Life in the Scottish Highlands with the 60 series Landcruiser

It has been almost two years since my last blog post. While a lot has been happening in the world I’ve been enjoying slow life.

What was originally planned as a few months of travel outside of Japan turned into several months in London followed by a move back to the Scottish Highlands. It was a good strategy for the pandemic.

Recent events have had some positive impacts on the world of work, including in particular; higher acceptance of remote work, and a better valuation of work/life balance.

Life in the Scottish Highlands is certainly slower than Tokyo or London life.

Although, the Highlands have changed significantly since I left in 1996. These days there are a lot more people, tourists and wealth.

But, the pace of life is still quite relaxed, and this leaves time and energy for side projects.

Over the last year and a half, I’ve devoted an hour or so a day to checking classic car classifieds and auctions.

The idea was to look for good deals on interesting 70s or 80s cars. Buy them, carry out some basic maintenance, drive and enjoy them, then sell them on. Ideally to a good home.

The objective isn’t to make big profits, but rather to enjoy post-modern classic car design and engineering.

And further, to share this enjoyment. I’ve noticed how much people love to see and talk about classic cars. As with many aspects of art, design and engineering, they make the world a richer and more colourful place.

After a few months of looking, I discovered my first project.

Let me introduce B488 BMJ – an original UK 1985 Landcruiser HJ60.

The Landcruiser on the A87 just above Loch Loyne

I saw a few Landcruiser 60s while living in Japan. This is my favourite model Landcruiser. It was one of the earliest ‘comfort orientated’ Landcruisers or ‘station wagons’. Previous models are more utilitarian. It’s notable in design as the first model where the bonnet extends the entire width of the car up to the edge of the wings.

For me, the Landcruiser is a synonym for life in the Scottish Highlands. It’s functional, with few frills, it has a natural beauty to the design, and it moves along at a slow, but even pace.

The 60 series is quite rare in the UK. Those who like 4x4s will be more familiar with classic Land Rovers and Range Rovers.

Land Rover and Range Rover do have a huge fan base, but I like to think that the 60 series is a better-engineered alternative.

The Landcruiser at Suidhe Viewpoint on the B862 just 2 km from home

I’ve had the Landcruiser for about eight months now. It has been a delight to own.

The most modern feature is a central locking button on the driver’s door that locks/unlocks all the doors.

All the windows are wound open and close by hand.

The 60 series interior has survived in quite good condition

A lot of modern 4x4s are automatic. The 60 series is manual.

As with many other classic 4x4s, the default is rear-wheel drive mode. There are five forward gears selectable by the main gearstick.

To go into four-wheel drive you push a button on the dashboard.

In addition, you have to rotate the freewheeling hubs on the front two wheels.

Freewheeling hubs let the front wheels rotate freely while in rear-wheel drive mode hence reducing friction and improving fuel economy.

The second smaller gear stick to the right of the main one allows you to select between high and low range four-wheel drive.

The Landcruiser at Suidhe Viewpoint on the B862 just 2 km from home

Four-wheel drive should only be used on loose surfaces. This is because the differentials drive all the wheels at the same speed. However when cornering etc. wheels will move at slightly different speeds. Hence they must be able to slip slightly on a loose surface.

If you drive in four-wheel drive on tarmac at speed you will destroy the differential. I’ve heard of younger people destroying newer manual pick-ups based on ignorance of how the differentials and gears work.

This is because we live in a culture where cars are seen as commodity appliances. Sadly, they are designed to require no skill to drive or maintain.

As cars become more advanced, people more and more lose the ability to drive well.

One nice feature on the Landcruiser 60 is the split tailgate, gives you a place to sit

Indeed, there are issues with a lack of skill when it comes to the average modern driver.

A recent statistics podcast explained how devices such as seatbelts and airbags make roads less safe. People tend to drive faster and more carelessly when they believe they are protected by safety devices.

In the highlands driving conditions are often tricky. Single track roads, loose tarmac, sharp corners, steep verges etc. And in winter add to that snow and black ice.

Many drivers don’t know tyre grip, correct braking and skid control. Did you know it’s the stretching and elasticity of tyres that allow cars to turn? Unfortunately, the driving test does not cover these skills. Safety device-laden modern cars may protect the passengers, but they leave motorbikes, pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders at risk.

On a misty night on the road up to Loch Killin
On a misty night on the road up to Loch Killin

Life with the 60 series isn’t exactly comfortable, but it’s fun.

The Landcruiser has leaf springs all around. Leaf springs don’t dampen as well as coil springs and you bounce around a lot. You can feel it in your neck muscles after a long trip.

The 60 series has a very large 4-litre inline six-cylinder naturally aspirated diesel engine.

Compared to modern engines it is not particularly powerful, but it is simple, bulletproof and sounds amazing.

There’s no plastic cover or fancy computer under the bonnet, just a huge piece of cast iron.

The Landcruiser will happily cruise between 40 and 60mph, and I’d best describe the experience as ‘trundling around’.

When you sit in the Landcruiser the most striking thing is the big windows. You are surrounded by large glass windows all the way around. You also sit higher up than most 4x4s and get a great view of the countryside, which suits well the slower pace.

There’s no doubt the Landcruiser 60 is capable of serious off-roading, and long journeys in harsh conditions. They were a part of the U.N. fleets back in the day.

But B488 BMJ; an original UK car, has survived well since 1985 and I think she deserves the luxury of the more tame ‘trundle’ down to the village for a coffee. And indeed I can’t think of a better car for the highland life.

London Photoblog

Horse guards, London

I thought it might be interesting to write a series of blog posts featuring famous sights in London.

For the first, I took a walk to the Horse Guards. It’s an impressive, ornate mid-18th century building that was used as baracks and stables for the Household Cavalry; the two most senior regiments of the British Army. They are charged to guard the Monarchy.

The Horse Guards are still actively used by the military, but there is also a museum for the Household Cavalry that’s open to the public.

The Horse Guards act as a gateway to whitehall, which then leads on to Buckingham Palace.

I think many of us have seen the hourse guards on ceremonnial duty in their striking red uniforms and polished hats. We shouldn’t forget these are real soldiers who are also actively deployed to warzones. I’d advise tourists not to mess with them!

The Horse Guard Parades features a number of statues and ornamental items. One of the most interesting was the Turkish Gun. According to wikipedia the cannon was made in 1524 and was captured by the British in 1801. I love the ornate design. It’s interesting to reflect on the days when even items of war were made with art in mind.

Another interesting feature is the brass monster which has a French mortar mounted on it. This commemerates the lifting of the seige of Cadiz in Spain in 1812.

One of the beautiful things about London is the vast array of things to be seen, many with interesting stories and long histories behind them.

There are two equestrian statues. One of Field Marshals Roberts and one of Field Marshal Wolseley. I was quite taken with the statue of Roberts. He was one of the most successful British military commanders of the Victorian era. The statue is striking, the horse is posed in a very dynamic way.

As a bonus St.James park runs alongside Whitehall starting just opposite the Horse Guards. It’s beautifully maintained park and a great spot to see a variety of wildlife.


Umayarou(馬野郎): a horse meat speciality restaurant in Kyoto

On my last trip to Kyoto I went to a horse meat speciality restaurant called Umayarou.

Umayarou is near Kiyomachi-dori; a popular street full of restaurants, bars and clubs. The restaurant name: 馬野郎 (うまやろう / Umayarou) starts with the kanji 馬, which means horse, this makes it easy to spot it as a horse meat specialist.

London Photoblog

Classic design

Whenever I see a classic car I think about design. Last week I saw this 1969 Ford Galaxie 500 near London Bridge in London.

Photoblog Switzerland

A return to Zurich

I spent January 2020 in Zurich. This was part of my luxurious plan to start 2020 somewhere beautiful with time set aside to indulge in reading, walks and taking photographs.

Ever since my first trip to Zurich in 2017 I’ve been thinking of living in Switzerland. This was also an investigative trip.


The National Wallace Monument

I took a trip to see the National Wallace Monument at Stirling in Scotland.

The monument itself is a tower on a hillock called Abbey Craig. It overlooks the site of the Battle of Stirling Bridge. It was at this battle that Andrew Moray and William Wallace led the Scots to defeat King Edward I of England’s armies in 1297.


Rainy days in Oslo

I spent a few days in Oslo on my way back to Scotland. It’s a small and peaceful city. The weather was cold, grey and wet, but this only made the short walks followed by hot coffee and snacks at one of the many bakeries and cafes more enjoyable. There are quite a few sights to see, enough to stay entertained for a short break.

Japan Photoblog

A walk around Asakusa

I had a free afternoon so decided to take walk around Asakusa. This historic district of Tokyo is one of my favourite spots.

The area is well known as the home of Senso-ji. One of the most famous temples in Tokyo. The entrace to Senso-ji; known as Kaminari-mon gate, has a giant lantern. It’s a popular photo spot. Look to the left of Asakusa station on the below map. You can find a big picture of Kaminari-mon gate on a previous blog post.


A trip to Singapore

In 2019, I was excited to have the opportunity to visit Singapore. It was a business trip, so I had the chance to see inside a couple of impressive buildings in the financial / corporate district. I was also able to extend my a few extra days to enjoy the local vibe. Prior to 2019, the last time I was in Singapore was 2000. Back then I had just graduated from university and was visiting a Singaporean friend.

Japan Photoblog

My family came to visit me in Japan / 家族に日本に来た

I’m grateful that my Mum and Alistair; her husband, were able to come and visit me in Japan last year. Having travelled a lot; and fallen in love with Asia, and Japan in particular, I was really excited to share it with them.

They travelled all the way from Scotland! With only a week in Japan it was tough to plan an itinerary that would allow time to recuperate from the trip, while also seeing a range of what Japan has to offer.

Japan Photoblog

Tokyo tower

It’s December 1st and it was a lovely sunny warm but fresh 16 degrees in Tokyo. I decided to head out for a walk around Tokyo Tower. I’ve been meaning to do this for a while and it was really a beautiful day out.

I started from Hamamatsucho (浜松町) just 15 minutes walk to the East of Tokyo Tower. While Tokyo Tower is a major tourist attraction the surrounding area is to a certain extent  a business district. Due to that I was lucky enough to find a few really nice independent coffee shops that were quite quiet due to it being a Saturday.

Japan Photoblog Photography

24 hour sushi in Akihabara at Isomaru・アキバの磯丸水産の寿司居酒屋

Tokyo is a beautifully colourful place.

I really appreciate good design in life. When people, businesses and local authorities make an effort. A lot of elements come together to make a place enjoyable. The shape of the buildings, the colours, the cleanliness, the ease of getting around.

Life can be busy, it can get tiring commuting around, rushing to work, rushing to meet people. Everything is a better when the places we go feature interesting and beautiful design.

One of my genuine beliefs is it shouldn’t just be about minimising costs and maximising profits, it should be about making the world a better place.

Japan Photoblog Photography

Nezu Shrine, Tokyo・根津神社、東京 

Earlier in January I went on a visit to Nezu Shrine (根津神社) in Tokyo. This Shrine is famous for the Tori – lined pathways.

I took some photos, I hope you enjoy. It’s a lovely spot to have a walk around in.


Film recommendation – 君の名は・Your Name

Today, something a bit different – a movie recommendation!

君の名は (kimi no na wa) or in English – “Your Name”

It’s anime, but don’t let that put you off, this is a story about people – friendship, family, love etc. – no monsters!

Japan Photoblog Photography

Kyoto, around Kawaramachi and Pontocho ・京都の中に河原町や先斗町の周り

For my second photo walk around Kyoto in January I took a stroll around Kawaramachi and Pontocho areas. Just across the river from Gion; the subject of my last Kyoto post.


Alex x Akiba Zettai Ryouiki ・アキバ絶対領域 (I visit a maid cafe)

I finally decided to visit a maid cafe!

At the risk of destroying my masculine image I’ll start by openly admitting I love cute things. So I was always interested to check out a maid cafe.

Japan Photoblog Photography

Gion, Kyoto ・ 祇園、京都

It’s 2018 and I decided to start the first week of the year with a ‘photo-walk’ around Gion in Kyoto.

Gion is the traditional district of Kyoto, think old style restaurants, souvenirs shops etc.

Japan Photoblog Photography

Kyoto Railway Museum / 京都鉄道博物館

Today, I went to have a look at the recently opened railway museum in Kyoto. They have 53 historic train cars. I skipped the steam engines; which look quite similar to European models, and focused on the early diesels and electrics.

I don’t know a lot about trains, so I’ll list the model numbers in case you’d like to find out more about any of them.


Coffee Tengoku (天国) Hotcakes (ホットケーキ) and Kantaro the Sweet Tooth Salary Man

I’m back in Japan ! 🙂

But let’s rewind a bit, a couple of weeks ago I caught an advertisement for a Japanese TV show on Netflix, “Kantaro The Sweet Tooth Salaryman”.

London Photoblog Photography Thoughts on Life

Everyday sights in the city

Do you live or work in a city? What do you see on your day to day trip to work?

Last night after work I walked from my client office towards St. Pauls with a colleague. As we were walking I remarked, “doesn’t London have some amazing architecture?”. My colleague; originally from Bulgaria, replied that he loved the area.

Thoughts on Life

Brick lane, cultural contrasts

Brick lane is famous for it’s Indian restaurants. Historically it’s a Bangladeshi community. This makes it an interesting spot to walk around. In addition to the restaurants you can find market stalls and Indian sweet shops.

Brick lane also hosts food markets at the weekends. There are a number of intersting stores too; vintage fashion, art, vinyl etc.

Photography Technique


A rather unusual entry on my blog. I did a portrait shoot. This is Rosie; a dancer, who lives in London.

London Photoblog Photography

Chelsea, London

Time for another Sunday photowalk. This week I went to Chelsea in West London. Chelsea has the reputation of being a wealthy area. I was expecting rich ladies in 4×4 cars (known as Chelsea tractors), plastic surgery, Lamborghini’s with Qatar plates etc.

But, it was more like churches, cute houses, old buildings and classic cars.

London Photoblog Photography

Chiltern Street, London

Today I went for a walk around Chiltern Street in Marylebone. I think it’s quite a famous spot with its beautiful red-brick townhouses.

I also spotted a couple of nice cars.

I normally take candid street photos, but I’ve been wanting to work on my confidence to ask people if I can take their photo. I saw some friendly-looking people outside of ‘Trunk’ store, it was a lovely scene, so I asked if I could photograph them. They kindly agreed.


Zurich – a hidden gem

This last Wednesday I had an overnight trip out to Zurich for a business workshop. It was a 4.30 am start, but totally worth it.

The reason I love travel so much is the joy of having a change every day. Even a business trip is an opportunity to meet new people, try local food and if lucky have enough time for a stroll at the end of the day.

The Zurich trip was busy, but I managed to fit in an hour long photo walk around the old town area between eight and nine pm.


Welcome to Fuxing Park

The skies were blue
The trees were bare

French in part
Shanghai at heart

Even with the cool winter air
Warm hearts were there

Dance, play mahjong
Or take a stroll with mum

Welcome to Fuxing Park

Poetry Thailand


Are you going somewhere?
Wouldn’t it’d be fun if I came too?

I remember the daily trip to school
A mini adventure
On a big double decker bus


Barbican, London – The Japanese House

This year the Barbican centre ran an exhibition; ‘The Japanese House: Architecture and Life after 1945’.

I was impressed by the creative layout, a large gallery was used, in the centre, a life-sized house and garden were installed. This was surrounded by individual galleries telling the story of evolving design in the post-war decades.

What better way to celebrate the economical use of space and thoughtful design present in Japanese homes than to make it a central theme of your exhibition.


I’m in Travel + Leisure Mag (June 17)

Good news!…

I’m in Travel + Leisure June 2017.

A couple of months ago one of their researchers contacted me about Shenzhen photos. Last year I spent a day in Shenzhen’s contemporary art centre; OCT Loft. I really love the ‘former industrial building’ becomes ‘contemporary art centre’ thing.

I think re-purposed industrial buildings hold a certain artistic commentary on life and hence provide an interesting contextual background to contemporary art.


Tate Modern and East London canal-side

Last year Tate Modern; a contemporary art gallery on London’s Southbank, expanded by building a new wing called the Switch House.

One of my favourite things about Tate Modern is the building. It’s a former power station. I think that re-purposing industrial spaces provides a beautiful environment art while also preserving Engineering history.

Thoughts on Life

Ultimate Dubs UK 2017

I was lucky enough to be invited to Ultimate Dubs by my friend Angus. It’s a Volkswagen / Audi Group (VAG) custom car show.

The love and care that’s gone into some of the cars is really impressive. I’m especially happy to see the classics so well taken care off.

Let’s take a look at the car’s on show, I’ll go by model.


Portable loft, Yangjae Citizens Forest, Seoul and ‘Fish in the Pool’

I found the cutest local cafe in Seoul with the friendliest owners.

It’s called Portable Loft. They also have a craft / design store – Portable Lollipop.

You can see some pictures of Portable Loft, the owners and their friends here

And the Portable Lollipop website is


Happy Christmas 2016 from London – XMAS Day Photowalk

Happy Christmas to everyone here on WordPress and any others that have found their way to my blog.

Today I want to share a handful of pictures from my Christmas Day photowalk around London. Without further ado:

Thoughts on Life

A walk around Anstruther harbour

Whenever I visit my mum in Perthshire, Scotland I like to take a trip to the coast. Arbroath, St Andrews, Anstruther, Crail and lots of other villages have lovely harbours.

The fresh sea air is especially lovely when you normally live in a big city. It’s also fun to see the fishing equipment and people at work.


Christmas in London 2016

Five days left until Christmas, I think it might be time to inject a little festive cheer into my blog.

Last year I spent Christmas in London, I had a fantastic time taking photos and enjoying the quieter than normal city.  A lot of people leave; presumably to visit family or take the opportunity for a short break. This coupled with the beautiful lights make it a magical place to be.

Thoughts on Life

Seoul – the view from Bukchon Hanok Village

Seoul – we’ve taken a look at the royal palaces Changdeokgung and Changgyeonggung, we’ve also seen the view from Naksan Park. Now I’d like to share the beautiful view from my favourite area; Bukchon Hanok Village.

It’s a village on a hill in northern Seoul comprised mostly of traditional ‘hanok’ houses.


Seoul – Ihwa Mural Village and Naksan Park

Another good spot to check out in Seoul is Ihwa Mural Village and Naksan Park with beautiful views across the city.

It’s near to Hunsung University so there are a lot of cafe and cheap food options. It’s also a short walk from both Changgyeonggung and Changdeokgung.

Thoughts on Life

Changgyeonggung Palace, Seoul, South Korea

I recently posted about Changdeokgung Palace in Seoul. Following that post I received a recommendation to go to Changgyeonggung. It’s right next door. A smaller palace, but less busy and with more stand alone buildings and a park with a lovely pond.

The light was a little difficult when I went and autumn was just ending. But nevertheless some photos came out well; let’s talk a photo walk around Changyeonggung!


Reflecting on the foggy Tay

Last night I was the lucky recipient of a lovely Christmas meal at The View restaurant in Newport-on-Tay, just opposite Dundee (Scotland). My mum kindly treated me and her husband.

Thoughts on Life

Bullet journaling and travel memories

A huge thank you to fellow WordPress blogger; bluchikenninja, who’s blog introduced me to the wonderful ‘bullet journal’ system –

I love my notepads, but they are normally a mess. Bullet Journal provides a basic system to structure your notebooks for planning, journaling, reference etc.


Lochs, bothies and blue skies.

I was in the Cairngorms earlier today; a big national park in the highlands of Scotland. It was a beautiful and I’d love to share some pictures with you.

If you are unfamiliar with Scotland I’ll reveal the mystery of what a Bothy is!

Thoughts on Life


On a walk around Bukchon in Seoul on Monday I spotted a bicycle that was nicely colour coded with the background of its parking spot. I started to wonder, “Are cyclists trying to match their bikes to the background of their parking spots?”. I’ve seen this happen too many times for it to be a coincidence!

I cycled quite a lot when I was younger and lived in Aviemore in Scotland. I shared a fairly rusty old Raleigh with my dad. I think it’s given me a fondness for bicycles, especially classicaly styled steel frame bikes.


Dongdaemun Art & Cultural Centre

Continuing on from my last post about a set of stairs at Dongdaemun Art & Cultural Centre in Seoul, South Korea I was also impressed by the main walkway from the street to the museum and design halls.


Stairs – a study, Dongdaemun, Seoul

There is relatively modern design plaza in the centre of Seoul. I decided to take a few photographs as the architecture is quite unusual.

This post is about one set of stairs.


Changdeokgung, Seoul, South Korea

I’m in Seoul, Korea now! I hopped on a plane and came to Seoul to see a friend. I’ve been travelling about 8 weeks now and I felt like I could really do with seeing a familiar face. I’ve also been dreaming about Korean Chicken and Beer for about a year.

This is my second trip to Seoul. On my first trip I went to one of the Royal Palaces; Gyeongbokgung – it was so beautiful. So on this trip one of my first stops was Changdeokgung; another royal palace, that happens to be a UNESCO heritage site.


OCT Loft (Shenzhen Contemporary Art Centre)

I went to OCT Loft in Shenzhen yesterday. It’s a contemporary art centre in a former industrial complex. The look and feel of OCT Loft reminded me of Moganshan 50 (M50) in Shanghai, I posted some pictures about my trip there last year.

I only had a little time so I didn’t go inside many places; but I am definitely going to go back, in the meantime I can share some pictures of the complex and exhibition hall A:


Qi Gong trip to Shenzhen

Another spontaneous trip. I was having a coffee in Hong Kong and suddently felt like going to China. It’s quite easy to get the China visa in Hong Kong, plenty of agencies will handle the whole process for a reasonable fee.

On my last trip I went to Yangshuo in Guilin to do some Tai Chi and Qi Gong. I also visited Shanghai.

Thoughts on Life

14th Hong Kong Synergy Drum Competition

I was lucky enough to catch a drum competition on the waterfront at Tsim Sha Tsui in Kowloon the other day.

Traditional Chinese drums, fun choreography and some awesome uniforms made it a pleasure to stop by and watch for a while.


Hong Kong and 2 photos, 2 years apart.

I came back to Hong Kong. The last time I was here was early 2014.

When I was here last time I took this picture from Kowloon of a Junk passing by. That’s Hong Kong Island in the background.


In awe at the Taipei Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA)

Today; while recovering from sunburn, I headed out to the small but well organised Museum of Contemporary Art in Taipei.

Free from the crowds of the national palace museum and other ‘rainy day’ locations it was a short, but enjoyable visit.

There were three major artist exhibits. I loved one of them. From the other two I strongly disliked one and for the other I liked the ‘synopsis’ describing the work, but I didn’t like or ‘get’ the work itself.