Symposium and Pecha Kucha

Weather: Relatively warm, with some light winds.

Saturday 23rd November, the Symposium, ‘Drawing from Life’, comprised a day of discussion and reflection on the theme of the ‘Artist, Educator’ it was mostly put together and chaired by Prof. Keith McIntyre (of the University of the Highlands and Islands), and used the occasion of an exhibition in the Taigh Chearsabhagh galleries by the Island Painter Donald Smith, a Scottish painter of rural communities based in Lewis. The Symposium addressed the many symbiotic relationships between arts practice and various practices in education. There were contributions from (in running order) Jonathan Smith, Prof. Murdo MacDonald, Fiona MacIsaac, Prof. John Kippin, Nicola Neate, Jean Newman, Dr. Neil Davidson, Rosie Blake, Ian Stephen, Christine Morrison, Fiona Pearson, Anne Reid, Prof. Keith McIntyre.

As is inevitable with a relatively short programme and much to discuss, many of the questions that the seminar had hoped to address remained at least partially unanswered. These remain for another day. What was a great success, however was the overall range and quality of the presentations on the day which bear favourable comparison with many high level academic seminars and conference presentations that I have attended. The University of the Highlands and Islands is an important presence on this island and contributes much to the development of its cultural and intellectual life of which we are all grateful participants in.

Trail camera

The weather in November has surpassed all expectations with still days where the lochs reflect the sky and the surface of the silent water creates the effect being surrounded by light. More recently the winds have returned, firstly a cold wind from the east bringing frost, then a milder swirling westerly wind bringing rain. During the colder months, we have found that the best way to keep warm is to keep the fire going all day and night as much as is possible, this is expensive as we use mostly smokeless fuel. It also produces quite a lot of hot ash and emptying the ash can is a particularly hazardous occupation when the wind is unpredictable. On more than one occasion, either Nicola or myself have been covered in ash when confronted with the wind whipping around the house.  We are now eagerly awaiting delivery of a wind resistant ash collecting tray from Amazon, the handmaiden ( I know)  of consumption on the island.

The ongoing story of the rockets of Scolpaig in the North of the Island has quietened down for now, although it has been confirmed that an updated and improved proposal for a Spaceport in the far north of the Scottish mainland will be submitted early in the new year. It will have all of the necessary Political support, and seems likely to succeed. Given the history of the site, the proposed site near Tongue in Sutherland would seem to be more appropriate than that of Scolpaig on North Uist, although that does not necessarily make it a good idea. Hopefully they will leave North Uist alone.

Other local developments concern the Ferry Terminal in Lochmaddy. The small, and rather elegant building that used to be the tourist office in Lochmaddy and currently most usefully houses Uist Film, an offshoot of Taigh Chearshabagh (the Arts Centre) is due to be demolished to make way for the island’s first roundabout, together with a car park – so what passes for progress seems to have reached North Uist after all… There will be a small wake to mark its closure.

Nicola and I were invited by artist and lecturer Rosie Blake, at the University of the Highlands and Islands at Taigh Chearsabhagh, to take part in the second planned Pecha Kucha evening, to be held at Taigh Chearsabhagh on the 5th of December2019. Pecha Kucha (Japanese: chit-chat), is a storytelling format where a presenter shows 20 slides for 20 seconds of commentary each (6 minutes and 40 seconds total). This has become a popular method of presenting ideas briefly and succinctly.

My Pecha Kucha was entitled ‘Some Places of Interest’ and Nicola’s was called ‘My Cabinet of Curiosities’ other contributions were from Fiona MacIsaac, Raphael Rychetsky, Rosie Blake and Andy Mackinnon. These presentations offer an interesting, albeit brief, insight into the individuals concerns and the evening was an entertaining one. There will be future sessions at the centre in the new year.

Now the trout fishing season is over my friend and fishing companion, Keith Dawson and I, plan to spend time tying up some flies. We had a morning session scheduled and despite being somewhat rusty, we managed to tie a dozen or so useful deer-hair patterns with the assistance of some you – tube videos of an irritatingly competent instructor. Next season will see us putting these to the test, convinced that the trout will not necessarily notice the difference, and favour a brilliantly tied fly over our more utilitarian constructions. I have always felt that competition between participants in such activities as fishing was unseemly, but these flies just have a look about them..

The fine still weather that we have enjoyed recently has moved on to be replaced by yet more snarly winds, firstly from the North then the South-West. Today the ferries are not running and indoor activities are sensible. Nicola has been away teaching and I (adagio) have been able to catch up on the recent run of excellent football results by looking at the highlights of the recent games in which the mighty Magpies have crested 10th position in the Premier league. This is not what I had predicted, but then I still have hopes that we may get a Labour Government later this week..  Like the Atlantic Salmon, wild Tories are scarce in these parts but at least nobody is farming them and Scotland will be foremost in leading the resistance against the most extraordinary ship of fools ever experienced anywhere near government, at least in my lifetime.

Our cats always know about the weather. If both cats stay on the bed, then we’re in for a period of wet weather. When Angie (the white lion) relaxed on the bed and looks as if he has stopped breathing, it is going to be raining hard accompanied by strong winds. As soon as they stand up and stretch themselves, then the rain is about to stop. When either, or both, (depending on the degree) sits too close to the fire means that the wind is in the North, and when Alice our young Siamese cat stands on the windowsill and gazes out of the upstairs windows is a sure sign that it will be sunny. So reliable are these indications that I have ceased to use the BBC and Met Office weather apps..

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