Saturday, 28 April 2012

Housing - St Andrews style



I love these small-scale houses in St Andrews.  The red pantiles are common in the area.  Originally they came to Scotland as ballast in ships trading from the Netherlands.
 


On a larger scale, below, one of the student halls of residence of St Andrews University.  This is St Salvator's Hall, where Prince William (and doubtless a bodyguard) made the transition from Buckingham Palace and Eton to student life. 





Friday, 20 April 2012

Skywatch Friday - Ben Nevis



My son climbed Ben Nevis recently as a fund raiser for a student charity he's involved in.  The Ben is Britain's highest mountain - at 4,409 feet it's not lofty by the standards of the Alps or the Rockies, but we're fond of it.  There's a lot of traffic up it.  100,000 ascents a year, including a race and many charity ascents, occasionally involving pushing a piano to the top.  The pianos and ordinary walkers use a well-maintained track ('trails' aren't the norm on Scottish hills), but there's also serious climbing and scrambling by other routes, including ice climbing.    The mountain is owned by the John Muir Trust, a wild land conservation charity.

The path starts gently enough.  This is not a normal Spring, so I don't know whether the trickle of water in the burn is normal for this time of year or if it should be a torrent of snow-melt.
 

A plateau with a lochan (a 'little loch') seems to have offered a bit of respite from the uphill slog.



At last some snow, and ridge upon ridge of mountains fading into the distance.
 


A final uphill pull.  Notice all the footprints!
 

The summit is dotted with cairns, looking like offerings to the god of the Mountain.


All this exertion (and sunburn) was in aid of the Glasgow University Student Volunteers Abroad project that my son will be part of in Nepal this summer.  The volunteers will be involved in construction work and in teaching. You can read about the project here, and if anyone is moved to make even a very tiny donation in support, you can do so on my son's page at Charity Giving . He would be very grateful!


For other skies around the world, visit Skywatch Friday.



Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Bracing day in St Andrews


Bracing was hardly the word for it.  After the deceptive mildness of March we were hurtled back to winter in early April.  Our day in St Andrews included horizontal hail showers, gales, freezing rain and the occasional glimpse of sun.

I wish I had sound to go with these photos so that you could hear the roar and thunder of the waves.  



We didn't venture too far out along the pier, for fear of being blown off.  Normally peopled by casually strolling tourists and sometimes by red-gowned students (and I have readers who know more about that than I do), there was only a single meditative figure in one of the niches in the sea wall.
 


Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Edinburgh 19 - Toulouse 14


Time to work off all those deep-fried calories with a game of rugby.  Edinburgh played Toulouse at Murrayfield on Saturday, turning in a gratifying win after a desperate season for Scottish rugby in the European Six Nations tournament.  Toulouse is in white, which I have never understood as a colour in which to play rugby. 

Photos are courtesy of my daughter, who kindly responded to my text plea for some blog fodder.


Instead of cheerleaders before the game, American style, spectators were offered a furry thing in a kilt.  I imagine it must have been nicely cosy inside that costume.


The view from my daughter's seat in the stands.  My son was also at the match in a different part of the stadium.  By dint of some extreme waving they managed to locate each other across the pitch.  Family ties, eh?


Friday, 6 April 2012

Scottish Easter treats




Is there no end to the Scottish appetite for deep frying?  The Cadbury's Creme Egg is a sickly-but-compelling guilty treat, available only between January and Easter each year.  Inside the chocolate shell is a fondant which mimics the white and yellow of a real egg.  I would show you a photo, but I've already eaten my egg for today.  I haven't yet dared tackle the deep fried variety.  One day - next year now - in the interests of research.

Or if deep frying is not your thing, how about a cute wee Creme Egg-and-marzipan chick, courtesy of Fisher and Donaldson's bakery in St Andrews. 



Also from Fisher and Donaldson, but toning down the sugar slightly, there's a hot cross bun - very unusually with a cross-shaped cross rather than the standard pastry strips dividing the bun into quarters.  

With this rather more traditional fare, I wish you a happy Easter.



Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Dry



At this time of year the burns are usually healthily full of water.  Peaty brown, fuelled by melting snow.  Ironically, in this first Spring after completion of the impressive flood defences, the watercourse of the Rothes burn is lower even than midsummer levels.  I've seen this burn this low only once before, in the epic hot summer of 1975.

The lorry under the hopper is waiting for a load of draff to be delivered.  This is the 'happy cows' feed of Scotland - spent grain from whisky distilleries.

Below,  dusty soil follows a harrowing tractor.


And these rocks in the river Spey.  Ordinary rocks in a river?  I've never seen them before.  Normally the only clue that they're under the surface is a swirl on the water.
 

This dry Spring is deeply unsettling.

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