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Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Let is snow, let it snow,let it snow! Well, it had to come at some point. Here, just before I dived into the depths of Waverley Station on the way to Ayr, I was able to snap some of the oldest skyscrapers in the world with the top of St Giles' Cathedral pushing in form behind. These interlocked buildings are the last part of the Old Town before the sweep down into Princes Street Gardens (once the city's communal sewer, now a minigolf and place where world class acts play their toons at Hogmany, 31 December) and the climb back up to where I am standing - Princes Street and the beginning of the New Town.

These buildings are about 13 floors high, and although most of the floors are visible here many are hidden from view depending on from which street you enter the building. From the Royal Mile, behind these buildings, you can only see about 7 floors. If you were to go into Mary King's Close you would, in fact, be under all of these buildings. It's an entire street (well, three streets called 'Closes') that was filled up during the Plague. With everyone inside it. Everyone that is, but for a girl who was playing down in the murky sewer waters of the Loch (now Princes Street Gardens). Apparently, and I can kind of vouch for this, you can feel her presence when you go down Mary King's Close now. You, too, can visit it with the City Cooncil.

Monday, January 30, 2006


Working from home is becoming an ever-rarer luxury for this Development Officer, but today was a great day to be out and about in Leith, the Port of Edinburgh and the place where I live. Having forgotten to take out my camera this morning when I was over at the sunny Ocean Terminal and home of the Royal Yacht Brittania, I have just been out again in an effort (unsuccessful) to get a haircut. This view is in my street, one of Bacchus, the Roman God of wine and intoxification.

What is he doing in a street in Leith?

Well, my street is full of the warehouses where the finest wines and whiskies were kept before going on to those who coud afford them (Mary Queen of Scots had her Bordeaux delivered to one such warehouse just round the corner - another day for that building). I live in an old whisky bond building - one can still smell the vapours sometimes, the angel's share of 2% liquid that evaporated from every barrel. This building opposite my flat, though, was a former wine warehouse, hence the old Bacchus being carved out of the window.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

This blurry photo was taken as a cab flew me off back to the station after a successful workshop in Glasgow, next to the Armadillo (that'll come another day). It's the Finnieston crane, marked in my mind since it formed a key element of the 1988 Glasgow Garden Festival when Glasgow was deservedly European City of Culture (about time Edinburgh got that, no?).

In 1988 it carried the straw locomotive structure of local artist George Wyllie. But when Crane No. 7 was completed in 1931, it was capable of lifting 178 tonnes of boilers, engines, steam locomotives and tanks into awaiting ships on the River Clyde. So it is really a key piece of Glasgow's industrial past as well as its cultural future. It is also part of our world heritage - it was once the biggest crane in the world.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

OK, so it's not a beautiful site in Scotland - some would argue it's not even a beautiful sight. However, last night, a few days late from the national bard's birthday celebrations on January 25th, was our friend Jo's Burns Supper. Here are the steaming piles of haggis, neeps and tatties.

The haggis is the sonsie beast that contains sheep bits, spices and oatmeal contained in a plastic sheep's gut (the real sheep guts were banned by the European Union some time ago). The neeps are the bright orange turnip which I have never been able to find in any market outside Scotland. Indeed, creating a Burns Supper in France I went to the Place des Lices in Rennes only to find that rutabagas, the closest thing to orange neeps, were fed to the animals. The stall holder was shocked that I would want to eat something in 1998 that in 1940 the French were forced to eat through rationing. The tatties, meanwhile, are the mashed potatoes. It was all great food, coupled with a night of singing serious and silly songs and poems as each of the invited guests 'gave their turn'. Back to places tomorrow.

Friday, January 27, 2006

This is not some lost loch in the heart of the Highlands, but Stirling University, the place where I work. It is set just outside the city of Stirling and the buildings line this lake, complete with swans, ducks and heron. If you ever come to Stirling take the Uni bus out here and have a walk around the lake and over to the Wallace monument. If you bring your swimming costume you could go for a swim in the Olympic swimming pool - the Scottish Sports Institute is next door!

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Edinburgh Castle, perched on top of its volcano cap, had to appear sooner or later. This might not be the best shot in terms of the light that can turn this castle into a warm, glowing landmark across the city. But it does show one of my favourite statues of a Scottish military figure - have to find out who and update the post accordingly when my foot is better.

The Firth of Forth at sunset - nothing better on the way home to Edinburgh. And no-smoking, too!

Sunday, January 22, 2006

This weekend involved a trip to Elgin, right up in Moray in the North of Scotland. It seemed to be in perpetual darkness in Elgin itself whenever I had a chance to escape the conference. This is the scene in Aberdeen station. After already having travelled more than an hour from Elgin to get there it seemed that most of Aberdeen was shut down. What can a blogger do other than take a photo?

I now live in Edinburgh and this is one of my favourite quirky buildings, although most people just walk straight past without noticing its flashing lighthouse. The lighthouse lets people in George Street, central Edinburgh, know that they are approaching the Northern Lighthouse Board, the governmental organisation responsible for keeping every lighthouse and buoy in Scotland and Northern Ireland going. It's a beautfiul Georgian building, just next to Castle Street.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Travelling from Aberdeen to Edinburgh is one of the most beautiful train trips you could do in our country. This is the quiet water next to Montrose where the fishing boats lie waiting for a new week of trawling.