Friday, 14 September 2018
It took two local Edinburgh buses to get from Easter Craiglockhart Hill to Corstorphine Hill, the last summit on our seven hills of Edinburgh tour.
"Can you explain to me why on earth are we leaving a perfectly good easy grass path for this jungle hell hole?" Anne inquired, not without good reason as it was hard going through the undergrowth at this point and painful.
"All will be revealed shortly." I explained. "Trust in me." I hissed like the snake in the Jungle Book and increased my eyeball size with a fixed manic stare.
" Typical Australian." I joked. "Happiest behind bars of some description."
I thought about it for a minute. "You know, we are incredibly lucky in this country. It might be cold and wet in summer but we don't get much snow for being this far north, it's green most of the year, and all our insects and animals are harmless. Sleep out on a hillside without a tent in Australia, or anywhere hot for that matter, and the stuff of nightmares will come to find you every night. I've seen it first hand. I've been there. Spiders bigger than apples- poisonous centipedes the size of spaniels- giant lizards that can take a leg off in one quick gulp. Last night was nothing. A few wee friendly British bugs."
"Aye, right enough." She conceded.
" This is brilliant. How did you find this trail."
Just then I noticed a small furry creature crossing the tree canopy above to a position within the enclosure.
"Yep. Himalayan Tree Monkey"
I pointed it out.
"Nope, Himalayan Tree Monkey. It's inside the zoo so it must be an exotic species and I recognize it."
"Do they even have trees in the Himalayas?" She asked smiling, confident it was a squirrel but just a touch uncertain, knowing my knowledge of animals was far better than hers. This is a zoom so it wasn't as obvious a view as this, being further away.
" Yes, they do have forests in the valleys. It's a distant relative of the Yeti, mon cousine, like the difference between Giant Pandas and Red Pandas."
"Your talking bollocks again."
"Wouldn't be the first time. Had you going though. Didn't it. "
" That seems like a full week ago." Anne marveled.
" I'm told I have that effect on some people." I answered dryly.
"We've certainly packed a lot in."
"We have and it's not over yet."
Instead, on an impulse, we boarded the no 26 bus, seen here, which took us direct from the woodland edge at Clermiston down to Portobello Beach instead. Edinburgh's seaside. It's one of my favourite local buses and I knew from the time looking at my watch the tide would be out when we arrived.
" Not far." I promised. " and a walk filled with seven modern wonders.I guarantee it."
" Is that it."
"Yep. The First Wonder. Looks a bit like you. Three fingers and a thumb. Are you sure you've never been spotted on the beach sunbathing?"
"The Second Wonder. As in how come these places are almost invisible to society at large." I elaborated. " A deliberate look away attitude and silent collective agreement to ignore anything going on there as a 'necessary evil'. I've seen them in various countries abroad and they are usually in the worst part of any landscape as a punishment- boiling hot empty deserts- fetid swamplands- remote plains- bleak moorland in our case- really out of the way places deliberately picked so that most people never see or visit. Out of sight- out of mind. The modern version of the old asylum hidden in the woods."
" Mmmm. Never thought about it like that." She conceded. "Hey, how come you know there's seven wonders on this coast if you haven,t been along here before?"
" Yes, I wonder that as well. And behold!. The Third Wonder appears! Thank you. I like your style."
She had to laugh at that.
"Remember I promised you a grail quest as well as a seven summits mystery tour?" I asked.
The remarkable facts in this short link.
On a previous no 26 bus ride I had been intrigued and stunned to get a brief glimpse of this monument looming over the rooftops of a residential district, far away from any of the usual tourist haunts, other monuments, and completely isolated in a cosy suburbia of low bungalows miles from the city centre. No greater oddity exists in Edinburgh.
" Biblical marble story panels. The Red Sea drowning the Pharaoh's troops, horses, and chariots."
"A worthy end to a great walk. Why so many bare breasts in classical sculpture though?" She wondered. "and why did they always use marble for people back then?"
"Ah, that is The Seventh Wonder." I declared. "Humans were actually made of solid marble back in that time and often went about topless because they never felt the cold. Why do you think classical figures are always carved in white stone and half undressed. Always. It's just art imitating real life. Or the ubiquitous saying "They were hard in those days." What do you think they really meant by that? It's a well known fact. Look at the people of Pompeii. Real life ancient humans. Touch them. Stone not skin. Obvious and simple. Ancient history. Fascinating stuff. The Marble Age. ...Just like in the near future we will be half human and half machine combined. It's happening already with the sleepwalkers consent. The Cyborg Age is now upon us."
And so it was told.
Friday, 7 September 2018
After our night's sleepover near the summit of the Braid Hills in Edinburgh, seen here in the above photo, we descended down a green ribbon of trees, gorse and lanes next morning towards suburbia. You can see our exact route here. From the masts walking down diagonally rightwards along the ridge line to where the houses break the woods, then trending back again after a couple of streets right to left across the middle of the photo via Braidburn Valley Park. We then followed another green corridor (sunken and hidden from view in this photo) from the large tree on the left, past the red golfer then climbing upwards again towards Craiglockhart district. This last stretch was on urban pavements but as it was surrounded by the Merchants of Edinburgh golf course on both sides, Greenbank Drive then Glenlockhart Road might as well have been out in the countryside with any large houses set well back and mostly hidden from view with straight lines of mature trees and quiet walkways deceiving any travellers that they were in a city environment at all. A very pleasant street walk with a difference.
"What! That is miles away from here! You are joking!!!"
As it was a genuine mystery tour I had our only map and she was bravely resisting the urge to look it up. Nothing worse than knowing where you are going :)
This is a real un-zoomed view of Corstorphine Hill, our next and final summit on the list- and she was right... it did look miles away. We had already been walking for a couple of hours to get to here and had enjoyed a breakfast on the move.
"Don't worry. Fear not." I explained. "We can take a bus from here to there at the bottom of this hill. Save the legs. No more street walking for you today my grape guzzling princess."
"Aye, very funny."
So we sat on the summit bench and admired the view. Bottles of fizzy drink had been bought earlier at a local shop near Braidburn Valley Park and I still had a packet of six rainbow cookies which I'd brought from Glasgow. (Chocolate chip cookies with different coloured smarties embedded on top and very tasty. I had been saving them for our final celebration summit but she looked in need of a sugar boost and special treat right now so we split the pack and had three each.
Spectacular bird's eye view location shots in a slide show here. Also click ...The Development- History to view classical interiors
These places are usually set in lovely peaceful surroundings however, full of abundant nature - often a stark contrast to events happening inside. (as it was not in use the last time I visited it may well be developed into......... luxury housing at a guess) It puzzled me at first how there could be so many rich folk in Central Scotland in the million pound and upwards house market until I read an article about a sharp rise in upwardly mobile people moving out of London and heading north. With the price of houses down there you could sell a comparatively modest dwelling and buy a detached mansion and grounds up here and still have cash left over to live on. According to news reports London seems to be getting more violent by the year, clocking up more murders than New York recently which may be a factor. I have noticed houses prices in Edinburgh, even in the outer suburbs are around ten percent higher than Glasgow's equivalent properties when matched together.
Although written in less enlightened PC times I've always liked this powerful song which I first heard in my teenage years early 1970s. Although Ziggy Stardust was the LP that propelled David Bowie into the major league it was his song writing ability on earlier albums like Hunky Dory and The Man Who Sold The World that captivated me the most, then as now. Unusual subject matter for that time when these places were still very much 'out of sight out of mind.' and a taboo discussion area even today although DB had a well documented reason for his interest due to a family connection. Almost a wish fulfillment in the upbeat lyrics here that never matched the grim reality, sadly. Somewhat ironically, many of the greatest thinkers, artists and creative talents of each new generation might well end up here at some point. Probably the thing that separates them from the rest in the first place leads them to be more susceptible. A nostalgic gem and still a masterpiece. Fantastic descending guitar work on this song which helps to sets the tone while the lyrics rise up as a counterbalance. Although the title is All The Madmen women traditionally make up the largest percentage of mental health patients in most countries, no surprise when they often shoulder the biggest burdens in any society, bringing up children...and husbands, working and housework combined, social restrictions on lifestyles, sexual abuse, in marriage or out, and harsher judgements regarding conduct etc etc... Also troubled men are far more likely to commit suicide rather than seek help or talk about it.
Wednesday, 29 August 2018
The reason we were hanging around, killing time on the summit of Blackford Hill, is that we were planning to break walking around all six of Edinburgh's Hills into two days. Four hills the first day and two the second day. ( We were skipping Arthur's Seat as we'd climbed it at Christmas.) Salisbury Crags seen here, above, from Blackford Hill Summit.
I was keen to try out my sleeping bag and Anne had agreed to it as unlike me she had to pay for buses city to city and for local routes. Although OK with it she couldn't really afford accommodation expenses on top of bus fares or doing the hills separately on day trips, money or free time wise which is why it was a one go event.
She'd never slept out before under the stars without a tent to go into and even for myself, a camping veteran, going completely tent-less was a handful of times only novelty.
We had to wait for the last dog walkers and stray locals to depart before we could relax and settle down properly- the hill all to ourselves. There was no sunset to speak of- it was too murky for that so it just got dark, slowly but surely.
My companion had a surprise waiting when darkness fell as we settled down side by side in our sleeping bags. A sizable bottle of wine appeared from her rucksack and two packets of cashew nuts.
"That's very generous." I complimented. " I wasn't expecting that. Perks of being a tour guide."
" No, that's for me- get your own stuff."
Later on she relented and I was allowed some of the swally although she drank most of it. I've never been a wine fan. I then swapped two chicken sandwiches for a packet of nuts as she was starving, and quietly bitching about the outdoor life in general by the time midnight came around. ( Lying on the bare ground was admittedly colder and less comfortable than having a soft sleeping mat under the body and we did wake up sore and less refreshed as a result.) I was just relieved we had no midges, clegs or rain to worry about. Even though it was a short night we didn't get that much sleep... or I didn't, being still sober and a light sleeper usually.
We had a lot of visitors during the night- first an inquisitive fox... then a noisy owl, then a pest of a cat that wouldn't go away and came back several times to sit a few feet from me, silently watching, staring at my unprotected nose, even licking it when I nodded off briefly. A prelude to eating my face I presumed if I didn't put up a fight so I wanted it gone.
Despite being apprehensive beforehand Anne slept away no bother thanks to being half pissed. A wise move. I don't drink much these days and can go for months without alcohol. Changed times.
Incredible to think the fastest elite runners can do the entire seven hills race and the 14 miles 2,200 foot ascent and descent course in under 2 hours. Mind boggling stuff and you can see an interesting short compilation video of that full event here. Never mind, we still enjoyed our taking it easy version. I've always preferred walking to running myself, even at school, and I was in a running team then and fairly good at it for that level but never a serious long distance running fan at any time. Different strokes for different folks.