Connected to Cove Park

This time next month, all being well, I shall be in Edinburgh experiencing the Festival.  It’s (almost) shaming to admit that while I’ve visited the city many times, this will be my first visit to the Festival.  Well, my first visit apart from a family trip to the Tattoo in the 1970s.

In an uncharacteristic moment of precision, I tried to work out which year that must have been.  I was quite young, it wasn’t long after we’d moved to Scotland, and there were formation motorcycle riders performing amongst all the military bands and dog displays.  And then I remembered that knowing what the seating plan for the Tattoo on the Castle Esplanade looked like help me decipher a significant clue in a TV adventure programme I was glued to, well before the protagonists worked it out.  So if I could find out when the programme was broadcast, I’d know when I’d been.

If only I could remember the name of the show.  This launched me into one of those google searches that against all the odds brought me to the right answer.  It went along the lines of ‘it had that actress in it who was in that other thing in the 1980s about meeting the man who jilted her at the altar years before.  Wasn’t he in Jesus Christ Superstar in the West End?   Her name was Jan something…..?’

It worked. The Long Chase (starring Jan Francis,who subsequently appeared in Just Good Friends with Paul Nicholas in the 1980s) was first broadcast in 1972.  So I saw the Tattoo sometime before then.  (I even found an online discussion thread petitioning for the issue of The Long Chase on DVD.  Interestingly, no-one, me included, seems to recall whether it was in colour or black and white…..)

Anyway, all of this is just preamble to illustrate how long overdue it is for me to visit the Edinburgh Festival.  and even though it’s still a month away, I am already aware of the risk of over gorging on it.  There is so much, largely because it is not one thing, but several combined, and there is a temptation to want to try a little bit of each.  One mercy is that as I am not a fan of comedy I am able to ignore a significant proportion of the Fringe(!).

This week the thing that has been exciting me at the prospect of all the things I am going to see, is that I have noticed pre publicity for works from people I have met during one of my sojourns at Cove Park.  One of the founding ideas of Cove Park is to have a mixture of artistic disciplines there, to allow people from different backgrounds and with different objectives to take time out, watch the weather and the light change on the surface of the loch and the hills beyond, to meet and to exchange ideas and inspirations.

I’ve been very fortunate in the people I have met there.  Many of them were novelists and poets, but I’ve also met visual artists and actors there.  I don’t know them well, but have shared a late night drink in front of the roaring fire in the bar at the Knockderry House Hotel, tartan carpet and all, and heard about their projects when they were in the very early stages of thinking and development.  I am therefore full of anticipation at the prospect of seeing them come to fruition as part of the Festival.

Adura Onashile  is performing her one woman show HeLa  inspired by the story of Henrietta Lacks, whose cells were used, without her permission as raw material for some of the most significant  medical research in the last century.  I met Adura as she was doing the first research for the project, so in a very tiny way I feel like I was there at the beginning, so have to see it come to fruition.

Brody Condon was on a preliminary visit for a joint project with Christine Borland and was using Cove Park as an accommodation base when I met him.  I’m not sure at that time that they had a very well formulated idea of what the nature of their project would be, other than they would be doing it jointly; so I’m really interested to see what they developed together, especially as it sounds as if it will be installed in an unusual venue.

Who knew I was so well connected?

Fleeting – A Photo

IMG_1947_edited-1Here’s one that was but a brief moment, albeit one that was long enough for me to see the bird and for it still to be there by the time I had found my camera.

I don’t know what kind of bird it is, other than a very wet one.  It had been pouring with rain; there are still drops hanging to the underside of the railing, but the sky had started to clear.  I had been doing what I normally do at Cove Park: staring out of the window every time I raised my head from my desk, watching the weather, and the clouds rolling in and back, and the changing light and shadows on the hills opposite.

I have hundreds of photographs of this view in varying lights, at different time of the day and in different seasons, but this is the only time I caught a little bird visiting for long enough to pose for a photo.

Purple – A Photo

Stretching interpretation a little bit this week, perhaps, but sunset here is always deep and purple and blue in my mind’s eye.

Inside – A Photo

What’s inside, and what’s out?

Dream – A Photo

I’ve not posted something from Cove Park for a while, but when asked about something that brings a dream to mind, I immediately thought of how beautiful it can be to step out of bed, open the curtains and see this view spread out before me.  As it is often shrouded in cloud or obscured by rain, there’s no guarantee that it will visible on every morning, so it continues to be something for which to aspire.

Sun – A Photo

Sun, but not at sunset.  I’ve raided my ever growing Cove Park Collection for this one.  I remember taking it just as I had arrived at the centre at the beginning of a fortnight’s stay.  The weather in London had been terrible when I left home and hadn’t much improved on the way up, but when I was driving over the hill from Garelochhead towards Cove the sky had cleared.

I took the photo as soon as I got out of the car, before going inside to announce my arrival, as there was always the chance that the sun would have disappeared by the time I came out again.

Two Subjects – A Photo

There’s always something to watch at Cove, but  the highland cattle and the ducks are the most symbolic, and the subject of many conversations  ……  but they are rarely spotted together, until now.

If at First You Don’t Succeed……

What with all that looking at the view and those days spent learning to draw; with the collection of paper, implements and general bits and pieces, really, I should have a go at sketching what I see, shouldn’t I?

They’re both a bit of a failure, if only because, without the sternness of the teacher to tell me it’s not finished yet, I did reach the point with each of them of thinking that whatever I did next wouldn’t improve them, and that I should just notch it up to experience.

Of course the one thing that was brought home when I was attempting to capture something of the colour of the view was that it changes constantly, depending on the position of the sun and the density of the clouds.  That’s fundamental to the fascination of the view, so how would I possibly reflect that, when during the time it took to make the marks on the paper the trees had gone through bright green to purple and dark grey, the loch from grey green to blue black, and the shoreline from invisible to golden?   So this combination of colours is not one that really existed contemporaneously (if any of them existed at all.)

One good thing came out of the exercise: it made me revisit Monet’s paintings of Rouen Cathedral…….

Remote Proximity

Whenever I spend time at Cove Park I spend a fair amount of it thinking about remoteness and quiet, and reflecting that it is fundamentally illusory.

I’m sitting on the side of a hill, looking out over a beautiful view, watching every change in the weather, noticing how the light reflects off the water, or how the sun and clouds are making patterns on the slopes opposite, but I’m also listening to the radio and checking messages on my phone, albeit, holding my arm extended out of the window.  When I want full internet access, I only have to walk a few paces up the, admittedly, steep hill, to the Centre, to hook up with the rest of the world as efficiently and expeditiously as if I were at home in London.

A couple of nights ago I eliminated all feelings of remoteness with a journey into Glasgow.  It took me just over an hour to travel from this rural idyll, where I had to climb in and out of the car to open and close the three farm gates dividing the fields which confine the sheep and highland cattle, kept here to mow the grass, to get to the bright lights and streets of bars and shops in the west end of Glasgow.

It’s the ‘military road’, built to support the nuclear storage facility at Coulport, that makes the speed possible, built straight across high moorland to link the edge of Loch Long to the main road at the side of Loch Lomond, as if to remind us all not to be fooled that this is untouched countryside.

Oddly, the real reminder of the power of nature came on the outskirts of the town of Dumbarton, where I arrived in what must have been the immediate aftermath of a tremendous hail storm, as the road and pavements were covered with thick white, and each speeding car was throwing up a tidal wave of water.

A couple of miles further on the road was dry, and so my ‘country’ attire of walking boots and cagoule were a little de trop by the time I arrived at my destination,  where I met a friend for a drink.  We sat in comfy chairs on the upper level of a bar restaurant in a former cinema, studying the patterned stucco effect patterns on the ceiling, raising our voices over the strains of loud music.

At the end of the evening, on the journey back, the differences were more marked, possibly because by then it was after dark, and there is a clear demarcation lines between ‘city’ and ‘country’ at the point where the street lighting stops.  It was deep dark when I returned to the site and had to open and close all those gates again.  Approaching them, at least I had the illumination of the headlights, but closing them again once I’d driven through, with only the red rear lights to guide me, then, I did feel remote.

But not so remote that it didn’t cross my mind that, with my slow, brightly lit progress down the track, I was probably attracting attention from anyone who chose to watch me.

Seeing It Upside Down

I have been writing, but I would probably have written more if the weather here wasn’t so compelling.  It requires that I watch it, and when it becomes colourful, I have to get on my hands and knees at an uncomfortable angle to take the optimum shot of its reflection in the pond outside my cube.

I took this after a day that had started with torrential rain, and snow covering the tops of the hills opposite, which had extended through an afternoon when I had the window open as otherwise I was too warm, into an evening when the sun peeped tantalisingly through the clouds.  Had I taken a photo at the moment of purest, brightest pinkness?   Would the next moment be better?  I’m not sure.  Who knows what this evening will bring?

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