Nik’s story …

The young man had memories like mine and more.  Staying out too long for one last cast across inhospitable waters, he never made landfall again.

This assumption from the previous post was based on vague memory and the fly rod sculpted into the headstone.

I am always astonished by the kindness of strangers – in this instance, Mary from Scullomie Pages and Iain from the Melness Social History site who, giving their time, uncovered the sad truth behind the headstone at Melness cemetery.

The body of a youth drowned while creel-fishing from a north Sutherland clifftop on Thursday, was recovered yesterday. Nicholas Wyper, 18, was washed into the sea while hauling in lobster pots from Port Vasgo, near Talmine.
Taken from the Sunday Herald at the time.

This from Iain:

Nicholas lived with family in Melness and there is still family there. I have attached a few photos for you as there is another memorial at the spot where it happened. Sadly the stone and the cairn is broken, like the hearts of his family. By all accounts he was a fine young lad who loved Melness, its beauty and freedom. The site looks benign in the September sunshine, but there are dangerous undercurrents and deep water round the inlet and Stac Dhu, so a good place for lobsters, but very hard work to pull up pots on uneven ground.

1009-nikwypermemorialcairn-wordpress1010-nikwyperstacdhu-wordpress

The images are reproduced with the kind permission of Iain C Morrison www.melness.org.uk

The words on the cairn memorial read as follows:

IN
MEMORY OF
NIK WYPER
WHO WAS SWEPT
FROM THESE ROCKS
ON
29TH JUNE 1989
AGED 18 YEARS

A YOUNG MAN
WHO WILL ALWAYS
BE REMEMBERED

“GOING HOME”

Perfect sad synchronicity.

The Kyle of Tongue

I know this place.  I remember the many days along the edges of the Kyle.  I remember scrambling at low tide to the feathery eider nests on Talmine Island while nervous mothers sat tight; the night a pod of dolphins performed aquatic ballet in Tongue Bay, between Midtown and Scullomie; the dunes as high as water towers with sand so soft you could run down their steep faces, safe in the arms of gravity; the day on Rabbit Islands in the company of seals and the nervous wait on the shore – would the fisherman remember us; spinning off the rocks near the causeway as oystercatchers, in faithful pairs, skimmed the fast running tide near inquisitive selkies, heads bobbing in the water, watching our every move; the sad sight of the lone grebe, too exhausted to fly from its watery grave beneath Ard Skinid; the evening walks to the little that remained of Port Vasgo and the abandoned boats along the shoreline at Talmine; the busy otter, scurrying across the sands at low tide beneath Tongue Lodge, late, so late for a very important date; catching a first brown trout on Loch a Mhuilinn – a fish so young, it knew no better than to rise to my inexpert fly; always, a harem of seals sunning on the sandbar.  All this, and the reminder of how fragile we are – the beautifully sculpted, poignant headstone at Melness cemetery.

The young man had memories like mine and more.  Staying out too long for one last cast across inhospitable waters, he never made landfall again.

Melness graveyard ...Tongue Causeway and Bridge ...Memorial to a fisherman ...

The text is an extract from Golf in the Wild – Going Home – the sequel to the first book.

(as most will know, the film excerpts are from Local Hero – the appearance of the helicopter, like a rising moon, and its subsequent arrival on the beach at Camusdarach is one of cinema’s great moments).

Another Year

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It is the 7th January as I write and Christmas already seems long ago.  The decorations have returned to the loft and it is as though it never happened.  Except, sitting in the dining room/study/my playroom (note the evolution) the … Continue reading

The Last Picture Show

Every morning we look out on this scene; we are very fortunate. Sun, rain, snow or sleet, it remains a magical panorama.  I have captured these trees so many times, in so many different lights, they must consider themselves celebrities.  We have watched them for over twenty years and, in turn,  they have watched over us.  Beneath their branches generations of cattle and sheep have drifted by, indifferent to our stares.

Those trees ...

Late yesterday afternoon, I climbed the fence and set up a time lapse beneath those same trees to get their view of us, to get their view as the last of 2016’s light faded in the west.

We don’t go overboard on New Year’s Eve , staying out late on a cold winter night has lost its attraction.  A modicum of alcohol, a log fire and a good film seem much the better option.  Last night we watched John Maclean’s excellent Slow West – It’s only slow in the way a rattlesnake or a predatory killer is slow. This terrific film is actually tense, twisty and brilliant – The Guardian.  The film may be Coen-esque but the story of an innocent drifting in a violent world is a direct descendant of Jim Jarmusch’s work of genius, Dead Man.  So much so that, realising it was free to view on Amazon Prime, we watched it too – a fine way to enter 2017, in the company of William Blake, Nobody and Neil Young’s haunting soundtrack.

A happy and creative 2017, one and all!

December in Old England

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This gallery contains 8 photos.

December in old England has been mild and easy, the quiet before the storm?  I am still playing golf, walking with the camera and, very occasionally, venturing out on two wheels. At heart, I am a fair-weather rider and there … Continue reading

Time flies …

Years turn to days, hours turn to minutes, time rushes by.  In May 2014, on a trip along the Macclesfield Canal to some old familiar places, I found myself at Bosley, inside the cottage that had once been home.  It had been thirty two years since I last closed the front door and headed south, expecting never to return.  Invited across the threshold by the kindly Phylis, it was an odd and unsettling experience.

Immediately I returned to Northumberland I wrote to the good lady including some old images of the cottage and a few memories of our time above the Cheshire Plain – on a clear day, from the main bedroom window, Jodrell Bank’s Lovell Telescope is visible nine miles due west, glistening and listening intently to the stars.

Sadly, I recently learned that Phylis had passed away and the cottage sold.  My letter had been kept and given to the immediate neighbours who in turn passed it to the new owners, Jane and her partner.  In turn, Jane emailed me wanting to know more about my time in her new home and so here we are.  Words build bridges, words make connections.

I have struggled to understand what was so unsettling about sitting simply in those rooms again. Perhaps it was this – I was back where the future was unknown, back where there was still the possibility of different outcomes.  I could have changed, I could have become someone else, instead I stayed the same …

… ultimately I am a person who can do evil. I never consciously tried to hurt anyone, yet good intentions notwithstanding, when necessity demanded, I could become completely self-centred, even cruel. I was the kind of person who could, using some plausible excuse, inflict on a person I cared for a wound that would never heal.
Haruki Murakami, South of the Border, West of the Sun

My ‘plausible excuse’ was alcohol.  This was the late 1970s when pub culture thrived. Pubs provided a social centre, an easy means to connect with the locals.  They were not restaurants with separate tables, they were a place to congregate at the bar, talk and drink. In a short space of time, me and my ‘walking companion’, Kerry the Irish Setter, had developed a wide circle of drinking companions.  After her romp across the fields, a tug from the lead implored me in through the front door where Kerry had also developed a taste for beer.  Invariably a weather beaten farmer would let her lick the top off his pint, not realising she had recently been partaking of her other passion – licking cowpats.

... Bosley

On good terms with Jim the landlord and his wife Mavis, the Queens Arms became a second home, it was just too convenient.  When the snows came in January ’79 and stayed for weeks at a time, there were endless lock-ins and drinking to the small hours, safe in the knowledge that the law would not be making surprise calls.

... three doors down from my gate - the driveway on the left

The Queens Arms was a Boddingtons pub and in those far-off days the Cream of Manchester was produced at their independent brewery adjacent to Strangeways prison.  A golden ale with a creamy head, it did not journey far.  When the drays called, the Queens and the Knot Inn at Rushton Spencer, two miles further on, were as far south as the kegs travelled.

Inconveniently, John Boddington, one of the family board members, lived down the road near Rudyard Lake and would occasionally drop in to check up on this southern outpost. Forelocks were tugged, free ale supplied and overly polite conversation ensued. All was usually well.

The Queens was a tied house with no option to sell beers or lagers from any other brewery but Jim liked a bit of colour.  Along the top shelf he proudly displayed a long line of cans featuring the Lager Lovelies, produced by Tennents.  In those non-PC times it was acceptable to promote drink with buxom wenches, a different girl with every can you bought.  John Boddington was a tall man and it wasn’t long before Janet, Jane, Heather, Pauline et al invaded his peripheral vision.

“That won’t do Jim, that won’t do at all”

They’re only for display John, purely decorative; I assure you, purely decorative; definitely not for sale”

It still won’t do Jim, it still won’t do”

Nothing more was said.  That night we drank the lot, toasted Mr Boddington and for one night only, abandoned the Cream of Manchester.

If I had limited myself to the Queens it wouldn’t have been so bad but there was lunch time drinking too, at a time when many large employers provided access to bars on site and failing that, there was always the option of a healthy walk – to the nearest pub. Invariably, a quick one on the way home also never went amiss; it never occurred to me I might have a problem.  Afterall, everyone I knew did the same, everyone I knew was a drinker.  This went on for years and it is only when you stop that you realise where you have been.

Alcohol affects people differently.  For me it bred restlessness and an unerring sense of discontent.  Pauline, on the other hand, just turned nasty but that’s another story.

... my favourite drinking partnerRaven Cottage ...