Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Arty stuff

Just had my first OCA tutorial for the present course. It went better than I feared and cheered me up quite a bit. The venue was a nicely bohemian studio in Leith, a milieu I have benn unaccustomed to of late. I got paint on my hands and everything.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Currently flying to star-stained heights...

I've been greatly enjoying Dory Previn's Mythical Kings and Iguanas since buying it on CD a few weeks back (Mary C. Brown and the Hollywood Sign is currently playing). This is a much loved album for me, but one that I'd not heard for a good many years. One of my older brothers (possibly Colin) had it on cassette, and it was played many times as a background to much of my childhood, so that even after a gap of over a decade the sequence of tracks and many of the lyrics are still familiar.

Returning with a bit of maturity, I just about understand the lyrics of the title track, note for the first time the desperation of the Lady with the Braid, and generally marvel at the quality of this greatly underrated masterwork from 1971.

The version I have is slightly spoiled by having another album on the same disc. Good value, yes, and there are some good tracks here too, but the juxtaposition inevitably makes it hard for anything that tries to follow this brilliantly structured album.

The reprise of the title track is playing now. Up we go, on bent and battered wings...

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

A fine hotel

I can't be bothered writing a proper what-I-did-in-my-Easter-holidays piece, so you'll have to make do with a few ramblings.

I walked in to Feith Uaine bothy (alias the Tarf Hotel) for a couple of nights. Enough snow still there to make an ice-axe feel justified, but not as much as in the main Cairngorms, which were occasionally visible. Melt water swelled the rivers, and rivers and their crossing became a theme of the trip. I wasted a long time on Saturday trying to find an elusive wire bridge, only to discover today that there is an exquisite Victorian suspension bridge just below falls of Tarf. Pretty, but probably too far away to be useful.

Walking in and out turned out to be the highlights of the trip, with Saturday's drizzly bridge seeking forming the filling to the sandwich. I particularly enjoyed picking my way down Gleann Mhairc, which had a lovely waterfall, a herd of deer, and another of Athol Estate's picturesque bridges (but in stone) at the bottom.

And in the bothy, I met somebody who, like me, used to live in Ipswich. But he's better now.

Monday, April 17, 2006

First cuckoo of spring

I saw one of Edinburgh's harbingers of spring today. It was my first clear sighting of a group of tourists, wandering past my road in the sunshine, heading, perhaps by instinct, towards the city centre.

Sunday, April 09, 2006


It seems I'm only posting about walks these days, but where's the harm in that? Today I managed to go walking with Alastair, who I know from ages ago, for the first time in far too long. Options were open on leaving Edinburgh, but Alastair had a hankering after snow and there was some on the big hills, so up the A9 it was. Around Aberfeldy, Schiehallion emerged top of the list. Somewhere near Braes of Foss, it occured to us that we had both done the hill exactly once before, on the same miserable day 14 years ago - the occasion being a mutual friend's last Munro. So it was fitting that our reunion walk should be here on a day when we might actually get a view.

We made a fast ascent that probably did my fitness a lot of good, passing a lot of other walkers who showed a wide variety of levels of preparedness. This ranged from that chilly jeans-and-trainers look to totally unnecessary crampons. There was a few inches of new snow, and a biting wind on the top. I totally failed to recognise the narrow boulder-strewn summit from last time.

Oh, and the John Muir Trust have sorted out the footpath quite nicely.

After, we went to see the Fortingal Yew. Interesting, but would it get a second glance if you didn't know it was very very old?

Monday, April 03, 2006

Frogs and tunnels

Yesterday's entertainment took the form of Meall Cuaich, a somewhat isolated Munro near Dalwhinnie. This was precisely the journey that I failed to start about six weeks ago. But despite preparations for the Scottish Cup final, and engineering work at Haymarket, my train journey was simple this time.

Meall Cuaich isn't exactly in virgin wilderness, as an extensive hydro-electric scheme runs through, under and/or past most of the landscape hereabouts. This gives a very easy gradient to the start of the walk as you stroll by the side of several miles of acqueduct. It's also a nice platform from which to observe other hills. After passing a small but clearly active power station, the path narrows and steepens and the real business begins. The path has only recently emerged from snow and has a lot of puddles, which are inhabited by a lot of frogs and frogspawn, so clearly spring is upon us. The hill itself has a flat top, a fine view and there's not a great deal else to say. On descending, I get to practise goose-stepping on steep, soft snow. Then I'm at Loch Cuaich, and admiring some civil engineering, in the form of the end of a tunnel, gushing water. A plaque informs me that it's carrying water from Loch an t-Seilich, is about 4 miles long, and was completed in July 1940. I bet nobody stopped at the time to celebrate a bold piece of British engineering. And in general, it's funny how little known is the considerable amount of such tunnels, dams, and assorted concrete that can be found in unexpected parts of the Highlands.

I must be getting a bit fitter. On arriving back at Dalwhinnie, I realise that what I'd been thinking of as a "short" day has taken six hours, and I've walked at least 16 miles.