Purple Haze

Weather: The air is warm and we have also been affected by the record temperatures ‘enjoyed’ by those in the South of England. At one stage it was 22C – uncomfortably hot in these parts.. Towards the end of the week the weather once again, had noticeably shifted and the strong winds returned, frequently accompanied by heavy rain.

This week began with a visit to the one and only ‘Benbecula Thrift Shop’ (a charity shop) to collect some furry jackets and wedding hats (for the Lochmaddy week, Photo-booth event on the 31st July). We then drove to Scolpaig Tower in the North-East of Uist, where Nicola and I walked the few hundred yards along the loch past a deserted farmstead to the bay. The day was warm and bright with the Machair grasslands shimmering purple and yellow and the white lilies on the water opening their petals to enjoy the maximum effect of the sun’s rays. This bay is sheltered by a small enclave and a rocky outcrop where the clear turquoise blue sea pours into the many crevasses in the rock face. Here is where the intended rocket site will be situated, a proposal which is almost beyond belief, and hopefully can be resisted. There are people swimming in the bay. They are quietly snorkeling whilst swimming over the lush seaweed in order to see the marine life beneath. The sea and sky reflect in a spectrum of blues and the white sand shows in patches and pathways beneath the surface of the water. Nicola and I resolved to return later in the week to picnic and to swim in this beautiful place.

Keith had booked a boat to fish in Loch Fada, one of the largest freshwater lochs on the island. We rowed along one arm of the loch making the usual drifts across and casting our flies. The boat that we were using was not the usual club boat but a larger, heavier one which we were obliged to use, as a visitor had mistakenly taken the wrong boat. Once or twice we managed to gently ground the boat in the shallow water due to our unfamiliarity with the topography of the loch. The weather was promising and there was a nice ripple on the surface. Trout came there none – and to add insult to injury, my rather expensive fly line somehow parted in the middle, necessitating onboard repairs before being able to continue fishing. It was very quiet and no fish were moving. Later when we encountered the visitor who had used our boat we asked how they had fared. We have caught just 6 fish said he… “Excellent, well done” we said, not meaning it.

July 31st, Lochmaddy week. As a part of the programme of events we agreed to set up the ‘Photo-booth’. Nicola has some experience in this area whereas my previous involvement had been only to obtain a passport photo. Having acquired the necessary dressing up items earlier in the week, from the charity shop – we set up our ‘Photo-booth’, just outside the Lochmaddy community hall – it was such a beautiful day. Business was slow as the event was not particularly well attended, although we did have some fun with people posing – using our dressing up outfits. This also proved to be an excellent way to engage with the community and to let people know what we are doing. Nicola and I were asked to run the ‘Photo-booth’ again at the RNLI day in a couple of weeks. Hopefully on this occasion we will also improve our booth as a result of this experience, so watch this space.

The weather continued to be dry and warm and we revisited ‘our’ bay at Scolpaig, this time with our wet suits. We took a walk to the nearby sea caves and searched for wild flowers before relaxing for an extended picnic and lunch. Thus fortified we swam in the bay until it was time to pack up and make the walk past the loch back to our van. There are still new flowers to be seen everyday and an encouraging amount and variety of butterflies. Purple is becoming the predominant flower colour – Bell heather, a variety of thistles, highland heather and numerous others that we are attempting to identify. If I squint (or take my glasses off) a purple haze shimmers over the greenness.

Nicola and I have been planning another Photographic Landscape Workshop ‘Explorations in Landscape 2’ to run at Minish. Whilst we are based here, it is an excellent place from which to run our events. It has a sizeable room which converts admirably into a lecture theatre and practical photoshop tuition space. Our posters advertising tis occasion arrived in the post midweek , late as ever, and we spent a day or so distributing them around the island.

The Lochmaddy hill run took place on the Friday and we were invited to photograph it. For some reason there were few participants this year but those that took part did so in good humour departing on the boat to the starting point, then running over the hilltop to return to Lochmaddy along the main road, finishing at the Hotel. There was a bouncy castle for the kids and something of a P.A. system pumping out pop music across the sea loch. Hamburgers, including Venison burgers were on sale and one of the drinks being served to the waiting onlookers was ‘Malibu and and red and blue Slushy’ Wow!  All participants in the main event received a bottle of water and a mars bar. We photographed the finishers before retiring to the Westford Arms, North Uist’s only pub. Despite the seeming monopoly, this is an excellent place and they too, were holding a barbecue event in their beer garden. The weather had been so good recently that everywhere on the island outdoor activities and events were being pursued – whenever possible.

We printed some of the portraits that we had made, and Nicola has been planning future photoshop workshops – to be delivered this autumn. We have looked at a number of alternative venues for these subsequent workshops although it is too early to be clear of our requirements. Nicola’s small car has had a problem with a leaky exhaust so I have spent some time hanging out at the excellent Cregorry Motors on Benbecula, whilst the suspect part was initially identified, then replaced. I am due to take the ferry to Uig tomorrow and because of the sudden ‘turn’ in the weather there is some doubt as to whether it will run. The ferries are all fully booked at this time so if there are cancellations due to the weather, it will cause serious problems.

Our cats, Angelo and Alice seem to have settled down to a new relationship. Angie continues to be the long suffering and ever – tolerant boss cat who spends much of his time outdoors chasing rats (on one day he caught four, one of which he presented to little Alice who proudly presented it to us in the bedroom. They might have left its head on..  For her part, Alice is compelled by some territorial instinct, to encroach upon any space occupied by Angie. It is a strange relationship that only occasionally explodes into feline fisticuffs. Mostly Angie, when he is indoors, sleeps in the upper hallway and Alice has taken to sitting on Nicola’s lap whilst she is working on the computer. She is, naturally, keeping a sharp eye on the mouse..

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