Sunday, 30 November 2008

Saint Andrew's Day sunrise

A frosty mist clears from the Royal Mile skyline as the sun rises on Saint Andrew's Day. To the left of the picture is the crown tower of St Giles Cathedral. In front of it a plume of smoke rises - someone in the New Town has sensibly got a fire going already.

Friday, 28 November 2008

Kilts for kids

With the celebrations for Saint Andrew's day coming up, the charity Children 1st has decided to tune in to the national mood. What better than to wear the kilt and have friends and relatives make a donation to charity in recognition of your act of bravery?

The weather today? A high of 4 degrees Centigrade, a low of -3.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Scottish flag - Skywatch Friday

The Scottish flag, or Saltire, is an X-shaped white cross on a light blue background. It represents the cross on which Saint Andrew, Scotland's patron saint, was crucified. Dating back to the 12th century, it's one of the oldest national flags of any country. (Edited to put on this link to the Scottish flag, to show the real thing).

With Saint Andrew's day about to be celebrated on 30 November, these crossing con trails seemed an appropriate Skywatch post for this week.

Have a look at other skies across the world at the Skywatch site.

A tale of two weathers

This morning, 8.00 a.m. Street lights still on, rain lashing down, and a gale blowing. The orange leaves of the beech hedge are blurry with movement. With my wee camera the murkiness of the day doesn't come across, but it was dreary.

Same day, early afternoon. The gale is still blowing, but the clouds have lifted to reveal blue skies. Down in Princes Street gardens the ice rink is being test-skated by a skating club. They're executing pirouttes and dance moves which are definitely beyond the reach of the office parties and once-a-year skaters who will follow.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

New boat

Hurrying through the Old College quadrangle of the University of Edinburgh today, I came across this rowing boat. As one does. Apparently it's a new boat for the University rowing club, and it was to be 'launched' by former student Katherine Grainger, a silver medallist in rowing in Beijing this summer. Unfortunately I didn't have time to linger and watch the ceremony.

Note the University tartan draped over one of the sharp ends ( I hope my children don't read this - they row in these things for fun (?) at school).

And I presume that boats are exempt from the University's wonderfully capitalised No Parking notice:

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Water of life

Or rather one of the three raw ingredients for whisky, or 'uisge-beatha' in Gaelic. Peat-brown water from a burn (stream). Water is something that Scotland normally has plenty of, and this is the surplus-to-requirements water from Glenrothes distillery on Speyside.

More distillery photos to follow in due course. I can't help it. I grew up in a small Highland village with a distillery round every corner, and worked in one for several years during university vacations. I wish Blogger had an 'aroma' facility, and then you could breathe the whisky-scented air.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Edinburgh mosque - Skywatch Friday

Morning sky above the Edinburgh mosque, with the University of Edinburgh's Informatics Forum and Appleton Tower crowding in.

This is my first attempt at a Skywatch post - which isn't working but it's too late at night to keep trying!

And edited to have another go, and to direct you to all the other skies on view at the Skywatch site.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Cultural mix

A rich cultural and linguistic mix at the University of Edinburgh, with the departments of Celtic and Scottish Studies and Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies housed in the same Georgian building.

This photo allows me to show off my grasp of Gaelic. On the left-hand sign, 'agus' means 'and'. 'Alba' means 'Scotland'. That's about it, really, tho if I scrape the bottom of the barrel hard I realise that I do have a few other phrases which I'll throw in when the time is right (two, actually). Of course, I also know Gaelic words such as 'helicopter', 'computer', and other aspects of modern life which Gaelic has economically borrowed. Listening to the news in Gaelic is tantalising - every so often there are little explosions of English which often leave me none the wiser. I come from the East of Scotland, where I grew up perfectly at home in a dialect that owes a lot to Norse.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Summer lingers

The Winter Wonderland may be just around the corner, but summer still lingers in sheltered corners such as this garden flat in the New Town. I had a chat with the owner, who was watering plants as I stopped to take a photo, and learned that these basement areas have a favourable micro-climate, sheltered from the bitter East winds off the sea.

Monday, 17 November 2008

Winter wonderland

At least it will be, when it's finished. 'Edinburgh's Christmas' is now a brand, enticing visitors from across the world. Two weeks before opening it's rather less than glittering, but work is going on apace. This is the ice rink being laid out. Given our mild climate, the Scots are not natural skaters, and a fair number of bumps and worse will be sustained over the next few weeks.

A sign on one of the barriers promises delights to come, and also gives the standard British apology.

Three days later, and the big wheel is up. On this very grey day, anything less like a winter wonderland is hard to imagine, but with a bit of frost and all the lights sparkling it will come alive again.

Weather: Typically Scottish: frost early, then rain followed by grey skies, and a gleam of sun to end the day. Minimum temperature -1 C, maximum 10 C.

Friday, 14 November 2008

From castle to cottage

Just outside the gates of Glamis Castle is the tiny village of Glamis. As you would expect of somewhere with royal connections, the village is beautifully kept. This photo was taken a few weeks ago, but the tourist season is well and truly over, and Glamis is settling down for its winter rest.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Are we nearly there?

You can imagine the five year old Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon asking this as the pony and trap, or the stately Daimler, moves slowly down the long driveway towards home. Home was Glamis Castle, seat of the Lords of Glamis since 1372.

Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon later became the Queen Consort of King George VI, and after his death the much-loved Queen Mother.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Remembrance Day

A young soldier from the Black Watch, Royal Scottish Regiment, selling poppies for Remembrance Day. He looks so very young, and he already has two medals.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Sunset, with con trail

Sunrise: 7.37 a.m.
Sunset: 4.15 p.m.

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Today's demo

Today's demo in the centre of town was about Guantanamo Bay. I didn't have time to stay and watch, but it seemed to be a low-key Scottish affair. Consultation with a bobby (policeman) is going on at the left, and apparently being recorded by the girl with the sound boom. Over to the right there's a bit of friendly local banter from the passer-by in the foreground.

I've since discovered that the event was organised by Amnesty International, and took the form of a march along Princes Street to the US Embassy, where a sack of letters to President-Elect Obama was presented and a message to him read out.

Friday, 7 November 2008

The sea wall

The two faces of an autumn evening. Yesterday's photo looked south east over Portobello enjoying the last rays of the sun. Here, looking north, dark clouds move in over the hills of Fife. I have the beach to myself, apart from the girl with a camera perched on the sea wall.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Edinburgh's seaside

The sandy beach at Portobello, at low tide. Late on this autumn afternoon it's almost deserted (more of this tomorrow). In the summer it's the city's seaside, but much less than it was in its heyday before Spanish and other sun lured people abroad. Of course, there's a Wikipedia entry for it:,_Edinburgh

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

San Diego link

In a corner of Princes Street Gardens, in the lee of Edinburgh Castle, is this link with San Diego. Edinburgh has a famous dog, Greyfriars Bobby, who kept watch over the grave of its master for 14 years. San Diego has a similarly famous dog, Bum, who was, as the plaque says, a 'devoted vagabond dog'. Photo credits here go to my daughter.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Farm in morning sun

A farm with a view, overlooking the Spey valley. The white dots in the foreground are sheep. I think this farm also has cattle, and grows some barley and oats. Most of the Spey valley is at too high an elevation for growing wheat, but the traditional Scottish grain crops do well, and of course the best of the barley goes for making whisky (along with - whisper it - barley from continental Europe).

The hill behind is called Ben Rinnes. On the Queen's Silver Jubilee in 1977 a huge bonfire was lit on top of it, one of a chain of bonfires stretching from Land's End in the south to John O'Groats in the North. Think Lord of the Rings and the bonfires of Rohan, but without the snow and sadly without Viggo Mortensen.

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Spa day

I'd never thought about it until I came across a pillar box enjoying a spa day, but there's obviously a whole cleaning and sprucing up programme across the nation so that we can have clean pillar boxes to pop our letters in.

And for pillar box cleaning there's a panoply of scrapers and squeegees and soft mop things which if I were more in tune with cleaning my own house I would know the name of.


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