Friends, collies, dogs who sleep in lovely warm motorhomes (with all mod cons),
B and I had parked in a lay-by on the road to Dalwinnie, which was way too public for my liking, but needs must I suppose. We heard lots of heavy rain showers overnight which are very nosy but, in the morning, my van was right in the middle of a lovely rainbow. Well B tells me it was, I was still having lovely ZZZs when this photo was taken.
This was the third day of our weekend which, being a Sunday, I understood to be a day of rest. No such luck for Ben, obviously this cultural norm doesn’t apply to Munro walking, where Sunday’s seem to be the day of least rest; so many of us out there, doing our bit. The bit we were meant to be doing (Meall Chuaich) became insurmountable because of the buffeting we would get in the v. v. v strong winds, that had developed. I’m pretty good at buffets generally, but you really don’t want to hear about the wind that sullies forth, once I have tucked in; hee, hee!
In the event, B did some reading and some driving and, having traversed another part of this vast land, we rolled up at the base of our next adventure. It wasn’t bright and it wasn’t even dry but, thank goodness, the wind was minimal from all quarters. In fact, B was riding the forecast all day, starting us off late so we might optimise the chance of a bit of the blue stuff later in the day. Here we were beginning our walk in the afternoon. I think those 5.30am starts B had been threatening me with were just a figment of her imagination; I had yet to see 5.30am, let alone start walking at that unearthly hour.
On the way to the start of my Sunday unrest we had spotted a good place to park up for the night and, I have to admit, it seemed to have all the amenities you could want: hard core parking area, a dense enclosure of trees – for my ablutions – and even a wheelie bin for rubbish; how civilised is that?
Starting off on my 14th Munro was a bit grim though; blue stuff later, or not. The present climate was oppressive with gloomy cloud hanging low over the hills like a duvet that is too heavy on a warm night. It depressed my mood and I wasn’t the happy chappie I normally am at all. The walk began on another of those wide stony tracts and I resigned myself to more sore paws – no Compeed for me in B’s rucksack. As we walked higher the cloud kept creeping down further, with a precipitation that became more and more persistent, until it was damn well heavy rain; not a millimetre of the blue stuff in sight.
By this time we were on the lookout for a cairn, to mark the point where a small path branched off, up onto the open hillside. Given B’s record – in the spotting cairns and blindingly obvious arrows – I wasn’t holding out much hope but, just then, a couple of two-legged figures came sauntering out of the mist. This should have been quite scary, given my temperament, but I was a little concerned about being up here alone with B so any reinforcements were welcome.
They were v. v. v nice people who said what a lovely dog I was, so I sat down very politely and – remembering my best manners – got over their ghostly appearance. Sadly, they weren’t the sort of humans who have pockets full of treats so all I got for my good behaviour was tasteless words; the people went down in my estimation after that. However, they did tell us that the cairn was just ahead and that the path was clear enough, even through the bog. They said that when the path reached a plateau there were fence posts going all the way to the top and this clever man (though without dog treats) had even tied some ribbon to the post for the return, so we would know when we needed to turn off and find the path back down to the cairn. Therefore, they said, we couldn’t possibly get lost. Obviously they didn’t know B, but I kept my ironic barks of laughter to myself, which takes some self-control when you can’t see a paw in front of you.
The three of them chatted a bit more, about how it was going to clear up later and it reminded me of stories David had told about B’s brother, Mike. Apparently, he was always seeing phantom bright spots on the horizon even in the most miserable of weather which, of course, never materialised. I began to understand how this outlook was necessary, to keep the spirits up, at times just like this.
B did find the cairn and the path and the fence and, eventually, the summit cairn. So, I have to eat my words about her navigational skills. I may as well eat these, as there weren’t many treats coming my way. We were only stopping for essentials so I was allowed a bit of leg-cocking but no sniffing and very few motivational treats. What I learned that day is, the hard work needed to keep your spirits up in the lowering dank, dark mist with nothing but your inner resources to sustain you.
By the time we were at the top I had started to hallucinate about beef and ham and even a bit of cheese. Up there, without another soul about and, with just inclemency to look at, we performed the Munro rite: picture of me, picture of B, picture of B & me; spot of malt whiskey on lips (B’s only, I hasten to add). Neither of our hearts were really in it, but it had to be done. As for inclemency, I think I’ll give her a wide birth next time she comes along.
The hike back was remarkably unexceptional except, back at base van – would you credit it – a bit of the blue stuff broke through the dismal sky. It got bigger and bigger over the short period of an hour, sending contrasting shadows over the route and reminding us that the hills can be staggering in their beauty. This is a world view that the Romantic Movement injected into our psyche, as an antidote to the colder rationalistic outlook which characterised the enlightenment.
The Romantics didn’t want to return to the time when our practical and moral compass was based on the unchallenged belief that god created the universe. However, they needed something more aesthetic to live by, rather than the laws created by an ‘objective’ science. There, how’s that? Not bad for a dog eh! They always say us Border Collies are clever. I think I might rename my blog to ‘Ben’s Wikiblogi’. I don’t want to end up in exile without B though.
My own world view was very much improved by a sighting of my ceramic dinner bowl, which was sensuous enough for me, especially when it was filled up with my evening meal. Then, tired and warm, with my tummy full, I curled up tight and slipped into a deep, deep sleep and had the most wonderful dream.
The young man, owning a glorious transit van that made ours look a bit shabby when it pulled up next to us, got talking to B about this and that – boring stuff. Then he asked her if she knew someone who would want to buy his van, because he was emigrating to Canada and my ears pricked up (only in my dream, of course!). He told B the van was going for a good price because he needed to sell it pronto. B got to like him very quickly because – as they got talking – he offered her a Jack Daniels. I was a little uncomfortable about this because that made two more men in B’s life, but I suppose she knows what she’s doing. This joiner by trade had converted his low mileage transit van into a motorhome. In my dream, B got very interested and had a good look inside. It was a very vivid, wish fulfilment, type of dream; the Freud variety (citation needed). The van had: lots of cupboards, a couple of bookshelves, a kitchen area complete with fridge, subdued ceiling lights and full insulation. Best of all, in the sitting area, the sofa pulled out into a full sized double bed, with v. v. v thick mattress. Once this was out there wasn’t room to swing a cat (sorry Tink). So, where on earth would I sleep? Oh Yes, of course, up on the bed with B 🙂 🙂 🙂
Never in all the years of Munro walking has a young dog had such a contented night and woken up with a wide grin on his face.
Love Ben xx