Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Throwing grass and letting go in the Hebrides

Luskentyre, Harris

Harris, in the Outer hebrides.

My favourite place in the world.

I went for just four days, determined to do very little other than walk, write and take some photos.

I was thinking all the while about ways to do very little, or as I thought of it 'practically nothing'.

I found a few ways.

Collecting shells on the beach was my first.

On Scarista beach I collected sea urchin fragments. They reminded me of Paul Kenny's work, 'Heaven or Las Vegas', Ross strand, Mayo, 2008, shown below.

Why so rectangular, when a sea urchin is round, I kept thinking.


My fragments were less varied in colour.

homage to Paul Kenny, 2019

I photographed them on my notebook and then dissembled the arrangement, not wanting to copy Paul's work.

I found a number of sheep with lambs to talk to.

lamb and ewe, Harris 2019

My favourite was this brown one.

We had a good chat, eye to eye.

I said more than she did.

I revisited all of my favourite beaches.

I had forgotten how white the sand is, and how clear the water.

Such a sense of space and freedom.

Luskentyre, Harris 2019

And when I had tired of walking on sand, I decided to explore the old coffin road that crosses the island from west to east.

Coffin Road, Harris

By this time I was so good at doing practically nothing that I started to play a little.

I searched for circles of lichen on rocks, but the rocks were mostly unappealing.

Still trying to do nothing in particular I waited for three o'clock.

It came.

I walked on, and was soon drawn to some curling grasses by the roadside.

I pulled some and held it, trying to photograph the curling blades with the road ahead.

Then I threw some into the air to catch the wind.

It flew.

I tried to throw and capture it on my camera; not easy with one hand.

I failed over and over.

But the very act of throwing gave more pleasure than I care to admit.

Finally I managed, just once,  to catch a tendril before it fell.

throwing grass, Harris , 2019

Somehow this one photograph captures everything that I was feeling.... a sense of freedom and lightness.

It is my favourite image from the trip.

Later I wrote some words to accompany it.

First I tried typing a note on my typewriter. There is no option to change and edit as one writes with a typewriter, so the first draft is quite spontaneous.

Later I revisited these thoughts and tried some different words in my notebook, writing and re-writing, playing with verbs.

I call them 'Letting Go'.

Letting go

throwing grass

pulling skywards
throwing windwards






Finding ways to do nothing was a good way to spend a few days.

I won't leave it so long before I go back next time.

Northton, Harris

Monday, 15 April 2019

getting away from it all in the highlands of Scotland

I am on holiday for just a few days, with myself.

OH (my other half) has business to do in China, and I am not invited. He is going with his 'team'.

That means he can be as naughty as he chooses in my absence, and myself and I will try, but probably fail, to be equally naughty.

So for me, a trip to the highlands. The Hebrides via Inverness.

I started with a night near Inverness airport, as flight schedules to Stornaway did not allow otherwise.

The hotel was on a dual carriageway next to Carpetright and a few gorse bushes.

I thought you would prefer to see the gorse.

gorse bush, Inverness

I arrived in Inverness late at night and jumped into a taxi to my hotel.

The taxi driver was meant to be picking someone else up, but he couldn't be bothered to wait for her, so took me instead. As we neared my hotel, the pre-arranged pick-up passenger called him on his phone. He pretended he didn't understand, and she told him she would get the bus.

I felt sorry for her.

And for myself, just relief to be at my hotel; always apprehensive as a single female alone in an unknown taxi when no one knows where I am.

The driver cleaned me out of all my cash, and I disappeared upstairs to bed.

I awoke this morning to sunshine, and a feeling of  happiness at a few days with no particular plans.

I wrote a poem in my notebook about the futility of worrying, had a very good breakfast, and then headed out for a walk and to look for some cash to get me on the bus back to the airport.

OH might have reprimanded me at this point for not having enough cash.

I decided that looking of a cash point was a valid way to spend an hour on a sunny morning..... in such a scenic part of town. And if all else failed, and the bus driver didn't take a card, I still had time to phone for a taxi driver who would.

I headed off down the road lined by car salesrooms that led into town.

It was a colourful route, full of flags and balloons.

The air was fresh and felt extraordinarily clean.

I saw a sign ahead for a petrol station, and was hopeful of a cashpoint.

closed petrol station

Silly me.

This is Scotland, and every single shop is closed on Sundays. As were the car showrooms.

Which made for a very peaceful stroll.

I felt calm and happy despite my urban environment.

I was on my way to one of my favourite places in the world, the island of Harris in the outer Hebrides.

Next I passed Fraser signs.

I was taken by their logo. Mountains and water.... clearly they share my values.

Just not my looks. Or gender.

I couldn't help taking a couple of photos of litter.... plastic trapped in a tree that was about to burst into bud.

But I also found some dandelions and blossom just to show you that I don't only think about litter.

All of this life on an industrial estate.

I got to wondering about how we choose and filter what to show of where we have been.

You may be expecting some artistic photos, that being my passion. But today I choose to show you a bit of real life. Balloons and all.

I could have left out the cars and the bank.

A bank! I hear you exclaim. You found one?

Yes, reader, I found one, hiding next to an old factory.

Happy was I.

I had just begun to give up hope.

Jack fills up with cash

Jack and I stacked up on cash, and it was time to get back to catch that bus.

The worry was over.

the worry was over

And the bus was dead on time.

I made my way to the airport in the morning sunshine, via Tesco and Tornagrain, a new housing estate trying to look like Poundbury.  Brand new houses styled on very old houses and a couple of brand new empty shops.

'a community in the making...' say the developers.
It hasn't happened yet.

I was intensely jealous for a moment of the lady sitting on the bus reading 'Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine'. It is such a wonderful, unputdownable read. And how come she can read sitting sideways on a bus?  She is a very lucky lady.

I didn't eat at Inverness airport, as I knew the flight might be a bit bumpy.

That was a bit of a mistake, for on arrival in Stornaway airport I remembered that they take Sunday very seriously.

The chiller  cabinet was bare.

And the coffee shop closed.

no food on Sundays in Stornaway airport

I could have done with a sandwich whilst waiting for my hire car.  Irn bru and a Crunchie was not going to do.  I am not that naughty.

But I was calm and happy. Queuing with myself is a perfectly pleasant experience.

 ..... 30 minutes in the queue, 5 customers in front of me, and not a single comment from anyone about how scandalous the wait was. Not a fidget or glance exchanged from anyone.

Everyone so delighted to be in the Hebrides that there was no need to get agitated.

I was last in the queue; a situation that might be frowned upon by certain people...

The wait provided me with time to photograph the dining facilities, to study a town map of Stornaway, and book a table for dinner.

As I said, when travelling with myself, everything is rosy.

And instead of heading out on the road to explore the local area, I slobbed around town, inspected the local fishing nets, drank some tea, had a shower and enjoyed my warm and comfortable accommodation.

arrival at Stornaway airport.

For I am on holiday.

And tomorrow is another day.


I'll leave you with some Hebridean trees from Lews Castle.

There are not many trees in the Outer Hebrides, so I felt compelled to record their presence.

Thursday, 11 April 2019

my new ( old) Olivetti typewriter

olivetti lettera 22

Now here's a choice.

New dress or old typewriter?

Guess which I chose......

Meet Olive Etty. My new friend. She comes from George Blackman typewriter repair shop in Bexhill, and is a dainty little Lettera 22 from Olivetti.

Designed in 1950 by Marcello Nizzoli, she is classic enough to find a place at MOMA, and light enough to carry from place to place.

She has a tidy zip case, and a very delightful yellowed plastic cover.

Why a typewriter?

I hear you ask.

OH (my other half) has been less than enthusiastic, informing me that it will be a two week wonder.

To which I replied that it has already, in just three days,  given me much more pleasure than any dress that cost the same amount ever could.

Added to which

  • it was already on the planet, just going to a new home
  • I have wanted one for ages
  • It has many advantages over a laptop for the purpose of writing.

Just ask Tom Hanks..... he has over a hundred, and has written a book about them.

He has also made a typewriter app, which I have enjoyed in the past, but not in the same way as hitting those keys and seeing real ink on a real page, smudges, mistakes and all.

It is the physicality that appeals.

Mistakes are glaringly obvious and the smudges are apparently due to there being too much ink on modern day ribbons. I have to keep typing until the ribbon gets less inky, and then I can make something a bit more sophisticated.

And there is more.

No wires. No power required.

No software updates. No flat batteries.

And as others have said, 'all it can do is write'.

No worries about what font to use or whether my sleep will be disturbed from too much screen time.

No temptation to check my emails or look up words on the internet, leading me down a rabbit hole of exploration.

No. It just writes.

Mostly drivel, but that's my fault.

And how wonderful to have a key for 1/4 and 1/3...... I am sure there must be a use for those if only I can think of one.

So what will I write?

It doesn't really matter.

Time will tell.


And if I can't think what to say, I'll do some therapeutic key bashing.

olivetti lettera typeface