The lonely sea and the sky …

The first four images were taken on the return from Eilean Glas along the Out End Road. Unlike MacCaig we were not “greeted all the way”, just a hearty hello from one dog walker – he had an English accent.  In the afternoon we drove the road from Tarbert to Leverburgh, following a circular route around South Harris.

Dream home ... Tied up... One of the two ... The road to ... Towards Luskentyre ...

There are only two images from the southern tour; the storm that was gathering over Taransay and Luskentyre broke over Scarista, Leverburgh and the circular road north back to Tarbert.  This only served to instill a desperate urge to return.  South Harris is the most spectacular of the small islands and there is more to see, not least the sandy graveyard at Luskentyre:

She was buckets
and water flouncing into them.
She was winds pouring wetly
round house-ends.
She was brown eggs, black skirts
and a keeper of threepennybits
in a teapot.

Aunt Julia spoke Gaelic
very loud and very fast.
By the time I had learned
a little, she lay
silenced in the absolute black
of a sandy grave
at Luskentyre. But I hear her still, welcoming me
with a seagull’s voice
across a hundred yards
of peatscrapes and lazybeds
and getting angry, getting angry
with so many questions

Norman MacCaig – an extract from his poem Aunt Julia, March 1967.

Then it was north again and the twelve mile road out from near Ardasaigh to Hushinish.

The beach at ...The beach at ...The beach at ...The beach at ...The beach at ...Slipway ...

In this last image, a house on the small island of Scarp is just visible, top left.

In 1934, the island was the location for the launch of Scotland’s first mail rocket.  On July 28th the islanders gathered on the eastern shore of Scarp to witness events. Gerhard Zucker, the inventor of the system, pressed the launch button, there was an explosion, a flash of flame and when the dust settled, all that remained was a shattered launch pad and scattered smouldering letters that never left the island.

A second launch was attempted at Amhuinnsuidhe Castle some weeks later.  This was equally unsuccessful so the islanders of Scarp never got their superfast broadband connection to the mainland.  At one time there were thirty two families living on the island and now there are none – if Zucker had succeeded maybe things would have worked out differently.

A film loosely based on these events was released in 2006.  Directed by Stephen Whittaker and starring Ulrich Thomsen, Shauna Macdonald, Kevin McKidd and Patrick Malahide, the film was given a limited release in Scotland.

Rocket Post-film poster



Slow TV

This is my personal contribution to the current trend for Slow TV – a routine drive out to Corbridge for petrol (and back).  It may not be as good as a canal trip along the Kennet and Avon, nor as engrossing as the Sami and their reindeer but there are highlights – a friendly postman, kamikaze pedestrians and an ancient tractor – see if you can see them before the motion sickness kicks in.  Has Beethoven’s 9th (royalty free) ever sounded better 😝

Corbridge ...

This is really just an exercise in testing and getting used to a GoPro camera which is small enough to put anywhere – on the dash, attached to a crash helmet and one day, maybe, mounted on a drone.

In the meantime enjoy the continuing diabolical weather in Northumberland and the heavy mist along the Military Road – the prayers have yet to be answered 😡

Dr Johnson

Travel theme: Old Fashioned

All travel has its advantages. If the passenger visits better countries, he may learn to improve his own, and if fortune carries him to worse, he may learn to enjoy it.
Dr Johnson: Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland

This is the rotund old chap eating cheese in The Cheshire Cheese – Say cheese Sam!

... cheese

(this is detail from a Royal Doulton plate subjected to Photoshop and On1 Perfect Effects)

Travel theme: Chapeau!

My immediate reaction to this challenge was ‘I don’t do hats‘ even though the maternal grandmother and great grandmother were obsessed with the things (take a look at this wedding photo – great grandmother Emily is sat next to the bridesmaid on the right – what a concoction!).

Then it occurred to me that when I travel on two wheels I always wear a hat/lid/helmet (delete to your preference), so here are two of the three atop the Monster:

... Raw lid atop Monster

... helmet atop Ducati Monster

When I was small …

and Christmas trees were tall … one of the odd things we learned at primary school was the purpose of bench marks.  The school was split between two locations with only one canteen so, every lunch time, we were marched in pairs down to the lower school; a hungry chattering snake.  Carved into a wall near the end of the route was a bench mark – I have never been good with remembering the abstract but because there was a tangible example nearby, the lesson stuck.

With the advent of more sophisticated mapping techniques these old marks have fallen into disuse.  This explanation is from the Ordnance Survey website:

Ordnance Survey Bench marks (BMs) are survey marks made by Ordnance Survey to record height above Ordnance Datum. If the exact height of one BM is known then the exact height of the next can be found by measuring the difference in heights, through a process of spirit levelling.

Most commonly, the BMs are found on buildings or other semi-permanent features. Although the main network is no longer being updated, the record is still in existence and the markers will remain until they are eventually destroyed by redevelopment or erosion.

Bench marks are the visible manifestation of Ordnance Datum Newlyn (ODN), which is the national height system for mainland Great Britain and forms the reference frame for heights above mean sea level. ODN is realised on the ground by a network of approximately 190 fundamental bench marks (FBMs). From these FBMs tens of thousands of lower-order BMs were established. The network has had little maintenance for 30 years, and in some areas (mining areas for example), subsidence has affected the levelling values. In these regions the BMs cannot be relied upon to accurately define ODN.

When outdoors for a walk along the local lanes yesterday I came across this example on a local farm gate:

Benchmark ...

Following some extensive online time-wasting, I found there was a Bench Mark Database – a trainspotter’s delight! Even more exciting, this bench mark was not registered but, it is nowBeaufront, Gatepost 3 – not exactly my own star but an acceptable, humble alternative 🙂

Groundhog Days

In late February we stayed overnight in Ambleside at the Salutation, walked up to High Sweden Bridge on the first day, went to the cinema in the evening, ate at Fellini’s after the film and walked up to the head of Stockghyll Lane in the morning.

This week we went back to the Salutation at Ambleside, walked up to High Sweden Bridge on the first day, went to the cinema in the evening, ate at Fellini’s after the film and walked up to the head of Stockghyll Lane in the morning.

The differences:

Back in the Lakes ... Back in the Lakes ... Back in the Lakes ...

I spotted this on the return leg and was reminded that I will not be seeing Top Gear this weekend 👿

Kankku Defender ...
(click on the images to enlarge)

The devil …

… is in the detail.  This is blatant self-promotion but I trust I will be forgiven. I have been working on another promotional poster for Golf in the Wild, trying to convey its real ‘charm’ i.e. it is about much more than golf.  The detail in the image connects with some of the topics – the Great War medals belong to my maternal grandfather whose exploits appear regularly throughout; the AA (Automobile Association) badge is the one that adorned all of the family cars that I grew up in and with, starting with this one; the ignition key with Lotus badge is from here and connects with the motor racing of the 1960s and 70s, a teenage obsession that is referenced throughout; the background images are from the Armistice Day edition of the London Illustrated News, the day my great Uncle Billy was buried; the card in the top left hand corner is from Uncle Charlie’s collection, one of the many from his lady friends; the rose is just a rose.
Golf in the Wild ...
The ‘On sale here’ text box is ‘cunningly’ positioned to be replaced with an alternative text label e.g. book signing at The Gale Centre, Gairloch – 13th April 2015 🙂

Perfect light …

It had been a dull week, dark clouds threatening rain, snow or worse. At best, a dim light filtered through the short days’ clouds, then suddenly, on Thursday morning, there was an almost clear blue sky and perfect light.

I can carry a camera for days around our local lanes and not really see anything worth capturing but on this day and in that light, everything under the sun was photogenic, even the industrious Egger chimney:

Egger chimney ...

Even the most mundane object stood out – this rusted lock, testament to the industry of Henry Squire & Sons Ltd, an independent family owned manufacturer since 1780:

The locked gate ...

Everywhere, there was a sharp, piercing light:

Into the light ...

Shining gate ...
Riding out ...
(click on the images to enlarge)

Made it, Ma! Top of the World!

Boxing Day in Hammerfest, we are at the world’s most northerly town.  At only -4c it feels spring-like compared to Kirkenes.  At the Polar Bear Club adjacent to the ship’s mooring we are briefly over-awed by a stuffed example but, not so much as to be enticed into buying the equivalent miniature version.  I am too cynical about souvenir shops (and much else besides 😉 ) such that I close my mind to thought of buying anything.  My suspicion is that everything is made in China – I learn from a fellow passenger that even Helly Hansen is manufactured in the Orient.

From the quay we climb the ridge above the town, closed in winter due to “the risk of serious accident” – everyone is ignoring the sign.  There are steps but we never feel them beneath our feet, instead, we trudge through deep snow to the 80 m summit – it is a struggle but worth the effort.  The views across the bay to Melkøya are stunning.

Hammerfest feels prosperous and across the water is the explanation – vast tanker ships laden with LNG (liquefied natural gas) from the Barent Sea, heading for southern Europe.  It is highly advanced extraction technology such as this which enables us the luxury of considering suspect alternatives; the dream of replacing that which works with that which does not.  I have not seen a single wind turbine on this entire voyage.

That said, much of the journey has been in darkness so there is every justification for returning on lighter days to confirm my prejudice.

HammerfestPolar bear at ...HammerfestThe streets of ...

We had planned ahead fully aware that the quieter moments onboard would be inadequately filled by Scandinavian television – actually many of the programmes are bought in from the UK and broadcast in English with Norwegian subtitles.  However, I have no desire to see repeats of Midsomer Murders – I didn’t want to see them first time around.

Consequently among our winter baggage are The Wire Seasons 4 & 5 and The Sopranos Season 3.  I love these edgy series but sometimes struggle with  the Baltimore and New York street dialogue – in part because my hearing is no longer fully Dolby compliant. This got me thinking – I also love Spiral (and Caroline Proust!) and Scandinavian crime series such as The Killing and The Bridge – and why are these foreign language TV programmes so popular with those of a certain age?  It’s the subtitles 😉

To round off, this is not the best photograph due to the intrusive light leaking from the streetlamp but the subject I know to be utterly mischievous – it is of course the good lady, undoubtedly up to no good 😀

Pam in Tromso ...

(click on the images to enlarge)