Ah, where to begin. It’s been a busy couple of weeks one way or another and I’ve got some photie editing and writing to do.
Last week I saw next year’s Aku boots and shoes, some nice lightweight stuff in there including a wee bouldering-type shoe, but with a proper sole for the trail.
Then there was Leki, there’s a new pole-top camera attachment on it’s way from these guys, and I’ve got one in for test with a set of team-colour carbon poles to match, first-look soon.
Holly caught a wee bug which sent the schedule into disarray, and we ended up on Stuchd an Lochain (for a grand day out) on Tuesday instead of Sunday as I stayed home, which meant that the visit to Alpkit was canned, but hopefully I’ll catch up with them next month as I’m down that way again for some other showroom visits. The hill had to be climbed as I was “just checking” for a Trail route I’d written, I always leave sending my copy in as late as I can so I’m sure it’s as up to date as it can be.
Home late and late to bed saw the early rise to head south on Wednesday hurt more than it should, but Phil and I were in good spirits as we rounded the east of Manchester looking for a Victorian Mill in Stalybridge, the home of PHD.
That was a brilliant day we had there, I’ve learned a lot, there’s stuff there that we really need to know, I have answers and I’ll write it up soon.
North again to Kendal, and its delightful one-way system, to eventually find the hotel and stay there long enough to get directions to the Strickland Arms to meet a pal for a late dinner. It was a very fine meal indeed, in a place which has the ambience of an old house where the bedrooms are makeshift dining rooms and the cutlery was passed down from granny. I loved it, and was a little sad to leave just when they’d started the quiz. Diners at nearby tables started to drag the furniture onto the top landing of the stairs (we were upstairs in granny’s bedroom) to hear the questions when the quiz started , I like that, a relaxed and homely atmosphere, full of locals too.
The hotel was nice, but the room was hot and neds were shouting at 0300 on the other side of the river. Phil and I compared notes over a big (help-yourself) breakfast and had the same story, broken sleep due to sweat and stupids. The Riverside is close to the leisure centre though, and we were there pretty much on time for our first meeting. But Si was talking to someone else, so with a wave as we passed we homed in on some shiny kit that caught our eye and that set the tone for the day.
We got round just about everyone this time, met old friends, reacquainted with folks met for the first time last year, and met with new faces too.
It’s very interesting seeing the different reactions and receptions you get from the different companies. Some are enthusiastic and welcoming, some take a business card from you like they’re a doctor’s receptionist and you’re handing over a full sample bottle with a loose lid. Some of this does pass into what the public perceives to be a brand attitude, but it’s actually a distributors attitude, both good and bad.
You can see who’s moving with the times and who’s sitting with their fingers in their ears. There’s been some musical chairs with some brands/distributors and I think you can see already who’s going to win and who’s going to fail.
But, my feelings about the day are positive ones. There’s some nice new kit, there’s nice folks to talk to on every stand and we’ll be seeing some new brands and new kit tested on here in the coming months, maybe even some of those old favourites: world exclusives.
The highlight of the day was when GT and I had a shoe-off in the middle of the hall. Money changed hands on who would be the winner, but it was declared a draw and everyone went home grumbling that it was “A bloody fix…”.
Write-up agogo soon. Including why that new see-though Terra Nova tent isn’t made of Cuben Fibre.