Friday, 7 September 2012

Danny MacAskill - Cyclist Extraordinaire!

There has been much talk, deservedly so,  about the  success of the Scot, Chris Hoy and the British Olympic/Paralympic cycling teams - but there is one Scot who could probably be the gold medal Olympian of street trial cycling -  and that is Danny MacAskill - whose cycling skills both thrill and terrify me at the same time!
 

A few years ago a friend sent me a link to this cycling sensation on YouTube Inspired Bicycles


and although no great fan of cycling itself I do enjoy watching his exploits - even if I have to look away for part of the time!

I have noticed Danny's name appearing a few times in the press recently.  He did a street trial performance during the Edinburgh Festival last month, which I missed unfortunately, and he travels the world performing and seeking new challenges.

Yesterday I read in the (Glasgow) Herald about his trip to San Fransico but I think my favourite clip so far is Way Back Home


where you get to see Danny's skills coupled with the wonderful backdrop of his journey from Edinburgh to the Isle of Skye - which makes me want to take the same journey - but only by car or rail thank you very much!

I give you - Danny MacAskill

Are you as impressed by his cycling skills and crazy shenanegans as I am?  (He also comes across as a lovely guy!)

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Time stands still for no-one

For the past three months it seems that I have spent too much time  hoping each day, that the following day, would bring our much desired and well deserved summer weather.   Unfortunately, for the most part, my hopes have been in vein.  On the few occasions that we were treated to sunshine and blue skies, we were severly punished with days, sometimes weeks, of rain and cloud.

It has slowly dawned on me that every day of the wishing and hoping has moved us towards the changing season.  Autumn is on its way.  Evidence of this being the berries on the Rowan tree that I pass every day

 
that seem to have suddenly changed from unripe and very green to luscious bright red;
 

 
masses of brambles appearing all over the place (particularly in my poor overgrown and neglected garden borders) making rich pickings for the bramble jelly makers;
 
 
little acorns hanging from the oak trees
 
 
and - my most favourite sign of the beginning of autumn
 
 
- the golden sculptural landscape that has appeared, created by the many circular hay bales.
 

I think I gave up on summer weeks ago.  Now I am looking forward to autumn, my most favourite of the seasons.  The changing colours of the landscape and most of all the changing light that we are fortunate to witness here in Scotland.
 
Don't let the rain get you down - there is so much to look forward to. 

Monday, 20 August 2012

Edinburgh - the Festival City

I took a trip through to Edinburgh at the weekend to catch some of the festival atmosphere of the city at this time of year.  If you don't like crowds of people it would probably be best to avoid the centre of Edinburgh during, virtually, the entire month of August!   The city is over-run with tourists, festival concert and theatre goers, street theatre performers, ticket sellers, crafters, market stall holders, people watchers, chancers, madness, chaos and actually, particularly on a warm sunny day, lots of fun!

In addition to the main Edinburgh International Festival, Edinburgh hosts the  Edinburgh International Book Festival, the Edinburgh Art Festival and the Edinburgh Military Tattoo and of course the Edinburgh Festival Fringe - all in the month of August!  

Click pic to enlarge

It is a crazy place to be if you need to be somewhere in a hurry, but if you have time to meander at the pace of your own curiosity it is a fun-filled city to visit should you get the opportunity

Click pic to enlarge
- and I would thoroughly recommend it! 

Monday, 6 August 2012

World Pipe Band Championships 2012 and the Pipers' Wellies

Glasgow will once again become the centre of the global piping scene as it hosts Piping Live! Glasgow International Piping Festival and The World Pipe Band Championships from 6th – 12th August 2012. Around 40,000 visitors, and 8000 pipers, drummers and performers are expected to descend on the city for the world’s biggest week of traditional music.

Lots going on in George Square and around the City Centre all week.   (See video clip from 2010)

I popped into the shopping marquee this morning and spotted these natty little numbers,


which I thought were hilarious - and practical - for pipers and drummers plodding through muddy fields in our Scottish weather who want to keep their tootsies dry but maintain their look.

Modelled by the owner of the company who designed the wellies

Back in the day you would be reluctant and feel very humiliated if made to wear wellies as a young person in the city - but times change. With so many outdoor music festivals being hosted in our lovely Scottish summer months - some clever person had the wisdom to jazz up the common old wellie and now you can pay up to and beyond £100 for a funky pair of what is essentially rubber boots with a pattern and a logo on them.
 

Wellie companies have certainly scored a hit and made a boring old item trendy - and kept many thousands of pairs of feet dry and mud free into the bargain!  I've a feeling these will go down well this week - as a novelty item if nothing else.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Switzerland 2012 - When plans are derailed!

Oh dear, as suspected, Andy Murray had his plans to become Wimbledon Champion derailed last weekend by the ice cool Swiss.  Great match but in the end the right result for Herr Federer.

I'm reminded of last year when my plans were derailed - quite literally - by the Swiss and their usually impeccable railway system! 

We had hoped to take a trip on the Glacier Express but unbelievably, on two occasions in the same week, we got our timings wrong and on one of the occasions I managed to snap the train as it left the station in Ilanz - the train we'd hoped to board!  



Notice the large windows allowing you to see the glaciers and mountain tops without breaking your neck!  A number of years ago I was lucky enough to experience a trip on the Bernina Express, on a similar train - outstanding!

So we gave up on the Glacier Express experience completely and decided to take a trip to Arosa in the Graubunden Region.  We took the train from Ilanz to Chur, where we picked up the train to Arosa, which at the very beginning of the journey, is an experience in itself.  How often do you expect to share the road with a train - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fk0ViQuBQWA?! 

I can only imagine what visitors must think when driving in Chur for the first time, expecting to share the road with the usual suspects, and perhaps, for the first time, trams.  But how must it feel to have to squeeze past a hulking big train coming at you http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ySZOrocKH4I - perhaps having only just got used to driving on the right-hand side of the road?!

We set off from Chur, winding our way up the narrow railway track - which didn't leave much room for manouevres! 

Through some tunnels,


across a bridge or two,


past some very brave workmen working at great height,


climbing ever higher with the low hanging clouds looking ominous.


As we approached Langwies Train Station we spotted the Langwieser Viaduct


Gulping at the thought of the possibility of crossing this viaduct, and getting slightly more nervous the nearer we got to it, as we slowly pulled into the station


and whilst I was capturing a close-up of the viaduct


which, yes, we were definitely going to cross, there was this almighty screeching noise and as if in slow motion I turned around, camera still in hand and captured the derailment of one of two of the goods' carriages that were bringing up the rear of our train.



Spewing its contents on the other side of the track.


The ticket collector and a passenger went off to investigate -  we stayed put!


In such an isolated place, with few people around we were pretty much at a standstill with little information of what would happen next.  Eventually the decision was made to decouple the goods' carriages and we continued on our journey


across the viaduct


at a great height.  

We were told later that this incident was a very rare occurrence and could potentially have had disasterous consequences.   Because we were travelling at a slow speed and there were two carriages carrying equal weight, the first of the carriages potentially saved the rest of the train from flipping off the rails.   Had this happened around 200 meters later than it did there was the possibility that we could have just turned the corner and been approaching, or even been crossing, the viaduct when the carriage flipped -  and who knows how things could have turned out.  Doesn't bear thinking about!

In the end, we arrived safely in Arosa - to torrential rain and low temperatures (in June)


Arosa appeared to be deserted.


I am sure it  is a lovely place but on that day it wasn't worth the stress of getting there!

We managed to find a very quiet restaurant serving hot soup and sandwiches, which we scoffed, then made the long journey home - bus replacing train until we got beyond the site of the derailment.

Not one of my best experiences of Switzerland - but thankfully we lived to tell the tale!

Sunday, 1 April 2012

What the weather giveth - it taketh away!

Spring is definitely in the air.  Sunshine and blue skies mean it's the time of year when I can once again hang washing outside without risk of it being frozen solid by the time I bring it inside.

There's something very comforting in seeing bedding and bits billowing in the wind on a nice sunny day.



After the record breaking temperatures of the past week (23 degrees) see below the latest weather forecast for the UK.   Business as usual then.....

Weather warning - Sunday, 1 April

YELLOW WARNING for SNOW
Rain will turn to snow as it moves south across Scotland through Monday and into Monday night, giving accumulations of 5-10 cm on hills with 2 to 5 cm at lower levels inland.

As the snow clears south into NE England during Tuesday morning, roads are likely to turn icy.

The public are advised to be aware of the risk of disruption to transport.

Valid from 1200 Monday until 0600 Tuesday.

Were you caught out by any April Fool spoofs today?   I heard it reported on the news on Radio 4 this morning that there are plans to insist that  pensioners take regular exercise otherwise their pensions will be stopped.   A bit lame but the only one that got my attention today.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Venus, Jupiter and the crest of the Moon - 2

As the sun was going down tonight I decided to look out for a repeat performance of last night's image of Venus, Jupiter and the Moon.   At 7.30 pm there was a great big beautiful cloud around the area where they had appeared previously


but it was an hour earlier than last night so I blew as hard as I could in the hope that the cloud would move along....


I watched and waited,


then the moon appeared in the top left hand corner of the above pic 


and this was the best image I could get - taken at 8.40 pm.  Note the different position of the Moon from last night's image (previous post) taken 5 minutes earlier.  Someone will know why....!

And that's it for now folks!   Venus, Jupiter and the Moon have had their "last dance" until....... (I have no idea!).

Information here:   http://www.space.com/15019-venus-jupiter-moon-night-sky-dance.html

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Venus, Jupiter and the crest of the Moon

After a warm, dry and sunny Sunday - when closing all my windows around 8.30 pm, which had been thrown open to enjoy the exceptionally warm weather - I caught sight of this:


isn't it amazing?  I don't  know my stars and planets but I believe these are Venus and Jupiter - which I have been enjoying for the past couple of weeks due to clear skies, and tonight they have been joined by the crest of the moon.  Fantastic!  Have you been watching?

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Lazy Sunday

Listening to Desert Island Discs and laughing with Jackie Mason as I do some ironing - how are you passing Sunday morning?

Friday, 17 February 2012

A month of letters

This month I have been participating in the  "A month of letters" challenge and I am loving it!   I don't normally participate in blog challenges. I get the impression that they take more commitment and effort than I can or am prepared to give to them, so I let them pass me by.  But this challenge was right up my street! For as long as I can remember I have been a letter writer.  It was my love of sending handwritten correspondence that actually led me to begin making my own cards and stationery.   In fact I wrote about this exact topic in my first ever blog post here and then again here.

So, it was with great enthusiasm that I got myself to the Post Office to purchase a supply of postage stamps(£15.00 worth for starters!).  I usually try to purchase interesting stamps for those letters I send overseas but it is becoming more difficult these days as Royal Mail have reduced the selections they produce and have reduced the length of time they hold stocks of special issues at their branches.  Sometimes I will buy the special issue packs in order to get something a bit different - but they can be pretty expensive - and then I am reluctant to use them because they are so nicely presented. In the end they languish in a drawer or I don't remember where I put them! 

 
I started the challenge - a couple of days late because I only discovered it on 06 February. Coincidentally, I had just posted a letter on 03 February so I had unwittingly got things underway.   I will make up for those lost days by continuing to write daily into the first week in March -  perhaps beyond....   


The idea is that every day except Sundays you post a piece of correspondence - or two - or maybe even three pieces, as I did today!  It is not necessary to write to a different person each time - but that is my plan - although more than one person will receive more than one letter/card/note from me over the course of the month. It's nice to know that unexpected mail will be popping through the letter boxes of some unsuspecting recipients, some of whom I write to regularly, some only occasionally, some very rarely, others I have written to only once before - and the odd two or three that have never received correspondence from me at all - until now!  I get great pleasure from sitting at my usual spot at my kitchen table, in silence, putting down on paper my thoughts and wishes, news and possibly some quips!  It makes me happy to know that I am adding something to someone's day.  It's such a simple way to feel good and to make someone else feel happy in that moment.

Emails, texts, tweets - they are all well and good but a thoughtful, handwritten - hand delivered by the local postie - piece of correspondence is hard to beat don't you think? 

Are you a letter writer?  Did you used to be - and now only communicate electronically?  Fancy taking up the challenge?  Maybe a month of letters is too much to ask but there's nothing to stop you choosing a week or even a day in a month that suits you,  to sit down and write that personal piece correspondence that you always meant to send.

Go on, makes someone's day!

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Glasgow's Mitchell Library

Another clear and fresh day tempted me away from my desk at lunch time yesterday, so I took a wander along to the Mitchell Library (one the the largest reference libraries in Europe) 

which is celebrating 100 years at its present location in North Street.

In the main hall there was a photographic exhibition of the library's history. 







 

As I was leaving I happened upon an amazing collection of puppets, http://www.theworldthroughwoodeneyes.co.uk/index.html which, together with hundreds of books from all over the world, in numerous languages, has been donated to the library by John Blundall.  




If you are interested in any aspect of puppetry, at any level, then this is the place for you!