Thursday, 11 December 2014

Saturday night and Sunday morning; and then later on Sunday morning.

We had persuaded ourselves - on the basis of no evidence whatsoever, in truth - that the Sheffield gig was going to be very much along the lines of the King Tut's epic a few months earlier, and that the band wouldn't be on stage until very, very late.

Having said that, we decided after another few refreshments in the Rutland Arms to head out into the town and locate the venue ridiculously early, so we could size it up, find another pub nearby, and then return at our leisure a couple of hours later to arrive effortlessly on time for the main event. That approach sort of worked, in that the band were taking the stage just as we turned up for the "ridiculously early" part of the plan.

Which undeserved stroke of luck rather saved the whole weekend.

Still - I'm sure everybody else there just assumed we'd timed it exactly right. We both exude that kind of natural cool. Not that there were actually that many other folk there, it has to be said. Best estimate of the audience size was about eighty. It matters not a jot however, because it was still the second best gig I've been at this year.

(Disclaimer: not Sheffield gig footage. There are a few more punters in this video.)

This, however, was ours! ;)

The other thing is, when one has made a bit of an effort to go and see a band, it's nice when they hang around to have a chat with their adoring public. They've got form for that too - it was the same at King Tut's. Tonight it was the drummer, Cool Steve Kiely that drew the short straw...

...poor soul.

In all fairness though, I think Chris the merch guy was even more surprised to be asked to join in, but his wares were just so good, it was an opportunity not to be missed...

And that was rather that. Thankfully, we found (a) a kebab shop...

...and (b) the way back to the hotel... no drunken Scotsmen were harmed in the making of this blogpost. Oh, and the "later on Sunday morning" reference in the title? A leisurely pre-train tourist wander around Sheffield. Nice and relaxed. So, obviously, nice relaxed background music is called for.

Toon Hall:


Polis Box:

The lads at the Polis Box:

The Winter Garden:

And...sundries, on the way back to the - as you'll recall - fountainy station:

I mentioned the lack of carriage capacity on the return train trip earlier, and I won't lie - the six hours packed in like the proverbial commuting sardines wasn't a barrel of laughs. Plus, it was so busy that I didn't even feel able to break into the carry-oot, as regular toilet trips would have provoked justified outrage as one pushed past the folk cramming the aisles. In fact, the only saving grace about the whole thing was capturing this technically difficult photograph of The Angel of the North as we sped past Gateshead...

Memories to treasure.


Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Train and Truck

Last winter - from December onwards at least - was a complete washout as far as hillwalking went, and consequently postings on here were sporadic. Compared to how infrequently I trouble Blogger these days mind you, the place was positively buzzing. I kind of blame my full on embracing of Facebook. It's an awful lot easier to click a "like" button and approve of something someone else has said on the internet than it is to think up stuff of your own.

Given last weekend's somewhat damp adventure, and the doom laden weather forecast we're getting this week - weather bomb, anyone? - it occurred to me that things are likely to get progressively worse without the Munro-bagging (as it were) impetus for recording things online, so before we grind to a terminal halt I decided to stick up a post about a different away from home jaunt.

Gird your loins then for some photies of...Sheffield.

The story is, me and Gordon, having been more than a little impressed by the musical stylings of the great bunch of Canadian lads known as Monster Truck when they played King Tut's earlier in the year were on the lookout for a repeat experience. Initially there was some excitement when we established they were to be playing the Enormodome in Dublin as a support band for Slash. Further analysis revealed that although it was doable (as a kind of joint birthday treat/indulgence/frolic) it was a Tuesday night show which was rather going to involve about three days off work. Two to travel, one to recover. At least one to recover, in my case - I know what Dublin can do to a chap. Then they announced some lower key - much, much lower key - headline gigs, including a night at The Corporation in Sheffield. On a Saturday. Well now. A mere £12 for a ticket for the show. A jolly reasonable rate for a twin room in Jury's in the City Centre. And a fleeting six hours away on the train.

"Train? What kind of train?", I hear the more astute of youse ask.


The journey was over in the blink of an eye.

Glasgow Central

Not Glasgow Central. Not twenty to eleven any more, either.

Well, not really. But at least all the carriages were open on the way down, in stark contrast to the return journey. I spent some time wondering quite how angry I would get if I'd spent £500 for a first class ticket between Sheffield and Glasgow, only to find myself standing the whole way in the aisle of the second class section. Ach, still, they were probably rich, and needed some character building.

I digress. The first thing that strikes you when you alight at Sheffield is - fountainy stuff. They do like a nice water feature in Britain's fourth biggest city.

The highly excellent news was that we still had about four hours to kill before the show, so the choice was to either (a) find the hotel, unpack, get showered, organised and have a leisurely meal to prepare ourselves for the evening's probable alcohol consumption; or (b) go to the pub.

And let me tell you, we made the right choice. The Rutland Arms is a cracking pub. The moment you wander into a bar in a strange city, find a proper jukebox and discover it's got a song on it by the completely obscure band that you're going to see that very night, you know you're onto a winner. There's even urban art on the wall next to it, for ease of recognition when you're a bit tipsy later on...

...which state we did kind of achieve.

More later. Did I mention the great jukebox?


Saturday, 6 December 2014

So, what it is, is...

Over recent months I had clocked that the Wee Black Dug was not quite as indefatigable when it came to Munro bagging as she used to be. After a good 6 hour walk, when she jumped out of the car at the end of the trip home, there was definite evidence of...slight hirpling. The day after her most recent summit success - Creise et al - she sort of went proper lame for half an hour.

A trip to the vet ensued. In fairness, it's an unusual week in our household that doesn't involve a trip to the vet, but mentioning it is integral to the story. ;)

Thorough examination over, Ken the Vet opined that it was probably earlyish arthritis in her "elbow" joints. She'd need X rays to be sure, and to see how advanced it was, but that was the most likely thing. Fit dog she was, but it was possible her boundless enthusiasm for running, leaping, frisbee-catching, rabbit-chasing and general hundred mile an hour life-embracing was taking its toll on her joints.

"And another thing." he added. "She's been a steady 25kg in weight since she was a youth. She's now 27kg. Regardless of what the X rays show, you need to get some of that off her."

You could almost see the panic in the dug's eyes when she heard that. I mean, she likes hillwalking, but she ****ing loves her food.

Further tests, as they say, confirmed the original diagnosis. And, with elegant inevitability, the commencement of The Diet. Just to add to the sum total of misery, poor Molly was collateral damage, because if Jorja was to be on half portions it was only fair, sensible, right and just that her less active big sister should have to join in the fun.

As to the thorny question of exercise - generally a recommended part of a weight-loss attempt - the WBD had to be largely rested, so it was a case of 5 minutes on the lead twice a day for the first wee while, then onto 10, then...well you get the gist. "Treat the recovery like you would if it was yourself" Ken had told me. If she shows signs of starting to limp again, you'll need to rein it back in".

Upshot is, since September, the dug has stoically accepted her rations and is now about 24kg. (Terrifyingly, her target, ideally, is 22.) We're up to about 3 miles a day now on the leadwalking campaign, with no ill effects thus far, and on that basis, accordingly, we reach the point of this increasingly rare blogpost, which is the Wee Black Dug's return to a hill!

Now, I'll give you that it was by no means a Munro, and it's one she's done plenty of times before, but given where we were - and what we weighed, and how we limped - a few weeks ago, I'm a happy camper. I'm also a very drookit camper, because it was truly horrible up there the day, but it was a means to an end.


Just to end on a bit of perspective, the Meikle Bin round trip is a tad over 6 miles. Here's the heroine of the story a wee while back, at the furthest-from-the-car-point of a 26-miler.

Dugs, eh?


Monday, 3 November 2014


We lost the wee cat today. She had held on to her quality of life remarkably well, given the diagnosis nearly three years ago, but it all got a bit too much for her this morning.

Pets. Sigh.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014


It's a good word, that. Here's a learned exposition on it.

It's a word that was pressed into frequent service last Saturday when me and Andy set off early(ish) doors to have a go at Carn Bhac. We were swithering about keeping going when we reached Perth in the pouring rain. We were swithering still when we paused at the Blairgowrie Tesco for supplies - in the pouring rain. Gazing at the packed Glenshee skicentre car park as we drove past caused a resurgence of said swither, as it rather appeared that every hillwalker in the environs of the Cairngorms had elected to abandon their planned route and nip in for coffee and bacon rolls instead.

The astute reader will probably have guessed that we were still in mid-swither when we alighted at Inverey. But, whatever, the dugs needed a walk, so we set off up the track to Glen Ey.

The Walkhighlands route takes you up the full length of the Glen, as far as Altanour Lodge. Ralph Storer's option departs Glen Ey at the ruins of Auchelie, and up and over Carn Creagach. In a bold move, we combined the two, and made an increasingly enjoyable round trip out of it. In truth, the main reason for any degree of enjoyment was the fact that the weather improved steadily all morning, with something called "the sun" making an appearance as we got to the top of Creagach.

It's not a terribly oft-frequented hill I don't think - especially as a stand alone target. We saw a couple of mountain bikes near the lodge, but no actual folk walking. We did see a higher concentration of grouse (dead and alive, as it happens) than I can recall coming across anywhere before, but other than that, hunners and hunners of sheep and some folk in Landy's on the main track we were on our own all day.

Oh aye - and the entire jaunt took place with the primeval echoing wonder of a full on mid-rut stag-roar soundtrack. Spine tingling stuff.

Anyway - photies:

We'd been walking for about an hour before I risked taking the camera oot! 


Nearly at the Lodge

Altanour Lodge

Looking from Carn Creagach over to Carn Bhac

A bealach, recently.

Last gentle pull to Carn Bhac

From that point it was a return to the bealach, then a bit of another peaty hummock trot until we reached the track that runs all the way down to Auchelie. A more inviting wee spot on the way out than it had looked on the way in.

The way home, looking from Auchelie

A fine example of the drystane dykers art!

It turned out a right good walk. Albeit one that I maintain justified a good pre-commencement swither. It has to be admitted though that the dogs (three, count 'em!) were glad of their walk, but partly because it was quite a long day, and partly because it's been a while since the freshly-clipped Molly has been up any sort of a hill, the big yin paid for her exertions the next day.