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

Sunday, 26 December 2010


I learnt this startling news from my diary today, namely that the 26th December is not Boxing Day when it falls on a Sunday. Even more startling is the fact that I've gone through 63 Christmastides without being aware of this.

Well, I've just had my first warm-up of my share in the turkey "carry-out" from the family meal at Whiteness yesterday. There's still enough left for me to make a rice concoction with for tomorrow's lunch too. Even better was my sister Mary's sticky toffee pudding, the second (and sadly the last!) helping of which I warmed under the grill today. Megayum!

In anticipation of the jollification ahead, I got my artwork as up-to-date as I could, before setting off to Brugarth on Friday morning to spend Christmas Eve and Day with mother. The two commissions which I have scheduled for completion before the end of January are now well under way, with skies completed and the other features outlined. I hope to get more work done on one of these tomorrow. My advertising bills have now been paid, and the bank accounts are still in the black (just), despite the disaster of the Thursday Toll Clock stalls, which yielded only half of what I'd hoped for, mostly due to adverse weather conditions. Better luck next year, I hope! With things as nearly under control as they ever get chez the Tait Gallery, I set off to take up my duties as general assistant and kitchen porter at Brugarth, which, like the rest of Shetland, is under a foot of snow.

Mother had a late night on Christmas Eve. We had heard that my niece Elanor was playing in a recording by the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, which was being shown on BBC1 Scotland around midnight, so the home help was excused duty at Mum's that evening, and Mary was on hand to perform the bedtime routine instead. Mary's daughter Caroline was taping the programme in case Mum DIDN'T fancy staying up, so the gaps were covered. In the end she did stay up, and the three of us watched an excellent concert of classical-based Christmas music, just the kind which we have enjoyed singing together in choirs over the years, only this time accompanied by an orchestra!

The BBC have provided us with a feast of good Christmas choral music over the past week or so. I've enjoyed all of it, whether presented as a historical documentary, a service or a recital. Simon Russell Beale and Howard Goodall have both done excellent programmes and, together with the traditional Nine Lessons and Carols from Kings on Christmas Eve, and another wonderful programme from Winchester yesterday, I know that my mother has really felt a seasonal atmosphere these last few days, something she has felt was lacking in previous years. Beeb, take a bow! I know that there are probably pressures from the secular, anti-religious and other lobbies (God help us!) to cut down on the Christian output, but there are at least three people who are very happy with what they have seen and heard this festive season.

Christmas was about the coldest morning I have ever experienced. I was up at 7.30am, before the central heating had started to thaw the kitchen out, and I despaired of it being warm enough to allow mother to occupy it. I felt like starting a fire in the place - sadly it's supposed to be centrally heated! It did warm up a bit before mother got up, fortunately, and Mary and I set about preparing a feast for the same company which sat around the same table at the same time last year. And we had another jolly good time too!

By the time we had finished clearing up afterwards, darkness had fallen over the snow, and I took the opportunity of a lift back to Lerwick with Mary's son-in-law David Thomson. He was at the wheel of his father's Range Rover, which he had borrowed for its Arctic terrain capabilities. On the way in to town, the snow was sparkling in the headlight beams, as if some mighty hand had scattered multi-coloured glitter over it, a phenomenon which I can't recall seeing before - perhaps my eyes have never previously been tuned to the spectacle! Thus ended a kind of magical Christmas Day. Even though my back was sore, and I felt knackered at the end of it, I could still appreciate that it had been a special occasion, and I hope the others felt it too - I know mother did!

Now the thaw has set in - the wind has picked up to a fresh south-easterly, and it has clouded over. No doubt it will rain tonight, and, by tomorrow morning, a lot of the snow will have gone - for now! My brother arrives in Shetland for a very short break on Tuesday morning's boat. There are rumours of another feast, this time of reestit mutton soup, on Wednesday evening, and no doubt I'll be on sink duty for that too. I wouldn't have it otherwise!

For those of you who are having them, I hope your Hogmanay celebrations go well next Friday night into Saturday! A guid new year tae ane and a' - when it comes!

Sunday, 19 December 2010


As I intimated as a possibility in my last post (sound the bugles!), my final pre-Christmas stall of 2010 at the Toll Clock Centre was snowed off on Thursday, which was also, with predictably immaculate timing, the day the blizzards struck. I spent a slightly more productive day in the comparative warmth of my studio, working on commissioned works mostly. I now have three of these to occupy me, with another possibly in the offing, and, while none of these will make my fortune, they are interesting jobs to do.

Two of the new commissions are of historic Shetland fishing boats, one of the paintings featuring two of these, the other only one. Both pictures have been ordered by descendants of the owners of the vessels to be depicted. One of these boats was lost at sea as a result of an engine-room fire, another going to her watery grave, some years after being sold by her Shetland owners, while on admiralty duties during the Dunkirk evacuation of 1940. I'm not sure what happened to the third boat. She probably ended her days aground, as many of her contemporaries did, in one of the many Shetland inlets or "voes", being left to rot, having become obsolete with the advancement of fishing boat design and propulsion. I will do my best, as always, to bring them to colourful life again on canvas - they still make nice subjects for seascape paintings!

The third commission, which I may have mentioned in a previous post, is of a slightly later fishing vessel which was completed at Macduff in 1940, and which spent the 1950s fishing out of Eyemouth. I'll be painting her coming into her home port from the fishing grounds.

While the commissions pay the bills, I'm very conscious of the passage of time, as it careers towards my next scheduled exhibition at Catterline in November/December of 2011. Many things will have to be organised before then, such as Northlink ferry journeys, accommodation for myself and my driver, publicity material and grants to cover part of the cost of the above. I just hope I can muster at least one willing (and fit!) helper to assist with the hanging when that time comes. Oh, and somewhere along the line I'll need to do some paintings for it too!

I plan to go out to my mother's on the morning of Christmas Eve, as I usually do, and should be there until sometime late on Christmas day. I'll be trying to make myself useful, helping to deal with the turkey, and acting as kitchen porter on the day. Mother has admitted that, at 94, she doesn't feel up to making her usual butter-scotch trifle for sweet, which is disappointing, but Mary has volunteered her sticky toffee pudding, which will be a worthy substitute. I'll probably attempt some snow clearance, although the brae was under about a foot of the white stuff for most of its length on Friday, more has fallen since, and more is forecast during the coming week. Ertie's 4x4 fanbuster only made it to the top at the third attempt on Friday, the snow lying on a base of black ice.

It's all a bit grim, but beautiful in its own way. While I hate this wintry weather, it does provide some spectacular skies to admire and artistically appreciate. Since childhood, I have always noticed the intensity of the purple and orange of cumulus snow-cloud, particularly in the afternoons around sunset. Have a happy, peaceful and colourful Christmas!

Tuesday, 14 December 2010


I turned 13 years of age in 1961, when the Aberdeen trawler "Burwood" was completed by Mitchison's yard at Gateshead. Here she is heading north-east out of her home port, with Girdleness lighthouse on her starboard quarter.
This is the first "stock" work I have completed for some months, and its intended destination is the next exhibition at Catterline at the end of 2011 - unless someone buys her online first, from
It's not been a great 9 days chez the Tait Gallery, since my last posting here, and the prospects for the rest of this week aren't good either. It's a beautiful sunny day in Shetland, and the snow has all but disappeared from the hillsides, where it had formed deep drifts last Wednesday evening and night. But the forecasters are all predicting a blizzard on Thursday, which is my next (and last for this year) scheduled stall day at the Toll Clock centre. If the weather is bad, I won't even bother to turn up. Last Thursday's non-event was also badly snow-affected, the roads having been blocked by snow the night before, and the thaw set in that evening, too late to do me any good. And now the snow is arriving just in time to write off my last chance to make a few bob with my cards and prints this year. One has to be philosophical about these things. I guess I was just unlucky. You win some, you lose some, and all the rest of the appropriate homespun truisms.
In view of the fact that most of you don't like to see grown men crying, I will spare you any more moans on this occasion. Have a nice week, as you prepare the bird for Christmas, and a merry festive season to all you single men too. LOL!
I hope to be in a better frame of mind (and humour) for my next post, hopefully on Sunday. Byee!

Sunday, 5 December 2010


While Shetland has not suffered the same volume of snowfall which has been making people's lives a misery on the Scottish mainland, it has been a few feet deep in places, and it was enough to cause problems for the gallant SIC snow-plough/gritter crews. It was also enough to deter people from visiting the Toll Clock Centre, where I sat in my thermals at my stall on Thursday. My takings for the day did sneak into three figures, but not as much as I would have expected for the 2nd of December. There just weren't many people about, although I did meet a few old friends.

One such old chum was my fellow painter Liam O'Neill, down from Unst for a quick shopping trip. I have known him since my art college days, and I had the pleasure of his company for part of the morning. We talked about our art, our ailments and old times, and it was good to see him looking so well. My thanks must also go to Neil Robertson, who brought me a very welcome cup of coffee, and to my sister Mary, who gave up part of her lunch break to look after the stall while I took a much-needed pit-stop. She sold the first print of the day too!

I've received another commission this week, and I've been doing a bit of online research in connection with this. It is for a painting of an Eyemouth-based fishing boat, and views of the mouth of this busy harbour, to use for information on the background, would be gratefully received. My customer is furnishing me with a photograph of the boat itself, the "Dougals" (BK247). I've been working on another order too, a painting of two old Shetland fishing boats, which means that, in the limited daylight hours available to me just now, the stock/exhibition works have been taking a back seat again.

We mustered another shovel-party for the road up to mother's house on Monday. I'm ashamed to say that this time I never had a shovel in my hand, most of the spadework being done by my nephew, his wife, son and father, also joined by a neighbour and my sister Mary, while my sister Thelma and I attended to catering matters indoors. The labourers dined on bannocks filled with salt beef and tongue, washed down by copious quantities of tea. The snow had not been as deep as I had feared - nothing like as deep as when the first such party was mustered in early February. This time, Graham Robinson had no trouble ascending the Brugarth brae in his minibus, which bore my mother safely back to the warmth of her own home, after her fortnight's break at the Wastview Care Centre in Walls.

I visited her again on Friday, when I paid my "normal" call on her with her pension and shopping from the Whiteness shop, as well as her medication from the Scalloway surgery. My driver was Ertie Burgess, who recently took delivery of his formidable new 4x4 taxi which I have begun referring to as the fanbuster. "Fan" is the Shetland dialect word for a deep snowdrift, and I was surprised to see one, about two feet deep on the left-hand side, at the top of the Brugarth brae when we arrived on Friday morning. It never even slowed the vehicle down - it burst through the snow as if it wasn't there!

The worst of the snow seems to be over, for the time being at least. The Met Office are forecasting wintry showers and icy roads for the coming week, and the temperature is certainly not going to be high, but no heavy falls of the white stuff are being predicted for here. I'm very glad about that. I hope, wherever you are, you keep safe this week.


It's a beautiful morning in Lerwick, and I couldn't resist taking this photograph from my flat (studio) window. It depicts the snow-covered berg of Hoofield, about ten miles away, showing over the nesses of Trebister and Sound, with some of the houses of West Sletts Park, Lerwick in the foreground. The snow has thawed in the lower areas over the last couple of days, but it's still lying thick higher up.
The photo might be a little out of focus, but it demonstrates why I like my little Pentax camera, why I'm never short of inspiration (although the word is rather a lofty one) and also why I'm an artist!

Sunday, 28 November 2010


The white stuff has arrived, as it has been threatening to do since late on Tuesday, but the real drifting, dangerous, road-blocking snow held off until Friday evening. The predicted heavy snowfall hasn't really materialised, at least here in Lerwick, where a couple of inches have settled, but it's still a nuisance, and my sister Mary, who has been out investigating the private road up to our mother's house at Whiteness, tells me that there's about six inches to a foot of it there. Mother returns from her regular fortnight's respite care tomorrow afternoon, and the road will have to be cleared, as it was on two occasions last winter, before Graham Robinson's minibus can climb the "Brugarth Brae". A shovelling squad of sisters, brother-in-law, nephews and nieces has been organised for tomorrow morning, and I'm looking forward to the event, which will be fun.

My second pre-Christmas Toll Clock Centre stall took place on Thursday, after much dithering on my part as to whether I ought to set out for there, in the freezing conditions, with my six holdalls of goodies. In the end, I was glad I did, as I had a highly successful few hours there. Prints, both A3 and A4, packs of greeting cards and postcards were all flying off my table, and there seemed to be quite a bit of interest in my work, which was most gratifying. I also bagged a commission for another painting (a seascape) which I've subsequently begun work on.

I've done a little more work on the two "stock" works, mentioned in previous posts, although bad light and other matters have interfered with my easel time on these. Why is my painting operation like a cricket test match? Because both are often stopped by bad light, of course!

The new greeting cards arrived on Thursday while I was out at the stall, and they are excellent. I look forward to having some of these on display at next Thursday's effort, and I'll have to get them up on the website too (

Almost on the spur of the moment, my sister Mary decided to make a quick trip out to Walls early on Tuesday evening , before the onset of the forecast wintry weather. She offered me the chance to come along, which I readily accepted, and our mother was surprised and pleased to see us walking through the foyer of the Wastview Centre just as she and the other residents were finishing their tea. It was a beautiful evening, and a near-full moon was lighting up the surface of Gruting, Bixter and Weisdale voes as we made our way back to Lerwick.

There were no problems with frost that evening (there was too much wind, for a start), but the council gritting squads are now working flat out to keep the highways open. And the cold spell looks set to continue, possibly until Christmas, although I really hope it doesn't. When I was a youngster, I used to love the snow, but my sledging days on the Houlland Hill at Sandwick are more than half-a-century into the past, and now I see the white stuff only as a menacing, slippery nuisance. It can't go soon enough for me. Enjoy your winter sports this week!

Sunday, 21 November 2010


The weather, along with its consequences, has once again been a main topic of conversation in the bars, restaurants and speakeasies of Lerwick. The south-easterly gales kept the Northlink ferries (which provide the lifeline service to and from Shetland) in port for two days, and then, just when the weather had eased a bit, the "Hrossey" took a knock from an oil supply boat in Aberdeen harbour, which caused enough hull damage to keep her in port for another two days, while repairs were effected. This meant that the first incoming passenger ferry since Wednesday arrived this morning, although the freight boat "Clare" did make it in yesterday. Shelves were getting a bit bare of foodstuffs in the shops and supermarkets (all two of them!) of Lerwick, as they tend to do when our lifeline service is disrupted - whether by wind, wave or wayward political administration trying to save a bob or two from a cash-strapping budget.

My work has also suffered from the atmospheric conditions. In particular the light, which has been my friend during the summer months, has become a glowering oppressor now that winter has arrived. My artistic output has become occasional and spasmodic, and progress on my paintings has been negligible. The sun becomes an enemy at this time of year. On the days when it makes an appearance, it is low in the sky, blinding people who find themselves at the wheel of south-bound cars, and causing me to make use of the blind in my studio window.

I had my first pre-Christmas stall at the Toll Clock Centre on Thursday, when the gale was still blowing, and few people were about. Those who did were showing little interest in my new greeting card line, although I did sell a couple of prints, which made the exercise worthwhile, and a couple of people expressed an interest in commissioning work from me - nothing definite though. I'll be there again this coming Thursday, but the long-term weather prognosis is for snow to low levels by then, so I'm not holding my breath as to the day's success as a sales drive.

As a matter of fact, the prospects for another winter like the last one are looking quite realistic, according to my reading of the Met Office's weather prognosis. What happened to that friendly jetstream, which used to drive a succession of Atlantic depressions across us during the winter months? Each low meant a day of southerly or south-easterly gales and rain, clearing to another day of north-westerly gales and showers, then a quieter colder day, by the end of which the wind was beginning to rise from the south-east again, with high cloud heralding the arrival of the next weather system. For most of last winter, this just didn't happen - we seemed to be under the influence of high pressure over and to the north of us all the time. This produced a mixture of sleet and snow, the night-time temperatures being low enough to ensure that the porridgy mess, which had formed on the roads and pavements during the day, solidified into a kind of slippery concrete, which a pick could scarcely penetrate. And the surface pressure charts, produced by the weatherpeople, are starting to look ominously similar to those of last year. Brrrrrugh!

Have a nice week!


Once again I find myself in apologetic mode, this time for not posting to this blog last weekend. This was due to the fact that my computer and I had spent an unscheduled five days apart, from Thursday 11th to Tuesday 16th November. I missed it dreadfully. The ready availability of my email inbox, my website, my Ship AIS, Ships Nostalgia, Met Office and suppliers sites have become a crutch on which I lean far too often, and being without them is painful, I have to admit.

The reason for our separation was my Kaspersky internet protection package. I downloaded the new version (having paid £40 for the privilege, including the back-up CD) after being prompted to do so by email from the suppliers. Having done so, I discovered that none of my USB devices were working. In effect, I had no mouse, no camera and no printer, to mention only three, and, although the computer was still responsive to instructions from the keyboard, I am not proficient enough in its use to run my system from it. So the thing needed to be repaired - urgently!

I phoned my local fixer of such things, he took the thing away, and eventually solved the problem, which was due to my anti-nasty not downloading properly (there's an irony in there somewhere!). He anticipated many more calls from Kaspersky users. I was the first, simply because I had responded promptly to the email from the providers, and didn't leave it until the last minute, as perhaps I should have done. One lives and learns, doesn't one?

Since being reunited with my computer on Tuesday, I have been enjoying the renewal of our passionate, intimate and fruitful relationship. Let's face it, it's the nearest I'm going to get to one nowadays. Come, electronic device, and get a cuddle!

Sunday, 7 November 2010


It has been occasionally (and justifiably) said that I don't know my arse from my elbow, and the association between the two metaphorically-linked body parts has been more than usually close during the last few days. A cyst, which had been quietly developing in the folds of skin covering my elbow, became infected a few weeks ago, and, my own homespun treatments having failed to solve the problem, I decided to seek the help of the experts located in the Lerwick Doctor's Practice. As a result of my consultation with the doctor and the practice nurses, I am now on a course of flucloxacillin tablets, which are having a predictable effect on my digestive system. They seem to be having the desired effects on the infection, and I am more than halfway through the course, so I'll endure the side-effects, with as good grace as I can muster, for the next few days.

It has provided me with an excuse for a week of little achievement in the artwork field, although I did send my latest commissioned painting to the West Midlands on Monday morning, and my client seems pleased with it ( painting shown above). There are now no more commissions in hand, although a couple more may be in the offing. For the next few weeks (assuming no commissions), in the failing winter light conditions, I'll be concentrating on exhibition "stock" works, and the stalls at the the Toll Clock Centre here in Lerwick, which start a week on Thursday (18th). There I hope to do a roaring trade with my new product line of greeting cards, as well as selling a few prints and postcards, which are more established items.

I'll be advertising in the Press & Journal and the Royal Yachting Association magazine in the weeks leading up to Christmas, hoping to drum up a little more interest through exposure in the mainland print media. It's still the best way, in partnership with the website of letting people know I'm still here.

Please permit me the indulgence of using this blog post to plug my greeting cards. They are really of exceptionally high quality, and are unusually large for notelets, which, in effect, with their blank insides without any felicitation whatsoever, is what they are. They have plenty of space for a short letter. And I didn't plan them thus! I believed the cards to be A5 unfolded when I ordered them. I'll be uploading four more front page images during the coming week, so take a look and let me know what you think - I need feedback!

I hope to be back in rude health by the time I write next week's post. I have just returned from a trip out to Whiteness with my sister Thelma to visit our mother, who is also well, as is my sister's Toyota, which is now repaired after it's power-steering breakdown at the filling station this time last week. I hope you stay fit during the coming seven days - see that your body parts remain in a well-distinguishable state!

Sunday, 31 October 2010


Sad, isn't it? The only post I could I could manage to put together last week was an apology for the errors in the previous one! I'm studying my diary (life's book of original entry!) carefully this time, so that such factual inaccuracies can be avoided for this post. Some of these entries are quite amusing. Here's one for the afternoon of Monday 18th October:-

Clutching my urine sample, I took a taxi (heavy rain falling!) to the Lerwick Doctor's Practice for my routine periodical check-up appointment at 3pm. The practice nurse was running late with her appointments, so I waited for 40 minutes before my name came up on the screen, by which time I'd practically fallen asleep. My blood pressure is as it should be, she took a blood sample (to test for cholesterol levels, it emerged), and she accepted my urine sample (which had miraculously survived the afternoon's proceedings thus far) with what seemed to be an unnecessary degree of gratitude. She dipped cotton buds in it, and did little tests on it (for what I didn't inquire, nor was this information forthcoming, so I presumed the tests were negative). I took the opportunity to weigh myself, and I tipped the scales at 12st 7lbs (I still think in old money, and fortunately the device was able to translate for me!), which is 7lbs too much, although the nurse didn't seem to be too concerned about it. A weight-loss programme is called for - ugh!

Some of my diary entries are unpublishable, and it's just as well they are practically unreadable too (my handwriting has gone downhill over the years). I could be sued for something, in these days where unnecessary litigation is the only growth industry in Britain. Most of the scrawled jottings are just plain boring - the minutiae of a professional artist's daily routine are as repetitive and dull as those of a filing clerk (probably more so!). What I cooked for lunch, what was in the post, who visited, which places I visited during a trip out to the shops, and what I did to whichever painting, the process of the creation of which is much the same for every work. And, of course, the weather - it was blowing a hooligan yesterday! I see I've lost one of my few blog followers, which is rather disppointing, but not surprising!

I enjoy my life as a self-employed oil painter. It will never make me rich, but it just about pays the bills for a single 62-year-old chap with needs to match his modest income. I wake each morning with a feeling of pleasurable anticipation over what the day ahead might hold. When my brother was up here on holiday recently, he told me about a colleague (in a previous job) who used to throw up his Sunday lunch when he thought of the working week ahead of him. What an existence! To work long hours at a job, just to put food on the table for you and your family, while hating the work so much that you couldn't digest the food anyway - there's something seriously wrong there. And how many other people are doing the same thing?

I no longer spend a fortune on wine (or rather lager!), women and song, so I live comparatively frugally. Probably my biggest outlay is on stuff for the business itself. And since I've saved virtually nothing, my work is going to be my old age pension, for as long as I'm able to do it. I have considered taking out one of those over-50 insurance plans just to provide for my burial, but I'm a conscientious objector to that most cynical of form of business, so I guess I won't bother. A pauper's grave will fit me just as well, I'm sure. They could put me in a black bag and chuck me over a cliff somewhere, but I expect that will upset the environmentalists, bless them!

All of which jolly stuff seems to have taken me a long way from the subject on which this post began, namely the factual inaccuracies (and apologies therefor) of previous posts. I hope there won't be too many of these bloopers in future, but you never know, do you? Have a good week.

Sunday, 24 October 2010


That's what comes of trying to put together a post from different scraps of disjointed prose! I have now corrected the Tardis-type chronological error in last week's posting, regarding the despatch and arrival of the large painting to Cheshire. Sorry about that - it will probably happen again.

Another senior moment from the Artistic Curmudgeon!

Sunday, 17 October 2010


The best news of the past two weeks came on Monday 4th October, when my client rang to tell me that he was pleased with the large seascape (at my second presentation) and that his cheque would be in the post later that week. I told him, when I had come down to earth again, that I would let the work dry for a few days, then get it in the post to him at the beginning of another week.

Here's where my family and my artwork come together, as the painting, at 47" x 39" x 2" deep, is too big for one person to safely handle in the wrapping process. My brother was up on holiday this week, and he agreed to help me with this delicate operation, which took place this last Tuesday afternoon. The packaging involved a couple of layers of bubble-wrap, outside of which were two sheets of 1" polystyrene sheeting (one each side), outside of which were another two layers of bubble-wrap. Then the cardboard outer protection went on, secured by copious quantities of parcel tape. I plastered "Fragile" stickers liberally over it, and attached my previously-prepared "Documents Enclosed" adhesive envelope. My brother reckoned the package was now well-nigh impregnable. I wasn't so sure, but it was difficult to tell how we could have reinforced it any more, so that's the way it went next morning. The post office counter assistant assured me that it would take 48 hours from Wednesday morning, but this turned out to be over-optimistic, as it took until Monday to arrive.

Work has been steady but slow on the commissioned painting of the Helford river in Cornwall. Calm water is always tricky to portray, and I won't be satisfied with the work until you feel you can dive into it for a swim! I've hardly touched the "stock" work of Gourdon harbour, but I'll be able to make better progress on it, and other works, now that the big job has finally been completed and despatched.

On the printing side. more greeting cards are on the way, and I've been replenishing my stock of giclee prints for my forthcoming stalls at the Toll Clock Centre. More of this in about a month's time. Very soon I'll have to turn my attention to decision-making about which magazines and newspapers I'm going to advertise in, in order to catch the eager eyes of the online Christmas shoppers. One tragic sales scenario which has yet to befall me is running out of stock - I'd sooner print too much than too little.

Here I am, preparing for another Christmas sales campaign, and it seems such a short time since the last one. According to the Met Office, the weather is to take on a rather Christmassy feel over the next few days. My sister Mary managed to get a flight out of strike-ridden France yesterday, after a few days holiday there. She was at Birmingham when I phoned her this morning, and she hopes to be back in Shetland on Tuesday morning. I fancy she'll find it a bit chilly after the Basque country. Winter draws on, I guess! Have a good week!


I must apologise for not contributing a few lines of prose, of whatever quality, to this blog last week. I have been rather busy, and, looking back over the past two weeks, I seem to have remarkably little to show for my industry. Twice during that time, I have sat down of an evening in front of this clipboard (on which I write my notes for these posts) and twice I have fallen asleep and woken up with a start, with scarcely a line written.

I think such occasions are known as senior moments. Although I'm only 62, I'm starting to make little blunders which I can only attribute to slight faculty-loss, such as going shopping for toiletries, without my glasses, and arriving home with a bottle of conditioner instead of shampoo. As a result, the other night, I was standing at my kitchen sink, scrubbing my hair desperately and vainly in an attempt to get a lather going. It's a wonder I have any hair left! Whatever conditioner does to a fellow's locks is well and truly done to mine now!

I'm starting to mislay things as well. The other night I found myself in need of my pastry brush (for cooking purposes, I hasten to add!), which is normally among the miscellaneous culinary weaponry in the side compartment of my cutlery drawer, and it was not to be found. That and a medium-sized black-handled vegetable knife seem to have become the latest victims of my absent-mindedness.

I've got an appointment to see whatsername at the Lerwick Doctor's thingummy tomorrow afternoon, to have my blood pressure checked. Perhaps I should mention whatever I was talking about earlier to her. I've got to take a urine sample with me, and I'm wondering what to transport that in - they're taking the whatsit, aren't they?

Sunday, 3 October 2010


While I much prefer summer to winter, I don't think I suffer from seasonal affective disorder (even the name doesn't make much sense to me). The long hours of summer daylight translate into more time at the easel, resulting in greater daily productivity, and the more work I get done, the happier I am. My mood varies according to the light conditions (leaving aside work output for now), so I think I will own up to a kind of weather affective disorder, or possibly gloom-induced depression, which is a strange expression indeed, come to think of it. Enough!

Monday was bright and sunny, with light winds (good mood weather), and I took advantage of the conditions to put some good work into the big man-o'-war painting. I put the final details into the masts, hull and rigging, and did a bit more on the sea around the ship. My sister Thelma came along for elevenses, which presented her with problems, as she had just had a tooth extracted (by her dentist, I hasten to add!), and the local anaesthetic was causing her to dribble a bit.

I phoned the people in charge of the Toll Clock Centre, to be told the bad news that I was too late to get Saturday slots for my stall in the run-up to Christmas. I settled for Thursdays, same as last year, from mid-November onwards. How early do I have to book to get a Saturday spot, for goodness sake? I received a quotation from DCS Printing Services for the production of greeting cards for the local branch of a well-known charity. I relayed this information to my sister Mary, who is the local organiser for the charity.

Tuesday saw the arrival of the last and largest cruise ship of the season. When I got up for my bath, at 6.30am, the "Grand Princess" looked impressive and luminous in the early morning half-light, filling a large section of my view of Breiwick Bay, as she came to anchor off the Knab. The wind rose during the day, and the sky clouded over ominously in the afternoon, but the rain held off until evening, so those of her 2,200 passengers who went for a run ashore would have had a decent day's sight-seeing. The port authority representative, who came on Radio Shetland that evening, was spinning the usual yarn of how important cruise ships are to the local economy, and I take issue with this. Apart from the port authority and the bus companies, which section of the local economy is benefitting? Perhaps the odd knitwear outlet might see some trade, but not much else. Very few cruise ship passengers buy anything from local businesses.

I worked again on the big picture, tidying up a few lines and angles, and doing a bit more on the sea in the immediate vicinity of the ship. Thelma arrived for elevenses again, and we had our usual natter about life, family and music. I made kedgeree for my lunch, and remembered to put out my bin-bag for collection, before taking a walk down to the corner shop for essential foodstuffs. I then worked on the Cornish scene painting for a while, although my heart wasn't really in the task. The sky was clouding over and the GID was coming over me again. And this continued into the evening, which should have been spent working on SEO projects for my newly-upgraded website (, but little of this was attempted or achieved on Tuesday.

Wednesday was dull, wet and increasingly windy, and I struggled with the light to get more done on the big seascape during the morning. In the afternoon, I started on a new "stock" work, a picture of Gourdon harbour based on photographs I took on my last little jaunt to the mainland, back in April. That now looks like being my last trip of the year.

Mary arrived after work, and we took a run out west, first stopping at her home at Strand for some of her delicious risotto before setting out again in the gale-driven rain to visit our mother in the Wastview Care Centre. She seemed to be well and enjoying her respite care period, and I enjoyed getting away from the flat, with all its paraphernalia of life as a self-employed artist, and breathe some unpolluted air, despite the atrocious weather conditions.

Thursday was the deadline which I had set myself (and was foolhardy enough to declare to my client) to have the work finished on the alterations to the big picture. I just about made it (I think) and phoned him with an upbeat progress report (I don't know who I'm trying to kid - him or myself!). I fully expect him to reject the work again, when I get it photographed and emailed to him in JPEG form, possibly on Saturday, if the weather allows (it's still pretty dismal and blowy today). This project has blown large holes in any confidence in my own ability I may have previously had.

I made a big pot of scotch broth on a lump of brisket I had found at the Whiteness shop when we called there on our way to Walls yesterday evening. Mary and I enjoyed the stuff, which is very tasty, but tends to have side effects which match the weather - wet and windy! In the afternoon I worked a bit more on the Gourdon harbour painting, the drawing of which is quite tricky. It's a very simple composition, but all the more care has to be taken over laying it out. In the early evening, I phoned my brother Arthur, to wish him many happy returns on his 60th birthday. Time marches on - for everyone.

Friday dawned bright and breezy, and my mood was more upbeat than it had been all week. The wind increased steadily during the day, and was touching storm force by late evening. I watched fishing boats heading for the shelter of Lerwick harbour during the morning - they'll be glad of the lee it affords. I went out early to get my copy of the Shetland Times, and spent my morning coffee break, along with hundreds of others around the islands, poring over the pages of this institutional publication!

I took the big picture off the easel and put it on my living-room radiator, to accelerate the drying process. I spent the rest of the daylight hours carefully examining it and doing little bits of "snagging". The thing takes up an awful lot of room, and will look good in a much larger space than is available to me in my little abode. As the wind whistled round my top-floor flat, I spent the evening attending to domestic and administrative tasks.

Saturday morning was bright and clear, with only a fresh southerly breeze after the previous night's gales, which did some minor damage to Mary's polytunnel at Strand. I had determined to plant some flower-bulbs at Whiteness when I go out there on Monday, so I took a walk down to the garden shop to get some of these. Last autumn I had deliberated upon doing it, ended up not doing it, and regretted my inaction since. Thelma popped along for a cuppa, before she headed out to our mother's to do some preparation for her return on Monday, so she took the bulbs and an old earthenware casserole pot (which I intend to use as a planter) out there with her.

I had arranged for Mary to give me a hand with photographing the big picture, so I prepared a meal of fried fish for the two of us, which I timed pretty well, considering that I only had an approximate time for her arrival. The digital operation was successful, with a few good JPEGs to show for it - these will form attachments to my next email to my client. Mary headed off to effect polytunnel repairs with her neighbour, and I settled down to an afternoon of work on the Cornish painting. Progress is slow on this one, as the colours and shades of this remarkable scene are very subtle, and take a bit of getting. With a quiet ensuing evening (I had considered going for a pint or two, but couldn't be bothered - changed days!), so passed a reasonably succesful Saturday.

This morning, I listened to the service on radio 4 before going for a walk down to the Co-op to get electricity meter tokens, as my power was about to go off. Remarkably it still hadn't done so by the time I returned some 40 minutes later. I had several emails to send before I could address myself to the task of writing this blog post. Tomorrow, I'll be heading out to Whiteness to see that all is ready for mother's return from respite care. If I have time, I'll plant the flower-bulbs too. I desperately need some good news this incoming week, and I hope yours goes well too!

Sunday, 26 September 2010


Shetlanders are very fond of a bit of free entertainment, and it arrived this week in the form of "Stunts 'R' Us", a quasi-scientific terrorist group otherwise known as Greenpeace. Members of this noble organisation gratuitously attached themselves to one of the anchor chains of the oil-drilling ship "Stena Carron", which had been lying north of Lerwick harbour for the previous couple of weeks while preparations for a forthcoming drilling operation west of these islands were made.

While the television, and, for all I know, the newspaper media (I never read the daily papers), gave the action of the "activists" the oxygen of publicity on which they thrive, for a couple of days at least, the islanders appear to have been less than sympathetic to their cause. The locally-based internet forums have been inundated with proposals as to how to respond to this unwelcome intrusion into the lawful daily business of the oil-drilling vessel. Suggestions included the employment of guns, harpoons and torpedoes, and the idea of dropping the anchor at regular intervals was also mooted. Personally, I thought winching up the anchor from time to time would keep the uninvited guests honest and regular.

In the end, nothing much came of the stunt. The rig operators obtained an injunction against the "activists", and both parties to this incident seem to have gone elsewhere - at least the drilling ship and the Stunts 'R' Us mother ship, "Esperanza" have disappeared from my Ship AIS map of the islands. Best of luck and safe operations to the former, and good riddance to the latter!

While islanders are as concerned as anyone about the risks involved in offshore oil exploration and recovery, it is the undemocratic modus operandi and arrogance of the protest group which gets up Shetland noses. Like other people around the world, we all watched in horror as events unfolded in the Gulf of Mexico and surrounding shorelines earlier this year. We had our own incident about seventeen years ago, when the fully-laden tanker "Braer" was wrecked on the Garths Ness rocks. Accidents can and will happen in the best-regulated households, so what do you do? Cease all of man's endeavours which involve an element of risk?

(Incidentally, the "Braer" incident was unconnected with any oil operations around Shetland. It happened because Shetland lay on the north side of the Fair Isle channel, through which the tanker, on her way from Mongstad in Norway to America, was about to pass, when she lost power in worsening weather conditions. The rest, as they say, is history, and the event has been fully documented in Jonathan Wills and Karen Warner's book "Innocent Passage", to which scholarly volume I have little of value to add.)

The consequences of oil exploration operations going wrong are undoubtedly grave. Nowhere is this better demonstrated than in Siberia, where huge areas of land have been destroyed by Russia's land-based oil extraction blunders. The scariest story of the week, for me, has been the news that Russia has laid claims to huge areas of the Arctic Ocean, with intent to exploit the enormous oil reserves which lie beneath it. If there is a country with a poor record on accident prevention in the oil industry, it is surely Russia. I could suggest this as a more likely source of an oily Armageddon, and a more appropriate venue for a Greenpeace campaign, but I doubt if they will take up this challenge and, even if they do, their protests would fall on even deafer ears than those of the Shetland Islanders.

Sunday, 19 September 2010


I suppose it shouldn't surprise me that the weather should turn equinoctial, given that the autumn equinox takes place tomorrow. It has been blowing a gale during the latter half of this week, and I have been watching fishing boats, many of them Norwegian, scurrying for the shelter which Lerwick harbour affords. As the meteorological conditions become unsettled, I have been feeling strangely ill at ease this week, and I am at a loss as to adequately explain why.

I have had yet another effusive email of thanks from a grateful customer (to add to the many), and progress has been maintained on the other works, apart from the big picture, which I feel has been doomed from its delayed start due to damaged canvases being delivered to me. I now feel thoroughly discouraged with the project, and dread entering the side-studio where it sits broodingly on its easel. I feel like taking a four-inch brush, loading it with the most fluorescently inappropriate hue I can find among my paint-tubes, and vigorously obliterating the image before me on the canvas. What cathartic fun that would be! Never mind that I've spent four months creating that image and, a month ago, I was very happy with it. My client is dissatisfied, and I am not far away from returning his deposit to him, along with a letter telling him where he can put his patronage. As things stand, I am dabbing away at the painting, making little alterations here and there, for no good reason, and I know not, and care less, where the project is going.

I have started another two "stock" works (subject-matter yet to be decided) and continued work on my commissioned Cornish river-mouth scene. I have got all my greeting cards bagged up into "assorted" fours, single-themed fives, and a few singles. I have discovered that my new display units fit neatly into my two large holdalls, which is good news for when I'm carting all the stuff from and to the stall at the Toll Clock Centre (these will be starting again in November).

It has been a week for strange email messages about Taits (most of them polite!) from around the globe. One was from a woman of Tait ancestry who runs a beautiful guesthouse in the countryside of the Burgundy region in France. She complimented me on my work, and expressed her desire to trace her Shetland roots. She got in touch with me, as I am a Shetland Tait with a website and seemed a good contact to start with. Her grandmother, Grace Tait, was from Brae, so I forwarded the message to Dr Ian Tait, of Shetland Museum and Archives, who is also from that part of the islands. I also replied to her in helpful and appreciative terms.

Apparently there is, or was, a prolific landscape/seascape artist knocking about America somewhere, who signed his paintings "TAIT". This week I received an email from a lady in Austin, Texas, who is the second American to contact me with regard to this artist. I have had to tell her that I haven't the foggiest who this dauber is. "It wisna me", has been the main thrust of my replies to such enquiries, along with apologies for my inability to help. Anyone out there in the blogosphere know anything about him/her?

September is a big month for birthdays among the members of my family, with that of my brother, two of my sisters and my late father's all falling within that month. My sister Mary (not one of the September lot!) invited me to go with her, after she had finished work, down to Sandwick churchyard to lay a bunch of flowers on our father's grave, on what would have been his 99th birthday, on Friday. The wind was practically blowing us off balance as we performed this little task, after which I took some photographs of the scene. I emailed these to Mary afterwards, so that she could print them off to show mother next time she visited her. She (mother) goes in to the respite care centre for a much-needed holiday on Monday. She gives us a few anxious moments, but looked positively robust when I visited her earlier on Friday. She never ceases to amaze and perplex us!

And now the wind has dropped, the sun is shining, and it's a beautiful, if rather chilly, afternoon here in Lerwick. I've promised myself to do a bit of cleaning after I've posted this, but don't hold your breath! Have a nice week.

Sunday, 12 September 2010


The humpback whale, which put my islands of birth and domicile on the TV news programmes on Thursday, and was responsible for the first part of this post's very questionable title, disppeared as mysteriously as it had arrived, apparently taking with it the string of lobster creels in which it had earlier become entangled. Whether the animal had gone eastwards to freedom, or downwards to its death from exhaustion and drowning is still uncertain - one hopes the former outcome obtained.

It's changed times since my father (1911-1996) was a youngster. In those days of poverty and hardship, and before a universal electricity supply became the plumbed-in norm, such an event as an entangled whale would have been regarded as Christmas come early in the adjacent community. No part of the beast would have been wasted, it's various constituents being used for food, heating and lighting, and even its ribs being used as "rollers" for hauling boats up over stony or gravel beaches. For most of my life, the family boat was manually hauled or winched up over greased whalebone "linns", probably acquired from a similar beaching of old, or the now long defunct (and famously foul-smelling) factory at Olna, Brae.

Moving on, as seamlessly as I can manage (and with more than a whiff of Shakespeare in the air) from the foul to the fair, I can now address the subject of this week's artwork progress, which has been good. I've completed two works, begun another, and I can now display a work from which the burden of secrecy (which frequently attends presentation paintings) has now been lifted, and which I completed about a month ago. It features an aerial view of the cruise ship "Seabourn Legend".

The first painting to be completed this week is a snow scene of Baltasound Voe, and is to be the Christmas raffle prize for the local branch of a national charity. It will also be the cover illustration for their seasonal greeting cards. Being the crafty sod that I am, I did some negotiation with the charity's organiser, and gained permission (in view of the fact that I am not only not charging a penny for the painting, but also paying for the scanning of it by a local graphics firm), to produce giclee prints of it to sell for my own business. The other completed picture is another cloak and dagger presentation job, which won't be on public view until sometime in November.

It's just as well I've sold a few paintings, as it's been an expensive week! I bought a couple of display units, from an internet source, for the sale of my greeting cards at the Toll Clock Centre stall, as well as sealable cellophane bags for the same cards. I also bought a pricing gun, as my manually-written price-labels look scruffy. I'm justifying this on the basis that, with due care, these products will last me for as long as I am in business. In addition to this extravagance, I have also just paid for my year's normal web-hosting, and have received another bill for the design of the new e-commerce website upgrade ( On top of this, I have had more giclee prints (paid for) produced by my usual graphics/printing firm, who are also doing the scanning of the charity painting and production of prints therefrom (still to be paid). Ouch!

I had much to ponder, therefore, as I placed myself in the capable hands of one of the staff at Jon Stone Hair last Wednesday afternoon. My head had become, in the words of my late father. "laek an aald rop fender", and I reflected that I really ought to come here more often! I suppose that I should be thankful for the fact that, unlike most of my contemporaries, I still have a full mop of hair, and it's the same delightful (and natural) shade of "mooskit" that it's always been. There's considerably less of it now than there was on Wednesday morning though! Have a nice week!

Monday, 6 September 2010


It's not often that Radio Shetland is the bearer of news that I actually feel like jumping up and down at the sound of (alas, my legs won't take the impact of such behaviour any more!), but tonight was the exception. Apparently, our lifeline ferry service is not, after all, having £1m of bits cut off it during the coming year.

Islanders were being asked for their input into what bits they'd have minded a bit less having removed, as against other bits. It was like asking turkeys which part of being slaughtered for Christmas they disliked least. Some of the more sensible, and printable, of the suggestions (for ferry cuts!) included laying one of the two ferries up during the winter months, making them both go slower to save on fuel, and replacing the passenger ships with dual-purpose freight/passenger vessels and doing away with the dedicated freight boats. Quite a few suggestions involving sex and marine travel were mooted by more forthright islanders.

Of course, we only travel at the current level of luxury thanks to the good offices of the Scottish government, who insisted that the route should go out to tender around the turn of the millennium, and were in charge of the tendering process. Up to that point, we had been grumblingly acceptive of the service provided by good old P & O Ferries. However I, for one, have become accustomed to the service which has been provided by Northlink Ferries over the past eight years or so, and I would bitterly resent having any bits of it removed whatsoever. So there!

Leave our bits alone, Scottish government - it's not our fault that there's a squeeze on! And if you're going to squeeze us, be equitable in your squeezing, and don't squeeze some places more than others.

Sunday, 5 September 2010


This morning having dawned bright and breezy, I hung a batch of shirts on the line, and they came in dry and un-seagull-decorated at lunchtime. It's been a good week really, both in terms of weather and work, with the oft-times-promised-and-never-delivered website e-commerce upgrade finally up and running, and with good progress to report on two of my artwork commissions. It also appears to have been a good week for using hyphens!

Monday, which dawned fine but clouded over with drizzle later, was one of work on the charity painting (of winter over Baltasound), during the morning, and the commission of the "St. Clair" (IV) off Girdleness lighthouse in the afternoon. In between, I concocted myself a leftover pork and rice creation (which was palatable) for lunch, and took a walk down to the shop for essential supplies. In the evening (they're beginning to draw in!) I attended to the burgeoning contents of my Outlook Express inbox, and did a few other minor tasks on the computer.

Tuesday, which was rather cloudy but calm (brilliant for midges!) was spent on the same two artworks, with the welcome interruption of a visit by my sister Thelma, with whom I had elevenses and a natter. I made myself some kedgeree for lunch, and remembered to put my bin-bag out for collection by the "essie-kert" squad. In the evening I phoned my brother, and came to the realisation that my plan for a trip to the mainland over the first weekend in October is now not going to happen. Certain things have to fall in place for this to be successful. Firstly, I must have an outside cabin on the ferry to myself. This is a selfish indulgence, I know, but I spend two of my three nights away on that boat, and I want it to be a pleasant experience. Secondly, my brother has to be available, so that we can spend the Saturday cruising the roads of the north-east of Scotland in his car, with me busy taking loads of photographs of the picturesque scenes we come across for my reference library. Thirdly, there has to be decent accommodation available for the Saturday night in Aberdeen. On this occasion, the boat is fully booked and my brother is otherwise engaged. The trip is being postponed until late March next year, just before the period covered by my Northlink Ferries discount vouchers runs out.

Wednesday's weather was mostly fine, with light winds. It was also a big day, the one set aside for getting the final work done on the website upgrade. Igor Mournly, my web designer, arrived, as arranged, at 10am, and we set about putting the greeting cards on the product database, and getting the other elements together for a fully e-commercialised online sales system, complete with the appropriate basket and checkout functions. We hit some technical snags, of course, and, at midday, Igor set off back to his own office to get these ironed out, leaving me to make a light lunch and spend another afternoon on the two commissioned paintings. Later still, I took the painting of Johnshaven harbour to the post office for onward shipment to its new owner in Cornwall. This cost me £38.95 to send, which hurt a bit, so, to numb the pain, I had a couple of pints of the yellow stuff in the Lounge. On my return home, I discovered that Igor had been doing some good work on the website, and had made a test order of £0.01, using my online payment system in conjunction with Paypal. The thing was clearly working. I phoned him my thanks for the generosity of his payment, which will no doubt be added to the amount of his invoice later!

Thursday was bright and clear, although a little low cloud occasionally threatened during the day. I'd arranged to make a soupy lunch for my sister Mary and myself, and it now looked as if I would have a third guest in the shape of Igor, who was coming along to do the final preliminaries to going "live" with the website upgrade. All in all, it was the most chatty lunch that has taken place at the Tait Gallery for some time, with the food being also acceptable, and the website mission being accomplished too. Then my two apparently satisfied guests left, leaving me to clear up the clutter, a task which took me over half-an-hour, and do a little more artwork. I spent the evening chilling out a bit.

Friday dawned and remained bright and mostly sunny, with light south-easterly winds. I took my usual trip out to mother's, collecting her pension and pre-ordered shopping along the way. I did the usual Friday things, such as watering the greenhouse, frying mother's favourite fish lunch of whiting in batter for lunch, clearing up afterwards, making tea and coffee, and generally helping her out with things. She is keeping quite well, if you disregard her severe mobility problems (which it's difficult for her to do!). She is now into her 95th year, and just getting through a day is a bit of a struggle for her, but she has decided that she'll stick it out at her home at Brugarth, Whiteness, for another winter, provided that my sister Mary carries out her promise to stay with her if the weather gets snowy and the access road becomes problematic for the home helps. Everyone got a fright over the severity of last winter, and no-one wants another like it - ever again.
Back at my flat in the evening, I made the mistake of trying to assemble a self-assembly cardboard display unit for my greeting cards. All my efforts at self-assembly tend to self-dissemble within a very short space of time, and this project never really got off the ground. The bits just didn't seem to fit. After an hour I realised that I was unequal to this struggle, threw the parts, which were now looking decidedly grubby and furry, into the bin, and ordered a couple of ready-assembled plastic units from a display units shop on the internet. Hang the expense!

Yesterday was also bright and sunny, with a moderate south-easterly breeze. I spent the morning on the "St. Clair" painting, and the afternoon on the cloud reflections in the water of the Baltasound picture, quite a tricky operation which I nearly finished before the end of the afternoon. I didn't do a lot in the evening, except watch what was watchable on the box. For some reason I hadn't yet seen the third film in the Bourne trilogy, which turned out to be even more frenetic, violent, scowling and frankly daft than the previous two, but it was fun to watch - a bit like Young Guns meets the Wacky Races, with a touch of Rocky thrown in.

And so to today, and I am determined to get this posted. I failed last Sunday, due to the fact that I spent the morning wrapping a painting and then went for a run out west with my sister Thelma in the afternoon. (I did the same run this afternoon, but I had most of this written beforehand.) Must do better, as they say! Have a nice week.

Thursday, 2 September 2010


The new website upgrade is live! Take a look at the new products!


We didn't quite get the website upgrade ready yesterday, as there were too many things to sort out, but my web designer and I put in some good work on it. More will be done today, and I still hope to be up and running with it by the weekend. It'll be worth the wait, I promise you......

Tuesday, 31 August 2010


The latest product from the Tait Gallery is A5 (when folded ) greeting cards featuring my artwork. The cards are blank on the inside, making them like larger-than-usual notelets. They carry a short description on the back, and are available at £2.00 each, plus 50p postage, or £7.00 + £1.00 p & p per set of four.

They will be available through the website ( from Monday 6th September), or just drop me an email with your contact details ( I look forward to hearing from you!


Well, really! The BBC came out with some distressing news one evening last week, namely that grumpy old men are between the ages of 35 to 54. How they arrived at this postulation is not clear to me, as they did not explain the reasoning process behind it. However they came to this position, what it means is that I am now old enough to be A GRUMPY OLD MAN'S FATHER!

As if that wasn't distressing enough, the large painting, on which I have put in a summer's labour, failed it's first client inspection, and it is now back on the easel for remedial work. I'm particularly annoyed about this, as I was convinced that I'd made an excellent job of it, and I am not sure exactly what I have to do to make the picture more acceptable to my customer, who, of course, is always right. He reckons that I have not quite got the details of the 18th century American warship (which is the main feature of the painting) correct, and, not being an expert on the navies of this period, I am left without a definite idea as to how to proceed from here. I suppose I'll just fart around with some of the angles and colour fields, and hope that I hit the spot with some of these footerings. And if, on the second presentation in about three week's time, my efforts have again been found wanting, I'm going to have to admit defeat, give the man his deposit back, and put the whole wasted summer down to bitter experience. I don't want to do the artistic equivalent of running on the spot, sit-ups and squat-thrusts for ever - I'm 62 now, my health isn't what it was, and I have other clients waiting.

Not that all the news has been bad this week. I spent most of Sunday morning wrapping the painting of Johnshaven harbour (above) for the journey to its new owner in Cornwall. The same customer has commissioned another work, and I have continued to make progress on the other two commissioned works "on the stocks". These are both looking pretty good now.

My web designer is coming to visit me tomorrow, and the purpose of the call is to make the new website ( upgrade live. And then what a wonderful new spectacle will unfold before your eyes. One of the problems with the old system was that the sold and unsold works were lumped together. This will change with the new one, I hope from tomorrow, and I also hope that you will visit it. Enjoy the rest of your week!

Sunday, 22 August 2010


Yesterday afternoon I put the finishing touches to the painting which has been occupying the easel in my back bedroom (which has been functioning as a side-studio) for the past three months. At 47 x 39 inches, it is too big to be accommodated, along with all the rest of the paraphernalia, in my living room, which is also a main studio, office, dining room and the place where I watch television, read and generally loaf about, as well as entertain the odd visitor.

I acquired the easel specifically for this job, as it's too big to work on "flat", which is how I do my other smaller paintings. It has been a useful exercise getting familiar with this mode of operation, which I haven't used since my art college days (and that's a VERY long time ago!). I think I'll do a few more using this method now - I have one particular work in mind.....

In an earlier post, I described how much trouble I had getting a mainland supplier to send me a canvas of a suitable size in a usable condition. Their packaging was woefully inadequate, and twice the thing arrived holed. At the third attempt, and three weeks after the first order, a package arrived undamaged, and I was able to start work on the masterpiece.

On the first two occasions they told me to keep the damaged canvas, despite my protests, and this has created its own storage problem. My rooms aren't big, and two large useless canvases take up a lot of space. I offered them to Shetland Arts (they'd be OK for such temporary uses as stage scenery creation), but for the last three months they've remained on my premises. Then, last week, a council skip appeared in the car park across the road, so I took the two ungainly objects, negotiated them downstairs, and was making my way towards the skip, when a couple of workmen claimed them for their children, who would, they thought, find them useful to learn to paint on. Needless to say, this delighted me. With a bit of Mepore adhesive bandage tape covering the holes at the back, the canvases would make superb temporary painting surfaces. There would be other possibilities too. Anyone who was good at joinery could make new smaller frames, cut up the canvases and create new good permanent surfaces therefrom.

Once the painting, which is of an 18th century man-o'-war in a gale, has dried, I'll take it out to the back of the house to photograph it, and then begins the task of wrapping and packaging it ready for its journey to Cheshire. I have already established that it's not too big to send by Parcelforce, which is a lot cheaper than most independent carriers. I have acquired a large roll of bubble-wrap, and tomorrow I intend to visit my local builders' merchant for a sheet or two of 1" polystyrene sheeting. This, together with the cardboard in which the virgin canvas was wrapped, and copious quantities of parcel tape, should provide enough buffering to protect against the bumps and scrapes of the delivery process.

I'm not sure if I can display the "big picture" on this blog or on my website. I was commissioned to do a fairly fathful copy of a work by an 18th century artist and, although there are important differences between the pictures, I risk being taken to task by copyright lawyers, should I put the painting on public display. This disappoints me, as I seem to have put very little by way of new work images on this blog lately, for various reasons. As well as possible copyright issues, clients are reluctant to have their commissions put on display before weddings, birthdays or anniversaries, for which the paintings are presents, have taken place. I am quite used to working under such cloak-and-dagger constraints!

Sunday, 15 August 2010


The large (50" x 40" approx.) painting of an American man o' war in a gale is almost finished now. I hope to put the finishing touches to it tomorrow, and I hope my client thinks as much of it as I (and my visitors) do. I'll know quite soon. I finished the eagle's eye view of the cruise ship ten days ago, and it is now in the hands of another satisfied customer, I'm happy to say. I've resumed work on the commissioned painting of the ferry "St. Clair" leaving Aberdeen, with Girdleness lighthouse in the background. I had held back work on this while I attended to more urgent jobs. I've also started a painting of a snow scene in Unst, for a charity raffle and to be the front image for the same charity's Christmas cards.

Talking of cards, the ones I'd ordered from DCS in Devon arrived just over a week ago, and to say that I am delighted with them would be to understate my feelings. If I was fitter, I would have been jumping for joy when I opened the package containing them! By contrast, the ones I got from a better-known printing firm were half the size, dearer, carried the firms advertising, and were without cellophane wrapping.

One of the reasons why I was unable to post to this blog last Sunday was that I spent the first part of the day wrapping a painting for sending through the post, and the second half trying to do a group image of the cards to upload here as a single JPEG file (or something similar). Blogger, however, was unable to accept the file types I was able to produce using Open Office, so, in the end, I would have been better off just concentrating on a normal post. One lives and learns - none more so than me! Have a nice week.


As long as there's a breeze blowing and the sun is out, things aren't too bad. But, at this time of year, as soon as the wind drops and the sky clouds over, out they come in their multi-millions - the midges. They don't usually trouble us here in the middle of Lerwick, but stray towards the town boundaries and they will soon make their presence felt.

My old friend Stevie Shirmer paid me a call yesterday evening. He had been eating a fish supper down by the harbour, and he was very much aware of the little blighters there. Perhaps these were emigres from Bressay, just across the sound. No doubt the good people of that island were glad to be rid of a few of them.

Stevie is over here, from his present home in Switzerland, to take part in a fencing event at the sports centre, and to visit as many of his friends as possible during his short stay here, before he begins his journey home on the ferry tonight. (I had no idea that he even participated in the sport, let alone that he was an instructor). We sat and yapped for the best part of two hours, during which I gathered that he has gleaned more knowledge of the goings-on around the islands (some of which I am glad to be ignorant of) in a couple of weeks than I have as a permanent resident. I must get out more, I suppose.

Also visiting the islands are my youngest sister Angela, her husband Nigel and her daughter Elanor. I spent some time with them at my mother's on Friday, when I produced lunch main course for the five of us, which consisted of my usual fried whiting in batter, accompanied by peas, potatoes and melted margarine. Angela made one of her gooseberry crumbles for dessert - it was indescribably delicious, and I'd cheerfully kill for it. It's a toss-up whether sticky toffee pudding with ice cream or fruit crumble with custard is my favourite sweet course. In the case of sticky toffee pudding, the ones I had last year at the County Hotel in Banff rank as just about the best I've paid for (but none come close to the standard of my sister Mary's, or, I'm told, my niece Julia's!), while the one I had at the Cocket Hat in Aberdeen a few months ago was definitely below standard. The problem with any of these scrumptious desserts is that I tend to be paralysed for several hours after eating them. All I could do for the rest of Friday afternoon was sit and grunt. And it's not as if I had nothing to do.....

Friday, 13 August 2010


I received an email, from a local hotel, which went:

Dear Tait Gallery - sole person,

"August is the month of meteor showers
If you have a celebration....instead of flowers
Why not treat him or her to a night for two
With these special offers we have for you?"

Dinner, bed and breakfast for two persons only £130 per twin or double room, or book two nights for a combined cost of only £250 per twin or double room.

I replied thus:

What's all this about a sole person? Does this refer to my taste in fish, or my single marital status? Does the fact that I'm a sole trader make me a fishmonger?

August means that summer's waning,
Where did May to July go?
Soon the gales will be a-blowing,
Followed next by winter's snow.

You can shove your Perseid showers
Underneath your bain-marie.
I'll be dining on my ownsome,
Hard-boiled eggs for one, for me.



Fortunately they have a sense of humour, and seem to enjoy my curmudgeonly outbursts. They replied to this effect later.

You gotta laugh - I guess!

Sunday, 1 August 2010


My lower back trouble returned with a vengeance this week, and this has had a predictably adverse effect on my enjoyment of life. My bed has ben transformed from a source of peace, rest and surrealist dreams into a symbol of fear, dread and discomfort. I hope the pain and stiffness goes as quickly as it appeared last Monday when I was picking some of the bumper crop of blackcurrants at Whiteness.

Work has gone on as usual, however. My client in Arbroath is delighted with his miniature of the SS "Clermiston", and his cheque arrived in the post, as promised. I have almost finished the eagle's eye view of the cruise ship, and the large seascape is nearing completion on the easel in the back room. I have resumed work on the painting of the ferry "St. Clair" (IV) off Girdleness lighthouse, a commission which has a November deadline, so I shelved it while the more urgent jobs got done.

I've ordered my first batch of greeting cards! I chose a firm, based in Devon, called DCS, who quoted me a very reasonable price for the job. I'll report on the quality thereof when I receive the cards, which are coming, complete with cellophane wrapping and envelopes, sometime soon - I hope.

Talking of greeting cards, my mother received a lot of these on Friday, when she reached the grand old age of 94. As many of her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren as could attend, did so at Brugarth early in the evening, to be fed with bannocks and sandwiches with various fillings, jam tarts, chocolate crispies, melting moments and a "Happy Birthday" sponge which my sister Thelma had baked and skilfully decorated for the occasion. My mother sat happily in the midst of the eating, tea-drinking and merry-making which always attend our bashes, and no doubt everyone was thinking the same thing that was going through my mind, which was that it was so good to have her still around. The place where she lives is so beautiful too, and I hate to think of a time, which will come all too soon, when Brugarth will no longer be the venue for such parties, and someone else will be living there. Mother's age and mobility issues will cause all this to happen in the not-too-distant future, and I'm torn between keeping this in my mind as a kind of defence, or dismissing the thought completely.

Enough! The present is enough to cope with! Have a good week.


I was grateful to my nephew Kenneth, who is up here for a long weekend, who offered to run me around the various places I had to go to on Friday morning, saving me a small fortune in taxi fares. I had to get fish from the shop at Sound, my mother's medication from the Scalloway pharmacy, my own medication (the blue ones are best this week!) from Boots and mother's usual pension and shopping from the Whiteness shop (not necessarily in that order).

While I was in the various buildings, collecting whatever had to be collected, Kenneth sat in the car reading the Shetland Times, which goes on sale throughout the islands on a Friday morning. When I emerged from the last (and lengthiest) of our stops, he said that if life in Shetland is as depicted in our local newspaper, he is glad he stays in Aberdeen. He says the Shetland Times portrays life in the islands as much the same as anywhere else, with its drug, drink, domestic abuse and general crime problems. It is Shetland's uniqueness which makes it an attractive place to stay, and, if it is becoming like everywhere else, he doesn't want to live here any more. Now, how much this is due to media portrayal and how much to the present nature of island life, I don't really know. I certainly don't recognise the Shetland which I see on a daily basis reflected in the pages of our local paper, so Kenneth seems to have a point.

Here we have to face two unfortunate facts, namely that good news doesn't sell newspapers, and that Shetland now has serious drug and social problems, which are affecting the lives of many young Shetlanders in particular, and consequently the columns of our local rag. I have a suggestion!

Most of the chatty bits of news (much of it good) from around the county have been hived off into sections headed "South Mainland Notebook", "North Mainland Notebook", "Isles Views", "Views from the Scord" (Scalloway), and sections on archaeology, the arts, wildlife and an amusingly ill-informed fishing and marine column, as well as regular features on religious activities, cooking and news from the SWRI branches. There are probably others I've neglected to mention, for which I apologise, and I mustn't forget the large sports section at the back. Why don't they do the same with crime? Shove it into its own compartment, and anyone who isn't interested in the minor misdemeanours of the local crackheads and bampots can ignore it, as most people outside the "catchment" areas do to the district news columns. There you go, petal! Once you put a problem into its appropriate box, it won't hurt as much. So it can be with Shetland's burgeoning social and crime issues (the causes of which are too complex for this blogger to address here).

As the folk singer John James neatly puts it:

Put a little label on it
So you won't know
Just what it was that frightened you so!
I said, put a little label on it
And give it a name
Then everything can go on just the same.

That's all, folks!


India and Pakistan have only recently achieved an uneasy peace in the dispute which has been raging, at times more or less violently, over their territorial claims to Kashmir, since Britain's colonial adventures in that part of the globe ceased over sixty years ago.

So it was with mouths agape and eyes popping that the world witnessed our clod-hopping new PM, colonial foot planted firmly in imperialist mouth, choosing India as the venue to issue a firm telling-off to these damned natives in Pakistan, who were just not playing the game properly. "Harbouring nasty people within their boundaries while claiming to be allies in the war against terrorism is just not good enough - don't you agree, Indian politicians?" Thus any diplomatic progress in that region, over any disagreement on any matter whatsoever, over however many years, is now at threat.

Now they're burning effigies of DC (who is obviously taking George W Bush's strategy in world affairs a stage further!) on the streets of Islamabad and other Pakistani cities, and any progress on co-operation on matters of terrorism has been nullified at a stroke. Well done, David! I think I'll pop down to the Lerwick branch of Effigies R' Us and get one to burn myself.

Talking of gunboat diplomacy, I see that Iceland and Faroe have held two brawny fingers up at the EU over their mackerel quotas for this year. Hurrah and well done! They're doing what Britain should have done decades ago, especially over our whitefish quotas. Now all sorts of sanctions are being threatened against our Nordic neighbours. No doubt Britain will support these, as it supports every other mind-blowingly ridiculous edict to emanate from the undemocratic plutocracy which is the EU.

As things are, our fishing industry has been decimated, with the tacit collaboration of our negotiators, over the last twenty years, while, year after year, our pathetic politicians have still returned from meetings with the clueless and mandate-less bureaucrats of Brussels with ever-decreasing quotas and disregarded representations (especially from Scottish representatives, who are ignored as a matter of EU policy!).

It is time to join with Iceland, Faroe and Norway (not an EU member state) to formulate a sensible system with regard to what can or cannot be caught where and when, and regain control of our own waters. Then our fishing rights will no longer be a bargaining chip at the gaming table of European big business, but will be properly regulated in the interests (long and short-term) of the nations inside whose territorial waters the fishing stocks are located. Then fishermen of other nationalities who want to catch fish in these waters will have to negotiate with US!

Sunday, 25 July 2010


I have more clothes than will ever be on my back (or other bits), so, when I go on one of my occasional shopping sprees, with the associated emetic effect on my bank accounts, it is usually for non-sartorial items. The binge, in which I indulged my democratic right as a consumer (don't start me on the consumer society!), earlier this week, included the purchase of medical remedies, paper bags, maps, books on social media marketing and ink cartridges for my printer (rather an expensive item!).

The maps are utter self-indulgence for me - I just love browsing through them. I'm an artist, producing paintings, prints and all sorts of lovely things, but the only things that adorn the walls of my studio are maps, a calendar and a year planner (rather bare of events this year). The medical remedy is a supply of Jointease tablets, probably a palliative, but my joints always seem to feel stronger when I'm taking the stuff than when I'm not.

The other items are connected to the business. The ink cartridges are self-explanatory. The books on social media marketing are for study with regard to making my blog, website and artistic efforts more visible to the online public. The paper bags are for issuing to the public with their greeting card and postcard purchases from my stall at the Toll Clock Centre. In a way, this reflects my over-cautious mentality. Whenever I am confronted with a situation which I am uncertain how to deal with, I prowl around the outside of the problem for some time, before I take the plunge, metaphorically speaking, and tackle it, frequently with more disastrous results than if I'd just waded in as soon as I was aware of the issue! So it is for me with the greeting cards - I have the customer presentation issues all sorted before I've even designed a single card. It's odd - I know!

This frequently happens halfway through a job too, and it's true of the large painting which is progressing nicely on the easel in the back room, despite the fact that practically everything else seems more attractive, as a work option, than working on IT. Whenever I need to put in a painting session on the monster work, all of a sudden dish-washing, filing, cooking, cleaning and computer work seem to be things that I'd rather do!

This commitment aversion and over-cautiousness also explains the ridiculously low scoring rate with the opposite sex during the latter half of my life. I've lost all my IMPULSIVENESS! It is a true saying that faint heart never won fair lady, and, at some point during the 1980s my get-up-and-go got up and went, taking all my bollard-pulling power with it. Now, in my encroaching twilight years, I am left with only memories which are fast fading to sepia......

Enough of this morbid reflection, and back to the present - quick!

This week I finished the smallest commission I have undertaken to date - a tiny painting of the SS "Clermiston". I was able to get it into a large mail-lite envelope, along with its extra bubble-wrap and 1-inch polystyrene sheet as backing. I'll be posting it tomorrow morning, before I head out to Whiteness to prepare for my mother's homecoming from her latest two-week spell of respite care at the Wastview Centre in Walls. She'll be 94 on Friday, and my sisters are planning a family get-together for the occasion. I know that nothing pleases her more than having her family round her. However, I'm very happy to leave the planning to my siblings.

All the best to you and yours!

Sunday, 18 July 2010


Two or three weeks ago, I mentioned my plan to produce greeting cards, featuring my artwork, to sell in the run-up to Christmas this year. I've taken this a couple of tentative stages further now, having saved a few images into a "cards" folder, using Photofiltre, which is an ideal package for this purpose. It has the advantage, over such sophisticated applications as Paint Shop Pro, that it's free, and it does all the clever things that I need it to, such as size reduction, cropping and adjustment of colour and brightness. I've searched the large number of paintings in my Tait Gallery folder, and cropped out parts of some of these images to use as card designs. I'm also hoping to have these cards available in the Products Database of the new all-singing, all-dancing website upgrade (which is still in the making), and I've emailed my web designer on that subject today.

Progress has been steady (how often have I said that in these posts!) on the painting commissions, and I've just about finished the smallest of these, the tiny picture of the SS "Clermiston", on which my client's grandfather served as crewman. I probably won't display it here, or in the website gallery, simply because of its diminutive size and odd shape.

The subject of the big canvas, taking shape quite nicely on the easel in the "back studio", will regrettably not feature on website or blog either when it is finished, for a different reason entirely. It is because I am closely following a painting by another artist (who lived about 200 years ago), in this work, and I fear reprisals in the form of nasty letters from copyright lawyers. In fact the same could apply to the third commissioned work, which is an eagle's eye view of a certain cruise ship. The photograph, on which I am relying for my details, could only have been taken from an eagle or an aircraft (probably the latter!), and could well form part of the cruise ship operator's advertising copy.

You can't be too careful these days. Have a nice week!

P.S. My web designer thinks the cards are an excellent idea for an item for sale on the website, both singly and in sets. Now all I've got to do is produce them!


I turned 62 summers (and a few hard winters, especially last one!) on Friday - not really an occasion for celebration, merely a reminder of the ever-swifter passage of time. I received a card depicting a young lady (who, I am sad to say, just looked impractically dressed as far as I am concerned nowadays) from my brother, and more circumspect ones from my mother, sisters and one of my many nieces. On the morning of this momentous day, I got soaked on my way back from Alex Morrisons shop, where I'd dutifully gone to buy my Shetland Times, and found myself wondering, having read it, if it was worth getting wet for! I found an email from Philips in my inbox, offering me their felicitations and £10 off any purchase over £100 from their products range. This was sweet of them, but I didn't take them up on it, and duly got on with my scheduled tasks for the day, more or less as planned. As I recall, this went rather well that day.

The big birthday present had arrived (rather presumptuously!) earlier in the week, in the form of a 3-drawer filing cabinet! My family have always given practical presents, and they knew that I had been considering the acquisition of such an item for some time. I had been reluctant to pay the substantial sums of money which such a piece of furniture (in a decent finish) would cost to be delivered to me, but I was getting round to paying it anyway, when this timely present arrived. I'm very grateful, yet again, to my family, who have been so supportive over the years.

Support has been the watchword between us, especially over the last few years. We have formed ourselves into a fairly efficient unit, each of us ready to slot him/herself, at a moment's notice, into whatever role or function might be demanded of us by whichever situation. This was particularly true of some of the scenarios which faced us during the snows of last winter. Looking back, there was a providential element to some of the "support solutions" which presented themselves at crisis points. For instance, the schools were closed on the day that a foot of snow needed to be cleared from the "Brugarth Brae" before my mother, due back from a respite care stay (which could not be extended) at the Fernlea Centre in Whalsay, could gain access to her home. The school closure meant that a team of fit nephews, nieces, grand-nephews and grand-nieces were available, and the clearance, which would have been impossible for me on my own, was done in an hour, and another serious problem was solved (and a lot of fun had in the process!).

But I have reflectively digressed from the subject of this post, which is my birthday on Friday. The best present I could possibly receive is for everyone around me to keep well for another year. That, and a few more painting commissions, would mean another happy return of the day in 2011. By then, I'd also hope to have next year's Catterline exhibition in an advanced stage of completion, and my new state-of-the-art website upgrade operational. But that, as they say, is another story.

Sunday, 11 July 2010


There's a photograph, in the "Times Past" section of this week's Shetland Times newspaper, of a crowd of people gathered at the head of Lerwick's Victoria Pier, witnessing the arrival of the brand-new state-of-the-art "St. Clair", the third vessel to bear that name for the North of Scotland, Orkney and Shetland Steam Navigation Company Ltd (quite a mouthful, isn't it?), who ran the lifeline passenger and cargo transport link between the islands and the mainland at that time. I was there in that crowd - somewhere! My father and I had risen at some ungodly hour of Friday July 1st, 1960 to drive from Sandwick to Lerwick, in our recently-acquired Wolseley 6/80 (PS2012), to see this splendid ship docking at the end of her maiden voyage from Aberdeen. I would have been just 16 days short of my 12th birthday, and I was as mad about ships and boats then as I have been ever since.

Later that same decade, the North of Scotland, Orkney and Shetland Steam Navigation Company was taken over by Coast Lines (which at least involved less breath in pronunciation). They, in turn, were absorbed into the massive P & O network (co-founded by a Shetlander!) during the 1970s. The third "St. Clair" was the last purpose-built vessel on the route until the arrival of Northlink Ferries and their large ro-ro ships in the early noughties. She was also the last side-loader on the route, the two subsequent "St. Clairs" (both acquired second-hand to operate on it) being ro-ro ferries. Consequently, she was the last "north boat" to use Victoria Pier as her base for loading passengers and cargo.

She did this twice a week, arriving at Lerwick on Tuesday and Friday mornings, and sailing on Tuesday and Saturday evenings. Seeing the "St. Clair" off on Saturday at 5pm was always quite a social occasion, with people coming down, from all over the islands, to wave goodbyes to departing family and friends, or just to enjoy the moment. Little did anyone in the crowd, on that bright summer morning in 1960, even dream that daily sailings would be a reality, from another part of the town, within thirty years, or that you would be able to drive your car on and off the boat within seventeen years.

I can remember little about how I felt about the new ship as I watched her dock. I was probably just as interested in the drifters, which would have been coming into the harbour in numbers at the same time, this being at the height of the summer herring fishery. I probably would have been reluctant to join my father in the Wolseley for the fifteen-mile journey home, leaving all these lovely boats behind us. The sights, smells and sounds of the fishing industry have filled my senses pleasurably for as long as I can remember.

Sunday, 4 July 2010


The title of this post doesn't refer to progress on my artworks, which is steady, or my website upgrade, which is still on hold, or indeed any other aspect of my pitiful existence. It simply means that I am struggling to find anything remotely interesting to say about any of it. I even went through this week's Shetland Times newspaper, in search of an article I could put a personal slant on, but I came away with nothing but a headache and severe depression.

I've been working on three commissioned paintings this week, one a massive canvas of a sailing ship, another of an eagle's eye view of a cruise ship, and yet another one of a steamship, which, at 16.75 x 9 inches, needed a small piece of hardboard to be made even smaller for it. I brought the old handsaw out of its retirement in the meter cupboard to do the job. With regard to the big job (120cm x 100cm), I am starting to get concerned about how I am going to get it wrapped and taken to the shipping company for onward transport to north-west England, although this part of the job is still some way off.

Talking of transport, I sent a painting and an A3 print to North Tyneside on Tuesday morning, and have been told of their safe arrival, which is a relief. I haven't tried to assemble my greeting card display units yet, but I am looking forward not one tiny bit to trying it soon. For someone who is passably good at painting, I am remarkably useless when it comes to all kinds of 3D work. Even my wallpaper is covered in blood. Does anyone else remember a crafts project, which all p7 pupils at my school had to do (around 1959), called Jimmy Rabbit? It was a grey and white felt animal which we had to stuff and sew together, and, while all my classmates (especially the girls, of course), were making a beautiful job of theirs, I was producing the most evil-looking beast that the eye of man had hitherto beheld. Both its eyes were in the same half of its face, some of the stitches were half an inch long, its stuffing was coming out in several places, and it was heavily stained with my sweat and blood. It looked like a bit of roadkill!

Apart from that, there's little else to tell you about. The weather has taken a turn for the wetter and windier, as we're into a track of Atlantic depressions now. I was praying for weather like this last winter, when we were getting nothing but northerlies and snow. I was able to get a few hours in at my mother's garden again on Friday, clearing a bit more undergrowth from the front border and planting a few more pansies. I also set a couple of slug pubs and filled them with snakebite, which the slimy invertebrates are very fond of - they die happily by the hundred in them. The people in the Whiteness shop had raised eyebrows when cider and lager were included in my teetotal mother's shopping list! Talking of drink, I had a few pints of lager at around teatime on Wednesday, when I paid one of my occasional visits to da Noost and the Lounge. Very nice it was too.

Cheers! Have a nice week!