A day in Dundee


The day before we left for Dundee, Edinburgh and the autumn leaves were bathed in sunshine. While we were in Australia the UK seems to have had a fairly mild autumn.

However, this was not to last and by the time our train pulled into Dundee Station, the sky was overcast and the wind was getting up. We had been meaning to re-visit the city for some time, especially since the V&A opened a museum there in September 2018 and James is always keen to come back to the place he was at university in. The new V&A is right on the waterfront in a stunning building. It was designed by Kengo Kuma & Associates from Japan who are also designing the stadium in Tokyo for the 2020 Olympics.



The collection is devoted to Scottish design in many different areas. The main collection is free to visit and there are additional exhibitions for which a ticket has to be purchased. The current one is on ocean liners. There was so much to see and one thing I enjoyed was The Oak Room designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh for Miss Catherine Cranston who owned tea rooms in Glasgow.

Next to the V&A is Discovery Point; a museum devoted to Antarctic research and the ship Discovery. Dundee had for some time engaged in whaling and so had expertise in constructing ships that could withstand Arctic ice, making it an obvious place to build the first ship constructed for scientific research in the Antarctic. The Discovery had sails but also an auxiliary coal-fired steam engine. There are displays on the construction of the ship which used several different kinds of wood, those who sailed in her, the work they did and the restoration of the Discovery. After looking at the displays in the museum (and trying some of the interactive things if you are brave enough) the ship can be explored, above and below deck.

When we visited some workers were repairing the decking with what looked like traditional methods.

Back in town, penguins are popping up everywhere as part of the Christmas Decorations. Those outside Discovery Point and these in the city centre are present all year.

Another Scottish export was comics. DC Thomson have been publishing newspapers and comics since 1905. Desperate Dan and Minnie the Minx from the Beano are also in the city centre.

Had the weather been better there are riverside walks, boat trips, the Botanic Gardens or a climb up the Law for the view but they will have to wait for another trip. Down in the waiting room at the station there was a wall display:

While living in Dundee, Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein

The first ever wireless broadcast took place in Dundee

In 2016 Dundee hosted the UK’s biggest independent video games festival

Dundee is the sunniest city in Scotland. This raised a smile as it was pouring with rain and very windy outside with reports of snow on high ground. Despite Scotrail glitches: announcing a delayed train when it had just departed and telling us as we approached Haymarket that the next stop was Leuchars, we made it back to Edinburgh on time.

Around Australia: sampling a little of Adelaide.


We spent our first evening in Adelaide with friends and the following morning set out to sample a little of what the city has to offer. Nearest to our hotel was the Central Market which has more than 250 stalls. The Mettwurst Shop satisfied James’s craving for kabanos. In addition to food, fruit and vegetables, there are others. I had to stop at the pop-up bookshop and found one to buy.


On North Terrace there is an old and antiquarian bookshop and several others around the city. Walking north we reached the South Australian Museum on North Terrace. It is exhibiting the entries and winners of the Australian Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year which accepts photographs taken in Australia, New Zealand, Antarctica and New Guinea. I could not select one I like best out of all those on display but there is a public vote for their favourite. After the exhibition we looked at one of the other galleries: The Aboriginal Cultures Gallery. As you enter, Norman B Tindale’s map of Aboriginal Australia is on display.

It shows the territories of over 250 Aboriginal groups at the time of European arrival and took him 50 years to produce. It was published in 1974 and challenged the myth of terra nullis. The boundaries are fluid and have changed over time, but it was an extraordinary achievement.

Nearby is the migration museum. This has a number of displays illustrating migration to South Australia from the earliest European contact to modern times. The impact on the indigenous people is not forgotten. For example, this description of the experience of the Kauna people who came into contact with the first European settlers. They thought they were visitors like the whalers and sealers they had met before. However, the Europeans fenced in and claimed land and excluded others. They destroyed the food sources and brought their own animals, alcohol and disease. After 10 years the immigrant population was 23000 and the Kauna reduced to 300. This was replicated in numerous communities.

By the rear exit is a sculpture by artist Tim Thomson created in 2007: the British Child Migrant Memorial to those shipped to SA between 1912-1970. Prior to our visit to Australia in 2011 I had read the book by Margaret Humphries ‘Oranges and Sunshine’. She was the British social worker who in 1987 had uncovered the forced child migrant programme while working in Nottingham. Many children, often those of unmarried mothers and broken families, were shipped to Australia and often subject to forced labour or sexual abuse in workhouses. Parents were told their children had been adopted. I met someone on the Indian Pacific Train who told me that he was one of those children. I had not expected to meet one, but he did not want to talk about that: he was a Jehovah’s Witness who asked me if I had read the Watchtower.

The art gallery is nearby but I needed to get outside for a while so we wandered back towards Victoria Square where 19th century buildings sit amongst the modern ones.

Our evening meal in a no frills restaurant in Chinatown which was very popular with the Chinese Community. I had a glass of wine with my food and a guy at a neighbouring table gave me the rest of his bottle when he left. There is no end to Australian generosity. Back at the hotel it was time to get organised for the morning departure to Kangaroo Island.

Around Australia: From the outback to the city and the ocean


Having spent a few days in the outback it was time today to return to the city and the ocean. Our motel was just off the highway in Katherine, so we were on our way fairly quickly. Highway One was fairly quiet although we did see our first four tanker road train and there were the inevitable roadworks. Our coffee stop was in Pine Creek at a café where a cat was sitting outside the door ready to greet us. Further on in the town is a railway museum. It was closed when we passed by, but I had a brief look around. Inevitably the gold rush was the reason the railway opened in 1889. It was extended to Katherine in 1917 but never got as far as Alice Springs. When a nearby mine closed in 1976 the railway closed. In 2004 the Darwin to Adelaide line opened which we must do at some point.

There are a couple of locomotives in a shed. As it was closed I had to take photographs through the wire enclosure.

We continued north into a more rocky and hilly landscape. Just after Hayes Creek, the option to divert via the Dorat Road to Adelaide River where it rejoins Highway One. It was even quieter and the termite mounds even bigger. Some were almost 3 metres tall.

We saw some kangaroos grazing in the bush but all too soon we were back on the main road. A sign to a place called ‘Tortilla Flats’ raised a smile. After Mount Dam the water pipe ran alongside the road. Bad signage nearer Darwin meant that we missed our exit but third time lucky we were on the correct road and off to the airport to dump the rental car. Some bizarre rules mean that we could not keep the same car all the way around according to the offices in the UK and Sydney. The woman in the Darwin office thought that we could have had a rolling contract. Anyway, it is pleasant to be car-less for a day and hopefully we can re-negotiate the fee we are being charged which is for those dropping off at a different destination. Whichever car we have, it will be returned to Sydney where we started. One bit of good news is that when we checked into our hotel, we got upgraded to a suite with an ocean view! The following morning, en route to the Botanic Garden, I spotted an Avis office in town. While James went in to switch the car pick up to that office I explored the Catholic Cathedral opposite.


We walked the just under two miles to the Gardens and enjoyed being back in a green oasis after the dry outback.

Unlike the last one we visited, the epiphytic greenhouse was open and gave me some ideas to try with my orchids and some of my succulents if they have survived my absence. After a cold drink at the cafe it was time to walk a little further to the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory. One of the exhibitions was 66 out of the 300 entries for the Telstra National and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards. There were other galleries of art work and I particularly liked some of the linocuts and wood engravings and hope that these will inspire me to get back to my art over the winter.


There were other very colourful works as well as galleries devoted to the geology and natural history, Cyclone Tracy on Christmas Day in 1974 which I remember being reported on the TV and some early 20th century history of the Territory. After walking back to the hotel (with a diversion to a cold beer) it was time to relax with the AC on. Later on we found Darwin’s bookshop: Readback Books and Aboriginal Art Gallery. As usual when travelling I have to restrict myself and we bought one novel which we can leave behind when finished. I overheard the proprietor telling another customer that her main business was the art gallery and the books were a hobby. Sunset is later up here but it was so cloudy little could be seen. Today was the autumn equinox and a full moon. However, we could not see the moon for cloud so here is last night’s almost full one.

A wet weekend in Brighton


I had first visited Brighton a couple of years ago for work and James joined me for a day or so after the conference. We had both felt it warranted a second visit and booked this trip last autumn. It turned out to be a good time to be heading south rather than to Scotland with wintry weather blocking roads up there. On the day we arrived the University of Sussex were holding a graduation ceremony in the theatre near our hotel. There were many Chinese families taking photographs along the sea front. We did get a couple of breaks in the rain for a bracing walk on the mainly pebble beach in the late afternoon where the supports and the remains of the old West Pier are.


We spent some time wandering around the lanes where there are some chain stores but also many independent shops including some very quirky ones. One thing I did notice was that people we encountered in the hotel, cafes and shops were very friendly, unlike some other southern cities I have visited. Several years ago I stayed with a friend in Southampton in December and while she was at the university, I went into town to do some Christmas shopping. The only person who said anything more to me than the bare minimum to carry out the transaction was the Big Issue seller who was from Manchester.

Having visited the pavilion on our last trip, this time we explored the Museum and Art Gallery. It has a number of permanent galleries including one on 20th century furniture and art.

I was particularly struck by this lift compartment installed in Selfridges on Oxford Street, London in 1929. Designed by a French artist, Edgar Brandt and entitled ‘Les Cignones (storks) d’Alsace’ they remained in place until 1971 when they were removed because of new fire regulations.

There was a gallery devoted to Brighton in the 20th century with displays of mods and rockers who clashed on the seafront in 1964.

Other galleries contained their pottery, china and fine art collections, John Pipers aquatints of Brighton, performance and toys, youth projects in Brighton with youngsters from different countries exploring their culture and traditional costume including New Ireland, Myanmar, Peru, Canada and Alaska and Mali. There is also a collection of ancient Egyptian artefacts and the Museum of Transology.

All too soon it was time to head for home. Had it been drier I would have liked to walk the Undercliff Path which heads east for 3km and also to explore the huge amount of street art in the city including a Banksy.

New Zealand: Auckland in midwinter


While the northern hemisphere is celebrating the summer solstice by touching Stonehenge and other rituals, the 21st of June is the midwinter solstice down here in the southern hemisphere. We drove from Hamilton to Auckland for our last few days in New Zealand. The sunsets just after 5pm behind the city so we walked down to the harbour to enjoy the evening light.

Someone I was at school with has been living in Auckland for many years and had invited us over to their house in Devonport for an evening meal. We took the 10 minute ferry with all the commuters returning home in the dark and had a very enjoyable evening. The following morning the forecast rain had arrived so we decided to visit the museum which sits in Auckland Domain and had a very wet walk there. The neoclassical building was constructed in 1929 and is Auckland War Memorial Museum. Most of the top floor is devoted to the war memorial collection. However, it contains many other gems. On the ground floor Maori and Pacific Islander artefacts are on display.

In the ancestral meeting house (remove your shoes to enter) a restoration project was underway.

Although New Zealand had its own potteries from the late 19th century, we found a link with home as Royal Doulton and a tile manufacturer in Hanley produced china and tiles with Maori decoration in the early 20th century. There were also silver teaspoons from Birmingham. Other exhibits were Wild Child: childhood in New Zealand, sections on volcanoes, natural history, 20th century Japanese ceramics and a very powerful photographic exhibition entitled Being Chinese in Aotearoa chronicling the experiences of Chinese people in New Zealand in over 90 photographs from the first settler in 1842 to the present day. Unfortunately, we will not be here to see the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition which starts on 7 July 2017. It was raining less on the return journey but the sky remained overcast and the Sky Tower was in the mist so not an evening to go up for the view.

On Friday morning, we were back on the Devonport ferry for a wander around the town. Close to the ferry terminal is Windsor Reserve with a very large tree that has numerous aerial roots. The New Zealand Tree Register identifies it as a Moreton Bay Fig, also known as an Australian Banyan.

Devonport has two bookshops, both on Victoria Road. Bookmark has secondhand books including a large section on military history in addition to all the usual sections. The shop on the other side of the street sells new books. On Queen’s Parade, we found a gallery selling antique maps and prints, Japanese woodblock prints and other modern prints and a few paintings but nothing to add to our collection. On a clear day, it would have been worth walking up Mount Victoria for the view but as the mist had descended, we confined ourselves to walking on the beach where I found some sea glass and had some conversations with the dog walkers, one of whom was originally from Northern Ireland.

As the city was shrouded in mist this was also not a day for the Skytower.

At the ferry terminal, I picked up a free copy of Paperboy, a free magazine published every Thursday and is a great guide to what’s on around the city. I spotted a photographic exhibition at the Trish Clark Gallery and would have loved to see it but the gallery opened so late that we could not manage it before a late lunch and the walk to Eden Park. We had a great lunch in the Indian restaurant opposite our hotel. A Fan Trail had been marked out for us to walk to the venue and entertainment was laid on along the route. These ladies were dancing to Amy Winehouse:

There were people dancing with fire, various bands (one of whom were doing a not very good rendition of UB40’s Red, Red Wine and people dressed up in all sorts of costumes. It took one and a half hours to get there and find our seat. Unfortunately the British and Irish Lions lost the match with the All Blacks so we slipped out early and caught the first train back to the city centre. Tomorrow we leave Auckland to start the long journey home.

Dubrovnik: history and modern art

Two books have accompanied me on this trip. The first is the 3rd edition of Marcus Stanver’s ‘Croatia: a history forged in war’ and the second is the 11th edition of ‘Dubrovnik in War’ edited by Milenko Foretić. Staying in the old city has also focussed us on history so far as it is all around us. Today we need a change so headed out of the walled city through the gate we had entered on Monday on to the road behind.

A flight of steps took us up to the station for the four-minute cable car journey to the summit of Mount Srđ (412m). There are great views over the Adriatic and inland to the mountain ranges.


There is some history up here, the remains of a Napoleonic Fort and the white cross which was destroyed in the 1991-1995 war has been rebuilt. I noticed a switchback path on the hillside emerging from the pine forests so walking up is also an option which I had not known about. Doing it in mid-summer would have to be early in the day and with lots of water as it is exposed for most of the route. After descending we walked along the road to the Museum of Modern Art housed in what was a ship-owner’s summer villa built between 1939 and 1949 in a similar style to some of the palaces in the old city. There are exhibitions on three floors with the current focus on their collection from the beginning of the 19th century to the present day. Most of the works are paintings with a few prints and numerous sculptures. There is a terrace overlooking the sea with sculptures

including this one by Frano Kršinić entitled ‘Mother’s play’ from 1965.

The museum ticket gives access to eight more around the city so we will explore some more tomorrow. Just below the museum were steps leading down to a small shingle beach. Huge piles of sunbeds suggest that it will be crowded in mid-summer but this morning it was quiet with only a few people around. I found some sea glass and admired the view over to the walled city while James made a new friend as yet another cat wandered over to see him.

Afterwards we sat by the harbour enjoying the sun while some pigeons were bathing in a puddle left by the rain a couple of nights ago. To make us feel at home one of the many boat trips you can take from here is in a craft shaped like and called ‘Yellow Submarine’.

Stepping back into history we visited the maritime museum which is housed in the Sveti Ivan Fortress. Noticing how many ships in the 18th and 19th century were built in Glasgow, Belfast and Northeast England was a potent reminder of what our past ship-building industry was and what we have lost. There were also a couple of physicians’ chests from ships on display.
This one from the 18th century included a treatise on the management of scurvy. The 19th century chest had many more bottles of potions and instruments.

Outside the inevitable cat was resting on a cannon.

This evening we ate at a restaurant called ‘The Taj Mahal’. Despite the name it serves Bosnian not Indian food. Sunset photography was not on tonight as it started to rain while we were eating.

A second open door in Edinburgh

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Today’s Open Door for Advent was Summerhall. The 100-year-old building was the University of Edinburgh’s Veterinary School until 2011 but is now an events and arts hub with workshops and workspaces, exhibitions, a café, several event spaces and Pickering’s Gin Distillery. I had been in town to do a few things and on the way to Summerhall walked up Clerk Street. Like most urban areas, shops and businesses have closed in Edinburgh and some new ones have opened. For the circus performers among you, there is now a juggling shop on Clerk Street and the other thing that attracted my attention as I walked along was a notice in a shop window advertising ‘Lesbian Donkey for Sale’.

I was a little early for the exhibition tour at Summerhall so wandered around some of the open rooms. The old anatomy lecture theatre is one of the few remaining with wooden seating:
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The dissection room has large windows on one side unlike the one at my medical school in Marischal College in Aberdeen which was in the basement and known as ‘The Drain’.
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However, the old lab was very reminiscent of school science labs.
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At two, the tour of the exhibitions began and the group was smaller than yesterday so we could chat with each other. Our guide, Sergio Madrigal, was extremely knowledgeable about the work of Ross Fraser McLean whose exhibition was entitled ‘Ceiba – Casa de Todos Los Muertes’. He had spent eight months exploring death in Mexico from both socio-political and spiritual stand points. The exhibition includes photography, music and installations in the old vet school specimen display cabinets.
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The cabinets contain Mexican craft artefacts, offerings of flowers, fruit and vegetables left to decay like offerings on an altar and other objects documenting Mexican life and death.
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It took almost an hour to even begin to absorb everything on display. We had a brief look at another gallery and then I had to leave. Ceiba continues until 23 December and we were told about another in the old church which is part of the complex. This exhibition chronicles the life of women in Yemen after the recent wars and is part a portrait exhibition but also comments on how their life has changed and the many ways in which gains in freedom have now been reversed. That and a tour of the gin distillery must wait for another day. On the way out I noticed there was a Thermos Museum, another time perhaps.
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