Thursday, 26 February 2009

Skywatch Friday - burning heather

Seen here from halfway up Ben Rinnes, pink plumes of smoke from burning heather add to the frosty haze over the hills. Heather is set on fire in the winter to encourage fresh green growth in the spring for grouse to feed on. Later in the year, starting on the inappropriately named 'Glorious Twelfth' of August, the grouse will be shot in large numbers for sport.

Still on the bird theme, I have to confess that the apparently beautifully placed eagle to the left of this shot is in fact a fibre on the lens. It will pop up again on these Ben Rinnes photos, so I thought I'd better own up...

Catch other Skywatch photos, perhaps with genuine birds, at Skywatch Friday.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Ben Rinnes (2)

Before the season moves too far on, I should continue with the account of the ascent of Ben Rinnes which my husband and daughter did between Christmas and New Year. It's not a grand mountain, and it doesn't require ropes or anything much other than enough puff and reasonable leg-power (tho like any Scottish hill mist can descend frighteningly quickly out of a blue sky, and there are crags which you could fall off, so it shouldn't be taken lightly). But it's the local big hill of my home village, and a reference point for weather predictions and the progress of the seasons. 'Snow on the Ben' is a sure sign that winter is coming. 'Snow still on the Ben' is just as sure a sign that we're having (another) cold spring.

Here it is then, all brown heather and white hoar frost on the north-facing side, on a gift of a day just before New Year.

Sunday, 22 February 2009

St Andrews Castle

To continue with the mini-series of 'the ski trip that wasn't', here's St Andrews castle. A bleak but easily defensible location, looking out across the cold North Sea. The first castle on the site dates from around 1200. It was originally the Bishops' Palace, the residence of the Archbishop of St Andrews. After much siege and battery over the years, it was eventually destroyed during the Reformation, around 1560, when Scotland broke from the Roman Catholic Church.

I'm very honoured to have been given the 'Kreativ Blogger' award by Guy at Liege City Daily Photo. Thank you! I will pass it on, but with life as it is at the moment I'll inevitably take some time about it.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Skywatch Friday - sky worship

Out of a dull afternoon on Wednesday came this glorious sunset, caught here in the gap between two blocks of buildings. As interesting to me as the sky was the fact that I was one of 5 homeward bound office drones capturing the scene on camera and mobile phone. There we were, lined up, paying homage to the sunset through our little bits of technology. We exchanged bashful, complicit smiles, and then went our separate ways.

More skies from around the world at the Skywatch Friday site.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Glove, with snow

That's about it, really. Life is super-busy in our household just now, so anything more tonight is beyond me. As an example of our busy-ness: next week teenage son will be in Geneva for 3 days, visiting the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, off to Loughborough (England) for more aerospace engineering interviews 15 hours after he returns from Switzerland, at school for a day, then up to Aberdeen for a weekend orchestra project. There's more, but it makes me feel quite faint to think about it.

Monday, 16 February 2009

100th post - student projects

The University of Edinburgh's George Square Gardens are studded with the remnants of students' work during our brief period of snow last week. Goodness knows what discipline was responsible for this modernist creation. Any suggestions? The remains of more traditional snowmen and women can be seen throughout the gardens.

These are apparently nothing compared to the student efforts at the universities of Bath and Bristol, where my son was last week for interviews for aerospace engineering courses. The south west of England had deep snow, and at Bath and Bristol the campuses were littered not only with impressive snowmen, but also igloos. I guess the civil engineers and architects had been busy.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Scottish skiing (2)

Success on the second attempt. Husband, son and husband's friend set off again for Glenshee and this time enjoyed a (very) full day's skiing, rounded off on the way home by the traditional stop for fish and chips in Blairgowrie.

If you're wondering about these little picket fences adorning the slopes, they're a feature of Scottish ski areas. The wind is such that they're needed to stop the snow forming into huge, uneven drifts. Snow very rarely falls straight down on our hills - it's usually driven by a gale-force wind.


Kiji at chti-shashin has tagged me to post the 6th photo from the 6th folder of my photo collection. Um, well, it's the reflection on the wall of the halogen spotlights in our bathroom. Not guilty - photo credits go to my daughter for this. In fact I discover that we have a whole series on bathroom light reflections... Sorry if you were expecting a glimpse of Scotland, Kiji, but if you look very hard you can detect the shape of the Eiffel Tower.

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Edinburgh Valentine

Love writ large in the snow beneath the grim bulk of Edinburgh Castle. I caught this yesterday, and I hope that 'KAM' did too, because it's raining today...

Friday, 13 February 2009

Skywatch - St Andrews Beach

If you can't go skiing, you might as well go to the beach - one of the advantages of living on our small island. When my husband and his friend were thwarted in their attempt to reach the ski slopes last Saturday, they set off on a mystery tour and ended up in St Andrews, on the east coast. If you head straight out across the sea in the direction of the moon you'll fetch up at the northern tip of Denmark.

I'm getting my family well trained. My husband saw these clouds and thought of me.

See other Skywatch photos at the Skywatch Friday site.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Scottish skiing

Or rather, the frustrations of Scottish skiing. On Saturday my husband and a friend set off early to drive north to the Glenshee ski area. With decent snow cover at last in the Highlands this was their first ski venture of the winter. A clear, calm day, roads bare of snow - looking good. Until this point.

They persevered and got to within 4 miles of the slopes. The weather was still calm, but the snow gates were across the road. Thanks to Scotland's micro-climates, 4 miles away a blizzard was beginning to block the access roads, and the police were taking no chances.

This Saturday they'll make a second attempt, along with the hundreds of other skiers who spent last Saturday making futile round trips.

Monday, 9 February 2009

Blossom of snow

"may you bloom and grow". No, wait, that's Edelweiss. And this is Edinburgh, with no von Trapps singing their way through the streets. But it did snow yesterday, silently, softly and beautifully, and this morning on the way to work I spied this pink cottage with a tree blossoming with snow and its own pink flowers.

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Six Nations cultural mix

Today is Scotland's first game in the annual Six Nations rugby tournament. The Nations are the 'home' nations - Scotland, Wales, Ireland and England, plus France and Italy. Today we play Wales here in Edinburgh. Souvenir shops do brisk and welcome business as a result during the otherwise slow winter months. The window of this shop just off the Royal Mile has everything for the rugby tourist:

  • at the left of the picture, a Welsh kilt outfit. We'll make an honorary Scot of any nationality, and the red Welsh dragon looks particularly fine with the kilt. On the white hooded top 'Cymru' means 'Wales'.
  • in the middle is the green top of the Irish rugby team. Clutching a Scottish rugby ball.
  • the Scottish top is the navy blue one on the right. Not shown, the English top, which is an impractical white with red (but that's just the mother in me talking).
  • then, some essential souvenirs: the silver bowl at bottom left is a quaich, the traditional 'cup of friendship'. This is a huge one, presumably for holding a large quantity of beer.
  • next to the quaich, assorted boxes of shortbread, either for sudden hunger (although chips are the more usual fuel), or for placating any female connections who have stayed at home. If more serious placating is needed, there's a selection of celtic-themed pendant necklaces next to the shortbread.
  • for smaller members of the family, there are snow globes featuring Edinburgh Castle, and a fine doll in full ceremonial kilt regalia.
  • also some boxes of tartan hankies. Why not?
Reflected above all that jumble are the austere lines of the Tron Kirk, which has looked down over various frivolities since 1647.

Saturday, 7 February 2009

The Lost World

Mysterious labels appeared in St Andrew's Square Gardens last week. Attached to loop-headed canes, they were so tossed and buffeted by the wind that I had to hold this one steady to get a shot.

After 'The Lost World', I came across:

Frustratingly, the shot I took of the reverse side of this label didn't come out - the wind was so strong that it blurred the words even in my iron grip. I went back yesterday to capture it - but of course the labels had all gone. But I can tell you that it read 'Mighty prehistoric monsters clashing with modern lovers', and that should give you the clue - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's book 'The Lost World'.

So the little fluttery labels are a tiny part of a celebration of the 150th anniversary of the birth of Arthur Conan Doyle, and the bicentenary of the birth of Charles Darwin. 'The Lost World Read 2009' is a mass read, and more besides, taking place in Scotland and England.

And this has taught me two things about photo-blogging: always take more shots than you think you'll need, and never assume that you can go back to take your photo another day!

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Skywatch Friday - lurid sunrise

A January morning, looking east across an unhistoric part of Edinburgh towards a lurid sunrise.

Other skies from around the world are at the Skywatch Friday site.

Monday, 2 February 2009

Happy Snow Day

While our first proper snowfall of the winter has adults grumbling as they slip and slide along pavements, or find their cars executing slow-motion spins on glassy roads, children know how to enjoy a day of snow. I had to be at my children's school at one point today, where I found this evidence of a well-spent morning, complete with regulation school tie. The age of the 'children' who had frolicked about making Mr Snowman? Eighteen. Males of the species, needless to say...


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