Some photos of a bike tour

Feshie. A beautiful chaos. I arrive late and only half recognise the place, and even in the morning it's the same until I reach the upper reaches. The 'new' track is in pieces, washed away by waters allowed to run wild. I thought it had been three years since I was last here, but it's only been two. So much has changed. Me too, I guess.

My fettling done for now, I sit, watch and listen. I'm camped in a musical place, the river running over rock to my left and right, and the long, low sweeping arc of the meander right at my feet. The music expands and the river is a glockenspiel: High notes chime on my left, low registers to my right. The moon swoons in and out of the cloud. It's out in the clear now, stroking gentle shadows from the glades, then back it sways veiled behind gauze, stretched across a blackness untroubled with tungsten. And with it the contrast opens up, from blacks to greys, even hues of green and blues. I can see more of the glen, the river course, and the forest, growing again, all the time, growing.

Night rider

A few photos from an evening's exploration by mountain bike, around the Inshriach Forest, a place of margins and borders, between the lowlying and populated strath and the bony and lonely uplands. There are regiments of conifers, bulldozed double track and sinuous single track, crofts both inhabited and abandoned, clearfell and regeneration. In the summer, there are also flesh eating monsters aplenty, just a few of which were caught by the flash in one of the shots below. It's far from being an untouched landscape, but it's diverse and has it's own sad and solemn beauty. Last summer's evening, it felt like something of a miracle to witness.

I had a friendly email asking if I had merged the fifth image in the last set, and thought I'd mention it here, because the fifth photo in this set also looks a little surreal, and people might be wondering if there was trickery involved. All photography is hocus pocus of course, and I love all types of photography, but no - for me the challenge at the moment is to play with the restrictions of a single exposure. I spent far too long in a past life as a sound engineer hunched over a sampler screen (and later a computer) tweaking and modulating, to want to do more than the bare minimum in photo software nowadays. So I try to do it all in the machine, and just use it to try and see better. No overdubs, the place is often more than enough.

Enough talk, here's some creamy, creepy modern gothic.

 

 

Reset Devices

Deep time on the Tundra. 34km, 1900 metres of upness, four Munros and 26 hours in the new backyard. Relieved I still have some mountain legs after a break from the big stuff, and nice to close on the final 2 4000 footers David Hine and I bailed on in 2015.

Click and swipe for the pictures

 

 

Ship of These/us

This is my grandfather’s axe. My father replaced the head and I replaced the shaft. This is my grandfather’s axe.

Three weeks ago we moved to Kingussie in the Cairngorm National Park. It’s been a busy time. It’s not insignificant to me that my family has returned to the Highlands a lifetime after war took my grandparents south. I have little time for essentialism and I'm staking no claim by mentioning this, simply acknowledging something mysterious to me. Sometimes life moves in circles and cycles that aren’t easily rationalised. I’ve become a civic Scot by dint of choice, defined in celebration of possible futures for my family, not just a flight from an ethnic English death cult. For those that need some escape from that, though, Karma dictates that our door will always be open. You’ll be welcome if you come knocking.

It’s also seven years since I began writing here. A big change affords the chance to look back over one’s shoulder, and I notice that a constant preoccupation has been the relationship between edge and centre, people and place. What you see is where you’re at, and of course the reverse is also true. What this relocation means for me is to finally dissolve those spurious distinctions once and for all, and I guess we’ll see how that goes. I also see reflected in the mirror someone more determined than I expected to be, someone who willed himself closer to the hills and trees and somehow it came true. I don’t expect that to mean anything to you; maybe I had low expectations, but he’s surprised me.

...

Last Sunday, my partner hemorrhaged and was rushed to Raigmore hospital in Inverness. I drove a drowsy three year old into an apocalyptic sunset over the Slochd pass knowing without doubt that we’d lost the baby. Within 24 hours I was driving south again for a night bag while she went under the knife. I couldn’t be in theatre because in haste we had no-one near to take care of our daughter. The baby boy was born six weeks early by Cesarean. My Mum flew up late in the evening, circling over her old home town in the dark almost three score years and ten after she left as an infant herself.

A tiny life hung in the balance for the next two days, miniature lungs not ready to breathe on their own. When not grinding out the practicalities I dry sobbed in the men’s bogs, my partner came to, shouldered and soldiered, and our daughter took the upheaval hard. Mostly we held the jumble and jangle of it all together for each other. Just.

Both mother and baby are much stronger now. The coming months will be challenging, and naturally moments like this are existential and sort the wheat from the chaff. What matters? What is important? As parents, teachers, learners and citizens, we'd better know. Dipping back in to 'reality', the online world seems ever more flimsy and vainglorious, politics a sham and a theatre. By contrast, the people of the Strath have already been so welcoming, and we are lucky and grateful. Now that we’re in the right place for us, our time here has already been more full of people than I could possibly have predicted. Edge and centre? Like I say, it’s been a busy time, and if the last week or so has reaffirmed anything, it’s that timing is everything. Scotland’s future is in the glens, and that future is now.