You can tell when the sun is out because the pictures become nice and crisp. Scotland seems to provide a particular challenge for photos because the amount of light doesn’t correspond particularly well to the settings you would normally use. Most places get darker when clouds block the sun, but somehow in Scotland, the light just gets more diffuse. I never thought to distinguish between ‘light grey’ and ‘dark grey’ skies before I came to Scotland. Here, though, ‘light grey’ skies characterise many nice summer days. Sun is the best, of course, but I’ll take what I can get.
Some cities have pigeons. St Andrews has crows.
Last weekend NTs and I met some friends in St. Andrews for breakfast and a turn around the farmers’ market. Then NTS and I poked around. A lot.
St. Andrews is tiny and charming. It’s possible that I have now been inside all of the shops save large clothing and shoe stores. It may be just as well there weren’t more, or NTS would have had to get cranky.
At the end of the main streets is the ruined Cathedral of St Andrews. The original section was started in 1158 on the site of the older church of St. Rule, whose square tower still stands. In fact, you can climb to the top of the tower still… provided you don’t run into anyone coming down. The stair is an impossibly narrow spiral. We were lucky, and only ran into someone when we were quite near the single landing and had a place to squeeze by.
This is the first post of several. I took a lot of pictures.
Saturday was sunny, so NTS and I hopped the bus for the Pentlands once again. I didn’t have any particular plan in mind. Mostly, we just wandered. First we were passed by cars and cycles on a track that led past a long reservoir between hills.
The cars found their rest at the Clubbiedean fishery, but we had miles to go before we slept, and meandered on down a dusty lane between sheep fields bordered by dry stone fences. To the north, the Forth rail bridge bounded redly over the blue Firth. It really is the loveliest of the Forth bridges. Fields turned to farmhouses, and dust to asphalt, and it looked like we might have to contemplate a premature return to society.
Happily, no such fate befell us. We branched off again into that most delightful bastion of the British countryside, the country lane, drowsing in the sun. There we took our tea (the other great bastion of the British, country or otherwise).
It was at the end of this lane that we reached a crossroads (cross-lanes?) of trails, with a signpost I had seen before. Should we go on to Balerno, or circle back to Bonaly? With a hearty and heartless belief in building up one’s endurance, we circled.
It was a large circle.
Happily, the days are long, so there was never any question of being caught out after dark. By the time night fell, we were tucked up in the pub, consuming a well-earned beer and late dinner.
It’s 61F here (16C), and sunny.
Tiny grills spout tiny plumes of fragrant smoke in every park. Even now, I’m sipping my first iced coffee of the year. (As I now cold brew my coffee year-round, this was deliciously easy. This year, I’m prepared. Iced coffee is not a Scottish tradition.)
Yes, that’s a sweet potato cookie on top. With chocolate chips.
Just a quick hike.
While we were out, we scoped out a few possible sites for camping.
Scotland allows you to camp nearly anywhere you would want to (not in people’s backyards), so long as you’re not in the way and you leave no trace. We’re still working our way up to this. I’ve never camped without a car or a canoe before, except at SCA events. But I’m determined we will soon.
BRID Maybe we should try bivy sacks instead of a tent. People say that you feel closer to nature that way, not in a smaller version of a building.
NTS I don’t see how that’s a recommendation.
BRID Oh, well. It probably doesn’t work so well for two people. You know what they call a two-person bivy. b
BRID A tent.
1. I submitted a paper for peer review. My very first paper! If it’s accepted, my paper will be published in a book with those of other professional academics. (!!)
Now we wait.
2. Flowers! Though not from a garden.
At 2 quid a bouquet (Lidl), supermarket flowers more than pay for themselves in morale.
Or sorbet, depending on how much I defrost the frozen berries. Yet another use for the intrepid stick blender.
4. Wedding rings for adventurers. I don’t like to wear my wedding ring when camping, hiking, on SCA trips that involve sleeping rough, hitting my friends with sticks… Either it’s uncomfortable because I’m using my hands (especially carrying things), or very messy, or I’m afraid of losing it while running around in the woods.
Enter the silicone wedding ring, a comfortable way to stave off that weird feeling you get from not wearing your wedding ring. (This feeling developed a surprisingly short tim after I got my engagement ring. Apparently, being reminded of your marriage is addictive, and engagement is a gateway drug. Most people who contract engagements go on to marriage. Consider yourselves warned.)
UPDATE 5. No thanks to wordpress, which deleted the “Winter in Scotland” post after it was published, and substituted this draft. And then messed with it.
This may be for the best. It was about how winters in Scotland differ from those in New England. Only when I went to make sure the link was working on facebook (and it was working fine then) did I start browsing facebook and notice that no-one in Boston has seen hide or hair of the MBTA this week due to snow and incompetence. (As opposed to usual operations, in which you don’t see them for several hours, but then three 77 buses come in a row and leapfrog down Mass Ave.) I didn’t mean to rub everyone’s face in it. But apparently karma wasn’t accepting that rationale.
BRID Ooh, ooh! I’ve got 101 followers!*
NTS They’re like dalmations!
BRID Spotty? I suppose that makes sense, given my posting habits this week.
NTS They’d make a nice coat.
I don’t think I’m the weird one in this conversation any more. I’ll just be over here if you need me.
* A big thank-you to everyone who’s shown their enjoyment/support by following my blog! It does me old heart good to know my words aren’t passing unread into the vast, inky darkness of the interwebs. Have some pictures of Scotland.
o O o
For Easter, I made a delicious dinner (on Friday, but we enjoyed the leftovers on Easter). On Saturday–prompted partly by the sun and largely by Mumsy asking what we were doing for Easter–we went hiking in the Pentlands.
All pictures of sheep are hereby dedicated to Mama K, in memory of the fifteen minutes around Ben Nevis, in which we stalked the sheep for pictures in our dark rental car like the wool paparazzi.
Alien terrain, don’t you think? Somehow it always recalls the alien planets in Calvin & Hobbes, especially when it isn’t so green.
Reading a book on a shiny mac laptop makes you forget certain things. To wit, publication dates. I re-formatted the text to suit myself, from modern, un-aesthetic arial to a more reader-friendly book antiqua, fiddled with the text size, prettied up the title page, which had gotten somewhat lost in conversion.
Now, this is a book I’ve read half a dozen times. I can picture the front of my battered paperback copy at home. But since the book didn’t lead off with a date, there was nothing to direct my attention thirty years into the past. Well, not at first.
Then there was the message board at the airport, with paper messages on pins. How trusting of them. But then, I’ve been watching a lot of movies involving mistaken identity lately. And a page or two on, travellers checks. A bit archaic, but they may be used for more remote destinations. I’ve always used a debit card, myself, but a chacun son gout.
Of course, that was before she mentioned “countries behind the Iron Curtain”. Right about then is when it clicked into place. The book is as old as I am. Because of the continued relevance of the characters and themes, it had slipped my mind entirely.
Medium is an integral part of an artistic experience. Its absense slips along unnoticed until something happens to jar me back into questioning what, exactly, I’m holding in my hands. I’ve discovered that I have trouble pacing myself when reading a book, since I can’t hold myself to the old standard of pages–Ten more pages, and then I’m going to sleep. Well, twelve. Percentage isn’t doing it for me, especially in an anthology, where a whole chapter hardly rates a percentage point. Time never worked with books, so its success with digital reading is about as much as can be expected. I want a marker of completion: this page, the next page. Somehow I never feel like I’ve reached it with a digital book. Finally I have to get up for something and realise I should have done so an hour before. And the satisfaction of lingering on the last words of a book, then closing it and putting it gently back on the shelf… well, we all have our disappointments.
Of course, digital books allow me to have “books” again. We had the best library at home. Still do, really, waiting up in an attic for us to come back to it. Here, we have two short rows on a short bookshelf, and their brevity, to a pair of souls used to continual reading, is a continued source of cognitive dissonance. So the digital word is wonderful and improves our self-imposed exile tremendously. Not to mention the ease it brings to shorter travel.
But I think it worth remember, in my odorless, non-tactile bloggy way, what we’ve (collectively) left behind: the extra-textual factors that contribute to the experience of an actual book.