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Thursday, 31 December 2009
Banishing the Birthday Blues...
The joys of freelancing over the Christmas period. Everybody else seems to be lulled into the wonderful sense of security by knowing when your wages will actually arrive. Anybody in a functioning office is counting the seconds till they escape again for New Year, after grudgingly dragging their hull back after Christmas. The simple question of "Why has my money not been paid?" is met with, "Well the accounts department doesn't work until the 4th of January, so call back then, oh, and have a good New Year!" I won't, I'm bloody skint because of your somewhat easy going accounts department, and I have wasted a good part of the day dealing with your non-phone answering skills your so well paid for. Sod it; it's my birthday, my heart is feeling heavy, and my plans to go climbing have gone tits up, due to a 60mph wind and more of the white stuff. At 1.00pm the car is loaded and I head north to the first possible mountain to at least get out. Lower down the wind isn't too bad, the road seems clearish, and I'm going to display all the carisma of a bedroom bound teenager if I don't get out. The road conditions slowly get worse, two lanes in the dirty snow pointing the way forward, while the car slides about. Just as I'm starting to think my day is totally doomed, the sky clears, so does the road, I gently put the car into a bend to test for ice and the wheels grip. I come over the crest of Stockiemuir Road, and laid out before in a panorama that never disappoints, is the bowl with Loch Lomond in the foreground, and the Highlands beginning at the top. The land seems to glow in her new white armour, the Kilpatricks to the left, Campsies to the right, Highlands ahead, I drop a gear and turn up the stereo as the car accelerates forward, my heart rising from the gloom and soaring with the hills. I head for Ben Lomond, thinking if I run up her I can make the summit by 3:30pm, and be back down in time for darkness, tea and medals.
I gun the car to Rowardennan, park up and start to walk up. The path is icey, but not too bad. I feel good after the hedonism of the past month and hammer on up the path, clearing the tree line in 20 minutes, the sky dark but the summits clear. I was making good time until I hit the ridge line, then the realisation of why I hadn't climbed hit me, or should I say the wind hit me. A South African bearing a snow board on his back gingerly steping down the iced path warned me I'd need googles to summit. (The South African accent is rather distinct; being Glasgwegian I am very aware of such details, this particular accent reminds Glaswegians, Scousers, Brummies and Geordies that some are more out there than others. I guessed he was South African but would happily bet all my meagre wages that he was. Clive James wonderfully described two South Africans having an arguement, stating, "I knew they were South African because A. They sat either side of me and argued across and B. They sounded like they were trying to club each other to death with speech.) Gusting at 60-70mph I struggled to breath in the onslaught of spindrift, fighting to stay upright, let alone walk uphill. I soldiered on for another 30 minutes before I had to admit defeat. The summit was in sight, but hardly Everest it was time to head back down. Any other day it would be a failure but today, my birthday, it was a triumph. I missed my kids, missed Meri painfully, but to be out in the twilight buffeted by the freezing wind seemed to help more than any pub, club or restaurant. Being born on the 30th of December is a bit of a pain in the arse on a good day; it is coveniently forgotten, after the Christmas rush, and overlooked for New Year. As a kid it hurt even more, in the 1980's materialistic grab a birthday equated to the same as Christmas: eg, to days to get proper presents, such as bikes, skateboards etc, for me it has always been just another day, no parties, no celebrations as everybody is either more concerned with New Year, or trying to forget Christmas. What I have found is that if I head into the hills in winter everyday feels like a birthday should. Anyway that evening I broke my no alcohol policy to head into the West End with an old friend, and to giggle like school kids over the distant past. Have a happy New Year. This ones going to be big.