A random selection from our trip north, through stupendously beautiful areas of Scotland. Car did us well over the longest hauls in particular, like Pitlochry to Kingussie, and a singularly frustrating tour of the car parks in Fort Bill. Thanks to the EV community who put meaningful updates on the ZapMap and a shout out to the men we met who are happily touring the west coast to install more chargers. They also inadvertently told us where to buy a decent breakfast roll in Craignure. Grudging thanks to CYC Scotland who at least confirmed that the charger at Kilchoan was hors de combat. More to be uploaded once I figure out how to release the phone pictures from Google photos to the PC.
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.
After a jolly nice scone with coffee at an Edinburgh garden centre, and a good blether with Rosemary and Susan, I was reminded of this lovely poem by D H Lawrence.
Not every man has gentians in his house
in Soft September, at slow, Sad Michaelmas.
Bavarian gentians, big and dark, only dark
darkening the daytime torch-like with the smoking blueness
of Pluto’s gloom,
ribbed and torch-like, with their blaze of darkness spread
down flattening into points, flattened under the sweep of
torch-flower of the blue-smoking darkness, Pluto’s dark-
black lamps from the halls of Dis, burning dark blue,
giving off darkness, blue darkness, as Demeter’s pale lamps
give off light,
lead me then, lead me the way.
Reach me a gentian, give me a torch!
let me guide myself with the blue, forked torch of a flower
down the darker and darker stairs, where blue is darkened on
even where Persephone goes, just now, from the frosted
to the sightless realm where darkness is awake upon the dark
and Persephone herself is but a voice
or a darkness invisible enfolded in the deeper dark
of the arms Plutonic, and pierced with the passion of dense
among the splendour of torches of darkness, shedding
darkness on the lost bride and her groom.
Mum grew alpines, including gentians, with a wee bit success; Sherry loved the gentians because they reminded her of so many trips to the Matterhorn and Rosemary liked the one Mum called a periwinkle. Indeed, she recently gave me a plant too. I have called it periwinkle for so long that I have to cudgel my brain to come up with the correct name which I think is Lithodora? Anyway, it means “stone gift” which would seem appropriate!
Another work in stone below, a few weeks ago I was on a mission to obtain various articles via the legendary charity shops in Stockbridge when I passed by this edifice I have not noticed before.
Above a shot of the bridges taken from the high up layby between Aberdour and Burntisland. At least one member of the family will be able to walk over the new Queensferry Crossing on the open weekend, before QEII arrives to sanction the moniker, and we look forward to seeing his pictures of that event. I hope that we manage to drive across on the first day.
Lastly I thought of stone and blue together and arrived at diamond, from an old story in which a bloke went mining for those stones in Africa, hit a layer of impenetrable blue rock and gave up, but not before chopping out a slab to carry around with him to remind himself of his hubris. The sun weakened the stone slab over the years, and of course it cracked open to reveal a giant stone of many carats. The word diamond comes from Ancient Greek ἀδάμας – adámas “unbreakable” hence adamant.
We found some quietude yesterday by heading for the busiest part, Edinburgh’s Christmas markets etc have been super busy due to the reasonably fair weather, security staff are ensuring that only a limited amount of folk gain access. However, as Paul had appointments booked with his groom squad, we went in anyway. Upstairs at my private club, aka the Portrait Gallery, some fascinating exhibitions drew only a few visitors, while the morning sunlight painted the stairwells. The café is still not too busy between 10 and 11, I can heartily applaud the scones here, if you’re a stranger to BTW that might be news to you.
We walked over to the Botanics to see After The Storm, an exhibition of furniture made from trees which were blown down in the January storms of 2012. If I could have afforded the price tags I would have bought every piece, well worth a visit. The gardens too were fairly quiet, although by no means deserted, and the big fella in the red suit and white beard was at home, happily delighting or terrifying your child for a minimum fee. We admired the decorations in the shop, in what seems to be a trend this year, foliage is fitted onto mannequins to form the clothing, and the usual baubles are the embellishments. There were also reindeer models which were a bit too lifelike for me…
And so to the diminuendo of the year, not gainsaying the big hoorah of Christmas but the main reason for a yuletide blowout is as an antidote to the nigh full-on crepuscular turn of events. when raising the blinds for a mere 7 hours hardly seems worth it.
It was with this frankly negative attitude in mind that we stepped out to (guess where) Vane Farm on Sunday, just for a wee nosey, and were rewarded with a Little Egret and a juvenile WTS Eagle. Admittedly the latter had to be spotted for us, way over on the spit of St Serf’s and no, we would never have found it on our own, but the Egret kindly showed face as we looked over from the furthest hide. Ten minutes later it swooped off to hide in the reeds. The day was still, sunny and freezing. A scone was encountered.
The inaugural AAT was held on Sunday, I am not putting the full description here because it will just draw traffic from search bots. Suffice to say, it was won handsomely by Emily Sanderson, with a gallant runner up in Julia Sanderson. Diana, Caroline and Nigel took the Mary & Paul rôles (harsh but fair, I felt ) and then we all had too much cake. And scones.
After a fascinating tour backstage at the Royal Lyceum Theatre yesterday, we took a short walk to the Scottish National Galleries of Modern Art (One and Two) , there to see the Surrealism exhibition. I think I need to do a lot more research on the Dada movement to be able to understand it better, and I have always felt slightly lacking when faced with the cerebral thunder of Picasso and Dali, but it was well attended and I liked the Magrittes. The real surprise was the dander along Belford Road and Lynedoch Place. Since this is a cul de sac now, with bollards at the east end, we have never driven along it, but there are gems of architecture, plus a secret swimming club. I need to find out if Paul gleaned any more about the house with the Scottish symbols pressed into the plaster work. The ochre coloured buildings will be the ones in Bell’s Brae where my friend used to live.
A scone was devoured in SNGOMA One café, spicy fruit, pretty darn good, as was, vicariously, the cherry Bakewell. The Scottish National Galleries frankly ask you to pay to be their Friend but it’s one of the bargains of Edinburgh, free fast track admin to exhibitions and money off scones. AND, this year, a free shopping bag designed by John Byrne. HINT: membership of the Chamber Street Museum also gives you money off in the shop. Just saying. *
We also dropped into the Union Gallery on Drumsheugh Place, where we saw works by, among others, Jenny Matthews and Barbara Franc. Lost a piece of my heart to the latter’s tin birds and the former’s flower paintings.
*I forgot that we were given a free book in the Portrait Gallery earlier, so that remark was unnecessary.
After a lovely Saturday – caught up with old chum over brunch and then went to see the frankly divine Karine Polwart in her Edinburgh Festival debut, Wind Resistance – I would say go go go but it’s selt oot – we hied off to the Borders from Edinburgh on the new (to us) railway, by means of steam power, pulled by the Royal Scot. It was a grand day, blustery but fair. There was much waving of the hands to those who had taken up various vantage points along the way, in pursuit of a good photo. Our early train from Fife to Waverley paused on the Forth Bridge, which allowed me to take slightly less wobbly than usual shots of the Queensferry Crossing, nearly complete as may hopefully be seen.
Having spent two days doing A Thing That Had To Be Done, I now have some time of my own to pop some cheerier pictures on here. On Saturday we went to the badlands south of the the river, and firstly ascended Cairnpapple Hill, to find it full of some most interested cows, which were not in any way afforded the luxury of a fence, so we descended in jig time. Then we went up Cockleroy, just to prove we’re not scared of hills per se.
Then we went shopping. On Sunday we hied off to Vane Farm/Loch Leven because it had been at least a fortnight since our last visit, jings, whole continents could move in that time*. It turned out to be a bonanza day, I forswore a scone in the interest of having stuffed myself the day before, and we were amply rewarded with bar- and black-tailed godwits, a reed bunting, two peregrines and a wee thing which might have been a wood sandpiper but no-one was terribly sure. The usual suspects were there too, the far hide was tufted duck central, although not so many curlew as in previous years, and the presence of siskin was notable enough to make the special sighting board, along with marsh harrier. We met some nice people who let us look through their ‘scope at a coot chick, too faraway to photograph properly but that has never stopped me trying. The great crested grebes, which were nesting last time we were there, were out on the water with four wee chicks on mum’s back. I’ll stop now, but there is much more to tell, so if you are bored and can’t sleep, do call.
Our trip to Beadnell at the end of June was grand fun, inexplicably the men won the quiz again … but we had lots of chat, long walks and full tummies. (Little tern, ringed plover, sand martin and many jackdaw spotted).
So, lastly, a couple from the Royal Highland Show, a bloke uni-cycling on top of a tractor caught my eye, as did a white tailed sea eagle which was on display. You’d think that at such close range I would manage a better picture, but it was very busy (I was being shoved) and the light was very bright.
*that’s a joke, I am fully aware of the principle of continuous continental drift. I have been to Þingvellir, you know.
I have an awful lot to do just now, paperwork is mounting visibly and I really need to find a new job, so the obvious thing to do on a sunny, cold Saturday morning was go right back to Vane Farm and climb that hill again. Happily, although we didn’t see the reds this time, we did see baby geese!! Greylag goslings were well protected by their parents but you can just see one here.
Managed to avoid buying an HD monocular but it was a close run thing. Tally included some close up lapwings, not close enough for crystal clear shots but it was good to watch them, last week as we went by they were performing their aerial courtship dance. It saddens me hugely that these birds, the peewits, are on the red list of endangered species. I can recall passing a field full of them in Islay in 1978, they seemed as commonplace as the wood pigeons which I can hear as I type (deka kai octo) .
Anyway, that was most enjoyable, I believe a scone was also present, and my day was further brightened by the discovery that an updated version of Scotland the Best for 2016 has been published, I immediately bought one and have already spent happy hours poring over it, never did a bus journey from Dunfy to the Bay pass so quickly.
Mincers have a tough gig this afternoon. Paul reminded me yesterday that the Devil sometime has the best tunes, I cannot condone whale fishing in any way, shape or form but this is a cracking song.
Oh all right, I have mentioned it before but the Greek legend of the woodpigeon’s call is thus (and quoted in Gerald Durrell’s autobiographies).
As Jesus carried his cross to Calgary, he and his disciples passed a woman selling water for 18 coins, she cried “Deka kai otto” (ten and eight). The disciples only had 17 coins, so they pled with her to go down to deka kai hepta but she stuck to her guns. As they left, she was turned into a pigeon for her cupidity, destined to cry “Deka kai otto,” for ever more until she relents and cries “Deka kai hepta” when presumably she will return to form and promptly die of shock. Should she, out of sheer thrawnness, a trait I believe the Greeks are as familiar with as the Scots, cry “Deka kai enna” (19) the world ends. Multiple opportunities for puns arise here, double deka, dododecahedron etc. but I resist. And why she was trying to sell in Greek I do not know, but it’s better than “Take two cows Taffy” which is the usual way of describing the call.