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Monday, 27 September 2010

Horoscope for today

“Today you might have the opportunity to attend a group activity that could be involved with intellectual or spiritual pursuits, Aries. At this event you could be introduced to some interesting people from distant places, or who are in intriguing professions, and who share a lot of your interests. You'll definitely enjoy the company of those whom you meet, and learn a lot in the process.”

So said my horoscope on my Yahoo page today!  So, what did I do tonight?  I drove about 45 minutes up the road to Newbattle Abbey College’s enrolment night  to sign up for a Gaelic course I heard about at their Open Day in September.  There I met Deirdre, the tutor, and two other prospective classmates.  Deirdre is actually from Ireland, and though she learned Irish in her youth, when she came over to Scotland, she decided to learn Gaelic, and now teaches it.  She is a sound artist.  Now don’t ask, I didn’t find out what and how, but I will!  It was quite intriguing!  Oh, does that word sound familiar?  Two others signed up for the class, William, on whom I will reserve judgement for now – he didn’t stick around – and Petra, from Germany, who feels her spiritual home is in Scotland - but more particularly in the Highlands.  She would like nothing better than to find herself a small cottage, maybe on a croft, taking photographs and using her computer to show them to the world.  Sound a bit like someone you know, perhaps?  Deirdre gave us a small demonstration on how the Gaelic class will work.  It involves speaking right from the start, with a lot of sound recognition and word and phrase repetition.  Sounds interesting!

There was a refreshments table – I stuck to the orange juice, seeing as how I had to drive home – and some entertainment was also laid on.  An Irish dancer “stepped” her way around a small area of the abbey crypt, and a trio of lassies sang folk songs, children’s songs, and others that I knew from the folk clubs of my youth.  (Now by now you would have expected to see some  photos, wouldn’t you!  Yes, well, I had my camera with me, but when I couldn’t get it to work, I opened it up to maybe  remove and replace the battery.  That sometimes gets it going again when it’s playing up  - life of its own! ……  Oops!  No battery!  ….. I’d left it recharging at home!!!   Oh well, no photos tonight then!)   I spoke with the girls later as they realised I’d been joining in the singing, and learned that there is a folk club in Melrose every fortnight that I  didn’t know about, which maybe I’ll  go along to sometime!   (I can’t go to the Peebles one as it’s on choir night. ) Two of the girls – I say girls, but maybe they’re just a teeny bit older than that – were interested in my surname, as both of them were into the family history thing and had people in their trees with the same name.  I didn’t actually pursue it.  At the moment I have enough on my plate sorting out another branch!!!  Just recently I have had a host of information, and contact with formerly unknown distant relatives in far flung places.  It’s great!

So, a good night was had by all – and never have I had such an accurate horoscope as I had today!  I only read it tonight after the event, but felt I had to tell you about it!

Talk again soon.

Sound and sight

There hasn’t been anything really to write about over the last little while.  I had a chest infection for a few days and couldn’t sing, voice almost gone and no energy to hold a breath, so was sent home from my singing lesson on Monday.  However I was better enough to go to choir practice on Thursday, held at Catriona’s church house this week as something else was going on at the school hall.   Jackie It was a lovely room but with no piano, so someone had brought a keyboard along.  Jackie has something to contemplate here! No adjudications from Mull yet, but we practised hard – An t-urram thar gach beinn aig Beinn Dobrainn…… Na chunnaic mi fon ghrein ‘s i bu bhoidhche leum….  Yes I know, I don’t know exactly what it all means either, but basically it’s a song in praise of a mountain called Ben Doran, on the way up the Fort William  road between Tyndrum and Bridge of Orchy.  Ah, my copy of the music translates: Precedence over every mountain takes Ben Doran…. of all I have seen under the sun she (yes, she, there are he mountains but Ben Doran is she) is the most beautiful to me…. the Gaels are very poetic, you know.  I have to say I know someone who hates Ben Doran with a passion as he set off to climb it once and found it a hard slog – for someone who was not as fit as he might have been once!  Eh, Chris? 

Then we had a go at the other song which was apparently written for the mother of one of our members, in 1946.  I think it is a beautiful song – well the arrangement is.   Ach, so are the words – at least the translation sounds very romantic:  As scatters the mist on the high corries With the heat of the bright sun, So flies the dark cloud of my anguish At the sweetness of your conversation.  See!  Way with words, these Gaels!

it must have been the mini muffins We even had a break half way through, not something we normally do as we are usually pushed for time, drinking partners so cups of tea and mini blueberry muffins were very welcome.   lyn and jennifer So was the wee dram from the cup Lynn won at Tobermory.  lynFilled with whisky it was passed around so everyone could share in celebrating the win…  Jennifer, with Lyn here,  was also in the competition. 


There was time to chat, look at holiday photos, and haveback after the break a bit of pronunciation tutoring, before getting back to work again.  Only two more weeks or so to go till we head for Caithness!  Oh dear!

Yesterday Linda and I met for lunch, then took ourselves off for a drive.  I remembered there was a small nursery garden near Moffat that I had often thought of visiting, so suggested we went there for a look around.  carigieburn lane The car park was only a lay-by by the side of the driveway from road, and it was empty.  However the cafe by the gates was open and the signs said it was open, so we parked and followed the sign to the garden.craigieburn visit  





There, among the trees, was the nursery and sales area with its polytunnels and areas of ground covered in thick black membrane, and various trestle tables were set out, laden with pots of plants for sale.  Although we could hear a radio playing we couldn’t see a soul, so we began wandering around looking at the various plants.  Suddenly a voice called to us, and looking down the hill we saw a small dark woman -  dark hair, dark skin, bright dark eyes.   Just then, Linda noticed, among the trees ahead of us, what had once been brightly coloured prayer flags, but were a bit ragged and faded now.  Interesting!  We shouted back that we were just looking around, and continued to do just that, meanwhile wondering about the Tibetan or Nepalese connection.  craigieburn garden Above the selling area, some of the woodland had obviously been cleared, and small gardens constructed, each hidden in its own little area surrounded by hedging.craigieburn3



craigieburn topiary


Then we turned a corner past a topiary hedge, and met a surprising sight.  craigieburn figs and flags2 This was


where all the prayer flags were strung , over the top of a couple of old stone huts.  A sign on the door indicated that this was the Craigieburn Sherpa house craigieburn sherpa house interior

and looking inside we could see it was decked out with the trappings of just such a hut in Nepal.   You could easily think you were actually there.

So what was the story?  Well, inside the hut there were books and magazines on display, with a couple of the magazines having articles about Craigieburn in them.  It seems that the owner of Craigieburn, Janet, has been interested in the Himalayas ever since she was a small child hearing about Sherpa Tensing and Edmund Hillary conquering Everest in 1953.  As an adult, she found Craigieburn which seemed to hold a similarity to the Nepalese countryside, and found that the types of plants that grow in the Himalayas are very suitable for the land she gardens.  On a trip to Nepal she was saved from a fall by her Sherpa, Dawa, whose family she got to know.  It was when Dawa’s 14 year-old daughter was called up to join the child army that Janet invited the family to come over to Scotland and stay at Craigieburn.   That was eight years ago and Dawa and his family now work in the nursery with Janet and her husband, meanwhile helping to support a Nepalese school which they go home to visit from time to time.  It must have been Dawa’s wife we met earlier, and with whom we got chatting later.  I think there must be something of the Buddhist in me, as I was quite moved by the appearance of the flags and the cottage in their hillside setting.

25.9.10 nursery garden visit 036 Beyond the gardens there are woodlands to explore, craigieburn art “sculptures” to wonder at, and at the top, near the house, a typical Buddhist chorten,craigievurn monument


protection against evil forces.  It’s a wonderful place, and I look forward to returning.

Before I finish, these are just some photos of the plants in the garden just now.      

craigieburn fuchsia2

craigieburn flower craigieburn 2 teasels






craigieburn lily


craigieburn red flower 




craigieburn michaelmas daisies


The garden may have looked very green, but there was still plenty of colour in it.  The beauty of nature!

Talk again soon.

Sunday, 19 September 2010


tobermory3 staffa cottages tobermory3 staffa cottages c.1900Before I leave the subject of Mull behind I meant to show you my photo of a picture of the house I stayed in, taken around 1900.   I asked my landlady if she knew who the two people were, but she didn’t, so, on Thursday when I was in  Register House in Edinburgh doing some family history research, I looked up a couple of census records.  In 1891 there were two – large – families living at No.3, but in 1901 there was a young district nurse, Janet from Falkirk, lodging with an older woman, Mary, a widow.  The census even gives that Mary spoke Gaelic and English.  Could these be Janet and Mary in the picture?  I like to think so!  Another time when I go back to Register House I might research them some more, just out of curiosity.

So, this week has been full, so what to tell you first. Pope  Benedict XVI was in Edinburgh on Thursday too, and was driven along Princes Street in the Popemobile on his way to lunch with the local Cardinal.  He’d have gone past Register House, but I didn’t go out to see him.  I was meeting a cousin from Dundee for lunch so didn’t want to lose precious research time! There were plenty of people out there though, using the front steps of the building as a vantage point.   

my apples I’ve been picking apples in my garden this week!  When I got back from Mull I found branches of the tree just about bent double, weighted down by  the fruit and blown by the strong winds .  The apples are beautiful and they taste wonderful as eaters or cookers!  I anticipate a few apple crumbles or apple fools over the winter!peacock butterfly

Then I saw this Peacock butterfly taking a rest in the garden.  His colours and markings are quite spectacular.  Isn’t nature wonderful!

my Peugeot 107



I promised Mary a few photos of my new car!  my puggetWhat do you think Mary?




I like the one below!  pugget faceCan you see the face?  Two eyes, nose, big grinning mouth, even two little ears!  It’s a nice car to drive on the whole, though I have one or two – no, three – little niggles about it.  I’m thinking of writing to Peugeot to point them out as I think they could be fixed quite easily in another model, and they would really make a big difference!!!!

haining tree face Talking of faces….. here’s another one….. a tree that reminds me of Homer Simpson!  homerMorag and I went to Selkirk for a run out in the car and after we’d had lunch and browsed some shops she brought me to what I think is Selkirk’s best kept secret!  haining with Morag

It’s an old estate that was left to the town when the man who lived in the “Big House” died recently.  The Homer tree was one we encountered on our walk round the loch..  misc ffrom wk aftr mod 073

Unfortunately the old Palladian mansion itself, dated MDXXCXV 1795 , is in a very bad state of repair, so I do hope something can be done to save it from ruin!  haining house back

 haining loch by luckybry



The back of the house overlooks the loch we walked round.  It is so gorgeous!  (This photo is courtesy of luckybri, and can be found on flickr.com)  The rest are mine.   There aren’t many spots where you can see right out onto the loch, but I liked the reeds and leaves around the edges, with the sun shining through. haining reflections  haining loch3





haining horse chestnut tree The leaves are subtly beginning  to change colour now and I think we may have a very colourful lead up to winter in due course.  Not that I like to think of winter right now!   I’m still wondering where summer went?  I suppose there are remnants of it still, if you look hard.

 Dirleton gardensThese were taken yesterday when Linda and I went out for a run in the car.Dirleton 001






There was a little warmth in the air, but the air was clear and the sun bright!  Edinburgh and sun rays This picture is looking over to Edinburgh late in the afternoon, with Arthur Seat prominent in the centre.  The sun was shining there, but nearer us were the sun’s rays streaming down through the clouds.  It was very beautiful.

Talk again soon.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

More from Mull

I hope you enjoyed listening to the two of our efforts in Gaelic choral singing in my last entry!  We have a lot of work still to do on both songs, and at choir practice last night we worked all evening on the third song which was too awful to put on U-tube, apparently!!!

tobermory c.1900Anyway, the Cludgie Sessions on Saturday afternoon, as that practice was later dubbed, were our last  before we had to make our way to the Aros Halls to do the thing for real in front of an audience and the adjudicators. The building to the left of the church railings is the hall in about 1900.  Not a great deal has changed here, but there was another church built on the other side of it at some point! 

We had quite a lot of hanging around to do, as we were passed from one hall to another to another, before we finally reached the stage where we were singing.  There weren’t that many people in the audience, and the  adjudicators were hidden from view so it felt less nerve wracking than it will do in Caithness next month!  We sang the first song, and waited for the bell to ring to signal that we could go on to the next one.  When it came we were amused to hear it being spoken – ting a ling a ling -  by one of our adjudicators !  Who lost the bell then?  It lightened the mood as we launched into the second song.  The third song eventually over and relief on Jackie our conductor’s face, we plodded off stage again and downstairs to collect our raincoats and umbrellas again .  The results and adjudications would be given out later so as going into the hall to listen to the next choirs was not allowed, we were free for the time being. 

using the foot plough 1890s maybe Rena and I took a walk along to the little local museum where we found out a bit about the history of Tobermory, and Mull in general.  That was very interesting.   I took a few photos here, this one being of a picture of ayoung man and woman of maybe the 1890s, working in a field, he using a foot plough to make the furrows he would later plant.  A hard life in those days!the kitchen  We really don’t know we are born today! 

Cooking was done over a peat fire, the peat blocks having been cut by hand with an instrument not unlike the one the fellow in the above picture is using; left to dry; carried back to the house and stacked ready for the next year’s use. The notice at the back of this mock up fireplace tells us that the iron swee, a lowland invention, and chains were made by the local smith and the thickness of the iron indicated how much the buyer could afford to pay.   There was so much more to see .  I recommend a visit if you are in the area.  It’s free too!

tobermory, macdonald arms As we walked back, we found a ceilidh going on in one of the pubs!  Members of our group were there, singing heartily! tobermory, macdonald arms2


What I found quite extraordinary was that the group of young lads sitting with their pints of beer, were just as happy to join in the singing – in Gaelic – and one actually sang solo for us!

Later that evening, Rena and I decided to go to the final concert featuring the prizewinners of the weekend’s competitions.  We still didn’t know what marks we had got but knew we weren’t going to win anything!  renate and her bandThe concert was very enjoyable and gradually more and more of our group came along to listen, and to join in the dancing.  Renate, and her band were competition winners, the surprise being that she is German.  She was a recent member of our choir so was well known by our group of course.   tobermory.hildeWe also have a Dutch lady in the choir, the lovely Hilde, who achieved a Silver card for her command of the Gaelic language this year!  Three others achieved bronze status.  How pleased were they!!!   The prize-winning choir – which was Taynuilt, from near Oban – had already left for home, presumably only being over for just the day, so much later in the evening  any and all choir singers were invited to go up on the floor for a bit of “choir nonsense” which was just what it turned out to be, none of us knowing all the words of all the songs.  We just la-la-la’d along to tunes we recognised, but the audience loved it and it was fun! 

So, Sunday morning saw everyone departing for home.  en route to craignure Rena and I headed for the ferry leaving Craignure at 1.00.  craignure.lyall, martin shera hillde



Here are a few of our folk enjoying the sunshine as we waited for the boat to arrive.craignure oban ferry

Here she is – “The Isle of Mull” .




Back to Oban we sailed, passing the imposing 13th century Castle Duart, home of the chief of the McLean clan, on its rocky outcrop, on the southern end of Mull.

canoes at connel Our journey home was leisurely with again some stops for refreshment and photos!      We crossed the Connel Bridge just to take a look at the Falls of Lora from the opposite side – those white water canoeists were out again -  and watched a black labrador haconnel dogving fun swimming for thrown sticks……. 

connel dog3



then shaking the water from his coat…. 

pass of brander lkng back

Looking back, this is the Pass of Brander from the car park of the Cruachan Power Station visitor Centre.  When I was growing up this road was being improved, so I remember lots of roadworks, traffic lights and traffic holdups!  Now it is a wider road than my grandfather could have ever imagined as he drove on the narrow track through the Pass in the 1920s and 30s.  I should imagine it would have been fairly hair raising in those days, but now the road traverses the water on stilts.  Wonder what grandfaither would have thought about that!  cruachan visitor centre He’d have been amazed at the power station too, inside a mountain that he and my dad had climbed on various occasions!  – the hollow mountain, it is nicknamed – and you would never know the power station was there. 

Loch Awe kilchurn2A little further along the road is Loch Awe village, where we took photos of  Kilchurn Castle. kilchurn


loch awe hotel

In grandfaither’s day there were steamers on the loch, bringing visitors to the Victorian Loch Awe hotel.  Quite a striking looking building!  The railway line runs right by the foot of it.  Recently the old station here was reopened, but I suspect the visitors are far fewer than in Victoria’s time.  Imagine arriving by steamer, staying the night in the hotel then continuing your journey north by steam train!  Mmmmm!  I like that thought!

Well, time was getting on and we suddenly realised we had better scoot a bit faster down the road, so apart from a stop for tea later, that was our last photo opportunity!

What a weekend!  I think I’ve just about come down to earth again now.

Talk again soon.