East coasting…

We have just spent a couple of days over on the East Coast with my brother and his wife (and wee Jamie.) They live in Haddington, and took us for a day out in North Berwick, a lovely seaside town with a proper beach, a tiny harbour and even though it is quite a posh place it still had that evocative seaside smell- a combination of fried food, seaweed, and salt.

We walked the beach and encountered a faire set up to make money for the lifeboat society, so we joined in. I won the welly wanging contest (and Will won the junior one too!) I am thinking that this really should be an Olympic sport. Our prizes were two £5 ice cream vouchers.

Just off shore from North Berwick is Bass Rock- a small island famous for it’s Stevenson lighthouse, and its vast colony of Gannets. When you first look out at the island, it looks like it is covered in snow.


Then when you look a bit closer, you realise that what you are seeing are thousands and thousands of nesting Gannets. It is simply stunning.


Statistically speaking…

Today is the 4 year anniversary of this blog. As a birthday present, I thought it appropriate to go for a new header- a cropped part of this photo;

We bloggers have a guilty secret called statistics. Sure, our motivation as we write is absolutely pure and totally high minded, but it also kind of helps for this to be represented numerically!

WordPress give you a whole range of different means of measuring your success (or lack of it.) Here are some of mine;

All time visits; 260,628

Busiest day; 1,029 (April 23rd 2012)

Number of posts; 1338

Number of comments; 1685

So there you go. The secret is out.

One step from eternity…

We have just been here;

Along with some friends, we spent the long weekend camping on the Ross of Mull, overlooking Iona- which is the most beautiful place I have ever been to.

And here is the evidence;

We walked a lot, swam, ate, cooked bread and baked spuds in makeshift ovens made of sand and driftwood fires.

Whilst there we heard of the mother of one of us having become seriously ill in hospital. The distance and ferries stopped any rush to her bedside- all that was possible was to stay and pray. To sit in such beauty with such a burden must have been an incredible rush of emotions- but it felt as though the place, and our community, was holding us.

We are delayed only by our hearts beating.

And each one beats with all the treasure of the universe.

Ubiquiosity and self curation…

I managed to use two words in the title to this piece that my spell checker does not recognise. Possibly because I made at least one of them up, but also because in many ways blogging (another word the spell checker rejects) is a process by which we construct a new version of ourselves- a cyber me.

I was reminded of this by listening to a radio programme today about how humanity is being shaped by the digital media. It was particularly interested in the proliferation of photographic images that we take to illustrate and document our worlds.

It asked a lot of questions about how when faced with an event, or an occasion, or just a sunset, our first thought is how to record it on one of the many devices we habitually carry for the occasion. In doing this, we not only shape our own interaction with the world, but we also are creating a version of ourselves for other people- we are curating our own self exhibit.

As the programme described…

…imagine yourself in a picture in front of a staggering view, smiling into the camera. The picture was taken to display your adventure, your specialness in relation to the special place. It is taken to show others your uniqueness, despite another million other pictures taken in the same place. Just you, having a carefree wonderful time.

Because you were there, you know the wider story- the blisters on your feet, the tiredness and hunger, the row you had with your partner a few minutes before. Also, all those other dimensions- the smell of the place, the sounds in the liquid air.

But interestingly, when you come to think back on this experience in the years to come, the amazing thing is that your entry into the memory will be shaped by this photograph- it will be a telescopic frame that distorts the reality towards the exhibit you were creating.

You, on a good day…

Sure, this reveals us (particularly if like me you make yourself an exhibit on the internet) as rather vain, rather shallow, rather foolish. We are making a meal of what is ubiquitous.

But more than this I wonder whether we are missing out somehow. If every event has to be recorded and digitally validated on some kind of external hard drive version of who we are then what might this be doing to us?

Do we lose some dimensions of experience?

Does it distance us from ourselves and each other?

I remember a conversation on a small island last year. We were there to get away from all the electronic noise and retreat, seeking silence, community and the voice of God. Conversation turned to the camera. Most of us had one- one us had 4. I suggested that given that we were seeking to immerse ourselves in nature, potentially the camera could be a distraction, a barrier between us and the place of retreat.

I remember getting quite a strong reaction. People fiercely defended the camera as means of looking more deeply, as a tool to aid spirituality, not to get in the way.

Which it may be. Because these things are never simple and straightforward. It is not either/or, it is both/and.

There is an undeniable vanity in recording your life through photography and writing as I am doing here. It is our connection with significance, however minimal and fleeting that this might be in this age of information overload.

But there are other reasons too- and (unsurprisingly) I feel that these are valid, even if we have to acknowledge the contradiction. I write to allow me to think deeply, to live vulnerably and to seek out God in the small things and the unlikely places.

I am away next weekend to another small island with some of my friends. Can I really leave behind the camera?

Perhaps I will take it, and leave it in the bag for one day.

One step at a time after all…

Another storm…



Ripping and rending

Bending then breaking

Scuttling and guttering

Litterbugs whirling

Hold fast to the railing-

Here comes the storm


Slates start their scissoring

Lifting and sliding

Chimney pots clinging

Open mouth howling

Insurance claims pending-

Here comes the storm


Foaming and crashing

Spray plume tongue lashing

White horses raging

Anchors are scraping

The shore all white teething-

Here comes the storm


Sirens nee-nawing

Some cars aquaplaning

Power lines sparking

Snaking and falling

Gadgets are dying-

Here comes the storm





The one that got me…

I live in a beautiful place. Check out the lovely Visit Cowal site here if you do not believe me.

It is something I often take for granted (for which I ask forgiveness) but at other times, it hits me between the eyes. Today there is a storm raging in from the Atlantic, and the sea is being whipped into froth and spray- despite our relatively sheltered location.

The exuberant power of it is exhilarating, but also a little frightening.

Of course, the camera comes out at times like this.

Except this time, I wandered a little close to the surf, and suddenly found myself wet above the knees.

Oh deary me, I said.

This was the one that got me-


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…