Wednesday, April 22, 2015


Being kept on my toes by a very busy young man.  Hardly a moment to stop and think about resurrecting the blog.  But in those moments I have considered whether it might be interesting to do so.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Winter drinks

We've had a few Cairn o' Mhor wines before now, so finding a bunch on offer we stocked up...

Friday, June 22, 2012

Gardening Fail

So, we had this Purple Sprouting Broccoli.  It never sprouted, so we ate the leaves as Spring Greens.

Turns out, there was a reason why it never sprouted.

Thursday, May 10, 2012


Sometimes, when a company sales rep comes to visit to give us our product training they bring presents.  Or rather, items for us to use and then hopefully sell better to the customers.

The rep from Bradshaw Taylor tends to come armed with Icebreaker socks.  I've had a pair of running socks and a pair of midweight hike socks on previous visits.  They are good quality and nicely made, but they haven't fitted my feet quite right.  I wear them for kicking about, the hike socks are lovely and warm for wearing with winter slippers, but can't use them for running or walking as they are the wrong shape in the toe box (or, my feet are the wrong shape for the socks...) and the excess fabric bunches up and rubs.

This time he came armed with new multisport socks.  To be precise, the Womens Multisport Ultralite Micro but in bright pink, not the grey version on the website.  These are very light weight for a sports sock, with no cushioning at all, however there is a cushioned version.  They have a ventilated area on top of the foot and lycra in the instep to give a snug fit.

They are a different fit to the others I've had - they fit my feet.  I wore them on a Cosmic run at Cheyne Hill and no problems.  I thought I might notice the lack of cushioning as I use fell shoes which don't have much cushioning either, but I didn't.  They are little short in the ankle and I got a bit of heather down them, but they make a Mini version with a higher ankle cuff.  I've worn them to cycle to work a couple of days too.

There's a little bit of wear to the heel of each sock and some black lycra threads starting to show, so I'll have to see how that fares.  Generally though, they are comfy and I am contemplating using them for the Durris race next week.

I have also had a box of Tesco Naturally Powered non bio powder to test as well.  So the filthy, muddy, wet running kit went in the wash with that.  The verdict on the powder is that it doesn't dissolve and wash through the drawer well enough, but the cleaning is fine if you add it direct to the drum.  Hopefully Tesco will fix that.  See below for before and after wash pictures of the socks.  I didn't expect the white writing to stay white, and it didn't, but otherwise the rest of the peaty mud has gone and they smell washed.

Muddy socks

Clean socks

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Hill running's a small world...

So, checking Highlander results for the Cosmic website I stumble upon a name I recognise.

One short google later and there it is, in an old fell running club newsletter.

Another blogger's husband, a Cosmic and someone I went to school with.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Dangerous overtake of the day awards

This afternoon going jointly to West End Electrical, Michael Kerr Joinery (not the first time) and MH Carriers. Special mention to Dragon Plumbing for not overtaking quite so closely, despite being on the phone.

Best today?  Grampian MacLennans

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Pet owning

I am am now a pet owner.  I own, or am owned by depending on how you view the situation, two cats.

 The tabby one is incontinent after being run over, but is otherwise the perfect cat.  The black one wees on purpose.  They sleep, eat and demand attention.  They have made scratch marks worryingly high up the front door and destroyed the landing carpet.  But I like them.

Saturday, December 31, 2011


Ngozumba glacier
From moraine bank at Gokyo, approx 4800m
Looking south

This glacier is melting.  University research scientists from the US and Norway are studying it to see how and how fast it is melting.  The melt water is forming a lake which the moraine may not hold back forever.  If the moraine dam bursts the water will flow down into the Dudh Kosi threatening villages and towns a long way down.

A BBC news article on this research is here, and makes for interesting reading.

Dudh Kosi, below Namche

The Dudh Kosi valley is the main route up from Kathmandu to the mountains, and includes Lukla and Namche Bazaar.  Hopefully, as most of the settlements are built on the valley sides (to avoid the worst of the spring melts and monsoon floods) many will escape.  However, history records the potential damage - a glacial lake outburst flood in 1985 destroyed numerous bridges and houses and a hydro plant at Thame (a few miles north west of Namche). See here for an aerial photo, and here for further information on that flood and other future threats.

A BBC audio slideshow with images from Glacierworks is here, and illustrates the extent of the melting.  The scale is difficult to appreciate, even with their shot of a climber.  In my photo above the glacier is around 2km wide and the ice cliff visible is probably over 100m high, but it looked like you could just pop down and wander about.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Transport 2

Once above Lukla there are no roads.  There is no way of driving into most of the higher valleys in the Solukhumbu district of Nepal.  This means that if you want anything taken up there it has to be carried, and if it's a lot of stuff then it has to go by yak train.

Big, hairy and smells of yak.
Domesticated yaks come in a variety of colours.  The dark brown colour like the one above is pretty standard, but they also come in shades of brown, white, beige, piebald and skewbald.

Lower down, that is from Lukla to the Namche area, your stuff won't be carried by yaks, but by dzopkios.  These are a cross between domesticated yaks and cows and are much better suited to the lower altitude.  They are a little smaller than yaks, but you still don't want to meet one on a bridge.

Dzopkios (munching on our sign, under my bedroom window)

When you do encounter a dzopkio or yak train on the path, you get out of their way.  They're pretty docile, but they're very powerful animals with pointy horns that only concentrate on where they're being driven to.  People have been knocked down mountain sides and even eviscerated by yaks that have accidentally bumped into them.

Dzopkios carrying our kit bags up to Namche

Yaks are driven in groups of about six, usually by one driver.  The drivers for our trekking parties were all men.  The women I saw driving trains seemed to be connected to their own cottage industries, carrying  their produce between villages.  The drivers encourage their animals along by whistling as they walk with them.  This is almost as constant a sound on the trails as the bells the yaks wear around their necks.  Yaks that misbehave are shouted at first, or given a smack on the behind if they don't listen.

It's advisable not to end up following a train as they kick up a lot of dust.  The drivers wear scarves or buffs covering their nose and mouth.  One of our group leaders pointed out to us that this is why it isn't a good idea to use a hydration bladder with an uncovered bite valve.  The main constituent of the dust is dried yak poo.  After a couple of days everything I owned was covered with a thin layer of dust, and smelled of yak.  Where yaks pass through town though, the poo is collected and dried.  It is valuable both as a fertiliser (every house has a veg plot) and as fuel.  In Sagarmatha National Park it is forbidden to cut wood for fuel to prevent deforestation.  This means that yak poo is now used for heating fuel, rather than fertiliser, leading to problems with the supply of vegetables.

Thirsty yaks

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


To get into the mountains from Kathmandu, you can fly or drive and walk.  Most people fly.  The drive to Jiri and walk from there adds an extra six days to each end of your trip, and most westerners don't have that time.  Our trip was organised to maximise time between 3000m and 5000m for race acclimatisation.  So we flew.

The Kathmandu - Lukla flights were suspended for a week because of bad weather not long before we went out to Nepal, so we were hoping that it would improve.  The weather was good enough to clear the backlog, but fog was still plaguing both airports.

The day we were meant to fly Kathmandu airport was fog bound.  We arrived at the airport at 6am and waited until 2pm for the flights to be cancelled.  They don't fly after 3pm anyway, because it gets cold and dark before a round trip can be completed.  We spent an extra night in Kathmandu and tried again the next morning.  We were lucky, the fog lifted after we'd waited just over an hour.

Once the flights are running, everything is done at a run.  Hurry to the bus, hurry from the bus to the plane, plane's taxiing almost as the last person sits down.  Hand luggage goes on your knee, there's no lockers and under seat storage is forbidden.

We flew with Agni Air in little twin engine short take off and landing planes (Dornier Do228), six flights in total for our group and all the kit.  The route climbed up over a mountain pass and then along the valleys level with mountain tops.

The reason for needing short take off and landing (STOL) planes becomes clear if you google Lukla Airport.  It has been named World's Most Extreme Airport by several TV shows and numerous You Tube clips.  The runway is short and steep.  There is a cliff at one end and a retaining wall holding up half the town at the other.  The approach is directly towards the mountainside.

The planes land, stick the props in reverse and make (what feels like a) handbrake turn on to the apron, following the yellow lines.  It's then hurry, hurry again as the plane has to get back to Kathmandu for the next load.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Kit for Nepal

When we got the kit lists for the Everest Marathon trip we were promised that it would be cold.  At least minus 10 C at night, and colder higher up.  This to be balanced by a daytime temperature twenty to thirty degrees higher!  Well, they got the day time temperatures right.  However, we had very mild weather - minus 10 was the extreme, but we got it on the first camping night which worried some of the folk from warmer climes.

So, for everyday wearing:
Icebreaker 150 short sleeve crew (4-5 years old) or Helly Hansen Prowool long sleeve crew (last season) - depending on altitude, the sun may be hot but the air temp drops as you go up
Rab Treklite trousers (4 years ish old).  Windproof, stretchy, hardwearing.  No zips on the bottoms so I could turn them up.  Perfect.
Lowe Alpine Dryflo underwear (at least 5 years old, can't find the same now to replace them)
Smartwool womens light Hiking (3 years old) or Teko womens midweight (from the rep this summer) Hiking socks
Bridgedale coolmax liner socks (couple of years old)
Mizuno Wave Harriers (last season's model bought this summer on sale) - the dust goes through them something shocking, but very comfy.  I wouldn't recommend a goretex lining, it might keep the dust out but I reckon that same dust would wear holes in it pretty quick.
Buffs and cotton hairband  - one or two to cover the neck and use as a hat/parting covering
Julbo Nomad Sunglasses (5 years old) - you really need a Cat 4 lens.

All of these were good.  This is what I wore every day for two and a bit weeks.  Washing of tops, sock and underwear was done in accessible rivers, once for the icebreaker, a couple of times for underwear and socks.  The only things that smelled were the buffs, but I can't remember the last time I washed them before the trip.  The problem with washing was getting stuff dry.  If you timed it right the sun would dry things quickly, a bit late in the day and the sun would disappear behind a mountain and your washing would freeze. Full sun, on average, was roughly from 8.30 to 14.30 with daylight about 6.00 till 18.00.

I carried every day:
OMM Classic 32 - it did well, but I might have been better on the longer days with something more structured.  Quite a few people had gone for the Osprey Stratos/Sirrus, which might have been preferable.  However, the external pockets on the OMM 32 were fantastic for carrying all the bits and bobs such as gloves, buffs, water bottle, windproof jacket, suncreen etc that I wanted on the move.  For once I was not the Faffmeister General of the trip, I felt pretty slick and competent in comparison to a lot of people.
Waterproofs - TNF Heathen jacket (free from a colleague after product training - she said she hated it!!!) and Mountain Hardwear Epic trousers.  We were advised to take waterproofs, but I never used them.  There were, however, a couple of days though when the clag could easily have been just that bit damper.
Montane Lite Speed jacket (5 years old ish).  The wind's cold when the sun drops behind the hills.
Berghaus Extrem smock - pertex outer and microfleece inner.  This is so old I can't remember what it's called.  I think I've probably had it since about 2003.  I took it in preference to a Vapour Rise as it's a larger cut for layering.
Rab Photon jacket - this is my stand out piece of kit from the trip.  I am so glad I bought this, best gear decision in ages.  I wore this everyday.  It's comfy, cosy, sized to layer, has big pockets with fuzzy linings.  My one gripe is that the primaloft doesn't go over the outside of the pockets as well as the inside.
Nike running gloves - thinnies worn on a couple of chilly mornings.
Mountain Hardwear powerstretch gloves - never worn.  Brand new for the trip.
1 litre nalgene - I acquired this when the shop I work in moved premises.  It was laying under the ground floor till, just looking for a new home.
Compass and whistle - Silva compass dates backs to orienteering at school age 14, orange plastic whistle of similar vintage.
Foil bag
Panasonic Lumix waterproof camera - comes with extra silicone bumper that acts as a handy dust guard.  The battery was fully charged when we left home and never needed charged out there.  Did take it to bed to keep it warm though.
Petzl Tikkina - free from Lyon Outdoor training course, given to sherpa/kitchen team at end of trip..
Alcohol gel, loo roll, 1st aid kit, suncream, lipsyl.

This sounds like a lot, but it's pretty much my standard Scottish day bag.  The weather was fairly similar to a crisp clear winter day on the Cairngorm plateau.  You could walk in short sleeves but you could also get cold and sunburned simultaneously.

Between Machhermo and Gokyo at approx 4600m.
Contrast me, and the man who does this for a living.

Each trekking day we arrived at a lodge.  We slept in tents provided by the trekking company Mountain Experience and pitched by the Sherpa teams, but had rooms hired in the lodges to eat in.  The lodge rooms all had a stove and we were catered for by teams of Nepali trekking staff, so fairly luxurious camping really.

Evening kit:
A change of top - I had a second Prowool and the Everest Marathon tshirt ( from All We Do Is)
Rab Powerstretch zip top - lovely, comfy and warm.  Worn every evening.
Paramo Velez Adventure trousers - these were the luxury spare pair.
Teko men's size small midweight socks (from the rep at product training last Feb.)  Because in my head at least larger socks are warmer.
Scarpa ZG boots (5 years old ish).  I found these too hot to walk in every day, but just right for keeping my feet warm in the evenings.  There were a lot of people wearing Salomon Quests.  Overall the big footwear brand in our group was Salomon.
Rab Photon - with it's big pockets full of (R) Chlorine dioxide tabs, alcohol gel and loo roll, (L) Diary, pencil and tikkina, (inside) camera - keeping the battery warm...

At Pheriche, wearing Rab.

Icebreaker 200 leggings - worn on the nights I slept in lodges at Phakding, Namche and Dughla, but not in the tent.  Lodge bedrooms are generally unheated.
Rab down jacket (again so old I don't remember what it's called, probably an ancestor of the Ascent) - I used this as a pillow one night, but never needed to wear it.
Two pairs thinny gloves - always have spare spare gloves
Dix Amor mitts - never used
Pod and Exped dry bags - now loving the lightweight cordura dry bags from Pod
Bloc sunglasses
1litre platypus - used once on a long day.

I hired a sleeping bag from Mountain Experience.  I got a Mountain Equipment Glacier 1000.  Very warm and comfy, but I'm glad the yaks got to carry it.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Off Far Away

We are going to Nepal tomorrow!  We're going for the Everest Marathon - he's competing, I'm marshalling.  Wish us luck!

(Especially with the Heathrow security queue)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

WBN 2012

The new World Book Night list is out, so time to count off how many we've read again.

So, blue I've read.  Purple I've heard as an audio book or seen as film/tv adaptation.

It seems that these lists always evolve in my favour.  Perhaps my reading habits are becoming more populist.

1 To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee
Read at school, and bought for myself after I left uni.
2 Pride and Prejudice Jane Austen
I think I read this, but can't remember clearly.  I may be confused by the film/tv adaptations I've seen.  Anyway, Jane Austen doesn't do it for me, but I'd choose her over any of the Brontes.
3 The Book Thief Markus Zusak
4 Jane Eyre Charlotte Bronte
Seen more than one film/tv version.
5 The Time Traveler's Wife Audrey Niffenegger
6 The Lord of the Rings J. R. R. Tolkien
I've now seen two of the three films, and still don't want to try to read it.
7 The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Douglas Adams
Love this, still funny many times over.
8 Wuthering Heights Emily Bronte
Found this very very dull as a teenager.  May be I should try it again?
9 Rebecca Daphne Du Maurier
10 The Kite Runner Khaled Hosseini
Have this as an audio book.
11 American Gods Neil Gaiman
12 A Thousand Splendid Suns Khaled Hosseini
13 Harry Potter Adult Hardback Boxed Set J. K. Rowling
I have the standard versions though.
14 The Shadow of the Wind Carlos Ruiz Zafon
15 The Hobbit J. R. R. Tolkien
Made me decide never to read any more Tolkien.
16 One Day David Nicholls
17 Birdsong Sebastian Faulks
18 The Help Kathryn Stockett
Heard this on the radio then read it.
19 Nineteen Eighty-Four George Orwell
Scary stuff.
20 Good Omens Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
21 The Notebook Nicholas Sparks
22 The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Stieg Larsson
23 The Handmaid's Tale Margaret Atwood
I liked it, but don't see the reason for the fuss about it.
24 The Great Gatsby F. Scott Fitzgerald
Should try this again.
25 Little Women Louisa M. Alcott
26 Memoirs of a Geisha Arthur Golden
27 The Lovely Bones Alice Sebold
28 Atonement Ian McEwan
Better than the film, but hard to follow.
29 Room Emma Donoghue
30 Catch-22 Joseph Heller
Have to concentrate on this when you read it.  Another I should read again.
31 We Need to Talk About Kevin Lionel Shriver
Heard it adapted for Radio 4.
32 His Dark Materials Philip Pullman
33 Captain Corelli's Mandolin Louis De Bernieres
Some one borrowed my copy and never gave it back, otherwise I probably read it again, but don't want to so much that I'd buy a new one.  Awful film.
34 The Island Victoria Hislop
35 Neverwhere Neil Gaiman
Was on tv when I was a teenager.
36 The Poisonwood Bible Barbara Kingsolver
37 The Catcher in the Rye J. D. Salinger
I don't think I've ever quite figured this one out.  Holden Caulfield confuses and annoys me.
38 Chocolat Joanne Harris
39 Never Let Me Go Kazuo Ishiguro
40 The Five People You Meet in Heaven Mitch Albom
41 One Hundred Years of Solitude Gabriel Garcia Marquez
42 Animal Farm George Orwell
43 The Pillars of the Earth Ken Follett
44 The Eyre Affair Jasper Fforde
45 Tess of the D'Urbervilles Thomas Hardy
I have no desire to read more Hardy, but glad I did read some.
46 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Roald Dahl
Loved Roald Dahl as child, still like the wicked humour.  I really dislike all the film adaptations of his books.
47 I Capture the Castle Dodie Smith
48 The Wasp Factory Iain Banks
49 Life of Pi Yann Martel
50 The Road Cormac McCarthy
51 Great Expectations Charles Dickens
52 Dracula Bram Stoker
53 The Secret History Donna Tartt
54 Small Island Andrea Levy
55 The Secret Garden Frances Hodgson Burnett
56 Lord of the Flies William Golding
Scarier left to imagination than on film.
57 Persuasion Jane Austen
58 A Prayer for Owen Meany John Irving
Heard it adapted for Radio 4.
59 Notes from a Small Island Bill Bryson
Funny enough not to read in public for fear of giggling.
60 Watership Down Richard Adams
Quite scary.
61 Night Watch Terry Pratchett
62 Brave New World Aldous Huxley
63 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time Mark Haddon
Must read this again.
64 Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell Susanna Clarke
65 The Color Purple Alice Walker
66 My Sister's Keeper Jodi Picoult
67 The Stand Stephen King
I know I read this, but can't remember it.
68 Cloud Atlas David Mitchell
69 The Master and Margarita Mikhail Bulgakov
70 Anna Karenina Leo Tolstoy
Heard it adapted for Radio 4. I think.
71 Cold Comfort Farm Stella Gibbons
72 Frankenstein Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
73 The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society Mary Ann Shaffer
74 The Picture of Dorian Gray Oscar Wilde
75 Gone with the Wind Margaret Mitchell
76 The Graveyard Book Neil Gaiman
77 The Woman in White Wilkie Collins
78 The Princess Bride William Goldman
79 A Suitable Boy Vikram Seth
80 Perfume Patrick Suskind
81 The Count of Monte Cristo Alexandre Dumas
82 The God of Small Things Arundhati Roy
83 Middlemarch George Eliot
Same as for Hardy.
84 Dune Frank Herbert
85 Wolf Hall Hilary Mantel
86 Stardust Neil Gaiman
87 Lolita Vladimir Nabokov
88 Midnight's Children Salman Rushdie
89 Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone J. K. Rowling
90 Shantaram Gregory David Roberts
91 The Remains of the Day Kazuo Ishiguro
92 Possession: A Romance A. S. Byatt
93 Tales of the City Armistead Maupin
94 Kafka on the Shore Haruki Murakami
95 The Magus John Fowles
96 The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas John Boyne
97 A Fine Balance Rohinton Mistry
98 Alias Grace Margaret Atwood
99 Norwegian Wood Haruki Murakami
100 The Wind-up Bird Chronicle Haruki Murakami