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The Year of the Kettle

A jolly sight indeed
A jolly sight indeed

Difficult to reach the end of 2014 without quickly mentioning my Kelly Kettle, which has been a phenomenal boon during the course of the year. Not being particularly drawn to gadgets, I made an exception in May and bought a kettle while passing through Tiso in Perth. It was something like an impulse buy, and I was certain that there was no way that it could be anything like as good as the hype suggested. How wrong I was.

It is an excellent piece of kit, and always warrants a space in my roe bag or under the passenger seat of the jeep when I’m up the hill and away from home. It really is no exaggeration to say that it can boil water in two minutes, and in the right conditions with a good dose of heather scrogg, it boils over in even less time. I’d go so far as to say that it sometimes boils water so quickly that I feel rather short-changed, since all the fun is over before it’s really begun. There is something innately pleasing about lighting a little fire and hearing the twigs pop, and the primordial joy of a crackling fire would make a caveman’s toes curl with delight.

However (and it’s a big however), it would be a mistake to imagine that the Kelly Kettle is strictly practical. Most of the time, if you want a hot drink when you’re out on the hill, take a thermos. Boiling water at home and then carrying it with you is infinitely more straightforward, faster and totally immune to the weather conditions.

Getting the kettle’s fire lit with anything but the driest materials is a slow, agonising process, and while I have never been so exasperated as to give up, I have come within minutes of throwing the whole thing away. Ironically, the kettle works best on a warm, dry day with a light breeze –precisely the circumstances when you don’t really fancy a hot drink. If the kettle could boil water when the sleet is slapping the back of your neck and the wind is sloshing you with gallons of icy water vapour, it would be a real gem.

Yes, it is a fiddle to remember to take all of the constituent parts of a Kelly kettle with you when you go, including milk and coffee (pre-mixed, of course), matches and etc, but when you’re out in the hills for the pleasure of it and you have time to spare, there is an engaging joy in gathering fuel, filling the flask and watching the jolly plume of smoke come spilling up through the chimney. Out on the open hill yesterday, I took ten minutes to gather icicles from the edge of a peat hagg, then boiled them up in a matter of seconds – the day was devoted to wanderings and watchings, and the simple chore of lighting a fire added a whole new dimension to my meanderings.

If you’re inclined to idle fiddling and doing things in a roundabout way for the sheer pleasure of it, then the Kelly Kettle is unquestionably a fantastic piece of kit, and my 2014 would have been far the poorer without it.

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