The grappling hook finds firm purchase around a sturdy tree-trunk. I tug at the rope a couple of times to make certain it won’t come loose. Then I start to climb.
At first my footing is secure and I make steady progress up the embankment. About halfway up my footholds start to crumble. A stream of soil dribbles downward. I scurry but the dribble grows into a rushing torrent of matter. The ground disappears beneath my feet but I don’t let go of that rope. My fingers ache. My feet find no purchase. There is strain in my arms, my shoulders, my back. My body rages against my will.
For a time I think of just letting go. The fight is too hard. The potential reward too remote.
“Climb!” she shouts at me, “We need you up here!”
And so I climb.
I’m almost at the top. An arm reaches down over the edge towards me. I grasp the extended hand. Soon I’ll be able to see what it looks like from up there.
Last year we spent Christmas with the Fletchcocks, with them travelling up to Edinburgh. This year we made the trek south to London.
A lot of the fun this year was that Jethro was fully into Santa Claus. Last year his understanding of the event was a little sketchy. He knew something unusual was happening, but didn’t really comprehend why it might be exciting.
This year, Xmas trickery installation is complete.
The random photos of tofu have gone missing. I don’t think much of value has been lost though.
I also recorded some audio of the excitement. From a quick review of the 17 minute clip, it seems to be mostly the adults rambling on like idiots with the occasional exclamation of excitement from small child Jethro. Editing is required.
Imagine a deep gulley with muddy slippery sides. Along the bottom of the gulley runs a stream of water.
The water was once clear, but since it ran its course into the gulley it has turned murky. The polluted water churns up rancorous odours.
A raft of strapped-together flotsam and driftwood wobbles on the surface, rushing along the gulley. I stand upon the raft, balancing precariously and feeling slightly nauseous — a result of the combined influence of the fumes from the water and the rocking motion of the stream. I take a wide steady stance, and ready the rope and grappling hook I hold in my hands.
I look up to the top of the walls of the gulley. I see branches of trees up there, rushing past. Perhaps the stream will eventually lead to a tranquil pond, but right now the only way out seems to be to cast my rope at the branches of the trees. I’m not very good at casting rope at tree branches.
The grappling hook actually caught firmly a couple of times, but every time I lost my grip on the rope and fell in the muck.
I managed to scramble back on to the raft those times, but the ordeal left me exhausted and I just lay still for a while and let the water take me where it wanted to. The gulley seems to go on forever, as does my supply of rope and grappling hooks.
Another branch approaches. I cast the rope. The hook scratches at the muddy soil at the top. Puffs of dust rise up from the impact. Grains of clotted sand run down the embankment and splash into the grey-brown water. The hook slips past the branch and plunges downward. I draw the wet and smelly rope back on to the raft.
The above is essentially the news of my life at the moment. At any particular point in time I am either on the raft, in the crappy water, throwing hooks at tree branches, or stuffing about with a rope. It isn’t worthwhile to write about it much because, frankly, the story is quite dull. The raft never changes. The water never changes. The steep incline out of the gulley never changes. The branches I attempt to catch a hold of all look roughly similar, although the trees to which the branches are attached are probably all quite different.
Once I finally get a firm hold of a branch and drag myself out of the gulley, I’ll let you all know what the new view is like.
I was disconsolately meandering back from the Jobcentre Plus where I had discovered that I was not eligible for jobseeker’s allowance. Apparently I should never have gone there in the first place, but the consultant who set up the appointment on the phone didn’t ask me the right screening questions.
About to leave the Jobcentre, I was thirsty. I asked if I could get some water. The security guard told me the government cut the budget for the water-coolers and the plastic cups, so no I couldn’t. Is there no water piped into the building? Do the staff just not drink anything all day?
Regardless, the government still had budget for several security guards from G4S.
Still thirsty, I looked for a place to get something to drink. Milk is a drink, so an establishment with that name caught my eye. I didn’t actually order any milk to drink though.
It looked a bit of a hipster place, and the Milk website confirms my suspicions (look at all those retro film filters on the photographs). Who cares? The food was outstanding. I ordered the Cashew and Mango salad. It is not something I would have enjoyed as a child. The flavours were too nuanced and complex. In short, it kicked ass.
I also really enjoyed the mismatched antique cutlery that sits on the tables, and the old weathered wooden benches.
If you happen to be in Edinburgh (I hear there is a festival on the go there at the moment, so you just might be), you should absolutely go to this place.
I’m probably not enough of a hipster to hangout there too much, but damn the food was good. The coffee too.
The nice thing about receiving rubbish news was that we had already booked a long weekend getaway to Oban. Or, more specifically, to Loch Melfort, about 17 miles south of Oban.
So we let it go and piled the family, the luggage, and the dog into the car.
Wait, we don’t have a car.
Fortunately it is possible to hire a car in Scotland. Angie finished off the packing while I caught the bus to Falkirk to pick up the rental car. I chose Mitchells Hire Drive, Scotland’s favourite vehicle rentals. Scotland must love low levels of service and product quality.
The next cheapest company was double the price of this bunch, so perhaps I expected too much. Most people probably don’t think they deserve to receive a clean car and full tank of petrol when they pay £40 a day for the privilege of using a Ford Ka. Yeah, it must just be us uppity immigrants. The dirty looks I got when I raised some objections. Sadly there wasn’t a lot of competition nearby, otherwise I would have walked out and tried to rent a vehicle somewhere else.
The beaten-up grubby car acquired, I travelled home and we loaded in all the gang.
Weather was our friend on this trip, and Scotland is a really beautiful place on sunny days.
The drive was beautiful. The place we stayed, Melfort Pier and Harbour, was beautiful. There was a tiny beach and Jethro loved splashing in the water. Bean had her first experience of a beach, and I had the impression that she approved. She seemed to say, “Surely, such holidays are fitting for a dog of my high status, and why have I not been treated to such things previously?”
We travelled a bit around the coast, visiting Oban and taking a boat ride around the seal island. Also got a look at some salmon farms up close.
Other short drives took us to the tiny villages along the lochside. Beautiful little spots like Craobh and Ardfern received our custom and appreciation.
Then we returned, and on the drive back we found a most wonderful spot for lunch. The pictures belong tell you more.
The Crazy Hat blog has been going for a little while now, and I’ve got enough content there now to confidently let the readership here know about it.
It gets updated every Tuesday and Thursday, with surprising consistency for the most part. Posts alternate between 100 word stories and children’s book reviews. An odd combination, but at the same time not so strange. Children’s stories are odd, the 100 word stories are odd, and crazy hats are odd.
It’s the first Tuesday after the second Thursday in June, and everyone knows what that means.
What’s that? You aren’t familiar with the great significance of this day?
Admittedly, this is probably something that would never have mattered to me at all, had fate not sent me to live in the Ancient and Royal Burgh of Linlithgow. Such places are so old and steeped in history, that they are bound to develop eccentric mannerisms.
The particular oddity in this case is that it is a local holiday, all the shops closed, and people wished one another a “Happy Marches.”
Was this the inspiration for Lewis Carroll‘s mad March Hare? That is my theory at the moment, at any rate.
If you want to read more about the oddness, it is explained in detail over at the official Linlithgow Marches and Associated Madhatters website. If you click about a bit there are videos of previous years’ events to be found.
Alternatively, just have a look through the sample of the photos I took:
This is a very encouraging step on my journey to a career in writing, as rambled on about at the beginning of the year. It may even morph into a career in radio or television — who knows? Looks like it’s going to be a wild ride in any event.
I’ve also taken to writing in a little A5 notebook. I’m finding it much easier to actually create something when I don’t have the time-wasting lure of felis LOLcatus and other assorted Internet fauna. Just me, the pen, and the paper. There is something very organic in writing that way. It is as if the writing is imbued with unique qualities. Each letter is subtly different. The loops and curves of my handwritten glyphs. The change in the tempo of the text as I become more engrossed in what I transcribe from mind to hand to pen to ink to paper. The words drift to illegibility as my pace of writing increases — but I can still read it even though no-one else probably can.
I don’t get that with typing into a computer. When this goes live on the Internet, you can only see the errors I missed. You can’t tell what I scratched out, or what I added with a ^. You can’t see the squashed words that had to contort themselves between the already-written lines.
With this approach I’m producing many more first drafts than I previously did. When I have enough, I’ll start publishing them. When I start publishing them, I’ll let you know about it on Waffle Group.
When I let Bean off her lead as we went passed the palace, Jethro became very concerned that she would take her new-found liberation and run with it. And not stop running.
He charged after her calling out for her return. Of course this just encouraged her to explore at a greater distance. In the end, i managed to persuade Jethro that she would follow us if we just kept walking.