The Angry Corrie 19: Jul-Sep 1994
Arty Types No. 12: The Landscape Painter
It's been a long trek with a heavy pack, up from Morvich to the Gates of Affric and on to the whale-back of Beinn Fhada, in the heat of a cloudless summer afternoon. You arrive at the cairn gasping and sweating, and topple to the ground to stare up into the blue sky. It's so still that the bumble bees are out, even up here. Drone, drone go the bees, and you close your eyes for just a second...
And waken with a jerk and half your face sunburned raw, four hours later. It's getting cold, and when you stand up you can see why. Towering cumulus above the Cuillin has blocked out the westering sun, and a damp wall of low cloud is extruding along Gleann Lichd like ghostly toothpaste.
Time to go. You heave the sack on to your back again, and set off eastwards down the long ridge. A gust of wind brings you the promise of rain before bedtime.
You can see him below you in the glen, stumbling around in the bogs. Fifty paces one way. Stop. Fifty paces the other way. Stop. Thirty paces back again. Lugging some big square wooden contraption and looking a bit harassed. Then finally satisfied, it seems, because he stops and sets up the square thing in front of him.
It's an easel. He has a big sheet of paper taped to a square board, a box of water-colour paints just like the ones you used to get at primary school, a little palette full of empty pots, a water jar and a box of tissues. A selection of brushes protrude from the stained breast pocket of his shirt. He wears a huge straw hat, cord trousers, soggy blue canvas deck-shoes, and, God help us, a cravat. He also has a little folding chair, but he can't get it to stay level on the tussocks.
Breathless, he tells you that this is exactly the view he wanted: towering clouds behind the swell of Beinn Fhada, a thin brush-stroke of mist across the brow of the hill. He begins. A few hurried pencil lines. A grey wash across the whole paper. Cloud margins in darker grey. Blocks of grass-green and bracken-orange. He's good, and you stop to watch.
Splat. Splatsplatsplat. The rain has caught up with you.
You've never heard such language from a man wearing a cravat.