This film is based on a recent visit to Pitfour Estate near Mintlaw.
In essence the film is about the relationships between civilisation and nature.
Pitfour Mansion House was demolished in 1929 however some of the designed landscape survives such as the Lake and the Temple of Theseus
At one point, when walking through partly cleared shrubbery I found that I was walking on a very large circular stone foundation. When I looked back at the the Pitfour plan I realised that I had walked around the base of the long-gone central fountain. This took my mind straight back to the fountain scenes in Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh.
The designer of Pitfour Estate was William S Gilpin who in his eighties was still working at creating the “Picturesque” for large estates such as Pitfour. At the time of working Gilpin was lampooned as “Dr Syntax” and the notion of the Picturesque presented as folly. I guess we can all agree that the passing of time – where civilisation meets the wonder of nature – can itself create the picturesque. Where one might not agree is on how much of the landscape should be “civilised”?
This film was made just after I had read “My Own Life” on the 17th century antiquary, John Aubrey. What a wonderful book this is, reminding us as it does, that history comes in small detail as well as large. It also reveals that biography is surely closer to the truth it carries the everyday thoughts, experiences and journeys.
I deliberately chose two songs for this film on Pitfour:
1) “Head over Heels” by Hawk (cover of the Tears for Fears song). The words might suggest how nature and civilisation can perhaps go head-over-heels. It might also suggest the Northern search for a “Southern elsewhere” – as in the surviving antiquities of Pitfour.
(2) “Utopia” by Goldfrapp. This song is haunting and is about the over-engineering of humankind. In Pitfour there is no DNA yet there is the haunting sense of past engineering and of past opulence now garnered by nature and somehow just as beautiful for that.
The Ferguson of Pitfour family shared origins with the Gordons and in particular a branch of the Gordon family that made clocks. The clock on the ruined steading has hands that have stopped at 3.15. I wonder what day, month and year the clock stopped and who was the last to wind it? However hard science tries we will never know. Numbers can mean everything and nothing.
I dedicate this film to Dr John Byrom my Tutor of Landscape Architecture when I studied at Edinburgh University.
Acknowledgements: I take a notebook where ever I go. A commonplace book in which I gather observations, quotes and happenings. My films generally contain what I term "borrowed words from my betters". This film has quotes from Peter Davidson, Evelyn Waugh, Kenneth Calman, Julian Barnes, Gabriel García Márquez, Richard Holloway, Will Cohu, John Aubrey, Adam Nicolson and Patrick Deeley