Saturday, 27 February 2010

The Opening - and home cooking

I know I said no more snow scenes, but I needed a wintry shot of the River Spey. The salmon fishing season on the river opened on 11 February. Opening ceremonies mark the start of the season on the major rivers of Scotland. A report of the ceremony on the Spey said "The other 3 major rivers, namely, Tweed, Tay and Dee had been opened by a variety of politicians and comedians, therefore the Spey, not to be outdone, had a combination of both in MSP Richard Lochhead." [MSP = Member of Scottish Parliament]. I can't find anything on the internet about Mr Lochhead pursuing an amateur interest in stand-up comedy, so I assume this is an 'affectionate' tribute. Perhaps it refers to the fact that the political comedian poured a whole bottle of Glenfarclas Single Malt whisky into its waters as a good luck libation. You can see some of the obviously chilly event here.

And the home cooking? The villages along the banks of the Spey have angling associations, through which residents and visitors can fish on certain stretches of the river for very reasonable rates compared to the most famous beats where prices are astronomical. The custom in the Aberlour Angling Club is to donate the first salmon of the season to the Fleming Cottage Hospital. So it was that my father enjoyed freshly caught salmon for his evening meal on 11 February.

Monday, 22 February 2010


It's a lifeline, an artery, and they closed it. Only for a couple of days in the end, while Scottish Water laid bright blue water pipes, but there was consternation on the Water of Leith walkway last week. Those of us who use it to commute to work or for pleasure were bereft. Once the routes of suburban railways, the pedestrian and cycle paths run from the hills down through the city to the Port of Leith, and from the city centre out to the village of Cramond on the shores of the Firth of Forth.

How did we all manage for two days? The lycra-clad cyclists, the fast-walking, office-bound suits, the yummy mummies running with black labradors panting along behind on a lead, the mums pushing prams, the pensioners walking wee dogs, the groups of school children, the ladies cutting ivy for their flower arrangements, the allotment-bound green wellies, the walkers 'doing' the whole route from hills to sea, the mounted police exercising horses. We're back now, hopefully appreciating what we have.

Thursday, 18 February 2010


The orange snow shovel beside the hospital door in my previous post would have come from Gammack's shop in the High Street. This shot is obviously from Christmas-time, given the tell-tale tree on the wall. No need for any lessons here in how to give your customer what they want. Snow shovels, sledges, ordinary shovels for a different type of snow, a bag of coal for the open fire to keep things cosy, a brush for that fine work once you've shovelled most of the snow off the path, and a bottle of anti-freeze for the car windscreen.

If you want it, Gammack's probably have it. They're stockists of (deep breath):

  • quality leather
  • kilt belts
  • bridles
  • horse rugs
  • head collars and halters
  • riding boots
  • grooming brushes
  • sporrans
  • paint
  • batteries
  • bee supplies
  • garden seeds
  • compost
  • calor gas
  • hardware
  • fancy goods
One of the daughters of the owner is a Master Saddler. You could also pop in for a hand-made leather case for your mobile, or a hand-made wooden walking stick.

The indispensability of Gammack's has been part of my world since I was a child. Bits of other worlds are at My World Tuesday.

I think this is the last of my snow scenes. With the way life has been I haven't been looking for photo opportunities recently and have relied on my 'back catalogue'. But I've had enough of snow, so time to move on. In answer to the kind enquiries about my Dad's health, he's feeling better in himself, but things are going to have to move much more slowly than he'd like. But at least he's feeling impatient now, which is a good sign.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Fleming Cottage Hospital

The snow is gone now, but this is what it looked like in January. The Fleming cottage hospital serves the area around Aberlour-on-Spey, and is where my father is being treated following his fall last month. This is the original bit of the hospital, with part of the modern wing at one side and health centre at the other. It's on a very human scale, with only 15 beds. And good home cooking.

Friday, 12 February 2010

12 kuvaa/photos - my walk to work February

No comparison in terms of daylight this month, since my walk to work was at nearly 10 am rather than my normal 8 am. Is it just my fancy, or is there a slight thickening about the twigs on the trees? Perhaps it's my imperfect exposure.

There's a taxi, a black London cab, beetling along, and there was one in November's shot. This road by the Water of Leith is a taxi and those-in-the-know short-cut route.

No photo of Calton Hill today - the sun was in the way. I didn't mind. At this time of year, in Scotland, we take all the sun we can get.

See other photos in the 12 kuvaa series here.





Monday, 8 February 2010

Grouse butts

It takes deep snow to show them up sometimes. Marching up the hillside, like little stitches in white linen, a line of grouse butts - small stone, wood and turf constructions that provide cover for the waiting guns, as the birds are driven towards the butts by lines of beaters. On the inappropriately named 'Glorious Twelfth' (the opening of the grouse shooting season on 12 August), thousands of birds may be shot each year.

I prefer the butts covered in snow, and silent.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Skywatch Friday - Drumochter Pass

Fog clearing at the Drumochter Pass on the A9 road through the Central Highlands. Fog to the south, and to the north only blue skies and snow.

More skies from across the world are at Skywatch Friday.

Thursday, 4 February 2010


My cherished hand-knitted Fair Isle gloves, guaranteed to block an Atlantic gale or February frosts. Not knitted by me, sadly (I intend to conquer my knitting phobia at some point), but by an anonymous Shetland lady. I bought them several years ago in the Scalloway museum in Shetland, a small museum mingling articles from Shetland life, Fair Isle knitwear for sale, and a section on the Shetland Bus, the World War 2 resistance link between Shetland and occupied Norway.

Fair Isle lies between Orkney and Shetland. As the island's website says, it's also the name of one of the sea areas in the BBC Shipping Forecast, very often with gale warnings given out. Although the Fair Isle sea area isn't named in Seamus Heaney's poem, 'The Shipping Forecast', I always think of the island when I read the poem or listen to the forecast on the radio.

"Dogger. Rockall. Malin, Irish Sea:
Green swift upsurges, North Atlantic flux
Conjured by that strong gale-warning voice.
Collapse into a sibilant penumbra.
Midnight and closedown. Sirens of the tundra,
Of eel-road, seal road, keel road, whale road, raise
Their wind-compounded keen behind the baize
And drive the trawlers to the lee of Wicklow.
L'Etoile, Le Guiliemot, La Belle Helene
Nursed their bright names this morning in the bay
That toiled like mortar. It was marvellous
And actual, I said out loud, 'A haven,'
The word deepening, clearing, like the sky
Elsewhere on Minches, Cromarty, The Faroes."

I love the radio Shipping Forecast, deeply and helplessly. My children think I'm mad. If I am, so is a good segment of the British population, described by The Independent newspaper as 'that which enjoys the life of the mind.' If you want to read more about the Shipping Forecast and its appeal, try this article from The Independent. You may be able to listen to it on the BBC website.

Fair Isle gloves-Atlantic gales-Shipping Forecast. The life of the (wandering) mind.

Monday, 1 February 2010

Spot the whisky

They pop up everywhere on Speyside, these distilleries. You go to catch a train in Elgin and look, there's another one. (Hint - look for the roof) No train right at that moment - it was half an hour late because of snow and ice.

No, I didn't miss the train. Our son was going back to Edinburgh ahead of the rest of us at New Year.


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