Baby Austin

This has been prompted by the Unusual arrivals post at Applecrosslife on 10th May; among some exotic machinery which had successfully negotiated the Pass of the Cattle was a Baby Austin Seven.  Not only had it managed to climb the pass but it had travelled from Carlisle, a distance of some 350 miles – probably further, as I doubt it would be permitted to take the direct motorway route.

This is the same type of car that my paternal grandparents are standing next to in this photograph taken by my Dad outside their home in Andover.  It is from a small photograph album made up of 3 x 2 inch contact prints which he put together as a young boy – they are individually captioned in a manner consistent with a 10-12 year old; this one – Mummy Daddy and Baby:

Mummy Daddy and BabyAnother photo features a Ford Model A and by coincidence there was something similar among the visitors to Applecross.  This one is captioned – Certainly ‘ot but the year’s wrong:

Ford Model AThe Baby Austin Seven was produced from 1922 until 1939 and in its time was the most popular mass produced car manufactured in Britain  The brand was held in such affection that when the Mini was first produced, Austin were keen to establish a link with their heritage.  Like so many others, my first car was a second hand Mini – registered in 1963 with the registration 6428 VR, my sky blue version had a badge on the rear boot – Austin Seven.  I should have kept it, if only for the registration.

Travel theme: Pale

Travel theme: Pale:  These photographs were taken at Arisaig on the west coast of Scotland; the pale evening sky is still lit by a sun which has only recently dipped beneath the horizon.  A version of one of these images appears in the rotating header of this blog so will be familiar to some.

If I could paint I would paint this; if I could be anywhere else right now, I would be at Arisaig……or Plockton or Applecross or Achiltibuie – I’m easy, anywhere under these skies:

Arisaig Arisaig Arisaig

(click on images to enlarge)


I have been wallowing in nostalgia these last few days.  My golfing pilgrimage to the far north, eighteen months in the writing and nowhere near finished, has reached Applecross, a detour on the way to the delights of Gairloch’s nine holes squeezed between mountain and sea.  Thanks to Monty Halls, everyone has now heard of Applecross – I am thinking of printing a T shirt – I was here before Monty.  Long before, in 1973 and many times since.

During the writing of this book I have several times concluded that it is near impossible to convey the majesty of landscape in words, there is simply no substitute for being there; I can only recommend that you go see for yourself.  My passion for this isolated corner of the world can be best explained by the following short facts.  Firstly, it feels like an achievement just getting there, combined with a strong sense of arrival as you coast down into the village.  Secondly, the sun always shines on Applecross, no matter what is happening elsewhere – it was shining when I first went there in 1973 and whenever I return, it is shining still.  Thirdly, it always feels wonderfully removed from the world and I immediately start drawing up plans to relocate.  Finally, the landscape and the light are beyond words – see above.  Just to prove my credentials I dug out this ancient photo of my first drive up and down Bealach na Bà (The Pass of the Cattle) in an 18cwt  Bedford CF, from the days when this was the only route in and out.  What I like most about this picture is something I don’t remember noticing before; rubbed in the dust on the back door is the word Expedition – there is only one door in the picture so the type of expedition remains a mystery.

Pass of the CattleThen I became distracted and started scanning some more.  In an earlier post from Ullapool I referred to this sunset.  Originally taken on 35mm Kodacolor, developed/printed/mashed by Boots the Chemist, stored in the loft for years on end, it has been scanned from the original negative and subjected to Photoshop CS.  The colour may be ‘enhanced’ but that watery light is the genuine article.

Applecross sunsetThese are some more taken on various trips since:

Applecross Highland CattleApplecrossLoch a Mhuilinn - ApplecrossApplecross

The Greatest Show on Earth

The Olympic opening ceremony was a wonderful spectacle but if we saw it every day the novelty and interest would eventually pall.  Certainly I would soon tire of Kenneth Branagh’s self-satisfied smile on the face of Brunel; I would all too quickly long for his dour Wallander.

Pictures of sunsets are a cliché, seen too often, taken for granted, they owe nothing to the person behind the camera other than his/her ability to be in the right place at the right time.  Nevertheless the sinking sun still has the potential to provide the greatest show on earth and it still can attract crowds.

In early August I was in the right place at the right time.  All that is required is clean unpolluted air, open water, clear but not totally clear skies and an uninterrupted horizon; then, all the ingredients are in place.  Sadly not many locations on mainland Britain meet the necessary criteria but on the days when the clouds lift and the rains desist, the far northwest will always deliver.

The right place on this occasion was at the end of West Shore Street, Ullapool, where you step up to the sea defences and walk towards the campsite and the mouth of the Ullapool River beyond.   It was a perfect evening; in the last hour before sunset when the light is at its clearest, the world appeared in Ultra HD.  Then as the sun began to sink into the Summer Isles, people gathered along the shore line, sat and watched, transfixed.  To enhance the occasion a woman played the sun down on a lap harp.

They are never the same.  The cloud formations, the clarity of the air, the stillness of the water, all vary from day to day.  A long, long time ago when the world was still young, I shared a sinking sun from the shores of Applecross; across a mirror like sea, it was pure watercolour on Hahnemuehle paper.  Some things you never forget.