Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Cramond Island. Corstorphine Hill.Cramond Kirk. An Edinburgh Wedding.

As two of the young folk in one of my clubs were getting married, and both live in Edinburgh, (Gordon,originally from Glasgow and Magda, originally from Poland) I was kindly invited along as a guest at their wedding. It was held at the ever popular Cramond Kirk, where I took this photo of stained glass, medieval style, labour. Some fine examples of glasswork here but this one stood out for me as it featured everyday mundane tasks and not the usual flash of spiritual enlightenment with sunshine or thunderbolts from heaven. Most marriages have years of toil, hard effort and compromise stitched into the fabric of their existance as well as periods of mutual delight.
Cramond Kirk- where the wedding took place and was luckily not affected much by several heavy downpours throughout the afternoon as it took place in the Kirk then the adjacent Cramond Hall for
the reception/afterparty which went on until well past the witching hour.
But I digress... The wedding was not until 3:00pm and I didn't want to miss a large chunk of the day  when it was over in Edinburgh if I could avoid it... So I left Glasgow in the car just after 8:00am heading for the capital. Three decades ago I used to travel UK wide whenever I needed to do I'm restricted to limited journeys to eke out my precious tank of petrol. Squandering £60  worth of fuel in a single day seems wrong somehow when some families in this country make do with that amount per week. Thankfully, I no longer have the travelling and exploring bug within me to the same extent.  As you can see from this info sign Corstorphine Hill is next to Edinburgh Zoo.(the unmarked set of buildings in light green.) It is a heavily wooded sprawling hillside park with several grassy meadows and mature woodland running over undulating slopes. The largest public woodland remaining in Edinburgh as I now found out reading this sign. I've been here before, around 30 years ago with a few like minded friends, right at the witching hour, as it happens. I remember a soft, warm, snow white kitten. Nice amber eyes it had.
In the middle of the park this large stone tower, (mostly hidden from view by its ring of trees, as if hidden away in shame I always feel ) celebrates Sir Walter Scott, (to commemorate 100 years since his birth),which is a less well known memorial tower than the tourist one on busy Princes Street. You can ascend this at certain times when it is open in summer. (Sundays.) See info board photo above.
Nearby there is a viewpoint at the rest and be thankful, an ancient lookout used at the end of R.L. Stevenson's book Kidnapped where David Balfour and Alan Breck go their separate ways.
I actually bumped into one of the Friends of Costorphine Hill when he was walking his dog and I was having breakfast on a sunny park bench.
It's a fine viewpoint overlooking Edinburgh. Assorted Church and Cathedral spires and Edinburgh Castle seen here. St Mary's Cathedral probably, situated  in the West End near Dean Village, is the nearest set of high dark spires at a guess.
Arthur's Seat,(an ancient Volcano and the world's most heavily studied, over several centuries) and Murrayfield Golf Course from Corstorphine Hill. Edinburgh is one of only a handful of cities around the planet to have a volcano so close to it's city centre. Luckily, it's an extinct one. Bad luck Glasgow. Not Scotland's largest city for much longer it seems. :o(
"Rivers change- cities change- landscapes change. Mountains last the longest and give us hope."
How true. I could return to earth a thousand years from now and still pick out Edinburgh.
This same guy asked me if I'd visited the walled garden area at the foot of the park.
"No." says I. 
"You should go." says he. "It's beautiful at this time of year."
"I will." says I. "Cheers for telling me."
As it was fairly close I went to visit it right after my breakfast.
Simple open ended suggestion- followed through without thinking about it too much by me. The best way to receive one and I've placed many into various minds during my own time and fashion, with varied and not always predicable results. People are more susceptible to them in fine weather I've found and every little edge helps when delivering one. Delivering a what? I hear you ask.
A Geas
To move an individual across the chess board of life. Square by square. It's actually very easy to achieve with a patient, calm approach. I suddenly found I had a strong urge to see this walled garden.
Is this a modern everyday example of a Geas or Geis ?
They are underrated now but used for good they still have a surprising power.
"Suggestion" sounds such a weak term for such a mighty force of human nature but there it is.
Although only postage stamp sized the Walled Garden was well worth a visit. A sunny, serene place with a water garden running along the lowest end and a gentle slope filled with flowers, colourful bushes and small trees. Packed a lot into its modest square so it did. From a run down ruin of a garden they have brought it back to feeling good about itself. Same thing can be achieved with humans. Same with all life really. The basic stuff we all need to feel good at the end. Harmony, a sense of fulfilment, finding a strong purpose in the world. The simple ABC that should be so easy to deliver.
Badger Bench Seat.

Scottish Thistle, Wild Wicked Wabbit and Songthrush.

My Geas lifted as I headed down hill through the woods to reach Davidson's Mains Park. Another I'd only been in fleetingly, many decades ago. No Kitten.
This park, about half the size of Costorphine Hill, started off as a hunting estate and some posh housing is still visible across the boundary hedge.
The leafy streets of Barnton are one of the most desirable places to live in Edinburgh where the made good and the inherited good reside together in this east coast Bearsden. For the lucky visitor a smashing cycle track or walkway takes you upstream from Cramond village, along the East bank of the River Almond (100 wooden steps at one point) then out via Braepark Road, Barnton Avenue West, and then Barnton Avenue East. It's like cycling through Beverly hills here.
The park itself is more open and "parklike" than Corstorphine Hill and much flatter too. Still a large variety of beautiful trees though- many used in times past for various purposes.
This made me laugh. Shows teenagers still have a good sense of humour.
Which brings us to Cramond Village itself. A bit of a tourist den and local honeypot these days but you can see why. Edinburgh's "Brigadoon" made real. A few passages in Kidnapped took place here too. A modern ferry was mooted to replace the lone boatman who used to take passengers across the river on request here but that does not seem to have materialised yet. (The ancient seaweed covered stepping stones alas are not for the fainthearted so crossing is tricky for most people.)
Cobble Cottage and the River Almond.
Happy Heron
I decided to go out to Cramond Island along the submerged causeway but I also decided to avoid the crowds by walking across it alone while large waves were still breaking over it. More sporting that way and it's not often you can be Moses for a short time.

A great feeling. No one else on it at this point and worth a soaking up to the knees in places. " Show Them Thy Mighty Hand Great God!" Part The Waves Now!" I bellowed, walking along unsteadily, occasional large waves threatening to topple me off this sea eaten crumbling  parapet into the three foot deep briny ocean either side.  "Let them see your presence on this good green earth! Show yourself to these disbelievers! These 'Heathens'!" ( Charlton Heston may have liked his automatic rifles scattered around the house to deter communists and anal probing by visiting aliens but he sure could deliver a decent line into camera when it was required.) Moses, God, Old Testament Prophets - he had them all in his actor CV bag.  In a line lifted from songwriter Joseph Arthur however. "We are all mad when there is no one else around."
The euphoria lasted until I reached the island itself. It must have been a lovely spot once and still has some nice beaches and wildlife but the all night party crowd seem to have found it  and most of the World War 2 huts are covered in graffiti, broken glass, and litter. Smashed bottles are everywhere on the island which ruined it slightly for me as a destination.
One of many bottles lying in the grass. The liquid breakfast of choice for far too many people these days. Not a happy place for young children to slip or stumble on though. Glass cuts from long shards hidden in the grass can go surprisingly deep into the body.
Wildlife around the coast. A goosander.
Inchmickery. An island off Cramond which resembles a warship when viewed from a distance. The Forth Rail Bridge was a major target linking Edinburgh and the east coast to Fife and the north of Scotland so the islands in the Forth were utilised in the war effort any way they could. Both for artillery placements and for optical subterfuge.
Anyway, By 2:30pm I had changed into a dress suit, dry socks and polished shoes and was back at the church in time for the wedding at 3:00pm. Gordon ( and his brother, I think, photographed here? ) kilted and anxiously awaiting the radiant bride.
The reception/meal/ afterparty in Cramond Hall.  Congratulations to Gordon and Magda for a great outing. Best wishes for future happiness. The party went on most of the night with many relatives and friends, both from Poland and Glasgow, staying in overnight hotels but my wallet doubled over in mortal agony at that thought. Around 9:00pm it had dried up again into a lovely evening so I left to climb Blackford Hill for the sunset making my own version of a perfect ending to a full and action packed day before driving back to Glasgow. Such strange memories of belief systems adhered to back then.
If I am any character in life it is Peter Pan.
I refuse to grow up... or cant.
I make my own rules in life.
I still firmly believe humans have the power to entice strangers across a chess board by mere "suggestion".      History is littered with many examples of this.
I have always endeavoured to play "the great game"  in my own poor fashion, since I devoured "Kim" as a hungry child but not with countries or to advance any dark power play of my own.  Politics bore the arse off me anyway and that's not where my interests lie. I know I am obsessive, setting achievable goals within extremely narrow margins, and I have selected only those handpicked individuals over the years that I might possibly help or show new things to or as a form of "improvement in their situation".
It is enough. Most politicians bore me to tears. (I've spent some time in their company when younger, and no doubt they thought likewise and were equally glad to part ways) "Ordinary" people are much more fun for me. They have made my existence here bearable.
(That's "Autohighography" explained in a nutshell by the way. Feedback from a few friends at the wedding suggested that they seemed to find my first novel somewhat confusing... or not what they expected in a "straightforward" hillwalking book. Such is life. Spending two long years writing it in a room every night I had to find some way to entertain myself as well. Not an easy task these days)
As the concepts and ideas in Kipling's book have always haunted me from a young age- that individuals can dramatically influence and transform the life's of other individuals they come into contact with, given enough guile, tact, and patience ( how appropriate is that in the city of Miss Jean Brodie) so this tune by Japan has always haunted me. I wasn't a fan of this band but sometimes a great original song can come straight out of nowhere and sear right into you. Like an idea... or a Geas... to use the older version of the term.
In retrospect it seems obvious it's inspired by Roxy Music, David Bowie's "ominous portent scenario of staying calm and detached when doomsday is falling" that so many bands have used to good effect since, Eno's early electronic samples, and  Bryan Ferry's laconic singing voice. At the time though it was simply stunning and I've still never heard anything in this particular genre that comes close for both delicate ambiguity of lyrics and permanent stamping on the mental antenna ... after just one  listen...and that includes Bowie and Roxy.  Perfect the day it was recorded...and still perfection now.


Carol said...

I'm sick of these damned Polish women grabbing all our fellas! And there's an element of seriousness in me saying that - they really do seem to be coming over and doing just that! It seems to me like British men just like foreign women, especially East Europeans, and are rapidly losing interest in their female British counterparts. Mind you, when you look around at some of the more slovenly ones, maybe it isn't surprising but there's still some good ones of us to be got!

Great photo of the goosanders - I love the barnacled surface they're sat on - it makes it all look prehistoric somehow...

Don't feel guilty about spending money travelling around Bob - I honestly think that's mainly what we were put here to do. I certainly believe it's our responsibility to put as much into our lives as we can. I never feel guilty on my travels - I've worked hard for my money and expect to enjoy it. Pretty soon, I'll be destitute along with the best of 'em when I retire though so I have to make the most of it while I have some money and can afford to eat. It's not like saving it does any good nowadays anyway with the 0% interest rates :-(

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Carol,
You still have your Munro tops to do before you can think of having a wedding :o)
Actually both the bride and groom are keen and active Munro baggers and we have had a sizable Polish enclave in the club for a few years now. They have added a bit of sparkle to the group overall as it's hard to attract new folk into mountaineering clubs now, a fact noted by a recent article for the Scottish Mountaineer magazine.
I don't feel guilty spending money... I just don't have much to spend.
£60 quid is a lot for me to use up in one day so I tend to use it sparingly now. I think most folk do the same for leisure activities as fuel sales are well down this past few years. When they say the economy is vibrant I think they mean the city of London, not most of the regional areas of the UK.
Glasgow is now the call centre capital of the UK. Yippee.
When I left school I always wanted to work in a call centre or a fast food outlet... not!

The Glebe Blog said...

Hi Bob, have walked round that kirkyard with my late aunt. Cramond was always one of her favourite places to walk.
Some of your pictures show why the city took on the mantle of 'Athens of the north', photographing Edinburgh is hardly ever a disappointment.
Yer a brave man walking across the causeway while the water's up. It's caught out quite a lot of folk in the past. I've only walked about twenty feet of it.
You can certainly cover a lot of territory in a day Bob, I'd have needed a week to get round where you went.
I'm still spending too much on fuel and using the car too. I've made a conscious decision that I will give up the car and driving before I'm 80 (or even earlier if I'm ready)I see 90 year olds here in Newton Stewart bumping cars in the supermarket car parks and there's no way I'll let myself get to that stage.
The only Japan song I remember is Quiet Life, never my kinda music though.

blueskyscotland said...

Cramond is a lovely place as is Edinburgh.
Not so brave Jim if you know the tide is going out. I suppose my time will come too when I need to give up the car. A daunting thought these days although I'm lucky enough to live in a city with a good bus service.