Enjoying the sun in Edinburgh

This morning I braved the tourists and sales shoppers to buy some post-Christmas birthday presents in the city centre. The roads were fairly quiet but the pavements were full of people. I had to step into the road to avoid the horde who were taking pictures of Greyfriars Bobby. My purchases completed, I headed back to the flat via the West End. I always have a look at the mural on St John’s Church which is usually very challenging. As I could not take a photograph due to the building work going on around it, here is the Christmas photograph for 2016 taken from their Facebook page:
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Back at the Meadows it was sunny enough for some people to sit out.
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At the flat the sun on the bare cherry tree branches made a very abstract pattern and might turn into an abstract painting one day.
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A wood pigeon was waddling around feeding underneath. Almost every house I have lived in has had wood pigeons in the garden or next door. I think the only exception was a student flat in Aberdeen where there were no trees nearby. One year I was doing the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch which takes place at the end of January each year, in Edinburgh. I did not expect to see as many different birds as I do in my garden in Cheshire but it was rather cold and frosty and I counted 18 wood pigeons on one shrub eating the red berries.
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Now that the trees are bare, I could see the sun disappearing behind the west end of the Pentland Hills through the trees next door. Some energetic people were watching it from the top of Blackford Hill which must have given them a great view but I walked 4.7 miles this morning so I was content to look out of my window.
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If you are after the precise timings of sunrise/sunset/moonrise etc there is a very useful piece of software for use on a computer or as a mobile app which can give the timings on any given date, anywhere on earth:
http://photoephemeris.com/
I am continuing to read David Bain’s book and have just read the chapters on Wyoming. I recall driving through the places he describes, seeing the Medicine Bow and Wasatch Mountains and learning about the Sand Creek Massacre of the Cheyenne Indians by US Cavalry in 1864. I also remember passing through Medicine Bow and seeing the Virginian Hotel, the most impressive building in the town. It is often said to be the place that Owen Wister wrote the novel ‘The Virginian’.It became one of the cowboy shows on TV during my childhood. However, Bain knows that the hotel was built in 1911, 11 years after the novel had been published. There were also significant dinosaur fossil finds in the area, many of which are now displayed in museums in New York and Washington. Bain and his family stayed in the Virginian Hotel and found themselves in a room over the bar and could hear the music and noise all night plus the early departure of railroad construction crews who were also staying there. We had a similar experience when we walked the West Highland Way in 2009. We stayed at the Drovers Inn at Inverarnan, a historic hostelry. Our room was above the bar and unfortunately, Friday night was music night. Added to that it was someone’s 40th birthday. Over at breakfast next morning which is served in the newer building over the road, I said maybe we would have been quieter in a room in that building. Another couple told us that it had been quiet until 1am when the birthday party contingent had noisily returned to their rooms shouting that they had never been so drunk in their lives. I shall be more careful when selecting rooms in the future.

A short journey to the village fete

The wonderful weather continues into September and for this year at least the village fete could rely on sunshine for the day.
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We have not always managed to attend as we have sometimes been away for work or pleasure but today, took a short walk (just under two miles) there and back. There were lots of different stalls but I resisted the temptation to buy as I am trying to declutter and do not need any more hippy attire just now as I will not be able to get to Glastonbury until 2019.
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The scouts had a climbing tower which some brave souls were attempting to get up.
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Being a farming community which used to be known as the garden of the potteries, it was no surprise to see vintage tractors on display but also a competition to see how many plates you could shatter.
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There were several competitions including some for dogs which we could not enter as our dog died last December. Music while we were there was provided by a local wind band but later, back at home while I was picking fruit for the evening meal, I could hear other artists’ music drifting across the fields.
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We saw some of the local wildlife and a local haulier appeared to have been taken over by the Minions.
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All too soon we had to return home to get various jobs done around the house and for James to get some rest before his night shift.

Sunny day in London

We have been enjoying the Indian summer and the fruit harvest here. I have been busy producing apple juice, picking plums, raspberries and blackberries and amazed that I am still having to water the veg outside in September. However, today we escaped and headed to London to meet up with a friend from Sydney who is visiting for a short time. I had booked brunch at the Modern Pantry in Clerkenwell and as the trains are not great on Sundays (years ago my secretary was told by someone at a rail company to tell her boss not to travel on Sunday) we decided to drive down to Watford Junction and take the train into the city from there. All went well until we were well down the M1 and they had decided to close the motorway in order to demolish a bridge. So, we endured a very slow crawl around the environs of Luton and then through the centre to rejoin the M1. At Watford Junction we found ourselves on a new London Overground train which was far from crowded and half an hour later were at Euston. We wandered down towards the restaurant with brief stops at a bookshop and cafe. It is situated in St John’s Square which is where the Priory of the Order of St John was set up in 1040. There is now a museum devoted to the history of the order (who are now known to most of us as the St John Ambulance. There is a lovely garden filled with some of the plants the monks used to treat their patients with.
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The gate into the priory has undergone several transformations. In the 18th century, it was used as a coffee house, run by Richard Hogarth, father of the artist William Hogarth. Dr. Samuel Johnson was given his first job in London at St John’s Gate, writing reports for The Gentleman’s Magazine. Later, the Gate was used as a pub, The Old Jerusalem Tavern, where artists and writers, including Charles Dickens, used to meet. It now houses the museum.
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We met our friend and were part way through our meal when I realised that I did not have the bag with my camera in it with me. I knew I had been taking photographs in the garden and that I may have left it there. We eventually discovered that someone had found it and handed it in to the museum. Afterwards, we wandered past Smithfield market where we saw the now closed nightclub Fabric:
save-fabric-london-11-sept-2016-1 and enjoyed the blue sky and sunshine.
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Down on the Thames Path we had some slightly different views of the bridges seen last week.
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We must walk the Thames Path from its source in the Cotswolds to the Thames Barrier (184 miles) someday soon. Eventually we had to head back to the tube from near the Tower and part company with promises to meet up for longer in 2017 and 2018. We got our train and out of Watford onto the motorway fairly easily and made good progress, being thankful that we were not going in the opposite direction as there was very heavy traffic heading back into the city. Just before we left the M1, we saw the brake lights come on and a plume of smoke ahead. A car on the hard shoulder was on fire and the emergency services were arriving. It looked like everyone had got out unharmed and the fire was confined to the front end of the car so we could get past without too much risk of it exploding. The rest of the journey home was thankfully, eventful.

Driving home

We left Edinburgh and the haar behind this morning and by the time we reached a friend’s house between Pathhead and Lauder, it was warm and sunny enough to have our coffee outside in the garden. After that we scooted over the hill on a B road between Lauder and Stow to the A7. These cattle were hoping to get some shade from the heat by sitting under this tree but it was not yet in leaf. Highland Cattle with their heavy furry coats are not designed for hot weather.
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All the way down the A7 the grass verges were full of dandelions in bloom and gorse in bloom on the hillside. There is a saying dating from some time from the 19th century that when gorse is out of bloom, kissing is out of fashion. No worries about that today. We found a picnic spot just south of Langholm next to a path that led down to the River Esk. It is supposed to be a fishing spot but fish tend to hide in good weather so no-one was fishing today.
River Esk near Langholm 9 May 2015-1
The motorway part of the drive was uneventful until we got closer to home when due to delays and accidents we got off and drove over the Manchester Ship Canal by the Warburton Bridge and very slowly towards home as the motorway was closed and the surrounding roads gridlocked. Warburton Bridge 1 (1 of 1)
The bridge always reminds me of some we crossed on Route 66 and maybe we will find some more on the Lincoln Highway in a few weeks time.

Shoes, sunshine and birds in London

Leaving home yesterday evening as the sun was setting and the moon had risen, made me wonder whether I will stay up until 2am on Monday morning to see the lunar eclipse. Sleep has been in short supply for the last few nights as the dog has been unwell. Our train was late into London last night and we had to get up early so that James could get to the course he was attending on time. I may have to wait until the next lunar eclipse. Once he was at Imperial College I had a coffee and waited for the V&A to open. I had not been in the museum for many years and had a ticket for their exhibition ‘Shoes: pleasure and the pain’.
Shoes V&A 26 Sept 2015 (1 of 1)

Sadly no photographs were allowed inside the exhibition but it was a great display of shoes throughout the ages and on their construction. Every so often someone would exclaim ‘I had some of those’. I assume they were not referring to the antique Egyptian, Chinese and Indian footwear. Afterwards I looked at some of the other exhibits including European Fashion from 1750 and an installation by Barnaby Barford called ‘Tower of Babel’ It is composed of 3000 individual bone china buildings, each measuring 10 – 13cm tall and depicts a real London shop.
Barnaby Barford Tower of Babel V&A 26 Sept 2015 (1 of 1)

Barnaby Barford Tower of Babel 2 V&A 26 Sept 2015 (1 of 1)

It was such a fabulous sunny day that I decided I had had enough of museums and decided to head for more open spaces.

V&A 26 Sept 2015 (1 of 1)

Eventually, after getting past all the tourists outside Harrods, I spotted some deckchairs for hire by the Serpentine in Hyde Park and sat there watching the world go by. This included a new sport not seen previously. People wearing wheeled narrow boards somewhere between roller skates and skateboards in size were propelling themselves along with Nordic walking poles. Selfie sticks were also everywhere and the park was very busy. Soaking up the sun, reading and watching the birds (magpies, geese, swans and pigeons) passed a couple of hours without any difficulty.

Geese V&A 26 Sept 2015 (1 of 1)

Later I met up with James and now the only decisions are where to eat tonight and what to do tomorrow.

Sunshine, wintry showers and some very bad driving

Winter had returned by Saturday and I had caught the virus James had over Easter so things were not looking good. I had enough energy to keep our lunch commitment that day with friends at the Scottish Malt Whisky Society (while it hailed outside) but did little else for the rest of that day or Sunday morning. We left after lunch and the cherry tree I had photographed on Thursday had now lost most of its petals due to the wind and rain. On the A702 we could see that some of the Moorfoots and Tinto had a covering of snow but the sun was shining and if we had had the time to exploit them, there were several photographic possibilities as we drove past the Pentlands. After visiting a friend in South Lanarkshire (when it hailed again) we were back on the M74 in sunshine. South of the border it began to rain heavily and the traffic began to pick up. Signs began to warn us of delays south of junction 21 and I had pondered leaving the M6 at the M61 and going round the M60 to the A34. James then advised avoiding that route as there was a Manchester City/Manchester United match at Old Trafford that afternoon. We carried on and somewhere near Preston saw an amazingly bad manoeuvre involving leaving the motorway up the off ramp and returning to it via the on ramp. I would have forgiven them had it been an unmarked police car on a job but James pointed out that this was unlikely as it had a personalised number plate. Further south, fields of oilseed rape were flowering in the sunshine. We saw a DeLorean on the back of a truck which looked like it was in the process of being customised like the one in Back to the Future. The warnings about delays persisted so we left at junction 21 and followed the Irlam Royalettes Morris Dancers Bus to the Warburton Bridge. This cantilever bridge always reminds me of some we crossed on Route 66. We paid our 12p and were soon across and on the way home. Just as we were about to leave the A50 we observed another example of bad driving when someone overtook several cars at a crossroads and was very lucky to avoid anyone coming in the opposite direction.Warburton Bridge 1 (1 of 1)