The final chapter of our Highlands adventure took the form of a meal at a nearby hotel, where we said fond ‘until next times’ to our loved ones. Beyond that, the day has been a quiet one – our energy is all but spent, our mood one of reflection on the week’s activities. Tomorrow is the journey home and soon, the routine of work will resume. It’s been a memorable week, crammed with various experiences, and one I shall remember with great joy and delight.
Month: July 2017
Today marked the Big Day! The reason for descending upon Aviemore. Weddings in my family tend to be big, boisterous affairs and this promised to be no different. My second cousin had hired a grand hall to host her special day – and this provided a good reason to get suited and booted!
Aultmore Hall is an astonishing venue. A huge place that’s obviously hosted a wedding or two, the hosts ensured the wedding ran smoothly and that everyone had a great time! My wife and I watched our adorable little girl throw herself into the festivities with abandon, and we enjoyed a big big dinner (which I am still recovering from). The whole day was glorious, and I wish the happy couple all the best for the future!
Pictures to be added later to this one!
Today was very much an ‘action adventure’ day. I did something I’d never done before, and I loved it.
What was it you ask? Something called canyoning. It involved a wetsuit, harness and hard hat, to give you an idea as to the nature of it! The experience began in earnest with a jump – literally, we jumped into a river, from a reasonable height. The water was cold (but then, we are in Scotland), and from that point on, we did a mix of sliding down the rapids, hurling ourselves off various points, and abseiling too. For me, the most nerve-wracking parts of the experience were sliding from a near-vertical drop into pitch-black waters, and abseiling more or less into a waterfall.
This is actually a tough experience to describe in a manner that does it justice. If you don’t mind getting wet, aren’t too worried about heights and prepared to ache afterwards, it’s worth a go!
Scotland is famous for a great many things. Haggis (I’m not describing that one in any great detail), kilts, Hadrian’s Wall, a weak national football team (sorry but it’s true!), the Loch Ness Monster, deep-fried Mars Bars (not strictly Scottish but certainly found up here), freezing winters… and Scotch whiskey. I like a bit of whiskey every now and then, and some of my favourite brands are Scottish ones. When the offer came up to visit a distillery I wasn’t going to say no.
Glenfiddich Distillery is home to one of whiskey’s most famous brands. There’s a lot of history behind this name, history that was made clear to us as we were guided around the distillery. Wherever possible local resources are used in producing the whiskey, and the distillery even went as far as to buy the land upon which a certain stream runs, in order to safeguard it.
Having survived a loooooong day of travel, the second day of our Scottish adventure began with a brief lie-in for the adults, and for the kids… well, my nephew was up quite early, but he’s one, so he’s going to wake up whenever he wants. My daughter… well, after being sick five times in two days, she slept in.
So Day Two began in a lazy fashion. Eggs and bacon for breakfast, a couple of cups of coffee. Having unwound we then embarked upon a trip to Aviemore itself.
Aviemore is quite beautiful, and yet also surprisingly busy. The town was bustling when we went in – not perhaps that much of a surprise given the tourist nature of the place. After lunch in a local cafe we geared up for a trip on the Strathspey Railway. This is a volunteer-led heritage railway that serves three stations.
Aviemore station is also a regular mainline station – platforms 1 and 2 serve various destinations. Platform 3 (on the far right) is where we would catch the train (not literally, it’s far too heavy).
The clan (the term my family use to describe themselves) has descended upon the sleepy Scottish towns of Aviemore, Nethy Bridge and everywhere in between for the occasion of a family wedding. I’m not sure the Highlands is quite ready for our arrival.
Nor am I complete sure we are ready for the Highlands. The voyage began with the journey from my home to my parents home, a journey of around an hour by car, in which time my little girl (who’d been complaining of feeling a little unwell anyway) was sick. She doesn’t tend to travel well by car anyway, and combined with a slightly upset tummy, I guess that was inevitable. She was then sick again later that evening, and sick again on the journey to the airport the following morning, and sick twice on the plane. Not the most auspicious start to the holiday.
After that, she perked up, and we began to take in the sights of Scotland.
I’m not going to pretend to be a huge fan of Linkin Park. I’m familiar with their music and style, and I like quite a few of their songs, but I am not a fan in the way that my wife is a fan. Their music has proven inspiration to her.
Much of what they (and any band or artist does) is in the writing. It’s in the pouring of the heart and soul into the music and lyrics. Truly great artists give something of themselves in every line, every word, every brushstroke or scene or song lyric. Whether you like Linkin Park, love Linkin Park, or hate them, you cannot deny that Chester gave something of himself when he wrote songs and performed them. I’ve seen Linkin Park live – I know how much energy and passion went into his performances.
His death, aged just 41, is both a huge shock and also a damning indictment of the way society views mental health and masculinity. I’ve written about this before – expression of feelings, in any way, acknowledgement of pain, especially for men (but it affects everyone) is seen as shameful. Progress has been made to remove these stigmas but make no mistake, they are still there.
Chester was a tortured soul. You need only listen to the lyrics of his songs to know that. This man was a victim of abuse as a child and the scars of this have, sadly, remained with him. He had his battles with alcohol and drugs, and with the death of his friend Chris Cornell (also by suicide), he reached a tipping point.
This isn’t an isolated issue. The suicide rate in the USA is at its highest for three decades. It’s fuelled by comments like this, from Korn guitarist Brian Welch:
Welch wrote: “Honestly, Chester’s an old friend who we’ve hung with many times, and I have friends who are extremely close to him, but this is truly pissing me off! How can these guys send this message to their kids and fans?! I’m sick of this suicide shit! I’ve battled depression/mental illness, and I’m trying to be sempethetic, but it’s hard when you’re pissed! Enough is enough! Giving up on your kids, fans, and life is the cowardly way out!!! [sic]”
Did Chester have the support he needed? Did Chris Cornell? And what of the thousands of people who feel the same way? When there is still an expectation that admitting to problems is a weakness, something to be condemned, then the problem won’t go away. If we bottle up our trauma, if we are afraid to talk about it, it will only get worse. What happens when we take away any recourse for someone to get help with their problems? They become desperate. Let’s end that.
Meet Jodie Whittaker. If you’re like me, you’ll be completely unfamiliar with her past work. She’s been in a showed called Broadchurch (alongside a former Doctor as it happens), but I’ve never seen it. I cannot therefore pass judgment on her acting ability. I can talk about the kerfuffle that’s erupted over her reveal as the 13th Doctor.
The issue? Previous actors to play the Time Lord from Gallifrey in Doctor Who have been men. This is the first time a woman has been cast in the role (though not the first time we’ve had a Time Lord change from male to female). Doctor Who has been subtly (or not so subtly, depending upon your point of view) preparing the audience for this possibility for a few years – but for some sections of the fandom, this is a bridge too far.
If you’re on Twitter, the hashtags #13thDoctor and #Doctor13 are already providing a huge volume of misogynistic, sexist tweets. I am not at all surprised. However, there has also been a huge outpouring of support for Jodie.
My own view? The same as always – I will judge the show on the acting and the writing. I don’t care if the Doctor is a woman – it makes no difference to me. What will make a difference is whether or not the stories are a little more energetic next season. We’ll have to wait and see!
Halfway point of the season reached, and a race that, whilst not hugely exciting, delivers a pivotal shift in the world championship fight. That’s the short summary of the British Grand Prix. The long version? Well, if you’re a Lewis Hamilton fan the weekend was near perfect. In qualifying Hamilton put in a stonking lap to secure pole, finishing up some half a second quicker than Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen. It was the start of a dominant weekend for Hamilton, and ultimately Mercedes, though it didn’t start out that way. Valtteri Bottas received a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change (the same issue that afflicted Hamilton a week earlier), and by being out qualified by both Ferraris, would therefore start ninth.
Q1 threw up variable weather conditions that allowed a very rare sight – the McLaren of Fernando Alonso finishing top of the charts. A 30-place penalty (what a joke) for replacing several parts always meant Alonso would start at the back of the field, but his effort was a timely reminder of his talent. Meanwhile, penalties also meant the Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo would join Alonso on the back row. The main permutation, as far as the title battle was concerned, was that Hamilton started on pole and Raikkonen had pipped Sebastian Vettel to second. Would Ferrari swap their men around early on? They wouldn’t get the chance.
Hamilton got a clean start and so did Raikkonen, but Max Verstappen got his Red Bull away very strongly, going side-by-side with Vettel around the first couple of corners and muscling into third. Hamilton and Raikkonen pulled away from Verstappen whilst Vettel couldn’t find a way past. With Bottas moving up the order, there was a very real threat of Vettel being caught, but aggressive defending from Verstappen (something of a trademark of his) kept Vettel at bay.
Further back, a first lap incident involving the Toro Rosso pair of Danill Kvyat and Carlos Sainz ended with Sainz being dumped out of the race. The two had been jockeying for position and Kvyat ran wide, rejoining the track by bumping into Sainz. Kvyat (whose career is in the balance) kept going but damage plus a penalty meant he would retire early. There was also disappointment for Joylen Palmer – his Renault failed on the warm-up lap, ending his race before it even began.
Beyond that it was a straightforward race for the most part – Vettel managed the undercut on Verstappen to move into third and Bottas would also end up getting ahead of the Dutchman by the time Bottas finally stopped (being on an inverted strategy of soft to supersoft). Bottas would catch and pass Vettel in fairly short order once he’d stopped, and then for the final few laps he would chase after Raikkonen.
Before getting to the finale (which is where the ‘pivotal’ nature of the race comes in), a word on a few other proceedings. Ricciardo successfully scythed his way up the order, demonstrating his enjoyment of the fight along the way. He would ultimately rise to fifth place, and earned himself the title of driver of the day for his efforts. Nico Hulkenberg gave another highly credible performance to take sixth, whilst Force India got both cars into the points, with Ocon eighth and Perez ninth. After a poor performance from Williams in qualifying, Felipe Massa fought back to finish 10th. Meanwhile, Stoffel Vandoorne, who had actually qualified in the top ten for McLaren, just missed out on the points.
So the finale – with Bottas chasing down Raikkonen but rapidly running out of time, fate would smile down upon the Silver Arrow in the form of a tyre failure for Raikkonen- his front-left tyre started to peel away, forcing Kimi to pit, which allowed Vettel into third – damage limitation on the points lost to Hamilton, or so it seemed. The problem was, with the cars on the penultimate lap, Vettel would suffer the same problem! Having also been forced to pit, Vettel would drop to seventh, with the consequence of his championship lead being cut from 20 points to just one. All of a sudden, the title fight is in the balance, and Bottas is only 23 points (less than a win) behind as well. The destiny of the 2017 title hasn’t been decided, but Ferrari will be hoping the nature of the next race in Hungary will better suit them, and will want to use the summer break to make whatever improvements they can. Mercedes have upped their game, with Hamilton winning at Silverstone for the fifth time (equalling Jim Clark and Alain Prost), and also his fourth in a row here.
Hamilton got pole, led every lap, and I believe he also took the fastest lap on his way to victory. The dominant nature of the win will alarm Ferrari. They need to bounce back, and quickly.