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A few photos from the last week.

More rain here- missed another cricket match- due to be played at the wonderful Mount Stewart house on Bute. Whoever thought that cricket could be played in a West of Scotland climate?

A climate dominated of course, by the sea.

This ship sailed past our house the other day- like a ghost of memory. It is a training ship, the Stavros- which Emily is hoping to get a chance to sail on next year.

Forward a little, from the age of the square rigger to the age of the steam puffer- the ubiquitous water lorry of the Inner Hebrides until around the middle of the last century. Another ghost, seen here passing through the Kyles of Bute-

The sea has been cruel this week too. The storms roll in from the Atlantic. Who would be a sailor?

Apart from Emily that is…

Ettrick bay, Bute…

I was on Bute yesterday- and the combination of sunshine and dramatic sky was stunning. Even for a person of my limited photographic skills.

I took a turn out to Ettrick Bay at lunch time…

To be near such places is a blessing- but one that easily comes to be taken for granted.

My relationship to places like these has changed. They are no longer the end of a precious pilgrimage, but rather encountered in the corner of a glance in the middle of a busy working day.

So it becomes all the more important to me to see deeply and to be grateful.

Some days it is easier than others.

The old birch woods above the Kyles…

I have had a lovely day today.

It has been a gorgeous warm spring day, and I took a walk in the hills with Andy. We drove over the Cowal Peninsular to Colintraive- around a 20 minuite trip- and walked up through the farm into some lovely high country- broken craggy tops with little walkways and ridges to climb through. We disturbed only the odd sheep, accompanied always by lambs.

The views out over the Kyles of Bute were great- a little hazy, but full of the movement of yachts taking advantage of a favourable wind to fly through behind brightly coloured spinnakers.

We came down through some birch woods, just coming alive. We were surrounded by the noise of brooks and birds, and walked through a carpet of cowslips.

I have wanted to explore these woods for ages. They look so inviting from the road at any time of the year. In the winter they are almost purple-bare, but around the spring time, they start to wear a bright bright green as the buds come through.

A couple of years ago, a woman who was staying at the Colintraive hotel went for a walk somewhere in these parts. She was never seen again, and not a trace of what happened to her has ever been found, despite extensive searches. It must have been incredibly sad and difficult for those she left behind. She kept coming to mind as we walked. It must be incredibly difficult for the loved ones she left behind, but today, it did not seem to me to be such a bad place to have your last resting place. May she rest in peace.

A few years ago I took a little walk in these parts on my way home from work- and wrote a poem. So here it is!

With all the optimism of the early spring

I turned the car from the road home and looked to the hill

Taking the camera more for motivation I head for the high point over the Kyle.

I feel the old excitement in the smell of wild places

All around I can almost hear the soil coming alive

The whisper of the wind in the larches sounds like blood flowing

Sap rising

And, unconcerned as my unsuitable shoes take on water,

I climb through heather and the old years dry grass

Up through ancient Gneiss outcrops

Still holding the shape of their birth in lava poured out in days so distant

That there seems no point calculating.

My feet cut into slow growing mossbanks

And scatter the stalks of bracken

And in the moment, I fear that I bring a human rhythm,

In this place unwelcome, discordant

Drowning out the stillness

Oil on water

I notice blackened heather stalks swept by fire

Perhaps lit by a smouldering cigarette last summer

And remember that this place is everywhere marked by men

Close cropped by the sheep, the land curves towards

The regimented contour crop of Spruce trees in the valley below

And half hidden, there is the evidence of older dwelling places

Now memories in the soil

Barcodes in bracken and dead nettle

Feeding on the residual richness

Leached from these poor houses

Whose people drained away.

Then perspective shifts again

To the far horizons

Across the sparkling Kyle lies Bute

Then beyond, Arran’s hills rise above Lochranza

Still wearing winter white against the blue sky

I stood and gloried.

Awed by things much bigger than I

By creative forces far beyond my understanding

But by Gods grace

Not beyond my reach

Blessing received, I take photographs recording only human spectral light

Then scramble back to shiny car, and head, too fast, for home

Anxious to see my loved ones

Eager for my own slice of civilisation.