The Hills Are Alive

The hills are alive, and they are helping me live again too…

I have returned from Fort William! The Ben Nevis region of the world.

I’m a creature of habit. It’s not something I like to admit but it’s true. Certain changes make me uncomfortable which is a pain because I like to try new things and my mind delights in the thought of travel. But I also like the safety of a certain level of routine… Even though repetitiveness kind of makes me want to kill something. Ahhh, paradox. Which is why I’m glad that my holiday this year was the most placid of family affairs rather than an out-and-out 20 year old party bonanza.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a drink and I do turn into MC Hammer when the DJ brings the tunes (oh aye, coz I’m that cool) but there are times when your mind has just had. e. nuff. Peace, tranquility. These are things that in the metropolis of your personal bubble are lost and shoveled brutally into a grave of insignificance.

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It wasn’t til I arrived on one of the most stunning roads I’ve ever seen that I realised this. There is a community in loneliness. Hills feel older than you. They have been around for a long time and will remain there indefinitely (I hope). Human lives are far more temporal. We are lucky to even be allowed the privilege of bearing witness to such ancient features. They rise out of the earth, like majestic guardians. I see them as guardians, because why else would they need to be so tall? They are clearly there to protect nature from man by being stunning and intimidating in a breathlessly  massive way.

Lately my life has taken twists and turns, stagnated and infuriated me with it’s inability to rail itself on a path that is actually going to make me happy.

20130829_085906And that is why I took the Glenfinnan Viaduct and became a Real Wizard. Now there is a rail that makes me very happy!

Fort William is not so much a sleepy town as a town that needs only to rest. Sure, there is a Weatherspoons, but that is about all there is. If you want a little youthfulness, that is where you go, if not… you chill in the hotel bar with the other 195 year olds.

To be honest, boarding the bus made me imagine looking through a looking glass that shows you 75 years into the future. There was not one single person under 100 on there. My parents and I were almost as startled as the old folks on there; they were peering through their 3 inch specs at us as if they were beginning to believe the docs when they said they were going cray cray! We were spied through 50 pairs of scrunched up bug eyes and wire frames as if for all the world they could not understand what the hell we were doing there.

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Yet I didn’t care. We spent our evenings drinking Mojitos and boogying in our chairs to the sounds of Scottish folk warblers. The old timers may have pulled a few muscles on route to their 5th half lager shandy but we were ripe to party til the fun ended… at 10:30pm. We skipped the bingo night. Too much excitement. We re-named that Cocktail Night and Dads-First-Shot Night. Twas excellent 😀

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The strangeness of the entire situation; a relatively young family of three in a hotel full of people old enough to be my parents grandparent;, a 20 year old being absolutely not bored in a place that was essentially nothing but water too cold to swim in; trees to coniferous to climb and pubs too expensive to be worth the pints that are pulled there; was just another part of what made everything so perfect. I was finding solace in the predictable strangeness of the view outside my window. There was nothing new on any given day, except perhaps an extra smattering of drizzle. There was a peace in the quiet 20130828_165037of the hills I was constantly surrounded by. I don’t think the ancient wisdom of historic hills can be properly captured in text. Words are not enough to encompass the all consuming silence that resonated in them. They are so full of age that one feels dwarfed just driving through them. I got the impression that what I was doing was wrong – the only correct way to view these hills should be on foot. To be driving through seemed a travesty, indignation of the more insolent order.

But, as I am not currently able to walk those rocky roads, bus wheels it had to be. What I’m really looking for in this life is freedom. Despite being utterly static and restricted to their station by their own nature, the corries and peaks of the Ben Nevis region seem to have found that embody it, even, in a way that is zen and breathtaking.

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Next time, maybe I will get to see things from up high…

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SSDD

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Murray Mania: Enthusing a Nation

Those of you who follow TENNIS or are just captivated by the quintessential optimistic Englishness of strawberry’s and cream in the constant face of a potential storm, will know that Andy Murray is kind of a big deal.

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He’s THE NEW WIMBLEDON CHAMPION!!!!! 😀 😀 😀

GO ANDY!! :D

GO ANDY!! 😀

Andy’s perseverance to become so has inspired a nation for the years he’s fought to win on Centre Court.

He beat off Novak Djokovic in 3 straight sets, in blood boiling heat of almost 50 degrees, in a battle that will surely have it’s heart racing final game replayed on the golden reel of tennis forevermore.

Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic

Andy Murray broke a 77 year dry spell of Male British Winners of Wimbledon, the last British Male to win being Fred Perry in 1936. As the commentator said as the players walked onto the court, if he were to win (which he did) he would be the first player to do so in shorts – gentlemen played in long trousers back then!

There are so many reasons to be proud of Andy. For one thing, he’s been playing in Wimbledon for several years and done well, meaning that for the few weeks of summer left after the tournament ends, about 90% of British children and 20% of their over-involved parents *, become healthy, enthusiastic health freaks, and join a Tennis Club. A membership that gets shoved to the back of a drawer as soon as the Autumn winds appear. Around August. So he’s inspiring a healthier nation, if only for the short weeks of summer.

*(these statistics are totally made-up, btw)

But more than that, he does what few things can; he brings together a quartered nation under the shared support of one man.

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man or boy?? …

Great Britain, in spite of its’ name, is not a particularly “cuddly” places, regarding it’s relationship with its members. The ancient rivalry between Scotland and England has often served as a divide, much in the same way the USA views Canada. But for that fortnight in July, when the spell of Wimbledon sweeps over this island, we are united. Sure, we indulge in petty quibbles about “when he’s winning he’s BRITISH but when he’s losing, oooh, then he’s SCOTTISH!”, but that’s all part of the fun. Those little jibes that let us keep our national identities while still reveling in the shared bolstering of a 26 year old already held as a sporting treasure.

Until yesterday we had become accustomed to that perpetual let down come the semi finals. But all that has changed.

Yesterday, both my dad and I cried tears of pride in a man who has literally trained his entire life and who has now achieved his dream. To watch someone’s dream come true on live television, along with 17.5 MILLION other people was really quite a special experience and not something I’m ever likely to forget. That shared elation may only have been a tiny piece of the overwhelming ecstasy Andy Murray was feeling, but to be a rock in the waves of the young athlete’s joy was enough to give me a head rush – imagine the effect it had on his 6ft 3″ of tennis-star muscle!

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Another, lesser reason I am personally proud of him is the fact that he’s Scottish. As a Scot myself, whenever “we” win at something, it’s always a cause for national celebration. And, while I’m not exactly a patriot, I do feel a sense of pride when someone from up North beats someone, anyone, really. (… but yes, when we beat England…)

Prime Minister David Cameron went on record today as saying that he “can’t think of anyone more deserving of a Knighthood” in the New Years honours list for 2014.

the face of a new Knight of the Realm?? :D

the face of a new Knight of the Realm?? 😀

So, next Wimbledon, with our Pimm’s, ice and mint, strawberry’s and cream, white flannel shorts and button down polo shirts, we could be bounding onto center court in unified support of SIR ANDY MURRAY! Roll on the New Year and we’ll find out…

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Now, where’s my tennis racket???… I feel the need to thwack furry yellow balls…

LINK TO ALL THINGS BRITISH AND TENNIS!!

 

SSDD

Child Poverty In The UK Is Worse than Expected

So, you’re 28, a single parent with three kids, renting a flat in a bad area, acquiring toys and clothes for your little ones second hand for little or no money, living on minimum wage and working just 16 hours a week? (source: BBC Radio 1 Newsbeat)

Well, says the government, if we raise tax a little more…

In the UK today there seems to be a greater interest being taken in politics. There are currently huge overhauls being made to various societal features that seriously affect the everyday running of people’s lives.

Some of the main issues we are facing regard child poverty.

It was revealed just the other day that a shocking number of children are still living well below the poverty line – an estimated 2.8 million in the UK. The severity of these figures have prompted childrens charity Save the Children to launch their first ever campaign for youngsters in within the UK, having previously only raised money for projects in places like Africa.

It is thought that one in eight UK children go without at least one hot meal a day and one in seven will go without a warm winter coat or proper shoes because their parents simply cannot afford to pay for them. There are even parents choosing alternative lifestyles in order to eat more cheaply, living vegetarian to cut out the rising price of meat and 80% admitting borrowing money for essentials such as food and clothes. (source: Savethechildren.com)

The coalition has sanctioned that to be considered able to keep your family out of the “impoverished” category you must be earning at least £17,000 a year. It transpires that up to 60% of the families worst affected by the budget cuts and tax increases are living below these standards and have been struggling to keep up since the recession hit. Where they might once have lived a comfortable lifestyle, job losses and pay freezes have meant that families have fallen on harder times. In times when the entire country is struggling ways not previously thought of it might be an idea for the government to reassess their borders what it actually means to be “impoverished”.

More needs to be done to help these children, that much is certain. The uncertainty then, lies in what?

Measures are being considered to raise taxes for top earners, but this policy is unpopular within wealthier voters – and really, who can blame them for voicing their complaints?

Another would be to add taxes to various amenities and spread the cost over the good departments; but again, this is deeply unpopular, this time within the “squeezed middle-class”, who seem to be getting lumped with a whole load of added strain that could scarcely be afforded to begin with. To raise the cost of food again would most likely see the numbers of impoverished children increase yet again, yet to raise the price of sports and leisure facilities would be destructive to all the good done at the London Olympic and Paralymic Games this summer, ultimately obliterating any profit of benefit they stand to make to our health and economy.

It is a tricky mine-field to negotiate, for sure.

Another question we must ask is; what happens when they get older? What happens when those youngsters we keep healthy in the mean time grow up and find that, without the thinly veiled charity from friends and relatives or the support of organisations such as Save the Children or schools, there are no jobs for them to be able to support themselves?

Such realisations should be made in Parliament that it is not just amendments to the current treatment of our nations poorest parents that need to be made, it is preventative measures that need to be put in place to ensure this cycle does not extend to yet another generation.

Here are some links for more information on this, if you are so inclined to investigate:

Telegraph Cal Flyn 5th September     Child poverty: minimum wage ‘does not meet basic costs of raising children’

Telegraph Cal Flyn 6th September     Child Poverty, Mapped

BBC News Save the Children Urges Action

BBC News Poverty Target Will Not Be Met By 2020

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End Child Poverty in the UK Campaign from 2009

SSDD