looking forward

halfway

Eight years ago, Tom and I walked the West Highland Way. We had a wonderful time.

conichill
(Tom, on Conic hill, looking over Loch Lomond)

I find that there is a singular sort of clarity about long distance walking. Time slows to the pace of your feet, and is measured in the distance you can cover over six or eight hours. There is nothing for your mind to focus on but the walk ahead, the landscape, and its details. At the end of the day you are exhausted, and, if there is a good meal on offer, food is appreciated in a way it rarely is. You sleep soundly, you get up, and start again. It is a fantastic way of clearing the head. I find that I can recall these walks in unusual detail, fixing particular experiences to specific moments and locales, remembering what the weather was like, what the state of my feet were, what we saw and spoke about. That was the place that you gave the horse the apple; there I devoured a full pack of liquorice allsorts; here, right here, at this curve in the path, was where we saw that incredible rainbow.

lochlomondleaping
(leaping a stream on the Eastern shore of Loch Lomond)

That walk along the West Highland Way was our first encounter with many amazing Highland places with which we have since become very familiar. Rannoch Moor, The Mamores, Glencoe.

beanz
(cooking an obligatory baked-bean supper in Glencoe. There were lots of deer around our tent that night.)

These happy photographs were taken with the disposable camera we took with us, and they make my heart sing. I am posting them here now because, in a couple of weeks time, we shall be moving to a wee house that sits just off the West Highland Way. I love our new home already, and am looking forward to living there immensely. There is a garden! And a loch! An actual studio with an actual window for me to work in! And somehow it is particularly nice to be moving to a spot which already carries some fond memories for the pair of us. I’ll be able to walk Bruce along a lovely stretch of the Way every day, and perhaps living there will inspire me to build up my stamina and ability to complete the full distance once again.

end
(The end of the West Highland Way in Fort William.)

Next week we sell our Edinburgh flat, and we move to our new home the following week. It is very exciting, but there is bound to be a certain amount of disruption. I will have to take a break from trade orders and answering email queries for the next few weeks, but will be sure to let you know how things are going as and when I can.

ONWARD!

the highlands and the hunky bunk

greetings

Hiya! It is I, Bruce. Today I am pleased, because, after a long break for the Winter, the walking and camping times have begun again! This particular walking and camping time was a surprise, because the weather is good, and Tom has not yet begun New Job. We packed up the van, and set off for West Highlands, a place in which Tom and Kate always seem very happy.

highlandwazz

In West Highlands there is excellent walking to be had, and many interesting smells that I do not smell in other places. These smells are because of the big deer buddies, with whom I am not allowed to play. Indeed, an interesting feature of West Highlands is the prevalence of fences and gates, which are there to keep the buddies IN and me OUT. As you can see, however, the buddies sometimes get OUT . . .

stag

. . . and (with human assistance) I can get IN.

closethegate

These gates are mystifying machines. Try as I might, I cannot operate them.

The best thing about West Highlands is that we go for lovely long walks. This time we walked up hills and through woods. . .

walkingbuddies

and then we walked along the side of the water. All of this was fun.

water

Afterwards, we went to camp in the place that is called Bridge of Orchy.

Boo

The place is called Bridge of Orchy because of this:

bridge

The Bridge. Of Orchy.

At Bridge of Orchy it became very cold. I am often told that I have a nice thick coat, but although this is true, I do not have extra woolly clothes and fluffy bags to keep me warm in Extreme Highland Conditions. The humans have these things, and though they were cold, they were not as cold as I. Then a very exciting thing happened. Because I was cold, I was allowed to get on the hunky bunk with the humans for the first time ever! It was cold on the floor, but it was warm on the hunky bunk with three of us, and so we all slept there together! This was very good. All I can say is, now I know just how good it is on the hunky bunk, I shall definitely expect to sleep there at all times. I shall ignore all human mutterings of “this is not a precedent” and suchlike — YES! ITS THE HUNKY BUNK FOR ME!!

In the morning, there was ice all over the van, and the water had frozen in the pipes. And then we discovered that the van had run out of cooking gas. Kate was extremely worried that she would not be able to have her requisite Giant Cup of Tea, but disaster was averted by Tom, who is the keeper of all equipment, and who had the forethought to bring the spare camping stove.

disasteraverted

Giant cups of tea were drunk, I snaffled half a hot cross bun, and everyone was happy.

highlandbruce

See you soon, love Bruce xxx

Stuc a’Chroin

We’ve spent the weekend in the Highlands, where Tom has been running a race – the Stuc a’Chroin 5000

While he was away up the hill, Bruce and I went for a walk. . .

We were lucky with the weather (later we saw hail and snow!)

Bruce was very suspicious of this wee suspension bridge and teetered over, bandy-legged.

After 13.5 miles, 5000 feet of ascent, 2 hours and 51 minutes, the wanderer returned . . .

The running vest I knitted him 5 years ago (sheesh!) is still holding up to its job remarkably well.

It is a good, warm vest for a chilly mountain top. The yarn I used was Rowan “Calmer”, for those who like to know these things.

We went out for a nice meal to celebrate . . .

. . . and camped in one of our favourite spots.

Tom’s next race is on Jura – in just a few weeks time, we’ll be off to the islands . . .

Hope you’ve enjoyed your weekend too!

twenty

You will note that this advent calendar is turning out to have a determinedly snowy theme. Behind today’s door are some images from our lovely weekend away in the woods and hills. I do enjoy the snow — both for walking, and for photographing. I love its eerie quietness; its crazy, sculptural qualities; the incredible things it can do to the light. When you look at a snowy place from a distance, it seems almost felted, softened, somehow — its sharp edges smoothed away — as if the landscape were sleeping, or at rest. Close up, though, you see that the landscape isn’t sleeping at all, but rather that it has assumed a new outlandish, wintry form. The snow effects a total transformation as it covers the landscape, enacting its own playful metamorphoses. I like the way that it gave each reed its own little hat . . .

. . . and made these grasses shimmer with their own delicate sort of bling . . .

. . . these seed husks bend and tremble under a snowflake frosting . . .

. . . and the shape of these new buds is mirrored in the snow droplets beneath them. . .

I spent a long time with the underside of this fallen tree.

It is a bare, dead thing — but the snow makes it marvellous, makes it more than itself. . .

Snow, of course, is treacherous as well as beautiful, and I hope all is very well with those of you on the other side of the Atlantic, for whom snow has meant severe storms, punishing temperatures, and terrible disruption over the past couple of days.

To close this snowy post, here is a West Highland forest in the act of transformation.

ten

I was fascinated by the shadowy look and tinkling sound of the water under the ice on our Highland walk last weekend — however, the higher we got, the more ice there was, and I became less interested in its aesthetic properties and more concerned by not throwing bambi-like shapes upon it . . . This post is for Felix, who has recorded some fabulous icy sounds for today — go over to her place to hear! She also knows this part of the Highlands well, and I really enjoyed her writing about the sound of the ice in this landscape earlier this year.

B of O

bofodaffs

Tom and I have been together for ten years. We don’t really do anniversaries, but this one seemed worth celebrating. We spent the weekend camping, walking, and eating at the Bridge of Orchy (B of O), one of my favourite places. It is hard to explain quite why I love the B of O so much, but I really do. Perhaps it is that it boasts a welcoming hotel serving excellent food, and good beer, including one of my favourite ales of all time. Perhaps it is that one can pitch one’s tent by the actual Bridge of Orchy, and be in said hotel, consuming said fine food and ales, in mere minutes. Perhaps it is its position among spectacular West Highland scenery. Or perhaps it is just that it has been a camping and walking oasis for us since we moved to Scotland. Anyway, for me, the B of O never disappoints.

wazzview
(view above the B of O)

So we celebrated our decade with a lovely dinner at the B of O, a night in the tent, and a two munro walk. The B of O sits underneath Beinn Dorain and Beinn an Dothaidh — two straightforward and interesting munros which, together with their several associated tops, make for a fine day’s walking.

wazztop
(Beinn Dorain)

We had a lovely day: the weather was kind to us with sunny intervals and fantastic visibility — we could see Buachaille Etive Mor to the North, and the beautiful hills of the Black Mount all around us, shifting in and out of the light as the clouds sped by above. In the next photograph, Tom is pictured (in the middle of the red circle!) above snow-filled Coire Daingean.

manissmallblackdot

If anyone is at all interested, I can certainly write up this walk with a route map — we made a good day of it — climbing up Beinn an Dothaidh first, and then picking our way to the summit of Beinn Dorain along the leacann (fun! we could see walkers plodding slowly along the West Highland Way a thousand metres below us!), before coming back down along the ridge.

manwave1

The full walk is just over nine and a half miles, with 1800-2000 metres of ascent. It took us around five and a half hours, after which we were more than ready for another celebratory pint.

wazzpint1
(a pint of bitter and twisted in the B of O hotel)

In ten years together we have written doctorates, songs, and books, taken several different jobs, and lived in six properties in three cities. Its been a decade of curious haircuts, shifting political and personal perspectives, old habits, new obsessions. Many things have changed, and in many ways, we have grown up together. Now we intend to grow old together.

1999:
ninetynine

2009:
versarycolour

here’s to the next decade!

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