The end of 2017

During our journey to Edinburgh just after Christmas, the radio was reporting snow, ice, blocked roads and closed airports elsewhere but northwest England and southern Scotland were bathed in winter sunshine. Not long after we joined the M6, a line of vintage tractors crossed a bridge over the motorway, presumably heading to some tractor fest event. Wildlife spotted on the journey included two buzzards perched on fence posts, mute swans on the River Eden and a roe deer just behind the crash barrier. There were several skeins of geese in the blue sky and snow on the Cumbrian peaks. Our only delay was an accident on the M74 before we were driving on the A701 through snowy landscapes.



In Moffat the ram was still wearing his Remembrance Day poppies.

There was 6-9 inches of snow all around and the hill sheep were digging holes to find grass. In Penicuik, children were sledging down the hill opposite the barracks. Unsurprisingly there was less snow in the city although there was a snow shower the following day while we were shopping and the children next door were building a snowman when we returned. It stayed dry later and which was a blessing as I had booked us to see the Botanic Gardens’ Christmas light & music display which we had never been to before. It runs every year in December.




The remainder of our time was spent catching up with relatives and friends and a lunch and football match for James on his birthday. I had pondered trying to get some photographs of the torchlight procession which takes place on the 30th but it started to rain heavily just as I got back to the flat so I gave up that idea. Storm Dylan arrived on the 31st and at one point Princes Street was closed to pedestrians as some staging had collapsed. I decided not to go up the hill to photograph the midnight fireworks as the wind was still very strong and I had visions of slipping down the hill in the mud with my camera & tripod. We did see some of the earlier evening fireworks on the way to and from the Candlelit Concert in St Giles Cathedral. It was performed by their choir and Camerata and organist and included Handel’s Dixit Dominus and Bach’s Mass in F, both of which I have sung before and Handel’s Organ Concerto Op 4 No 2 in Bflat. Despite being described as candlelit, there were only a few candles at the front. I must return and have a look round the cathedral at some point as it has seen a lot of history. We decided to stay in on our return and saw the New Year in very quietly. Back home we discovered that the cellar pump had failed and it was flooded but managed to it going again before the storm due to hit us tonight deposits even more water on us.

Two days in London

An early drop off at Crewe Station on Wednesday morning meant that fortified with a large coffee, I got some work done before the train arrived. There was great confusion on the destination boards, which seemed to have regressed to the earlier overnight trains: ‘23.42 from Glasgow Central terminates here’. I was on the slower service to Euston via Birmingham this time, which at least meant a change of scenery. Just before we drew in to the station at Wolverhampton we passed a number of interesting derelict Victorian buildings that are crying out for restoration and could provide the affordable homes that we need so much. From the station you can see the old Chubb Lock and Safe Company building that has been restored. Here is a photo from a local history site:
Chubb1
After Coventry, we were back into the countryside and there was still some autumn colour. It’s hard to believe we are in the second half of November. On one farm the animals were about to be fed. Two flocks of sheep in their fields and one herd of cattle were all staring intently towards the farm buildings, waiting for it to appear. Approaching Euston there were numerous small plants which had seeded in the gravel on the line and were flowering even this late in the year.
My walking route led me past UCL where a demonstration by students and supported by Socialist Worker was getting ready to set off. On Tottenham Court Road I passed Heals (along with Studio One in Edinburgh a great place to furnish and decorate a modern house) and down to Liberty ‘the chosen resort of the artistic shopper’ according to Oscar Wilde. If money were no object, there are innumerable wonderful things here. As always, a quick look at the Japanese prints on the top floor was essential, Kawase Hasui’s snow scenes being a favourite. However, I was focussed on Christmas present buying and that was soon finished (declining bubble wrap and plastic bags) and I wandered down Carnaby Street picking up some stocking fillers. Back at Oxford Circus a band were busking.
Buskers at Oxford Circus 19 Nov 2014 (1 of 1)
Afterwards, a quick tube journey to Islington and after popping into the Oxfam bookshop (one for me and one for a Christmas stocking filler) I was in my hotel. No more wall space at the moment so I did not visit Finbar MacDonnell’s wonderful map shop in Camden Passage. The hotel is modern and almost monochrome which fits with my current exploration of black and white photography. Today I woke early to a misty morning. Down in the City where my meeting was taking place, the Gherkin and the Shard were in the mist but lack of time and unwilling to stand in the middle of the busy road, there are no photographs. Late afternoon, the meeting was over and I wandered back to Oxford Street to photograph the lights.
Christmas Lights Oxford Circus 20 Nov 2014 (1 of 1)
Hare Krishna monks were singing and chanting along the street and Jehovah’s Witnesses standing outside the tube station trying to give away booklets. I made my way back to Euston via some of my favourite bookshops in Bloomsbury. I came across two amazing shops on my wanderings – one devoted entirely to umbrellas and walking sticks
Umbrella & Walking Stick Shop 20 Nov 2014 (1 of 1)
and one that sells rubber stamps for printing. You can even buy sealing wax and seals in there. I had a fairly uneventful train journey home with pleasant company, red wine and one of the books I had bought.