The Hill

The area known as the Angus Glens is a hard, unforgiving place. Here, just south of the Cairngorm National Park, the climate is brutal in November, and it shows in the faces of the locals: pinched, weathered and stern. The wind is icy, and it always blows hard — gusty, intense and with speeds of 25mph all the way up to gale strength. The daytime highs hover around 34°F (wind chill: 25°F), plunge to 28°F at night, and the cold is bone-chilling; damp and icy, clothes do not dry out even inside, needing assistance from radiators or a blazing fire in the hearth, and boots hardly ever dry out even then. In Scottish terms, it’s late autumn.

It gets worse as you climb up into the hills. The temperature drops to well below freezing and the wind chill, on any day, falls to about 18°F. There is always moisture in the air: mist and fog on the warmer days, icy rain most of the time, and if a cold front comes through, driving sleet and snow.

That’s in the air. On the ground, conditions are even more brutal. Mostly, the hills are covered with heather which is soft and springy underfoot — it’s like walking on foam rubber — but it is horribly uneven, and without strong support from your boots, you will not cover more than a dozen yards without turning your ankle, or worse. Falls are frequent, because the heather hides dips in the ground, grass tussocks and tiny spring-fed streams of icy water trickling down into the Isla River. You can fall forwards, backwards and sideways depending on where you place your feet, and the only good thing about the heather is that it can cushion your fall — unless, of course, you happen to land on one of the many rocks which dot the landscape, sometimes peeking out from the heather, but mostly concealed under the foliage. Where possible, you try to avoid the lichen-covered rocks because they are as slippery as hell. There is no level ground. You are either walking uphill, which places unbearable strain on your thighs’ quadricep muscles and calves, downhill which plays hell with your knees, or sideways which can strain your ankles to the breaking point, even in good boots.

It is a place where, as Mr. Free Market succinctly observes, things can go wrong very, very quickly and very, very badly.

I scrambled in these hills and fell three times during the first few hundred yards, with no ill effects other than injured pride. Doc Russia, who was with me, only stumbled a couple of times (“because it’s not my first rodeo up here, Kim”) while our guide, Head Stalker Dougal (of whom more later) strolled about like he was on a garden lawn, texting his girfriend. I went uphill about half a mile, downhill about the same, and sideways about two miles. Then we arrived at the place where we would have a clear shot at a deer, only to find that the herd had moved off and were now at least a thousand yards away, invisible over the brow of a hill. So we set off in pursuit, back up the hill and sideways just under the brow for about a mile. On a few occasions, the pain in my knees was so bad I had to call for a couple minutes’ rest. Then Doc would help me back onto my feet and we’d set off again. We were going back down the hill, guided by Mr. Free Market’s radio commentary from his position in the valley, where he could see the herd.

Then, disaster. I fell sideways, only this time the tread in the heel of my boot caught in the heather and I twisted as I fell, tearing the lateral collateral ligament in my left knee.

It was just two hours in on Day 1, and my week’s hunt was over.

Doc helped me down the hill — we were unreachable except by helicopter, and no helicopter was going to fly in those conditions — so there was nothing for it but to suck it up and go down the hill about half a mile, across the stream at the bottom, and up the hill on the other side to the waiting Land Rover. I held onto Doc’s arm for dear life (Dougal’s pitiless comment: “Ye look like a fookin’ auld married couple”) and somehow I made it.

The hunt went on without me. Doc got one deer, Mr. FM another, and then the mist turned into dense fog as the temperature dropped to well below freezing. Even the tireless Dougal had to admit defeat, so we went back down to the processing station so that he and Mr. FM could take the quad bike and tractor back up the hill to fetch the two dead deer.

The next day would prove much more rewarding, for two of us at least. Mr. FM stalked deer on a neighboring estate and got one, and I went up the hill with Doc again, this time purely as an observer. Doc dropped five deer before lunchtime, whereupon the weather turned again and we had to abandon the hunt for the day.

And now a brief aside while I discuss the equipment we used, because it’s important.

I discovered that under the typical conditions on the hill, my 6.5x55mm ammunition would have been if not inadequate, not optimal. (Mr. FM has used the cartridge for years as his deer-slayer, and disagrees with my take, by the way.) The wind would have blown the 140-grain bullet all over the place, so even with the Swede’s velocity, its slender bullet and excellent sectional density, a 100- to 150-yard shot would be okay; but after a tiring scramble with racing heart and labored breathing,  a 300-yard shot (about the average shooting distance up on the hill) would have been iffy at best, disastrous at worst. So while the 6.5mm Swede is a decent cartridge for deer, on the hill it would require almost a perfect shot to make a one-shot kill — and I’m not at all that sure of my skill with a rifle, under those conditions.

The cartridge to use in the Angus Glens is, unquestionably, the .300 Winchester Magnum (as used by my companions).

Mr. FM was using the RWS Evolution 165gr RapidX-tipped cartridge (at 300 yards, it’s traveling at 2,309 fps delivering 2,178 with -10.4″ drop, from a 100-yard zero).

Doc Russia was using the Hornady Superformance 180gr SST polymer tip (2,533 fps, delivering 2,564 ft-lbs and -9.9″ drop at 300 yards, from a 100-yard zero).

Combat Controller used Federal Premium 165gr Trophy Coppertips (2,500 fps delivering 2,290 ft-lbs with a -10.4″ drop at 300 yards, from a 100-yard zero).

With any of the three cartridges, the .300 Win Mag bullet cuts through the wind with almost no effect, and the thump of the bullet’s impact sounds like a bass drum slap, even at 300+ yards. With the proper placement in the heart and lungs, it’s a one-shot kill with maybe a few staggering steps. With a less-than-perfect shot, the animal may make but a hundred or so yards before expiring, or at least dropping so it can be dispatched. Because Doc, CC and Mr. FM are all excellent shots, the vast majority (16 out of 19 deer in total) were taken with one shot. The RWS Evolution and Federal Trophy .300 WinMag 165gr-rounds are very good; the Hornady SST 180gr is magnificent.

Had I had the chance to take a shot with my ammunition under the same conditions, I seriously doubt that the outcome would have been the same. In fact, I’m positive that I would have screwed things up; and as much as I love the 6.5x55mm Swede, it’s not the cartridge for the Angus Glens — not for me, anyway.

More to the point, however, is this: the Glens have been a very humbling experience for me. The terrain and climate are one thing — those, I can deal with — and while injury is always possible, that’s an uncontrollable circumstance. (Combat Controller, of whom more later, once nearly broke his ankle on Day 1 of one of his earlier hunts here simply by stepping into one of those concealed streamlets I mentioned earlier.)

But climate and terrain aside, to take a shot at an animal under the conditions on the hill requires skill with a rifle that I no longer have. To be brutally honest (and the Glens will force that out of you), I need more practice and to have a great deal more familiarity with my rifle and its performance than I had for this trip. In that regard, my injury at the beginning of this week may have been a blessing in disguise — because chasing a wounded deer for miles in these conditions might have killed me quicker than I could have killed a deer.

The next time I visit the Angus Glens as Mr. Free Market’s guest, I’m pretty sure I’ll be bringing a .300 Win Mag rifle, with the Hornady SST 180gr feed. I will also be a better-prepared rifleman. This, I promise. Yes, I’ll be a year or two older; but I’ll also be about ten years wiser. The Glens do that to you, too.

To be continued, in more detail and with pictures… but in the meantime, here’s one of Doc (right) and Dougal fetching two of the deer carcasses Doc popped at 200 yards uphill.

The Story So Far

I arrived in Scotland last Saturday and spent the afternoon with Mr. Free Market, shopping for sundries (flip-up scope covers, whisky etc.) in preparation for next week’s shooting in Scotland.

Then that night the Fiend Mr. FM introduced me to a drink called “Whisky Mac”, a mixture of Scotch and something called “Stone’s Green Ginger Wine” (see below).

After extensive trial (one might even say over-sampling) of said beverage, I can safely say it is a fine thing but it can cause a massive hangover, as I discovered the following Sunday morning when Mr. FM dragged me out of bed at the crack of noon, threw me into a Land Rover and dragged me off to the range for some rifle shooting. Oy vey.

Let’s just say my marksmanship has been better.

It took me a day or so to recover from my overindulgence, whereupon last night The Englishman came over in his Land Rover, dragged me kicking and screaming away from Free Market Towers and deposited me into a place which serves Wadworth 6X and fish & chips, both of which I partook in great measure.

I’m not at my best today. Further blogging will occur when (if) I’ve recovered sufficiently.

Mr. FM returns from London tonight (fresh from evicting widows, beating junior staff and doing Capitalist Things in general), and will no doubt force more of those Whisky Mac things down my unwilling gullet. So tomorrow may see even more-painful blogging.

Yes; I’m having a wonderful time back Over Here, thank you for asking. It hasn’t even rained on me yet, and temperatures are around 45°F in daytime, falling to about 34°F at night. Outside, it looks something like this:

Few leaves on the trees, otherwise still green. Yes, I love it here; why do you ask?

And now, if you’ll excuse me… I’m off to make myself a nice hot cup of tea.

And Away We Go

It’s time for Part 2 of Kim’s Amazing 2017 Sabbatical.

As you read this I’ll be in the hands [sic] of the TSA again.

Think they’ll like my t-shirt? I had it made for just such an occasion.
Back:

Front:

 

 

Always Classy

Question: How can a burlesque dancer and sometime-nude model be called classy?

Answer: When she’s called Dita Von Teese. Here’s another strong contender for Kim’s Online Object Of Desire:



…and oh yeah, she’s not shy about taking it all off, either:


Yeah, I know… not that classy. But remember: burlesque is her job; how she looks when she’s not performing is what I’m talking about.

Update: I know she’s only in her mid-40s. Hey, life is all about those little compromises, right?

Definitely In Contention

Thinking of Playboy stuff last week reminded me of a strong candidate for Kim’s Online Object Of Desire (the one to replace the now-too-skinny Nigella Lawson).

She’s 52, she has one of the sexiest smiles ever caught on film, she’s one of the greatest ever to play her sport, and OMG it’s Katarina Witt:

…and yes, those incredible legs are still, well, incredible:

In keeping with the season, here she is in some demure Oktoberfest-Kleidung:

Definitely a gold medal contender. And speaking of Playboy, Hef would have wanted me to post at least one of those pics…

Dollars And Scents

Continuing on from the post about my naked face, I decided to shop for aftershave / cologne fragrances. Oy, vey.

As I intimated, the last time I used this stuff at all was in the 1970s / early 1980s, so times have changed [sigh] and as always, not necessarily for the better.

I used to use Halston 1-12, but it’s no longer in production and while it’s still available — and cheap! — I fear starting to use something which is no longer made because after a while, it starts to cost more and more because of diminished supply.

And anyway, just because it smelled okay on me back then, there’s no guarantee it would still smell good on me now, because one’s body chemistry changes with age (I’m told).

So I would have to, I thought, start looking for a “new” fragrance and experiment over time to see which one would work — and just for the hell of it, I hie’d me off to Macy’s. Dear God.

Firstly, the prices… sheesh, I’m a guy, not a chick. You can’t expect me to spend $100 (or more) just for some smelly stuff, when there’s ammo to be bought from the same pitiful bank account.

Plus, I think that the product offerings are just proof of the Pussification Of The Western Man,, to coin a phrase, and I suspect that the fragrance people use the poxy inhabitants of the West Hollywood YMCA as product testers. A few samples:

Eros? by Versace? Nope. Next:

Perhaps if they spelled their name (and product) with a “U” instead of that pretentious Latin equivalent… but no. To proceed, then:

Sorry; Dior to me means “chick stuff” and while I am quite secure in my masculinity, I wouldn’t use a product called “Kotex” either, even if it came in 140-grain boat-tail softpoints.

Ditto anything made by some Spaniard, and also, did you see the price of it?  That’s five boxes of quality self-defense .45 ACP, at the discount price! Next!

“Chanel’s Bleu by Chanel” — from the Department of Redundancy Department. Also: Chanel? See “Dior”, above.

Even the perfumes in “masculine” packaging look as gay as Brian Boitano:

“Viktor and Rolf”?  “Spicebomb”?
A man could get some exotic venereal disease just by buying that stuff. To continue:

“Guilty” of what? Spending too much money on bullshit smelly stuff?

No no no no no. No. Clearly, I would have to resort to the more old-fashioned scents and/or potions. But which?

$105 for Ralph Lauren? It is, as they say, to laugh.

So I quit Macy’s because clearly I was looking in the wrong place, and headed off to Amazon.

Before I entered their online portal, however, I decided to do a little pre-research, because I was going to have to try more than one cologne, just to avoid problems with unsatisfactory smells etc. So I called up an old girlfriend (Skype is a godsend) to get her ideas on the topic.

“I remember liking the way you used to smell.” (After so many years… hubba hubba.)
“Do you remember what cologne I wore back then?”
“I liked the Old Spice… it always smelled fresh, you know?”
“Great. So I’ll get some of that…”
“Wait… I also liked English Leather on you. You wore it to that party at Carol Beith’s house, and I remember it.”
Better and better. “Remember the Halston 1-12?”
“Oh yes — YES! I loved that smell!” [pause] “Or was that the cologne that Kissy Foss [my replacement – K.] used? It’s SO long ago.”

So that was my research. I know, it’s a sample of only one ex-girlfriend — but I couldn’t do any more without running afoul of the restraining orders.

The next question, as I clicked on the Amazon link and started to enter product names in the search bar, was: does anyone still make these things anymore? Well now, lookee here:

…and just for kicks, and the hell with Kissy (his actual nickname) Foss:

English Leather wins out, on a cost per ounce basis anyway; but I’ll try them all, get some feedback from some of the (very few) women whose opinions I trust, and make my final decision. Then I’ll order a boatload of the winner, so that I won’t run out anytime soon.

Or maybe I’ll just grow my beard back.


Afterthought: In response to Reader goingtothefields (Welsh? no matter) in Comments, I need to tell y’all something.

I too know something about the fragrance business — back in the days of sailing ships, I worked at an ad agency whose client was Max Factor, and at whose behest I did a one-week course on fragrances: their types, their classifications, their histories and most tellingly, the trends.

As with all things, scents follow a pattern — one falls out of favor, another comes in, and the large perfumiers can actually predict what fragrances will be popular up to five years out: musk, floral, citrus, spice(s) and what have you are all combined in different measures to create the product, akin to the creation of blended whiskies and whose formulations are closely-guarded secrets..

It’s all a lot of bollocks, of course. Basically, the costs in the fragrance industry are 65% marketing, 20% packaging, 10% merchandising and 5% product: hence we end up paying retail prices of hundreds of dollars per ounce for perfume (as opposed to cologne / eau de toilette, which are cheaper, but less effective because of dilution).