Drymen to Balmaha – West Highland Way

Day two of my journey up the West Highland Way, and with the addition of a couple of nasty blisters I headed Northwards after an on-the-go breakfast of a sausage and egg roll from The Drymen Inn – excellent value and they provided it to go.

The journey out of Drymen took us east and then north, through fields and clusters of woodland. Before long, the protagonist of today’s leg took up centre stage on the horizon – the long, humpbacked shape of Conic Hill. The weather had been kind again, and a haze hung low over Loch Lomond in the morning heat. There was not a breath of wind.

Eventually, the climb up Conic began, and it was not long before we were rewarded with views of the still snow-laden Ben Lomond further up the Loch, and Beinn Ime across in the Arrochar Alps. The paths on the West Highland Way have so far been in excellent condition, and Conic Hill saw the first signs of erosion, no doubt due to the high amount of footfall.

There were plenty of places to stop and admire the view, with only the birds of prey wheeling above us having a better view. The path got rather busier as we neared the summit – the route from Balmaha is a popular day trek for many – and upon reaching the top my blisters were starting to nip. Nevertheless, I soldiered on over quite a steep descent. There were plenty of opportunities to turn an ankle in the loose scree, and I had reached the treeline befire I was on safe ground once more.

So it was, then, that with weary feet and sore knees I made my way to our B and B for the night. A lovely meal of fish and chips at the Oak Tree Inn topped the day of nicely. Tomorrow will be a bit of a slog – twenty-one miles up the east side of Loch Lomond…

Milngavie to Drymen – West Highland Way

Following years of idle discussion about walking the West Highland Way, my brother, father and I eventually got organised this year and decided to walk the 96-mile route from lowlands to highlands in Scotland.

Winding its way from suburban Milngavie, via the winding banks of Loch Lomond, over desolate Rannoch Moor, up the Devil’s Staircase, and finally to Fort William in the shadow of Ben Nevis, the WHW is a rite of passage for many Scots. We decided to spare ourselves the ordeal of carrying camping equipment with us, and rather make use of Scotland famous B & B accommodation over the seven-day journey.

Beginning under the underwhelming ‘West Highland Way’ metallic sign in Milngavie, we wound our way through Mugdock Country Park, gradually leaving behind the dog walkers and Monday morning joggers.  We have been exceptionally lucky with weather so far – mid March is right on the boundary of recommended WHW traversing – and the weak spring sun shone down on all all day. Buzzards swung overhead as we walked. The trail really is excellently preserved, with little or no need to use maps to keep on route.

Past Farmhouse and quarry, wishing well and well-kept woodland we walked, until after a quick twelve miles we came to our repose for the night – the Clachan Inn, reputedly the oldest licensed public house in Scotland. Food at the aforementioned was excellent, and the low-slung building very atmospheric, although not as (reputedly) haunted as some of out forthcoming accommodation will be. Tomorrow will be a slightly more sedate wander into Balmaha, before the gruelling twenty-miler up the east Bank of Loch Lomond…

Chris has got a new book out! — luna’s on line

Chris Hall is a longstanding friend of mine on WordPress. Her writing is routinely brilliant and her work ethic consistently embarrasses me. Chris has six books to her name, her most recent being ‘Spirit of the Shell Man’. ‘A thrilling and compelling adventure story which combines action, fantasy and a touch of mythology’ reads a review, and I have no trouble believing such an endorsement. Take a look at her work – it speaks for itself…

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Read yourself into the venue via my second Six Sentence Story this week. The Prompt Word (helpfully) was BOOK. A neon sign lights up the narrow side street which leads to the Six Sentence Café and Bistro where a bearded man waits, watching as a minivan draws up. The driver leans out of her window […]

Chris has got a new book out! — luna’s on line

Water Memory | Short Story

They say that the Pacific has no memory. Whoever they are, they say this in such a way as to invoke images of old men looking wistfully across sun-beaten bays, and of winsome young girls with sea-grey eyes walking on beaches, their shoes dangling from one hand. What is says to us, to my brethren and I, is that the Pacific is a body of water in its dotage.

Subject to vicious mood swings? Sure.

Hiding her fair share of secrets? What grand old lady isn’t?

Where I’m from, memory is muscle. Without it we are formless, foetid water, stilled in a dip in the ground.

We provincial rivers remember. We remember the low-lying expanse of flood plain waiting to be crept across. We remember the imperceptible shift in the levee during the last spell in spate, the fingertip journey through crowded gabion.

To rely upon brute distance a la Point Nemo is clumsy – girth is no guarantor of fear. I have people looking up at bruised, pregnant skies with fear written large on their faces. Villagers listen to the thrumming on their roofs whilst in their minds already clambering on to those same roofs. My tributaries of threat steal across minds like capillaries over brains.

The river has burst its banks trills some bedraggled reporter, her umbrella tugging at her hand. Surely your forebears taught you that I have no banks, no boundaries. I wend my way through rock and soil as I will, as I have willed since the crushing darkness of mile-thick ice carved out the routes I follow still. Memories are made this way.

*Thanks for reading, folks. Image courtesy of Piqsels. Recent stories of mine include ‘Something Borrowed, Something New‘ and ‘Alder, Beech, Hawthorn, and Hazel‘.


Matthew Richardson is a writer of short stories. His work has featured in Gold Dust magazine, Literally Stories, Close to the Bone, McStorytellers, Penny Shorts, Soft Cartel, Whatever Keeps the Lights On, Flashback Fiction, Cafelit, Best MicroFiction 2021, Writer’s Egg, and Shooter magazine. He is a doctoral student at the University of Dundee, a lucky husband, and a proud father. He blogs at www.matthewjrichardson.com and tweets at https://twitter.com/mjrichardso0

11.22.63 | Book Review

11.22.63

Stephen King

Hodder and Stoughton

ISBN: 9781444727333

£10.99

We never know which lives we influence, or when, or why.

Review

It has long since stopped being fashionable to criticise Stephen King for lack of literary merit. A tiresome snobbery once existed regarding his books, long since buried under the millions of copies sold and the dozens of film and television adaptations. The Maine-born writer tells a wonderful story, and some of my favourite reads growing up included The Shining, The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, Carrie, Misery, and Needful Things amongst others. The juxtaposition of King and a protagonist going back in time to stop the assassination of John F. Kennedy should then have been infallible, a stone-cold guaranteed thriller. It didn’t quite reach this level for me, but it was still a good read.

Fragile Castings | Poetry

White signposts pockmarked brown.

Grass sprung from tyre-trodden tracks.

Impotent cartography on shifting green and umber –

Urban creep, crawling back.

From corset-clad, rocks,

Overhanging

                        gossamer roads,

To drystone walls riven

With lichen and slate-shifting press of green.

The village-hemmed-in.

The                  trees                 canopied,

Foliage fingered across

Quivering telephone wires and fading contrails.

Concrete hauteur and mono-blocked pomp –

Temporal veneers over

Heave of hill, over

Relentless nudge of slender white root.

What hold county border

And matchstick boundary fence

On ragged geese skeins

Or paw-padded range of wolf?

Fragile castings

Atop grinding earth, beneath broiling sky.

*Thanks for reading, folks. Image courtesy of Wikipedia. Recent stories of mine include ‘The Wind off the Clyde‘ and ‘Alder, Beech, Hawthorn, and Hazel‘.


Matthew Richardson is a writer of short stories. His work has featured in Gold Dust magazine, Literally Stories, Close to the Bone, McStorytellers, Penny Shorts, Soft Cartel, Whatever Keeps the Lights On, Flashback Fiction, Cafelit, Best MicroFiction 2021, Writer’s Egg, and Shooter magazine. He is a doctoral student at the University of Dundee, a lucky husband, and a proud father. He blogs at www.matthewjrichardson.com and tweets at https://twitter.com/mjrichardso0

The Wind off the Clyde

Only the cut-glass wind and a cloud-wreathed Christmas Eve moon trouble the dark surface of the Clyde.

In the wee hours, river-cold coils around the destitute, their blankets threadbare and their cardboard ragged. They look northwards not for St. Nicholas but for the Campsies, black against the breaking dawn.

*Thanks for reading, folks. Image courtesy of Wikipedia. Visit Shelter if you can donate anything this Christmas. Recent stories of mine include ‘Something Borrowed, Something New‘ and ‘Alder, Beech, Hawthorn, and Hazel‘.


Matthew Richardson is a writer of short stories. His work has featured in Gold Dust magazine, Literally Stories, Close to the Bone, McStorytellers, Penny Shorts, Soft Cartel, Whatever Keeps the Lights On, Flashback Fiction, Cafelit, Best MicroFiction 2021, Writer’s Egg, and Shooter magazine. He is a doctoral student at the University of Dundee, a lucky husband, and a proud father. He blogs at www.matthewjrichardson.com and tweets at https://twitter.com/mjrichardso0

Pine | Book Review

Pine

Francine Toon

325 pages

ISBN: 9781784164829

£8.99

Penguin

Paperback

Review

Amidst the winding Highland B-roads and the long, creeping dark of a northern winter, Lauren and her father Niall try to come to terms with the disappearance of Christine, Lauren’s mother. One cold October evening when out guising, they find a gaunt, barefoot, woman lying in the road. Lauren and her father give the woman shelter, but when morning comes she has disappeared. Lauren looks for answers in her tarot cards and in the sideways glances of friends and neighbours. In a close-knit and claustrophobic village, someone knows the secret linking the two disappearances. Although Francine Toon’s poetry has appeared in the Sunday Times, Best British Poetry, and Poetry London, ‘Pine’ is her first foray into novel writing. It was shortlisted for and won a slew of literary prizes and in my opinion is well worth the praise.

Continue reading “Pine | Book Review”

Alder, Beech, Hawthorn and Hazel | Short Story

I’ve been rather staccato on WordPress of late. Work and writing up the first project in my doctorate have crowded out anything more cultured, so it is with some relief that I can report my short story ‘Alder, Beech, Hawthorn and Hazel’ has been picked up and published by Writer’s Egg magazine.

‘Alder, Beech, Hawthorn and Hazel’ is an odd, dark little piece. It was one of those stories that a writer wants a good home for. It was with increasing despair then that I saw ABHH rejected by five separate lit mags and ignored by another two. This would normally be enough for me to send it to the beige desktop folder from whence no stories return, but this was one I couldn’t let go.

When I had just about given up hope, I received an acceptance from Writer’s Egg, a Bristol-based print magazine that won Winner of the Best Start-Up Magazine with South West England Prestige Awards 2020/21. I am delighted to feature of course, and it is a timely reminder for me that the distance between waste paper basket and magazine is not always so great.

Continue reading “Alder, Beech, Hawthorn and Hazel | Short Story”