Well, January had a lot happening but none of it for recording here, thank you. Went for a walk round Townhill Loch yesterday, after the washing machine was replaced. Sometimes a wee walk and some wildlife makes all the difference. There were loads of birds but mostly they were too fast for the camera operator.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. 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”.
Hazel Reeves also researched, designed and sculpted the Cracker Packers statue in Carlisle, as I discovered this morning.
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….
Townhill Loch today. Some bizarre stuff going down, which we assuaged with a nice cup of tea and biscuit.
As is my wont, I looked up silver on Wikipedia and within three clicks happened upon the delightful phrase “metals of antiquity“, which I think quite aptly describes a milestone wedding anniversary. The poking about further elicited the notion that metals are malleable, fusible and ductile; going over those terms in detail, l was struck by the last – within the metallurgy concept it means able to be pulled into a wire but it also comes from the Latin ducere, meaning to lead. Dad often told us that the word education meant to lead out. Now that’s off my chest, we may proceed.
Wanders north took us to Invergarry, Ratagan, Glenelg, Plockton, Portree, Broadford, the Trotternish peninsula, Ardtornish, Glenfinnan, Lochaline and Tobermory. We had one boat trip (Sula Mhor, Plockton) and five ferry rides. Planned but eventually off the travel menu were journeys to St Kilda and Loch Coruisk. This was not unexpected and only serves as a reason to return. The weather was in general, bad, occasionally awful and sometimes gorgeous. The wildlife kept itself hidden, as did the stars, although we did see a juvenile golden eagle from the living room window of our cottage on Skye. We saw changes, having not been to these parts from some five years, maybe more, but we also heard voices from long ago and in every way had a most enjoyable time. I have waaay too many photos to choose from so, as ever, an eclectic selection below. Bear in mind that in order to take the shot of the train we had to share a wee hump of a hill with 300 others – all shouting about a boy wizard going to school ….
Oh good grief, I was sure I had posted at least once in June, outwith Dad’s birthday, but I see the last one was May 28th. Poor old BTW always suffers the most appalling neglect in the summer, it’s shocking behaviour and someone somewhere needs a strongly worded email. In our defence I see that June encompassed the following activities: West Fife show with Rieko, Royal Highland Show, finding a spot to take pictures of HMS Queen Elizabeth*, at least three peregrinations** around Vane Farm, a trip to Beadnell with Team Discovery, three visits to the wonderful new museum and galleries in Dunfermline, and some catch ups with old chums, all the while working on new songs for the band and oh then there’s the day jobs. Photos below include the two statues resident in the gardens of (deep breath) Dunfermline Carnegie Library and Galleries, they are of Tam O’Shanter and Souter Johnnie. And yes, we already know of interactions with traffic cones. The picture of the heron was an attempt to capture the beautiful yellow and blue flowers in the wetland meadow, mayhap they would show up better after some gentle photo massage.
We had a brilliant 9th anniversary visit to Beadnell – the girls won the quiz!! – and were the skies ever so big as viewed from Alnwick beach? Our 10th is obviously going to be a no holds barred, take no prisoners 72 hours of complete anarchic mayhem, I’m sure that’s what Roger said.
Some happy news of family and friends of which more anon, but huge and hearty congratulations to Emily Sanderson and Christopher White, who graduated from St. Andrew’s and Edinburgh Universities respectively.
Lastly, and most importantly, Paul’s astronomy club was written up in the Courier, with no mistakes or factual inaccuracies and some ace pictures. The photos were taken in March of this year.
Researching the subject of neglect, I found this rather lovely poem, and what do you know, it comes down to birds in the end after all.
Is the scent of apple boughs smoking
in the woodstove what I will remember
of the Red Delicious I brought down, ashamed
that I could not convince its limbs to render fruit?
Too much neglect will do that, skew the sap’s
passage, blacken leaves, dry the bark and heart.
I should have lopped the dead limbs early
and watched each branch with a goshawk’s eye,
patching with medicinal pitch, offering water,
compost and mulch, but I was too enchanted
by pear saplings, flowers and the pasture,
too callow to believe that death’s inevitable
for any living being unloved, untended.
What remains is this armload of applewood
now feeding the stove’s smolder. Splendor
ripens a final time in the firebox, a scarlet
harvest headed, by dawn, to embers.
Two decades of shade and blossoms – tarts
and cider, bees dazzled by the pollen,
spare elegance in ice – but what goes is gone.
Smoke is all, through this lesson in winter
regret, I’ve been given to remember.
Smoke, and Red Delicious apples redder
than a passing cardinal’s crest or cinders.
—R. T. Smith
Years ago I read or heard on the radio a spooky story about burning an apple tree, anyone recall that?
*a frankly massive aircraft carrier built in Rosyth.
** peregrination from the Latin peregrinus, meaning foreign, and also obviously that’s the root of the peregrine falcon, “young birds being captured in flight rather than taken from the nest”. Eh, thanks Chambers Concise Dictionary, is that one of those hidden jokes you lexicographers put into your oeuvres? Because if it is, I don’t get it.
On Sunday, after long and careful planning, we met Diana, Caroline and Nigel for a return trip to the Isle of May. Last time we took Caroline & Nigel’s daughters and it was a rough old ride there and back; the girls had envisioned a genteel turn in an enclosed cruiser and were slightly traumatised by the full on drenching, nowhere to hide experience of the RiB. Caroline nobly took the alternate option of sailing on the Princess, with the remit of being at the head of the queue for teas and coffees when we disembarked.
It was like gliding on the way out. I kept shouting to Nigel “This time last year we were crying,” but the return journey reminded us of the thalassic power beneath; we Christened it the Cellardyke Exfoliation Experience and I was encrusted with salt by the time we made landfall.
Happily the queue for the chipper was not too long and Diana had also prepared some salads and pudding. The isle itself was packed with birds, and if the pictures are similar to last year’s, then that’s a bonus. Count included guillemot, razorbill, shag, cormorant, eider duck, arctic tern, puffin, pied wagtail, kittiwake, greater and lesser black backed gull, black headed gull, herring gull, oyster catcher and bunnies. The Arctic terns had not laid many eggs yet, so were not aggressive, indeed they were very shy and I only saw one.
I reckon about a month is a long enough gap, jings, who knew? The intervening period has seen the usual blend of life and all its pleasures, vicissitudes, ironies and fleeting glamours. Stand out items include: making your niece, nephew and sister in law walk along Aberdour beach in a howling gale, whilst happed up cosy and warm with your mother in law having a cheery blether; visceral and redemptive theatre in Charlie Sonata, a new play by Douglas Maxwell with peerless Sandy Greigson in the lead role; jaunts with my new ‘scope; Lily’s Christening. All amongst the challenges and changes of family life, best feet forward in one respect which is particularly pleasing. Like the poet John Bunyan we may have times in the Slough of Despond* but we pick ourselves up and carry on.
With that in mind, here is a beautiful poem from the latest by Liz Lochhead, the collection is entitled Fugitive Colours and this is In The MId-MIdwinter. It also appears in the Scottish Poetry Library’s Best Poems of 2016, edited by Catherine Lockerbie, who besides being the person who set up the Edinburgh International Book Festival, and a long time arts correspondent for The Scotsman, was also in the year above us at school.
It includes the lines “I saw the new moon late yestreen, wi’ the old moon in her arms” which I do not have to tell you come from the Ballad of Sir Patrick Spens. Espousing the synchronicity with which BTW is slightly akin, that very ballad will have its musical debut next week. The tech rehearsal for this was marred by me having a throat like barbed wire, let’s hope that resolves itself.
Last words: it turns out that the word outwith is Scottish.
Loch Leven is experiencing a major cloud of non-biting midges. Dear knows there were enough last weekend, but now it seems to be an veritable explosion, helped, I wonder, by the six week drouth. Having ingested way more than the intended total of zero, we might give it a by today. But we did see a pair of ruffs and heard tell of a long-tailed duck. However, no view equals no write up in the journal.
Flying Scotsman goes through the Bay tomorrow evening, if I can work out the timing I’ll try for another photo. Oh, and this song is keeping me cheery on the walk home from work.
*spell check gave me the Slough of Desmond which puts a wholly different slant on it.