You know what makes me grumpy? All the Grumpy Old Men who appeared on the BBC TV series were younger than me, that's what makes me grumpy. Mutter, mutter....

The Grumpy Old Artist

The Grumpy Old Artist
Would YOU pose for this man???

Exhibition Poster

Exhibition Poster
Catterline Event, 2011

Oil Painting by Jim Tait

Oil Painting by Jim Tait
Helford River, Cornwall

Oil Painting by Jim Tait

Oil Painting by Jim Tait
Full-riggers "Georg Stage" and "Danmark"

Other Recent Works

Other Recent Works
Fordyce Castle and Village

Hay's Dock, Lerwick

Shetland-model Boats at Burravoe, Yell

Tall Ships Seascape

The Tour Boat "Dunter III", with Gannets, off Noss

The "Karen Ann II" entering Fraserburgh harbour

Summer Evening, Boyndie Bay

1930s Lerwick Harbour

Johnshaven Harbour

"Seabourn Legend"

Greeting Cards!

Greeting Cards!
Now Available in Packs of Five or in Assorted Sets of Four

Thursday, 2 April 2009


I had one of my occasional trips to the Scottish mainland last weekend. The purpose was a dual one - firstly, to use my concession travel vouchers with Northlink Ferries, which would have lapsed at the end of March had I not made use of them, and, secondly, to get some photographs of the Mearns and Glenesk areas. These would add to my reference library for future artwork.

The boat trip, on Friday night, was a fairly bumpy affair, on the "Hjaltland", in gale force north-easterly winds, which were touching force 9 as we entered Aberdeen harbour. This was evidenced by the wavetops, which were "blowing smoke".

My brother Peter met me, as arranged, in his Fiesta, and off we set southwards from Aberdeen. The weather was no more conducive to good landscape photography than it was to boat travel, as frequent sleet showers were being driven over us by the gale. However, as the day progressed, the showers died out, the wind taking a bit longer to ease.

Our journey was extensive. We travelled first to Howe o'the Mearns country, and visited the Lewis Grassic Gibbon Centre, where we had our morning cuppa. We also stopped at the ancient Arbuthnott church, before doubling back to Inverbervie, and the fishing village of Gourdon, where I took some photographs from the south side. Southwards we continued, bypassing Johnshaven, and we turned inland south of St. Cyrus towards Fettercairn. It was on this stretch of road that we encountered some of the most inspiring views for me, as an artist. Fields, some freshly ploughed, others green, defined by groves of trees surrounding farmhouses and barns, cascaded away into the blue distance, or to the white-capped foothills of the Highlands, depending which way you looked. The skyline is always dotted with small clumps of trees. More majestic buildings and castles appear in unexpected places, and I feel I could spend the rest of my days painting here, without ever exhausting the supply of inspiring subject matter. The more pleasant of my dreams consist of such scenes, possibly a strange admission from a predominantly seascape painter.

At the Victorian new town of Fettercairn, I photographed the road archway, which had been under scaffolding on my last visit. It is more attractive than the plainer one at Edzell, another Victorian new town, which was our next stop. The scenery here is no less appealing, and my camera was put to good use in this neighbourhood too. We had an excellent lunch at the Panmure Hotel, which was also playing host to a wedding party at the time.

Fortified by our meal, and now in conditions of uninterrupted sunshine, we took the road, past Edzell Castle, which led further up Glenesk. The landscape gradually became less wooded as the road wound upwards. The skyline became one of rounded hilltops, surmounted by single trees rather than the groves farther down. Snow capped some of the higher summits. Somewhere near Bridgend and the ancient pictish Caterthuns, we turned left at a junction and began the descent towards Kirkton of Menmuir, eventually arriving at Brechin. Between here and Friockheim, the road passes through a forest, where we stopped in a lay-by to stretch our legs a bit. I had a cigarette, and the butt joined the collection of squashed milk-bottles, crisp packets and other human detritus which adorned the roadside.

On the other side of Friockheim, Peter confessed to being a little lost, and changed his mind about which road to take a couple of times. The intention was to visit our childhood friend, Kenny Bull, at Auchmithie and, when we arrived at the outskirts of Arbroath, my sibling knew he was back on track. He wished to avoid the town centre, thus simplifying matters as far as driving goes.

Our school chum lives in a converted coastguard station on top of a sheer cliff more than 100 feet high, in the picturesque village of Auchmithie, which is the real home of the Arbroath "smokie". We spent a little time here, Kenny giving us a conducted tour of the village in his elderly 4 x 4. The time was approaching 5pm when we set off back towards Aberdeen, on the coast road, arriving just over an hour later.

I booked into my B & B in Great Western Road (where else?), and had a rest, before contacting my old friend, Alan Johnson, with whom I had arranged to go for a meal at a place of his choosing. More than 35 years ago, Alan and his then girlfriend, my wife and I used to meet up for drinks and jollification at places like the City Bar in Aberdeen town centre. Now, those romantic relationships having long since foundered on the rocks which tend to ensnare them, Alan and I renewed our acquaintance when he bought a painting from my Catterline exhibition last year. He has spent all his working life in the oil industry, and now has his own consultancy firm in Aberdeen. He arrived at my digs at around 8pm, and off we went downtown. He parked at the Chapel Street multistorey, and we set off walking down Union Street, something I once thought I would never do again on a Saturday evening. We had a "chinkie" in the Yangtse River down Bridge Street - very nice it was too.

Union Street has something of a bad reputation nowadays, but we saw no sign of any trouble as we made our way back up at around 10pm. Perhaps it would be a different story at 2 am, when the pubs and clubs were closing. Apart from groups of carousing young girls, dressed in an inappropriate fashion for the freezing conditions, there seemed to be nothing untoward. Alan dropped me off at my digs, and I was soon tucked up in bed, reflecting on an interesting day.

Sunday dawned bright, quiet and fair. I had arranged to meet my brother just before 10am, so, fortified by a typical B & B breakfast, I went with him to Queen's Cross church to "sit in" on his choir practice. I should have known better! I ended up being part of the choir for the second morning service, having had the most cursory rehearsal of an anthem, the music for which I had not set eyes on before that morning. My attire was completely inadequate, my fellow choir-members being whistle-and-fluted and I in my trademark jumper and jeans. Never mind - I enjoyed it immensely. I have not been part of a choir for at least fifteen years, and to break my duck at such a prestigious venue as Queen's Cross was quite an uplifting (as well as terrifying) experience. I managed, just. After the service, there was tea and coffee in the church hall, where I met what seemed to be an endless stream of people who wanted to make the acquaintance of the new choirboy. I made a lot of friends that morning.

Then it was off to the home of my brother and his wife Jenny, where we had a sandwich lunch and relaxed for a bit. My last afternoon on mainland Scotland saw Peter and I driving out to his newly-acquired allotment plot, part of fairly extensive system which commands a spectacular view over Aberdeen harbour entrance. I took a few photographs there, and we went on a final drive down the coast to Stonehaven, where I used the last of my 35mm film (most of the photographs I took the day befire were taken on my digital camera). The next stop was the quayside at Aberdeen, where our farewells were said before I boarded the "Hrossey" for the trip back to Shetland.

The memories of the beautiful landscape near Luthermuir will live with me for some time. Just as well, as many of the photographs I took in that region came out as blanks. I was left with a few shots of Edzell, Gourdon, the Mearns, Fettercairn and Aberdeen Harbour entrance. I had taken a lovely shot of the Fiesta's wheels when I was struck by a gust of wind at Edzell. This was disappointing, but the weekend had been anything but. And the whole thing, including ferry fares, digs and lunch for two at the Panmure Hotel, had come to less than £100. Being over 60 has its compensations!

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