Sunday, July 29, 2007

Walking the West Highland Way - Episode 1: First Steps

Arriving at Milngavi Travel Inn I was very much relieved and grateful when the friendly and attractive girl at the reception desk said it would be alright for me to leave my car in the hotel car park for the duration of the walk. This had been one of my chief concerns and worries. I was terrified I was going to have to leave the car in some exposed and hazardous spot and find it with no wheels or burnt out or not even there any more but for a pile of broken glass on my return. Overjoyed by the receptionist's cooperation I once more felt life was worth living again and my mind was able to look forward to starting the heroic walk the next morning, after hopefully, a good night's sleep. I was sharing a room with my brother. On any future trip of this ilk, I will not be sharing a room with anyone. The reason for this is because I snore, and I snore loudly (so I am told). Shortly after I had drifted off into La La Land the raised voice of my brother invaded my soul telling me to wake up because I was snoring! I wanted to thump him. What the hell was I supposed to do! He wanted to share with me - I didn't ask him. I then laid there trying to monitor my breathing as to whether I might be snoring or not! This does not help one get a good nights sleep, but eventually I snapped back into consciousness and it was time for breakfast. My brother declined to share a room with me for the remainder of the trip apart from a bunkhouse at Kinlochleven where all four of us were crammed into one room - wonderful.

Anyway, that's the snoring bit out of the way, now on with the walk. We set out from the start point in Milngavi shopping centre at eighteen minutes past ten. We had only been walking for about ten minutes or so, when my brother, who is five years older than me - and I'm no spring chicken - was hanging back from me, my eldest son and my nephew and chatting to two attractive girls who had themselves only just started the walk. I did wonder to myself how much time he planned to ingratiate himself upon them, but they seemed happy enough with his company. Eventually, he separated from them and we were walking together again. Anyway, later that day we chanced to meet them again at a wayside inn where we stopped for refreshment. They were instrumental in pointing out to us that before we reached our goal for that day, we would have to walk up and over the dreaded Conic Hill before arriving at our hotel in Balmaha. None of us had really researched the walk as much as common sense might have suggested and so the news came as a shocking surprise to us all. I got out my map, put on my reading specs and had a look. Yes - no mistake - there it was waiting to torture us in our final staggerings of agonised exhaustion into the Promised Land of Balmaha! We seemed to walk a long way before sighting Loch Lomond. Actually we did walk a long way before sighting Loch Lomond! The long way seemed even longer by the fact that we were weighed down by full rucksacks. Now I should say at this point that it is a very long time since I last walked with a full rucksack. There is a service provided by a company called Travel Lite which takes your rucksack on to the next point for you - at a price - of course! However, we had decided we would have no truck with such a wimpish cop out - apart from the fact we didn't camp at all - we all hate camping!

As me and my nephew were walking through a small village with a bridge over a river - my brother and eldest son had gone on ahead, no togetherness here; forget "always go at the pace of the slowest member", we espied a vision from heaven in the form of an incredibly attractive girl carrying a seriously enormous rucksack with tent and all! We got chatting to her - as you do - and it transpired she was Swiss and was not only walking the West Highland Way - alone - but was aiming to reach the very north of Scotland before she was due to return home in about three weeks time. Unfortunately, at the pace she was walking under the weight of her baggage, it was self evident she was not going to make it to the next pub, let alone the north of Scotland. Realizing that if we stayed chatting to her we too wouldn't make it to the next pub - and that would be unthinkable - we bade our farewells and struck out to catch up with our compatriots unaware that we would meet this heavenly vision in a quite unexpected place a few days later.

We had walked many miles from our start point in Milngavie, and the strain was starting to tell. I started to pine for a nice cup of tea, an armchair and a pair of slippers, but instead I had a seemingly endless route march into the evening with no immediate end in sight. On top of this, the weather was starting to get threatening with dark menacing clouds creeping forwards from the horizon. The next part of the walk involved walking through a forest, before striking onwards and upwards to Conic Hill. We presently came upon some stark warning signs informing us we were not to follow the path into the forest because of logging operations and we might get run down by some hairy arsed logging lorry driver. My brother, not being one to snap to attention in the face of authority, let alone straighten his tie, suggested we should ignore the detour and continue on regardless. After all, it was Sunday, and the chances of finding anyone working was pretty slim. We boldly went into the unknown, our ultimate fate a mystery.
As we walked forward it was as if some dark force was leading us on, like a malevolent presence beckoning us forward through the stupor of our exhaustion, with only our grim determination to see us through to the end! After several hundred yards we saw logs - lots of them- and large areas of forest laid waste as if by some unseen demonic presence. It was clear we had better watch our backs. Presently, we thought we could hear- no- not hear - but feel a vibration in the ground working its way up through our feet and blurring our vision. We began to dream dreams and see visions of dark shadowy creatures peering out at us through the ensuing gloom. Their eyes like glowing red coals and searing into the heart of our very being. The vibrations grew more intense and came with a rhythmic pulsation like something out of an episode of Quatermass. Turning a corner, we came upon a group of shiny metallic disc shaped objects hovering just a couple of feet above the ground. We thought we could hear people crying...... or was it screaming......??
Finally, we rejoined the track at the end of the diversion, and struck out into more open countryside where we glimpsed our first sighting of Loch Lomond. As we came upon Conic Hill, so did the cloud, and finally the rain. I realized that although I was wearing waterproofs, it was now time to change out of my trainers and into boots. It was essential that whatever else we might do, we must not get our feet wet as that could spell disater. My compatriots went on ahead so I struggled on alone, my heart sinking when I came across the first very steep climb to get altitude up the hill. Stumbling onwards, and cursing every step - it was now evening - I came upon my nephew who had held back and waited for me. I was grateful for the company. Eventually, we reached the highest point of the track and had a glorious view of Balmaha where we were headed. I took several photographs. The sun had broken through the clouds aiming beams of light over the Loch.
Next came the worst bit - the descent. Walking steep downhill over rugged stones in the wet when you want to collapse into a heap is not to be recomended. It does your knees and ankles in. However, not wishing to spend the night up the mount - I decided to suffer the dark descent. Reaching the bottom, we found ourselves in a car park with a visitor centre and lots of touristy signs. We walked forwards, unsure of how far we needed to go to find our hotel. After a few short yards - there it was - just the other side of the road from the car park. I collapsed on my bed happy that at last I could finally relax and shed the aches and pains of the day. Only another 76 miles or so to go!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Council of despair

The biggest mistake we humans make is bothering to get up in the morning. The world would be a much better place if we all died and there was no more humanity to pollute this planet. If we want to "save the planet" as everyone seems to be on about at the moment, the best way to do it is for us all to commit mass suicide. When I stop and look around me at the way people conduct their lives I despair. I also acknowledge that I am far from perfect myself. Take the floods the country is suffering from at the moment. We find people afraid to leave their flooded homes for fear of looters. We find people actually vandalizing water bowsers. These people should all be shot on sight. They are nothing but rodents, except for one thing - they give rodents a bad name.
If you go on holiday, you have to go through a load of extra security at the airport because of religion obsessed nutters who want to blow you into a thousand pieces. We have gangs of idiotic youths wearing hoods when it isn't even cold going around beating people up. We have a predominance of one particular group who think it good to carry guns and use them on each other. The list of evils is endless. If you have a happy contented life you are very lucky and probably oblivious to the crap that is going on around you.
If you look around the world and see the atrocities people inflict upon one another - all for, in their own minds, very good and laudable reasons. People are starving in Zimbabwe and North Korea while their leaders get fat. People are murdered because they change from one religion to another, while others are murdered in "honour killings" - almost always women.
Mankind is not made in the image of god because, clearly, there is no god. If he were, then god would be self evidently evil. Mankind is to this planet what a weeping sore is to a leper's back. So lets all do the best thing we can to save the planet from any more of this rubbish, and lets all just drop dead! I'll follow you......

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Common Sense

I got this sent to me in an email today. I don't know where it originated from, and I must assume there are no copyright issues. Anyway, its so very, very true and is a sad reflection on the state we have got ourselves into. Come the revolution.......................

For those of you who may have missed this announcement in your local newspaper...
Obituary of the late Mr. Common Sense Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, Common Sense, who has been with us for many years. No one knows for sure how old he was, since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape. He will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable lessons as: Knowing when to come in out of the rain; Why the early bird gets the worm; Life isn't always fair; and Maybe it was my fault. Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies (don't spend more than you can earn) and reliable strategies (adults, not children, are in charge). His health began to deteriorate rapidly when well-intentioned but overbearing regulations were set in place. Reports of a 6-year-old boy charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate; teens suspended from school for using mouthwash after lunch; and a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student, only worsened his condition. Common Sense lost ground when parents attacked teachers for doing the job that they themselves had failed to do in disciplining their unruly children. It declined even further when schools were required to get parental consent to administer Calpol, sun lotion or a band-aid to a student; but could not inform parents when a student became pregnant and wanted to have an abortion. Common Sense lost the will to live as the Ten Commandments became contraband; churches became businesses; and criminals received better treatment than their victims. Common Sense took a beating when you couldn't defend yourself from a burglar in your own home and the burglar could sue you for assault. Common Sense finally gave up the will to live, after a woman failed to realize that a steaming cup of coffee was hot. She spilled a little in her lap, and was promptly awarded a huge settlement. Common Sense was preceded in death by his parents, Truth and Trust; his wife, Discretion; his daughter, Responsibility; and his son, Reason. He is survived by his 3 stepbrothers; I Know My Rights, Someone Else Is To Blame, and I'm A Victim. Not many attended his funeral because so few realized he was gone. If you still remember him, pass this on. If not, join the majority and do nothing.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Film Review - Children of Men

Last night I watched "Children of Men" on DVD, not that the mode of viewing makes any particular difference. I'm not going to go into the detail of the story as I don't want to spoil it for anyone who hasn't seen it. However, the main premise of the film is that all of a sudden, all women, all over the world suddenly became infertile and unable to have babies. In the film its 18 years (or was it 17 - never mind - whats a year between friends?) and society all over the world has caved in on itself and disintegrated. There are gangs of ravaging morons roaming the streets, terrorism an everyday thing for just about everyone, and illegal immigrants are fair game and rounded up by the "authorities" and put into cages for deportation or whatever.
Now - I have a problem with all this. OK, crime, racism, terrorism and the like is of course a big problem in the world and society alike, but what I cannot understand is why on earth a lack of babies should exacerbate the problem to such extremes. The film also seems to miss out on the fact that if everything really was as bad as this then there wouldn't be many people around anyway as there would be no food getting to the supermarkets, no work would be done, no basic necessities of life available, the upshot being that everyone would either die of starvation, lack of medical attention, or just murdered in the street. This is a very dark and disturbing film, but my main criticism is that the scenario is just untenable and has not been properly thought through. However, I am not saying this is entirely a bad film. Films are by their very nature escapist and cinematically I found it quite entertaining (and dark). There is a lot of very clever filming where the camera stays on the subject with continuous action going on for several minutes without any cut to another camera. There is also a quite amazing piece of filming where the camera is in a car with the subjects while it is moving along and being attacked by marauding hordes outside. The camera view moves from the front of the car to the back, moving around to all sorts of seemingly impossible viewing angles. There is a bonus section on the DVD which shows how this and other parts of the film were achieved, and makes very interesting viewing in itself. I give Children of Men three out of ten for plot, and seven out of ten for entertainment value.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Justice of God

I have just been away on holiday walking the 95 miles of the West Highland Way. While staying at the Travel Inn at Fort William, I had a read of the inevitable Gideon's Bible. I noted from Deuteronomy that if a husband is unhappy with his wife and she is found NOT to be a virgin when they married, then she is to be taken to the gate of the city and stoned to death. Of course, there is no such punishment- or any punishment at all for that matter - for the man who took her virginity. What a kind, fair and just god this is who puts these laws into the hearts of the sons of men! I was reading a while ago that a woman was stoned to death for some sexual "crime" in Nigeria after being found guilty under Islamic Shariah law. This is a very caring and humane kind of execution where the victim (almost always a woman) is buried in the ground up to the neck so that all the stones are hurled directly at her head. In fact, Islam as practiced in Iran, Nigeria and anywhere else the fanatics get their way is almost identical to ancient Judaism. If you care to read in the Old Testament about all the god-given laws (not JUST the 10 Commandments) you will see that they are not only evil, but favour men and victimise women. This is always the way with religion. It was invented and formulated by men for men to exercise power over women. That is why you only see men worshipping in Mosques and women did not worship in the Jewish temple either. In Christian churches it is the tradition for women to wear hats in church. This goes back to the apostle Paul's ruling that women should have their heads covered during worship. This was to signify that the husband is the head of the wife. The man, of course, does not wear a hat or covering because this signifies that Christ (God) is the head of the man! Notice the pecking order????? Oh, and just for good measure, Paul forbade that women should have authority over men. There's a surprise! And this is only the tip of the iceberg...........

Tuesday, July 03, 2007


Religious extremists are often referred to as fundamentalists. Now please forgive me if I am wrong, but I always thought that a fundamentalist was one who attached himself to the fundamentals of a particular belief. Now the fundamentals of a belief are the bedrock, core beliefs on which the religion as a whole is founded. So, a fundamentalist Christian will believe in original sin and so will believe that the story of the fall of man in the garden of Eden is factually true. This means that everything else in the Bible is true, otherwise the core beliefs upon which the sacrifice of Christ depends fall apart and you are left with a watered down faith which means little or nothing at all. Because it is all true, then it must all be incorporated into one's life and the way one interprets the world. Therefore, evolution cannot be true because the Bible clearly states that the Earth was created by God in 6 days and rested on the seventh, in the year 4004 BC (as calculated from scripture by Bishop Ussher). This gives fundamentalists the god given right to pour scorn upon the findings of modern scientific research which has a tendency to disagree with the creationist view - unless the evidence is there to support it. Fundamentalists don't need evidence to believe anything; they don't need it because they have the word of god, (even though the word of god is different from one faith to another - they can't all be right) so it is perfectly correct for them to try and foist their unreasonable and unreasoning beliefs upon anyone who doesn't see things the way they do. They have god on their side, so they cannot possibly be wrong. So, apart from denying children access to scientific truth, they also condemn gays, women who have had an abortion, etc etc. Catholic dogma denies people the right to contraceptives while poor overcrowded Catholics live in disease ridden squalor in South America and other outposts around the world. There are far too many people in the world, but because all human life is utterly sacred (according to religious dogma), the population is set to keep growing exponentially - that's if the Catholics get their way. However, this is only the tip of the iceberg. Leaving aside Christianity and looking elsewhere, we have religious fundamentalists thinking its OK to fly crowded passenger jets into crowded skyscrapers, carry out suicide bombings in crowded restaurants frequented by young people, blow up Mosques and people while they are in the peaceful act of worship. The list is endless - and terrifying. The problem is this - if adherence to the fundamentals of a faith causes people to find justification in committing such atrocities, what does this tell you about the religion itself? Think on.....