This is what happens when I’m left to my own devices.
I reached into the fridge to pull the weekend from the back where it would have the best sell-by date, but it was completely stuck behind less appetising options, and I had to give up and take the cheese baguette near the front which meant I had to work in a dungeon boilerhouse on Saturday and dither on Sunday with the weather as we had a touch of thunder and then heavy rain. So no, not good for bivying.
Joycee was doing a moth-watch (it’s a work thing, I’m sure she doesn’t prefer moths being at home) ’til late on Friday night and with Holly being a little out of sorts and sleepy it gave me time to footer, and I played with this place. Like a monkey wearing mitts.
It went horribly wrong from the start, I really have very little idea what all the letters and shapes do when I look at the editing page, it’s trial and error, having the front page on another tab and refreshing it after every change to see if I’ve impoved or broken it.
So, having taken a longtime to edit a new theme, I stuck it up. It was too narrow, I couldn’t read the special vanishing print, the comments had huge avatars and it to be honest it just looked like the printing plate used for the front page of The Times some time in 1901.
I put the orginal look back, it felt like home, but you know, I’d had enough of it. I had to make changes.
This was even harder though, no amount of cuppas or doughnuts could help the hours pass any easier. I broke it several times, my favourite was the completely black page with just post titles visible. Minimalism at its finest.
But I eventually got it to where it is now, a little simpler, new colours (which will change from time to time now I know where to do it), I even added a translator thing with wee flags which will no doubt supply an amusingly inaccurate version of this nonsense to anyone who clicks on it.
For the first time in the 2 ½ years I’ve had this place, I’m not utterly terrified by the machinery inside. Okay, I’ve just changed the hubcaps and the bulbs, checked the oil, but I’ve finally taken ownership of it if you know what I mean?
Still doesn’t mean I’m interested in that stuff, I just want to drive it to the mountains.

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…


I gave that one above some serious consideration, but I keep wanting to fall sideways off my chair when I look at it, so I don’t think it’ll do at all.
The one below is much more sensible, and possibly more believeable.

In the olden days wizened auld wifies of the Hebrides would hunch over their weaving doodahs and do technical things (look, it’s 2am, I’m not researching this to get the right words, so hush now) with thread in the hope of making a pleasing sample of new tartan for the evil clan chieftan to hopefully approve of, or it was back to the cliffs to look for puffin eggs with nothing but a pair of clogs as protection for her and her family.
These days, you can just click on here or here and you’re a virtual weaver, just without the physical hardship and constant threat of violence or eviction. Or cattle rustling, well, I am a Macfarlane after all.

Anyway, I’m thinking of redecorating the place with one of these lovely purpley tartans that i spent simply ages designing.
Must be easier on the eye that all that orange.

Look out behind you

You know if I were a religious or superstitious man I might be a little nervous.
Since I climbed Ben A’an a while back and found a Raven waiting for me on the top, or even back as far as Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan where I found one waiting on the ridge east of the summit, there has been a raven waiting for me on every top I’ve climbed. That includes the four tops of the Grey Corries. 
I don’t know whether this always happens and I’m noticing it more, or the minions of satan are gathering to take me kicking and screaming out my fantasy world of rainbow colours and into reality, I just don’t know.
But, it there’s one at the next top I visit, it’ll either be fast off its mark or it’ll be assisting me in a pirate impression on the way back to the motor when I zip-tie its feet onto my rucksack shoulder strap. I show them.
Talking of the motor, its MOT test is on Thursday. I paid £450 for it a year ago and it’s been hammered at work and play all year. Hmm, d’you think something of a fail-able nature might be worn out… ?

Anyway, I have a couple of things that I have to get off my chest before age or the ravens take me.

  • Paulo Nutini is actually Alex Harvey.
  • Muse are actually Uriah Heep (with David Byron).

I am now officially an old man.

Blue Moon

When one door sticks, another one opens.
Our business in this world is not to succeed, but to continue to fail in good spirits.
Ne’er cast a clout till May be oot.
Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant.
Be happy yer living, for yer a lang time deid.
A misty morning might be a clear day yet.
A good tale never tires in the telling.
Plaister thick an some will stick.
Better speak bauldly out than aye be grumphin’.

Start as you mean to go on.

The Bedford Level Experiment

Christmas is the end of the year for me. It’s the bullet hitting the target, the week that follows is just the old year falling to the ground. I get my thoughtful moments and reflection out of the way, and by the time Hogmanay is here I’m thinking “new and next”.
But, I was just flicking through my old photies after posting some stuff on Scottish Hills and there were some that made me frown and smile at the memories, and there’s some of these again below. It was a year of stuff and things, victories and defeats, happy accidents and big mistakes.
This place has trundled on quite happily and has helped my memory no end, for the first time in my life I can actually see where I was and what I was doing. The other previous 39 years are a haze of faces, places and ducking to avoid incoming fire.

One last moment of reflection before the lights go out. For those kind messages sent that I couldn’t find the right words to reply to, thank you.

What’s new and next I wonder… ?