Tuesday 26 April 2011

Carn Ban and Beinn a` Chaisteil.

16th/17th April.

I haven`t been on a bike for over a year so wasn`t looking forward to the cycle in one little bit.As always though,it was never as bad as it seemed beforehand and I actually enjoyed it.I was grateful that I had listened to Bob and Scott though and donned a pair of cycling shorts :)

Looking east down Gleann Beag...

Looking west up Gleann Beag....

This was my first outing for over a month while I tried to give my foot a break so it might seem daft to pick one of the remotest hills in Scotland.There was method in the madness though as the brunt of it could be done by bike and there was a good stalkers path leading up the first 1,000 feet of ascent.Scott and I left Bob and Froodo at the weir and started up the hill about 2`o`clock or so while Froodo rehydrated with a few cans of Mr.Becks finest lager.The path was excellent and I doffed my hat in acknowledgement of the guys who built it all those years ago.We were up in jig time and soon reached the delightful Loch Srùban Mòre which Scott suggested we be the ultimate getaway from it all camping spot.

The foot got progressively worse from here on to the extent that I couldn`t be bothered with the camera so the days photos are courtesy of Scott

Looking over Loch à Choire Mhòir to the Assynt hills...

Hobbling over the plateau to the summit..

We made it back down to the bikes at 6pm and set off up the side of the river with the sun now shining. This was absolute torture on my foot with tussocky bog twisting it and I gradually fell behind.The bothy eventually hove into view but the last few hundred yards were a struggle.Earlier in the day a can of beer had punctured in my rucksack and sprayed all over my sleeping bag and thermarest.Bob had graciously carried them in earlier in order to hang them out to get rid of the stale beer smell . Luckily I still had one left and plonked myself down on the first chair...nectar :o) Pottered around sawing wood and cooking dinner and putting a freezing gel on my foot from time to time until Bob and Froodo arrived back at 9pm.The gel didn`t seem to do much good but the bottle of wine seemed to do the trick :)

Awoke to a lovely sunny morning and it seemed a shame to rush about on a morning like this so we lazed around cooking breakfast and watching a dipper darting up and down the river.

The offending foot seemed to have decided to play ball and the walk back to the bike was a painlesss one.

Walking away from the bothy...

A wee tip.The north bank of the river is a much better way in and out of the bothy...bog free in the main.We managed to cross the river without getting wet just down from the bothy.Scott and I were away ahead of the others as we were going to do Beinn a Chaisteil on the way out.

Looking up Gleann Mor towards Alladale on the way out.....

We dumped the bikes and were high up on the western slopes as the others biked into view...ants in this huge landscape.

You can see the track out below Meall a Chaorainn  in this pic from Scott,

The foot was miraculously still behaving itself as we wandered over to the summit.The view was surprisingly good and better than the map would indicate.Ben Loyal was prominent up on the northern coast and we lay around for half an hour picking out the hills we could see.Back down to the bikes...

.... and a quick descent back to the main road.

Looking back to the bothy at Lubachlaggan on the way out....

Picked up Froodo and a quick stop at the ever friendly Tarvie transport cafe and we were off home.
Footnote to Bob`s entry.He commented on the minimalist size of my panniers but the prize for the lightest load must surely go to Froodo.No sleeping mat,no stove,gas or pans,nothing at all actually other than a few sandwiches,a bottle of wine,a half bottle of Glenmorangie and 4 cans of beer.Having consumed all of this on the Saturday night in the bothy he had nothing left to carry out.Eat your heart out all you lightweight freaks..!

Wednesday 20 April 2011

Seana Bhraigh and Glenbeg Bothy .

16th and 17th April.

This is arguably the hardest weekend trip posted on this blog yet.At least my body is telling me that.The Canna trip comes close and also that long day on Arran but for sheer sustained effort over a 30 hour period this is the daddy.I be well trashed! Thanks guys.

Stunning weather as usual.This is coming back through the Cairngorms.I was happy to see  two cyclists huffing up hills here.Great to see someone else suffer now I was in my comfort zone again,ie,eating ,drinking and sitting in a car.
Now spring is here it was far north time for the mountaineering club.Alex and I tagged along secretly wondering if we could keep up.
Between west coast Ullapool and east coast Bonar Bridge lies an area of remote glens and high mountains with the peaks of  Beinn Dearg and Seana Bhraigh towering over the landscape of bogs, rivers, cliffs and ridges.Few people live here,only a few farms nearer the coast and isolated inland shooting lodges with vast estates covering many glens.No roads go through this area only a few rough land rover tracks cut into the wilderness to provide access to these lodges and for ease of reaching deer and other game for their clients to have a pop at though these days said clients are getting harder to find due to the changing tastes of the ultra rich.
Super yachts seem to be the big thing now.
Several bothies sit in these hard to reach glens.It was to one of these we were heading.
So...up at 4.30 am on Saturday morning to meet the rest of the guys at 6.00 am on the northern outskirts of Glasgow.A group of five of us with bikes ,panniers and rucksacks set off in two cars towards Inverness.
Alex,Scott,John,myself and new club recruit Alex (a younger model of the old git in case his legs go :o)
We reached our destination of Black Bridge 10 km north of Garve 4 hours later.The plan was to mountain bike in from here along 18 kilometers of rough  up and down track to Glenbeg bothy. On the way John would bag a Corbett above Loch Vaich while the rest of us would carry on until the end of the track.From here the other two,Scott and Alex, would do another unbagged  Corbett while myself and young Alex walked into the bothy and would then decide on a plan.I refuse to get addicted to Corbetts as I know I`ll never finish them and they might finish me instead.Variety,that's the key!

Alex won the prize for the world`s smallest panniers.Two cans of beer or a couple of lumps of coal filled them up. 18 km is nothing on a bike on good smooth tarmac.On hard packed pebbles,grass ,ruts and potholes however it seemed to go on forever climbing up out of one trench,Strath Vaich through into another,Gleann Beag. In a land rover it would be a sweet, easy journey gliding into the far flung mountain lodges of the interior sipping your complementary dram with barely a ripple in the glass.

On a bike though it fairly shook the eyeballs,stressed the wrists and fingers and thumped your bum every inch of the way.This pic above is at the top of one of the climbs.

And this another before the drop into Gleann Beag.
I was cheerily informed by a passing  outgoing veteran mountain biker that there are far tougher routes through the Scottish mountains  on a bike but  this soft bunny has no intention of ever finding them.This was hard enough for me.A living nightmare for every  self repecting sensible couch potato.There a good reason we invented sofas,crisps, coke and telly you know.
Its bloody good  fun!
Three long  hours of bum battering later we arrived at the very end of the track.I`ve never been so happy to start walking again.From here  it was another 2 km of pathless bog slog through humps and hollows to reach the bothy.
Alex and Scott chained up their bikes here and started up their hill.Young Alex elected to do the same as myself and walk in, hand carrying panniers and rucksack.Mad me thought it would be a challenge to shake the damn bike for a change and get my own back on it so I rolled carried, pushed, and heaved it in ,panniers still intact up the glen.It wasn't too bad although I had to wade along in the river for a spell,knee deep in the shallows when steeper hillsides repulsed me.Wonder if any other nutter has ever taken a bike in here?
After a quick rest and  lunch munch Young Alex and I decided on Seana Bhraigh.It would be a new Munro for him and I had a hankering to see those great northern cliffs again one last time.
Climbed from this direction its a very remote Munro indeed though,23 km
 from the main road.The only other time I climbed it was coming in from Bonar Bridge on an east west east again bothy and mountains tour.Some great bothies up here.
Seana Bhraigh is one of the great gems of Scotland but the wide southern slopes seemed  endless as we trudged on and on  ever upwards,already knackered from our bike ride.No time for any rest though as I didn`t fancy coming off this complex and mainly unfamiliar hill in the dark in such a remote area.

Finally we reached the ridge line and the great curved wall of cliffs came into view giving us a much needed lift and a cool breeze. Young Alex was impressed.I don't think he was expecting this after a pretty featureless ascent.

All too soon it was time to head down and we reached the bothy just before 9.00 pm.An eleven hour day of hard bone shaking graft.
Back at the bothy I`d unintentionally caused a problem for John by taking my bike in. He came down off his solo Corbett and noticed the chained bikes of the others.He also spotted mine was missing so assumed everyone was taking them into the bothy when they returned from the hill and proceeded to hump his in as well..oops  :o)
"This is beyond madness!" was voiced by him a few times as he heaved ,carried,lifted and dragged his fully laden bike across ditches, rivers and swamp.
Luckily we were still  up the hill when he arrived so that gave him time to calm down and stress out a bit.
I enjoyed it though.It was fun.

Cooking and eating our tea in the bothy revived us all.We`d carried coal in from the road so had a great fire going in the stove that was the centrepeice of the room.
Not that much banter Saturday night.Think we were all too tired but  quietly happy.Small regular glugs of alcohol reviving us more and more until we no longer felt any pain.

The next morning the weather was fantastic.Blue skies,light winds,hot!     HOT!! IN Scotland!!!!!!!!!!  I was a broken puppy though,every muscle ached as I hobbled about making breakfast.Auld Alex was the same rubbing gel on his sore foot but I`ve got to give him credit.He had his boots on and was keen for a second Corbett on the way out.(Thats also why I don't want to get into bagging them.)
He probably wont be able to walk for weeks now!Curse his addiction!
We cleaned up ,packed the bags and  crawled, waded,walked  pushed and slid out. At the road end our sore buttocks  went back on the ultimate torture devices for bums then new fresh battering commenced.

The highlights of that Sunday for me were....(apart from the company of course)
No 1........Reaching the tarmac road.
No 2......A tasty big plate of  chips at our usual stop off on the way down.Ballinluig transport cafe.A real gem of a place .Five gold stars.A meal munchers delight.
No 3.......Falling on my sofa once back in the house followed by a night of mindless telly as the hardest thing attempted was switching channels with the remote while chewing slowly  though crisps,coke,grapes,cooked chicken legs,yet more chips, then fried potatoes,bacon ,eggs, tatty scones and beans.I raided the cupboards and fridge twice  for two seperate dinners two hours apart. I was still hungry going to bed at midnight so munched a spare packet of cashew nuts before driffing off to sleep,stuffed and content again.
I`ll never leave you again sofa , bed and telly.I promise.You mean far too much to me......kiss,kiss,kiss.
An epic hard trip.The kind you remember for a long long time.
Maybe next week,after all the aches and pains fade to a dull murmer, I`ll discover I  enjoyed it :o)

View of Glasgow on return.Funny thing that.Glad to go away.......Glad to come back again.

Monday 11 April 2011

Loch Katrine-Aberfoyle Circuit.

No Alex.He`s still resting his sore paw for a week longer. When I`m on my own I prefer cycling to walking so this is a classic easy day cycle tour on a perfect Sunday at the start of April.
Depending on number of rest stops and speed of bike the full circuit takes between  three to six hours in an area stuffed with history.Three hours is a fast time, most will take four or longer.I was steady paced at four.
Parked in the large main car park beside Loch Katrine pier head in the heart of the Trossachs and paid my £3 meter fee.There are other suitable laybys en route but on this day they were  all empty,secluded and looked easy pickings for any car thieves if a car was left unattended for hours alone.I was happy to pay a little extra for security and peace of mind in a more populated car park.
The tourist season had yet to start and the Sir Walter Scott steamship was tied up getting an engine check and makeover ready for the spring crowds who would soon be descending.

This amazing ferry was launched here in 1899 after being floated up Loch Lomond from  its birthplace in Dumbarton then carried in sections overland by heavy horses to here. Its still a very popular trip and all the ferries based on the loch are packed solid with visitors during the peak summer months.
At the other end of the loch the small hamlet of Stronachlachar mainly exists as a place for the ferry to visit with its own pier,tearoom ,toilets,holiday cottages and large estate house.This was where I was heading now only by road.
Popular with families cycling as its quiet and fairly flat a private water board road snakes round the northern shores passing wooded islands and small bays with views of  high mountains behind.Ben Lomond dominates the scene,its  shaded northern corrie still covered in snow.

It was a brilliant day and I made good time,only a few tidy hill farms reminding me that this was not unpopulated wilderness.Considering tourists have been coming here for hundreds of years it is remarkably unspoiled,and indeed this was the birthplace of Scottish tourism when Sir Walter Scott set his "Lady of the Lake" here in 1810 inspired by  the still recent tales of   Rob Roy MacGregor (1671-1734).
Almost forgotten now this  poem was very famous in its day and had a  diverse influence on other works of the time.
One of the strangest is that a few lines in it describing the practice of a  raised burning cross sometimes used  as a beacon to alert the clans in times of war was then changed and reborn many years later  in the early silent film " The birth of a nation."  which in turn was then adopted by the Ku Klux Klan in America soon after!
How weird is that. A symbol taken from a romanticised poem  about Scotland considered far too unrealistic,sickly sweet and long winded for modern tastes.Also the highland cross was not of the Latin KKK type but  more probably the St Andrew,s Cross.The same type used in the flag of Scotland which has a claim to be the worlds oldest flag.
Anyway,The lands of the MacGregor`s stretched from here to the edge of  Perthshire covering many different glens but this was where  that  most famous of  clan sons grew up and lived.This present day abode still stands  right on the site where he was born and raised.

Probably a bit grander now than the building he would have known in his day.Both the MacGregors and the neighbouring MacFarlanes across Loch Lomond  in the deep glens around Arrochar had a reputation for being "troublesome".
In other words they were good at stealing cattle, fighting,drinking,quarreling and general mayhem and pillage.All the highland clans did the same of course,forming alliances and blood feuds as the mood took them but these two being nearer the fertile and farm rich lowlands were particularly good at it.They seemed to have had some kind of understanding with each other if only respect for each clans fighting abilities.
 Both clans shared a common graveyard on Inchcailloch on Loch Lomond where the clan chiefs were buried on separate sides of this walled enclosure.Its still very beautiful today and a visit there then a walk round this wooded island is a fantastic day out (ferry or boat hire from Balmaha) as is the nearby island of Inchmurrin.(ferry from Arden area).They also both fought in the Wars of Independance against the English Intruders.
In turbulent times its not always a good idea to be so feared and dreaded by your neighbours however.Neighbouring lands used to pray for cloudy skies as the full moon was known as MacFarlane,s Lantern.A time when  cattle raids and killings usually peaked. For this and other perceived crimes both clans were  hunted , and executed relentlessly over many decades,earning the MacGregors the title "children of the mist "when they were driven into the higher hills by the invading government armies of the day, aided no doubt by other rival clans and powerful landowners.This time around it was not an advantage to be so close to the lowlands as it made them easier to reach.It was even an offence to bear the name MacGregor during this period and the surviving MacFarlanes ended up escaping to Ireland then America. Rob Roy MacGregor lived to a fair age for the times though and died peacefully in his house at nearby Balquidder.There is now a long distance path in his name The Rob Roy Way passing through former clan territory he would have known well as it  runs  from Drymen to Pitlochry.

It was quiet and peaceful now though  in this glen  and a terrific morning.As you go round the far end of the Loch trees fade out ,the ring of  mountains close in and on a dull day it would look grey and forbidding.So thought Dorothy Wordsworth anyway when she visited with brother William noting that this end  resembled a bleak version of Ullswater.Must have just been the weather that day as It was magical enough on my trip.

Around here an army of toads crawled all over the road in full breeding frenzy....

.....along with cute little wriggling caterpillars.I tried to look these up a minute ago without success.Anybody know what moth or butterfly they turn into?

Unfortunately even on a quiet road like this one soft bodies and traffic don't mix well.It was obvious a few cars had passed.Hope this one had a happy time with a partner before this sudden  demise.

Come to think of it I looked something like this after my most painful, face first road smash.Unlike this poor wee croaker I survived to dent the ground again.No wonder I like cycling on sand! Forth the gallant  multi tarmac smacker!
I had lunch at the Hamlet of Stronachlahar where the ferry calls in.The public road starts from here, the still quiet B829 which runs past Loch Chon and Loch Ard to Aberfoyle.I always look foreword to this section as its a long easy downhill where you can sit and admire the views without effort.

Large flocks of Canada geese honked and munched grass in the flat green meadows around Loch Ard.

They are very vocal birds and I remember getting chased here by a pair paddling furiously after me for a considerable distance during the mating season.Must have been near a hidden nest.This is also a great loch to explore in a kayak with a slow twisting river section,deep clear pools and wooded islands with a surprise on both.

The lower road around Loch Ard can be busy as its well populated,full of holiday apartments ,large houses and second homes.Still scenic though but busy with cars if cycling.
Aberfoyle is soon reached where hotels, pubs,shops and meals may be had for those inclined.I pressed on though keeping my money rationed  for other trips.
The Dukes pass lay ahead- the biggest climb of the route.Whatever way you climb this its a brute.I normally  just walk up the road to the top pushing bike to save the legs but this time due to heavy traffic I took the safe route on tracks  through Queen Elizabeth forest park.I`m not a big fan of conifer forests and found the track up tedious ,long and boring with zilch views but it did have a few points of interest.
Some nice  small waterfalls,and this  sculpture grove of polished metal figures that almost disappear when viewed from certain angles due to them reflecting the surroundings.Maybe inspired by the children of the mist stories?Very  unusual project.

The last highlight was seeing the treetop go ape course getting a pre opening safety check. They were going to erect one of these in Pollok park in Glasgow but it is better out here where folk wanting solitude on their walks can more easily escape the shouts of excited children draining their parents pockets.Good fun but its not cheap!When you see the level of maintanence involved thats no surprise.Years ago children just climbed trees the normal way for adventure.Now ,somehow, unless its safe,regulated and supervised ( and costs  money) its not seen as an exciting thing to do by children and parents alike.

Arrived back at the car pretty knackered on what was an unseasonably warm day.A fantastic trip around a great area.

As a wee history footnote.... after the great  highland clearances and the dismantling of the entire clan system ,replacing people with sheep, a huge number of the dispossessed driven out of their homes and lands both here but also in the Scottish lowlands and Ireland emigrated to America where they came in very useful as a resilient buffer zone between the" troublesome"Native Americans (Indians) and the more peace orientated settlers in the flat fertile valleys and plains.All along the great Appalachian mountain chain  of the Southern  United States these old world  dispossessed fought the new world dispossessed for control of the wooded hollows and valley foothills.Ironic or what!
Eventually,after many hard years they began to prosper and flourish  (admittedly at the expense of the even more  marginalized  Indians),bringing their music ,clan values ,traditions and whisky stills with them.Clan and kin still mattered.
For a while all was good........

Then the American civil war happened and it was all back to normal again..Fighting ,killing stealing cattle etc :o)
Ah well ...they say a change is as good as a rest!

Monday 4 April 2011

Ayrshire Coastal Path.Storm conditions.

Hi Bob here.No thats not me I,m slightly better trained.

How true this is.The last thing you want flying at you in sixty mile an hour winds is a big lump of dog muck.
It`s been a long time since I was out on purpose in a big storm down the coast.It`s not that easy to capture one unless you live beside the sea.A few times now I`ve raced down to a likely spot only to find its not that special or wild after all.
So...I sacked the normal weather forecasts letting me down and went back to tried and trusted methods.
Emptying my bag of small animal bones,spirals,dice and murdered mice heads I threw the first cast across the polished floor of her shrine.
It always lifts my heart to see those little heads and their accusing eyes tumble across the mahogany.As my frog from the garden pond sat quietly watching the proceedings I rolled nineteen times more before I hit a winner.In my experience murdered mice heads tell no lies!
So be it....three weekend Saturday outings would be needed where high tides and winds combined.

The Ayrshire coastal path runs from Skelmorlie beside Wemyss Bay for 100 miles along the Firth of Clyde to its end (or beginning if starting there) at Glenapp approx 10 miles from Stranraer.
Its certainly not the best long distance path in Scotland (the three coast to coast routes would be my pick if I were into multi day trips here) but it is entertaining and easy to follow with cliffs,castles,sandy beaches and lots of history.A few parts are semi industrial others like the stretches between Irvine and Troon or Ayr to the Maidens are wild and exposed.
Some walking sections have been covered in this blog(Maidens to Culzean Castle for one) other parts are suitable on a bike.It was these I wanted to cherry pick during extreme conditions on my rusty, trusty metal nag.

Any method of self propulsion just somehow feels right and exhilarating.Skiing ,kayaking,climbing,rowing,cycling....they all feel natural and energizing.Just ask Icarus here.
I`ve been cycling on and off since childhood.Mainly on.It`s great for keeping fit and covering distance yet still being close to the outdoors and nature.You can also follow paths no other form of transport can get across as its light enough to be carried if need be.
Its also free,a big consideration in this age of soaring fuel costs.A return trip to the far northern parts of Scotland now costs over 100 pounds in a car. I remember a  full weeks Munro bagging trip up there for a fiver!
I love cycling but it can also be dangerous.If you fall off at speed it usually hurts......a lot!
For fifteen years I was into rock climbing,a perceived dangerous sport,and never had a serious accident as I climbed within my limits.I was also lucky with folk I trusted holding the rope.
On my bike however,also cycling within my limits,I`ve had a broken collar bone,nose,ribs,missing tooth,and various minor injuries to ankles,legs, neck, back and head.Thankfully I wasn`t pretty to start off with and it still gives me a thrill every time I sit in the saddle.Each trip is a great new adventure.....if you survive.
National cycle magazines always have a yearly obituary list of all those keen roads cyclist members who have met a sticky end pursuing their sport.
It makes a hair raising  read.
Head first into an opening car door,flattened by a lorry,sideswiped by cars,knocked down and tramped by cows running  across a country lane,taken out by golf ball,throttled and dumped in a canal,bricked or crossbow bolted in a dodgy part of city or town..........sometimes it seems like the whole world has a secret agenda to take out the brave cyclist as the lists are so bizarre!
Anyway..I would be safe down the coast in a storm.
First trip was Saltcoats,where they did indeed used to make sea salt in the natural salt pans still there to be viewed by passers bye.

It was pretty wild but I set off  towards Kilwinning along the promenade then the beaches heading for the long crumpled mass of  the Ardeer peninsula.

It was out here far from anywhere that Alfred Nobel,the peace prize founder,was allowed to set up his explosives and munitions factory sprawling across the miles of sand dunes.At its peak this employed 13,000 workers with its own power station and railway network.It even had an on site bank,dentist and travel agent.
You can still see the remains buried in the  shifting dunes.Its a flat low tide canter on a bike out to the dead end of the Irvine River mouth passing  disturbing mounds of huge empty worm casts like the setting to the very end of days.A bleak,eerie and desolate place.Even Nobel was struck by how remote it felt though Kilwinning is not that far away.There is still a  smaller explosives plant at Ardeer and in 2007 kids somehow managed to sneak in and blow up something that was heard for miles around and needed the emergency services  to  go out and deal with the resulting  fireball.
One of the strangest beaches in Scotland.
It was only when I returned from this trip that Alex informed me (ahem... he`d read it in a paper somewhere) that it was one of the top dogging sites in Scotland.Seems a funny place to walk your dog though.And he,s not even got a dog!
Next outing was an old favourite...Troon.A canter along the sands towards Barassie where there was some kind of kite surfing competition going on,loads of guys that were really attacking the waves for a change.

There were even some brave or mad enough to take off into the air,soaring for a good distance before landing.

I had a  tentative go at this sport a couple of years ago, great fun but it nearly ripped my arms off.Sadly I`m past it now. Its a young folks game.

This is more me nowadays, old enough to be a  granddad yet still belting along the sands on a bike.OK I admit it I`m mad.With a strong wind at your back though you can go like the clappers,you just have to watch out for dips, dogs, folk, puddles,ripples and softer sand.You soon get used to reading the route ahead at speed.

Britannia watched proceedings with her usual cold but not unkindly stare.It was so exciting I felt some happy songs coming on.
As I covered the miles "Two fists of sadness" got an  vocal airing then a triple tear jerker of old time American classics.."Baby in the bloodhound" ..."Muleskinners stole my darling bride"....and the towering "Suicide Apocolypse" by the mighty dooms.A memorable outing in bright sunshine.What a day.

The last bike outing was the section between Prestwick and Ayr.It was so wild bits of seaweed and stones were flying onto the promenade as well as sea spray.Magic stuff! Inland, a few hours  later on, it was almost normal though.Sunny ,dry and pleasant if a tad windy.

Here's the interesting  clock in the old town

Back in the house,after consulting my book of best home made pagan remedies I mixed up a health drink for Alex`s sore foot.See ,I,still think of him even when I`m out enjoying myself.What a pal!
Small mixed bones,jelly fungus and several minced mice heads too tatty to be rolled across her shrine any more made a fine smoothie but he was reluctant to be a guinea pig.(Come to think of it bits of that might have been in it as well,also a handy, not quite fast enough, tame frog)
Whats wrong with that boy! Doesn't he want to get better.Its all good natural produce I use.
Pity he`s not that keen on cycling though.Its such good fun.Few sports give you the luxury of getting killed or maimed  every time you roll out your own front door.
(Disclaimer....although this is posted today it was written on  the first day in April  :o)