stories and illustration

This, on the Other Hand, Be Rowan

July 17, 2017 Posted by | Art, Photography, Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Little Walk Through Trees


Every day the trees change, the wind has pulled the leaves off many of the rowan trees – but on a sunny October afternoon I put on my new waterproof trousers and put my possum hat in my pocket and set off to get some fresh air.  Just inside the great grounds of the Hirsel, opposite the memorial to Sir Alec Douglas-Home, once Prime Minister, there is a path that goes up alongside the golf course, a tad off the beaten track as it is not one of the designated walking routes (you could frighten the pheasants, but you wouldn’t meet any until much further on). Although the path is strewn with leaves, the trees still have plenty of green in them:


The sun coming from the left illuminates a fern and not much else:


On the right hand side a mound of cut trees cuts out the light from the other side, and more or less hides the green of the golf course. I saw some of these trees being hewn last year, and they are still piled up here in a long row. Something rather melancholy about them, lain there disregarded:




I come out at the top of the path and before arriving at the little gate, turn back towards the road (thus leaving any pheasants undisturbed). Now I can see, over the fields, a distant view of Trimontium, aka The Eildons, beloved of Sir Walter Scott.  From Scotts View, in summer, they look a lot prettier and less muggy than this. Still, there is something about the sight of them on the horizon that stirs me, they are so emblematic of the Borders landscape:


At the bottom of the hill I squeeze through the exit space, cross the road, and take my usual path down towards the Tweed:



A digger is rearranging the ground where once the smashed television stood all by itself amid little craters of mud. The tangle of buddleia bushes, flowers, and scrub has gone, and there is no more whiskery cheeping from the warblers to be heard. Over the coming year, this patch of ground will be completely remade:


I am not going down to the Tweed today, because I like reflections, and there are no reflections to be seen in the muddy swirling water – turbid I think is the word – after the recent rain.



Instead, I turn up to take the little path through the trees which runs along the ridge above the fields which border the Tweed:



Every day the colours of the trees up here change. Today a high wind is blowing, so soon the yellow leaves will be torn away:


The colour of the sky looks completely mad behind the orange-yellow of the leaves.  It is like some Russian jewellery:



The rowan, on the other hand, has been rendered almost leafless in the wind:


At the end of the path, with its back to me, is the small green bench where no-one sits:


Along the last part of the path the sweet chestnuts are scattered on the ground:


I go past the deserted tennis court and through the copse:


Say goodbye to the horse, and then walk on home:


October 26, 2013 Posted by | Photography, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

A Walk by the Tweed: Berries, Birds, Broken Boxes


The gulls have flocked inland, and are standing where Tweed water is shallow. There are no boats on the river round here, so I am the only person disturbing the birds. I like their white wings against the dark maroon of the ploughed earth, where the phacelia grew in high summer. There are boats left tied up here and there all along the river, and I photograph one of them, with its eddy of scum. I try and photograph little boats, as they often come into my illustrations (it was once remarked that the spindly oars I had drawn wouldn’t get anyone anywhere fast):


The barley has all gone, but the stubble is still left in this field, beside the grass alongside the river which is thick and wet this afternoon, with red clover sprung up since I last walked this way:


Swans as well as gulls stand in the shallows:


But one swan is swimming near the edge of the opposite bank with its brood:

swans and brood

As I turn up the lane towards the little wood that leads back into Coldstream, I see the blackberries in a transitional state, and the elderberries ripening:



And then come across something more unexpected, standing amidst the cleared clods of earth at the edge of the field:


Some rage here, perhaps. When in Sunderland my friend Fred told me of a friend of his who, seeing Mrs Thatch once more upon the screen, picked up the television and hurled it through the window: the house was rented, the television was rented, maybe not such a good idea.  My father told my youngest brother, one sunny day: “If you go on sitting there all day watching the television, I’ll pick it up and throw it out of the window.”  My brother: “Go on then.” So the television got hurled out of the upstairs window. However… the next day the Test Match was starting, which my father had not taken into account, so we had to trail into Carlisle and buy a new television, which actually worked much better than the old one. All the same, television reception wasn’t that good in the Liddel Valley, I can remember that at one time we would take turns to stand with the aerial held out of the window to stop the picture going jagged.

Coming back through the wood, I see the rowan berries, a fine crop this year, which is reputed to mean a cold winter:


Coming out through the wood, I see theseat with its shreds of green, where I have never seen anyone sitting.


It’s still a dim day, there is no-one around.  On the way back  I saw howdy to the horse, in the field  once in habited by the two shetland ponies.  The horse no longer has his hood on, as most of the flies have gone too.  The horse  has a melancholy expression.  It always comes up to the fence, then after a moment or so ambles off again. It does not strike me as particularly joyous:


Its purple horse-blanket is torn. It would be happier with a donkey, maybe, to keep it company:


I loved horses when I was young, I went from ballerinas to horses, and since I drew a lot even then, I was found drawing ballerinas with horses legs.  Not surrealist, just absent-minded. I can’t imagine any worlds I would fit in less: The World of Ballet, The World of Horses. But I still think horses are the most beautiful things, even if when I tried to sit upon them I spent most of my life sliding sideways or even down the neck on one occasion when the horse started to graze. I was a bit hopless. We went to Madame Tussauds and I threw a fit because we weren’t allowed to go into the Chamber of Horrors – the reason I threw a fit was because I thought it said Chamber of Horses.

I come back down past the cat in the window, who was in an earlier post, but instead is going to finish this one instead:

This Cat is Not for Sale

September 19, 2013 Posted by | Illustration, Photography, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments


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