Friday, 17 December 2010

What was in the papers last Tuesday

Out here on the wild Atlantic, we've seen the arrival of a little weather. Mainly snow and lots of wind, resulting in big waves, a bouncy ship and ultimately a lack of helicopters arriving to take me home. Really though, there is no complaint as we were 3 days late getting out here for weather reasons. 

It does give me plenty of opportunities to have another look at Tuesday's newspapers. Actually once you remove all references to Wikileaks, the X Factor and Strictly Come Dancing from the papers, there's not all that much left apart from the footy and the following snippets that you may have missed, since you'll likely have given up Tuesday's paper, just as soon as Wednesday's paper drops through the letter box.

The Times and the Grauniad have no less than 3 articles about art auctions. Since I am unlikely to be turning up at Bonhams with my checkbook, these articles are more a last chance to see the odd picture before they disappear into somebodies London Penthouse for ever.

The picture above is the product of one Mr Banksy, who was once a famous exterior decorator (does he still do that kind of thing). It was painted for a Greenpeace advertising campaign but they decided it might not be a very good idea when Disney started asking a few questions about the use of it's characters. Pop round to Bonhams next month and it could be yours for around £80000.

If you're leanings are for something a little more classical, then the painting on the left is "La Virgen del Sombrero" (I see no big hat!! (actually maybe I do)) by Luis del Morales. You may look though but I'm afraid you cannot buy as it's just been sold for a chunky old £1600000.

Here's 10 things you didn't know about turkeys - I'll just let you read it yourself.

The chap above is is Liu Daiyun and is seen here fishing a bone out of his very old soup. The soup is thought to be 2400 years old and was found in a 3 legged bronze pot with a lid, in an ancient tomb which just happened to find itself under the new extension to Xi'an airport. The soup surface was covered in a green film which would suggest to me that it was likely past it's eat by date. The bone soup is not the oldest soup that has ever been found, in 2005 a 4000 year old pot of noodle soup was found near the Yellow River.

What better way to finish off a visit to the papers than to see what Calvin and Hobbes are up to in the Daily Opinionated.

See you all when I get back on shore.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Art in the Granite city

For the last of my blogs about my delay in Aberdeen I'm popping into a couple of the city's art galleries. It's actually very rare on a visit of any length to Aberdeen  that I don't pop into the main art gallery to see what's going on. This month they've got the winning pictures from the BP Portrait competition on display. I've managed to catch them somewhere for the last couple of years as they tour the country after the judging. Oh I can't say that I like the winning picture much - you can surf it up yourself if you want but it's not appearing here. At least it's not in the photographically realistic category - I'm really not a fan of pictures who's main attribute seems to be that you can't tell it's a painting even when you have your nose almost in the paint. There were several paintings well worth a look so do catch it if you can.  I rather liked the picture that they chose for the front of the current gallery pamphlet (left) which is Blue Coco by Shaun Downey and the delightful painting below called Clare with Claire by Brian Shields (I managed to find a decent sized copy of that on the net)

While buying a cuppa on Sunday in a Sandwich Bar I spotted the postcard you see on the right there advertising an exhibition of prints by John Byrne at the Peacock Visual Arts centre which I didn't know existed till I saw the card. John Byrne has been an important Scottish painter since the 60s and, to me, most of his paintings seem to be of himself - I suppose he's very paintogenic. He also wrote Tutti Frutti for the telly some years ago and I once bumped into him in the street in Edinburgh and he seemed very nice.

No wonder I'd never seen the Peacock Art Centre before, it's hidden away down an alley of the sort you'd think twice about going into at night. I was though impressed at how inexpensive the prints were (if not quite cheap), some were under £1000 and the rest not all that much more, which for something from someone of Mr Byrne's standing doesn't seem all that bad.

The picture on the card on the right is The Cat Burglar and below is King for a Day.

There was a second exhibition in the Peacock Visual Arts centre which bore no resemblance to the picture on the leaflet that went with it, but seem to go along with the words in the leaflet (with only a moderate "hmm"). So I assume these are photos of Me~Idea by Philip Thompson, but don't be surprised if it's something completely different.

There were tinted glasses provided that made one of the words disappear depending on which pair you picked. I'm getting it so far but.......

.......I had a bit of head scratching with this one. It didn't strike me until later that maybe if I'd looked at this one through the glasses too some of the lines might have disappeared.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Still on the loose in Aberdeen

Well last Saturday still found me free and out and about in Aberdeen. And even before I found my way to something interesting, I spotted something interesting. Actually. I'd wandered past the fairly plain building (pictured right) umpteen times in the last few years and never paid it the slightest notice. The Rosemount Square block of flats is built around a central courtyard and was commended by the Saltire Society for good design a few years after it was completed in 1945. It was actually designed before the war to replace a building destroyed by fire in 1937 but wartime shortages of materials and manpower delayed the building until afterwards. What drew may attention to the building were the figure above the main entrances to the courtyard. There were meant to be three of them representing wind, rain and cold (seem about right for Aberdeen) designed by Thomas Huxley-Jones of Grays School of Art but it was thought that the £500 for all three was a bit much, so in order to save a few pennies we only have wind and rain.

Belmont Street had a bit of a market going where you could get a bit of local produce or in some cases less than local produce (good old Loch Arthur from down our way in Galloway)

Oh yes, and lots of this sort of thing.

Those of you who know me, may realise that I'm not big on all things Christmas, so in order to escape the brass bands and carol singers, I went to the pictures. The choice was "My Afternoons with Margueritte", a rather delightful french film. I can only trust that the subtitles were right but I know that "My Afternoons with Margueritte" is not the french translation of French title, "La Tete en Friche", which after a bit of investigation seems to mean something like "The Fallow Head" - perhaps they didn't think that would attract British audiences. Either way, if you don't mind subtitles, go and see it, it's lovely.

After the pictures, there was still a bit of daylight left as I was  walking past the Marishal College building in Aberdeen. As you can see they're getting a bit of work done. Actually they're getting a lot of work done. Without getting into local politics, the council have acquired the building and have complete gutted the interior and left only the exterior. Now they have started to sandblast the granite and what a stunning difference it makes to the surface.

Compare  a cleaned up bit with an uncleaned bit.

In the evening we were moved to a hotel out by the airport, where a quiet night was had. The airport is miles from anywhere so it marked the last of my wanderings and as it happens we managed to catch the helicopter the next morning anyway. I did have a small stash of unusual teas from earlier.

After a couple of days wandering around in the snow, it's good to get the boots off and a nice cuppa made. Here I am in the hotel room with my back to the curtains so that I wouldn't be deafened.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

A snowy afternoon in Old Aberdeen

 Usually when we can't get offshore because of the weather, we get ferried out to the airport and sit around for a great lump of the day waiting for our helicopter but this weekend the delay was such that they didn't send for us at all and we had the day to ourselves. As far as I'm concerned, this is an ideal chance for a bit scout about the city to see what I could see. Apart from the fact the city is covered in snow, the first thing I noticed that was new to me was this festive leopard that has found it's way into Aberdeen's Christmas decorations. If anyone out there knows where the leopard appears in the Christmas story or anyone elses Christmas traditions, it would be good to know, otherwise, I'm just logging this as odd.

I decided that a wee walk to St Machar's cathedral sounded like a good idea. It's quite a way but it does take you past the university where they have a pair of weather vanes which can't seem to agree with each other.

Built in the late 15th century Kings College chapel has one of only two open crown spires in Scotland. For all it said it was open, I couldn't find a particularly inviting way in, so there are no pictures of the apparently superb collection of midieval  wood carving.

 I think most students would be quite happy to fork out the 2 and 6 for a sly puff in the quadrangle or a walk across the grass. Even 10 shillings doesn't seem too much for a particularly good bit of graffitti.

 A fancy old gate

The bank in the Old Aberdeen High Street looks a little friendlier than the usual. Perhaps the manager invites you in and offers you a wee dram, "Sit down Sir, yes here besides the fire. Have some money - just pay it back when you can."

 The police station is none too intimadating either

A late medieval mercat cross

A snowy Old Aberdeen street (old Aberdeen was actually a separate burgh from Aberdeen until 1891)

The old town house, built in 1789 was where the burghs local government was housed. Nowadays you can go in for a look, so, naturally, I did.

There's not that much to see inside as it's main purpose appears to be a place to hold meetings or talks rather than as a museum. Upstairs there's a meeting room which when I was there was very dark, surrounded by dark portraits - actually when I took a picture with the flash the pictures turned out not to be so dark after all. here's a couple of portraits of two bishops from around 1500 (the bishops not the paintings which seem to be a good bit later). Interesting though that both bishops appear to be wearing the same mitres and the staffs are undoubtable the same one.

The gates of the Cruikshank Botanic gardens (part of the university I think). In this weather, one botanic wonder looks very like another so without any further photos from there, onwards.

At last, I have arrived at St Machar's cathedral.Big, impossing and really rather plain from the outside and closed due to the weather !!!!

A rather nice celtic cross type gravestone.

I may not have managed to get into the cathedral but there's been a church here since 1370 and over the years some churches change shape dramatically. What you see here was once inside, it's part of the pre-reformation crossing and trancept .

By the time I got back into Aberdeen it was dark and the festive leopard was all lit up - lovely!

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Em....Interesting Journey

Our feathered friend here is standing underneath the bird table in kirkcudbright and has clearly been distracted from his meal. Actually he's staring at me with some disbelief as I'm leaving the house with my bag on my back to go to work. Haven't  I been watching the news over the last few days and heard the multitudenous tales of travelling woe? Apparently not! Actually I was on my way to work and was already leaving a day late due to the weather and, as journeys go, it turned out to be far from straight forward.
There was no problems what so ever on the way to Glasgow. Dumfries and Galloway appears to have had little snow and even over the hills and through Ayrshire you can still see the grass through the covering. As pictures taken through train windows go, these two on the way up to Glasgow turned out alright.

I just managed to catch a train a little before four in the afternoon, only because it was already late, and as we were leaving Glasgow the snow looked really quite luxuriant. By this time it was starting to get dark and there was a mist rising from some of the valleys just to help the sunset out a bit - sometimes things are just so ridiculously picturesque, they are almost matched by how reflective a train window can be.

Just after four I had a cup of tea from the trolly and thinking all was well with the world, I trundled my way through the snowy central Scotland . By the time we were nearly at Perth we weren't going very fast and then we going at all. The picture below is pretty much what our view was.

That remained our view for the next 5 hours, during which time another train arrived to try and save us and suffered a similar fate. To try and relieve the situation a little, the trolly did a round of the train and gave away it's contents free. Unfortunately it had run out of boiling water (used to try and defrost some vital part of the train (unsuccessfully)) - free Jaffa cakes are very nice but they're not a cup of tea.

After 5 hours it was decided that the train was well and truely goosed and another one was found to come and save us. It was driven down the southward track and carefully lined up so that a board could be put across between the two trains. All 200 passengers were then transfered across the board, into the second train and we then managed to get to Aberdeen without any further adventure.

I was pleasantly surprised at how good natured the general public can be when faced with a fairly large delay. There's usually somebody who'll cause a rumpus but that day he decided to stay at home.  Well done to the train staff, who also seemed to be doing every thing possible in the situation.

I should credit the picture ,left, to Mr Graham Menzies who emailed it to me and who also became our BBC correspondant for the day - by the wonder of fancy phones they had the story on their website before we had reached Aberdeen. Mr Menzies also tried to fix an annoying door with the skillful insertion of two British Rail leaflets but without much success.
By the time we reached Aberdeen our train was a little snowy.

As you can see below from the station clock, we managed to get to Aberdeen on the same day as we left.....just. We were at the time the second last train left running in Scotland - all the rest were broken down or stuck somewhere.

Just as I was getting off the train, I bumped into Jim, our ships medic, who unknown to me had spent the last 8 hours at the other end of the train. It was some company and navigational aid as we wandered round to the rooms booked for us by the company. Many, many thanks the the concierge, who provided us with a big plate of bread and cheese (we hadn't eaten for over 12 hours) and also directed us to the complementary beer that went with our first nights stay - what a nice man.

It was late on Sunday by the time we were eventually able to get offshore and the intervening days will be covered in following blogs just as soon as I get a chance. In the mean time just to complete the journey, here's a picture (from the depths of the lab computer) of where I am just now. In case you're wondering what's going on in the picture, every couple of days an oil tanker drives up behind us and takes away all the oil we've produced.

Here's a picture of our taxi.

And a view of the ship from an angle I hope never to see.