Friday 30 May 2014

Bruno Has Died

if there's a doggy heaven for bruno, this would be it

I had to make the decision to end Bruno’s hopeless fight for life this morning and at about half-past eleven today he was put to sleep. His illness has lasted just 38 days from diagnosis and whilst the outcome was inevitable, the speed of his transformation from a strong, vibrant, noisy, enthusiastic, mischievous food-obsessed mongrel to an unsteady and lethargic geriatric refusing everything except plain water has been really quite shocking.

I’ll give him a bit of a write-up later on, when I’m more in a mood for it.

Tuesday 27 May 2014

Confessions of a TGO Chally Groupie Part Deux

me dogless with lowering dark clouds on craigowl hill

And so it came to pass that I found myself in the car park by the church in Glen Prosen. I tried at the hostel but there was no-one there, so I tried at the warden’s house and there ws no-one there either, so I hung around for a bit and then decided to go and bag a Marilyn – one Corwharn.

I followed the unmapped local core path to Coremuir farm, meeting a transatlantic TGO challenger coming the other way. We declared the path to be a bit rough. Nevertheless, for anybody heading to Glen Prosen hostel, it knocks off a mile of walking from the road route and I expect it’ll improve with use.

summit of corwharn

After Cormuir, and on the hilltrack to Glen Isla I met a lady with her little dog, whom she declared to have run out of steam. They were waiting for a chap to return from his walk higher up the track.  The pooch was 18 years old and, apparently, suffering from cancer, so we had a chat about dogs and their ailments and how they don’t live long enough.

From the summit of the road, I followed the fence to the top of Corwharn and retraced to Cormuir farm, returning to Prosen village via the road – I didn’t want another go at that rough path.

The hostel was now occupied by a couple of senior members of Forfar Mountaineering Club who were cooking a meal in support of four of their members who were on their way from Glen Shee on the Challenge. Two more TGO challengers arrived, plus the four friends from Forfar, fearfully late and a convivial whiskycentric evening was had.

couternach ridge

In the morning I determined to walk the long ridge on the North side of the Glen, from the head of the Minister’s path to Clova to the Airlie Memorial.

Despite the gloomy conditions, and the apparently heathery nature of the hills, this proved to be an easy and enjoyable walk over several tops including the Hill of Couternach,  the Craigs of Lethnot with it’s cross and The Goal before reaching the ever-so-slightly decrepit Airlie’s tower.

cross on craigs of lethnot

Just before the tower, I met a local chap nursing a baby rabbit. he had two dogs with him and one of these, a lurcher-type had , apparently failed to kill the rabbit the day before and this man had taken it home to try to nurse it back to health, apparently succeeding in getting it to eat dandelions and hop around in a rabbit sort of way. Unfortunately, on releasing the poor thing this morning, it had apparently suffered a heart attack and was now in a semi-conscious, not to say moribund condition. And he didn’t quite know what to do with it next. The proper thing to do was probably to despatch it on it’s way to it’s maker as quickly and painlessly as possible, but he couldn’t do it. I sympathised with his predicament but I didn’t mention the obvious solution to his problem. Despite, or, maybe, because of his inability to do the proper, brutal thing, I formed the opinion that the world would probably be a whole-lot better place with more people like this and went off down the hill to walk the five or six miles back to the hostel.

airlie's tower falling to bits

Here, it was the turn of more TGO challengers to arrive, one of whom I shared a mince-and-tatties meal with and the other, Judith,  a well-known Tranmere Rovers fan and blogger extraordinaire who arrived too late for the scoff. Judith’s blog is here

upper glen prosen

In the morning I headed for Kirkton of Glenisla for the bagging of two Marilyns – Hare Cairn and The Crock.  This was after briefly visiting the upper parts of Glen Prosen on the look out for Paddy Burrows who should have been around here just now. I left a message for him with a Scottish Electricity bloke in a van to “get his arse in gear” and, aparently, this was successfully delivered some time later. In Glen Isla, I only managed one Marilyn, the second one proving a problem due to forestry harvesting and me running out of time, but the Hare Cairn went well enough, apart from the huge deer fence guarding the summit.

hare cairn deer fence

During the climb I had various text interchanges with Fight Club Hike Paddy and we arranged for me to pick him up in Kirriemuir and take him to the hostel in Glen Prosen and return him to wherever I picked him up from the next morning.

from creigh hill

So I collected him, a few hours later from the first open boozer he’d found in the middle of Kirriemuir. We collected “supplies” from the co-op and there was another convivial night in the hostel – this time, more beer and cider-based than whisky. I duly returned him in the morning and went back to Glenisla for the bagging of another Marilyn – one Creigh Hill which has two summits on steep heathery stuff just above Blackwater reservoir.

This was an easy bag and as soon as I’d finished, I went off to North Water Bridge to have a go at swapping my remaining ten…eight [koff] litres of Bishop’s best for donations.

north water bridge

On a hot afternoon and a cool evening, the campsite duly filled up with TGO challengers and a small coterie or band formed around the picnic table I’d balanced the beer box on – and the beer just disappeared. Several people were very generous with their scotch and other spiritual liquids… 

moncrieff hill

On the way home, I bagged Craigowl Hill, another Marilyn, in the company of a local who climbed the hill almost every day, and Moncrieff Hill, by a route provided by Alastair Pooler and in rain, followed by getting hopelessly lost on Edinburgh’s road system, due to duff road-signage at the other end of the Forth Road bridge (the sign pointing towards Edinburgh actually does go to Edinburgh – well, dhuhhh….) finally arriving home at six-ish, ten minutes before my wife or loved one and superdawg arrived.

I didn’t know it at the time, but it was then that Bruno committed what was probably his final naughty act. He stole and scoffed, in secret, the three sausages I’d bought in Kirriemuir and which I’d not eaten, but had left in my box of food. I looked everywhere for those sausages, eventually finding the empty plastic tray this morning and, putting two and two together….  I’ve decided not to mention this to the dog at the moment….

And so endeth the TGO challenge stuff. I’d originally intended just to bag the hills around Glen Prosen, but then, I thought, I could do cafe akto as well.

And now I need some new money-raising ideas.

Not much change with the dog’s condition by the way. He’s slept more or less all day, but he’s had some, just a small amount,  of the very fine lamb stew I made in the slow cooker.


Sunday 25 May 2014

Confessions of a TGO Chally Groupie Part 1 (and a dog update)

view north from cnoc thulagain

Anybody who has read the previous post will know that I spent the first part of my Highland hols in the very lovely Glen Mazeran. This was from Sunday 11 May to 14 May.

Most of the time was spent either snoozing or walking to and from my car which was parked about a mile away by a bridge.

mazeran deer 

On day 1, during one of my snoozes,  the local ghillie visited and by a process of interrogation discovered that it was my car that was abandoned on the road, that I was to stay for two or three days, that I knew about digging poo holes, that some people on the TGO Challenge were about to disturb the peace of this otherwise very calm spot  and that I had a supply of bacon.

One afternoon, I did manage to bag the HuMP Cnoc Thulagain which rose stonily through pretty woods behind my tent and which, apart from the extensive views up and down both Strathdearn and Glen Mazeran, held no other excitements except, perhaps from the remains of ancient cairns along it’s top and the huge herd of red deer. Its an excellent observation post for both valleys and its not too much a stretch of the imagination to consider that in less secure times, that’s what it would have been used for.

glen mazeran with tgo camper

Mazeran is a very beautiful spot and is heavily keepered. The estate staff drove up and down at least half a dozen times every day and spent hours working at the very far end of the glen. In between the regular land-rover patrols, the place is a haven of peace for anybody who might be seeking an extended period of tranquility or a very long nap.

Mazeran also has huge herds of red deer, many of which hang around near the steadings at Laggan. Laggan also has kennels, one of which contains a husky in a very large hamster wheel. On my first passing, it was running like mad inside the wheel and on seeing me, got distracted and fell over, doing at least one full turn before falling out of the wheel. (arf!)

camp at cairngorm club footbridge

After some significant success for Cafe Akto at Mazeran where I met several long-established friends and , possibly, some new ones, I did the double carry out to the car and went off to Aviemore for fish and chips and shopping and did a single walk-in over the short distance from Whitewells to the Cairngorm Club Footbridge where a supply of chocolate cake, cream and coffee was provided. This is a very busy spot, but not, apparently for TGO challengers and only about half a dozen passed by. Some more turned up late but by the time they did, I was well into the beer at the Pine Martin bar at Glenmore.

campbell-hughes memorial

Most people who pass by the footbridge don’t seem to notice the memorial stone near the bridge. This has an inscription to a mountaineer, one Helen Campbell-Hughes who was killed by a flying bomb in London in 1945

The next day, after squirrel-watching over breakfast at the excellent cafe and meeting TGO-ers Humphrey, Laura and Louise,  I went round the back of the Cairngorms to Braemar and had a drive up to Inverey, Linn of Dee and Linn of Quoich. Many rather fragged-looking challengers were spotted along the road.

linn of quoich

On the 17th, I parked up by Linn of Quoich and bagged the heathery Corbett Carn na Drochaide. I found this climb to be outrageously hard work and it was roughly at this point that I realised how important a TGO challenge (or similar!) is for my general walking-fitness, and that I’d been a bit lazy up  to now in 2014 – not helped, perhaps, by a weakening Superdawg.

something flowering!

Carn na Drochaide is a heathery lump, to be honest, but has lots of bird-life, a fine selection of mountain flowers, and a cracking view of Ben Avon and Braemar city centre.

Even more TGO challengers, most of whom I knew were spotted on the drive back down the glen. Some were looking even more fragged that the ones I’d spotted the day before.

view north from drochaid

To be fair, most of my Braemar time was spent boozing, mainly in the Fife Arms, with TGO pals and so on…… although I got the impression that Braemar was a bit quieter than on previous TGO’s (although I don’t always go that way, so, maybe I’m talking dingo’s kidneys here.)

After two nights, I left for Glen Prosen, the main reason for my trip to the Highlands before I thought up the idea about doing Cafe Akto.

Doings in Glen Prosen will be detailed in part two. This will important info for prospective TGO challengers considering using Glen Prosen as a way to get to places such as Arbroath and Lunan Bay

I bet you can’t wait, innit?

Finally, a thanks to Andy Howell, for the generous lump of dosh. This has made up cafe Akto results to a nice, round sum of £200 and I apologise for the little poke I gave in the previous post. All that remains now is for somebody’s concience to be so badly rattled by this as to make up the numbers to a nice, round £300. 

aap crook 012

Turning to Superdawg – he’s turning out to be a right  tough little bugger and whilst at this very moment, he’s spending most of his time asleep and appears yet weaker, he did, temporarily, recover a bit to regain his appetite, play with a ball and bark at passing dogs. But now he’s hanging on again and is looking weak and old. His main strength seems to lie in his dangerously armed jaws which become tightly clamped shut when my body language tells him that it’s time for his tablets. He could easily break all the bones in my hand with those choppers, so its an operation not without personal risk. Its a good job that he remains in a good mood and the docile, sociable and friendly mutt that he’s always been.


Friday 23 May 2014

TGO Challenge 2014 Cafe Akto Results (and a short update about Superdawg)

glen mazeran akto and a cusomer

I returned from the Highlands yesterday teatime, having  accidentally bagged two Marilyns on the way home and got myself into traffic nightmare in the middle of Edinburgh following a time/space continuum error at the near end of the Forth Road bridge which eventually saw me blocked in on all sides by three buses and a tram – but best not go into this in case there’s CCTV evidence….

glen mazeran

Eleven or twelve days earlier, I turned up at Glen Mazeran with an akto, a basha, loads of bacon and rolls and coffee and ten litres of Bishops Best Black Paw bitter, put up the tent and waited.

the bar


A couple of days later, after a bit of local exploring and some sensible toilet advice from the estate ghillie, three people turned up for beer and butties, followed by another twelve or thirteen or so, a day later and some more for breakfast the next morning. And so, all of the beer and all of the bacon and bread-based products were consumed. Even my pan-cleaning sponge was consumed, allegedly by a local mouse, but possibly even by a TGO challenger crazy for animal fats of any kind. (This can happen)


cafe akto

After this, I went to the Cairngorm Club Footbridge in the very lovely Rothiemurchus forest. Here, a lighter set up up, involving only one carrying-in journey and a similar one for getting out a day later. Here, I had a very fine chocolate cake, some leaky double cream and the coffee. Only a few challengers went this way whilst i was there, although it is rumoured that several well-known blogging challengers did stumble past at ten o’clock on the night that I’d escaped at four o’clock.

more customers

Blogger Oldmortality also turned up bearing gifts for me and the Dawg although the Dawg was at home attending Aunty Vera’s funeral in Calderdale crematorium. Nevertheless he has enjoyed some of the doggy-treat sausages since then. And I enjoyed the liquid stuff but the snickers bar met an untimely end in the bin at Glenmore campsite along with my coffee sachets and a penknife when I mistook a nylon bag for my rubbish bag. (I blame the scotch, actually)

North Water Bridge

Finally, since there was another ten (actually, koff, about eight) litres of Black Paw remaining, I took it upon myself to visit North Water Bridge campsite on the very night about sixty challengers were about to embark on their final day of the TGO challenge. This saw the end of the beer, so I went home.

north water bridge drinkers

I’ve been more than impressed with people’s generosity in supporting this venture and for scoffing all that bacon. Several people seem to have paid well over the odds for whatever they had. Three day walkers in Rothiemurchus gave me twelve quid out of sheer goodness and several TGO challengers donated cash without actually having any refreshments.

And then, of course, there was the chap who wants to stay anonymous who bunged me just enough cash for 50% of the beer.  You are entitled to a personal moment of smugness my friend and you can be certain that your support has made a significant difference to the success of this jape and you also made several TGO challengers happier than they ought to be.

The next paragraph is in a smaller font than usual so as not to embarrass anybody:

Some challengers filled their boots and then wandered off and some (at least one….) promised to donate on two occasions but didn’t – mind you, they (he) didn’t actually have anything but my feeling is, without sulking or getting bitter (he didn’t get any bitter) is that really, you shouldn’t say you’re going to do something and then fail. But that’s politicians for you….

When I finally managed to open the tin this morning (two tin openers failed, but the third industrial blowtorch eventually prised open a sufficient gap) there was just short of £165 in the tin. Mrs Pieman, in a moment of rare-for-a-Yorkshirewoman-from-Halifax moment of generosity made it up to the full £165 using personal securities normally imprisoned with several moths in her tightly locked purse,   and a donation from Ria made a few weeks ago made it up to £170 to put in the bank. Thus, £170 will be paid into the Virgin money giving page quite shortly. There’s a link at the bottom of this post for anybody feeling a bit generous.

And thanks to Mick also for the dosh for Dawn’s PHD jacket she gave me to sell – not forgetting, of course, to mention Dawn’s generosity in giving the jacket away in the first place. Actually, it was a rather nice jacket and it would have suited me nicely……

So, the fund-raising thing is doing Ok at the moment, but I need more ideas for money raising – the key rule of which is, of course, that nobody gives money away without getting something in return, unless the really want to do that.

More info about the Black Paw brewery can be found Here

Click the logo below to check out the state of the fund and, for those who feel in the mood to donate – to donate.


Finally – an update about Bruno the Superdawg.

superdawg - don't look into the eyes!

I cut short the TGO trip because, frankly, I was missing the dog. Reports from home said that he was OK and quite happy, eating, pooing properly and playing and so on, but I had a feeling that I should come home. So I did.

I arrived about teatime on Thursday and Mrs Pieman and the dog arrived from Aunty Vera’s funeral about ten minutes later. I noticed that he’d aged a bit more than he should have in twelve days and he’d lost some weight and that his bark was much higher in pitch than it had been. But otherwise he seemed Ok and he wolfed down his supper, took his steroid tablets nicely, played with a football and cuddled his jumper (he has a jumper as a comfort toy) (ok, we’re too soft, I know…)

But this morning he refused food, wouldn’t have his tablets, peed on the landing without actually noticing and then slowly melted into a semi-comatose state with with all the appearance of an animal about to wander off on another journey – if you catch my drift.. I decided that as he wasn’t in any apparent pain or distress to just let him die there and not to give him that last ride to the vet. He was like this for most of the day, sleeping, shallow breathing, unseeing eyes and, apparently on the very point of death.

Then the bugger recovered. He’s had his supper, a nice poo outside, he’s nearly taken off a Pieman finger whilst briefly considering a chewstick and he’s made himself comfy on a beanbag and is in a peaceful snooze as I write.

By sheer luck I seem to have done the right thing. This time.

So, a temporary and, probably short reprieve, I suppose. Maybe he was just practising for the real thing. He won’t be going out walking again, though. He’s quite weak and his perambulations are measured in yards rather than miles.  I think the walks have finished now. 

For those who are bothered, I would expect bad news quite soon. I’m hoping he can do this peacefully and at home. As for me, I’m not doing anything else, walking wise till after he’s gone. I’m going to look a bit daft, though, wandering around with just a retractable lead.

There’ll be more Highland stuff later, though – I did manage to do other stuff between cafe Akto-ing….

Friday 9 May 2014

Ok, Own Up, Who Is Sick of hearing About the TGO Chally?

tgo2013 010
I must admit – having not even been rejected for this year’s TGO Challenge, (I didn't actually apply ( but they would have given me a place, surely…?) I am just a bit fed up of reading blogs about people just about to set off and their route plans, boozing plans,  exhaustive and exhausting fucking kit lists complete with weights and so on and so forth blah blah..
...serious young men...

And I expect there’ll currently be a coterie of serious-looking young men with ultra-light packs and wrap-around dark specs currently camping in some damp midge infested bog or up some seriously windy bealach trying to think up excuses why they didn’t quite make it to Montrose (knee injuries, death and funeral of mother-in-law’s “special” uncle, failure of ultra-light stove, forgot to bring any food… and so on…)
And then there’ll be the old hands, currently snoozing cosy in their bags waiting for a visit from Mr Bladder, having just sipped just a little bit more than their nightly ration of Fine Malt and full of the sirloin steak and peas they had for their tea and unbothered by the sizzle of drizzle on their tent flaps during which they decide on a the wisdom of a late start in the morning (probably around lunchtime providing its not raining)

Oh no, I’m glad I’m out of it.
montrose campsite

No really.
But I’m collecting stuff together and packing for an episode of TGO-related activities involving the erection of a tent and basha in Glan Mazeran for the provision of solace and caffeine to slightly-fragged individuals having just crossed the first bit of the Monadhliath Mountains. I will carry 10 litres of Black Paw Bishop’s Best Bitter for their consolation and hope to raise a few bob for Mind.
In the meantime, I’ll be worrying about Bruno’s health. he had his check up a couple of days ago. His attack of diarrhoea which started on Druridge Bay beach, just got worse but he got medication for this which seems to have worked, which seems at least to exclude one thing . And whilst his lumps are only a bit more obvious than before , his passenger-side front leg stopped working  briefly but almost completely the other night and he couldn’t get up the stairs, but it seems OK just now. We’re doing daily 2-3 mile walks after which he seems to be briefly knackered. I think his days of big hills and leaping fences (in one mighty bound) are ended. His fate now seems to lie in his ability to to poo nicely and in lumps of a certain colour and consistency,  to retain a voracious appetite, to keep the ears and tail erect and be interested and playful. I’m going to be away for two weeks and I’m going to be worrying that one or more of these rules are going to be broken. He’s still happy and enthusiastic but there’s a creeping number of negative symptoms.
We have to accept death, I suppose. Its a natural process and we hope to manage it as well as we can, but its difficult if we’re not actually there to do it. I’m a bit torn about going at all. I can always come home a bit early, I suppose but I feel I should be on poo watch and boiling the chicken (don’t ask…).  I’ll only be six hours drive away at the most, though…. 
Had we nae’r lov’d sae kindly…

Tuesday 6 May 2014

Bruno’s Bucket List – Footballs at the Seaside


For those people with an aversion to pictures of a dog running about with a football in it’s mouth, look away now. I’ll say when it’s safe to look.

Me and the Dawg met Mick and his three dawgs at Druridge Bay since me and Mick had a small bit of business to transact and it was time for the first item on Bruno’s bucket list, so we wuz multi-tasking , innit?

One of Bruno’s passions is to destroy footballs on a beach – actually, it doesn’t necessarily have to be on a beach, but it’s better if it is….


And so, I came equipped with a cheapo football, RRP £3:00 from the Factory shop in Crook and as soon as we hit the sand, I kicked it and Bruno punctured it. He carried it for a mile or so and as Mick had also brought a football there was occasionally a bit of confusion as to which ball superdawg wanted.



All the dogs had a good old run about and there were multiple friendly meetings with lots of other dogs.


After a bit of a rest, during which football #1 (the one with the puncture) disappeared somewhere, Mick had to set off back home but we got instructions for further jollies including the possibility of ice cream at the village at the far end of the beach. So Bruno carried Mick’s football from here all the way back to the car.


Unfortunately, we didn’t quite make that, partly due to running out of time (its a huge beach and I had a chicken to cook) and partly because superdawg was, frankly, knackered from all the charging about.


And so we made our way back along the road and along a coastal path, returning to the fun of the beach as Bruno recovered from the knackerdness. I did six miles. Bruno did about forty, and I exaggerate only a bit…   The other three dogs’ total was probably substantially higher.


Druridge Bay is a superb place for this sort of thing and the day was sunny and warm and just what you might hope for in a bucket list day. For those not familiar with it (you poor, benighted souls..)  it’s a  beautiful seven-mile horseshoe of perfect flat sand on the Northumberland coast quite near Amble  More info here


We’re off to see the vet in the morning.  Bugger. Fingers crossed.


Click t’logo fer t’ donation. (And thanks to dawn for yet another donation – and there’s good news about the PHD jacket too !)

Sunday 4 May 2014

Cautley –The Spout and The Calf and TGO Route Stuff

Gill on the path at the top of the Spout

Me and the Dawg met Fight Club Hikers  Paddy (T-Dude) Burrows and Gillian Mott at Cross Hall campsite just a little way up the road from Sedbergh for a weekend of TGO routing stuff and a bit of walking.

They brought their senior dog Woodstock and I, of course, had Bruno the Superdawg.

cross hall campsite

Friday was for camping and a bit of light boozing and Saturday was for walkies on the Howgill fells.

upper falls

looking towards bowderdale


It was a nice day and we set off hopefully, around lunchtime up into the huge corrie at Cautley and up the huge 700 –foot path to the top of Cautley Spout. And then, on the theme of “huge”, we followed edge the huge Cautley Crag and over huge moors to Calders where I had a huge pasty and Pat and Gill had a huge cheese butty.

cautley's big corrie

After visiting The Calf (second time in a couple of weeks for me and the Dawg), we descended to the upper bits of Bowderdale and back down into the huge corrie and this to huge Sedbergh for pub scoff and a visit to the well- hidden Spar shop for more supplies (i.e. booze)

down to bowderdale

The walk was just about six miles and 2000 feet of upness and, more than enough for the gently senile Woodstock and, although Bruno was still apparently unaffected, he fell asleep immediately in the back of the car.

Later, we went through Patrick’s TGO 2014 route, pointing out foul weather alternatives and the whereabouts of shops and so on.

cautley spout

It rained and got windy overnight and was mizzly drizzle on the  Sunday morning, so we visited the Cross Keys at Cautley for Egg and Bacon rolls (me and Paddy and probably the finest bacon rolls I’ve had in a while, and cheese on toast for Gill.

And that was that.

superdawg likes camping

Bruno’s medication is making him  happy, hungry and thirsty all at the same time and I did lose him twice in the darkness of the campsite and located him firstly in Woody’s food dish scoffing Woody’s doggy bics and the second time in the beck. He mithered for a while and wouldn’t settle but finally got his head down till 9:00 a.m. after two full dishes of fresh water. For myself, my little nightcap was a nip (or , rather a NIP) of blended malt.


Good luck to Paddy on his second TGO Chally……



Click logo to donate!!  (Bruno’s not doing my mental health much good by the way…..)  And thanks to Chris Matthews for his, so far unacknowledged but generous donation…  Ta!)