Sunday, 8 January 2017

Hill of Fare and the Battle of Corrichie

Recently my wife and I went for a walk on the Hill of Fare. Despite having lived in Banchory for 4 years, and nearby for over 20 years, I'd never been on the Hill of Fare. 

At one point in the walk we came upon this ruined cottage:

I've been told it's known as the Shepherd's Cottage. 
An old Leopard Magazine (October 2008), had an article written by David Coleman, and in it, David suggests it was an under-keeper's home and that it was built between 1896 and 1910.

The cottage is close to the site of a battle that took place in October 1562, fought between Mary Queen of Scot's half-brother, Lord James Stewart's men and Sir John Gordon, the Earl of Huntly's men.

The build up to this battle is a long story but essentially, Catholic Mary was now Queen of a mainly Protestant Scotland and, although she continued to privately attend Catholic mass, she publicly reassured Protestant nobles and Scots that she was Queen of a Protestant Scotland. Also, Mary knew that she would never succeed to the English crown if she showed any inclinations and support for the Catholic faith.

The Earl of Huntly kept encouraging the Queen to declare her support for the Catholic church. Huntly was also jealous of the power and positions awarded to James Stewart. Mary eventually decided to take action against Sir John Gordon and so strengthen her claim to the English throne.

At the battle, not far from where this ruined cottage now sits, James Stewart's forces were completely victorious. Sir John Gordon, the Earl of Huntly dropped dead on the battlefield, and his two sons John and Adam were taken to Aberdeen. John, and other leaders were beheaded in the Castlegate. It is said that James Stewart forced Mary to watch the executions of these Catholic supporters.

What happened to the deceased Earl of Huntly is worth telling. In order for him to be put on trial for treason and his lands confiscated, his body was preserved and sent to Edinburgh where he was put on trial, in his coffin, in 1563. The lid was removed so he could 'hear' the charges against him!

The Earl of Huntly, 'The Cock o' the North', was eventually buried in Elgin Cathedral, three years later.

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Meikle Kinord.

Hello again.

I took a wander round Loch Kinord yesterday and passed this building. I find it a very photogenic building. I always think it looks like a school house, but it is a private chapel built, perhaps, on the site of a 16th Century chapel. From the Canmore website:

" A chapel was built near Meikle Kinord (NO 44 98) in the 16th century to serve the castle in Loch Kinord (NO49NW 16). There is now no trace, but the sites of chapel and graves were pointed out before 1858, and the walls and gravemounds were remembered by older inhabitants in 1910. A Medieval font of rough granite, 5 feet 2 1/2 inches in circumference, was found near the site of the chapel.
J G Michie 1910; J Stuart 1868.
No trace of chapel or graveyard, but it is believed locally that the private chapel at NO 4407 9891 occupies the site of an older chapel. This later structure built c 1880, was converted into a museum in 1912 to house the oak canoes etc found in the area, but is now used only as a hay-store.
Visited by OS (N K B) 12 November 1968."

By chance I was reading Glen Tanar: Valley of Echoes and Hidden Treasures by Fran├žois Louis Pierre Fouin, and came upon this:

Mr and Mrs Charles Wilson, who built Dinnet House in 1890, also built the old chapel at Meikle Kinord in the same year. Although never consecrated, the building was used to store local artefacts and in particular, one of the old Pictish canoes from Loch Kinord. When Mr Wilson sold the Kinord Estate to James C Barclay Harvey in 1896, Mrs Wilson was so irate that she hurled all the historic relics out on the moor. The Wilsons took the canoe back to Lincolnshire when they flitted, but because it was too long and bulky to go on to a railway wagon it was allegedly sawn in half. (p.114)

Monday, 31 March 2014

So, what was the point in that?

Here we are then, I've done it. I posted something every day in March. What was the point in doing that?
I didn't plan to do it. I was just writing a post and wanted to see if I could keep going all through March. So there was no agenda, no purpose really and that, for many people is what is wrong with blogs. Many have no point, nothing to say, boring content. But yet, writing a journal is seen as a great way of exploring ideas, a way of staying focused and motivated. So why not the same with a blog? 
Well, a journal is private. A blog is for sharing. That fact alone alters the content in a blog from the more personal, reflective entries in a journal. In essence though, they both involve writing. 
If you Google 'what's the point in blogging?', most answers refer to getting business or getting customers to your website to sell stuff. Other answers refer to sharing ideas, about communicating. 
I started my blog to talk about photography - to explore photography and photographers. I soon realised that, like other creative people, I had 'flat' periods when I had no inspiration, no ideas, my mojo had gone. It was difficult to write enthusiastically about what I was doing in photography when I had essentially lost my confidence to produce anything remotely worthy of sharing.
I started to write about this lack of creativity which led on to inspiration and how to overcome a creative blockage. I soon realised I was not alone in feeling 'stuck', in feeling useless. The blog was good for getting that feedback.
At times the blog just became another place to share my photography. 
Rarely did I teach anything. Rarely did I solve other people's problems (mainly because I don't have a big enough audience nor do readers see me as an expert at anything!). 
I tried to start conversations by asking if what I'd written resonated with anybody or irritated anybody. Nine times out of ten, those requests for feedback were met with stony silence. What did I expect? I read blogs but seldom comment because, well, you know, we're all REALLY busy and time is precious. 
So far, for the month of March I've had 2,401 views. I have a wee audience but they're a silent audience in the main. Perhaps that lack of comments, that lack of a conversation is why so many people give up blogging and turn to Twitter, for example, where conversations are regular and is, to my mind, Twitter's strength and purpose.
For me, blogging every day in March has made me realise that it is good to sit at the end of the day and jot done some thoughts about the day past, thoughts and maybe the odd idea or two. I'm going to try to do this and some of these journal entries may end up as a blog post. As I said in last night's post, I'm going to do a sketch every day in April. That sketch may just be a doodle but that doesn't matter. What matters is I sit down for a period of time and create something.
So, to conclude, why don't you try doing something (or stop doing something) every day for a month? Blog about it. Share.
And on the subject of sharing - they say you should leave your audience laughing:

It's good night from him, and it's good night from me!

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Why do we stop doing it?

I went to a Catholic primary school, not because we were Catholics, but because it was close to where we lived. It was a great primary school.

When the Catholic pupils did their Catechism, the non Catholics did either reading, sums or drawing. I remember doing a LOT of drawing alongside Billy Milton who I thought was superb at art.

Anyway, I tried to keep sketching when I went the secondary school but with all the other distraction that teenage life brings, as well as trying to get some qualifications, I didn't draw as much.

However, I recently found some sketches from when I was about 14-16. I knew I had a couple of my mother and since this is Mother's Day I thought I'd share them with the world.

This was her looking at her washing to see if they were dry (yes, I even remember that):

It looks like her a wee bit but it's not a great likeness. This one is more like her back then:

This is actually just a tiny wee drawing and I've scanned of just her. The whole drawing had my cousin David in it, who is now a successful businessman:

One more, this time of two men working on a boat in Buckie harbour:

Some of you may remember I did a drawing every day for a month and put them on Facebook. As I come to the end of doing a blog post every day in March, I was thinking about what I would like to do every day in April and I think I've decided in doing a drawing a day again in April. 

I really don't understand why many of us stop drawing when we become 'adults'. I want to get back into the habit of just doing a wee sketch more often. I haven't decided if I'll share them daily or leave it until the end of the month/week. 

I like the idea Austin Kleon has of having one half of his desk digital and the other half for drawing/making/crafting stuff. Another job for the holidays!

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Russ and his ball and chain.

Driving to work one morning, about a year and a half ago,  I saw what I initially thought was the best scarecrow I'd ever seen. But there was also a sign in the field saying 'It's coming closer Russ' with a ball and chain attached to the sign.

As the days went past, the figure got closer and closer to the sign. Russ was obviously about to get married and friends/family were having a great laugh at his expense.

I wonder how Russ is getting on?

Friday, 28 March 2014

Blyde Lasses

Just back from another great night of entertainment at the Cromar Folk Club in Tarland so just a wee quick post on this Friday night.

As well as some great floor spots, the guests tonight were the charming and talented Blyde Lasses. That Shetland accent I could listen to all night. Great tunes and explanations of the story behind them. I bought the CD so looking forward to playing it this weekend.

Here they are giving it laldie:

It was also great to hear Shona Donaldson's gorgeous voice.

A fine start to the weekend.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Changing career and self help, c.1989.

During my twenties I worked as an electronic technician for Schlumberger in Aberdeen during the oil boom (and bust). I was based onshore but had many repair and maintenance trips to oil rigs. I didn't enjoy the job and i wasn't particularly good at it either. I needed a change of career.

As part of an Open University course to help me choose the right career path, I ended up reading some self help books. In a recent clear out of stuff, I found a note which, if I remember correctly was my attempt at summing up self help books. Here's what I wrote c.1989:

  • What's important to you? Define it clearly. Change.
  • Your goals? Clarify and attack them (!). Expect failures and disappointments but learn from them.
  • Be active. Work hard at everything BUT always towards your goals.
  • Be passionate, Desire something.
  • Role models - find them, study them.
  • Be good to yourself. Daily, do something you enjoy.
  • Everything in balance.
  • De-junk. Keep on of top things.
  • Break down tasks.
  • Increase skills.
  • Nurture relationships.
  • Be yourself - don't compare yourself to others.
  • Live in the present. Worrying will solve nothing and damage your health.
  • Listen to messages that fate can bring. (?)
  • Care more and be more affectionate. Empathise.
  • Write things down - keep a journal.
  • Keep the faith - remain hopeful.
  • Meditate
  • Exercise
  • Eat well.
  • Drink plenty water.
I eventually boiled down all self help books to the Nike slogan - 'Just do it!'

Those who know me can now have a laugh at the bullet points I have utterly failed to do!


Anyway, what's a blog post without a picture?

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Try not to 'should' yourself.

This morning I was shocked to hear the sad news of the death of a lovely guy and great guitar player, Norman Conboy. He lived locally and played with local musicians at various sessions. I met him a few times at the Cromar Folk Club and also on the rare occasion I made it down to the regular Tuesday night sessions in the Aberdeen Arms in Tarland. He recently played on the CDs of Paul Anderson  and David Anderson.

When I watched Norman, and watch other guitarists play accompaniment to trad folk music, I am puzzled as to what exactly they are playing. I learnt the guitar playing some blues, rock and the odd bit of bluegrass and jazz. None of what I could play seemed to fit with what trad folk guitarists did. So one night I asked Norman what was he doing? He never really answered my question. He just said come along to the Tuesday night sessions and watch. He also hinted that you kind of had to know the music and know what was coming in the tune - which is where I struggled a bit as our house was filled with jazz music more than folk music.

I knew he was right and I should try to get to the Tuesday night sessions and watch him.

But sadly, I found excuses - during the week I rise at 6am, commute 64 miles every day, work as a Principal Teacher at a secondary school and on average, see 190-200 pupils come through my door every week. When 9pm comes along on a Tuesday night, I really struggle to find the energy to go to a pub session which may end at 11-11.30pm.

Of course, deciding every Tuesday to not go to the sessions and sit beside Norman and learn from him for the fairly pathetic reasons given above, I regret now. Isn't it always a shame that some lessons in life seem only to be learned this way.

You should never 'should' yourself! I have to try harder to stop saying 'I should try to get to ...' and instead say, 'I will get to...', 'I am going to...' more often.

Norman will be sadly missed by many musicians, friends and of course his family. The few times I spoke with Norman, he was a gent. He was a handsome, funny and talented guy.

Rest in Peace Norman.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Give up.

Technical problems are plaguing me tonight. The post I typed up has disappeared as well as the images.

I'm tired.

I give up on a post tonight.

Basically it was a post about the length of time I've been taking images of abandoned places (1996) but have yet to do much with the body of work. Why?

It could be that that is not my motivation.

Or it could be that the full time job I do is leaving me just plain tired and lethargic.

Anybody in the same boat?

Monday, 24 March 2014

Why I am slowly using Flickr less and less, sadly.

CaixaForum - foyer by James_at_Slack
CaixaForum - foyer, a photo by James_at_Slack on Flickr.
I am sharing this image direct from my Flickr photostream. It appears on the very first page (p.37) and I took it when on a holiday in Barcelona, April 2006. This is where I saw the Diane Arbus exhibition which made me decide to go straight back into photography and to never neglect being creative ever again.

But back to Flickr. I, like many other people, set up my Flickr page for the simple purpose of allowing friends and family to see holiday snaps. The idea of e-mailing a link to friends who could then look at my snaps seemed a great idea to me.

I now have 3,555 pictures on there and often consider deleting most of them. But then I stop and remember that those images tell a story and some people still enjoy looking at them.

Since Yahoo took over Flickr, images from other photographers now take so long to appear on my PC that I barely use it anymore. A real shame which no amount of complaining to Yahoo is going to change. (They have also killed Tumblr for me for the exact same reason.)

Tomorrow, I will no longer be able to share my images direct from Flickr to Blogger as Flickr/Yahoo have decided it's not in their interest to allow that function. So no doubt I will use Flickr even less now, so time to find some alternative.

Anybody feeling the same way? Maybe you have better broadband than me.

I know many get disappointed by the lack of constructive and helpful critique of their work on Flickr but that was something I never expected anyway. I met some fine people on Flickr but twitter and Facebook do that now.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Some days are just plain awesome.

Do you ever have a day when you can think of a few good reasons/excuses to get out of something that will take a fair bit of effort on your part but you ignore that lazy voice in your head, go do it and then have a truly memorable day? Well, today was such a day for me.

Yvonne and I met up with Michael Marten and Mike Colechin again today to continue walking in the Cairngorms. It had snowed already that day and the wind was getting up. Yvonne and I wondered if heading up onto Carn Liath (2,828 ft) was wise on such a cold and windy day, especially after Mike and Michael had spent the night camping. Everybody was keen, so after a quick cuppa and some of Yvonne's freshly baked cheese scones, we headed off.

The first stage of the walk is just a fairly boring landrover track up the south side of the hill. 

As we got further up, there were a few snow showers and the wind started to pick up. When we crested the shoulder and headed for the top, we were now heading north and getting the full force of the chilly wind and the spindrift on our faces.

When we got to the top, any plans we had about having lunch were forgotten about and after a photo or two, it was decided to head across the top of the hill and eventually drop down into the shelter of a forest.

It was a great day which challenged us all in different ways. 

In this blog I have written about overcoming doubts and fear in relation to art  before and it occurred to me today that some of the greatest rewards will come to you if you push yourself, force yourself out of your comfort zone and try it. It may not work out but you can learn from the experience and congratulate yourself for making the effort. 

Saturday, 22 March 2014

The ingredients to make a day go well?

Yes, it's been said many times and we all know it.

The best of times come from being with friends and family, eating good food, conversations that flow effortlessly and doing something everyone enjoys.

Well, my day today had all those ingredients. Mike Colechin, Michael Marten and Lucy Telford arrived at Slack Cottage this morning and after some coffee and excellent home bakes from Yvonne, (during which time my sister Sheila also arrived), we set off for the hills.

The dark clouds and snow flurries we left at Slack, soon passed by and when we arrived at Glen Girnoc there were hopeful patches of blue sky.

We walked up the glen, passing Camlet and the lime kiln and stopped at Bovaglie. The high hills still had plenty snow, especially Lochnagar. To be outside, walking in beautiful countryside with good banter and chat all the way there is hard to beat. Yvonne did manage to make the day even better with thermal cups full of hot drinks and even more home bakes. Perfect.

Funnily enough, despite three photographer there, few photographs were taken. Mike didn't even have a camera with him. I thought I would come home with some snaps of the day, with plenty of people in the pictures. But no. I wandered off to have a look round abandoned Bovaglie and did my usual stuff. Reassuring I suppose.

Anyway, here's a few images:

I did snap one with the wee P&S Canon of the posse:

There you have it. A fine day indeed. It seemed only right to write a wee blog post about it. 

Friday, 21 March 2014

Neglected, Tillydrine House - For Sale.

© James Dyas Davidson

Being at Tillydrine House saddened me a bit. All these people/companies with so much money buy up these places and leave to the elements and vandals. Appalling, especially at a time of homelessness.

Read this sorry tale about Tillydrine House:

Late 19th century 2-storey, 3-bay irregular-plan house with entrance tower. Italianate and domestic gothic details. Grey-pink Aberdeen bond granite ashlar. Overhanging eaves.

The original Tillydrine House was reputedly dismantled and re-erected in Aboyne at the turn of the century. (Historic Scotland)

May 1990: External inspection reveals the house to be vacant, leaking and suffering disrepair, though it remains structurally sound. SCT understands that its owner lives in Abu Dhabi and does not wish to sell. The house previously operated as a hotel. 29 October 1993: The Deeside Piper reports that the house has lain vacant for 16 years and has been stripped of its interior fittings. It was last leased to oil company Occidental. September 1995: SCT understands that the house has been made secure. Negotiations are currently underway with a developer keen to lease the property. 21 February 1997: The Deeside Piper reports that a Building Preservation Notice is to be served on the house. March 1997: The house is C(S)-listed. February 1998: Local planners report that they are considering serving a Repairs Notice. August 2001: No change reported. October 2006: The agents report that the owner of the property has no further update on the information held. Any contact should be made through the agents. September 2007: SCT is advised of a change of agent for the owner. All contact should be directed through the agents.
December 2007: External inspection finds the building vacant, unsecured and in very poor condition. The rainwater goods are dilapidated and all the window glazings are broken. There are signs of vandalism and a risk of arson.

March 2008: SCT is contacted by a member of the public to advise that the property has changed ownership.

August 2010: External inspection finds no significant change since the last site visit. The building continues to deteriorate and is a cause for concern.
(From 'Buildings at Risk' website)


Well, here's some of mine:

Sad isn't it?

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Kurt Vonnegut's letter to a school.

You're probably familiar with this story about the letter Kurt Vonnegut wrote to a high school, but if not, here's the background.

In 2006, a group of high school students at Xavier High School in New York wrote to their favourite authors as part of an assignment, asking if they would visit their school. Vonnegut was the only one to respond, and while he said he would not be able to make a visit, his inspiring letter made up for it with with wit and charm.

Here's a transcript of the letter:

Dear Xavier High School, and Ms. Lockwood, and Messrs Perin, McFeely, Batten, Maurer and Congiusta:
I thank you for your friendly letters. You sure know how to cheer up a really old geezer (84) in his sunset years. I don't make public appearances any more because I now resemble nothing so much as an iguana.
What I had to say to you, moreover, would not take long, to wit: Practise any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what's inside you, to make your soul grow.
Seriously! I mean starting right now, do art and do it for the rest of your lives. Draw a funny or nice picture of Ms. Lockwood, and give it to her. Dance home after school, and sing in the shower and on and on. Make a face in your mashed potatoes. Pretend you're Count Dracula.
Here's an assignment for tonight, and I hope Ms. Lockwood will flunk you if you don't do it: Write a six line poem, about anything, but rhymed. No fair tennis without a net. Make it as good as you possibly can. But don't tell anybody what you're doing. Don't show it or recite it to anybody, not even your girlfriend or parents or whatever, or Ms. Lockwood. OK?
Tear it up into teeny-weeny pieces, and discard them into widely separated trash recepticals [sic]. You will find that you have already been gloriously rewarded for your poem. You have experienced becoming, learned a lot more about what's inside you, and you have made your soul grow.
God bless you all!
Kurt Vonnegut

This is the first day of Spring - a time of fertility supposedly. Time to make a fertile imagination into a fertile creative period. As cabin fever bites after the long dark winter nights, time to get some release from containment. Time to 'experience becoming, to find out what's inside you, to make your soul grow'.