The Man Who Walks is driving north. After Doune, the mist is down and he has the headlights on. Passing through Callander its surprisingly quiet but then it is 8am. Suddenly he can see Ben Ledi above the mist, clear blue skies beyond. He smiles to himself.
He turns left, passes the Lade Inn then over the stone bridge as the road curves up and into the heart of the Trossachs. Loch Venacher on his left now, smooth as glass. The road is like a rollercoaster, blind summits and tight curves but hes in no rush.
He passes the wee church at Brig O’ Turk, remembers his friend got married there… what…20 years ago..which means probably 25 he thinks. The guests had a few pints in the Golden Lion in Stirling before the bus took them up and by the time they arrived he was dying for a pee. He chuckles as he remembers asking the meenister if there was a toilet in the tiny kirk. Oh the relief !
Finally he sets off walking through the ancient Caledonian pine forest, crossing a wooden arched bridge over the Achray Water. He climbs through the trees on a soft path and then up the glen. Above the trees, the suns out now and he sits down to rest, looking back over the mist to Ben Ledi.
When reaches the bealach between the two summits, the view takes his breath away. Below the mist still hangs over Loch Katrine and to the northwest he can pick out all the mountains hes climbed over the years : Ben Lui, Ben Cruachan, Ben More, The Arrochar Alps.
The last time he climbed Ben Venue was with the BBs, Dunblane 25th company. He can remember an officer joking. ‘Hey Alan’ he said pointing to Loch Katrine 700m below, ‘go and get me a drink of water’. Loch Katrine is Glasgows water supply after all.
Today, he can see the Sir Walter Scott steamboat leaving the pier, a V shaped wake in its trail. He can even hear the tour guide burble for the tourists – ‘on your left is the island that Rob Roy was born… oh yes…he was raised by wolves’. The tourists gaze in awe at the wooded island.
The Man Who Walks looks around for a stone, spots a white quartz rock the size of your fist. Perfect, he thinks, picking it up and heading up over rock strewn mountain top. At the summit, he takes a moment to remember Kuro, his companion for 13 years, a beautiful black lab who had passed away that week. They had climbed countless hills together, including a dozen Munros. He places the quartz rock on the cairn, a lump in his throat.
Theres three walkers eating their piece near the summit, looking down over Loch Katrine. Its very peaceful here, he thinks, Kuro would love this, she loved being outdoors, on the hill… and she loved food. Oh she loved food.
Suddenly all hell breaks loose. The walkers are up on their feet, shouting and waving their arms. Theres a young black lab hoovering up their pieces! ‘Shoo shoo’ shouts the women whilst the older man looks angrily towards the summit… but The Man Who Walks is no longer there. The Angry Man tries to catch the black lab but she dodges him, snatches an entire packet of jaffa cakes and runs off.
The Man Who Walks is heading back down the rocky slopes. He’s content now, he’s made his journey and said goodbye in his own way. A tear trickles down his cheek. The black lab trots along beside him. He looks down, sees the jaffa cakes and laughs through his tears.
‘Fucks sake, Kuro’, he laughs ‘you’re gonnae have to stop doing that’.
RIP Kuro , a total legend ❤