Sunday, 13 November 2011
One thing that was certainly different this year was the hanging party. In 2008 this consisted of my nephew Kenneth Halcrow and myself, and I am glad that he was there again this year to lend his considerable skills and enthusiasm to the process. But this time, some of my childhood friends had decided to make a reunion of it too!
Back in the 1960s, I stayed in the Shetland community of Sandwick, and I travelled daily to and from the Anderson Educational Institute (now the Anderson High) in Lerwick, on the school bus, accompanied by Colin Stove, Robin Barclay and Kenny Bull, who all lived in the same part of the same parish as I did. Now renowned in their chosen professional fields of physics, haematology and architecture, all married with grown-up families and on the point of retirement, they had decided to combine a reunion with making up a hanging party for my exhibition at the Creel Inn. I'm very glad they did. Along with my sister, who had provided the transport for the artworks from Shetland, and her friend Joe Irvine, we all took up residence at the Ship Inn, Stonehaven, last Sunday afternoon. The weather was unbelievably fine for early November, and there followed two evenings and an intervening day that I won't forget - ever.
The evenings were largely of reminiscence of the Shetland of half-a-century ago, over drinks and meals at the Ship Inn. Just before 9 o'clock on Monday morning, I mustered the troops and off we set, in a little convoy of cars, to Catterline, to find that my nephew had arrived from Aberdeen before us. Two of the paintings had been slightly damaged, one in transit and the other during the framing process, but hasty repairs were made to one and an arrangement made about repairs to the other (for which I will shoulder the repair and delivery costs, should anyone wish to buy it). The hanging process was finished by midday, and we all gravitated down to the area around the tiny harbour to enjoy the sights and sounds of this spectacular scene on a beautiful day, before meeting up again at the Salutation Hotel at Inverbervie for some lunch.
In the afternoon, we went our separate ways. Mary and Joe took the most energetic option of a walk from our Stonehaven hotel to Dunnottar Castle. Robin Barclay and I took a trip down to Tod Head lighthouse in his 4x4 - I'd always fancied going there (what is it about lighthouses that seems to draw people towards them?). My nephew Kenneth went back to Aberdeen, while Colin and Kenny had other work to attend to. We all met up at the Ship Inn again in the evening for more laughter and libation, although this was no wild drinking party. It was all a bit reminiscent of "Last of the Summer Wine" (who of us fits which of Roy Clarke's characters I'll leave to your speculation!).
The next morning, the weather had changed from brilliant sunshine to dull, damp and windy, which it remained for the rest of my mainland excursion. My plans had had to be changed as, unbeknown to me, the Creel Inn is now closed to business on Mondays and Tuesdays during the winter, with effect from this year. This meant that I could no longer meet anyone there on Tuesday, either press or public, and I suddenly found myself with nothing to do that day. With the rest of the party having gone that morning after breakfast, either home or to attend to business elsewhere, Mary and I took a run over to Banchory, which has changed beyond recognition in the forty years or so since I was there last. It is a massive private housing estate now, and the old town centre was unapproachable that day due to roadworks. We found a big garden centre on the edge of town, and had a plate of cock-a-leekie soup and a roll in the cafeteria there, before heading back to drop me at Stonehaven, as Mary had to catch the boat back to Shetland that night.
So there I was, on my own, in a grey, damp and miserable-looking Stonehaven. I popped over to the Marine Hotel to give them a couple of posters, and had a pint of amber nectar while I was there - it would have been frightfully bad manners to come out without buying anything! My brother and nephew joined me for a couple of beers in the evening, back at the Ship Inn. The fun and sunshine of the previous day were now mere memories, but who knows what significance I'll attach to them over the coming years? I already know that days like Monday 7th November 2011 don't come by that often. Treasure the memory, Jim!
On Wednesday, feeling slightly hung over, I checked out of the Ship Inn and took a taxi down to Catterline for the only "opening hours" of the exhibition which I will be able to be present for. The weather was cloudy, chilly and windy, and only one family trurned up for lunch that day. Then Joe Irvine, who had been visiting his son in Oban, picked me up from the Creel Inn and drove me up to Aberdeen, where the boat back to Lerwick and home awaited me. My trip had ended in something of an anti-climax, but the exhibition has been left, like a stake-net, to attract (and hopefully entrap) buyers over the next two months. I won't know the extent of the harvest until after Christmas.
In the meantime, I have a full order book to attend to.....