Sunday, June 29, 2008

Welcome to Glen Affric

Victor Meldrew has long extolled the virtues of Glen Affric. I finally managed to pay the wonderful glen a visit this week, and have discovered the reasons for his adulation. As I drove into the glen early on Monday morning, I was met by red deer on the road, and a stunning rainbow which moved through the trees as I drove. This led the way to a wonderful day in majestic hills (and the ravages of the ghastly midgie!).

Quote Unquote - F.F. Bruce

The late Professor Bruce, noted classical scholar, biblical critic and exegete, at the Universities of Sheffield and Manchester wrote of his own church in Sheffield:

A number of the older members had received 'household baptism' in their infancy, whereas the dominant practice by our time had become baptism on personal confession of faith. But the two understandings of the proper subjects of baptism coexisted peacefully; there was no attempt of coercion of conscience on one side or the other.
So it ought to be.

When the elders declined on health grounds, to add believers baptism to the experience of a very frail old lady who had previously experienced household baptism;

I am sure they were right in principle; I have never been an Anabaptist.

What illustrious company to keep!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Glen Nevis 4

In Central London they paid millions for a wobbly footbridge.

Glen Nevis 3

Hydro-Electricity is a good thing.
Damming this up to make it would have been a very bad thing.

Glen Nevis 2

Through the Nevis Gorge

Glen Nevis 1

The Lower Falls at Achriabhach, Glen Nevis

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Along Loch Linnhe

The dreaded A82 - no wonder the locals are demanding an upgrade.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Loch Leven

The building of the Ballachulish Bridge has according to someone I know who grew up there, both spoilt the area - and reduced dreadful queues of traffic. The bridge has also meant that I have never before driven the road round past Kinlochleven. This shot is from the 'dark side of the Mamores' looking back towards Ballachulish.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Glen Coe

Looking towards Bidean nam Ban, Glen Coe

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Inevitable Buachaille 3

Rannoch Moor in bloom and the Buachaille

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Crazy Builder

Outhouse, Glen Nevis

The key to effective construction in windy areas is not strength and foundations as you thought. No, it's how big the stones hanging off the roof on wires are.

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Inevitable Buachaille 2

One of the greatest of the church walks I did was the scramble up the Curved Ridge on the Buachaille, over Crowberry Tower and up to the summit. It certainly gets very slippery when the rain starts. I'm a plodding hillwalker - but being stretched into a bit of scrambling every so often is also rewarding.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Inevitable Buachaille 1.

Buachaille Etive Mor - Glen Coe
The irresistible view - that everyone stops to snap!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


The beautifully sculptured and majestic Ben Lui is one of the mountains that tower above the little village of Tyndrum. Apparently it's the smallest habitation in Britain to have two working railway stations, ("lower" and "upper"). At this point I should ask any Scots readers to help me with the correct pronunciation of the place which some people insist is Tin-drum, while others just as vociferously insist on Tyne -drum! There are many hills higher than Ben Lui, but many of these (like Ben Lawers for example) lack the graceful lines, the symmetry or the rugged beauty of this hill which some have called the Queen of the Southern Munros.

My own memories of this hill are decidedly mixed. My first attempt to get up it, in 1995 began and ended in ignominy. A party of us, led by Big Darren, The Rake and Crazy Jim, parked in the wrong place and instead of finding pleasant stepping stones, were unable to cross a gorge containing a torrent. By the time we managed to get onto the hill, I was exhausted and the foot-deep snow made progress on the steep slopes desperately slow. The attempt was abandoned at about 2000ft, when Big Darren produced a Trangia stove, and began melting snow to brew tea.

Returning on my own in the Spring of 1997, I managed to find the place to cross the river and pulled myself up the long climb to Lui's summit. It's a long, steep, lung-bustingly tiring climb for which the walker is duly rewarded with views stunning enough to recapture 'awesome' as a meaningful word. With patches of snow and ice clinging to the Northside of the mountain, I made the summit ridge and was buffetted by cold, powerful winds fanning Scotland from the West. As I ascended the final section of the summit ridge I noticed that the weather was changing. The damp air, blasting at the mountain was cooling as it climbed up over Lui's shoulders, began condensing exactly at the point of the ridge where I stood. I put my feet apart and looked down and could see the cloud appearing between my knees! Although the whole of the West coast was completely clear and visibility was good over a vast area, within a few minutes everything to the East of me was lost in cloud. Watching a huge bank of cloud forming so distinctly and standing so precisely on its edge was odd, bizarre, a little eerie and really rather wonderful.

I stopped for lunch on my way down to the high bealach between Lui and its lower neighbour Beinn a Cleibh. Foolishly I sat down next to my map, which a sudden gust of wind promptly dispatched off into distant clouds, never to be seen again. Thankfully the walk didn't have to be abandoned as a fellow walker, doing the same route as me came over and chatted over lunch and let me share his map for the rest of the walk. He was an entertaining fellow, who escaped the boredom of office life by travelling all over the world with the Scouts. A ghastly descent of the wrong bit of Beinn a Cleibh (who was reading that map?) led to the car, a meal in some local pub and a farewell to my friend-for-the-day.

I stopped on Saturday just south of Tyndrum to grab a snap of Ben Lui's grand eastern face, to remember great days out, and to wonder whatever became of Big Darren, The Rake and Crazy Jim.


Recently felled timber being loaded onto railway wagons, Crianlarich Station.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Ben Vorlich

Ben Vorlich at Loch Earn is a mountain which presents a deceptively sharp, pointed profile when glimpsed from the East. Anyone seeing this hill from around Perth, or while travelling Southwards on the A9 towards Stirling could be forgiven for thinking that Vorlich is almost conical. This view, taken from the North, across the Loch shows the breadth of the hill, and the long steep southern ridge, the usual line of ascent from Ardvorlich at lochside.

I remember climbing Ben Vorlich and Stuc a Chroin, its flat-topped, steep sided neighbour in 1996 - a week before I married Mrs Hideous. Four of us climbed these two hills in blazing sunshine, while Mrs Hideous was still toiling in the Saharan sunshine doing her medical elective at a Mission Hospital in West Africa. A minor coup in the country had made communication worse than usual and I hadn't heard from her for a few weeks, which was playing on my mind somewhat, as I recall. After the descent of the hill and the return drive to Dundee, I moved all my stuff into what would be our first flat together, on the salubrious Lochee Road!

The memories a photo can generate!

Loch Earn

A beautiful morning on Loch Earn, with time to stop, wander, pause, reflect, pray and phone home and have a chat to Mrs Hideous. The calm was disturbed by a the enthusiastic expletives of the fishermen who were watching brown trout jumping and catching them by the armful.


This Sunday I was on the road again, helping at the wee heilan' church pictured above. The somewhat dour exterior is misleading, the front door opened to a really warm-hearted welcome!

Friday, June 13, 2008


Finishing my degree coursework has meant that I have been able to do some other things I have wanted to for a long time. One of which was to watch the film 'Ray' - the biopic of Ray Charles, that I picked upon ebay last year.

The film traces the life and career of Ray Charles Robinson, from his early life in segregated Florida, the childhood tragedies of the loss of his brother and his eyesight - and his discovery of music. One of the most effective and compelling scenes in the movie depicts the young Ray sneaking away to the village shop, to be taught boogie-woogie piano by an old black 'stride' pianist. The story continues as Ray discovers how to navigate the music industry, discovers women and drugs (both in alarming quantities) and finds success. It covers the successes and the failures, the commercial breakthrough that came from abandoning his 'Nat Cole sound' and merging gospel-music sounds with secular (or even sexy) lyrics, the civil rights stand he made in Georgia, the sales awards, and meteoric rise from obscurity to stardom, his musical genius and constant experimentation with styles of blues, boogie, soul, r&b, country and ballads. The film though does not shy away from the darker side of Charles, the drug abuse and rehab, police raids, womanising, marriage difficulties, falling-out with colleagues and friends.

It's a great film, and Jamie Foxx's portrayal of the Ray Charles is remarkable and powerful and well deserving of the 'best actor' Oscar it received. There were though a number of strange omissions from the story I thought. Charles is never seen playing anything but a piano, never the sax, clarinet or trumpet, all things he mastered at the school for the blind to which he was sent - years which were entirely omitted from the story. Charles' exuberant cross-country motorbike riding and his piloting skills are well documented and could have made great scenes too. Likewise, the tension between his Baptist-background and his hedonistic lifestyle were hinted at (we see Charles on tour never without his Braille Bible), but the tensions therein are not addressed in the film as they are in some biographies. The film closes with a short clip of the elderly Ray Charles himself receiving an award in Georgia and an apology over the ban the state issued him with over his refusal to play to segregated audiences in the 1960s.

I remember first hearing the blues in the 1980s when Ray Charles played a couple of songs at an event filmed for Fats Domino's birthday- and being amazed at the passion, intensity and soul of the music, in comparison to the formulaic pop I had been exposed to as a teenager. A few years later I made my way to the Barbican Hall in London and saw Ray Charles and His Orchestra give a breathtaking performance across musical genres. Charles, by then pretty elderly, his voice cracking and wincing was the consummate showman - whose musical dexterity and domineering charisma held the audience in the palm of his hand.

I was never convinced by the orchestra and choirs of the later years, (or the country and western) but Charles with a small band, singing blues soulfully, with angst and expression dripping from every note on his piano - still makes the hairs stand up on the back of my neck. The following is "Drowning in My Own Tears" from the Fats Domino gig.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Great Bog Dilemma

Contending with the bodily wastes of small humans is all part and parcel of parenting. Since becoming a parent eight years ago, and then the main carer for our children four years ago -I have bravely (and not so bravely) battled against almost every texture, odour and colour that the body can possibly produce. We are indeed fearfully and wonderfully mingin'.

I have discovered that managing the realities of parenting in the home is relatively straightforward in comparison with the intricacies of public management of infant hygiene! Boris and Norris are of course, like me, male. This has caused a few problems over the years, especially when they were both in nappies. In a recent conversation I was reminded that I should name and shame Bells sports centre in Perth - whose only baby changing facilities are in the ladies loo. I declined the opportunity to see what the ladies is like and insisted instead on changing Norris' howling nappy in the corridor on the grounds that if they were going to be antediluvian in their provision then I could be troglodyte in my behaviour! They could hardly complain!

Thankfully the church I go to has provided baby changing in the gents as well. This is just as well, because Mrs Hideous used to work a lot of weekends when Boris was a baby and it meant that we weren't excluded. Such enlightened attitudes may be the norm here, but have clearly not reached the Vatican. On our visit to St Peter's in Rome I tried to take young Norris to change him while Mrs Hideous toured the great Cathedral. It turned out that (like Bells) the only facilities were in the ladies. I asked where I should change him but the guard curtly said, "No! You will get your wife!" I was about to launch into a tearful, "My wife died bearing this child, all because Il Papa won't let us use contraception and I have come to Rome to pray for her soul" - just to see the look on his face. Sadly, (but perhaps probably for the best) my conscience overcame satire and I went to get Mrs Hideous.

Child number three (Doris) is a girl. When she was a baby this fact made little difference, but now that she is three, and (usually) toilet trained, this has raised completely different issues. Doris can't walk past Marks and Spencer's without going in for a pee. The toilets in that shop must have made a profound affect upon her consciousness, as she was sometimes given a treat in their coffee shop for managing to pee appropriately, on demand, in the cludgie as distinct from over her clothes. Now we have a situation of Pavlov's bladder, when even the sound of the words "Marks and Spencer" will be met with the almost instant need to piddle.

So we leave the High Street and go in to Marks' and up the escalator, past the cafe and through the doors into the toilet area. Here is where the Great Bog Dilemma takes place. Doris insists that as a girl, she is going to go into the girl's toilet. I insist that she is a toddler and is not going in by herself. She counters by demanding that I come in with her, to which I point out that it might lead to my arrest. Am I happy to take her into the gents? Well - sometimes, it all depends on what the gents is like and how inappropriately she might stare at a row of willies peeing in a trough. Gents are hardly the most private or discreet of places. She is not yet embarrassed - but there's always the chance that someone might find her presence a problem. It won't be long before she is embarrased however. So which door? In Marks' there is a baby changing room, which does not discriminate against Dads - but it does not have a toilet! So we tend to use the disabled - where there is one. Many places do not have a separate disabled toilet.

So - where are Dad's supposed to take their daughters, when the tank is full, the call of nature comes and the exertions of two finely tuned kidneys are about to break out and make their mark? Dad's, what's the answer to the Great Bog Dilemma?


A post for my children, showing that the towels have a rail to hang on and, nice as they look crumpled on the floor, they dry much better here.

Last Night

-Almost Midnight-

Sunday, June 08, 2008

East Lomond with the Boom's

Mr Boom! from up the road suggested that we take our families for a walk up E. Lomond, one of the two 'Paps of Fife' that tower above the pretty village of Falkland - famous for its historic palace. The weather defied the forecasts, and we walked in beautiful sunshine along the broad mile-long ridge to the steep summit cone. Although too hazy to see far, or clearly we lounged around on the grass on top of the hill, while the kids sung, danced, played, squabbled, ran and pleaded for more drinks when all the water we had was used up.

"That bloke must be hungry - look at the size of his rucksack" I said. However, said chappie didn't bring a five course banquet out from his mammoth rucksack - but a hanglider, which he unfurled and strapped himself onto, before silently taking to the air above us.

A gentle dander down the hill, a coffee, a play in the garden and dinner at ours rounded off a splendid day - and a very late night for the kids.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Earlier Morning

"Gone Fishing"
A Heron uses the piers of the old Tay bridge in Perth
as a perch from which to fish.

The delightful Mrs Hideous has started to go into work early one day a week. This is because she works, like many of you, in the public sector and suffers from the curse of government initiatives. The latest batch is the product of politicians who apparently couldn't find their own elbows in broad daylight (or some such less Bowdlerised popular phrase) But I digress.....

On such mornings, Boris, Norris and Doris were ready for the walk to school ludicrously early, which was creating a problem. Those of you familiar with my offspring will know that faced with the choice of how to use-up twenty minutes, they will not sit quietly or converse politely, but will immediately set about the urgent task of sibling dismemberment with some gusto. We do not need a devil to make work for these idle hands.

Needless to say, my usual negative reactionary parenting was useless in maintaining a calm atmosphere, or preventing the outbreak of the next impending fracas. So yesterday morning, faced with well-rehearsed indications of rising hostilities, failing diplomacy, and troop build-ups at my children's emotional borders, we took action. We went to the park!

We are blessed and privileged to live in a beautiful part of the world with plenty of nearby open spaces. In fact the busy main-road which we brave every day on the walk to school, has a delightful river-bank park running parallel with it, which makes a pleasant but longer alternative route. So with space to run, the river to watch, wildlife to see, trains to wave at and things to climb, we arrived at school on time, with happy children complete with the requisite number of limbs intact between them.

I discovered an old compact camera in a pocket as we walked and got a few good photos of the kids - which was a bonus too. My initial reaction may have been to curse the government for my lost sleep, and scream at my naughty children for their apparent inability to sit still, but Boris, Norris and Doris' reaction has been to ask if a trip to the park before school can become a regular feature!

We'll see.....

Book Bargains

The old maxim runs, 'there are many cheap and good books on the market, the problem is that the ones that are good are not cheap and the ones that are cheap are not good'. Sadly this is all too often the case. Every summer, however, there seems to be an exception to that rule: the OUP summer sale. Over the last few years I have picked up a handful of excellent books from this sale, notification of which you can sign up for on the net.

This time I picked up a handful of interesting items. Frank Prochaska has written an evaluation of Christian social action in Britain in the modern era. This is an area of great interest to me, and this volume is written from the perspective of an outsider (i) as he's not a Christian and (ii) he's not British - so it will be interesting to see how this affects his historical study.

As well as looking like a really informative and stimulating read, this handsome cloth bound volume has had its price cut by over half to around £9.

The whole of OUPs series on the so-called "Seven Deadly Sins" has had it prices cut to a remarkable £1.25 or £1.50! I realise that all good Protestants will want to remonstrate on the comments page about the use of the old Catholic hierarchy of sins and will want to point out that all sin is deadly, and such classifications of sin sit uneasily with the Biblical understanding. Don't bother - I quite agree with you. All sin is equally injurious to our relationship to God, we all sin in different ways, and therefore may not judge or look down others whose sins we deem less deadly than our own.

That notwithstanding, some of the less noble of humanity's traits can be seen to be more immediately and obviously damaging to ourselves and others. Greed, pride, lust, sloth, envy, anger and gluttony are natural candidates for dangerous tendencies we find within ourselves, against which (with God's help) we are pitted. These seven little volumes seek to explore these vices, from a variety of perspectives, and authors. Some of them (like Dyson on Pride) draw extensively on his interest in the the American Civil Rights movement, what I have read so far of Wasserstein on Sloth is quite funny! Actually I don' think there are enough books about sin! Not that there are not enough sinful books... No, what I mean is that given the fact that the concept of 'the fall' is so critical to the Judeao-Christian narrative and understanding of the world, and its relationship to God; it is surprising how little contemporary writers explore the theme. One shining example is Cornelius Plantinga Jr's "Not the Way It's Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin", which manages to be a delightful read on this grizzly subject!

This booksale isn't just theological, or historical though - it has bargains under all the following headings: Archaeology, Art & Architecture, Biography, Business, Crime & Criminology, Diaries, Letters & Journals, Economics, Education, Fiction, Food & Drink, Geography, History, Language & Linguistics, Law, Literary Studies, Literature, Mathematics, Medicine, Miscellaneous, Music, Philosophy & Religion, Poetry, Politics, Psychology, Reference, Science & Nature, Sociology & Anthropology, Travel.

And also books in my favourite category of all, "Under £5"!

Friday, June 06, 2008

A very suspect looking pint indeed

To connoisseurs of fine ale - and indeed all right thinking people - the above is a most alarming sight. Well past it's best, indeed! What can it all mean?

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Puffins, Puking and 25 OAFs

On the cliffs: Isle of May

OAFs = Outdoor Activities Fellowship

= Me: there was a bit of swell on the sea between Anstruther and the Isle of May

= There were plenty of them, as well as hundreds and thousands of other seabirds

Sunday.. ..

Another Sunday, a contrast to last week which was in a busy town church, to a small country one. Different style, different sermon, different people, lots of old friends. This week I was speaking from the (I was going to says depths, but perhaps mean heart!) of Leviticus.