About this blog

it’s shite being Scottish is a significant phrase taken from the book Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh. The reasons why it is the name of this blog are outlined here. New readers are encouraged to read this first.


Duncan Spence is the combination of my father’s and my mother’s family names. When I write, I feel as if I am using the best of what they each gave me to the best of my ability. Their gift to me is this passion for writing out whatever has to be said. They were the authors of my life; their names are the author of this narrative on my life. In real life I remain who I am.


Initially, I wanted to use the blog to rant about politics and philosophy, but I was never able to get it started – even although the binary logic of the Scottish independence referendum forced me to work out exactly my position. It seemed too difficult though to pluck a narrative from thin air and to begin blogging – there are many much more articulate and knowledgable political commentators out there, and my ideas about philosophy are often challenging and difficult, so I did not feel that I could contribute anything accessible, original or interesting.

Then, in the summer of 2015, as I was completing the Glen Lyon Horseshoe, I realised that I wanted to climb as many Munros as I could before I died from the effects of the malignant prostate cancer that was allegedly spreading aggressively throughout my body, the blog was presented with a context. At the start of 2016 I posted tentatively for the first time about climbing mountains with cancer and began (retrospectively) recording my achievements.

This blog has become a partial record of this unfolding journey, many turns of which have taken me by surprise. With every new summit I reach, my view of the massive topography of this country expands, my mind is brought into contact with its insignificance and my body rejuvenated. No matter how dreadful I feel, no matter how bleak the prognosis, no matter how troubled and desperate I become, getting out into the hills sets everything into perspective. In this writing it is my privilege to share the experience of this vital connection, this glimpse of something less denatured than the daily toils and illusions of society.


Not everybody reads these words for the same reasons.

Some are interested only in the walk reports and descriptions of mountain life – of whom many are no longer able to get out and feel transported to the great outdoors by my words. Some are fascinated by what might be called the phenomenology of determinism – the mental struggles I encounter with the edifice of medical technocracy and its anachronistic metaphysics. Some are inspired by my tenacity and refusal to succumb. Some are taken by the explicitly Buddhist elements of my journey. Some are very much in agreement with the general political position I take, while others are either unaware of this, or do not allow it to get in the way of their reading. Some are moved by my honesty, my willingness to lay bare life in writing and to make public matters that often remain unspoken.

To everybody who reads these words, for whatever reason, thank you. I hope they inspire you to push against your own perceived limits in whatever way.

Finally, it is necessary to claim ownership of all photos (except one or two used by permission), and formally to state that the ideas, opinions and experiences expressed herein are designed explicitly to be shared widely, disseminated and discussed, while all specific arrangements of words remain strictly copyright.

Love and peace

Duncan Spence


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