Surface Attraction

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If in your home

you are faced with a flat surface

there is always a temptation

(“Anyone seen my carkeys/spectacles?”)

to put something casually on it

but more usually

more permanently

it is some object which you like

or which reminds you of something  somewhere

some place, some event that mattered

or somebody close to you,

long ago, still,

or something which

(you hope)

will interest/impress your friend(s).

This is my mantelpiece –

a Masai head, a Modigliani bust

and two avant-garde dogs.

What d’you think?

“Anyone seen my coil of picture wire?”


My Name is GORMLEY


ANTONY GORMLEY can be seen towering 20 metres above the A1/M1 on the approach to Gateshead or  standing on Crosby Beach, north of Liverpool, waiting for the tide to come in and now he is standing up to his knees in the Water of Leith in Edinburgh. All six of him (or is it five?).


it brings to mind Shelley’s  OZYMANDIAS

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desart. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away..

* * *

In Art as well as Politics  is there not a hope for something more than temporal fame (not that that’s to be sniffed at!)?

Saint Thomas Isle

GORMLEY 001 oil

There’s this river more or less in the heart of Embra that is

well worth a visit. The easiest approach is via the Gallery of

Modern Art (itself well worth a visit); a pleasant path leads you

down through the trees and  on a sudden, lo! the level waters

of Leith. If you walk a hundred yards downstream you come

to Saint Thomas Isle and it is here, any day in June, if you

suffer from any skin disease, acne, rashes, eczema, psoriasis,

impetigo, you must stand in the water, naked, stock-still, eyes

closed, until you have counted up to five hundred (using the

standard  ‘ 1 elephant…2 elephants….3 elephants’  method of


 When you open your eyes, you will be amazed to see that St

Thomas has indeed lived up to his  famous words of hope for

humanity: “All ye who suffer, come to me, and without

making any rash promises,  I will do my best to help.”

It is best to come early.

a G



This is a single-track road in Shetland that might have been built by the Romans (if they had ever got this far). It takes you to Bigton and St Ninian’s Isle where Douglas Coutts, a local schoolboy, discovered a hoard of Pictish brooches and rings (and the jawbone of a dolphin) in a larch box. The planners have been generous with their allowance of passing places. (Looks a bit like the Nazca lines in the Atacama desert)



This is a rough camel track in Turkey with a weary young girl pulling at a reluctant camel carrying building stuff to the top of the hill where they were extending a restaurant. When I met up with them later as they were preparing to descend, the builder gave the camel a smack on the rump with his shovel just to help it on its way.


This is a street in Stromness which has the atmosphere of a Giorgio de Chirico painting.


Sylvia Brown’s Hostel is near here, the friendliest and most relaxing place to stay in this most friendly of towns. You bump into students from Estonia, painters from Peru , dentists from Denmark, violinists from Vienna, anglers from Angelsy, lap-dancers from Lerwick,  all varieties of human life is to be found here. Also nearby, with great views across the harbour,  is the impressive Art Gallery which was having a wine and cheese affair the first time I went there and a whisky and no cheese affair the second. And not just any whisky. Highland Park whisky. And that’s not the only surprise, they have some interesting and striking artworks on display.

 The occasional car drives past but as yet there is no traffic problem.



St Andrews’ Butts Wynd, a link for students between the Quad and the Library and also the link between the Scores and North Street. Funny name, the cause of much coarse  guffawing. The Students Union used to be up there on the corner is but no longer. How things change behind your back, when you’re not looking.

As names go, I prefer Dundee’s  ‘Horsewater Wynd’.