All posts by admin

So long 2018

Despite the obvious, including the most appalling lack of prudent and effective leadership on both sides of the pond, leading to who knows what clusterbourach* in 2019,  we have had some excellent adventures this year.  We have visited places we had never thought to look for previously, as we sought out new horizons, or to be precise, car charging points.   Some, like Coldstream, are a delight, with a beautiful park on the river and a cosy pub with log fires right next door.  (Soft drinks available).   Others may prioritise the functional over the aesthetic, particularly those in multi story car parks, but if they work, and are not already in use, or ICEd***, that’s all that matters, and we can have a blether while we wait. Or not.  Other trips with chums and family have been grand fun, catching up and meeting new folks, and if we happened to go to Africa for the first time then we kept really quiet about it. **

Yesterday my school chums and I ate loads of food then went for a walk.  That’s a good way to end a year.

Aberdour 1
Aberdour 2













*my politics are a mystery, especially to me, but the National reported this, so it gets the credit.   A bourach is a mess, clusterbourach references a much ruder term coined, I think, by the American army.

**that is so far from the truth.

***parking space for EV^ taken up by car using fossil fuel, or Internal Combustion Engine.

^Electric vehicle.  It’s a whole new world.

Land o’ the Peh

To Dundee, thence to meet up with Philip and Jacqui,  and to assess at first hand the V&A museum which opened its doors recently, after the usual amount of controversy associated with any groundbreaking arts-led enterprise.

It’s a bold building, with excellent views along the Tay and over to Fife.  The Scottish design gallery had some very interesting exhibits and I would like to go back early on in the day, mid week, so that I could see more.

We hope that the hundreds more who will visit, venture out to enjoy what else is on offer in this unique and interesting city.    We also made a sideways jump to the McManus Galleries, and again I would like to go back and spend more time there.

I have looked up the deal for the Birds of Africa picture below, the ship Uganda is indeed the same one as I sailed on in 1970.   It was an educational cruise and the schoolchildren lived in dormitories.  We were not allowed anywhere near the grandeur of the grown ups’ dining rooms and we drank nothing but apple juice for 10 days, which explains why I have been ambivalent about that drink ever since.  Had great fun though, even if I was sick as a dog going through the Bay of Biscay.

Tay Bridge through the V&A
BIrds of Africa, from the Uganda
Dancer with Three Seagulls, Marcello Mascherini, bronze panel 1959.
V&A entrance
Exterior, V&A
Salon, from the Cruise liners exhibition




































Oak panel, Titanic


On the Beach

Yesterday, being Dad’s third anniversary and with the commemorations for the cessation of hostilities in 1918 being very much on our minds,  we did what most families do; got together for a  meal and then went for a walk.

Below, Fiona, Callum, Lily, Les, Ali, Ally and Paul.  Were I more confident with the timer I would have got myself in there too, but my efforts in Durham proved to me that more  work is required in that area.  We had a lovely afternoon and spoke of many things,  like cabbages and kings, ending on an impromptu lecture on meteorites.  Long ago, on a similar visit, Michaela opined “Youse would never get bored here.” She was right.

Aberdour, 10.11.18

November 2018

So. Just home from an all too brief trip to Slaley Hall, for the last time.  Nothing lasts forever and we, as a group, have decided it’s time to move on.  Journeying there for the first time by electric car, we called in at various chargers in the Borders towns.  I was struck by the commemorative work in evidence for the 100th anniversary of the Armistice, the official cessation of hostilities for World War 1, although God knows the seeds of World War 2 were being sown, even then.  Anyway, in particular, Coldstream, a town with significant  connections to the armed forces, had poppies everywhere, knitted, sewn, crocheted, fashioned out of metal, and in gardens.  It was significant and notable.

Tonight, listening to a special edition of Antiques Roadshow being broadcast from Etaples, I noted a speech from an unnamed participant,which seemed, to me, to sum up so much of what is happening just now.  Whatever you think of the BBC, they did broadcast this.

“Well, looking back in time, I think these people went through hell with the lid off, and I stand in awe of what they endured, and the price they paid, so that we could live in freedom.  But looking forward, I would wish that every politician would come and visit a place like this so that they can learn what happens when politics fails.”

When politics fails.

Transcription my own.

Today is the 100th anniversary of the death of Wilfred Owen.

Sha Raku En

The garden of loveliness that is the Japanese Garden at Cowden was our destination on Sunday.  The sun shone for the last day of the 2018 season, and there was still a fair bit of autumn colour.

Last flowers
Stone garden
Stone temple
Acer reflected
Zig zag oath
Van Gogh seed pods
Lake bridge

One that got away


by Kate Clanchy

I said perhaps Patagonia, and pictured

a peninsula, wide enough

for a couple of ladderback chairs

to wobble on at high tide. I thought


of us in breathless cold, facing

a horizon round as a coin, looped

in a cat’s cradle strung by gulls

from sea to sun. I planned to wait


till the waves had bored themselves

to sleep, till the last clinging barnacles,

growing worried in the hush, had

paddled off in tiny coracles, till


those restless birds, your actor’s hands,

had dropped slack into your lap,

until you’d turned, at last, to me.

When I spoke of Patagonia, I meant


skies all empty aching blue, I meant

years.  I meant all of them with you.


Penguin’s Poems for Love, 2009, selected by Linda Barber.


After a splendid 5th birthday party for Lily, we found ourselves at East Fortune, specifically the Nation Museum of Flight. Displaying our new found tendency to be so far ahead of the curve that we come up behind it again, I proudly and possibly pompously showed my Member’s card, only to be told “It’s Doors Open day, no-one pays”.  This explains the unfeasibly long queue to get in, the extra car parks, the raft of stewards and the crammed café.  Ah well, it meant that the Concorde Experience was also open to all, and if it took 25 minutes to board, what’s that against 3½ hours in Windhoek, plus 50 years to be in with a chance.

Paul was absolutely delighted, as was I, to see the iconic Mach 2 signs. International politics meant the demise of this technological marvel, but for a moment we could imagine ourselves hurtling through the skies with barely a quiver in our champagne.

Tail of G-BOAA in hangar
Concorde interior





























Later on, a caption for one of the Red Arrows, housed nearby G-BOAA, brought back memories of a day in 1999 when Rosemary and I, along with her friend Margaret, stood on the Mound in Edinburgh watching the procession to mark the opening of the Scottish Parliament.    I can’t have been the only person who burst in to tears when the Arrows appeared over the Forth, led by Concorde, the former trailing their trade mark coloured plumes.

Concorde in formation flight
1st July 1999













Lastly, in the shop (there’s always a shop) I came across this lovely image.

Hawker Hurricane
Hawker Hurricane credits













Recently I wrote up a page about Mum’s war work.  This is the type of plane she worked on, so here she was, tapping me on the shoulder, via a card made in Norfolk…..


Well, were we not off on our travels yet again?  This time to Durham, in the company of family chums.   Stand out moments included an ad hoc napkin party hat event, and someone’s face when his son forgot to buy him a sausage roll from the bakery.

The first three images were not taken by me, photography was forbidden in the Cathedral, so these are from postcards.   These are the windows with which I was particularly impresssed.  The Cathedral itself is most interesting, it houses the tombs of the Venerable Bede and Saint Cuthbert, but in addition it presents  modern art, and an extensive panoply of historical touchpoints.  It took us three goes to get in there, but fair play to an institution which has been an active centre of worship for 10 (?) centuries, you have to wait if there are services.

Since, amongst many other goings-on,  [Hey! Freshers’ Week!!}  it was open doors weekend, we were able to visit the Chapel of the Holy Cross, which is quite one of the most affecting, beautiful and simple chapels I have yet visited.  Leaving aside any discussion on religion, it was a place of contemplation, with an immediate link to Saint Margaret, well known to Dunfermline.

After that, we enjoyed much silliness over dinner, and if the journey home was made interesting by some appalling lapses of manners on behalf of our fellow travellers, it allowed us to chunter quietly whilst acknowledging that no real damage was done, except perhaps to the reputation of a large country to the west.

Oops, nearly forgot.

The Last Supper, window in Durham Cathedral
Millenium window, Durham Cathedral
Rose Window, Durham Cathedral
Freeman’s Quay ironwork
Cathedral square
University buildings
Cathedral 2
Cathedral 3

Road trip

Home from Namibia, an unforgettable trip,  now faced with the near-impossible task of selecting some photos from the 5000+ taken.  Digital cameras, eh?

In good time.  In the interim, here is our list of new-to-us birds.

Huge thanks to the Birds of Namibia book, by Ian Sinclair and Joris Kamen, published by Struik Nature, 2017.

Great White Pelican
Greater Flamingo
White-Breasted Cormorant
Cape Cormorant
Grey Heron
Western Cattle Egret
Marabou Stork
South African Shelduck
Red-billed Teal
White-backed Vulture
White-headed Vulture
Verreaux’s Eagle
Martial Eagle
Black-Shouldered Kite
Pale Chanting Goshawk
Helmeted Guineafowl
Common Ostrich
Kori Bustard
Northern Black Korhaan (female)
Black-winged Stilt
Pied Avocet
African (Black) Oystercatcher
Blacksmith Plover
Crowned Plover
Marsh Sandpiper
Common Sandpiper
Kelp Gull
Grey-headed Gull
Hartlaub’s Gull
Namaqua Sandgrouse
Speckled Pigeon
Cape Turtle Dove
Grey Go-away Bird
African Palm Swift
African Grey Hornbill
Southern Yellow-Billed Hornbill (Flying Banana)
Damara Red-billed Hornbill
Rock Martin
Fork-tailed Drongo
African Golden Oriole (female or juvenile)
Pied Crow
Black-faced Babbler
Groundscraper Thrush
Capped Wheatear
Willow Warbler
Cape Wagtail
Southern White-crowned Shrike
Crimson-breasted Shrike
Cape Glossy Starling
Pale-winged Starling
Marico Sunbird (female)
Great Sparrow
Southern Grey-headed Sparrow
White-Browed Sparrow Weaver
Sociable Weaver
Red-billed Buffalo Weaver
Lesser Masked Weaver
Red-headed Weaver
Violet-eared Waxbill

Quite a few which were just too quick for us, and an honorary mention for the Lilac Breasted Roller captured on film by one of our companions.

Walvis Bay, August 2018