After what felt like an eternity of rain and unpacking, a cold, clear day peered out of the clag. I had promised (or was that threatened?) the girls that we would head to Loch Lomond at the first sign of a break in the weather.
This wasn't our first outing with the little one, but it was our first big hill. Now there's a total newbie to consider, one that can't yet say if she is too hot, cold, hungry or tired. 8kgs in the sling, and probably more in a rucksack - enough packed food, insulation and perhaps even the odd fear to last a week, let alone a day. But if it couldn't be done then, it couldn't be done - the weather was pitch perfect.
The loch shone flat and immaculate and the grasses throbbed gold and green in pin sharp, frigid air. We padded slowly up to the Ptarmigan and stopped for a late lunch. T was overheating and the ween needed a feed. Fairly predictably, our idle philosophising at ground level ('we'll just see how far we get, we don't need to get to the top') morphed into a discussion about the efficacy of my risk assessment and time management for the big finish, not helped by paying too much heed to 1 or 2 folk coming down and concerned on our behalf... but after tea, sarnies and deep breaths for both adults, there were no more fractious words. I think we both wanted this to work.
It was getting late, but as we moved up the quiet side of the Ben, and the last of the casual visitors came down, it felt like the right time to go up. The knobbles and ripples of the Lomond hills swelled to meet a dying sun, and the temperature wobbled around freezing.
Looking after each other isn't easy - or at least, being consistent about it isn't. Being a new parent also seems to take a slow motion sledge hammer to any preconceptions you might have developed in your previous life - that one where we had only ourselves to blame, the one where less depended. The one where we could indulge our fantasy of stoical isolationism all the while tweeting into the void from the top to show and prove. For us, making a conscious choice to live 500miles or more away from our extended families (there are 3 sets, it's complicated) can feel more finely poised than is either wise or necessary. I can rationalise the pressures on all sides - gathering round is the common currency of family as generations roll on - but it makes less and less emotional sense, to me at least.
We sidle onto the top of the one of the most popular hills in Scotland, with the summit to ourselves, and get our reminder. What I want for my daughter now, is what took me nearly 4 decades to track down - regular contact with the fabric of a life beyond concrete and glass. Not just on special occasions, a holiday from eating, shitting, shopping and politics. We're all better than that, even as we teeter about on two feet clutching at straws. I'd like for her to feel the weave of that fabric under her fingers, to intuit the cut as a matter of course. Apparently, that's a skill these days, but I'd like for it to be normal for her, second nature... which is not the same as taking it for granted. We live in hope. It's what we do.
We didn't wait long on the top, winter is on it's way and it's breath was icy. I took a photo of a man in a blue fleece standing on the ridge, which turned out to be Petesy, but we didn't know that at the time, or else we might have bummed a cuppa, or at least said hallo. It's only the internet, but this blog owes a massive debt to PTC, alongside Must be this way and Red Yeti. Those 3 especially - you can blame them for starting this, it's all their fault.
It was a long, slow amble back to the car, we were all tired out. The cyclist who'd passed us on the way down waited to make sure we got down safe, and we changed the wee one in his van rather than on our parcel shelf, because he had the heating on. Most of the relatives would probably be horrified, but no fear, and no tabloid ending. Thanks Jose, let's do something with the kids sometime.