Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Home Sweet Home II

So, where was I before I rudely interrupted my musings with news of the impending destruction of the village pillagers? (HUZZAH!)  Oh yes...

 home - behind the delphiniums

Well, the garden was still looking in fine fettle when I was home.  My Dad was particularly pleased with the dahlia show and rightly so, they were beautiful:

I'd missed the sweet-peas, of course, which are always spectacular, and also the livingstone daisies and all the lovely Summer border flowers, but witnessed the addition of the Winter pansies just before I left, which are ever so pretty.   The tomatoes in the greenhouse are mostly past now, and the cucumbers and peppers are long gone, but there were 5 rather massive marrows there awaiting a time when my Mother will turn them into marrow and ginger jam.  NOM.

Well, in addition to pretending to be a tourist and taking all sorts of arty-farty shots of the ancient buildings, I also indulged in a spot of nostalgic piccie-taking of my old school...  Although I use that word advisedly...  I know the word nostalgia means a longing for the past, and invokes feelings of warmth, of golden, happy times and I shouldn't really use that word in any sentence pertaining to my school years (as I have very mixed memories of secondary school... well, to be honest, I have mostly bad memories of secondary school) but I could never complain about the aesthetic beauty of the senior building and its wonderful, if very draughty, quadrangle... Sadly I couldn't take pictures of the quad, as the school was closed for the October holidays, but, although the building is only 180 years old or so, I remember the quad appearing very old indeed.  I guess that's what happens when you combine the local sand-stone used for building most of the old structures in the town, and the sharp, salty sea air...

madras college - senior building

I do, however, remember enjoying lunch-times when I would stay in the music house and practise the piano, which is where the real nostalgia comes in...  I learnt my first Chopin nocturne on the piano of the room above the bowed windows, on the first floor...

the music house in all its autumnal glory

The buildings of St Mary's College, part of the university, was also a must on the 'got to photo' list.  St Mary's College is the home of the teaching of Divinity and was founded in 1539 and is still housed in its fine sixteenth-century buildings, and I have to say, they are beautiful!

Do you see the thorn tree to the left of the bottom picture?  Legend has it that it was planted by Mary Queen of Scots during one of her visits to the town...  Okay, okay - a 500+ year-old tree?  Well, the chances are that if it's not the original tree, it's certainly a descendant, so it's still rather on the WOW side!

Another ancient structure to be found is the West Port which was originally built in 1589 and is, I think, the last remaining civic gate still in existence in Scotland.

west port

I must have walked through the port a thousand times, but I have to admit that I've never really looked closely at it before (you know - that thing about familiarity breeding... blindness), but have camera, as they say, take close-ups...

king david and his lance... don't ask - i have no idea!

To finish with, I'll show you the LYS - it's situated in one of the wee closes (pronounced with a sibilant s and not a z, meaning a narrow alley to a courtyard) opposite the school. The building is itself a great example of the typical mediaeval house that was found in the area, with the dwelling spaces on the upper floors and the ground floor used for housing livestock. Inside it's all wooden beams, creaky floorboards, rough walls and yummy yarn!  I can think of worse places to drool over wool!

Oh, and yes, I did take photos on different days... although anyone visiting Scotland will avow, it is possible to have sun, rain, fog and snow within a few hours of each other.  And that's just in Summer!  Heh!

Saturday, 25 October 2008

U is for...


 googlemaps.com - we love you

A few months ago I embarked upon a tirade against the injustice of having my village pillaged.  (And I may even apologise for that dreadful rhyming at some point...)  My village is pictured above and you may (or may not) remember the post, but it involved turning the massive field/old commons, in the centre of the photo, into a housing estate.  Ugh.  With 30 houses.  I mean... UGH.

As you can perhaps imagine, I was not looking forward to seeing the state of affairs when I got home to Scotland this past month...  And things certainly were not very pretty when I got there...

from my DS's house (note pleasantly doom and
gloom-ridden skies!)

DS has (oops) HAD a spectacular view from her windows across the field and to the hills beyond.  The houses may not be up yet, but the fencing to keep noise pollution down is already a pseudo-white-picket eye-sore...

from the main road looking north-east

from the main road looking south

As you can see, that's a fair bit of ground to cover with houses, particularly in a quiet, provincial wee village.  So far the field has been partly levelled and new paths are being made along-side the site...  It's a muddy and a noisy mess.
BUT... the day before I left, my Dad came through with the local newspaper, in which there was an article by the developers who stated that works on the site would be postponed until the housing market gained some strength again...  The same day DS (and all the folk who live around the field) received a letter from the developers saying pretty much the same thing...  It also said that they would tidy up the site, finish the paths and take down the fencing and boarding until such time as they could resume building again...  It is now also common knowledge that the developers have had to lay-off 14 employees, also due to the down-turn in the housing market.

Now, although I do feel for those folk who have lost their jobs, there is a HUGE part of me going "Ha ha" a l
a Nelson in the Simpsons...  The developers are a greedy mafiastic coterie, and that they are losing money hand-over-fist brings the word 'karma' to mind.  Rumours are already circulating that the company has gone bust, but I think that's just hopeful thinking!

Now, of course, I do realise that building will start up again in the future, and the development will eventually grow, like mould, across the village, but for the time being I do believe folks are sighing with relief...

Friday, 24 October 2008

Home Sweet Home

Now there's a confusing title for you... Home Scotland, or Home France?  Well, for this little ditty, I shall go with Scotland...

rather draughty, but I call it home

I took over 500 photographs during my two weeks in Scotland.  That's not bad going, even for me!  I shall concede, however, that 500 photos in one post may just be a tad on the WAY TOO MANY side, so I think a few posts may be the order of the day.  Well, order of the weekend, anyway...

I don't usually take the time to be a tourist in my local town.  It's my local town - I've been going there for as long as I remember... and more.  And, like most folk, I haven't really paid much attention to it...  Familiarity breeds, well certainly not contempt, because I love the town, but I guess you just get used to things being there and not looking at them any more...

SO... I embarrassed my DS (again) by taking photos about town when I was home... (Hai K!) 

The one up top is not, as you may have guessed, my home. It is in fact the ruins of the cathedral.  Building started on it around 1130, but thanks to several incidents, (e.g. shortly after the nave was completed, the west end of the cathedral was blown down in a gale in 1270. This was rebuilt in a slightly different position, where parts of it remain today. Then the English stripped the lead from the part-built roofs to make shot during the Wars of Independence. In 1378 the cathedral was badly damaged by fire and had to be extensively rebuilt. And in 1409 it was the turn of the end of the south transept to collapse under the force of a winter storm) it is now in a ruinous state.  Very picturesque, though!

cathedral centre, the roundel house left, and the pends right...

the roundel house with the typical fife/dutch gabling

Then we have the castle.  Poor old castle - there's not much left...

castle and castle sands, with the old step rock bathing pool

The site was fortified by the 1100s, and from around 1200 it was adopted as the main residence of the bishops and archbishops of St Andrews. As such, the Castle became the principal administrative centre of the Scottish Church and was the setting for some of the key events in Scottish history.

main range and gate

The Holy Trinity Church is one that I've walked past thousands of times, but never gone in... until now.  And I was much taken aback - it is very beautiful indeed...

erm - wow!
The church itself dates in parts from circa 1412 (March 15th, possibly around tea-time) and the stained glass windows (although being relatively modern) took my breath away...

:: sighs happily ::

And there's more of the town to show... but I shall leave them for another day... I'm nice like that!

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Stealth, schmealth...

monkeys for k

Yep, 'tis time for the uncovering of some more stealth projects!  This time it's the couple of knits I made for my sister's birthday.  Yes, um, which was last month... Why didn't I post about them at the time, I hear you ask...  That's a mighty fine question and the only excuse that I'll give you is that I was on tour and couldn't blog. 
Such a big, fat lie.  Okay, okay, the real reason is that I was still in the middle of knitting the socks and the other items (for which I will eventually stop writing long enough to post a picture) were sitting in a jewellery box intended for DS's birthday.  The box was in my suitcase and I had forgotten the items were there, too...

So yeah, as excuses go, they're pretty lame...  I must get to some more 'art of b*llsh*t' classes before I lose the knack entirely!

I should just say that I was too lazy to post, and leave it at that. I suspect you'd all be perfectly happy to believe that, anyway!

monkey sock pattern by cookie a

So.  The socks...  the marvellous Monkey pattern by Cookie A, that is, I suspect, on the queue of most folk on Ravelry.  Oh, and thanks to T who has reminded me to tell you that these socks are knitted with Angels & Elephants hand-dyed Shetland sock wool, in the Tintagel colourway (in shades of denim blue and green). These are my second attempt... the first are separated by an ocean and several hundred miles, but shall be reunited at the end of the month!  Huzzah for easyjet! (Whoa - oxymoron anyone?)

I made some changes to the pattern this time around: I made 5, instead of 6 repeats before the heel-flap; I knitted the heel-flap itself in the eye-of-partridge stitch that I adore; and I made a basic 2x2 ribbed cuff instead of the twisted rib cuff.  Because I could. So nyah!

To continue, may I present some icord wire jewellery:

bracelet and pendant in black wire with black beads

I have to say that the icord bracelet was a real bugger to make.  I think I need to invest in a french knitting dolly with a bigger hole.  (And I also think I need to rethink that last sentence.)  In my first few attempts, the wire just kept breaking when I tried to pull it a bit through the dolly.  In the end I had to re-inforce the icord with plastic thread to make sure it didn't break when it was pulled through.  I cheated with the pendant and knitted a long rectangle with the wire, adding the beads at irregular intervals, rolled it up and sewed the ends together to make a tube.  Cunning?  No, just trying not to waste too much wire.  Scottish?  Why yes, yes I am... What gave it away?!

  the bluffers guide to icord...

Ach well, the socks fit, the pendant has already been worn, and the bracelet has been admired (although it's still a little fragile for everyday use...) so I think that entitles me to an element of happy-bunniness!  Yay!

Thursday, 2 October 2008

T is for...


Abbaye d'Ambronay

I've just finished a tour with the Orchestra of the 18th Century and wow, was it fabulous! Intensive, but fabulous!  Actually, to be honest, I'm pretty pooped - two days of rehearsals in Amsterdam, then concerts in Breda (NL), Ambronay (F), Paris, (F) Haarlem, Eindhoven, Brugge (B), Amsterdam, Groningen and Rotterdam, plus the travel days...  Still, it was totally worth it because this group is really one of the finest early music orchestras in the world and I'm still grinning to think that I got to stand in front of them and scream a bit!  Huzzah!

Haarlem - Philharmonie
 Brugge - Concertgebouw

Nine different halls meant nine different acoustics, nine different approaches to the music and nine different types of expletive.  I learned a lot of new Dutch words over this past fortnight.  Most eye-openingly entertaining. 

Quite a few of the halls were very dry, so you felt like you were playing or singing into a velvet cushion - the sound being immediately absorbed into the furnishings - so you'd have to play with a bit more oomph and broadness although not necessarily with more volume.  Occasionally there was the perfect acoustic where you could play with and feel your sound was being supported and lifted to the audience, and there were a couple of halls, well, really just the abbey, where you felt you were playing in a swimming pool and your sound rang and echoed for more time than the music needed. A LOT more time! In those instances the trick of maintaining a broadness of tone, but keeping the length of notes shorter was the name of the game.    

 Rotterdam - de Doelen

The weather behaved itself beautifully for 12 of the 14 days of the project, generously endowing us with amazing sunsets in France:

sunset over Ambronay

sparklingly clear days around the Amsterdam grachts (canals):

Egelantiersgracht, Amsterdam

and some sunny hours to be a tourist, too...

the marvellous bell tower of the Westerkerk in Amsterdam

Muntplein - Amsterdam

I was also very lucky to stay in the bottom apartment of a house in the Jordaan in Amsterdam for the duration of the project, in a delightful town-house that used to be a bakery in centuries past.  It's a lovely part of the city, indeed...  So picturesque that you forgive the noise and incessant traffic of tourists everywhere!  Then again, I had to forgive the traffic of tourists, considering I was one, too... a faster-walking, know-where-I'm-going tourist, but a tourist, never-the-less!

bakery built in 1647

Of course, now that the tour is over, I have succumbed to the dreaded end-of-project lurgy and am sniffling and sneezing like there's no tomorrow.  This is unfortunate, however, because my next project starts in 4 days. 

In the words of Calvin, he of tiger-trapping fame, AAAUUUUUUUUUUUUGH.

Vitamin C and some efficacious echinacea, anyone?

Mair Bloag Weejits

Footerin' Aboot

Footerin' Aboot
Heh! I'm so funny!

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