Tag Archives: atmosphere

Lake Minnewanka + plans

IMG_2123

 

 

 

The mist holds its hand over the foreheads of the mountains. The reservoir sits full to the brim, not lapping. It has a deep blue colour apparently when the light is up. But you can see it a little here, a tinge in the greys.

 

 

IMG_2125

 

 

 

IMG_2128

 

A passing snow-plough followed by another vehicle throw snow-dust in their wakes. Today, it was just a quick walk around the dam road, and then back. Because tomorrow there is a longer trip. I and the three other Creative Futures artists are going by car up to Jasper, which will take us through the Icefields parkway – and with two serious photographers and this eager amateur, I think the drive up will be a slow taking in of the canyons, lakes and glaciers there.

 

So I’ll be quiet here for a few days, hopefully to be back with shots of the wilds there. I’m taking my Polaroid too, but posting those will have to wait until I can get my hands on a scanner. Perhaps a good thing, seeing as how I flood this place with my pictures regardless. One last one, and wish us luck!

 

IMG_2129

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Silent post: The Banff Springs Hotel

IMG_1915

 

IMG_1926

 

IMG_1936

 

IMG_1937

 

IMG_1939

 

IMG_1940

 

IMG_1942

 

IMG_1953

 

IMG_1952

 

IMG_1959

 

IMG_1977

 

IMG_1973

 

IMG_1947

 

IMG_2014

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Of Hargate Hall

-Rather than of the wedding D and I attended, which was full of light and bustle and food and good cheer, this post is about the venue itself. About the feeling it carried, subtle, overwhelmed by the good mood of our party (70 odd souls and three dogs).

 

Hargate Hall, Friday, early evening. That white tent is a marquee.

Hargate Hall, Friday, early evening. That white tent is a marquee.

 

You could say it was the perfect setting for hush, for suspense. For reading at the windows, looking out across the stumbling, black-tree garden. Hargate Hall was built (so a photograph in the entrance-way told us) in 1899, so not very old by the standards of English Country Houses. In little over 15 years after its construction, the facade of the aristocracy would begin to crack with the onset of World War One.

 

Nowadays it’s a collection of self-catering apartments adjoining a fantastic central hall replete with stained glass windows with pseudo-heraldry, and a spiked candelabra hanging from the ceiling. We stayed in a low mezzanine, located up a steep wooden ladder and overhanging a small central room. It was like staying in a cosier treehouse.

 

On that first evening, D and I walked the grounds through the soft wet mist as it grew darker.

 

the flash reflecting off the white mist, just outside our kitchen.

the flash reflecting off the white mist, just outside our kitchen.

 

The garden path curves both up and down. We followed the downward path first, by the marquee and into the thin woodland.

 

hargate hall 3

 

we found this little...house? It is used for wedding ceremonies in warmer weather. Here it stared at us mournful, open mouthed

we found this little…house? It is used for wedding ceremonies in warmer weather. Here it stared at us mournful, open mouthed

 

 

This ghostly gate marked the edge of Hargate Hall's lands. Beyond was a farm reeking of the cows.

This ghostly gate marked the edge of Hargate Hall’s lands. Beyond was a farm reeking of the cows.

 

The light was beginning to go, and my poor wee camera struggled to keep up. It’s hard to capture the atmosphere under such conditions. It wasn’t eerie – I have been in eerie places – but was instead still. Stoic.

 

The farm, the drystane walls shelving the fields off into the close horizon

The farm, the drystane walls shelving the fields off into the close horizon

 

hargate hall 4

 

We wandered round along the main road and towards the gates of the hall. I’d like to say I had time then to read The Secret History (it would I think have been a perfect choice – second only to The Little Stranger) but there was far too much to do and far too many people to meet. The same of course was true of Saturday, the day of the wedding itself. But the evening of the second day brought snow, and our last morning saw Hargate Hall and the farmlands covered white.

 

IMG_20130310_101002

 

IMG_20130310_100938

 

IMG_20130310_101138

 

IMG_20130310_101959

 

IMG_20130310_102303

 

One last shot of the hall itself. We had to take a taxi and then a five hour train ride back north. It’s funny though, on the ride to Buxton train station, the driver referred to us coming ‘up’ to the Peak District, though he had already asked where we were from. Perhaps he misspoke, or perhaps it was something to do with where he felt situated – Northern, already. It always strikes me strangely, to hear of ‘the North’ on the BBC weather forecasts, when there’s so much more north. It reinforces the idea that Scotland is, to those who live below it, a different country, though they might in other respects (and irksomely to those who believe otherwise) refer to Scotland as a region. A region North of Thule, I suppose.

 

From the train we watched the snow storm follow us into the North, skittering the higher lands and leaving the valleys green and then, further, the tufty brown of semi-moorland, then green once again. I began The Secret History, but still have much to go. It seems so far like a slip of caramel over a big white plate – flavourful, but. More coherence (possibly) later. Thanks to all who wished us a good trip. It was.

12 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Old Stone

 

Here’s a song for this post: Laura Marling’s ‘Old Stone’. I like to think the ‘you’ she is addressing is the city itself, and the volcanic rock much of it sits on.

 

 

 

A refrain of rock and clinging moss. The ground under these leaves I think where once the Nor loch stood. Outcasts – unwed mothers, ‘deviants’ and like criminals were occasionally thrown into the loch to drown, and their bones lie under the bones of the respectably buried. But this time let’s not linger. The city is not all steeped in such a mood.

 

 

Most early afternoons I walk back from work thinking of the way the wind and cold have stripped back the greenery and darkened, higgledy stones. Here the ivy persists on one side, forming a contrast that highlights the absence, the dying, elsewhere. Environment as editor, removing excess. Elsewhere, humans have more actively written themselves onto the canvases of near ruined space:

 

 

This is up behind the University of Edinburgh main campus. I can’t help but feel more could be done with these mews. Maybe because I’d like to live in one myself. Little cottage in the city.

 

 

 

I love the way the shadow covers the cobbles and washes against the side of the mechanics. I love the difference each cobble carries, the breakages, the inconsistancies which mark a lingering presence, something repaired and patched over time. The road was not the only thing I found repurposed but left fragmentary, left with its half-sentences intact. The grammar of this city might have changed over time, but the words don’t always alter.

 

Closer to home I came across a mysterious sign -

 

 

Clearly, in this area, there was no longer a bowling club (that’s the more frequently found outdoor lawn bowls, rather than the American indoor style).

Behind it, there is some kind of official looking building – perhaps Crown Lands or Parliamentary business. And yet, the doorway to this non-existent place remained:

 

 

Did I push the doorbell? Of course! It went in, and though I listened, I couldn’t hear the bell. No admittance to the club, this time.

8 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Down among the mossy stone

 

Edinburgh is it seems a city of cemeteries, best visited as I said in Monday’s post, on days like this. When the water droplets seem to condense from the air around you, and umbrellas are nearly useless.

 

 

I can tinker with the filters, bring out the richness that my camera cannot catch, or leave it out. The dark sodden colours of stone and moss can speak for themselves.

 

 

At other times, I try to get the vibrancy of dying leaves in low light, and with a flick of the camera phone, sometimes fail and sometimes succeed. Compare these two images, the first with a filter, the second, of the graves below the tree, without any manipulation:

 

 

and

 

 

This one, unfiltered, shows a close up of those strange physallis-like flowerheads. I wanted to pull one off and pocket it and take it home. But who knows what might come crying round at my window in the night, to claim it back again?

 

 

In this lower graveyard, the stones are green and black, from moss and smoke. The ground is black too, under the leaves and the grass. Churned by the rain and my unsteady feet.

 

 

This is an old burial ground: as I said there has been a church on the site since at best guess the 850s AD. Twelve centuries of worship. Were there graves in those early days here? I imagine so. No visible sign remains. I found some stones that I thought looked to date from the sixteen hundreds, with angelheads with wings and mason signs. The record online might be able to let you know, if you are interested.

 

 

 

 

I explored only about half of the graveyard – the cold dampness nipping at me. Another time, definitely.

 

 

Up by the church, I saw people sitting apart on the steps, eating their lunches. Business people, it looked like, though the rain was as I said a miserable and constant drizzle. It seemed to make no difference, and I had seen people there from the upper graveyard in similar dreichness. I decided not to bother them with my photography. But you can imagine the hunched bodies on the damp steps, pushing wet sandwiches into their mouths. Seeking peacefulness, down here hidden away from the main road and the openness of the gardens.

 

 

Though it’s been a long time since anyone could say this part of Edinburgh was rural, I’m going to sign off with the open verse of ‘Elgy Written in a Country Churchyard‘ by Thomas Gray, suggested (and quoted down the phone) by my father.

 

The curfew tolls the knell of parting day,

The lowing herd wind slowly o’er the lea,

The ploughman homeward plods his weary way,

And leaves the world to darkness and to me.

 

 

Do you know of any other poems concerned with the specific peacefulness of a graveyard?

12 Comments

Filed under 2012, Edinburgh, Photograph, The Now

Good weather for a walk in the graveyard

 

 

Today I walked through the upper part of the graveyard that sits at the West End of Princes St, in a hollow by Princes St Gardens.

 

Damp and dark and sullen. The picture above taken at 1pm today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two churches share the burial grounds. Where that church stands, there has been a church since at least 850 AD.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bracken and moss, and glaucous leaves and dew, and old blossoms still hanging wetly down or redly. The Lower graveyard, awaits me for tomorrow. Though if it’s sunny, I’m not sure I’ll be seeing it at its best.

 

One last picture, reveling in the grim November:

 

5 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

The lure of damaged places

Down in Comely Bank, another part of Edinburgh, I added another couple of photos to my growing collection of shots of abandoned buildings.

I have been thinking now of how the eye is drawn to the wreck, the boarded up window, the collapsed roof, the weeds sprouting from the windowsill.  So, a post, drawing a few of them together in my mind. some you may recognise if you’ve been following this blog a while -

Romantic Shack, Catalonia.

 

Ruined store (?), Ocate, New Mexico

 

Dead Restaurant, Tierra Amarilla, New Mexico

 

A window in Golden, New Mexico

 

Abandoned house on private property, Espanola, New Mexico

 

Empty house, Bruntsfield, Edinburgh

 

Condemned clubhouse, Dunbar

 

Pub, Comely Bank

 

This last one, along with the building in Bruntsfield, is not lost entirely. There was a sign in the front saying work would be done. At some point.

But how long is time, in a building without people?

9 Comments

Filed under 2012, art, Edinburgh, New Mexico, Scotland

Mulling

Since I started work on the little chapbook of illustrations for Kilea, I have been thinking of the lure of islands, and a book has caught my imagination – The Atlas of Remote Islands:Fifty Islands I Have Not Visited and Never Will. Within it, there are wonderful hand drawn maps, is full of elaborate descriptions of place, fauna, flora, history, and it is one of those sorts of books to pour over again and again. I’m thinking of asking for it as a Christmas present, and disappearing off with it and a mug of mulled wine to sit by a window looking out on a snowy garden – there may be some romantic embellishment here.

And within the atlas too. There is something about the impossibility (or at least intense difficulty) of reaching these places which tinges the facts one does have of them with an otherworldly glamour. However, sometimes the islands, the impossible places you have reached, can turn out to be as just as haunting.

Loch Lomond, as seen from a high point on Inch cailloch

This picture was taken in 2007, in misty wet conditions (as you can tell by the blur) on the island of Inchcailloch, in the middle of Loch Lomond.    D and I went there with A (not boy-A, but another good friend), M and C (a different C from before – I wish I had another way of providing anonymity for people!). You have to take the little wooden ferry over from the ‘mainland’, and catching that ferry involves a lot of waiting around in the boatyard of the village of Balmaha. Once on the island, though, you have made it to a different world. A microcosm of a unique history.

A Graveyard on Inchcailloch

The island’s name means in Scots Gaelic, Island (inch) of the old woman (cailloch) and is thought to refer to an Irish saint who came to convert Scotland, and may have made her home here.  Despite the fact you can see all sides of the island from the summit of its hill (85m high), there used to be farms, industry and the home of the infamous bandits, the McGregors. The full moon over Loch Lomond was known as ‘McGregor’s Lantern’, because at night, the clan used to swim the cattle they had stolen across to the island.

An old tree bending to wash her hair in the loch

We wandered all over the island, discovering the graveyard, the ruined farms, the small campsite on the sandy beach. All of us struck by the beauty of the place, the soft, verdant, sorrowful atmosphere that veiled it. I grew up on an island, and a mythologised island forms the setting for Kilea. In a similar way, the Valle Grande, an isolated but magnificent (and real) meadow high in the Jemez mountains, forms the setting for my current novel. It seems that I am drawn to these places. At one time I thought this was because they were on the periphery – partially sealed off from the outside world by barriers of water or land, so that they were somewhat limited, good for a narrative, tightly binding it to the logic of a particular place. But that is only half the story – the other half is that in being islands, or island-like, they can become their own worlds. The smallest things take on significance, the smallest stories and memories nurtured and retold. A tree stump becomes an old woman, the moon a lantern for the island bandits.

While I wait for more news on Kilea, I’m likely to keep mulling over the sorts of elements that have gone into it. To lost family narratives and islands and deep dark pine woods, add houses with multiplying rooms (another theme that appeared benign in Kilea, now emerging in The Millennial). I hope I have enough to keep you all interested, at least until I flee South to Cornwall, and build myself a new bank of experience to turn into stories.

In your own writing or in novels you have read, what motifs to you find yourself attracted to?

15 Comments

Filed under consolations of reading, consolations of writing, Scotland, The Millenial, Theory