Edinburgh’s Christmas festivities are a rich source of light! Here we have lantern-light from last year’s Giant Lanterns of China event. Linked to Becky’s January Squares challenge – words ending in light.
Edinburgh’s Christmas Fair lit up against the sky at twilight. Linked to Becky’s January Squares Challenge – words ending in light.
The Street of Light was a Christmas installation in Edinburgh a few years ago. I found several shots which lent themselves to the square format, but when I spotted the *Belisha beacon bottom right of this one it was the obvious choice – two different kinds of streetlight, and the beacon counts as lamplight too.
Part of Becky’s January Squares Challenge: words ending in light.
*Belisha beacon: an amber-coloured globe lamp on a black and white pole, marking pedestrian crossings. Named after Leslie Hore-Belisha (1893–1957), the Minister of Transport who introduced them in 1934.
For Day 5 of January Light, it’s over to Edinburgh where the spotlight is on this statue to Walter Scott, part of the eponymous monument on Princes Street. Pop over to Becky’s blog for all the info on her square photo challenge: words ending in light.
Strictly speaking, the rainbow above should have been in last month’s Gallivanting post. It was taken on a visit to my cousin on the last weekend of September, by which time the post was written and scheduled. However, it’s too good to waste! That’s it again below, along with a much feebler effort from Argyle Street in Glasgow. We had a lot of rainbows in the early part of the month, but every time I whipped out my phone they instantly faded. I liked this shot though, becuase it shows I wasn’t the only one making the attempt.
The Riverside Museum down by the Clyde is somewhere we pop into often, but our latest visit was briefer than normal. We were on a hunt for street art! The railway arches opposite the museum have recently been given a makeover with 27 graffiti artists contributing. The murals are quite hard to photograph because it’s difficult to get far enough back without throwing yourself into the traffic on the Clydeside Expressway, but John did his best. NB a wean is a child – short for wee one and pronounced wane.
Now that the Festivals are over, and there are fewer tourists around, it feels safe to visit Edinburgh again! We were meeting our friend Jim there for dinner one Saturday and went over early to see a couple of exhibitions. The best of these was Cut and Paste, 400 Years of Collage at the National Galleries’ Modern 2. Previously known as the Dean Gallery, Modern 2 was built as an orphanage in the 1830s and converted to a gallery in 1999. It makes good use of its grand staircases and high ceilings. The large sculpture shown below begins in the café on the ground floor and rises almost the full height of the building. The coloured tiles are in the Ladies – even the lavatories are artistic!@Coldwar_Steve which might help.
The collage above was created specifically for this exhibition and I can’t even begin to explain the significance of most of the characters – though the more I look at it, the more I recognise. Can you see Stephen Fry, Tom Jones, Kathy Burke, Alan Bennett, Slade, or Phoebe Waller-Bridge for example?
The tuba-playing Harold is a character from Neighbours. The ghastly yellow figure is Kingsley, surely the scariest football mascot ever. He belongs to Partick Thistle and I’ve even had my photograph taken with him after one of my guided walks. Eek! Everything is going to be alright is from an artwork by Martin Creed which is on display at Modern 1. It’s quite good fun looking for points of reference once you start. I should add that I have downloaded the montage legitimately – it is available on the Cold War Steve website in return for a donation to mental health charities.
Scotland puts on a show for family visitors
My sister and her husband were up from London visiting my mum this month, and were lucky to get amazing weather when we went to Irvine, Troon and Lomond Shores.
For the second year, Glasgow Botanic Gardens is hosting GlasGLOW, a Halloween sound and light show (on till 10th November). We went on the second night – there are a few highlights below. I particularly liked the pumpkin patch with lanterns carved by local schoolchildren, the three scarecrows, and the Pumpkin God. There were a lot of Brexit jokes – spot the pumpkin with the European stars!
I like to have something quirky for The Last Bit! One Sunday, we had a beautiful autumnal walk in part of the Carrick Forest. That deserves a post of its own – coming soon – but for the meantime I’ll share the quirky towel dispenser I found in the Ladies of the café at Loch Doon. I assure you, I still have my hopes and dreams intact.
I’m not exactly an award-free blog, but I’m usually so far behind with the posts I want to write that I don’t have time to take part in awards and challenges, as is the case here. I’d like to thank Flavia Vinci for nominating me for the Blogger Recognition Award. Flavia is Italian, but works in tourism so travels the world taking stunning photographs. I definitely recommend you take a look at her blog – try one of my favourite recent posts, Iguazú Falls.
Finally, to my Scottish Word of the Month. The clocks went back at the end of October, it’s dark by 17:30, and temperatures have started dropping below zero overnight. It’s time to coorie in or snuggle up. October has been a colourful, outdoor month for the Gallivanter – I’m not sure November will be the same. Have a good one!
The Giant Lanterns of China
On the first Saturday of the New Year we headed over to Edinburgh armed with tickets for The Giant Lanterns of China at the Zoo (still on till mid-February). It was amazing! Three sections covered Chinese legends, Scottish myths and animal species, especially those threatened or extinct. It was good that even the information boards about the mythical creatures all had a section on conservation, eg The Monkey King board warned against the trade in exotic pets.
Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum
We visit Kelvingrove regularly throughout the year. While another Glasgow Museum, the Burrell Collection, is closed for refurbishment Kelvingrove has a changing display of some of its treasures. The current exhibition is on medieval art which has some stunning stained glass panels.
However often we go, I always spot something new. How did I miss this, I wonder? It’s A big cat with a bit of writing underneath by John Knowles which has been in the collection since 1992. Bright and eye-catching though it is, it was the words (to which the information panel made no reference) that drew my attention: WSPU (Women’s Social and Political Union) and 1913 Cat and Mouse Bill. This was the common name for the Bill which became the Prisoners (Temporary Discharge for Ill-Health) Act, by which the government sought to deal with the problem of hunger striking suffragettes. It allowed the early release of prisoners who were so weakened that they were at risk of death. They would be recalled to prison once their health was recovered, where the process would begin again, hence cat and mouse. Horrific!
I never have that feeling of January being a bleak month after Christmas. In Glasgow we have Celtic Connections, the brilliant winter music festival!
This year we went to six events with musicians from Scotland, Ireland, the US and Canada. The most moving was An Treas Suaile (The Third Wave) written and performed by Gaelic singer Julie Fowlis and fiddler Duncan Chisholm. It commemorated the Iolaire disaster which I wrote about in one of my Hebridean Hop posts. In the early hours of New Year’s Day 1919 the Iolaire, carrying 280 servicemen home to Lewis, sank just outside Stornoway harbour, almost certainly due to navigational errors. Overcrowding (the capacity was only about 100) and insufficient crew compounded the problems, with the result that 201 men were lost in a tragedy which reverberates in Lewis and Harris to this day. Fowlis and Chisholm created a multimedia event honouring both those who died and those who survived, many of whom performed heroic feats. I can’t say I “enjoyed” this exactly, but it was definitely a highlight.
No photographs of that concert, but below are Rhiannon Giddens, Karan Casey and Loudon Wainwright III. Can’t wait for next year!
January also has Burns Night in memory of Scotland’s national bard, Robert Burns. This year we celebrated at a local restaurant, The Bothy, with good food, good company from our friends John and Pat and good entertainment from The Caledonian Cowboy who piped, recited and made us all laugh. I learned that, when you take religious subjects out of the count, the three most popular people for statues are Christopher Columbus, Queen Victoria and Robert Burns.
The menu wasn’t wholly traditional – there was haggis but not in its plain haggis, neeps and tatties version – and I’m fairly sure Burns never ate a deep-fried Mars Bar. I can now say I have. The verdict? Not as sweet as expected but not something I plan to repeat either.
It’s a while since I’ve been into the cathedral – the last time was for a funeral. This time I wanted to see a new exhibition, Scotland From The Sky, which features a series of aerial photographs from around the First World War onwards. We spent a long time in front of a shot of Glasgow in 1988, of which you can see a detail below. X marks roughly the site of our house which wouldn’t be built for another five years.
Whilst there, we also took time to look at features such as the stained glass and the crests on the ends of the pews. I picked out a few crests that meant something to us (clockwise from top left): Glasgow University (John’s employer), Glasgow Academy (his old school), the city council and Strathclyde University (my former employer).
Banton Loch and Colzium
The weather in January wasn’t great, but we did seize one sunny Sunday afternoon to stroll round Colzium Estate and Banton Loch. Once home to the Edmonstone family, Colzium House now belongs to the local council and its grounds are very popular with walkers. Banton Loch is actually a reservoir – it was built in 1773 to feed the new Forth and Clyde canal, flooding the site of the Battle of Kilsyth (1645). Apparently, bones and armoury are still being found in the fields to the north of the loch – although fortunately not by us!
The last bit
I wrote a different kind of guest post this month for my professional body, CILIPS, which is running a Meet our Members strand. I was invited to reflect on library life after retirement – you can read it here. I’ll let you into a little secret. I’d actually decided that, six years after I finished work, it was time to let my membership lapse. Then they asked me so nicely to write this post that I paid up again. Don’t tell CILIPS or they’ll be asking me to write something every year …
Finally, to my Scottish word of the month – in fact I’ll give you two. The word bothy has cropped up twice: once as the name of the restaurant where we had our Burns Supper, and then in the gallery above where you might have noticed the sign for Stoury Bothy. Many of you will know that a bothy is a hut, either basic accommodation for estate workers or a shelter in mountainous areas. “Basic” certainly doesn’t apply to the restaurant, but what about Stoury Bothy? Looking on Trip Advisor I find it is a very attractive holiday cottage, not basic and not stoury either – stour being a Scottish word for a cloud or mass of dust (pronounce stoor as opposed to the English place name which is pronounced to rhyme with flower. See also oose which has a similar meaning.)
In conclusion 1) if that were my cottage I would call it something else and 2) I do not mean to imply that you need lots of synonyms for dust. I’m sure you never have any.
Yes, we’ve been to Amsterdam again! I wrote extensively about the city after we were there in November, so when I get round to posting about this visit I’ll try to be briefer. It’s the first time we’ve been in warm sunshine and, wow, it looks good that way!
We actually had sunshine at home too – though not all the time. A visit to Inchmahome Priory at the beginning of the month was a bit grey. The priory (c. 1238) is on a small island on the Lake of Menteith, so you arrive by boat which is exciting. The island’s main claim to fame is as a haven for Mary Queen of Scots – she spent a few weeks here, aged 4, after Scotland lost a battle with the English in 1547.
We had a sunnier day in Edinburgh. I wanted to visit the exhibition at the National Library to celebrate the centenary of Muriel Spark’s birth, and we caught it just before it closed. It was excellent. No photography was allowed inside for copyright reasons, but we took a few pictures in the entrance hall. I loved what they had done to their staircase.
We also managed to fit in two more exhibitions, and a wander through some of Edinburgh’s pretty streets.
… you’re sure of a big surprise!
Surprise one was that I didn’t know about Cairnhill Woods, despite having lived within half an hour’s walk for thirty years, until a friend posted pictures on Facebook of his kids playing near some of the chainsaw carvings. Surprise two was that as I left the woods after my first visit, who should I run into but that same friend and his son? The carvings are the work of Iain Chalmers of Chainsaw Creations and have only been there since 2014, but even without them the woods are a lovely Sunday afternoon stroll, especially at this time of year when the bluebells and primroses are in full bloom.
On a walk through Kelvingrove Park, two of the West End’s most iconic buildings can be seen peeking at each other from opposite sides of the river (Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum and University of Glasgow).
I was pleased that George Wylie’s sculpture was in a complimentary mood, and even more pleased to discover small signs of growth on the storm-damaged Suffrage Oak. It’s hard to see against surrounding trees, but some of those leaves are definitely attached to the oak. There is hope!
Another day, I walked in the opposite direction along the Kelvin to the Garscube Estate, formerly the site of a country mansion and now home to parts of Glasgow University including the Vet School. Coming home via the canal I felt very lucky to have these two waterways almost on my doorstep.
John in China
For the third month in a row, John has spent time in China. This time, to make the travelling even more difficult for himself, he went to a conference in California first! It was a long journey from San Francisco to Chengdu, but at least he had a day to sight-see before starting work again. On my only visit to Chengdu, many years ago, I remember visiting this museum to Du Fu (Tang dynasty poet) with its replica of the thatched cottage he built in 759.
The last bit
Just because I liked them – two windows with a similar theme: the one on the left spotted in Southampton, and the one on the right in Amsterdam.
You might remember I’ve been answering Kim’s Sunshine Blogger nomination questions two at a time each month. Questions five and six are Who inspires you? and Why do you blog? For inspiration I could give many answers, but I’m sticking with my current project, promoting Suffrage Pioneer Jessie Stephen. The more I read about this woman, the more awe-struck I am. Next month’s roundup might well have more news about her. As for why I blog – it started as a personal record for myself, but now it keeps me in touch with all you lovely people who are reading it!
On that very subject, are you an (ahem) older blogger like me? If so, perhaps you could help Rachel at Write into Life by completing her short survey on why you blog and the benefits (if any) you get from it.
Finally, my Scottish words of the month which I’ve chosen to put together because they rhyme. If I said to you “A wee girl chapped on my door and asked if she could clap the dog” you might be puzzled – not least because I don’t have a dog, but please imagine I do. Why is this child applauding it? Well, she isn’t – chap and clap are words which confused me when I arrived in Glasgow as they had extra meanings I hadn’t encountered before. To chap is to knock and to clap is to pat or stroke. So now you know! If you have a real dog, please pass on a few imaginary claps from me.
So those were some of my happiest moments in May – how was your month?
After our recent visit to the Scottish Parliament, we walked slowly up Canongate exploring the closes, or courtyards, to either side. Canongate itself is over 800 years old, and was a separate burgh from Edinburgh until 1856. Its name comes from the Augustinian Canons of Holyrood Abbey who, in the 12th century, were given permission by the king to build on either side of the path, or “gait”, between the Abbey and the Old Town of Edinburgh.
Immediately opposite the parliament is White Horse Close (above) which takes its name from an inn which once stood there. The buildings have been restored, but still give a good impression of how the courtyard must have looked hundreds of years ago. Zoom in on the window above the stairs and you will see that it is dated 1623.
Further up Canongate is 17th century Panmure House, once home to the economist and philosopher Adam Smith. It’s currently undergoing renovation so it was hard to get a photograph to do it justice.
Not all the closes hide old buildings – tucked away in Crichton Close is the Scottish Poetry Library (1999).
Next we explored Canongate Kirkyard – like all these places, apart from the Poetry Library, somewhere I’ve walked past many times without investigating. I was surprised how extensive the Kirkyard is.
The next close was my absolute favourite – Bakehouse Close is home to Acheson House, built in 1633 for Sir Archibald Acheson and now the home of Edinburgh World Heritage. The Acheson family crest, a cock and trumpet, is above the door.
Why do I love it so much? The information panels on the wall about Rangers Impartial List, a 1775 guide to 66 of Edinburgh’s prostitutes. Many of the closes in the Old Town housed brothels, and Acheson House was one of them, then known as the Cock and Trumpet after the crest. The list pulls no punches in assessing the women’s appearance and skills – I hope you can enlarge the panels sufficiently to read some of it. I particularly like Mrs Agnew, a “drunken bundle of iniquity” who would think nothing of a company of Grenadiers at one time. At 50!
A couple of shots as we made our way to our next stop – the Tolbooth Tavern on Canongate peeking through an archway, and a further example of modern buildings behind old ones. These are student flats, with a lovely view of Salisbury Crags.
Another 17th century mansion is Moray House, now owned by the University of Edinburgh. The buildings round about comprise the University’s School of Education.
Next up is Chessel’s Court with this traditional 18th century Edinburgh ‘mansion style’ tenement, originally built to provide better accommodation for relatively wealthy residents of the Old Town. Back on Canongate, we were observed by a strange statue which is said to represent the Emperor of Morocco.
Finally, we turned the corner into St Mary’s Street, the site of Boyd’s Inn where Dr Johnson stayed in 1773 on his way to meet James Boswell for the start of their journey to the Hebrides. I liked the shop opposite with its rather cross looking bull!
From here, we headed across to the New Town and our visit to the ice sculptures which I’ve written about previously. I was soon to find out that it was possible to shiver even more on this bitterly cold December day!
I hope you’ve enjoyed your tour through part of old Edinburgh. I’m linking to Jo’s Monday walks – the blue skies of Portugal should warm you up after this chilly post!
Christmas takes over Edinburgh in a big way. George Street, in the New Town, is particularly pretty and this year hosted Ice Adventure: a journey through frozen Scotland. See if you can guess what any of these ice sculptures are! (they’re all captioned, so click to view). I do have reservations about how festive Mary, Queen of Scots having her head chopped off is…..
We had tickets for the ice sculptures, but were pleased to happen upon another event.
Joy to the World, the Edinburgh Christmas Tree Festival, takes place at St Andrew’s and St George’s West. Forty trees are each decorated by a local charity, business or voluntary group. All the trees come from social enterprise Caring Christmas Trees, supporting homeless people in Edinburgh throughout the winter, and donations to the event benefit another three charities. What a lovely idea!
A couple more Christmassy shots of George Street. Can you see the feet sticking out from that fairground attraction? It plummeted from the top VERY quickly. No way would I ever get on that!
All that remains is to wish you all a very Happy Christmas! I hope you have a lovely time however, or whatever, you are celebrating.
A couple of Saturdays ago I fulfilled an ambition to tour the Scottish Parliament building – it’s been open since 2004, so I’m not really slow, am I? The building has always been controversial – it was late, over-budget and not everyone likes the design – but I felt I understood it much better after listening to our excellent tour guide, Adrienne. The Parliament is at Holyrood at the bottom of Canongate, the lower part of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile which is the medieval heart of the city. According to its website:
Drawing inspiration from the surrounding landscape, the flower paintings by Charles Rennie Mackintosh and the upturned boats on the seashore, Enric Miralles, one of the world’s premier architects, developed a design that he said was a building “growing out of the land”.
Miralles also alludes to themes of openness and democracy and includes symbols of Scotland. The Main Hall, for example, is modelled on medieval vaults and features the Saltire cross from Scotland’s flag. Here, there is a Visitor Information Centre, exhibition, shop, café and crèche for visitors’ children.
Throughout, there are various works of art. Shown below are Contemplace by George Wyllie, the artist’s idea for a Scottish Throne, including the Stone of Destiny and references to Mackintosh, and a head of Robert Burns made of match heads by David Mach.
Travelling the Distance by Shauna McMullan is a collection of 100 handwritten sentences made of porcelain. The sentences were collected by the artist on a journey around Scotland to meet 100 women. Each of the 100 women was asked to write something about a woman they felt had made a significant contribution to Scotland. The artist asked each woman to refer her to another woman until she reached 100. We saw the parliament’s mace when we were in the Debating Chamber, but no photographs were allowed – the picture from the Visitor Centre, below, replicates the head, though the original, crafted in silver and gold by Michael Lloyd, was much more splendid.
It was a great thrill to step into the Debating Chamber having seen it so many times on TV. As I said, no photographs were allowed while on the tour, but we were able to go back to the Visitors’ Gallery later and take pictures from there. The Chamber is built in a semi-circle so that everyone is facing the Presiding Officer (rather than opposing politicians) and has a modern electronic voting system. I feel the archaic UK parliament at Westminster should learn lessons from this!
Throughout the Chamber, on the light fittings and in the glass, were symbols which we guessed to be whisky bottles, but apparently are stylised people, presumably to remind Members to whom they are responsible – us.
The chairs in the Visitors’ Gallery were rather an odd shape, but surprisingly comfortable – and the view behind was terrific.
After our tour, we had lunch in the café before heading back into the cold. On the way out, I picked up a leaflet about Canongate which I’ve walked up and down many times, but following this map took us into some of the closes on either side and we learned some interesting history. That’s for a later post: for now, I’ll finish with some exterior shots of the parliament from Canongate.
The Scottish Parliament website has information on how to book tours. I found this general tour fascinating and I hope to go back to take a more specialised tour soon – maybe literature or art.