After a substantial breakfast in Braemar, I had a quick bag of Braemar’s very own hill – Creag Choinnich (Ken’s Crag). This is very steep and has a cracking view down Glen Shee and up and down Deeside (?Glen Dee, Deedale…??)
This was followed by a slow drive to Tarfside involving sitting in a layby drinking coffee and reading the paper and watching my only twenty quid note disappear off towards Inverurie at 55mph from the top of the Strachan – Fettercairn road. This is a very fine, if expensive view. Its impossible to catch a banknote travelling that fast. Just a tip, there.
I was soon at Tarfside where I had elected to be a gofer for the girls running St Drostan’s hostel. My immediate duties were to collect supplies from the Mace store in Edzell and to deliver a casualty to the health centre there too. I went to Edzell several times, in fact.
It was roughly at this time that the wind picked up. Then it picked up a bit more, followed by a full gale, then something a bit stronger. Trees started to loose bits and one such at St Drostan’s got tangled up with the power lines and cut the electricity off for the next two days. This coincided with people arriving from Shielin of Mark and Ballater – most of whom were bordering on exhaustion, one or two may have had early exposure symptoms and all of whom were without exception, soaked especially the lass who had been blown into the burn. It was a heady mix of sound judgement, helping each other and sheer luck that nobody perished that day.
The hostel holds twelve people. Tonight there were fifty six. There was no power, so the food was cooked by The Retreat, just down the road. It was noticeable that the people making the most significant contribution (instead of just whingeing, which a couple of people managed to do) were Over The Hill club members. Dave Skipp, Alvar and Ann Thorn and Pauline and Bernie Marshall were prominent, although maybe there was a bit of over-staffing in the kitchen. I got out of the way till washing-up time.
A few camped on the village field, including me. I did try to put up the Primevera tent whilst coincidentally demonstrating to a bunch of Bronze DofE campers how to put up a tent in a roaring gale, but it was a losing battle with the wind and I just ended up over-bending a joint on one of the poles. It had been an unequal battle. There was much flapping. I think it' might be OK, after inspecting it just now. Its not a tent for a hurricane, though. The little Karrimor tent was put up fairly easily in the teeth of the storm and, once up, didn’t budge or leak, so I was both relieved and happy about that. It was double pegged, mind.
A trip up the glen to see if anybody was struggling badly revealed no strugglers apart from the local martins and swifts who were all sitting in the road along with chaffinches and robins and all unable to fly in the storm. The trees were losing large chunks at this point, too.
The next night was less frantic, but still no power. One individual complained about the “chaos” at St Drostans – dhuhh….. It was, in fact, impossible to cook much more than bacon rolls and tea at the hostel and again, everybody who wanted feeding got fed by the staff at The Retreat who came and took orders.
The Mason’s Arms also opened that night and a jolly night of moderate boozing took place. For me and a German lad called “Stefan”, this ended with a rehearsal of badly remembered sections from a Freddie Frinton sketch involving a butler, Miss Sophie and four invisible guests. This is, apparently, very popular at New Year in the Fatherland.
On the third day, I bagged Cat Law, a Marilyn at the foot of Glen Prosen. I forgot the camera. It rained anyway.
And then, Montrose. I camped as usual behind the Glaxo factory and joined in the jollities at The Park.
It was Roger Smith’s final TGO Challenge as co-ordinator/manager/supervisor/favourite Uncle. Denis Pigeon had produced a card, Humphrey had organised a fine ornament for presentation, and cards had been carried across Scotland from each start point.
Jean had written a song to the tune of Westering Home “Eastering Home” and she, JJ and Croydon did a rendition. It was a very fine send-off. Andy Howell says more and betterer about it on his blog http://www.andyhowell.info/trek-blog/2011/05/
I gave Bob Tucker a lift home to Consett as he’d finished early due to the storms and on the way, we visited the Sidlaw Hills for the bagging of the diminutive, heathery but nevertheless lovely King’s seat. This has some fine, wild woodland at it’s foot and a cracking view of the Tay estuary.
The I went home for fish and chips and told my mum everything that had happened.