters of Kintail ridge looking westish around ’95 to ’97 I think. I camped at Morvich with my old mate Jimi and did the round up the Glen and back along the ridge to come down to camp in the dark tired and hungry.
It was a monster day and remember it well and fondly. The memories are on paper though, I wish I had the oomph to digitize all this stuff, but it’s the sheer volume of it all that I can’t face.
Eventually my misguided enthusiasm for unlikely and pointless endeavours or a desire to relive my youth etc will probably overcome that. Until then, I’ll take occasional half arsed shots in the kitchen like these two where I put the print against the wall on the worktop and took a photie of the photie.

Above it worked out well, it’s somewhere between a Horatio McCulloch painting and a colour plate from an old guide book. I actually really like the accidental effect.
Below is an early indication of the obsession to come  and I have no idea what hill I’m on. Deary me.

 

I am a Rabot, I am a Rabot

I have significantly reduced my outdoor cupboard during lockdown. Family and friends are now wearing all sorts of weird and wonderful things and I’ve just got my favourites left along with a smattering of review kit still to write up.

Some favourites are looking rough though, even stuff that feels like it’s recent is showing real signs of wear or even decay and it had me looking around for current equivalents and alternatives as well as doing some more glueing and sewing. Which I really enjoy actually and I think is the way forward.
I never liked the seasonal product model, improve gear, test it and release it, don’t fanny up existing models for a stock release deadline. That’s not inspiration and innovation, that just product and marketing. Don’t fall for it and don’t encourage it.

The shopping has been interesting and I think I’ll cover some of that. Are reviews different when you’ve parted with PayPal? We’ll see.
Some prices are hilarious as well, there’s just no way, I know how easy I tore the arse on my Keb pants, as good as the design is I’m not paying that for them.

But years and years of gear accumulation as well as the review avalanche I had has meant that some stuff got missed and forgotten.
I was overjoyed to find these, a brand new with tags pair of Haglöfs Rabot Flex Pants. Size 52, breathe in…
I think these are maybe up to 15 years old and they could be about the best pants I ever wore, because I’m sure I bought these in (the much missed) West Coast in Ft Bill as spares for the pair I wore on probably every trip outside of the dead of winter in the last half of the 2000’s.

I go on about vintage gear a lot, I find it more fun and more inspirational that anything new I’ve seen in a long time and I’ve often wondered what it would be like to take old gear out as new again, without nostalgia from previous use clouding the view.
Well, I’ll get my chance with these to an extent along with another couple of reissued things that I’ll get to.

Now, all I need is to get the weather I had wearing my original pair of Rabots in the photie above. 2008, feels like yesyerday.

Russell Hobbs Vintage Coffee Percolator

One of the things that has kept me sane so far in lockdown has been working on improving the quality of time just spent at home. I’ve fixed things that were long needing done, tidied (it’s ongoing…), sorted, found, filed and also discovered a whole new world in the kitchen.
I used to cook years back rather than just heat stuff up as I seem to have been doing, but now I’ve really found a new home by the hob and although not everything I do is from scratch, I’m enjoying the creative process and enjoying actually eating the food, because it doesn’t taste like I made it, if that makes sense.

Part of all that has been the addition of a vintage coffee percolator, from I think ’84 at the absolute latest. It’s a weekend morning ritual and it’s a sign of a meal well cooked and much enjoyed if someone says “Will I stick the pot on?”.

My folks bought one of these back in ’79 or so and it’s actually still going now, having been repaired several times over the years. I always associated it with faff, too much cleaning and prep for a cuppa, but the taste could not be denied.

It’s a nice simple and clean looking bit of kit and the one I got on ebay last year for a handsome sum (it turns out these are collectible and surprisingly popular) is probably the best version to get.

This design was discontinued in the early 80s as tastes literally changed. The coffee is recirculated inside which thickens up the flavour and adds richness, I’ve read some saying it adds a burnt flavour rather than depth. Not being a cork sniffer, just being a plain enjoyer of a tasty cuppa I don’t see any of that as a problem. But the world moved onto drips into jugs and few percolators of this type remain in production to still buy new today.

This version has a plastic base rather than an aluminum one which they had a for a good while before they changed it, and there was Bakelite before that. This isn’t just an aesthetic thing, this base takes a regular current kettle lead for power rather than one of the earlier half round or twice as long variants. Sometime it’s good to standardize things, this plug and socket is one clear example.

It sits on its own molded base too, the aluminium one had a foam ring glued on so the metal base didn’t touch your kitchen surface. Every one I saw online was manky and torn or missing altogether. So, look for the plastic base.

The coffee making process is very clever and delightful to listen too. Inside the pot there’s a shaped metal pressing that’s heated by the element inside the plastic base. The stainless steel disc with the tube fits snugly over this and as the water heats, it boils and sends steam bubbles and boiling water up the tube where they hit the spreader plate and then drip through the holes into the basket with your ground coffee in it.
This becomes a cycle with coffee soon being boiled and sent up the tube to pull more flavour from the grounds in the basket.

I can see how this could overcook your coffee if left on for too long but the timer on this old Russell Hobbs gets it right. You can hear it boiling and bubbling away, the lid even rattles a little and them there’s a big exhale and a click as the little red light goes on at the base.
This turns the heat down and after a few minutes to let any ground coffee that got through the holes in the basket settle, you are good to go.

There are three levels in the basket and on the tube which respectively correspond to coffee and water fill points for solo, date night and family amounts.
I don’t know why I thought this was a faff, must have just been teenage angst.
Cleaning is easy enough too, the lid and metal parts wash as normal and I fill the pot with boiling water and wipe it down. It’s darkening a little already, the original owners obviously didn’t use it. It’ll eventually go black, just like my folks did and that’s fine. It means it’s been much enjoyed.

It really does bring a wee sparkle to the day filling this up and sitting there with our wee cups and saucers and cream in a jug.

Hmm, I fancy a cuppa now.

Norwegian Blue

I could’ve skipped a stone and hit the shore of that far off land, a land of winter wonder, mountains, sunshine and cold air to nip my cheeks above my face covering.
Well, I could’ve if I didn’t have that damned rotator cuff tear. I miss skimming stones, I was actually really good at it. It comes from living on a boat in Bowling harbour in the 70’s with plenty of open water around and an endless supply of old broken slates from the then recent industrial past to hone my skills.
The last time I skipped a stone was near Luss about five years ago and it undone months of ultrasonic treatment, physiotherapy and home exercise. Oh the tears, the anguish and regret etc
I really don’t care if I never rock climb again, but I really missed skimming stones.

The man in the kayak looked happy and rightly so, the swans flew past him low and graceful, the ducks floated in front of him and we chatted as he passed, the poor bugger actually said “I’m local!”. Good lad.
There must have been nothing but peace out on the water, no engines were heard all the time we were in Balloch Park. It was simply glorious.

The Ben was better seen this weekend, not sure that helped my mental state any.

We put in few hours walking, stopping once to chat to a elderly lady who had a lovely lyrical old school local accent and stories to tell. The pace of life now seems to be slow enough to really enjoy moments like this, nowhere else to be, nothing to hurry to. We only left her because my toes were getting cold in my Converse, that sun might be bright but warm it was not.

Across the burn and through the fence away from the trails is where we found peace to enjoy the views. It’s an amazing place to be on a day like today and although just minutes from my door we’d overlooked it because I just thought it would always be mobbed. It is near the carparks right enough, but just a little further on, where it’s muddier, it’s quiet, almost deserted.

It felt, good.

Linda sent me this from here phone with the words “Look, you’re pining”. Aye maybe, but today we got so close.

Dunk.

The new roof progresses at a pace that looks like they’re doing something above me, maybe not breaking sweat or indeed moving so slow they’ll get hypothermia in this minging weather. It’s a just enough endeavour.
The 1930’s slates are gone and we have black plastic sheeting and wooden batons to keep out the winter weather.
Aye, this is definitely just when you want to be doing a roof.

Dunk.

Dunk.

Dunk.

I thought it was in a dream, it was maybe a really slow version of Iron Man’s bass drum intro being played ironically in a psychedelic dream sequence in a movie within my dream, I was slavering on the pillow amounts of tired, I wan’t reading the situation from a script so confusion was entirely likely.

Dunk.

That’s inside the room. I was back in a movie, Aliens this time. Cool.

Dunk.

I looked up in the dark, I think it was up anyway, it was dark remember.

Dunk.

Ah shite, that’s in the attic.

I put the light on, no water to be seen, I swung my legs out and put my glasses on, still no water to be seen and those legs aren’t pretty. I got dressed with what was on the floor between me and the bedroom door and grabbed a headtorch from the table.
As my senses grinded back into operation like the rusty gears they’ve become in lockdown I realised that the rain was pissing down outside and being driven at a jaunty angle by a howling wind. Oh yes indeed, this is new roof weather.

The fur lined Converse I slipped into were just so damned nice on my bare feet I stopped at the bottom of the attic ladder to wriggle my toes and goo ahhh.
In these tough times I’ll take a little joy when I can get it.
I found the leak pretty quick after some joist hopping, two rotten slate nails sticking through the sarking had near constant drips hitting a bare patch of plasterboard above where me head had been on the pillow. A few inches either way and the drips would have been hitting the insulation silently and the whole thing could have played out very differently.
I thank the dearly departed mice for whose traps I had moved the insulation for. I hope that last taste of Nutella they had was very nice.

A bucket was placed with old t shirt inside to dampen the sound and I was back in bed as fast as I get could get there.
It was half past four.
And I was wide awake. Planning my morning phone call.

Aye, it’s not forever, but I don’t have forever, none of us do. 

Told you so. That about covers it. But karma is a bitch so I’m not expanding on that in case it sees what I wrote.

Living where I do we don’t actually get too much snow on the ground, the river seems to act like underfloor heating and even the patchy heavy snow fall we’ve had late at night this week has come to nothing. It’s melting my head as well as the snow.

I have a feeling this winter is going to slip from my grasp completely.
I’ve not been so enthusiastic or physically and mentally ready to head into the big and far away hills as I am right now for years.
I want to melt snow in my cooking pot, I want to run around at 5am screaming at cold fingers as I adjust the camera on its tripod, I want giggle on the summit like the child I still am, I want to drive home through the night with gritty eyes in damp merino with a head and heart full of joy.
I just want to stop time slipping away from me. I’m too old for this shit, I’ve missed too much already.

Stay close to home, wear a mask, wash your hands. Let’s get this over with ffs.