The mission starts with a brisk morning walk along the Gourock esplanade. We’re heading across the Clyde River to play in Argyll and Bute’s rolling hills and sea lochs. Our first destination is dockside for the passenger ferry to Dunoon. On the other side our independent garage car hire picks us up then it’s off to Argyll Street where we dine like kings on meat pies and beans at Black of Dunoon Bakers (5 stars for service and food in our books).
The Home Hardware just across the street from Black’s has all the items on our checklist though we’re a little disappointed with the lack of variety. For July in Scotland it’s baking hot and with arms full of supplies we walk up past the old church en route to a touch of guerilla fun and adventure.
Skirting tidal lochs, we wind around the base of hills thick with sky stretching firs before climbing steadily then dropping again through the valley of pheasants. The countryside is lush, dripping green. We’re on the lookout for a legendary quarry we last saw months ago. As we try to recall the location of a particular clearing, we stay alert for oncoming traffic on the long, narrow strips of single carriage roadway.
We’ve been bantering about this day for a few weeks. This is the one window we have to add our pastiche to a distinctive roadside attraction. As we slow down for road construction at the Tighnabruaich look off, we know we’re getting closer to our destination.
Then a few kilometres further on it’s upon us, a sculpture of stones ripped from the ground – bold, rampant, mythic – a greyish dragon partially encrusted in dried earth.
Emerald green and sunburst yellow are absent as adornments for the beautiful beastie. The Dunoon hardware offers a limited selection of masonry paint. We toss about a few colour schemes and liberally begin to apply our palette of ochre red, pale yellow, black and white. I feel like a kid again creating something new, fresh, alive.
The air is heavy with the buzz of horse flies feasting on our legs and arms. It’s a three hour paint job in the salty, dripping sweat, afternoon sun. Quiet laughter, lighthearted complicity are the order of the day. With our hands caked in paint, there is contemplative appreciation for this new version of the rockin’ dragon of Tighnabruaich. We give a high five to the originators who brought together this magical combination of rocks. I think of the dragon as being under a creative commons license and of our daubs of paint as something building on and enhancing the original.
Traffic on the road is sparse as we go about our business but those who do notice us – lorry, delivery and post office drivers, tradespeople and families – give a wave as they zip past, a thumbs up, or a quick parp of the horn. Now I have to give credit where credit is due. This painting adventure is 100 percent papa’s idea. As the willing accomplice, it’s great to share this playful experience, a first of its kind for both of us.
Now some will say, like one of my colleagues, that this sculpture is a rendition of a rabbit. Looking at the teeth as the ears in the photo above, a rabbit’s head does look like the order of the day. But don’t believe it for a moment. This is just the result of a particular angle. This is a stone cold dragon that we’ve warmed up a wee bit with colour. Now I ask you, does this look like a rabbit?
We survey our work one last time before we start back down the road to Dunoon. We hope it will be a little bit more noticeable now to passersby and that it will give kids and adults alike cause to smile and maybe even laugh. We’re both well pleased with this play that had a few elements of work associated with it. Although it is broad daylight, I feel we are living moments of campfires burning bright with dragon breath in dark of night.
If I’m ever back that way, I’ll pull over and remember this afternoon when papa and I were kids again.