Sunday, 5 November 2017

Oh goodness my.

Hasn't it been a while?

I think I got a bit stuck, behind a lot of things, including my own self - silencing gremlins.

Backed up by a few external voices, saying, or at least implying the same.

And if you're default internalised message is "Shut up, be quiet, don't make a fuss, no one is really interested" particularly around more difficult issues , then that is what you will do.

To keep feeling safe, or safer at least.

But I'm often telling myself, and others too for that matter, that fear arising can be interesting.

It should be examined for its source, to see if it is valid, and reasonable, and if not, to find out what fascinating things, and experiences are just the other side of that fear.

And that's what I have generally done. in my life... There are plenty of things that I do now, that initially I found pretty scary, or nerve wracking.
But now, they are just part of normal life.

So why should I be afraid of writing down a few thoughts and feelings?

What bad consequences could there possibly be?

If ones own personal blog * isn't a safe space to do this; then where?

But there has been a lot of discussion lately around people speaking, or not speaking of their experiences, around power misused, and abused.

Its interesting though, how once someone does, then others feel empowered to speak about it too.

I'm not going to go into any gory details here, I think anyone has as much right to stay silent about personal matters as they do to to speak out.

It shouldn't be incumbent upon anyone who has been hurt, to expose their wounds, if they don't feel comfortable so doing.

They do not owe their stories, or experiences to anyone.

 They were owed being properly treated with respect in the first place - that is what is key

A genuine, unfettered right to choose, a right to self determination, is generally what most victims, or survivors of ill treatment are asking for.

And a right to be heard, actually listened to, if they do want to talk to someone.
But not forced, or coerced into speaking, by some sort of social obligation.

Tea, wellies, and an innocuous looking grey box, pre distribution... Nothing happens before tea, as you know.... The wellies came on a rather fine walk in The Peaks as wel,l just lately, but more of that another time., perhaps

Anyway, be all that as it may.

Its been a while for many many reasons, not least general busyness, accompanied by superficial distractions.

In the course of the last few months Ma, you would normally have called or visited to find out how things were going, and what I'd been up to.

Well sadly that's not going to happen any more, is it?

 But i thought I'd check in anyhow, as I know you did use this channel as a way of keeping up with general news, and meandering ramblings about the farm, and further afield.

This picture was taken on the eve of what would have been your birthday in July.

Not long before you left us, you furnished me with some funds to buy something 'silly' (your words)

Well a tent isn't reallyproperly 'silly' its a very practical piece of kit,.

But it might I s'pose allow the pursuit of what some might call silliness, or at least unabashed fun.

Here it is... Pitched at the top of the hill here, it's a' Tarptent Moment' imported from the States (don't ask how much the Customs duties were) a quality item that should last, and very light for carrying on my back, or bike.

 Crafted, I very much hope and believe, by stitchers who would have been paid something like a decent wage, for their skills. And if properly looked after, should be sheltering me on many an excursion.

She's been on a good few nights out already, and has lived up to her name - up in an instant, and sheds the wind well.

July Sunrise on Beacon hill.

 I stayed up here in my little grey tent, with your ashes in their little grey box, overnight.

Then at first light (yeah right) or thereabouts, took most of them on a meandering ramble, distributing them amongst forty two of the trees that grow here.

We could make out that's some kind of witchcrafty magic number maybe, or the meaning of life or somesuch.?

But all sorts of different native species, which will each claim a few of your molecules, and grow taller with them.

So then you can look down from your vantage point, and check that I'm not slacking off with the farm work.

 Although I am trying not to overdo it so much it these days, and have lots more help with things in general.... All work and no play, life is short, etc etc.

I've saved a few spoonfuls, to go under a fruit tree, to be planted this autumn.

Probably an apple, given that they are so versatile, as were you, in the kitchen.

 Plenty of Devon varieties to choose from.

Since this morning pictured there's been loads going on, farmwise plus all sorts of other busyness.

Most of which you would approve, and I will get round to writing about a lot of it, just in case the internet connection is better where you are, than here in 'fibre free' Country Bumpkin Land.

Not that you were, so much one for approving or disapproving, of other peoples business, or doings. More concerned generally, in having an interesting life well lived, according to ones own principals, and values.

With plenty of leeway, and understanding given for those all so very human fallings short, fallibilties, and failings.

You asked me to read something at your not-really-a-funeral-but-more-a-tea-party-for-freinds which basically said this, but in a lot more lines...

"Try not to be sad that I've gone, but be happy that I was here"

Which is all very well and good in theory, but it is quite hard not to miss people who so very much brightened, rather than dampened life...

However I'll try to live by that one, and make the most of things, and stuff.

And in addition I would say to anyone else angsting over what to do with their own short existence and 'How they should Be' in this totally crazy, frustrating, but ultimately rather wonderful world...

Be Brave,

Be Silly,

Be your own Magic,

Be Present,

Be Full of Surprises,

Be Adventurous,

Be Kind,

Be Free,

Be You.

Life is tough darling ... But so are you.

We change, we live, and we grow older, but hopefully we can still retain some childish wonder, and delight in this world.

* please see disclaimer that these are all my own thoughts, and opinions,and always subject to change , particularly in the face of a cogent well thought through argument ( I wish) they do not, nor never have, represented those those of any ya de ya company, singular or many faceted deity, nor any other general factotums.

If in doubt as to how to proceed, in the light of all this, please consult a grandmother, or any other female tribal elder  ... They really do know stuff ....

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

The scheme of things ...

That which didn't get done, probably doesn't matter much any more.

I had a truly lovely time in the mountains, and will tell you all about it no doubt, over time.

But I also had moments of that deep mountain sadness, which having gone there, many will have experienced...

The realisation that one day, I will be too broken, tired, old, or even too dead, to go, and witness those wonders.

And of course, that should make one want to seize the moment, and glory in it, all the more.

But also it makes you cry, lots, for the sheer tragedy of it.

They say "better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all" 

But sometimes you can't help wishing you'd not seen, or felt, that which, one day you know, you will never see, or feel again...

So yes, if one day, it takes a final wander, into the hills, and a lying down to sleep, from which one never arises.

 I will very much forgive you, and wish you endless sweet heathery dreams...

Knowing that one can't always take, even those closest, on some journeys.

That awful realisation of being a separate, sentient creature, who has only one set of eyes to see, and only one  heart with which to feel. 

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Walking, a conversation with the landscape...

So to take a hiking trip, first select a promising location, and a reasonable route. 
 Equip yourself with essential kit, and good nutrition (light enough to carry, for days on end, and potentially up and down some steep climbs) 

Have navigational abilities, and be realistic about your hill skills,  and levels of fitness

Get yourself to start, of proposed route, and start walking...  That about it. 

People who don't indulge in this type of 'holiday' will enquire, "Don't you get bored, just walking all day?" .

Or, "What do you find to talk about, if you're  hiking with the same person, day after day, after day?"  

Well, often, aside from practicalities, such as way finding, or snack stops, or pointing out wildlife, whole hours can go by, in perfectly companionable silence. 

And anyway,  there's not always enough breath to spare on chat, if ascending, for hours on end. 

Negotiating boulder fields takes full concentration, if the skin on your shins is to be preserved. 

So ultimately, the conversation is with the landscape, physically as one negotiates each step, over uneven terrain. 

The narrative, is a sensory one, stories are incoming, from  near and far, twists of plot occur, moment, by moment. 

How, could that ever become dull, if given ones full attention? 

Friday, 1 September 2017

Going places.

Go nice places, do fun stuff.

Well yes,  why wouldn't you,  if lucky enough to have the chance...?

And due to a blessed team of women, willing to tend the 'stead, in my absence, that's what I'm currently doing.

Stomping up and down some fine Pyrenean valleys, over high passes, and generally enjoying the geology, and fine views.

The weather has been mixed, the sun doesn't always shine in Spain, but when ascending for hours at a time,  some cloud cover can be very welcome.

Eight or more, hours,  per day of hard walking; whilst carrying all the requisite equipment for shelter,  and nutrition,  might not be everyone's idea of a relaxing holiday.

But each,  very much, to their own.

The company, in the form of reliable, way finding* trail-mate is plenty congenial, even entertaining on occasion.

But it would be an untruth, to assert that these excursions are all fun, all the time.

Undoubtedly there are times when the hills are just a tad too steep, it's overly hot, mighty cold, rather wet, or one is too tired, and hungry for comfort.

Even 'the way' through unmarked scree can be hard to discern..
Only mild peril, really, yes, but more peril, than usually found in everyday life..

But I guess, in part,  that's sort of the point.

Not to make oneself suffer intentionally, but it certainly gives a sharper appreciation of the basics..

Food, shelter, rest,

Walk, eat, sleep, repeat.

Through some astonishing scenery.

But also, being out of contact with what passes for the 'normal' world, for a while makes me appreciate, more fully, how some unnecessary parts of it, were making me uncomfortable in other ways.

And how, like so much,  it could be done without...

As is the case so often - Less is generally more :-)

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Some 'almost yoga' to help tired and weary arms, shoulders, and upper back.

Having spent a good few hours hoeing, or driving, carrying a pack, or sitting at a keyboard, sooner or later various parts will start to grumble.

What they'd really like, is for you to pay them some attention , even whilst you do those things.
Using your body to achieve the desired end, without hurting it so much in the first place.

But that takes a level of bodily awareness that is beyond (initially at least) most of us.

We become so intently focussed on the task before us, that very often, we forget that it is our body that is doing the thing.

It almost seems ungrateful, the way in which we become so detactched from this reality.

So we can try to be a bit kinder to ourselves whilst we work, or play, and give a little more thought to efficiency, and balance perhaps.

 But also after working, even just a few minutes of doing some systematic stretching to realign things, and extend the joints, muscle and connective tissue in a body positive fashion, will help.

Particularly if you have been doing hard physical labour, the muscles will have warmed up and be receptive to these movements, at this time.

First find a suitable lake, and some flattish ground. for Adho mukha virasana

This posture is how we very often start a class.

You may need something under the front of your ankles such as a rolled towel laid crosswise, if the ankles are too stiff to lay flat comfortably..

Sit symmetrically with your buttock bones on your heels, big toes joined.

The width between your inner knees is equivalent to the width of your rib cage.

Stay sitting back on your heels then put you finger tips on the floor in front of your knees.
Lift the chest and stretch front edge of spine forwards, and up, using your  hands to help.

Take your hands further forwards keeping them shoulder width apart.

Whole of palm pressed down. particularly the mound of the thumb.
Fingers spread apart

Straighten arms as much as possible, by pulling in your outer elbows towards the midline, aiming eventually for the elbows to be fully locked straight.

This may not be easy at first, but you will see improvements with persistance.

Eventually we want the elbow joint to straighten fully - this is how the joint is strongest, and best for load bearing.

Rest your forehead on the floor if the head reaches easily, but it is quite likely that the the head will need support, if your shoulders are stiff, so put a well folded blanket or similar there, so head and neck can release.

Stay for a couple of minutes, hands spread and pressing down, arms lifting away from centre of the earth, but torso extending forwards and descending down. Shoulder blades flattening into the back.

 If buttocks won't stay contacting the  heels - then put something there too - the extension should be as much back as forwards.

Really important to relax your jaw, neck, eyes and brain.

Think more of allowing the stretch rather than forcing it...


Dog pose ( Adho muka svanasana)

From the first pose, first come up onto your hands and knees, keeping same distance between hands and feet.

Take feet hip width apart, and then turn under toes,
Brace arms by drawing outer elbows in again.

If shoulders are very stiff then turn hands and fingers to slant outwards diagonally.
this will help the arms to straighten.

On an outbreath lift up off knees, keep legs bent to raise the hips and buttock bones as high as possible..

Start to straighten the legs, but they may be reluctant, if the hamstrings have become shortened by life in general.

Don't expect heels to come to ground, posture pictured above is mainly result of few thousand repetitions..... What you're aiming for one day, but maybe not just yet.

Always breathe, and keep in mind that you are doing this for your benefit, not to impress anyone else.

Yoga is supposed to be good for you, its not a case of you being good at it...

A lot of 'yoga' pictured on the internet is actually sloppily done for an ego boost, shape making, and is mainly pictured to showcase a new brand of leggings... Forgive them, they're most likely very young, and you're not that easily fooled....

As the saying goes - another day another dog pose - practice just a little each day at first strength and flexibility will build up with time. Consider the placement of your bones, and aim to acheive equal work on both sides.  The legs will learn to straighten eventually. Length in the hamstrings reduces injuries overall.

 If the above exercise is too strong for injuries, or very stiff shoulders a variation can be done with the palms flat on a hip height surface, walk back with legs keeping feet hip width apart, heels out toes slightly in, so that outer feet are parallel to each other.

Aiming to have the heels under the hips, and allowing shoulder blades to flatten into the back.
Keep the head in line with the arms dont pull it down .

This method may be easier for learning the action of straightening the legs fully.

Kneecaps should lift up through these actions, using the frontal thigh muscles. to open the backs of the knees, and broaden the back thighs from inside to out...

 Again a fully straightened leg leads to healthier knee joints, and longer hamstrings,


Parvatasana in Sukhasana

So this arm movement can be done in any number of sitting positions, or even standing up, or lying prone.

At first this will be a real challenge to the shoulders, and most people struggle to get the arms to straighten.

But this posture works in such a way as to counteract the tendency to overwork certain parts of the arms, whilst neglecting others.

The key thing to remember is that the collar bones should stay broad, chest be lifted, not caving in.

That way the dorsal spine ( upper back) which often curves out and becomes rounded, is made to move back to its proper place.

So sit, or stand evenly, crossed legs is good, but you will probably need to sit on a firm support so that the knees are at almost the same height as the hips.

First extend arms forwards, interlock fingers right up to the base, palms facing chest, thumb tips joined.

Then rotate palms away from face, so thumb tips point toward floor.

Straighten arms fully - again by squeezing outer elbows in.

Then keeping shoulders back, and chest broad, raise the arms so that upper arms are besides ears.

Pushing up strongly with the thumb edge of the hand.

This is where the shoulders will start to resist, and you may find it difficult to straighten arms, but go on squeezing in the outer arms, and make sure thumb tips stay together - thus equalising the arm action.

Then bring arms down, change the interlock of  fingers, and cross of legs.

Repeat, several times if you can

If you are doing this whilst standing, then keep legs very straight, thighs lifted and back, and sides of waist moving back too.. standing with inner heels and toe bases connected makes you lift the inner legs... These have a tendency to be lazy if allowed.


Another arm action done  in cross legs. note sitting on sufficient height so that the back body can lift up and move in.

Here we've used a dry bag stuffed with spare clothes, and a sleeping bag to fill the gap between feet and knees.

Doing this allows the thighs and inner groins to release down.

The hips really appreciate this.

Also note that the feet are fairly well forwards, so that they are under the knees.

The arms here attempt to straighten by squeezing inwards, towards the midline.
 Don't overdo the downward pull of the knuckles, but do lift the chest and move in the dorsal spine again.


This last move is more for the lower back, but does act on the shoulders too.

Head and neck support have been given here, often useful where shoulders are stiff. You should be able to see your chest without straining your eyeballs !

Start lying down evenly, spine in a straight line, with feet flat on floor knees bent up.

The object here is to keep the upper part of buttock on the ground.

This is not an abdominal crunch, type move, the abdomen should stay soft, the navel deepening
We are trying to broaden the back body both lengthwise and crosswise.

So when we hold onto the shins we are drawing them down parallel to the ground, not attempting to get the knees to chest.

As with our starting pose, the inner thighs are contacting the outer rib cage, shins and knees are are hip width apart.

Work your shoulders down towards the floor, tuck them under towards the waist, away from the back of the skull.

Again keeping front chest open.

Relax whole face especially the jaw.
Keep tongue resting in lower palate.

Soften the interior of the throat to allow the breath to move freely.

Often when we clasp something with the hands, we unconsciously grip the jaw too. this may have been a useful move way back in our evolution, but nowadays it tends to lead to stiff necks, headaches, and expensive dentistry bills.

Relax your face, and breathe quietly through the nose.

I'm a great fan of steam trains, but impersonating them has no place in a yoga practice.

Once you've completed this move place your feet back on the floor, hip width apart, let your knees rest evenly against each other.

Think about the midline of your self i.e. the central alignment of your spine, and allow equal release and volume on each side.

You can close your eyes and observe the movement of the breath for a few minutes too.

Allow the back body to spread , and be fully supported by the floor.

Allow the front body to settle quietly onto the back body.

Next time we'll look at some things we can do to lengthen those stubborn, but not really that complicated nuisances, short hamstrings.

Restrictions in that area may cause all sorts of problems, but we can, if not completely rebuild them, then definitely make some big improvements.

Big thanks to my model student Ian, he has been attending classes for many a year now, and what he is doing here might not look like much to the uninitiated, but in truth, represents a massive change that he's made to his body over the years.

This is not news to him, but i must confess that when he first turned up at class my heart sank

 " What on earth am i going to do with this?" I thought.... But the saying goes, that your trickiest students are your best teachers, so ways and means must be found.

 But all credit to Ian, he is the one who actually turned up, and diligently did the work, and established a regular daily home practice too.   He has lately escaped by boat to Hong Kong for a little while, and will be returning from there by train in time for some autumn classes... Doubtless practising in all those confined spaces along the way too.

Not advocating that everyone should display such a disrespectful attitude to small Spanish churches, but this is the sort of fun you can look forward to, once you've got shoulders and arms both flexible and strong.

This is one of the key physical aims of yoga  - to get a good balance between the two. It's not about being like a bendy rag doll, the stability must be there too. But practice, practice practice, is all we have.

It really is about the process or that now cliched expression 'the journey' rather than the destination.

Saturday, 29 July 2017

The gentle art of hitch-hiking ... By R. L . Hancock

Writers block?

Oh yes I have it, but not perhaps the more usual "I don't have anything to say, and don't know how to say it variant."

If anything, it's too much in the opposite direction; so much going on; both externally and internally; its more a case of "Where to start?"

I guess its the upside / downside of a life, that is so very integrated in all its parts.

The interconnectedness of all the elements, the realisation of the citizenry of all things in the universe, all of it having validity -

It can all get a bit much sometimes.

Organic farming and growing, embedded in a place, and a community of workers from the lowliest  (but arguably most vital) soil organisms, through all the other people, and elements that work together, to produce food for a supportive, and appreciative community.

And in addition, having the privilege of working, this season alongside an anthropologist.

Who has ostensibly come here to learn from me, about practical food production, in the position of farm trainee.

But come on?

Spending most days with someone who is equally fascinated by the interrelation of food, people, place, farming methods, markets, public perceptions, and misconceptions, received wisdom, and that learnt through actual practice?

How am I, with my already feeble resistance to such matters, supposed to be able to avoid getting in even deeper to this complex subject?

And then the teaching, and practising of Yoga.

Which encourages that same integration, or uniting of the elements of mind, breath, and body so as to be, and feel more part of the whole universal scheme of things.

And to feel generally happier about, and within ones bodily frame...

All great aspirations, to work towards, isn't that what we're supposed to be going after - that becoming more 'wholesome' .

 Until perhaps, and maybe this is a very westernised conceit, or complaint, it can start to feel a little stifling.

Paralysing almost. Considering how the moving of one thing, the taking of one action, affects all the others.

"If we touch ; or do ; or change; anything; think of the possible consequences"

Of course that's all verging on histrionic, hyperbole.

We are but as fleas on the backs of an enormous  elephant.

Nothing we do as individuals, makes so very much difference.

But what of the ripples on the pond?

What if we influence other peoples actions one way or the other?

What a responsibility...

Well what luck; to be able to grumble about such a thing - after all, these 'lovely and wholesome ways of life' are mostly of ones own making.

It's not really luck, as such.  Its far more by design.

 Moreover I'd very much like to point out here, that I'm not in any way denigrating it's worth, far from it..

But I've also realised (finally!) that it is also pretty pointless, exhausting, and self destructive to try to deny ones own nature.

So I've decided to stop wasting so much energy, worrying about how what I do, affects others.

Just to mainly do my thing, let the rest of the world work out for itself, what it's up to.

The last thing I would ever want is to be a dictator - way too much responsibility - and even setting an example sounds a bit of a grandiose trap..

No I've got a much better idea... You be you, and do your thing.

I'll be me; and do mine.

How those two interface, and interrelate is for the universe in general to sort out..


So, the point of this rambling introduction is what exactly?

Well I guess it's to confess to an addiction..

No; not the caffeine in the twenty plus cups of tea that I drink everyday - That's just fairly innocuous fuel for the general enterprise.

But its a more of a need, a craving even, for a certain amount of uncertainty, change, growth, adventure, excitement, not being in control, risk even.

Maybe it is again, a luxury afforded by our relatively secure Westernised lives.

 But it cant be just that, by itself.

As I've noticed many other folks, who have far more financial, and domestic stability than me, who still appear to be pursuing getting even more of that same 'security blanket' stuff.

For me, one of lifes greatest thrills is not knowing whats round the next corner. looking back after one, or three, or five years, and saying to myself " Well I didn't think I'd find myself here"

I am long enough in the tooth to know that life is, looked at in some ways, a series of endless heartbreaks.

If you invest enough (and how much is that precisely?) time, and effort, and love, and care for any projects, or schemes, or relationships, then some of those things might not turn out as you'd hoped.

And that, if you cared enough about the project, or person in the first instance, then there's a very real risk that you're going to be dissappointed, or made a bit sad if your hopes and dreams were not fulfilled.

Kids leave home (eventually), friends move on, we get sick, or become incapacitated in some way, people even have the temerity to die, projects founder, interests wane, accidents happen, change is the only constant.

It's the risk we take, when we decide to be fully alive, and engage with the world, and all its uncertainties, we will inevitably be made sad by things or people not living up to our dreams, or expectations....

 And that's all very OK, it has to be, elsewise we won't take a chance on, or stick our necks out for anything.

 Live a 'small life', out of fear of what might, or might not happen?

No thanks, not this time round at least.

Which is why I suppose that hitch hiking is one of my favourite methods of non self-propelled modes of journeying.

Although you could argue that an 'open' friendly posture, and a winning smile even (especially) if its raining is, in a way, a method of propelling oneself forward.

That, and choosing a spot where your proposed lifter can see you in good time; make a split second judgement as to whether they feel positively inclined to having your unscheduled presence in their vehicle, and be able to pull over safely enough, to let you in, to sully their upholstery...

There are certain 'rules of thumb*' (sorry) that I have found to hold true in my hitching career ( I wont bore you with my hubristic distance and speed stats, but this is definitely one 'sport' where females usually do have a speed advantage)

 *But, as we are, in reality, playing a game of random chance - they can't always be relied upon.

 (It's essential that you actually enjoy the gamble; and be able to live with some disappointments - otherwise you're really best off taking the bus)

This writing subject has been sparked by two things, the primary of which being the fact of second-born son having undertaken a self imposed hitch-hiking to the Artcic circle, mission.

(update - he just made it, and now, even further North, despite having had six stitches inserted into his thumb - but that's another story)

From somewhere so unpronounceable, and so small that it barely shows up on the map, in Sweden.

 And secondly our recent experiences in the North West of Scotland, between hill walking jaunts where i was reminded of the 'fun' of the game, and how it can open up new vistas, and encounters, and insights into other lives unimagined.

The newly minted, blow-in Ullapool Postman, returning to his lochside home and expectant wife (expecting a baby that is)

The academic translator, who spends half his year in the Highlands making music, the other half in Russia turning documents into intelligible English for scientists there.

The French environmentalist who is so pleased to pick up some hitchers because driving her car around the U.K. in its single-occupancy state is giving her eco- guilt ... I sympathised.

The originating from Essex,  stone wallers, constructing a very well paid for vanity project, because the Lairds' missus doesn't like looking at ugly deer fencing for the two weeks in Summer that the family are in residence. (They told us about the community where the translator lives)

The lawyer who is very handily going all the way (to Inverness, from the West Coast) and will fill us in on the intricacies of that area, and give us a tour of best restaurant locations before dropping us off in the town centre.

And a good few more besides. More interconnectedness.

All offering snippets of history, gossip, and most crucially, local up to date information. Including pretty reliable weather forecasts.

In return for?

Well I guess they are instinctively helpful, curious sorts themselves, as so many humans are.
It's a feel good trade, a diversion from the daily hum drum, perhaps..

They are a self selecting cohort, of trusting, open minded, person orientated, not too precious about their 'things' type people.

Of course most people are reasonably kind, although some are not so trusting, curious, or open minded as to let a couple of middle aged hikers who look like they've been sleeping rough (it's true they have been) into their cars.

The trade is, that you engage back, a brief summary of where you've been,  what you've done, a 'mild peril', or slight disaster anecdote always goes down well.

And, of course, where you are planning on going next?

But it must be a two way deal - Where are they headed? Where have they been? Both literally, and figuratively?

Hopes, dreams, family, career aspirations, life disasters averted, or not.

Its not usually too difficult to work out, with careful listening, and some judicious questioning,  what does it for them.

What lights up their life?

And of course maybe the other joy of these encounters,  is that it doesn't go on too long. A journeying equivalent of speed dating?

If it turns out that your very kind mobile host is obsessed with matters pertaining to ball sports, or house prices, or the intricacies of a particular televisual talent show, then ones plans for 'going all the way' can be modified on a whim, to escape the potential tedium.

 - Thats what us free wheeling types are like - such flibbertigibbets.

Another extra benefit of all these shortish but essential conversations, comes about if you're abroad, and trying to learn a foreign language.

 There's absolutely no point pretending to be shy; you've offered yourself up as a free loading, free-ride conversationalist, so you must at least try.

 Even if you are mangling the pronunciation, and incorrectly conjugation all the verbs, you can still give your ride the pleasure, and yourself the benefit, of being corrected.

So a few thoughts on this most convivial ways of getting about, in no particular order of importance - it will always vary with circumstance -

And in in the probably unrealistic hope of reviving this most sociable, ecological, cheap, and faith in humanity restoring way of getting about ...

Appearance -

Be a woman - hooray, at last, a true travelling advantage, that plays to our strengths for once!

I guess we are perceived as less threatening (the statistics do, bear this out), and maybe on the whole we are more naturally chatty? Or interested in gossip at least.

There were some really overblown, (in my opinion) stories doing the rounds some years back, of women hitch hikers being attacked, or of their 'wrongly' accusing others of attacking them.

Whatever the truth of the matter, it did a disproportionate amount of damage to the image of hitchhiking being a reasonable, sociable, and no more inherently dangerous than most way of getting about the place.

Two women travel fastest in my experience.

And its nice to have some supportive company for the very rare occasions for when , one is stood on the roadside for longer than fifteen minutes.

Do try to appear at least as if you might have had a close encounter with a bar of soap in the last week.

I will pick up pretty much anyone; as I have a lot of lift karma favours to repay, but smelling really bad is a bit invasive of what is in fact someone else's personal space.

At least try to freshen up your pits, and bits, if you cant get a full on shower.

Try to look friendly. Smiling doesn't actually kill you, it's nature's facelift.

No need to grin like a maniacal idiot, but at least try to look like you are doing this in part for fun, not some desperado jail breaker.

Or if you are escaping the law, perhaps it's even more important to look sweet and personable.

This isn't too hard for the first few minutes, as you may well indeed,  be enjoying yourself.
but this whole enterprise  is a very good exercise in 'letting go'...

After waiting for a bit longer you may start to get a bit narked... Why didn't the last four, visibly empty, estate cars pull onto the verge to gain the pleasure of your company.

  But any bad feeling about these folk,s must not be visibly presented to those still to come...

If I find myself falling into this trap of disgruntlement I try to invent plausible reasons for their not stopping,

This lot are just about to pick up five sticky preschoolers from a party up the road...

The next batch has heard that their aunties favourite cow has fallen in a ditch and she needs urgent help to haul her out.

So a stance of cheerful optimism is always the order of the day...

If it gets really desperate, and you're starting to feel like part of the roadside furniture, then sometimes it's best to walk on for a while...

In general, it's best to choose your spot, and commit to it, otherwise you just look like a lazy walker, and being able to see your face helps your potential ride, to make their split second decision... So definitely no sunglasses...

There are a number of interesting bodily signals that some drivers will give you, to indicate their regret at not being able to pick you up.

The sideways hand swerve - that I surmise means "Sorry, I'm turning off at the next junction" .

The vague indefinable wave, inscrutable, could be anything, but at least it acknowledges your existence - that's always nice.

The 'full up' sign.. Yup that's fairly evidential... but couldn't we put granny in the boot? she looks fairly compact...

Plus the one that amused me the most when last in Scotland...

You know those enormous white lumbering tin boxes, that holidaymakers will gamely attempt to pilot along the most unsuitable single track roads on the west-coast?

Well, I've realised that trying to get a lift from them, is akin to a fisherman offering a whale,  a tiny worm in order to lure it in..

You both know, nothing is going to come of it, but the game must be played...

You offer the tiny hook of your thumb, to the driver of what is a cavernously spacious van.

And I kid you not, more often than not, the driver will look into the back of their obscured domestic pantechnicon.

 As if to ascertain if there could possibly be room for your not enormous personage, and modestly scaled backpacking luggage.

Well it would appear,  that they are always already full. Totally stuffed to the gunwales with ladies and gentleman of the road, procured earlier...

Because they never stop.

I know that's an absolutist statement, of which I'm not generally a great fan.

But it's true, they really never do...

Small camper vans yes, you know the ones that are already full, but hey they'll squeeze you in somehow??

But not the big white tin boxes...

Nor BMW's or Audi's, containing painfully overgroomed young couples. (Go on then prove me wrong)

Apart from that, you pretty much takes your chances; its always worth a punt.

Your best hopes are with the slightly scruffy looking cars, containing one or two people.

Often a bunch of detritus has to be shoved off the back seat to make space... But that's fine; it makes it feel like home, from home.

Kids colouring books, work paraphernalia, walking kit of their own. half eaten packed lunches.

I wish more people would give it a go.

I've traveled thousands of mile this way, and met some fascinatingly friendly people along the way.

And discovered new place,s and stories, I'd have never, have encountered otherwise.

O.K. so maybe its a little riskier than taking the bus. but probably not nearly as dangerous as wandering the streets of a big city, in terms of being physically assaulted.

 And yes do sometimes end up stood in the rain for a while. But on balance I don't regret a moment of it.

It's probably a bit late in the day, to embark on the job of 'growing up' into a proper adult... This way of being will have to do, for now.

And coming soon, if I can carve out some more time, The gentle art of tramping.

Perhaps even with pictures too... Hitching a lift on someone elses broad band might be needed to attempt that one... Good to have friends already met, in the right places.


Sunday, 23 July 2017

Liberty, ownership, and control

The trouble with trying to own, or control anything (or anyone) is that by standing guard, to restrict others liberties, and guard your 'stuff'

You thereby, severely impinge upon your own freedoms..... Give others their liberty, in order that you might find your own way.

Less attached to things, and outcomes.

As you free yourself from this mental slavery, you in turn free others. from theirs.

Trust your own self to know what is the correct path for you.

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Oh the Irony.

Well I guess this was probably going to happen, sooner or later.

You get yourself involved in international organisations, and research bodies, that are trying to globally  promote small scale ecologically conscious farming.

 And then, as a result,  you're asked to travel abroad to represent your group.

Of course its very nice, yes even flattering to be asked to take part.

Who doesn't like to feel their opinions, and contributions are valued?

But taking up the offer of an expenses paid trip to Nicaragua, to summit with other like minded folk, would most likely involve hopping on a plane.

But darn it,  if I don't fly for ecological reasons.

(I've taken one flight short- haul in the last 23 years)

It might be possible to get there by cargo ship, and train - now wouldn't that be something to write home about... .

But the whole thing, done that way,  would probably take the best part of a month.

And I'm not totally convinced that such an idea would go down so well, even in relatively quiet November...

What would the chickens have to say about it??

Most opinions canvassed re the proposed trip,  have resulted in versions of : -

 " Go, go, go girl, you only live once"

"What an opportunity, you'd be crazy not to take it.

" If you don't make use of that opportunity,  then someone else will burn that aviation fuel on your behalf"

" Nicaragua is a beautiful,  fascinating country, and the people are lovely, you'll get so much out of it"

Yes well, I know all that.

 And plenty more besides.

Plus I do also know, that it makes, not one tiny infinitesimal,  particle of a jot, of difference to any 'saving the planet' malarkey if I go, or not.

But dropping a principal the first time a seriously tempting offer is dangled?

How does that sit, with the 'internal ethics committee?

It really isn't the potential 'crowing' that might emanate from some quarters..

I've done enough work,  over the last few years, to realise that the most important judge, and decider of my behaviour is me*

Other peoples opinions are interesting, and worth listening to, for sure, but when all is said,  and done,  their thoughts belong to them.

"Judge not, lest yea be judged" and so forth.

(*not having a convenient deity to do the judgement sitting on my behalf)

But could the benefits to 'the cause' (and to me) outweigh the carbon load?

I guess,  if I cycled everywhere,  for the rest of my life , that could just about make amends...

But doing that,  would be cheating in a way, because in truth I'd probably prefer to cycle everywhere. So that would just make other peoples lives awkward.

I suppose  most decisions of this sort (and how incredibly lucky to have this kind of 'first world dilemma' thrust upon) hinge on how will it feel,  in a year or fives,  time?

Will I be forever kicking myself for taking such a moral, yet ultimately lacking-in-consequences stand.

Who knows?

 It all needs careful consideration. much pondering.

 Thankfully small farming gives ample opportunity for that. consulting with birds and talking to cucumber plants.

Moreover,  if one chooses not to go, but keeps quiet about it - then what has been gained?

It's like boycotting Nestle products,  but not bothering to tell them...

Errr, I don't think they're going to notice that you as an individual didn't buy their stuff.

If I opt out, but do make that fact known, will I be guilty of committing the fairly newly minted crime of 'virtue signalling'?

Which I believe roughly translates as - being 'well behaved'  in the name of some greater cause, but feeling obliged to annoy other people about the fact that you've done that...

Hmmn - there's really not much wiggle room here is there?

Something along these lines of self imposed torturing, has arisen before... Its just that it's my turn to be tempted now....

Friday, 16 June 2017

Earth Centric.

There are moments when it can all get a bit tricky; difficulties may arise; we can often get a bit too much for ourselves to cope with; let alone for anyone else....
When I'm walking, and find myself in a disconnected state, I sometimes find it helps to imagine where the exact centre of the earth is, in relation to my bodies centre of gravity.
It helps to put ones thoughts, feelings of overwhelm, or troubles, into perspective.
Not to dismiss these thoughts and feelings as unimportant, but just to see how they sit in the overall scheme of things.
This is also a useful exercise if you want to be more upright, open chested,  open hearted perhaps?
The mind, and body, do continually feed messages, and impressions back to each other... Mental, and physical health, can't help but be interconnected. Even something as simple as making youself smile for a a whole thirty seconds can lift your mood... Maybe this is why I make up dumb jokes, which are mostly, only funny to me...
It would of course, be rather annoying, if we had to consciously consider every step we take.
But it can help on occasion, to be very aware of ones actual ownership of a pair of feet, and the placement of all the interconnected human bean tackle that goes above.
Let your spine be in the midline of yourself... Equal amounts of 'person material'  inhabiting each side...
You will feel lighter, your carriage will be easier...
And moreover, that awareness of the depth of supportive earth and rocks right down to the core, makes you feel reassuringly insignificant.
Smallness can be very beautiful.

Sunday, 30 April 2017

A Gallop through the 'Gorms...

A hasty romp through the ups and downs of a weeks walking tour of the Cairngorms - late May 2016

 About this time last year we were feverishly prepping for going away, at what is, in all honesty; a crazy time in the vegetable growing calendar,  to be contemplating leaving the farm

But a long overdue expedition to a certain corner of Scotlandshire needed to be made.

And willing assistance often comes to those who ask for it, nicely.

 Fortuitously here, it also comes in the form of conscientious, and competent help.

If you're lucky late May to early June can be lovely in Scotland.

To my shame I left much of the actual physical stuff packing, kit riffling, or 'Holibobs Prepping Angst' to O.H. (Our hero, quite naturally)

(As I, mucked about on the farm, doing incomprehensible things to vegetables)

This is another form of back - packing in which i indulge ... Only here 20 kg (or thereabouts) of gas bottle strapped to my back in oldest (8o's) rucksack... Lets call it upper body strength training, whilst pre-emergent weedkilling - Hot stuff, huh...

He has a whole team of lovely friends, with whom he can discuss vital expedition provisioning arrangements...

This is our latest (!) go-to two person shelter - a tarp Tent Stratospire,  being initially, taut'ed, here in the orchard ....

We received it from its overseas manufacturer early enough this time, to test it out first on a Dartmoor overnighter... The entente cordiale was maintained (two porches vital for this)... But we also did have supervision.

Trying out the tent in proximity to some more localised granite... See how well our companions tent blends in with the environs to the east....

Of course one packs ones own 'lady bag', with items such as are considered necessary, for the enjoyment of a few nights out in the hills - for example enough fresh undies as is seemly, for a respectable personage such as myself.

Plus suitable reading material -
-mainly the free stuff, that I can upload onto the vintage E- book....

[ Edith Wharton figured heavily for me this trip - a nice incongruity hanging out in the early 20th Century salons of Marseille with our tragic heroine... whilst sat in a small tent on a hilltop]

Granted; I have been referrred to as Amazonian on more than one occasion; but on the whole; I do prefer; if possible; not to send that tax dodging, zero hours contracting, little guy undercutting; megabucks making; global behemoth of the same name, too much of my hard earned wonga....

Hey guys; love ya really*!!

(*cos the constant moral high ground can otherwise be, a tad bereft of shiny items affordable to a lowly vegetable farmer - dang!!)

As a result of this supposedly ethical parsimony, I can end up reading tomes of a 'certain age' - So perhaps that might account for the over - liberal sprinklings of yikes! Gadzooks! and Crivenses! that work their way somewhat annoyingly into my discourse..?

And of course, porting without fail, a cheerfully minimalist ultra lightweight kite (it's only 52g, honest!)

This is the kind of weirdness, that I consider useful on a trip - Micronutrients are an actual thing; and if you haven't got easy access to 6 acres of fresh  organic veg then the poor old habituated-to-proper -nutrition bod can get a bit narky, and might demand to go home - via the appearance of any number of mystery ailments, of frame or psyche... 

There was one other piece of kit pressed upon me, that perhaps bore more relevance to what was being left behind here, than where we were going.

But more of that later...

So after several intensive weeks of planting, and grafting, making lists, of lists, ensuring that my esteemed customers were going to be well supplied with veg etc, etc... We were off again.

Escaping from the Tyranny of Greenery....

When you run a little vegetable farm, then just getting out into nature isn't really 'getting away from it all' .

It can often feel like 'It all' is following you about...

Still, one mustn't grumble. From the other side of the fence, this must look like 'living the dream'

Inappropriate shot for depicting May really. Because at this time of year the newly bedded sprouts are in fact only 6 inches high at most. And I would have flailmowed down the old ones in preparation for comedy carrot growing.

But everyone loves a rainbow of hope yes??

After a long day on the train from Devon,via London, we pulled in late to Aviemore.

I hadn't been fully briefed as to that nights accommodation, but I had been informed that is wasn't too long a slog from the train station...

But look at this! And it had turrety parts - Oh my!

Lorks; what a Fancy Farmer billet !! Could quite turn a farm girls head...

Such a place to arrive, seeing all the possibilities laid out before one - especially on a fair day such as this...

After a restful night, with really smooth sheets!!

Followed by a leisurely morning of breakfasting, last minute snack purchases, and pencil foraging (It is surprisingly difficult to buy just one, in some stationery outlets...)

We were off a wandering.

First meandering up towards, and through the glorious Rothimurchus forestry.

The almost natural woodland greenery here is far more spaced out, and somehow less oppressive for that...

There was heat sufficient in the sun for the wood ants to be out and about, they're always very keen to join a riverside picnic...

And ever accompanied by that marvelous resinous scent of sun-warmed pines.

Looking back towards Aviemore as the ground rises.

Those out of place, glacially deposited boulders are called...
Nope, I can't remember, but I think that's one just visible in the Ghru below.

Then, having decided the weather was too good to waste on dallying in the valley, moreover with the chance of a clear summit camp, we ventured briefly into the throat of The Lairig ghru, before shouldering up the slopes to the top of Braireach....  

 At 1,296 m for those who need to know these numbers.

Heading towards the flattish summit...The snowfields add to the fun, so long as no one imagines that I enjoy having hard spheres of frozen water lobbed in my direction...

Immediate sense of humour failure, results if they do connect... It's not all silly hats, bonhomie, and endless 'Larks' walking with yours truly. I can assure..... Don't suppose OH hasn't earnt his appellation...

 Especially now that I've got fancy ideas about myself, from staying in swank hotels, and so forth..

Come on love - keep up...

Oooer, the clouds look threatening, but even the breeze is remarkably warm for this elevation, and time of year...

Think we might have just got 'lucky' with the weather...

View southwards down through to the egress of the Ghru,  Modelling my favourite stripey woolly hat... It has a cosy fleece interior band to stop it being itchy... Very necessary if you're a sensitive flower such as I.

Some might opine that three hats is excessive for one trip, but they'd do well to keep their thoughts very firmly under their bonnets...

It is only 52g , and it was part of the deal with the fabulous farm sitter...

I can go away and scamper about in the hills of Scotshireland, and she'll stay home and look after the farmlet if I take an 'Every Summit Bunnet Shot'... Seems like a fair enough deal...

We must bear in mind those left behind, tasked with the everyday grind.

Growing our food, doing all the other necessary things that allow us to go out to play... A modicum of gratitude, and self administered burlesque might go some way to repaying the favour.?

Pictured chapeau was fished out of her childhood dressing up box, crafted by her mama for some long forgotten fancy dress skirmish...... It was the 1970's - dressing up for larks was what we did....

But we farmgurls have decided to resurrect the gentle art of bonnet wearing; the elastic keeps em on, and restrains most of ones hair, whist the generous peak ,shades ones delicate complexion from the fierce glare of  the midday sun in Devonshire ----

We have since proclaimed the 24th May 'International Bonnet Day ' - recognising womens' enormous, yet oft unsung, contribution to farming , fieldwork, and food production --- Come on sisters cram on a bonnet, grab a bun, and big yerselves up!! - Over 50% of the global landworking population comprises women and girls, so why, when asked to think of a farmer do most folks imagine a bloke in a boiler suit??

It was balmy enough, even at eight o' clock in the evening to sit out on the summit of Braireach, eating our dinner.

Sickening... The climes that is, dinner was fine, it always is after a stiffish climb.

And then still, a bright enough spot for breakfasting, sporting the all important merino leggings - don't leave home without em ladies. nor the faithful flowery Darn Tough socks...

This was very tasty muesli, with milk and custard powder, pre mixed... Just add hot water  -  OH's expedition speciality, 

I thought I was being brave with 3/4 lengths. But here outdone by shorts at 1,296 m in May!

Post  breakfast indolence ensued. As is regularly the case when out and about... What is it with these endlessly 'up; and charging at it' types?

Do they not understand the concept of holidays? Not to mention digestion?

Those hills aren't rushing off anywhere, and even the keenest bagger, overnighting in the lowland below will be at least an hour away.

Finally stirring our bones; and completing our demarcated, decamping tasks, we strolled eastwards to curve down the rim of the horseshoe descent. Via Cairn Toul.

Not much further on we encountered a young (by our standards) couple who had over-nighted a few hundred yards yonder, on a snow field.

Despite having lived all her life in the Lake District, and having spent much time wandering the fells, this was the first time she had wild camped... Astonishing omission - But what a place to initiate the activity!

Just the spot for a refreshing morning dip.... Oh if only we were down there.

Taking pictures of people, taking pictures of people ... Are we in danger of becoming everso slightly self regarding??

Matching tops though guys? Really ? Must be early days....

Our new friends managed to lose us after this lunch stop at Bod an Deamhain  (The devils point)... Surely they hadn't tired of the gear chat, already?

An easy enough descent back down into the valley bottom now, emerging near the bothy at Corrour .

Oh blessed relief, there was a loo. One of the duller (yes) parts of being a girl in the hills is the whole comfort break issue... Which most likely, in the course of a multiday trip, clocks up an extra mile or so for us overall.

I generally just pretend I'm doing some very intensive 'botonising' whilst gaining relief, but it is a little trickier for us ladies...

And perhaps those females less accustomed to 'performing' en plein air, generally prefer to absent themselves at an even greater distance from passing hillgoers.

So gentlemen (if you should aspire to such a moniker) please endeavour to be a little patient, and understanding with your women companions over this delicate matter... Not everything is as 'straightforwards' as it might be for you guys...

And spare me the 'haven't  you heard of she- wees?' Question - Yes Thanks - and as ever, one size (or methodology) doesn't fit all... Even if it seems perfectly logical to those who've never had the need...

Form, gracefully following function  - Bridge over the River Dee, and heading back north up the Lairg. 

The Bothy was deserted, no massive surprise at four on an afternoon such as this. But just the place for a bit of back unwinding yoga, and a little snooze.

There comes a time in ones life when there are few luxuries more sublime, than awarding oneself an afternoon nap...

I personally can't abide the snorting and parping (them, not me darlings!) that oft besets communal nighttime sleeping.

But I think it would be a most civilised undertaking to design a walking tour which deliberately encompasses afternoon napettes at such refuges; (especially if an unsuspecting has left their sleep mat on the platform) before moving on to find a more secluded spot for the evenings shake down.

Clouds lift as the afternoon wears on, and we make our way up towards the Pools of Dee, which are alleged to have pitchable space nearby...

The correct proportions of green to brown, prescribed for those suffering from chlorophyll overload...Thats the top of Cairn Toul, where we were this morning..

Same again, looking southwards as the Ghru loses the evening sun.

And space to pitch there is , not far at all from the path...

The Stratospire has a relatively large footprint, on account of its generous gear stowing , and kitchenable porches of which I'm a great fan. The outer can be pitched in such a way as to account for less than flattish ground, so long as the sleeping space is level enough...

Obligatory interior shot - for the niche market,  showing A Pool of Dee, and Canada Geese

Then cracking on the following morning, records show we had left camp before nine... Why so dashed early?? - Herstory does not record..

Back to The Northerly end of the Laraig Ghru, followed by a brief scamper up and back through the Charlamain Gap... 'Because it's there.'

This would be a fun place to bring your young mountain goats, or kids... Big rocks, little rocks, skippetty skip.

But it wasn't properly on our route, so backtracking south again, this time gaining height towards Lurchers Crag for lunching - Squeezy cheese I believe - - on crackers - Cant be overly fussy, and the lichen made a tasty nutritious garnish.

Notage suggests there was some quality chocolate too... Always appreciated , and good for you aswell so they say.

A little further on, a fine vista opens up back down into the broad bottomed chasm, cradle of our previous nights slumbers

Ooo  - wildlife....Seldom fails to please... I spent ages, stealthily stalking these beasties like some kind of low rent Kate Humble type...

Thinking I might use all my natural history skills, and knowledge to get a close up.

- Move from upwind, outflanking in a non predatory style, no direct eye contact, kinda casual like...

Turns out you can pretty much march right up to them, and they'll obligingly proffer their best side.... They have ear tags so must get handled from time to time...

I'd heard that reindeer feast on lichen, on these semi tundra slopes.... Which always struck me as rather hard rations, for a relatively large herbivore... I'd not realised that the lichen up here grows more like a shagpile style lettuce - which can be quite tiresome to wade through.

Onwards and upwards - Yes, hat no.3 ... Want to make something of it???

I thought not...

The top of Ben mac Dui 1.309m -  Somewhere there is a summit bunnet shot available too ... But I don't want to overdo it... It's not all about me...

Showing far distant views of Braeriach  ( I think)

Looks like level enough pitch down there.. View towards Loch Etchachan from the easterly slopes of Ben Macdui,

with Beinn Mheadhoin, in the background... the Tors on the top of that hill are known as barns round here - That could cause some rustic confusion...

"if only we had a sled..."

Not too shabby a pitch, taught enough , tolerably scenic location , overlooked by Carn Etchacan.....   
  A clear night that could have presaged a hard frost by morning, but then - unscheduled clouding - how very dare it??

But with the usual fair-weather optimism to the fore we pressed on up Beinn Mheadhoin. In the hope that the tors might emerge from the murk to provide a satisfying bunneting bounty.

Ah well, a little soft focus doesnt go amiss from time to time... The granite tors here are very similar to those native to our local moors in devon.

So then back down to the Loch and sally forth (south) out over the clinker of Derry Cairgorm (1156)

Fun stuff, and so clear we can wave to the folks back home..

Yes extreme sports.....Kite flying whilst wearing a bonnet... Just how on earth does OH put up with it??

Truly heroic quantities of patience and forebearance regarding silly nonsense at least.... Lunch stop at Derry cairngorm looking West toward Carn a Mhaim, and Braeriach far distant.

Followed by a bit of a stomp on down, towards Glen Derry, skirting Carn Crom en route

Looking South East down the glen, towards Inverey and beyond.  

Descending to Derry, more resinous pines scent the hot May air.

(Low) Lui Water,  Glen of Derry, within which nestles the Lodge of the same name.

A capricious storm had taken down a sad number of the pines hereabouts. It would have been pleasant to pitch away from the bothy but so many wind felled trees could leave one feeling a mite vulnerable as despite the blue skies there was windy enough weather today.

Meanwhile at home, vegetable work continues apace. There's hot windy weather there too; causing consternation over irrigation issues.... pea tendrils are very pretty though non?

Where's she going now? Always wandering off...

Rrrrrrr; -  one to thrill the butch-crafters.... There was a stove in the Bothy, no one about, and dinner to be cooked, plus early evening snoozing and yoga to be undertaken...

Well, I had got myself quite exhausted; with my transports of delight at finding a patch of fresh chlorophyll in the form of a stand of nettles... The lichen stew was starting to pall by now.

And then labouring over harvesting the tops to combine with that eve's repast... Ok, so the nettles were growing in a high fertility patch ( as they will) where the conveniences had once stood, but we were eating the tops not the roots... and boiling them... compared with the filth that some folks pass off as food.....

A serious sign in the kitchen of Bob reads something like - 

"Please do not leave spare food here; other than tins; as it encourages the mice"

-   Most sensible...

Underneath, however, the cheeky rodents had penned another request -

" Please leave the opener here; so the mice can open the tins..."

We pitched on the lawn like grass, aside the bothy;

Looking back towards Bob Scotts Bothy... you can just make out the ravished vegetables* in the middle distance...
 Next day, hoofing it fairly easily down the glen, alongside the picturesque* River Dee to resupply, and indulge in some hot water bathing - at local metropolis of Braemar - Outdoor shops! Buns! Two-breakfasts-in-a row for lunch - proper coffee - oh such fleshpots of delight....

(* but where are said riverine pictures? lurking on a hard-drive somewhere no doubt..)

Braemar campsite at 92m .... Mmm hot showers.... I wish I could be the sort of properly filthy maid, who truly doesn't care about washing.

I have once, gone a whole two weeks backpacking, with little more than the occasional damp flannel - but you really know you need a wash when you can no longer tolerate even your own odoriferous company...

And us girls are prone to more hygeine related complications - very boring, and at the same time rarely mentioned, cos it isn't nice* to talk of such things....  

*nope you're correct, cystitis is the most unpleasant condition to suffer, at any time, but particularly whilst journeying...

Oh, I say !

Oh dear....Further evidence; if it were needed; of just how truly awful I am....

 Upon arrival at the well appointed campsite I did feel a bit sorry for this guy... He had fallen asleep, face down outside his tent, and somehow his drawers had become half-masted, i guessed with his slumberous wriggling.

Sympathies due - poor chap - doubtless all four discomfited cheeks, would be ablush, upon waking...

But no ! - Throughout almost the entirity of our stay, he treated us to various displays of his quite splendid derriere, from just about each and every angle....

Oh to be so unabashed... He has obviously got a far steelier  imaginary helpmate than my  Grizelda - the Socially Anxious Giraffe...

I should have asked him, as to the nature of his 'devil - may-care deity' - but couldn't quite pluck up the necessary audacity...

If anyone recognises this personage of  such impressive barefacedness, in retrospect, then please don't let on...

Unless you happen to know his technique of maintaining such delightful sangfroid... In situations of public undercarriage airing..

(Can i have virtue points for not mentioning 'The Crack of Doom', plz?)

Gosh! Crikey! and Crivens! .... Whatever next?? A lenticular cloud to flag us out of the township, thta's whT

Leaving Braemar the next day; after requisite food resupply (theres a well stocked co op, and a plethora of nice cafes)

 And allowing one last peek at 'Ye Olde Gear Shoppe'
Whilst giving thanks for pack weight monitoring - so many lovely items to fondle - I think I bought some socks - they're always allowed ( under my regime)

sad that the railway doesnt visit here any more. The old station, doing a passable imitation of a New England clapboard.

First East of of Braemar via Creag Choinnich, supposedly looks like a Lions head -  Mmmn? After how many malts/

Oooooo an eyeful of wiggles, just the thing.... If I have to explain you're not going to get it...

If however you do understand then feel free to p.m. me about taking on lifetime membership of WiTiAS - Once yr hooked in that's it - no going back...

So ;The Wiggly Tin Appreciation Society - Of course its not just corrugated iron, its stacked shipping containers, well made bridges, big cranes, adaptive vernacular responses to a local need, that have either stood the test of time - or that are disintegrating pleasingly back into their surroundings.......

Like I say, if I have to explain more fully, you're really not going to get it

I'll just leave this here...

Then heading back north through the Invercauld Estate.... Why arent more barns painted a pretty pink...? Would cheer up the drear countryside no end...

Almost certain this one fits here... And anyhows who doesn't appreciate a well built bridge ... Over The River Dee we'll surmise..

Onwards and upwards Glenn an t Slugain .....Don't ask me to mangle the pronunciation of that one, with my irritatingly r.p. vowels...

Easy enough walking on the land rover tracks; but can catch out the unwarey. Get too complacent; forget to watch your footing, it only takes an unnoticed pebble in the wrong place to turn over a dainty ladies ankle... 

Not really a fixer - upper...

lunchstop at Slugain ruin with lots of freshly gathered greenery, Old quarrymans hut? It must have been a chilly spot when the easterly wind funnelled up here....

Comes over as tad pedestrian - these are well made deer stalking paths through the wilds, for the benefit of the  "waddling buffoons in their pantaloons" - that's a quote from someone else by the way, so you can't call me out for being rude.. 

It was just after this that we espied what we believed to be a white tailed sea eagle; having fun in the thermals on the far side of the Glen....

Much excitement!! But neither of us are top rank ornithologists so weren't 100% sure if that was what we had spotted.

Our suspicions were later confirmed by three 'proper' birders encountered at the head of Loch Avon..

There is a dissapointing picture somewhere, of the raptor, sadly not the guys, in retrospect those chaps would have made a more interesting tableau...

Phew, that'll do; not going any further...

We fell somewhat short of our proposed target of a summit camp on Ben Avon, that night...

It was grey and threatening rain; it was four in the afternoon; and I was tirederer than just the usual mid afternoon dip... On account of trying to stave off a cold....

I want to stop now, was ventured somewhat petulantly - you see what he has to put up with??

The upside being, that it gave O.H. chance to show off his consumate 'pitching in a tricky, and awkward' spot tautology skills.

There were rocks inside the porch, in fact a drop on my side... one sides guys had to be staked into a bank ... Fiendish stuff..

But I didn't care; my main desire being, to crawl into my bag in the company of Edith, and be brought a delicate dinner on a tray.

It's difficult to feign 'pale and interesting' when one spends most of one days labouring in the hot sunshine but... I'm always game for a bit of role play....

Glad to have stayed low, as by the morning the cold had been chased off by a very early night.... No point turning things into a suffer fest, well beyond doing stuff for gnarlinesses sake...

Clouds obligingly lift, and lower on the way to the plateau like summit of Ben avon...

I guess the upside of not getting up mountains so very often is that 'inversion ennui' rarely sets in... Does it eventually become an unremarkable thing ? I guess not , after all one rarely fails to be charmed; by a decent sunset, even if only espied from the chicken run  .

Easy enough walking here, the soil is dry enough here to discourage lush lichen growth.

 Ben Avon 1,171m, second brew up of the morn.

Excellent cloudscape.. natures free show..

Mustn't dissappoint the folks back home

It's a full time job keeping up with the hat changes...

Some slightly less clement weather forecast for the afternoon, rolling in

I wonder if Neolithic persons found inspiration for their more ambitious projects when wandering past rocks like this... 

Oh hello...

Becoming more like this, the afternoons navigation and going was harder as we made our way via Stob ant- sluichd (!) and Cnap Leum an Eaisaich, (sorry what??) westwards, over the relatively featureless plateau towards the River Avon.

The lichen was heavy work on the legs, the murk was low...

Morale can nearly always be boosted by tea though..

 So very tempting... But I wouldn't consider it really, not even for a moment -

After all I know he will have the lighter in his pocket, as insurance....

Always scanning the horizon for an escape route..... Or is it just a look of panic?

We need to practice the 'having fun on our holibobs' selfies. Maybe a bonnet would help?

waterproof trousers - a necessary evil in this chilly fog..

Wading through lichen.

But still preferable to wading through this...

No; it's not in the slightest bit refreshing  - cups of tea; lie downs; and warm baths are refreshing - this is merely cold, and deeply unpleasant... Oww my poor dainty ankles... 

Yes yes all very sparkly and lovely; tingly feet now I grant you; but still glad to be this side of the Fords of Avon..

Catching up with the goings on of our doomed heroine, Lily Bart in 'The house of Mirth'  (Thats the book  not the Bothy) ... And not quite such a jolly tale, as the title might suggest.

A piquant, and incisive tale of tale of the traps, and trappings of a society beauty; born only to be decorative, and adored....

Soo glad to have the benefits afforded me by those who fought, and still fight yet for gender equality...

We've come along way since Edith's day. The prejudice might not always be as overt as back  then.
But still we operate in a society where male, and other entrenched power, authority, and values are often the assumed norms; even if they are more subtly expressed nowadays.

But on (and on) us obstreporous bonneted femmes will have to go.

What choice do we have? Backsliding? Shutting up, and trying to be nice, and quiet ?

 A tranquil pitch beside a bothy again... Fords of Avon Refuge, really just designed for survival, and afternoon naps perhaps... Not a serious proposition for a comfortable nights sleep.

Peachy morning, looking good for our last proper day out - sigh... Late that night, long after we'd turned in a 'proper' bikepacker  turned up to overnight in the bothy, just as well we hadn't bedded down in there. There was barely room for two  

Plenty of the sparkly bits, on the way up the glen on the way to Loch Avon.

Totally tropical... Lifes a beach sometimes...

Fair weather enjoyment - Much more like it... Although the pack belies a slight last day 'just stuff it all in anyhow 'attitude... i believe  we were also porting out over a kilo of other naughty peoples detritus that had been secreted behind the door in the bothy - 

Almost tempted to swim... But that melt water must end up somewhere.

Then steeply ascending back up north west towards Coire Raibert, destination Cairn Gorm..

Apologies for the 'visit Scotland' shot....

Fabulous geology and water combination, to keep us company trackside.

It gets steeeper as the we near the top.

the picture reminds me of this one.....Guess who....?

Very clean snow,  at the top of the gully.

Last view back down into Loch Avon

Then work our way up to join the ( relative) throng on Cairn Gorm.

Cairn gorm itself at 1,245, feels fairly featureless, theres a radio mast and station, good views, and a lot of people.

Many of whom have been transported up by the railway, before undertaking the arduous 2.5 km trek back down to the carpark

 Snow buntings are taking advantage of picnic crumbs. bird watchers gather to admire them, on this broad topped bird table.

A symbiotic relationship of sorts - and why not?

Having had our fill of folks, we head back south west via Stob Coire an  t-Sneachda.

(lorks! am I glad I don't have to try to pronounce these names)

Looking back east along the escarpment towards Cairn Gorm - not the most spectacular of hills, despite its height -

So now who's getting fussy?

Spectacularly edgy Buttresses numbered rather unoriginally as 1. 2. and 3. on the map, Oh and Fiacalli... Sure there's some logic  or poor map reading on my part) going on here.

View down from Cain Lochan. "Dont go so close to the edge" he pleads...

Whats the problem dear? - You afraid the temptation would be irresistible?

Coming off the hill, such piquant sorrow.

Usually tempered with the prospect of a decent meal and a shower though...

Stomp down the hill, enjoying a fine view of the last bus leaving for Aviemore a good 20 mins before we arrive...

Lucky timing for the freindly family visiting local relatives; whom I accosted in the mountain railway car park, and offered the fabulous chance to transport us back to the campsite...

They got to hear about our whole escapade 'hot off the presses' so to speak, lucky them eh?

And I don't think we smelt that bad really; I did the usual considerate hitchers trick, of keeping my arms closely clamped to my sides just in case though...

" Eat Fresh and Green*  - you know where it's been"

in fact -  better still eat a rainbow - the you too can then prance about like a demented unicorn

Aviemore campsite is perfectly serviceable - the showers are fab' which is just about the most important thing in my book.

Memory is thankfully starting to draw a veil over that evenings proceedings, but I believe there was an almost immediately regretted encounter with a deep fried haggis... 
Yes I know such a cliche; but I was trying to enter into the spirit of  'don't knock it til you've tried it'.

Made one hanker, and wist at least a little, for the wholesome provender, so lovingly tended back at the 'stead.

But still not that happy about leaving..... Until the following morning, the weather pixies having done their bit, the midge fairies sprang into action.... none at all, of the biter blighters this trip. until on the morn of our departure I am bitten once on the arm by one....

Somehow makes getting back on the train a little more bearable

Til next time...