Thursday 27 November 2008


Looking back over the year, I've seen a lot of nice places and taken a few good photos. So what's my favourite picture of the year? It has to be one from the top of Beinn Mhic Monaidh, taken in September. The only problem is that I didn't take it - Billy did.

Me and Dave on Beinn Mhic Monaidh:

Well done to Billy for taking this picture. Why can't mine have been so good? :(

Monday 24 November 2008

Poem: Edinburgh Traffic

Parking - and driving - in Edinburgh has become difficult. Partly this is because the city is too small to accomodate a lot of cars: partly it is because of the unprecedented amount of roadworks holding up city traffic. Trying to park in Edinburgh has become impractical, and I now try to avoid driving in the city at all costs. It is quicker and more enjoyable to get around by bike or bus. In commemoration of my last drive in Edinburgh, I wrote this poem:

They swoop on cars at dawn
carrion in peaked hats
ticketing their march -
I park further out.

On a quiet dark street
a Police Notice says
kids break the windows -
I park further out.

In a clot of cars, lead-
breathing, coned
I saw it! from the bus -
your ten foot square of kerbside priviledge:
green envy of your parking space.

Tuesday 18 November 2008

A Midweek Trip to Hampden

I enjoy following the national football team, and try to get to Hampden in Glasgow for each home game. I don't have the time or inclination to follow club football, so the international game - with half a dozen games a year and a party atmosphere - is perfect for a part-time fan like me.

Normally, a midweek trip to Hampden in November for a non-competitive friendly game would be a test of loyalty, and the atmosphere at friendlies is always subdued compared to competitive matches. But tomorrow's game will be different. Firstly, it is against Argentina - one of the true giants of world football, and so a once-in-a-generation chance for the likes of me to see one of the best teams in the world in the flesh.

Secondly, it is Maradona's first game in charge of Argentina. Maradona is lionised across the globe as one of the best (Argentinians would say the best!) football players ever. However in Scottish football folklore he is famed for another reason. During the run up to Argentina's 1986 World Cup win, Argentina - driven by an inspired Maradona - put England to the sword. The English were extremely sore about this, as they said Maradona's first goal was a handball:

"Was it handball?" asked the press after the game. Maradona shrugged, and grinned. "A little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God," he replied. A legend was born in Scotland. I remember at the time that Argentina tops outnumbered Scotland ones on the streets. I felt then it was a little childish. It still is, but that is part of the fun.

It will be strange going to Hampden tomorrow, feeling for once as excited to see the opposition as to cheer on Scotland!

Friday 14 November 2008

A Tweedside Daunder

Alright, I'll admit it. This visit was not in Scotland. But you could see Scotland across the Rio Tweed!

We spent a Sunday of sunshine in and around Norham. The village has an impressive ruined castle, with thick medieval walls, situated above the Tweed on a low sandstone cliff. The castle was built in 1121 at the extreme edge of England by the Bishop of Durham to protect his lands from the Scots, but was captured by the Scots numerous times between 1136 and 1513. It is ruinous now, but enough of it remains to be one of the most impressive castles in Northern England. Another impressive castle, Roxburgh Castle, further upriver in Scotland, was not so lucky - it was completely levelled in 1460 by the Scots so that English invaders could not garrison it.

Norham Castle and the Tweed:

A bend in the river

The Tweed at this point is deep, wide and fast-running. Water bubbles up from sub-surface disurbances, and back-eddies form at the bends. Otherwise the river was silent, and there was surprisingly little noise. No traffic, no birdsong. The day was still and even warm in the sunshine - perhaps the last warm day of the year.

The Scottish bank:

Island in the Tweed:

Birch tree on a sandstone cliff above the river:

A leaf-floored path leads downstream from Norham, up and down the soft low cliffs. An occasional swan, heron or family of ducks swam on the water. There was much of interest, and we did not wander far before realising that time was against us.

Autumn trees:

When the sun went behind a cloud, it suddenly became very cold. We wandered through the old village of Norham back to our car and the bridge to Scotland.

Thursday 13 November 2008

A Hillwalking Trip to Glen Lyon

At the start of November I climbed a hill in Glen Lyon.

Stopped at Loch Lomond on the way up:

And at the Falls of Dochart at Killin:

On an island at the base of the falls is the ancient burial ground of the clan Macnab, a tranquil, woody place to rest:

Finally arrived in Glen Lyon, parking amongst the trees:

Heading up the track:

Once on the hill, it clouded over:

Ben More from the summit:

View west to remote Loch an Daimh:

View south to snowy Ben Lawers:

and home for tea.

Tuesday 11 November 2008

Remembrance Day

At 11am, on the 11th day of the 11th month, Britain goes quiet for two minutes. In our office, those who were on their feet stopped and bowed their heads. Those sitting at computers stopped typing. No phones rang. The reason? To pay respects to Britain's war dead. This tradition began after the carnage of the First World War - the armistice was signed at 11am on the 11th of November, 1918.

The First World War seems very distant now. It is hard to think of the trenches and what they were like. Today, I spent the two minutes thinking of our generation and our children, wondering who will die in action in the name of our country. I hope that there will not be great wars in future, but who knows what the future will bring?

We can only hope that our soldiers do not kill and die in vain.

Monday 3 November 2008

Inverleith Park

Edinburgh's parks, few in number, are well used. Inverleith Park is my nearest and is used at all times of the day and week - it is heartening in our sedentary, solitary age to see Edinburgh at play on its green acres with rugby, cricket, football, ultimate frisbee, and tennis all popular. There's no booking - you just turn up with some friends and play. I have done this before for games of touch rugby, both here and on the Meadows.

This evening I walked home through Inverleith Park. A freezing fog was out, rolling slowly through the air like a living thing. The smudged yellow lamplight of the avenues looked like the fog of Old London Town, a stage set for a play about Jack the Ripper. Dark silhouettes moved in the light's margins, British Military Fitness taking their regular recruits through their paces. Across the way under bright spotlights, a rugby team practiced, their clear shouts carrying in the frosted air across the park, the bright white light filtering in rays through tree branches, illuminating the dark glassy surface of the pond, ducks and swans still awake and gliding about. A woman entered the park with her dog - it was wearing a collar with a dim red LED. What was the light on the dog's collar for? Without it, if the dog ran into the middle of the unilluminated area of the park, it would be impossible to see.

The avenues through Inverleith Park, the Meadows, and Bruntsfield Links (a free putting course) are well lit and are not no-go areas in the evenings. Back home in Glasgow, I would never have considered crossing, for example, Queens Park at night.