Thursday, 30 June 2011

Skywatch Friday - Cuillin cloud

A very belated catch-up on photos I meant to post this time last year. I don't know where this time of year goes every year. Because I'm even more squeezed for time than usual, to introduce this mini series I'm going to repeat the introduction I wrote to a similar series of photos taken by my son when it was his turn for 'S3 Projects':

'One of the unique features of my children's school is a two week period in May every year when the whole year group in S3, or the 14-15 year olds - all 230 of them - are split into small groups of about a dozen and go off into Scotland's wild places, with 3 or so teachers per group. No bookwork, no science-project-homework-on-the-side. Just physical endeavour, some of it pretty challenging. The prosaic name for this experience is 'S3 Projects'. It's based on the philosophy of the Scottish-born American environmentalist John Muir, who wrote "I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in." '

My son cycled 450 miles round the top of Scotland. You can follow his tour by clicking on the tag 'Cycling Project' in the tag cloud on the sidebar. He does feature in the photos at one point - he's holding the lamb in this post. Two years ago my daughter's Project went to Skye and Kintail, for two weeks of hill walking, kayaking and conservation work. The hillwalking on Skye was in the rocky Cuillin range, and was blessed by sunny weather.

In a rare thing for Skye, a cloud was a matter for curiosity.

More skies from around the world are at Skywatch Friday.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Basement flair

The New Town of Edinburgh is new in relative Scottish terms. Built between 1765 and 1850, it's an area of gracious neo-classical streets and squares, of townhouses and spacious flats. Very desirable.

When I'm walking through this area I like to look down, into the basement area below pavement level. This is a UNESCO World Heritage site, but it's very much lived-in. I love the juxtaposition of high end property and basic Scottish thrift, above. Why use a tumble dryer when you can put up a clothes line?

And gardening? Just use a basket.

We have several of these wicker hampers kicking around at home. One is in the loft, one in the garage, one at the allotment. I think I should liberate them from their dull storage duties. I'd draw the line at leaving my guitar outside as decor, however.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Stobo sculptures

How can a week have passed since I meant to post more photos from our damp soujourn at Stobo? But pass it has, so I may as well get on and show you what I've been intending to post all week: sculptures by local artists which were dotted around the gardens.

The gorilla in the bamboo might appear incongruous, but for me it immediately recalled a favourite childhood book, 'A Stranger at Green Knowe', where a gorilla escaped from a zoo finds refuge at the old house of Green Knowe. The series of Green Knowe books by Lucy Boston is one of the great classics of English children's literature. The first book especially, 'The Children of Green Knowe', is utterly magical. I hesitate whether to visit the setting of the books one day - the Manor at Hemmingford Grey, lest the magic disappear in contact with reality.

Below are some of my favourite pieces from the garden opening. I could see a place for all of them either in my garden or at the allotment. I wonder what our allotment fox would make of the penguins?

This last piece is especially lovely. I coveted it. One day, perhaps...

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Tempestuous morn in Stobo

More accurately, a tempestuous afternoon, and the rain was relentless and drenching rather than volleying. I'm at a loss this year for where to place Matthew Arnold's 'tempestuous morn in early June'.

So, some tempestuous morn in early June,
When the year's primal burst of bloom is o'er,
Before the roses and the longest day -
When garden-walks and all the grassy floor
With blossoms red and white of fallen May
And chestnut-flowers are strewn -
So have I heard the cuckoo's parting cry,
From the wet field, through the vext garden-trees,
Come with the volleying rain and tossing breeze;
The bloom is gone, and with the bloom go I!

We've had tempest, but a dry one. The May and chestnut flowers have fallen before June came in. The roses - wild dog roses and garden ones - are already in flower. Only the longest day seems a constant. It is all very disconcerting.

So I may as well fix on yesterday's afternoon in the Japanese water garden at Stobo Home Farm. The occasion was a charity opening of the garden in aid of St Columba's hospice in Edinburgh. My daughter's string quartet was providing some of the music for the event. The woodland setting was charming, and on a fine day would have been delightful. As it was their fingers froze (temperature: 8 degrees C), their bows loosened, and their instruments did not like the damp one bit. Heroically, they played their two sets in an open-fronted summer house on a small island.

Access was by slippery stepping stones.

The other musician was a young piper from my daughter's school. The summerhouse would have been deafening for him, even with standard issue earplugs. So he found the driest spot under a tree, and would dismantle the drones and dry them out when he got home.

Below, the car park in the fine Scottish tradition: a soggy, muddy field, with enthusiastic marshalling provided by army cadets.

With all this water, it was inevitable that there would have to be a trip to the 'facilities', down this farm track...

Today I've been cleaning mud off shoes. I've even had to wash my shoelaces. Still, the music was appreciated, and the quartet knows to add wellies to its kit list for any outside engagement in the Scottish summer.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

They're everywhere

You can take for granted driving along behind a giant sporran. The mind does boggle a bit however if you think about it for a minute...

And are you incentivised by this offer?

For readers wondering what use this disembodied sporran has, edited to add links to examples of sporrans 'in action', here and a festive and kitsch version here. Who says the Scots don't have a sense of humour?


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