Harbouring a Dream
The Hallowe'en Night Run - 27th October 2010

“A dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.”
Oscar Wilde

“May you have warm words on a cold evening, a full moon on a dark night and a smooth road all the way to your door.”
Celtic Blessing

With a rucksack and pannier full of hill gear, it was ironic that as I cycled it began to rain half way to Bonaly, the venue for the first “real” night run of the year. By the time I turned up Bonaly Road, I was soaked, although the good Scots word drookit seemed more apposite. As I reached the junction which would take me left to the run start, I headed right and cycled off into the darkness, up by Torduff reservoir, along to Kinleith and up through the woods above Currie Hill. The track was awash, rutted and broken which made it interesting but oddly I was enjoying myself on what was “home turf” when I’d lived just below at Blinkbonny for nine years.

Out on the moor, the newly surfaced path made the going easier and I dismounted at the path junction, sorted gear and jettisoned both bike and pannier to some dark crevice, a measured sixteen paces from the track, and headed off into the darkness. As always, with all lights and torches firmly off, the Pentlands lay before me like a silver carpet, starlit and beckoning. It was only when I saw the beams of head torches ahead of me that I realised it was still pissing tipping down. As I ran up to the stile, the two beams were climbing slowly up Harbour Hill and I wondered if it might be Alan and Jonathon, or Alice (who live that side of the hill)).

The summit of Harbour Hill is flat and indistinct and there is little shelter, so I was surprised that the two people ahead had disappeared. No dark shadows, no spilling lights.

If I was wet before, I was now seriously so and elected to pull dry gear – down gillet, windproof, fleece jacket and waterproofs – on top of my wet gear as trying to change in the wind and wet would have but soaked all my dry gear, or chilled me further. Now the wait. “Ah, sweet content, where doth thine harbour hold” as somebody once said.

Odd to watch the lights of the city far below, the stars above and the shapes and shadows of the Pentlands around me. Down in the trees, lights swirled and danced – a witches’ coven rehearsing? More likely mountain bikers out night riding. I thought about the fireworks - my purpose for being there – would they light in the wind and wet? How to set them? When? A Kestrel’s cry took me away from such thoughts and I wondered what had brought it here. Did it think the same about me?

I watched the passage of time – a light heading towards Castle Law, then lights cresting Capelaw, just as the rain stopped. Quickly I set the fireworks but blindly as I couldn’t risk a light which would be seen. But something wasn’t right. The lights were moving too slowly. Then behind them more lights, then more, until the summit of Capelaw looked to all intents like a little village, its lights twinkling in the dark.

The lights wound up and then wound down the hill in an appropriately yellow and red and yellow snake-like line. At last they dropped out of sight and whilst I readied the fireworks, Cali tried to persuade everyone that there was no need to come up “my” hill as the direct route off was north. Sigh.

As the torches neared the summit, I struggled with the fuses, the lighter, the wind, two-dimensional vision, wet gloves and so … with perfect timing the fireworks lit up the sky. Amid the oohs and ahhs, and robbed of my night vision, I couldn’t find the next batch and luckily Willie joined me to locate and set them off too. Afterwards the runners headed north east to the pub, whilst I headed west then north west back to the bike.

As I readied the bike the moon broke through the cloud, glinting like a tiger’s eye then rose majestically, bright and golden, etched in a dark sky. Beautiful.

Back down through the woods, the world shrunk into a microcosm – mere pools of light and pools of water – suspended in the darkness created by my bike lights but whistling down Currie Kirk hill, the lights of Edinburgh sparkled before me.

At the Kirk, all was ablaze courtesy of the floodlights only, and not a cutty sark in sight, so off down the old railway line to the Spylaw Tavern for some welcome food and drink, conviviality and good crack.

All too soon it was over and back on the bike I cycled up and then through the City Hospital Woods and over the Braids and home.

The first real Carnethy night run of the season, except I suspect I wasn’t actually on it.

Nick Macdonald

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