Thursday, 24 March 2011

High Banks farm cup and ring markings

On my penultimate full day at home we were blessed with some glorious weather. Being the first such day for a week or so, I decided to take full advantage of it and set off in search of the High Banks farm cup and ring makings.

Not content with the sun splitting the sky, I had the moon out as well.

Cup and ring markings are fairly common in Galloway. One of the signs here abouts of early civilisation, they are thought to be about 4000 to 5000 years old - that puts them in the neolithic period to the early bronze age. Nobody really knows what they were for or what they mean. The cup refers to the circular indentations in the rock and the ring refers, not surprisingly, to the carved rings, which often appear around a cup.

This first set took a bit of finding - the Ordinance Survey map I was armed with was somewhat out of date (or just plain wrong). Either way a woods had sprung up that wasn't on the map and the farmer had made an extra corner in the field. On the plus side I did find all the farm gates standing wide open which meant the cows hadn't been put out yet, so I could wander about looking for the markings without having to worry about them (or having to watch my step to carefully).

It's fascinating to think that my ancestors, all those thousands of years ago, must have spent hours on this hillside carving these out with antlers and flint tools. The cup marks here are quite clear but the ring markings are a bit more faint - I can see at least 3 sets though just looking at the picture. If it was my field, I doubt I'd be able to resist the temptation to take the grass off the rest of the rock and see what's under it because the marks definately seem to be carrying on.

At the bottom of that field, in a wood, was an an old church yard. The church itself has long gone but you can see where it was because it's interior has been planted out with a square of daffodils (this would be more obvious if the daffs were out). Thank goodness this was here, as it was quite firmly on the map and without it as a landmake I may never have found the markings.

A lot of the stones in the area have lines marked on them - generally all going in the same direction - like the one below. These are not manmade but were caused during the last ice age when a glacier passed over them.

This set of cup and ring marks are ones that High banks are most famous for. Here our forefather seems to have gone a bit wild with the cup marks - perhaps he was celebrating the invention of beer or had fallen out with his wife and didn't want to go back just yet (who's to say he was a he at all)

More markings on the same outcrop.

One of a whole flock of lapwings.

On a plinth a modern carving of the coastline around Kirkcudbright with some cup and ring markings - there is no plaque so I don't know who did it - fitting I suppose as we don't know who made the ancient marks either.

Now you've got your eye in , a couple of pictures of more faint markings. Sometimes the lichen helps show up the rings.

The whole outcrop.

Take away the telegraph pole and the dykes and perhaps this is pretty much the same view as would have been seen when the marks were made.

Time to go back. After a couple of hours wandering about in fields, it's quite good to get back on a road of some description.

No idea what stream this is but is was picturesque.

This partridge seemed pretty fearless standing at the side of the road - just as well I was only armed with a camera.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Buchanan Street Buskers

I often pass through Glasgow. For all I never plan to go there, it seems to be the hub of all my travels and many an hour is spent wandering through it's streets between buses and trains. So a few Saturdays ago (the 5th of march to be precise) I wandered the length of Buchanan Street in order to kill a little time. To me the busking population appeared particularly high that day. As soon as one sound had faded out another had faded in. Often they were just to near each other with cacophonous effects. So here, I think, is a complete role call of the street's buskers and their kin for the moment I passed by.

At the top of the street on the Concert Hall steps were collected 100 women singing and playing drums in celebration of the 100th International Womans' Day. They went by the collective name of Humdrum and by the time I arrived, they had almost finished.

Humdrum were loud - so much so that this piper had to stop and wait for them to finish. His mates drum was never going to be any real competition for the dozens of colourful and, more to the point, larger affairs pictured above.

A little noise didn't cause any problems for this chap and his football.

For a small contribution, this jolly drummer will sing about you until you are out of sight or somebody else gives him a pound.

Perhaps since busking implies some financial recompense, this young lady does not come into the category but she was providing a useful service to the community so should appear here.

This lot were called Caledonia (a name so undestinctive hereabouts that I have been unable to confirm my memory with the internet). As loud as they look and flogging CDs too, should you wish to bring the sound into your living room.

Living statues are a bit old hat now - nobody is going to be surprised by one unless they've just been released from a very long prison sentence. I'm ready to get rid of them and have Peruvian pan pipe bands back.

This chap and his Reggae tunes is out on the street almost every day. I'm surprised the council don't charge him rent for that particular slot.

I missed this lot but that's a lot of speakers for buskers - I'll bet they were loud too.

A pair of balloon sellers.

Nearly at the bottom of the street and away from the prime busking slots it would seem, this fellow wasn't nearly loud enough ........ be heard over the sounds of this chap bashing out Shadows hits.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

A stroll to Loopy Lorna's

Last weekend was a busy old weekend - it finished on Wednesday. On the Friday night, I went to see Ivan Drever who was playing at the school and will get some blog attention in a few days time, on Saturday and Sunday I was in Dunoon visiting my kids and on Monday it was off to Edinburgh. There's not that many photos in this blog as I was a bit laden with backpack and guitar. I was starving by the time I went into Henderson's cafe under St John Church on Princes Street so my slice of quiche and two mystery salads were gone before I thought to take a picture of them - they were very nice anyway, whatever they were.

After a quick phone call to Mr McK, my chum from auld lang syne, we arranged to meet for drinkies (that's tea and hot chocolate - he did have the young McKs with him after all) at Loopy Lorna's tea house at the bottom of Morningside Road. The day being fine and the arranged time being sufficiently far away, I decided to wander round rather than my original plan of jumping on a No16 bus. Here's some of the few snaps I did take.

The SAS supplement army budgets by doing a little painting and decorating.

This chap was tightrope walking on the Bruntfield links (as you do). It should be noted that that his teeshirted state should not be taken as an indication of the weather - it might have been nice for the time of year but not that nice.

You can't have forgotten already about the recent reappearance of Marmite Chocolate , so when I passed the Chocolate Tree shop in Bruntsfield, I felt I really should go in and get some Marmite Chocolates myself. I was informed by the shop staff that they are made locally by their chocolate magicians in Haddington or was it Musselburgh (I can't quite remember now).

Seems my wanderings were timed pretty well as I arrived at Loopy Lorna's tearoom with just enough time to study their extensive tea menu before David and the kids arrived. I've never seen such a descriptive menu for tea in my life. Below is an excerpt from the menu for the Earl Grey I decided to go for. I may drink gallons of the stuff but I'm not really an expert so all I can say about it is that it was very good. It's blended to the shops specifications by a man named Alex in Glasgow.

Lump sugar on the table is irresistible to kids - so too to their father it would seem. I liked the tongs.

When the pot of tea arrived (this is a small pot) it was complete with tea cosy.Different tables had different cosies - I had to use full restraint not to go snapping at other peoples pots of tea. For you purists, there's no teabags here - a teastrainer is provided to all drinkers.

After our cuppas it was back to David's for tea and an evening of playing tunes on the fiddle and guitar round an open fire with a glass or twoish of red wine. Actually it was two evenings of tunes round the fire at Castle McK and plenty of time during the day for wanderings with another old school friend, Mrs W, but that's another blog (lots of them).

Brilliant Carbonara Cy.

Friday, 4 March 2011

The Brewdog

The Brewdog brewery in Fraserburgh, which has been brewing beer since 2007 has been picking up a bit of attention of late. Perhaps it's notoriety, but that's not a reason not to check them out. So when I heard that they had opened up a pub in Aberdeen I reckoned that was the perfect opportunity to pop round and see what's going on whenever I got a chance - which was last Sunday.

I decided I would go down the half pint line since you get to try a few more before you fall over that way (falling over was not the plan by the way). With 7 draft beers on one blackboard and about as many on another, I certainly wasn't going to go through the card but decided on a half of Punk Wit - it's a sturdy little number, fruity and something a bit peppery about it - I'm afraid I'm not much of a connoisseur, but either way it was really good. Brewdogs half pint glasses have a fill to the line mark, religiously ignored by the barmen - keep it up lads. Then I moved on to a halfish pint of 5am Saint which was not quite so much to my liking - quite palatable though and I'm sure I could pick out a slight essence of bicycle inner tube.

Brewdog last year hit the news, or at least with type of people inclined to report that sort of thing, when it produced the world's strongest and most expensive beer. It was a limited edition of 12 bottles of 55% alcohol beer presented inside stuffed animals - that is, stuffed mainly with a bottle of beer. 7 were in stoats at £500 pounds and 4 were in Squirrels at £700 and one was in a hare which was not for sale. They did have one of the squirrel bottles on a shelf behind the bar which they brought down for me to photograph - not the last photo of the night. The poor creature seems to spend a large lump of it's afterlife leaping back and forward between bar and customer for photographs.

They have a huge selection of bottled foreign beer behind the bar. Much, though not all, is, quite frankly expensive and I did feel the need for a drink after I'd read the beer menu - handy that I was in a pub. But if you fancy treating yourselves from time to time or are Norwegian and quite used to these kind of prices then you'll be hard pushed to find a better selection anywhere (perhaps, just perhaps, even in the Masonic in Kirkcudbright)

I plumped for a bottle of Black Chocolate Stout - if you like dark chocolate and beer, then this could be the beer for you. I say it's yummy but if you want a more in depth review, I recently read about it here

The barmen have been very well educated about their product, can tell you all about it and are quite happy to give you a wee taste before you buy. I tried a taste of their Punk IPA which was very fine but what I was more interested in was the range of single hop ales - this sounds like the stuff of purists to me. They make four and they had two here on draught so I had a taste of both - the Nelson Sauvin (a New Zealand hop) was a fruity little number and the Sorachi Ace tasted of coconut - coconut? hard to believe without any brewery tricks - I'll have a half pint (and a bit) of that please. The barman tells me it's a Japanese hop developed by the Saporo brewing company (they of the indestructible tin)

The bar was mainly filled with young people and not a one drinking Tennents lager. They appeared to be doing quite well considering this was a Sunday night. Another Bar is due to open in Edinburgh sometime this month and one is planned for Glasgow. Could this be a change in the Scottish drinking habit - I don't know but it definitely marks an improvement in one corner of it.

Finally, it seemed a bit irresponsible to leave without trying their Sink The Bismark, which rings in at a spectacular 41% alcohol. Not surprisingly, they don't sell it by the pint or half pint but by 25ml shorts. It's much easier drinking than you might imagine (no need to grit your teeth first) and to my surprise, still identifiable as a beer.

Brewdog website is here

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Marmite chocolate returns

Way back in October I managed to lay my hands on a bar of Marmite chocolate. Was I impressed - no I wasn't. I managed to do a better job myself. You can read all about it here .

Mrs W of Edinburgh and a great many other places around the world, who went to school with me and has put up with my scribblings for a goodly number of years, has very kindly sent me a Red Cross parcel containing some very posh Earl Grey tea from the USA and, more pertinant to this blog, some marmite truffles from the Chocolate Tree in Edinburgh. They are rather lovely - gone is that curious salty taste of official marmite chocolate and in is some dark smooth marmitey overtone that blends with the chocolate perfectly. I managed to photograph some before I scoffed the lot.

Glasgow Cathedral - Glass

Here's a selection of stained glass for Glasgow Cathedral, mostly new but a little old. The only window I know anything about is Great West Window which is The Creation by Francis Spear in the first 3 photos. The picture of the whole window is not terribly in focus but it's such a mighty old thing it seems to be wrong not to include it. As for the rest, I have no information, so I present them without comment - enjoy.