Wednesday, January 06, 2010


Level of conviction in own genius: 7
Amount of creative activity achieved in last 24 hours: 0.5
Reading: Susanna Clarke's 'Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell', marvellous winter hol reading.
Hair Day: Snowy.

I managed to pull out the stops to finish my latest choral commission, which I'm most pleased with, just before Christmas (premiere: Cadogan Hall, March!) so as to fully enjoy our annual winter break away from all worries of work, email, hell even phone as I left it at me ma's. Andy and I enjoyed a week away in the barren wastes of the West Highlands, and most splendid it was too. Highlights were:

1) The drive through, both there and back, the imposing Black Mount, Rannoch Moor and Glen Coe, an A-road through a world dreamt white. It was utterly surreal speeding in a warm car through this gorgeously forbidding landscape, mountains peeled straight from Ed Rushca's paintings, or an Ansel Adams wet dream. These hulking natural monoliths were like giant snowy owl gods for whom an inbreath lasts a century, opening one slash-black eye as we, tinny little nano-horsefly, zipped by meekly, and closing them again.

2) Loch Sunart's oak forests, under which we enjoyed satisfyingly crunchy walks through snow and leaves, whilst these thin, leperous old trees wrung their hands above us at the broad winter sky.

3) Wildlife Watch! We clocked THREE golden eagles, some snipe, 4 grey seals, a great spotted woodpecker, loads of big grey shaggy herons, some wild deer, and a couple of other birds of prey. We didn't see a single one of these in our icy-toed wait at the Garbh Eilean hide, snuck into the rock for the sole purpose of catching a few otters or the famed sea eagle, but the chill, silent view of the unfettered loch was so hypnotic it didn't really matter. Better than a meditation class full of 'ommm'-ing East Londoners, I can tell you.

4) Castle Tioram (Cheer-am), stunning ruin which is blocked off by the tide of Loch Moidart twice a day, and film scout's choice of many of Scottish historical epic. The Silver Walk, which starts there, was a delight of rock and fauna and mad icicles, always with a stonking view of calm loch, burly mountain and occasional seal breaking the silvery surface.

5) The sunset at Resipol over Loch Sunart as the sun bowed out between a lazy 'V' of two mountains, spilling amber, peach and lilac onto the loch, and paintbrush-flicking dusty pink streaks, lengthening by the second, onto the sky. The only sounds were the occasional disgruntled cry and churlish retort from gulls, while a lone seal slinked through the rainbowing water. A visually delicious, transfixing moment.

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