There and Back Again

memory, Politic, Sculpture, Travel



In the past two weeks I have been to The Netherlands, Wales and a whole variety of places in England.

Amsterdam is a complicated, confusing, beautiful city. The division between the tourist trap, “coffee” and smart shop fueled, stoner city and the arty, bohemian cool of the Jordaan suburb feels remarkably well delineated. I’d really like to spend more time there.

I do like the positive, more relaxed and accepting attitude the Dutch have to drugs and sex but the experience of Amsterdam is marred by that being the main tourist attraction. I would really like to see a city where those attitudes are normal without an accompanying industry being made from tourists reveling in their freedoms for the first time.


#amsterdam knows how to throw an #edm #festival. #awakenings #awakeningsfestival

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Among the many things we saw and did there, the Saturday we spent at the Awakenings festival and the visit to the bodyworks exhibition were my highlights. The level of organisation and the scale of the music festival was extraordinary. Oddly it finished at a 11PM but a grand day and night out was had by all.


Yes this is a flayed cadaver playing saxophone.

I missed the Gunther Von HagensBodyworlds exhibition when it came to Australia years ago. So I was very eager to see it at its permanent home. I was not disappointed. It is amazing and bizarre. The whole experience is made more peculiar by the twee, “Happiness is good for your health” messages displayed and inserted throughout the exhibition. These are in contrast to the remarkable preserved cadavers, unpleasant medical conditions and genuinely creepy character of Gunther Von Hagens himself. A man who meets too many criteria on the mad scientist supervillan list to be taken seriously when he encourages you to ‘Don’t worry be happy’.

Post bucks weekend we turned over the guest house and headed south for the wedding of Steven and Jill in a wee town outside Swindon.


Massive chunks of stone and bored children.


If only that cow had better aim it’d have an eye.

The wedding was lovely, the hotel grand and even my speech went down well. Two nights in Swindon flew by and we headed west via some standing stones, a chalk horse and a roman ruin to visit maternal relatives in Wales. Cardiff was a hoot and included a tour of a significant portion of the local playgrounds, much to the delight of L and F.




Perspective art on the barrage in #cardiff.

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Post Wales we headed back east for dinner with friends in London and two nights in a grand old dive of a hotel in Slough. From where we went to…


Which was, as expected a grand day out. We had hoped to stay at the Lego hotel for the complete experience but we left it too late and prices became outrageous. Some of the outdoor Lego pieces have seen better days, green slime in the water features, cracked and faded plastic on the builds, awful expensive food, and labyrinthine park layout. All did not matter, the rides were great and everyone left beaming.

The submarine ride through a giant fish tank with sharks and Lego Atlantis was my favourite. Unfortunately F was too small for many rides but had a great time regardless, L was only just tall enough for some of the big rides.

Lego city firemen, Viking splash and Star Wars Miniland featured among L’s highlights.

The whole day was improved by the accompaniment of my wonderful cousin Jenny.

Post Lego we drove in one mad and seemingly endless day from London back to Glen Orchy Scotland and collapsed into our own beds again. Four days later and normality is returning. Bedtimes are being pushed back to more reasonable hours and the washing is finally done.

Through all this I have of course been watching the slow motion train wrecks of Brexit and the Federal DD election in Australia. Thoughts on them another night.



Snapped in passing at a Moto on the way north. I like it because of Hitchhiker’s of course.

There is art to be done and further adventures to contemplate.

Travel Pics

Books, film, Travel


Watched the singularly disappointing film ‘The Imitation Game‘ last night. Honestly, what an inaccurate, trite and disappointing film it is. Every major character is misrepresented to greater or lessor degrees. Seemingly every achievement is mis-credited and in many cases poorly explained. How lame the storytelling, so much is told rather than shown. So much is invented rather than telling the true and more thrilling history. Avoid.

Started a new shared audiobook with N today. ‘Three Men in a Boat‘ by Jerome K. Jerome as read by Hugh Laurie. A book so funny it proved hazardous to listen to while driving. It is difficult to see the road through tears of hilarity or hold the wheel whilst struggling to breathe.

Travel Pics

Image upload widget appears to be playing nice again so here are some of our recent explorations.


Sunset over Loch Lomond driving North. Passenger photographer.


“Where are all the knights?”

I was disappointed there was no way to get onto the battlements. Well I found a way, having seen a head poking out above I investigated and was politely told I didn’t belong by the adolescent staff member Fbooking on the roof during his lunch break. No pics unfortunately.



Doune Castle is famously the castle whose interior was used for much of ‘Monty Python & The Holy Grail‘ and more recently for the Game of Thrones Pilot and more recently still for much of ‘Outlander‘.

Extraordinary place, rich with history. It really puts into perspective what a cramped and dismal place a castle would have been to live in, particularly during winter.



The Three Sisters in Glen Coe are quite breathtaking.


View across Loch Creran from a property we visited recently.





Crivens! its been over a week

Archaeology, Bio, memory, Travel

One of the problems of going a few days without posts is that a psychological barrier is formed about sitting down to creating a new post. I mean look at all the things I now need to post about, worse still look at all the art I haven’t made this week. This has not been helped by ongoing bedtime battles that have pushed well into the evening. We have now resorted to denying daytime naps whenever possible. This does not work on days that involve driving as F will invariably be out like a light by the bottom of the driveway.

I have been working but not as I gauge it, creating. I’m plugging away at my best man’s speech. A tedious process but important. I’m off to Amsterdam this weekend for a stag do. Late next week we will be heading south for our friends wedding, visits with Welsh relatives and to the delight of all a trip to Legoland.

I’ve finished a book or two. N and I slammed through ‘Reamde‘ by Stephenson. Which is a ripsnorting adventure story with some interesting ideas mixed in. It is more a piece of airport fiction than the mind stretching Spec Fic I have come to expect from Stephenson. N and I were completely hooked so it did its job well.

I finished ‘Slaughterhouse Five‘ by Vonnegut which has been on my reading list for years. Vonnegut is a favourite of mine so this classic has been a bit of a glaring omission. It is a strange book, deserving of a post all its own at some point.

Now listening to ‘The Fatal Shore‘ By Robert Hughes. As always finding the heartless barbarity of Edwardian and Victorian English systems confronting.

We’ve been on exploratory adventures within the region most days. North to Fort William through Glen Coe, South East to Doune castle and the Wallace Monument in Stirling, twice to Glasgow and on many small walks. Even to a small event hosted by a local amateur naturalist club. Where we participated in opening and cataloging the catch from moth traps set the previous evening. After which we had a lunch overlooking Castle Stalker. To my chagrin we have been up no mountains yet. I hurt my ankle last weekend being silly in the garden. Fortunately not badly and I’ve recovered fast.


Took a drive through the ever spectacular #glencoe today.

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#headshot #caughtbyhand #golden-ringeddragonfly #macro #insect Cordulegaster boltonii

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Robert the Bruce @ the #wallacemonument #scotland

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Many more pictures to share that I have not Instagrammed but the upload function is glitching. I’ll try and include them tomorrow.




Big week

Archaeology, Bio, memory, Sculpture

I started this post on Sunday, was interrupted by tiredness and a call for cuddles. Monday evening we had a black out that lasted well into Tuesday morning. Tuesday we had a dilema with Boris the dog which preoccupied us until late that evening. Yesterday was my birthday and we didn’t get home until quite late in the evening. Which brings me to today which was lovely but thanks to inconsistent routine bedtimes have been prolonged battles of attrition and I am sitting down to write now at 10:30PM having gone for an evening walk up the mountain side to check the Hydro inlet and give wee Boris a ‘poopurtunity’. It is still light though fading now and the midges as ever, are awful out.

The Boris Dilemma

Tuesday evening while continuing to clean the guest house N noticed that Boris the lovely old Scot’s terrier mutt who is our charge and pride and joy whilst we look after ‘Arichastlich’ was missing. We begin searching for and calling him high and low all around the property inside and out of the house which we had left open as we came and went from the guest house. Our initial theory was the he must have heard some thunder which we with vacuum cleaner going had not and in true doggy fashion freaked out and gone to ground. We had witnessed this behaviour first hand the previous day when he had hidden under the boys beds at bed time due to far off and not very loud thunder – not helpful, but understandable-. So we concentrated first on hiding places within the house and around the grounds. Only once sure that he was not there did we begin to widen our search down the road in each direction, contacting neighbours, checking up the hillside, with tup and horse in the field we visit daily. Eventually we bundled everyone into the car and set off down the road stopping to call out. In this way some two awful hours later we found wee Boris hanging out in the car of a camper by the river some kilometers down the road.

The explanation for this we now think most likely is that Boris as is his way jumped into the car of some random who had stopped to look at the pigs in the neighbouring field and as he previously did not wear his collar at home assumed he was lost. The camper who was caring for him reported that he reportedly tried to get into a number of cars and nearly been taken by a driver of a white van with him to a town some distance away. But having encountered a camper staying in the region had left him there. Would he have made his own way home? There is really no telling as he was clearly making himself at home in the camp.

The relief at finding Boris cannot be overstated, he is without doubt the most precious of our charges here. I made sure to take a few beverages back to the camper in thanks.

Yesterday I wanted to do get some history in on my birthday so we visited Kilmartin to view sculpted stones, cairns and these standing stones which are part of a lunar observatory over 5000 years old now and perhaps even then, in a sheep field.

Kilmartin-stones1 Kilmartin-stones


Found a bunch of interesting wee beasties to photograph this week.





Apart from a little work in Illustrator, a little speech work and an hour’s painting on the castle card I have done shamefully little creative work this week.





L was up at all hours through the night leaving everyone a bit fragile today. We Began the first turn over of the guest house but lacked the stamina to do it all in one go as a test run. The problem with long daytime naps is hellish bedtimes. I am setting up to paint now that at least one of our infants is finally down. Hoping to climb the hill behind the house tomorrow, if the children’s health has improved anyway.

‘Live every day like it’s your last, because someday you’re going to be right.’

-The late, great, Ali

In Review

Books, film


One child gets well and the other comes down with it. Nursing a feverish L as I write this post.


Made the daily visits to the neighbour’s beautiful horse ‘Ossian’ with F and Boris. Caught a Toad.

A spot of computer troubleshooting and a wee bit of art during the day. I have bit the bullet and allowed iTunes back on my machine as there is simply no other way to convince the computer that there is an iPhone connected without it. I really wanted to get my photos off my phone.

I’ve installed the Opera browser on most devices as Chrome is functioning very poorly on such low bandwidth. It cannot load Calendar at all and even IE/Edge is performing better. Opera Turbo is lovely.

I am yet hopeful of getting some painting in once the bairns are full asleep.

NB. Not going to happen 11:30PM and publishing.

In Review

On the flight over I read the ‘Hyperbole & A Half’ book. Many parts of which I have of course read before. I was surprised and delighted by many of the previously unseen entries and as usual was reduced to hysterical tears by posts both old and new.

Allie Brosh is a treasure. It has been a long time between posts but I live in hope.

fight club 2

I also ploughed through the complete set of ‘Fight Club 2’ the comic form sequel to the far superior original book by Palahniuk.

Honestly it was just disappointing. Old characters felt forced in and rather than taking the story to new and interesting places it all felt rather like a bad joke at the expense of the originals fans.


Novel the blind assassin cover.jpg

Yesterday N and I finished ‘The Blind Assassin’ by Atwood which has been our together car book for almost two months now. It has a sedate pacing that took some time to hook us. I honestly did not expect to fall in love with Iris the narrator but both N and I were a bit teary at the end. The language throughout is just wonderful, subtle and severe, wicked and sharp. The character Reenie with her homespun idioms is particularly enigmatic. The version we listened to was voiced by Margot Dionne to great effect.


Burnt Poster Updated.jpg 

I only watched two films on the flights over, flying with children is challenging that way. ‘Burnt’ and ‘A Perfect Day’.

‘A Perfect Day’ is lovely but depressing and ‘Burnt’ was fun but predictable and more than a little melodramatic.



Castle Day

Archaeology, Travel

Visited Stirling Castle today. 


Some serious cash has been spent on this historic feature recreating tapestries, wood work, murals and stonework. It has a number of well interesting children’s activity rooms and a few good museum galleries. Had a fabulous time and left knackered.

Everyone in this family loves to dress up. If only you could swan about the castle like this rather than just trying them on for a minute.


A reproduction piece of one of the many ‘Stirling Heads


From our visit to the Ardkinglas gardens; one of the tallest trees in the UK. The tallest is also there but looks less impressive in my photos.


The local historic feature is the Monument to the poet Duncan Ben MacIntyre. Which we visited late last week. Loch Awe visible in the background, it commands an impressive view unfortunately marred by pine forestry work surroundings. Majestic wind turbines march across some mountains in the distance. A couple of people have left flowers here, for the poet or more likely more recently deceased loved ones.


L and I found a crack in the base through which you can see that the structure is hollow. I was sorely tempted to climb up and look in but came up with to many excuses not to.


Tomorrow we stay in to await a tradie and prepare for our first independent guest house turn over. I am keen to get painting my imaginary castle as well.






Today marks the first actual day of our house sitting adventure. Our hosts spent last night aboard their lovely yacht and sailed with the morning tides. In good form there was an electrical malfunction in the guest house over night which left our guests briefly without power to the dishwasher and fridge. They have been connected to an alternate power point and a sparky is due Friday.

Three nights of infant illness have taken their toll and both N and I are stretched a bit thin. F came down with gastro virus on Sunday and only began perking up in the doctors surgery today. So it goes. Everyone else is thankfully hale and healthy if a bit itchy from midge bites.

We are experiencing a genuine summer here our single packed sets of summer clothing have extraordinarily actually been required with warm dry days a steady feature so far. It probably wont last.

I have an office to work in but I haven’t set aside enough time this evening to paint. Happy of a place to work and write tonight anyway.


On the Gruffalo Trail


Some days since the last post. Not really keeping on top of it.

I’m telling myself that when I am set up with a work space I can paint in things will fall into place. In the mean time we have been continuing to learn the ropes of managing the property, taking long walks with Boris, eating rich food and reveling in being in this beautiful place.

We had a busy social day earlier in week, Tea and Tots to meet some more local parents, lunch with my aunt, a delightful walk with her through a local garden and later fish and chips out with our hosts. Since then we have walked locally every day exploring paths along the river. I am aching to takle one of the many mountains around us, N is not so keen.

Ardkinglas‘ gardens Home to Britain’s tallest tree are full of brilliantly coloured rhododendrons, fields of bluebells and to the delight of our children a Gruffalo in Scots explorer trail. My only criticisms of this feature is the lack of representations of the animals and that the statue of the Gruffalo they have created in sheet metal looks so different from the books representation that the boys took some encouragement to recognize it.


I’ve having some difficulty extracting photos from my iPhone because I will not install iTunes anymore. Cloud services suck to much bandwidth to trust here and email is failing to send with picture attachments. Experimenting with ways to automatically download via windows by treating it as a camera device from autoplay, limited results so far. Relying therefore on my lovely wife’s Instagram and what little I share that way too.


Adventures with Boris.

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Crazy looking clouds over the Glen yesterday

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Eye of Newt

Archaeology, Bio, Books, memory

The rope swing  with big red rubber buoy up the back got plenty of use today. We also visited the horse and tut (ram), these two bachelors occupy the field opposite the house and both are ever eager for attention much to the boys delight.  A spot of fishing for tadpoles in the pond nearby. Caught the first newt I’ve ever handled, a feature of practically every British children’s book. Salamanders and the like are exotic to me. They look remarkably like miniature crocodiles hanging in the sunlit water just below the surface.

Primary care and odd jobs precluded creative work until it was to late to want to start.

Been doing plenty of readings from this hilarious translation in my admittedly dreadful accent:

See yon snake! Is he daft or no? There’s nae such thing as a gruffal … Oh!

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#millipede found cleaning and put outside. #macro #arthropod

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This list, well lets just say it isn’t getting any better. The opposition could do worse than just replacing their entire campaign materials with a link to it.

Interesting parallels in Kings Cross’s history with current developments. Hopefully no murders this time around though.