Folks

Maw and paw in the 60s. I found this when I nipped in for a cuppa in an old frame by the hall window with yellowed plastic hiding the photie.

I was by the hall window as I was watching for them. They weren’t in, they were at Morrison’s. In their van.

Nearly sixty years later, they’re really just the same.

So glad and so lucky to have them.

Second day dinner tastes just as good

It was flickering in the clouds all night. It’s just amazing, it seems as likely as getting a brocken spectre from the top deck of a bus. We can see the aurora borealis from a well lit street in central Scotland.

I jumped down to the beach, got some ropey video, took some shoddy photies and grinned my face warm as the frost crept out of the shadows.
I can see the green glow over the Cowal hills, it’s right there and I can see the spots of the flickers above the bridge against the urban glow.

I might never see this again in my life but I’ll try and remember these two nights, this’ll help with that I hope.

Rainbow Warrior

Greenpeace’s Rainbow Warrior was going up the Clyde to Glasgow to COP26 whether the authorities were letting it or not. They had young folks on board with a message to share to the well fed and well dressed delegates at the SEC and if whaling harpoons don’t stop them, I don’t think a wee polis launch would’ve either.

The third ship to bear the name, let’s not forget the fate of the first which was mined and sunk in Auckland Harbour with the loss of a life by the French who were annoyed at them interfering with their nuclear bomb tests in the Pacific, it’s an iconic presence that’s very hard to put into words or even explain to younger folks who didn’t see the news footage of the previous ships getting in the line of fire and putting their own lives very much in front of what they were trying to protect.

Rainbow Warrior is a symbol of hope, of defiance, it’s showing that even when the bad guys are winning the good guys haven’t given up. These folks do what so many wish we could but feel powerless to.

It was a joy to see the ship on the Clyde, passing my home. The shores were lined with people waving and cheering and the ship responded in kind until it was out of sight.
It was very emotional, I watched it leave with tears in my eyes. Symbols are very powerful things, a banner, a flag, a name, a place, a ship. It’s a focus, a rallying point, a reminder that maybe you’re not alone or powerless.

Hope is a powerful but fragile thing. Just like the world around us and the people on it.

Time and Tide

The beach has become something of a gathering place for villagers and folk with cameras and drones in recent times. It hasn’t put me off vising regularly at all, I’m always the only one there for sunrises and usually the last one there at sunset because folk just walk off after any big colour splash rather than enjoy it unfolding.
I tend to be there until I can’t feel my fingers, just in case something happens. Sometimes something does happen, other than the view being relentlessly awesome whatever the weather.
In the past few months I’ve seen folk walk away from deer slinking out of the trees and foraging by the water’s edge and what appears to be a now local seal playing a few feet rocks and snorting its nostrils as me as well as the usual variety of burds doing interesting and amusing stuff.
So am I obsessed or has everyone else got a low attention span?

Gothic Portal

Holly had shut the side curtains so she could get the sun’s glare off the telly this afternoon. When we came home tonight it had gone all gothic.

Halloween every day for us apparently, all you need are velvet curtains and a plastic skull.

Time Stand Still

We’ve all been robbed these past two years and it’s difficult to know how to claim back the time, the missed opportunities, the laughter, the love, all the things we’ve missed.
The truth is we can’t do it, what could have been is gone forever. The important thing I think is not miss anything ever again if I can help it.

The perfect Friday evening on Helensburgh waterfront sitting on a blanket with a chippy and ice cream in the freezing cold with the folks I love.

MV Captayannis

Linda sent me a screenshot, we had tickets for a wee boatride and lunch straight after too. The first one was in Greenock, the second one was in Inverbeg. That’s 23k away by helicopter but if you’re driving then it’s 54k away. It’s okay though, we made it. The Inn on Loch Lomond, the food’s magic, get a voucher though.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The boatride was with Clyde Charters and we were doing a tour of the MV Captayannis, the Clyde “Sugar Boat” which is a wreck on its side on the sandbank between Greenock and Helensburgh which sunk in storms in 1974 and has been a local talking point even since.
The sinking is a worthy story in itself, the Captayannis dragged it’s anchor in the storm and was holed below the waterline on the anchor chain of a nearby BP oil tanker before she could be powered up and taken to safer waters. The captain beached the ship on the sandbank hoping it would be safe but the storm pushed the Captayannis onto its side and there it remains.
The other notable part of the story is the cargo which was raw sugar from Africa, Greenock having a major sugar refinery until Tate and Lyle pulled the plug in the 90s.

I remember all of this, I remember gazing over the water to see the freshly foundered ship and visiting it in the boat we lived on a year or so later when the Captayannis was still bright with paint on its hull  and with rigging and superstructure intact, but minus some of it’s shinier and easier removed metalwork by then. A mile of open water is no barrier when there’s scrap money to be had.
I worked in Greenock often in the 80s and 90s and remember Tate and Lyle, the shipyards, the life the the place had and of course, The North Face factory shop up the hill.
It’s all gone and James Watt Dock is now a marina and the industry it fed is history.

However, there’s regeneration to see and Clyde Charters’ bright yellow ex navy landing craft called “Tonka” shows enterprise so it was with all these fragments of memories and taking in all the new sights that we set sail into the gloomy grey drizzle and choppy waters of the Tail of the Bank on the Clyde.

The first thing we saw was a seal bobbing in its head just outside the docks and then you see you just how wide the river is here, the land behind gets very far away very quickly and the far bank does not get any closer.
We were bumped around but never enough to lose our footing or feel uncomfortable, we just grinned and pointed as grey shapes loomed in the distance or cormorant infested navigation aided glided past as we motored on.

The Captayannis itself is very atmospheric, probably as much to do with the weather as it’s quietly rusting but beautifully sculpted shape lying half out of the dark water.
We skirted round a couple of times, getting close enough to feel the textures of the corroded hill with our own hands. Skipper Ronnie’s handling was a masterclass of subtlety and confidence as he moved us in and about the wreck and it’s submerged masts without a single jerk to throw us off balance.
There are a lot of birds, which you can smell before you see. Mostly cormorants with a scattering of others which I have no clue about, but none of them were phased by us, our bright yellow hull or our clattering engine.

The sail back felt faster and it seemed to brighten a little too. One of the grey shapes to the west had hardened into a navy vessel and a tug and the low hills could be seen, suddenly there was colour to see again that wasn’t us.
Once back on the dock we found ourselves on the fun side on the locked gates and went exploring. The railway tracks to the quaysides are intact and there are countless other fixtures of the past quietly fading in amongst the yachts and Calmac ferries. Gates and signs, carvings in the stones and huge rusting bolts fastening down nothing but the past.

It was fantastic. Lots to see, lots to think about.

Right, lunch is 54km away, hit it misses.

 

I was harbouring an epilogue all along

It’s not all wacky night time nonsense of course. The wildlife has taken a wee grip over recent these post industrial years, even more so during lockdown and the joy of watching occasional seals in the harbour doesn’t diminish the daily bird displays.

I don’t know what the hell the cormorants are doing when they do this wavy wing thing, but I could watch all day when they do it in pairs, it’s like frantic flamenco.

The man made is no intrusion, the shipping is frequent and varied, although I hope this monster goes into quarantine at the docks with that runny nose.

The view from the shallow end

My home has a very varied history; financially, emotionally, structurally, mental healthily etc and as much as I often might have been happy to be rid of the burden, some of the memories and all of the hassle we’ve been stuck here, but you know, it’s not too bad.
We’ve filled the rooms with new and happy memories among the old Sabbath shirts, worn out Converse and dog eared teddy bears that we’ll always have.

One thing that’s been a constant, literal as well as figurative, is the living room window. The river, the sky, the hills and the seasons passing as the sun sets a few degrees differently every day has kept me, I don’t want to say sane, but the view out of it has often lifted me, inspired my and fueled me when the chair’s grip might have been too fierce to fight.

This is not my forever home, my life has changed so much this past handful of years and if I have enough time left in me, I will leave for I hope a happy ever after.
That window though, that’ll be with me forever.

Percy Hid

We’d been looking forward to the Perseid Meteorites for ages and it looked like we were getting solid cloud until it miraculously cleared for a few hours, just a the right time.
So off we went down to the beach at 1am to see what we could see. Turns out we could see more than the camera, there’s one very light streak and a few possibles but my wee old Panasonics just weren’t up to it.

Still it was nice to watch the flashes and zooms over our heads, light pollution where I am isn’t too bad at all.
It got cold and the lens fogged several times and the bridge below is the amusing result.
Top is full fog, next is through a sleeve wiped lens and the last is thumb wiped lens. Happy times.

Fire and Water

I do love my west coast skies, from the tops, the water or my living room window.

I was flicking through the local news before bed and saw that the last covid stranded Azamara cruise ship was leaving Glasgow on the high tide just before midnight. It would be passing me at some point so I found a live boat tracker and watched it progress surprisingly fast up river. When it got to Clydebank I threw my clothes back on, grabbed the camera and tripod and bolted for the shore.

Been a while since I ran and I probably should have grabbed any jacket but the down one that had been hanging on the back on the door since last winter.
However while I sputtered and wheezed, I managed to catch a few shots of the silent giant as it slipped towards Inverclyde to restock with square sausage and buckie for its voyage home.

The Wee Spark gets doon and oot, Part 2

The next day it was mostly waiting for the tide. The Wee Spark was looking shiny and oh so bright, but also a little odd swinging gently up in the air still cradled in the boatlift.
But it’s not as if it needs a lot of water under its wee flat arse, so as soon as the Leven was high enough to drive the boatlift down the slip into it, they took us down and dropped us in.
Time to head home.

It was cool out on the water, there was a welcome breeze and the Clyde was empty, all ours. At Dumbarton Rock there’s a huge sandbank to turn round before you can head up river and you find yourself right in the shipping lane a stones throw from the south bank before you take a hard left.

Calm waters, blue skies and my first time at the wheel out on the river. Bill sat in the sun, Jimmy made tea and I found that the channel isn’t as wide as you’d think given the size of the ships I see gliding past on a daily basis. On the canal, a little adjustment can be seen pretty fast in your course direction, out here with not so many reference points it took a minute to dial in the little extra subtlety I needed.

Then I had it, one hand on the wheel, tea in the other, a breeze in the window and the chug chug chug of vintage diesel power. It was glorious.

I was enjoying the surroundings as much as the driving, or is that sailing, seeing all the familiar sights from a different angle, it’s been a while since I was on the river.
Being so close the the Lang Dyke and it’s stone built buoys is a bit of a treat. It was originally built in the 18th Century to speed up the tidal flow and scour the mud from the river bed to deepen it. It worked perfectly and opened Glasgow up to shipping, now it’s crumbling stones are more part of the landscape than an engineering curiosity, but it’s still doing it’s original job.

We were buzzed by a drone, but no one ever got in touch so I don’t know if there’s footage out there somewhere. The Bell Monument and Dunglass Castle is well seen from the river and with work finally starting on the old Esso site around it, the day where folks can visit are maybe not too far away.
At this point Jimmy was just giving me instructions on how to get into the harbour. “Er, are you sure…” was my first thought, but he seemed unfazed, so what the hell.

There are two white markers cleverly hidden in the undergrowth by the railway on the far side of the harbour which you line up with to come in from the river so you follow the channel. We’re not deep in the water, but still, I was concentrating hard.
In we went, I didn’t hit anything “Hard right” says Jimmy, which sounds more dramatic than it actually was given the low revs and sedate pace. That right turn lined my up with the deep sea lock which would lift us back up into the basin.
The Wee Spark really is wee, but the lock looked like a tight fit. Gentle on the wheel, back on the throttle, we glided in perfectly. I was heading for the cill at the far lock gate, so a wee bit of reverse gear to centre us was all I needed and… stalled it. Revs too low, all thumbs on the controls. Ah dammit.

I loved it. Even on that short run from Dumbarton it was the best fun sitting on that chair with the wheel.

We were in the lock with a family of swans which would not be lured away from the gushing waters by bread, Mars Bar or shouting. The did however bask in cheers and applause from the wee gathered crowd when the water level got high enough for the cygnets to unglamorously chuck themselves over the gap at the top of the lock and into the basin. Swans are so graceful on water and in the air, but put them on webbed feet and given them a slippery obstacle to tackle and it’s a Friday night drunk trying to get on a bus in Partick in the 1970’s.

We were home and the boat looked great, all fresh and I didn’t scrape any of the new paint getting it there. I was buzzing, mildly sunburnt and thirsty. Let’s go again.

The Wee Spark gets doon and oot, Part 1

Boats sit in the water and that water wants to get in and so does the plant life swirling around in it, so your hull need cleaned and repainted to keep things watertight and rot free. But your boat sits in the water.
So, you if you want to get into it you’ve got to get out of it. That’s where a trip down the Clyde come sin, a sail down to Dumbarton to Sandpoint Marina to get lifted out and onto shore for a frantic couple of days work. We were hoping the sun would shine.

The crew for the day was Jimmy, Bill and John, the usual suspects. The Wee Spark was in the canal so had to come down through the lock into the top basin, drop the mast and funnel to get under the broken and therefor unopenable bascule bridge then get prepped for going through the sea lock into the harbour and the river beyond.
This prep was putting the mast and funnel back up and waiting for the tide while enjoin tea and pieces on the deck while waiting for the tide.

 

We had a wee bunch of well wishers to send us off when we got into the sea lock. The Wee Spark draws folk in and just makes them smile, it’s quite something.  Even water in the air pipe going to the whistle meaning the cheery toot as they sailed into the harbour was actually a gurgley squeak was endearing.
Off the went with me waving a white hankie as the chugged away onto the Clyde.

I swapped the hankie for my phone pretty quick though “Can you see that coming up river, huge bow wave?”
They did and were getting ready for it, but the speeding tug threw on the brakes and passed the Spark safely. That would have not been fun.
Fair play to the tug captain and good observation spotting them, but they shouldn’t have been horsing on like that.
However, it was back to the motor and down to Dumbarton to wait for them.
I didn’t have too long and they made quite an entrance, that wee splash of colour stands out well on the crags of Dumbarton Rock.

The boat lift is quite a machine. It drives into the Leven, cradles the boat and drives back out with it swinging inside the frame. The Spark is surprisingly beefy at eight tons but the lift has a forty ton rating so this thing is strong enough not to notice us and it has no cross bracing except at the drive end. I’m always dead impressed by it.
More impressive is the convenience of it as they leave is hanging at a good working height to get into the flat bottom and get it prepped for painting. We were all scrapers and wire brushes until Frank who was working on his yacht offered his pressure washer. Oh happy day, hours saved, knees saved and never was a bottle so well deserved. Bless you sir.

The intense heat dried the hull fast and by the time dusk came we had two coats of black on. We sat by the Leven with fish suppers raided from the High Street, tea in dirty old mugs, faces dirty and a just a little sunburnt.
Job nearly done, just got to get back in the water tomorrow and race for home.

Blink and you’ll miss it

I’ll knew the eclipse was coming but I still forgot a camera. It was cloudy too, maybe that was a subconscious gremlin in my pocket filling routine for the day ahead.

Whatever, when it broke through the gloom I was having a fly cuppa with Linda and was many miles away from base and any camera.

I didn’t want to miss it so I snapped away on my phone and got several shots over bright blurry disappointment. I sat in the motor ready to leave and saw my clip-on Polaroid shades. Oh, says I.

Scratched sunglasses over phone camera lens. Day saved.