12 02 2012

Hello again


From a distance the mountains on the other side of the loch look like  well-worn foreheads: straight, horizontal furrows between fleshy hillocks. It’s as if the landscape’s been smiling, creasing itself into a living form, then settling and giving itself up to time.

From this distance it’s like a feature in a landscaped garden, hewn and tweaked by caring hands.

And from this distance it represents, to me, uncomplicated thought, concentration, a simple moment in time without intrusions of sound or emotions. It represents clarity of thought in one of the only places, I have found, where you are subjected to inner peace. A place where thoughts are free. Where ideas flow like silk. Where you can see the big picture.

We are on the Isle of Harris in the Outer Hebrides, a string of islands off the north-west coast of Scotland. 

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Sunday 9th August 2009

Quite a few years ago, sometime around 1999, before I was given my first auto-focus SLR camera, I photographed a group of children one Sunday afternoon in Meavag on the Golden Road, not far from Tarbert which is the capital of the Isle of Harris. There were three children, a girl of about 8 years old, a boy of about 12, and an older girl. It was a damp afternoon thick with Scottish midges. We had been walking down the road in the direction of Meavag when we had come across the children walking in the opposite direction. I took some photos. At that time the old, ruined, grey, stone house down by the water’s edge was still standing. It’s gone now. Two new houses have replaced it leaving no trace of the former mysterious old property.

I remember the 12 year-old boy was scratching his ears as he leaned against a fence post – midges galore -telling us how he wanted to be a crofter when he grew up.

A croft is a small area of agricultural land in a remote community – most are in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland in the UK –  and a crofter has use of that land and usually lives in a modest dwelling there. Crofting has represented a traditional way of life since the late 19th century. I have included a link here to give you a better idea:


Come back to 2009. The boy’s mother told me he had been involved in a car crash which had resulted in severe facial injuries. His jaw has been rebuilt, he still requires more operations, cheekbones re-built and there were injuries to his eyes. He has lost all confidence and, for a job, is stacking shelves in a supermarket.

The boy had been walking up a road when a drunk driver ran into him, tossing him into a wrought iron fence, where he sustained the injuries. The driver had no road tax or insurance. He lost his driving licence for a year.

As the boy’s mother was telling me this I thought about Changing Faces, the British charity that supports people with facial disfigurement.

I think of the boy now, loved and cared for by his family. He is the same age as my nephew Robert, whose face this same week graced the cover of People magazine in the US.

…..more to follow