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, 31 January 2010


It's Sunday morning at 11.30 as I write this, and I have just watched Andy Murray being defeated by Roger Federer in the Australian Open tennis final. There's no shame in getting beaten by possibly the greatest player of all time.

Here, at the opposite side of the globe, the snow is falling again on ground already deep in the stuff, adding to my worries about tomorrow, and whether my mother is going to make it back home from her week's "holiday" in Whalsay, where her arm is a whole lot better. There are a couple of questions to be answered with regard to this issue. Will the Council clear her access road for her? If not, can they keep her in Fernlea until she can get into her home? The answers will have to wait until the next post, I'm afraid, as I won't have them until tomorrow.

My work seems to have been a minor issue this week, and I'm looking forward to getting some quality painting time in soon. I've still managed to get a little done on the two tall ships pictures, and I've started two more canvases, one of which is a commission for a painting of the "Dunter III", a boat whose main function is carrying tourists on marine wildlife cruises around Shetland. She is to be depicted against a backdrop of the cliffs of Noss, which support one of the largest seabird colonies in Britain. I spent yesterday evening wrapping the recently-completed artwork of the Fraserburgh fishing boat "Karen Ann II" (above) entering her home port. I intend to despatch it by Royal Mail Special Delivery tomorrow morning.

Shetland's world-renowned Up-Helly-A' festival took place on Tuesday, in strangely unfamiliar damp conditions, as snow and ice seem to have been the norm for this winter's weather, although in reality the freeze-up lasted just four weeks from mid-December. I was not involved in the celebrations (I rarely am), but, on Wednesday evening, I did have a couple of pints with an old friend who came up for the occasion, in the Marlex (the local sobriquet for the Douglas Arms). This was probably the first time I had darkened the door of that establishment in five years. I enjoyed my lager there and, while my friend went across the road to the Guizer's Hop in the Legion, I hopped it back home. My social life is as exciting as ever - I hope yours is more inspiring!

Wish me luck for tomorrow.


After the cheerful diarising of last week's post, I could have known that, in the words of the song, there would be trouble ahead. I was first aware that things were not as they should be when I phoned my sister Thelma on Monday morning. She told me that our mother had developed an extremely painful right arm over the weekend, and was no longer able to use her zimmer frame to get around the house. This meant that, to all intents and purposes, she had lost what mobility she had. Thelma suggested that she could pick me up at 10am, and we would go out to Whiteness to see if we could lend a hand in some way. Mary, my other sister, had been managing the situation since Saturday evening. I first took the opportunity to post the package containing the painting for the charity auction; I could then concentrate on helping things along at mother's.

The situation was quite grave. Mother now needed help with every small detail of her personal life, and, while Mary had been ably supplying this, with the assistance of the home helps, she now needed to attend to other matters for a while. She had a friend coming up to stay with her for a few days over the Up-Helly-A' festivities, amongst other things. Neither Thelma nor I could carry out the personal care functions, so we had to find either home or institutional care for our mother. A medical diagnosis, carried out by a nurse and doctor, had established inflammation as the cause of the pain, and not a stress fracture, as we first had feared. The problem could be treated with anti-inflammatories, which were prescribed by the doctor, and collected from the Scalloway practice by Thelma and I in the afternoon (by now we felt in need of a run out somewhere!).

We got the Council's Social Work department involved, and they came up with a week's residential care at the Fernlea Care Centre on the island of Whalsay. I organised the transport (by wheelchair-friendly minibus and ferry), while Thelma packed a case for mother. I volunteered to go on the trip to "Da Bonnie Isle" with her, and at just before 6pm, we set off, leaving Thelma to see to the locking up.

Because of the ferry timetable, we had to spend most of the evening on the island, where the wonderful staff at Fernlea duly fed us with haggis, veg and tatties, and helped mother to settle in to her new temporary home. Since then, her arm has become much better and, last I heard, she has been using the zimmer frame to get to the toilet again. Now I am faced with the problem of getting her back home, and this has become quite a headache, as heavy snow on Friday will have completely blocked the steep private access road to her house, and it's snowing again now. I hope to enlist the aid of the Council's Roads department to clear it, and I've provisionally made the necessary transport bookings. I need things to go right tomorrow!

Sunday, 24 January 2010


Since BBC4 has been doing a series of programmes about diaries, I thought I would show you a week's entries from mine. It doesn't have the intrigue and general naughtiness of Allan Clark's, or the historical event coverage (and further naughtiness, rather surprisingly) of Samuel Pepys's, but it has a bit of je ne sais quoi nevertheless. Here goes:

MONDAY weather bright with showers and moderate winds. Working on the Fraserburgh fishing boat commission, getting some of her wheelhouse and deck details done. Fried whiting in batter for my lunch, after which I took a walk to post a letter and get groceries fron the nearest thing I've got to a corner shop. In the evening, I sorted out some text and photographic material to send to a graphics firm in the north of England, to form part of a brochure for a charity auction I am supporting. Emailed this to said graphics firm.

TUESDAY My web designer and I spent most of the day on getting me familiarised with some of the new functions on my website. I have an awful lot of work to do before the new version becomes a cyber-reality, and the potential for error-making by an e-novice like me, on these rather complicated procedures, is enormous and scary. I made kedgeree for our lunch, which seemed to go down well. The weather began bright with light winds, but it gradually clouded over during the day, and the wind increased.

WEDNESDAY Worked on the Fraserburgh fishing boat commission during the morning, this time on her hull markings. My nephew Kenneth breezed in as I was clearing up after my lunch, and gave me a lift to the Lerwick Doctor's practice for my swine flu jag appointment, after which I visited the bank and other places, including the stationer's, where I bought a couple of rolls of bubble wrap for some painting protection from pathological postmen, very necessary for what I have to do later. A couple of women called on the Tait Gallery in the evening to discuss options for a forthcoming wedding anniversary present. They are going to get back to me later on those. The weather was mostly dull, with strong south-east winds. My upper left arm, which had taken the flu jag, was really hurting by bed-time.

THURSDAY My oldest sister Thelma popped by in the morning for a chat and a cuppa. I then put in the fenders on the Fraserburgh fishing boat, and started on the ripple effect on the quiet waters of the harbour in which the boat is manoeuvring. My middle sister Mary came for her pre-arranged soup at lunch-time, and Kenneth joined us again. We arranged to meet up for a day's home decorating at Sandwick on Saturday. I completed, bar snagging, the Fraserburgh boat commission in the afternoon. An evening of domestic tasks ensued - ironing of shirts, putting a load through the tumbledryer, washing of crockery and cutlery. I also fired off my weekly news email to my youngest sister Angela in Saudi Arabia, and replied to yet another request for information regarding the Sigvardsson Gallery in Denmark. I'm going to start charging for all these glowing reports I'm giving him! The weather has been dull, dry with a strong SSE wind.

FRIDAY Weather horrendous - gale force winds, heavy rain. Lerwick harbour full of sheltering fishing boats, one of which had run aground on the Holm of Cruester during the night, but had been towed off apparently undamaged. There has also been a similar grounding at Scalloway, near the Fisheries college. This boat, the "Vela", was also towed off successfully. From the news, it appears that a navigation buoy had been unlit, and this could have contributed to the grounding. There may be trouble ahead!
Thelma and I have decided to jointly give one of my A3 prints to the auction her church is organising for the Haiti earthquake appeal. Meanwhile, I was off to Whiteness to spend most of today with my mother, as I usually do on Fridays. I did all the usual things - collected her pension and groceries from the shop, took a look at the greenhouse, made lunch, washed up afterwards, made tea and coffee and helped with various other little tasks. But the most important thing I did was just to be there. On my return to Lerwick in the late afternoon, I did a few administrative tasks, but not a lot else. The wind fell away a bit in the evening, and I watched, from my window, the bright stern lights of some of the fishing boats heading off to sea again in the still-heavy swell.

SATURDAY Bought 2 sheets of polystyrene sheeting from my local builders' merchants' for wrapping purposes, and hired a large taxi to get these home. My downstairs neighbour gave me a hand up the stairwell with these awkward 8 x 4 foot sheets, for which I was very grateful to her. Then it was off down to Sandwick with Mary in her Volvo to do some titivation on Victoria House, my nephew's home. My niece and her two children turned up for a visit too, so it turned into a party for a time. I did some scraping and painting, and also resurrected some paintbrushes which had been left for dead after previous decoration duties. Why do I always end up doing brushwork? On being dropped off home at about tea-time, I did a few computer-connected things in the evening, and watched some television, for which, of course, I felt guilty. All that website stuff waiting to be done, and here am I goggling the box.....
Weather mostly dull and showery with occasional bright spells. Wind much lighter.

SUNDAY Here is where the wrapping products, in which I invested earlier in the week, come into their own. I spent a couple of hours using the bubblewrap and polystyrene sheeting to protect the painting I am sending to the charity auction, by Royal Mail Special Delivery, tomorrow. I put one layer of bubblewrap around the picture, then cut two pieces of polystyrene sheet to fit (using my gas ring to heat an old breadknife to cut it) and secure these on either side. I then put another layer of bubblewrap round that. It then fits quite neatly into a black refuse sack, round the ends and sides of which I put copious quantities of parcel tape. I put another strip of this up the middle both ways, and the thing is then ready to receive the self-adhesive address envelope. That, and this post, have been my main tasks for today. Oh, and the weather? Mostly dull and dry with fresh south-easterly winds.

And so to bed. Have a nice week!

Sunday, 17 January 2010


Today dawned clear, with a moderate breeze having replaced the storm force winds and rain of yesterday. The Shetland "special" had consigned the last remnants of the snow and ice, which had been plaguing these islands for the last month, to history, and the rays of watery sun were attempting to penetrate my windows, salt-caked from the gale-blown seaspray of the last two days.

This last week, I took two trips out to visit my mother at Whiteness, and my first trip to the pub in four weeks. There were few other imbibers to provide me with company at the watering hole on Wednesday, most of the other male Lerwegians currently spending most of their free time preparing for the big night a week on Tuesday, when Lerwick's Up-Helly-A' celebration takes place. Although I've never taken an active part in this festivity, I have a friend coming up from the UK mainland to see it, so I can't see that week going past without a few noggins being quaffed.

Work has continued on the Fraserburgh fishing boat commission, but I have made little progress on other artworks. Either the light was too bad for detailed work, or other matters had to be attended to instead (excuses, excuses, I hear you say!). The incoming week looks equally cluttered, with Tuesday taken up with a "session" with my web designer, in which I hope to glean a great deal of knowledge about the operation of the new website system, and how to improve the site ( further in terms of search engine optimisation. I have a flu jag appointment on Wednesday afternoon, another stumbling-block to forward momentum on the "easel". With useful light at a maximum of six hours daily, work-time is at a premium this time of year. Roll on summer!

Have a nice week!


In the week when a curling bonspiel on the Lake of Menteith fell foul of health and safety legislation, and it is becoming even more evident that the spirit of this country is gradually dying of over-regulation and insurance, my mother has become the latest victim of the Westminster bureaucrats.

The latest "friendly-fire" casualty is 93 years old, severely disabled, and cannot leave her home except in a wheelchair. She is supported by an excellent team of home-helps, who help her to get up in the morning and go to bed at night. She, and other similarly-disabled patients in the same district, receive their repeat prescriptions through an effective system whereby it is ordered, by the patient, over the phone, from a pharmacy attached to the doctor's practice at Scalloway, a few miles away. They, in turn, deliver the medication to the local shop, where the patients' helpers, be they home-helps or family members, can easily pick it up, and this system has worked well. That is, until now.

Now it appears that the officials in Her Majesty's Department of Paranoia have got their legislative teeth into this and, from 1st February, this facility will no longer be available to my mother and the other patients in the neighbourhood. Someone will have to make the journey to the pharmacy to collect the prescribed medication, this involving a round trip of up to ten miles or more. I don't drive, so this is not possible for me.

I can only assume that the notion behind this ridiculous piece of legislative tosh is to guard against thieves stealing the painkillers, mouthwash and laxatives from behind the counter of the local shop. The consequences on a thief's bowels of an unprescribed illegal intake of some co-codamol is something I find too painful to contemplate. But it would be nice if these legislating zealots were made to live with the consequences of THEIR actions. I believe it was Stanley Baldwin who spoke of power without responsibility - the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages.

Sunday, 10 January 2010


Ten days into the new year, and twenty-three of this perishing freeze-up - and it's getting to me! It's a beautiful day, as I write this, with the snow-covered hills glowing golden in the light from the rapidly-descending sun. Lower down, the land is more mottled, reflecting the partial thawing which has taken place from time to time. There's hardly a breath of wind and, were it not for the treacherous underfoot conditions, I would go for a walk somewhere. As it is, I'll stay put, as I have been doing, wherever possible, for nearly a month now. I even missed my usual Friday visit to my mother's house on Friday, having been warned by her the previous day not to even attempt it. Bring back our usual blowy rainy winters - please!

The Roads Department of our islands council do their utmost to keep the main transport arteries open and, in Lerwick at least, the little tractors clear and salt the pavements five days a week, although we have to manage without them at weekends. One day, during the holidays, I was gloomily surveying the wintry scene from my second-floor window, when three youngish musicians passed by on the road beneath, their guitar-cases strapped to their backs. As I looked on, one of them hit a particularly slippery patch and did a backflip, his instrument making a dull G major chord on impact with the unforgiving Lerwick flagstones. The fellow, on getting to his feet again, and apparently unconcerned at his own bruises, was concentrating his first aid efforts on his guitar, which seemed none the worse for its misadventure. The perils of rock 'n roll!

My workflow seems to have been another casualty of the conditions. I've done little on the tall ship works which I started about a month ago, concentrating my limited efforts on the commissioned Fraserburgh whitefish boat painting, the order for which I received a couple of days before Christmas. There's still no word of any exhibition venues or dates for 2010, and I will have to be more pro-active in that direction too.

A website ( visitor from America contacted me a couple of days ago, attaching a JPEG of a painting he had inherited. He was convinced that I had done the work, which was of a coast scene, with thick coniferous forest down to the cliffs, a lighthouse on a headland in the middle distance, and the roofs of other buildings being overlooked in the foreground. The scene was vaguely reminiscent of the north-west American Pacific coast, but was completely unfamilar to me. I broke the news to my correspondent that the artwork which, admittedly signed "TAIT", was not done by me. He thanked me by return, and pledged himself anew to the task of establishing the identity of the artist, an endeavour in which I wished him well. My own guess is that the painter was American, and quite possibly now deceased.

I hope that this particular living artist has done more to justify the designation by this time next week! A thaw would be nice too! Everyone seems to slip into a state of semi-hibernation when the weather gets cold, a fact which has been noted by visitors to places like north Norway, where people's metabolisms seem to alter to accommodate the seasonal changes. Here, I think it's known as S.A.D.!

Do try to stay awake, and have a nice week!

Sunday, 3 January 2010


Happy new year! As the bugler phlegmatically and wheezily announced the departure of 2009, I found myself looking over the hastily-scrawled pages of last year's diary before I consigned it to join those of bygone years in my archive. Apparently, on January the 1st of last year, I had a stinking cold, and there were snow showers in the evening. I was working on the commissioned painting of the dive-boat "Laerling" (which sprouted arms, legs and reproductions later in the year), and the Duff House exhibition picture featuring the drifters "Golden West" and "Forethought" off the Bressay Light. This turned out to be one of the few works which sold at the summer event, but I recall having little of my usual satisfied smugness on its completion, so the sale was rather a pleasant surprise.

Preparing for, and hanging, this exhibition was definitely the main feature of the year for me. It was what I spent most of the first half of 2009 doing, and I enjoyed my first trip to the Moray Firth region since I was a child of ten, when my family spent a holiday here, with Buckie as our base. My father drove us around the area in his Wolseley, and, at that time, I had little interest in anything else except the harbours and the boats. On the more recent occasion, I visited all the picturesque coastal villages from Rosehearty to Buckie, and ventured as far inland as Huntly. The weather was kind in late June, and I made good use of my digital camera.

Other highlights included my trip "south" in late March, when my brother and I toured the Mearns, Glenesk and Angus region on the pretext of getting more photographic material for future artworks, but the weather, on this occasion, was lousy, and the artistic aspect of this trip was an abject failure.

Then Patricia Gray, of Synergy Publishing, produced the first biographical article on the subject of my art and me. I was now a legend in my own lunchtime!

I had another exhibition in February and March at the Shetland Museum, but this consisted mostly of works I had created and stored over the past five years - there was only one new work among the 27 on display. I was concentrating most of my efforts on the more important (from my point of view) Duff House event to come later. The two months allocated to me by Shetland Museum were what I came to call the graveyard shift - between the Up-Helly-Aa festival and the "tourist" season, so sale prospects were poor from the outset. Later in the year, six of my paintings featured in the Coast exhibition at the Musa Art Cafe in Aberdeen. There are no definite display dates on my calendar for 2010 yet, but I hope that these will materialise over the next two months or so.

The painting commissions kept trickling in too, and these, along with a few sales from my permanent "mini-display" at the Lounge Bar here in Lerwick, helped pay the bills. The result is that I am no further in debt at the end of the year than I was at the start of it - maybe even a little ahead!

Of course there were low moments too. Friends died and others became poorly, but my immediate family seemed to stay healthy throughout. One of the greatest achievements by a family member was my niece Elanor Gunn being appointed leader of the National Youth Orchestra of Wales, the first child of a Shetland parent (as far as I know) and the first Gwynedd resident to hold this post. The disappointment connected to this was that the news was never featured in our local newsapaper, the Shetland Times, despite their being supplied with pictorial and textual information regarding the appointment. I recall, with sadness and no small measure of anger, the sight of my mother scanning the pages each week for the feature on her granddaughter's achievement, only to find that the publication she has supported for nearly a century had no space among the drugs busts, traffic offences, minor assaults, reports of other petty crime and council machinations for this item. The Shetland Times does not do good news, apparently - at least, not that good!

This year has started as the last one ended, with my beloved islands in the grip of a protracted freeze-up, the like of which has never happened before in my memory. True, I can remember heavy and long-lasting snowfalls, but there is something unique about this cold spell, where rain falls with little thawing effect, merely creating an extra layer of ice for the unwary and infirm to lose their footing on. It has been like this since the weekend before Christmas, and, according to the Met Office website, there is little immediate prospect of an improvement in conditions.

Welcome to 2010! I hope the new decade brings peace, happiness, prosperity and whatever else you desire. For me, that would be more work, and the health and strength to carry it out to the best of my ability.