Thursday, May 26, 2016

Needle and thread + racquet and ball

It's that time of year again, when I make sure that there is a continuous pile of stitching to do, and I install myself on the sofa to watch while I work.  The ultimate laziness in my parents' eyes: doing nothing twice over!
I am fortunate that my stitching is almost all work by hand, and it is usually accompanied by radio programmes.  Fortunate also that I can pick it up and put it down anywhere - probably the fundamental reason for my settling on that way to work.
Yesterday was tense, however, because Murray (the player I support the most) was playing well below his level, and thoughts of him throwing away his opportunities was causing problems with my fingers - and the quilting I'm doing at present utilises thicker cotton thread which does not pull so easily through the poplin, ....
Today should be pleasant throughout: my interest in the tennis general rather than in any particular participant.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Friday, May 13, 2016

The romance of ruins

Is it because they represent the passing of time, or simply speak of different times that make ruins so eloquent?  We visited a handful of them this week.  There are castles almost everywhere you look around here, not least with all those estuaries to the Solway Firth and the Irish Sea - lots of approaches to defend.
Cardoness Castle, Gatehouse of Fleet
MacLellan's Castle, Kirkcudbright
My favourite castle of all time, anywhere, is this one: Caerlaverock Castle, which is just south of Dumfries.  It has two moats: an inner one of water
and an outer very green one.  The castle is triangular in footprint, and the later interior is splendid with its elaborate fascia carvings.
Some of which have been rescued and displayed in the visitors' centre. 
Just a beautiful place, building, setting, ice cream, day, ... everything.
Sweetheart Abbey was the starting point for the idea of this trip - for years I had wondered about the place, and was not disappointed on finally seeing it.  Wandering round those ruins put the cherry on the cake of the day after Caerlaverock Castle.
That was yesterday, that ended with delicious scallops at Polarbites, freshly fished and landed at Kirkcudbright (where we also drove past this fabulous, very far from ruin!).
Today's ruins are much older: Neolithic.  Cairnholy I and II are what remains of two chamber tombs.  I did not manage the climb required for Cairnholy II, but was fascinated by Cairnholy I, as seen in both photos.  
The view from up there reached all round the hills, and out over the estuary towards the Irish Sea, with the Whithorn peninsula in the distant right.
This was our last full day here.  Tomorrow we set off homewards.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Some rocks and stones

I find myself fascinated by visual geology, and usually end up taking far more photographs of rocks and stones than I should.  Here is a selection taken over the past couple of days.
A seat welcoming travellers to Newton Stewart.  Carved out of one rock it is extremely comfortable, but placed right by a busy main road along which the great trucks thunder to and from the Stranraer Ferry.  Not calm.
The first thing I noticed as we arrived in the area is that the stone walls differ from those in Cumbria.  The latter are made up of close fitting stones, either the appropriate size for each gap, or knapped.  Here the stones are round, and piled up with gaps as they come.  I wonder if the rock is harder here, and not easily knapped.
In the fresh air of course there are multiple lichen growths, but I particularly liked this splash of orange.
I was delighted to find a complete stone circle just outside Wigtown, the book town - and right by the road.  Torhouse Stone Circle is a dumpy wee group with great charm - and surrounded by molehills!
This trip involves allsorts: towns, gardens, forest, loch, moorland, hills, and sea.  I was particularly taken with this combination of white stone and black dried seaweed.
The thrift blooms happily on this rock because although surrounded by sea at high tide, it is never covered - not at this time of year, anyway.
Today we visited Glen Trool, climbing first to Bruce's Stone and the lovely view of the valley from there. 
I was attracted also by the abstract formed by outcrops of rock around the path.
The Glen Trool Visitor Centre not only provided us with refreshment, but also the pleasant sight of two burns running over rocks towards the loch - bright on one side of the path, and peaty dark on the other.  The photo above shows the confluence of the two before they flow under the Stroan Bridge.

Monday, May 09, 2016

Buying books ...

... is a good way to start the day!  Of course I don't need any more books, and it is questionable whether I have time to read any more books, but nonetheless it is a delightful occupation.
This morning we started the day's tour in Wigtown, the book town.  Almost every fingerpost in the town has the word Bookshops on it, but the first bookshop we entered had its own story to tell even before we got to looking at the books.
The Open Book store provides a residency for aspiring booksellers.  With a rental of the self-catering apartment above, comes the opportunity to run the bookshop.  According to the guy who had just started today the residency is booked for at least two years hence.  He, a Scot, was sharing duties with a woman on a travelling holiday from Oklahoma.
Browsing the shelves of second-hand books I found three titles.  The first surprised me with the intrigue it aroused because I am not at all inclined to fish.  However, I was entranced by A.F. Magri MacMahon's Fishlore (how could one not be entranced by his name alone!), the Pelican edition from 1946.  It seems that the volume was reissued in 2012, as being suitable for young boys or girls keen to learn to fish.  I always enjoyed Pelicans because they treated specialised subjects in a way suitable for the curious intelligent reader, whether youngster or not.
Then a Penguin called to me: Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch (known as Q - and another name to conjure with) Selected Short Stories published in 1957.  I am a great lover of short stories, but it was not just that which drew my eye.  One of my earliest secretarial tasks when I worked for Oxford University Press in 1972 was dealing with Q's fascinating correspondence file dating back to the publication of his Oxford Book of English Verse.
The third book is more recent -2006, and was in the sale at the bookstore: Edinburgh University Press's The Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women which I am delighted to say is thicker than I could have imagined - ignorance of which I'm also ashamed to admit.
After all that excitement of course we had to have a coffee opposite in the Café Rendezvous, where the walls are hung with lovely photographs of children reading  Each photograph in black and white was taken from behind the child who looks totally absorbed in the book. 
In our short wander round the town after that, I can't remember having been greeted by so many friendly folks anywhere before. 

Sunday, May 08, 2016

A good day for being near water

A hot day today.  So hot indeed that we were grateful that our explorations took us past quite a few expanses of water, and through woods too, which cooled as they delighted the senses.
The Cree river at Newton Stewart.
This viaduct over the Big Water of Fleet is quite a structure. 
The legs are reinforced with brick as it had to carry munitions trains during WWII.  The viaduct was used in the filming of Hitchcock's version of The 39 Steps.
This is the Big Water of Fleet, which joins the Little Water of Fleet before flowing through Gatehouse of Fleet into the Solway Firth.
We were checked to make sure that we were not fishing without a permit (we were not fishing) at this delightful spot on Woodhall Loch.
The day was cooling as we reached Clatteringshaws Loch,
and the last loch of the day was the Black Loch, shaded by pines.
We were astonished to find that at 24 degrees C we had been hotter than Athens.