Friends, collies, bridge guarding dogs,
The preparations for going away occur as a sequence in ‘Ben’s Munro symphony’. They start in low key, several days before take off and then rise – in a crescendo of activity – till the eve of departure. It begins like the tinkles from percussion instruments, with a gentle suggestion that something is afoot. This is characterised by visits to the back of my van which has been foreign territory since our last Munro trip. In the next piece the strings play in harmony and I like this part very much. Here my food is topped up and my treats made ready. Bottles of beer find their way, mysteriously, into the passenger well. My bowls and B’s crockery are introduced together with, my blanket and B’s sleeping bag. Other assorted twin sets are also assembled. The final movement is a full blown wind section, with trumpet and horn giving it wellie, to salute the night before the big departure. In packing up my van, this means the last minute essentials are squeezed in: maps, routes, rucksack, boots, GPS and all those digital essentials, newly charged. By this time my van is full to the gunwales and I am a nervous wreck.
An overnight sleep settles me a little and, if I’m lucky enough to bump into my pal Oscar – during my morning walk – I can expend all of that pent up energy in play and then my equilibrium is restored. As the year goes by I get more accustomed to the routine and so, when we set off on 30th August, I was more at ease than on the previous two occasions. Unfortunately, I have had to get used to another regular feature of our travel, known as the bottle neck. In my bottle today I was hemmed in by four wheeled things of all persuasions, some of them giants towering over me in a v. v. v frightening fashion. Yet again, none of us were going anywhere soon. The world and his dog were out – en fête – to witness the opening of the ‘Queensferry Crossing’ – the bridge over the Forth estuary near Edinburgh, newly opened today. This spectacle has been called the biggest infrastructure project in Scotland for a generation.
Initially, the Queensferry Crossing is going to have a 40 mph speed limit and all traffic will cross it, with cyclists and pedestrians using the much quieter, original, Forth Road Bridge. I can tell you there wasn’t a need for any law enforcers to keep an eye on unruly motorists today. The idea is that work will take place on the old bridge, that me and B used last year, to complete its transformation into an active travel corridor. Once complete, public transport will use it and the Queensferry Crossing will then become a fully functional motorway with a new speed limit of 70mph. I have this utopian vision of me and B getting to the Munros without a go slow around Edinburgh, every time we venture north; pipe dreams possibly, whatever the heck they are.
I can’t tell you how nervous I was because… the last time I had cast my eyes on this bridge it was incomplete, if you remember. My van would have to complete an Olympic long jump to get across the gaps. Putting my paws together I prayed v. v. v hard, to the god of modern engineering design called, in this case, Ramboll, that hey had got on with the job. Then, oh my golly gosh, me and B saw this in the Edinburgh Evening News. It told us there was a ‘completely safe’ 14 inch gap in the middle of the bridge such as the one on a modern bridge in Lisborn. Can you even begin to imagine the consternation this caused the butterflies in my tummy, who haven’t got a clue about speed limits.
You can read some of the salient facts below, if you are interested and… did you get to the end of the previous link? Got yah, hee, hee!!
At this point in our journey, the acquaintance between B’s foot and the accelerator was as rare as the acquaintance between her mouth and a cup of tea, at 8.30pm on a Saturday night. We covered the formidable distance of 7 miles in 1.5 hours. But then, in the next 1.5 hours, we travelled just short of 90 miles and rolled up in the car park at the Bridge of Tilt, close to Blair Athol, which was to act as welcome host for my van that night. The contrast was mind boggling with only five vehicles for company. Their owners came back – sporting walking boots, or riding mountain bikes – after their long day on the hills. This was my sort of place, my sort of people; a place where I could put my head down in tranquillity, before starting on the Munro project tomorrow.
Oh my dog, what a mess my head space was in as I tucked up for the next instalment of our adventure.
“Anon Sir, anon.”