100 not out …but no telegram from the Queen!

A little bit of Europe at the summit of Beinn Dubh

A little bit of Europe at the summit of Beinn Dubh

Well, according to my records …this is my 100th blog ….give or take one or two that is.  I’ve quite enjoyed writing these blogs, admittedly, some more than others.  Some weeks it’s easy …..there has been something definite to write about …a walk, an exhibition or something to have a moan about …like the council dismantling the crane on the harbour side.  Occasionally though, nothing obvious has taken place during the preceding week and then it’s more difficult.  On these occasions any resemblance of writing disappears and as you’ve no doubt noticed …all you get is a bit of a ramble.

Now then, by pure chance, ‘a bit of a ramble’ is just what we had on Tuesday!

But before I go on to tell of this I need to set the scene …and go back to an evening in September 2008.

Loch Lomond from Beinn Dubh

Loch Lomond from Beinn Dubh

I had been working in my studio and to my surprise at about seven o’clock in the evening, there was a knock on the door and four people came in to have a look at the work.  Stewart, a Scotsman now living and working in Germany, was visiting family in Irvine along with his wife Evelyn and two friends from the same region in Germany.  They had just been into The Ship Inn (where Stewart and Evelyn first met …I wont say how many years before) ….and on coming out onto the street they’d noticed the Courtyard Studios sign and decided to take a look.  The main reason for coming in was that their friend Markus is a sculptor and was interested in seeing what was being done in Irvine. At the time I had been working on a large 200 x 100 cm painting and Markus was really interested in this.  After quite a time he told me abut the artists group he was a member of over in Speyer…and went on to say about the annual scholarship offered each year to an artist from around the world.  He asked me if it was something I might consider applying for …and very casually I said yes.  Well, I didn’t really expect anything to come of this, but Markus good to his word, went back to Germany at the end of his holiday and passed details of my work and website onto the members of the committee of the Kuenstlerbund Speyer eV.

In January 2009 I received a phone call from them formerly asking me to apply for the 2010 scholarship.  The rest, as they say, is history.  For anyone reading these blogs, you’ll no doubt have followed the preparations for my trip to Speyer last summer …and the weekly reports from said city.  And of course, it didn’t stop on my return to Scotland in September last year for as you know, I’m just about to go back to Speyer with an exhibition of my latest Scottish landscape paintings.

Take-off point for Paisley!

Take-off point for Paisley!

So then, it was rather nice timing to learn a few weeks ago that Stewart, Evelyn and Markus were to be visiting Irvine again in early October.  They all turned up at the Open Weekend last Sunday and it was great seeing them all again.  Needless to say we ended up going for a pint of Guinness in The Ship later and arranged to meet up again on Tuesday morning in Luss on the side of Loch Lomond.  Markus had particularly wanted to see the loch, and what better way to see it than from one of the many hills rising around it.  It was a perfect excuse to go and walk my favourite little circuit in the Luss hills.  The only problem though was the weather.  There had already been much rain and severe gales and it seemed to be getting worse through the week..and getting colder too.  There was even forecasts of snow on the higher hills come Thursday.  So, Tuesday seemed the best of a bad bunch …showers and very strong winds forecast (gust to 75 mph) …but relatively high cloud …certainly above the Luss Hills if not the Munros.

We had a great little walk and Markus certainly experienced the Scottish hills in ‘real’ Scottish weather ….bursts of bright sunshine, heavy dark clouds sweeping across the skies and temporarily shrouding everything in sheets of rain …and all blown along by an increasingly wild wind.  Once above 500 m it was quite a battle just to make progress at times.  The gusts were so strong that we were almost blown off our feet and it was very slow progress over the last few hundred metres to the small cairn marking the summit of Beinn Dubh at a little over 600m  Wow….wild or what, but we made it.  Our plan had been to walk the usual horse shoe circuit around and over Mid Hill before descending to the single track road in Glen Luss, but it would have taken us a long time battling against these severe gales …so we decided to go back the same way with the wind behind us.  How we all didn’t end up being blown all the way to Paisley I really don’t know.

As I say to my colleagues sometimes …if you invite people into your studio, you never quite know what will come of it.  Little did I think back in September 2008 that three years later I’d have completed a four month long scholarship in Germany, held an exhibition of my Scottish paintings there …and been for a crazy walk in the Scottish hills with a Scottish / German translator, a German sculptor and a German teacher (retired!) …it could almost be the opening line for a joke!

Anyway, thanks again to Stewart, Evelyn and Markus for visiting my studio back in 2008 …it’s been a great adventure since then. I hope they enjoy the exhibition in Speyer in a couple of weeks time when we all meet up again at the preview on Friday 21st October.

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