The Angry Corrie 17: Feb-Mar 1994
Torridon, Shellsuit and Sneaky Grins
"So if there wasnae enough snow we could still say tae the wives we were going tae Aboyne wi the mountaineering club. As long as we wangle the weekend away somewhere, it disnae matter... hi Anita, how ye doin?"
"See you, McDiarmid," said my wife as she entered the living-room, "I know you're up to something when I see that sneaky wee grin on your face."
She's a good judge of character. I cast my mind back to the first time I'd seen that grin...
A West Highland Sunday. It had not been too cold for the weans to sit on the sea-wall, but the skies were gunmetal grey. I was watching the boys munch unenthusiastically on their sticky currant buns, noting the worrying similarity between fousty raisins and dead flies, when my wife exclaimed, "There's Caroline!" Not knowing who Caroline was, I did not share her enthusiasm, but I smiled politely as the girl with the pushchair greeted my wife. It appeared she was a colleague from work, also up on holiday, so I was soon ignored as they engrossed themselves in a welter of office politics. I was distracted from amusing the kids by Caroline saying, "This is my husband, Ian". I was surprised that she'd remembered my name. She hadn't. He was Ian too.
"How ye doin?" he asked. "Nobad. Havin a nice holiday?" "Aye. Hear ye dae a bit o walkin?" "Aye." "Fancy daein Liathach the morra?" "Aye."
The sun had burst through the clouds and Loch Carron sparkled. Ian was grinning this sneaky wee grin...
When we saw the two hitchers by the youth hostel roadend, it seemed probable from their rucksacks that they were heading along the glen to do Liathach. "Let's gie those two a lift," I said.
"The companionship o the hills," grunted McDiarmid, obviously unconvinced; but he screeched to a halt.
"Awright boys, thanks very much by the way," said the first hitcher.
"I'm just going a couple of miles along the road," said the second hitcher apologetically in an English accent. I mentally noted the use of the word "I". It did not take long to work out why he wished to dissociate himself from his companion.
"Gaun up Leeakatch the day, mountaineerin an that. Seen it on yon Muriel Gray. Looks brilliant - dead jaggy by the way. Talkin tae a boy in the pub last night though. Said the pinnacles were a piece o piss but."
I turned to explain that we too were heading for the hill. I examined this ambassador of the City of Culture: suede-look "trekking" boots, tiny purple-and-green rucksack and matching shellsuit. Yes, shellsuit.
"Where yes frae, big man?"
"Stirling," Ian replied.
"The East Stirlin's no daen sae great, eh? A'm a Celic man masel."
"East Stirling come fae Falkirk actually," I explained as McDiarmid gave a look which confirmed my suspicions - he was a bluenose.
"Oh aye, A worked in Stirlin on the gardens - that bit roond by the bridge. What dae they call it again?"
"The Raploch. Well known scenic fishin village on the banks of the Forth. Well... that's Glen Cottage. Hope yes hae a nice day." Ian looked relieved that our journey was over.
"Thanks very much indeed." The English lad looked shell-shocked; he was like the guy in Alien who knows a parasite has attached itself to him, but nevertheless had not anticipated the awful consequences.
His predatory companion continued to address Ian: "Magic, big man. Ye've got tae get away, but; know what A mean? Ye stay in town an there's too many temptations - sit in the pub an that. See ye up at the top, by the way."
After they had set off, Ian and I took rather a long time to put our boots on. I had portents of doom: "Whatever happens, we don't get saddled wi that tube aw the way up, awright?"
McDiarmid was smirking again. "Companionship o the hills, eh?"
We set off. The Englishman had been pressed into service as a photographer to capture the shellsuited one stepping from the road in the very footsteps of Muriel Gray.
We caught them a few hundred feet up the path. The Glaswegian's face had colour-coordinated itself with the purple bits of his outfit.
"See ye at the top, by the way," McDiarmid couldn't resist remarking as we passed.
The English lad waited, fretting, above. He was obviously torn between his desire to go on and a sense of responsibility for the safety of the purple albatross labouring below. I nodded as we passed. It's not often I feel any sympathy for the English, I thought to myself.
"I knew he wisnae a real mountaineer right away," said McDiarmid, "wi yon outfit. Aye, topaz and jade were definitely last year's colours..."
We made our way onto the ridge and into one of those days of which memories are made. And the pinnacles were a piece of piss, too...
"I suppose you'll be wanting coffee as well?" my wife enquired.
"That would be lovely, Anita," McDiarmid replied. She returned to the kitchen.
"Hey, Ian, dae ye mind that Rab C impersonator up in Glen Torridon?" I asked.
"Govan climbin gear - pair o trainers, ten fags an a sarcastic expression," he quipped. His smirk became sneakier than ever. "Now there's an idea. Never mind Aboyne - how's about the traverse o Beinn Eighe?"