Sunday, 28 October 2007

Good Day

Today has been rather lovely. I awoke feeling the antsiness of wanderlust and, as Fisher and I sat reading terrible, awful books by Erich Segal (why Lord, why?) I suddenly said:

"Let's go away! Let's just pack up the pooches and go!"

Fisher dragged her eyes up from Doctors and her expression was one I know of old: a fixed, brittle smile with accompanying look of desperation.

"Ok," she agreed, barely concealing a whimper. "Where?"

"I don't know!" I beamed, pretending I couldn't see the horror in her heart. "North, south, west ... anywhere you like! Not east, though," I added, as an afterthought, "'cos we'd get awfully wet." I think I was hoping this pathetic attempt at winsome charm would bring her round.

"For how long?" she chirrupped, her smile now becoming even more frantic. "Only, I have to be back for..."

"Just a few days," I promised. "Back on Monday?"

"Ok," she agreed, silently sobbing as her soul collapsed. Bless. I couldn't stand the pretense any more.

"You really, really don't want to, do you?" I sighed.

"We've only just got back!" she burst out, her pent-up, force 9 wail freed at last, "and we're so HAPPY at home!"

And so, because we're a tried and tested couple who've long known how to go about maintaining our equanimity, we compromised.

Instead of going away for 3 days, we went out for 3 hours.

It was lovely. We scanned my Pathfinder Guide for Perthshire, Angus and Fife walks and chose the Den of Alyth for what professed itself to be a 7 mile walk, taking 3 1/2 hours.

Off we headed, and drove through Dundee and beyond for about 45 minutes. Alyth is the next town over (eastwards) from Coupar Angus, and the circular Den of Alyth walk begins in a carpark at the far west end of the town. After a bit of a detour as the guide was distinctly unclear about the starting point, taking us through a picnic site when we should have skirted it (this would become a bit of a familiar theme throughout the walk), we were on our way.

To begin with, it was divine. We walked through woods, beside a merrily tumbling burn, in a bonfire of red and gold. The dogs could be let off their lead, and splashed joyfully in the water or disappeared up the wooded braes until enticed back with biscuits. It was gorgeous - but after a mile or two we came out at a road. The dogs went back on leads and we followed the B - somethingorother for a mile and a half of pretty but ultimately uninspiring countryside, before missing our turn-off due to the murkiness of our guide. Retracing our steps, we found the fingerpost we'd originally ignored because it was labelled 'Cateran Trail' while the book promised the 'Alyth Hill walk'. Luckily we hadn't gone far before realising our mistake, but it still annoyed me. I could feel some of my euphoria threatened by grumpiness and resolutely banished irritation.

Up Alyth Hill we went, until the guide became extremelt murky - basically guiding us down an 'old drover's road' which just involved launching yourself onto an open brae, owing to the fact the drover's road was old, and therefore non existent. In fact, we'd already walked to the top of Alyth Hill and had to come down again (this was sheer stupidity on our part and had a lot to do, I'm convinced, with Fisher's manic desire for heart-pounding exercise).

Crossing the hill turned out to require a lot of stopping, starting, looking at the book, cursing, bickering and cursing again. Couple this with the fact it was now grey, misty and wet and some of the delights of the walk were palling. I'm not saying I was no longer enjoying myself, but not knowing where I'm going is something that always puts me on edge - at least, when I'm walking. Purposefully getting lost in a car is quite different.

Eventually we found our way back into the village of Alyth (we had yet another minor argument about the pronounciation of this, with me thinking it was Al-ithe like Forsythe, or Rosyth - and Fisher thinking it was Alith, like Alice with a lisp), and were rather surprised to find the car-park a mere step from where we emerged. Because Fisher had her sat. nav. with her, we were able to measure our route and discovered it to be 5.8 miles.

Pathfinder is utter crap. 7 miles, it claimed. Considering we probably did a half mile detour of faff and backtracking, that's a considerable error. Still, it was a good 2 1/2 hour walk and we felt pink-cheeked and healthy, while the sodden dogs couldn't have been happier.

On the way home we stopped at the Belmont Arms pubs for a drink, and found it quite charming. They were serving High Tea so we peeked at a menu. Not cheap, but not bad: £12 for a main meal (chicken dishes, fish n chips, lasagne, that sort of thing - or hearty sounding salads. It was more like £19 if you wanted a steak), vegetables, chips, cake/scones, tea and coffee. If we're passing that way again we'll definitely give it a go. The coffee was very nice, anyway.

Back at home we found the whole house freezing, and almost all the logs gone. There was one left, and with that, the 1 1/2 left in the grate and a couple of scoops of coal, I made a fire. I whacked the storage heating up and grizzled about the clock change. Then we settled down to read, listen to the wind pick up outside, eat fish and chips and watch Match of the Day. Baffie passed out next to me and refused to move, even when I lifted her bodily out of my lap and laid her down on the sofa. She's taken on a new lease of life since being put on arthritis pills, but I think any walk over 3 miles really takes it out of her.

She loves it, though, and no sign of a limp, so Fisher and I have vowed to do more long walks - especially while the leaves are so wonderful.

That's all for tonight.

All in all, a very satisfactory day.