2001 Panoramas at Ethie Woods, Angus

I took most of these pictures at Ethie Woods near Arbroath in Angus Scotland in 2001. Some were taken in our home in Arbroath. The camera was a Russian ‘Horizont’. this was a panoramic camera that used a swinging 28mm lens on 35mm film. The images were interesting but not really sharp. This was partly because the 28mm lens was not that sharp anyway, but also because the film had to be held in a curve so that it registered with the focal plane of the rotating lens. This was somewhat beyond the Russian technology of the day and since the lens could not be stopped down to reduce the consequences of this, the images suffered.

I sold the camera after a short while, but looking back, the somewhat soft-focus effect was really attractive in its own right.

 

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Arbroath January 1972

Arbroath January 1972 . I was living in the house at 9 East Grimsby. My Dad had died the previous year and I was still struggling with it.  But I had a few things going for me: music, a camera and my books. It wasn’t a lot but it helped.

Russ Black, the art teacher at school encouraged me to use its darkroom. I had lost my own a couple of years before when we moved house. This is one of the earliest rolls I still have from then.

The camera was a Leica Model III fitted with a Ross Xtralux 50mm f2, an excellent lens. I used the name ‘Xtralux’ for a band some years later, in Exeter. Film was Ilford FP3.

Poaching the River: A riotous yarn about life in a small Scottish fishing village not a long way from Arbroath…

West Coast Road trip with Charis

This was a crazy trip in which the weather did all but defeat us. But we still had fun.

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Adventures in Scotland with Big Sye and his rascal chums! Poaching the River.

Maryhill, Glasgow, May 1974

Maryhill, the poor part of Glasgow’s West End, in 1974, was a different world. Looking back on these pictures, 45 years later, I am still moved. When I came to the Philippines first, a kind but unaware French friend told me that I would see poverty such as I had never seen before. I had not the heart to tell him; I had seen worse.

Yet on the other hand I have so many memories of Maryhill and most of them are good. I was never robbed, beaten up or threatened there. Nobody ever asked if I was a Catholic or a Protestant — a question I would get used to later. People were poor, yes, many had no shoes; but they had community and mutual respect. I see that today in the Philippines. We lost a great deal when we lost that.

Grip: How to hold the fiddle and bow

Grip the fiddle and bow photo
Grip the fiddle and bow so that the bow crosses the strings at a right angle

Once you have the grip of the instrument under the chin sorted out, the next thing to address is the right hand’s grip on the bow. This can cause a great deal of trouble though in my opinion is not as tricky as the left hand. Again, the secret is to avoid tension; the hand must be relaxed. To do this, all four fingers and the thumb must be in contact with the stick, and all must be curved. This is hugely important. The most common grip errors are for the little or pinkie finger to lock and become straight and rigid. Do not allow this to happen. Another is for the pinkie to lift off the stick, which is also wrong. More subtle and harder to see but just as damaging is for the thumb to become stiff.


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Schadenfreude

My my my, wonders will never cease. The devastatingly lacklustre leader of ‘Scottish’ Labour, Johann Lamont – she of the genetic ‘lack of programming’ to make important decisions – has resigned.

Not before time, one might well respond, and that would seem, on the face of it, fair. Yet it appears from her resignation statement that some of her lack of visibility during Independence Referendum One (oh, there will be more, do not fret) was not due to incompetence but to the fact that she was being told what to say by London and resented it. That she waited this long to act on her resentment makes her parting words seem rather like crocodile tears; but those are the only ones that will be shed over her doffing the Poisoned Crown, so we ought not to be too harsh.

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Seumus the dog: a tale of three pies and a pint

A long time ago, when I was a young lad, I had the acquaintance of a dog called Seumus.

Now Seumus was of, shall we say, indeterminate lineage. There seemed to be a fair bit of black Labrador in there, but it was mixed with some distinctly non-pedigree characteristics, including a tail that curled over his back. When Seumus was feeling full of himself, he carried this high and showed to the world his anal sphincter. I’m sure that’s not in the Labrador breed book.

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Arbroath January 1972

Arbroath January 1972 . I was living in the house at 9 East Grimsby. My Dad had died the previous year and I was still struggling with it.  But I had a few things going for me: music, a camera and my books. It wasn’t a lot but it helped.

Russ Black, the art teacher at school encouraged me to use its darkroom. I had lost my own a couple of years before when we moved house. This is one of the earliest rolls I still have from then.

The camera was a Leica Model III fitted with a Ross Xtralux 50mm f2, an excellent lens. I used the name ‘Xtralux’ for a band some years later, in Exeter. Film was Ilford FP3.

Continue reading “Arbroath January 1972”

The Genie of Aspiration

genie-of-independenceThe thing about aspiration is that it’s a tough genie to get back into its bottle.

This must be the conclusion of any mythical, dispassionate, possibly extra-terrestrial viewer when examining the current state of political affairs in the disUnited Kingdom. Less than two years ago a referendum was held which was explicitly intended to slay the Scottish nationalist monster for once and for all — sentiments reflecting those of the spectacularly unforesightful George Robertson when this whole journey began and his party found itself obliged to offer Scots a parliament of their own. Yet the genie is far from banished and if anything is more bumptious than ever.

The ‘wee pretendy parliament’ just growed and growed and now its roars — if still distant and ill-understood — have begun to frighten the gentle people of the far south, the colonial overlords of the disUnited Kingdom. Yes, frighten: for the first time since Churchill sent tanks and troops to quell the people of Glasgow, the English establishment has been rattled by events in Scotland.

For them the Scots’ discontentment is a profound mystery, one which they will probably never grasp. For the southern English, the Union is indeed a great thing. It achieved most that it was intended to. It established a militarily secure platform upon which the British Project — to make the world England — could be built and for centuries that project was a success; the Anglo-Saxon patriarchy was spread across the globe by it, taking, somewhat unfortunately, all the prejudice and insecurity of the English middle class with it.

Then again, for the southern English — and not a few Scots who have joined them — London and the south-east of England is the finest place in the world to live. It is a land of fabulous opportunity where all one has to do is work hard and one’s personal streets will be paved with gold. And they are not mean with their largesse: why anyone, from whatever uncultivated backwater of the disUnited Kingdom, may move to London and there spend their days serving the Great British Project, to the betterment — so their apologists attest — of all. Why, look at the money these people can send back to their poor relatives still living in frightful places like Inverurie or Campbeltown.

And this arrangement ideally suits the southern English who are approaching the end of their working days. London’s economic primacy over the disUnited Kingdom means that they can sell their ridiculously overpriced two-bedroom maisonettes and with the money thus liberated, buy a manor in Dunkeld or Aberfeldy. After all, the poor indigenes of these places have not the resources to compete. And if they should complain, then they must come to London, where they may, after a lifetime of slavery to the British Project,  earn enough to buy homes for themselves in the places they were born and raised. That is the free market. Yes, the system is equitable and works for the benefit of all.

Look you, the English even build roads and railways so that the impoverished Scots can travel south to where they should be, and there serve the British Project. How could anyone complain or deny this generosity? Continue reading “The Genie of Aspiration”