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I first used Office Windows in 1972 as a means of distracting myself from the tedium of planning the machining of tractor parts in Meltham, Huddersfield. This was only the start of my hillwalking and engineering careers, in which I would experience successive versions of Office Windows. The view from the fourth-floor office of the old mill building revealed what was to me one of the most stunning natural hill curves to be seen in the Pennines: the profile down from West Nab, rising slightly to Shooters Nab, which I found truly mesmerising. West Nab soon became my first Dewey (500m to 610m hills with 30m drop), although I only found that out two years ago when checking those I'd bagged. During this period I did many summer evening strolls on Bleaklow, Black Hill and in the Wessenden area. My boss at the time inspired me a great deal, as he walked on Bleaklow or Black Hill every Sunday in all weather. His ultimate big walk concept was to do the whole profile of Bleaklow's summit ridge from Grinah Stones to Higher Shelf Stones.
Nigg Fabrication Yard is a site known to many who have bagged the Hill of Nigg, as I did on my first Sunday there after work. I did the greater Nigg traverse from Shandwick to North Sutor the following Sunday. From my portakabin office windows, the Hill of Nigg was east while the panorama of Ben Wyvis and hills beyond lay west. The main reason I applied to work there was to go Munro and Corbett bagging at weekends. I only did a couple of small Easter Ross Marilyns as they were then unlisted, returning in 2002 for the others.
My offices were now in two shipyards in Japan; one at Chiba near Tokyo in a dreadful over-industrialised area, the other at Tamano near Okayama; part industrial but with many rural backwaters and small hills and islands out to sea. The Tokyo-Okayama bullet train was often my office. The view through the window is as interesting as the suburbs of Birmingham for most of the way, but as you travel further south there is a variety of attractive forested hills, many of which must be of Marilyn status. After a wet, cloudy and sticky summer, the autumn weather was truly beautiful most of the time, and I finally had clear views of Fuji from my train window. On my one summer weekend off during the year, I had set off on the rail system with the intention of climbing Fuji, but at the last station the rain and cloud was so bad that I had to abandon the idea. The official Fuji climbing season was only 1 July to 31 August, and the chance never came again. But I had a good day out in the Fuji - Hakone - Izu National Park, and bagged a summit in bamboo forest nearly as thick as one of our forestry plantations. Tamano was a wonderful place to live for a few months. My office window looked out over the Inland Sea of Seto, which lies between Honshu, the main island, and Shikoku, one of the larger other islands. The Inland Sea is studded with hilly islands. My favourite, visited by ferry many Saturday afternoons, was Shodo-shima, where I pushed my bike up the road to the Corbett-sized summit and was rewarded with glorious views over the Inland Sea, followed by a cycle descent just as exhilarating.
My office was on a construction barge in the offshore Brunei oil and gas fields. The biggest walk I did there was 50 laps of the heli-deck. Coastal Brunei is flat secondary jungle. The weather was mostly hazy or wet, but just once a perfectly clear morning view revealed a substantial mountain well into the interior. One long weekend I flew up to Kota Kinabalu to do Mount Kinabalu, very do-able and well worth the effort, especially to see the 6 a.m. sunrise. I think this will remain as my biggest furth Marilyn at 4101m, with 4101m drop.
This time my portakabin window overlooked a lovely sandy beach in Trengganu, on the east coast of peninsular Malaysia; the most beautiful work site I have ever known. Not much hill interest, but out to sea was Pulau Tenggol. The islands would be below Marilyn status but looked good out towards the horizon. Turtles came up on the beach in September to lay their eggs.
With the Far East work dried up, London or Morecambe Bay were the only choices; well, which would you choose? Twenty miles west of Blackpool were the new offshore gas platforms. The best views from my floating office were in the winter; a panorama including the Isle of Man, Black Combe, Coniston Old Man, and past the Forest of Bowland to Winter Hill. This job was two weeks on, two weeks off, which gave me the opportunity to return to Scotland on time off to complete the Corbetts, which I had abandoned four years earlier in favour of the many alternative attractions to be found in the Far East.
Whilst doing a year out at Edinburgh University and researching in the library on what drives other people's careers, I was often distracted by views through the window of Caerketton and Allermuir Hills in the Pentlands. Ceremonies witnessed on Arthur's Seat in commemoration of the May Day and summer solstice sunrises were fun early starts during this time.
My office moved numerous times around the Barrow-in-Furness shipyard over 15 years, saving the best to last: the panorama of the south-western Lakeland fells from the windows of the Devonshire Dock Hall is truly magnificent, and probably the best version of Office Windows ever.
My office is now at the seaside site of a nuclear fuels plant on the west Cumbrian coast. Actually the window view is of something like the Eiger Nordwand in that it is big, vertical and grey; this is the west wall of the Thorp building. But views from and around the site include the Isle of Man and the west Lakeland profile from Dent via the Scafells to Black Combe. I only bagged six new Marilyns in 2003, but completed 101 after-work strolls of one to four-and-a-half hours duration in the west Cumbrian hills and dales or along the coast. Whin Rigg, the south-western top of Illgill Head, was my most frequented fell as a convenient two-hour round.
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