OldByreSkye

gallery, cafe & apartment

Archive for the category “Scotland”

Marginalia

If you follow us on Facebook [other social media are available] you will know that we have recently been away for a week to Lewis and Harris for a wet week.  Our arrival was delayed by over ten hours as the morning ferry was cancelled due to gales which had kept the ferry over in South Uist and which also closed the Skye Bridge.  This further delayed the ferry as by the time they hoped to run there were only a handful of vehicles waiting.  We finally sailed at around 6:30pm, via an unscheduled stop at South Uist which turns a 90 minute crossing to Harris into 4 hours, so it was nearly midnight when we arrived at our firs accommodation in Great Bernera in North West Lewis.

For the most part the weather continued wet and often windy.  Now, this sort of weather can be quite conducive to photography – the dark brooding skies, misty landscapes, that sort of thing.  However, horizontal rain at 40 mph does tend to get onto your lens, however deep the hood and I’m grateful that Pentax SLRs tend to be weatherproofed*.  So for the most part, photographically it turned into more of a recce for later trips.  The bad weather was, however, good for working on the beaches.

Luskentyre beach #1. Shot from below the level of the tops of the breakers from a hopefully safe distance!

Now, I hear you say, if the rain is horizontal at 40 mph why do you want to be on a beach?  Fair point, but if you want waves, you need wind.  And I have set myself a project over winter to shoot a set of seascapes.  I also have a strange affinity for the coast [just as well, living a couple of hundred metres from it…].  Although I was born in the heart of the Midlands as far away from, the sea as you can get in Britain I spent much of my childhood in Northern Ireland where the coast was only a 45 minute car-ride away, and a frequent destination at weekends.  And then later, a few years after university I spent time working at a marine station in the Irish Republic doing rocky shore surveys.

luskentyre2e3-3

Luskentyre beach #2. Wind blowing the tops off the breakers…

So I love beaches [although not hot sunny ones full of sunbathers!] and the shoreline in general.  I love being at the margins, at the edge looking out.  Which is perhaps why I love the west of Scotland and the west of Ireland, at the edge of the continent, looking out…  When I stand on a beach, on the margins of the land, looking out onto a stormy sea I see raw power, I see chaos, I see a terrible beauty,  I see a universe that is utterly indifferent to my continued existence and could sweep me away in an instant – yet I am beguiled.  There is an intensity that overwhelms the senses and I become marginalia, simply a passing mark on the sands, at the edge, indifferent to everything but the moment.  And if I have a camera, trying to capture the moment.

If you do follow us on Facebook you will have already seen two of these images, but I make no apology for including them here, not least because I’m still working on the others!  Usual when shooting water I use slow shutter speeds to suggest movement, or even stillness with very long exposures, but here I’ve tried to capture the power and forms of the sea so the shutter speeds are quite high, up to 1/1250 in #1.

luskentyre3

Luskentyre beach #3. The blue and the grey and the white…

I did take some photographs of other things, and one of them has a little lesson to teach.  But I’ll tell you about that next time…

* In the days when we could afford trips to both Antarctica and Greenland I happily shot away while users of more lauded brands of camera had theirs seize up in the cold and damp, and in at least one case, terminally…

Currently listening to: The Time Has Come – Anne Briggs.

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Hello summer, goodbye…

Well, summer has been and gone since the last blog – although I never intended there to be such an interval, but so it goes.  So what’s been going on?

The last rose[hips] of summer...

The last rose[hips] of summer – from a Scottish rose…

The ‘main event’ was obviously the independence referendum and as an on the record ‘no’ I’m obviously pleased that you won’t be needing a passport if you come up from south of the border.  It was an interesting campaign that got quite heated at certain times and certain places.  It reminded us why Gordon Brown was once a power in the land [and is still widely respected this side of the border].  And it gave the Prime Minister the opportunity to display true statesmanship in the wake of the result by fostering reconciliation.  And he totally blew it with a petty partisan speech aimed at his own right wing which alienated the ‘no’s’ as well as the ‘yes’es’, reneged on recently made promises, blabbed about ‘the Queen and I’ and ably demonstrated why if it had all been about ‘the effing Tories’ we’d be running the saltire up our flagpole as I write.

And it goes on.  We’re all in this together, but we’ll reduce spending on the poorest in society so that we can give tax cuts to the well off.  Benefits must be frozen as it’s unfair if they rise more than the wages of hard working families.  Given that benefits have been frozen at 1% for two years and ONS figures show average wages only increased by less than 1% once in the past 15 years I’m having trouble with the maths on that, unless we’re talking about the public sector, which the Tories have been vilifying ever since Cameron was elected leader, who have had pay frozen .  So there you are, a hard working tax payer in the public sector with no wage increase for the past few years, David and Gideon’s diktats make you redundant and now you’re a benefits scrounger who isn’t deserving of an increase in income either.  This way to the low wage economy…

And just to add insult to injury we have human rights: well, at least for the moment we have them…  Apparently as we are British we don’t need the European Convention on Human Rights, we can have our own British version.  They just don’t get it – or if they do, they don’t care.  You either believe in universal human rights or you don’t.  And if you don’t then have the guts to say so.  And if you do, then how about principles rather than expediency.  Oh, sorry, this is politics…  Human rights are not a menu where you can choose what you want, when you want it, and who you want it for.  They are all for everyone all the time.  And the whole point of an international convention is that individual signatories cannot change it as and when it suits them.  A “British Bill of Rights” sounds grand [how about a written constitution then …] but any future government with a working majority can rewrite it as they want, and without any forewarning such as inclusion in an election manifesto [much as the recent changes to the NHS.  Now THAT’S mission creep…].

I’m reminded of the words of a Bruce Cockburn song written over 30 years ago* – when I saw him perform it about ten years back he said it was still as relevant as when he wrote it.  Still is…  “It’ll all go back to normal if we put our nation first, But the trouble with normal is it always gets worse”.

And remember.  If, on 7 May next year, you go to bed with David Cameron, you wake up with the Tories – Gove, Gideon, Shapps, IDS, Grayling, every last one of them.  And they’ll probably charge you for it…

*The Trouble with Normal.  I’ve added a link.  If you look at the lyrics it really could have been written yesterday.

Currently listening to: Blues Run the Game – Jackson C Frank.  [Thanks to the wonders of Spotify.  Other music streaming services are available]. A song I first heard as performed by the late great Jackie Leven at The Troubadour in Earl’s Court

The Russians are coming, the Russians are coming…

As stated before, when it comes to Scottish Independence, I’m a ‘no’ vote – as a republican federalist I don’t agree with independence, although I don’t agree with the status quo either [and neither am I an admirer of their music!].  Even so, I continue to be amazed at the ineptitude of the ‘no’ campaign.

In today’s paper [The Observer, since you ask – other newspapers are available] was a 12 page booklet, entitled All the Facts you Need, which I assume is Better Together‘s belated riposte to Scotland’s Future, the 620-odd page tome from the yes to independence campaign.  If we ignore the fact that the cover seems to have ripped off The Guardian/Observer style manual in appearance, I noticed one very odd item within.

On page five, Jobs and Economy, is a section Save our shipyards.  It features the paragraph and image below.

Strange goings-on on the Clyde… [Source: All the facts you need: Better Together]

The ship at the bottom is clearly one of the Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers [the largest ship in the Navy’s history] – the double superstructure gives it away.  But what of the other six vessels, which presumably represent the “6 Royal Navy frigates” mentioned.  Without getting too geeky, and suggesting too much of a misspent youth, they looked odd to me: they looked like something from the old Soviet Union.  So a quick google for Soviet corvettes led me to strangely familiar pictures, which turned out to be Tarantul-class corvettes: the best is that below.  Does the outline look familiar?

Soviet-era Tarantul III class Corvette – made in Scotland, apparently…
[Source http://www.militaryimages.net ]


I know that uncle Alex has somewhat unwisely said that he ‘admires’ Vladimir Putin, but surely Better Together isn’t suggesting that an independent Scotland would start building warships for the Russians??

Currently listening to: the sound of my own disbelief…

Procrastination [or why no blog update for weeks!]

It’s been a while since I did a blog post as I’ve been busy keeping the Facebook page updated daily with the doings of the gallery and cafe.  It’s also sometimes difficult to know whether to write certain things on the blog, being as how it is the face of OldByreSkye which is a business, rather than a purely personal affair – hence the procrastination.  That said, the blog is now part of a greater web presence [albeit still on WordPress] so perhaps we can have it that the owners [or at least one of them] can sometimes be a bit eccentric or opinionated.

There is an increasing amount of heat, but not a great deal of light, around the independence debate.  [What do you mean, what independence debate!].  We’ve have had the inevitable currency spat as the nationalists run scared of proposing a central bank for Scotland, and the ongoing positioning as to whether a currency union would be possible. [Stop press: it’s just a negotiating position really; oh no it isn’t;  oh yes it is…  it’s pantomime season again!] There have been scare stories about pretty much everything by now, some of which [such as denying dual nationality and elements of security/intelligence sharing] simply beggar belief, as the government mouthpieces suggest that an independent Scotland would instantly drop to some second tier of relationship with the remaining UK, if only out of spite.

Northern lights over OldByreSkye – more light and less heat than the independnce debate...

Northern lights over OldByreSkye – more light and less heat than the independence debate…

In British politics the old post-war consensus that gave us the NHS, welfare, and social housing has broken down. Instead we have the apparently all-conquering advance of neo-liberalism, with it’s flag wavers in the media, which is entirely beholden to the market, the small state and a subservient workforce – until the market fails to produce and market forces can’t be allowed to prevail and we bail out private companies that can’t be allowed to fail and who promptly behave as though nothing ever happened even though we, the people, theoretically own them.  [In the US we’ve also seen neo-conservatives [neo-cons], although that seems to have been a cover for right-wing American global hegemony.  What we haven’t seen is neo-socialism, New Labour being soft neo-liberalism, but neo-liberalism regardless, with the use of the word ‘socialism’ in the UK becoming akin to ‘communism’ in McCarthyite America.]

But in Scotland the post-war consensus didn’t break [and you can still be a socialist!], or at least that’s what Scottish cultural mythology tells you.  The neo-liberal tories rejected the consensus, but were, in turn, rejected after the Thatcherite experiments, and the increasingly neo-liberal centre and centre-left have lost ground to the nationalists who have progressed from being characterised as “Tartan Tories” in the early ’70s, to something more akin to “Old Labour in a Kilt” [a gross oversimplification but a good soundbite, and Alex Salmond shows evidence of being every bit as much in thrall to the rich and powerful as Harold Wilson ever was…].  So it is easy for a social democratic party, which is what the SNP broadly is, to gain traction, especially if untainted by long years in government and with a large and noisy neighbor to point at for all the ills of the world.

I have no real ax to grind for independence as I’m a ‘no’: being a republican federalist I can’t see much point in swapping one broken system for another.  I would favour the elephant in the room, the one missing from the vote, namely devo max [and the same for the other devolved administrations and the English regions: but how do you get there from here?].  Salmond didn’t want it on the vote as it would have killed any chance of a ‘yes’ vote stone dead.  Cameron didn’t want it as it would have meant a properly formulated, morally binding, policy post-referendum and the coalition doesn’t do those…  If the poles are to believed, we stagger onward towards a close ‘No’ that will not be decisive enough to settle the issue for a generation [a generation is normally taken as 25-30 years depending on who you ask] but may still be taken by opportunistic politicians as a vote for the status quo.  So we may well end up where we started: ouroboros, the snake that swallows it’s own tail…

Currently listening to: Won’t be Long Now –Linda Thompson [it won’t be – less than six months now!]

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