Saturday, September 22, 2007

Bananas, Bats and Boats

Perhaps it was a last ditch attempt to make up for the rotten summer. Whatever the reason, despite being encircled by a number of threatening clouds, the sun shone all day today. Why the sun couldn’t have fought off the advances of the clouds any other day this summer is quite beyond me but there you have it. The glorious sunshine and a slight wind made it a perfect day for a walk.

The walking group had decided to drive up to Balmaha and walk round a part of Loch Lomond (also a part of the West Highland Way.) It would be a gross understatement to say that the scenery is magnificent. When the sun sends brilliant rays of white light through the water and that water is surrounded by lush woodland which draws the eye up dramatic mountainsides, the sight is awe inspiring and nothing less. I do hope that you will permit me a little bias here, but I truly believe that Scotland is one of the most beautiful countries in the world – especially when the sun is shining.

We set off along the waters edge where little yachts with brown sails were already starting their passages across the loch. We pondered on the reason for the brown sails, could find none, and moved on. We passed some fishermen on the hunt for trout and salmon and watched with some disgust as they scooped out their worms which wriggled and crawled all over their grimy hands. On entering the woods we heard strange shouts which we variously attributed to the spirits of the forests or neds having a drinking session. It was then that we spied the three jogging bananas.

I have seen many strange sights but none quite as strange as three grown men dressed in banana suits approaching along a forest track. It turned out that they were running for charity. Quite why running for charity justifies the wearing of a banana suit I will never know, but it made our walk that bit more interesting I can tell you.

At one point the woodland path had become so eroded that we had to continue our walk on the beach. Bemused families making sandcastles with their children watched as we strode past them in walking boots with rucksacks on our backs.

Do you ever wake up in the middle of the night, thinking that it is time to get up? It would appear that bats are just as susceptible to body clock dysfunction as we can be. Just as we were nearing the end of our walk we noticed what looked like either large moths or small birds darting over the path. On realising that they were bats and it was daylight; we can only assume that they had been rudely awakened from their slumber – perhaps by the banana joggers although we will never know.

At the end of our walk we did the sensible thing and repaired to the pub for a well deserved rest after all the strenuous exercise we had just undertaken. However, when working out just how hard and strenuous that exercise had been we discovered that we had been walking an average of 1.5 miles an hour. So not that strenuous then? Perhaps not, but just the kind of walking group that I am quite happy to remain a member of.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Plan B

As a result of the rain on Saturday it was with regret (who am I trying to kid) that Plan B was put into operation. Perhaps Plan B should have concerned itself with maintaining the commitment to some sort of fitness but sadly it did not. In fact we ended up with “A Play, A Pie and a Pint”.

The aforementioned Play, Pie and Pint is an excellent idea offered by Oran Mor on the corner of Byers Road and Great Western Road in Glasgow. It does what it says on the tin and for £10.00 of your British Money you get a drink, a pie (it literally is just a small pie on a small plate, but we managed to get two of them each) and a play.

The play in question concerned your average female with two men in her lives; a cross dresser and a chap with a drink and anger management problem. Of course she chose the cross dresser over the charming other fellow (well you would wouldn’t you?).

After the play and after rescuing my very badly parked (ie abandoned) car we decided to have a wander along Byers Road.

There are a number of very good second hand shops in Byers Road and taking me anywhere near them is a very bad idea indeed, for my friends in any case. At a good 50 paces I can already smell the gloriously musty books, authentic vintage clothing and other assorted nick nacks. By the time I’m in the door I’m drooling and counting my available cash. And that cash was spent liberally in a fair selection of Aladdin’s Caves full of bright colours, interesting smells and mystery. Well, they were “bargains” after all.

We ended our day in Thornton’s where we shamelessly ate ice cream despite the fact that it was pouring with freezing rain and summer had given up trying to perform its intended task and gone home.

So that was our day out in the name of Plan B. A pretty good Plan B by my reckoning. I’m supposed to be going on a hike on Saturday, so, if it’s raining I’ll meet you in Byres Road for Plan B – The Sequel.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Saved by the Hail

For once it would appear that the vagaries of British weather will save me tomorrow from the agony of physical exertion. It had been suggested by friends much fitter than I that tomorrow we would go cycling. For fit people this might consist of a jolly day freewheeling up hill and down dale, but for me it would tend to offer the prospect of hoisting myself in a rather ungainly manner into the saddle and puffing and panting up steep hills with every muscle in my body protesting at my lack of training. When I looked at the weather forecast in the middle of the week it showed glorious sunshine for Saturday, making my heart sink every so slightly and my muscles tremble in fearful anticipation. Everything however changed today. As so often happens, despite the fact that we are at present bathed in glorious sunshine, the forecast for tomorrow has changed from a sunshine symbol to one depicting a cloud and three drops of rain. There will of course be many more than three drops of rain but there is only so much space available on a weather symbol.

In the event of rain, Plan B will be put into operation. I have to admit that Plan B has not actually been planned but here’s hoping that it will involve as little physical activity as possible.

I will keep you posted.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Do Teenagers Ever Sleep?

It was my pleasant duty at the weekend to accompany 38 teenagers to Alton Towers. We left at 3 in the morning and returned at 12 Midnight the same day (but only just!) and not once did several of them actually sleep. Where do they get their energy? They just kept going and going.

We may have been a formidable sight on entering Alton Towers. Two of the boys wore kilts and most of the others had painted Scottish Saltires on their faces. Be afraid, be very afraid.

I have to admit that I am an absolute wuss and the closest I got to going on a ride was going on the cable car from one end of the park to the other just so I could say that I had been on a ride (of sorts) at Alton Towers.

I did however conquer my fear of Oblivion. Oh yes; I managed to stand beside it as squealing adults and teens hurtled to their doom. That was scary enough so there was no way I was actually going on the thing itself.

Myself and the other leaders spent the day on a restaurant crawl and it’s best that I don’t think of the calories I must have consumed on the day. Perhaps calories don’t count on crossing the Scottish Border. It would be nice to think so.

The homeward journey again echoed that of the outward one, with 38 teenagers all screaming and shouting when they should have been sleeping. Someone had won a giant red dinosaur and the bus driver was none too happy at midnight when all the stuffing came out and went all over his bus. The dinosaur was last seen adorning our village roundabout.

It was on getting home that I got my first real fright of the day. I was confronted by a massive spider. It was so big that, had I managed to catch it, I could have kept it as a pet. I chased it round the room to no avail. I was only going to safely catch it in my spider catcher and deposit it out of the window but I assume that it thought that I was about to mercilessly kill it. It shot round the room and eventually found sanctuary underneath my bookcase. I decided to leave it there as I knew that the only way in which it would prove lethal to me was if I tried to move the bookcase, with the result that it came crashing down on top of me.

I finally collapsed into bed sometime after midnight and was dead to the world for more hours than would normally be necessary. As for the spider, I’m sure it is still crawling about the house somewhere waiting to pop out when I least expect it.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Scratching at the Surface

You may remember a blog post of a few weeks ago dealing with mysterious goings on in my street. I felt under an obligation to uncover what I felt was the murky truth of the matter, for research purposes only of course. Sadly I didn’t uncover the truth of that particular matter but in attempting to do so, I unwittingly stumbled upon a much bigger and altogether darker story.

Picture the scene if you will. A young teenager full of the joyful anticipation of young love gets a nasty wake up call when she discovers that her beloved is seeing someone else. Obviously she is distraught and keen to find out who the “other woman” is. Imagine her horror on discovering that the “other woman” was in fact her own mother. They say that “blood is thicker than water”, but so enraged was the teenager in question that spilling blood was in the forefront of her mind.

One day while her mother was gardening the girl saw her chance. Finding some handy garden twine (they don’t tell you in the shop but I believe it’s pretty good for this kind of thing) she attempted to strangle her mother. In the words of my 16 year old informant she “strangled her TO THE GROUND!” Quite why to the ground should be any more lethal than any other kind of strangulation I’m not sure but our 16 year old friend seemed to feel that it was. *

Happily (for the mother anyway we can assume) the strangulation itself was not lethal, the mother survived and the young man in question is now seeing neither the young strangler nor her mother (wise chap).

So you see, you may think that you live in a very quiet and unassuming street but to quote one Charlie Rich “no one knows what goes on behind closed doors”.

*To be honest there is just the outside chance that young J. has made up the whole thing but I hope not.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Ain’t No Fun When You Gotta Run

It was my painful duty yesterday to embark on a “Fun Run”. Now, in my experience the words Fun and Run are a contradiction in terms. I can see no fun at all in running and to be honest no necessity to do so. For me, the only possible use for running would be in any instance where one was unlucky enough to find oneself chased by a lion or a tiger, not common occurrences in this part of the world and still not an experience that could ever be classed under the term “fun”.

Anyway, on the basis that it was for charity and that it was only 5K I reluctantly said that I would have a go. However between my offering to take part and the actual day I had hatched a cunning plan.

I am a member of a walking group. To say a walking group perhaps gives the impression that we manfully (and womanfully) stride up Munros and the like every Saturday barely breaking sweat in the process. This is however an outrageous fallacy. In fact we amble rather idly through the least hilly paths we can find. As you can imagine in Scotland that takes a huge amount of research and preparation so it is no mean feat in itself.

Therefore it was decided that the members of the walking group would, merely by dint of being in the walking group, not be required to run. Instead we would turn up on the day and proceed to walk with no fear of humiliation or retribution.

We turned up at the allotted time and were given our numbers. Ominously mine was 13 which is never a good sign. I had expected a good number of the walking group to turn up to support our quest for a run free fun run, but in the event only another two turned up. Nonetheless it was walking we were doing and we strode out as the runners (after having gone through a very serious looking limbering up session) streamed past us. Our striding soon became our usual amble and pretty soon we were chatting and not really too worried about what time we would come in at.

Due to the cyclical nature of the design of the course (to try to maximise our embarrassment perhaps) we had only just set out when the first runners passed us on the way back. It couldn’t be said that they looked like they were enjoying themselves so we took some comfort from that.

Eventually we returned back to the start after a very pleasant stroll. By the time we got back to the start (5K in 1 ½ hours which I thought was a splendid time) the award ceremony was over and the organisers had given up and gone home. Sadly we didn’t get a medal or any plaudits for our achievement but equally we had not had to go through any of the agony. We might even be persuaded to do 10K next time.