Finding a Work Life Balance…

Walk the Walk. Talk the Talk…

At the end of May, I am taking the giant and super scary leap to leave my safe and secure job of 8 years and go freelance to do what I do best: organise and plan! I’ve been looking for a challenge for quite some time now but trying to find the impossible has become quite, um, impossible! Needless to say, I have never found that impossible job. One came close recently but it plummeted through a great hole followed by my great disappointment…

So, what is it I am looking for? Along with several million, billion others, I want, no, I NEED a job that is flexible enough to walk in the sunshine and work when it rains, I want to wander the mountains of the world and write about it. Of course, I have bills to pay so that’s when the freelance work comes in… I have always pushed myself in any role I have undertaken and because of that, I have quite a skill set under my belt to utilise in a whole range of organisations.

So, let’s meet up in 6 months time and see what has happened in that time. Here’s a sneaky look at the letter leaving my sweaty, anxious hands soon…


Have you had enough monkeying around with Mail Chimp?

Social Media becoming a virtual drag?

Losing track of paper trails?

Imagine the freedom of hiring a multi-sector specialist without the lengthy recruitment process or the added cost of an agency… No need for payroll, holiday or sick pay, no bonuses, agency fees or travel expenses and definitely no complicated contract. No obligation from you at all except to settle the invoice at the end of the month (although I can organise that for you too!) You’ll also be surprised at the cost…

As a freelance office assistant, I’m ideally suited for small to medium businesses as I can offer a wide range of services from social media marketing, web design to basic bookkeeping and warm reception welcomes. I have over 20 years of experience as an administrator and PA and have worked with a varied range of establishments being a ‘jack of all trades’ in health, creative, clothing, construction and beauty industries!

Skills…

  • Social media management (Facebook/Twitter/Instagram)
  • Web maintenance (CMS) and design (Wix and WordPress)
  • Sound knowledge of Microsoft Office
  • Email marketing campaigns (MailChimp)
  • Android photography and image manipulation
  • Adept at writing articles: press releases, promotional handouts and blogs
  • Inputting orders, processing payments, updating data and invoicing using ‘Sage 50’
  • Editing & Proofreading
  • Excellent interpersonal, communication, analytical and problem-solving skills
  • I can also make a mean cup of tea and demon gingerbread…

Your company can benefit from this skill set with a minimum of 3 hours in any one session. If you are looking for regular help or as a one-off ‘re-plan’, you are assured that the workload is tailored to suit you…

Want to meet up to find out more?

Call. Text. WhatsApp. Let’s talk without the jargon…

Kate

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Three Lochs Way – Jacqueline Glass

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An absolutely mind-blowing, epic challenge. Not much more needs to be said.

Screen Shot 2018-04-25 at 20.52.31 Running an Ultra and Having a Blast – As You Do

Having run one ultra before it’s definitely for the hard core and there are none more so than Jacqueline Glass and June Macleod who undertook the Three Lochs Way last month with good friend Karen Hattie. The camaraderie amongst ultra runners is the stuff of legend and this comes across in Jacqueline’s review.

Ultra Running is undergoing a boom at the moment. As a result more and more events are springing up with several multi-stage events extending the parameters beyond even single run events. Many well established races like The Fling continue to grow and have been complimented by new races on a diverse and intriguing ultra calendar with races such as The Wee Eck Ultra and The Cowal Way Ultra in Argyll.

Sadly preparations were not ideal…

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The Joy of Group Rambles

Although I’ve done a few organised group rambles (BlencathraBen Nevis, Four Harbours / North coast) I tend to stay within my comfort zone: walking with friends and being able to catch up on the weeks we’ve not seen each other. It’s the way I like to multitask and spending a whole day with people you adore doing something you love is just the best therapy. A nice lunch, hot chocolate flask and cake helps too…

Facebook and social media, in general, has great potential for businesses, individuals and a platform for common interests but a lot of ‘specialist’ groups and pages can have some negative followers, not necessarily aggressive, just dismissive. Of course, they themselves have never wondered about the ‘best tent to purchase’ or ‘how to wash waterproof trousers’ or even is ‘a boot or shoe best for the hills’. They must have been born gifted with this knowledge *rolls eyes*…

I had been following the (closed group) Rambling Roses on Facebook for a while and they seemed a friendly crowd. Very active with lots of walks and hills organised, offering a warm welcome to all levels of fitness and capabilities, full of encouragement, not at all full of their own self-importance. The first weekend after Christmas I was needing a good walk. I’ve been pacing the living room wearing away the carpet desperate to get out of my central heated 4 walls. You know what its like. Eating, drinking, late nights for the whole of December and the New Year dawns and you realise: “back to work in only a few days and what have I done?”  The next group walk was The Glen Loin Loop. I’ve been wanting to do that for ages and the Roses had just posted an ‘event’. I ticked the ‘going’ box, contacted the group organiser and read up on the meeting point, start time and read the route map.

18 of us showed up at the Loch Long carpark and the new walkers and strangers politely shook hands while the more familiar, regular Roses hugged and wished each other a happy new year.  We all purchased our £1 parking tickets and off we headed.

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The Glen Loin Loop runs approx 11miles (although I clocked it at 12!) and runs through the glens of north Arrochar. The initial section is a gradual slope through forestry with enticing peaks through the trees of Ben Vorlich. Bens Narnain and Vane are also seen on this route and had a good covering of snow with lower levels being free from the white stuff.

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Everyone chatted. Everyone exchanged stories of hill climbs, long walks, short jaunts, holidays and dog walks, waterproofs, crampons and partners who don’t like to climb. There were all ages. All shapes and sizes. And all levels of fitness. Everyone was included. No one was left alone at the back of the crowd. It was a great day and at the end of the walk, a couple of folk headed across to the tea-room for a nice brew. I went home to my un-climbing partner in another attempt of persuasion to get him up a hill. I failed. But he had ran me a bath, made me dinner so I didn’t nag for too long…

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If you have considered group walks before and been hesitant. Do it. Join a group page on platforms such as Facebook and get a ‘feel’ for the group before tagging along. I know its out of your comfort zone, we’ve all felt it but I can highly recommend as a way to not only keep fit, lose weight and get healthy but to make new friends, learn new things and discover your beautiful countryside.

What are you waiting for…?

 

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Loch Long – January 2018

 

 

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My Dirty Weekend on Blencathra

In the last few years, I’ve been concentrating so much on conquering Scotland’s mountains, I forgot there are others out there. My experience of  England is driving at 70mph (ok 75)  from north Glasgow down to London to visit family. A few times we have stopped overnight at friends in Norfolk or a quick stay at a Travelodge to break the journey but generally, not encountered much outside the Scottish confines. I considered climbing Snowdonia once for summer solstice but that was as close as I got as Ben Nevis stepped in…

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Trail Magazine were advertising on Facebook; a weekend in Blencathra at the Field Studies Council centre. Sounds interesting… Alan Hinkes would be there (who?) and Terry Abraham (nope, not ringing a bell) With work commitments and other obligations, the few friends I asked couldn’t make it so I hesitantly decided to go myself. I think it was the huge Gear sale that they ran on the Sunday; that was a big draw!

I arrived the Friday an hour early and made my mumbled excuses at reception. They pointed me to the quiet parking area which would be my home for the next 2 nights. I had opted to stay in the van; in my own bed. Later that day, others pitched tents in great spaces and accommodation was on offer in the main building at a great price. I pottered around the premises a bit lost. No one else there except a couple of young lads sitting on the picnic tables “oh s**t, did I read the description properly, will I be hanging out with teenagers for the weekend?” A few hours later, a warm smile was offered by ‘Rob’ who showed me around the building then shortly after others started arriving. Everything was still so quiet except for the Trail crowd; they were full of energy and seemed excited for the weekend ahead. I don’t think its ‘just another job’ for them, the genuine passion and kindness oozed for the full 3 days… The lounge had a few folks in, quietly flicking through copies of the latest Trail mag or mobile phones. Closed mouth smiles and head nods were offered. Silence… After 5 minutes of doing the same, “anyone for a cup of tea?” says I, standing hands on hips. Everyone automatically declined in surprise except one who gingerly accepted. Returning with 2 mugs, the chatter had started, my awkwardness subsided… Ok, I think I’ll enjoy it here.

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Love this image, sums up the weekend perfectly!

The whole packed weekend from that point on was superb. Food was fantastic, Trail and field centre staff were great. The entertainment in the form of pub quiz, navigation skills, discussions with Alan Hinkes (FYI the only Briton to climb the world’s 14 highest mountains) and Terry Abraham (humble but expert director) climb up Blencathra with nature talks, boot advice and fitting, ‘guess the rucksack weight’. I loved it all and attended everything except the pop-up tent challenge, I couldn’t do that with the audience it drew!

I would normally never do something like this on my own but I am so glad I did. In fact, I think it made it far better. It’s too easy to huddle unsocially in a corner with a pal. Mixing with walking people, hill climbing people, outdoorsy people, camper van loving people, music loving people all knowledgeable and willing to share information and stories was just the tonic I needed and made it a hugely memorable weekend for me. Everyone was welcomed and accepted in whatever form they took. I wore a bobble hat to breakfast, where else could you do that comfortably?

My weekend highlights (small as most might seem)

  • Making tea for that one person
  • Listening to Phil talk about different moss
  • Alan Hinkes / Terry Abraham film on Saturday
  • 5 minutes early to the gear sale as we won the pub quiz which bought me a ‘non-panic buying’ session!
  • Standing in the rain, watching Alan Hinkes mountain goat-like across Blencathra
  • Sticky toffee pudding
  • A warm and welcoming smile from a friendly stranger when I was ready for heading home
  • Getting a Whisperlight stove for £20
  • Meeting awesome, like-minded people and making new friends
  • Wearing a bobble hat to breakfast!

I am looking forward to attending again, wherever camp sets up and whoever attends, not just with this team who organised this but will look further afield too. I am keener than ever to wild camp (Scotland – Spring 2018) and step far from this comfort zone that’s been built for 47years. I may even partake in a pop-up-pop-down tent challenge next time, that will really push me…

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Why I Climb…

Through my childhood, I was fascinated by a mysterious volcanic form on the horizon I could see from our garden. I was aware it was something called ‘Ben Lomond’ but never could I have realised what it would bring me 43 years later.

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In May 2016, my work colleagues and I ascended this mighty fellow. The climb was relatively short and as we were walkers of all fitness levels, we staggered ourselves taking time to wait for the dawdlers (that would be me!) Several expletives were released from my mouth that day along the lines of “who’s bloody idea was this”, “for fuck sake, will this ever end” and of course, that old favourite “are we there yet”… We arrived safely at the top. Visibility was clear, the views were spectacular and the wee tot of whisky added some ‘charm’… For the next 48 hours, every muscle shouted disapproval, my knees stabbed with every step and my feet endured a constant pulse. However, something got under my skin that day and it wasn’t a tick. From then on, I was hooked; I couldn’t wait to get out and do it again. “I’ll stock up on plasters and Ibuprofen.”

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For a few years prior to this climb, I was unsatisfied with life. Not depressed or particularly miserable, just unsettled and in constant search of something better. A better job, a kitchen extension, a tidier house, slimmer, just something… The more I walked and climbed, the less I was bothered about ‘stuff’. My achievement was still being alive once on ground level and it fuelled my contentment and acceptance of being me. I love being out there, even in the rain. The weather is spectacular in whatever it’s mood brings. Even seeing only 3 meters in front of you is an experience in itself. It’s serene. It’s unsettling. It’s another planet. I am lucky to have such accepting friends who appreciate and listen quietly to my raptures without considering that I am having a breakdown. They allow me to gush unashamedly at the cloud formation, at the silence of the scene, the monotones of a misty forest on a distant hill: it’s all so humbling.

2017-06-23 11.37.21It has taken 47 years to find my happy place, emotionally and spiritually. I have never accepted being me, always wanting to be someone else. Something about being in such a huge space, with few people around, everything makes perfect sense. It recharges what I never knew was depleting and once on ground level, the world is right and I am me again. If I haven’t been up a hill in a few weeks I have been known to wear my waterproof jacket to work for the smell and the feel of outside. Yes, I know that’s weird but it works for me!

I am working my way through Scotlands mountains with a small achievement of 16 munros but many more little hills in between and loving every step, even the ones that make me swear. My problem is now I have stepped out of my comfort zone, I am yet to find that boundary and things, scary things have been planned for the following years while I can. Rock climbing, mountain wild camping, and long distance expeditions are just a few but bloody hell, I am 47 years old, who do I think I am? Aucht well, age is just a number as is munro number 17… So I’m going to jump into my wee camper van and take the next left…

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The Unpronounceables…

So, we had ran out of hills we could pronounce and couldn’t put it off any longer: we had to start attempting ‘The Unpronounceables’. Ben Vane was yet to be done but we heard he was a bit of a bugger so we’ll leave that for another day…

A glorious weekend in July had us on the Tarmachan Ridge which was superb, we loved every minute.  We meandered mindlessly over Meall Garbh, Beinn an Eachan and Creag na Caillich with the lure of another distant path so tempting us to take on another stretch. The sun shone, the breeze was kind enough to clear the midges and both of us had energy we had never had before. We are still slow walkers being constantly overlapped by more ambitious and professional walkers. We like to photograph the many weird and wonderful beasties encountered and listen to the unfamiliar bird song and take longer than everyone else.

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BELOW ARE TARMACHAN RIDGE IMAGES…

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Here’s the wee scary arete bit. Not too scary i admit but its a start!

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This weekend, we fancied the 4 munros that stand between Lochs Tay and Rannoch: Carn Gorm, Meall Garbh, Carn Mairg & Creag Mhor. Days are getting shorter and temperatures are dropping so we thought we’d do a biggie now. Armed with vague WalkHighands screen shot directions, basic map-reading skills, a coordinates app. and a picnic to sink a ship, we set off confidently. Directions were great at first then after the second munro, we had to use our map and compass more which was unsettling but enjoyable. Another addition to our ever growing kit is now a glossary of hill terminology as we had to learn ‘new’ words like col, bealach and tor. Brain and body exercised!

BELOW ARE PICTURES FROM THE 4 MUNROS!

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August Blog

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It took is 10.5 hours to complete (suggested 6-8), covered 14 miles (supposedly 11) and we loved every minute and inch.

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Views up any hill are spectacular with ever changing conditions, terrain, direction and landscape. How can anyone be bored with this activity. Its fantastically addictive. I’ve never been outdoorsy but now have become one of the great unwashed at the weekend. Annoyed the Tuesday morning matted hair untangling ritual and having to step into respectable clothes to join the ranks of other closet mingers (no? Just me then?)

I ask my walking companion “where next. How can we beat this?”. “There is a walk with 7 munros” says she…

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Summer Solstice on the Ben

So, its been 8 months since my last blog… I’ve had plenty to write about, I’ve been out loads but between work, play and adventure, its been difficult to make time for a written ramble. This week i experienced something so awesome that i need to get it down in actual words for my mental preservation. I knew i’d be able to do it, i knew it would be emotional, bloody hard work and a once in a lifetime experience. Ben Nevis, in the dark and a sunrise so beautiful that we cried unashamedly…

On the 20th June, my friend and I headed towards the Highlands in my mostly-finished camping Vivaro. He (Harvey RV) now has a sofa bed with storage and a kitchen at the rear. The back door flips up and becomes a roof/shelter allowing me to be able to cook outside. The first official stop was at the ridiculously crowded Three Sisters car park in Glencoe. One solitary space was left and I parked with the rear facing the mountains. The greatest place on earth to enjoy a humble cup of tea. Boot flipped up, kettle on, mugs, teaspoons and contents were rattled into place. A lone piper appeared in full Scottish regalia. I shouted across an offer of tea which he accepted. “Milk, one sugar” The kettle whistled its final stage and tea was poured while we enjoyed polite chat about the weather. The further we chatted, the more i learned. His grandfather piped on that spot until his 87th year was reached. This piper has been christened in the tiny village of Buchlyvie: the village i grew up in! How small is this world? He also knew a gentleman from Strathblane, the village i now stay in. I had so many questions but asked only a few. Sometimes its nice just to wonder and enjoy a short impromptu meeting with a stranger. Cars and coaches rumbled through carpark potholes, spewing out selfie-sticked tourists that surrounded us, clicking and bustling to get that ideal Facebook post. Harvey found some fame too when the steaming mugs left the back caught the attention of about 15 travellers. We were surrounded by photographers clicking and chattering away in Chinese intrigued at the van conversion. A spokeswoman approached politely asking questions requested from her companions relaying my reply. It was outrageously surreal and we praised Harvey on being such a hit with the ladies…

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Moving on, after a quick stop at The GlenCoe Ski Centre, Black Rock Cottage and Kings House Hotel) we drove through Fort William, keeping Loch Eil to the left. We visited the viaduct, train station and the Bonnie Prince Charlie monument. No surreal moments there but all require a definite visit if you’re in that area.

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Black Rock Cottage with Buachaille Etive Mor behind

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Stag at Kings House Hotel, backdrop of Buachaille Etive Mor

We had booked a table for 7.30 that night at The Ben Nevis Inn based at the foot of the mountain. A stunning but rustic converted barn providing bunkhouse accommodation, bench seated food (average but reasonably priced) & drink with Tuesday night live music which we were lucky to stumble upon! We enjoyed the evening until 11pm when time was called and we headed to attempt sleep in the van. That didn’t happen… These two old school buddies anxiously giggled into the dark hours and got no sleep whatsoever. We changed, applied mozzie spray (which wasn’t necessary) and packed our food.  Our two fellow walking companions and the guide from Atlas Mountaineering turned up to give the lowdown on what to expect through the night. We left the base excitedly, head torches on full glow as five of us began our adventure…

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Last sunset of winter a few hours before we left

Now, Carole and myself are not the most speedy of walkers, we like to take everything in: the smells, the noises, the views which tends to add about 25% onto a ‘normal’ journey time. But we like it that way. We knew this was going to be a walk like no other For one, it was dark! The worry we did have prior to booking was that we’d slow everyone down and miss the first sunrise of summer. But did we catch it in time…?

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Here comes a new day…

Heads down, terrain ever changing, we walked for around 4 hours stopping in very short bursts for layers on/off and water. The walk itself is very manageable but constant. Imagine over 4 hours of walking up an escalator the wrong way and you’re nearly there! The mountain path is fantastically maintained which i imagine is no easy job. As a group, including Connor our guide, we chatted most of the way. Exchanging stories with the constant chatter was very reassuring and a great distraction. Whatever hill i do, no matter what size, there comes a time when i say to myself “what the f*** am i doing? Why is this necessary” I suppose that’s what you’d call ‘the wall’. After that, i’m fine, i walk easier, more content in myself at the speed i’m doing and more accepting of doing my own thing, not trying to impress or keep up. Usually a 10 minute sit down resolves those issues too…

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Connor bursts into raptures “just wait until you get round this corner, you’ll think you’re in paradise” I’d asked him previously how many times had he climbed the Ben, he says honestly “hundreds”. His excitement seems genuine yet i wonder how he can be so excited about his regular ‘commute’ up this mountain.

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Wow. The sun has lit the sky but not quite broken through the horizon. We get a moment to watch. “Connor” says I, “i presume we are not at the top as i can see a higher bit in the distance” He nods that i am correct although I know full well i am…

We pick up pace and see the observatory and hotel ruins in a glorious, orange tinged silhouette. Connor shouts us together, “drop your bags and get here. Be careful” as we teeter along the glowing red rocks. We each find our space. And sit…

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Caroles fabulous picture, sums it up perfectly

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The time is now about 4.30am. I have had no sleep. Climbed faster than I’ve ever done and higher than I’ve ever attempted. My body is spent of energy. Emotions are like i have never experienced before. My mind is racing with nothing in particular and i realise i will never witness this exact moment again. Then the tears come… Tears for the people who are witness to this sight and tears for the people who are unable to experience this. I can see what seems like the whole of the world from here, layer upon layer of mountain top separated by low cloud so thick you could dare walk upon it. A wisp closer to us rolls in a perfect form catching the first sun of summer as it flows fluidly through the crevices. Although the tears are running, i’m at the most content I’ve been ever in my 47 years. We have reached paradise and are incredibly honoured to be witness. Connor was right…

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