Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Before the snow.

Good grief! It's been nearly a week since I posted something so I thought I'd better put a blog in before they scramble the air sea rescue of find me or give my job to somebody else. It's been a quiet time off, which on a national basis can be divided up into time of before the snow and time off after the snow and on a personal basis, time off before I hurt my back hoovering and time off after I hurt my back hoovering. A week last Sunday, I went for a wee walk along the coast to the lifeboat station.

The island in the middle of the above picture is Ross Island. Below it is a little bigger by the magic of technology. The lighthouse was first lit up in 1843 and is designed by Thomas Stevenson of the famous lighthouse building Stevenson family and incidentally his son Bob wrote Treasure Island and a host of other goodies you might have heard off. Lord Kelvin, he of the very cold temperatures, said it was one of the 3 best revolving lighthouses in the world. I'm sure most of the locals don't know that but they have no bother telling you that in 1960 one of the lighthouse keepers on Ross Island Murdered the other one - suspects 1, alibi poor.

A herd of lapwings I think. (and probably an oyster catcher wandering about in the top of the picture)

There would seem to be some argument as to whether the pheasant was introduced by the Romans or later on, either way it's here. Actually it was almost extinct from most areas of the country by the 17th century and is only common now because they have been reared by gamekeepers since sometime in the 1830s to take advantage of the birds disposition to leap out of hedges shouting, "Here I am!! Here I am!!" during the shooting season. In certain areas they seem to be everywhere and are certainly the most likely cause of orange feathers in your cars radiator grill.

You can get them in this rather fetching darker colour scheme too.

Since the last time I wandered out this was, somebodies grand design has spring up.

It might look like it's made from three big paint tins from the back but round the front it's all window. I should imagine that it's a lovely place to sit with your pre dinner G&T, admiring the sunset over Kirkcudbright Bay.

We all like to help our feathered friends in winter, but as payback we tend to put our feeders outside our kitchen windows so we can admire the dinners and feel a little smug about doing our bit without having to leave our central heating. Some kind person has put this well stocked bird town on a tree by the shore, a good 100 yards from the nearest house.

Concrete, boxy and absolutely practical - The RNLI collect money to fish folk out the water and not to put up architectural wonders - that such an essential service is can be run as a charity and with volunteers is much credit to all involved.

A last look over the bay before wandering off home.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

The White Blackbird

If I lean slightly to the left, I can look out of the window by the computer and see what's going on at the bird table - at least in Autumn and Winter I can. During the warmer months, catering for our feathered friends ceases and they can feed themselves by more traditional means. In the last year or so one of our common visitors to the bird table has been a little less than common, for we have a local white blackbird. He (I think he) isn't all that rare nor is he completely white - a small surf will soon google up plenty of them. White blackbirds aren't albinos nor are they a case of leucism (reduced pigment - which does happen and produces a fawn coloured blackbird) but are just a bit of a genetic mutation.

The more usual candidates for the bird table - starlings and, for the observant, a sparrow with his head buried in the feeder at the bottom of the picture.

Down by the site of the original castle in Kirkcudbright there is a blackbird which has just a little bit of white colouration around his neck.

And just because she'd brown and not a little bit mutated, there's no reason why Mrs Blackbird shouldn't get a picture.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

A forgetful blog

What a daftie! Here I am onshore and have been for a week and unable to post pictures from my camera onto the net because I've left my memory card adapter bobbing up and down on the Atlantic. It's not the kind of thing you can pop out and buy in Kirkcudbright so I'll just have to wait for one to come through the post and in the meantime here's a few phone pictures I've grabbed on the way past. Seems that I'm not the only forgetful person in the country as I spotted this rather small furry boot sitting out in Buchanan Street in Glasgow - I imagine some poor child has had to hop all the way home.

It's not much, but I saw my first snow of the winter while passing by Sanquhar on the train on the way back. Look carefully it's over there in the distance. 

An old friend has sent me a supply of selected tea. Wright appreciated it is too - thank you very much.

It's been an uneventful week here on dry land, so last night I thought I would pop round to the Masonic Arms and see what they had on tap this week. I had the last pint of Highlander by Fyne Ales from the barrel and a wee taste of Vital Spark also from Fyne Ales before I bought the first pint from that barrel. A couple of Tennants lager drinkers had had a wee taste before me with face crumpling effects so I thought that there might be a problem with it but it really is a lovely beer.

The local youth in the bar were ordering all sorts of strange things from the bar - it has become apparent to me for a long time that the science of drinking too much has advanced greatly in the last 20 years. I like to wake up well in the morning so I declined the offer of an unknown substance from the bar and had a quick look at the beer menu before going home. I settled on a bottle of Nils Oscars God Lager, a chunky old brew that threatens to give lager a good name (literally for those with a command of Swedish)
 As I type this the postman has arrived and delivered my new adapter so I'll be able to post  pictures now, though that I think will be a job for tomorrow. Have a good day everyone.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

The Grave of Burns

                                                           And I have then thy bones so near,
                                                           And thou forbidden to appear?
                                                           As if it were thyself that's here
                                                            I shrink with pain;
                                                           And both my wishes and my fear
                                                           Alike are vain.

If you're familiar with Scottish poetry you might recognise the metre and rhyme scheme above as being typical of Robert Burns but there again you might notice that you haven't once had to dip into a glossary to find out what any of the words mean. They were in fact written by William Wordsworth in 1803 and are only 6 lines of 84 celebrating his visit to the graveside of Burns, in St Michael's churchyard in Dumfries, with his sister Dorothy. He had a great deal of difficulty finding the grave by all accounts. For all Burns' funeral was quite a substantial affair his nearly final resting place (above) in 1796 was very modest indeed. Shortly after his death it was thought fitting that he should have a grander grave and in 1815 the poet's remains were moved to the new Mausoleum that had been built for him with funds raised from public subscription (including a contribution from the Prince regent who went on to be George IV.) This is where you must go now if you want to be near his bones as Wordsworth was.

You can't get into the mausoleum unless you are considerably more important than I am, so I had to content myself with trying to take a few photos with my phone camera through the glass, but as you can see inside it has been been fitted with a table and visitors book and, most appropriately a couple of red roses. And of course a radiator - it wouldn't do for the great man's mortal remains to get chilly now.
The gravestone within the mausoleum is in the style of any other Scottish gravestone of the time........

........although most Scottish graves don't have a statue of the incumbent - this one is slightly later than the mausoleum itself (1836) as the original was found to deteriorating badly.

 Just outside the graveyard is a recent statue to Jean Armour, his wife who must have been a woman of great patience for allowing her husband to live long enough to die of natural causes. She had 9 children to Robert (who never ever signed his name Rabbie - please take note rest of the world), who had another 4 children to other women before and after he was married. After Burns' death she found herself on the poverty line which attracted national attention and a charitable fund was set up to look after her and her Children

Above, not far from his grave is the house where he spent the last few years of his life and where he died. These days it's been set up as a museum but, as can be expected, wasn't open when I passed.

Well it would seem a bit off to write a blog about Robert Burns and not includes a few lines from him especially since old Billy Wordsworth has already had his say at the beginning. You can of course find his words to mice, haggis and cautionary tales about riding home on stormy nights under the influence under just about any stone you turn over but there are people noting the appearance of certain commodities within this blog. To my knowledge, he never wrote To a Nice Cup Of Tea but I have found the following ditty called Gude Ale Keeps the Heart Aboon. He was a great collector of tunes and the chorus from this is indeed much older than the verses which he wrote.

                                                 O gude ale comes and gude ale goes,
                                                 Gude ale gars me sell my hose,
                                                 Sell my hose and pawn my shoon, -
                                                 Gude ale keeps my heart aboon !

                                             I had sax owsen in a pleugh,
                                            And they drew a' weel enough;
                                             I sell'd them a just ane by ane, -
                                            Gude ale keeps my heart aboon !

                                                 O gude ale comes, etc

                                            Gude ale hauds me bare and busy,
                                            Gars me moop wi' the servent hizzie,
                                            Stand i' the stool when I hae done,-
                                            Gude ale keeps my heart aboon!

                                               O gude ale comes, etc

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Unblogged London

I'm now well into my second week of work and able to count off the days to going home on the fingers of one hand. Meanwhile, from the weather map on the telly this morning, the isobars further out in the Atlantic appear to be cosying close to each other and heading this way. We'll have to see how this pans out - it might all be over by Thursday and there will be perfect conditions to send a chopper out to get us. I the mean time this is a perfect opportunity for another dip into my archive of old photos and this time a few snaps from my various trips to London that didn't quite make it into a previous blog.

Leopold Mozart was a violinist at the court of the Archbishop of Salzburg. It seems reasonable to pass your musical skills down to your offspring and Leopold seems to have managed this with some degree of efficiency. In fact, before long it struck him that the kids were getting good and perhaps taking them of on a mighty old European tour might be easier than working.  So in 1764, at the age of 8, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart arrived in London with dad and big sister Maria Anne (who was quite a harpsichord player - after 1769 it was decided that getting married was a more suitable vocation for a young lady - not of course to the chap of her choosing). Mozart stay in London for a little over a year, writing his first two symphonies in this time and leaving somewhat wiser (or perhaps unwiser) in the ways of the world. He lived in the area near Orange Square where they have put up a statue to him. It's a lovely statue but could be improved if the council were to turn up with a duster from time to time. I think that's a real violin that's been bronzed - I can see it needing replaced umpteen times during the lifetime of the statue.

Round the corner from Orange Square is a shop selling the following furniture. Can you imagine waking up to this in the morning, especially after a heavy night?

There's always room for a gratuitous piece of stained glass in any blog - this, if I remember, is in St Brides church on (or just off to be truthful) Fleet Street.

 There is no great degree of uniformity amongst London's tube stations and some of them are very distinctively decorated - I suppose it takes your mind off the strange smell they have and the temperature often being several degrees higher than the surface. Here's some gloriously colourful wall mosaics in the Tottenham Court Road station (as if you couldn't read it for yourself).

An finally for this blog, a photo from the first time I was in London of recent years. They had a Dali Exhibition on (we didn't go in as it was really quite pricey and there was so many free things to see) and had this large statue of a Daliesque elephant outside.

Friday, 5 November 2010

The downs and ups of the Boatford bridge

While I was on my flying visit to Langholm a couple of weeks ago, I took the following picture of the suspension bridge, which I have since discovered is called the Boatford bridge - I have never heard anyone refer to it as such though.

 It looks nice and peaceful in the above picture as it did during all the time I lived in the town but under rainy condition the local rivers can rise alarmingly and in 1904 it was struck by a tree or a substantial log and it put a fairly severe bend in it.

The main story connected to this bridge dates back to the day it was opened in 1871. It seems that the designers somewhat underestimated the effect of 200 people walking on it and down it came. Being opening day there was a camera handy and the event was captured in the picture below. The bridge was eventually rebuilt in 1873 and has stayed up since.

My thanks to the Langholm Archive for the permission to use some photos from their rather impressive collection of old local photographs which can be found at www.langholmarchive.com and you may also be interested in visiting the blog of Mr Tootlepeddle, who helps maintain the archive, at http://tootlepedal.wordpress.com/