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.

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.

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It’s like visiting a friends house, or your granny. Sure, it might not be exciting this time, it might just be cuppas and some telly, but you know that you’ll be welcome, time will pass at whatever pace it likes and you’ll be immune to any outside influence or interference for the duration.
I watched the mix of snow flurries and sunshine, looked at my watch, filled the kettle to make up a flask. I was heading to Ben Lomond for my first visit of 2010.

The pure white summit ridge swings in and out of view all the way down the road from Drymen, and never seems any closer. It’s a big bloody magnet, and it’s pull on me has never lessened through the years.
I changed into my big thick socks and boots(?!), pulled on a windshirt and headed up the tourist track. It’s been a couple of years since I climbed Lomond this way, and as good as the Ptarmigan ascent is, the views this way are different and I was already enjoying myself as I cleared the woods and stepped into the breeze and cool sunshine.
I met my first descenders of the day, a couple who’d not made the summit, but were just out for the joy of it to see what lay up the track. As with most folk I meet on the hill, they were immediately concerned for my well-being as I was walking in the wrong direction late in the afternoon. I explained myself.

The next meeting was one which will stay with for quite a while. An auld fella was coming towards me, and my first thought was “What the hell is that on his nose?”. It was a bit of tissue to stem the blood.
“Have you taken and tumble?”
“Aye, my crampon came off…”
I surveyed him and my mind raced through the options as I questioned him. He was worried that he’d burst hid cheek, but although his face was swollen, he’d just skinned it. The only blood was from his nose and it looked to be stopping. He was having black eye today as well. He was lucid, sharp in fact, and was moving well.
“Come on, sit down and I’ll get you cleaned up”
“No, no”
“Well, let me walk you down then?”
“No, no.. I’m fine…”
He was edging past me at this point. I let him go. It went against all my instincts, and all my standards as an interventionist, but I watched him walk away.
You know what swung it? I reckon he was well into his 70’s, he had a mix of gear from recent to old-school, I reckon he’d been in the mountains all his life. He’d taken a tumble and he’d picked himself up, sorted himself out and was making his way home. If I’d taken over would it has broken his confidence in his lifetime of experience? I just thought of him staying home next time because of his memory of this “young” fell taking him off the hill.
I felt queasy, it was a very emotional moment.
I watched him descend into the dip where the little bridge is, emerge onto the track at the other side and motor along, as he faded from sight he was almost with the couple I’d met earlier.
I don’t know if I did the right thing, and I don’t know if I’d do the same if I had a second chance.

The next group I met were instructed to watch for the auld boy as they went down. Soothing my conscience or taking precautions? At that moment I wasn’t sure at all.
The next pair were a couple of retired boys, using their free time to good effect with-weekly hill trips. We shot the breeze, talked gear and hills and it lightened my mood.
I went a little farther, but with losing so much time the light was fading and it was time for dinner, and it was time for crampons.

Now it was snow and ice and wind. The moon came out, but it’s bright, clear light was cold and the insulated jacket I’d put on when I stopped had stayed on as the wind fired spindrift into my legs, my mitts stayed on as my finger tips nipped and my face stayed covered as every inhalation ran sharp fingernails over my fillings.
The cloud was patchy and fast moving, the snow was hard and my spikes cut into it very definitely with every step. My headtorch was still in my pocket, the moon cast my shadow long and well defined in front of me as I traversed the wonderful summit ridge.
The trig point was iced and exposed, it was so cold on the summit. A quick refuel and I descended to the little coll to watch the camera constantly get blown over into the snow. But I did get the chance to play about a little.

It’s funny how a long exposure makes the city lights look so bright, it turns Lomond into an urban peak. But standing there, they’re just tiny twinkles to the south and don’t feel intrusive at all.

I took forever to descend. And tired eyes and some patchy clouds brought out my headtorch.
Eventually all the cloud disappeared, the moon rose a little higher and the wind sunk a little lower. it was beautiful.
I pulled up a rock and finished my flask. I had a lot to think about. I often say how easy what I do is, how accessible it all is. But the mix of people I’d met and their varying fortunes had reminded me of how relative it all is. We can all make mistakes, experience isn’t a bulletproof shield, we can all find ourselves out of our depth, and we can all find a little victory from reaching a level that others would scorn at.
So I don’t think there is a right or wrong, or if there is it’s just applicable to you yourself. What’s maybe universal then is the need to have an understanding for the “other”?

The carpark was deserted and pitch black. My feet were glad to be back into trainers, and suddenly the most important thing was hot food. I hadn’t realised it was getting so late.
Is a McDonald’s a guilty pleasure? I was the last customer last night, they’d put the cat out, turned down the duvet and were about to lock the door and turn the lights off when I appeared at the counter. I half expected them to just say “Here, just take the assorted lukewarm foodstuff that’s left with out compliments and give us peace”.  But instead I got a Big Tasty with Bacon and onion rings frshly made and fries still with a bit of crispiness about them. Nice.

You Can’t Stop Rock ‘n’ Roll

It’s bloody miserable out there. Cold too, and not that nice frosty cold, it’s a damp cold that you suck in with every breath, it lingers inside you, sapping your enthusiasm and draining joy reserves.
What of Creag Meagaidh? What indeed. I can’t face the drive without knowing I’ve got a good chance of it being clear, even patchy would do.
It’s such a great hill, and I know exactly the two shots I want for the Trail route (how’s that for uncharacteristic organisation?), but as nice as testing the Berghaus Temperance hood in a blizzard would be, those likely conditions do not help our mission.

So as I’m flicking through the computer at my folks’ I found some photies from a hike-a-bike to Gulvain a few years back. I remember it well, warm sun, cool air, a light haze softening the stark white streaks of snow lying late into the year. A fun ride in and out as well.

I want out. 

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…

Nice wee things

When I started having to swap numbers with folk from outdoor places instead of just engineering ones I got some cards made up at Moo so I wasn’t having to constantly apologise and lie about having “run out”.
It was dead easy, it’s all done through your Flickr photies, it only takes a few minutes to do the text and whatnot, you can pay by PayPal and it’s a great product.
I’ve just had another batch in with different photies on them and it’s just like having my own personal Top Trumps, I’ve seen me sitting in the motor at lunch time, flicking though them saying “That was more fun, but this one was in winter…oh wait, this one had the best clouds…”.
I use the most “eco-friendly” version, so they say, and although a business card is supposed to be just a functional item, a tool, I like the fact that they raise a smile in eveyone who takes one.
Nice wee things.


It’s been an odd week this. So much going on, so much unexpected shit’s been happening.
It all started last Friday in fact, when I ran into a rarely-seen pal in town, and hasn’t really returned to normal since. It’s not quite like I’ve been walking through an episode of Life on Mars, but at times it’s not been a kick on the arse away from it.
A highpoint was turning up unexpectedly but actually in the nick of time at a customer’s place. He’s looking at me like he’s seen a ghost and I just know he’s thinking “I didn’t phone him yet…did I?”.
Emails, phone calls, all carrying news of the unexpected kind. Don’t get me wrong, there’s been nothing particularly sinister here, no dark figures disappearing from view just as I turn around, and the date on the milk I have in my Corn Flakes (Capital letters there because they’re Kellogg’s Corn Flakes. Funny how they’ve kept the possessive apostrophe and Cadbury ditched it.) is always fine, so no indigestion related hallucinations.
I’ll be glad to return to narrowly avoiding disaster at every turn on a daily basis just for peace of mind. That should be Wednesday next week. Monday and Tuesday I’ll be in Lancaster at the InnovEx conference where I’ll be hearing about how to make trail shoes out of leather, how the outdoor industry is coping with recycling, the resurgence of cotton and much more.
I’ll be taking plenty notes, so hopefully I’ll have some good stuff about what’s coming in the future.

The Wait

He stood in the centre of the room, rocking slowly and rhythmically forward onto his toes. His hands deep in his overcoat pockets, hidden forefingers and thumbs making gentle circles as if he were carefully teasing the right amount of seasoning into a simmering cooking pot. Eyes blank, he did not blink.

He had missed the meeting, partly communication but mostly circumstance. Circumstance has a general admission ticket. It walks in, stands where the best view is and rearranges the furniture just how it likes, and you’d better get used to it because there’s nothing you can do about it.
Pointless. Blink. His gaze flicked up to the window and he moved towards it, worn brown leather shoes silent on the well worn office carpet. He pulled down a leaf of the blind with a surprisingly sharp crack and bending across the obstacle made by the still luke-warm cast iron radiator, and placing his left hand on the patina-ed varnish of the windowsill he brought his face close to the glass, which caught the brim of his hat and knocked it back on his head. He peered down to the street outside.
Dark so early this time of year, and the rain completed the dismal scene. Although the rain added a showroom gloss to even the oldest of cars parked on both sides of this backwater row, including his own relic. That brought a smile, but the lips stayed closed, things were still turning over upstairs.

The moment of levity fading, he let out a deep sigh and obscured his view of the deserted street. The mist clung too long to the pane, so he let the blind snap back into an approximation its previous shape and walked back into the room.
Stay or leave? No one really knew where he was or what he was doing, he could sit it out. He flicked through the papers stacked haphazardly on the rather worn wooden desktop, all of it was familiar, all of it was well read. Information is power, but it’s a kids water filled balloon, you have to make the first splash on the sidewalk count with a direct hit or it’s worthless.
The real leverage was what was between the lines, the unspoken, the carefully withheld.

Straightening up he caught site of his reflection in the glass of a framed picture. The light was a weak, unflattering pale yellow, diffused through the patterned window of the outer office door. Hat set back on his head and the unearthly colouring gave him the look of a frightened man with his last dollar on a three legged horse.
Given his current situation, that made him smile. His lips cracked apart and he immediately licked his bottom lip for fear it had split open. Not getting any younger, winter was getting to him more and more. Yup, split.

Enough. He pulled down his hat to the usual “I mean business” angle and paced the room. Even in the semi darkness the familiar lay at every turn. He lightly touched those familiar shapes, so much ammunition, so much trouble here.
He had tried to play their game. But, in the playground as in the street, the mob rules. No diploma for original thinking here.

He now stood at the door, staring at the glass. So intense was his state of mind that he noticed for the first time that the pattern on the glass was different on either side, or maybe it’s the same but not quite lined up? He started to search for repeated figures to match the two sides up.

“Good god!”

This was the kind of thing that sidetracked him all the time. Was it a diversion, an inner voice of sanity trying to distract him long enough for him to see the folly he was launching into?
Too late. Shaking off the irrelevances, the use-polished brass knob was twisted and he was through the door, swinging it closed behind him before his left foot had left the room. Kachung. The door locked as he strode purposefully towards the elevator. The now much brighter sickly light had not reached his eyes, his head forward, and his hands now fists inside his pockets.

He would give them time, just enough time. Then he would open up the box. Names, places, cover-ups, lies, deals, all of it.
He knew it would be all over for him. But still, he stood and watched the elevator’s ornate clock style indicator wind towards his floor number with an unrepressed grin growing across his face.

My (un)musical past

A recent brief encounter with an old friend brought all this to mind. So a day at home with a cold and with an uncommited eye on studying it meant that I did something pointless instead.

So I made a MySpace page. It must be the must user unfriendly sites I’ve ever used. Still, some of my old tunes are on there from about ’94 up to ’01 maybe?

I make no apology for the quality, as it wasn’t me. It was this man here…

Back at work

Indeed, a full day of sorts. I picked the easiest of disasters to fix, ensuring victory and a warm feeling inside all the way home from the knowledge of a job well done.

I like my customers. I’m always late and they’re still pleased to see me. They phone me up and demand I send them invoices.

In other news, a parcel awaits me at the CityLink depot. It’s contents are unknown to me. My questions to their phone answering operative regarding it’s weight, shape and “Is it soft or hard?” remain unanswered at this time.

Also confirmed today is that a genius bit of lightweight kit is heading this way for long term test. It’s a genuine world exclusive and I am dead excited. Photies and details a soon as I’m allowed…


Quoting Myself

I was on OM there and I posted a comment which I then realised summed up exactly where I’m at with this lightweight thing. So I don’t forget it, I’ll stick it on here.

Lightweight is an odd thing and people spend way too much time on debating it’s degrees and who does it better. To me it’s about losing faff, taking only what I need, moving freely and staying comfortable.

Fanatically shaving grams off and weighing your spare socks is the equivalent of car collectors taking fluff off their seat covers with little bits of sellotape.

That’s the point at which you lose sight of the joy of doing the activity or pastime and become an obsessive, concentrating on the methodology and equipment.

And that’s rubbish.

I love gear. I love what’s coming next. I love that some folk are clever and producing stuff just a little bit beyond what you were just thinking that you needed. But it’s just a set of tools, not the ends in itself.

But, if I want to cut straight I’ll put a new blade in my hacksaw.


That’s what I’ve got. I would have been happy with the cold or flu. Damn those fancy new fangled viruses.

Now that I’ve stopped the temperature induced hallucinations I’ll get some admin done.  Or I might just sit down for a bit. Well, four to five days worth of sitting down they said this morning. Good grief.

Believe it or not

Despite how it may appear, I do actually do have a “proper” job as well. I have a wee, sort of specialist engineering business.

This is very handy for a great many things, not least the ability to take most of the last two months off to move house, decorate (oh, but it was so much more than that) and get Holly settled in. Then of course I had time to burden the internet with this blog and embark on all the other stuff that’s been coming my way. The kit testing being the most interesting part of that. I’m not getting sent a whole bunch of rubbish to test, every tent at a specific price point, or jackets suitable for winter and the like. It’s niche market kit that’s lightweight, minimally featured and misunderstood from the ranges of the familiar names as well as specialist doodahs from smaller companies. Basically all the good stuff that gets overlooked as it doesn’t appeal to the lowest common denominator. “The Dog Walker”.

Some stuff is here, some is on it’s way, some stuff is still under discussion. With all that’s been going on my level of fitness will have dropped a little, my feet will be softer and I’m really needing to get out there at my usual levels. So, it’s all tying in quite well, I want to get out, and now I have to get out.

I also need to assure my customers that I’m still in business. And send some invoices. Jeez, we need a metric week, 10 days will do nicely, I could probably fit stuff into that. And a day off as well.

That’s not mountains in the photie box?

Carrying the phone with the camera brings out the failed artist in me. My work takes me to some odd places, geographically and philosophically, so I snap the moment.

There’s no point in trying to clean them up, so they’re on Flickr undubbed. Makes a change from snow.


In other news, it’s really nice to see folk visiting the blog. Thanks for looking in.



Most of my photies are on film. It’s hell on wheels the thought of scanning them all in. But there is a lot of good stuff.

Here’s the Cobbler from March 2002. I was climbing Beinn Narnain in the late afternoon, it was warm, sunny and I descenced in the dark under clear skies and quickly spreading frost.

The second one is on Narnain’s summit plateau looking back towards Ben Ime. Smashing.

Yes, can we have that again please.