Saturday, March 28, 2009

Sun columns and shadows

Sun columns and shadows, originally uploaded by ccgd.

Toledo - August 2006.

Hot, Hot, Hot - not like today at all. winter is back in Ross-shire, so its inside jobs today, and maybe even put the fire on later.

This is the courtyard of the 16th century hospital built by Cardenal Tavera, just outside the walls of the old city of Toledo. It is a beautiful example of Spanish Renaissance architecture and features the original pharmacy and library complete with medicine bottles, etc., and huge leather-bound books containing the records of patients.

Also an interesting collection of paintings scattered through the rooms. It can only be visited in the company of a staff member who takes you on a multilingual tour (English and Spanish in our case, although there were four young french kids with us, so there was some mumbled translations from Spanish to English to French, and vice versa).

The place is huge, as the guide opens and unlocks the rooms for you you feel quite alone in this enormous building. We were there Sunday at noon and there were exactly six people on our tour - in August!.

Without a crowd around it felt like we were back in the 16th century.

We are planning a visit back in July.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Rigs in the mist

Rigs in the mist, originally uploaded by ccgd.

Mist and Gloaming - and oil rigs.

All of a sudden the oil rigs are back. OK they are clustered around the service base at Invergordon, all except the Hutton TLP sitting yellow and rusty up by Cromarty.

Strangely I find their presence comforting. The Firth looks too empty without them, too big, too wide. This is not a common view, I think you'd agree. In fact the Ross-shire carried a "grumpy of somewhere" letter last week, moaning about their presence as he drove to visit family atTain - "making the Highlands look like a scrap yard".

I like harbours, I like ports. Ports only work where there is activity, movement, ships, rigs, bussle.

That's why I'm glad to see the rigs back.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Sunrise - 2001 Style

Sunrise - 2001 Style, originally uploaded by ccgd.

Another 2001 moment at the emigration stone.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Lifeboat Chopper and Audience

Lifeboat Chopper and Audience, originally uploaded by ccgd.

Monday night is our local Lifeboat's practice night, they have great fun zooming up and down the Firth.

Here the the RAF got to play as well. The vessel is the RNLB Douglas Aikman Smith, and the chopper is a Sea King HAR3A from Lossiemouth.

Watching this, and photographing it on a pleasant spring evening last year, its hard to remember that this practice is for when they have to do this on a vicious night with no visibility, fifty foot waves and bitter bitter cold.

Its worth remembering this on the 40th Anniversary of the Longhope Lifeboat Disaster , when eight men lost their lives going to the aid of a stricken vessel in Pentland Firth.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The other calum

The other calum, originally uploaded by ccgd.

MacFarlane, not Davidson.

A Strip the Willow type dance.

Pete's 50th last weekend. Great Ceilidh.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Swords into ploughshares

Matador!, originally uploaded by ccgd.

A short piece on Radio Scotland recently made me think of these old ex-military vehicles, sitting in the Black Isle field. It was nothing to do with trucks, or tractors, but the phrases and the tones took me back forty years - "young marines" "RPG round" "fire from the treeline" "hearts and minds" "wounds and comrades" and so on.

Of course it was a radio report from Afghanistan, about 42 or 45 commando, and their war in Helmand Province. It was of particular interest as my nephew was in Camp Bastion at the time, doing his tour as a Marine Doctor. (Home safe and well now).

But the words and phrases of the radio report could have been from Vietnam in 1969, not 2009. It's what was on the morning radio, every day, when I was 10, almost word for word, just the accent and marines nationality changed.

But the Highlands and Islands of 2009 are a quite different place to that of 1969, when these old WW2 vintage vehicles were so much a part of the forestry and haulage industry. Now they are museum pieces.

But I wonder if in 40 years time the same words will still be said on news pieces about young marines, and their current war, somewhere else in the world.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

The barbican

The barbican, originally uploaded by ccgd.

I spent most of last week in darkest London - and it was dark and grey, covered with a misty series of low clouds.

I spent a couple of days at the Barbcan Centre, a strange mixture of arts, commerce and grey grey buildings.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009


Morning, originally uploaded by ccgd.

Murial Gray made an interesting comment in the Sunday Herald - she asked "why are we always so surprised when the morning and evenings stretch in February and March (or words to that effect)".

Why indeed? It's a common discussion point in offices, homes and when out for my morning walk along the beach and Shore Street. I suspect it because the speed of the change at this time of year, and the fact that after a couple of cloudy grey days - where everything is bland and dull - a morning such as the one above makes just a little bit more impact on all your senses.