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The Catstycam Blog

  • The Background Static Of Perpetual Discontent

    Is this all there is?

    In my salad days I spent a year in Paris, working as a teacher of English by day, and eating, drinking and indulging in other other life shortening stuff by night. Every working day I walked past Notre Dame cathedral on my way to work and always smiled politely (hangover permitting) into the lens of the many video cameras held by that day's batch of Japanese tourists.

    I guess I must have starred in hours of boring home movie footage in Tokyo in the seventies.

    Something else that always put a smile on my face was the plaster(of Paris?) gargoyles that were on sale in the souvenir shops by the cathedral. One in particular wasn't so much ugly or frightening, but rather gave the impression of being really brassed off with life. There it was, squatting on one of the most magnificent pieces of architecture in one of the most beautiful cities of the world... and it looked terminally fed up!

    Architecturally speaking, gargoyles were part of the channeling system to disperse the rainwater that fell onto the cathedral roof. The medieval builders, in collaboration with the priests-never missing an opportunity to make sure that people were made aware of their station in life i.e. miserable sinners put on earth to suffer- turned them into nasty demons who spat and peed down on the great unwashed of Paris...charming. Our words gurgle and gargle are derived from these stone  creatures.

    But I digress ... not like me at all!

    I'm not sure I'll be able to link this one into Catstycam, the Outdoor Shop, other than to thank them for sponsoring this particular bit of nonsense.

    What on earth is that title all about? Well, I found out that static, that fuzzy noise you used to get between radio stations on old transistor radios is actually incredibly stretched light waves which came into being at the beginning of the universe, the remnants of the moment of creation, 13.7 billion years old.

    But it isn't meant literally of course, it's more that nagging feeling that you get that things aren't quite as they should/could be, that sommat's not quite right, something's missing, we just need to .... and then it will be good, whatever 'it' is.

    We'll be fine, we're 'glass half full' kind of folk, positive, go getters blah di blah di blah.

    Let's just make sure that what we want, what we are aiming for, where we hope to be next week, next year, at some point in the future is actually what we want, and not what someone else has persuaded us we should be striving for.

    At my age I shouldn't be doing this, I should be ... .

    When I get to ... I'll have... and ... .

    When are you going to settle down and start... ?

    Anyone who is anyone has ... , what's wrong with you?

    By now you should be ...  .

    A wise person once said that the only thing worse than not getting what you want, is getting what you want. Soon you realise that you want something else, something better, and it starts again.

    Oh, by the way, has anyone ever actually found this place we call the future? The place where everything turns out to be OK, and we all get what we want after having put things off in the meantime. Somewhere over the rainbow??

    All right, on a practical level we have to assume a future time so we can set the alarm clock, book the holiday, make the dental appointment...accepted. But the past and the future are just memories and assumptions... we can only ever operate in the present, there is only now.

    It seems to be part of the human condition, at least up to now, that we defer our gratification, that we put up with being less happy, or even unhappy, in the present because we have this vague notion that it'll all get sorted in the future.

    Don't get me wrong, I haven't worked it out, I don't go round smiling in that " I know something that you don't"  kind of way that certain 'spiritual' persons do. And I'm not saying that things will always be not quite what we want and never can be. But maybe we ought to work out that it's here in the present that that we are and always will be,

    we can't be anywhere else in time.

    To the best of my knowledge that gargoyle is still there, it's been over eight hundred years now and he's never managed a smile, I wonder what he's waiting for.

  • Tech Care, Lambs Ont Menu and the Second Law Of Thermodynamics.

    Pretty soon it will be February half term then a hop, a skip and a jump will take us into the Easter holidays, the campsites will open, the BBC will wheel out the 'Blue Peter for grown-ups' presenters and we'll get 'Springwatch' with all those cute little birds, badgers and otters...again.

    We'll see the fluffy little lambs pogo-ing among the daffs and onto the menus of the local hotels, and HOORAH the days will get longer than the nights!

    It's about this time of year when the less disciplined of us, and that's probably a significant section of the population, sheepishly recall (did you get what I did there?) all those good intentions of getting fitter and healthier by communing with Nature and braving the elements, aided by all that outdoor gear that promised to keep us warm and dry...whatever the weather.

    That outdoor gear, so carefully selected and researched for its breathability, its insulating properties, its sheer weatherproofness, waits patiently for the call to protect its owner...and it is still waiting faithfully, dutifully.

    But wait, I hear you cry, that gear was the best I could afford, I may not have got out and about for a little while but neither has it! It'll be there when I get the chance to plan a walk, whatever the weather; a couple of rainy day walks over Christmas, an odd weekend in the fells, where's the harm in that? It'll all be as good as new, a bit of dried up mud on the boots, the odd scuff on the overtrousers, the jacket carefully chucked in the back of the airing cupboard after its brief holiday in the back of the car, at sub-zero temperatures, what could possibly affect its performance?

    To which one would have to retort, the second law of thermodynamics!

    Clearly, with such an educated and informed readership one hardly needs to go into too much detail, suffice to say that, whether we like it or not, it's all been downhill since the Big Bang. Like a massive clockwork mechanism, fully wound at the start of the universe, the second law tells us that everything is gradually winding down... don't worry, there's still a way to nothing remains stable, on any level, and will eventually achieve equilibrium like a pendulum which simply runs out of energy and stops...forever.

    But, it's just a theory based on observation, deduction, experimentation and hard evidence...if you prefer not to believe it you can always pop into your local church, mosque or synagogue and get another version.

    Anyway, to get to the point, it's probably a good time now to invest a bit of time, after having invested a lot of dosh, in spring cleaning your kit. At Catstycam, The Outdoor Shop we stock a whole range of cleaning and waterproofing products.

    Nikwax Tech Wash will pamper your breathable garments and wash out that grit and dust that is slowly clogging the micropores.

    TX.Direct will restore that waterproof layer that makes the raindrops cascade off your clothing.

    Your boots, whether fabric or leather will benefit from Waterproofing Wax for Leather, and cleaning products to get rid of that dried up mud that is clogging up the natural breathability are also available at both our shops in the Ullswater valley.

    Just call in any time if you want a bit of advice on keeping your gear at the top of its game...

    maybe we all need to get out a bit more!

  • Dogsbody required, full training provided.

    Standing in the queue for my Friday night fish and chips with the usual crowd, I overheard a heated discussion between the local vicar and the Catholic priest about the point at which life could be said to begin, and its implications for the Church's stance in the abortion debate.

    Clearly unable to come to any agreement on the matter (quelle surprise!), and noticing Rabbi Goldstein also in the shop waiting quietly for his supper, they decided to bring the world weary Rabbi into the argument.

    "So when would you say life begins, old chap?"

    The Rabbi smiled and replied,"Ah, that's when the kids leave home, and the dog dies."

    Please note this story is entirely fictional, and no holy man, wizard, witch doctor or shaman, or anyone else claiming access to the true purpose or meaning of life, or special relationship with any God or gods, past, present or future, natural or supernatural, was hurt in the telling of the tale... nor was any human or animal hurt, abused or humiliated in delivering the punchline.

    If you have been affected in any way by this and feel you need counselling, log onto for advice.

    At Catstycam, The Outdoor Shop, we are always happy to welcome visitors to the area, and many of them like to bring their dogs with them to get out there in the hills where they can enjoy the freedom of the natural environment, with very few restrictions.

    We stock a good range of  'Mountain Paws', 'Rugged Pets' and 'Outhwaite' pet products...see our online catalogue.

    We are particularly happy to see local mountain rescue volunteers and their fantastic search and rescue dogs

    The Lake District Mountain Rescue Search Dogs, a canine elite force at the service of the local and national emergency services needs your support, and deserves everyone's admiration and respect... but they can't live on fresh air and kind words.

    How you can help.

    Well, apart from giving them that lottery win that you've been trying to keep quiet, you could become a 'Friend'.

    A 'Friend' of the LDMRSD enables the group to have a reliable and predictable income based upon a steady income from a regular donation via a direct debit from you. In return you receive a regular newsletter, invitation to training sessions and open days, a car sticker and access to a 'Friends only' section of the website.

    If you want to get involved in a hands-on kind of way, you can become a 'Dogsbody'.

    A Dogsbody is a volunteer who gets out there in the hills on training sessions and acts as a casualty to be found by the dogs... usually cute border collies, not hungry foxhounds!

    In both our shops we carry collecting boxes for the LDMRSD, their web address is...


    they'd be lost without you!

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