Sunday 31 July 2011

Flying visit

David came home for the weekend on Friday and the forecast looked good for yesterday, so we thought it might be nice to pop up a big hill with our three children that walk. It was decided to return to Cairn Gorm for a second and hopefully more successful attempt, so off we went.
There were clear blue skies and blazing sunshine when we left home, but there was some high cloud when we arrived at the National Park. No matter, it was high enough not to obscure the views. We were actually a little tardy yesterday and didn’t leave much before lunch, I shared in the children’s disappointment  that we didn’t nibble on a sandwich before we left the car. At least we were able to park in the top car park this time and there would obviously be no snow to plough through, which made the going a whole lot easier.
SDC12199 The unmissable path
SDC12201Without hesitation, so David wasn't quick enough to catch me!
Ok, the stream is neither wide nor deep, but the rocks are set quite wide apart for those of with shorter legs!
SDC12203  A rest break looking towards Meall a’ Bhuachaille
SDC12204Toiling upwards
We toiled upwards, it was a warm day with a surprising lack of a breeze all day.  The couple ahead that we had been playing leap frog with peeled off and took the cliff edge path, Ciara and I thought we’d prefer a more gentle ascent, taking the path that goes towards Ben Macdui, then cutting across to the Stob Coire an t-Sneachda path at around NN983 011. We were really able to truck along on this easy part of the walk and were chuffed to be eathing lunch at the Stob when the couple that had taken the high path came down and past us again.
SDC12210 Really trucking along
Then it’s a case of picking your own path through the boulders for a while before a more obvious path once again becomes clear to the foot of Cairn Gorm.
SDC12215 The new Paramo, briefly deployed over lunch
SDC12218No path
SDC12219Why is Conall going the wrong way?
It’s good to know that when you get to the foot of Cairn Gorm, it’s just a short burst of steepness before you reach the top. It was even better when there was a faint path to follow through the boulders and then we were there!
SDC12221Path again for a while
SDC12232    The weather station
SDC12234 The boys are not that tall!
There are cairns marking the route off the top. Lots of cairns. A ridiculous amount of cairns! There’s also a horrible ‘tourist path’ down to the The Ptarmigan, then we took the main track from there. It just about killed my knees at this point, I even had to resort to Ibuprofen, which is rare for me (I’m not supposed to take it…) but we could see the car in the distance and the thought of a cold drink and an ice cream spurred us on.
SDC12235You might not be able to work out the ridiculous number of cairns
SDC12236  Horrid path!
SDC12225View towards Loch Avon
SDC12237Views towards the car and Loch Morlich
The boys both got a headache, with Aedan particularly this can lead to difficulties, but they both mentioned it in time for the paracetamol, crisps and extra fluids to be distributed with no further issues. Ciara struggled, but persevered, so was very proud of herself in the end. I was hot, a really hot thing, but not as unfit as I’d expected, considering the almost complete lack of exercise since the end of May. I’d remembered to strap both my heels to protect the new skin there after my humdinger of a TGO blister and had no problems at all. The only other mishap was accidently clicking the disc in one of my hand warmers whilst administering first aid to the boys. Oops!
So, that’s four for me and two for the children.
All in all, a good day! Around 8.85 miles, 2683 ft ascent, 2mph average 4 hours 21 minutes walking, 1 hour 47 minutes resting.
When I dropped David at the station at lunch time today, I discovered a sale. At an outdoor retailers. I found myself inside said shop, admiring a pair of Merrell Chameleon Arc Mid boots. They were £20 cheaper than the pair that I ordered online (from the same retailer) that are on their way. (They are coming with a pair for Aedan, the price of which was unchanged) So, I bought them and I’ll return the other pair when they get here. Comfy they are too!
SG103225New boots!

Friday 29 July 2011

A paraprosdokian is a phrase with an unexpected ending

Not the sort of thing I would usually post here, but it made me smile, not something I expected today!

Some of these are clever..............
Ø    Do not argue with an idiot. He will drag you down to his  level and beat you with experience.   
Ø    Going to church doesn't make you a Christian any more than  standing in a garage makes you a car.  
Ø    The last thing I want to do is hurt you. But it's still on the list.  
Ø   Light travels faster  than sound. This is why some people appear bright until you hear them  speak. 
Ø   If I agreed with you we'd both  be wrong.
Ø    We never really grow up, we only learn how to act in  public.
Ø    War does not determine who is right - only who is left.
Ø   Knowledge  is knowing a tomato is a fruit; Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit  salad.
Ø    The early bird might get the worm, but the second mouse gets  the cheese.
Ø    Evening news is where they begin with 'Good evening', and  then proceed to tell you why it isn't. 
Ø    To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism. To steal from  many is research.  
Ø   A bus station  is where a bus stops. A train station is where a train stops. On my  desk, I have a work station.  
Ø   How is it one careless match can start a forest fire, but it takes a whole box to start a campfire?

Ø   Dolphins are so smart that within a few weeks of captivity, they can train people to stand on the very edge of the pool and throw them some fish.
Ø   A bank is a place that will lend you money, if you can prove that you don't need it. 
Ø   Why does someone  believe you when you say there are four billion stars, but check when  you say the paint is wet?  
Ø   Women  will never be equal to men until they can walk down the street with a  bald head and a beer gut, and still think they are  sexy.

Ø   Behind every successful man is his woman. Behind the fall of a successful man is usually another woman.   
Ø   A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.  
Ø   Always borrow money from a pessimist. He won't expect it back.
Ø    Hospitality:  making your guests feel like they're at home, even if you wish they were. 
Ø   Money can't buy happiness, but it sure makes misery easier to live with.   
Ø   I discovered I scream the same way whether I'm about to be devoured by a great white shark or if a piece of seaweed touches my foot.  
Ø   Some cause happiness wherever they go. Others whenever they go.  
Ø   When tempted to fight fire with fire, remember that the Fire Department usually uses water.  
Ø   You're never too old to learn something stupid.
Ø   To be sure of hitting the target, shoot first and call whatever you hit the target.  
Ø   A bus is a vehicle that runs twice as fast when you are after it as when you are in it. 
Ø   Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.

Uh oh

That’s not a good start to a day that could get ugly.

Today we do the annual School Shoe Shop. I hate this day. The children hate me hating this day. It will be tense and it will be ugly.

This morning I woke up around 5.30 am and couldn’t get back to sleep. Until, inevitably, I nodded off just as I decided it was time to give up. And then woke up late. Not good.

I made my customary cup of tea which I left to stew whilst firing up the PC before embarking on the day properly awake.

I returned to the kitchen to put milk in my tea. The milk curdled.

This is really not a good start to the day.


And then! It’s a good job I was cleaning the bath before I had my shower. If' I’d been in the shower when I found the tarantula hiding behind the shampoo I would have been in a really tricky situation, with only my teenage son to rescue me!

In my haste to leave the bathroom I locked myself in…

Thursday 28 July 2011

An unwanted adventure

Or, how to put your teenage daughter off bus travel for-e-ver!

Or how to spend an afternoon having a lovely drive through the countryside.

(Or, next time, just give her a lift!)

Recently I’ve been instilling a little independence into our offspring, Ciara is doing a lot of baking, Aedan is using his bike, a lot, and Rhiannon is catching the bus to see friends. From here to town is easy.

Today, she caught the bus into Elgin to go to ‘The Pictures’  with a friend to see Harry Potter. (Again.) She bought her return ticket and watched her film, then returned to the bus station and jumped on the bus.

Sounds good so far.

About 3.30 pm I received a telephone call.

“Mum, I’m on the bus, but I don’t know where I am.”


It dawned on my she’d got on the right bus, but heading in the opposite direction. The bus station is in the middle and the same bus goes both ways.


My advice was, tell the bus driver you think you’re on the wrong bus.

I rang her back a while later, she’d told the driver and he was returning her to Elgin, but she didn’t know if she would have to purchase a new ticket. I opted to rescue our traumatised daughter from the bus station.

It is, admittedly, quite a while since we were living without a car and used the local buses regularly, but I did think they’d gained enough bus experience to know what to do. Maybe not.

Saturday 23 July 2011

Zooming in

As suggested by Alan, I’ve done a little zooming, but as they were really, excruciatingly bad photographs, the results are unsurprisingly dreadful!


Female hen harrier

SG103019-edited-1 And, believe it or not, a (sharpened and zoomed) short-eared owl

I did warn you!

A few Orkney short walks (and some aimless planning…)

We did a few (very) short walks whilst on Orkney, the first being an all inclusive walk. We perused the Standing Stones of Stenness and the Barnhouse before strolling around the nature reserve to the Ring of Brodgar and back. There was wildlife and we also collected two geocaches en route.


SG102866 Ring of Brodgar

2.88 miles, 48 ft ascent, not long!

(I did say short walks, didn’t I?)

The  second was very pleasant, walking along cliff tops heaving with wildlife to the Kitchener Memorial and returning along deserted country lanes, and with no geocaching.

SG102917The Kitchener Memorial

4.08 miles, 430 ft ascent, a bit longer. There was much dawdling.

The third also manage to encompass most of the above (no real history bits) from the house to the Loch of Kirbister and back and was even shorter.

2.23 miles, 101 ft ascent, not long.

The next walk at Mull Head I thought was a bit longer, but was actually slightly shorter again, but there was history and wildlife. The geocaching was drive by.

SG103118Deer Sound

3.8 miles, 640 ft ascent, quite a while, there was lots to look at.

Finally, there was the Earls Bu, Swanbister, Breck circuit, again shortish, but nature, history and geocaching was ‘enjoyed’.

SDC12156 I’m a Challenger, I can do anything, ahem…

3.42 miles, 178 ft ascent. A little while.

Sadly, since my return, I’ve been feeding my habit. My map habit that is.

I’ve been planning ‘possible’ future TGO routes. I was quietly congratulating myself for having completed a rather nice route (nothing new to most, but a progression for me) when I suddenly realised the flaw in my plan. This was a step up. A bit more adventurous. It required not one, but two FWAs. Oh dear.

The first was not too bad, but if there continued to be a problem with the weather, I’d need a second. That one was more tricky. It would be much longer and I’d probably lose my rest day. Not a complete disaster, but not my preferred option.

A solution (or maybe wimpy option) would be to do a different first FWA that would then avoid the need for a second and retain my rest day, but it bypasses the main reason for this route, Nethybridge.

A dilemma to ponder…

Tuesday 19 July 2011

Now for the geocaching

Now, geocaching is really just a cheats way of making exercise and nature seem like something completely different. Having said that, we usually only manage to persuade the boys to come with us. The girls even stay in the car when we do a drive-by cache, there’s no fooling them, although Ciara will join us occasionally.

We discovered there was a short walk that neatly included three tourist bits and a couple of caches, so off we went.

SG102793 The Standing Stones of Stenness

This was the start of the walk, then on to Barnhouse

SG102805 Barnhouse

The first cache was by the road, near a single standing stone

SG102822Aedan’s first find

There were views of Hoy and wildflower meadows set aside for corncrakes en route for the Ring of Brodgar

SG102833  The hills of Hoy in the clouds

SG102834Lots of wildflowers

SG102874 The Ring of Brodgar

If you’ve ever seen Billy Connolly’s World Tour of Scotland, this is where he danced in and out of the standing stones. Naked.

SG102859David and Aedan, doing a poor impression




Moments of arty farty stuff

I apparently forgot to photograph the second cache

SG103030Third cache

This one was so close to the house we just walked down the road a mile to find it. It was also the day I took the dreadful photographs of the owl.

SG103121  Fourth cache

This one was a tricky drive-by after a ‘short’ walk at Mull Head.

I managed to forget to photograph the next two caches. I’d had a hard day.

SG103188Seventh cache

I’ll come back to this one. It was the first of a group of three on a short walk along the coast which included a little archeology too.


The Orkneyinga Saga Heritage Centre

SDC12155Earl’s Bu and church

SG103191  Eighth cache

SG103192Ninth and final cache, phew!

Geocaching seemed like such a good idea, to give the younger members of our group something to do to keep them interested whilst we get to do a bit of walking. It also gives them some experience using the GPS, which might come in useful one day. However, I find it incredibly frustrating, the seventh cache in particular.

The GPS gets you within a few metres of the hidden cache, just as you’d expect. You are given clues or hints to help you find the exact spot. The clue for this one, ‘under stone’. Very useful when the entire area is covered in grass and weeds over two feet tall! Ha blooming ha. It took us half_an_hour and I would have given up if it wasn’t for the fact that I knew I’d be furious with myself if we did. When we got home and I logged in to record our finds, I read the comments for this cache. We were not the only ones to have had difficulty, it turned out, so I left a rather pithy comment myself.

Still, keeps them occupied.



Some Orkney Wildlife

There’s a lot of wildlife on Orkney and I have a lot of dreadful photographs, so I apologise in advance, but they’ll give you the general idea. I hope.
SG102726 We watched a lot of hares from the windows of the house
SG102798It’s a seal, not a rock
SG103184Definitely not rocks!
SG102816This is an arctic tern
SG103217Another one with a fish!
SG102848A juvenile common gull (I've been told. Not so exciting...)SG103204Another juvenile common gull, sadlySG102842A meadow lark with a nice juicy green caterpillar in it’s beak
SG103056   Fulmar and chick. There were lots and lots of theseSG102896This beautiful little puffin knew he was being watched
SG102938RazorbillSG103047Black guillemot
SG103175 Kittiwake, I think, but I haven’t taken a closer look yet
SG102931  Butterflies are not my strong point, but I think this is a painted lady
SG103120Magpie moth
SG103220Caterpillar of what I have no idea, but it was huge!
SG102877 Jelly fish, in a loch?
SG102913 Grass of Parnassus
SG103040  Another orchid
Northern marsh, early marsh, maybe a cross? They were all a bit past it, so it was hard to tell for someone without expertise.
SG103100Lousewort amongst crowberry
SG103189Yellow rattle
And my favourite sightings, but worst photographs…
SG103019 Trust me, it is a short eared owl
SG102781This is a hen harrier
Yes, it is. It’s a female hen harrier and we saw lots of males and females all over the island, including from our lounge and kitchen windows.
I didn’t manage to photograph the otter at all, but it’s long since been my ambition to see one and I was delighted!