Wednesday, 31 October 2007

EDINBURGH

Sir Walter Scott seated within the Scott Monumnet, Princes Street.

And directly below are the steps into the Princes Street Gardens.

One of the best kept secrets of Edinburgh.

Edinburgh Castle as taken from the National Gallery, Princes Street, 4 pm end of October.

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

THE WIND'YS ARE LUVELY

A funny thing happened on the way to the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh today. I stepped off the bus and was admiring this lovely building 2 doors along from the bus station. It is the Royal Bank of Scotland which was formerly a Big Hoose built in 1727. It was a glorious autumn day and I wanted to take a photo. With my eye on the flag-pole (centre) I patiently waited, looking through the camera lens for the 'moment' when the RBS blue and white flag would catch the breeze and unfurl.

Just then, a wee woman passing by tapped me on the shoulder saying "Lady, you better look out!" as there was a large truck heading towards where I was standing in the gated entrance.

Well, we fell into conversation which is actually a very Glasgow thing, if I may say. Wouldn't you know it she was a Glasgow wifey who now lives just south of the Edinburgh "Da Vinci Country" (meaning Rosslyn). Her Glasgow chat was, of course, a delight.

Next door to the bank and opposite us was Harvey Nichols department store (below) with its beautifully dressed (read 'expensive') window displays.


Her philosophy regarding life in Edinburgh and environs as compared to Glasgow was reflected (oops ... a pun...) in her summary of what we were both looking at: "The wind'ys are luvely but I wouldny gie much for what's inside"!!!

If there is one thing Edinburgh has a plenty of it's wind'ys! Must visit again and do some more of this! Maybe I'll even meet 'herself' again!


And lastly, back to the beginning - St Andrews Square - before catching the bus.

Sunday, 28 October 2007

PLUM PUDDING

The clocks went back today. So the challenge is: what to do with the extra hour? Go back to bed with a cup of tea and the newspaper? Get an extra hour's weeding done in the garden? Join a neighbour for a cuppa at 4 pm? Or put the Christmas pudding (actually 2 bowls of) in the pressure cooker in readiness for the gathering of the clan this year?


The answer is: all of these! In the porch is the big crockery bowl containing all the ingredients for the pud.


The recipe is posted on the weblog of Cornflower. Many thanks! It calls for a fruit I had never heard of - D'Agen Prunes. They are French and absolutely lovely!


The last of the packet as seen in my mother's 1940s little 'bridge dish'.

Saturday, 27 October 2007

COOKIE GUISE

It is coming up for Hallowe'een when the guisers come to the door for their treats after saying their party-piece.

Here is a 'party-piece' in the form of an urban myth (in yet another 'guise') which is doing the rounds just now. It made me laugh! One should just leave it at that, of course but it shows how we all like to be on the side of David when there is a Goliath to be brought down.

The Neiman-Marcus Cookie Story*

My daughter and I had just finished a salad at Neiman-Marcus Cafe in when decided to have a small dessert. Because both of us are such cookie lovers we decided to try the Neiman-Marcus Cookie. It was so excellent that I asked if they would give me the recipe and the waitress said with a small frown, "I'm afraid not." "Well" I said, "would you let me buy the recipe?" She said, "Yes." I asked how much, and she responded, "Only two fifty." "Just add it to my tab."

Thirty days later, I received my VISA statement and it was $285.00! I glanced at the bottom of the statement where it said: Cookie Recipe $250.00.
"That's outrageous!" I called Neiman's Accounting Deptartment and told them the waitress said it was "two-fifty" which clearly does not mean "two hundred and fifty dollars" by any interpretation of the phrase. Neiman-Marcus refused to budge. Basically it was "Do what you want ... we're not refunding your money."

"Okay, you folks got my $250, and now I'm going to have $250.00 worth of fun."
I told her that I was going to see to it that every cookie lover with an e-mail account has a $250.00 cookie recipe from Neiman-Marcus for free. She replied," I wish you wouldn't do that."

And the various forms of this story end with : This is a true story. Pass it on.

How these things get going and how they recur through the years in their various guises is told here.


Oh ... the recipe? Nieman-Marcus give it out for free here.

_____________________________________________________
* a colation of various versions on the web
Photo 'For the Cookie Monster' by Catherine Loh. Permission given.


Friday, 26 October 2007

JOHN'S MANY ROLES

The photographer ...

On the Wirral 1

On the Wirral 2

And then at the receiving end of the camera.

Monday, 22 October 2007

Sunday, 21 October 2007

TWO LITTLE LADIES


Ladybird by Dave Genny




Wee Ish, now 9 1/2 months



PACIFIC NORTHWEST ABOARD M.V. AURORA EXPLORER- Final: The Best View is Looking Back



Bill with his early morning coffee.


Desolation Sound, named by Capt Vancouver.



Sadly, for him, it did not lead to the Northwest Passage.

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

PACIFIC NORTHWEST ABOARD M.V. AURORA EXPLORER- Part 6: B.C. Wine

Over the 5 days both passengers and crew enjoyed Shannon's wonderful home cooking! In her spotless galley she was helped by Katherine - both cheery lassies from the local area.

Apparently the owner has a tie-up with Sumac Ridge Winery* so for the whole trip we were served, may I say .... excellent Own Label Merlot and Pinot Blanc wines!

Being a wine drinker in the U.K. and having no less than 5 outlets selling wine within a mile of our house in the suburbs, I am aware that Canadian wine is never on offer for sale. Also when reading or hearing people talk about Wines of the World (I'm now talking of, say, the last 5 years) Canadian wine is simply never on the radar.

However, Jancis Robinson, here, highly respected Master of Wine and world-authority wine writer was addressing this very topic earlier this year. Basically she says ""Canadian wine? Accept with curiosity" !

In an article by a Canadian freelance wine writer** in GoodDrink, January 19, 2007, entitled Jancis Robinson Helps Soothe Canadian Wine's Inferiority Complex, here, Sumac Ridge gets high praise.


Here are some relevant excerpts from the full GoodDrink article:

"Why is it human nature to worry so much about what others think of us? This happens in the wine world too, as up and coming regions look for endorsement, not just from consumers, but also from the heavy hitters in the industry. There are only a handful of world famous wine celebrities whose positive review of a wine, even if it’s a mere mention, can send sales skyrocketing, and thus prices and profit for the winery.

One is busy British wine journalist Jancis Robinson, best known, perhaps, as the author of the Oxford Companion to Wine.

The Canadian wine industry is currently abuzz due to a Jan 13, 2007 article in the Financial Times, and reviews posted on Jancis's "Purple Pages" (you must pay to read those), that dealt 100% with Canadian wines.

"Canadian wine? Accept with curiosity" was the title of the published article, and, as a legion of Canadian winemakers breathed a sigh of relief, her assessment was largely complimentary.

Jancis tasted over 70 good quality wines, from coast to coast. One of my personal picks that she loved was a 2003 Sumac Ridge White Meritage from BC, which she scored 16.5/20, a very high score for Jancis. We can buy the 2004 (600240, $19.99), which is a nice, rich but balanced blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon, with some oak treatment. It is reminiscent of premium white Bordeaux.

There's no doubt that positive press from a writer of Robinson's pedigree bodes well for the future of our relatively fledgling industry...."

____________________________________________________

*Sumac Ridge Wines, located in Summerland, B.C., has a website here.
** "The Wine Guy on CBC Shift"

PACIFIC NORTHWEST ABOARD M.V. AURORA EXPLORER- Part 5: Eagle Eyes

* * * * * What are we watching? * * * * * *
















Barbara, Bill and Dick

















Sue and Diane



This!

________________________________________
Source of Eagle photo - Gregor; thereafter, unknown.

Sunday, 14 October 2007

PACIFIC NORTHWEST ABOARD M.V. AURORA EXPLORER- Part 4: Ship's Library

By shear coincidence today - out for a walk with all the neighbours on a rather dull, but not cold, Sunday - I had the occasion to mention something I came across in this little ship's library. There were 2 well-stocked bookcases with a variety of books which had been left or given by previous passengers. And there were reference books, like the big Oxford Dictionary.

I came across a book of sea-faring poetry and spent one jet-lagged night reading it in my bunk. In it was a familiar friend: The Rime of the Ancient Mariner!!

I read it from end to end, or should I say pole to pole*, re-visiting those chunks that I had to learn off-by-heart at school. Heavens! Do they still do that these days?

This visit down memory lane all started when Peter asked (when talking about the Equator and its association with the albatross): "How does The Ancient Mariner start?"

I found I could quote the bits I learned as a 14 year old but was unaware of how it started. So no prizes for me. However, it sent me to the bookcase ... only to find we do not own a book with that in it. And, incidently, the poetry books we did have all were indexed by ... wait for it ... the first line!

First the good bits, then the answer to the puzzle:


And now there came both mist and snow
And it grew wondrous cold:
And ice, mast-high, came floating by,
As green as emerald.

And through the drifts the snowy clifts
Did send a dismal sheen:
Nor shapes of men nor beasts we ken -
The ice was all between.

The ice was here, the ice was there,
The ice was all around:
It cracked and growled, and roared and howled,
Like noises in a swound!

The Sun now rose upon the right:
Out of the sea came he,
Still hid in mist, and on the left
Went down into the sea.


Down dropt the breeze, the sails dropt down,
Twas sad as sad could be;
And we did speak only to break
The silence of the sea!

All in a hot and copper sky,
The bloody Sun, at noon,
Right up above the mast did stand,
No bigger than the Moon.

Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, nor breath nor motion;
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean.

Water, water, everywhere,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, everywhere,
Nor any drop to drink.


* * * * * * * And how does it start? * * * * * * * *

It is an ancient mariner,
And he stoppeth one of three ....

______________________________________________________
* Oh sleep! it is a gentle thing,
Beloved from pole to pole!
(Part V)

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 1798.

PACIFIC NORTHWEST ABOARD M.V. AURORA EXPLORER- Part 3: Pickaroon

During an evening of Trivial Pursuit it was suggested that we turn the game around and play in the opposite way, i.e. give the answer and try and figure out the question.


After spending the day watching men working on log booms with their long poles manouevring them into position, a word from long ago popped into my head.


I started: "The answer is 'Pickaroon'."

Neither crew nor passengers had ever heard the word! Nothing in the dictionary.... But I knew for certain that I knew it and I thought it was the long (ish) pole that loggers used to work, indeed, roll, the logs when walking along them within the boom.

Wrong ...

Over the weeks I continued to ask locals about the word. "No. Never heard of it." Then over dinner with my brother he put me right. Yes, he knew the word and yes, my father had used one (and that's how I came to have it in my file of useless information!)

First of all, a pickaroon is a tool which looks like an axe but has a special head on it. It is a one-piece head with a 5" hook and 34" handle and used by loggers, millworkers, rail workers to manoeuvre logs on land.

This photo is from here.

So why would I possibly have that word in my vocabulary?! I was reminded by my brother that my father, who started a haulage business in central B.C. in the 1940s, used to store (and deliver) big blocks of ice. This is when people used 'ice-boxes' for keeping food cool. I used to play in the ice house where these blocks were piled and where the Federated Co-op Mill (at Canoe) shavings were used to insulate the layers. A pickaroon was what he used to work with the ice blocks just as a railway worker used the same tool to work with railway ties.

So that is the story.

For the record: the tool normally used by workers on log booms is a peavey. (Observation: everyone is familiar with that word.) Also, a cant hook is like a peavey but has a toe-ring at the end instead of a pike. (Photo showing both is here)

A real bit of trivia from a fun game!



Thursday, 11 October 2007

PACIFIC NORTHWEST ABOARD M.V. AURORA EXPLORER- Part 2: Gardylogs!!!

To feed the voracious appetite of the housing industry timber is needed. (Price is falling.) Going in and out of the the fjord-like inlets of this part of the B.C. coast it is possible to see the scale of logging or 'harvesting'. Fresh-cut logs are brought out of the forest by truck or helicopter and gathered in log booms at various points along the coast.

To feed the voracious appetite of the logging industry diesel is needed. (Price is rising.) One of the deliveries in a long day was diesel for the logging company. The big fuel hose was trundled ashore and placed in the diesel tank at the top of the site.

This log dump was a hive of activity as logging trucks regularly arrived with 'food' for the sawmills. The log loader (orange and turquoise) quickly and with great dexterity moved logs from the truck and stacked them on a 'crib', i.e. a base with 2 metal poles along the seaward side which were at right angles to the log pile. Once the pile was high enough the 'crib side' holding them in place was dropped and they slid down the steep skid-way .... kersplash .... into the water.

I felt like shouting "Gardyloo!" This word is a corruption, actually an Anglicization, of the French "gardez l'eau" which was the cry of Edinburgh folk to warn pedestrians below when slops (i.e. 'night soil') from upstairs windows were about to be thrown into the street.)




What about "Gardylogs!" ?

PACIFIC NORTHWEST ABOARD M.V. AURORA EXPLORER- Part 1: History

This week there has been television coverage of the melting of the Arctic ice cap highlighting the fact that a navigable waterway - historically thought to connect the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans - is now opening up.

Search for 'The Northwest Passage' led many countries to send out ships which charted the North American coast. In the late 18th century, Captain George Vancouver was directed by the British government to search for it and also collect information about the fur trade.

Vancouver's most famous voyage was the 1791-1795 expedition to explore the west coast of North America. It is in this particular area (where Vancouver spent several years) we spent 5 days aboard a landing craft called the M. V. Aurora Explorer.

The organisation who run this trip have a comprehensive website here.


This is the vessel. She is a working commerical barge carrying 5 crew and 12 passengers.

And this is the geography:


From 1792 to 1794 Vancouver and his men spent three summers on the coast. While their ship, the Discovery, waited offshore, they used smaller rowboats to look into every cove and inlet. Detailed surveys were done in these small boats then a composite map was put together. And, as the rocks don't move, it has been shown that these early charts were very well done!

Here is an interactive site of Vancouver's exploration which was done for this year's 250th anniversary. (Apparently, it is 250 years since the birth of Captain George Vancouver, in England.)

Vancouver's surveys proved, once and for all, that the 'Northwest Passage' did not exist within the vast extent of coastline he had examined. However, in the process he named around 400 Pacific Northwest landmarks. He also strengthened British claims to the territory and left behind detailed records of the coastline for later navigators.

Finally, it was on the basis of Vancouver's work that the claim to the Northwest Coast as a British Possession was based.

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

WHERE'S YOUR TURNER THE NOO?

Evening in mid-July moored in Kirkwall Harbour, Orkney. View is facing towards the town, i.e. eastwards.


The light is going. Same position but facing westwards looking on to the harbour wall and out to sea.



And the same.