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I would most likely break my website were I to upload all my pictures from our visit to Jupiter Artland yesterday.  Typically we started off going some where else entirely, but a golfing extravaganza in Gullane changed our minds for us*.

So here are just a few pictures of the works there.  From the entrance gate via the driveway through the Life Mounds,  past the unsettling Weeping Children and round the whole parkland, to the  Ballroom, it was  a memorable visit.

Weeping Girls, Laura Ford
Firmament, Anthony Gormley
Life Mounds, Charles Jencks
Rose Pavilion, Pablo Bronstein


























Poppy with bee
Ballroom mantel detail













Heart, Joana Vasconcelos









Heart, Joana Vasconcelos, detail











*Sorry Roger.

10 years on

Back home from a most enjoyable trip on board the Balmoral, although it did seem for a while as if the passengers who lived round the corner were going to miss the boat.  We saw the isles of Orkney and Shetland in beautiful weather, in particular on the evening we cruised round Orkney and were afforded a grand view of the Old Man of Hoy.

Old Man of Hoy






The three of us are fairly used to life on board by now, and enjoyed the various diversions offered.   Personal highlights included sailing under all three Forth bridges for the first time, Skara Brae, Scapa Flow and the RIng of Brodgar,  the musum in Lerwick, and the aquarium in Bergen.

Ring of Brodgar, Orkney
Skara Brae
Scapa Flow
St. Magnus’ Cathedral, Kirkwall

























Fishing Boat, Lerwick harbour
Lerwick from the ship













Bryggen in Bergen
Baby penguin
Mud skipper
Sailing the archipelago









I neglected to put up any pictures of the school chums weekend away.  Here we all are at Drummond Castle Gardens.  We had a splendid time and very much enjoyed an eclectic selection of home cooking.  Nice of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex to provide the Saturday morning ents.

Gardens 1 taken by Diana
Gardens 2 taken by Paul

Dye stuff

Fiona and I fell to talking about her Gran, our mum, on Saturday.   She mentioned that she didn’t know much about what Gran did during the war, so I thought I would write down what little I know,  and maybe my sisters can fill in some blanks.

Jean Stephen* was 19 when the war broke out.   She lived in Falkirk, I believe at that time the family was in Forbes Road.

Betty Stephen and Belle Buchan Stephen, Forbes Road 1940s

Having shown keen interest in the sciences at school (not so much the languages, on one occasion asking the adjudicator of a Latin exam if she should translate the French parts too…) she obtained a position in the laboratories of the “dyes” in Grangemouth.  Previously Scottish Dyes, then British Dyestuffs Corporation, the company was bought by ICI in the 1920s.  Mum would only ever buy Dulux paints when we were little.   She was placed with a team of research chemists and wartime projects were given to them   Mum worked on the problem of aircraft tyres bursting into flames on impact.  The received wisdom is that she applied her tried and tested cure for everything – baking soda –  which worked.  The Head of the Lab got the kudos for the solution, but on an open day he apparently took Granda (Mum’s father) aside and told him that Jean had solved the issue.

Mum in Lab 1940s

Other snippets were that the technicians there were keen on photography, some tried various methods to print colour photos, and there is a lovely headshot (below) of mum with an interesting background.  On closer inspection it is revealed to be scrumpled up brown paper.    A couple of the men experimented with ethanol and ended up being very ill.  Not an alcohol substitute, then.  It was also said that the Head of the Lab had already made so much money for the company that he never needed to do anything more, but I am sure that he continued his research.   He did set the entire lab on fire once,  when demonstrating fire drill procedures.  I believe ethanol featured again as he poured an entire bottle of it onto the bench and set it alight.

Hand coloured – ICI staff on roof of lab – Mum 1st left







Like most people during that time, mum also worked with defence agencies, as an ARP warden.  She did call out the Guard one night during thick fog which she mistook for a gas attack.

Tinted locker photo

I think a lot of Mum’s war must have been quite tedious and worrying. I know she knitted a cardigan with one ply wool –  how long must that have taken?  There were trips to London to see sister Betty, and then there’s the story of Mum walking past a phone box in Falkirk where the phone was ringing.  Mum went in and picked up, it was Betty on the other end, so they had a chat and then she went away without thinking about it until  days later when she realised that they had made no arrangement to speak to each other …    Holidays were cycle trips with friends.  She also played hockey for ICI.

16.06.18  Alison has pointed out that Mum’s occupation would be a reserved one, which would account for that fact that she was not in the armed forces.  Betty was a  warrant officer, working in communications,  spending a lot of time in England and latterly abroad.  Older sister Joan was a nurse.  Alison also recalls that Jean and Betty attended college in Glasgow, we both know that she had thoughts of becoming a  doctor at one point and this may have been to obtain further exam passes?

ICI Hockey Team 1940s Mum 3rd from right
















* I don’t use her name as a security password for anything.


A busy and fruitful weekend: Saturday lunch in Cafe Portrait, where we narrowly missed Ali and Les.  Then we strolled along the main streets before heading up to the museum on Chambers Street to view Tim Peake’s landing craft.   Hied off to our café du jour, the Angus Fling, where Paul was able to stave off his hunger with a venison burger, whilst I had a more sedate,  and rather good, scone.  Tripped back down the road to Coda Music, where there was a new CD being launched, by Aidan O’Rourke, of LAU fame.  We enjoyed a short concert, with James Robertson reading his stories and  Kit Downes on the harmonium, plus Aidan on fiddle.  They were all kind enough to sign my CD.

Sunday began with a swim, and a serendipitous trip to Loch Ore meadows, where the cafe was open ridiculously early for a marathon bicycle race. allowing us to sneak a cup of tea and a scrambled egg roll.  A walk round the loch itself was followed by a sail on two fun boats.  “Fun” was maybe not quite the order of the day since there was no wind to propel these sail boats, but we had a good time and the staff at the park could not have been kinder, or more helpful.

We had to wear wetsuits.  No pictures exist of either of us in that garb.  Nor will they.

Tim Peake: Soyuz
Paul with Soyuz
Swans on Loch Ore
Last of the bluebells
Heron at Loch Ore
Pinkfoot Geese at Loch Ore

Shakin’ a tail feather

Here’s a smart fellow we met in Drummond Castle gardens last weekend.  Interestingly enough, there are no peacock poems in my lovely  book The Poetry of Birds whilst the phoenix, a bird which doesn’t even technically exist, gets five.  You will recall that the divine colours of its plumage are actually illusory, yes, just like the kingfisher, it relies heavily on the phenomenon of iridescence and its success therein determines its chances of getting lucky with the peahens.










So yes, optical interference Bragg reflections based on regular, periodic nanostructures of the barbules (fiber-like components) of the feathers produce the peacock’s colours. Slight changes to the spacing of these barbules result in different colours. *  More equally fascinating detail on their mate selection strategy may be found on Wiki.   It’s not just about strolling around and being stunning, you know.








*from Wiki


As our island nation emerges from a long long winter, we have begun our programme of jaunts short and long.  I have very quickly run into the issue of not being able to keep up with the updates, so this post will have to cover at least three such peregrinations.

First to Kenmore with the Folk Club.  The journey up was made in weather most foul.  The A9 runs alongside some vast swathes of Perthshire farmland, and I don’t think I will forget seeing so many  lambs huddled behind sodden hay bales, trying to find shelter from the incessant rain.  What a welcome to the world.  48 hours later, we were taking some glorious shots along Loch Tay, although the Ben was still caked in snow.  We had a merry time with chums, a rare old daunder round Aberfeldy and a climb up to see the Falls of Acharn.

Loch Tay, Kenmore







The next weekend saw us off to York, to meet Team Discovery, on the (near enough) 10th anniversary of our inaugural AGM.  We were too busy chatting and laughing to remember the group photo, suffice today the girls won the quiz.  The journeys there and back were smooth, plus the majority of the taxi drivers we encountered were pleasant and helpful.

I ticked a box at the National Railway Museum, which is free to visit, btw,  what an utter bargain.  When I was little, steam trains were still on the go and the ones that captured my imagination were the Bittern and the Mallard.  I think it was the streamlined design and punky funnels which caught my childish eye, the bird names would have nothing to do with it, oh no.  Mallard was awol from the museum last time we went, in 2010, but this time she was centre stage, and even had a café named after her.








I did manage to take a picture with only two humans in it, which was not easy.  All I know about rains is from the standpoint (touchy subject) of a commuter and occasional steam groupie, but if I could meet Sir Nigel Gresley*I would shake him by the hand.  The trains he designed looked stunning and outperformed most others.  Interestingly, his home had a moat in which he bred ducks.








Once I was forcibly extracted from the sheds, we wandered round the town, which was extremely busy with hen parties and football fans.  Every pub had at least two bouncers, mid afternoon.  It’s not like that in Dunfermline.  Passing by York Minster we noticed that the restoration of some stonework was laid out for all to see, and by poking the camera lens  through the wire fence I managed to capture this fine fellow. I found this link which could well show the stonemasons involved.

Minster lion







I have many more photos of trains, if you wish to see these please do call round.

We also travelled to Berwick.  However, despite Paul’s best efforts the PC will not view the SD card from the camera, so I have to wait for him to upload them to the shared drive and them drag them in from the network.  Looking at you, Panasonic, and your WiFi link that scrambled my files.  Lastly, a street with identity issues.


*From  Wikipedia *A statue of Gresley was unveiled at King’s Cross station in London on 5 April 2016, the 75th anniversary of his death.[6] Sculptor Hazel Reeves originally included a duck alongside Gresley in reference to his hobby of breeding water fowl and his bird-themed locomotive names such as Mallard, but this was removed from the final design when two of Gresley’s grandsons complained it was “demeaning”.[7]


Hazel Reeves also researched, designed and sculpted the Cracker Packers  statue in Carlisle, as I discovered this morning.

Prey to distraction

We took the car to Dunkeld to check out the charger there and what do you know,  Loch of the Lowes is just round the corner.  LJ is back, and the viewing room was hoachin’.   Stopped off at Tiso’s Perth, and then toured Dunkeld’s shops.  Fortunately most of them were shut, but it doesn’t bode well for Paul’s wallet when we go back later in the year….

Greater Spotted Woodpecker
Yellowhammer (taken by Paul)
Female Pheasant and male Mallard
Female Osprey LJ
Male Mallard head plumage


Townhill Loch today.  Some bizarre stuff going down, which we assuaged with a nice cup of tea and biscuit.

Mute swan feeding
Sparkly loch
Half moon
Strawberry tree
Apple tree
Pear Tree
Cygnet and Mallard