Tuesday, April 28, 2009

HMS Belfast sunset

HMS Belfast sunset, originally uploaded by ccgd.

Back in London for a couple of days - I almost feel that I've never been home since I passed through Heathrow's T5 last week on route from Washington.

This shot is of sunset over the Thames a couple of years ago, but tonight London is misty, chilly and noisy. Very noisy, but I suspect that just my hotel room.

I'm in a Hilton in the West end, overlooking Kensington Palace. Very nice, I hear you say, but what I did not realise when checking in tonight, and hearing the words - Oh we have upgraded you Mr Davidson to a deluxe King room with a wonderful view - also meant - and you will hear taxis, bus's and trucks all night, as well as every single group of exited European exchange student's leaving the Tube station DIRECTLY UNDER YOUR WINDOW!!!!!!!!

OK - I've got it off my chest, but living in Ross-shire also means that you forget how busy, noisy and 24 hour big cities actually are.

When I was a kid in the mid 60's Dad's job took us to Glasgow for a few years, before we moved back north to Inverness.

To this day I remember on our very first night in the new house in Bearsden standing at the bay window looking down to Bearsden Cross, just listening to the sound of traffic, watching the headlights, and marvelling at the lightness of darkness, whilst Kai slept peacefully behind me. i must have sat their for hours, just watching and listening, not sure what to make of it.

A long way from a crofting township on the outskirts of Lerwick.

Cities are OK to visit, but I like the quietness of home.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Robert O Mayhew

Robert O Mayhew, originally uploaded by ccgd.

Khe Sanh - 1968

“The other marine was white, and if I’d seen him first from the back I’d have said he was eleven years old. The Marines must have a height requirement; whatever it is, I don’t see how he made it. Age is one thing, but how do you lie about your height?

His name was Mayhew, it was written out in enormous letters across the front of his helmet: MAYHEW – You’d better believe it!

He was young, nineteen he later told me, and he was trying to grow a moustache. His only luck with it so far was a few sparse bond clumps set at odd intervals across his upper lip, and you could not see that unless the light was right.

That night, probably sleeping, I heard the sound of automatic-weapons fire outside. I had no sense waking, only of seeing cigarettes glowing in dark without any memory of them being lighted.

Mayhew was grinning. “Listen to that fucker, listen to that, that fucker’s gonna burn out the barrel for sure.”

It was an M-60 Machine Gun and it was not firing in bursts, but in a mad sustained manner. The gunner must have seen something. “Lets go see,” Mayhew said, grabbing his rifle. We walked in the dark, figures appearing and disappearing in the mist around us, odd floating presences; it seemed like a long walk, and then Mayhew bumped helmets with someone.

“You wanna watch where the fuck you’re going?” he said.

“That’s, You wanna watch where the fuck you’re going, Sir” It was a lieutenant, and he was laughing.

“Sorry Sir.”


“Yes, Sir”

We then heard what sounded at first like a little girl crying, a subdued, delicate wailing, and as we listened it became louder and more intense, taking on pain as it grew until it was a full piercing shriek. It was terrible, absorbing every other sound coming from the darkness.

A Marine brushed past us. He had a moustache and a piece of camouflaged parachute silk fastened bandana style around his throat, and on his hip he wore a holster which held an M-79 grenade launcher. For a second I’d thought I’d hallucinated him.

“Wait,” he said “I’ll fix that fucker.”

He paced the M-79 over his forearm and aimed a second before firing. There was an enormous flash on the wire 200 meters away, a spray of ornage sparks, and everything was still except for the sound of some bombs exploding kilometres away.

Nothing changed on the Marines face, nothing, and he moved back into the darkness.

“Get some,” Mayhew said quietly “Man did you see that?”

I poked his arm and we went back to bunker for some more of that sleep.”

Postscript: China Beach 1969

“They were from 26 Marines, Hotel Company, and they told me about what had happened to the outfit since April. I couldn’t remember the name of the one grunt I most wanted to hear about, and I was probably afraid of what they’d say, but I described him. He was a little cat with blond hair, and he was trying to grow a moustache.

They looked at each other, and I was sorry I asked.

“I know the guy you mean,” one of them said. “Yeah I know. He got killed, Took a fucking RPG round right in chest. God damn, I’ll think of his name.

But I already remembered it now.”

Michael Herr, Dispatches, London 1977

Vietnam War memorial - Washington April 2009

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Reflected Rig

Reflected Rig, originally uploaded by ccgd.

Well I've been home a few days, and am just about over the Jet Lag.

I'm also delighted to find that this picture of an Oil Rig - the Transocean Wildcat - cold-stacked in the Cromarty Firth - is my first sale on Getty Images, the worlds largest photo stock library.

It will not make me a millionaire, but its nice to get the recognition.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

A very vertical element in the landscape - and a kite

Just packing up to head out to the airport and home. My hotel is on the corner of Dupont circle, of which one half is lots of local shops, diners, bars and that ilk - the other half is corporate America. The bar here in the Hilton is a disappointment, small and catering to that days business travelers. I tried it for one beer, with my book, and was immediately challenged by a Norm (from Cheers) type, who boomed - how can you read in a busy bar like this, with all these distractions......

Thinking - and trying - by ignoring you, you prat - did not work, nor was the conversation helped when he commented on my "strange accent" and when I told him I was from Scotland, he asked which part of England that was...........

My reply - so which part of Canada does the USA fit into? - did not go down well. The guy lived in London for three years for goodness sake.

So I found this great little Bar/Dinner round the corner on 16th, long wooden bar, ex hippy barmen, cool local clientele, great steaks and burgers, and tragically closing down on the 1st June. Been sold to "Frat boys and creeps from up the hill" and will become part of a bar chain. The customers/locals only learnt yesterday, and the there was a sombre - almost funereal - mood in the bar.

But not enough for them to include me in their conversations about great surfer movies of all time (Point Break) and recommend the brie with my rare burger and mushrooms - with Brown sauce - and wish me a very nice day.

I do like America.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

In this temple

In this temple, originally uploaded by ccgd.

Work over, I went out early this morning for a tour of the Washington sites. When I say early I mean early - I've been trying to keep my body clock on Scottish time, so I was walking down past the White-house at 7:00 in the morning local time, just as the sun was rising.

I was the only one there - well apart from two local bobbies who bid me a polite "Good Morning Sir". I'd popped down the previous afternoon for a walk between meetings and calls, and was staggered by the crowds.

So it was just me, and two bobbies.

Then I learnt that America does tourism in a big way - and early. I walked around to the Lincoln Memorial, and visited the WW2 memorial on the way. At 7:30 on the dot six coaches pulled up and disgorged huge numbers of people.

Leaving them at the fountains I nipped down to steps of the Lincoln Memorial, and took this zoom shot of the great man's statue, with the first of the days tourists - and local bobbies - chatting.

Washington is impressive, and I took shed loads of photos, and saw what too me is the holy grail of the modern world - the Apollo 11 Command Module.

The fact that is was surrounded by most the inhabitants of the continental US states did not detract one little bit.

The fact that most had no idea at all what they were seeing did.

I'm getting old. Apollo was 40 years ago this year.


tourists, originally uploaded by ccgd.

1600 Pennsylvania The most famous address in the USA/World, take your pick.

Strange mixture of tourists and protesters in the Spring sunshine, and serious looking people in very expensive suits walking to and fro..

Friday, April 17, 2009

Carnegie institute of Washington

Carnegie institute of Washington, originally uploaded by ccgd.

Washington was wet, and a little bit cold. Now its warm and very sunny. A strange climate. Its also not very high rise, the bits I’ve walked through, but it seems very “bitty” – lots of older buildings, but no coherent building style. Difficult to pin down, it’s just not European.

The Carnegie Institute of Washington is a case in point - on the corner of P and 15th (not very imaginative street names) its neo-classical looks date from 1905. But its surrounded by red brick and modern concrete, all on their own little lots,

However, I've Just spent the past two days sitting in the lecture theatre here, a rather fascinating conference on Marine Renewable Energy - for a Global (ie US) prespective.

The sun came out on day two.

That Mr Carnegie got a lot of places, onced he'd left Dunfermline.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Part 2

777 wing, originally uploaded by ccgd.

Did I sleep on the plane. An interesting concept. Well for one I got bumped up to Club, which has happened to me on a few occasions in the past. The Club Cabin was pretty quiet, so I guess that the business class travel folk are feeling the pinch in these straightened times. Which is why I suspect that they upgraded me in the first place, and the fact that I’m regular BA traveller.

(Travel tip – forget all these Daily Mail type columns on how to get upgraded, what to wear, how to ask, how to smile – there is only one sure fire way – a good frequent flier card with that airline. Ask the professionals….)

Sleep? Well the flight time to the East coast of the US is actually quite short – seven or eight hours. Fit in a drink, a meal, and a wakeup and a cup of tea and you are down to a couple of hours sleep time. And that’s not including watching a movie, or two or six or twelve. The choice these days is a bit overwhelming, so I just stick to the latest Bond movie, although the action scenes loose a bit on the teenie screens that get on planes. So sleep is not the top priority, not least because the food is pretty good, and they have some nice wines as well.

Washington Dulles airport was dark and wet when we arrived, and we then decamped into this strange bus/arrival lounge on stilts – very 60’s very Jetsons - which then trundled across the airport to immigration. I was through there, and had picked up my bags in less than 20 mins, and straight out for a taxi.

Now this is long part – Dulles airport is about 26 miles from the city, albeit along wide freeways, but after being up for 20 hours it was a tiresome business, helped and hindered by a friendly taxi driver who kept pointing out what he thought were notable local landmarks, the only one of which I recognised was the CIA HQ at Langley – notable for having a searchlight pointing at the sky.

Washington? Well I’m staying in the business district, which is Anytown USA from what little I’ve seen. I’ve taken my camera though, and am just about to head out for my conference and meetings.

Which is why I'm here.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Mr Davidson goes to Washington – Part 1

Drumochter, originally uploaded by ccgd.

With apologies to Frank Capra and Jimmie Stewart

Every journey starts with a simple step, and in my case, it’s a stagger out to the car at the ungodly hour of 6:30. Two things are unusual about this, firstly that I’m setting out on a long haul trip in my own car, and secondly it’s a vehicle that is empty of the sort of empheria (not exactly clean, but empty) that collects in any car that I’ve ever owned. CD’s, maps, pens, sunglasses, camera lens caps, old bits of electronics that were useful but are now simply broken, but I’ve never got round to clearing out.

Until yesterday.

Those that know me know that the only time I ever clear out a car completely is when I’m trading it in for a new one, something I do every five years or thereabouts. So it farewell to a well used Peugeot, six years old and 85K on the clock, and needing a MOT and major service, and hello to a one year old Volvo, 10K on the clock, just serviced, and with years of warranty in the future. Both estates, and both diesels, I must admit that I’m a creature of habit in that sense, as I do a fairly high mileage, and need to cart about “stuff” on a regular basis, bikes and students mainly.

The new car is in Stirling, as the wonders of the internet allow you to track down just about any particular car make and model that you want (a V50 2.0 SE Sportswagon in case you are interested – having Volvo and Sports in the same sentence always brings a slight smile to my face, like University and Paisley, but hey I bought the car!). So instead of getting a cab to Inverness Airport and a flight to Edinburgh and on to Heathrow, I’m driving down the A9 to deliver a trade in and pick up a new one.

Or that was the plan, except Royal Mail seems to have let us down, as the insurance cover note (needed to tax the new vehicle), posted first class from Newcastle last Wednesday, has not yet turned up in Cromarty – five days later. Lost or late, it does not matter, as my new car will have to live in the Garage back lot for another week, as I say goodbye to the old car (with an strange lack of emotion) and catch a train to Edinburgh Airport and hence to Washington, via Heathrow.

But my early morning drive down the A9 was peaceful and quiet, enjoyable in a relaxed sort of way. Like most folk living in the Highlands, I have a love hate relationship with the road, these days mainly hate, as my frequent travels up and down seem to coincide with endless queues, Tesco Lorries and innumerable caravans.

This morning was different, bright, late winter, early spring sunshine, spectacular scenery, and a road empty of traffic, just the occasional lorry, and always on a straight stretch of road so passing was a simple matter of swinging out and back in.

The temperature read 0 as I cruised past Dromchter summit, with snow still on the summits of A' Mharconaich and Geal Charn, snapped above on an earlier trip where freezing windscreens meant frequent stops to clear the frost and crud, and a 100 miles of playing tag with Tesco lorries.

However the only Tesco lorry I encountered today pulled in to a lay-by to let us pass just as I joined the small queue sitting behind his 50mph governed passage south.

Thank you sir.

Edinburgh, Heathrow and then Washington. Straightforward, but a long 22 hour day by the time I get to my hotel. Oh well I can sleep on the plane….

Monday, April 13, 2009

Hutton Hull reflections

Hutton Hull reflections, originally uploaded by ccgd.

Another shot of the Hutton Hull, being passed by a Rig Support Vessel on her way up to Invergordon.

Glorious weather the past few days, but its now all Haar. So it's inside jobs that need done....

Saturday, April 11, 2009


P995, originally uploaded by ccgd.

A creel boat heads back to Cromarty Harbour on a blustery day.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Birthday boy

Birthday boy, originally uploaded by ccgd.

It's my Birthday, a big one, and Ruth snapped me rather blearly eyed this morning, surrounded by cards and pressies.

Just back from a rather (no not rather, a very) pleasant meal at our local restaurant, Sutor Creek, with Charlie and Sarah, and Hamish and Cyrene.

Magnus ? He's in Belgium racing as part of a Scotland Junior Squad.

Monday, April 06, 2009

GSA colours

GSA colours, originally uploaded by ccgd.

Back in Glasgow for a couple of days, mainly culture type things (those of you who read the papers will know that the setting up of Creative Scotland is not a straightforward process), but I need to pop into the Art School first for a quick meeting.

Was there a couple of weeks ago, and grabbed this "Looking up the East Gable of the Macintosh Building." shot. Only after I posted it, and a few people said things such as "clever shadows" and "well composed" that I noticed that I'd managed - quite by accident - to perfectly line up the Art Deco lamp with the shadow of the gable in a rather neat way.

OK - lets keep it our little secret. Maybe everyone will think that I used my creative eye, honed by four years at that fine establishment, the GSA, to capture that very moment in time quite deliberately.

Aye right.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Hutton gloaming

Hutton gloaming, originally uploaded by ccgd.

A workboat at anchor, with the Hull of the Hutton TLP catching the last rays of the spring sun.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Winter does seem to be over

Winter does seem to be over, originally uploaded by ccgd.

Welcome sun