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Prisoners of Progress

The Remoteness of the Modern World" - watercolour - 24 x 36 cm

I think this is my favourite of the many ruined cottages scattered throughout the Flow Country. It has a wonderful position on top of a hill, with views that stretch for many miles. It also had a colourful red tin roof, but a lot of it has been stripped away by the wind now. Once the roof has gone, and the weather can get in, these ruins soon start to fall down.
The title of the painting comes from my thoughts as I looked at the ruin: I thought about how no-one would ever live there again. There is no electricity or running water and the nearest tarmac road is several miles away, so it would be considered very remote now. However, not so long ago there was a real community in this area, and I don't think they would have felt so isolated. This was their world and the place where they lived out their lives. They would have been largely self-sufficient, but I expect they got some of their supplies from passing pedlars. It would probably have taken all day to get to the nearest shop and get back home again. One of their descendants told me that the school teacher would come and stay for a few days and then move on to the next household. The local church minister would travel around in a similar way, although apparently they would often hide when they saw him coming!
We see these places as remote today, but perhaps we build our own prisons.


  1. Good morning Keith!... This is yet another example of your masterly water colouring skill!

    You never fail to recreate a kinship for your viewer with your experience and the sense of the moment and place". Your painting and your recorded thoughts and conversations will continue to maintain its existence and history... despite what the weather will indeed carry out.

    Thankfully... for us both... we are "Free" of such prisons of Modernity... by our choice!

    Thank you for sharing!

    Good Painting and Trekking!
    Warmest regards,

    1. Hi Bruce, the sense of history in such places always brings something extra to the subject for me/us.

      It saddens me that so many people seem to have little interest in these things. I suppose that's one reason why I like to share my experiences.

      All the best,

  2. Hi Keith, lovely fresh looking watercolour, you have captured that feeling of great space we have here in the highlands so well. Many of our lovely old crofts are getting knocked flat and replaced with modern houses, I hadn't traveled along one of the coast roads for a while and was very sad to see one of my favourite old crofts replaced with a huge ungainly modern looking kit house. The original croft had a group of pine trees behind it which always made the setting of the croft very painterly. I can appreciate that it is quite dark within the crofts as I used to live in one myself but it is possible to enlarge the windows so it is in keeping with the stone work and have a very fine cottage with more light. I remember renovating such a croft and making the interior open plan with a rayburn!I used to bake all my bread in one of those! ah the old days, lonesome yet neighbours certainly made trips out to spend time having a fly cup with each other beats tweeting and facebook anyday!!

    1. Hi Caroline, yes that kind of thing is happening a lot around here. It's sad that the old crofts are completely obliterated and replaced with characterless kit houses. It wouldn't be quite so bad if the old ruins were left as garden feature, but much better to restore them to a habitable state.

  3. You have caught the sense of remoteness and the passing of time really well here, it's a great picture!! Also some very good observations in your post that reflect my own thoughts about our modern world. It's possible to feel far more lonely in say, a crowded, bustling underground station in London than here, surrounded by the rugged, spacious tranquility of nature. It is, I believe, a far more human experience.

    1. I completely agree Kev. I am often alone in remote landscapes, but I don't think I have ever felt lonely.


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