Not Tommy’s Uncle

If your reaction to the title of today’s blog is “Who?”, then you’re either on the right lines or too young to spot the reference!

Thursday afternoon – with Sonia away to Dundee to meet up with Sarah (bridesmaid to be) and Jo (bride to be) coming up from the deep south – I headed away in the van for what was to be two days –Fri and Sat – on the hills.

I parked up in the car park at Linn of Dee and – against the rules – lit my barbecue. The temperature plummeted and a lady of uncertain age, but probably 70+, swept in in the dark on what turned out to be her new mountain bike after what I would certainly consider a lengthy cycle and demanding hill walk (total about 33km, with over 1100m ascent) to Cairn Toul. She said she’d run out of time – it was dark on her return and she’d no lights – or she’d have done Sgorr an Lochain Uaine as well. It was getting bitterly cold and she warmed her hands over my barbecue before driving home. She described herself as a “Turra’ Quine”: they must be bred tough in those parts! I later discovered that the overnight temperature dropped to -4 in Braemar, a few miles down the road.

I slept well enough in the van, with the sleeping bag up round my head, but it was very cold in the morning and I had a job unscrewing the lid of my plastic jerrycan of water as the threads had frozen. However, despite – perhaps because of it – the day developed into a glorious outing on the hills. My two targets were Carn an Fhidhleir (Hill of the Fiddler) and An Sgarsoch (The Place of Sharp Rocks): this involved a 13km cycle in (and out), followed by a 16km walk with about 900m of ascent. All in all a relatively demanding day, but probably outshone by the elderly lady cyclist!


Red: cycle, blue: walk. If I’d had the grit to do another day, I was planning Carn Bhac, which I missed on a previous trip.

The weather was truly magnificent. It started off very cold as I cycled along and I had to change from light gps-working gloves to the full winter variety and back as the sun began to work its magic. White Bridge on the map isn’t white, but it cut down the number of river crossings where I had to jump from stepping-stone to stepping-stone. I left my bike at the last significant crossing near Geldie Lodge and thereafter it was back to Shanks’s Pony.

Geldie Lodge

“Look on my works, ye mighty and despair!” PB Shelly, ‘Ozymandias’

Carn an Fhidhleir

Target no 1.

A good path led roughly West as far as Allt a’ Chaorainn (Rowan / Mountain Ash stream) but after that it was a long steep pull up the NE flank of Carn an Fhidhleir (994) to an unimpressive summit but which gave some good views into the south Cairngorms.

The view from Carn an Fhidhleir

The view from Carn an Fhidhleir

There was then a rather unwelcome drop down to about 700m before another slog up to the summit of An Sgarsoch (1006). Throughout these ascents, I was pouring with sweat, which certainly made a contrast with earlier in the day, and there was barely a cloud in the sky, let alone a breeze.

After that it was a fairly easy descent back to the path, a walk to the bike and then the cycle back: by that time the sweat had dried, the shadows had lengthened and the air was becoming distinctly cooler. By the time I arrived back at Linn of Dee, bum bruised from the rough cycle track, legs complaining from the walking and fingers feeling the cold again, it was about 6pm.

I must confess here that I decided to stop on a (emotional, not temperature) high and come home. Thursday night had been cold, but at least I’d had the barbecue to warm myself by. The only way I could manage to keep warm now was to go to bed and even I’m not yet sufficiently ancient that I want to go to bed at 1830 after a casserole (excellent though it was, and made by Sonia) heated up on the wee gas ring in the van! So, I threw everything into the van, turned up the heater and headed home, tired but happy. When I got home I turned on the central heating (don’t tell Sonia!), ate my casserole and wrote this claptrap.

If you’re still puzzled by the title, let me explain. In 1969 The Who released an album “Tommy: a rock opera” about a “deaf dumb and blind kid who sure plays a neat pinball”. In the film (prod. Ken Russell), Tommy’s Uncle Ernie – a nasty child-molester played by Keith Moon – attempts to “Fiddle About” with Tommy on the basis that the boy will be unable to report the incident. In retrospect, I suppose I could have chosen to call it “On the Fiddle” and tried to make something of the banking crisis instead. I suppose that might have been more tasteful, but…



2 responses to “Not Tommy’s Uncle

  1. Good to hear from you. Colours here in New England phenomenal, will bore you with pictures on my return. Hope the wedding plans are going well,


  2. This may be my second reply: the first one seems to have gone down a black hole.
    It was good to hear you’re enjoying New England. The colours here aren’t bad either, but probably not up to New England standard!

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