Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Hogmanay light show

Edinburgh tonight will be lit up, dazzled, exploded over by Hogmanay lights and fireworks.  Up here on Speyside we are missing the three days of New Year spectacle. But we have had our own light show this afternoon, and I wouldn't exchange it for the city variety.

Over to the North East, the reflection of the sunset cast dramatic rays.

The slopes of Ben Aigen, which had been dull and rain-washed all day, suddenly came alive with tawny colour.

Now darkness surrounds the house, but there is candlelight and firelight on this last day of the old year.

Wishing you a very Happy New Year when it comes.  (Being Scottish, I have to add 'when it comes' to any New Year wishes given before the turn of the year, otherwise it's seen as tempting fate.)

Monday, 30 December 2013

Commonwealth War Graves

In the cemetery of my home village are three Commonwealth war graves from the First World War.  All three are Canadian, and all died in the last months of the war, two of the young men in the closing days.  One served with the Canadian Forestry Corps, which had a large presence on densely-forested Speyside.  The Corps provided timber for the Allied war effort, including for trench construction, railways, ammunition crates and road-building.  The others served with the Canadian Army Service Corps, which provided logistics support, presumably necessary for the onward transport of the timber. 

Towards the end of the war some units were called on to provide infantry.  Given that these graves are located on Speyside, I think it's unlikely that the men died in battle.  My internet searches so far haven't revealed any further information.  Perhaps they died in logging accidents, or in the Spanish flu that swept the world in 1918.  The deaths of Private Eby and Private Berthiaume, a day apart in November 1918 came at the peak of the second wave of Spanish flu that year.  Unlike other flu viruses, this strain killed healthy young adults with strong immune systems.  

Whatever the reasons for their deaths, they are not forgotten.  Posies of spring flowers appear on the graves every Easter, and these lovely wreaths every Christmas.  I haven't been able to find out yet who does this.  The Commonwealth War Graves website doesn't have any information about laying of tributes during the year.  Perhaps it's done through the church, or perhaps someone has decided that these young men, far from home, will have their flowers too.

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Christmas Eve dawn

7.56 am.  No spectacular, fiery sunrise on this day of gales.  Just the slow increase of the light.

7.58 am.  To the south-west, looking towards the village and the quarter from which the gale is coming.  A blurry moon and the reflection of our Christmas tree lights. 

8.13 am.  The track to the river gleams with puddles, and the river itself can now be picked out in the distance.


8.21 am.  Houses in the village now appear, together with the wintry raspberry canes.  Several of the stout posts of the raspberry frames have blown over, snapped off at the base.

9.12 am.  Rafts of clouds are coloured by the rising sun.

9.59 am.   Finally the sun appears over the shoulder of Ben Aigan, blurry through a screen of cloud and rain.

Now in the evening the gales are still blowing, and snow is forecast.  We are waiting for the last member of our family to arrive for Christmas.  Our son is travelling north from Edinburgh by train, and my husband will drive down to Aviemore to collect him.  The car is being stocked with snow shovel, saw (in case of tree branches across the road), survival blankets, food and hot drinks.  Our trip this afternoon to collect the Christmas capon and ham from the butcher in the next village turned into a detour because of a tree across the road. I'm won't feel at ease until husband and son are safely home later tonight.

Sending best wishes for a Merry Christmas, and thinking especially of everyone weathering this storm.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

City Christmas

Very soon we'll be escaping Christmas in the city.  The Edinburgh version has expanded this year with another city square taken over by log cabins selling gluwein, hog roast rolls, bratwurst, pancakes, beer, and wooden crafts that are renewed daily from container lorries with various European number plates.   And the new attraction is the Star Flyer, which hoists you up 60 metres for a view of the city.

I haven't tried it, not having a great head for heights, and certainly not since a bit fell off it and landed in the gardens.  Thankfully no-one was injured.

If Christmas-themed attractions pall, there are other city delights such as art to fall back on.  This display in an art gallery I pass on my way to work caught my attention recently. 

Perhaps I'm just not sophisticated enough for city living.  Which would you prefer - commercial Christmas or ironic art?  I'll be happy to leave them both behind and escape to winter darkness and the windswept banks of the River Spey.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Sunshine on Leith

Corny, but I couldn't resist it.  After all, this photo is just that - sunshine on Edinburgh's port of Leith.  It's taken from John Lewis department store, looking down Leith Walk on a busy Saturday recently.  And yes, those are a couple of giraffes on the pavement.

The corny bit is the cultural reference to the recent film of the same name.  With this autumn being as it was I didn't see it when it was in the cinema. Until now Leith has been famous/infamous in film as the scene of 'Trainspotting', which is about a group of heroin addicts.  Despite it having been voted best Scottish film of all time, I'm happy to say I've neither read the book nor seen the film, and don't intend to.  But here's a glimpse of sunnier Leith via the trailer:

Sunday, 8 December 2013

De-countrified in Gothenburg

Or not, as it turned out.  On a recent work trip, Sweden felt like... Sweden, rather than a foreign country.  There was the pleasure of recognition, but not the shock of the new, even though it's about 20 years since I was last there.  Before that, we visited quite frequently (my husband speaks Swedish), but this was a first winter visit.  Although I was pretty much inside during daylight hours, I tried to take some photos which would remind me of the Swedish-ness of Gothenburg.  So in the shots above and below, city centre skylines that are European rather than Scottish.

And trams, of course.  I had lots of practice in tram-dodging in preparation for that glorious day when trams will run in Edinburgh (getting closer now).

Illuminated ships at the harbour.  

At last - a bit of de-countryfication: a 'no roller skates' sign at the entrance to Gothenburg University's Business School.

It was very agreeable being abroad but not being de-countrified.  And it made me long to visit more of Scandinavia in winter.  I've been to Norway several times in winter, but never Sweden until now.  Finland I've only visited once, in September, when the season was slipping into autumn.

For other recent de-countryfication, see the label on the right.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

The black dog

Well timed as we go down into the darkest part of the year, a black dog has appeared on Princes Street.  This is a difficult time.  Getting up in the morning is a struggle.  The sun rose today at 8.23 a.m., but on many days it's hard to tell that it has risen, muffled as we are under low grey clouds.  Sunset today was apparently at 3.45 p.m.  Since I was in the office, all I noticed was a gradual slide outside from grey to black. Unless you make an effort to get outside at lunchtime - and I normally work right through - daylight only returns at weekends. 

This particular black dog looks more benign than threatening - although perhaps with a certain mournful set of its head?  Judging by the muddy information plaque at its feet, children have been clambering up to cuddle and pat it.  A multi purpose dog, then.


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