Sunday, 29 March 2015

A bit of a walk

And a bit of an absence from blogging.  I've been ill, annoyingly.  The very Victorian-sounding ailment of pleurisy.  Stupidly I've tried to keep working through it, which hasn't helped.  

This had an impact on a weekend away we'd planned.   The intention had been to climb 'a few Munros'.  This was our daughter's idea - she's a keen hillwalker and decided she would get her parents out of the city and out onto the hills.  For anyone who doesn't realise the significance of the Munros bit, the Munros are Scottish hills over 3000 feet.  The classification dates from 1891, when Sir Hugh Munro published his Munro tables.  There's now a popular of 'Munro bagging', as hillwalkers try to climb all 282 summits. 3000 feet may not sound very high by Alpine standards, but some of them are ferociously difficult, requiring compass navigation - no tracks - and knife-edge ridges.  

With my dodgy breathing a Munro was beyond me, so we settled for a bit of a walk up into the hills above Aberfeldy, in Perthshire (and managed 8.6 miles all the same).  The start of the walk was up through beechwoods, a walk made famous by Robert Burns' poem 'The Birks of Aberfeldy'.  And here's a statue of Burns, enjoying his birks in perpetuity.  He seems to be multi-tasking in the way of today's teenagers, holding a tablet or Kindle while also reading a book.  

We took a look at his paper reading material.  Anyone recognise it?

 We came across prehistoric-looking trees. 

And waterfalls, celebrated by Burns in his poem:

The braes ascend like lofty wa's,
The foaming stream deep-roaring fa's,
O'erhung wi' fragrant spreading shaws-
The birks of Aberfeldy.
The hoary cliffs are crown'd wi' flowers,
White o'er the linns the burnie pours,
And rising, weets wi' misty showers
The birks of Aberfeldy.  


And then it was up onto the open moor.

We saw a huge number of black grouse, which was encouraging given that they're in a category of a globally threatened species.  They don't exactly help themselves by being supremely bad at being unobtrusive, breaking cover at the slightest noise, and making their distinctive harsh call.  I didn't have enough zoom on my camera to get a good shot of this one, but you can hopefully see it perched on the wall, with its red comb standing out against the heather.

As so often now in Scotland, there was a wind farm on the horizon.  I'm very ambivalent about windfarms.  Clean energy is good, but the impact on the landscape is huge.

Even less scenic was this row of dead moles, strung on a fence in a sort of medieval visual deterrent.  I wasn't aware that Mr Mole was considered a pest, but having googled it I discover that if silage is cut in a field with mole hills it cases listeriosis in the livestock that eat it, which can kill them or make them abort.  This puzzles me about this upland thin grass, as it doesn't look too good for silage. 

And we had a spot of spring heather burning - this is done to keep the heather young and vigourous.  The practice is known as 'muirburn', and it's governed by legislation.  The  green shoots of the new heather growth are eaten by grouse, so the burning is part of a larger cycle.

And finally, an unusual sight now in Scotland - a thatched roof.  
This was very near the very lovely bed and breakfast we stayed in.  If you're looking for somewhere to stay in the Aberfeldy area, I'd recommend The Steading.

In my next post, I'll give you a glimpse of the view from a Munro.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Kilgore Rangerettes

The University of Edinburgh's Old College quad is used for various performances during the summer arts festival, but things aren't so exciting during the rest of the year.  However this week the  Kilgore Rangerettes from east Texas performed as part of their 75th anniversary tour of Scotland and Ireland.  

In the shot above the performers are just about to land on the grass in the splits.  I didn't get a photo because I was too surprised.  Ouch - I can't begin to imagine how they practise that.  As we say in Scots - they're 'gey swack' - very supple.  When I googled 'swack' I was startled to discover that it means something...very different, if you come from San Diego. 

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Glasgow old and new

I've been working in Glasgow all week, but with very long working days  there's been no time to get out and explore the city.  The most I can show you is the view from my hotel bedroom.  Glasgow is much larger than Edinburgh and the cityscape always says 'big city' to me.  I feel as if I'm visiting from a village in the country by comparison.  

This is a city in movement, summed up for me by my 6th floor view:  sadly derelict Victorian sandstone building, complete with blurred carvings, chimney pots and tiny attic casements, beside a gap left by a demolition, and then the modern high rises beyond. 

And more of the same in the other direction.  I hope the building in the first picture, with its hobbit-like cupolas and dormers, will be restored, but it did look as if it was being left to fall into decay.  Pity.  I felt like starting a charity for abandoned buildings, it tugged at my heart-strings so much.


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