Storm in the soul

It’s ironically funny to start a page and not know what I want to write, only that I want to undertake the act of writing.

You see, over the last few months things have got dark again. The big black cloud that sweeps over me and clouds my thoughts, pushing away the nice things, until only it is left, has been pushing its way in. It is hovering now, just on the edge of sight, waiting again to consume me like it did yesterday. I renders me unable to function, to do nothing but to cry and weep, and without any means of explanation. It sits there, like a threat, until I face it. Then it either consumes me, or I win and push it back a little further. There is not point in ignoring it, or running away.

When it is there, the smallest nudge can push me over the edge. It can be the tiniest triggers, something that I would usually take in my stride, something that wouldn’t phase me at any other time, can become all encompassing as if my very existence depends on it. My rational brain knows this is false, but that doesn’t stop it. Reason has gone out the window.

Then the darkness comes….

The real darkness of the lost soul, delving deeper and deeper into a despair so dark and so far removed from normality (whatever that is) that there seems to be another realm in which other live that I can see by cannot enter. I am alone, even in the company of best of friends, even in the company of a lover. I am completely alone, in my darkness. After a while it becomes easier to embrace it than to look for the light, it is easier to hug the dark and to wallow in it. It becomes, warm and friendly, somehow familiar and depressingly comforting.

Then the darker thoughts will come. How can I stay here in the warm darkness, not having to deal with the world and other people. I don’t mind being alone any-more. In fact I am now enjoying it, I push people away, I don’t want them to see me. I want to be left alone, with my friend the darkness, I want to be here in it’s warmth forever.

I wonder what it would be like to bleed to death, what is the best way to cut my wrists and arms so that I bleed out quickly enough to be able to ignore the pain that must accompany it. How can I end my life and remain here in the darkness without it causing physical pain on the way?

I do not think of others, the darkness is comforting and completely selfish. It holds me and I no longer have to face the world and other people. I no longer have to worry about work, love, life, money, where I live, what’s for dinner, can I afford new socks, can I take my bike out at the weekend, will it rain forever, why don’t have any friends? Why don’t I matter to anyone. It doesn’t matter that I don’t matter, not know, not to the darkness.

I shrink up into myself and become unresponsive. My friends try to talk to me, the ones that are left and that do care. They want to drag me from the warmth of the dark, and force me back into the light, force me to think about life, to accept that I have to carry on. But why? Why do I have to carry on? None of this matters, none of us matter. We could all be gone tomorrow and nobody would care, other planets would only notice it had gone quiet and probably rejoice in the matter.

I don’t want to talk. I can’t talk. I don’t know what to say. I can’t explain this. I can’t tell you about the darkness because it is mine. It mine alone. Everyone has their own version of it. Some call it their black dog, which isn’t fair on dogs if you ask me, because dogs are marvellous creatures who have pulled me from darkness when nothing else could have. Some say it sits on their shoulder, some say it hovers above them, or around the next corner, or at the bottom of the long slope they constantly find themselves on like a bad roller-coaster. Even when we talk to other people who have an inkling of what we mean, their darkness is not the same. I cannot be, it is as individual as we are.

When I cannot talk, I can write. I’ve always been able to do that. When I was kid and things were horrible, I would bury myself in a book, not one I was reading but one I was writing. I would draw and write on paper or in my head. It has always been here, the darkness. That is why I can say it is a friend. It has never let me down or failed to show up, although it’s timing is pretty terrible. It is familiar and that is why it is comforting, in it’s strange and lonely way.

It is hovering there right now, I can see it. It wouldn’t take much of s hove ad I would be in there again. One wrong tweet, or nasty comment, one criticism from the boss (wrongly or rightly), even an element of praise can seem false and feel like an insult. Everything is coloured with a cloud, a thickening veil that pulls be towards the dark. If I enter I will plunge down into it and swim in it’s depths. I will fight at first for every breath and then I will come to accept it and let it consume it. It is easier not to fight it in the end, you cannot win against it.

It will come for me, I’ll be waiting.

And one day I know I will never wish to walk back in to the light again.

Added Portfolio

Hi folks

Quick post to let you know I’ve now added a portfolio section to the website with some of my photography.

This can be accessed from the top of the menu to your left there.

This is a work in progress and still under development, but it will give you an idea of some of my vast library of images.

Writing a book

Several readers have commented about my lack of recent activity on my blog.  I have to apologise for this, I’ve been quite busy writing my first novel. It’s a thriller and it’s turning out to be a quite enthralling experience.  I am now up to Chapter 28, although the chapters are quite short as it moves around with different characters,  I reckon it’s about the 180 page mark now.  I have no idea how to get this in front of an agent or a publisher at this stage, I’m just enjoying the creative experience of writing again.  It’s unusual for me to write fiction, although some might argue that journalists write fiction all the time.  I was always very proud of my former efforts on magazines for being fun and engagement, but strictly factual.  Perhaps that is why I’m having so much find with this novel.  For  starters…I get to kill people…

Here is a snippet from the start of the first chapter:

CHAPTER ONE

Coffee shops are ten-a-penny now, more popular than pubs, but that’s not always a help to a connoisseur tea drinker. She could count the number of coffee’s she had drunk since January on the fingers of one hand, and it was now late September and she had had two in the last week for some reason. Over the last few days the wind had swung around to the north, and the late summer sunshine of the previous week had now been replaced by a pale light and accompanied by definitive drop in the average temperature.

Like last week, she was sitting outside the cafe rather than inside. Now a lone figure, this time wrapped against the cold and nursing a cup between two hands. Wearing her fingerless gloves, the heat of her black coffee initially burned the exposed flesh of her fingers, but she wanted as much to keep the coffee warm as much as it warmed her hands. The cafe had removed some of the tables, and she would have only had three other people outside with her at most, and then only if she had shared her table with another person. During the summer there were a dozen tables but now they just catered for the odd smokers. She didn’t smoke, although she once had.

She watched people passing by, most of them taking no interest in her, but a few looking at her oddly. They glanced surreptitiously, and usually quickly, and she guessed at the thoughts in their for her sitting outside in the cold when the inside of the cafe looked so much more inviting. Perhaps they thought she was a foreigner come from a colder climate, or that she had a hangover, as she didn’t have a cigarette. A little Jack Russell attempted a hello and the man on the other end of the lead looked like he didn’t know if he should pull his dog away from the possibly crazy woman, to pity her for what he figured might be her ‘situation’, or just maybe, to say hello. In the end she patted the dogs head and smiled at the man and he smiled back, and then hurried on his way. He didn’t look back even though her eyes followed him briefly down the street and she was sure that he knew that. He shrugged his shoulders at one point as if a sudden chillier wind had caught him.

Maybe she was a little odd and a little paranoid, but she was pretty certain they had followed her to this coffee shop before, and today that they had done so again. Nowhere seemed to be out from under the prying eyes now, but then maybe she just had the jitters after so many years. She knew she was lying to comfort herself, and she also knew it didn’t really work either. One day someone was going to have to make a move, she just didn’t knew who, or when, or even why. She has some suspicions but this life had been going on for so long it was almost normal now….

Edinburgh Castle

Historic Scotland give away free entry tickets to many Scottish attractions to celebrate St. Andrews Day. This year we took advantage of this to get a trip inside the prohibitively expensive Edinburgh Castle.

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Christmas Market

Walking up to the castle from the city centre gives you a good view of the Christmas Market in Princes Street Gardens at this time of year. Breakfast hotdogs anyone?

It was wet, pretty cold, and up there on top of the (we hope) extinct volcano it was fairly blustery too. Time to get inside, and weave our way around for over 40 minutes for a few seconds glimpse of the Scottish Crown Jewels – that’s if you haven’t succumbed to claustrophobia in the wait and just leg it out the door the moment you get a whiff of fresh air…maybe that was just me…

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Sunshine on Leith

The best feature of the castle, in my opinion, isn’t castle. It’s the views of Edinburgh and over to the Fife coast.

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The One O’Clock gun, which faces into the city…

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The Black Watch War Memorial

Within the castle is a separate building hosting memorials to the armed forces. Each has in front of it a book of names for WWI and WWII. This one is open to a very special page…

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At the top of the second column of the left page is Pte George Thomas who died in Italy in  November 1944. He was my Grandfather.

 

This post in is tribute to the men, women, and animals who lost their lives in
WWI and WII, and all conflicts before and after. #wewillrememberthem

Thank You.

Crail, Fife

Having been busy with work related things for the last month it was great to make the most of a cold crisp Autumn day with a trip to the coast.

I had visited Crail on the coast of Fife several years ago, and I know that I had gotten some great photos from the harbour area. I had longed to revisit with a little more time and hopefully some blue skies to make make the most of the contrast between the buildings and the sky. As the day dawned cold and clear in Edinburgh, and with snow forecast in the Highlands meaning it was going to crisp and bright towards the east coast, now seemed a good time to make the trip.

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Crail is the most easterly settlement along the south side of the East Neuk of Fife and it known for its shellfish; especially crabs and lobsters. These provide an excellent focal point of harbour photography and are frequently utilised for coastal images in much of Scotland.

Only ten miles from St Andrews, it has a much more relaxed feel, and it is probably as much now a holiday or weekend retreat as anything else. Settled back before the 800s it became a Royal Burgh in 1310, thanks to Robert the Bruce. It was once the bane of the Church as it held a Sunday market for many years in spite of their protestations and attempts to move it to a weekday.

The town is fairly interesting, but similar to a lot of small Fife coast towns, and it is the harbour that holds the main attractions for the photographer.

The harbour is best reached on foot after parking in the town centre, and this will involve a fairly brisk descent, although the cobbles can be avoided by taking the Castle Walk where you will get great views out to sea.

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It’s worth watching for seals and birdlife. Here a Grey Heron is trying his luck

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Visitors on Castle Walk as seen from the harbour cobbles

Although Castle Walk remains, sadly the castle itself does not. Cleared away in 1706, it is, from a purely photographic point of view, a bit of a disappointment not to have it to add into the scene. But, there are still a lot of wonderful opportunities for photographs around the harbour and town.

There is almost an element of film set about the harbour, and the quaint houses leading to it are appealing in themselves. The cobbles and painted buildings also appeal.

A number of small on-shore fishing boats still work out of the harbour, and there is a ready supply of crab and lobster which can be purchased. The town also boasts a number of small cafes as well as the fish and chip shop, mini-marts, and butchers.

It is a perfect retreat location that is ideal for a romantic getaway, or a day trip, and it convenient to Edinburgh and most of Fife itself.

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August is Festival Month

August is the main month of festivals in Scotland, although they take place in various places all year round. In Edinburgh you have the entire month of August as one big long, often over crowded, festival which includes the legendary ‘Fringe’.

It was nice to see that ‘Donald’ payed us a visit…

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There was plenty of music on the streets as well as in the hundreds of official venues…

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As well as some more unusual street performers…

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As the residents recover and traffic, parking, transport, and the pavements get back to some sort of normality, we know Edinburgh will gear itself up now for Hogmanay and do it all again next August.

 

Meanwhile, up north in the Highlands, although not overly far from Inverness we had the Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival.

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More in line with traditional ‘festivals’ this three day very family friendly event also boasts the joys of the blue portaloo, the inevitable wait for one, and the pervading smell that goes with it. But enough of my bugbear of the festival scene…it was also a magical experience of music, magic, songs, dance, and performances ranging from big names such as Paloma Faith to small local bands having their very first big stage outings.

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The loos weren’t the only thing that was blue…

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Love the tartan heart

 

 

Edinburgh : Royal Botanic Gardens

Well, it’s been a while since I posted. Lots of things have happened and there have been many ups and downs in life. Work has taken me to new places, and life changes, choices, and chance meetings have lead to my moving to Edinburgh just over a week ago.

After five months, I now have a home office space again, broadband that actually means I can upload photos and keep in touch with you all, and access to my iMac for processing images.

Over the next few months I shall be exploring my new home, and bringing you some of the images that I am shooting.

So, without further ado, may I present you with the first blog entry in this series:

Edinburgh : Royal Botanic Gardens

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The gardens were founded in the 17th Century as a centre for science, both research and education, and this continues today. Technically, the gardens are actually in four sites and hold the second richest collection of plant species in the world. At the Edinburgh location they hold the rock garden, peat and woodland gardens, ten greenhouses, and the specialists collections which include the Chinese Hillside.

The gardens are open to public year round with free entry, but you do have to pay to get into the greenhouses. To fully explore all the gardens would take several days so on this trip we concentrated on the greenhouses and the more exotic plants contained therein.

Current admission, at the time of writing, is £6.50 for adults including an optional donation (£5.85 standard admission) with reductions for concessions, groups, and free admission for those under 15 or essential carers.

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As well as having lots of plants and trees to look at, there are installations of art around the gardens at various points as well as many architectural features which are, in themselves, interesting.

The gardens also boast the ‘best view of Edinburgh without climbing Arthur’s Seat’ evidently…

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There are also several well located toilets plus three places to grab a coffee or a meal and these serve everything from tea and cakes to a proper Sunday roast.

Whilst you are allowed to take photographs, you need a permit for a tripod, and images cannot be sold or used for commercial purposes without the proper licence. As this blog is editorial by nature, unsponsored, and the images are not being made available for sale I am quite happy to show you my best shots of the day in the hope of encouraging you to also visit one of Edinburgh’s prime attractions.

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For more information about the gardens please visit their website www.rbge.org.uk

Please note I have watermarked the images to prevent them for being used without permission elsewhere. Please respect this as I don’t want to get into trouble with the RBGE either. Thank you. 

 

Dull grey overcast skies? So what, you’re a photographer aren’t you…

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The day had started off quite promising, but the wind strengthened and turned to the north west. It got progressively stronger and progressively colder on the Moray coast as the weather poured in, threatening us with more gales, more sleet, more ice, and (potentially) even some more snow. The sky was pretty boring, and mainly shades of steel, and the light was fading faster than anyone wanted. But…if you’re a photographer, in Scotland of all places, you should be able to cope with a little unfavourable light and some generally unpleasant weather.

Did we turn for home? Did we heck!

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That dull, boring, grey sky created a diffused light perfect for capturing details – shapes, shadows, colours, textures – these are the things you shoot on dull grey days with steel skies.

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The secret is too pick the location, pick the subjects well, and exclude those skies from your compositions.

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Look for natural colours and amazing (and sometimes even odd) details. Choose your location based on the potential for natural colours and irregular textures, and you can’t go wrong. There will always be something to photograph!

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With modern cameras you don’t need to be afraid of the ISO, just use a standard lens, a standard zoom, or a macro, or anything you like really, because your equipment isn’t as important as your ability to see images in front of you.

Use a tripod to get the balance between slow shutter speeds and reasonable apertures, remembering that water moves, and make the most of the abilities of your camera to record details.

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Look for odd things in the natural environment, the way that sand and rocks have moved and are being eroded, or how sand is left in ruts and turns or on rocks.

It’s all about excluding the bland and focussing on the details of the subject, which is, what grey dull light is really great for.