Weather: Some still days with good sunrises and sunsets. Glasgow: wet

The Tuesday 19th of November morning ferry was a little slow to depart. It was a dark morning, with a stiff breeze blowing. Nicola dropped me off at the terminal and I carried my usual luggage plus a camera bag complete with film, camera and flash onto the boat. The usual camera that I carry with me is a small digital model but unfortunately it is currently away being repaired, the lens having become loose. I felt I should take some kind of camera with me and so I was left with an elderly medium format rangefinder camera and some 120 film. I had forgotten how heavy and inconvenient it was. I mostly used my iphone camera and made some contributions to my  Instagram account.

As I was having a Cal-Mac breakfast of smoked salmon and scrambled eggs the dawn was breaking red and gold over the west coast of the Scottish mainland. The boat arrived at 9. 30 which was 15 minutes behind schedule. My bus was due to leave from Uig at 9.30, which indeed it did – much to my consternation and that of two other potential passengers, that I watched helplessly from the quayside. The usual practice is for the bus to wait for the connecting ferry but the services are not well joined up. (Previously I had asked for the connecting bus timetable at the ferry terminal to be told “we don’t know about the buses”) Makes perfect sense…. The ‘courtesy bus’ to ferry passengers from the Pier Head to the Ferry Terminal was waiting on the quayside and the driver kindly offered to drive us to Portree where we could catch up with the 915 City bus, which would be waiting there. This bus driver mentioned that the 915 City bus driver was a newly recruited young man who “was not quite sure how things are done around here.”

The two other passengers and I were duly delivered to Portree in time to connect with the 915 Glasgow service. Thank you Mr. Bus Driver!

Having caught up with the 915 City bus we had our tickets checked. When one of the other passengers (an American woman) quietly and politely remonstrated with the driver that he must have known that we were due on the bus in Uig, as we had previously booked and he had a list of the passengers, he must have known we were coming.  She was clearly told “If it’s a bother you can find yourself another service” We all quickly settled down for the remainder of the journey, feeling uncomfortably fortunate to be on this bus at all.

After a change of driver in Fort William and many stops later, the bus arrived, in good time in Glasgow. The intensity of the traffic always comes as a shock after a period living on the island. I made for the Horseshoe Bar in Drury Street in central Glasgow. This had been highly recommended to me by Prof. McIntyre of Bernerey. I went to meet my younger son, newly en-nobled Dr. Sean Kippin. This is a lively pub – full of great fixtures and fittings, and as Scotland were due to play Kosovo that evening colourful traditionally dressed football fans were warming up and gently self-medicating in time for the match – well worth a visit. Later we visited The Pot Still in Hope Street another excellent old fashioned pub with good beer and a wicked, but for me possibly indigestible, line in Mutton pies and baked beans. We finished the evening, unsurprisingly, with a spanking hot curry.

Spending a day in central Glasgow is always a pleasure and I managed to fit in the Modern Institute, The Print Workshop, Street Level, the Centre for Contemporary Arts and the Museum of Modern Art. All in all, a mixed bag of works but all offering a high level of engagement with a range of contemporary arts practice. I also called in on one of the independent guitar shops where I wanted to try one of the locally hand-made classical instruments that I had seen on a previous visit, together with a visit to a wonderful used clothes emporium, both sites overlooked by a huge wall painting of Billy Connelly, why not..

I even managed to use my ancient film camera to make one or two pictures, although the light was very poor (the dreich). One quickly forgets some of the limitations of such equipment, not to mention the weight.. given the capability of some digital cameras to operate under such low light conditions.

The evening was spent at the cinema watching ‘The Irishman’ a film to challenge the stoutest bladder in one sitting and is a worthy successor to Martin Scorsese’s earlier ‘wiseguy’ films. I had read that the unique costume designer Sandy Powell had made over 100 suits for Robert De Niro and I am looking forward to seeing it again on Netflix, with Nicola, and will maybe think about counting them.

Thursday 21st November: I had long wanted to visit the famous Arlington Baths for a much-needed swim. Nicola had booked for me to be shown around the facilities which include saunas and Turkish baths and a health club full of astonishing gymnasium devices. It was women’s day in the Turkish bath so I was unable to visit this but it does look amazing in the photographs, so next time perhaps. I moved rather sheepishly through the gym section, thinking that it looked a bit too much like a torture chamber, and why would I pay for that? The changing rooms and the swimming pool (there were hand painted notices on the ancient door announcing ‘The Pond’ ) were a different matter however, and there is a lounge where after an intense workout one could meet other members of the (health) club and use the bar..

I swum for an hour or so in one of the lanes marked on the bottom of the pool. The form is to wait until another member has vacated the lane before using it, which I did. After using the pool-side sauna (such luxury) I was standing by the edge of the pool wondering where the shower was when the attendant said to me “Do you mind having a shower if you intend to get back in the pool?’ A reasonable request. I said “its OK, I’m like Prince Andrew, I don’t sweat” He looked at me with astonishment for no more than one second, before a smile creased his face and he said ‘the shower is through that door”. If I were to live in Glasgow, membership of the Arlington Health Club would become a priority and a much better investment than a season ticket at St. James Park.

Lunchtime was spent at the Civic Street Canteen in the delightful company of Abigale Neate-Wilson the events director and Nicola’s youngest daughter. No 26, Civic Street is an arts venue based in a converted print works and is close to the better known ‘Glue Factory’ artist’s centre on the North side of the City.  The upstairs space is generous and well-appointed and the canteen serves excellent vegetarian food. Lucky Glasgow. It still manages to have a lively and progressive arts scene that is not ruined by developers.

Friday the 22nd November: I was on time to catch the 10 am bus from Buchanan Street back to Skye via Fort William and despite my concerns, given that the bus arrives in Uig only 10 minutes before the ferry departs, the journey went smoothly. We even had the same driver, who seemed in a much better mood..  Nicola met me at Lochmaddy ferry and drove us back to Minish. Nicola and I talked about the following day’s Symposium (which we were both contributing to) at the North Uist Arts Centre, Taigh Chearshabagh –  ‘Drawing from Life, the Artist Educator’.

Angelo and Alice were pleased to see me – at least I like to think were.

Onn (gold)


Tuesday the 19th of November, I drove John to the ferry around 7am – it was dark, windy and raining so I did not hang around. I quickly drove back to the cottage in Minish to light a nice fire and do some drawings and photo-retouching work.

Wednesday the 20th of November, I attended the writing workshop with poet  Mandy Haggith. This was a first for me and an inspiring afternoon. There were about 10 attendees, as with a lot of these events, only one man. I sometimes wonder what men do for extra interests, other than fishing of course, this is a very popular man hobby especially in the Hebrides. Perhaps bird watching is also a popular extra curricular man ‘ting’… Anyway, going off topic.

The writing/poetry workshop was very challenging and informative, there are a lot of very good writers and poets here. Pauline Prior Pitt runs a poetry club, which is thriving and even has a waiting list.

The writing/poetry workshop was based around a piece of yellow gorse (Onn in Gaelic) also sometimes called furze or whin. The group, under the guidance of Mandy Haggith, discussed this strangely mythological flowering bush.

  • It is believed to extend protective powers over herds
  • It smells like coconut combined with marzipan and tastes like almonds
  • It flowers can and are used to to colour and flavour whisky
  • It can be made into Yellow Gorse Wine.

The gorse bush is a prolific plant in the Outer Hebrides with sun-kissed apricot yellow flowers and although it has seasons where it flowers more than others, it does in fact never stop flowering all the year around. Which is fortunate as there is a saying that goes:

“When gorse is out of bloom, kissing is out of season”

Gorse also has some pagan witchy associations too; it is linked to love and fertility – but beware if you bring it in the house it is extremely unlucky.

By the end of the workshop I was much informed and impressed by this thorny ‘wee’ Hebridean beauty – but I warn you, mind their needle like thorns!

The last hour of the workshop was set aside for writing and there were some lovely descriptions and prose written by the members of this group – I managed just one feeble line. I feel more sessions are needed if I were to show anything, it was hard enough just reading my line out to the group. They were all very encouraging of course.

Thursday 21st Nov. after some teaching on the UHI art course, I met Fiona Pearson for lunch in the Taigh Chearsabhagh cafeteria. We had a lovely soup and coffee and a very good chat about art and life and grandchildren.

John and I arrived in Uist in February this year, so this is our first Autumn here and it has been amazing for me to see the landscape changing over the seasons. In the cottage that I am staying in, the bedroom windows overlook a sea loch and I have the pleasure of watching the morning light, as I drink my tea. The distant hills go through an array of colours, as the sunlight moves over them. Orange, to gold, to yellow, then blue, grey, slate to purple. Always shifting – each colour shaping and set against another, placed to enhance, placed in contrast and never the same. Sometimes a bird gets caught in a gust of wind (often a seagull) and glides by. Netflix just doesn’t compete!

Friday 22nd November, I pick John up from the ferry in Lochmaddy at about 7.45pm – just in time to talk about the following day’s Symposium (which we were both contributing to) at the North Uist Arts Centre, Taigh Chearshabagh –  ‘Drawing from Life, the Artist Educator’.

The cats are such great company when I am on my own. Alice is so affectionate and follows me around the house. Angelo still holds the title of mighty rat catcher of Minish!

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