Thursday, 21 January 2010

Poem: The Mask of Solway

As mentioned previously on loveofscotland, the tide of the Solway spooks me. It has been used to murder religious martyrs, and the creepin', silent tide is dangerous to those who do not have their wits about them. Take care if you ever venture onto the endless horizons of the sands of Solway.

Empty the beach of all but birds
where drownings lurk at zombie pace.
This tide is read, but not its mind
so flee the slipping land's stripp'd race
for death expands, unwatched alone,
                          engulfing solid sands.
Solway is a Möbius strip
Uncoiled in watery bands.

Monday, 18 January 2010

A Highland Gloom

Recently I went up a hill in the rain, treating myself to the low cloud and semi-darkness of daylight in the West Highlands in winter. The deep frost of New Year had gone, streaks of slush speckled moorland hollows, and an unpleasant dark dampness pervaded everything, the snow melting, cloud lowering, the path ice-hard with compacted footprints, my gloves and boots sodden, glasses misted over and, higher up, glimpses of dripping icicles, tufts of grass, naked crags and feet slipping on wet snow.

It brought to mind days long ago when I'd wander these hills alone in similar weather, staying in bothies or sleeping in my car, not particularly enjoying myself, yet not knowing what to do with myself either: trapped in a constancy of movement, for to stay at home doing nothing was worse, and I wrote poems like The Plain:

That the confines of happiness
                      can be so small,
The encompass of my arms;

When the lonely plain lies so waste:
The life plain of my journey.

Crooked beauty deceives on the plain
The plain of the pure truth of decay
The limitless plain of all steps
So vast its terror:
I trek to sure horizon.

The plain whose only tree
      is the bitter fruit of knowledge
And only vantage a better view of nothing:
The plain whose only end is death.

Here it is spend my days
In solitude and emptiness.


I've since learned to enjoy relaxation, and there is no great pleasure in heading out in conditions like those of last weekend, especially when the east coast (where I now live) was sunny. Yet higher up there was still the feeling of being in a different world: and coming out the cloud at the end of the day, the lights of the pub could be seen from halfway up the path.

Sometimes the main pleasure from a hill day is a pint or a bath.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Ben Lomond

Half a highrise from Drumchapel, at the very edge of post-industrial Vale of Leven, Highland water laps one of the loveliest of lochs, seen here from Ben Lomond.



Glasgow's local hill: the Fuji-san of West Central Scotland, summer pilgrimage of the tracksuited; seen from vantage points across Glasgow, the beacon Ben Lomond, rising on the other side of pain, disappointment, and loss.



And even if we came in sight of Paradise, what price its sunset without hills?

Monday, 4 January 2010

The Victorian Glamour of Upper Helensburgh

Helensburgh, according to a weegie friend, is so posh "people don't have cars in their driveways, they have yachts."

A wee hoose in Upper Helensburgh:


This isn't true of the whole town, but it is of the glorious, eclectic variety of housing in Upper Helensburgh. I doubt there is a greater collection of late Victorian villas and mansions in Arts & Crafts and Balmorality styles anywhere in Scotland. This area was urbanised a little over a hundred years ago, when the railway came to town and the rich merchants of Glasgow wanted a place to live out the city and by the sea.

A Villa:


There's a number of houses famous for architecture or interiors: Longcroft, Red Tower, and of course the Hill House, designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

The Hill House:


A walking tour round Upper Helensburgh would be illuminating, if a bit nosey. This isn't Beverley Hills, and these aren't Homes of the Stars. My finger was stayed on the shutter release button, and I was content mainly just to look.

Helensburgh street: