Struggling, out of breath, up steep steps up a hillside; turning back and looking down to snap a quick photo. Reaching the top, and turning again to adore the view; gasping for breath in the cold January air. Wandering along the clifftop, past all the other Sunday walkers, and watching gliders taking off: the growl of the winch cutting out, then the whistle of the towline falling to ground, and the glider passing quietly overhead. A random dog jumping up my leg, as I stop to take a photograph of the glider.
A railway station in the depths of the countryside, with no trains, no trains at all today. The only village nearby is the single line of houses built because there’s a station here. It used to be a busy junction, but now it’s a quiet branch, most of the platforms decaying to grass, and rust on the rails. We wander along the platform, wondering if the people who live here now have spotted us. The signal at the platform end is red, and villagers are walking their dogs.
There are photos of all this, to come, but for now the ink polaroids will have to suffice.
Moments you wish you’d had your camera:
Driving, last night, in the dark, past a small cottage in the middle of the countryside. Torchlit, in the driveway, someone was shovelling sand. And in the torchlight it was beautiful, almost like a Joseph Wright painting.
I wish I carried my camera around with me everywhere. I don’t, because it’s too large and heavy and valuable to take it everywhere with me. There are so many pictures I wish I could have caught, which I’ve missed. I used to keep a sketchbook with very rough sketches of some of them, all far better photos than any of the ones I’ve taken.
This morning, driving to work, through the Western Fields. Mist and fog were hugging the ground, up to about five feet. Above it trees and bushes were breaking through, black silhouettes, and above that dawn through the clouds. It’s rare for the morning to look so beautiful.
This is a slightly faded memory, from a few years ago now, from the last time I was in the Outer Hebrides. It’s a late night, two in the morning or so, in August. You can hardly make out a thing in the darkness. There’s a crowd of us sat around in deckchairs, in the front yard of the University farmhouse, heads leaning back. We’ve all just returned from the “local” pub, about six miles away, and we’re sitting outside to watch for the Perseids. Out there on the Atlantic coast, the sky seems, strangely, lighter than elsewhere, because of the number of stars scattered across it. The sky is filled with patterns of light, coming from millions of years ago; and leaning back in a deckchair, the age, complexity and size of it all fills me with a slightly dizzy awe.* Every thirty seconds or so, a meteor flashes across the dark sky, and everybody watching smiles.
* Not to mention that the rocks beneath us, the Lewisian Gneiss Complex, were themselves nearly three billion years old, older than the light from some of the stars.