It’s well over a year since I’ve written in my blog. Moving house twice, filming in Africa, shivering in Siberia and back and forward to the States, it has all been a little bonkers. In amongst the madness has been the arrival of Biggles to our home. He’s just over a year old now and has become such a part of the family that it’s hard to remember what life was like without him. Alongside getting a dog, I also invested in new camera kit. I’ve replaced my old Nikon D200 with a D610 and a new suite of relatively fast lenses to fit its full size sensor. There is something about being back in the familliar territory of 35mm focal lengths that I’m finding has rekindled my enthusiasm for photography. The new Nikon is a beast to get used to but I can see endless possibilities. The shot above of Biggles was taken using a 50mm lens fully open at f1.4. Critically low depth of field and virtually impossible to get sharp without autofocus. It is amazing how technology is changing the way we make pictures and so see the world.
That Calvinist streak in me is having a feeding frenzy right now. My twisted psyche demanded a guilt-laden price tag for six weeks of bliss. But despite the last month being about getting up to speed with this new job it’s not all been about work. Taking time off has reminded me how important friends are. A diary of promises and engagements made during my holidays has meant it’s taken time for the work life balance to level itself out. There have been lots of great meetings and greetings with mates and colleagues but what follows is some pictorial evidence of the importance of friends and family.
At the start of the month I had a night out in Victoria Park that was supposed to be a quiet drink with my brother-in-law, Rob. Instead I ended up meeting so many old friends I felt more than a tad nostalgic. It is nostalgia that leads to a loss of balance, third degree burns to your leg and an inside out head, isn’t it?
Highlight of the month has to be flying up to the Hebrides to Malcy’s 60th birthday party. Malcy is one of my oldest pals and fellow founder of An Lanntair art centre where his party was held. Despite the horrendous weather outside, inside I was reminded of how many good friends I have from my time in Lewis.
Be it pain avoidance, wisdom or appreciation of family, I managed to make a relatively sensible exit, which wasn’t in keeping with our past record for long nights. I knew that my grandson Drew and my daughter Laura would harbour no excuses the following day and I was right. Drew jumped on my head from the top bunk at seven in the morning, and I gave thanks at the altar of common sense.
From old friends to new friends. Mikael Strandberg is one of the world’s leading explorers and has been on some madcap expeditions in his time. However his latest plan to become the first person on record to walk unaided across the Arabian and Sahara deserts puts all his previous exploits in the shade (pardon the pun).
Jen and I saw him talk this week in the library of The Travellers Club on the Pall Mall. Now there’s posh! Surrounded by dusty first editions of Thackery, Dickens, Thesiger and shelfloads more, Mikael held the slightly worn travellers in thrall. He is an amazing speaker and a very brave man.
It’s been a month since I wrote my last blog. The time has flown by in a giant jumble of family, friends, travel and DIY. However, all good things must come to an end and in this case they are being replaced a with great new challenge. As of next week I start at Raw TV as an Executive Producer. It’s big job with brilliant people and lots of scope and I’m delighted and daunted in equal measure.
Despite the precarious nature of being a freelance Series Producer, one of the benefits (especially if you have your next contract lined up) is being able to take long breaks. In all I’ve had six weeks off and it’s been utterly memorable. After returning from France in what Jen and I reckon was one of our best ever holidays, I spent just a day to in London before heading north to the Hebrides with my Dad. The Maynard and Maynard tour of the Highlands is becoming something of an annual event. My father is an astounding ninety years old in February so these are precious journeys. Last year we circumnavigated Scotland but this time we concentrated on family and friends in Lewis and Harris.
I detected a positive vibe to the islands that I hadn’t felt for many years. There are some inspiring examples of young people returning to the islands and getting on with plasterboard and projects. Nickolai and Beka Globe have made a fantastic new space for their pottery and photography at their converted Mission House Studio. And my old friend Ruraidh Beaton continues to build the legend of Am Bothan in his magical bunkhouse in Leverburgh. The advent of the long overdue Sunday Ferry and the reduction in ferry fares to the Islands through the Scottish Parliament’s revolutionary Road Equivalent Tarrif (RET) initiative have had an enormous impact on tourism. The roads were busier than I’ve ever seen them, lots of cars with surfboards on the roof and ever more dreaded camper vans in their wake. Ah well progress always comes at a price.
Talking of progress, my last day on the Island was spent at the helm of the Jubilee, sailing out of Loch Stornoway as the new Sunday ferry steamed past…bizarre. The Jubilee is fully restored 80 year old ‘Sgoth’ that I last sailed fifteen years ago. It’s another sign of renaissance in the Islands. The Jubilee, which was one of the island’s last serviceable traditional wooden sailing boats is now one of a fast growing number of this class of boat being built sailed regularly by locals and visitors alike.
Returning to London, I concentrated on getting the new kitchen installed interspersed with lots of catching up with friends in London. Amongst the highlights was the launch of Phil Stebbing’s massively ambitious ‘Lifeline’ project in Hyde Park. Phil is trying raise funds to send three teams of people around the world. Their mission is to meet others who are trying to live sustainably and build a Digital Ark filled with the secrets of sustainability. I did say it was ambitious.
Another memorable event was going to the one day England V Australia cricket match. Even to a relative newcomer to the game it was pretty obvious that it wasn’t a brilliant match, and England got soundly beaten. But nonetheless, great company, good weather and enough beer to last a lifetime more than compensated for the poor performance.
So that’s it. The holidays are over and the work begins. Bring it on.
An Diugh means ‘today’ in Scottish Gaelic. Some say the writing is in the sand for the language.
Gaels speak of their unique language and culture. But the Hebrides are also populated by many ‘white settlers’. These incomers have been attracted by jobs, cheap property, low crime, fresh air, the surf, empty beaches, or to just escape. To these new locals, Gaelic culture is as valid as any other and can sometimes be exclusive.
Trying to make Gaelic appealing in a modern context is an industry in its own right. This picture was taken for Proiseact nan Ealan, (The National Gaelic Arts Agency) to draw people’s attention to the perilous state of the language.