Category Archives: Friends

Over the rivers

North of the Tay and south of the Forth,  the weekend saw us in cahoots with Rieko as we visited some old and new haunts.  First to Dundee, there to see the V&A, designed by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma. The exterior is a delight to photograph, especially now that the gardens are flourishing.   Next door the RRS Discovery was interesting and if it was a bit chilly, then it only served to remind of the privations experienced on the expedition to Antarctica.  After a pit stop at the DCA, we called in at Dundee train station so that the lady herself could make some arrangements. Of course the randomly allocated ticket clerk was bi-lingual and of course her other language was Japanese.   That made a potentially protracted transaction simple.

Home via the supermarket for essential supplies, and ginger pork cooked by our guest.  Next day, after yet another instance of Kirsty knows best saw us traversing one of West Lothian’s more challenging farm roads,   we finally arrived at Hopetoun House.   This beautiful mansion, a tourist attraction in its own right,  is enjoying a boom due to its being a film location for Outlander.  It’s a glorious example of two styles of Scottish led architecture,  designed by William Bruce and then altered and extended by William Adam. We had an interesting tour, a chat with the guides, and I was even able to tell them a thing they did not know*, which does not happen often.

There were views of the three  bridges from the roof terrace, but for my money the best views are on the return journey, since the road is almost at sea level and the vistas are not occluded.

The next destination was new to us, Midhope House, also a filming location for Outlander,  derelict but atmospheric. I’m going to have to watch the series now, if only to find out how they erased the telegraph poles from the long shots.

Blackness Castle was brisk and busy, those floors are still made of bedrock and it’s no place for your Manolos, but it offers an insight into medieval life, as viewed from the river.  And after a brief call to the farm shop (Blue Murder Cheese, Badger beers) it was home again to beautiful sushi and then an early night.

As ever it’s a grand opportunity to see your own country from the point of view of a tourist, and a foreign visitor.    There could be more in the way of  multi lingual information, disabled access is not always clearly indicated, some staff assume that you have already read a 16 page induction leaflet on how their premises operate,  but mostly it’s endlessly fascinating and of course beauty lurks round the most unexpected corners.

*the roof terrace has been open since the 80s.

V&A with alliums
Rieko and Paul at V&A with RRS Discovery behind
RRS Discovery
Hopetoun House
Me at Hopetoun House
The bridges
Midhope Castle
Blackness Castle

59er Diners ….

…was the best quiz team name, as voted by Julia.  We had a weekend away with the 59ers, back to glorious Perthshire, with its trees and bonny flowers.  A visit to the ceramics festival at Scone proved a success,  I think we all opened our wallets or purses at some point, rain did not stop play.  The ospreys at the Loch of the Lowes were on form, as were the cakes in the tea rooms of Dunkeld.     But mostly we talked, blethered, chatted, caught up, hung out, and just enjoyed each other’s company, especially round the dining table.

Gargoyle at Old Kirk
Garden
Deer at Scone
Woodpecker
Osprey, Loch of the Lowes
Bell Tower, Old Kirk
Finial

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.
Reflections
V&A entrance
Exterior, V&A
Salon, from the Cruise liners exhibition

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oak panel, Titanic

 

Durham

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
Owengate
Cathedral square
University buildings
Cathedral
Cathedral 2
Cathedral 3

59ers

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

Quackers

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 to say 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.

Mallard

 

 

 

 

 

 

I did manage to take a picture with only two humans in it, which was not easy.  All I know about trains 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.

Record

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Sign

*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.

Festive

Thanks to Colin Hay for the picture of the band taken last night,  when After 8 Mince played a Christmas gig for our local chums.  Special thanks to everyone for turning up on a freezing cold night, and to the ladies for serving the refreshments.

A8M

 

 

 

 

 

 

Also cheers to my old school chum Campbell for this, the 13 Yule Lads of Iceland.  

Yule lads

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ex Africa semper aliquid novi.

Travellin’ folk

Well, the dearth of posts lately will surely suffice to indicate that once again it has been a very busy time here.    Since our holiday we have also had a memorable trip to Glasgow to spend time with the Whites and Burgesses,  the main driver of which was to have a meal together at the Chip.   Happily all those invited were able to attend and 75% of us bagged a hotel room overlooking the Clyde.   Not content with that, we also took a power boat ride up past the Museum of Transport, and some of us tried on a posh frock, just to see….

After 8 Mince played three gigs in one week, each one unique and with very different audiences.  Good experience all round.   We saw this play which was excellent,  and gradually came round to the idea that autumn is here.  Dark evenings and glorious leaf litter abound.

The end of an era in Beadnell was announced as Mick and Allyson move on from the Beadnell Towers Hotel,  I understand that a makeover is planned but I do hope they keep the objets d’art in the rooms, and the gold fish.  We wish them all well.

Beside the Clyde
Finnieston Crane
Rainbow Armadillo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peter Pan, Beadnell
Mermaid, Beadnell

 

Summer-y

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.

Neglect

 

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?

 

Team Discovery at Beadnell Towers
Bowbridge Alpacas at West Fife Show, Kelty
Heavy horses, West Fife show
Dunfermline Museum
Dunfermline Museum gardens
Cook family with Paul, Gillman hide, RSPB Loch Leven
Swallow, Vane Farm courtyard
HMS QE, from Limekilns harbour
Spooky wifey, Beadnell
Grey heron from Gillman hide
Lapwing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*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.