Saturday, 28 January 2017
With a fine day forecast last Saturday myself and Alan fancied a day in the Arrochar Alps. This is the B828 (in photo above) which leads you down through steep sided mountains on a single track road with passing places to a dead end strip of tarmac and the isolated but picturesque village of Lochgoilhead. Exactly as it appears in the name this cluster of low level houses, holiday homes and Victorian mansions sits at the head of Loch Goil and feels as isolated and remote now as it was in past centuries.
The remarkable thing about Glasgow's west coast position near the Scottish Highlands is that rugged steep sided mountains and deep fjord like sea lochs are only an hours drive away from the city centre. The compact group of peaks known as the Arrochar Alps have been the Glasgow hill walker's playground for generations and even now are little changed. Yes, this is mid January and not a drop of snow anywhere. Looks like summer, doesn't it?
Link for that here.
A fascinating and comprehensively researched account in this link below exploring their depth and complexity. Some of the cracks and deeper chasms have rock climbs in them like the ones below Beinn Narnain's summit, which I've climbed into and up decades ago, like most folk, without guessing their original creation. The unique shape of the Cobbler was probably caused by massive post glacial slippage taking away half the summit as well. Like the Whangie on a much bigger scale. An inspirational theory is found in here behind the growth of small woods next to caves and fissures. Fantastic article and well worth a detailed read through.
A great day out. Around 4 to 5 hours total walk depending on pace. We took five due to ice and energy levels.
Sticking with the Frozen theme... I manged to see three new films I hadn't seen before over the Christmas- New Year period that I really enjoyed and would thoroughly recommend to anyone. The first was 'Saving Mr Banks' about Walt Disney's real life 20 year battle/efforts to persuade Mary Poppins author P. L. Travers to let him transform her book into a film.
The second was Frozen. I'm not a big fan of modern musicals or Disney cartoons generally unless they are Pixar ones like Toy Story and Finding Nemo but the excellent story-line, characters and computer generated animation in this one proved exceptional and won me over despite my reservations that it might be just for young children. I do like children's films if they are well done, like Holes, The Spiderwick Chronicles or Moonrise Kingdom and this was.
The third a few days ago was Stonehearst Asylum, a clever twisty little thriller with great turns by Ben Kingsley, Kate Beckinsale, Jim Sturgess and Michael Caine. Unlike the other two films a mixed review by the critics for this one but I enjoyed it. Critics tend to change their mind over time anyway and hundreds of masterpieces they loudly applaud today were scorned when they first came out. Well, it's all in the word isn't it. Not saying it's a masterpiece by any means but I found it good fun and more entertaining and lively than any amount of Shakespeare, Dickens, Samuel Beckett or Alan Bennett plays.
Monday, 23 January 2017
A dry but dull and exceedingly dreich Saturday saw myself and Alan head for Stirling- one of Scotland's oldest inhabited places and the former capital of the kingdom- before that pushy young upstart Edinburgh stole the title in the early 1400s.
We passed Stirling in the car driving to Blairlogie and Dumyat a few weeks ago and Alan remarked then that he'd like to wander around there and I fancied another visit myself as it's an area with loads of interest. I didn't want to waste a good sunny day on it though when we could have been up a hill somewhere so a dry but cloudy still morning seemed perfect for a visit to the historic town centre. Despite being a centre for habitation since pre-history times before the wheel, the Flintstones and the invention of the female friendly softer wood dating club, beloved of cavemen, Stirling only gained city status relatively recently.
Unlike other places around the world where a city can be a collection of low buildings on a plain, in a desert, or in a jungle with a start date of a mere 100 years or so and a population of 50, UK cities have to really graft hard for the coveted title. Stirling as a settlement was around before the bronze age, was well established before Jesus paddled across the water and Moses spoke to God.
"Can we be a city please? " (to assorted royals down the ages) "Aw C'mon, gies a shot! We've waited long enough! "
"Certainly not.. you're just a town! Know your place!"
Eventually, the present Queen relented during her Golden Jubilee period and Stirling was finally elevated in 2002 from royal burgh to city status. Hooray!
Alan was keen to visit the castle again to see the recent improvements although we had both been in it before years ago but an adult price tag of £14:50 each was considered too steep for something we had both seen and still remembered. Stirling Castle used to be around half the price of Edinburgh Castle but it's no longer the bargain it was, especially if you have children at £8:70 each. It is a great castle to explore but maybe the popularity of Braveheart, William Wallace and Rob Roy and the subsequent tourist numbers have bumped up the price. It's also £4 to park inside the castle car park. A couple of years ago was my last visit as I got in unexpectedly for free during September's Doors Open Day event. Not planned at the time to go in but I wasn't going to miss the opportunity :o)
We had already paid £2:70 to park up the hill near the castle (Sunday free parking here I think) and didn't mind that at all as that got us four hours to explore and I knew there was plenty to see below the castle for free. When we arrived the ancient city of Stirling was buried under thick mist which made the old graveyard just below the parapets and castle walls rather eerie and atmospheric. The suitable realm of old horror films, vampires, and the creepily creeping undead.
The modern kilt was invented by an Englishman by all accounts, likewise all the different colourful tartans and patterns we see today. Can't even claim the original plaid (longer wraparound kilt) as our own as that probably arrived from Ireland from what I've discovered in books about the subject. A celebrated Scottish freedom fighter now, in this own time he was regarded by the English and even many Scot's as a bloodthirsty terrorist, similar to the IRA, ETA and yes, even ISIS, for being public enemy number one. As such he couldn't surrender or escape, even if he wanted to, and was finally captured (betrayed by a fellow Scot) then publicly torn apart, as was the custom of the day, for people that threatened the crown and the established order. Bits of his body were sent out to be hung in various strategic cities and towns across the UK as a warning to anyone else thinking of revolt. Some new info on that.
The poor old wolf didn't get much of a hero's welcome however as they were increasingly exterminated wherever they were found and finally died out in the early 1700s. Good short history snippet here of man's best friend and enemy. The last stand of the poor old wolf. A much maligned creature.
This video seems apt for a Gothic looking Stirling. Great atmospheric music from a composition band who specialize in mood pieces, matched with a suitable film clip but not too scary, just interesting, and well conceived. She may be a vampire but I'd give her a wee tour round the graveyard any day or night ."I ain't afraid of no ghost!" My kind of girl. Amazing what you can do with a bible and a few candles but a plumber might have been a better choice. No wonder she's upset, sleeping for entirety in a wet coffin. I'd have taken the huff as well. A dry warm female is a happy female I've always found. Best watched full screen...with the lights out preferably :o)
Sunday, 15 January 2017
A dazzle ship at Port of Leith docks. Due to the success of U- boats during WW1 and WW11 and the number of causalities and ships sunk at sea, painting the remainder in bright colours as a form of reverse camouflage in the style of zebras and other animals was seen as a tactic to confuse the enemy, hopefully converting torpedo direct hits to near misses. It was thought that they might confuse the range, speed, distance and outline of allied shipping but according to the info boards there is not much evidence that it actually worked. But they had to do something and boost flagging morale... so it might have worked that way.
What I did fancy was to catch the end of Belinda and Anne's (her Mum) holiday trip in Edinburgh before they came back through to Glasgow. So once again a short time after New Year with the transport running normally again I boarded the Glasgow -Edinburgh bus in the early morning and made my way through there to hook up with them for a day of sightseeing and fun.
"No, that's a shoe or a hand." Her mother scolded after squinting up at the panel. "You are terrible."
She then turned to me. "take a zoom of that so we can send it to my friend. That's funny."
I eventually found the real explanation for the child figures, see link above. That's why I love exploring places as you learn so much about the history of everything and educate yourself in the process. I did know about 'Putti' but only as winged cherubs in religious paintings and not as depicted here in a long line of workers as the only subject matter. I wouldn't be surprised if this particular style and display is unique in the UK. Again an influence from European/ Italian art. I have seen examples in Glasgow but in a much more conventional setting sitting on the shoulders of someone important or in the background, flying around.
For another muse and equally delightful inspiration. Every artist needs one... or two.
Fantastic graphics best watched full screen. Thanks for the invite girls.