(james benedict brown) on the road

Yahoo gives St. Patrick’s Day to the British…

Posted in Posts by James Benedict Brown on 9 February, 2009

st_patricks_day1

Sorry Ireland, St. Patrick’s Day is now a British holiday, according to the Yahoo calendar that I’ve never used (see here at the bottom of my online mail inbox). Add that to the Irish complaint of being lumped in with the British on the map.

350 miles

Posted in Posts by James Benedict Brown on 13 September, 2008

[googlemaps http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=en&geocode=&q=G42+8BG+to+PE32+2AR&sll=37.0625,-95.677068&sspn=46.226656,114.257812&ie=UTF8&s=AARTsJq0sL8xiI-O298mUZhZoEOPQe2scQ&ll=54.265224,-1.779785&spn=5.77702,9.887695&z=6&output=embed&w=450&h=450

While WordPress and Google can, in theory, talk to each other, there remains a bug that makes it difficult for a UK generated Google map to be embedded in a WordPress blog. And, as demonstrated above, once you do manage to embed the map, there’s no guarantee that the departure and arrival points or route between them will be visible.

So you’ll have to guess where I started my journey on Saturday morning and where I ended up.

Watching Sky on Skye

Posted in Posts by James Benedict Brown on 6 August, 2008

On Sunday night I took a walk along a short stretch of the A87 between Dunan and Luib on the Isle of Skye. I had only a fleeting overnight visit to Skye this time, although I hope that I continue to have the opportunity to go there to attend to the business that took me there this weekend. With the sun beginning to dip to the west, I plodded along the verge of the reasonably busy road to get a longer view of the sea loch between Skye and Scalpay and to get a stronger mobile phone signal. It was with some modest shame that I even turned on my phone; somehow it didn’t seem right to go to the trouble of travelling six hours and almost 200 miles without sacrificing some contact with the outside world. That cellular contact was comforting though. And it wasn’t exactly cheating. The modest accommodation provided for me on Sunday night was cunningly disguised as a shed at the back of a builder’s yard, but it had a Sky satellite dish hooked up to the TV.

Britain may appear to be a tiny little island to those who see it from a distance, but like most British people, I do not consider myself to be an islander. After all, the British Isles consist of two large islands and about six thousand smaller ones. It’s only in the second half of my life that I’ve really begun to appreciate some of the Hebridean Islands. Although by the standards of my island experiences, Skye is almost too big an island for me, being more than 1,600 square kilometres in area and almost 100km from north to south. It’s status as an independent land mass has also been unromantically eroded by the utilitarian Skye Bridge, over which I was able to float on board one of the thrice-daily buses that connect Glasgow and Fort William with Skye. The first time I came to Skye, I was killing time on a day trip from Mallaig on the mainland before I crossed the sea to the significantly smaller (and suitably named) Small Isles. I felt then, as I did this weekend, that Skye was just too big for me. It was hard to grasp the concept or emotion of an island I couldn’t walk across in an hour or two. And while Skye can be crossed on foot, it’s best not attempted in my shoes.

That short stretch of the A87 is not Skye’s finest walk. But in addition to only spending a brief period of time on the island, I also arrived completely unprepared for its true landscape. The smooth asphalt of the road was about the only surface on Skye that my city dwelling shoes were good for.

I look forward to my next trip to Skye. I may not be able to grasp the island, or its spirit, but any excuse to leave the city behind for this landscape and space is to be relished.

Taking photographs from a bus

Posted in Posts by James Benedict Brown on 6 August, 2008

Taking photographs (or making photographs, as you would say more satisfyingly if translating literally from German) through the windows of a bus or train is something I normally look down on. I suspect I have some kind of patronising opinion about those who think that they can get a decent exposure when they press their lens up against the grubby laminated windows (especially if they expect a flashbulb to improve the brightness of a Scottish mountain in broad daylight). But then, during a six hour bus journey from Glasgow to the Inner Hebrides, the monstrously beautiful landscapes of the Highlands won me over, and I found myself unwrapping by digital camera to grab pictures of what we were surrounded by.

This naturally lead to a number of “imperfect” shots. I have no idea what this gantry structure might be, or what that small grey roadside box conceals. But more annoyingly, I have no idea why they might have been situated along a stretch of unpopulated A-road, with no traffic signals or speed cameras to control. This picture is also notable for the reflection of the no-smoking sign fixed to the back of the seat in front, and the hideous orange/brown/red pattern of fabric that the seats were trimmed with. All in all, a horrid picture, but nonetheless a gorgeous amalgam of components, an abstract composition impossible to replicate because of the exact factors of light, movement, angle and location.

Some of these imperfections – when apparently alien objects puncture the natural landscape – seem to help the photographs immensely. After all, without that sign warning of a sharp bend, I’d probably never remember in twenty years time that I took this picture from a moving vehicle. I imagine that it would be a badly composed shot of moorland and distant mountains that is neither balanced nor particularly interesting.

Who are these people? And is that really someone in full Scottish regalia playing the bag pipes at a roadside viewing spot?

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