Friday, 31 July 2009

Willow Sculpture and the Retreat

Near the head of Glen Esk at Tarfside is The Retreat . It houses the Glenesk Folk Museum, a gift shop, a restaurant/tea room, a communtity room and an exhibition area. They've spent a few bob over the last wee while, around £800,000 I believe. The community purchased the buildings in 2004.

The Retreat was the brainchild of Greta Michie and was originally set up in 1955. A local school teacher, Greta was inspired by visiting Scandanavian Folk Museums, principally in Norway. The idea was to give employment to local women and children in the glen through the sale of local produce and crafts. Back in the good ol' days, it was still possible to sell stuff like local honey, jam, butter, eggs and home baking. Unfortunately, those who claim to KNOW BETTER have consigned these delights to the past. Health and F****** Saftety and all that.
That aside, as I was driving down the glen, I was struck by the fine willow sculpture of a stag
outside the Retreat. A little bit of Googling and I discovered that the sculptor was Trevor Leat and that he created this last summer for the Retreat. He also does work for the Wickerman Festival and the Edinburgh Hogmanay celebrations. Lots of his stuff gets burnt. Not by outraged punters I hasten to add, but on purpose. You can see some burnings on the link below. There's also some interesting stuff about him and his collaborator at

For anyone interested, is a useful guide and has some good links.
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Monday, 27 July 2009

Heelan' Coos and Toffee

How's that for an iconic Scottish image? Found these braw beasties up Glen Esk last week. But for any Scottish laddie my age there's only one image that springs to mind when you see these beasts......McCowans Highland Toffee.

Magical stuff, though as boys we never managed to buy it by the box load. It would've been a penny chew back then. After chewing half way through it, it would have been carelessly re-wrapped and stuffed in your pooch (pocket), only to be extracted at a later time to be finished off. Only problem was that by this time it would be invariably covered in fluff, bits of string and the general debris to be found in a boys pocket. Just made it taste all the better though.

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Sunday, 26 July 2009

Glen Esk

On Friday I had to make a visit to Glen Esk through work. (A tough job, but someone's gotta do it). The house I had to go to was the third last up the glen. In other words it was the end of the road. I'd never actually been that far up before and all I can say is that it was beautiful.

Driving back down the glen I came across this lovely little church, literally in the middle of nowhere. I missed it on the way up.

Above pic shows the view down the glen from the churchyard.

What really struck me was the unusual stonework. I don't think I've come across this kind of pattern before. The stone looks like granite.

Or perhaps a mix of different stones. Cool or what?

I just loved this doorway and alcove, the main entrance into the church. Unfortunately, the interior didn't really match up to the outside promise..... can't have it all I s'pose.

It's so nice to find something like this when you don't expect it. Such a serene spot and a beautiful building.

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Friday, 24 July 2009

Summery skies

Scottish summer skies. Took these from Dunnichen looking towards Craichie on Wednesday evening. The slate grey clouds seem to have been a feature of our skies this summer. Not surprisingly we had a lovely thunderstorm that night.

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Thursday, 23 July 2009

Margaret Atwood


You wake up filled with dread.
There seems no reason for it.
Morning light sifts through the window,
there is birdsong,
you can't get out of bed.

It's something about the crumpled sheets
hanging over the edge like jungle
foliage, the terry slippers gaping
their dark pink mouths for your feet,
the unseen breakfast--some of it
in the refrigerator you do not dare
to open--you do not dare to eat.

What prevents you? The future. The future tense,
immense as outer space.
You could get lost there.
No. Nothing so simple. The past, its destiny
and drowned events pressing you down,
like sea water, like gelatin
filling your lungs instead of air.

Forget that and let's get up.
Try moving your arm.
Try moving your head.
Pretend the house is on fire
and you must run or burn.
No, that one's useless.
It's never worked before.

Where is it coming from, this echo,
this huge No that surrounds you,
silent as the folds of the yellow
curtains, mute as the cheerful

Mexican bowl with its cargo
of mummified flowers?
(You chose the colours of the sun,
not the dried neutrals of shadow.
God knows you've tried.)

Now here's a good one:
You're lying on your deathbed.
You have one hour to live.
Who is it, exactly, you have needed
all these years to forgive?

Margaret Atwood 1939 -

Monday, 20 July 2009


One of my favourite spots around Forfar Loch is this secluded little path on the north shore. It was raining on Saturday and I was quite taken with this puddle and the reflection of the leaves..... as you can see.

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Saturday, 18 July 2009

Dog Shit Bins

In an effort to combine Scenic Sunday with a specific request from a fellow blogger who may wish to remain anonymous, I'm posting these pics of dog shit bins.
Now I'm aware that for some of you, this may not be the most tasteful subject for Scenic Sunday, but nevertheless, I feel it's important not to underestimate the importance of dog shit bins. Without these vital receptacles we'd all be ankle deep in canine faeces.
Furthermore, I'd like to point out the lengths I went to in order to find the most Scenic dog shit bin I could. I think you'll agree that given the difficult subject 'matter', the bottom pic is quite possibly one of the most tranquil and beautiful spots for a dog shit bin..... unless of course, you know better!

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True Faith

If I were the kind of person who made lists, this would be in my top five songs and vids of all time. But I'm not, so it's not....

Crank up the volume and enjoy four minutes of genius.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Driving into the Sky

The top pic shows the view as you approach the summit of the Bealach Na Ba, the highest mountain pass in the UK. Not the best quality as it's taken from inside the car on the move. Second pic shows one of the cairns near the summit and the view to the east. The pass reaches over 2,000 feet at the summit. Strongly reccommended to those who have never driven over it......but not for the faint hearted.

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Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Uncle Rupert

When the circus came to town, Little Billy's mother thought it would be good for her and Little Billy to spend some time together, being as how she was a single, widowed, working mother who rarely had time for her only son since her husband passed away three years hence.
Little Billy was tense with excitement and anticipation as the circus animals and performers of various types paraded though town upon their arrival. On the third day that the circus was in town, Little Billy's mother got the night off of work and finally took him to the only event that had occupied his little mind for so many hours, so many days.
Little Billy squealed with delight at the specatcle of the elephants,the acrobats and the fire jugglers. He especially loved the clowns. That is, until he was approached by one of the clowns who asked him: "Little boy, are you the head of an ass?" Bewildered, Little Billy answered "no". And so the clown asked, "little boy, are you the rear-end of an ass?" Little Billy again,perplexed, answered, "no". "Well then!!!", exclaimed the clown, "you must be no end of an ass!!!"
Poor Little Billy!! He broke into tears and ran all the way home! Little Billy's mother stood up and angrily shouted at the clown, "How dare you?? Tomorrow you will learn a lesson when I bring the child's Uncle Rupert, the Master of Backchat and Witty Repartee!!"
Later that night, Little Billy's mother consoled the poor boy. "Tomorrow, we'll return to the circus, but we'll bring your Uncle Rupert, the master of Backchat and Witty Repatee!" "You mean it mommy!? Uncle Rupert, master of Backchat and Witty Repartee will come with us??" "Yes Little Billy. I promise to ring Uncle Rupert, master of Backchat and Witty Repartee!"
The next night, Little Billy went back to the circus, accompanied by his mother and his uncle Rupert, Master of Backchat and Witty Repartee. Little Billy loved the elepants, the acrobats and the fire jugglers, but was fearful this time of the clowns.
That is, until he was approached by a clown who asked: "Little boy, are you the head of an ass?" At that moment, Uncle Rupert, Master of Backchat and Witty Repartee rose to his feet, pointed at the clown and shouted, at the top of his lungs, ......


Monday, 13 July 2009

Times are hard

Which cup would you put money in.......?

Saturday, 11 July 2009


It's that time of year....strawberries. They're everywhere you look.
Although things have changed now. It used to be that this was the ONLY time of year you saw strawberries. But really, you can get them all year round now. Which I think is quite sad. It kind of negates the specialness of summertime.
When I was but a slip of a lad, my mother would take my brother and I up to the fields north of the village where I grew up and we'd spend the afternoon picking fresh strawberries for her. We had to choose only the best, big ripe juicy berries for her, and of course this was done whilst simultaneously stuffing our faces with as many as we could stomach.
Then we'd lug them home and the following day my mother would get the 'jeely pan' out and the jam making would commence.
The'jeely pan' was an enormous pot about 2 feet in diameter into which the prepared berries and large quantities of sugar were emptied. After much boiling and bubbling, the jam would be considered ready to cool and my brother and I treated to huge slabs of buttered bread with the 'skimmings' of the cooling jam.
Just writing this brings back the incredible taste of summer.....
It also brings to mind that intense poem of Edwin Morgans'.....


There were never strawberries
like the ones we had
that sultry afternoon
sitting on the step
of the open french window
facing each other
your knees held in mine
the blue plates in our laps
the strawberries glistening
in the hot sunlight
we dipped them in sugar
looking at each other
not hurrying the feast
for one to come
the empty plates
laid on the stone together
with the two forks crossed
and I bent towards you
sweet in that air

in my arms
abandoned like a child
from your eager mouth
the taste of strawberries
in my memory
lean back again
let me love you

let the sun beat
on our forgetfulness
one hour of all
the heat intense
and summer lightning
on the Kilpatrick hills

let the storm wash the plates

-- Edwin Morgan 1920 -

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Forfar rooftops

I was scrolling through my pics on my pc half an hour ago looking for something to post for SF. I looked up out of the window and thought, there's my pic and went upstairs and took these from my bedroom window. The lazy man's photography.


Softly, in the dusk, a woman is singing to me;
Taking me back down the vista of years, till I see
A child sitting under the piano, in the boom of the tingling strings
And pressing the small, poised feet of a mother who smiles as she sings.
In spite of myself, the insidious mastery of song
Betrays me back, till the heart of me weeps to belong
To the old Sunday evenings at home, with winter outside
And hymns in the cosy parlour, the tinkling piano our guide.

So now it is vain for the singer to burst into clamour
With the great black piano appassionato. The glamour
Of childish days is upon me, my manhood is cast
Down in the flood of remembrance, I weep like a child for the past.

D. H. Lawrence 1885-1930

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Wednesday, 8 July 2009


Took these pics last weekend. I don't know what type of bush or shrub that is. If anyone knows.....?
It's in my garden and flowers miraculously over the space of a few weeks then just as quickly dies away. As soon as it flowers, the bees appear just as miraculously and they absolutely love it. The whole bush was swarming with them when I took these.
I'm growing to like bees, never used to. Still hate wasps though.....

Sylvia Plath - The Arrival Of The Bee Box

I ordered this, clean wood box
Square as a chair and almost too heavy to lift.
I would say it was the coffin of a midget
Or a square baby
Were there not such a din in it.

The box is locked, it is dangerous.
I have to live with it overnight
And I can't keep away from it.
There are no windows, so I can't see what is in there.
There is only a little grid, no exit.

I put my eye to the grid.
It is dark, dark,
With the swarmy feeling of African hands
Minute and shrunk for export,
Black on black, angrily clambering.

How can I let them out?
It is the noise that appalls me most of all,
The unintelligible syllables.
It is like a Roman mob,
Small, taken one by one, but my god, together!

I lay my ear to furious Latin.
I am not a Caesar.
I have simply ordered a box of maniacs.
They can be sent back.
They can die, I need feed them nothing, I am the owner.

I wonder how hungry they are.
I wonder if they would forget me
If I just undid the locks and stood back and turned into a tree.
There is the laburnum, its blond colonnades,
And the petticoats of the cherry.

They might ignore me immediately
In my moon suit and funeral veil.
I am no source of honey
So why should they turn on me?
Tomorrow I will be sweet God, I will set them free.

The box is only temporary.

Sylvia Plath 1932-1963

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Lost In Translation

Ok, this has been troubling me for a while now. I finally got round to watching Lost In Traslation a couple of weeks ago now. I fully realise that it's taken me a while, and that I'm not bang up to date with my movies. But there you go.
So I enjoyed the movie. Thought both Bill Murray and Scarlett Johanssen were excellent. I'd liked Sofia Coppola's only other film The Virgin Suicides too.
Prior to watching Lost in Translation I'd never read any reviews and during its release was obviously blissfully aware of any hype surrounding it, so I just took it as it came.
Anyhow, over the last week or so I kept thinking about the whisper......

For those of you who haven't seen the movie, look away now, as they say.

Those of you who have know exactly what I'm talking about.
So tonight I'm thinking about it.....the whisper that is. And I decide to google 'Lost in Translation'.
And what comes up? ...... about 45 million pages for 'the whisper'.
It wasn't just me then! Sofia Coppola obviously knew what she was doing.
I never read any of them, so I'm still in the dark......

But I just wanted to ask anybody else who might be in a position the same as I'm in..... what do you think he whispered to her?

Monday, 6 July 2009

Silver and blue

Nice clean lines of the new ish Arbroath visitor centre and restaurant.

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