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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!

Wednesday, 30 March 2011


Talk about confused!  I am sitting here listening to seagulls squawking loudly outside my window.  You’d think I was at the seaside – but no, I’m in Peebles, about half way between east and west coasts!  When I was a kid we were always told that there were storms at sea when the gulls came inland – and that was in Edinburgh which wasn’t that far from the sea.  However we often do seem to have gulls flying around over the river here though I’m not generally aware of the sounds I am hearing  today!

marion scott janet ray It was the same feeling of confused I had last night as I joined Janet, her husband, birthday boy Ray – 70 yesterday – and friends Marion and Scott, at North Berwick for a celebration dinner.  Janet is an old school friend – less of the old, I can hear her saying, especially considering she was the youngest of the group last night.  ray janet She met Ray in Darlington in the north of England, which was where I also first met him, as they were living there when I was in the Dales.  They moved to Inverness about 25 years ago, and since I too moved back to Scotland I have seen them loads of times up there.  Scott and Marion live in Inverness too, so seeing them all in North Berwick which is on the coast and about halfway between Inverness and Darlington, got me quite confused.  Where was I?  Inverness?  Darlington? Certainly not Peebles, as I’d driven up there  for the evening.   We had a lovely dinner at the Marine Hotel where they were all staying, and it was a bit of a thought to have to drive home again later – takes just over an hour.

Before it got dark we could look across the Firth of Forth to Fife and east to the Bass Rock off the coast just beyond the town.  I tried out the zoom on my newish camera and was amazed! 

river birthdays etc 106 On the right is the view from the hotel looking towards the Bass (rhymes with lass), that small lump in the sea just to the right of centre of the photo, river birthdays etc 107 and this was the Bass with full zoom!  Not a clear picture without a tripod to steady it but pretty stunning, eh?  As it grew dark the lights of the small towns on the Fife coast came on, twinkling in the distance beyond the dark expanse of water that is the mouth of the River Forth.  It’s very beautiful!

On Saturday night I was just a bit further west along the coast, celebrating Edwina’s 60th birthday.  She went to school in North Berwick, though living nearer to Gullane.  Ween and I have also been friends for years, having first met in Edinburgh’s Waverley Bar which we both frequented for the folk music.  When she got married to Barney from the south of England and went to live down there, we still kept in touch, and met up on occasions when they came north to visit her sister, Jean, or I went south to see them.   She decided to have her “special” birthday in Scotland with family and friends, so there were 14 of us at dinner in the Castle Inn in Dirleton.  Riotous!  What fun! sheila christine edwina

Here’s Edwina (right) with two of her school friends, Christine and Sheila.  Afterwards, back at Jean’s, Edwina’s  main birthday present – a Wii – was set up and we played tennis and ten pin bowling on  it till the small hours!   It was the night the clocks were put forward for daylight saving so three o’clock in the morning became 4.00 before we all headed to our beds!  It was a late rise the next morning, with a few sore heads – not mine, despite the wine the night before – jean edwina but  later Jean, Edwina and I had a walk round the garden,  willow and cherry blossomwatched Willow the cat playing amongst the plants,edwina and the birds 





fed the cockatiels….joe

These are Joe

and Sunny….sunnyandedwina and the wii managed to explore the Wii some more, trying out baseball, golf, boxing – that was a hoot – archery, table tennis……   I got home to Peebles just after midnight on Monday morning, after a great weekend!

The third  - or rather the first – birthday celebration had been Morag’s on Friday when three of us had a girls’ night out, to a restaurant in West Linton, not too far from Peebles.  The Old Bakehouse has been a tearoom and restaurant for years and years in various owners’ hands, and as the name suggests was originally the village bakery.  In the main restaurant the old ovens still remain and various pieces of bakery apparatus adorn the walls and ceiling.  morag Here’s Morag.  She had celebrated her actual birthday with her husband the day before and last weekend had had a surprise gathering with lots of her family, including Sandy, her youngest sister, who had come up from London, and Ness, her 92 year-old mum.  I think by Friday she’d already had 6 birthday cakes!

So now things are back to normal, and I think I have a few bits of blog to catch up with from before the birthdays!  So that will be the next posting. 

Talk again soon.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Coming home

Leaving Inverness on the Monday, I decided to drive out to Cawdor to visit Joan, one of the “lace ladies” who goes to Knoydart each year.  We had a cup of coffee together and caught up with some news before she had to go dog walking for a neighbour and I had to get on the road home.  A back road in Moray It was too nice a day  to hurry, so I took some of the small roads south, through some pretty scenery, with eventual views of the Cairngorm group of mountains, still with some snow on, as we had seen the day before.  (The next day apparently, there was another big snow fall, so the ski-ing would be even better at Cairngorm).   Dulsie Bridge 1755 I stopped at Dulsie Bridge, having driven across the Bridge before but never having seen it, and took the short walk  to the view point.  The present bridge was built in 1755, probably to replace an even older bridge and sits high over gorge of the River Findhorn.  the kingshouse dulsie Looking down on it is the old King’s House Inn, now a farmhouse, where Robert Burns is known to have spent a night on his tour of Scotland in 1787.

carr bridge



Leaving there I continued on my way to Carrbridge where the arch, all that remains of the old bridge over the river Dulnain after some extreme flooding back in the early 18oos, stands just to the side of the present road bridge.  carrbridge The old bridge had been built originally as a coffin way in 1717, and served as a route over the river when it was in spate.

going south from carrbridge




My journey continued down todistant cairngorms Aviemore


with some beautiful views of the countryside en route, and I turned up the road to the ski centre,

across loch morlich



  stopping by Loch Morlich to eat a very late “picnic” lunch bought in Carrbridge.  Here I could look across at Cairngorm and see where we had been the day before.

Eventually I got back to the A9, the main trunk road from north to south – not my favourite road, but the best way to continue the journey.  I by-passed Pitlochry this time and drove on to reach the Forth Road Bridge with the fabulous and famous Forth Bridge - the railway bridge – crossing alongside it.  Between the two on the southern shore , is the ancient interesting fishing village of Queensferry, but today I would miss it out and continue to the Edinburgh city by-pass, picking up the road to Peebles at its most southern point.

There’s a point on the road home where you drive round a right hand bend and suddenly the outlook of the southern highlands is spread in front of you.  I just love that view, and one of these days I must get a photo of it.  It means I’m home – well almost!  Just a few more miles and the parish church tower comes into view, still quite small in the distance, and then suddenly you are entering between the 30mile an hour speed limits of the town.  Home!  Always good to get back from wherever in the world you have been, and after however long a time you’ve been away – a day or a week – or even more!

Talk again soon.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Barra Airport

Here's another piece of film for you, again found on my Yahoo page. It's a film showing one of "the world's scariest airports" as the plane arrives at and later taxis and takes off from An tràigh Mhòr on the island of Barra, in the Western Isles of Scotland. An tràigh mhòr is Gaelic for the big beach, and indeed the plane does land and take off here, as you will see. I think it is one of the world's most beautiful airports. Before the plane arrives, just listen to the skylarks singing. Sublime! It was here, as a small child, that I had my very first contact with an aeroplane! Oh, I'd been to Edinburgh airport dozens of times but I had never been on a plane. However, on holiday there with mother and dad, I was allowed to carry a bag on to the wee plane for someone we had met while staying there. My first time on a plane - even if I wasn't flying! You couldn't get to do that nowadays!
Anyway see it for yourself now - Barra airport....

Talk again soon.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Still at Inverness

Just before I take you on the  trip we took on the Sunday, here are two/three pictures from Janet’s phone of the gig at Cromarty.  Thanks Janet!   Angie Palmer, from Preston I believe, but now living in France, is a singer/songwriter who puts a lot of effort and feeling into her songs.  The StageShe plays guitar, and was accompanied  last weekend by Billy Brockley, “whose mother calls him Steven”, on guitar and steel guitar. Bob Harris on Radio 2 rates her highly,so that was good enough for me.    Here, the stage is set!

Billy Brockley and Angie Palmer


And now,  here are Billy and Angie making use of the equipment thereon!  Fabulous!  If the place had been bigger I’m sure a lot of us would have been up dancing, but as it was, a good few people were jigging in their seats – including me! 

Angie PalmerOne more photo from the mobile phone and then we move on.

So, our trip on Sunday took us down the A9 again, to the highland village of Aviemore, where we had lunch, cairngorm



and from there up the Coylumbridge road to the carpark for the ski lifts and funicular railway – the Funny Colour railway, as Janet and Ray have nicknamed it – on Cairngorm, the mountain.  We weren’t there to join all the skiers and snowboarders who were wrapped up in their winter gear, but we were bound for the Funicular all the same.  You can see the route from the carpark in the centre of the above shot going up to the horizon on the left of the photo.funicular train

A train was due to leave shortly so we bought our tickets and headed up the steps to board.  Soon we were off up the hillfunicular track




lski stuffooking out at the  skiers, and the ski tows as we climbed.   The highest point the railway reaches is the Ptarmigan restaurant, at 1097 metres, where we made for the hot chocolate, and the views!  800px-Rock_Ptarmigan_%28Lagopus_Muta%29


A ptarmigan, by the way, is a game bird  found in the hills here.

view fom ptarmigan


The view looking down the way we had come was pretty good!  Could have been clearer, but was still beautiful!  Just to the left of the central hillock is Loch Morlich, of which, more next time.  Then there were the skiersskiers2 , and the snowboarders fixing their boards on,snowboards




ski slopes1

and the caterpillar vehicle that cleaned and smoothed the slopes, probably shovelling snow on to the pistes, and what looked like a mountain rescue sledge.  Was there going to be a practice rescue?  There was no urgency so it can’t have been the real thing. 

on the way down The light was beginning to go as we caught the last train down the hill again.  It’s a very smooth ride!   At the half way point the track divides to allow the up-train to passpassing place


This one wouldn’t be coming back down till the restaurant staff came down later.  Note there is no-one driving the up-train!  It was controlled by our driver, because of course when one goes down, the other has to go up. janet and raySo, just before I finish off for today, just one last photo – Janet and Ray on the train coming down.  Soon we were back at the carpark, and with a last look around at all the skiers, ski-ing on into the evening, we jumped into the car and headed home  to Inverness , for a glass or two of wine and an evening of Scrabble.  Janet will no doubt comment here – but I did beat her in one game!

Talk again soon.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

How to fold a t-shirt in 2 seconds!

Just the bit of film for me! Found this on my Yahoo page today. Thought I'd share it!

Have fun learning the technique!
Talk again soon.

Saturday, 19 March 2011


Actually, before I tell you about Sunday’s jaunt, I want to put in a few photos I forgot about while telling you about the visit to Portknockie.  ptk bow fiddle rock from beach When we first arrived there we followed signs to the local landmark – the Bow Fiddle Rock, one of several rock stacks jutting out of the sea at the edge of the village.  ptk stacks



The coastal scenery is beautiful and walks along the cliffs pretty stunning with plenty of seabirds flying round ptk seabirdsor resting on the rocks, squawking loudly.  It’s quite an emotive sound, I think.   Here’s a closer view of Bow Fiddle.  I have heard that at a very rare low enough tide it is possible to access the rock and climb to the top!. ptk bow fiddle rock Quite something! Back on the shore line there are caves to explore, some with surprising views right through to the sea. ptk caves 



I wasn’t going any further through this one as it was a fairly steep descent to the sea and with my terrible balance I didn’t want to risk ending up sliding or even falling right down.   If I’d had a walking pole though…..!   That’s my shadow from the sun behind me as I leaned down to get a better view!   ptk caveThese rocks must be the result of an immense geological thrust millions of years ago  to lie at the angle they do now.

This cave is accessible at low tide, and probably extends quite far into the cliff.  A climb up the rock behind me would take you to a little opening that could be crawled through to go who knows how much further – not an escapade for the foolhardy!  I wonder if the sea thunders into this cave at high tide, or if there are any holes in the roof where the water spouts out.  That would be pretty impressive!  I am sure there must be some blowholes somewhere along here.  Quite some coastline!

Take a look at the website here, and go to the gallery where there are some spectacular stormy photos around Portknockie harbour area and the Bow Fiddle.

Talk again soon.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Inverness – not that I saw a lot of it!

along the A9

On the road north

My weekend visiting Janet and Ray in Inverness, or Snecky as a native friend calls it, was great.  It’s always good to see the pair of them, and they generally take me out for a run in the car one day of my visit.  This time we were out on Saturday and Sunday.  Saturday’s expedition followed the question Is it far to Portknockie?  Ancestors on mother’s side of the family came from this fishing village of the north-east of Scotland, and I was interested in going there sometime.  There were two families, both big names in the village apparently, lots of intermarrying between cousins, so a bit difficult to sort out on the family tree, but I have done my best.  Even since coming home I have made contact with some present day connections, some pretty distant – I’m talking about 8th cousins in one case at least - but they are still cousins nonetheless!

Well, the answer to my original question about how far it was to Portknockie, was Not that far.  It’s a nice run out! which was how we arrived eventually at Cullen in time for lunch.  cullen cottages Cullen is probably the main town in the area, only a mile or so from Portknockie, and another fishing town.  The railway arrived in 1886, via amazing viaducts, as the Countess of Seafield would not allow the line to cross her estate.  cullen Today the line is a cycleway as in so many cases the old railway routes were closed in the early 1960s – the cutbacks of the day.cullen viaduct




You can see the rest of the arches of the viaduct on the left of the photo here.  We got chips (fries) from the chippie near the big bridge over the road, and took them down to the beach to sit – in the car – and watch the waves while we ate.cullen waves   I do love the sea.  Maybe it’s been passed down in the genes from the seafaring ancestors, the fishermen of Portknockie.  cullen boys



We weren’t the only folk around the beach and I enjoyed watching the antics of these two wee boys as they got as far up to the sea as they could then ran back over the stones to avoid the incoming waves!  I think a lot of us can say – Been there!  Done that! cullen harbour buildings Good fun!

Our view round the bay stretched from the harbour and lower part of the town to our right, nestling in below the cliffs, to the  headland, above which is Portknockie.  You can see it in the photo below – two photos stitched together, in fact.  (Clever stuff!  I like this facility on my computer software.) cullen bayI took a short walk along the beach and enjoyed the wind in my face – not too strong, and very pleasant!  cullen breakersThe waves and breakers were not quite big enough for surfers but pretty impressive all the same.

Soon we were off to Portknockie  to be welcomed by the sign ptk signthat reminded us this

is an ancient fishing village .  It’s motto appears to be  “Aye afloat”, presumably referring to the boats that worked from here rather than to the village itself!

  ptk cottages As in Cullen and the other fishing villages the cottages have mainly been built in rows with their gables facing the sea and presumably the prevailing weather.  Winter storms would be better battering the gables than the fronts of the houses.  I know some of  my ancestors lived at what was once 202 Portknockie, in the days before streets got names, but as yet am not sure where that would be.  ptk potsI think a few days in the village sometime would be a good idea.   Most of the village appears to be on the cliff top, but again the harbour, of course, nestles beneath.   I was keen to find the cemetery which we did by asking for directions.  “Half way between Portknockie and FinDOCHty” we were told by the woman carefully anunciating the name Findochty.  That’s what’s on the map, but the locals know it as FinECHtie – that ch is like the ch in a Scottish loch (not church), or the German Reich – so she must have been thinking carefully to give us the correct  name!  I think many Scots now recognise the name Finechtie these days!  We do anyway! 

I knew of one grave stone in the cemetery where my great great grandparents are buried, and some of their family are commemorated so I was anxious to find it.  Starting at the older end of the cemetery I walked up and down the rows, but couldn’t find it.  There were lots of familiar surnames, but none I could confidently pin point as my own people.  Well, I did come across one stone though that is sure to commemorate  one or even two of mine though I have no idea which families they belonged to – yet!   ptk woods.mairsThe reason I know is that the fisher families all had nicknames – tee names – and my Wood family had the name King!   Alexander was a name that came down the family too, and Alexina’s husband had the name Mair – the other predominant family on my tree! His mother was probably a Mair.

The other end of the cemetery was mainly newer stones for more recent burials so back I came to the old end again.  Nothing could I find of the stone I was looking for.  I was about to give up and go back to the car, when suddenly I spotted it.  wood mair I had actually walked past it twice already!  It was only a few yards from the gate!Alexander, a boat builder, and his wife Jane were my great great grandparents, and Alexander their son, my great grandfather.  He left Portknockie for South Shields in the northeast of England, married a Geordie widow, had one daughter – grandmother - and died in 1910.Ggf Alex Wood 479x479

I was really pleased to have found the memorial to these members of my family.

This is Alexander junior, in a scrapbook page I made some years ago.

We continued along the coast back towards Inverness, through more of the fishing villages, all built in the same style, but instead of going back home we crossed the Kessock Bridge over the Moray Firth and headed for Cromarty in the Black Isle, the promontary between river mouths – Firths - Moray and Cromarty.  There we had supper in the Old Brewery, now a community centre, and listened to singer songwriter Angie Palmer, and her accompanying guitarist, Bill Brockley.  What a great concert.   I had a chance to speak to her afterwards – and found out she has already sung in Peebles!  I missed her!  I hope the Arts Centre here will get her back  again sometime in the not so distant future.  The battery on my camera had died by this time but Janet got some photos on her mobile phone for me.  Unfortunately she hasn’t sent them, but I hope to get them soon!  I’ll have to remind her!  Janet, if you’re reading this…..

It was late when we got home, buzzing – at least I was - after the great day we’d had.

Next day was Sunday….. but I’ll save that for next time.

Talk again soon.