‘It was odd being dead’

This is a fictional film. It is about a teddy bear, Dr Hale Bopp and a day of two halves. In the morning Dr Hale Bopp goes exploring in the Scottish Borders and he comes across the ruin of the Monteath mausoleum on Gersit Law. The oak door of the mausoleum has been breached and one can get inside and be with Monteath and the two angels that guard this forgotten statesman. Above him the dome has beautiful window stars to the universe beyond.

Dr Hale Bopp is a well-travelled bear and is constantly exploring, enjoying and reflecting upon the world in which he lives. The guid doctor has come to the view that life is complex, diverse and sometimes “messy”. He leaves the Monteath mausoleum with paws that were muddy and heads for a different afternoon. An afternoon of Appraisal to ensure that as a fictional bear and doctor that he is providing Good Medical Practice.

So that was the day of two halves. This film is about that.

Dr Hale Bopp is getting on a bit now and is at the end of his fictional medical career. One day soon he will retire from being a doctor but meantime he is of the view that his wanderings, philosophical and creative between the arts and sciences, has been nothing but to the benefit of the patients that he cares for.

Important note:
None of the words used in this film are those of the filmmaker. They are “borrowed” from C.P. Snow’s “Corridors of Power”; Evelyn Waugh’s “Decline and Fall”; and Jessie Burton’s novel “The Muse”.

‘It was odd being dead’ from omphalos on Vimeo.

Source material:
(1) Physicians of the future: Renaissance of Polymaths? By B F Piko and W E Stempsey. Published in The Journal of the Royal Society for the Promotion of Health. December 2002, 122(4), pp. 233-237
(2) Time to rethink on appraisal and revalidation for older doctors. By Dr Jonathan D Sleath. Letter published in the BMJ, 30 December 2016, BMJ2016;355:i6749
(3) Career Focus: Appraising Appraisal. Published in the BMJ 21st November 1988, BMJ1988;317:S2-7170
(4) Revalidation: What you need to know. Summary advice for Regulators. General medical Council.
(5) The Good Medical Practice Framework for Appraisal and Revalidation. General medical Council.
(6) Taking Revalidation Forward: Sir Keith Pearson’s Review of Medical Revalidation. January 2017.
(7) GMC response to Sir Keith Pearson’s report on Taking Revalidation Forward.

Music credits (under common license, thank you Dexter Britain):

(1) Perfect I am not – by Dexter Britain
(2) Telling stories – by Dexter Britain

Well, is there anyone who isn’t tangent?

I made this film after visiting the Temple of the Muses, by Dryburgh, on the last day of March 2017.

Decline and Fall

Under the vast Andalusian skies

We recently had a wonderful family holiday in the south eastern corner of Spain.

Andrew was able to join us from University and both he and Rachel had exams to study for. Rachel is doing her Highers and one of her subjects is Spanish. Andrew is studying mathematics at Edinburgh University and has chosen this semester to also study Gaelic.

We need to thank Dai and Eileen for this holiday and indeed for many other holidays.

Our time was relatively short so we did not manage to get to the Alhambra but we did manage to visit Almeria and the Capa de Gata coastline.

We also visited the abandoned ruin of El Cortijo del Fraile which had once been a setting for The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. It was quite special and amongst the scrub and ruins one found most beautiful wildflowers.

Some of the words in this film are “borrowed” from the novels that I read on holiday which included: “The Muse” by Jessie Burton; “Vinegar Girl” by Anne Tyler; “Decline and Fall” by Evelyn Waugh, and “The Corridors of Power” by C.P. Snow.

This film contains audio from Radio 4 (Desert Island Discs), Radio Scotland, and the voice of Muriel Spark and the poet Joan Poulson (‘Pictures in my mind’).
Music credits (in order of play):

(1) ‘Piel’ by Arca
(2) ‘Anoche’ by Arca
(3) ‘High Ticket Attractions’ by The New Pornographers
(4) ‘Liability’ by Lorde
(5) ‘Systemagic’ by Goldfrapp (live on Later with Jools)
(6) Theme of ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’ by Ennio Morricone
(7) Cover of ‘This is the day’ originally by The The

The man with the child in his eyes


The author Adam Nicolson in "Sea Room":


The poet and doctor William Carlos Williams talked of an adventure:


Mukul Kesavan in "Looking through glass"



Captain Charles Ryder in Brideshead Revisited about Sebastian:




Max Porter in "Grief is the thing with feathers":



"Dallas", Boat of Garten home of John and Mary Scott:


'The diary that washed ashore': Alexander MacCallum Scott:



Peter Davidson in 'Distance and Memory':


Hale Bopp rescues John and Mary Scott's teddy bears:




Norman MacCaig, from the poetry wall outside the Scottish Parliament:




A.L. Kennedy in 'Serious Sweet'




Richard Holloway in 'Leaving Alexandria'


Max Porter in "Grief is the thing with feathers":




'Meet you at the statue in an hour' by Peter for Sian


Liz Lochhead in "Fugitive Colours"






'Deeside Tales: the stories of a small glen' by Peter J Gordon








A timely approach to the diagnosis of dementia championed by Peter




Candia McWilliams on her father Colin McWilliams:



Mukul Kesavan in "Looking through glass"





Margaret Drabble in 'The Pure Gold Baby'





Liz Lochhead in "Fugitive Colours"


Kenneth C Calman in "A Doctor's Line"



ken-calman-9a1 leopard-28



Driving the wrong way through history

Mr Magoo and Brideshead Revisited: now that is a strange combination! Almost as crazily inexplicable as myopia and dynamite when put together!

This film is about Charles Brand Ltd, Dundee. This company demolished, or partly demolished, much of the ‘built history’ that still survived in Scotland in the 1950s and 1960s. Not just grand houses, but also factories, castles, railway stations, streets and municipal buildings.

Mr Charles Brand outlived the buildings that he demolished and died just short of his 99th year.

This film considers this destruction, passing time, and our sense of place.

In the end, all that survived was age-old feeling.

As ever, I am indebted to Evelyn Waugh, Ian Hamilton Finlay, Tomas Tranströmer, Ted Hughes and others who must forgive me if I forget to acknowledge their undoubted influence.

Driving the wrong way through history from omphalos on Vimeo.

The stars move still, time runs, the clock will strike

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.

The stars move still, time runs, the clock will strike. from omphalos on Vimeo

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.

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

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Pitfour, Mintlaw, 02

Pitfour, Mintlaw, 03

Pitfour, Mintlaw, 04

Pitfour, Mintlaw, 05

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Pitfour, Mintlaw, 07