January Light: reflection

I was going for reflected-light today to describe this shot of St Andrew’s RC Cathedral in Glasgow. Then I realised that the pesky lamp-post ruining the view allows me to use lamplight or streetlight, thus finishing January Squares within the rules – words ending in light – without relying on a hyphen. Woohoo!

All that remains is to thank the wondrous Becky for hosting such a fun challenge. During the month I came across this quote by novelist Edith Wharton (1861-1937):

There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.

Becky is our candle and we have all been little pieces of her mirror.


In the pink with Becky

Becky at Life of B is back with her quarterly square photo challenge. This time it’s In the pink which covers any or all of:

  • In the pink – in perfect condition or in good health
  • Tickled pink – delighted
  • Pink – the colour

I make no apologies for reposting the photo above, though you’ve not seen the square version before. It seems perfect for the occasion. When Becky and I met in Winchester earlier this year we inadvertently coordinated our outfits and became The Pink Ladies for the day. I claim extra points for covering all three criteria!

The challenge is on every day throughout September, but I’m concentrating on my Hebridean posts at the moment so shan’t have time to play along again (unless I spot something really, really enticing). However, here’s just one more image – we were moving the poetry books to a bigger space in Glasgow Women’s Library this week, and look what I found! This book is called In the pink and both it and GWL’s current events programme have distinctly pink lettering. Two out of three this time I guess, though I was tickled pink to find it.

If you want to take part in the challenge, just link your square photo post to Becky’s blog each day. Her first one is not her usual kind of bird!

#RoofSquares 16-22: Lake District continued

Welcome to my next batch of RoofSquares, once again chosen from our recent Lake District holiday. This time we had a cottage in Ambleside, but for old times’ sake we visited Grasmere where we stayed on our last few visits. I’ve always liked this row of cottages on the way up to Allan Bank – to me, the roof looks as though it has been sliced off prematurely.

Here’s Allan Bank itself (National Trust property), looking down on its roof from the Woodland Trail. The small building on the right is the Billiard Room – as a bonus picture, I’ve included its roof from the inside looking up.

Also in Grasmere is St Oswald’s Church. When we last visited three years ago the tower and the church were the same colour. Since then the tower has been restored, including re-roofing and repair of the gutters, castellations and roof pinnacles. Doesn’t it look splendid?

Another day, our walk took us to three different viewpoints over Windermere. This is the lowest and offers a good roofscape of Bowness-on-Windermere.

During the walk, we passed this cottage – Old Droomer. I loved the mossy porch roof over the red door, all surrounded by a wonderful flower display.

This dinky Clock Tower has a castellated roof complete with weathervane. It marks the boundary between the towns of Bowness-on-Windermere and Windermere. I got confused by these names when travelling with my sister and my oldest friend in our early twenties. I assumed the town of Windermere would be right next to the lake and booked accommodation accordingly, not knowing that Bowness was in between. It was a mile uphill from the lake back to our B&B! (By the way, never refer to Lake Windermere – it’s a tautology. Mere means lake.)

Finally, I give you the gloriously neo-Gothic Wray Castle which I’ve written about before and no doubt will again!

My last batch of roofs next Friday will be closer to home, and a non-roof account of our Lakes trip will follow in due course.

No definite news on the Art School yet – the experts have started planning, but there is still a large exclusion zone with residents and businesses displaced. Take a look at this BBC article for pictures of two very roofless buildings – Glasgow School of Art and the ABC venue behind it.

To end on a happier note – I’ve cracked 500 posts! Here’s to the next 500.

#RoofSquares 9-15: Lake District Edition

We spent last week in the Lake District and it proved fertile ground for attractive roofs. We rented a cottage in Ambleside which was up 30+ steps from the street: a long way to climb with your luggage or after a hard day’s walking! From our patio we looked out almost at roof level to the Churchill Inn across the road. The picture above was taken the afternoon we arrived – but don’t worry about the grey skies. By the next morning, they had disappeared and we had glorious weather for the entire week.

The view above was taken from one of the cottage’s skylights, so that’s our roof and chimney in the foreground. To the right is the Churchill Inn again, and the whole scene is backed by Black Fell. I can’t get enough of these grey slate roofs! One more view from this perspective:

This time, we were across the road in a top floor café. The spire is St Mary’s Parish Church and it’s unusual amongst the grey slate roofs – it’s sandstone. Not sure I approve!

A few more Ambleside roofs – this house has very unusual chimneys.

The old Market Hall has a distinctive pointy roof and is now a popular Thai restaurant (very good, we tried it).

Coming back down into Ambleside one afternoon, I couldn’t work out what the round structure below us was, then as we got nearer I realised it was the roof of the local garden centre.

Finally, walking out of Ambleside on the other side of town you come to Rydal Park and Rydal Hall. I like this shot of the Hall’s roof peeking out behind the garden wall (which has another little roof  on the summer-house built into the staircase).

I’ll have more lovely Cumbrian roofs for you next week. In the meantime, pop over to Becky’s Roof Squares challenge for all the fun of the fair and to see what everyone else has found.

#RoofSquares 2-8: Ayrshire edition

Squares 2-6: Darvel and Galston

The recent Bank Holiday Monday was, as we say, scorchio. This is unusual for Scotland – more often than not, a holiday is greeted by a downpour. We took advantage of the weather to head down to Ayrshire to do a couple of easy walks near the small towns of Darvel and Galston. There were meadows and forests aplenty, but I’d already decided to take part in Becky’s #RoofSquares challenge for June (though posting weekly rather than daily) so that’s what I was looking out for. (The roofs don’t have to be square, but the images must be!)

At the top of the post is John’s shot of the roofs of Darvel as we climbed up and out of the Irvine Valley. Below are a couple of houses we passed on the way. From a distance, I thought the first was a barn but on closer inspection it’s a newly-built house with a barn-style roof.

Not roofs, I know, but on this part of the walk we met some very cute pigs and cows! Can’t resist sharing.

After lunch, we did another walk from Galston which took us to a viewpoint where we could see as far as Arran (hazily). However, the roofs which caught my eye were in town: Barr Castle (flat but decorative underneath) and the local Catholic Church (amazing round turret, and I like the row of dormer windows too). These shots are both from my iPhone. I do contribute pictures occasionally, it’s not all John!

Roof Squares 7-8: Small Animal Hospital

I didn’t have quite enough photos from Ayrshire for a full week of square roofs, so to finish here are a couple of an unusual roof structure nearer home. The Small Animal Hospital is part of Glasgow University’s Vet School at Garscube Estate, and has a turf roof which you can walk right over.

We did just that! From the top we could see back to the glass part of the roof shown above on the right. I’ve never seen anything quite like it.

Now to hunt out seven more roofs for next Friday …

#RoofSquares 1: Amsterdam edition

Becky at The Life of B likes a square go, oops, I mean a square challenge. I’ve never joined in before, but the theme for June intrigues me: Roofs. If you want to join in too, tag your post #RoofSquares and link to Becky’s post each day. You can also see what other people are posting in the comments. Interpret the theme as you please: the only rule is that your main image must be square.

I don’t have time to post daily, so I’m going to post every Friday instead. The roof detail above is from the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam. The building in its full, non-square, glory is below.

Spirit Animal

Spirit AnimalI’ve had the Spirit Animal Blog Award on my back-burner since May while I faffed about with perfected my Tibet series. Apologies Marcia! Anyway, here it is now, though, as is my wont, I haven’t quite stuck to all the rules.

1.) Thank the blogger who nominated you and link back to their page. Marcia Strykowski is a children’s author and librarian, but she blogs about all sorts of other things too – art, history, music and travel. Sometimes they combine – my favourite recent post is Girls Reading Books, a collection of artworks of (you’ve guessed) girls reading books. So many thanks to Marcia for choosing me, and please check out her blog.

2.) Post the award on your blog. Done!

3.) Write a short paragraph about yourself and what your blog means to you. I don’t want to write too much here because I’ve answered similar questions before. I’m a retired librarian and used to be responsible for buying children’s books, so you can see where Marcia and I find things in common. Basically, my blog serves as my travel diary. I want to look back when I’m 100 (why not have ambition?) and relive my adventures. Well, maybe not the Tibet one.

4.) If you could be an animal, what would it be? Although I would say I’m an animal lover, I’ve only had four pets in my life. Would you like to hear about them? Well, you’re going to anyway!

The budgie:

Boris the Budgie
Boris the Budgie
This is me, aged two. Look carefully on my shoulder and you will see Boris the Budgie. Don’t ask me why he was called Boris, he came already named. A few years later, he fell off his perch and we buried him in a shoebox in the garden. It was my first experience of death and I found the idea of burial very puzzling. Would I like to be a budgie? No, too bird-brained.

The dog:

Fast forward a few years, almost a decade probably, and we got a dog, Mandy, a beautiful Basset Hound. Beautiful, but daft as a brush. Would I like to be a dog? No, too many walkies in the rain.

The cats:

John and I have had two cats, Purdy (grey and white) and Sally (the black one). Cats are fascinating. Their brains are the size of walnuts yet can produce towering – and very different – personalities. There are tales to be told about both these cats! Maybe someday. When Sally died we decided not to replace her to leave us more free for travelling. I sometimes regret that, but eight years later we’re still holding firm. Would I like to be a cat? I think so! You know the saying, dogs have owners but cats have staff. I would be happy lolling around in the sun or on a comfy bed with a tame human to cater to my every need.

Back to the rules:

5.) Pick and notify ten nominees. I never do nominations. However, I like to give shout-outs to blogs that I enjoy on a similar theme. So for animal lovers:

Travels with Choppy. Choppy the dog is the star but she has recently acquired a feline sidekick, Schooner. You won’t believe the things they get up to! Sarah, their human, has a fertile imagination.

Zombie Flamingos. Great title! Emily lives in Victoria, BC, and blogs about all sorts of things. However, rarely does a post end without the most important thing of all: pictures of her kitties.

Brian, Ardbeg and Lily. I don’t have a dog, and don’t intend to get one, so why do I enjoy Alex’s blog about living with, and training, rescue dogs so much? The pictures, yes, but there’s also a lot of wisdom in it. Turns out getting the best from dogs can be very similar to getting the best from people.

So those are my answers. They’ve been fun to write because this is so different from my normal posts. Thanks once again to Marcia for the nomination.

Sisterhood of the World Travel Bloggers

SisterhoodOne of the great things about blogging is making connections and friendships. Sometimes these friendships can transfer to the real world as opposed to the virtual one – I’ve written before about meeting Corinne and Jim from Reflections Enroute, and I was honoured that Corinne then chose to interview me for her blog and has now nominated me for the Sisterhood of the World Bloggers. Well, when I say “now” I mean “a few months ago”. I apologise for the delay in taking it up, but you know how life intervenes sometimes!

The idea is to answer 10 questions, so here’s what Corinne asked me:

Did you do any traveling with your family when you were a child? We spent most summer holidays when I was a child travelling to Scotland to visit relatives, with the odd trip to the Lake District or the Yorkshire coast. My first trip abroad was a school exchange when I was 14 or 15 so that probably made the biggest impression. A German girl stayed with us at Easter and I went out to Gelsenkirchen for three weeks in the summer. She and her family were lovely, but I was too shy (along with most of the British schoolgirls) to practice my German. Their English was too perfect! We kept in touch for a few years, but I have no idea where my exchange partner is now. Susanne Klein, are you out there?

What was your first blog post? What is one of your favourite blog posts? Why is it a favourite? My first post on this blog didn’t say much more than “I’ve started a travel blog”. My first ever blog post said “I’ve started a children’s literature blog”. I’m not very original. My favourite is always the last one. I enjoy the sense of achievement as I click Publish and send it out into the world.

What’s the first thing you do when you get to a new destination? Or what is one thing you make sure you do in each destination? Walk about and explore! We love to get our bearings in the general area before tackling any of the main sights.

Is there a particular place that stands out in your experiences as exceptionally special or especially challenging? I don’t think we will ever top visiting Galapagos, and I never want to go back to Tibet. Both will appear on the blog someday – the problem is, they were a long time ago and, although I have good notes to help with the writing, the photos are all pre-digital. I just haven’t had time for a major scanning project yet – however, I’ve included one of each just to whet your appetite!

Blue footed booby
Blue footed booby, Galapagos 1999

Potala Palace
Potala Palace, Tibet 2000
Is food important to you when you travel?  What is your favourite experience regarding food?  What is the weirdest food you’ve tried? I don’t travel for the food – I’m a vegetarian, which can be a disadvantage when I have to put up with what I can get. The advantage is that I have a good excuse not to try the weirdest foods such as fried silkworms, frogs’ ovaries or goose intestines. John has tackled all of those – with gusto. My favourite experience has to be Lancrigg in the Lake District – it’s a totally vegetarian hotel and the only place I get to choose from the whole of the menu.

What has been the most effective tool that you have used to grow the readership of your blog? What’s your biggest challenge or frustration as a travel blogger, either travel or blogging related?  What is one frustration you experience when reading travel blogs? I don’t really look at my blog in that way – it’s always been my personal travel diary for logging my own memories. That said, I enjoy it much more since I started to interact. In the beginning I just wrote, and anyone other than family who read it was a bonus. Beginning with the A to Z Challenge last year I’ve really enjoyed meeting other bloggers online, chatting to them and exchanging experiences. Frustrations? Only really finding the time – there are so many great blogs out there I could spend all day reading them.

What do you find challenging about blogging?  Does it change the way your travel? See above – time! When I first started, I blogged on the go using the WordPress app. That soon became unsustainable, and I hate the app in its current incarnation anyway (for blogging – I still use it for handling comments). I wouldn’t say the way we travel has changed, but I’m much more likely to be thinking “how would that look on the blog?”

What are three characteristics that define you as a traveller? 1. Curious, or I’d stay at home. 2. Organised – I like to plan so that I see and do all the things on my list. 3. Energetic – there are usually a lot of things on that list!

What are some of your favourite travel blogs?  Why?  What makes a great travel blog in your opinion? Well, Reflections Enroute of course! It feels wrong to make choices, but I will mention two others, Jo of RestlessJo and Jude of Travel Words and The earth laughs in flowers. Why? Because they both run challenges which I enjoy and which have helped me to make new blogging friends – Jo with her Monday Walks and Jude with her Bench Series (though she’s changing to Gardens for 2016). A great travel blog, for me, is personal – I can find facts and figures myself, so I want an impression of a place through someone else’s eyes.

St George's, Bermuda
St George’s, Bermuda
What’s the top three destinations or experiences on ‘your wish list’?  And what’s next for you? I would love to visit both the Arctic and Antarctic but, given the time of year we would have to go, that will have to wait until John is no longer working in a university. Macchu Picchu has also been on our wish list for years – I’m not even sure what’s holding us back there. What’s next? We’ve recently been to Bermuda, so that will be the next thing coming up on the blog (taster above), we have a few days in the Scottish countryside between Christmas and New Year, and next year I’m hoping to add to my tally of states with another US road trip.

Next, I should make up my own list of questions and nominate 10 more bloggers but, as has now become my practice, I’m going to skip that bit and say that if anyone wishes to join in, please do so and answer the same questions as I have. Many thanks to Corinne for nominating me. I enjoyed taking part!

A real neat road-trip?

Post A-to-Z Road TripI’m killing two birds with one stone here. First of all, I’ve decided to sign up for the Post A to Z Challenge Road Trip. This just means that I continue to explore the blogs on the list, but at a more leisurely pace than during the challenge itself. I’m wary of committing myself to targets but maybe, just maybe, I could visit a few new blogs each week and occasionally give shout-outs to my favourite discoveries. You will note the vagueness of all those terms! My first discovery is beautiful flower photographs on Letters from the Land of Cherry Blossoms.

real-neat-blog-awardSecondly, I’ve been nominated for the Real Neat Blog Award. Thank you so much to Discovering Home who was kind enough to say that my blog is “wonderful, informative and attractive”.  Can I suggest that you pop over to Discovering Home for a visit and start at Z is for Zest? The recipe for Zesty Lemon Filled Choux Puffs is amazing! After you’ve salivated for a while, turn your attention back to the Real Neat Blog Award. The idea is to answer a set of questions, then pass the award on. As with last week’s Five Photos Five Stories challenge, I’m not going to make any official nominations, but I have answered Discovering Home’s questions:

  1. When did you last feel courageous? Describe the circumstances and if/how it changed you, even if it impacted you just a little. I’m going to relate these questions to travel where I can, so I’ll take this as physical courage. I think the most courageous travel feat I’ve achieved is climbing Mount Kinabalu a few years ago. One day, a full account will appear on this blog. How did it change me? It made me determined never to do anything as daft again!
  2. Sweet or savoury – and why? Bonus Points for sharing your favourite recipe. Savoury, definitely. I’m fond of chocolate, and I do eat desserts sometimes, but I’d almost always choose two savoury courses over a savoury and a sweet. Mind you, often I’ve eaten so much by the time I get to the sweet course that I couldn’t fit any more in anyway! When traveling, we always like to try out local food – the spicier the better.
  3. When did you first begin blogging? Which early post (or posts) would you most want people to read? In 2007/8 I started a children’s literature blog which was aimed at students going on placement (I was then a librarian in a Faculty which educated teachers).  I wanted them to know about new authors because it seemed to me they were taking books into school from their own childhoods, their lecturers’ childhoods or even my childhood! The blog still exists, but it’s mainly noted for tumbleweed these days so I’m not going to recommend you go off and read it. This travel blog has been going since 2011.
  4. Create your very own word, complete with definition, and use it in a sentence. I like accidental words that rhyme. The child who told her parents she was making them the gift of a wasterpaster at school (turned out to be a waste-paper basket). The politician in our recent election who invented the word fundilymundily (he meant to say fundamentally – I think). How can I compete with those? I’m trying to think of a travel word and failing dismally. Anybody help?
  5. And for the sake of tradition – if you could have one super power … nope, let’s make this a generous question … if you could keep two superpowers and give one duplicate power to a friend, what would they be and who would get which powers? I’d like the Seven League Boots of folklore so that I could stride the world and never have to use airports again – and my husband would have to have a pair too so that he could come with me. Invisibility would also be good for jumping queues and getting into museums for free. (Ooh, shocking, can’t believe I just wrote that!)

Thank you once again to Discovering Home. I had fun answering your questions (even though I realise I didn’t quite answer some of them!)

A to Z reflections

A-to-Z+Reflection+[2015]+-+LgThis time last year I was celebrating completing my first A to Z Challenge. This year, I’m celebrating my second – and third: I’ve also fulfilled the 2015 challenge on my library blog. So my first reflection is that I’m not sure I’d do two at once again! Alternate years, maybe.

Thinking about this blog specifically, I’m really pleased with how it went. Somewhere around T, I surpassed last April’s total page views, so I did better than last year in statistical terms. But it’s the people who make the challenge – both the blogging friends I met last year and the new ones I’ve made this month. I’ve learned a lot from all your posts – and I’ve also laughed, cried, been terrified or repulsed! Sometimes all at once.

I've awarded myself a medal. Ok, fridge magnet.
I’ve awarded myself a medal. Ok, fridge magnet.

I’m very grateful to everyone who read and commented in return, and gave such warm and positive responses to Gallus Glasgow. I hope that those who don’t know the city will now be tempted to visit, and that those who do will have found at least one or two things they didn’t know about.

Potential blog posts have been piling up since the end of March, so it’s time for a little rest, then back into action. I hope some of you will still be with me. Au revoir!