The art of travel


Fishing off Mallaig. Isle of Rum behind. © John MacPherson


I was standing on the jetty in Mallaig. Fishing boats everywhere. A man working in one small inshore boat below me. Engine tinkering. Grubby coveralls, filthy face, matted hair and workworn hands, attached to an aged frame, more than 6 decades of work behind him, at least.

A simple hardworking fisherman.

Another man appeared beside me, but some distance away, carrying a small brown suitcase which he put down. He leaned his hands on the rail, large gnarled working hands, well calloused, rope-worn, split nails, but clean.

Another fisherman. But not very recently fishing.

I watched, and listened.

Boat man paused. Looked up. And smiled……….

(now imagine soft west highland accents, beautifully lilting and quietly expressive, if you will)

and said……. “Ah Angus, how are you doing. It’s nice to see you!”

Pier man replied……..“Hello Donald, I’m fine thanks, and you?”

Boat man responded…….“I’m doing grand myself. I see you have a case there, have you been on a wee trip?”

Pier man replies…….“Aye, I’ve had a wee break from the fishing, and just waiting for the ferry now, heading home from a trip to the Gulbenkian, I went to see the 16th and 17th century collections, you know…the Rubens and the Rembrandts”

Boat man nods appreciatively……“Lovely, lovely work, that must have been a grand trip. Was it your first trip to New York?”

Pier man corrects him….“No no not New York, the Gulbenkian, it’s in Lisbon, in Portugal!”

Boat man smiles….“Och aye so it is I aways get mixed up between the Gulbenkian and the bloody Guggenheim, it’s the Guggenheim thats in New York, silly me!”

And they parted.

Two simple fishermen?

Two art lovers.

We landlubbers forget that harbours are doorways, leading to everywhere.

John MacPherson was born and lives in the Scottish Highlands. He trained as a welder in the Glasgow shipyards, before completing an apprenticeship as a carpenter, and then qualified as a Social Worker in Disability Services. Along the way he has cooked on canal barges, trained as an Alpine Ski Leader & worked as an Instructor for Skiers with disabilities, been a canoe instructor, and tutor of night classes in carpentry, stained glass design and manufacture, and archery. He has travelled extensively on various continents, undertaking solo trips by bicycle, or motorcycle. He has had narrow escapes from an ambush by terrorists, been hit by lightning, caught in an erupting volcano, trapped in a mobile home by a tornado, kidnapped by a dog's hairdresser, rammed by a basking shark and was once bitten by a wild otter. He has combined all this with professional photography, which he has practised for over 35 years. He teaches photography and acts as a photography guide & tutor in the UK and abroad. His biggest challenge is keeping his 27 year old Land Rover 110 on the road. He loves telling and hearing stories.

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