Sunday, 29 August 2010


My dear brother-in-law, Ian, is having a go at this  over the weekend of 18-20th September 2010, and he has set up a JustGiving page here in case anyone would like to have a look and perhaps support him and his worthy cause of Everyman Male Cancer Campaign.

I, personally, think the challenge is quite mad, but it is for a very worthy cause.

And he is totally barking, so I'm sure he'll do fine!

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Making like a sheep

Whilst I was out for a quick three miler this morning, I got to thinking about Laura’s recent post about good and bad gear purchases. During my ponderings, I’ve come to the conclusion that I may be turning into a sheep, not just because I follow anyone (with a map), but my favourite items of clothing are mainly made of  merino.

I love my Smartwool Microweight crew. During last winter, it was my favourite base layer and I often layered it with my short and long sleeved bamboo tops. I like layering thin layers as I can make finer adjustments to my temperature and don’t feel bulked out. The Smartwool is a useful lightweight item to throw in my daysack if I want to carry a warm layer that takes up no space and doesn’t add much noticeable weight and it was really handy on our family camp this year when it turned chilly at night. The first year that didn’t find me huddled with my fleece blanky of an evening!

I’m also chuffed to bits with my merino socks from Foothill. They are an exceptionally high percentage merino and cheap to boot, only £7 a pair, including p&p which I thought fantastic. To be honest, I wasn’t sure what I was going to get for that price, but they are brilliant socks. They keep the temperature of my feet just right, I've never had sweaty or cold feet whilst wearing them. They are incredibly comfortable, and I’ve not had to use any zinc oxide tape on my heels since I bought them. They are brilliant.

I’ve knitted myself two pairs of merino wool flip-flap gloves.

PIC_0003This is the grey pair. I need to learn how to darn so that I can mend the thumb which has stuck to the Velcro of my Montane jacket a few two many times. I’ve also knitted a multi-coloured pair. They are excellent at their job, they keep my Reynaud's ridden hands cosy, but I can ventilate or liberate my fingers for fiddly jobs. Like eating. I can happily wear them in rain, even when it’s cold. They keep my hands warm despite being wet, although I do wring them out occasionally  because the dripping can irritate after a while.

Now I have a new item to add to the woolly list. Pants. Pant of the underwear variety as opposed to trouser pants.

I’ve been looking for comfy underwear for a while and did receive a recommendation for X-Bionic underwear. I’ve looked at these before and been intrigued, but couldn’t decide. After the recommendation, I looked again, but came to the conclusion that I really do prefer a natural product, so continued my search. Now, I’m the proud owner of two pairs of Icebreaker hotpants.  I’ve trialled them and I love them! They are incredibly comfy, they don’t migrate to far flung places that are impossible to reach when wearing a back pack, my main pant issue, (TMI?). They keep me warm and cool at all the right times and are easy to care for, just throw them in the washing machine, detergent but no softener and Bob’s your uncle. Fabulous!

So, as I was saying. Just call me Shaun.


Thursday, 12 August 2010

Plan B to be actioned

When I first discovered the TGO Challenge, I had every intention of planning and completing the Challenge by myself. It didn't occur to me that David would be interested, I thought I'd just have to persuade him to let me go off and adventure whilst he stayed home to work and look after the children. After all, I've looked after them by myself for weeks on end at times, it must be his turn!

I was surprised and delighted when he said he'd like to come along too, so then I assumed I would have to wait a few years until either Rhiannon was old enough and willing to look after Conall, (they have a very good relationship, so no concerns there) or wait a few years more until he was old enough to look after himself. Just think how much planning and preparation I could have done in that time? I was therefore very surprised again to find that my mum was willing to give up her time to look after the children this year, so that we could do the Challenge together sooner. Obviously, this plan was scuppered. And mum has expressed concerns at being able to 'cope with the catering', having had a practice run when we didn't do the Challenge in May. (Bearing in mind, all the main meals were frozen in foil trays with instructions...)

To add to the dilema, David is back to his studying next year, and really won't be able to afford nearly three weeks off in May for this, then two weeks in July for our trip to Orkney (all booked, by the way, yey!), not to mention all the training required.

So, what to do?

Well, the answer is, I'm back to planning my first solo Challenge. I feel more nervous than I did originally, simply because in the meantime I've got used to the idea of David being with me and relying on his knowledge and experience. Or at the very least his cool and calm exterior and strength to carry on when I've fallen asleep in a corner somewhere, as is my wont.

To allow for my inexperience and to lessen the strain, I've adapted my original route to allow for perhaps shorter days and slightly less climb. For instance, I think I'll give Lochnagar a miss. It's the edges thing again, I'm not going to attempt a hill with even the  slightest hint of edges on my own! There's still a bit of navigation required, but not enough to give me nightmares, and I don't think I'll ever truely be on my own on this route anyway, so I'll be able to make like a sheep, bah.

This could make for a very 'sociable' first time route. Not a bad thing, me thinks.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Gairloch 2010

Monday, 2nd August
So, Monday 2nd August saw us trying to put an incredible amount of stuff into the trailer and various parts of the car, still leaving enough space for a driver, five passengers and lunch.
We left around 1 pm, it all took a little longer than anticipated.
Off we went and after a relatively easy drive, we found The Sands at Gairloch just as we left it last year, a bit breezy and a tad grey.
After a quick drive round, we found someone had pinched our ‘spot’, the very nerve, so we pitched close by, organised havoc ensued with four children holding down a corner each whilst two adults bravely battled poles, pins, pegs and wind.
Tuesday, 3rd August
It was a breezy night, occasionally a bit gusty, and I woke in the early hours and convinced myself I hadn’t actually been asleep, but David assured me I had been snoring. He’s kind like that. I always find the first night a little nerve wrecking, especially when it’s windy, but we coped.
After doing battle with the queues in the shower block (they really should update their facilities, it could be a top class site), we set off to visit Sam and Ian French at the Gairloch Marine Life Centre and Cruises. It took a while to catch up on all the news, as we are both families with four children, but chatting over, we finally got down to the important bit of booking our cruise. Then we went off for a spot of shopping, coffee and snack, pitch and putt, lunch at the Old Inn and crabbing. Not necessarily in that order!
SG101914 SG101917 David lost his ball in the rough!SG101922SG101919 SG101932
Rock pooling and crabbingSG101943SG101939
Then we had dinner and sheltered in the tent a while before bed.
Wednesday, 4th August
We were up and organised, because we were going on a boat trip! Sam and Ian were ready and waiting and after the safety talk, our holiday really began.
SG101947Looking back towards Kerrysdale
Guillemot 2
Common Guillemot
Sammy 1Sammy the seal
We got damp on our boat trip, which was a first, but saw lots of bird life as well as seals. We always have a fantastic time when we go out on the boat with Ian, he’s a Marine Biologist as well as having an incredible amount of local knowledge of the area and often gives tips for the best places to watch and enjoy the local wildlife on land. If ever you are in Gairloch, this is the only marine wildlife centre to visit and boat trip worth taking. I know I’ve been on holiday if I’ve been on my boat trip!
David, relaxing in a sheltered, sunny spot behind the wind break.
Then we had lunch, gift shopped and relaxed before dinner, (food features a bit when we’re on holiday…). We went out for dinner, on Sam’s recommendation, to Na Mara in Gairloch which was very nice, although we did feel we were being rushed a little, as opposed to the other large family which was there before us and still there when we left. The food was good and a reasonable price.
Thursday, 5th August
We had a much better night. We also had a plan.  Today, we would visit Inverewe Gardens. We’ve been before, but it’s always worth a visit, you never see it all in one go and as we are usually in the area a few weeks early, there would be different flowers in bloom.
SG101980SG101981SG101983SG101985I know I always take sloping photographs, but Rhiannon really was sitting on a bench on a slope, honest!
SG101991SG101996Then we went off to Redpoint and got eaten alive by midgies as we did a little geocaching.  Rhiannon stayed at the tent. There were some fabulous views of Skye and out to all the other islands.
Friday, 6th August
Today, we would be geocaching. I would have preferred to have been walking, but geocaching is a kind of bribe at the moment, so I’d downloaded a few to the Geko before we left home and off we went.
The first two were beyond Poolewe at Rubha nan Sasan. There is an information board about the remains of WWII gun emplacements which once protected the Atlantic convoys and a memorial to lost Russian crews. This made the caches a little more interesting and a little bit of a hunt ensued to find both caches while the girls stayed in the car to read a book.
SG102020SG102022The first cache and a fantastic view. It involved a little bit of a walk and a scramble. A few midgies too.
SG102023 Second cache, more views and a few more midgies.
SG102032The third cache was on the way back to Poolewe and Ciara joined us for this one which was a bit of a scramble just off the road.
SG102039A little bribery of Pringles and Oreos was needed to coax Rhiannon to join us for the fourth cache at the Pictish burial ground in Poolewe. Another information board added interest.
As this was to be our last day, David had to take the boys fishing off the pier at Gairloch as he’d promised, so Ciara and I went along.
SG102040David caught these three, the first and most productive catch of the evening. The boys dealt with them ably.
SG102048 The one on the left took a little convincing that it was all over.
SG102062Conall with his first ever catch, but it was a tiddler and had to go back.
SG102068Ciara and I decided to have an adventure of our own and went off to find another cache close by. As you can see, midgie nets needed to be deployed.
SG102072Ciara spotted this pretty little chap on the way back to the car.
We had a terrific time, despite it being breezy to start, but at least now, I know we’ve had the summer holidays. Next year is likely to be our last proper family holiday, as Rhiannon is getting older and more vocal about what she wants to do, so it’ll be a luxury holiday cottage in Orkney for a treat. The children and I have never been,  but David used to live there, so he can take the lead on this one and do the planning (ha, ha).
Back to reality. Still got wedding outfits to sort!

Saturday, 7 August 2010

At last!

Well, that's a relief, it must be summer because I've just been on my summer holidays, at last. It's all wrong though, the children go back to school a week on Tuesday and I usually have a leisurely four weeks to sort out school uniform and shoes, yikes!

The next job will  be to give you all a blow by blow account of our little camping trip, but first, I need to download the pictorial accompaniments and put on another load of washing. Oh, the joys!

I'll be back...

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Back again, briefly, wind allowing

It's been a bit quiet around here, because we've been elsewhere! Nowhere exciting, unfortunately, and my holiday is long overdue, but with any luck, we should be in a tent (or two, if it's going to be windy, again...) in Gairloch sometime this week. If not, I'm going to be grumpy!

We've actually been down to Louth to visit my mum. David had a summer school at Nottingham City University for a week and as it's so close, thought it might be a good idea. It was hot down there, too hot. I live in Scotland to get away from all that! Anyway, we had a nice time, despite there having been no walks other than into town to shop, into town to go to the cinema, around Grimsby (HATE! Unhappy childhood) shopping and halfway up Steep Hill, Lincoln, shopping. Not my thing, shopping, but we've recieved an invitation to a wedding in September so shopping must be done. I've managed to get a pair of trousers, but I got those online. The shopping is proving difficult!

I need to get to the hills, we need less wind!