I’ve spent a lot of time this past week with maps and books, even looking back through the blog and packets of my old photies for ideas for new Trail Routes. And you know something, my enthusiasm and excitement for this stuff has never been higher.
No matter how much gear I get sent to test, or how many outdoor-related distractions appear, none of it is taking anything away from the simple joy of heading out there.
Something changed for me last year, and it was on that final successful trip to Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan. I had that feeling of re-discovery, an awakening of sorts after a long doze maybe, and it hasn’t gone away.
I’m planning trips where I’m pointing at the map and walking through the contour lines in my mind and grinning away to myself, I’m thinking about what colour that lochan will be, indigo or algae green, where will I pitch to feel the sunrise warm the tent and waken me gently. I’m sitting here typing, but if I blink I’m also on a top breathing in the cold air and pulling up my hood as the light dims and thoughts (once again) turn to hot cuppas and dinner.
I can be awfy faddy at times, but the Highlands have been a constant for me and as I grow older their grip is tightening. No, not a grip, an embrace.
To find a little thing like that in life, that feels like it’s just enough, I just couldn’t ask for more.
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?
The karrimor Alpiniste 45+10. It was the finest rucksack of it’s time. In fact, it still kicks the arse of many sacks around now. Counting against it are weight and storage for hydration, bottles or bladders. And that’s it. The harness is still the most comfortable I’ve ever used.
Mike Parsons the man behind it, is now the man of OMM, and still creating many works of wonder. I use OMM packs almost exclusively, the Villain being my lightweight backpacking sack. It’s essentially an update of the old 45+10, but with all the stuff it was missing like bottle pockets and external storage capacity.
It’s a workhorse. I rate it, I trust it, I will use it until it’s dyneema unravels. It hasn’t found a place in my heart like the old purple alpiniste though. It was something I aspired too when it came out, and having one was as good as I’d imagined. I mean, how often does that happen?
There it is on Aonach Mor, on it’s last day out.
Or was it? In order to know where you’re going, you have to know where you’ve been. Maybe when the snow comes I should have a retro day?
The man with the cleverest mind I’ve ever known came with all the stereotypical quirks you might expect.
Socially inept, emotionally immature and physically underdeveloped.
He was in a placement in a factory where I did maintenance, doing engineering calclations with his face in his hands quicker than the engineering mangager could do it on his calculator.They struggled with him, one or two of the guys there got him to open up a bit, but mostly he’d talk to them while stooped, looking the other way. And quietly.The manager asked if he could spend some time with us doing some of the practical side, thinking it would do him good.
He stayed with us for weeks. From a man who walked into scaffold, spilt his tea on his legs, fell down a man hole and painted his head with bitumen paint accidentally, we eventually got a shaven headed, sharp, conversational and personable workmate.
We didn’t rib him all the time, didn’t patronise him either. A bit of encouragement and some stick too and he found his place with a bunch of workies, confident and part of the squad.
When he went back to the factory placement we missed him.
Months later we saw him in the street when heading to Greggs, this was a while after his placement had ended. Unkempt, stooped, and nervous looking again. We said hello, we got a glance up and indestiguishable muttering and he carried on.
We were really sad. You can teach people, but if it doesn’t come naturally, without the contact it’s lost.
I was parked on Bath Street last week having my lunch in the motor, idley flicking through the utterly horrific Cotswolds catalogue that had arrived in the post. Lunch incedentaly was a fine soup/sandwich/brownie/cuppa combo from that new place that’s opened up where O’Briens was on Sauchiehall St. Very nice.
Anyway, there were two parked cars in view. One was in front of me, a wee people carried of recent vintage, the other to my left. I watched this second arrive, a black S-Class Merc of recent purchase. The occupant rolled himself out into the street, adjusted his fine finely tailer suit, smoothed the back down, adjusted the collar beneeth his fat red overindulged face and rotated his gold watch around his wrist (must’ve been catching a hair) before setting off.
I had paid my parking ticket and was in a space, both of the other cars were on a single yellow line and were displaying disabled badges.
I was into the brownie by the time a man approached the people carrier in front of me. I was vaguelly distracted by his movements as he was peering into it’s driver-side window. My first though was “This dick is going to tan the window and make of with something from within”.
But now watching more closely I could see that he had no hands. He had the cable actuated split hooks attached to instead. He started to dance about on one foot and as I watched he pulled one foot out of his slip-on shoe. Between his toes he held a car key. He unlocked the door and opened it, then put the key in the ignition. All while standing on his other foot. He put his foot back in his shoe and got in. Shortly after he drove away.
I was stunned, psyched. I had to phone people to tell them. This was a display of the finest of qualities that people have. Adversity is no boundary, no definition unless you chose.
If we could all display these qualities, draw on the inherent strength that humans possess, apply it with intelligence then surely nothing could be beyond us.
But of course the telly is good, so we’ll do it tomorrow.