Thursday, 22 May 2008

A trip doon the water

Wemyss Bay Station

Fifty First Timer No.13
Didn’t we have a lovely time the day we went to Rothesay.

Rothesay - one time holiday destination for almost everyone living in the west of Scotland. The town nestles on the eastern shore of the small Isle of Bute in the Clyde Estuary. And I have never been there!

Two of my writing cohorts from our group The Mitchell Sisters agreed to accompany me even thought they are both seasoned Rothesayites. The transport is straightforward. One return ticket covers the train to Weymss Bay, ferry to Rothesay, bus and entrance fee to Mount Stuart house.

The Victorian style station at Weymss Bay is a give away for what is in store. On the island’s grand sea-front, houses big enough for family and servants, tell of rich Glasgow merchants escaping the grime of the city to this gentler shores. Later the working classes cottoned on to this gem in the Clyde and paddle steamers transported hoards ‘doon the water’ to spend the Glasgow Trades fortnight at the seaside.

Sadly this trend died out with the advent of cheap packages to Spain and the town became the tired seaside haunt that is evident up and down the coasts of the UK. But there is work afoot to change that. Building work at the ferry terminal hints at a turning tide for the tired old lady of the Clyde and the town is close enough to Glasgow to be a desirable weekend bolthole.

The Mitchell Sisters

Our destination is >Mount Stuart House, the ancestral home of the present Marquis of Bute, racing driver Johnny Dumfries.

I had heard that a Mark Neville exhibition is being staged there and was keen to see his latest project. Mark Neville is the photographer who took photos of working class people in Port Glasgow, a depressed shipbuilding town and gifted each resident exclusive copies of the resultant coffee table book.

The Mount Stuart exhibition focuses on the rural, agricultural classes and with the use of different lighting techniques he captures stunning images of these hard working folk which is evocative of Russian portraits.

The guided tour of Mount Stuart House lasts an hour. Two memorable sights from that visit are the black calcified marble on the stairs, where fossilised sea creatures are captured for eternity and the discovery of more striking photos; a quick trip to the toilets reveals a hidden set of photos taken during the Great War when the house was used as a Naval Hospital. The setting for the hospital is grand and unique but the suffering is captured in the wounded sailor’s eyes.

Mount Stuart Gardens

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Terrifying times two

The Inaccessible Pinnacle

The Inaccessible Pinnacle (the In. Pin) is the hardest munro in Scotland and you can see from the picture why that is. All hill walkers have to endure this torture before they can complete their round of 284 munros. I climbed this intimidating beast two years ago and I have no intention of doing it again. On that occasion I left my camera behind thinking I would have my hands full enough, so it was a treat to be a spectator at this momentous event.

Eight of us headed up the hill to meet this brute. The walk up the ridge of Scurr Dearg is terrifying enough for me. The Skye Cullin Ridge is the most exhilarating place in the world, but also the scariest. The photo shows three climbing the ridge and Colin abseiling off having completed the climb.

You can experience some of the drama of the In. Pin by viewing the excellent Gaelic film Seachd:The Inaccessible Pinnacle.

I think this is the ridge we walked along, but I cant be sure; I had my eyes closed most of the time.

High Wire

Last week I visited the Centre For Contemporary Art (CCA) in Glasgow. This venue has the best seafood chowder ever, but they also have pretty exciting shows. The exhibit showing was High Wire by Catherine Vass. Vass's film installation documents a high wire walk; 150 foot-long wire slung 265 feet up across the tops of three of the Red Road Flats. These flats are evidence of the idealistic housing developments in Glasgow in the 1960 and are now due for demolition. They also feature in the fantastic Andrea Arnold film Red Road.
The installation was filmed in July 2007 using four cameras and viewpoints. I remember hearing the walker, Didier Pasquette being interviewed on local radio the day of the walk and thinking, as the gale force wind waffled down the microphone, this man is mad!

I won't spoil the ending, but will confirm that this is one of the most exciting art installations I have ever witnessed.

High Wire is on at the CCA until Saturday 24th May. Check out the seafood chowder too.