Monday, 31 December 2007

Revolution, not Resolutions

I'm no' making any resolutions for the coming year. 2007 was a bit rubbish when it came to quality hill days so it's obvious what needs to be done; a lifestyle revolution.

  • No loafing indoors when the weather's half-decent
  • No staying home because the weather might be rubbish
  • No "I'll go next weekend"
  • No "I'll pack my bag/make my pieces/find something to wear in the morning"
  • etc, etc

In short, an end to Procrastination. And, as a born Procrastinator, that's a big lifestyle change. Trust me.

Anyway, I'm no' gettin' any younger and who knows what the future holds? I mean, how can I torment The Baggers* when I've still got Munros and Corbetts that havnae been visited yet?

I'm going to make 2008 The Year I Got My Mojo Back. Yes indeedy.

*Bagger Baiting is one of my favourite guilty pleasures and is rooted in history but that's worth a post in itself. If I ever meet a "Compleatist", I swear, I'll think I've died and gone to Heaven.

A rush and a push.....

and this land that we stand on is ours. Or at least it can be, for only £79.99 Buy It Now.
It was the "Your own campsite. Scottish plot of land to camp on" that caught my eye. I was under the impression that I can camp anywhere in Scotland as long as I stay within the rules of the "code". Hmmm, fools and their money.

Oh, and you get to call yourself Laird or Lady. Oh aye? Laird/Lady of what exactly? I suppose you could name your wee plot of land. That might work. What's the Gaelic for "that wee bit of midgie-infested grund wi' the twa trees, whur ra sheep winnae go"?

Personally, I'd rather buy a wee island in the Hebrides and build a Banana Republic. I'd have a private army and everybody would have to call me El Presidente.

Saturday, 29 December 2007

Thousand Yard Stare

This holiday period, I have mostly been playing Call of Duty 4 on my new XBox. I've so far resisted signing up for XBox Live, otherwise I may never leave the house.

Pong, it ain't.

Sunday, 23 December 2007

By Your Command

One of the highlights of my telly viewing week was the much-anticipated (by me, at any rate) Battlestar Galactica: Razor. Now, I was never a fan of the original series, finding it just a wee bit too "cheesy" for my taste*.

As I've said before, I like my sci-fi dark, intelligent and, quite frankly, grown-up. (Don't mention the "new" Dr Who. Jeez!) When the "re-imagined" Battlestar Galactica came along, I was hooked. Three seasons later, I still think it's one of the best bits of sci-fi ever. Seek it out, if you can. (3 Seasons in one DVD boxed set for £35. Bargain.)

Love, Sex, Death, Betrayal, Violence, big budget special effects and a superb cast. Marvellous.

I'll be buying Razor on Boxing Day, when it comes out on DVD.

*Spoiler Alert!
.Read no further
However, I was tickled that vintage Cylon Centurions put in an appearance during Razor, as The Guardians, the stuff of Cylon legend.

Yield not to temptation.....

I was in Summits yesterday and, by some miracle, came away with nothing for myself, just the present for The Boy that I'd gone in looking for in the first place. I must be ill.

I somehow managed to ignore the siren's song of the Rab Photon Hoodie (9/10 on the temptation scale) and the Vapour Rise (8/10). Some fondling did take place but I stayed strong and marched resolutely out the door. Either my inner gear monster's sleeping or there's a part of my brain that's finally woken up to the fact that there really is such a thing as too much gear.

(Let's just not talk about the Aspira Jacket from last week, right?)

I came home to a card from the postie. There's a parcel waiting for me at the sorting office. That'll be the Camp Corsa then.

Oh dear.

On the bright side, I never even set foot in Tiso's.

Thursday, 20 December 2007

Trail Bait

So the latest incarnation of the Trail website is up and the bugs are slowly being ironed out. It's arrival was greeted by much hoo-ha and wringing of hands. Toys were tossed out of the pram and folk hoisted their petticoats and left, vowing never to return. But, of course, they did. Such anguish over what is, after all, a free resource. I've never seen the like.

The Trail-haters on OM were gifted a sitter but even they failed to run with it. Changed days.

The site isn't what I expected but I sort of like it in a retro, back to the late nineties when the internet was young, kind of way. I thought it would be flashier and more like the magazine, which is looking fairly slick these days, but it's not. I can't help feeling that they've dropped the ball a bit and perhaps missed a golden opportunity to pull in more readers. If, indeed, that's what the plan was.

But then I could say the same about TGO. Last time I looked, the forum was quiet and full of spam.
I think for a magazine to thrive these days, it needs a strong web presence. Neither Trail nor TGO have that. Not yet, at least.

TGO's alliance with Outdoorsmagic was working well for a time. Chris Townsend, John Manning and Cameron McNeish were fairly regular contributors and that was a good thing. I bought many issues of the mag as a result of some of the threads on OM. But they slipped away and set up shop on their own. A shame as OM is still the best outdoors-related website out there.

I'll watch with interest how the sites develop over the next wee while. I might even contribute from time to time because that's what it's all about; folk contributing and keeping the forums alive.

Success depends on keeping the punters engaged and you can't do that with a half-arsed website.

Thursday, 29 November 2007

Move along.....

....nothing to see here. It's been a slow day so I'm tinkering.

Saturday, 24 November 2007

Back to the Future

In the box where I found Highland Days, there was a copy of Ralph Storer's "Exploring Scottish Hill Tracks". I've got his "100 Best Routes...." book and I'd been meaning to get a copy of this one for some time and there it was, priced at a couple of quid. Bargain.

It's a wee bit dated but still a good read and it's given me ideas for 2 or 3 day walks (overnighters) which is something I havnae done for a long, long time. (I've a mind to do the WHW next Spring but I don't want to jinx it by talking about it out loud).

Another reason I mention it is that Ralph was one of my Computing Studies lecturers at Napier. If I'd known he was a hill man maybe I would've gone to his classes more often. Instead, I dropped out, got a job in IT and actually started working for a living. And here I am, paying more attention to his written word now than I did back then. His book on Structured Programming is pure rubbish by the way.

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

A load of Balls

So there I am, sitting doing a fair bit of nothing much, when the postie chaps* on the door. I open it and he hands me a small box. It's addressed to me and has a Mountaineering Council of Scotland postmark. It rattles when I shake it. I havnae ordered anything from them so I'm figuring it must be a mistake but, what the hey, I'll open it.

It's full of balls. They look like something you'd put out for the birds and then it dawns on me; I'd won something! Well, more of a free draw but they'd pulled my name oot the hat. I'd seen something in the last issue of The Scottish Mountaineer and thought "Oooo, that's interesting." and fired off an email.
They're Bounce Balls, made with natural ingredients and designed to keep you going when you're out and about. More details at but I can tell you they're actually really tasty. And, in my case, free. :o) I'll definitely look into getting more when these ones run out.

Big thanks to the MCofS and Bounce for the freebies. Much appreciated.

*chaps - Scottish for "knocks on".

The Good Old Days

The Future Mrs D and I recently made a foray to Kinross Market, ostensibly to get some stuff for the dugs but in reality a chance to pick up some of The World's Best Tablet* and have a rummage thru' the second hand books. So there I am, working my way thru' the many boxes of books on offer but, apart from a couple of SciFi classics, finding not very much at all. I was on the very last box and just about to call it a day when I spotted a familiar face under a pile of AA road maps; it was none other than the late Tom Weir and a pristine copy of Highland Days, that was mine for less than £4.

I finished it last night and it's been an inspiration. It's reminded me of the joy of being in the hills and the love I have for this country of ours. Such a great wee book and so beautifully written that you can feel the wee man's passion for the outdoors flowing from nearly every page.

It should be required reading in schools. Brilliant, just brilliant.

*A concoction of Condensed Milk and Sugar that's a bit like fudge only firmer. Dentists like it because it makes them rich.

Monday, 12 November 2007

The Dark Side

A "weel kent face" on the OM & Trail forums, and now a columnist in Trail Magazine itself, Ptc* has turned his hand to blogging. It's a medium that I think will suit his unique mix of technical knowledge, intelligent wit and flowery banter. I laughed out loud several times. And it looks good too.

He's going to be a busy boy, what with the new arrival so the posts may be a bit sporadic. Or at least at odd times of the night :o)

Go look

Sunday, 7 October 2007

Blot on the landscape

Of the several hills I can see from the house, Bishop Hill is the closest and there's never a day goes by that I don't spend a wee bit of time gazing up at it. A couple of months ago, I noticed an irregularity on the skyline; a dark, rectangular object on the crest of the hill. I peered at it but couldn't make it out. I thought maybe a part of the forestry up there had been clear-felled but the object was higher than the existing tree-line. A few days later, on a bright, sunny morning, I saw that the "object" had been topped with a large, white "golf ball". So, definitely man-made then.

To say it dominates the skyline would be a bit of an understatement. On a clear day, you can't miss it. And so, severely pissed-off, I set off on a bright and breezy day to get a closer look. It didn't take long. On the road to Scotlandwell, it dominates the view ahead; a green, metal tower with a white dome on top. You really can't miss it.

40 minutes after leaving the car, I was on the wee, un-named bump near White Craigs. The tower was about 10 meters away from the small cairn, just inside the plantation. I dug the camera out, only to find that the battery was flat. And so, rather than just turn around, I stomped off towards towards "The Bishop", occasionally looking back at the mast. That just made me even madder so I decided to concentrate on the walk. Wasn't that difficult as it turns out because the wind was so strong that it required a huge effort to keeping moving forwards rather than sideways.

The summit was too exposed to hang about on so I headed down the leeward side to get a spot of lunch and watch as lumps of dried moss and grass flew thru' the air like mini tumbleweed. Nice views of The Lomonds as well.

The walk back to the car was a case of "Don't look at it, just keep walking".

Glutton for punishment that I am,, I went back last Tuesday but with a fully charged camera this time.

View from halfway up

A stone's throw from the cairn

Looking back from Bishop Hill, The Pentlands just visible thru' the haze

From speaking to a local, it seems that the tower was constructed by men in "army uniform". That'll be alright then? I'm going to have a wee dig around and see if I can find out who put it there, what it is and whether they had planning permission. If it was the MOD, then they probably don't need any. We shall see.

Sunday, 23 September 2007

The Early Bird

Last Saturday, I was woken up by the big dogs barking their proverbial heads off. Checking my watch, I was somewhat peed-off to find that it was 5:15AM and, as a bonus, still dark outside.

So, off I trudged downstairs, through the house and, once I'd fumbled with the locks a bit, out the back door. Flicked on the security light and, naturally enough, there's no sign of any living thing, just 2 large hairy dogs looking awfy pleased with themselves. Could've been a stray dog at the back gate or maybe the wee hedgehog that was spotted earlier in the week, taking a short cut through the garden. Who knows? "What the f**k are you barking at?" only led to more tail wagging.

Being wide-awake by now, I let the dogs out and it was then I noticed how utterly still the world was. The pre-dawn sky was a beautiful blue-black and there, over to the East, was Venus. It was, quite simply, the most breathtakingly beautiful thing I'd see in a long time. I stood there for ages, just staring at it, completely transfixed. At one point I nipped in to get the camera but, without a tripod, I'd no chance of getting a decent photie. I tried tho'.

Looking East, the wee white splodge near the middle is Venus.

Eventually, I wandered back inside for a coffee. Less than 2 hours later, this happened;

The camera, and my photographic skills, can't do it justice but it was simply stunning. And the colours changed from minute to minute. I lost track of how long I was out there but it was a long while. It's one of the many reasons I love living where we do; the views can be out of this world.
I'd forgotten how much I liked being up at such an early hour. I really need to do it more often.

Tuesday, 18 September 2007

My Pirate name is...

My pirate name is:
Black Morty Roberts
Like anyone confronted with the harshness of robbery on the high seas, you can be pessimistic at times. Two things complete your pirate persona: style and swagger. Maybe a little too much swagger sometimes -- but who really cares? Arr!
Get your own pirate name from
part of the network

Friday, 7 September 2007

Vertically Challenged

Just heard that Beinn Dearg has fallen a "couple of feet short" of Munro height. That's made my day, that has.

Just remember, you heard it here first.

BBC Scotland article here.

Thursday, 23 August 2007

Summer's here!!!

At long last, a spell of decent weather. I should've known really, that Wednesday would be the day, because Summer last year was on a Wednesday too. According to the weather boffins, it's likely to continue until Sunday so that'll be a whole 5 days. Unbelievable! It could almost be 1976, all over again.

View from the back garden with East Lomond in the middle distance

It hasnae rained for nearly 3 days tho' so I expect there'll be drought warnings along soon enough.

Bloody typical that the good weather comes along mid-week as well. The Beeb and Triple Echo must be gutted; if only they'd scheduled The Great Climb for this weekend. The Weather Gods must be pishin' themselves. And 'twas ever thus.

Welcome to Scotland. Hope you packed your wellies.

Monday, 13 August 2007

Slippery when wet

My wee Lomonds sojourn was the first opportunity I'd had to try out the Deetfree Insect Repellant. It being a warm day with only a gentle breeze, there were plenty of flying critters around. Nothing seemed to be biting but I was getting a bit cheesed off with things buzzing round my head and just generally being annoying. So, at my traditional "juice stop", I whipped out the bottle and proceeded to apply it to my legs and lower arms.

First thing I noticed was the smell; "mentholy" probably best describes it. Not at all unpleasant if you like that kind of thing. Second thing I noticed was the sudden lack of buzzing. The wee buggers don't seem to like it and cleared off toot sweet. So, a result then.

While I was loafing about on top of West Lomond, I noticed that my hairy pins had developed a slightly distressing "wet look". I have to confess that I hadn't read the application instructions and, not wanting to get my hands covered in oil, I hadn't rubbed it in. However, there seemed to be a fair few dead things sticking to me so I assume it not only repels beasties but kills them as well. So far so good.

On returning to the car, I did my usual of sitting in the boot, letting my legs dangle and enjoying the breeze wafting round my feet. It wasn't until I climbed into the driver's seat that I noticed the dark stain on the seat covers. Worse, on arriving home, I walked round to the back of the car to get my stuff out of the boot and saw two large oily patches on the back bumper, corresponding to where I'd been dangling my legs. The patches were still there several days later so it's long-lasting too. (The Future Mrs Duncan kindly offered to wash my car but even her prodigious cleaning skills couldn't entirely shift it)

I'll need to remember to pack an old towel for wiping-off duties next time. Or, try rubbing it in and see if that makes a difference. I think it could be a problem using this stuff on overnighters because I really wouldn't want to get it on a sleeping bag, for example. I'll probably save it for day walks and use the Skin So Soft for anything longer because, as it's a Dry Oil, I've never had any bother with getting everything covered in it.

I'd still give it 8 out of 10 tho' and say it's worth trying if, like me, you're not entirely happy using something on your skin that can melt plastic.

Sunday, 12 August 2007

Familiar Ground

Tuesday 24th July (My Birthday)
As soon as I looked out the window, I knew there was no way I could face driving all the way to Glenshee. The weather was far too good to even contemplate sitting in a car for 2 hours. The Lomonds looked awfy appealing and so, with the minimum of fuss, I threw some food and drink into a bum bag, hopped in the car and set off. Half an hour later, I was parked at Craigmead and ready for the off. The arrival of a minibus full of elderly Ramblers was all the incentive I needed to get going.

West Lomond from the road to Craigmead

The path to West Lomond is an absolute joy compared to the boggy horror-fest that it used to be. It speeds you on your way, the cone of West Lomond always visible ahead and wide open spaces to either side. 40 mins after leaving the car park, I was on the summit.

Some eedjit gettin' in the way of a good photie

East Lomond with Largo Law (left) and the Bass Rock (right) in the background

I took some photies and settled in to one of the big shelter cairns, snacking on Samosa, Beef Jerky and Jelly Babies. I'd been here dozens of times before, in all weathers, but it still felt good to be back. I was just finishing my food when somebody popped up near the trig; a young lass, out of breath and a bit red in the face. She was quickly joined by another. Then another but this time with a laddie in tow. Then an older guy. The proverbial Party of Five.

I nodded and waved then went back to polishing off the last of the jerky. When I next looked up, the older guy had produced a giant blue urn from his pack and was trying to balance it on top of the trig. Stepping slowly back, he then starts taking photies.

Now, I've seen enough piles of ash up there to know what was coming next so, not wanting to be covered in anybody's dead relative, I split pretty damn ricky tick.

The path was a lot busier on the walk back but I merrily exchanged "hiya"s and "crackin' day"'s with all and sundry. Naturally, no walk would be complete without a pair of IB's and, right enough, there they were. An older couple who completely ignored my cheery greeting. They couldnae quite ignore me stopping dead, turning round and muttering "F**k's sake" at their retreating backs tho'.

That was the only downer on an otherwise great wee outing.

And speaking of The Lomonds, it was nice to see them getting a mention in the Routes section of this month's Trail magazine.

Monday, 23 July 2007

Eject, Eject, Eject!!!

There's nobody here. Even our customer base has b******d off for the holidays. I feel like the last crewman aboard a stricken B17 going down over Eastern Europe; everybody's bailed out except me.

Just as well I've taken tomorrow off then.

I reckon a wee visit to the Glenshee hills is in order. I havnae been up that way in an age and, last time I checked, the weather forecast was looking good.

I'm getting fair excited at the thought. (And that, my friends, is a big improvement. Trust me.)

Sunday, 22 July 2007

Clear the decks

Finally managed to get up into the loft and sort out some of the excess gear I've got lying about up there. I swear, 90% of the stuff I've got has never been used. It's all "bargains" or "spares" or "nice to haves" or "what if I need?"s. But, at the end of the day, it's just stuff. It doesn't add anything to my life if it's sitting in storage. It's just more clutter. And clutter gets right on my t*ts, these days.

Who actually needs 7 tents, 8 rucksacks, 4 stoves and 11, that's right 11, windproofs? No' me, that's for sure.

So off to Ebay they go, initially in batches of 6. Any more than that and I find that Ebaying becomes a hassle, answering questions from bidders, finding packing materials, wrapping stuff up and carting it to the Post Office. Sometimes it ain't worth the grief.

Last time I had a clear out, I foolishly left the money in my Paypal account and, of course, ended up buying more stuff because it disnae feel like spending real money, does it? This time, the dosh is going straight in the bank.

Hopefully, by the time I've finished, I'll have a leaner, meaner gear collection. Less choice = Quicker Out The Door Time, or that's the plan, at any rate.

Sunday, 8 July 2007


Too Much Information. Too many blogs and forums to keep up with, I feel like I'm spreading myself too thin. It doesn't help that I spend a huge chunk of my working day monitoring my "customers" internet use, making sure that they're sticking to our Acceptable Use Policy and not surfing for stuff that might be considered "dodgy".

I look for patterns of behaviour, sifting through data and tracking URLs. Often it becomes a one-on-one battle as I head off some wee tow-rag's attempts to bypass our filtering software and get at the good stuff, usually Bebo. Sounds fairly innocent at first but I've found that it's being used more and more often to harrass or bully others. Twice in the last month, I've been asked to secure evidence of online-bullying that's been so severe that the Police have been involved. Social Networking, my arse.

Over the last couple of weeks, I've been winding down my "web presence" and doing more real-world stuff and it's been good.

I'll be taking more time out, more R&R, more "me time" etc over the next few months so expect even less frequent postings on this here blog. Unless I actually climb some hills that is, in which case I'll be sure to let you know about it.

Thursday, 21 June 2007

The Longest Day

Good grief! Where does the time go?

Tuesday, 19 June 2007

Die Midgie, Die!!!

My free sample of Deetfree natural insect repellant arrived today, courtesy of Outdoorsmagic and those nice people at

As you'd expect, there's no Deet in it. (Well, duh!: Ed) Good news for folk averse to covering themselves in chemicals. And it shouldn't melt plastic or damage man-made fibres either. It's a mix of various plant oils including Tea Tree and Eucalyptus so it smells great.

I don't expect it'll kill Midgies on contact but it'll probably make me smell a bit less palatable. It'll be interesting to see how it compares to Avon's Skin So Soft (Dry Oil) which I've been using for the last few years. With SSS, I found that the little buggers will land but not bite so all I have to put up with is that crawling sensation. Not nice but not as bad as loads of wee, itchy bumps. (Note to self: Buy a bloody head-net, this year!!!)

Looking on the bright side, if it wasn't for the Midgie, Scotland would be covered in thoosand's* of holiday villages.

I'm planning on heading out this weekend so I'll give it a go then. (I'll maybe pack the SSS as well tho'. Just in case like).

*Loads, hunners, millions etc

Saturday, 16 June 2007

New Friends

As a result of my dabbling with StatCounter, I've discovered that this here blog is visited by far more folk than I thought likely. You see, the blog was only ever intended for me, to inspire and motivate myself. I never thought for a minute that I'd be visited by folk from all over the world.

So, hello and welcome. I hope you enjoy coming here as much as I enjoy having you :o)

Edit : Apologies for the occasional use of profane language. We Scots can be a right coarse bunch sometimes.

Sunday, 10 June 2007

Go wild in the country

I've just watched Landward (Fri 7pm BBC2 Scotland) for the first time in ages. (Thanks to the "heads-up" from Aktoman). I used to watch it on a fairly regular basis when it was transmitted on a Sunday and I enjoyed the mix of farming and general outdoors stuff that they put out.

I was particularly interested in Friday's show because they were going to cover the "contentious issue of wild-camping" here in Scotland. No surprises then that their idea of wild-camping and mine are vastly different.

The wild-campers in question are the folk who pull up their cars on, for example, Loch Lomond-side, unpack their Tesco tent, barbecue and carry-out and proceed to have a jolly old time around the camp fire (fuelled by whatever they can cut, break or otherwise get from the nearest available trees) and, when nature calls, either pish in the loch or take a dump behind the nearest available bush. (Providing it hasn't already been used for firewood, that is).

In the morning, if they can be arsed, they pack up their tent and go home, leaving their mess for someone else to clear up. That's what Park Rangers are for, right? Otherwise, they just get in the car and leave everything; tents, chairs, sleeping bags and rubbish, behind.

The really worrying thing is, Landward never interviewed what I would call a real, low impact, never-know-I'd-been-there wild camper or even gave a proper definition of wild-camping. Instead they talked to some fishermen, complete with massive tent and a cheery fire going, on the shores of Loch Earn. They claimed to leave the place as they found it, the inference being that they are proper wild campers.

The talking heads included somebody from the Ardvorlich Estate (Loch Earn, see above) and Fergus Wood of Ledard Farm. This last fellow was interesting in that Ledard Farm offers, among other things, "bothy-style" accomodation, at a price. Hmmmm.......

Hebe Carus, the Mountaineering Council Of Scotland's Access and Conservation Officer also had a say. Unfortunately, she didn't exactly put them straight on their definition of what is or isn't wild-camping. Instead she suggested that taking your litter home and burying your jobbies* was the way forward. Oh aye, and that we need a "camping code" and that perhaps we should be made to take our jobbies home with us, like they do in "other countries".

I feel an email to the MCofS and Landward coming on. They need to be put straight on what the difference is between a real a wild-camper and what I shall henceforth refer to as a Townie With A Tent, or T.W.A.T. for short.

If we're not careful, we could find ourselves staring down the barrel of access reforms and the kind of legislation that wild-campers in England and Wales currently "enjoy".

*Poo, crap, s**t etc

Friday, 8 June 2007

Promotions and demotions

Foinaven isn't being promoted to Munro status. It's a whole 3m too short.

That's a relief :o)

Sunday, 3 June 2007

Chocolate Biccie Cake

While we're on the subject of food; next to Samosa, this is one of the best things I've ever eaten in the great outdoors. Ideal in Winter, it gives a nitrous oxide-style energy boost that's hard to beat. Tastes absolutely brilliant too.

The recipe was featured in Trail magazine's Trail Kitchen feature many, many moons ago. I've since given the magazines away but I think I can remember the gist of it so I'm going to jot it down here afore I forget.

200g unsalted butter
250g (approx) crushed digestive biscuits
100g brown sugar (or Muscavado)
3 tablespoons Golden Syrup
2 tablespoons cocoa powder

Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed pan.
Add brown sugar, syrup and cocoa powder and return to heat.
Stir until the ingredients have melted together to form a thin "chocolatey sauce".
Remove from heat.
Add the crushed digestive biscuits and stir all the ingredients together.
Empty into a greased, shallow tray and smooth down.
Stick it in the fridge and allow to cool.
Cut it into chunks, large or small, and enjoy.

You can add stuff like dried fruit or, and this is what I do, get one of those big bars of Galaxy, melt it and spread it over the top. Fan-bloody-tastic :o)

Food Glorious Food

Aside from the weather, one of the things that can make a good hill day really special is food. There's nothing better than munching on some really nice tasties while taking in the views (or lack thereof). King of the hill snack is the Samosa. Veggie or meat-filled, it makes no odds, they're all good.

I've been meaning to try "jerky" in one of its' many forms for some time and so it was off to Ebay for a wee bit of a hunt. Didn't take long to find it either, 10 packs of Beef Jerky (Teryaki flavour) for under a tenner delivered. Long story short, it's fantastic. I'm hooked. I will definitely be taking a couple of packets along on the next walk.

Chewy, meaty goodness.

The seller also threw in a free pack of Jerky "nuggets" which were really, really nice. I'll be keeping an eye open for those.

While on Ebay, I also spotted some Peanut Butter M&Ms. Irresistible. I'll have some of those. Oh, and I'll take a packet of the Dark Chocolate ones as well, thanks very much. I'd intended to add these into some trail mix but I doubt they'll last that long. Nae will-power, that's my problem.

Note tell-tale ripped off corner.

Uhmmm, and again. Totally "more-ish" and brilliant with coffee :o)

Sunday, 27 May 2007

Man make fire

Show me a man who isn't drawn to an open fire and I'll show you a man with no soul. I'm not talking about pyromania either. There's something deeply primeval about fire and, for me at least, it was an integral part of childhood outdoor adventures. As kids, we wandered for miles, exploring the woods and glens that surrounded us. Sometimes we'd find a place that we wanted to linger in or come back to time and again and it was in those places that we'd set up "camp".

First order of business would be to get a fire going and that job always fell to me. A shallow pit would be dug, tinder and fuel gathered and the fire lit. We'd sit then around, watching the flames and take in our surroundings. Simple pleasures that today's kids seem to have lost. When it was time to go, the fire would be put out and turf put back on top of the pit. Even back then, "leave no trace" was the unspoken rule. No cans, no empty Buckie bottles or crisp packets. No sign that we'd ever been there.

These days, campfires are frowned upon but I may have found a compromise; the wood-burning stove. I'd seen them over at Podcast Bob's but at £20+, I wasn't tempted. Then I spotted some on Ebay, listed as "seconds" and a snip at less than £10 delivered so I took a chance.

It turned up yesterday, the box slightly battered but the stove itself was in perfect nick. And so, as the sun went down, it was off out into the garden for a "test run". A wee bit of paper and a few twigs were all it took to get a fire going. In what felt like no time at all, I had boiling water. I also had something else; a big, stupid grin on my face. I was a kid again.

Sunday, 20 May 2007

Plastic Fantastic

Bought a copy of Anquet Great Britain (North) a couple of weeks ago for £50, via Ebay. It's a revelation. Despite being IT literate and fond of most things geeky, I'd never considered getting into digital mapping. I like paper maps and have done for as long as I remember.*

I used the Ordnance Survey's OS Select service a couple of years ago and was impressed at the ability to choose an area to centre on. (Cruach Ardrain, in my case)

Anquet's another kettle of fish altogether. Hours of fun! I'd recently bought a decent printer (Canon Pixma iP4300) and a Garmin Geko 201 + data cable (£75, again via Ebay) so I'm now the proud owner of a complete "never get lost again" package.

The icing on the cake is the fact that TFMD has an A4 laminator. Oh, the joy :o)

I now have a pile of plastic-coated A4 maps, comprising my "hit list" of hills that I'll do this year AND, what better reason do I need for finally getting around to making Podcast Bob's "strapamaptome"?

So, when it's pishing down and blowing a gale outside, I can be inside, virtually wandering the hills and having a tremendously good time while I'm at it.

*The Future Mrs Duncan is, at this moment, in Ikea looking for a frame for my Bartholomews half-inch to the mile, map of Skye and Wester Ross. Cloth mounted, it's a thing of beauty.

Sunday, 13 May 2007

The Power Of The Dog

Last Monday (7th) was exactly one year to the day that we lost Meg, our Border Collie-Spaniel cross. She was a great wee "hill dug" and we had some tremendous days out together. I still miss her and think about her every day. If you're not a dog person then you'll never understand the bond that exists between man and dog. Mans' best friend, indeed.

In fact, I can remember the exact date and time Meg died but couldn't tell you when my favourite Aunt passed away. I guess that makes me a dog person, right enough.

About 6 months before she died, Meg was operated on for Mammarian Cancer and I'd posted something about it on a thread on OM. The response was swift; messages of support from the dog owners and from folk who'd never owned a dog in their life. I posted a follow-up a couple of days after Meg's passing and again the response was heartfelt. They're good folk. Among the posts was one from Mal, an OM regular. He posted a poem by Rudyard Kipling and it said everything that needed to be said;

Rudyard Kipling

There is sorrow enough in the natural way
From men and women to fill our day;
But when we are certain of sorrow in store,
Why do we always arrange for more?
Brothers and sisters I bid you beware
Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.

Buy a pup and your money will buy
Love unflinching that cannot lie.
Perfect passion and worship fed
By a kick in the ribs or a pat on the head.
Nevertheless it is hardly fair
To risk your heart for a dog to tear.

When the fourteen years that nature permits
Are closing in asthma or tumors or fits
And the vet's unspoken prescription runs
To lethal chambers, or loaded guns.
Then you will find--its your own affair
But you've given your heart to a dog to tear.

When the body that lived at your single will
When the whimper of welcome is stilled (how still!)
When the spirit that answered your every mood
Is gone--wherever it goes--for good,
You still discover how much you care
And will give your heart to a dog to tear.

We've sorrow enough in the natural way
When it comes to burying Christian clay.
Our loves are not given, but only lent,
At compound interest of cent per cent.
Though it is not always the case, I believe,
That the longer we've kept 'em the more do we grieve;
For when debts are payable, right or wrong,
A short time loan is as bad as a long.
So why in Heaven (before we are there)
Should we give our hearts to a dog to tear?

Sunday, 29 April 2007

Back in Black

Well, mostly Green actually but with a bit of Black thrown in for good measure. I went for a walk yesterday!!! I know, I know, it's most unlike me but check this out:

1. Took Friday off and, after dropping the kids at school, went in by Asda and bought hill food.
2. Had food ready to go and my bag packed before I went to bed.
3. I'd only a vague idea of where I wanted to go but I thought I'd head up the A9 and stop wherever.
4. Up with the lark and out the door at 7:40am
5. Zoomed up the A9 and parked at Balsporran by 9:30. (OK, so I overshot and ended up in Dalwhinnie but I was bursting so a quick visit to the public loos was in order anyway).

After the requisite faffing about with my pack, map, food and a quick coffee and a banana, I was off by 10am and heading for Geal Charn (gyal chaarn). The sky was a beautiful cloudless blue with a bit of a chilly wind but the way ahead was clear and the path was good. An hour later, I was on the summit, sharing the shelter cairn with two lovely wifies from Glasgow.

Geal Charn from A'Mharconaich

Glasgow folk are great and, even for an anti-social git like me, easy to talk to. Turns out this was their first outing in an age as well. We sat for a bit, comparing the view to the map and agreeing that it was an altogether fantastic day to be out on the hills. A couple of older guys that I'd passed on the way up ( I was ready to say "hello" but, as I drew level, they stopped and turned their backs to me) arrived and, please forgive me Dear Reader, I ignored their greetings. And their request for somebody to take their photie. I know 2 wrongs don't make a right but how much effort does it take to say "hello" FFS? OK, I know it gets a bit wearing on busy hills but I met six people all day. No need.

That was the ladie's cue to leave, followed shortly by the IB's.* I lingered for a bit, taking a few photies and absorbing the atmosphere.

The Ben Alder group of hills.

After about 20 mins I was up and heading for A'Mharconaich (a varkaneech). I caught up with the ladies on the lower slopes but I found myself slowing down to let the IB's stay ahead. I was passed by a hill runner (Cheery "hiya's" were exchanged) and then I was on A'Mharconaich's broad ridge. Dawdled for a bit taking photies and the off towards the summit. When I got there, the IB's were ensconced in the shelter cairn so, after some mutual ignoring, I went downslope a wee bit and found a nice wee spot out of the wind. Hung about there for about half an hour, eating Samosa's and grinning like a loon.

Then it was a case of heading downhill, stopping occasionally to look back at where I'd been.

Looking back at A'Mharconaich
The descent path went from stony, to slippy, to full-on bog-fest but it was still enjoyable. Met one guy on his way up and again much pleasantries were exchanged. Actually, I met his dug first; a big Chocolate Lab that stopped to say hello and get a bit of hand-licking in. Back at the car by 2pm, sunburt and elated.
I hope I can keep the momentum going here because it felt good to get my "game face" on and get out there and do the thing I love.
Great stuff!!!
*IB's = Ignorant Bastards

Thursday, 12 April 2007

Over the sea to Skye Part II

Ok, so no hills were climbed but that doesn't matter. Just being on Skye for a whole week was deeply satisfying in a "good for the soul" kind of way. Lovely wee cottage with great views, great company, an open fire and a Rayburn to cook on. Even the weather was kind; glorious sunshine nearly every day.

I actually enjoyed the drive up and back, all five and a half hours of it, because there's just so much damn fine scenery to look at. And the roads were relatively quiet, probably as it was the week before the English Easter Bank Holiday. Different story coming back; a steady stream of traffic heading north on the A9. Suckers :o)

Something I haven't experienced for a long time was a proper, clear night sky, free from street lighting. It was jaw-droppingly grand and, for the first time ever, I could actually see satellites with the naked eye. (Caused a wee bit of a UFO alert at first but they were appearing with such regularity that fears of alien invasion were quickly discounted).

And then there was the deer. The buggers were forever creeping about in the field opposite, dimly visible under the full moon but never close enough for us to get a good look until, that is, we surprised them by getting up early.

On our last day, we stood and watched them as they headed back into the trees for the day. TFMD had never seen Red Deer in the wild so it was a special moment and something we'll remember for a long time to come. A perfect end to a perfect week.

Friday, 30 March 2007

Over the sea to Skye

Back to Skye tomorrow for the second time this year. I suspect that there will be far too many kids and dogs in tow for any hills to get done but I live in hope. They'll at least get dragged up to The Old Man Of Storr so that'll be something at least.

The long range weather forecast was looking good, last time I checked, so a bare minimum of gear will be taken. Just in case.

Thursday, 29 March 2007

Little marvel

Bought a Leatherman Micra via Ebay last week as my current SAK is a bit on the heavy side. The Micra's got everything I need (went for the scissors option rather than pliers) and it's a lot smaller. Might mean it's easier to lose tho'. Time will tell.

Cookin' wi' Gas

Spent a couple of hours on Sunday messing around with stoves, various bits of cookware and some of Bob's Thermawrap windshield/pot cosy stuff. The result? I'm rubbish at making stuff. Although, to be fair, I did fashion a windshield for the Vargo Triad stove and, despite a bit of scorching, it did work.

I also came to the conclusion that I prefer gas to meths. It's a lot less hassle. Or maybe I just need to practice more? OK, I could have made life easier if I'd bothered to get a bottle with a spout for the meths but no, I filled the Triad from the big bottle the stuff came in. Result was a bit messy. And, it was blustery outside so getting the stove lit was a lot harder than I thought; disposable lighter kept getting blown out, fire steel was fun in a Ray Mears way but it eventually took 6 matches to get a flame.

The gas stove lit first time.

However, the Triad, windshield and a wee fuel bottle can all fit in an MSR Titan Cup so I think that'll be a combo for calm days when getting a hot drink is a luxury rather than a necessity.

I've managed to convince myself that my Karrimor stove is too bulky and, rather than modifying it, I should invest in the Vargo Jet Ti. Funny that, eh? :o)

Sunday, 25 March 2007

Bad news for Baggers

Or rather, "compleators" (sic) as the Munro Society call in surveyors to assess whether 2 sub-munro hills can be promoted to Munro status. Details on the BBC website.

Makes nae odds to me as I'm no' interested in "bagging" anything but I can't help but smile at the thought of all these folk who think they've finished, having to fish out their boots and get back out there:o)

Thursday, 22 March 2007

Close enough

I was nearly right; wine gums rather than jelly babies. I passed them along to TFMD in order that she could share in the bounty :o)

Folding Spork looks rather dinky and has raised a couple of rueful smiles from the family. I nearly splurged on a Primus Micron but I think that, with a wee bit of modification, my trusty Karrimor stove should fit into my current cookset. I'll dig everything out at the weekend and give it a go.

The windshield kit looks like a job for TFMD cos she's a lot handier with the scissors than I am. If anybody can fashion a pot-cosy, she can.

Foldable Feet are a no-brainer. Should've bought these years ago.

My outdoor kitchen is pretty much complete :o)

Tuesday, 20 March 2007

We tried to deliver...

No surprise to come home and find a card from the postie. That'll be the stuff I ordered from yesterday. I've you haven't bought anything from Bob and Rose, then you should. They're a shining example of a wee company that gives its' customers outstanding service. I can't praise them highly enough.

Monday, 19 March 2007

Reality Bites Part 2

I went for a walk at lunchtime. Just a wander up to town, an excuse to get out of the office and get my head straight. Life's transient. We're only here for a short time and then we're gone. If I needed a poke with a sharp stick then today was it. I'm more determined than ever to get out more and and actually experience life.

So more wild camping, longer walks and more effort to get to the less accessible hills that I only ever read about.

I bought up a copy of TGO for the first time in months. Nice issue with a lot of interesting articles on gear. I was a bit taken aback that it's been 6 years since the "traditional versus lightweight" article. Time really does fly.

Went online and picked up a few bits, to finish off my "kitchen", from Knowing Bob, they'll be here tomorrow along with a wee bag of jelly babies.

Already thinking ahead to the first wildcamp in an age, preferrably before the midgies wake up.

The house is warm, the dogs are fed and walked and the future Mrs D is singing upstairs :o)

Life can be good.

Reality Bites

A sad start to the week as I receive news that a friend and colleague died at the weekend. I'm not going into details but it's a reminder that life is very fragile and we should all make the most of it. That's all I can say for now.

Sunday, 18 March 2007

The best laid plans

One look out of the window yesterday morning was enough to convince me that Plan A was a no-go. Time for Plan B; The Lomonds aka The Paps of Fife. Two wee hills that I can see from here and where I hadn't set foot for over a year. And so, after the usual faffing about, I set off for the Craigmead car park. In short, Dear Reader, I had a great time. Once I'd become used to walking into the teeth of the wind, it all became easy. I settled into my stride and my mind settled into its' usual musings.

It's territory that I'm familiar with; I've been over that ground more times than I can count but it was still a joy. The sun even put in an appearance as I sat in the shelter of a drystane dyke and looked out over deepest, darkest Fife, drank in the views and listened to the larks* high above, sharing the airspace with a couple of gliders from nearby Scotlandwell.

OK, so it wouldn't impress a bagger but sometimes it's nice just to get out and enjoy the landscape and appreciate what's around you. Wonderful stuff.

* At least I think that's what they were. I'll dig out Hostile Habitats and check.

Friday, 16 March 2007

Any Excuse

And speaking of reasons to stay indoors and watch the telly, if you haven't done it already, check out Heroes. It's great stuff and typical of some of the excellent SciFi that's come out over the last few years. That and Battlestar Galactica, which is just so frakkin' good that it's unmissable. I love SciFi. Always have.

The fact that
Firefly was cancelled after one season when some of the pish out there drags on and on really gets my goat.

Edited to say "Cheers" to Aktoman for adding a link to here from his very own blog (see links below) and to Weird Darren (link below also) for a mention in his weekly blog round-up over at Outdoorsmagic :o)

Fair Weather or Foul

Well, the forecast for this weekend is looking "interesting" to say the least. MWIS reports that progress on higher ground will be "impossible" at times with gusts of up to 90mph. Now, that seems like a perfect excuse to stay at home and warm up the sofa but that's not the name of the game any more, Dear Reader. No sirree.

Come lunchtime, I'll be off to Asda to pick up some supplies; veggie Samosa (The Greatest Hill Snack Known To Man), sandwich stuff, sweeties and own-brand Isotonic drinkies (waaaay cheaper than Lucozade Sport btw).

I wanted to go farther afield but I reckon
The Ochils would be a safer bet; close to home and almost impossible to get lost on. No big pointy bits to get blown/fall off of, either. Besides, I've a soft spot for the "wee" hills so they're never a chore.

Good excuse to field test the PHD Minimus Vest, as well :o)

Wednesday, 14 March 2007

All the gear....

....and plenty of ideas. Maps have been bought and plans are afoot. I can't say too much as the Weather Gods may be listening. Or Pestilence. Anyhoo, I've got seriously itchy feet and that's got to be a good sign.

Besides, I've got some cool stuff that never sees the light of day and it's high time it did. I firmly believe btw, that there is such a thing as too much gear. I could pack for the hill in next to no time back in the day when I had 1 rucksack, 1 waterproof jacket, 1 fleece etc. Now, it takes hours of faffin' aboot trying to decide which rucksack, which waterproof and so on and so forth. I draw the line at colour co-ordination tho'. Let's just get that clear. I mean, look at that photo below; Red and Black Aspira and a flouro-yellow pack? What was I thinking? :o)

Sometimes just getting oot the door is half the battle.

Tuesday, 13 March 2007

Anagrammatical Trivia

Just realised that Big Galloot is an anagram of I Blogg A Lot. Must be a slow work day.

And hello to The Bearded One who tracked me back to here. I wonder if he's part Navajo?

Sunday, 11 March 2007

Tempus Fugit

It's just over a year since The Future Mrs D and I went for a wander up Ben Vrackie. A day of mixed fortune; we turned back from the summit as we were running out of time and it was bitterly cold. TFMD enjoyed it enormously tho'. We'll go back soon.

Grey Saturday

It was all a bit dreich weatherwise so the day was spent in the hoose doing constructive stuff; cleaned the fish tank, moved some furniture around, sorted out some photies for our newly painted walls and caught up on some telly. Sky+ is great.

Step-Daughter turned up at tea time, fresh from an organised walk up near the Falls of Falloch. She's a bit disappointed that they didn't get up higher. Her first "hillwalk" and the bug has bitten :o)

The Boy seems to have picked up yet another lurgy from the Petri Dish that masquerades as a school. Lovely. Not only do the Weather Gods toy with my plans but Pestilence likes to get in on the act as well.

Friday, 9 March 2007

TFI Friday!

Chinese Chicken Curry and chips for tea. Excellent! :o)

The Weather Gods

This will be a recurring theme. I mean, have you seen the weather forecast for this weekend? That's what happens when I say, "I think I'll go for a walk on Saturday". The Weather Gods have it in for me.

Shiny Stuff

As we go along, you may find that I'll mention gear, kit, shiny things and whatnot. Mainly outdoors-type stuff such as the PHD Minimus Vest that landed on my desk yesterday. It's marvellous. Such a well-made piece of lightweight, fluffy lovlieness. Now I just have to get out there and use the damn thing.

What's in a name?

So why "Big Galloot"? Well, that's what my Grandfather used to call me, on account of me being so tall and him being about 5'4" on a good day. (He wasn't from Texas btw. He was born in Buckie).
And, as I credit him with introducing me to Scotland's hills, it seems a nice way to honour his memory.
He wasn't a hillwalker in any sense of the word but he had a quiet respect for the landscape and that's what rubbed off on me.
One year, 1974-75 IIRC, he borrowed a
Dormomobile, piled all of us youngsters in the back and took us on a grand tour of the Highlands. My love of the hills was born.

Thursday, 8 March 2007

And so it begins......

Well, it's going to be a bit rough around the edges at first but let's see how things develop, shall we?