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.

This, that, the next thing and the thing after that too.

I’m glad this week is nearly over. I’ve achieved heehaw really.
I have learned to monitor my movement and posture, and being careful and strict has seen my back twinge go from being eyewatering with every movement eight days ago, to a mere light stiffness when leaving the mattress this morning. That’s not really a victory though as it was my own stupidity that brought it all about.
Thinking time is what I’ve had, but I didn’t really use that either. I have read some books, but a Commando compendium is hardly increasing my quality of knowledge, so that’s another fail. The sheer offensiveness of some of the “national stereotypes” attached to the characters is noteworthy though, some sort of social comment or history on display maybe.
I cleaned the bike, but I didn’t ride it. I sorted my camping box, but didn’t take anything out and use it. I’ve unwrapped test kit, but I haven’t tested it.
And hey, I’ve got a blog and I haven’t blogged. That’s good though, it should be a diary of stuff I’ve done and not a reason to do stuff.

I did get Holly to myself yesterday, and we had a fine time. You know Starbucks is great for weans, you get a Babyccino for free with dad’s latte, whereas some cafes won’t even lift their gaze from their shoes to try and cater for you and wee yin. There’s always notable exceptions, like the O’brien’s on Bothwell Street, which is brilliant, and most Costa’s are good too, but Starbucks seem to have it sorted for families.
We were in a model shop where Holly got some animals for her farm, and she took some persuading that the knight in armour on the horse didn’t really fit into her usual rural scene. Mind you, neither does the monkey that lives on the roof of the barn, or the elephant family that went home with, so what the hell does dad know?
In the car is funny just now, she’s picked up on my current fad of Rammstein and ask for Amerika as soon as we get on the road. So what we have is her wee hied bobbing away in my rear view mirror shouting “Am-e-ee-ah, wun-ah-bahh, On daddy, on!” Brilliant.

I haven’ t talked about my Trail stuff, and there’s been a few bits in there.
A few months ago there was my first ever proper article. It took me ages to read it because I knew there would be more edits since my l;ast revision and I didn’t want to know, and in fact I couldn’t be arsed as I was sick of looking at the text. But, it came out okay I think. When I read it I still see me in it, although the style is a bit bland I think, there’s some of my usual banter in there. It’s funny, I had to go back and shoehorn all the lightweight stuff into it as is was very thin on such references in the first draught.
One disappointment was the cut of some text that I kinda knew wouldn’t get through, and that was near the beginning where I said something about setting off overloaded like a “badly advised DofE hopeful”. It ended up as something lame, which escapes me for the moment! I’ll dig out a first draught at some point and post it on here.
Tim Glasby’s (they spelled his second name wrong by the way) photies were brilliant, he sat and waited for the sun to be where he wanted it to be instead of running around daft like me looking for the best view. Professionals eh?
I’m proud of it though, a heating engineer getting something like eight pages in a magazine to tell a wee story about his way of going into the mountains? That’s pretty cool.
There was a bunch of other stuff, gear bits and pieces and that, but the funniest one in that issue was the subscription offer pages. It’s a lovely shot by Tim with a giant copy of Trail pasted across me standing by the lochside. Quite right too, weatherbeaten old bastard that I am.
I’ve had a few routes in the mag now, I’m not sure where we are, but I think the Lurg Mhor one is in the current or last issue, and it gives the details and info of the route I took a few months back. See, I do actually know what I’m doing out there. Well, I look it up once I’m back of course. Ben Lomond “roon the back” is out about now and them we’re onto a bunch of other stuff. I’ve got routes running through to next August and I have to be honest, I enjoy that more than doing the column. It’s being oot, and if you look at the photies, the bloke in there is wearing trail shoes. That’s what we need.
My Used & Abused reviews are ongoing too, I’ve got a huge list I’m working through and as reviews go, these are good ones. Every item has been properly thrashed by the writer.

I got a purple woolly bunnet yesterday as well. It’s really nice, but I’m kinda worried that it’ll shrink in the wash.
Ach well, you can’t have it all.

Hier kommt die Sonne

Work is very much in control at the moment. I’ve been lucky enough to snag a couple of wee jobs that I really wanted, so the wolves can circle some other poor bastard for a few weeks.
But, to be true to type, I’m running behind. Does that stress me? Hell no, not any more. I’ll get there, and getting there in the nick of time is much more fun than leaving early. For one, the customer thinks “If it’s that easy, why aren’t we paying him less?”, and also there’s no stories to tell later if it’s easy.
I’ll make the mountains this week though. You just see if I don’t.

Bee! Again!

I thought over my training regime as I leaned on the boiler watching the other Peter fit the new carbon monoxide detector. The roll on egg & tattie scone was nice, the cream bun was nicer, but the coffee only had one sugar in it. A lifetime of two sugars was overturned in a couple of days a few years back, and two sugars now makes my face roll up like unsecured linoleum if someone forgets and applies the old amount to a beverage.
I blame this breakfast banquet on the lack of water at home, I left for work devoid of a cuppa, but clean of neck and teeth, so we’ll call the battle a draw. Water is now restored, and at no leaks at all pressure, which is enough to cleanly cut a soft cheddar in half under the kitchen tap when it’s turned on full. It’s not a clean cut though, so probably not worth pursuing as standard practise.
The roll shop in this part of Paisley is fine indeed. Buses struggle to pass the badly parked white vans lining the narrow street outside it most of the day, and inside fitba taps and rigger boots appear to what all the young folks are wearing these days.
It was the smell of frying that changed my mind, the red mist descended, well, not really red mist, maybe evaporated lard vapours?
Anyway, I was doomed from the moment I entered, I was hers. The angel behind the counter, the bright lights , the earthly fragrance, the colours, the overwhelming mix of sensations in that room were penetrated only by her golden voice as floated across the room to me… “Ho, dozy! Yer next, whit ye wantin?”.

Then, I had a call from “Look what we found”, purveyors of fine boil-in-the-bag fare for the mountains. I’m getting some of their stuff in for test, and as food is very much on my mind just now their timing was perfect. Aye, it’s heavier that dehydrated food, but I can carry less water or camp further away from a water source. If I’d had their food with me a few weeks back, I’d have spent the night right on the top of Lurg Mhor instead of descending to the lochan. Ach.
In fact, the next few weeks are going to be gear central. I’m seeing the new merino X-Bionic kit next week and some other goodies too, I’ve got the KORS outdoor show where I’m meeting up with some names both familiar and unfamiliar on here and then I’m off to Montane HQ for a rummage through the new kit with the new logo (and this time I can take photies of it and talk about it…). I’ll be watching the post for a Big Sky tent at the end of the month, and a wee while after that might see us having a shot of a Terra Nova Photon Elite.
All of which is very well, but hopefully I’ll be tanning some gradients on foot and wheels in amongst that.

And fitting heating, aye heating. Christ…

Told you so

Combi boilers are very popular. It’s not because they’re better, it’s not because conventional boilers are outdated, the reasons for their success have nothing to do with their performance at all. The truth is that they’re simple to fit, in fact it’s barely a step up from plugging in a toaster. Quick and easy, minimum effort and maximum profit for the installer, and that’s why they’re pushed so hard.
They’re fantastic in flats as they’re a great space saver, no doubt about that, but in houses I’ll fight tooth and nail to get customers to keep the old style separate boiler and hot water cylinder for reasons both numerous and genuine, even in the face of the other 17 quotes they’ve had for sticking in a combi “That’s yer hot water and heatin’all sortit at the wan time misses”. 

The water main burst outside today. There’s been no water all day (and won’t be until well into tomorrow), but we’ve still got 120 litres of hot water in a cylinder in the loft. The only one in the street that does in fact, courtesy of my “old fashioned” heating system.
See, I wisnae lying about the “unlikely circumstances” ya doubting bloody Thomas’s.

How could they cut the power man? They’re animals!

A handful of years ago I’d have said “Aye, I’ll fit it in”. That very attitude had me working 18 hour days for six months, eventually leading to hospital and the near assassination of a particularly whiny customer on Christmas Eve.
Times are hard, work is good when it comes my way, but as much as I like this new customer and would enjoy doing the job I just can’t do it until I’m clear of everything else.
It’s such a bastard though, as perverse as it seems I kinda liked being up against it, under pressure, having to think fast to get the result at 11:59. But with Holly here and me now past 40, it’s really not a good idea.
Mind you, I’m fitting in two trips to the Lakes and one to Glen Affric around real work over the next two weeks, so maybe my commitment pendulum has swung off into some consequence-free alternative reality where time has no meaning and all the bills have their decimal points shifted one place to the left.

Ah what the hell, in the words of Spider from Bad News (currently high in my consciousness, having bought The Comic Strip Presents: The Bad News Tour on iTunes), Never mind Den, it’s all anarchy innit?

1983, it was a good year…


This is just along the road, it has some E numbers to test your grip on an overhang round the corner, and looks a bit like the mountain from Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
The bloke in the security office was watching me, and shut the gate to er, stop me taking photies. His actions reminded me of a bird pretending to have a broken wing to lure a predator away from its nest, that is, it would work on something lower down the evolutionary chain, but not a human. Well, most humans. To give him peace of mind I looked frustrated, shook the camera and went away all upset.

This week I also found some of Price’s fine motor oil, complete with its wee applicator, from 1909. Some of the stuff I work on is properly old. It smells… indefinable, oily, fruity, not stale at all. Maybe it’s been refilled over the years, but the bloke that let me in had been there for fifty years and never seen it, so who knows. I wonder who bought them over?

Final stop of the week was familiar, but when you know where the lights switches are, maybe a little dramatic too.
I love working in old buildings like churches, you seem to get peace to get on with your work, the folk in charge are often retired and know their shit, and usually yours as well. That’s good though, you don’t have to explain why you’re doing or proposing something to make the pipes work properly, you get “Aye right, can you make sure the floors are back down for Friday tea-time?”.
Yes, they will be. The edges just might have to duct-taped down ’til Monday.

A wee bit… wee bit more… ach, a baw hair…

The roof hasn’t been so bad, I could see Ben Lomond from it. I think that might be me just about wrapped up though. Sunday this week will be Sunday, not a miscellaneous weekday. I’m tentatively predicting a leisurely breakfast followed by sitting on chairs, possibly succeeded by mild activity of some sort with the girls.

Regular visits to a place, especially when they’re months apart, are a wonderful way to mark the passage of time, but it also makes other changes very visible too, news stories spring to life, like the “financial crisis” for example. Changes of use in buildings from factory to storage, those ubiquitous and very noticeable cutbacks, the knock-on effects like cafes closing and things not getting painted.
It’s a cycle, things go up and things go down. It well get better but we’ll still lose things that we won’t get back, and with it the accumulated knowledge and skills of generations.

I like tomorrow, but I remember yesterday. Aye, we had rickets, poor housing, lead in our petrol and only three channels on our tiny tellies, but we were good at stuff. Maybe even the best.
Even the buses are sad.


I think the joiner who hammered in that nail above should have used a screw and drilled it out first, or maybe just painted it. Give the elements and nature even a wee crack in your man-made stuff and they’re have their fronds/ tentacles/ fingers/ spores right in there in a jiffy.

We’ve become Morlocks this week, apart from the blue skin. I don’t like being a Morlock, I’d rather be Tars Tarkas, okay he’s green but he’s got four arms and kicks bad-guy Martian ass. Good grief my points of reference are out of date…
This life of darkness is not forever, and soon we will emerge, victorious, will freshly printed invoice in hand, and I shall be free, free.

I like the quiet corners of a factory, the rarely maintained, less frequented areas. It’s where you find stuff, like the luminous moss below, a mangled crab brought miles inland by a seagull to eat on the roof. Tools rusted and melted into roofing felt after years of folk walking by thinking “Look, someone’s left a shifter, I’ll pick it up on the way back…”.
The pressure is off now. Hey it’s Monday morning tomorrow and I’m going to wander down to the shop, get a roll on bacon, a roll on egg & tattie scone and I’m going come back in and watch Kojak.
Then, maybe I’ll switch on the phone.

Gie’s the haund brush in

The last of the debris was taken from the flametube by Craig on all-fours with convenient lighting by Petzl. The Tikka XP is standard issue at work for all of us, fits in a cargo pocket very well along with a Victorinox Rucksack, mini Bahco shifter, A5 notebook, pen, pencil, folded up credit card bill, Orbit sugar-free chewing gum, car keys, hoose keys, workshops keys, keys for two other boilerhouses, glasses case, paper hankies, iPod and earphones, wallet, loose change, an unrecognisably crinkled and dirty five pound note, a pink Dunlop plectrum, two self-tapper screws, a huge washer that I’m sure is vital and can’t remember where it came from, a roll of narrow climbers finger tape, contractor ID card, electronic door card and of course, a bit of grey fluff. Actually, that’s two pocket’s worth if I’m absolutely honest.
Inspection door shut and locked, buttons pressed, and we were away.

Boilers this size have burners that look just like a cross between a hair drier and a jet engine, sounds like it too. But it’s actually rather dull waiting for the temperature to rise in that volume of water, cue standing, sitting, pontificating, cuppas and staring at gauges. And more cuppas, and vending machine interaction.
As an apprentice times like this were for mischief, pallet truck races, sword fights with legths of screwed rod. Now it’s for arm folding, toe-tapping and eyebrow raising. Mobile phones fill in these gaps as well. It’s good that technology is rounding off the sharp edges of reality in case we bump into them and wake up.

Mind your head when leaving seat

It’s good being in the one place for a change, I spend much of my week going from one customer crisis to another, and installations or major maintenance are the only times I get to stay put for any length of time.
It’s also good to have the team together on site, some of us anyway. I often miss the kaleidoscope of banter that weaves through the physical exertion punctuated by mugs of tea that makes up the day when we’re all together. Times change though, folk go and work elewhere or shave their beards off, the contracts and clients change and you have to go with it all.
But, melancholy is for putting in your soup, not for setting the tone of today or tomorrow.

Plans have been made over cuppas and bolt-tightening this weekend, not pie in the sky ones like “let’s trek to the Pole” or “we should go to the Lakes”, but stuff we can tackle easily that’ll be a bit of fun.
I say easily, but no doubt I’ll turn up late and turn it into an unnecessary struggle for all concerned.

Anyway, steam test in a few hours. Now, did we tighten everything

No Outdoors, Further Reductions!

Inside that door above is the steam space, which is full of tubes, and as you can see below, me as well. It looks manky, but the dirt is cooked on and it’s in good nick in there, so there was only the briefest of visits to work on the door face and that was about it.
This kind of thing has been made easier with water treatment, 25 years ago I’ve have been in there with a fire hose trying to blow the shite off the tubes to be washed out of the mud doors at the bottom. Happy days? Well maybe, health and safety has played a big part in squeezing every last drop of fun out of your working day over that same 25 year period. What ever happened to sense, awareness and trust in your workmates? If you have that, and maybe no unreasonable time or financial pressures from clients and you’re all set. Mostly.

Lunch was unusual today. It’s not often I’ll have a pineapple cake after a box of carbs, but it was sitting there in their glass case glowing at me with it’s yellowness, so it had to be purchased. Eating off the floor comes natural to me now, so when I visit your house and sit on the floor leaning on the couch with my cuppa rather than sitting on it, don’t be offended, it;s habit not a lack of trust in your soft furnishings. Also, don’t let me make tea, I’ll take the bag out of the mug and throw it into the corner. Boilerhouses don’t have bins.

It’s not all battling claustrophobia and scraping your extremities though, there’s some bits and pieces to be fixed elsewhere, and it’s always the wee stuff that’s a bugger. As colourful as this leak was making the outer casing below, it had to be sorted, and yet the fittings defied my spanners for longer than it had any right to.
The next few days is tightening up hundreds of bolts for a steam test before we start Part Two.
I was wearing a Montane Bionic t-shirt today, having had enough of constantly damp cotton all week, and it was actually very good indeed.
Always gear isn’t it…

No Outdoors, Sale Now On!

It’s going quite well. We got the heat exchanger nest out without losing tempers of fingers, we did flood the plantroom, but that’s kinda traditional. The drain was choked with shite so it didn’t empty and when we got the nest moving it just emptied onto the floor. My foot sticking out of the shell tells the story of Craig getting hold of the camera and me poking about inside to try and find out why.
Getting it back in was slightly more labour and swearing intensive as it wanted to roll as we pulled it in which it can’t do as the tubes have to match that huge tee-piece lying on the floor. And although very heavy indeed, it’s also quite fragile. Still, it’s in now, and no I’m not telling you how we did it.

Elsewhere the steam boiler maintenance is proceding apace, although the makeshift palletesque dining table is near impossible to get your legs under.
Working in plant rooms in this heat is horrendous though, tomorrow might be shorts and a vest. I’ll glue the kneepads out of my trousers-brown onto my knees or something.
Jimmy cares not for any such distractions, he has his tea, his piece and his (Glasgow) Herald, and thinks we’re all daft. 


I’m wandering around in this bloody heat wearing steel toe-capped boots, canvas troosers with kneepads in them and pockets full of tools, a black t-shirt and a beard. There’s a red light flashing in the control room along with a howling siren and the message coming through is “System overload, prepare to abandon body”. That’s very easy to say, but managing a cooling out-of-body experience is difficult at best, and in front of customers very difficult to explain indeed.
With every arc that the stilsons cut through the boiling air the end seems a little closer…

Still, orange flavoured Fabs? They could well be the saviour of my summer. I’ll deal with the acid erosion on my teeth later. Even recording the telly and fast forwarding through the adverts, I can still tell what the bastards are trying to sell me. Pronamel toothpaste indeed, I’d like to bake it into a flan and feed it to them. And Iggy Pop, why must he shout loudly and look unappealing every time I want to watch Stargate or Futurama? I’d rather watch an hour long compilation of compare the meerkats than his insurance selling, sci-fi on Sky sponsoring semi-nakedness.

The biggest dilemma is for the next two days though. One route choice is 6km shorter with 1000ft more ascent than the other. What’s better to cope with in the heat? Distance probably, and the longer route isn’t in the guide books, so although it’s not as spectacular it’s something different to write up as route for the mag.
I’m going to sleep in the PHD Minim Ultra and take the Three Wire Bivi I think. If there’s a wee breeze to keep the midges away it’ll be bliss on the top at night. Trousers though, I don’t know yet. I don’t think I’ll take the same route as Wodewick has on her ascent of the er, Cobbler. I think the tick paranoia would reach fever pitch.

It’s also a last hurrah of sorts. I’ve got a maintenance contract starting at the weekend that’ll drop me off the radar for a bit. So I’m hoping to finish off the first half of 2009 with a wee flourish.


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.

Friday 13th

It’s as well I think it’s unlucky to be superstitious.

More of a ying/yang day, I was looking at the ancient heating system in a well preserved Alexander Greek Thomson building, and then the road leading to the next job had been dug up for the M74 extension.
I was in the unusual situation of looking at the building across the railway tracks with a closed bridge between us and contemplating a slightly inconvenient and annoying detour to actually get there.
I did a 180° and went back into town, had a look in the North Face shop (if I’d had a poly bag full of someone elses cash in my hand, I would still have left with it unopened) while waiting for Craig to meet me for a cuppa.
After the cuppas I called it a score draw and pulled the shutters down and went home.

Maybe the significant date doesn’t mean extra disaster in our world already ravaged by misfortune and suffering, maybe Mr Nasty’s resources are just stretched too thin these days and all he can muster for most of us on his special day is reduced acheivement or mild inconveniece.



I had an early start this morning to get the heating on in a church hall that would be full of weans at 0830 because of the school holiday. The heating was duly fixed in time (the fact that they didn’t believe I’d manage it and sent the weans elsewhere for the day we’ll gloss over…), but I haven’t quite caught up with myself yet despite numerous cuppas.

Never has YouTube hit the mark quite so well.