Published 17th June 2020, 18:28

    IT'S hard to imagine Bing Crosby and Donald Trump as a double act but they proved to be unlikely muses to a more upbeat column.

    My last few offerings on the outdoors have (quite rightly) focussed on the effects of the coronavirus lockdown, and worrying updates about the controversial hydro schemes in Glen Etive. It was time to let in a little light.

    For inspiration, it's hard to better the message and delivery from the mellow vocal cords of crooner Crosby: Accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative.

    It would have been fascinating to see how Trump would have handled those lyrics. His inability to arrange the same simple few words into any coherent order means it's still up for debate whether he was being positively negative or negatively positive. We've all been there, just before the morning coffee kicks in. Maybe he was in desperate need of a Domestos latte.

    Anyway, it's moments like these that lift the spirits and point the way towards positivity as we try to find new ways of keeping busy and active. For instance, my mountain gear has never looked so good, all cleaned up and repaired. It smacks a bit of being all dressed up with nowhere to go, but at least I will be ready when the 'Freedom' moment finally comes.

    I have to admit to not being very good when it comes to caring for gear. Waterproofs are left muddied for weeks, boots caked in mud, ripped jackets and gloves constantly mended with masking tape so that some days on the hill I look like a mummy swathed in black. 

    I stare in wonderment at those who turn out for every walk looking as if all their gear is brand new. Even their waterproof trousers seem to have an ironed crease. No one can be that good. I suspect they burn their gear after every walk and pull out a new set each time. My problem seems to be a mix of never having had the time between walks to tidy up properly and the throwback to days of make do and mend.

    When we started out, it was basically one set of everything. Most of it was cobbled together. I had breeches converted from a no longer needed pair of loon pants, a rucksack from an Army surplus store and leather boots. One friend refused to stop wearing his breeches and knee-length woollen socks long after better and more lightweight options were available. As long as it did the job, he kept it.

    Without wanting to venture too far into the Four Yorkshiremen sketch, we were told we were lucky by old-timers talking about using string vests and old pyjamas as under layers.

    Note to younger readers: String vests were quite the thing in the 1950s and 60s. They were said to keep you warm because they trapped a layer of air between skin and shirt. As a bonus, they could also come in handy when a rope wasn't long enough. Just unpick the vest by hand, re-braid it, and a few hours later you could rappel off the In Pin. Allegedly.

    Most people now are gear-rich. You build it up over the years, the constant rotation meaning it wears out less frequently. Boots are the biggest outlay, and I always try to buy well ahead of time whenever I see a good offer. Just before lockdown, I bought a jacket and a pair of Scarpas. Neither have seen any action so far. I just hope the poor things are ready for the pounding that lies ahead.

    These weeks of inactivity have also provided the opportunity to give older boots the chance of a new lease of life. Two or three pairs were on the verge of collapse, ready to join fallen comrades as novelty plant holders for the grandchildren. The last two years among the pathless and brutal terrain of the Grahams and Donalds had taken its toll.

    I had repaired boots years ago with Sugru, a malleable putty that could be worked and shaped to plug holes, but it had become hard to source. Now it seems to be widely available again, and it has been jazzed up: the choice used to be black, grey or white, now there is a full colour spectrum.

    I didn't reckon that pink, yellow and green flashes would seem appropriate so I stuck with black. Now I'm beginning to wonder. There's no reason Santa shouldn't wear a blue suit for a change, so maybe I should become a rainbow warrior.

    Last time out, Sugru gave my boots an extra six months, so fingers crossed. It seems to have blended in seamlessly but then my eyesight is not what it was. Maybe I should go for a 30-mile drive and then take another look.

    So far it's tested very positively. I would say positively towards positive. Or should that be negatively towards negative? So that's a positive. I think.