This Season’s Must-Have Accessory!

Having now competed at NINE Highland Games as a Heavy Athlete (and oh, how I do love my competitor’s tee-shirt from the last one, with “North Berwick Highland Games Heavies 2012” emblazoned in big letters across my chest), I am beginning to know what’s what. I can tell the difference between a weight set up for throwing over a bar, and a weight set up for throwing for distance (one has a longer chain than the other, since you ask); I know what hammer tacky is (it’s pine sap, hideously sticky, smeared on the palms of the hands to help you retain your grip on the Scottish hammer while you whirl it round your head, and on your knuckles to help your cupped hands stay together while tossing the caber) and how to remove it from the skin (usually people use WD40, but those a little more cautious of the future state of their skin use Swarfega and suchlike. I’m a sucker for the smell of WD40, so I now have my own mini-can of the stuff); I now know from personal experience why it’s a really BAD idea to have tacky on your palms and fingers while tossing the caber – you try throwing a telegraph pole that’s stuck to your hands. Yeah. Epic fail, as my kids would no doubt say.


Uh-oh. Stuck.


Time for WD40, I think…

So, Highland athletes carry quite a bit of stuff. I have a smallish rucksack full of odd items like wrist wraps, knee supports, back supports, sticky elastic strapping, nail scissors, dressmakers’ shears (for the ritual mutilation of the Games tee-shirts), bunches of bananas, a pot of peanut butter, sesame snaps, WD40, spare shackles for my weights, a ring handle that I can swap out for the ‘D’ handle if I feel like it, my asthma inhalers, painkillers, Ibuprofen gel for slapping on any sprains, a plastic water bottle, and a black golf towel that clips to the outside so I can wipe hands, weights, and anything else that needs wiping.

My rucksack/gear bag is fine – it holds just about everything I need apart from my weights – but there is an item I yearn for, first spotted at my very first Games, Blackford, back in May, when several of the Heavies strolled on to the field pulling these things behind them, for all the world like a clutch of really big, hairy, kilted trolley dollies for Caledonian Airlines pulling their little wheeled suitcases behind them.


Kinda like this. Only… not.


All flight attendants must wear sensible shoes.

Caledonian might well offer these boys a job in the winter – nobody would argue about smoking or want to change their seats, that’s for sure.


Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to thank you on behalf of Caledonian Airlines for not smoking on board the aircraft… or else.

But I digress.

Here is the object in question:


Yep, it’s a tool-chest with wheels and a slide-out handle. If I had one of these babies, I too could stroll on to the field wheeling my gear behind me, and I’d be able to have my weights in the thing too – essential for a lady not wanting to have to throw guys’ equipment, but on average 62.5lbs of dead weight that I have to womanhandle in shopping bags and the like.

And the very best thing about it? You can sit on it. Standing around for hours on end is the most tiring thing about Highland Games, seriously.

A Stanley Pro-Mobile Wheeled Tool Chest would just be the bee’s rollerskates, I’m telling you.



Getting Into Gear

Behold the caber! Roped it to the car roof yesterday along with the fence rails I was transporting up to Robyn’s to re-fence the copse (that’s today’s delight). I now have a 12-foot caber, between 4 and 6 inches in diameter, nicely sanded and varnished at the business end. Not tapered, but hey. I’ll manage. I’m just pleased to HAVE a caber!


I also followed Alan H’s instructions to make myself a practice Scottish Hammer, and was extremely pleased with the results, so I’m going to detail the process here: I picked up some weight plates in Tesco (my second home). They didn’t have enough 1kg plates, so I grabbed two 2kg plates and two 1kg plates and cable-tied ’em together in a neat stack like so:Image

I also bought myself a length of plastic electrical conduit, cut it to 50″ and reinforced one end slightly (thanks for the tip, Rob) by inserting a suitable piece of roundish wood (actually, the remains of last year’s radical hedge-trimming) about six inches long. Drilled holes either side of where the weight stack would go, then inserted bolts.


Attached the weight stack and secured it in place with the second bolt:


From this angle you can see the piece of wood inside the tube. Rob pointed out that if I were to just drill holes in the tubing, it would be a weak point, whereas if there was something reinforcing the head-end, it would not only be that much stronger, but the tube would flex along the handle rather than trying to flex from the end. How right he was.

Once I had the hammer assembled, I added some hockey tape reinforcement to the weight stack, before realising that gaffer tape (duct tape) really was going to be the order of the day. Now I look as if I have the world’s biggest silver lollipop, or possibly a kilo of cocaine on a stick:Image

Chupa Chup, anybody?


One final modification was to wrap the handle to about halfway down with black hockey tape, then add rings of hockey tape at hand-width intervals so I could carry the thing without the tube sliding through my hand (thanks again for the idea, Rob):Image

Yes, that is a scythe leaning against my workbench! I borrowed it from Robyn’s garage in order to engage in a bit of slash-and-burn gardening the other day. My soi-disant “lawn” had become a kind of unlovely cross between a tyre dump, a piece of derelict waste ground and the sort of tussocky, waist-high weed-fest that you see on programmes like ‘Ground Force’. My poor abused lawnmower would probably have been swallowed whole by the jungle, so I brought in The Equaliser to whop everything off at ankle-height and give it a fighting chance.

I love using the scythe! It’s just incredibly therapeutic, and it feels stupidly cool to carry it tilted over your shoulder like Death’s more casually-dressed young cousin. It also gives you a hell of a workout for your core muscles – you grip it by the handles and do a big, powerful, dipping sweep from right to left, move a pace forwards and do it again, and again, and again. I had the waist-high wasteland chopped flat in about fifteen minutes, and that includes the time taken to wrench the blade free when I got it stuck in the wooden hen-run (yeah, sorry about that, ladies).

So, off fencing today (yippee skip). Hopefully I’ll have enough energy left later on to try out my new gear, which is waiting for me up at the farm!


[Update: One VERY long day’s fencing later, and no, I have no energy left for anything beyond crawling into my bed. On the plus side, I’ll really need the exercise tomorrow, otherwise I’m going to be stuck in a pretzel-shape, so I should get some good practice in with the WFD, Hammer and caber. I may even be able to persuade one of the daughters to take some photos.]