Monday, 30 November 2009

What would John Muir have thought?

Sunday afternoon saw us at Port Seton, along the coast to the east of Edinburgh, schlepping daughter's harp again. We thought while we were there we might walk part of the John Muir Way, and followed the signs to the beach at Port Seaton. The wind off the sea was straight from Siberia, with stinging rain thrown in for good measure. Plans for a walk were abandoned, but I grabbed these shots of another grey November day. The line of hills on the horizon are the Pentlands, which run right up to Edinburgh's boundaries.

Looking further north west you come to the saddle shape of Arthur's Seat and then the tall buildings of Edinburgh's regenerated port towards the right of the shot. The sunset was beginning to colour at 2.30 in the afternoon.

And then, turning to face the start of the John Muir Way, we find this.

Cockenzie coal-fired power station. Opened in 1967, due to close by 2015. One of the Edinburgh landmarks that doesn't find its way onto postcards, but part of our landscape nonetheless. A website I googled about the John Muir Way said, "not to be confused with the John Muir Trail in California, which is a very different matter."

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Skywatch Friday: At last - colour

Thank you, Mother Nature, for a shot of colour this week. Tonight all the Christmas lights in the centre of town were switched on. I was in Princes Street at the time, and jumped out of my skin when the fireworks went off from the Castle. Should have know there'd be fireworks - no event is complete without them now. Since I haven't had my course in night time photography yet (coming up in January - I can't wait!) I didn't try to capture the show - I'm sure some other Scottish bloggers will have. It was all very cheerful and collectively jolly, but it didn't lift my heart in the way that this fragment of rainbow did. I'm such a country girl at heart!

See other skies at the Skywatch Friday site.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

If it's time for this...

it must also be time for this:

The German Christmas market arrives in Edinburgh this week. When I was in Princes Street on Monday lunchtime the market place was full of screwdrivers being wielded, displays set up, hands being shaken in a Germanic manner, and lots of German chat as stall owners were re-united with each other from wherever they migrate to the rest of the year. The centre of town is busy with German hire vans and lorries, negotiating our chaotic roads with some flair.

But since Monday we've had westerly gales and horizontal rain, and a forecast of gales and rain for the rest of the month. The stall being set up above is west facing...

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Missing mountain

In August I vowed to take a photo of one of my favourite stretches of the River Spey each time I was home. This is the shot from late October - yes, I'm a bit behind. If I hadn't decided on this sequence of photos I wouldn't have taken this shot, as the weather during our visit was grey and flat. Nothing remarkable here, just a little breeze dusking along the water, and the bad weather-to-come sign of Ben Rinnes having disappeared from view.

At least the gean trees (wild cherries) along the river bank shone out. Now the leaves will be gone.

The wooden cabin is a fishing hut, where the wealthy people who come to fish for salmon take shelter if the weather turns nasty. There's one thing at least money can't buy!

I am feeling pent up in the city just now. Life is streets and pavements and the orange glow of sodium lights. We had hoped for a walk at the weekend on our way down to Moffat to hear our daughter play in a concert, and drove up to the lonely road beside Talla Reservoir. But on an afternoon of gales and heavy rain, with the light fading by 3.30, and the reservoir dangerously high, we turned back when the car began to lift off the road going through a flooded patch. A wild, isolated road over high moorland, with no mobile phone reception, is not a place to get stuck. So the walk had to be postponed. Still, the Moffat concert made up for it. Rutter, Bach, Vivaldi and Corelli (the 'Christmas' concerto) in the stout red sandstone church was a good way to keep the elements at bay.

Monday, 23 November 2009

The dark time

Darker than usual this year, as the tramworks have put out of action some of the city centre streetlights. On Saturday afternoon the streets leading off Princes Street were unlit chasms. Dark in the countryside enfolds, but dark in a city, among the press of shadowy crowds, is unsettling. The streets that were lit reminded me of the opening of Ursula Le Guin's 'The Left Hand of Darkness'. "Rainclouds over dark towers, rain falling in deep streets, a dark storm-beaten city of stone, through which one vein of gold winds slowly."

But Edinburgh's 'Winter Wonderland' is taking shape again (already?). Behind the spire of the Scott Monument the big wheel experiments with a red zig zag of lights.

In answer to Tami's question, we have about 7 hours 40 minutes of daylight this week, but with low cloud it feels MUCH less!

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Skywatch Friday - Salisbury Crags

Another 5 pm sunset seen from the office. The difference yesterday was that the sunset was all in the east. Weird, but it made a great backdrop for the rocky outcrop of Salisbury Crags. The Gazeteer of Scotland tells me that the Crags are the "glaciated remains of a Carboniferous sill, injected between sedimentary rocks which formed in a shallow sea some 340 million years ago". I find that rather wonderful.

If you manage to get this photo to enlarge (I never can with my own photos, tho I can enlarge those on other blogs with no problem - technical advice welcome!) you might see that the Crags are pimpled with people at one point. A great place for skywatching.

Hundreds of other Skywatch photos are at the Skywatch Friday site.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Watery Wednesday - Glen Grant water

Dark, peaty water. The stuff Glen Grant whisky is made of. This is the Glen Grant burn ('burn' is the Scots word for stream) rushing down towards the distillery, almost as if it's in a hurry to be turned into the water of life.

Once the water destined for steeping with the malted barley has been piped away securely into the distillery, the burn is divided again. The narrow channel in the foreground takes water into a lade, from which it will be pumped to condense the distilled spirit.

What's left - and there's plenty - goes rushing free, down through the village and into the River Spey. Growing up on Speyside, water for me meant two things - whisky and salmon fishing.

This is my first Watery Wednesday post. I don't quite know why I'm joining another meme. I have no time as it is. But when I saw these photos from the summer in my folder they whispered 'Watery Wednesday' to me.

Enjoy visiting watery delights here.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Pride comes before...

We maybe don't do friendlies, but we don't do wins either. Saturday's score: Wales 3, Scotland 0.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

12 kuvaa/photos - my walk to work November

8.15 a.m. and all is grey. A few lights show high up in Edinburgh Castle.

The contrast with October at around the same time in the morning brings home just how much the light is waning.

The 12 kuvaa/photos site has month-by-month contrasts.

At other places on my walk to work it's the essence of November.

Graffiti has struck again at Warriston Cemetery. There's graffiti art, but this is definitely not it.

Grey Edinburgh rooftops.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Remembrance Day - Lady Haig's Poppy Factory

Only the poppy above the door sets the red standstone building apart from others in the area. This is Lady Haig's Poppy Factory, in the Warriston area of Edinburgh. The original factory began in 1926 at the suggestion of Countess Haig, wife of Field Marshall Haig who was commander in chief of the British forces in Europe in the First World War. Today over 30 mainly disabled ex-servicemen work making poppies and poppy wreaths for Scotland.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Beach art

Bart Simpson transposed to Hopeman, on the Moray Firth coast. And with the move, he's become fluent in Scots. 'Dookers' are swimming trunks.

Who would have suspected Hopeman to be a centre of beach hut art?

I have to admit I'm linguistically challenged by 'Cafe Mouie'. My maternal grandparents spoke the Scots dialect of the fishing town of Buckie. I grew up 15 miles inland, with a different dialect again. Even as a child I knew which word belonged to which place. I was surrounded by words of Norse origin: 'host', for cough (modern Norwegian ' hoste'), 'kirk' for church (same in Norwegian), 'yirdit' for dirty (Swedish 'jord', meaning 'earth'). But what is a 'mouie'? Is it someone's nickname? Could it be Hopeman Scots for 'seagull', from the French 'mouette'? But a few miles along the coast a seagull is a 'gow'.

The Moray Firth was grey and flat on the day of our walk along the beach a couple of weeks ago, but with a deceptive swell crashing onto the rocks.

When we showed my father these photos on our return from our walk he remembered that on the outbreak of World War II the beach huts at Hopeman were dismantled. Family friends from Aberdeen had a hut there, and it was transported inland to my grandmother's house at Craigellachie. Goodness knows why the huts had to be moved - something to do with coastal defences, I suppose. Perhaps it was feared that German invaders would infiltrate the huts and pose (in their dookers) as innocent bathers. After all, German paratroopers were rumoured to be parachuting into Britain disguised as nuns. Soon after the outbreak of war many people left the cities for fear of bombing. My grandmother's Aberdeen friends came to stay with her in Craigellachie. Whether there were so many of them that the house was bursting at the seams (a substantial country house with the essentials such as parlour, drawing room, maids' bedroom), or he just fancied a change, but my father spent the first year of the war sleeping in a beach hut in the garden.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Skywatch Friday - spot the new

Edinburgh Castle, seen from The Vennel, against a rare blue sky this week. Old and new together - spot the new.

A 'vennel' in Scots is a passageway between the gables of two buildings. As with many Scots words it comes from French, in this case 'venelle', meaning alley or lane.

More skies, blue or not, at Skywatch Friday.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Suspending disbelief

Dalwhinnie (population: 80) is a scattering of houses, a hotel, a whisky distillery and a tiny railway station in the Central Highlands. Just off the main north-south A9 road, which used to run through the village but then it was bypassed with a straighter road. Only very slightly straighter - and certainly not a dual carriageway - oh no! Trains do stop at the station, but in my experience it's a bit like Adlestrop: 'No one left and no one came/On the bare platform.'

So if it is twinned with Las Vegas, I'll let you judge who has the better deal from the arrangement.


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