Adventures in the mountains

The Trossachs were shrouded in thick black cloud and reeked of menace this morning as I headed up the M9. (Bear with me, I’m warming up for my Australian travel writing). Was on my way to see a customer who lives just outside Callander, in a truly remote location high up in the hills. Realistically, it’s not truly remote, as it is really only a few miles from Callander, but it feels genuinely remote. After leaving the A84, I drove for a couple of miles on single track roads/farm track, and through somebody else’s farmyard, before reaching his house. Halfway up I encountered a flock of sheep guarding the upper reaches, one of which remained quite stubbornly in the middle of the track. Things could’ve got tricky here, but I mentioned that I knew Doug Smith well, and was immediately accorded the VIP treatment. Doug is a friend of mine with well-established links among the sheep community. I’d better say no more.

I made better time on the road up to Callander than I’d expected, and was considering a visit to a local coffee shop. In fact I have to confess I not only considered it but attempted to act upon it (I can hear the tuts of disapproval from all you Standard Life employees with your strong work ethic) by making a sortie into Doune. Given Doune’s location and size and everything you would really expect it to have at least one legendary coffee shop, but alas the only thing I could find was a stand on the street advertising a deli (I mean, come on, a DELI in Doune?) which professed to sell tea and coffee. Unfortunately I couldn’t locate the actual deli, just the stand advertising its presence. So I beat a hasty retreat from Doune, shook the dust off my feet as I left, etc etc. A cup of tea to perk me up would’ve been just the ticket, as sleep has been a little elusive of late. Last night this could be put down to the fact that my neighbours in the flat above me appeared to be trying to drill through my ceiling. Disturbed by the racket, I wandered out of my bedroom into my hallway at some late hour of the night, half expecting to find said neighbours parachuting down through a gaping hole above. However, they never materialised, which is a mercy, as I was in no state to receive visitors, and I managed to crawl back into bed and get some sleep.

So, the timer on my desktop informs me that it’s just over 42 days until the Ashes. Gosh it’s exciting. I do hope you’ve been keeping up to date with all the hype. More here. The other timer on my desktop is counting down the days to my holiday…

Anyway, time to seek some more of that elusive sleep.

Alternative ending for those with a passing interest in cricket:

Michael Vaughan has been making noises in the press recently about perhaps being fit to play in the 4th and 5th Tests at Melbourne and Sydney. These are, as it happens, the ones I’m going to. While it would be great to see Vaughan back in action, I would wonder at the wisdom of reintroducing him to what will hopefully be a settled team at what may be a crucial juncture in the series. Unless Australia have won the first three Tests (or indeed, England have) then the series and the Ashes will still be up for grabs come Melbourne. In addition, Vaughan, prior to his injury, has been out of nick with the bat for quite some time. His principal contribution (and it was a weighty one) to the Ashes win last year was as captain, apart from one solitary century at Old Trafford (which was laced with a fair bit of good fortune). I can’t see them bringing him back as captain for the last two Tests, unless Freddie has made a right meal of it and lost the first three disastrously.

Of more significance, in my mind, would be the return to the team of Simon Jones. I watched some of the Ashes 2005 DVD the other day, and was reminded of just how often he chipped in with crucial wickets. I would dearly love to watch him steaming in at the MCG and SCG in a few months’ time, but sadly I think those matches will come too soon for his recovery from injury. Pity.

From the Aussie point of view, it will be interesting to see how Michael Hussey performs – he’s been getting rave reviews, but then so did Michael Clarke in his initial Tests before hitting something of a slump in form. Hussey, by all accounts, is the real deal, and sounds like he might cause England a few headaches this winter.

Anyway, time to seek some more of that elusive sleep.

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