Wednesday, 21 June 2017

30 Days Wild: The next ten days

During the days June 11th to June 20th I was lucky to get two days out in seriously wild hills. I was lucky, too, that on neither day was it intolerably hot.

On Wednesday June 14th I drove to the Manor Valley, near Peebles, and climbed up onto the hills to the west. Almost at once my camera ran out of battery, but I did do a sketch on the top from which I made a painting a few days later.


I need to repaint it slightly lighter, but I think it gives the idea of the Border hills stretching away, range after range.

I started and finished in the Manor Valley, a most quiet and remote-feeling spot. If you have read "The Island of Sheep" by John Buchan you will recognise the Laver Valley. The Manor Valley was his model; though it does not have a laird's castle at its head. This photo, before my battery ran out, gives an idea of the place.

Looking down the Posso Glen, across the Manor Valley
I was especially pleased to see Cloudberry, and Dwarf Cornel.

The other mountain day was Carn Liath, above Blair Atholl, with a church walking group. There was a strong, buffeting wind and we had a great day. On this stretch of wild country there was a wonderful selection of flowering plants, and good lichens and mosses too.

Round leaved sundew



I'm afraid I'm not sure what this orchid is.

Butterwort
When I was a boy we only saw Butterwort on summer holidays, by which time only the star of leaves was left. Now I can see the deep blue flowers. I took many other flower photos, but I shall ration them for you.

Back in town there is no shortage of wild nature. It is a question of noticing it.

Elder tree

And of course we can keep reading about it.

Plantlife magazine
But I think the best thing I saw for 30 Days Wild was not wild at all, but a piece of stone-work. Drink in this photo.

Inscription in Writers' Court, Edinburgh

Saturday, 10 June 2017

30 Days Wild 2017. The first ten.

As luck would have it my wildest day during the last fortnight was on the last day of May, so it doesn't count. But Ben Lui deserves a photo.
May 31



Since then I have not had the chance to go out of town, but it has been good to notice how much wild nature is all round us.
June 1st


 Our nearest bit of wild nature is Edinburgh's river, the Water of Leith. It had shrunk during May with a prolonged spell of no rain.
June2nd

But then we had torrential rain for a short time on Monday and heavy rain all day on Tuesday. What a difference.
June 6th
June 8th

Last year I was able to photograph my own wild garden on most days. Now we are in a 2nd floor tenement, temporarily. But in Edinburgh there is no problem finding where others have made patches of wild flowers. This is the Hermitage and Braid Hills Local Nature Reserve.
June 10th  
June 5th
Whereas this luxuriant burst of wild nature is on the slope between the Castle and Princes Street Gardens.

And finally, when you are enjoying the wild this month, don't forget that as well a looking down and around, also look up.
June 4th

Saturday, 27 May 2017

History all around us

This afternoon I went to post a letter. In five or ten minutes I was made aware of history on every side; and all on one block in an inner suburb of Edinburgh.

Nowadays all the tenements have electric door-bells, and a clever switch that can open the street door below. These tenements were built before electricity was harnessed for such uses; but our late Victorian ancestors were just as inventive. They just used mechanical devices.

The ground-floor door-opener has a slightly different design.


The architects did incorporate a last minimal acknowledgement of the heritage of Edinburgh's classical style.

George VI. I was born during his reign. I wonder whether this box was put up just before the war, during it, or shortly after.

The three decades before the First World War were marked by enormously rapid and radical social progress. That is when our local primary school was built.

In those days it was felt proper for Boys and Girls to have separate play-grounds.


Recent history isn't less interesting because it is recent. There were plenty of brownfield sites in the 1990s.

 Come to think of it, we didn't have recycling bins in George VI's time. Though I have been told there were pig-bins for waste food.

This bridge was part of a road improvement scheme in 1841.

The Edinburgh coat of arms is still kept painted.

The old bridge (1766) is still there.

In 1745, somewhere hereabouts, a small troop of Hanoverian cavalry hastily fled as the Jacobite army approached. I hope this photo is legible.

Back on the main road is a sign of changing times in 2017. I wonder if the forthcoming General Election will see a Conservative revival, or whether they will be consigned to what Trotsky called "the dustbin of history"?

This building is now a dental unit of some sort. The inscription, Denta servata fides, is the motto of the Royal Bank of Scotland. It is usually translated as  "Loyalty preserved enriches". (I had to look this up.)

Sunday, 15 January 2017

"Germany: Memories of a Nation" recommended


There is no attempt here to write a full review. The main point of this post is to recommend the book - “Germany: Memories of a Nation” by Neil MacGregor.

I suppose I have studied some German history every year since I was first introduced to Luther and to Charles V in 1965. Then there was the Thirty Years War and the Great Elector. At university I was lucky enough to have Vivian Fisher teach me about Charlemagne and Norman Stone introduce me to the Habsburg Empire, and to serious work on the Third Reich. As a teacher I gave more than three decades to eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth century Germany. So I guess I was as well up in German History as you would expect a school teacher to be.

Then I heard Neil MacGregor on the radio talking about Germany chapter by chapter, and I knew I had to read the book. It took nearly two years before I got hold of it in the library, but at last I have finished it.

I found I did not want to read more than a chapter at a time, so that each one of the thirty made its impact. It might be sausages or art or war memorials or Bismarck or the Holy Roman Empire. The breadth, the humanity, the perception of the thinking is quite exceptional. This is one of the best history books I have read since I retired. I wish it had been written while I was teaching. I recommend it warmly.