Albert Popwell

The tatters of the weekend blew about my feet like a whirlwind of crisp pokes in a playground twister.
Plans had come to nothing, illness, inconvenience and insubordination seems to fit together quite well, so I’ll blame those.
I climbed into the attic to check the pressure on the heating (yes my filling loop is up there, what about it?) as it was gurgling when it came on for the hot water. I felt like I should be pushing a wooden box of dirt from my ever extending escape tunnel back to the hatch as I crawled about under the stupidly placed beams, but instead I climbed onto the roof.
It wasn’t a bad enough weekend that anything untoward was going to happen when I got up there, it’s just that summer takes the sunset out of view and the colours spilling over to the front were so damned cheerful I wanted to soak some of it up.
I wonder what the neighbours though of the bloke on the roof with a headtorch and a camera?
There’s been no sirens, so maybe the curtain twitchers were a’ watchin’ the fitba.


There’s been so much of my usual stuff missing on here recently, it’s like someone’s tidied up while I’ve been away and I can’t find anything.
When I saw the pink bleed across the low cloud over the river I reached for the camera thinking that it would be nice to see my favourite familiar view looking its best on the top of the pile again. The camera battery was dead and as I searched for a spare the PS Waverley glided into view. Still poking the new battery into place I ended up lying across the table in front of the open window with one hand poking outside pressing the button with a mix of panic and optimism. Four shots I got off, and the least blurred one below gets a smile from me.
Long lie in tomorrow, with tattie scones following on…

All stations via Singer, except Bowling

Bowling is like a silent movie film star. In that no one’s heard of it, but there’s lots of old photies of it kicking about.
That view above has been etched and painted many times over the past couple of hundred years. I think the piers of the Erskine Bridge would be in that horse’s way these days, but Dumbarton Rock still looks the same.
It’s gone from rural idyll to industrial conduit as seen below, and now it’s just in the way of folk wanting to get onto the A82.

But, we had our 32nd Annual Gala Day last Saturday, the sun shone, the flags were out, we paraded through the village with a pipe band (we decorated Holly’s bike trailer as a princess carriage for that) and made merry at the village hall.
Holly won a prize for her Little Mermaid outfit, the Gala Queen was crowned, hands were shaken and smiles were exchanged with old friends who always come back to the village for the day, and others were missed in the crowd. ‘Til next year anyway.
On Monday we were all back to being bad tempered commuters, but I know the community spirit is still there, underneath somewhere. Maybe there’s hope for us after all.

Lenticular Disney Cards

Holly’s in the kitchen and she’s just sung this, word for word: “I am Iron Man!, dum dum dumdumdum, da da da da da da da da dumdum”
There’s a tear in my eye right now.

Work was a dead loss today. Jimmy was bringing the boat back up the Clyde from Dumbarton after it being in the water for the first time yesterday, and that had to be assisted leading to nautical themed conversation (where I had to bluff like a mofo) at Bowling Basin with folk previously unknown, then cuppas, walking around the harbour with Holly and then an acceptance that the day was done.
So, I’ve been packing the gear for Monday (for that is the day we’re heading out). Rucksacks are fine,  we had some trying-on and everyone is happy enough (I’ll do some gear stuff post-trip), even Craig the very tall reporter was sorted with adjustment set to “Stop Here”.
Sleeping bags though is a thing. I’ve got a lot of bags here, but they’re all filled with enough down that I know will keep me just warm enough. So, I’ve had to bring some golden oldies out of retirement that have a heavier fill so that the guys coming along who haven’t done this before will have a warm night at camp.

This has got me thinking about my own transition in what I use. I used to sleep in bigger bags, sometimes fully clothed and often felt on the limit. I went to lighter bags plus clothing and started to wake up to take clothes off to cool down, and now it’s light bags with base layers or less. I’m getting older, I’m not getting any fitter so what’s changed? The bags I’m using are better and lighter, the mats I’m sleeping on are lighter but not any better at insulating, so there’s no huge change in anything other than pack weight.
Is it confidence maybe? Have I subconsciously hit my camping “stride” and when it’s bed time I’m more relaxed and mentally in a happy place, or do I eat better, or maybe I’m so used to throwing on insulating layers when I stop that I’m keeping my core warmth better and a hot drink before bed stokes the boiler for the night? It’s probably a little of all of that, but some nights are still better than others, there is no real etched-in-brass scale for me to judge from.
So, this has me thinking about sleeping bag ratings. They really don’t help at all do they? I know I tend to look at fill weight and apply that to my own accrued data, but what the hell does someone looking for their first bag to carry into the mountains look for? What happens is they go to a forum to ask for advice and get even more confused/abused/depressed.
I can’t even think of a solution to this, it’s something you just have to learn for yourself, and it’s an expensive learning curve to ride your BigWheel round. As we’re looking to help folk with the idea wild camping, I really see this as the biggest issue from a gear, as well as a comfort and enjoyment perspective.

Anyway. I’ll be asking questions on Tuesday morning about how folk slept, how warm they were etc. It’ll be interesting to hear the differences, especially as a couple of the bags are rated into double minus figures.

Electile Dysfunction

So who are we all voting for? Let’s look at the options…

Labour, the current overseers. Untrustworthy incompetent Tory wannabees. They’ve eroded our civil freedoms, ruined what was left of the economy, treat us all like we’re idiots and repeatedly invade countries that America tells them to. They think they’re going to get away with it and should be the first against the wall when the revolution comes.
Conservative, The Phantom Menace. They destroyed British industry the last time they were in to teach the unions a lesson, treat Scotland like a cross between a car park and a council tip. Their personel remain suspiciously shiny. They think we’ve all forgotten what a shower of bastards they are and should be holding labour’s hand as they line up against the wall with them when the revolution comes.
LibDem, neither up nor doon. They want to be your friend so badly, but I do worry about them. If they got into power it’s a bit like a train spotter suddenly being asked to drive the north-bound express from Kings Cross. Sure, he knows what it all looks like, he’s read the manual by torchlight under the bedcovers so many times. But stick him in the driving seat and he’s going panic when he has to stop at Glasgow Central and he’ll put the train straight through WHSmith at 125mph and into the street outside. 
SNP, my local folk. They gave me my first real Scottish government (the previous Labour one in Edinburgh doesn’t count as Blair was in charge of it) and then they approve the Beauly-Denny powerline and kiss Donald Trumps golf-flavoured arse to burst my bubble and leave me distraught. They’re not the party I’ve voted for all my life anymore.
Green. I’d rather have a single huge well funded and properly maintained nuclear plant (possibly on the site of the O2 Arena in London?) than a country that looks like a hedgehog from the air (think about it).
Assorted pointless others. Stay at home instead with your oddly specific agendas/ undeserved optimism/ nazi memorabilia/ nice new ties, keep your deposit and prepare for the worst.

We really need change, and I don’t think any of the useless bastards above can provide it.
I think we should chose someone to invade and take over things. My first instinct would be the new colourful daleks as they’d be quite cheerful while dishing out the misery, my second would maybe be some sort of Scandinavian expansionist coalition. No, no, ancient Egyptians, that’d be cool.
Sinbad the Sailor for Prime Minister? Peppa Pig, a tin of Plumrose Hotdogs?

Would it really be any worse.

This is the age of the train

I always feel conspicuous on foot on the Erskine Bridge, and tonight after a late night at work was no different.
Wandering up it after parking at the north end to take a photie or two with a camera and a tripod, I’m sure to the passing motorists who are braking from 80 to under 40 for the corners, because as we all know stupids can only drive fast in a straight line, I look like a sniper setting up to take a potshot at De Gaulle.

Anyway, the expected skies of volcanic wonder are no different to the skies of non-volcanic wonder we’ve been getting on the west coast already. There’s just no vapour trails crossing it.

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.


I was in no hurry. I thought about doing the XXL loop, but with shoes just-out-the-box I didn’t fancy pushing my luck with that much tarmac.
I parked at Overtoun House, jumped the fence and made a beeline for the crags. I was in an exploring mood.
I can still find new routes, new track combinations, new gaps in the trees to squeeze through, and it’s that happy marriage of familiar and new that will keep me climbing the Kilpatricks until my legs give out underneath me.

I took the trail under the southern end of the crags and wound my way through the tumble of boulders enjoying the cool air and the snapping gusts of wind which nipped at my fingertips and ears. It might look like Spring is here as the snow recedes, but winter is still in the air, and on the ground too. All the reservoirs are still frozen and big white chunks of snow lie at every turn, their edges becoming rounder and thinner each day.

Greenland reservoir is full again, the fine new overflow culvert and bridge still look shiny and out of place, but they’ll fade quickly enough.
The water occupies a clearing, surrounded by tall plantation, and it’s silent apart from the constant trickling of water from the deep culvert. But walk ten feet into the trees and the quietness is almost a physical presence, standing there with it’s hands on your shoulders. Today it was benign, but sometimes, I swear to you, I think it’s reaching for my wallet.

The tracks are starting to heal. The works vehicles from the culvert and Loch Humphrey track operations are gone and a more usable surface is returning. I hope when the greenery sprouts we’ll get a huge mohican of grass down the centre. The ruts are deeper than ever and it’ll look gallus.

Out on the open hillside again it was cold, and getting a little dark. But Doughnot Hill was just over there, so I had to go.
I’m glad too, I took a big sweep across the moor to miss the worst of the bog and climbed to the top from the east side. It’s a good plan because you can’t see what’s on the other side until you’re right on the top. Ben Lomond’s napper was just in the clouds and every slope to the north was a streaky patchwork of white and dark brown.
While I might mourn winter’s passing, spring is the best time to be out in a tent. It’s still cool on the tops, but with longer midge-free days and the joy of seeing the hills come back to life before all your senses if you have to time to stops and notice.
I thought that over, I thought about my plans as I had a wee snack, ifs, buts, maybes and musts.
But it was getting awfy cold, so I packed up and jogged downhill to cross the burn and rejoin the track back to the motor.

I walked through the trees near Overtoun and a blackbird burst into song. That made me smile. Ootside and inside.

Not want a Zygon in my pocket

I think it’s good thing when you know yourself well, forewarned is forearmed. I’m very aware of my weaknesses, and all my character flaws have that yellow and black industrial warning tape around the edges so that if I’m going to reverse into them I’ve got a half a chance of stopping in time.
So when I decided to stop packing my rucksack and actually take the day to sit back and look at my toes wiggling in front of the telly, I knew there was a good chance of me slipping into some kind of obsessive and time consuming behaviour.
Aye, spent the entire day with the curtains shut playing the remake of the first Silent Hill game on my rather dusty PS2.
The first thing I knew of the real world was when the girls came back in the early evening and I was still in my shorts with a selection of empty mugs within easy reach of my bean bag. “No, I can’t have my dinner until I’ve reached a decent save-point…”.
I wonder how many steps away any of as are from being a crazy, shouting at the telly, yellow net curtains, bodily functions in a poly bag, overcoat that smells of milk, wearing tartan slippers to the shop to buy dog food when you don’t have a dog, loner.
Hopefully more than one or two anyway.

Kingdom of Mongo

I don’t think I can remember such a cavalcade of colour as we’ve enjoyed this past wee while.
Every evening has been a blazing display of felt tip pen tones drawn onto blue gel paper placed onto an overhead projector with a 1000W bulb in it.
It stops me in my tracks, and on some occasions, in mid sentence.
It’s like living in the 1980 Flash Gordon Movie and I absolutely love it.
Freaks my camera out too.

A quick bit of navel gazing

Well, I got my answers: “Normal”. I kind of expected that, but it’s still something of a relief.
Maybe I have to accept that I am a little older, I can’t fit more than 24hrs worth of stuff into day. I need to sleep sometimes, I have to let injuries heal at their own pace, not mine, and pause between things, just for a minute.
So like the man told me to, I have taken some time off, and I was even in my bed at 2130 the other night with a book. Magic.
Hell, it’s been a few years since I last took my last kamikaze flight, this time though I missed the target and landed an an allied airfield. I’m learning.
So, tomorrow.

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?

I’m going to eat that brownie.

It had seemed like a good idea. I got away a little early, the bike was freshly cleaned, lubed and adjusted and I have hills right behind me.
On many levels this plot had holes in it though. More so than even Alien³ where many of the cast died from editing rather than the regulation shiny-toothed double-jaw application or a smack in the head from Ripley. I shall step onto the down escalator and note the obvious mistakes as though they were those wee adverts next to subway escalators that always look squint, although it’s really an optical illusion. Or is it?

It was warm as I climbed the long track up The Slacks, sweat dripped from my eyebrows as a spun the pedals slowly. The sun shone, the sky was ice blue and I had to sit down and take a break at the level section at the old quarry.
I haven’t been on a bike in four months. Hell, I hadn’t even cleaned the bike since the West Highland Way. I think I may have had lingering issues.
I should have had a wee trial ride around the lower trails, part of the reasoning for going out for a ride was that the gentle spinning would be good for my twanged leg, but I got all excited and headed for the hills.

I sat at the quarry and pulled on a vest as it was cold. Somehow I hadn’t expected it to be that cold, with frost, and ice and well, wintery coldness. I don’t get that when I’m out on a bike.
The ground was hard, it crunched as I rode, and as I got higher the ground became porridge, where the oats were gravel and the milk was ice. My tyres were biting, but I was tired from the now unfamiliar exertion and was now a little rattled by the terrain.
But my confidence did slowly increase, and so did my speed. Apart from the stinging cheeks and watering eyes, it was like a summers morning up there.
I turned around Loch Humphrey and heard a loud moan above the chatter of my my drive train and the manic crunching of my tyres. I dropped the bike and ran to the top of the knoll to look at the frozen loch as it once again squeaked and let out another huge moan. It was so loud and so unexpected that I just stood and laughed. I watched for big cracks appearing and Russian submarines emerging, but the cold crept up on me again and I was glad to be generating some heat in the saddle.

The track was frozen solid now, the ruts were like concrete and any big stones were using their frosty coating as a lure to to snare the unwary, and although I did have a couple of mildly sideways moments, it was a joy tearing down the completed new trail, fast as well in this condition.
I could see the sun catching the treetops with a vivid orange spray and I raced the darkening trails, dodging frozen puddles and crossing ice flows with one eye shut in anticipation of disaster to find clear air at the Lang Craigs where I could drink in that familiar sight that never fails the excite, delight, inspire, challenge or confound me. The sun setting over my home.

I lingered. I love it here. But I love the long, fast descent to Overtoun and the A82 too, I did a 180° and headed to the top of the track through long dried grass, thick with hoar frost, amazed at how well the tyres were sticking.
The run was fast, and at times hairy. The ground was solid, there was water-ice, more frozen, angular ruts forcing constant changes in direction with me trying not to be jerky and inducing a slide. I found lines where I didn’t know ther could be one and by the time I hit the gate at the bottom I was grinning, panting, shedding snotters and I couldn’t feel my fingers.

I switched my light on and trundled into the dark trees where there was more ice than gravel. I walked the bike around the glowing white obstacles and hit the tarmac where I rolled downhill easy. Too easy. I stopped, pulled on a buff, extra gloves and the vest. The windchill cut me to the bone as a hared through the darkness. My hands might as well have been in arctic mitts, I couldn’t feel a thing, and by the time I got the the rush of traffic, gears were beyond me and using the brakes was going to make me cry at any second.
I negotiated the road somewhat unconvincingly, and got to my folks house where assistance was rendered in manner which made me feel like a nine year old boy who’d came home wet-through and frozen after playing in the snow all day with his pals. And my leg was throbbing like a bastard.

What an absolutely brilliant evening.

Donald’s Quay

Apparently he had a learning apptitude which fell short of that of some hapless Soviet dog desperately clawing at everything within reach as a grinning German scientist pushed it’s unwilling frame into a shiny globe with a one way ticket into orbit. Beep… Beep… Beep…
25 years of bad posture while holding a guitar and standing at a mic and still he stood there awkwardly for three hours, screaming over a racket that was entirely his own fault, and then was mildly surprised (again) when he bent down to pack up the cables and FX pedals and his calf went thwang.
So a day of sitting and watching was planned and executed. The next day was more twitchy, the twitch became an itch, the sky was blue, the sun was low and he was gone.
Limping down the trail to the river he was glad he hadn’t packed and left for, well anywhere with a gradient. Maybe he had learned more than that dog after all? That’s progress at least.
Beep… Beep… Beep… “Gimme a break, oh no wait…”. You have to charge camera batteries he remembered, it doesn’t happen by osmosis when you leave them in a room that has electricity. The venue fitted the mood, but the sky lightened it.
He chatted to an auld fella with his dug, but the darkness brought a chill and soon they headed their separate ways with dinner in mind and drips at the ends of their noses. The dug was making do with chewing a plastic bottle for the time being. Obviously not related to that Russian dug.
Oddy, that gave him some comfort as he limped back over the canal bridge to the motor.