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Monday, 29 December 2008


Well, I hope you all had a good Christmas, Hanukka or other special occasion you celebrate around now. Sorry I never sent out Christmas cards, but do watch your Inbox before long - you just might find something there soon!
I had a very pleasant Christmas day with a visit to my late friend Vina's family with Christmas presents - her grandchildren are growing up so quickly and I began to struggle with presents they would enjoy, but be a bit different. I think they liked what I chose! If they didn't they both hid it very well indeed! Then it was time for a dinner out at a local hotel with my friend Linda. We have eaten out together on Christmas Day for several years, both being on our own, and neither of us that keen on preparing a Christmas dinner. We followed tradition in choosing roast turkey though didn't go for the Christmas plum pudding! Too much, though all very nice!
Got some nice presents, including a box of acrylic paints and some canvases!!! No excuses now! I'll have to do a masterpiece!!!!! Linda gave me a garden thermometer that I admired recently when we were out shopping! It ranges from 50 degrees Celsius ( as if...) to minus 40C, so should cope very well with our temperatures, say about 28/29C down to -10 (though -10 is not so common here these days! When I was a child there was always lots of snow in the winter, and the local duckpond always froze - usually enough for some skating or in our case sliding in wellington boots! We would go sledging on Blackford Hill, getting soaked through as we fell off our sledges to roll over and over in double figure inches of snow! Great fun! It doesn't happen too often now! The last big snow in Peebles was a good few years ago, though we got quite severe winters when I lived in the Yorkshire dales. One year down there I had icicles on the guttering below the roof that I could see the tips of through my downstairs windows. My water supply froze for 6 weeks, and I found myself carrying buckets of water from the milking parlour of the farm next door until the weather thawed enough to allow my pipes to flow again. Frequently after the snow plough had come by, my car had disappeared under the thrown up snow, and had to be abandoned till the thaw came!

On Boxing Day, I drove through to Glasgow to see Sally and Andrew who are over here now for a couple of years. (You'll recall the second Aussie wedding I went to in May?)

Ian and Berny, Sally's parents, have come over for a month or so, so we all had lunch together in the youngies' beautiful apartment in a divided 18/19th century house in the West End of the city.

What luck they had in landing that one! A big living room with high ceiling, beautiful plaster cornicing and ceiling decoration, huge windows. It was stunning! The whole apartment was fitted out to the highest quality, with some exceedingly beautiful furniture included in the rental!

They'll all be off to Skye for a few days now so safe travelling to them. I'll be catching up with them in a few weeks before Ian and Berny go home to Oz.

Then on Saturday it was time to catch up with my sister Jean. We arranged to meet in Edinburgh for lunch, at the Elephant House, on George IV Bridge. This is reputed to be the place where Harry Potter was born, though I was under the impression that it was another coffee house - now a Chinese restaurant - on another street, not that far away! Anyway JKR must have done a lot of writing here at the Elephant House! As you can imagine there are elephants all over the place, from paintings and photographs to ornaments large and small. Indian, African, ivory, ebony, metal, wooden, pottery..... they're all there!

This is my favourite, on a window sill in the back room, more of an "eleraffe" I'd say, with that long neck! I think he is so cute! I love elephants, and have a few of my own here at home! The zoo off to the west of the city used to have a real elephant house which housed the lovely Sally, who in her young days (mine too) used to carry visitors on a howdah on her back for short walks. I never got to do that!

I remember years later taking some kids from my first teaching post way out of the city, to the zoo. The range of the children's backgrounds was quite immense, and I will always have a picture in my mind of Susan aged 5, from probably the poorest of homes, standing beside Sally's enclosure absolutely mesmerised at this huge creature she was seeing. She must have seen pictures of elephants, but nothing had prepared her for her first sight of the real thing! Her eyes were like saucers - the one and only time I have actually appreciated the enormity of that expression -and she was rooted to the spot! We let her stand for a few minutes more, but could hardly drag her away. Susan will be in her 30s now! I wonder if she still remembers that occasion herself!

From the back room of the cafe the windows look out onto the castle high on its volcanic rock dominating the rooftops of the old town below. Edinburgh is always full of visitors so mine wasn't the only photo taken that lunchtime.

From the Elephant House it is just a hundred yards to the old Greyfriars Kirk (Church) which is famous in the folk lore of Edinburgh. The most famous story of all is probably the one that tells of the loyalty of a wee Skye terrier puppy whose master died and was buried in the churchyard. Thereafter for years the little dog was to be found lying on Auld Jock Grey's grave, only leaving it to go in search of food. He became a well known and loved sight in this part of town, and was looked after by kindly inhabitants. In due course he was rewarded for his loyalty by being given a special collar by the town's provost, head of the town council (and the one time employer of my great great grandfather) that recognised his position as a resident of the city and no longer a vagrant!

After the death of Greyfriars Bobby a fountain was erected in his memory , which stands just outside the churchyard on the corner between George IV Bridge and Candlemakers Row. The entrance to the kirkyard is between the red-painted pub and the building to its left.

I could take up lots of space here writing about the kirkyard, its historical connections, and who is buried here, but if you are interested you can look that up for yourselves here, but I must show you one or two of the pictures I took.

I was particularly pleased with this one of the marble memorial to deaf artist Walter Geikie, getting the reflection of the kirk itself in it.

There is also a memorial stone to William McGonagall who wrote the most awful poetry, though he thought he was brilliant!

This is the view to the north of the kirkyard, the spire being the old Highland Kirk and now the Edinburgh Fringe Festival Hub. I tried lightening up the foreground to show the graves, but it spoiled the distant view. You can see pictures of the graves and read their stories using the link to the kirkyard above. One at least of my ancestors was buried in Greyfriars but I have never found a stone memorial. I guess a few have been removed, and some have been toppled, whether by vandals or a safety conscious town council frightened that someone might be injured or worse, by one of the old stones falling on them - heard that story yesterday but don't know how true it might be. Anyway young John Gall may never even have had a stone memorial. I only know he is here from reading his father's journal from the 1800s.

After our wander around here Jean went off to do some shopping, but I preferred to stay away from the shops and the Sales, instead, crossing the road and entering the very modern Museum of Scotland which I love. I didn't have much time to spend here before heading back to Peebles and tea with Morag and Mike, but I had a quick walk around the ground floor. Took one or two photos - from some wall art from the Declaration of Arbroath in 1320, more here.

and of a cast of the tomb of Mary Queen of Scots, the original being in Westminster Abbey.

I rather liked this view across to Bobby's Bar from one of the windows of the museum. Candlemakers Row goes downhill behind the railing - on the right of the picture - and George IV Bridge runs along in front of it. Continuing along there will take you to the National Library of Scotland (same side of the road as the museum), across the Old Town's High Street and down the Mound to Princes Street at the National Art Galleries. Unfortunately the little statue of Bobby on the fountain is partially obscured by a post, but hopefully clicking the picture will enlarge it enough for you to make it out - between the car disappearing off down Candlemakers Row and the white edged window.

So I have had quite a "gaan aboot" time over Christmas (In other words I have travelled about a bit), and we are almost into a new year again. I do hope 2009 is filled with good stuff for us all.

Thanks to my friend Mary (mh51) for designing the beautiful frame I have used here though it was myself who coloured it rather differently.

1 comment:

bondbloke said...

Wonderful post Evee, I hope you had a great Christmas and that you have a good New Year... Who knows maybe on one of your visits to Auld Reekie we could meet up for a coffee someplace