Weather : Strong icy winds from the North, overcast with bright intervals.
Every so often I have to remind myself that above all, this is a long-term photography residency and project. Our journey thus far has been to this end, even though much of our time is taken up with settling in, domestic necessities and getting a sense of this place. As methodologies go it does seem sound, but one cannot help feel impatient sometimes and time moves slowly.
The previous night was remarkable in its clarity with the kind of breath-taking stellar display seldom seen in mainland U.K. Our particular ‘enterprise’ this morning was to continue our Hunter Gathering activities and visit MacLeans Heridean bakery in Benbecula where we purchased, amongst other things, a couple of scotch pies for a roadside picnic lunch. I was a little wary of these pies (Nicola loves them) as my memories of them (mostly accumulated during motorcycling trips to the Highlands) were mixed, but on this occasion these particular delicacies were consumed, suitably augmented with Dijon mustard, by the side of a loch where we were able to spot a curlew in the margins and two hen harriers whilst appreciating the solid comfort of a Scottish classic. Context is everything.
After we had filled the car with fuel I couldn’t help but notice that the attendant had a Bournemouth AFC shirt on. He would have been pleased because on the day that Newcastle beat Everton 3-2; Bournemouth beat Huddersfield. After our shopping trip, we drove to the Airport to enquire about flights to and from the Western Isles. The Airport is a small one situated in the north of the island located next to a military base. Loganair fly to Glasgow and Inverness from here. The windswept runway is next to the main road and is located next to a spectacular bay where the ‘white horses’ on the sea were clearly visible. Today the water on the lochs looked like mercury in the sunshine, that appeared fleetingly. Flying today in this liquid landscape would have been lively, and I had no cause to envy any of the small group of passengers waiting in the departure lounge.
Returning to the house we noticed a buzzard flying quite low by the roadside, possibly with evil designs on the many ducks swimming nearby.
We cleaned and prepared the downstairs spare room and made it suitable for use as a temporary studio. It is very cold however and I would describe the heating in the house as rudimentary. Best to keep moving.
The cats were a little frantic by the time that we had returned to the house as we had run out of their regular bait. They had turned their nose’s up at the finest sardines in olive oil and sullenly contemplated a beaten (locally obtained, free range) egg. When the Whiskas was unpacked their whiskery joy was unbounded and they became very excited. Suitably fortified by the return of the status quo, at the first opportunity they both rushed into the garden to confront the local rodents.
Weather: Gale force winds from the North, very cold with heavy driving sleet then snow; later winds dropping and veering west, less cold.
Sunday morning we awoke to a wild blizzard. We had planned to go on a substantial walk today but clearly this was out of the question. It was freezing. We were frantically piling the peat (thank you Keith Dawson) on the stove to warm the house up but the wind was so strong it still found its way inside the cottage through the tiniest cracks. Looking outside at the rear, the landscape reminds me of distant images of the Falkland Islands, Looking out of the front of the house a snow covered mountain dominates the vista, like mount Fuji (film..) All that is missing are the penguins.
On such a day in Newcastle it would be possible to spend the day exploring indoor options such as the cinema or even (horror) the Metro Centre. No such choice exists here. At one stage, we were uncertain that we would be able to leave the house at all. We spent some time together writing and drawing before deciding to risk the trip in the car to the swimming pool.
The road south to Benbecula was drivable but very snowy with deep channels necessitating considerable caution. The landscape had transformed into a lunar snow-scape, unique and very beautiful. It was well worth the effort. As previously, our session at the pool provided a wonderful contrast to the cabin fever we were beginning to experience back in the cottage.
On our way back once again the weather had changed. The wind had dropped and moved to the west and the snow was rapidly disappearing with the sun making an occasional appearance. Another day in a day.
Sightings along the way: A hen harrier resting on the electricity pylons; a transit van that had slid off the road (no casualties) and was being expertly towed out of the ditch; an unusual sheep; a farmer feeding his flock of brightly adorned sheep.
Our cats hate the rain and snow, also they are not partial to the wind. Not fussy really.