The Workshop

Weather: Always unpredictable – definitely warmer, some hot days and humid nights, some heavy rain and strong winds.

I had hardly returned to the Island before I was whisked off to a camping trip to Balashare, one of the most beautiful beaches in the vicinity. We built a bonfire and a barbecue, had a picnic and swam in the sea until we were thoroughly exhausted. We had omitted to include a mattress, so sleep was challenging at times, although the sounds of the wind and rain beating on the sides of the tent was comforting and even romantic despite slight anxieties about our security. In fact, our tent (purchased especially for staying on the Hebrides) remained securely fixed to the ground – as did I the next morning whilst trying to sit up.

Later in the week I began to feel ill and so did not accomplish very much although there was much preparation work needed for our forthcoming workshop ‘Explorations in Landscape’. Many honey, lemon and ginger drinks later – my man-flu had passed and I was ready for the forthcoming weekend workshop event, that Nicola and I had planned. This photography workshop began with an evening talk about the historical associations of painting with photography. The weekend progressed with field trips to Scolpaig and the Island of Vallay, where our workshop participants were able to make some excellent pictures. This was followed by indoor sessions concentrated on Photoshop post-production processing of the images that we had collected, before printing our results. The weather was kind to us and everyone enjoyed themselves. We are hoping to run another workshop upon these lines and hopefully extend our scope into other areas of photographic practice…

The following week the weather gave up on us and it has been wet and dull, although the winds have been light. Nicola fell ill during the week having perhaps caught my cold, necessitating much rest and restitution. Naturally this was something that I could assist in.

There have been two fishing trips this week. The first in a small sea loch resulted in a good sized Pollack, caught using a small spinner, the other outing was on one of the beautiful inland freshwater lochs where Keith and I only managed a few small brown trout, although Nicola found a beautiful position on a rock outcrop to make some watercolour paintings. Later we attended a workshop outlining the assistance available to would-be entrepreneurs setting up businesses in the area. The University of the Highlands and Islands is central in facilitating this economic development and it is encouraging and appropriate that much of this is seen in the cultural and arts sectors.

The week ended as it had started, with a camping trip to Balashare beach. The day was sunny and warm and the westerly winds ensured that the surf was running. After a glorious hour or so in the sea with our body boards we lit a camp fire and lit the barbecue. We grilled the (salted) Pollack that I had caught earlier in the week with some nettle pesto and salad.

It was a memorable evening (and although we had forgotten to bring sufficient water) we had plenty of other drinks with which to pass the evening. The night was starry and quiet, with the orange lights from nearby Benbecula glowing intriguingly in the distance.

Our rather impromptu trip was truly memorable and I am hoping that next weekend we can repeat the performance. I had not envisioned the feeling of freedom and immersion of the senses possible through the simple expedient of wearing a wet suit and attempting to ride on the waves as they break onto the sand. Seldom have I laughed so much or had such a great time. Early the next morning we drove back to the house to feed the animals. They are always so pleased to see us.

Nicola and I have started to work on our portraits which are developing well. Working closely together on this project is proving to be an interesting and exciting creative adventure.

Angie (white cat) and Alice (kitten) are getting along much better. Alice follows Angie enthusiastically everywhere.  Mostly he is OK about this although sometimes he does not want to play with Alice because he is a bit of a grumpy old man (not like me..) or he is tired from rat whacking.

Please note our bird sightings are proving untrustworthy, never the less our twitching enthusiasm remains undiminished.

One thought on “The Workshop

  1. Good work John. i was thinking of you recently having just received the latest and sadly the last volume of Andrew McNeillie’s journal Archipelago. It contains a good article by James Macdonald Lockhart ‘On the machair’ He makes a case for seeing the machair a less as a single habitat and more of a complex ecosystem which has a transformative influence on the whole landscape. He also has some great descriptions of the flocks of oystercatchers and their ‘piping parties.’ Archipelago is not easy to come by and I can make a copy for you if you would like.I was in Gosforth Park recently and watched a Heron having caught a 7in perch take 30 minutes gradually easing it mouth first down into its neck. Reckoned it would be an hour or more before it was able to take off.
    Chris Madge

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