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

Tuesday, 30 June 2009


I should explain that the precipitous nature of our tour of the Moray coast was due to the fact that I only had the use of my chauffeur for one day, which was Saturday 20th June. The following day, Mary was going off on an excursion of her own, visiting friends in Strichen and Inverurie, before catching the ferry, at Aberdeen, back home to Shetland, where she was due in at her work the next day. Some of us have to do it!

We finished our soup and roll in the Cornerstone Cafe at Macduff, and set out in a westerly direction this time, in continuance of my photographic journey. After passing through Banff again, we went through Whitehills without stopping, which was a mistake, as I later discovered. We made our first stop at Portsoy harbour, which is the venue for a traditional boat festival from tomorrow. We visited a ceramics shop on the seafront, and I took some photographs from the other side of the harbour, looking back towards the town. The harbour was quiet then, but by this time tomorrow it will be bursting at the seams, and resounding with all sorts of jollification. Some Shetlanders are there, carrying on from our own carnival this last weekend!

For some reason we missed the turn-off for Sandend, which was another mistake, and we found ourselves next in Cullen, a rather imposing town, the only thing about which I previously knew was its association with the skink dish. It nestles among the arches of several sections of viaduct. Add a harbour and a sandy beach, at the west end of which are some spectacular cliffs and rock formations, and you have a venue which is crying out to be photographed. I duly obliged and, looking at my efforts with hindsight, I should have taken a lot more.

Portknockie and Findochty followed, both picturesque former fishing towns, with nice harbours mostly given over to pleasure craft these days. I could easily have spent a day or more exploring the nooks and crannies of each of them, and using a whole digital camera smart card in the process, but time was our enemy.

We pressed on, arriving next at the caravan park at Portessie, and the thought entered my head that one of these mobile homes in that situation would make a brilliant studio. Pretty grim in winter though! From here, the shore through Ianstown, Gordonsburgh, Buckie and Portgordon is all largely a built-up area, one village running into another, with a substantial and industrialised harbour area at Buckie.

Here my doughty driver went bandit on me, and expressed a strong desire to strike inland to a garden centre at Fochabers. My enthusiasm was flagging a little by this time, and I agreed to her request. I sat in the car, while she visited the centre, reflected on a good day's work, and speculated on what I might find when I united my camera with my computer on my return to Shetland a week from that time.

Mary returned to the car , bearing her purchases, and we drove to the square in the middle of the town, where we discussed what to do next. Both of us were feeling a bit tired, and we decided to call it a day and return to base. We were also feeling the need for a "proper" meal which we later enjoyed in the County Hotel. We were told that our illustrious and glorious leader, Alex Salmond, had dined there the evening before, so we took the view that, if it was good enough for him, it was good enough for us. And it certainly was a very good meal, from the service, the main course, the wine, to the sticky toffee pudding (which is the only item on the sweet menu which I would cheerfully kill or be killed for!).

It was the perfect end to an excellent day, and I looked forward with pleasure to the rest of my Banff experience.

Sunday, 28 June 2009


My sister Mary did a whole lot of driving on Saturday 20th June. After coming off the ferry at Aberdeen harbour, just after 7am, negotiating the streets and roundabouts of the city and filling the tank at a fuel retailers off Great Northern Road, she took the A947, as we had planned, near Bucksburn. She drove to Banff, stopping at Turriff for a cup of tea and a bacon roll, largely because we were running ahead of our schedule. We had the work of delivering my exhibition to Duff House, and locating our accommodation, done by 10.30, and we set off on a sightseeing tour, heading first in an easterly direction. I took a few photographs around Macduff harbour, then we visited the now-derelict open-air swimming pool at Tarlair. We were last here on a family holiday in 1958, when Mary was just 6 and I was 10, scarcely able to appreciate the beauty of the spot, which, at that time, was crowded with people. Now it's sadly in need of repair, and I understand that there are plans afoot to develop the resort as something else entirely. I hope they don't alter the essence of it too much. It is a spectacular place, situated in a steep-sided cove, access to which is gained by precipitous roads and hairpin bends, as is the case with most places on this stretch of coast.

We next came to a place I have always wanted to visit - Gamrie. This magnificent little town seems to be built into the face of a cliff, and boasts a substantial harbour below it. Many of the larger fishing vessels, which called at Lerwick over the years, had Gamrie ownership, and, judging by the houses there, it has enjoyed a degree of prosperity over the years. We stopped at the harbour, and were greeted by a retired fisherman who was interested to hear that we hailed from Shetland, as he had been there many times in the course of fishing operations. He was glad to impart knowledge, humour and lore from the area, and we enjoyed listening to him. The menfolk of a wedding party were having their photographs taken, in their kilted regalia, on the pier, and I got out my trusty Pentax to take some snaps of the view of the town from the harbour, which was full of yachts, shellfish workboats and other small craft. I can say that Gamrie lived up to all my expectations.

At the eastern end of Gamrie Bay, and separated from Gardenstown by a cliff headland, is the village of Crovie, which gives the appearance of clinging to the shore by its fingernails. It consists largely of a single row of houses nestled under the foot of cliffs, and separated from the sea by a single stone-built walkway, into which, at intervals, poles have been inserted. The purpose of these eluded me, until I realised they were for clothes-lines to be strung from. I took what turned out to be one of the best photographs of my life there, of Mary leaning against one of the poles, with the houses in a curved receding line behind her.

We came nest to the village of Pennan, famous for a film and a more recent landslide, evidence of either of which was hard to spot by us strangers. It is larger, with more apparent room to breathe, than Crovie, and has a substantial harbour, as well as a few commercial premises, most of which seem to be for sale, a sign of the times, perhaps. A road runs between the houses, some of which are quite substantial dwellings, and the shore. I took a few photographs spanning the village, from the harbour area at the east end of the place.

The final step in our eastward coastal tour was Rosehearty. This little town has a beautifully-designed harbour and, unlike the previously visited resorts, is built on a comparatively flat piece of land. There seemed to be an air of gloom around the place, with hardly anyone out and about, even though it was after midday on a Saturday. I went for a walk round the harbour with my camera, but came back to the car without having pressed the shutter button.

At this point our stomachs were feeling the need for something in them. We debated whether to carry on towards Fraserburgh for our lunch but, in the end, we decided in favour of a return to Macduff, where we had some excellent soup and a roll in a place called the Cornerstone Cafe.


I was made to feel very welcome in this town, and I left it on Friday with a headful of pleasant memories, and more than a twinge of regret that I didn't have time to get to know it better. I did most of my exploring on foot between Castle Street (where I stayed), the harbour and the Deveron estuary. I haven't walked so much for ages, and I think my legs are stronger for the trip.

The people were friendly, and always exchanged pleasantries with me when I met them on my wanderings. On Sunday morning I strayed, more than anything else, into the church of St. Andrew and stayed for their morning worship. There was a fair number in the congregation, but most were older than me. I was struck by the caring attitude and respect the Banff people have for the less able members of their society. This may be a strange observation to make, but in other areas, the care is more institutionalised, or so it seems to me.

One of the things that amused me was the tolerance here for the activities of seagulls, which is greater than we have here in Lerwick. Many of the cars are liberally splattered with their ordure, and I saw one poor man taking a direct hit from one of these dive-bombers, as he walked along Low Street. He compounded the problem by trying to wipe the stuff off with his hands and, at this juncture, my face was hurting so badly that I had to turn round and walk in the opposite direction.

Some of the buildings in this part of the town seem to be in quite bad repair, especially the roofs and chimney stacks, many of whose pots have been removed, presumably on installation of central heating. Many of these have been colonised by the aforementioned seagulls. This area is in stark contrast to Sandyhill Road, along which I took a walk on Sunday. Here the grey granite houses on the east side of the road get bigger, the further out one goes, and this is obviously the habitat of the merchant and professional classes of Banff. Across the road, newer but no less imposing houses have been erected in part of the extensive grounds of Duff House, the main reason for my trip to the Moray coast.

The view across the beach at Boyndie Bay towards Whitehills, from the row of cottages along the shore road at Scotstown, is beautiful, and I intend to make a priority of committing it to canvas.

One thing which marred the enjoyment of my visit was the evening ordeal of the boy racers screaming up and down Castle Street, their car stereos blaring out an inane mind-numbing thumping as they used the public highway as a race-track. The object of the exercise seemed to be to see who could create the most disturbance to the peace of the area, and the police, unaccountably, seem to condone the practice. This is surprising, as another serious accident can only be waiting to happen, and I would have thought that there had been enough car-crash fatalities of late in this region.

My next trip to this part of the world will, unfortunately, be an even shorter one, when I collect what remains of my exhibition at Duff House, and do the necessary relative paperwork, in August. However, I hope to get to know the area better at some time in the future. Banff is a place I'd very much like to visit again.


I arrived back on Shetland soil yesterday morning, having enjoyed the smoothest passage it's ever been my pleasure to experience on MV "Hjaltland". I had a shower at 4.30am, with Fair Isle visible a few miles away on the port beam. On a normal trip, I would never have attempted anything so foolhardy here, as this area of sea is famous for its "tide-lumps". Lerwick harbour was busy, with the yachts from the Bergen-Shetland and 1,000-mile triangular North Sea races in port. They are beginning the next stage of the race this morning in near-calm conditions, so no records will be broken on this leg of the competition, which promises to be a drifting match.

I went for a few pints of amber nectar last night, and watched the reinstated carnival procession going past on Commercial Road, as I was returning home, with a Chinese takeaway, by that route. I wasn't feeling all that clever this morning - I'm getting too old for ballooning.

Sunday, 14 June 2009


I'm stressed out. There are five days to go until my sister Mary and I set out, on the blue canoe, to the mainland, bearing my Duff House exhibition in her Volvo estate. As yet, not one of the eighteen paintings has been framed. When I phoned the fellow who does this task last Monday, he said, "Dinna worry, Jim! I can frame a painting in five minutes. I'm away on the boat tonight - I'll be back next Monday. Cheerio!" I was left staring at the handset, with my mouth opening and shutting but emitting no sound. After a bit, I got up and walked up and down for a bit, trying to formulate a cohesive thought, but nothing would come. I sat down again, and stared miserably into space, for how long I know not.

Mary and I had hatched a cunning plan. The boat normally sails at 5.30pm on a Friday. We had devised a schedule which would allow Mary to put in a full Friday shift at her office, and I could go out to visit my mother, as I usually do on that day. So we had planned to load the two boxes of paintings, together with the larger personal luggage items, into the car on the night before. Now, in order for this plan to work, my framer has from tomorrow until closing time on Thursday to get all the pictures ready for hanging. Now, I know I'm a worrier. When I have nothing to worry about, I worry about that. I see a nigger in every woodpile, to coin a phrase. But, by gum, you're looking at a worried man now. With possibly the most important event in my life pending, this is a worry.

But, hey, summer is here! The weather has been, if not beautiful, certainly acceptable all week, with plenty of sunshine interspersed with showers to keep the plant-growers happy. Lerwick harbour is busy with visiting yachts, and the odd cruise ship has added to the usual traffic. It will be even busier in the coming fortnight, with the Flavour of Shetland event taking place on the pier , the Bergen-Shetland race, combined with the North Sea 1000-mile challenge, making its 3-day stopover, and the revived mid-summer carnival, Johnsmas Foy and other events leaving their usual legacy of sore heads around the place. My native islands certainly know how to throw a party, and it's a pity that I'm going to be away for a large part of it.

This week, I ran my stall at the Toll Clock Shopping Centre on Tuesday (largely a waste of time), baked a cinnamon raisin loaf on Monday evening, and continued to work on the canvas of Johnshaven harbour. News of a possible commission arrived, along with tidings of a probable sale from my mini-exhibition at the Lounge here in Lerwick. This last piece of news gave me the ideal excuse for a couple of pints of lager at my favouite watering hole on Wednesday. There I was given a calling card from the Swiss couple who are more than interested in my picture of Foula. I have to contact them this week, when they are back home from their Scottish tour, and I will be delighted to do so.

I had my usual trip out to see my mother at Whiteness on Friday. She was well, and had an amusing tale to relate from the previous day. She is connected to the emergency services through the HomeLink, a high-tech system triggered from a button which she keeps attached to her zimmer frame. The trouble is that the button is very attractive to curious small children. On one occasion, one of her great-grandchildren set the thing off three times in one visit. Well, to cut a long story short, it happened again on Thursday. My grand-nephew Magnus found the button too much of a temptation and pressed it. The first inkling they had that there was a problem was the booming disembodied tones of the attendant at the HomeLink command centre (or whatever they call it!), asking "Are you all right, Meg?". This rings loudly all around the house, and it sent my miscreant grand-nephew into a fit of hysterical bawling, which meant that my hard-of-hearing mother couldn't hear what The Voice From The Deep Lagoon was trying to tell her. The noise must have been horrendous and, had I been there, my face would have been hurting so badly that I would probably have had to take refuge in the loo or the greenhouse. The situation was retrieved by the arrival of this week's heroine, the home-help Sandra, who actually kept instructions on what to do in this case in her car. Order and calm were duly restored, and peace returned to Brugarth, the most beautiful place on earth.

Well, this may well be the last posting to this blog in advance of my trip to the mainland with the (hopefully framed) exhibition. Before me stretches a week of utter pandemonium, as I make sure that everything is in order for the excursion. It will be nice to be on the Northlink ferry on Friday evening, basking in the knowledge that, if anything vital has been omitted from our itinerary, there's absolutely nothing we can do about it! If any of you are in the neighbourhood of Banff between the 25th June and 9th August, please drop into Duff House tea-room, and cast a critical eye on my paintings over your coffee and home-bakes. I'll be in touch again on my return to Shetland.

Sunday, 7 June 2009


Tuesday started badly. Just before 7am, I was stepping out of the bath, when my left foot slipped on the wet floor. My next conscious memory is sitting, soaking wet, on the bathroom floor, feeling rather chastised and foolish, with blood issuing profusely from my left elbow. The towel was still handy, so I proceeded to staunch the flow which, fortunately, stopped after a short while. Thoughts were racing through my mind, such as How do I get up? Should I phone for an ambulance when I do? How do I get dressed? In the end, I bum-shunted my way through to the living-room, where I raised myself on the armchair. I established I could still move all my bits, so I went back through to the bathroom, where I ran a cold bath for the blood-soaked towel. In the kitchen cabinet I found a Mepore wound dressing, which I whacked onto my elbow. I then got dressed for another day chez the Tait gallery.

The previous day, my nephew Kenneth had called, bearing an almost-new fridge which he had promised me as a replacement for my 30-odd-year-old Electrolux which, let's face it, was going to expire of old age soon. It was also badly in need of a defrost. Kenneth has been carrying out extensive refurbishments to the substantial house he inherited on the death of his father a couple of years ago, and I was benefitting from the resultant fridge windfall. Or so I thought. What I hadn't counted on was the fact that the device would have to stand 24 hours, while the gasses settled, before it could be switched on. Meanwhile the old one had been unplugged to defrost, as this would make it lighter (much lighter!) to carry downstairs for disposal. So there I was, sharing my limited kitchen space with two inoperational fridges, with the deteriorating contents of one of them, reminding me of James Bolam in a certain episode of The Beiderbecke Affair (or was it the Beiderbecke Tapes?). Late that afternoon, I decided that I would rather be elsewhere, and made this the excuse for a few pints of good cheer at my local hostelry.

Which brings us back to Tuesday and my deteriorating physical condition and frame of mind. It occurred to me that, if anyone had had a video-camera trained on me when I did my involuntary semi-somersault in the bathroom, I could at least make £250 out of it on "You've Been Framed!"

I cheered up when my sister Thelma arrived later in the morning, and I made us a cuppa, which we were enjoying when Kenneth arrived again, so we had one of the laughter-filled discussions which always seem to take place when a few of us get together. I forgot about my troubles and, after removing the remaining icebergs from the old fridge, we got the new one up and running, and Kenneth set off with the old one, presumably to take it to the Rova Head dump in his hired van. In the afternoon, I did some banking for my mother and had my hair trimmed (at different venues!).

I've started a rather complicated artwork, a result of my trips to the mainland with my camera last October and March. It is a 3ft x 2ft canvas depicting low tide at Johnshaven harbour, and it will take ages to complete, being filled with buildings, stacks of lobster creels, and small boats. The intention is that this will form part of my next Catterline exhibition, if and whenever that might take place.

On Thursday I had arranged to take a stall at the Toll Clock Shopping Centre in order to sell prints, postcards and my new promotional T-shirts to the visitors on the 40,000-ton cruise ship Aida Cara, which was in port that day. The man who is in charge of providing stall-holders with their furniture was extremely pessimistic about my prospects for sales. He claimed that few of the cruise-ship passengers ever made it there and, when they did, they didn't buy anything. His pessimism was well-founded. I sold £50 worth of goods that day, all to local residents, including 3 T-shirts at £10 apiece. This, of course, tells me that I should have my stall there more often, as there is still a market for my stuff among the Shetland population. And there's a social element to this too - I always meet loads of people I haven't seen for ages, and they all stop by for a natter. I'm there again this coming Tuesday when the Azamara Journey is scheduled to be in.

On Friday, I had my usual trip to Whiteness, where I found my mother in good humour and reasonable health. The weather was atrocious, the preceding week of fine days now a mere pleasant memory, so I was unable to work outside. I made our lunch, did my duties as kitchen porter, watered the plants in the greenhouse and elsewhere, and helped out with what I could.

Saturday was a day devoted to artwork, mostly on the Johnshaven painting. And so ended a week of mixed fortunes. My elbow is gradually hurting less. I hope to get my Duff House exhibition paintings framed this incoming week. My framer has been moving shop, and has hitherto been unable to attend to my work. This is a worry!