Auntie Clockwise

We left early for Pitlochry, but even as we arrived mid-morning after the wonders of a drive through woodland Perthshire, the place was already jumping.
It’s the Etape Caledonia cycling event this weekend and the pavements, carparks, cafes and shops are just full of folk, half of them in padded lycra as well. The sun was shining and it was a joy to see a wee Scottish town alive like that. I know there’s naysayers because of the traffic disruption on race day, but in uncertain times there’s money being spent that wouldn’t be othewise. Folk have such as narrow view at times.

There was a bunch of trade stands there, outdoor, bike, multisport etc, so I caught up with some folk, met some folk, got some gossip and news and came back with some bits and pieces.
Holly got a bike helmet in Escape Route, it’s a wee cracker and it’ll do her for a good wee while. She was dead proud of it too.
Lunch in town was magic, the girls had a wander while I blethered some more and before we knew it, it was after 4, and it was time to hit the road.

We followed the race route towards Loch Tummel and a quick cuppa at the Queen’s View. Schiehallion looked dark and brooding, back-lit as it was by the early evening sun while we wound south to Glen Lyon.
The Glen was quiet and beautiful as always. It feels like a secret, trapped between the A82 and the A9, with no summits that will ever grace the cover of a guide book, but with walking to delight the soul and stir the heart for those who can turn their eyes from the celebrity peaks.

The sad site of the long neglected and now closed Ben Lawers visitor centre sparked a discussion. A missed opportunity, misplaced, mistimed? Whatever, it should be open, interesting and selling cuppas and cake.
Holly loved the Falls of Dochart in Killin, she was sure she could see sharks hiding in the little holes in the rock, I couldn’t disagree, she’s three feet closer to them that I am, with better eyesight. We hurried back to the motor just in case.

I checked out my campsite choice for Monday night and then we took a diversion down Loch Long.
Another weekend with the girls, another trip through the mountains.
I love this stuff.

Long road for a shortcut

It’s been busy this last couple of weeks, and today had been on my mind for all of it. Phone off, family time outside in the sun, there’s nothing better.

Holly took to the the idea of a bike trailer instantly. I brought it home on Monday, set it up and tried it up and down the lane with instant screeches of delight from inside. I just had to count the days off from there.
We packed up on Friday night, but a wee niggling cough from the girl in the early hours looked like pulling the rug off the top of my head and we eased into a lazy morning with tatties scones and telly. But, she sprang back to life with a “My want a picnic and my carriage”. Clothes donned, flasks filled and we were on the road.

Loch Katrine isn’t too far away, and the road across the southern end of Loch Lomond and over the Duke’s Pass flashes by in a blaze of colour and light. The Trossachs are bubbling with life again, trees bursting out under the bluest of skies. The three of us were smiles and sunglasses in the (£3) car park at the pier as we kitted up and wheeled off for a lochside dawdle.

Loch Katrine is rare example of Scotland doing tourism well. There’s facilities, people to help and answer questions, a lack of closed signs, things to eat, things to do, and most of all it’s a stunningly beautiful place. Natural woodland clings onto the islands and the hillsides, the modest heights of Ben Venue still loom over the pier and in the distance, familiar Munro’s take on different shapes to recharge your enthusiasm for well worn trails.
It was great to see so many folk enjoying it, families, walkers & cyclists of all flavours and of course the folks on board the Sir Walter Scott, steaming past us on its rounds on the loch.

We stopped for a picnic after a few miles under the shade of some tall trees, high above the water. Folk passsed us regularly in both directions. The road being closed to the public is brilliant, one van from a farm passed us all day, and that was it. It really is an odd feeling, on a hill is kinda timeless, sky, rock and heather, but here riding on an empty road past farms with geese and hens wandering onto the tarmac, it felt like we were time travelling. The Highlands as they once were, no traffic, every building in the glens occupied or worked. A joyful and subtly melancholy journey in some ways.

We rode on through the changing scenery, Beinn A’an now showing it’s true shape as an outcrop in the distance and Ben Lomond’s north face rising darkly to the south, the ridge we climbed last year catching the sunlight on its crest. I’m going back there soon.
We stopped for another picnic on the stony shore where we threw and skimmed stones (Holly attempted to lift a rock 3 feet across, and was most perturbed that it wouldn’t shift as it would have made a “big splass”), had cuppas, carrot sticks and a pastry.
It was warm and bright and the day was getting on. We cycled a little further, to where the end was in sight, Stronachlacher just over the water. But Holly had done so well, and it was a long road back, so we decided to turn tail and not push our luck.
I’d wanted to do this since Holly was was born, I don’t know why the notion came and then stuck with me, but I’m glad it went well and she loves her “carriage”. I think I’d have been in tatters if it had been a disaster.

As we got back in sight of the pier Holly got out to stretch her legs and I walked back with the bikes and trailer while Joycee and Holly ran ahead. Joycee was delighted to be back on the bike too and did well, often disappearing up or down something to be met a little further on waiting and wearing a big grin. I didn’t have so much speed available, me and the girl had the weight of our ensemble very much in mind plus the safety factor (generally and the old guy at the front more specifically), although cattle grids became a favourite moment with much giggling and shouting.
The trailer is great though, stable, takes girl+picnic and attaches easily to my old spare-parts hardtail. We’ll have more fun with this over the summer.

We had ice cream as we packed up, dad had Irn Bru ice cream too, imagine that.
The best of days with the best of people, my girls.


What do you want to do today?
“My want er… Daddy’s mountains and build a snowman”

Off we went to Lochgoilhead, quiet trails to walk, down a quiet singletrack road and somewhere where Holly had been when she was just a little baby.
This time she walked a good bit of it, but had great fun in the “Hollypod” as well, although making dad run after mum while she was in it took years off of the old fellas knees…
We had a picnic in the sunshine, saw red squirrels, waterfalls and birdies in a landscape waking up and coming back to life with a flourish.

The Arrochar Alps looked beautiful (and awfy busy) as we passed, snow clinging on as green creeps up to meet it.
We had some unusual sounds in the motor too, the usual mix was there, but Holly has an ear for the pipes and traditional music so I have a few favourites in there like The Mist Covered Mountains, With a Hundred Pipers and of course Macfarlane’s Calling.
I’ve spent a lifetime denying the cliches of the land of my birth, but as I grow older, when I hear the pipes I can now feel something tugging at me deep inside. It’s a wonderful thing.

Holly was knackered by the time we got back to the motor and could hardly keep her eyes open at granny’s when she arrived for dinner all rosy-cheeked and muddy. 
A perfect day.

Woo Ghosties

Tonight’s bedtime stories for Holly were a little different. We had the Cailleach and her magic cow in the legend of Loch Awe and we had the story of how the farmer’s daughters became the Five Sisters of Kintail with a spell.
She loved it just as much as the Doctor Who picnic story, so we’ll be having those again.
I’m going to brush up on my legends, there’s so much stuff from around here and it’ll be great fun, plus I can add in whatever Cbeebies characters I like.
A great resource is Tom Atkinsons “The Lonely Lands” which I lent to someone about two years ago and never saw it again.
Ebay or Amazon…

Pink Clouds, an Island

We’re not sure where Holly learned some of the questions, but when we got to ask them instead of answering them, this is what we got.
What’s your talent?
“Drawing and painting”.
What’s your name?
“Holly MacScotland”.
What’s that noise?
“It’s the man”
What’s do you want for dinner?
“Chipmunk Box”.

That’s the world I want to live in.

St Kessog at Luss

Joycee spent the day in Luss finishing off her sculpture in time for it’s dedication at 1500hrs, and in true Macfarlane style she did it in the nick of time.

The 10th of March this year is the 1500th anniversary of St Kessog’s arrival from Ireland to the Luss area where he was a missionary until his death ten years later death at the hands of druids. He trained under St Patrick and was the patron saint of Scotland until the 10th Century.
He played an important part in our national and local history and it’s good to see an effort being made to raise his profile. We’ve got so much else to learn about our past beyond the popstars such as Wallace, The Bruce and Rob Roy MacGregor.
Joycee was commissioned by Dane Sherrard, the minister as Luss Parish Church to make a sculpture in time for the anniversary.
And like so many of my stories on here, it has a familiar opening line. It was late when I started…

Joycee tries to use reclaimed and recycled materials where possible, and our workshop has that stuff in spades. Three ex-Clyde shipyard keel blocks were picked out (our workshop used be part of Scotts shipyard, these keel blocks are old) , chalked up and chainsawed into rough shape.
Jimmy lent a hand with some of the rough stuff, and indeed at one point that hand got a little close to the action resulting in it needing six stitches, which he got out yesterday, and immediately burst again when he got back from hospital by getting straight ack to work. You can’t stop the man.

Over the past two weeks a 7 foot tall pile of rough wood has become a figure, and the tools used to do it were often over 100 years old, belonging to a carpenter from Dumbarton who used them back at the turn of the last century.
How many of us will be passing on our Argos battery powered drills onto future generations to benefit from?

Dowelled and epoxyed, St Kessog went in the pickup and we took him up the road to get him into place. He is a heavy boy indeed, even chiseled down he’s still a six-footer, and he went by sack barrow and cart to his spot by the trees, and there was welcome help waiting from the church folks too.
The soft pink evening light lit him up and he was suddenly, starkly, red and white, the red pine and douglas fir looking highly contrasting. Joycee and I both knew that by this time tomorrow it would look very different, but I’ll bet there were some worried thoughts in Luss last night. It just goes to show that you should never view an unfinished job!

By the time Holly got to say hello to him today, St Kessog was the right colour and was standing there in the sunshine looking quite pleased with himself.
The dedication was well attended by local folk and school children, the press were there too, even a fella over from Russia to film the days events.
It was a good day, there had been more on besides the sculpture, lots of smiling faces on happy folks. I got to meet some folk I don’t see too much, including my headmistress from primary school in the 1970’s! 
Good on the organisers for doing something when it’s easier to do nothing, but most of all for me, well done the wife.

I’m bored of vampires

It’s a big day tomorrow. Joycee has biggest of the bigness though, it’s the unveiling of her sculpture of St Kessog in Luss on Loch Lomondside. There’s a whole day of events leading up to it, and she’ll be burst by the end of it. We dropped him into his hole earlier tonight, he’s looking good for a 1500-year-old. Both Holly and I shall be waving and grinning as Mummy does her stuff.

Me? I’m expecting answers, although to be fair I might have to wait until Thursday for them. Whatever those answers are will mean I’ll have to do one thing or another. It’s a bugger not being able to bluff my way through everything I do.

The Loch Lomond Wild Camping er, demonstration(?) is now confirmed, we’re just looking at A and B dates, April or May.
A couple of folks from the Park HQ will be joining me on a wild camping trip on Loch Lomondside, we’ll be looking at where and how to pitch, water, waste, and all the ways to make wild camping low-impact and responsible, and maybe most importantly possible. That of course is the easiect thing in the world to do, we all do it, but with good coverage it’s a chance to show the man in the street what the difference is between wild campers and informal campers.
Maybe the difficulty will be scaling that difference down enough to fit it onto even the biggest wide-screen TV?

Meteor Girl

I pulled the jacket flat to take a couple of shots to do a first-look of it. I turned round to get the camera, and by the time I turned back Holly had decided that she liked the shiny red seat and sat there laughing at me.
Is daddy not taking any photies then?
“Ah, no no””
I guess she’s geared-out. Wise beyond her years that girl.

Banana Cake Mix

The forecast looked less than perfect for getting photies of Creag Meagaidh over the weekend, so I spent Friday night singing songs with Holly, making up stories and generally keeping her up way past her bedtime instead of packing for an overnighter. 
Joycee got out to play with her pals last night too, and a long lie for us all made it happy times this morning.
We decided to just hang out today and spent the day around the Trossachs, lunch in Callander, a wander here, a shufty there and later on we watched the sun set over Loch Venacher as we skipped stones across the water towards it. Then we drove home to the Flash Gordon (Ah-Ah!) soundtrack which Holly loves as it’s her favourite film…

From the mouths of children…

“Tiso rubbish. Transport Museum, Edie McCredie’s bus, okay thanks you”. Holly said it, not me. Not even the waterfall in the Tiso GOE held her interest today.
We slipped and slid our way back to the motor and headed to Glasgow’s rapidly emptying Transport Museum. There’s a new one being built by the Clyde and a lot of exhibits are in a limbo of transition and storage. Plenty people still in there, and the cafe was great. Well, you know me and food.
But, the original museum in the old tram depot on Albert Drive on the south side was still better. They had a huge train set, the cafe was decorated with wooden panels from First Class Victorian railway carriages, and the carpet had Caledonian Railway locomotives on it. I notice that some of that carpet got saved and made it into some of the current museum offices, nice to see there’s a soul in there somewhere and it’s not all just people doing a job.
Holly loves it in there and was distraught when we left. So the next plan was to get a wee sledge instead of dad’s improvised versions (the details of which shall remain a mystery), so we went to Cotswolds in Partick. No sledges and Holly got into a tent upstairs, made soup with a pot and a spork and refused to come out until “Granny phoned” and invited us over for tea. Extra bribery was provided in the form of a wind-up torch in the shape of a ladybird. A magic wee thing, and she spent the journey home shining it on the roof above her.
Great inversion today, I could tell from underneath it. I looked at some web and traffic-cams, the sun was shining on the snow covered mountains.
You know what? I have neither the energy or the motivation to pack and go and see it up close. It’s been nice this past week just doing nothing. Maybe tomorrow I’ll do something. Or the day after that.


The girls were unpacking from their trip up north, I was up to my knees in bags, clothes and Christmas parcels. I was also in the way.
I peered out through the fog at the frozen village. I packed a few bits and pieces, dressed for the weather and headed off to look for some sunshine.
It wasn’t far away. As I pulled into the Overtoun House car park the edge of the fog swirled around me and after a couple of minutes I was climbing high above it. The cloud hugged the shape of the Clyde, and everything else was gleaming white and bathed in winter light.
It was a glorious wander though deep powder snow. And absolutely bloody freezing.

I made it back to my folks for lunch and the girls arrived just after me. There has since been much snacking, cuppas and listening for Santa. He’s in for a treat this year, flapjack, tea and apple juice in the Peppa Pig bottle, and of course a carrot for Rudolf are all sitting ready.
Holly is having such a great time this Christmas, she’s so excited, and it’s just a joy to watch. 

Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, at this time of year where the highs find new heights and the lows can find new depths, with all my heart and soul, I wish you well.


I’ve opened the last wee envelope on the laptop and there’s stacks of stuff I haven’t seen for ages on here.
Disturbingly I’m very young in a lot of it. It’s all scans too, so more ropey than normal, but it’s nice to see once again where I’ve been and why growing old isn’t better or worse, it’s just different.

That was a cracking day Joycee and I had above with an inversion on Loch Tay behind, rolling up Glen Lochay below us. We were climbing Meall Ghaordaidh, and it looks like I’m wearing a cape for some reason.

Mind you, I’m more oddly dressed on Schiehallion below. Help ma’ Boab.

That one is really going back, maybe as far as the one below.
No it’s not a big bouffant hairdo I’ve got (I’m on the move), it’s an authentically 70’s centre parting affair. If you look at my right arm you’ll see the strand of hair sticking to the sweat and ending in a wee clump on my forearm. At this stage in my life where all the hair is on my face or somewhat alarmingly, my shoulders, it’s important to get such details correct.


Life on the laptop continues, and tonight I found some thumbnails of our wedding photies.
One wonderful comment we got was “That’s a nice painting you’re in front of”. Idiot.
We were married at the Kings House at Glen Coe. Well, outside of it in the sunshine actually, and as it was the first of March it was bloody freezing. The assembled family and guests were on the verge of hypothermia by the time we went inside for dinner (where there were plates of donuts along the tables, yes, we did all the arrangements ourselves), which was all stuff folk actually liked and the wedding cake was chocolate with white icing.
There was other family baiting tomfoolery throughout proceedings from the ceremony music (Duane Eddy’s Rebel Rouser played by me and Jimmy, and the theme from The Dambusters too) to the flowers which were thistles, purple feathers, orchids and pussy willow. It was entirely stress free, before and during.
Happy days indeed.

Eight bucks even buys a folding chair

It’s like being on holiday this week, apart from all the work.
On Tuesday Holly and I hung out all day, I took her into see the folks at an engineers merchants that Jimmy and I have known forever and there was much fussing from the girls in the office. Then there was lunch at Tiso (where they make a mean babyccino) and a visit to the Xscape where we marvelled at the snowboarder gear in the Ellis Brighams. The colours, the mental patterns (orange and purple tartan), the sheer fun designed into some of this kit is so uplifting. Then you see the dull walkers and climbers gear in the regular EB store round the corner and your smile is removed by the notion that you’ve landed in a shop on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain in 1971. Why must this be? They did have the new version Black Diamond Raven Ultra ice axe, now with sparkly orange shaft, so there is hope.
There was more fun and games, and we met up with Joycee too, when I got home I was knackered. That was the best day I’ve had for a long time.

The fun continued last night with Alice Cooper at the Armadillo in Glasgow. It’s a rubbish venue for rock’n’roll, but it got better as the show went on and from the third row we had a face and ear full of all that was happening. The sight of Alice singing the lovely wee ballad “I Never Cry” with a noose around his neck standing in the gallows was just wonderful. He was sharp, his voice was great and he played songs I’ve never heard him play, some of my favourites too. Joycee and I missed his last show in Glasgow as Holly was being born as his support band were on stage, so this was kinda right for out first proper night out since (!?).
It was just brilliant.

The interest continued outside where the aftershow melee in the carpark was at full throttle. There’s a strip of no-mans land in the SECC grounds where a few cars can fit and claim free parking, but it tapers away from the pavement leaving a drop of a couple of feet onto the old dockside cobbles at one point. As we walked out to where we’d parked towards the city (walking is free, laziness costs about a fiver) with the rest of the merry punters, we were all intrigued by the loud banging noise coming from a brand new Beemer parked at this sketchy cheapskate zone. As a crowd gathered to peer around the back of the car we saw the driver trying to lever up his rear wheel (which was hanging in space, the car lying on its chassis at that corner) with what looked like bits of broken packing case. The car at this area was starting to look a little creased shall we say.
Whether or not the assembled group had grasped the real story of how this came about (he’d spent two years wages on his car and couldn’t afford parking or intelligence/ was just a cheapskate bastard) I don’t know, but sympathy was unforthcoming. One passerby quipped “If you’d bought an Audi you could driven out with your four wheel drive”. All we could hear was laughter and sarcasm until we got out of earshot. I do wonder what effect that episode will have had on both the car and the mind of the driver.

I’m not claiming any vehicle superiority here, Joycee’s Renault Nogaun is in the garage again. The quicker we get beaming technology the better, or replace all the cars and roads with a huge Scalextric style system. You just press “Go” and your wee transport bubble sets off and you can sleep, eat or whatever and you don’t have to operate machinery to get somewhere.
Anyway, that’s getting into the realms of David Essex as the infantryman from War of the Worlds, “…I knew I’d have to leave this strange dreamer…”. Well said Richard.

Carry on.


It was Holly’s second birthday on Saturday. She’s recovering from the same bug I eventually got (and Granny, Mum…), but she still loved her presents, cake and candles.
I can’t believe it’s been two years. It feels like two minutes, but we feel like we’ve always been a team of three.
There really is no greater joy in life than watching your little one learn and grow. As much as I sometimes would happily sell my soul for an undisturbed nights sleep, I am a lucky, lucky man.

We went for a little galavant today to show Holly the snow on the tops and have a wander and a picnic in the winter sunshine. Everyone else seemed to have the same idea, and the roads were mobbed. Good to see folk off the couch.
We came home to a subdued winter sunset across the Clyde. I miss that during the dull months in the middle of the year, the sun hits the horizon out of sight of the living room window.
Tired but happy.

I’ve got mixed emotions about tomorrow. Monday means I have to switch my phone on and deal with stuff and things as I’m fully mobile again.
But, last week some money came in and the cheques should be cleared (self-employed remember, no wages) so I’ll probably buy some ammo with that and shoot at the vultures circling above me while I eat a festive bake from Greggs at lunchtime. I won’t get them all, but enough to keep the group circling higher until they re-group later on.
Lets see what karma hits me with to redress the balance with that slight swing towards optimism.

More Stickers?!

It’s not all been gear and bikes, I’ve been grafting all the hours available as well to try and catch up with work so I can go to Ft Bill next week with the reassurance of invoices submitted and warm pipes where once there were cold pipes.
It’s getting there thank Jimmy.

As I was making my way back to the boilerhouse from Greggs (they know me in the Dumbarton Greggs now, help ma’ boab) with my lunch today, yes Saturday, a bloke in a boilersuit approached me from the roadworks on the other side of the street “D’ye no remember me?”. With some prompting I did, he worked for me over the summer, ten years ago. We used to take on school leavers as temporary labour on maintenance contracts to give them work experience and of course to lend some much needed extra hands. It worked well for years, the Careers Office were delighted and the youngsters got something on their C.V. and a referee.
A combination of contract changes and increasingly difficulty in getting the right people meant that we haven’t done this for a few years now, and I always did wonder how a lot of the boys did after their time with us. Some showed a real interest in learning the tools, some wanted to know if they still got paid when they went off sick tomorrow (which would be their second day with us…), some you wished well on their last day and some stole your Stanley knife out of your toolbox.
However, the chance meeting today was good news, after moving through a few jobs over the years he’d started on his own and was building his own business up. Magic.

I had a wee revelation earlier on his week too. I’m sometimes very surprised by the people around me. You think you know yourself well, but then what initially seemed like a strange gesture or an odd gift, later turns out to be a stunning piece of insight. Never underestimate the powers of those close to you.