Saturday 29 December 2018

An Illuminated Christmas. Part Two. Union Canal Basin. The Meadows. Edinburgh at Night.

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Getting off the bus in Edinburgh while it was still daylight  my intention was to head down through Princes Street gardens and make for the Union Canal Basin, reaching it, hopefully, just as dusk fell.
Whereas the Christmas illuminations look good against a black sky, already having a burst of dazzling colours everywhere in abundance, I thought that the other areas I intended to visit would look better with a lighter sky and clear details in the surroundings. This is the newly created zone of offices and apartments that surround the union canal basin, once a hive of heavy industry, various factories,, warehouses, a large brewery, etc etc... but now rebuilt into what I'm calling round tower land....
for obvious reasons. Five or six similar structures cluster together in this area surrounding the city end of the Union Canal. Once, materials flowed in and out of the capital via this watery trench and liquid highway with barges lined up to transport the goods. A narrow slot here between the buildings leads through to the canal terminus.
Now it's just the occasional kayaker, an annual raft race day, or a few floating barges/ restaurants moored here and in summer canal tours along the network that take place.
As it says in the posters it is well hidden, completely surrounded by high buildings, like a secret desert oasis with protective steep canyon walls and I'm sure many people even living in Edinburgh have never visited this spot or know about it.
When I was last here they were still constructing new apartments so an added curiousity was to see how they turned out.
and this is some of them here. The slogan- 'perfection is a matter of time' may reflect the fact that it looks fairly austere and open- few softening features, grass, or gardens in sight.
and a wider, distant, view of the same complex. But they do have a Christmas tree. I think these are probably student flats as Vita have them in Glasgow.
I then raced across to The Meadows while it was still light to capture the lighter backdrop. Any later and the outline of spires and buildings here would be almost invisible. It might look easy but getting good  photographs can involve loads of effort. And jogging down five separate streets between districts to get into position in time.
I didn't have to worry about feeling cold in near freezing temperatures after that. Plenty warm.
This isn't Edinburgh Castle by the way, just buildings around The Meadows... a large expanse of open parkland deep within the city.... mainly short grass slopes crisscrossed by various paths running to different city districts.
Unlit at night, apart from the illuminated walkways. I really enjoyed being here as it got fully dark. A great feeling to be in a new area in complete blackness yet surrounded by a spiral tapestry of twinkling lights. A human made milky way and every bit as impressive in its own complex design.
Looking towards Arthur's Seat from the Meadows. A very different vibe from Glasgow Green at night. More friendly feeling, less threatening, although I still had to watch out for large boisterous dogs dancing and growling out the void towards me. But far less growling humans here.

That's the  main difference I find between Glasgow and Edinburgh after dark.

No longer the murder capital of Europe Glasgow still retains a harder edge than Edinburgh that's obvious even to tourists walking around after nightfall. Both cities have rough areas of course... Glasgow just has more and you only need to walk a few streets to find them. In Edinburgh you have to work at it.
Edinburgh Castle, where I'd danced down from myself two hours beforehand. It may not be mountains but I was packing the miles in nevertheless on my whistle-stop tour of the city.
I was also having a ball. I've never been that keen on nightclubs, parties or functions with large groups of people but give me a dark tunnel...
a shady deserted lane....
A voyeur's view of city life from above....
or creeping around unseen in the shadows....
And I'm in my element.               I love the dark when it's like this.
Especially when this is what large parts of Scotland have looked like during December. It may have been an unusual variation on a White Christmas theme but this kind of weather does not inspire me much after the initial novelty and first couple of days. Particularly with freezing ice on the roads.
I 'd much rather swap grey miserable weekends for evening splendour instead.
The Mound. Edinburgh. Can you spot the extra sparkle. Just a suggestion...
Entertainment complex.
Central Plaza. Quartermile.
The Gothic confection of George Heriot's School, an independent fee paying establishment where the children of the great and the good get sent.
Another view.
Christmas tree. Quartermile plaza. Note the rising transparent lifts in the red section.
Somewhere around the Tollcross District.
Heading Back. The Dome.
By the way, I found out that Potterrow here refers to a medieval area flattened by the University of Edinburgh in times past and not Harry Potter at all but could it be that simple? The origin of the Harry Potter name perhaps?.. or just mere coincidence? A similar coincidence to the name Dumbledore being very close to the adjacent Edinburgh district of Dumbiedykes under Arthur's Seat. ... or then again maybe not...a pure wild guess on my part.

but here's another one that may fit better... or also mere coincidence I hasten to add.
Andre Norton. Witch World. published 1970. A very successful children's/young adult author back then with hundreds of published works of imagination to her name and and entire galaxy of self created worlds dreamed up to charm readers. I still have a collection of her books. A man running from his past uses a standing stone ( actually an ancient stone seat set in a gateway, the Siege Perilous of round table fame.)  to enter another past world where his skills may come in handy and he finds true love there with a female of the opposite sex, who happens to be a witch. It's a great read and is set in medieval castles, moors, battlefields, clifftop strongholds and swamps in a land where magic happens. He is referred to frequently as an Outlander in the book. The first time I heard that term although it may well be common in writing before then.
This developed into a popular series of interlinking novels in the 1970s about a land ruled by witches who go to a school for witchcraft as children.
She has been largely forgotten now sadly in the UK but the Witch World series of six books up to Year of the Unicorn is still a great read, developed by a highly skilled and gifted storyteller. Very different from the currently in vogue modern worlds of Game of Thrones, D,G or JKR in overall layout but just as complex and perhaps an early inspiration? Just a fleeting thought. It would also be  wrong and just idle speculation to see certain comparisons/similarities between the 1858 edition of Phantastes and the later Lilith, 1895 both by George Macdonald and truly wonderful for the time and JRR Tolkien's 1950s masterpiece Lord of The Rings. But maybe a foundation stone to build on? Or Roger Dean's floating island paintings on Yes albums in my record collection....coupled with writer Philip Jose Farmer's The Stone God Awakens novel about a giant tree with god like properties and the race of half human creatures who live and depend on it, also.. 1960s/ 1970s concepts.... with the modern film Avatar. That's probably just me guessing out loud as well.
Having said that they are all good- all genuinely different... after adding and blending the colours together so its all academic where they came from.
But  A. N.?  Her best books deserve to be remembered and cherished again. They are still terrific today. As is Phantases and Lilith. A double edition in one volume. The shoulders of giants perhaps sitting on my dusty bookshelf?

And another person that should be better known is J.A. as he has a huge back catalogue of great songs and has been one of the outstanding alternative songwriters for well over a decade now. Numerous awards and critically acclaimed albums should put him up there with Bowie, Elton John, Rod Stewart etc as a songwriter but it's much harder these days to become a household name as an independent creative artist.  This is one of his album tracks but suitably appropriate lyrics for this time of year with 16 hour long nights and a run of short, murky, dull days where car headlights have been on non stop, day or night due to the foggy conditions. Not sure that speed painting artwork between songs was ever going to be a winner though but top marks for trying :)


Saturday 22 December 2018

A Bus Trip to Edinburgh. An Illuminated Christmas. Part One.

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Nowadays, photography is the main driving force for getting me out the house and exploring new places. I'd been to Edinburgh at night before, last year, but there was still plenty of new things to see at night in the capital that I hadnt seen yet in darkness so that gave me the interest and curiousity to jump on the bus and go there. Not in the morning this time but around lunchtime to arrive a few hours before darkness fell.
Ramsay Gardens near Edinburgh Castle- a floating confection in white and red rooftops.
The fountain in West Princes Street Gardens. Now fully restored and looking spectacular.
and next to it the Polish War Bear statue.
The helicopter ride they had last year. So much- so familiar.
but they didn't have this last year. Silent Light Street Lights.
Big Wheel. Princes Street Gardens.
Christmas Lights 2018.
and I had not been here at night with a camera. The curving street of West Bow, once the home of a notorious wizard who was killed for his self confessed crimes, now a many levels high warren of shops, restaurants and bars.
A narrow and hidden steep passageway links West Bow to the Royal Mile, one of the delights of old Edinburgh is its tiny ancient lanes and steep stairs linking streets together, often eight to ten levels apart in height.
This is that linking stairway.
and a view from halfway up.
not that far away there is another multi level vantage point and semi hidden stairwell. Plenty of exercise to be had in Scottish cities while exploring.
And the Royal Mile leading up to the castle.
Full of red lighting.
Silent Light display again.
George Street Lights.
Back street walkers near the castle... me descending to the Grassmarket via another steep flight of stairs.
George Street again.
Harvey Nichols window display. Suitably extravagant and decadent with a model collapsed over a champagne bottle for Christmas. Not sure if Absolutely Fabulous was in part inspired by Harvey Nichols or if this was a tongue in cheek homage to the modern TV characters instead but its certainly eye catching . Despite my working class roots and general disdain for posh shops I always take in the windows here as it's right beside the bus station back entrance and elevators. Always something to see and it reminds me of the film Mannequin, about window dressers. I used to know someone who was one and I quite envied his artistic talent while I was crawling about under houses or working in factories after leaving school. Compared to that life of grime and toil it seemed glamorous and he always turned up surrounded by attractive females any time we met on the street. Probably shop workers and maybe just friends on occasion but certainly a different world to mine. It was an unusual profession to go into from a council estate background but he was always artistic and creative in class. Took acting lessons as well.
The main shop in St Andrew Square and Multrees Walk. I don't think Glasgow has one so aspirational Glaswegians have to travel through here or shop online. Edinburgh is perceived as being more upmarket than Glasgow generally and that is also my view having explored its suburbs extensively over the years. It does have more exclusive areas within the city boundary whereas Glasgow's elite class moved outside the city limits ages ago to Bearsden, Milngavie, Williamwood, Newton Mearns and the like.
University of Edinburgh Christmas Lights.
I noticed a definite Harry Potter effect here with a named shop on the central plaza, probably because so many students ask about it and the fictional Highland Wizard School in the books is not available to visit so this is the bricks and mortar nearest equivalent. ( Opps. It's named after a demolished medieval area called Potterrow I later found out.)
Harry Potter Land. No sign of Harry, Ron or Hermione or Robbie Coltrane as Hagrid, although I have bumped into him shopping in Glasgow a few times in past years...we go to the same supermarkets ( he's really perfected that ' don't you dare approach me again , you strange nutter' stare.) I know all the stars of stage and screen...... Even dropped in on Joanna Lumley briefly on a walk ...and met American actress Debra Winger way out east on my sunshine coastal travels....boy was she pleased to see me on a remote beach.......not :o)..... but I never namedrop!!!!!!!  Keep it secret. Keep it safe. To be continued....
Mystery illuminations.... my next destination...but where?
Merry Christmas all....
and a fantastic song to end with. Jeff Beck and friends. Women of Ireland. A truly beautiful version of this slow classic. Haunting and memorable. I've heard various versions of this moving tune over the years but this is easily the best rendition.