Friday, 29 December 2017

Edinburgh. Part Two. Arc Illuminata. Nocturnal Activities. Painting With Shadows.

                                              ALL PHOTOS CLICK FULL SCREEN.
Container ship delivering Christmas presents. A water borne Santa. Firth of Forth.

Ship passing Burntisland and The Binn cliffs rising above this small coastal town in Fife.
As the light faded around Arthur's Seat I opened the 'Arc Illuminata' to the relevant page and started reading the binding spell. ' Sumerian, Egyptian, Babylonian, Assyrian. All rise- all fall...Let  feathered flocks heed this call- come to me now!  Every black creature of the air on the mountainside- come to me now!'
I flapped my arms and gargled a harsh greeting in the universal bird language of all corvids, chanting the binding spell in the black feathered tongue -reading from the book of the dead.  And behold..... they came. From all corners of this ancient volcano they arrived within minutes.
My guests invited to witness this great wonder of nature were not impressed however as I flapped my arms theatrically and slowly on the edge of the cliff as the light faded. 'Persian, Hittite, Hebrew, Aegean. All rise- all fall. I chanted my way through the ancient civilizations ritual.
'Nah! Rubbish! Boo. Crap magic act!' Belinda complained. 'Bigus Disappointus.  We can see the bits of sponge cake and biscuits dropping out your sleeves. How is that mastery of birds? ' They're only here to get a feed. We want our money back!.  Whatever you're doing do it faster so we can get gone. I'm ********* freezing!' It's taking too long'
' Silence Harpy! You've not paid a bean yet.' I protested. ' And that's not food. It's edible wages. Crows are easily as smart as monkeys. Would you work for nothing? I'm their temporary boss for the next ten minutes so I am in total control. Gig economy. Suck it up!'
I had promised my companions that I could attract dozens of mountain ravens to me on Arthur's Seat by thought alone. It would seem they were less than impressed when only crows arrived on cue. 
Mutton dressed as spam! That's not dozens of ravens under your control- that's crows doing what they do for food! Call that a 'Game of Thrones Evening Extravaganza. ' We was lured up here under totally false declarations. You swindler! Boo! Cheat!'
'I'm painting the entire sky above Edinburgh with ******** crow silhouettes here. Shut your gob and give us a break woman! How often have you seen this happening? Talk about a hard to please audience. Ye Gods! There's a least 30 crows here within five minutes ... all under my command'

 'Where's our dragon then?' chipped in Anne. 'That was to be the highlight of the tour. It's really cold up here. C'mon, don't muck around. We could easily freeze to death in this wind if anything bad happens.'
'Winter is coming.' I nodded solemnly, agreeing with her.
 Unfortunately, they didn't crack a smile at the box set reference... just continued looked glum and miserable... and very, very cold. It was around minus five on the summit at a guess with a strong breeze blowing so even lower than that.
'400 years ago you two would be toast on a bonfire- you've certainly got the faces for it.' I joked.
'I don't think I've ever been this cold.' Anne informed me, straight faced. 'Seriously!  Can we start heading down now?'
We were all well wrapped up with hats, warm jackets and gloves but it was well below zero with added windchill on the highest ridge lines where we were. By now the crowds had departed speedily and we were the only ones left on the summit- hence the theatrics from me and growing unease from them. Although I was well used to being on the mountains at night alone they weren't and were starting to look distinctly worried. An understandable concern when everyone else seemed to be heading down the slopes in a rush to beat the darkness but I was enjoying myself and in my element here.

 ' Behold ye doubters! A small but perfectly formed dragon.' I proclaimed.
'I really hope you have something better for the third act.' Belinda stated dryly.
'There's always a critic in any room. Call yourself a coven witch. You've no poetry in your soul- its magnificent up here. I'm just providing a few extra artistic touches. '
'Give us the faster version on speed dial then.'  This from Belinda, impatient as usual. 'Feed crows- crows dance- we leave... they **** off  home ...everyone's happy- .the end...Done.....'  she got up to go. ' Sorry to spoil the script.'
'Ok'...I sighed. ' Let's go.'  I could see they were getting worried about being the last folk left on the hillside with only a few stragglers far below, the only other people in view.
We descended down the path until we reached the start of Salisbury Crags- the long escarpment line of cliffs above the city. This was the third act. It was slightly warmer down here, out of the arctic wind chill effect and they started to enjoy the experience more, especially when the city lights came on. We found a sheltered spot and sat down again to pick out details. 'Hillend Ski slope on the Pentlands' I pointed out, doing my dutiful tour guide. 'Royal Commonwealth Pool, blah blah blah...'
'This is worth the effort.' Anne admitted. 'Really special.'
'It's a beautiful view by day but at night it's world class.' I agreed.
'Just a shame it's so cold.' Belinda added, but not with any malice.
I had to agree as by this time I could hardly hold the camera steady to take clear photographs and couldn't even feel it properly. Once my hands had been exposed taking photos of the crows, even for just ten minutes in frigid air they never really recovered and it felt like oven gloves holding the camera instead of bare hands. A very familiar winter mountain feeling where teeth work better than frozen fingers on objects but I also knew from experience how far I could go before I had to pack it in and heat them up again. We could see the Christmas attractions along Princes Street... the 80 metre high drop tower on George Street, the big wheel in the middle, and the 60 metre high star flyer. And we were perched high above them all. They seemed very far away and tiny. Remote.
'I would never have thought of doing this in a million years.' Anne admitted.' not at night.'
All of us were staying well back from the edge as it was very easy to walk over the cliffs in the near darkness but someone ahead of us had other ideas.
'Are they totally crazy!' Belinda hissed, pointing.
'I don't think that's a person.' I whispered back. 'It followed us down from the summit. Woooooo spooky!'
We then noticed it walked strangely, with a rolling shambling gait.
As we moved further round the cliffs it disappeared into the gloom then reappeared behind us- always keeping its distance on the edge of sight. Well, Edinburgh is famous for it's ghost tours so I would expect nothing less.(see photo above.)
The Old Town around the castle and The Royal Mile- looking very Gothic.
Palace of Holyroodhouse and the road running down towards Leith.
The Scottish Parliament Building at night. By now it was really dark but I knew the landscape layout well on Salisbury Crags and made sure my two less experienced walkers were well away from any real danger at all times. They didn't know that though :o) Grass slopes lead down off the cliffs on one side but it is not a place for anyone without a detailed knowledge of the landscape here or nighttime mountain walking experience. Although we had head-torches with us I never used them until well down the hillside and on safer ground as its easier to make out the cliff edge using night vision alone. As soon as you switch head-torches on you lose that ability and its actually harder to see what's in front of you just beyond the beam. It is a serious mountain at night with numerous high vertical cliffs and you don't want to be up here after dark without a clear idea of where you are going and what's ahead of you every step of the way.
Luckily, they both trusted me to guide them down safety but it was an unnerving experience for first time mountain novices.
'I'm ******** myself.' Anne admitted at one point. Both kept their nerve though and we made it safely down.
' Now that was a third act!' Belinda was buzzing with energy. 'There's nothing like a near death experience to get you feeling alive.'
With these two particular companions by my side I had to agree. A memorable outing.
And it was not over yet.
It was only 5:00 pm when we reached the city streets again but felt much longer....a rebirth of sorts....
Time for act four... To be continued....

And a daytime view.



Linda W. said...

Beautiful nighttime photos of the city lights.

Carol said...

I can see b***r all when I put a headtorch on so I never bother unless I need to read a map or something. I think you can get red ones which don't destroy your night vision though...

I think the ravens were hoping you'd jump! That's what they were waiting around for - they thought you waving your arms around was a sign you would jump or try to fly.

Talk about cold - it's even -10 for the last 2 days and nights in Cumbria - 'orrid!!

Rosemary said...

Were you the poster designer for Hitchcock's film The Birds?

Anabel Marsh said...

Those bird silhouettes are great (and the dragon 😉). I might be a bit unhappy coming down in the dark too though …

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Linda.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Carol,
I though last year they were young ravens but this time I got a much better look at them and they are crows. Crows are not supposed to hang around all the time in big flocks according to all the bird books but they are not rooks as they have distinctive grey beaks and they are too small to be ravens so I guess the constant crowds on Arthur's Seat have made them team up in numbers for the easy pickings. We have just had a large dump of snow here down to low levels. Enough for me to ski across the parks...

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Rosemary,
No, but I liked that film. One of my favourite oldies along with Arsenic and Old Lace,
It Happened one Night, North by North West and To Kill a Mockingbird. Just watched Gone Girl and thought it was a waste of two hours when I could have been elsewhere. Curious as it was a bestselling book in all the bookstores but not my cup of tea. Didn't buy into the plot- especially the ending.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Anabel,
Cheers. Belinda was fine with it but Anne didn't like not seeing the ground under her feet in the dark. It does take a bit of getting used to if it's really black and you are more or less shuffling along down an unseen incline. No moon or snow on the slopes so it was a leap of faith on their part but they coped well.
I used to do a lot of night walking in my teens as I lived beside open country and if the moon was out it was fine. Seen foxes, badgers, otters, water voles, owls, bats, domestic cats, but no humans at all so safe enough.

Rosemary said...

Hi Bob - I could only cope with Gone Girl for 15 mins and then gave up on it.

blueskyscotland said...

Wish I'd done that but it received a good review and there was nothing else on. By comparison The Book Thief was one I did enjoy recently- a modern classic of storytelling and interest.

Anonymous said...

What a showman - even if you did cheat a bit! :)
Wonderful night shots as always and well worth the frozen hands (for your readers andyway.
Happy New Year and all that!

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Andy,
Happy New Year. That's what sleeves are for- hiding things inside them.