Rubbish

I promised a customer that there would be hot water tomorrow. The final piece was due to arrive today. £1K worth of über fancy kit which would be manhandled gently into position by the three of us, a few connections made, a switch flicked and we would be heroes. No, not heroes. But we would have done what I said we were going to do and that is the most important thing. Especially when the customer is such a gem.

It arrived. The box looked a little dishevelled, I raised an eyebrow. We opened it up on the back of the truck, what was this second hand looking piece of rubbish? Well it was the wrong one for a start, a different model. The box of valve gear and controls was missing, the expansion vessel was from another manufacturer, the manual was also from another manufacturer and had someones scribbled dimensions on it. I went through a panoply of emotions, none of them involving visions of butterflies or daisies.

There is no recourse. The surly demeanor and indifferent tone, the slack jawed staring at the computer screen “There’s another one in Cambridge, you’d need to pay carriage”. I couldn’t face it, the outcome of such and exchange is too unpredictable so Jimmy took it back and we set off on a mission to find something however temporary that would make good on the promise of hot water. We tried, by phone, by iphone, by trade couter. Useless. Unless you want a brand you’ve never heard of, that there is no information available for and it costs the same amount and “Yeah man, they’re really good no? The boy in the office says so”.

What of tomorrow indeed.

Not to say what of the supply infrastructure to the trades in this country. For I wish that this had been an isolated incident.

Oh, so very nearly

We nearly PIT manoevered someone today. We would have been blameless and innocent, as our road position and speed was beyond reproach and above scrutiny. It was less than an inch away from happening.

I think if we had actually done it we couldn’t have cried any more tears of laughter than we did during and after the near miss. That and a foot long Subway sammidge were the high points of the day. The news of some new kit coming was also rather nice.

Ackhuba

I met Craig on his training run and tagged along for a bit before cutting off and heading up the Kilpatricks. He’s doing well, finding pace and distance far too easily it seems. I’m a rubbish runner, but I’m trying. Starting from scratch again is difficult though. The difference in kindness to one’s person from the different surfaces of tarmac, hardpack, rough trails and open hillside are marked indeed.

I was wearing Salomon XA Pro’s for a change. I had comms earlier in the week about the Trail column revamp and the phrase “Salomon trail shoes in Knoydart” came up and I realised that I hadn’t worn Salomons for ages. I got them when I was still fresh to the whole plimsoles in the mountains technique and didn’t adapt to them. I was still wearing thick socks and the sole requires a little concentration in wet conditions. However, this time they were a revelation. Incredibly comfy, very secure feeling and grippier than I remember. I was in (very cold, I’d forgotten it’s still February) water quite a lot and they drain very quickly, the mesh dries well and on the tarmac they were cool. I can see why so many racers wear them.

I’m up here every couple of days, but I never get bored. I varied my route as usual and a had a fine few hours among the trees and crags. But, there were a few things that caused me to raise an eyebrow. Or two.

  • Two stupid bastards letting their dogs run wild around the trail where there were very nervous and pregnant looking sheep.
  • Fishermen trying to explode themselves with a heady cocktail of campfire, badly leaking propane bottle, cold hands, carry oot and stupidity.
  • A ferocious and sudden hail shower that had me running for the treeline with my eyes closed, waving my hands in the air whilst screaming like a girl.
  • A new farmyard bypass path with four feet high fences either side, a couple of feet apart and rows of barbed wire. The landowner is notorious for having a go at folk in a dogs-and-crooked shotgun way, and of course we’re all going to use this new path. Yes indeed you stupid bastard.
  • That Haglöfs Endurance pack is absolutely marvellous. Totally stable whatever I do. They really have to do a 25 or 30 litre version.
  • I dropped my Honey Stinger bar in the mud

Looking at it, it’s obvious that the day was a victory for the powers of good. The forces of darkness are weak and feeble and rubbish. We have nothing to fear with a grin on our coupons, joy in our knapsacks and metal on our ipods. Alright!

Ben A’an

It’s not even a proper hill. It’s a rocky outcrop of Meall Gainmheich which is a tract of high ground to the North of the Trossachs. The Trossachs by the way, is just the wooded area between Loch Achray and Loch Katrine. How it got adopted by the whole area I’ll never know. Like calling Carnach “Glen Coe Village” it’s good for tourism I suppose. But shades of Ben Lui instead of Beinn Laoigh to me.

Anyway, Ben A’an. It’s magic. I’ve spend many an evening on it watching the sun go down over the higher hills to the west. The Arrochar Alps, Ben Lomond, the Crianlarich hills all loom large on the horizon, Ben Ledi at your back. It’s a stiff wee walk, with rock routes and scrambles to find and enjoy as well. A descent from the summit straight down to Loch Katrine gives you a fine circular route and plenty of opportunities to find hidden corners of hillside and also fall on your face in the long heather.

After the panic of Foot and Mouth subsided it was one of the first hills to be opened up and the boots of the nation descended upon it.

  

Within weeks there were huge new areas of exposed rock and man made gullies channeling the hillside downwards piece by piece with every fall of rain. Alternative faint paths through the trees and to the summit had all become troughs.

I don’t go there so often now. And having discovered the photies above of a day Joyce and I had there a while back, I feel a bit melancholy about the whole affair. I don’t want a hill to myself, I wouldn’t be banging on about all the other stuff that I do if I did, but a little self restraint, a bit of thought on the part of the walkers and the hillside wouldn’t have been put on it’s way to looking like an open cast mine site.

Charley Varrick (1973)

I blame a swing to the right. Or it could be refined sugar, or asbestos. Whatever, the evening sky has been an electric blanket of shimmery wonder thrown over the shivering legs of humdrum weekday dreariness. Until today, when it’s pissing it down.

The plans for the weekend have been put back in the box, the weather is looking rubbish. The first ever pogo stick ascent of Ben Lomond will have to wait until next week.

Why would you sit with your foot on the brake? We’re sitting there with our hand brake on waiting for the four phases of lights at the junction to come back around to us, staring at your brake lights because…your arms are too short to reach the handbrake lever? You’re testing the endurance of your calf muscle? You like to move off with uncertainty at the green light?

It’s a great film. Walter Matthau eases his way through it with classy style, Joe Don Baker plays (with thanks to Hudson) the Ultimate Badass and Andy Robinson puts another nail in the coffin of his career with another fine Scorpio-esque psycho performance. Almost forgotten, but along with others such as The Taking of Pelham 123, the style and pacing, the plain nastiness of some of the characters can be seen in Pulp Fiction and beyond. Sometimes it seem like Quentin Tarantino is the only film maker that remembers that there was another way of making films before Star Wars came along and nearly ruined everything.

Frustration

Things don’t move fast enough for me. In the face of irrefutable evidence, common sense and the correct set of answers handed over in big bold print, some people still deny reality. “I like my way…”, “This works fine…”, “It’ll dae…”, no it won’t. Sorry, NO IT WON’T.

I watched a nature programme yesterday about the Congo. A chimpazee was breaking open some nuts with a log, the log was a bit unweildy so it halved it and carried on in a much better fashion. Apparently some people are unable to take the same obvious actions. I’m worried that evolution will have apes and humans passing each other as culturally we travel in the opposite directions in the millenia to come.

It’s not just my usual unnecessarily heavy outdoor kit ranting, it’s customers, people in the street, newspapers, telly programme makers, people who should know better. I’m fed up with ill informed opinion, laziness, excuses, obstinateness, pertinaciousness, wrongness and stupidity.

I believe totally in the potential of every one of us to be exceptional. At times, the effort of holding onto that belief does have the beads of sweat appearing on my brow though.

Bootlegs

There’s an advert doing the rounds at the moment, “He’s a knock-off Nigel…” goes the refrain. It’s a rubbish advert and a waste of money, but the sentiment is admirable.

You write a song and record it, you mix it and master it*, you release it. You sell it to people. Yes, you started it because it was your passion, but now it’s also your livelihood.

But, someone copies it onto a CDR and sells it cheap, or puts on their website to download for free. The artist complains and they’re seen as money grabbing bastards, “Where’s the harm, they’re got enough money already…”. Well, it’s exactly the same as breaking into a tradesman’s van and stealing his tools. That’s the harm.

The point here is that someone creative has made something and some talentless arsehole is making money off it. That’s just plain wrong. The ownership of any such item is not compulsory, you don’t have to have that new movie on DVD or play that game without the manual. The police will not come round and drag you away in the night if your media library doesn’t represent the correct quota of recent releases.

Talent should be recognised, appreciated and rewarded. It’s a shame that it’s seen as a commodity with the same value as anything that clunks and clinks in a Spar bag on the way home.

*Substitute, play, film, programme, game, book, invention here. It’s all the same.

A sneaky peek, and more than a sneaky suspicion that innovation is being stifled

Away to look at kit today, samples and prototypes for next year and beyond. I am excited.

More excited than that obviously.

It’s something we’re always about, what’s next, what’s everybody else doing in other countries? Usually more than here. There’s a few brands here that are still innovating, focused on the sport with a middle finger up at the lifestyle easy buck. But it’s not easy for them.

I was talking to one company during the week who have a stunning new lightweight product in the R&D stage, it’s total genius. Their confidence is wavering as they are convinced it’ll get trashed from all over if they release it, it’ll be compared to bog standard versions, used out of context, broken by the uninformed, misunderstood and passed over by dullard chain store buyers. I hope not as it will work if they put a swing tag on it with a brief explanation, everybody from lightpackers to adventure racers will use it if given the chance.

The actual item doesn’t matter because it’s a familiar tale as it turns out. The UK brands are scared of bad press, they fear the word “durability” as it is an instant sale killer.

The Americans and Scandinavians don’t care for such trifles, they’re streaking ahead regardless and continually catching the eye of us all, using and making stunning kit to make our lives lighter, easier and more filled with joy.

We really need to get a grip in this country, it’s always the same excuses to perpetuate the status quo of attitudes. There’s a wealth of enthusiasm, skill, the will to implement it and performance hungry users waiting for it, with a big wall of indifference in front of them. The door in the wall is guarded by two heavily armed old men, Corporal Convention and Sergeant Safety.

Corporal Convention retired from active duty in 1989 and has no interest in anything that’s happened since. Sergeant Safety spent his whole life in the quartermasters store and learned all his opinions from a book published in 1968.

I think my boiler may be getting back up to pressure.

Just questions

Do you make your own luck? Do you go about your business trying to find an angle, trying to tilt the odds in your favour?

It’s natural to want an advantage. I’ll never criticise a go-ahead nature, the execution of that impulse can leave a lot to be desired of course. But, without it we wouldn’t have the wheel, fire, Plasticine™, you know …

I tend to stand back a bit and where others might “give people a chance”, I tend to “give ’em enough rope”. Is that cynical, jaded, a quirk built of experience?

Is being unlucky just laziness? Or is the cloud over your head obscuring the sunlight so that the obstacles in front of you are indistinct making it pretty certain your going to trip on them?

Everything is something from a certain point of view. That’s the trouble isn’t it? We don’t all have the same point of view, seeing that something from over there instead of over here really can make all the difference. Can’t it?

 

Unpopular

Having been back at work for a few hours in the last couple of days, I was kind of looking for a day in slippers around the house with Jyc* and Hly*. An afternoon away and I’m worried she’ll forget me. I mean, she’s only wee, you never know.

I knew Craig was planning a training run and was looking in about lunch time with Helen and a pal arriving on bikes at around the same time. Some folks are family regardless of surname or genes, so I was happy and content if a little distracted by tattie scones sitting next to the hob, beckoning me seductively with their tastiness.

The call came. Now I’m not blaming the caller who I have known for years and am slightly scared of, no she is only the messenger for others. The others who have breakdowns on Thursday night, or Friday Morning and report them on Saturday morning. Why. why do they do this? “Oh, we have no heating, and it’s pretty cold outside” “Will we phone up about it?” “No, no, Peter likes the 70 mile round trip on Saturdays to change an ignition probe in around ten minutes and drive home, bouyed by the knowledge of a good job well done!” ” Oh, okay then”

No you stupid bastards. Report it immediately. I’d rather work late on the Friday than turn out on a weekend. I’m supposed to have stopped all that after the crash and burn of last year.

Anyway after banter, cuppas and tatties scones with appropriate selection of side items (alright!), off I went. In the pissing wet, dark, busy road horror that is Saturday’s M8. Got there, fixed in seconds. Seconds.

Left for home listening to this which fitted the mood like my head fits and orange B&Q bucket. I thought it would be nice to pick up something to eat at the wee M&S food in the BP garage along the road, save hassle as I was late. Picked up some stuff and as an afterthought balanced a box of strawberry tarts on the top, then headed to the counter.

Now I’ll admit I am a bit tired at the moment. In fact, very tired today. In a not really thinking, looking, attention span of a Caramac sort of a way. At the checkout I’d forgotten about the tarts so put the other stuff down first, now the tarts did their best, they levitated for as long as they could hoping I would see them and catch them, but no. Down they went, and across.

“Bollocks” I split the silence of the garage shop with that eloquent statement. Definately statement, not exclamation. A silenced sniper shot of an outburst, not an American Marine running into a building on automatic fire style swear grenade.

The nice lady could see my distress, but to her apparent surprise I apologised and asked for some paper to catch the custard, pastry and dozen half strawberries strewn around my immediate locale. She obliged and I got to the task. I pushed it into a wee pile and started gathering it up, it was the blue industrial towel, so I was confident on the outcome.

I got the bulk pushed together in my hands and stood up with a flourish. Well nearly, I flourished to around waist height and connected with the protruding shelf holding the childs eye catchers by the till. I went straight back down. To shrieks gasps and in my mind anyway, some applause.

When you crack your head that hard it’s the teeth I fear for, the unexpected clamping sending white shrapnel or tongue fillet flying. Not this time, the top of my head took it. I pulled myself up the rack of Haribo and Revels. I could feel the trickle moving through what hair there is. I had to move fast, I wasn’t bleeding in M&S regardless of the colour fitting in with their Christmas decor. I hushed their attempts at help, displaying a foolhardy masculinity that should be viewed only in black and white. I retrieved replacement tarts with wandering steps and white knuckles, the trickle working it’s way down, paid, exchanged best wishes and headed for the door with my bag like Kyle Reese dragging Sarah Connor away from the T-800.

Got to the motor safe. Then home and a mirror, oh yes, the napper is all burst. My head pounding, I had a bit of a lie down.

But, I didn’t have to pay for the second set of strawberry tarts.

Alright!

Roadworks

They’re an inconvenience, you’re in a hurry, oh the queues, why must they..etc etc etc.

Aye very good. So you speed through at 70+ regardless of the 40 or 50 speed limit, because that’s yet another inconvenience. And anyway, you can drive your car better than everybody else so you’ll be fine. Indeed. That’s what every other arsehole in the cars around you is thinking. This is the attitude that kills so many road workers in this country.

The speed limit’s not for you to feel like you’re sticking it to the man when you ignore it, it’s to protect the workers if some stoopid drops the ball and sends a ton of spinning wheeled metal and shrieking human into them while they’re digging a hole in the tarmac with ear defenders on.

I did a lot of miles today and there’s a lot of roadworks, time and time again I saw a Hi-Viz vest blown in the wind as some dick flies by the wearer at high speed without a care or a thought in their head, never mind a moment for the poor sods by the roadside.

It’s not right.

Not wanting to be controversial

This has been on my mind for a while. I am in no way criticising the company involved, as they are very clever indeed and are sticking it to “The Man” in the form of big fat lazy companies at every turn. The issue is the product and the punters blinkered reaction to it, and the consequences thereof. I’ve used and use various bits of their kit, it’s mostly basic and functional, some is just rebranded generic stuff, some gems and some horrors.

It’s the excitement that people are gleefully purchasing the kit without actually thinking about it that amazes me. Let me explain.

You buy a sleeping bag from “B” for £200 in a shop (or £179.99 on the web, but we’ll ignore that because it’ll confuse the issue and you’ll get so bored with the endless connotations that you won’t get to the end where the actual salient point is, the crux of the matter if you will). It is a finely crafted bit of kit, made from the best materials. The shop has paid £117.50incVAT for it to the distributor, who take their cut and the rest goes to the manufacturer who pays the factory in China.

“A” sells their similar sleeping bag direct to the public with no middle man for £120. They pay the same factory in China. “A” are happy to admit the limitations of their kit, the corners cut and how they’re actually doing the punters a favour by keeping costs down. Well no, not really. I know I’m not taking into account volume sold here, but down bags are not a volume selling item. Unless the punter thinks they’re getting a bargain.

Let’s think about this. The bag from “B” is the same cost from it’s origin to retail (distributor to shop) as the bag from “A” (factory to website). “A” has no distributor to pay, so they take a bigger cut. On an inferior product that people are pissing all over themselves to get a hold of. I know that’s really simplistic, some companies do their own distribution etc. but the principle is right.

“B” and the other companies are actually having to react to this, and what worries me is that their quality will fall, ranges are having to include more cheap bags to compete with “A” and quality product development will suffer. It’s like the cut price web guys, it’s screwed the retail trade. Some products are almost worthless due to discounting, the fine Montane SuperFly being a prime example. You can hardly give them away.

So are Alpkit and the cut price Webists (not the small band of quality independant webists who are our new local shops and should be defended at all costs) destroying the trade? Or will Mike Ashley do it?

Whatever, the big companies will soon have to move out of China as labour costs rise and to compete they’ll be sending sewing machines to Mongolian herdsmen’s children to try and save themselves.

I just hope when I’m sixty and heading for the hills I’m not dressed in tat, carrying camping tat in a tatsack because it’s all gone on it’s tits.

News Story Mugshot

You know when there’s a tragedy, or mishap or newsworthy calamity that befalls an ordinary member of the public like ourselves? Well, the photo they use is always either 1970s Polaroid shot with redeye or a badly taken recent Christmas Day photie with you hugging a labrador in it.

Well to avoid that embarassment, should I take a flakey in the queue at Subway and barricade the doors with all the white bread (we’ll need the brown to eat while waiting for the helicopter) while demanding that the staff stop being so damned helpful and courteous and instead be more like the indigenous types who work at McDonalds, I have chosen this photie to represent me;

 

In case the misses is too destraught to pass this on to the relevant agencies while I’m being tracked in the crosshairs of an Umbrella Corp mercenaries rifle. Can somebody sort it out for me?

Thanks in advance.

iphone

Just saw the telly advert for it there. They’ve made it look like it’s lucky we’ve all survived thus far without it, it makes our lives better, it makes our lives so simple, it’s everything we’ve ever dreamed of having.

Whoopeefuckindo. Why not use the designers brain power and the R&D and advertising budgets on trying to cure cancer.

Then I might be moved. Or Impressed.

If I don’t flip channels during adverts it’s becoming increasingly difficult for me not to leap from the chair and smash the television to pieces.

Familiar view

Can’t even remember where I got this. Arrochar before the big blocks were stuck up the side of Narnain, nae trees on the hillsides either.

A pier with boats instead of angling ne’erdowells.

 

Have you read the signs in the carpark at the bottom of the Cobbler/ Narnain track? 

  • Please keep your windows rolled up and your hands inside the car at all times.

  • Do not feed the locals.

  • Parking charges are all of your money, no change.

  • Do not smile, it is not our custom and may offend.

  • Don’t ask too many questions, we don’t like your kind ’round here.

  • Welcome to Scotland, ye’ll have had your tea?

Bastards. Saw some poor sod get a ticket at 1755, the carparking is free at 1800. Mind you, you can park there for three months for the same cost as just looking for a space in Ambleside. The Lakes are carparking armagedon.

TV Licensing Bastards.

Bought the new TV license for the new place on Thursday online. Telewest Virgin Media came round on Friday to install the digital telly box.

The paper licence arrive this morning, it’s expiry to be 30th Sept next year. That’s eleven months exactly we paid for. On the phone immediately, licensing don’t care. OFCOM can’t do anything as it’s a governmnet department. Back to licensing.

They really are stupid. “It’s like your car tax” So, if I buy car on the first on November I pay road tax from the first of October? “No” That’s what you’re asking me to do. “You have to pay your taxes” I do, income tax, company tax, VAT…”You were watching TV…” When? “In the, er …” What, before I moved in? “…” Am I getting my money back? “Well, this time I’ll allow it, but don’t don’t do it again”.

Idiots.

In twenty years of voting I have yet to have someone represent me in Westminster, so I absolve myself of any responsibility of putting any of these arseholes in a job.

One’s as bad as the other.

You want to hate WL Gore. They came up with Gore Tex and changed all our lives, raised all our hopes then made us all sad with Paclite, raised the bar with XCR, then called it ProShell. Which is no different than changing your name from Windscale to Sellafield and repainting the gates. (That’s a test for older listeners)

You kind of get the impression they’re spinning their wheels until they actually really need to get off their arses and do something. Like when eVent take a spurt of growth from their market share of 6.66%*

I love eVent. I don’t care what they say in lab tests in Leeds Uni or whatever. In the field it’s always better than Gore on a human body, dryer, cooler, and until ProShell; lighter.

Luckily the limited amount of brands that use it mostly know their arse from their elbow, except maybe some of the bizarre creations of Integral Designs.

So that’s nice, we’re supporting the little guy, the maverick creators of a miracle fabric used ingeniously by pioneering manufacturers.

Or not. eVent as many will know is actually the chemical weapons division of the mighty GE Corp. These guys have an utterly horrendous history of environmental damage, subsequent denial and cover ups, and once found out they display a frankly admirable ability to talk their way out it with a completely straight face.

Does this kind of thing figure highly on your agenda when trying on kit in a shop? I tend to examine the hood, the arm lift, pockets and the company profile doesn’t really come to mind. If it did we would never buy anything, from food to a lightbulb, certainly not a telly or a car?

This all came about as a tangential thought process cul-de-sac™ as I was sifting through Haglofs Winter 07/08. Their new 3 layer ProShell jackets are outstanding, really clever cuts, brilliant hoods, lightweight, they even look nice in a “Sci-Fi crossed with colours only people from outside of the UK could think of” sort of way.

When you look at some of the baggy sacks of shite that Mountain Equipment are putting on the racks at the same time you just shake your head.

*Source: my imagination.