Thursday, 30 April 2009

Skywatch Friday - little and large


The large brick chimney was the chimney for the Victorian era Infirmary Street Baths, built by the city council to combat cholera. The little pimple beside it is the dome of the University of Edinburgh's Old College. Fourteen years after they were closed down, the Baths have been transformed into a centre of contemporary tapestry weaving together with teaching and exhibition space. The brick wall is part of the original building: the metal clad wall is part of the new add-on.

The archway framing it all is part of the former Royal High School of Edinburgh, built in 1777. It now houses the University's Geography and Archaeology departments. Lots of building recycling in this area!

Other Skywatch discoveries are at the Skywatch Friday site.

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Speyside spring


The first trees to blossom on Speyside are the geans, or wild cherries. This one by the banks of the River Spey was like a beacon of spring when we were there two weeks ago. The ridge behind the tallest trees is Ben Rinnes. There's just the tiniest speck of snow left on the hill, under one of the branches in the centre of the photo.

By this time the trees round about will have come into leaf, and I wish I was there to see spring unfold there. I haven't spent a whole year on Speyside since I was 18, and each time we return I long to see the next step in the season, and then the next, instead of a snapshot. Edinburgh is a beautiful city, but it isn't where my heart lies.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Skywatch - Cairngorms spring

A shot from a couple of weeks back, on our way down through the Central Highlands after spending Easter on Speyside. This is the north-eastern edge of the Cairngorms range of mountains, here with the last of the spring snow. As well as one of Scotland's main ski areas, the Cairngorms also have remnants of the primeval Caledonian Forest, rare birds, plants and animals, and five of Scotland's six highest mountains.

I bet the ski area people were wishing those clouds would give them just a bit more snow. The season has been patchy.

See more skies at the Skywatch Friday site.

Saturday, 25 April 2009

Clanadonia


Pounding Celtic drums, skirling pipes, wild clansmen. This fairly livened up my Friday lunchtime foray into Princes Street. The beat of the beat of the drums was hypnotic and the pipes stirred the blood of this Scotswoman, and a fair number of French, Italian and American visitors beside me in the crowd, judging by their reactions. Evidently the whole world is Highland at heart.

The band is called Clanadonia, and of course every Celtic tribe nowadays has its own web page.

Standing forlornly on the edge of the crowd was this lone busking piper, who had come to the prime spot outside the National Galleries only to find the territory occupied already by this wild lot. There's no way he could have competed against the din, but he stayed and appreciated for a while before moving somewhere quieter. The wooden case holds his bagpipes, and is the traditional carrying case.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Colinton Church

There has been a church hereabouts since 1095 (see the date on the gate). The present church is a modern (1908) rebuilding and extension of the 1771 church. Whatever the dates, it's a lovely solid parish church in the hilly suburb of Colinton.

Saturday, 18 April 2009

Lost


We've only twice left belongings on city buses. The first time we did (or rather, I did), it caused hysterical laughter among the staff at the Lothian Buses lost property office. I still don't see what's so funny about leaving a chair on a bus, but apparently it was the best thing they'd heard in years. In my defence, I should mention that it was a small chair, in fact a very small chair from IKEA's children's range that was just the right height for my daughter to sit on when playing her clarsach. And that we were en route to a music festival class and I was preoccupied with getting the clarsach safely off the bus in the morning rush hour. It was only after we were standing on the pavement with the clarsach, and the bus was lumbering up Dundas Street, did we realise that the chair was not with us.

I phoned the lost property office during their customer-unfriendly opening hours (see the notice on the door), endured much ridicule, but a day later was able to collect the chair amid a final burst of laughter from the staff. And here it is - looking larger than it is, I realise now, but you just have to think small.

The second time we weren't so lucky. My son left his score of Carissimi's Jephte on a city bus recently. I phoned the lost property office every day for over a week, and then gave up. We still wonder why a cute little white chair was handed in to lost property, but the choral score of an early Baroque oratorio was snaffled by another passenger. While I can't show you the score, you can listen to the performance by his school chamber choir. My son is singing bass, and my daughter is playing violin in the accompaniment.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Skywatch Friday


A dramatic sunset at the end of a perfect spring day on Speyside. The two man-made silhouettes are a whisky distillery chimney at the left, and an electricity pole sort of thing (the technical name of which I obviously don't know) towards the right.



Other skies around the world are at Skywatch Friday.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Haar


Haar - a word of Dutch origin describing the cold sea fog which often afflicts the East coast of Scotland. It has hardly been daylight here all day. On the Royal Mile this lunchtime the church spires disappeared into the blanket of grey, and the smell of the sea penetrated the centre of the city.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Host of harps

One of the delights of the Edinburgh International Harp Festival is the harp makers' exhibition. Gorgeous harps, in various woods, with clean, simple lines or intricately carved. Last year we researched a new harp for my daughter, involving trying the various makes, comparing tone and feel and looking for that indefinable quality that would tell her that this was 'her' harp. She found it it one of Frank Sievert's harps, in maple with a cedar soundboard. The photos above and immediately below show some of Frank Sievert's range of harps, with Mr Sievert in the photo below.


Most of the harps in the exhibition are the small celtic lever harp, but for those branching out into the concert harp and with £10,000 (around 11,000 euros) to spare for a starter harp, there are lovely instruments like these:


We've been North for Easter, and away from internet connection. I'm looking forward to catching up on posts I've missed elsewhere.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Na Clarsairean and Festival Orchestra

With so many harps in Na Clarsairean (the Scottish Harp Orchestra) and participants from all over the world in the Festival Orchestra, it's important to get into position early and start tuning. My daughter is on the extreme right, playing her beautiful new harp by German maker Frank Sievert for the first time in a performance.



Then there's the concentration phase, above (daughter in maroon sweatshirt).


Then the chatting phase (daughter in grey this time - these shots are from the dress rehearsal and the performance).

Then the giggling phase (dress rehearsal only) - but she wasn't the only one - Na Clarsairean are a jolly lot.


And finally well-earned applause for the performance of 'The Sleeping Warrior', a suite of Scottish traditional and contemporary music composed by Isobel Mieras which tells the 'stormy and often tragic history of the nation', as the programme notes describe it. Isobel Mieras is the Artistic Director of the Festival, and my daughter's teacher.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Edinburgh International Harp Festival


The venue for the Edinburgh International Harp Festival this week - Merchiston Castle School, on the southern outskirts of Edinburgh. It's a boys' boarding school the rest of the time, very strong in rugby. This week it's populated by harp players (and harp-carriers like myself) from all over the world.

The headmaster gets rather a lovely house, complete with a bit of ivy-clad castle ruin in the back garden.


The ruin is part of Colinton Castle, built in the 16th century, destroyed by Oliver Cromwell in 1650, rebuilt, then destroyed again in the 18th century on the instructions of the Scottish painter Naysmith to create a picturesque ruin.

Monday, 6 April 2009

International Brigade Commemoration

By chance I came across this small and touching ceremony in Princes Street Gardens last week. The commemoration was of those from the Lothians and Fife who died fighting with the International Brigade in the Spanish Civil War.


Friday, 3 April 2009

Skywatch Friday - Spring is in the sky


Big puffy clouds, shafts of sunlight, trees in bud. Even the University of Edinburgh's New College building seems to be growing.

Fingers crossed - computer problems could be solved.

If so, I hope to see more Skywatch photos at the Skywatch Friday site.

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