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Welcome to my blog. Thanks for dropping by. Hope you'll stay and enjoy reading about where I've been and what I've been doing!

I don't mean this to be a replacement for personal emails, but it gives me the chance to put up photos and my scrapbook layouts, so I don't block up your in-boxes, or have to send the same photos and stories to everyone separately!
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Thanks also to Mary of Mary's Mixes for doing all the work on the blog's heading. You are great, Mary!


Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Traquair

Well, I reached my 60th birthday, a week past Sunday, and had a great weekend with friends, but this birthday signalled the start of another new phase of my life! I am now of an age to retire, so I decided to take advantage of that and semi retire. I enjoy working at the Co-op, so didn't want to finish working there completely just yet, so instead, I have cut my hours down to 16 per week!!! Last week I worked Sunday and Monday so was off for the rest of the week, while this week I am off till Thursday, when I will be back for two days! All this free time is great, as cousins from Canada, Don and Nancy, are visiting, and I can spend time with them.

The other day, we visited Traquair House, the oldest continually inhabited house in Scotland, just a few miles down the back road from Peebles, where we toured the house before having lunch in the 1745 cottage tearoom! Traquair is a fabulous old house with, obviously, a lot of history attached! Twenty seven Scottish kings and queens have stayed here, including Mary, Queen of Scots and her second husband Lord Darnley, with their baby son, who became James VI of Scotland and later, on the death of Elizabeth I of England, James I of England.
During the Jacobite Uprising of 1745, Bonnie Prince Charlie, Charles Edward Stuart, visited the house, and when he left by the original driveway, through the splendid Bear Gates, the Earl of Traquair had the gates locked saying they should not be opened again till the Stuarts regained the throne. The attempt to bring the crown back to the Stuarts was doomed to fail at Culloden the following year, and Charles Edward, a wanted man, fled to Europe where he lived out the rest of his life. Back at Traquair the gates remained locked, and the "temporary" entrance has continued in use to the present day. The old Bear Gates are still in place and the old drive down to the house has been kept clear of trees and bushes so that you get a fabulous view down to the house.

Photography is not allowed in the house, but I figured one or two looking out through the windows, for example, wouldn't be any harm so here we are looking out of a stairway window that looks out onto the lawn outside the inner gates and on up the old drive. It's not too clear, but maybe gives you an idea of how it looks... The Bear Gates are way up at the end of that green lawn between the trees,

...and here is Don, exploring the priest's stair in the oldest part of the building. It was probably the only stair in the original tower house, but later, when the house had extended somewhat, the old stairs probably fell into disuse, and during the persecution of Roman Catholics, they allowed the priest an escape route through a cupboard if things hotted up too much.

At the back of the house is the maze, a fairly recent addition to the attractions of Traquair.




If you are clever you take a digital photo of the map of the maze on that little sign by the entrance, as I did when I came back to the House at the weekend with my Inverness friends! The idea is to work your way round, visiting each of the four corners of the maze before finally reaching the centre. On Don's and Nancy's visit we didn't have time as we had a date with the folk who live in Don's ancestors' family home in Galashiels!
Stephen and Ellie were delighted to be able to give him bits of information about the family history, and showed us round the house and garden, both of which they have nurtured with tender loving care. We had a lovely afternoon with them, and over tea and cake, various stories were exchanged.

On Friday we went into Edinburgh, where Don and Nancy climbed to the top of the Scott Monument, memorial to Sir Walter Scott whose novels took the city by storm in the early 1800s....
...and this is the larger than life marble statue of Scott and his dog Maida, sitting under the tall arch facing Princes Street.


The monument is very ornate and is decorated with small statues of characters within Scott's books.




(Terry, one of the tour guides)


Later our tour of the city took us past the controversial Scottish Parliament building. I wonder how many 19th century citizens looked at the Scott monument and had the same thoughts as today's Edinburghers do about the radical Parliament design. I actually like the parliament building a lot - it's one that you either like or hate - and very many people loathe it with a passion. If anything, I'd say there is too much raw grey concrete, especially at the entrance!

This does look a bit unfinished, but I do like the over all design. I love those "hairdryer" or "power drill" decorations at the windows on the right! The designer - who was a Catalan - said they were representations of curtains!




These "curtains" don't all have windows but they have a couple of pigeons!
And these office windows are fantastic! Inside each one is a window seat with steps opposite for MSPs' papers, cups of coffee, etc. or maybe simply to put their feet up on while they sit back, relax, and contemplate the details of the day's debate! The rods outside feature throughout the building - good old oak rods, they are - same as the wood in the chamber, below.

This is the debating chamber, beneath the modern beamed roof with its hundreds of lights and cameras. I hope they are keeping an eye or two on their carbon footprint! There's a large public gallery above, from where I took the picture, and as you can see there was no debating going on at nearly 5.00p.m. that day!

After our visit there we explored the bottom end of the Canongate, taking a look at White Horse Close, named for the white palfrey of Mary, Queen of Scots. The courtyard and close are far older than the 16th century though.

We started the walk uphill passing the Canongate Church where the Queen goes when she is staying at nearby Holyrood Palace - I forgot to put in the Palace photo - here it is:

Well, it's mostly the fountain in the front courtyard really...

and here's the photo of Robert Fergusson, another poet who died at the age of 37 - like Robert Burns, who in fact was a great admirer of Fergusson and who put up a monument to him in the Canongate graveyard to his left.

There is just so much to see in the Canongate, which was once outside the city walls. When the threat of attack on the city was well past and the city gate demolished, rich merchants and burgesses began to move out of the crowded city and build big mansion houses alongside the road to Holyrood Abbey.

Here's one, named Moray House, which gave its name to the college of education that now occupies it and other neighbouring buildings. I spent three years there - once upon a time! Unfortunately I never saw inside this part of the college.

So we picked up the tour bus again and headed back to the Waverley Bridge where we began, passing by the foot of the Castle rock as we went,
The Half Moon Battery, Edinburgh Castle



and soon it was time for the cousins to catch their train back to Bathgate.

Just one more picture for you - a computer generated "stitched" together compilation of 5 photos of the Old Town, from the 250 year-old New Town.
Talk again soon.

Saturday, 18 April 2009

Kelso...

...or Kelsae if you are a Borderer!

Linda and I went out again recently on our pursuit of good eating places, and found a lovely little cafe for lunch! The best macaroni cheese with the most garlicky garlic bread we have tasted for ages! Afterwards we had our usual walkabout and I, of course armed with camera, found lots to photograph! This little posy of flowers was on the table in the cafe. Scrapbookers, it's a .png file so click to enlarge and then save it if you want it! Hey, my first freebie! (Thanks would be nice if you do grab it!!!)

Kelso town square is large and has many attractive and historical buildings. On the right of this photo is the rather imposing Town Hall while to the left of it is the almost as imposing Cross Keys Hotel!




Here's the hotel again - full frontal this time!

and here's another full frontal... of the town hall. There must have been civil wedding on that day. Those look like two bridesmaids and a best man, in a kilt, crossing in front!

Kelso has one of the four Border Abbeys, built by King David I in the 12th century. It is thought to have taken the form of a double cross, but only the ruins of one end remain today after its destruction in 1545 by King Henry VIII!

What does remain gives an indication of its former magnifence. Take a look at these.... one of the towers;




the west gate;








arched windows;

stone carving sadly weather eroded now. It's pretty impressive! How could old Henry have ordered such destruction!





There are some nice shops in Kelso too, and I loved the teddies on sale in one of the gift shops!

Just look how cute these are!!!



Sister Jean will love these!

So after our exploration we headed out of town, along by the Duke's Dyke (a big high wall enclosing Floors Castle and the land belonging to the Duke of Roxburgh) to end up having tea and cake in the Duke's garden, well, his garden centre tearoom garden at least! How nice to be able to sit in the fresh air and listen to the birds.
I managed to snap this pied wagtail on the strip of lawn you can see in the "tea" photo.
The sun was gettting low on the horizon as we made our way back towards Peebles, and I chanced a few photos into the sun as we drove along.
This one of the ancient Smailholm Tower (right) the elegant Scots Pines, and the Eildon Hills just disappearing from view on the left, was the best one. So I give you my parting shot for today....
Talk again soon.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

North Berwick

NORTH Berwick, not Berwick-on-Tweed! A couple of folk I talked to recently have thought I meant Berwick, but it is North Berwick, east of Edinburgh, on the coast of the Firth of Forth that I visited recently with my friend, Jean, who lives in a gorgeous little village not too far away from there.
Our plan was to have lunch together, and the surprise was that it was to be at her daughter, Mandy's pub! Now what I didn't know was that Mandy and her partner Richard had taken on the licence of the Ship Inn, just a few weeks before! (While most of the buildings in this photo are painted white, the Ship is the brown, unpainted building with the chairs and tables outside under the awning.)

We had a lovely lunch and chat with Mandy before she had to rush off to the Cash and Carry, for supplies. It must be very exciting for the two of them to be running their own business and I wish them both lots of luck, lots of returning customers, and a great life.

Later, Jean and I took a walk through the grounds of The Lodge, the white building you can see at the end of the road, and happened upon this wee guy up in a tree. He's a grey squirrel, an introduced species, that is threatening the survival of our native red squirrels - but isn't he bonnie! He sat and watched us watching him and very obligingly let me take several photos before taking off up into the higher branches and disappearing.

The Lodge is really a series of buildings of different eras, and although I don't know its history, I can tell you that it is now converted into residential apartments. I'd think it would be a nice, if not expensive, place to live, right in the centre of the town.

In the gardens at the back, quite accessible to anyone, there is an aviary full of budgeriegars and cockatiels. Here's Jean with some of the birdies!

This is another view from the gardens, of Berwick Law - law being a word for a hill in the south of Scotland. In its infancy, this area saw much volcanic activity, followed by an ice age that wore down the softer stone, leaving behind the harder volcanic plugs that formed the present day hill and some of the islands in the Firth of Forth, in an otherwise fairly flat landscape. If you click on the photo to enlarge it you will see on the top of the law, there is an arch that has stood there for many years, originally made from the jawbone of a whale. I can think of at least another three of these jawbone arches - very un-pc these days - that were erected probably in the Victorian era, though the original one here was much earlier, and is now a rather more pc version moulded in fibreglass.

From the lodge we walked back along the former town market place, Quality Street (past the Ship again), and into Victoria Street, heading for the harbour area, and the seabird centre,


announced by this gigantic Arctic tern on its pedestal!





Islands of the Firth of Forth






Looking along the west beach , where my sister and I played often as kids



The area around the harbour has changed a great deal throughout history, and a huge church once stood on land beside the sea.
All that remains today are some of the foundations and a small porch that probably only survived through being used in later days as a bothy and store for fishermen and their gear. At least half the church fell into the sea in the 17th century when storms eroded the land it stood on.


Out at sea to the right of the last photo is one of those volcanic plugs I mentioned earlier. This is the Bass Rock (Bass rhymes with mass in this instance), with its lighthouse and the biggest gannet colony in Europe, I believe. The seabird centre has CCTV cameras out there relaying live pictures of the gannet activity back to the Centre . Of course other seabirds also consider this "home" - colourful comic puffins and delicate little kittiwakes amongst them. The Bass also featured in Robert Louis Stevenson's novel "Catriona", in the Tale of Tod Lapraik. You will find a lot of information about the Bass on Wikipedia, which I find very interesting!

The Seabird Centre also boasts a rather nice cafe so Jean and I sat looking out to sea at a table by the large window drinking large cups of tea and scoffing scones, before we headed back to the car for the drive back to our respective homes! Another lovely day out - and as Jean said, it felt like a small holiday!
This last picture looks back to the town across the east sands, from the harbour. The white and blue building in the centre I remember as a cafe where we got our icecreams,sometimes sitting in, with a bowl of different flavoured ices, and sometimes taking away ice cream cones to eat on the beach, where they no doubt got sand blown onto them by the sea breeze. The little red roofed building to its right was a shop where you could buy spades and pails for playing in the sand, and fishing nets to catch the little flat flounders that wriggled under your feet as they tried to make themselves invisible in the sandy water's edge. At the edge of the beach here, was - and still is - a walled paddling pool, invisible when the tide is in but full of water when the tide has gone out, with wide walls that were fun to walk round. Before the Seabird Centre was built, there was an open air swimming pool built over the rocky promontary. That was my favourite place, being a real little water-baby early on in life! I recall a thunderstorm one day while I sat on the raft in the middle of the pool, totally unable to move from fear, and mum calling for me to swim over to the edge of the pool - no great distance - and come out and get dried! I am no better in thunderstorms these days than I was then! Oh, but what good memories I have of the North Berwick of my childhood.

Talk again soon.

Monday, 13 April 2009

New look!

Hope you like the new look to my blog! It was Mary who gave me the URL for IzzieGrace's backgrounds - thanks ever so, Mary - and I made the heading!

Anyway, back to episode 3 - or is it 4 - of my seems-so-long-ago-now trip to Yorkshire! Well, county Durham too, as Darlington is just over the county border from North Yorkshire.

Darlington: Connected with railway history! The first ever train ran from Darlington to Stockton at the alarming speed of about 6mph. Click here to read all about it!

The old town centre has been revamped recently, and is mostly pedestrianised now. It was quite a controversial plan, I gather, but I have to say looked rather good in the sunshine the day I was there.

I remember "Darlo" as a pretty dreary place that we used to visit now and again when shopping required more than Richmond could offer. However the new steps, including the waterfall steps here, and the old Georgian/Victorian buildings look quite attractive together. Shame that they did away with the old stone balustrade along the top of the steps though. It would have looked very good cleaned up!





The old market hall, opposite the High Row shops, is still the same as ever, inside and out, with the town clock tower as impressive as I remember.

The next few pictures were taken inside the market hall where you can buy your butcher meat, or wet fish, and then turn around and choose your veggies from the stall opposite. Go another few steps and pick up your newspaper, or walk a few steps in the other direction and find a new blouse, chocolates or a birthday card. I love it!



Behind the market hall is the open air market place, unfortunately deserted that day. Rows of covered stalls sell all kinds of wares every market day: jewellery, knitting wool, carpets, bric-a-brac, haberdashery, second-hand books, petfood, antiques, garden furniture.... you name it and there will more than likely be a stall selling it! To a Scot these markets are amazing places! Here we have a few small markets in the south of the country but they are not like the English markets!


At the foot of the market place is St Cuthbert's church, which I have to say I was never in, but I understand it is quite a significant Old English church in the area.

So there we are! That was my little visit of reminiscences. I must go back again before too long, and I'll make sure it's market day in Darlo. Apparently Reeth also has a market now, once a week! Must see that too. It is set up on the Cobbles at the top of the village, not sure on which day!
Next time, a little jaunt not too far from home....
Talk again soon.