Scotland

28 day photo challenge – day 1

Four days ago I started a 28 day online writing challenge, which I mentioned at the end of a previous post.

It occurred to me that as well as doing this, I could set myself the additional challenge of finding an appropriate photograph inspired by the topic for each day.

I have a large and not at all well organised image collection, which includes slides and prints as well as digital pictures. For some of the topics it would probably be easier for me to take new photos, but to make it harder for myself I’ve decided that I can only use pictures that already exist.

I’m four days behind at the moment but I hope to catch up and will attempt to post every day until the end of the challenge.

Day one’s writing prompt was: When I was five…

When I was five, in 1977, I don’t think there were any general environmental guidelines for the public about conserving sand dune habitats. I certainly enjoyed launching myself off the top of sand dunes whenever I got the chance.

Me leaping into a sand dune at Port Logan, Scotland, June 1977.

Me leaping into a sand dune at Port Logan, Scotland, June 1977.

Categories: 28 day photo challenge, Photography, Scotland, When I was five | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Hot chocolate and black cows

One of the most delicious drinks I had on holiday in Galloway last week was a hot chocolate. It disappeared down my gullet so fast I didn’t manage to photograph it until halfway through.

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I had this tasty treat at the Gallie Craig restaurant, which is located at the Mull of Galloway, Scotand’s most southerly point.

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Abundant wildflowers beneath a signpost near the Mull of Galloway.

According to the Mull of Galloway website, this spot is one of the UK’s best kept secrets, although you wouldn’t have thought that the afternoon we toddled down there. The place was hotching with tourists.

It was also quite busy with cows.

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As can be seen, the cows were black with glossy coats. Observing them closely, my dear mama was heard to utter the following perspicacious remark: ‘They’re awfully dark, these black ones.’

The delightful beasts were roaming freely across the countryside. As we drove away from the Mull, three of them took it into their heads to progress in our direction on the thin strip of tarmac that constitutes the only road into and out of the area.

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Three awfully dark cows engaging in a bit of friendly banter along the road at the Mull of Galloway, seen through car windscreen.

After a while they wandered off and allowed us to continue on our journey back to the cottage we were staying in.

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View from Willow Cottage, Culmore Bridge, near Sandhead, Galloway.

On a different topic, in the comments section of my last post Cherry mentioned a writing challenge that begins on 1 July. Anyone can sign up for free and all you need is five minutes a day for 28 days.

“You’ll get one prompt to get your writing juices flowing every day for 28 days. The challenge is to write about that topic for 5 minutes…you will get into a healthy habit of writing every day, which is the number one piece of advice in every single book on writing.”

If you fancy joining me and Cherry and the many others taking up the challenge, you can sign up here.

Categories: Cows, Hot chocolate, Mull of Galloway, Photography, Scotland | Tags: , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Scones I have known – no.5

Last week, on holiday in the south-west of Scotland, the delightful assistants and I revisited an eatery that has always come up trumps on the scone front: Woodlea Tearoom in Sandhead.

We arrived at the tearoom shortly after it had opened on Thursday morning, hoping to find that the scones were as good as they’d been in previous years.

As we walked past the counter, which was full of tempting cakes and traybakes, I scanned the shelves carefully and saw not a single scone on offer.

Gripped by anxiety, I accosted a waitress in order to enquire about this state of affairs.

‘We’ve got plain, fruit and cheese. They’re freshly baked, I just haven’t had time to put them out yet.’

This was music to my ears. Not only were there scones, but they were so hot off the presses that they were still resting in the kitchen after coming out of the oven.

We all ordered fruit scones and they were delivered to the table warm and delicious looking. Butter and jam came with them but I shunned these condiments for my first bite, desirous of enveloping myself in the raw pleasure of the unadorned treat.

It was a wise move. The scone was soft, fluffy, packed with sultanas and utterly delicious. My grateful thanks to Woodlea Tearoom for rounding off my holiday with such a top-rate scone.

Scones I have known - no.5: fruit, Woodlea Tearoom in Sandhead, 25 June 2015

Scones I have known – no.5: fruit, Woodlea Tearoom in Sandhead, 25 June 2015

Categories: Fruit scone, Photography, Scones I have known, Scotland | Tags: , , , , , | 15 Comments

Scones I have known – no.4

Scones are mysterious creatures. Because they don’t have the decoration or icing often associated with other baked treats, their generally plain appearance can hide the truth of what lies within.

I don’t know how many times I’ve approached a scone anticipating its probable taste and texture, sometimes not expecting it to be up to much, only to find that it takes me by surprise and often exceeds expectations.

One such scone I remember well was a treacle affair I had in the quiet environs of Whithorn.

Whithorn is a small town in the south-west of Scotland. It’s a former royal burgh and the location of the first recorded Christian church in Scotland (founded by St Ninian around the year 397). Among its modern day charms is the Pilgrim Tearoom, part of the Whithorn Story Visitor Centre. Since I’ll be in that neck of the woods again soon I’m wondering if I might try and relive the excellent experience I had on a previous visit there.

Gazing upon the scone again now it strikes me as a pretty attractive looking item, but at the time my hopes were far from high. I think I was imagining it might be a bit dried out and tasteless. In fact, it was soft, moist and deliciously treacly, and I would be very glad to have another one just like it.

Scones I have known no.4 - treacle, Pilgrim Tearoom in Whithorn, 13 August 2013

Scones I have known – no.4: treacle, Pilgrim Tearoom in Whithorn, 13 August 2013

Categories: Photography, Scones I have known, Scotland, Treacle scone | Tags: , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

5 day challenge: the ravell’d sleeve (5)

Today is the final day of the 5 day challenge and I’m rounding off with a much happier picture than I posted yesterday.

Some of my best childhood memories relate to family camping holidays. My parents had a succession of camper vans and every summer the van was packed up with a tent and our belongings, ready for the next adventure. Some of these trips took us to foreign countries but mostly we stayed in Scotland, frequently bound for the soothing and quiet countryside of the south-west.

Some years ago, in an attempt to relive these happy days, I got myself a small tent. One July morning I stuck it in the car along with a duvet (I find sleeping bags claustrophobic), a stove and various other required items, and drove off towards the south-west coast.

I didn’t go to the old campsite we had patronised when I was a child (which was pretty basic in our day) but instead found one not far away with a large area of flat grassy land and – most importantly for my comfort – a newly equipped shower and toilet block. (I’m not quite a glamper (glamorous camper) but admit I’d probably choose glamping over camping wild).

I arrived on a cloudy but warm and dry afternoon, pitched my tent, and lay down to admire the view from the open flap.

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Knitting up the ravell’d sleeve of care al fresco, Galloway, July 2010.

Throughout my life this quiet area of Scotland has been a refuge from the cares and worries of normal existence. I still take holidays there every year, although generally in a self-catering cottage rather than a tent. Tomorrow the delightful assistants and I will be scooting off there for a week’s repose and I’m already looking forward to the many tearoom treats awaiting us.

Categories: 5 Day Photo Challenge, Photography, Scotland | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 29 Comments

5 day challenge: the ravell’d sleeve (4)

Two days ago I posted about a rather traumatic night when I set fire to my bed. I’m sorry to say that it hasn’t been my only bedtime disaster. I’m beginning to think it might not have been the best idea to theme this challenge with sleeping arrangements.

In 2006 I moved to the city of Aberdeen, where I rented a ground floor flat. One evening I was in the kitchen in my pyjamas preparing a bedtime snack, when I heard an almighty thundering crash. It sounded as if it had come from the flat upstairs, but what had caused it I couldn’t guess.

I left the kitchen and went to my front door. I looked up into the stairwell to the floor above, but there was no sign of any disturbance coming from there. Back in my flat, feeling puzzled and a little shaken by the strangely explosive noise, I opened my bedroom door. Expecting to see my welcoming bed all ready for me to hop back into, I was astonished and horrified by what I saw. The room was littered with dust and debris, including heavy lumps of plaster that had fallen from the ceiling onto my bed.

Plaster fallen onto where I would normally be sleeping!

Knitting up the ravell’d sleeve? Not tonight, missy. Aberdeen, 2006.

Before that night I hadn’t realised old plaster was so thick and heavy. The bits that landed on my bed and floor were like thin slabs of concrete with painted wallpaper stuck to them. If the ceiling had collapsed only a little later it would have fallen directly onto yours truly, no doubt resulting in injuries of some sort.

That night I slept on a makeshift bed fashioned from sofa cushions laid on the floor of the livingroom. I placed these under the dining table due to nervousness about being squashed by the ceiling in the night. I’m pleased to say that the livingroom ceiling remained intact and I moved out of that flat as soon as I could.

Categories: 5 Day Photo Challenge, Aberdeenshire, Photography | Tags: , , , , , | 20 Comments

5 day challenge: the ravell’d sleeve (2)

Today’s photograph in the 5 day challenge tells a cautionary tale.

In 2002 I was renting a small room in a shared flat in the Morningside area of Edinburgh. One evening, while my landlord (who also lived there) was away on holiday, I lit a candle in my bedroom as I sat up in bed to read. Some time later I got up to brush my teeth, preparatory to the night’s slumber. I flung off the duvet cover, hopped out of bed and trotted off to the bathroom.

A couple of minutes later my other flatmate knocked on the bathroom door to say that there appeared to be smoke coming from my bedroom. I went out into the hall and the two of us went to investigate.

When we reached the door there was indeed thick black smoke seeping out from all round the door frame. I pushed open the door and, to my horror, saw a fire engulfing my duvet. Without realising it, when I had jumped out of bed a few minutes earlier I had flipped the duvet into the candle flame.

We closed the door and rang the fire brigade. They came quickly and successfully extinguished the blaze, but not before the entire room had been blackened and everything inside it covered in a thin greasy layer of soot. That night I slept in my landlord’s bed, relieved that he’d been away when I’d set fire to his house. The following day I cleaned the walls of the bedroom and prepared the room for repainting.

A few days later the room was freshly painted in white (which was much nicer than the dark blue it had been originally) and all that remained of the fire was my burnt and buckled belongings and a whiff of smoke.

During their excellent work, the fire brigade had removed my burnt mattress and left it outside in the gutter to be collected by the local Council. It is this reminder of my folly that I have chosen as my photo for day 2 of the 5 day challenge.

Knitting up the ravell’d sleeve (2): a burnt mattress offers no further rest to the weary in an Edinburgh gutter, 2002

Knitting up the ravell’d sleeve (2): a burnt mattress offers no further rest to the weary in an Edinburgh gutter, 2002

This event put me right off candles but I’m sorry to say it wasn’t my last brush with the fire brigade. A few years later, while renting a flat in Aberdeen, I stupidly laid a teacosy on top of a lit hob and wandered off into another room oblivious of what I’d done. When the fire brigade came they gave me a bottle of water and let me sit in the fire engine, which was very exciting.

Categories: 5 Day Photo Challenge, Edinburgh, Photography, Scotland | Tags: , , , , , , | 20 Comments

Scones I have known – no.3

The scone in this post is featured, not because it was amongst the finest scones I’ve ever tasted, but because it came as part of a particularly pleasant package.

The weather in most of Scotland over the past week (with the exception of today) has been unusually summery. A few days ago I whisked the delightful assistants off on a magical mystery tour in search of sunshine and tasty fare. It was hard to tell where the best weather might be, but we headed south with hope in our hearts.

On the way we stopped at a service station, and while we were there I picked up a leaflet about East Lothian. Usually, when we go on little excursions of this sort, I check out beforehand the possible eateries in the area we’re heading to. However, on this occasion I hadn’t had time to do that and I hadn’t actually decided where to go until I started driving. I was relying on somehow finding somewhere nice by sheer chance. As it happened, the luncheon gods were smiling on me.

The leaflet mentioned, amongst many other attractions in East Lothian, a place called Smeaton Nursery Gardens and Tearoom. It sounded appealing and, hoping it would be open and dishing up nourishing treats, we scooted off there post haste.

What we met exceeded our expectations. The sun was beaming down gloriously from a blue sky and the tearoom was very peacefully located down a long driveway next to a walled garden.

What’s more they were serving cream teas at only £6 a head, which was remarkably good value. Both delightful assistant no.1 and I plumped for a cream tea, which consisted of a round of sandwiches of our choice (she chose tuna and cucumber and I went for cheese and tomato), a fruit scone with jam and cream and a large pot of tea (there was so much tea, in fact, that we failed to finish it despite me glugging back about four cupfuls).

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The scones, although satisfyingly large, were somewhat dry, but given the quantity of tea on offer and the toppings provided I didn’t find this to be a problem.

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Scones I have known – no.3: fruit, Smeaton Tearoom, 9 June 2015

Incidentally, thank you to everyone who took part in my Word association post. I’ve written over 2500 words of the story but I’m not even halfway through the list of words I need to incorporate yet. Either I’ll need to do a ruthless editing job or it’s not going to be quite as short a short story as I had anticipated. I hope to post the completed effort before too long.

Categories: Fruit scone, Photography, Scones I have known, Scotland, Smeaton Tearoom | Tags: , , , , | 18 Comments

Scones I have known – no.2

If I were to say to you the words ‘cheese scone’ you might think to yourself ‘Ah yes, I can imagine the sort of thing she means: a scone with cheese in it.’

You’d be quite right, but the scone featured in this post is not just any old scone with cheese in it. The cheese it featured was the locally produced ‘Anster’ variety, which was incorporated alongside other interesting ingredients, such as mustard seeds.

I was fortunate enough to consume this delectable item on the 30th of January 2013 at the Buttercup Cafe in Fife, part of the St Andrew’s Farmhouse Cheese Company.

I remember the occasion well. It was a cold sunny winter’s day and I opted for a bowl of deliciously chunky tomato and vegetable soup, served with a cheese scone. The scone looked tempting and my hopes were high.

When I sank my teeth into its flavoursome fluffiness I was almost overwhelmed by the completeness of the experience. Everything about it exceeded my expectations. I really don’t know when I’ve had a better cheese scone.

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Scones I have known – no.2: cheese, Buttercup Cafe, 30 January 2013

Categories: Buttercup Cafe, Cheese scone, Photography, Scones I have known, Scotland | Tags: , , , , , , , | 25 Comments

Intriguing sights no.8

While driving home from a day out yesterday, the delightful assistants and I were keeping our eyes peeled for a postbox in which we could deposit a birthday card.

Passing through the village of High Valleyfield in Fife, I suddenly spotted the familiar red colour built into a wall by the side of the road and slammed on the brakes.

Delightful Assistant no.2 hopped out of the car with the birthday card and went towards the wall.

Sitting on the ground beneath the postbox was a laminated notice. After reading it he turned back to the car with a smile and the card still in his hand.

On his instruction, I hopped out of the car myself, taking my camera with me.

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The notice reads as follows:

This postbox is not to be used there will be no pick ups from this box due to nesting birds inside. Royal Mail are aware of this situation and doing all we can to help the birds. Until they choose to leave.

I’m glad to say that we found another postbox entirely empty of birds a bit further along the road.

Categories: Intriguing Sights, Photography, Scotland | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

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