Obviously this was the night in the tent before I climbed that totally legit hill a couple of posts back.
Lockdown has to end soon, I’m losing it I tell you.
Obviously this was the night in the tent before I climbed that totally legit hill a couple of posts back.
Lockdown has to end soon, I’m losing it I tell you.
Not sure we Macfarlanes often went as far east as Loch Vennacher for anything other than stealing cattle by moonlight, but it’s nice to know the locals remembered us fondly anyway.
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 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.
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.
It’s probably the greatest injustice of my life that I had to see this sunset from an ASDA car park and that there’s a KFC sign in there instead of a tent with a strategically placed headtorch inside it.
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.
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.
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.
That’s inside the room. I was back in a movie, Aliens this time. Cool.
I looked up in the dark, I think it was up anyway, it was dark remember.
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.
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.
We had some family business and it took us somewhere local but unexpected.
I knew everything above us was in the clear blue, but the mist, the calm and the cold down on earth suited the day very well.
It wasn’t busy, but the wee kiosk was open and had hot chocolate with cream and marshmallows which warmed my hands and face just nice.
It felt just a wee bit, just for while, like a regular winter’s day out.
I also had a lot of fun with my phone, I know what vignette does now for example.
The robin wouldn’t sit still though, bloody yappy dugs.
The loch was frozen by the banks, most surfaces had frost long into the day. It would have been idyllic in another time, another year.
The wee moments though, I’ll take them.
We’re watching Paul Murton’s various Scottish Grand Tour series back to back on Amazon Prime telly just now (totally missed it all first time round) and I think it’s making things worse rather than better.
Popular couch phrases include “Haven’t been there in ages” and “Oh, never been there”.
Neither of these points are easily addressed at the moment.
Inspiration is a double edged sword.
Or a cruel mistress. Not sure if either really fit.
Still, it’s Friday and I’m about to drive towards a snow capped Ben Lomond. Stopping short of course to visit a customer.
Lomond means beacon and it’s well named right now. Shining white and standing proud down the loch saying this way.
Inspiration is a bugger.
Oh this scaffolding is going to severely grate on me if we keep getting these glorious skies.
I’ll suppose I’ll get all my buckets back after it’s all done though, They’re currently all in the attic catching drips.
Those hills over the river are pure white this morning too.
I think due to the enforced slower pace of life I saw more of last autumn than I normally would have.
It seems like yesterday, it seems like a lifetime ago too.
I had a lot of problems with downloading photies from my new phone at first. I like downloading, you keep your bubbles and clouds and whatnot.
The existing Sony Media Go app I used on the laptop was excellent until I plugged the new phone in and they just didn’t speak to each other. Sony has discontinued support for a number of their mobile apps which is a real shame, their phone gallery was excellent and now I’m stuck with Google Photos or some other nonsense with adverts.
But after a couple of phone updates Media Go seems to be back on the Christmas Card list and suddenly the photies are appearing in properly dated folders where they should have been all along.
This is magic, literally and figuratively as all this stuff is still beyond me. I mean, how does it actually work? How does it know what to do, is it all actually alive or populated by little guys with their own lives as well as working unseen on ours?
It’s possible and it means that programmers are actually slave masters or completely deluded and as in the dark regarding reality as the rest of us.
Autumn light is a joy, low and warm, it brings out colour and contrast beautifully. The birch by the quarry has polished silver fingers and black boots because of it.
The golden leaves and the crazy wide angled lens are both at work here. That riot of autumn with it’s two stern guardians with an ice cold, pale blue sky. Oh, to have this instead of the current endless grey.
A close up of the leaves completely freaked out the camera sensor by the looks of it. The miniature Sony phone guys were running around inside the lens with stepladders and buckets full of pixels trying to install them in time to capture what I was pointing at. They got enough to make me smile.
Bless my little techno slaves. I switch my phone off for an hour every day now to give them a proper break. I’m tough but fair.
by William Henry Davies (inventor of the selfie}
What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
Leisure, from from Songs of Joy and Others pb 1911
We’re getting a new much overdue roof. The 1930’s slates have been doing their best but like two dimensional lemmings many of them have been sliding for the edge over the past few years and as amusing as it is to see some of them caught by the gutter and sticking up like sharks teeth, the ones planted into the lawn like ninja stars say yes, let’s fix it.
This has meant much packing and reboxing in the attic to try and keep stuff clean when the slates and underfelt (if anything is left of it) get ripped off. This has been an odyssey into my past with so many mixed emotions, waves of melancholy with breakers of joy.
Years back my first ever words at an outdoor conference were to say that folk didn’t recycle because of laziness or lack of care in the environment, it was because everything has a memory. Obviously I was talking partly from personal experience. The attic confirms this.
Also apparently I used to be a size medium not so many years ago. This seems unlikely looking down at the body typing this, but the labels are there. A lot of dull colours too, who was this man?
I have of course dragged a bunch of stuff down and I’ve been burning through the Nikwax Techwash with gay abandon as I freshen up anything that’ll fit.
This has loosened a few bits of Gore Tex seam tape but I’ve become a dab hand a fixing this now after a couple of years of using McNett (or Gear Aid as it is now) Seam Grip.
Seam Grip works too, I thought maybe some extended light wear and a couple of washes might be the best I could expect but my original repairs on my ’98 Karrimor Summit are still solid and I wear it a lot. I actually just did a wash and reproofing of that with the hand spray Nikwax TX Direct. I seem to remember from years back this this stuff only lasted one trip before you wetted out again.
I might update on that here. Might do a Seam Grip update now I think about it, the rebrand also seems to have made it stickier and faster drying.
I think more vintage or at least old gear stuff is coming up in amongst the new gear reviews I’ll do as soon as I can get somewhere different for some photies.
But, pulling on something from the 90s, even if it smells like a tramps arse after years in the attic, I can feel the wind on my face, I can hear my footsteps and I can smell the tent, damp down, wet grass and freshly made coffee.
You can escape lockdown in unexpected ways, who, what and where is waiting for you in the back of your mind in a rolled up old waterproof?
*This is from last week to illustrate the point. You can’t see how white my beard is so I thought I’d better make the point.
I’ve discovered something of the human condition in recent times. At 52 things get sprained, pulled or broken so much easier. I suppose I knew this was coming but nothing actually prepared me for it. I think lockdown has accelerated this effect too, I couldn’t keep to the exercise regime I was so enthusiastic about early on and snacking became a nasty habit, so I’m at a physical low of sorts.
But it’s not really that so much as the I had warnings that this would come, old seemed so far away as to be an impossibility when I was under 40 so I didn’t listen, do any of us?
Be prepared physically they said, I did, I stayed active, so I got lots of daft little injuries that would later come back to haunt me.
Eat better they said, I did, then had a donut after it.
Save for your retirement they said, so I did, when can I cash my pension in to clear my mortgage?
Wait till you have children and settle down they said. Well, that’s another story isn’t it.
I find myself being my dad when I tell Holly stuff, but I might as well be the 40mph sign at Taynuilt, she just doesn’t see it. I know she’ll look back and one day and think. “Oh, he was right…”. I do exactly that a lot now. Dammit man.
My mind is as active as it ever was, but now fueled by the content I’ve packed into it. I’m full of enthusiasm and mental energy but when I get in the driving seat and turn the key, so many warning lights come on.
Youth is wasted on the young? Maybe, but burning that energy in a carefree blur is an irreplaceable joy and I’d hate to go back and turn my volume down.
I guess every time of life has it’s light and shade, there’s never a perfect time.
That’s rubbish actually, I’ve had so many perfect times.
Maybe it’s simply making as many days count as you can whenever they are, maybe that’s why it’s all so hard just now, the days are slipping past us.
Is that harder for me at 52 because I know what I’m missing or for someone at 25 who’s just discovering?
Both, you can’t make memories and anecdotes to annoy the next generation with once you’re old yourself if you’re stuck in lockdown. So it’s not just the horrors of right now that Covid has brought, it’s shaping the future too in intangible ways.
We’re not in a political crisis, we’re in a human crisis of health both physical and mental. Young folks might be able to physically withstand the virus better but it’s continued existence is shaping their perspective and future.
Wear a mask, wash your hands. Quite literally, think of the young folks.
A fellow OG blogger John Hee has reached a point where he is archiving his posts and letting go of his domain.
The landscape of blogging has changed so much in the years since I started and I understand the emotions and hassle, indeed weight that comes with maintaining something that can feel like a lifetime’s work.
I’ve come and gone from here over the years and that’s been due to outside influence more than anything to do with my desire or lack thereof to write random pish on here.
Not so long ago running a business and becoming a single parent, both in difficult circumstances instantly limited my time and energy to even click on the bookmark for here’s homepage.
At one time I had a reach that was eyebrow raising, #1 in the world indeed, and look at it now. It’s er, just the same. No adverts, no wee plaques, no attempts to be a resource, no interest in being anything other than a colourful bucket to empty my thoughts and experiences and opinions into.
That’s what OG blogging was, is.
We did this stuff because we wanted to share, not be internet personalities or influencers.
Sure lots of us got careers in outdoor writing and photography of varying intensities out of it, but the blogging I feel stayed simple, even innocent despite any fighting over stats or more likely gear stuff.
I sometimes miss the old days, the banter, the ability to share with and take notes from experienced and knowledgeable peers, but I still believe the best day is always tomorrow. Well, the first tomorrow after lockdown.
I mean, I have review gear to photograph somewhere that isn’t the Lang Craigs.
So I salute the old guard, the workers of words, the initiators of the inspirational image, those who have fallen and those still standing.
I also tip my hat the the new crew of media savvy video and Instagram kids and also wherever comes after you. We’re all transient after all, the mountains, the coasts, the sky, the forests. They’re forever and the joy they’ll bring will be there for everyone to catch and hold and share in their own way.
Also, I’m going nowhere. Indeed, I’ve probably posted more in the last wee while than I’ve done in years. Blogging on your own terms is rather fun.