Saturday, 27 April 2013

A wintery mix

On my travels I occasionally drive up a wee bit of the Ayrshire coast, where you get a good view of the Isle of Arran. The Arran hills, the tallest of which is Goat Fell at 2866 feet, are often called the Sleeping Warrior due to the way they appeared from the mainland and when I passed in march they looked good with their dusting of snow. The last remnants of Winter I thought.

It seems that I was quite wrong about that one. Winter returned with avengeance a few weeks later. I was at work at the time but I was sent these pictures of Kirkcudbright in the snow - I've never seen anything like this much snow there before. 

Amongst the ferries and fishing boats and other sorts of marine vessels that are to be found on the Clyde, these sinister little beasties are often to be spotted sneeking through.

I had a wander out to the 13th century Glenluce Abbey one rather drippy afternoon with a view to waving my Historic Scotland pass about and wandering in, unfortunately I was still a couple of weeks away from opening time so here's a few shots from outside the perimeter.

My little Galloway tour of closed places (I had already admired the locked gates of the Newton Stewart Museum before Glenluce Abbey) then led me to Port William where I spotted some pigs in a backyard. Not common and certainly worth stopping for.

Turns out that these pigs at the Killantrae Burn cottages aren't made from bacon at all, but from oak and carved with a chainsaw.

In celebration of it's history as village piggery, butcher and that rather unpleasant inbetween stage we try to pretend doesn't exist, the cottages have this little fellow hanging outside it.

Port William has a statue, known locally as The Man by Andrew Brown

Mr Brown has some photographs on his website of the making of the sculpture here.

The statue has a plaque which quotes the famous lines, "What is this life, if full of care, We have no time to stand and stare?" . To me the fellow is wringing his hands and looks distinctly worried.

It is actually not the original statue, which was made of ferroconcrete and didn't survive very well so a new one was made on bronze. The old statue, also by Andrew Brown (as far as I can see), has been refurbished and is now owned by a local person - a picture of it appears on Wikipedia and it certainly looks a bit more relaxed.

Meanwhile in Castle Douglas, an old unused shop front has been subject to a little decoration.

In my quarter of a century as a chemist, it is still find it is the alchemy of the kitchen which produces the finest results. I'm far from an expert, though I can find my way into a tin of beans and produce a passable jam sandwich (not at the same time). I gathered these ingredients together in a moment of ambition.


It's not the greatest ambition a chap could have but I'm really rather fond of macaroni and cheese and this is about the best one I've made (by a country mile - previous attempts at cheese sauce have been quite disastrous).

I shall leave you with a sunset shot of Carlingwark Loch in Castle Douglas.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

The National Gallery of Scotland

Set half way along Princes Street, in a small break in the gardens, where a road has been built between the old town and the new town, is the building of The National Gallery of Scotland. It was designed by William Henry Playfair, who designed many buildings in the new town, and opened in 1859.

Since I was a student some years ago in Edinburgh, I've spend many hours wandering around it's halls. It's huge collection, both international and Scottish, but it wasn't until the beginning of this year that they changed there rules to allow photographs, so yesterday I wandered round with my camera and took a great pile of pictures.

Most if the works in the hall below are international, including Rodin's Kiss which is currently on loan from the Tate, but in this blog I'm concentrating on pictures of a Scottish connection.

This picture by Robert Burns (the painter  not the poet) was part of a commission by D.S. Crawford for decorating his tearoom at 70 Princes Street. Since this was just across the road this may be one of the least travelled pictures in the gallery.

Seems like a good excuse to show you a picture of the tearoom from the net.

Most of the William McTaggart  paintings I've seen are seaside paintings, and mostly delightful too. This is A Summer Day at Carnoustie.

Machrihannish Bay, also by Mr McTaggart

Master Baby by William Quiller Orchardson. This is Sir Williams wife, Ellen, and his son, Gordon (minus one sock).

There are four wonderful tapestries by Phoebe Anna Traquair who frequently appears on these pages. Due to the glass on the pictures and not being able to stand all that far back, my photos of them are a bit rubbish. This one is taken from the gallery's own website and all four can be seen of this blog.

I did manage to get some close ups.

This painting of the Reverend Robert Walker skating on Duddingston Loch was painted by Henry Raeburn. The gallery use this painting as one of their main images for merchandise even though it is particularly atypical of Sir Henry's style. A recent article on the BBC suggests that it may not have been painted by him at all.

This portrait of Mrs Robert Scott Moncrieff and his famous portrait of Sir Walter Scott are much nearer his usual style.

A generation before Raeburn one of the great portrait painters of his day was Allan Ramsay. This one is of one Thomas Lamb who was mayor of Rye twenty times.

This, one of his earlier paintings, is of Katherine Hall of Dunglass.

A painting of a Geisha Girl painted George Henry. In 1893 he went on a tour of the Orient with E.A. Hornel and he painted this picture soon after his return.

William Bell Scott took a scene from Edmund Spencer's The Faerie Queene for this painting of Una and the Lion.

Entrance to the Cuiraing, Skye by Waller Hugh Paton. He was the brother of Sir Joseph Noel Paton who has paintings elsewhere in the gallery and I intend to give him a blog all to himself later.

Anne Emily Sophia Grant (Daisy) as painted by her father Sir Francis Grant. He also painted Walter Scott (though not as famously as Raeburn)

John Singer Sargent may be an American (born in Italy just to confuse) but this portrait is of a Scottish person, Lady Agnew of Lochnaw. It is a painting I have seen used a book cover before.

 Also by an American artist on a Scottish theme, this painting by Benjamin West is the biggest painting in the collection. The painting shows the moment when Alexander III, about to be killed by a stag while hunting, is rescued by Irish exile Colin Fitzgerald. The king was suitably grateful and gave Colin the castle of Eilean Donan (see this blog). It is from Colin Fitzgerald that the clan Mackenzie descends and the clan coat of arm bears has a stag on it. Unfortunately 400 years later the clan was finding itself a bit out of favour when it picked the loosing side in the Jacobite uprising. It was for this reason that in 1784, Francis Humberston Mackenzie, the clan chief at the time, commissioned this painting to try and show his clan in a better light again.

In 2004 the painting was in need of some restoration but due to it's size the gallery were concerned about moving it far. This led them to restore it in the gallery, cornering of a section of the room. It also meant that the general public was able to see the whole process for themselves. The gallery has an article on the restoration here.