~ Experiences, Projects & Jottings of Painter Jan Clizer, Specialist Painter of Scottish & Celtic Music Subject Matter ~

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Perthshire Amber & More - Jottings on the Oct/Nov 2010 Trip

   Have been meaning to transcribe the pages of Moleskine neolithic chicken-scratch laid down on my latest sojourn in Scotland into something readable for a later date, so why not here - good things are meant to be shared, eh?

26th Oct - Fly out - Jess & I are chatting so intently we miss the airport turnoff.....typical....luggage scanning guy requests a concert with my 'piano'....in a fiddle case??...hmm, maybe it was just early in the morning!  The checked baggage goes FREEEE....the overseas flight:  2 seats to self - heaven in flight....Robin Hood, good food, skimpy snacks....just barely caught them accidentally routing me to VENICE!!  Sounds good, would love to go, but not THIS trip!
Wooden Shoes, Amsterdam

27th - Found museum in Schiphol....there's been renovation at the airport, & things are a bit confusing after a long flight.  Featured paintings are of cows in the 15th & 16th centuries this time...lovely, inspiring, freeing, as I stand admiring works by people who didn't have so many 'rules' to follow in their art.  An incredible barnyard scene with a gigantic rooster....the detail is unbelievable.  All the funny people, going so many places in this travel hub of northern Europe.  So many languages!  A new feature of the airport this time:  Dutch armed forces in full garb & weaponry standing on alert.  Disturbing.  Young Italian on the shuttle to Aberdeen.  Beautiful speech. I said so & he immediately shut up!  Customs thankfully uneventful, & cases all intact.   Clear weather & stunning views of the sea, the coastline, Aberdeen & surrounds as plane arrived.  Catching proper bus to Dyce was easy, altho it did take the long way 'round thru Tullos, but who cares....I'm BACK!  Jokes with the driver, catching up on local news & info.  Long wait for the train at Dyce.  Och ay, the wind off the sea.  Heard a bit of life & times of newly married guy fae Inverness, returning home from work on African island.  Seatmate on train pregnant masseuse going to Elgin for the weekend.  Woman from down near Feschie Bridge into archeology & other things I didn't want to inquire about.  Came from Shetland. Got scolded for mucking about with train ticket, (less changes the way I went), & conductor making good-natured comments about travelling nutters....a real tea from the heavily-laden trolley enroute! 

Changing at Inverness, waited in line with lovely elderly Englishwoman, asking if I was classical violinist in travelling theatre group - wishful thinking!  Lives on Skye.  Fascinating face.  Such enthusiasm for life and music & culture.  Long black wool coat, glinting white hair, thick specs....backbone of steel....inspiring....  Gorgeous ride to Pitlochry, altho staying awake requires concentration.  Pitlochry appears a lovely little burgh at first glance - finding the B&B is easy, but trailing 2 big cases on cobbled streets is a bit of a challenge - can't stick the rattling!

28th - Aye, it's really true....am waking up back in Scotland!!  A guest in a B&B rather than working in one....brilliant.  Full cooked breakfast & then some, in lovely, decorated dining room of old hoos. Runny egg, sausage, bacon, tomato, mushrooms, oatcakes!  Ought to last most of the day!!  Met photographer L....chat & arrangements for the day:  walk in village, shop for supplies at the Co-Op - blustery autumn weather.  Guest at the B&B has been returning here for 35 years - is nowon his 3rd proprietor.  Buttonboss Lodge owned by Colin & Marlene MacKay....the best of hosts.  Colin's a retired golf pro, from Portmahommach (sp?), Marlene's Dutch.  Possibly a mum of one does housekeeping, a couple of 'local' foreign girls help out.  Lovely people, all.  Very clean.  Discussion over scarcity of lemons.  The yin-yang of cup half-empty, but positive about it.  Or the other way 'round?

Tummel Brig towards Pitlochry
I ride w/L to local sights - Faskally Wood (weird light show & music in evenings)..we did it in daytime, & lovely wood it is, despite the electronics setup for the techno show.  Queen's View is a stunner - especially on this clear autumn day.  Busy with visitors - white roofs of caravans mar the lovely view a wee bit, inspiring discussion with fellow onlookers! Hilarious chat with F&K, gardener & teacher fae Paisley - banter continues in the tearoom - fruitcake slice & cappu made w/instant coffee - now REALLY?!  Bilgewater in a cup.  On up an unmarked track in general direction of Killicrankie - Mexican standoff in Perthshire hills:  vehicles approaching both front AND back on narrow farm track.  Lots of grins & a bit of maneuvering, & we're out of that scrape!
near Killicrankie

On to Killicrankie, famous for a Brit soldier's having lept the 18' span of river to escape pursuing Jacobites.  Wee active mousie collecting goodies in autumn leaves at carpark - Scottish wildlife!  Lovely views of river & rail bridge.  Colours of the hill foliage-it's perfectly clear where older tartans and weavings took their inspiration from.  Back to Pitlochry & explore a bit thru the toon - more blether with Queen's View people - it's Samhain (Halloween) weekend, & the town's really gone all out - street musicians, a 5' miming mouse, clowns - quite the production. Late evening chat w/fellow guests....

29th - Monstrous breakfast again - stiff eggs today (yes!), 3 pcs bacon, tomato, muesli.  Full house, lots of interesting chat.  Off to Dunkeld by bus, not a straight shot....change & wait at Ballaluig, famous for being the best lorry stop in UK (meaning best diner food).  Interesting chat w/lovely dried-apple-faced woman w/brown hat made in Shetland (design of knitting reminiscent of celtic knotwork). Hungarian, fascinating history - da was in Brit embassy. 
Queen's View
Walked about Dunkeld - trees are lovely - visitors centre - discover festival tickets back in Pitlochry.- staff from NZ very helpful.  Directions to Arts Centre on foot, & Birnam oak - gorgeous walk along Tay, desipite rain - enormous oaks & sycamores - the oak immortalized in Macbeth - convoluted, incredible branches, the size...& textures....halloweeny, for sure!  Birnam Arts Centre for good coffee & fruit salad, quite a busy place. Lovely facility - Willie Nelson on sound system - country/bluegrass pretty popular....  Retrieve ticket from Birnam CD's courteous proprietor, who later turns out to be Martin Hadden, bassist of Silly Wizard.  Return walk heavy rain. Poured in Dunkeld.  Wee castle-like edifice in car park to draw whilst sheltering... back to Pitlochry & lovely walk to theatre, pick up bulk of tickets from gracefully patient Vaire...the pfaffing aboot is now completed!  Amazing to feel energetic & no jet lag....near tears today, thinking on privilege of once again being here....seeing a heron is deemed good luck in our family - a large prehistoric-looking specimen balances atop the burnside fence passed en route to the Theatre....fearless.....clearly it's home territory.  Now I'm looking forward to the festival even more!
the Birnam Oak
30th - Twa burly pipers from a Dublin pipe band provided a bit of extra ambiance for those of us who really didn't need sleep....aarrgghh.  I don't begrudge their enthusiasm - a competition's on at Blair Atholl -this weekend - must've been pretty cool.  Tough to return to sleep what with the time change, tho.  Am finding it quite entertaining attempting to adjust to new phone, time difference & daylight savings all at once.  Have yet to find adjustment for time difference - all readings involve subtracting 9 hrs.... I think...!  Breakfast a full house again.  Couple w/B&B in East Linton left details.  A 2nd trip to the Cooperative for vittles, & canned food contributions for concerts.  Checker required a second take - covered with soot & fake blood on head, face, & white lab coat....hilarious.....local contest for shops in Halloween decor brought out some characters!

   Barber shop all decked out as Sweeney Todd!

My 1st day of festival - opening concert last nite had been sold out weeks ago, so missed that.  Today, a workshop in performance with entertaining entertainer Ewan Sutherland....only 2 of us attended, & a couple locals dropped in...lots of good info & humour...an experience in itself!  Talk by local character Lawrence Oliphant & associates on weaponry & dress in Scotland in earlier times, including how to fold & put on a full kilt for both men & women... interesting concept, lying down to get dressed!

31st - Open mike @ Theatre...handbell ringers fae Dunkeld....tone of the bells was beautiful...from the states - less expensive than british-made.  Amazing unison performance, ethereal sounds.  Full audience.  Bodhran workshop w/Mark Maguire of Deaf Shepherd - the intensity & sincerity of his passion for the instrument & sharing with us....kept wanting to tell us more...we practiced on serving trays w/sticks & brushes - lots of us.  Had the rhythm going ok, but felt like I was trying to keep time with a snake!  Non-stop open mike all afternoon - a great experience!  Evening concert:  Crooked Still - pretty Alison Kraus-y but very good.  Banjo gumbi.  Guy next to me didn't particularly care for the singing-along with Dougie - plugged his ear on my side...me or the singer behind us that he didn't like?!  Wee samples of Dougie's whiskey on offer - nice touch.  A good deal of old material tonite - Jackson Browne, James Taylor, Dillon - great stuff, w/full complement of backup.  A REAL treat.

1 Nov - All Saints Day

Could the breakfasts get any better?? Colin may be at home on a golf course, but aye, he knows his stuff in the kitchen too! Wonder what happens if a near-veggie eats bacon & eggs 12 days running?! (hopefully nothing) Big bus full of Dougie nuts loaded at Theatre for a tuneful tour of Perthshire...Ewan & Dougie play a wee tune to start off...rather dreich day, but interesting chat - my seatmate is Ian fae Birmingham, singer/guitarist. We stop at Laurence Oliphant's holdings, which include a shut-up castle on the grounds and several beautiful heavy horses on the hillside above, probably Clydes. The grounds of the steading is immaculate & someone is preparing to ride on a tall, stately black with a long tail. Oh, to break off from the group & explore! Lawrence's ancestor Lady Nairn wrote loads of music & tunes - had to disguise herself to her publisher as work wasn't accepted from females....Boden of Boden, maybe?...Charley is Me Darlin', Wha'd Be King But Charley...very common Jacobite tunes...many are credited to other authors - the usual. Quite a dramatic presentation & presence at the Theatre on the weekend, which continues here - speaking on the bus, answering questions, sharing anecdotes - my thanks for the sharing in his efforts to preserve Scottish culture was me with "We don't reenact the Scottish way of life - we live it." Straight from himself. Earlier on, his children took issue with his choice of dress & hairstyle, & wouldn't be seen with him in public.....ha!

The pastoral beauty of this rich, agri-focused area....great fields of carrots, blackberries, a variety of crops. Carrots are held in the ground, covered thickly to prevent freezing, & pulled all winter at Tesco's requirements. Ancient beech hedge going down to the river. Approaching town of Blairgowrie, built along River Ericht - now the big buildings where all the people go of a Sunday are St. Tesco's, St. Home Base....Ewan's perceptive banter is brilliant! Lunch stop is at a park near the river - rather chill & windy, making the hot tea & delicious sandwiches (venison & red jelly on a beautiful bun for me - low fat, no less!) even more appealing! There were salmon sandwiches also, odd crisps, a lovely tart apple, & a big dense sinker of a sweet made with pineapple....enough for a couple meals!!

Return trip thru the Sma' Glen....quite barren & wild area, steep hillsides....saw not 1 but 5 kites, most likely parents & young....amazing. Talk about the clearances....SAD SAD SAD. Unthinkable persecution. Several big isolated hotels now available for purchase....on down towards Aberfeldy on interesting, windy road thru farmland....Aberdeen singer sharing hilarious tune about bus driving....wild driving on wild roads in the dark & wet....meeting big white schoolbuses on curves...fellow passengers being concerned about safety...driver must have nerves of steel...conversely, maybe all nerves have been removed....on into Theatre after safe return to listen to Chloe Hall Trio - wonderful, upbeat stuff w/great takes on life. Aussies. Tall, skinny.

Ontae another bus to Blair Atholl for Fred Morrison Trio evening concert....have visited the castle previously to view antiques exhibition....decidedly more dramatic at nite - inside & out. The performance was in great hall - incredibly spooky atmosphere with all the wall decor.....armour linings & helmets & scads of deer skulls, antlers still intact, making patterns & shadows in the light...very SUPERnatural (pun).... The music is outstanding...pipes, guitar, bodhran....ethereal at times.....the effect of the surroundings & music gets into the very soul. Morrison is from S. Uist....hilarious, good-natured character, soft speech & dry sense of humour. Wandered a bit at intermission - huge slabs of larch on tearoom walls, also ancient needlework....in main hall, Niel Gow & a couple dukes of Atholl overseeing things on their luminous canvases, and a huge Landseer, 'Death of a Stag,' I think - need to look up info on it. Fantastic day it's been!

2 Nov

Another tasty brekky (breakfast) - I'm going to miss this. And a beautiful clear, crisp morning. Off to catch bus to Dunkeld, & stumble upon couple fae New Hamp. Lovely characters! Bus driver recognizes me by now & inquires re: adventures. Had a bit of walk near cathedral, riverside. My sketch of mini-castle is the entrance-way to an estate with walled gardens....later find out it's connected to Blair Atholl. S-T-U-N-N-I-N-G day. Peeked at roofless section of cathedral....HIGH arches - Wolf of Badenoch said buried there...on to the Taybank - formerly Macleans', new ownership, buckets lining floor - could use some TLC on roof & elsewhere.

Master musician Pete Clark is our guide for the Niel Gow walk - generous with information & a passionate speaker about music & conservation....made for a fascinating tour. Walk went across bridge, along the Tay....water ouzels, buzzards....conservation-crazy local made an interesting addition to the company....tallest tree in Britain.....native plants vs. foreign additions.....beautiful forest walk, especially in Autumn. Big falls, large 3-d plaque in Gaelic....viewing of Niel Gow's cottage - Niel Gow's oak....he was retained by the duke for pound5/year. Amazing. Walked to his gigs. Tale about cutting the tree without the duke's permission & talking his way 'round it. Must've been a great laugh at the time. Down to the Birnam Oak - back to the pub, scrummy carrot & tomato soup & bread. The Americans always get fries, cheese & beer...aarrgghh! Loads of Dougie memorabilia, & Pete plays a good bit for us...lovely tunes. Hitch ride back to Pitlochry, wee stop in Scottish Deli before leaving...mmm! Back to B&B for wee toes-up...hike up to Theatre for shuttle bus back to Dunkeld cathedral & tonite's Eamon Coyne/Kris Drever concert along w/Dougie & others - moving performances by all. Cathedral packed....amazing! The acoustics in these structures! Synchronicity daily on this incredible trip: Ann, seated next me, holds ticket # next mine! A couple seated in pew before us overheard us chat, & know my good friends in Auchenblae!! Was brilliant listening to blether around us....Expected to be quite cold, but heaters in alternate rows at our feet made it comfortable....one visitor accidentally melted her anorak's zipper (smell permeated the cathedral) & had to buy a new waterproof souvenir of her trip next day!

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