Saturday, 25 August 2007


Many fine works off art are in the Pier Gallery in Stromness, Orkney (see adjacent accompanying post below).

The exhibition was entitled North Light - Cynosure. Cynosure comes from the Greek word meaning dog's tail and refers to the Lesser Bear (Ursa Minor) constellation containing the Pole Star (North Star). This is the star that mariners steer by. The word has come to mean anything that strongly attracts attention or admiration.

Many pieces in the exhibition related to light especially watery light. Others were strong on colour. The one I liked the best covered all of one wall in a 15' x 10' room. It was called The Colour Spectrum Series 2005 by Olafur Eliasson and can be seen here. It was described as "an essay on light and colour". As can be seen from his website this work of art is a series of rectangular shapes aligned in rows and columns.

Thinking about Art then, if a picture is in an art gallery, it must be 'art'. That is One End of the Spectrum! This little colour study is 'way along the other end!

I took this photo about 6 pm in the evening several weeks ago en route down West Nile Street at the alley between Sauchiehall Street and Bath Street in Glasgow. It was the sign that caught my eye! I think it refers to a pub in the lane.

If a frame was put around it could you call it 'art'?!

The Other End of the Spectrum

Friday, 24 August 2007


This art gallery in Stromness, Orkney with its northern outlook was founded as a home for an art collection built up by Margaret Gardiner in the 1930s and 40s. It was she who donated the nucleus of the collection and includes works by Ben Nicholson and Barbara Hepworth.

There is always a changing programme of local, national and international exhibitions and events, details of which can be obtained here.

The adjacent post focuses on one artist, Olafur Eliasson, whose work The Colour Spectrum Series 2005 featured in the current exhibition called North Light - Cynosure.

It's a building that works. The light comes in through different shaped windows and the then the light from the gallery, as well as the viewer's eye, goes out on to the Stromness waterfront.

The gallery re-opened July 7, 2007 after a two-and-a-half-year closure. They applied for - and won - more than £4.5 million of funding from the Scottish Arts Council and Heritage Lottery Funds, from the European Union and from Orkney Islands Council. The result - designed by architect Neil Gillespie - is a gallery that leaves the original building intact and links it to the building next door. The whole thing is just beautiful!

Wednesday, 22 August 2007


Farewell to Stromness is a piano piece written in 1980 by Peter Maxwell Davies for The Yellow Cake Revue. It was written to oppose the planned uranium mining in the Orkneys. 'Yellow cake' was the term for refined uranium ore. Stromness would have been two miles from the uranium mine's core and the centre most threatened by pollution.

Master of the Queen's Music, he was born in 1934 in Oldham, England. He went on holiday in the Orkneys in 1970 and, by chance, met the writer George Mackay Brown, whose book, An Orkney Tapestry, had captivated him. "I was entranced by the book," says Davies, "this whole feeling of the place being part of a legend - something that is alive in people's minds, is part of a great continuum and ritualises the everyday life of the islands. George loved it all so much and his descriptions of place are so alive."

In his autobiography, For the Islands I Sing, Mackay Brown recorded his first impressions of Davies: "The young dark composer - Beethoven in his 20s might have looked like him - told us he was looking for a house to compose in, as far away as possible from London... Did he guess at the loveliness under the wrappings of rain and fog? The boom and hush and echo of the sea were everywhere."

Davies is an intellectual, complete, self-conscious, uncompromising in his rejection of pop and pap. There are two books in the loo: a collected Chaucer and the Oxford History of English Literature (second edition). The shelves in his living room are challenging, varied: Dante's Divine Comedy (a lifelong love), Goethe's Theory of Colours, Edwin Muir's Selected Poems, Birds and Mammals of Orkney, The Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, A Gaelic Grammar. He is an obsessive reader - in German, French and Italian, as well as English.

Painting of the composer which is hanging (on an upper wall) in the very beautiful and well appointed Kirkwall Public Library.

Davies's real battles were at school. "Moorside Council School and Leigh Grammar were awful," he says. "The headmaster at Leigh Grammar was not interested in allowing me to do music. I did it, didn't tell him and got a scholarship [to Manchester]." Davies, who had been playing the piano from the age of five, taught himself A-level music and stunned the examiners by demonstrating that he had memorised not only Beethoven's violin concerto but all the symphonies too.

"Max recognizes that there is a profound spiritual core in music making," says the Scottish Catholic composer James MacMillan.

"When you have a creative urge, you can't stop writing. You don't have to have a reason to write; you just fulfill your own needs. Players seem to enjoy playing the pieces."

I adore this piece. Given to me by my music teacher, it just works. It is often played on Classic FM radio and once when I heard it (painting with Mairi and John late one evening) I commented that whoever was playing it was playing it too slowly. Oops!.... When it was finished the radio announcer said "Farewell to Stromness as played by the composer himself."

Text from article "Sounds and Silence" by Stephen Moss, The Guardian, Saturday June 19, 2004.

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Sunday, 19 August 2007


While in Orkney we went out for a sail to one of the smaller islands, Stronsay, and were joined by friends on their boat Arctica. They had come up north through the Caledonian Canal. We tied up together alongside the pier. For company we had a family of guillemots inhabiting in the rock wall opposite.

The pier leads out to the Kirkwall ferry which ties up here for the night. The crew sleep aboard. We had an evening walk exploring - a rather grey place with odd derelict structures that must have been something to do with fishing. Anyhow, in the morning we were awakened by the ferry revving up at 7:00 am getting ready for their 7:30 am departure. I popped out into the cockpit in my pyjamas to replace the flagstaff in the stern bracket (as it was 'dawn' and I am 'Keeper of the Flags') to find parked opposite us on the pier .... a red Bugatti sportscar!

Nothing for it but a quick change and I leapt ashore to have a chat with the owner. And as I am trying to get the scoop on who he is and is this part of a fleet of Classic cars (no...) three monks come flip-flopping along in their sandles, black robes, with their beads and backpacks. Eh????

The ferry guys standing on the ramp were having a good laugh at all of this! (Well, I mean, if THEY had a Bugatti parked on the pier - as you do! - I would be chatting them up, wouldn't I?)

Off-at-a-tangent? The very smart Bugatti website here has lots of photos (from which this one is taken).

Friday, 17 August 2007


Bowling Harbour sea-lock sluice gates filling - a close-up. (Background setting in adjacent post.)


Peter's been to the Faroes, we've been to the Orkneys and Iain, with various crew, has been making his southings down the West Coast visiting his old haunts. Peter has lots of tales of adventure, adversity and drama on the high seas! Iain has all his stories of visiting his many 'cousins'!

Entering the sea-lock of the Forth and Clyde canal. Bowling Harbour is the western end and opens into the Clyde.

Keeping her here is the closest Iain is ever going to get to having a boat moored at the end of the garden. This location is 5 miles west of where we live which means we can pop down to do chores or socialize day or night.

Still in place are the large cleats from days gone by when this was a very busy area.

Out of view of the above scene was another scene. Gliding silently up-river, behind the large bushy oak trees on the edge of basin was a brand new Royal Navy destroyer [new type 45 built by BAE Systems]. On deck were masses of people which means it must have been out for sea-trials and was now returning to the shipyard. To me she looked like the Jolly Giant's Christmas present of a kit of grey Lego!

Good grief! There is a video of it here! It IS a Lego kit!


Has a puzzle been solved? Karen over on Cornflower was trying to source the following quotation:

"The wonder of the world, the beauty and the power, the shapes of things, their colours, lights, and shades; these I saw. Look ye also while life lasts."

The reason for the search is explained here and here. Being related to a walking dictionary (Iseabail) and walking encyclopedia-cum-book-ferret (John) I thought they'd enjoy the challenge! Too right! John sourced* it - word for word!

The text is chiseled into a large memorial wall for Alexander Morton (1844-1924) which is located in Darvel, East Ayrshire, Scotland. He was a Victorian industrialist who built up a textile industry. His biography is here. The wall is on the side of the road, on the west side of Darvel, adjacent to where he lived, not in a cemetery. It seems it was erected in 1927 and BB's [see footnotes] first book was 1938 so it could fit.

The inscription appears along the top of the wall under the coping stones and starts on the left-hand side.

Text under figure on left edge reads: Erected by public subscription

Text under the bust reads: Alexander Morton who led this valley to industrial fame and prosperity

Compare this text with lines from Fra Lippo Lippi by Robert Browning (1812-1889):

"You speak no Latin more than I, belike; However, you're my man, you've seen the world -- The beauty and the wonder and the power, The shapes of things, their colours, lights and shades, Changes, surprises, -- and God made it all!"

So ... more questions! Who is the author of the inscription on the Alexander Morton Memorial? Is this the reference to which the author 'BB' referred when he stated "his father copied them from a north country tombstone"?

* AQA (Any Questions Answered)- text them a question on 63336. Cost £1.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * FOOTNOTES * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

April 2014 in answer to a comment about the source of the poem in the inscription:  By chance I came across this memorial 6 years ago. I do not know anything in particular about it, i.e. other than what I looked up as written above.  This is not a relative; indeed, I had never heard of this person.    

In case it is missing there is a published comment below which states "Alexander Morton was my great great grandfather and my father tells me Alexander's motto was [the aforementioned] Watkins-Pitchford's poem ."

 Yet above, I mentioned that Watkins-Pitchford's son stated that he copied them from a north country tombstone.  By that I would have thought he meant Yorkshire, Northumberland or Cumbria and not Scotland.

I should have mentioned above that Denys Watkins-Pitchford "wrote under the nom de plume of 'BB', a name based on the size of lead shot he used to shoot geese."  [Wikipedia]    

Monday, 13 August 2007


Given that taking photos is about doing what you can with what you have, gems can emerge from the most ordinary of situations!

Wee Ishbel and I feed the ducks on Kilmardinny Loch. Between chucking bits of bread to the geese, coots, mallards and swans, and using the small Sony digi, I took this photo. (The big camera is away for repair as She-Who-Shall-Be-Nameless dropped it).

It is 9:30 in the morning in early August. For the record, the original photo [below] is untouched.

Working with digital photographs is great fun a experimenting with Photoshop software is simply amazing! It is so-o-o sophisticated! However, the problem with Art is that it is totally unscientific! I couldn't possibly repeat this experiment!

Furthermore, these exercises raise more questions than they answer. Why are certain colours highlighted in the Arty Photo and others not? If these colours can be saved in a colour palette maybe there is something here worth following ... off-at-a-(another)-tangent!

Friday, 10 August 2007


Ish is now 7 months old and just loves to be out, out ... OUT! So putting the day 'On Hold' for an hour in the early evening is very pleasant when one can wait in the Botanic Gardens where it is full of people going home after a glorious, sunny day. Wee Ish just couldn't keep her eyes open after a day at Nursery and so missed the Herb Garden's offerings.

This mauve star-shaped flowering plant in the Herb Garden is a flower often used to garnish gourmet dishes in expensive restaurants. Lovely colour - don't know the species! (In our household, it is classified in the "Get a Life" category!)

A regular stop is to pause on the hill to our house and pay a visit to Adam-Next-Door's garden. This lovely Lavateria is a joy to the eye every time we emerge from our porch door.

Tuesday, 7 August 2007


Not a betting person, I just couldn't let this one go by ...

Aboard a Very Big Yacht chatting to MVBY (Man with Very Big Yacht) the conversation turned to things Norwegian. "Yes" says MVBY "Greig was a wonderful composer with many pieces, e.g. Anitra's Dance, Morning and, also, Farewell to Ashokan." Ouch! Edvard Greig wrote many fine works, but NOT Ashokan Farewell. "A-hem ... excuse me but ... er, Greig did not write Ashokan Farewell". "Yes, he did." "No, he didn't." "Did." "Didnay." "Betcha £10 he did!" Being on extremely firm ground here - The Handshake.

Guess who won?

It is here as a video with Jay Ungar, the American composer, speaking about how he came to write it.

Click below to hear an American blue grass band playing it. (More coming, i.e. Amy on the fiddle, when the technology learning curve levels off a bit!)

Friday, 3 August 2007


The news is good - life is returning for a very ill lady.