Saturday, 31 January 2009
We may have a colourful/romantic/bloody history. We may have whisky and a national dish made from a stuffed sheep's stomach. But we completely fail to have interesting fire hydrants. Greg at Liege Daily Photo has just posted a nice contrast in 'fire and ice', featuring a Belgian fire hydrant. Sue at A Corner Garden has posted about the changing colours of her very own fire hydrant, which occupies one of her flower beds. But this is the best we can do. A little yellow plate on a wall to locate the hydrant, which lies under the iron plate in the pavement. It says a lot about the Scottish climate: we don't expect to have snow for any length of time that would hide the yellow plate. We don't even expect our fire crews to have to do much digging or chipping away at ice to be able to attach the hoses to the hydrant itself.
Small wonder then that when we were in British Columbia a few summers ago we came back with holiday photos not just of soaring peaks and the mighty Columbia river and glacier-fed lakes, but fire hydrants. We have shots of hydrants from Miranda's territory at Here and There Slocan. We have some particularly fine shots of hydrants near Kelowna. You can perhaps understand why we got so excited.
Edited to post links to other fire hydrants around the world:
Here and There Slocan, British Columbia, Canada
Inukshuk Adventure, Toronto, Canada
Thursday, 29 January 2009
Old and new together - the mound of Ladyhill, Elgin, and the ubiquitous contrail in the sky. Ladyhill is the site of the castle of King Duncan, who lost in battle to Macbeth in 1040. The hummocks on the hill are where the ruins of the castle lie buried. The actual battle Duncan v. Macbeth was fought about a mile north east of Elgin, which lies in North East Scotland. I don't think Shakespeare ever visited researching his play, but Bonnie Prince Charlie did pass through on his travels, so like most of Scotland Elgin is fairly well steeped in history.
The monument on the hill top is nothing to do with Macbeth or Duncan, by the way. It commemorates the 5th Duke of Gordon, the first commander of the Gordon Highlanders regiment. The pillar was erected in 1839, and the Duke's statue made it to the top in 1855.
Other Skywatch photos are on the Skywatch Friday website.
Wednesday, 28 January 2009
The news today reports that a key government adviser has warned that recycling initiatives could add to global warming rather than reduce it. Better to play safe and put your faith (and money) in antiques. As this shop in the New Town points out, it's 'part of the largest recycling trade in the world'.
Babzy has tagged me to reveal 6 details about myself. As a shy Scot, this feels strange, but here goes!
1. My ideal comfort food is green lentils and olive oil. (yes, I know it's weird. My family tells me that.)
2. I am very slowly learning to play the classical guitar.
3. I wrote a doctoral thesis on the second longest book in a Latin or Cyrillic language (A la recherche du temps perdu) and added in the complete works of Flaubert for good measure.
4. Every time I step on skis I injure myself, so I've given up.
5. The city I would most like to revisit is Turin.
6. The place I would most like to visit in the world is Svalbard. Followed by Tierra del Fuego. Followed by the Queen Charlotte Islands. Oops, that's three.
Sunday, 25 January 2009
25 January, Burns Night. Today is the 250th anniversary of the birth of Scotland's poet Robert Burns, and we're just about to sit down to our family Burns Supper. The neeps (yellow turnip) have been mashed, the tatties (potatoes) are nearly ready, and the haggis is (shock! horror!) about to have its 5 minutes in the microwave. Even more heretical, we're having vegetarian haggis. The children are probably haggised-out. Haggis will have been on the school lunch menu this week, and my son went to the school Burns Supper for senior pupils, resplendent in the young Scottish male's 'kilt casual' look: kilt with untucked and open necked striped or floral shirt.
But I'm not showing you any of this. Instead, an example of the reach of Robert Burns into every area of Scottish life - the Robert Burns milk carton. The thatched cottage is his cottage in Alloway. The plough represents his harsh early life as the son of a tenant farmer. Enough history - I'm off for my haggis.
Saturday, 24 January 2009
In the entrance to the Tiso 'Outdoor Experience' shop in Leith is this magnificent working compass. The shop was very busy when we were there, and I couldn't get a photo without someone's foot or leg in the way. Unlike the centre of town, where tourists and locals alike keep out of the shot about to be taken with almost painful politeness, these lovers of the outdoors were intent on their shopping. I don't blame them, as the sale was still on. In the end I gave up trying to get a clean shot, but I rather like the foot in the corner and the movement of the coat. They show the size of the compass, and give a flavour of the bustle in the shop. Recession or not, Edinburghers were kitting out for the great outdoors.
We were there to look for a new rucksack for my daughter, who will do the expedition for her Duke of Edinburgh's Bronze Award in March. A two day hike in the hills and an overnight camp in tents. In March. In Scotland...If I'm lucky she'll take some good photos along the way - she was the photographer for yesterday's post.
The entrance doors leave you in no doubt that you're about to boldly go. Thankfully the serrated edges of the ice axes are covered in plastic.
Friday, 23 January 2009
As an antidote to yesterday's less-than-sparking snow, a clear view southwards from the slopes of Ben Rinnes. My husband and daughter climbed it just before New Year (my son and I were convalescing from flu, and it was very frustrating to look out at this perfect day in that muzzy, fuggy post-flu stage).
A great deal is made of the classification of hills in Scotland. The higher ones, over 3,000 feet, are called 'Munros' (after Sir Hugh T Munro of Lindertis, who in 1891 published a table of hills considered to be over 3,000 feet). Corbetts are between 2,500 and 3,000 feet, and have a re-ascent of 500 feet on all sides. Legalistic stuff! John Corbett was a member of the Scottish Mountaineering Club between the two world wars, and he in turn published his table of smaller but no less interesting hills. There is a whole one-upmanship thing about how many Munros people have climbed - the 'sport' itself is known as 'Munro-bagging' (tho if one was feeling unkind one might be tempted to call it 'Munro-bragging').
The Google map reference for Ben Rinnes is here.
Many more Skywatch photos are on the Skywatch website.
Thursday, 22 January 2009
Sunday, 18 January 2009
The first of another occasional series, on schools. Edinburgh has a large number of private schools - about 25% of the city's children are educated privately, whereas in the rest of Scotland the figure is about 4%. This is one of the oldest private schools in the city - George Heriot's school. The school was founded in 1628 as a charitable foundation for the education of 'puire fatherless bairnes' (poor fatherless children) through a bequest in George Heriot's will. He was the son of a goldsmith, and himself became Jeweller and Goldsmith at the Court of King James VI. He amassed a fortune through this position, but died childless.
The school is right in the centre of Edinburgh, with Edinburgh Castle just behind it. Perhaps it's distracting to look out of the classroom window and see such a view - or perhaps the pupils don't notice after a while, like many Edinburghers. Some people wonder if Heriot's was a model for Hogwarts.
Friday, 16 January 2009
You find a pristine bit of wall. Excellent! You select an eye-catching turquoise can of spray paint and set to work. The lines of the bricks help to keep the letters straight, but all the same you're distracted a few times, looking round at the sound of footsteps on the path over at the edge of the park. You finish with a bit of a flourish - that final 'D' is heading upwards away from the line. You stand back and admire your work. Oh ****! Insert 'the'.
Today I'm Skywatching over at Slow Growing in Scotland.
Wednesday, 14 January 2009
Rising above yet more warehouses is the pagoda of Glenrothes distillery. The distinctive pagoda shape of roof originates from the time when distilleries malted their own barley. Part of that process was drying the sprouted barley above a peat fire to kill off the germination and to impart an aroma to the grain which would carry through to the finished whisky. The pagoda shape let the smoke linger around the drying barley.
Very few distilleries now do their own malting, but I'll be able to post a series of photos of the process in due course.
Note the bars on the warehouse window. Well of course!
Monday, 12 January 2009
Continuing the whisky theme from my Christmas holiday. Under these frosty roofs lie hundreds of casks of whisky. These are some of the warehouses of Glenrothes distilllery. Thick stone walls, earth floors and slate roofs, and 15 years or so of unhurried maturing.
The white is all hoar frost - not a flake of snow in sight. And yes, the air was very definitely perfumed with whisky where I stopped to take this photo.
Sunday, 11 January 2009
Everywhere else I look, there's snow. Miranda, at Here and There Slocan in British Columbia, Canada, has more than she knows what to do with. Kiji in the north of France has snow and freezing temperatures and wintry scenes that the Impressionists would have been delighted to paint. Fabrizio, in Turin, has stylish Italian snow. It's snowed at last in Moscow - I read in the papers about concerns that this winter in Russia wasn't getting started. Liege in Belgium has snow, Avignon in the south of France has snow. Even ENGLAND has snow, as far south as Norwich.
But here - nothing. These snowflakes in a florist's window may be as close as we get to the real thing this winter.
Friday, 9 January 2009
Looking south up the river Spey to the Highland village of Craigellachie (pronounced with the stress on the 'ell', and a soft 'ch', as in 'loch'). To the right of the picture, above the dark trees, are the tall chimney and pagoda roof of the Craigellachie Distillery, founded in 1888.
Canadians know Craigellachie as the place in British Columbia where the last spike of the Canadian Pacific Railway was driven in in 1885.
Visit other Skywatch Friday posts on the Skywatch site.
Thursday, 8 January 2009
Monday, 5 January 2009
Going by the barbed wire you'd think that these casks might actually be full of whisky, and that the coating of frost was part of the secret alchemy that turns barley, water and yeast into the water of life. They're certainly precious enough - many are old sherry casks from Spain, or Bourbon casks from the USA - but they're all empty, and stored in these pyramids until they're needed.
Each cask is stamped with the name of the distillery, or group of distilleries - in this case the Highland Distillers - a serial number, and the year in which the cask was filled. I think I can make out 1994 on one, and possibly 1988 on another. Their turn will come round again.
Sunday, 4 January 2009
A very belated Happy New Year! We've returned from what was truly the frozen North. Our slow dial-up connection was even slower than usual, prompting suspicious thoughts that the service is being relegated to a creaking server in a back room, as broadband use increases. Too slow to view sites with photos, let alone do any posting or replying to good wishes - for which thank you , so we had what turned out to be a blissfully computer-free time. Many books were read beside the open fire. Long midwinter sleep was enjoyed. Brisk walking took place in below zero temperatures, followed by cooking and eating large meals. However, no whisky was consumed, not even on Hogmanay. To salvage a bit of Scottish New Year tradition now that we're back home, I poured a dram of Macallan single malt for this photo, which my husband then very nobly drank.
This is a stingy, south of Scotland measure of whisky. If we were on Speyside, the dram of neat whisky would fill between a third to a half of the glass. I confess to not being a particular whisky fan. I love the smell of it, but a glass is too much for me. This despite starting my working life in a distillery, where all staff were entitled to a lunchtime dram of whisky. Nowadays that tradition has been toned down to a monthly bottle allowance, which is far preferable from a health point of view.