Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Municipal planting Edinburgh

It struck me recently on my walk to work that the municipal planting goes through several phases on the 2 mile route from suburbs to the centre.  Near the start, I pass what used to be a nondescript triangle of ground covered by creeping ivy.  Recently this was cleared, and an amazingly pollinator-friendly collection of plants appeared.  I don't know if it is a council site, or if local residents have taken it in hand, but the planting includes very un-municipal Rudbeckia, Tiarella, Cranesbill Geranium, Astrantia, Helleborus, Verbena Bonariensis, Japanese Anemone...

A little further towards town, this traffic island is planted with soft grasses, and Sedum, plus something I can't identify from a distance.

Very nearby, however, the invasion of the bedding Geranium begins.

And by Princes Street Gardens, the bedding could be straight from the 1960s. 

Up on the Mound, which is the showpiece of Edinburgh's municipal bedding, there is a rather strange collection of plants this year, but it is an improvement on classic 1960s.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

(End of) summer reading

Summer reading has slipped into end of summer reading.  Three library books and two bought ones this time.  

Being British, one is meant to look forward to Wimbledon as the essence of summer sport.  That, or cricket.  I used to be an avid tennis watcher, but in recent years I've found it edging towards tedious.  It's been replaced in my affections by the Tour de France.  Already I'm counting the weeks until next July.  Three weeks of drama, extreme sporting endeavour, baroque tactics, and glorious French countryside.  To compensate for the end of the Tour this year, I tracked down a couple of books in the library.  First up, the autobiography of the British/Isle of Man sprinter, Mark Cavendish.  A fascinating account of the life of a professional cyclist.  I can't begin to imagine going from race to race, living on the road, staking everything of split-second decisions in a crush of other cyclists.  I daresay he couldn't imagine the tedium of my day-job in front of a computer.

One of the things I particularly like about the Tour is the ironic commentary by Gary Imlach, Chris Boardman, and Ned Boulting. Ned's book about what goes on behind the scenes of the Tour was in the same vein.

Getting serious now, my attempt to learn some Albanian.  I'm going back to Kosovo in the autumn, and want to be able to say more than 'thank you'.  However, you will notice the pristine condition of the book.  I have signed up for an evening class in another language, so I may have bitten off more than I can chew right now.  When I was younger I soaked up new languages, but I can actually feel the language-learning part of my brain grinding and protesting.

My current read, a book about the wonder of the night sky and natural darkness.  It's a subject about which I'm passionate.  I need properly dark nights.  When we drive north in the winter up through the central highlands, I feel something in me relax at being surrounded by the night.  And on the return journey, it affects me physically every time as we come within sight of the orange skyglow of the central belt of Scotland.  Read this book, visit the Campaign for Dark Skies website, or just go outside and notice how little of the night sky you can see.   

I didn't mean this juxtaposition, but it so happens that a satellite image of North Korea at night will show only a faint point of light where the capital is, and the rest of the country is in darkness. 

And finally, my failure of the summer.  I could not make headway with this book.  It was acutely perceptive, and was indeed 'a majestic work of scholarship', but it was just too heavy on the literary criticism for my summer mood.  I have to admit that I read the first chapter and the last, and was very sorry to have stalled on any book by Francis Spufford, but I did not have the stamina for it.

What should I do now?  Get another pile of books, or hunker down with Albanian?

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

The social history of gates

Confined to lower levels while at Loch Tay, we walked from Firbush to the village of Killin via Kinnell House.  The entrance to the grounds from the south is through an imposing pillared gateway. 

At either side of the pillars a stone stile is set into the wall.

Below, a closer view of the stile on the other side of the gateway.

The gateway nearer the house is topped by imposing lions rather than plain urns, and lacks stone stiles.  Our theory, made up on the spot, was that the gateway with the stiles was for tradespeople and staff, who were likely to be on foot, whereas the lion-topped gateway was for the inhabitants of the house and their visitors.

Kinnell House contains 'fabric' dating back to around 1580, although most of the house was built in the 18th century.  Just across the driveway is this prehistoric stone circle, far more mysterious than any mossy gateways.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Skywatch Friday - shores of light

Our recent blustery weekend at Loch Tay produced beautiful sunsets as compensation.  From our base at Firbush Point we looked across the loch to shores of light.

More skies from around the world are at Skywatch Friday.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Putting out the flags

We had the bunting up today to welcome our daughter home from Canada, where she's been working during the university summer vacation.

The gale that caused the flags to flap wildly also blew the plane in from Toronto 40 minutes early.  Of course I had got up obsessively (sensibly) early to check the arrival time, so we were at the airport with comfortable time to spare.

With both children home for the moment, I'm feeling very happy tonight.


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