Now back at 9 Torrin to dry out the tents, sleeping bags and humans. This has been the most physically difficult bit of the trip.
Quiraing is such a compelling place - I felt most vulnerable and exposed here. The walking is harder and you feel unstable and unsafe. Bill described it as more precarious, like it could all come tumbling down on you at any minute. Glad he told me that now we are safe back in 9 Torrin - at the time I asked him about the big rocks that had clearly fallen onto the trail. ‘What happens if one lets go now?' He replied ‘It wouldn't hurt for long'. In his journal he wrote ‘Quiraing is fantastic, a blasted, precarious jumble of unlikely spires set amidst impossibly green sheep pastures on steep, STEEP slopes.'
Where the Cuillins are resistant, embedded plugs of hard granite this place felt altogether more fractured, tortured and twisted. Hard shards of bare rock with slopes covered by scree and big rocks loosened by frost and rain. Everything is toppling over, humans just don't stay around long enough to see it happening. We were working higher up too, so the wind felt colder and more gusty. This meant I paid too little attention to proper kit and wet feet, stayed still for too long and then wasted the best part of the day trying to warm up in my sleeping bag. Bill sorted me out with a dry pair of woollen socks and a hot water bottle made of his drinking flask. I felt so ashamed, a proper city boy who had gone on holiday by mistake. Bill has been working outside for twenty years and he just keeps working through the weather. He has evolved a very impressive working method that can set up and sustain the beginning of an exhibitable painting just about anywhere.
I am just beginning to get the idea of making an outdoors workspace. Bill lent me his wonderful Thermarest seat so I didn't get backache. This led directly to my best day in a strange field of broken rocks, by the cave of bones. I'm so excited by using oils outside where the stimuli are so direct and compelling. Bill has a handful of pieces that are not far off from being exhibitable. For me there will need to be some thinking back in the studio, I'm still reeling from the strength of this place.
I've never had a life or career strategy apart from getting in over my head just to find out what happened next. This time what happened next is a really important working partnership with Bill and some fully felt records of a proper journey. The real work starts when I carry back the energy, the subtle alloy of certainty and uncertainty, back into the studio.