Sunday, 26 January 2014

The Sunday Posts/ A Man's A Man.


Is there for honest Poverty
That hings* his head, an' a' that;        {hangs}
The coward slave-we pass him by,
We dare be poor for a' that!
For a' that, an' a' that.
Our toils obscure an' a' that,
The rank is but the guinea's stamp,
The Man's the gowd* for a' that.       {gold}

What though on hamely fare we dine,
Wear hoddin* grey, an' a that;         {coarse material}
Gie fools their silks, and knaves their wine;
A Man's a Man for a' that:
For a' that, and a' that,
Their tinsel show, an' a' that;
The honest man, tho' e'er sae poor,
Is king o' men for a' that.

Ye see yon birkie*, ca'd a lord,     {fellow}
Wha struts, an' stares, an' a' that;
Tho' hundreds worship at his word,
He's but a coof * for a' that:           {fool}
For a' that, an' a' that,
His ribband, star, an' a' that:
The man o' independent mind
He looks an' laughs at a' that.

Then let us pray that come it may,
(As come it will for a' that,)
That Sense and Worth, o'er a' the earth,
Shall bear the gree*, an' a' that.   {take priority}
For a' that, an' a' that,
It's coming yet for a' that,
That Man to Man, the world o'er,
Shall brothers be for a' that.

Robert Burns 1795.
Photo By Alistair.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Thoughts of Long Days

I close the car door, lift the small camera pack to my shoulder and turn to face the sea. The wind off the water is blowy and cold and makes me glad I've several layers on beneath a good anorak and that I took a moment to stick an old woollen hat on my head. It's one that I bought for my late father years ago when he complained of feeling the cold because his hair had thinned so much. I have it in the car all the time so it's there when needed, like on a cold day when I decide on a whim that I'm going to go and take a few photos. A mix of sentimentality, familiarity and rare forward planning perhaps.

I step over the low wooden barrier rail of the car-park, stopping a moment with a raised foot on the bare tree trunk to check the laces of a boot before stepping onto the rough grass between me and the water. The grass is knee high and bleached blonde, perhaps from the long gone sun of last summer, perhaps scoured of green by sand and wind or just possibly because it's gone into that hibernative state that sensible things do in nature when it's Winter. Less than a minute later I'm down on the sandy edge of the stream that negotiates its way across the last few hundred yards to the sea. There are always seabirds here, swans too most of the time,  where the water's richly blended with salt and fresh water and benefits no doubt from the small lives that follow the ebb and flow of that twice-a-day battle of the tides. A never ending buffet with a wider than normal menu.

I walk the low bank and scan the water lip with a child's curiosity, something I've never lost when it comes to places like this, looking for shells, plants or any old bits and bobs of interest that could make a nice photo. Places like this have always made me feel consciously alive and I wonder now if that's one of the reasons I've never lived far from the sea. The man that was the boy now collects photos where once he would have innocently stuffed pockets full of things to unwittingly frustrate a house-proud Mum when excitedly pulled out along with all the sand and rubbish that had gone in with them.

Today a group of birds are huddled together ten or so yards away, shielded from gusts of wind by a low bank that marks the shelter it gives by threads of sand blowing now and then over their heads' Small gulls and waders dart now and then to the water for a paddle and a downward poke with their bills. My arrival disturbs them, a few warily getting up onto their feet and shaking feathers, others content to just watch across the width of the stream as I gently take the bag from my back and remove the tripod and then the camera itself.

By the time I've attached the camera to the tripod and set up a shot the birds have become camera shy and moved further away. Not feeling me much of a threat to safety they walk with their backs turned huffily to me rather than exert themselves by actually flying. I change the lens to a wide angle one better suited to landscape work, carefully avoiding wind blown dust and the like getting to the camera's mirror or sensor inside and set up another shot. When I look at the result it's disappointing, the colours flat and the contours of the river that tweaked my interest not as clear or prominent as they are to my eye. I adjust and retake the shot again a few times but am never satisfied with the result. Maybe they'll look better on the big screen of the laptop when I get home though so I keep them and move on.

The tide is out and my favourite bridge is stranded on the beach. It looks abandoned and pointless when the tide is out. It's span ridiculously high for the trickle of fresh water that runs beneath it yet I've seen water touch the underside of the highest point when there's a high tide. It doesn't look so ridiculous then. I walk towards it with my camera still attached to the tripod, both crooked in the bend of my arm, considering how I can take a different photo of something so 'weel kent'. By the time I get there I've decided to leave that for another day and walk over it and out onto the beach beyond. The waves are a couple of hundred yards away still but I easily hear the continuous roar of them coming home.

The wind strengthens and whirls of sand twist around my feet as I walk, looking for a photo. The sky is interesting but somehow the light is flat. It's an odd combination so I think some black and white shots could pull detail out. I find a spot with some foreground interest where wave patterns etched in the sand lead across the view  are picked out by the light. I set the tripod down and adjust its levels until the horizon seems good which is something I often struggle with. { I must stand squint} I start to shoot; exposures to catch detail; exposures set longer to blur some of the waters movements and pull out reflections on the sand. I feel the camera's too high and needs to be lower to bring out the foreground but the swirling sand is too much of a threat to something so expensive.. I wish I'd brought some protection. I normally carry a couple of carrier bags which can be used for a makeshift cover against rain or windblown debris but I'm starting to curse myself for not thinking what it would be like out here. As I do this I keep shooting and see that somehow the horizon has skewed far off being level. Another frustrated sigh escapes as I realise that the tripod is sinking in wet sand and - again - I haven't brought my usual fix; a few cardboard coasters to stick under the tripod feet. They do the job, are easy to carry and can be chucked after use if need be, which is probably what I've done with the ones I've been searching for in my bag. I move on.

A while later I've moved several times as the same thing keeps happening. I'm getting increasingly dispirited about getting the photos I'm trying for but am consoled just by being out here. Despite that, cold has crept in between my shoulders and my thighs feel icy from being hit by spray and wind. My fingers are aching {No, I haven't brought my fingerless gloves either. What did I say about forward planning earlier?} I decide to call it a day and start to dismantle my gear. I'll pack the tripod onto the back pack but keep the camera out in case I find something on the way back.. I start the walk back to he bridge and the car.

Thoughts crowd in leaving any frustration behind me on the sand. I think of days and nights spent here in the past and head home reminding myself of the summer to come although it feels far off. I look forward to home and a hot drink.

Thoughts of long days come unbidden to mind.

See you later.

Listening to

Monday, 20 January 2014

The {late} Sunday Post/ Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting-
over and over announcing your place
In the family of things.

Mary Oliver.
Photo by Alistair.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

The Sunday Posts 2013/ Dreams

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.      

Langston Hughes.
Photo by Alistair.

Sunday, 5 January 2014

The Sunday Posts/ The Day of Battle

Far I hear the bugle blow
To call me where I would not go,
And the guns begin the song,
'Soldier, fly or stay for long.'

"Comrade, if to turn and fly
Made a soldier never die,
Fly I would, for who would not?
'Tis sure no pleasure to be shot.

"But since the man that runs away
Lives to die another day,
And cowards' funerals, when they come,
Are not wept so well at home,

"Therefore, though the best is bad,
Stand and do the best, my lad;
Stand and fight and see your slain,
And take the bullet in your brain.

A.E. Houseman

Saturday, 4 January 2014

A Small Expression Of Disgust.

Don't even look at him.

Jess butts her head against my fingers as I rub her neck and shoulders, gently massaging a loud purr of appreciation from her as we spend a companionable minute or two together. She's been restless this morning, repeatedly wandering in and out of the kitchen and its attached utility room where Jess has her bed, food and litter tray. Her litter tray is one of those big covered ones with a flap so she can get in and out. We bought it after noticing that if she was using her tray and either of us went in to the utility room or even passed by the door, Jess would immediately get back out. Obviously she's a sensitive wee soul and, being somewhat the same myself when it comes to privacy, I felt sympathy. The covered litter tray has worked a treat for a few years now and she's been much more relaxed.

If there is a down side it is - how should I put it? Maybe "out of sight, out of mind" would best cover the occasional slip between The Lovely G and I which has meant that there's been the odd dip in regularity of cleaning up and this is what has happened today. Each of us thought the other had done the deed when the reality was that neither of us has leaving Jess with 'ants in her pants'.

Realising what's happened I get her little harness on her and put her out into the garden for a while carefully tethered to a tree via one of those extending leads. She has some history as a runner in her earlier years and now she's a bit older and more fragile I'd prefer not to leave it to chance that the wanderlust doesn't take her again. Anyway, the fierce winds of the last couple of days have gone and it's not too cold, not for one with a built in fur coat anyway. As I leave her, with a promise that I'll be back in a wee minute or two once she's done her business. she looks at me with a 'Really?' kind of glance. I look at the darkening sky and say, "I know. It's going to rain soon. You just do your business and I'll be back in two shakes of a cats tail."

Forty five minutes later I look up from my cup of coffee. " Aw no! Crivens jings and help ma boab I've left wee Jessie outside! Even as I make my way to the patio door I can hear the rain pattering against it and as I slide it open and step out I can see a small white and brown nose  and two huge eyes peeking out at me from beneath the hedge at the back of the garden. I make apologetic and encouraging noises as I cross the garden towards her and she comes out from under the hedge at a fair speed. She's not completely soaked, not 'drookit' by any stretch of the imagination but she's a bit damp  {he says trying to make himself feel a bit less guilty}.  Ok - she's completely 'damp'.

We meet by the apple tree and I unfasten her from her leash so she can head back indoors but oddly she stands there looking at me with what I can only describe as feline disgust dripping from every whisker before taking four or five slow deliberate steps towards the house. With each step she lifts a paw and gives it a shake, spraying small droplets of water around her. The air is heavy with indignation as I follow her dripping tail back to the patio door, rushing to make sure she's not kept waiting at the door. My own tail is firmly between my legs as I slide the door aside and she steps up and into the house, making straight for where The Lovely G is sitting at the table. Jess stops directly in front of her and sits down as if to say " Look what this pillock's done to me!" before reaching a soggy paw up to pat her thigh for emphasis. She gets a sympathetic look and noise from G as I return from the far side of the kitchen with some paper towels which I use to rub her dry under G's disappointed gaze..

Jess arches her back and moves huffily away from my towelling ministrations and starts rearranging all the fur I've managed to disrupt on her back and flanks. I can see I'm going to be ignored for the rest of the afternoon. I can see G eyeing me up too.

I wonder what the cat equivalent of the dog house is?

I'd better get in it right now.

But should I clean out the litter tray before I go?

See you later.

Listening to

The Sunday Posts 2017/Mince and Tatties.

Mince and Tatties I dinna like hail tatties Pit on my plate o mince For when I tak my denner I eat them baith at yince. Sae mash ...