Saturday, 31 December 2011

Country walk


When the sun does appear at this time of year it's low on the horizon. Perhaps it was the angle of the light, but more likely it was our mild autumn that has given the grass such a vivid and surprising emerald hue.

I love the combination of shafts of winter sun and dark clouds. It's this midwinter contrast that means that even if I did have the money to 'escape' the Scottish winter, I wouldn't do it. Why miss this counterpoint to the long days of summer? Admittedly not particularly sunny or warm days this year, but there is a lot to savour in these opposites.

Our village castle (more accurately its remaining wall) appears spotlit. Thankfully it's not lit up artifically and expensively, not to mention wastefully and dark sky spoilingly at night.



Because of the natural spotlighting, I noticed for the first time the clear outline of a window arch. I can't believe that I played around this castle all through my childhood and have only just noticed this. Perhaps a lump of stone has fallen off recently and given the arch a sharper profile. Perhaps I was always too intent on sledging or Easter egg rolling or hide and seek.


And then, in a field above the village, a large trampoline. A casualty of the recent gales. It must have been quite a sight when airborne.


Thanks to YouTube, you just have to say 'trampoline' in Scotland just now for everyone to know what you're referring to.


Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Seeking out the light


'Tis the year's midnight...the world's whole sap is sunk.' And in these days between Christmas and New Year, away from the artificial glare of the city, I've been seeking out the light. Dawn is a matter of a few minutes, between 9 and 9.15 a.m. Christmas Day dawned quietly, in washed silver and blue.

Below, sunset on Christmas Day at 3.30 pm, beside the Spey in the face of a tearing gale.



Boxing Day dawn was a panoply of cloud shapes. Mild temperatures (14 degrees!) allowed me to stand outside to view the return of the sun.




There was no sunset where we were that day, just the grey half-light deepening imperceptibly into dark. I had somehow expected today's sunrise to make up for it with a gaudy show, but it was delicate and restrained.


Instead the show came tonight, with 10 minutes of fire in the west.


Friday, 16 December 2011

Skywatch Friday - skirling


The scary carousel Wave Swinger at Edinburgh's 'Winter Wonderland' is going full tilt now. The chairs whirl round above shoppers' heads, passing within what seems like inches of the black gothic bulk of the Scott Monument.


The usual soundtrack of Princes Street is the skirl of the pipes. At this time of year the Wave Swinger adds the skirl of its terrified/thrilled/nauseous customers.

More skies across the world are at Skywatch Friday.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Skywatch Friday - de-countrified


It's strange how different shapes against the sky can create an immediate emotional reaction. In the case of this Antwerp skyline, the first word that came to my mind to describe it was the French 'dépaysement'. Literally 'de-countrified', it has connotations of exile, the exotic, displacement. When I say this skyline from the top of the MAS (the Museum aan de Stroom), it wasn't just a change of country that it evoked, but a change of world. I had the strongest sense I was looking at the skyline of an alien planet, so unaccustomed were the shapes and dispersal of the tall buildings.

Below - the MAS.



And the sense of dislocation in relation to the sky continued throughout my visit. Below, a spindly chimney anchored to the roof.



Everything in this shot says 'You're not in Scotland now': overhead trame wires (sounds of hollow laughter off from those of us in Edinburgh), more exotic chimneys, and the spires ranging from squat and onion-like to ivory filigree against the sky.


And even once airborne on the return flight to Edinburgh, the strangeness of this landscape in the sky - smoke from factory or power station chimneys piercing the cloud floor somewhere over the Netherlands.


More skies around the world are at Skywatch Friday.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

North by train


It's a long time since I've made the journey to Aberdeen by train. The east coast line is one of my favourite railway journeys. I still associate it with the last stage of the long haul up the length of Britain, when I was a student travelling north from London or France. It was always my preferred mode of travel, for the slow re-possession of my country from the Sussex Downs up to the Howe of the Mearns. Perhaps for this reason I couldn't stop taking photos on my journey on Sunday. Above, the Forth Road Bridge seen from the Forth Rail Bridge. Note the snow on the hills, off to the right of the shot.

Below, a jellyfish cloud over Edinburgh airport.



One of the great joys of a winter journey is seeing the naked forms of trees against the horizon.



The mosaic has cut off a feature of the middle shot that I only noticed once I'd downloaded the photos. I guess these must be some sort of spreaders or tanks - slurry, perhaps? But they look for all the world like two giant bottles.


Farming on one side, and on the other the sea. These are the twin livelihoods of this part of Scotland.

Below - red hulls seemed to be in favour, whether for big or little boats. In the middle, the river Tay. I always have a slight frisson when crossing the Tay by the rail bridge, remembering the collapse of the previous bridge. A long time ago, but still...



For the most part this is rich agricultural land.




Near Aberdeen the land is poorer on the clifftops, and farm buildings are stark and utilitarian, exposed to every wind that blows.


And this is what they look out over - The North Sea.


At Aberdeen station my long northbound train on the right is mirrored by the London train on the left, almost ready to set off down the length of the country.


All was calm on my journey north last week. I'm writing this now on a day when Scotland is hit by storm force winds, and rail services on the east coast line have been suspended.

Thank you to Jacqui at The Barefoot Crofter for the technical tips on mosaics, none of which I would have figured out for myself.

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