Tuesday, 26 May 2009

The North Atlantic Rainforest

I was tickled by the term 'North Atlantic Rainforest' on reading it in a book of illustrations of Scottish forests years ago. It makes something damp and miserable sound exotic. And this weekend just gone was certainly wet, windy and miserable in the West Highlands, where we climbed a hill without any enthusiasm. But, two hours before sunset as we prepared to walk in to our bothy for the night, the rain relented and the sun even came out for a brief spell. What a delight it was after being soaked all day to dry out in the wind, with views of the sea and islands! Bluebells, primroses, the carnivorous sundew and bracken littered the lower stories, as we followed the twisting path, birch and oak entangled amongst mossy rocks.

Oh the Bluebells are Blue:


The forest was full of birdsong, chaffinch, cuckoo; we saw a vast bird in the distance and wondered if it was a sea eagle.

In the North Atlantic Rainforest:


Approaching the bothy, deer watched us close up. I won't name the bothy, but those who have been there will recognise it. It is one of the most beautifully located of all bothies.

The bothy:


A tonic of a trip, and one that makes you wonder. What if the forests covered more of the country than they do now? What if we had forests like there were hundreds of years ago? Recently, native tree planting schemes have been associated with the regeneration of the country, the reappearance of fertility, jobs, diversity and sustainability in Highland areas.

We arrived back in Clydebank as the whistle blew ending the last SPL games of the season. Rangers had won the title for the first time in four years, and there were groups of delighted, blue-clad drunks outside pubs waving union flags and roaring at passing cars. It was great to see that Rangers had won the title again, but later the dark side of the Old Firm became apparent. A gang used the excuse of Rangers' victory to murder a Catholic man in Coleraine, Northern Ireland, and left another seriously injured. There were also three murders in the Glasgow area - not, according to the police, associated with the football. But it seems too much of a coincidence.

No football victory is worth men's lives, but then the football is just an excuse, a convenient flag around which the accrections of sectarianism rally. And too many people in the west think that what occurs is just the way things are. They are so steeped in daily, low-level bigotry that they don't realise it has a hold of them. It is a cancer that eats away over time at the good in people, leaving reactionary shells of humanity, fighting and refighting old battles whose cause is long forgotten. If the West of Scotland is ever to progress, then sectarianism is the nettle that must be grasped and pulled up at the root.

It will not be enough just to plant more trees.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Shameless Plug

No, not a Cabinet Minister claiming 88p off the taxpayer for a bathplug - something a bit closer to home, for me, anyway.

The slides, pictures and maps of The Weekend Fix are away to the publisher, as is their requested updates to the text. So that's it done! ... for now.

To celebrate, I think I'll go away up a hill this weekend.

Billy? Dave? Anyone? Up for it?

Monday, 11 May 2009

Blue Hotel

A new anti-comedy based in a hotel in the middle of the Highlands. There are rarely visitors, the staff are left to amuse themselves. Think Father Ted meets The Shining.

Cast:
Barman, Nigel Buckland out of Vids.
Maid, Lexie out of Monarch of the Glen.
Handyman, Derek Lord from Take the High Road.
Travelling salesman, Frankie Boyle.
Long-distance lorry driver, Benicio del Toro.
Lech, Brian Cox.
Young clansman, uncast.

The travelling salesman always gets a rise out of the barman. The handyman is on the verge of a breakdown. The maid detests the barman. The barman probably fancies the maid. He is too weak perhaps to be a sympathetic character, but provides the only anchor for the viewer in the whole series, with the occasionaly rant to camera.

Pilot episode: Doobie.
Blue Hotel has been snowed in for two weeks. The staff's drugs have run out, their regular run undelivered as their lorry driving contact cannot get through the drifts. They are forced to become creative with what they have to hand. In the meantime, the busy hotel down the glen at sea level on the main road is hosting a clan gathering. A young clansman in full regalia has mistakenly ended up in the wrong hotel. It is rumoured he carries something everyone wants under his kilt. The only alternative is the snow: he must fend off the attentions of the staff, as well as those of a seedy lech.

Opening credits: helicopter pan up empty winter road, ending at the hotel.
Theme tune: Chris Issac's Blue Hotel.

Blue Hotel.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Pics That Missed the Cut

I've been going through pictures for my book, The Weekend Fix, now to be published 1 September this year. And there are a lot of pics that, for one reason or another, won't make it in. Here are a few:

Across the Buachaille Etive Beag to Bidean nam Bian:


Cornice above Drumochter:


The Easains:


Relaxing in Glencoe:


Atmospheric light on Gairich:


Coire Ba:



Some tough decisions on the final pics...