There are some views which – notwithstanding their popularity with tourists – a fluffy bird just cannot resist. So Algy took advantage of some muted September evening sunshine to gaze out across the bay from one of his favourite vantage points – a point, needless to say, which was always in the teeth of the wind, no matter what direction it was blowing from…

Algy had heard that his friends at PWS photosworthseeing were running a wee challenge each Friday to post an unedited photo (“no edit Friday”), so of course he was determined to join in the fun :-))

In the spring months, there are frequently beautiful sunsets in the West Highlands. The rapidly changing weather, which brings a confusing mixture of sunshine and showers during the day, also brings glorious colours and impressive cloud patterns as the sun sinks down into the Sea of the Hebrides. So, at this time of year, Algy loves to perch in his tree in the evening: he often sits there quietly for several hours, gazing far out to sea towards the Small Isles, and watching the beautiful show in the sky…

Algy moved closer to the edge of the precipice, so that he could get a better view of the sea below. It was just rolling peacefully along today, swirling around the rocks quite innocently, as though it had never been known to thunder and roar up the canyon with terrific force, throwing spray right up to the rocks where Algy was perching. Algy was fascinated by the many different moods of the ocean. He loved the excitement and drama of the stormy days, but this gentle, soothing swell of the deep blue was just perfect for a lazy afternoon’s rest :))

There was one spot on the headland which Algy loved especially. At this point the ground rose towards a cleft in the rock, with each face vertical as though it was a doorway through to the other side. But beyond this opening the rocks plunged straight down to the sea, forming a wee canyon for the tide to surge up in stormy weather. Woe betide the careless explorer who rushed towards this “way through” without due caution – or without wings!

Best of all, however, there was a lovely view through this gap to the north. Algy leaned back against the rocks in the warm afternoon sunshine, and gazed across the Sea of the Hebrides towards the Small Isles. It was a beautiful spring day, and the sea was a dark, dark blue, echoing the blue sky overhead. Everything was calm and peaceful; there was no sound except the constant murmur of the sea below and the singing of a skylark overhead. It reminded Algy of a poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins:

          On ear and ear two noises too old to end
          Trench—right, the tide that ramps against the shore;
          With a flood or a fall, low lull-off or all roar,
          Frequenting there while moon shall wear and wend.

          Left hand, off land, I hear the lark ascend,
          His rash-fresh re-winded new-skeinèd score
          In crisps of curl off wild winch whirl, and pour
          And pelt music, till none ’s to spill nor spend.

[Algy is quoting the first two verses of the poem The Sea and the Skylark by the 19th century English poet Gerard Manley Hopkins.]

Algy felt tired after his struggle with the balloon, so he decided to take advantage of the fine weather, and rest for a while in the afternoon sunshine. A few miles away across the water he could see the Small Isles; there was a wee bit of snow still lingering on the highest peaks of the Isle of Rum. As he gazed out across the blue Sea of the Hebrides, Algy was reminded of a Victorian sonnet, although the exact location the poet had described was a wee bit further north:

          From blue Loch Carron rise white and sheer
              Its bare rock faces and island cones,
              And they glitter as frost and wind-bleached bones;
          Coral and sapphire far and near,
          Pearl-white coral and sapphire clear,
              Finely-chiselled as cameo stones,
              No blurred edges or soft mixed tones:
          Blue as the bottomless, white as fear.

          Do I sleep, do I dream, in the hard clear day,
              On the windy deck, in the afternoon,
          With the sough of the wave, and the spume of the spray,
              And my hair like the dank sea-tangle blown
          On the landward breeze? Is it Portree bay
              That we make, or some cove in the long dead moon?

[Algy is quoting the poem Among the Hebrides by the 19th century English poet Emily Pfeiffer.]

The next morning was unusually sunny, and Algy was in high spirits. Not only had he rescued himself from the sea, but he had salvaged a bag of treasure too! So when the sun rose above the ridge he set off eagerly, leaving the dunes behind him, and soon reached a rocky outcrop with a very fine outlook. Some of the islands were lost in the bank of clouds on the horizon, but the innermost of the Small Isles were just about visible. Fom time to time the spray on the rocky north coast of the headland rose high enough to be visible as a white fringe where the peat bogs met the sea.

Algy leaned back against a rock and thought about his sack of baubles. They were too heavy for him to carry very far, so he needed to find a place to store them safely for a while. But most of all, he wanted to find a Christmas tree to hang them on and, although the view was beautiful, there was not a single tree in sight …

On a fine day in the West Highlands the view to the north is always the loveliest, as it reveals the depth of colours in the landscape and sea. So Algy moved away from the deep freshwater loch, and with the sun at his back he looked out towards the Hebridean islands. The moorland grasses were positively glowing, putting on their best show of the year, and he thought of a poem by one of his favourite authors, the 19th century Scottish author and Minister, George MacDonald:

          By the roadside, like rocks of golden ore
          That make the western river-beds so bright,
          The briar and the furze are all alight!
          Perhaps the year will be so fair no more,
          But now the fallen, falling leaves are gay,
          And autumn old has shone into a Day!

[Algy is quoting the second verse of George MacDonald’s poem Autumn’s Gold.]

Today is a very special day indeed, because on this day Algy’s oldest friends celebrate their Diamond Wedding Anniversary! Please join Algy in sending them many, many congratulations on this amazing 60th anniversary of their marriage xx

It was in the days when they were first married that Algy’s old friends first saw the beautiful sight of the Hebridean islands lying off the west coast of Scotland – a sight which they have loved ever since. So to celebrate his friends’ wonderfully long-lasting marriage, Algy found a perch looking out at his own local Hebridean islands, and recited Shakespeare’s classic sonnet, which could have been written specially for them:

          Let me not to the marriage of true minds
          Admit impediments. Love is not love
          Which alters when it alteration finds,
          Or bends with the remover to remove.
          O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
          That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
          It is the star to every wand’ring bark,
          Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
          Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
          Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
          Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
          But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
          If this be error and upon me prov’d,
          I never writ, nor no man ever lov’d.

[Algy is reciting Sonnet CXVI by William Shakespeare.]

It had been a long day and Algy was feeling tired, so he stopped to rest in a flowery meadow, while the last of the sunshine still lit up the hillsides. The misty islands of the Inner Hebrides hovered in the distance, far beyond the deep freshwater loch that was shimmering in the evening light. A cool breeze rustled through the bracken, and Algy thought of a poem by William Cullen Bryant, which he would like to dedicate to everyone who has been suffering from the heat:

          Spirit that breathest through my lattice, thou
             That cool’st the twilight of the sultry day,
          Gratefully flows thy freshness round my brow:
             Thou hast been out upon the deep at play,
          Riding all day the wild blue waves till now,
             Roughening their crests, and scattering high their spray
          And swelling the white sail. I welcome thee
          To the scorched land, thou wanderer of the sea!

          Nor I alone—a thousand blossoms round
             Inhale thee in the fulness of delight;
          And languid forms rise up, and pulses bound
             Livelier, at coming of the wind of night;
          And, languishing to hear thy grateful sound,
             Lies the vast inland stretched beyond the sight.
          Go forth into the gathering shade; go forth,
          God’s blessing breathed upon the fainting earth!

          Go, rock the little wood-bird in his nest,
             Curl the still waters, bright with stars, and rouse
          The wide old wood from his majestic rest,
             Summoning from the innumerable boughs
          The strange, deep harmonies that haunt his breast:
             Pleasant shall be thy way where meekly bows.
          The shutting flower, and darkling waters pass,
          And where the o’ershadowing branches sweep the grass.

[Algy is quoting the first three verses of The Evening Wind by William Cullen Bryant.]

As evening fell, pale glowing mists began to form over the sea, along the course of the burn and above the peat bogs. It seemed as though the islands were floating on a soft bed of clouds. Algy was fascinated by this phenomenon, so he perched on a handy fence post, to watch and wait for the mists to swirl in over him.

This post is dedicated to Algy’s dear friend Jürgen, with his warmest thanks. Herzlichen Dank, mein lieber Freund xx