Might as well be on Mars

I love the Space Shuttle. It’s inspirational, it’s what a spaceship should look like and I think it’s a shame that it’s nearly finished it’s work.
Space capsules stuck on the top of rockets are rubbish, going back to them is no different to knocking down all the road and rail bridges and folk being shot across the river by a trebuchet.
Thisa is a fantastic time-lapse film of Discovery being prepared and launched. Lifting it onto the fuel tank and boosters is pure magic.
Here’s to the future, the one we hoped we’d get, not the one budget cuts are going to give us.

I’ve turned the cooling unit back on, Mother?

“Zat some good swag ye got man?”
The nasally toned question came from a pale and scrawny junkie with glazed eyes who was walking down the middle of the road.
I’d just jumped over a locked gate onto the pavement after mortaring-in a couple of holes that I’d made when I’d removed some drain pipework from the building next door. The shell-suited cavalier in question had spotted my big plastic bucket and assumed that I was operating at his level, and had been pilfering from the builders yard that I’d just sprang from.
“No, it’s half a bucket of cement, do you want what’s left?”
Like a call-centre battery hen, he scanned his screen for an appropriate response to the unexpected enquiry and came up with nothing.
“Eh, ye gawn for a drive?”
“Yes, I’m hoping to go to Kintail in a couple of days”.
“Eh, naw… naw, I was gonnae say, cannah get a lift… I’ll gie ye a couple a quid…”.
This was a conversation in motion by the way, me on the pavement heading around the front of the building, with the forthcoming statistic in a baseball cap still in the middle of the road, acting as mobile chicane for passing drivers.
My first thought was “Yeah, I’ll carry you in the same motor as I put my daughter in, you scumbag waster bastard.” Then I wondered if I could hold his head in my bucket long enough for the mortar to set on his head.
Coming back to reality with a little whoa moment. I merely explained that I was still hard at work and had much to do this day.
Good to know that my tolerance is still at the same level as it always has been, but reassuring that age and experience has given my a huge brake lever to throw on when necessary.

Anyway, the gear is indeed at the door, that drive is imminent. Doesn’t matter what the weather’s doing either.
Help ma’ Boab.

Glee Club

A working week trapped in a whirlpool of coincidence and stupidity has reached the deceleration zone.

Meeting new folk all the time gives me a sometimes amusing, always enlightening and often frightening insight into the wide range of people whose lives, when woven together form the manky dog blanket of society.
It was one of those weeks when I felt like a visitor to the blanket, perhaps a flea, maybe even a moth, probably a big brown one, more times than I felt like a stitch in the weave.
Thank Jimmy for my fellow fleas and moths.

Let’s wash the dog blanket on Sunday if it’s a nice day. Or better still, let’s beat it with one of this big wicker things that you see in the Broons. Looks like a Ace of Clubs.

What the hell happened to the dog?

Do you feel lucky?

I was swinging my poles and feet in a reasonable fashion up the steep start of the track up Ptarmigan ridge, time was getting on, but there was gaps in the cloud and this had seemed like a good idea an hour before.
What if the snow disappeared completely and I didn’t get to climb Ben Lomond in the conditions that reveal it’s cheekier side? I was packed and away in a few minutes.

The first people I passed in their descent were dressed in a fine assortment of 1950’s college student garb, tweed, gabardine, scarves and slicked back fringes. Their mixture of leather shoes that allowed them to skate down the steep wet grass and European accents that were hard to pin down completed the slightly bizarre scene.
They tumbled past me in good spirits and then down onto the road, no doubt the dry cleaners in Drymen will have a queue out the door this morning.
The next two couples I met stopped me and questioned my motives and ability to tell the time. What can I say in these situations? “Yes, I know. I want to see what it’s like descending in darkness, hill fog and snow cover with green and red LED’s”. No, so a simple “Yes, yes, I’m fine”” has to suffice.

It was warm and I was glad to be gaining height and getting into the cool wind.
Here the track is steep and the long unbroken slope down to the treeline above the lochside always gives me pause for thought as I pick along the wet and slippery boulder strewn track.
It was here that I met a family. Maw & Paw, junior and juniorette, and baby being carried in junior’s arms.
I stopped dead.

Being a parent changes you in so many ways. In times past a glib or crass remark after passing by would have been the order of the day, not now.
As I’m talking to the folks at normal pace I’m also looking at the scene in “parent mode” (I think this may have been attack mode in my olden days), the little baby was about Holly’s age, they were all dressed in clothes for an indoor shopping centre expedition, not even for a walk in the park. Junior was holding the baby on his shoulder and her wee trouser legs had ridden up and her legs were bare. I felt sick. With all the recent events people are still risking not only their lives, but those without a say in the matter that are depending on them to make the right decisions.
For a second all I saw was Holly in peril and threw my rucksack down, swung my ice axe through the air like Zorro’s blade, picked up the baby and took her to safety.
Parent mode lets you play through such scenarios before you make the right choice on what action you take. They were hesitating, so I moved to the side and ushered them by, pointing at the shower rolling down the loch towards us. I could have gotten into a debate of some sort, but I was sure that keeping them going downhill was more important than an exchange of uncertain length and outcome between us that could keep the baby high on the hill for even a second longer than necessary.
Paw seemed interested in how much further it had been to the top and how long it would take me…I was in so much inner turmoil I’ve no idea what the answer was that I gave. Hopefully something ludicrous and off putting.
I stood and watched them go, Paw took the baby from junior and sorted her legs, they moved quickly away and out of sight into the trees above the road.

I turned and wandered upwards again, my mind was elsewhere, my heart wasn’t in it. Time and distance passed unnoticed until I met a young couple at the top of Ptarmigan. They’d turned back as it was getting late and the going was rough a bit further up, and “What’s the point in this fog?”. I’d wandered into the cloud and barely noticed.
I stood on one of the little tops and ate a porridge bar, put on thicker gloves and had a drink. The clouds lifted.


My mood lightened, I pressed on as the light faded. The snow was deep in places and iced in others, by the time I got to the foot of the SW ridge it was clear that I was going to need crampons and extra layers.
I had a hot cuppa while I sorted my gear out and enjoyed I dealing with an unfamiliar occurance, a hot-spot on my heel. So I could use the Grivel AirTech Lite crampons I’d had to wear boots, not big boots, but the Grivels just wouldn’t fit anything but a pair of Montrail Torre GTX’s. I’d gotten these back in ’07 and quietly ignored them as they were boots, and Montrail had dropped them as Columbia spring-cleaned the range. So, I was breaking them in straight out of the box. A touch of Spenco on the offending areawould prevent the rubbing becoming a blister and I was good to go again.
The Torre’s actually turned out to be okay, I’ll try them again with the AirTechs, at least they’ll fit me now.

The ridge is steep, it’s narrow in places, rocky in others, but all of it still plastered in snow and ice. In rapidly fading light and strengthening winds I made painfully slow progress. 
I kept on thinking back and wondering if I should have played that meeting with the family differently and were they alright. The summit came and went and I descended into the fog with seeing the girls and getting a hot dinner the only things on my mind.

As I slipped out of the clouds and onto thinner snow and ice I stopped and took off my crampons, took a photie and as I was packing up I took my ipod out and stuck it on.
I chased my torchbeam down the trail with the sound of Saxon taking me by surprise as Shuffle Songs does it’s wonderful thing.
“Stop! Get out! We are the Strong Arm of the Law!” I don’t know what the wildlife made of my singing, but I could see the lights at Rowerdennan and that meant the motor and home.

I sang louder.


“Fitting out for camping in the open is a matter of discarding as much as possible rather than taking everything that may be useful. Choose first the clothes that are least likely to suffer from getting wet, crumpled, or even slept in, and only take enough to last out the expedition. Don’t put in a spare suit because it may be useful; anything that may be useful should be left behind, and only things that certainly will be wanted should be taken.”
“Be careful to see that the tent chosen, which must be a light-weight one, is large enough to contain all the occupants comfortably, and their belongings as well.”

Is this an excerpt from a badly edited version of my Trail column?
No it is not.
It’s from “The Wonder Book of Things To Do”, first published in 1936.

Yes, 1936. Where did it all go wrong…

Christmas Eve

I was 40 yesterday, and it kind of came and went uneventfully. Dinner at the folks, Holly running around crazy, and later on, some sitting on chairs in front of the telly. That works for me.
Christmas Eve is always an odd one for me, a day inbetween, a personal 29th of February when it’s not a leap year, a Bermuda Triangle of time; it’s getting in the door, taking your shoes off and realising that you’ve left your phone in the motor.
It’s also a lot of fun as Holly is grabbing tinsel and pointing at fairy lights, holding Christmas cards aloft like a mighty prize while blissfully unaware of the ordeal to come tomorrow when she has her first proper visit from Santa.
I’m lucky that my positives outgun my negatives. This Christmas more than most, anybody who has worries or troubles, is facing difficulties, is alone, or just feels alone, I wish you well.

Last words

Mere moments later my phone lay broken, mortally wounded in the dirt. Luckily it had saved this final photie of the strange stripey luminous sky above its last battlefield.
I was tempted to try and make the clouds green so it looked like the Martian cylinders crashing to earth, the passengers within ready to unsuccessfully pursue Richard Burton around the country, and also capture Tom Cruise for food to the sounds of much rejoicing from the townspeople (it’s my remake of War of the Worlds, I’ll do what I like).
I suppose they won’t make the original story into a movie because there’s no Americans in it. An all British cast plus 3 years worth of expensive CGI work to capture HG Wells visual extravaganza? You can see them giggling at the poor bastard sitting in front of them pitching the script.

On a scale of one to five

I had a call from Cotswold Outdoor tonight. They weren’t interested in my day, or how Holly is doing or how Joyce is doing at work. No, they wanted the cold hard facts of my opinion of their catalogue, how I rated their product knowledge, how much I liked their website and where I bought stuff, and why it wasn’t with them.

The poor bastards.

My most common answer to a question was one of my own; “Is there a comment box under this question?”.
I made sure they knew that their website is mince though, it was good to get that off my chest. Rest assured it was very jovial and the girl dealt very well with my other constant of asking if there was a “…none of the above” option in good spirits. We went our separate ways both having learned something new.

I’ll expect mail with offers from “selected related partners” imminently.

Beep Beeep Beeeeeep

Yes taxi driver, sit there and press your horn. I’m sure the sound will pass right though all the surrounding buildings, missing out everyone but the intended target whom it will pick out with the accuracy a snipers bullet.
Oh wait, actually it’s everybody who can hear it. Apparently except for whoever it was that phoned for a taxi. And still you press the horn.
Heaven forbid that you should exercise your legs or brain rather than just honing that one mighty button pressing finger and take some other action to resolve this obviously bemusing situation.

Stupid bastard.

Buffalo arches

Good grief, is that the time. I’m now standing at the back of the log jam kicking it as hard as possible to get it through the gap. But I think I might just skip that, run along the top of it and deal with it all later.

Risky though, being trapped under a log jam is good plot device in movies, and I don’t want to be a party to such shenanigans. Another popular peril was sticking a character in quicksand, most notably Anthony Quayle in Ice Cold in Alex. You don’t see quicksand in movies these days, although I’m vaguely recalling tar and oil pits being used in recent times.

A classically trained actor in a paddling pool full of cornflakes and the arses of the viewing public wre on the edges of their seats. George Lucas has a lot to answer for with his damned Star Wars.


Crash…smash…bang…tinkle…What the…? I lept out of bed and out into the porch, but it was down the stairs. I put on the first pair of shoes I could find, ten year old Merrell sandals. In the racks of trail shoes the first thing that came to hand was a pair of old sandals that I haven’t worn for a two years. Anyway, I was down the stairs and it was a sight of utter carnage. The recycling bin was over, it’s contents strewn everywhere. The plant pots were smashed the earth scattered all over, the screams, oh the screams. And the sight of a screeching fat bastard ginger cat leaping six feet in the air trying to get through the window.

Did I mention this was taking place at 0450 this morning?

I was going to open the window and let it discover two flights worth of gravity, but I ran back up and got a long handled brush instead. The cat may have been pyschotic by nature, but I was now psychotic by choice as Holly had woken all shaking and tearful at the horrendous noise, plus I was taller and had a brush. It was like trying to catch a salmon leaping up a waterfall with a hand held net, probably. But I persuaded it mid-jump half way down the stairs and finally out the door. It wanted me, it wanted me badly. No one had ever spoken to it as I had done. It’ll be thinking hard and regrouping.

I’ll be ready.