Thursday, 31 December 2009

HAPPY NEW YEAR 2009

Time to toast the New Year! We live 4 blocks up the street from this tower. So when the bells go at mid-night I will think of you!


Happy New Year to:

Those of you who follow these musings and meanderings on a more or less regular basis, namely:

[1] my Auntie Mary in Canada
[2] the ladies in southern USA who keep in touch with their comments. (Don't despair if you feel you are not getting through. I do receive the comments but for some reason you are not able to have this confirmed! Resolution for the New Year: figure this one out.)
[3] Dietrich in Oberstdorf
[4] Inger and Helga in Sweden
[5] Christina in Glasgow
[6] Our Man (and Woman) in Vancouver
[7] The Glasgow CVD contingent with their 2 babes
[8] Jane in Kelowna
[9] Iain who shares the router!

Those of you who are just passing through! (These are represented by the red dots on the map at the very, very bottom of this blog site. Quite amazing!)

GULLS GATHERING

It is New Year's Eve. The golden sun shone all afternoon so I went down to the pier to visit my feathered friends. It was very cold and a sheet of ice under foot! (And this is down at the sea-side!)





Great lighting but the temperature keeps dropping as the sun got lower on the horizon. Nothing for it but to leave the pier and cross the shore road to Café Creme for a latte and 4 chocolate profiteroles piled high in a big sundae dish.

'S NO ART

In all this snowy weather I have been out with my camera. Tramping over to deliver some Christmas cards I came upon the sledge run on the north side of Kilmardinny Loch. From afar I could hear a roaring sound. It reminded me of the arrival of the herds of cattle in Obsberstorf as the herdsmen and women brought them into the village from the high pastures.

The dull, roaring sound was of the plastic sledges as they screamed down the icy slope. Then there were gales of laughter as mums, dads and kids ended up in the bullrushes at the edge of the loch!

I took the following (original) photo (bottom) using a telephoto lens. It is of a young mum getting ready to set off down the slope on her sledge. It was about 3:30 pm; the sun had just set.

The first photo is the "better" one, i.e. I changed the contrast in the original one. Rightly or wrongly I feel that most of the photos I take at this time of year (with the sun low and the shadows long) require little or no "improvement" - one of the definite pluses of living at this latitude.



Sunday, 27 December 2009

BLUE MOON

It seems that this month of December 2009 is special. I was fascinated to hear on the radio yesterday the following item:

"Helen Mark [radio announcer] celebrates December's Blue Moon with artist Elspeth Owen, who is living outside and walking every night as part of an eccentric and unique project. When there are two full moons in one calendar month, the second of those moons is called a Blue Moon. Elspeth Owen, who is in her 70s, has decided to live outside between the first full moon (on the 2nd of December) and the second full moon (on the 31st). She wants to discover something about the dark, about fear and about using her senses differently."

(You can hear the whole radio programme by clicking here.)

I thought a blue moon was just a song by Richard Rogers written in the 1930's.

So ... there is going to be a second full moon this month and the second time it appears is going to be on New Year's Eve!


A newspaper in Everett, Washington (here) states:

"The astronomical definition of a blue moon has nothing to do with the moon having a tinge of the color blue... It all has to do with mathematical odds. The synodic period of the moon, is 29.5 days. That’s the time it takes the moon to go through all its phases as it goes from evening crescent to full stage and back to morning crescent. That means we have a full moon every 29.5 days, and since the average length of a calendar month is little over 30 days, it’s bound to happen that we’ll have two full moons in one month every now and then."

(However, it was noted that
but noted that the "two full moons in a single month" meaning couldn't be explained satisfactorily. Read about it here. Apparently the writer of an article in 1946 had misinterpreted a page of the 1937 Maine Farmers' Almanac.)

Finally, as to the term "blue moon", it appears to be that no one really knows for sure how the term evolved ... but it does shed some light (sorry about the pun!) on how we get the expression for a rare event happening "once in a blue moon".

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Photo: Flicker website here.


ALL THAT GLITTERS

Time for Fa-la-la-la and all that jazz. I have music books - well, actually, sheet music - from the days when I first learned to read notes. That makes it 1958! And I have never stopped buying music since that time!

This somewhat dogged-eared copy of Silver Bells sits in my music cabinet and gets dusted off every year. (That silver tray is my mother's. I am guessing it is 1940's vintage.)

The red music book is more recent. I think I bought it about 5 years ago. The book propped up in front is the MacLeod Snr family Church of Scotland Hymnary which has the 4 voice parts for all the Christmas carols. (May I say, I find it very difficult to play the keyboard to the 4 voice parts but I know that organists must do this as a matter of course and get so they never think twice about it.) Again, the silver dish -actually, it is a vase with a 'frog' well in the middle - is my mother's. It sits on my music cabinet usually holding a posy of flowers and/or greenery.


Lastly, Maggie's lovely Christmas tree which reaches to the ceiling of her Victorian proportioned living room was be-decked in these lovely baubles along with zillions of fairy lights. The white snow covering the garden and the tree lights reflected in the large living room windows gave the whole room all the drama of a theatrical stage setting!

A WALK ON THE WHITE SIDE

After many, many years of green Christmases (remember we live in a maritime climate) this year turned out to be a 110% White Christmas (i.e. complete with snowfalls throughout the day).

Loaded with the champagne and house shoes we headed off across the grassy 'Cut' (small area of moorland) that lies between our house and our friend's house in Bearsden. Christmas dinner was due to start at 12:30 pm so this is us heading off at mid-day.

Kilmardinny Loch was frozen over and all the birds were huddling on the island in the middle. Again that is the lighting 'au natural'.

Coming up the lane to Manse Road (and Grange Road intersection) in Bearsden this granny and her grand-child were heading towards us. I did alter this photograph i.e. reduced the shadows.

Finally Maggie's Japanese maple at her front gate. Quite lovely in the winter sunshine. Time to head inside and pop the corks!

UNDER THE BLANKET

There is a thick blanket of snow over the whole country and looks set to stay for awhile. While it has given motorists, airline pilots and train drivers a real headache, the rest of us are enjoying the Christmas holidays tramping over fields and sledging in the parks.

The sun came out on Boxing Day so I ran outside with the camera. I simply walked around the garden and followed the chinks of sunlight as it appeared through the trees.



None of the shots are 'Photoshoped'. The blue sky and red berries are unadulterated!

Lastly, this blackbird was tucked under the holly trees opposite Sandy's garden gate. The light had gone but still ... I rather like this photo.

Monday, 21 December 2009

TIME FOR A TOAST!

The snow is falling; the temperature is dropping. People are stuck in the Channel Tunnel or at either side (France or England) trying to get to their destination. Lorries are jack-knifed on the motorway, the electric lines for the trains are frozen (and there was an announcement today on the train "The delay at Easterhouse has now been fixed. It was due to a lorry stricking a bridge.) Nothing for it but to dig in and hope that things clear up soon.

Today is the shortest day of the year. Time for a Toast! With my lunch of nachos and mince pies and the last of the Fitou wine it has to be - To the Return of the Sun.


Enough of this... time to get on with the Christmas cards!

CHRISTMAS BAKING

Ishie, now nearly 3 years old, likes to do all the industrious domestic things now. So with the IKEA kiddie's apron and a gingerbread cookie cutter we had our first baking session on Sunday.

I used an ordinary shortbread recipe which I made ahead as little 'helping' hands get it just about everywhere! (As I keep telling people, this is the only house where it is OK to draw on the walls - I don't encourage it - or spill stuff on the floor.)

Alastair wants to be in on the action, namely, creating Niagara Falls in the sink.

As I am the only one who enjoys mince pies I always make a few to keep handy when the afternoon reaches 4:00 pm and I realize I haven't eaten much all day! I ration myself through the season and when they are done that's it until next year. (It is a bit like Christmas carols: I like them for the season and thereafter they are metaphorically 'put away'.)

WINTER SOLSTICE

I have spent just about every day since we bought this house with its south-facing garden wondering: what will be the lowest point in the sky that the sun reaches on December 21/22nd?

Well today is the day but the snow is coming down and there definitely is no sun. However, I took the opportunity yesterday, at mid-day to take a 'sighting'. Here it is. For all practical purposes this photo above gives the answer. And the good news is that it does NOT go below the line of the two cotoneaster trees which we trimmed a month ago. (nor, indeed, the roof-top of the house at the rear).

Weather has stopped play.

We are in for a real wintery time just now. Lots of fun and games for kids in the snow and ourselves trying to get about with the slush freezing at night.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

CHRISTMAS DECORATIONS

Surrounded by 'BH's' (Bah Humbug) as I am, I go off and make a point of enjoying all the fun and daft bits of Christmas that make everyone else cringe!

Probably one of my earliest memories as a child is walking along the streets in a big city (Vernon or Kelowna?) and looking in the department store windows at the Christmas window display. I was transfixed by Santa's elves hammering away at their work-bench, Rudolph's head bobbing up and down, etc. (Did I ever tell you that Iain absolutely laughed his head off - when we were first married and living in Chicago in the late 60's - when I, quite horrified, learned that Rudolph hadn't been around since Noah and The Ark, but was the product of a New York man's imagination*! I still don't really believe it!)

Where was I?

Glasgow, being Glasgow, is always jumping, be it youngsters heading to or coming out of the discos, football fans heading off to the game, Big Issue sellers on every street corner ... and no more so that Buchanan Street with its street musicians.



I came upon these these fellas (from a pipe band?) giving it laldy outside Princes Square (enclosed shopping area). They ain't elves but I find them just as appealing to watch!

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This photo and text was sent to me by Gregor who passes along fun stuff off the internet. I don't know the source, i.e. it is some man (I presume) reporting on his fun idea for a house decoration .... (I just find this stuff so-o-o-o funny!)


"[The] good news is that I truly outdid myself this year with my Christmas decorations. The bad news is that I had to take him down after 2 days. I had more people come screaming up to my house than ever. Great stories!

Two things made me take it down:

First, the cops advised me that it would cause traffic accidents as they almost got wrecked when they drove by.

Second, a 55 year old lady grabbed the 75 pound ladder, almost killed herself putting it against my house, and didn't realize he was fake until she climbed to the top. She was not happy! By the way, she was one of many people who attempted to do that. My yard couldn't take it either. I have more than a few tire tracks where people literally drove up into my yard."

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* The song is by Johnny Marks which was in turn taken from the 1939 poem of the same title written by Marks' brother-in-law, Robert L. May. [Wikipedia]

Friday, 18 December 2009

STUDY ABOARD AND ABROAD

I like Christmas cards. I like getting them and sending them. This week they are starting to come in both by ordinary mail but also by email. I am delighted to receive either form as it invariably has communication updating us on everyone's activities.


A family in Canada have a son who spending a year of his high school on a tall ship. He is currently aboard the S.V. Concordia, a barquentine which is affiliated with the non-profit education program Class Afloat out of Nova Scotia.*

The arrangement is that for one full academic year Grade 11 and Grade 12 students in Canada and the U.S. CAN take a year of education aboard.

There is a comprehensive website e.g. programmes, fees and photos here. All the photos and commentaries are glowing: glowing young people, glowing sunsets, blue skies and azure seas, glowing commentaries on the videos and glowing typed reports.


However, what have we here? This photo, and the one below, are on the internet, e.g. Flickr** and show Concordia visiting the west coast of British Columbia, i.e. Steveston, near Richmond area, south of Vancouver.

Oops! Anyone who sails knows just how these things happen (and accepts it as all part of life's rich experience!)

The Richmond Review newspaper report "Concordia Runs Aground ..." of August 5, 2004 (here) states:

"The incident occurred as low tide was approaching.... Concordia had left Britannia Heritage Shipyard at 8 a.m. Friday for a day tour..... The ship, captained by Andrew Straburzynski, had a professional crew of about a dozen on board, as well as a Canadian officer with knowledge of the local waterways.

Officials felt that since the ship left three hours before low tide at Sandheads ... there was lots of water for her to manoeuvre.

Taking the incident in stride, the passengers reacted with a sense of humour, saying they were expecting a unique experience, but not one quite like they got. "

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* home port is Bridgetown, Barbados.

** Photos: Flickr here.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

DOUBLE-DOUBLE TARTAN TROUBLE

We all have to have eyes in the back of our head when it comes to keeping an eye on Alastair. Not quite 2 years old, he is a wee monkey for running off, climbing up anything and everything, and also simply running into walls, corners of tables ... you name it! For being such a quiet baby he is making up for lost time now!

Here is Iseabail literally holding the fort in the play area while the nativity players assemble at the other end of the room.

Looking down from the top of the play-fortress-frame is this little tartan-terror lying on the floor looking up at you!

GRANDMA GOES TO THE NATIVITY PLAY

The angels and shepherds were gathering to sing to Baby Jesus at 11 o'clock on Tuesday. I was to join Mairi (with wee Alastair) and Auntie Iseabail at New Kilpatrick Church (Playgroup) Hall.... except I went to the wrong hall and ended up running late. (I did remember to take the cookies - see previous post).

I reckoned Baby Jesus wouldn't have arrived yet. I was right. Mince pies and cups of coffee were being enjoyed by a large turnout of parents.


This little Ishie-Angel stayed seated the whole time during the (what turned out to be a) concert. (A couple of weeks ago Ishie turned to me and shouted, wagging her finger, "Don't even THINK about moving from there! OK?" Ahem ... she's got the message!)

Meanwhile as the shepherds and angels were keeping their vigil in the front of the hall, I was keeping one in the back! This little charmer was not interested in "When Santa Gets Stuck Up the Chimney" but rather was the apple-0f-the-eye(s) of a group of loitering 13 year olds with their reindeer antlers. They (like so many people!) were quite charmed by ... himself ... (as he was by their antlers...) ....

The front view of a little Alastair-Not-Angel! Believe me, with that tartan rig-out he was quite the star of the sub-plot at the back of the hall!

However ... another sub-plot emerged! I always, faithfully, buy raffle tickets at whatever event I attend. (It comes from years of running these sorts of do's...) And lo and behold ... my number came up!


It turns out to be an invitation from Rangers Football Club to tour the (their) Ibrox Stadium and furthermore it is for 6 people! Good heavens! What a laugh I got! I don't follow football (it is my loss as just about EVERYONE in the West of Scotland does; we have a very strong football culture here!) As someone said "Well, you might get a football ... or a T-shirt!" A player?!!!!

All joking aside, apparently they do these things rather well and I am absolutely up for it! And all from someone's kind donation to fund-raising at the NK Playgroup's Nativity Play!




Monday, 14 December 2009

COMING UP FOR CHRISTMAS

Kids and Christmas go together and so do Cookies and Kids. Ishie's Nursery Nativity is tomorrow so I am baking a wee something for the Little People.



If you can't get ahold of us you now know why! Alastair - 1 year and 9 months old.

A torch gives great delight for Little People. Ishie is going to be 3 years old New Year's Eve.


If it looks like they are sharing - they are not! I guess when you are 3 and want peace to draw, it is impossible with a rising 2 year old on the horizon!

FOG AU NATURAL

For 3 days we have have clouds sitting in the lower parts of the landscape. However, if one happens to drive out from one's house (in the suburbs of Glasgow) low and behold, there is sunshine and all the cloud is sitting in the valley below.

This is what caught my eye when driving back from Helensburgh to Milngavie. These trees (in a circle on a hill outside Bearsden, called Castlehill - very, very old site) were hidden in the fog which enveloped the rest of the suburb.

I pulled off the road on a farm track and grabbed my camera. This is the outskirts of Glasgow, showing the pylons which bring our electricity to the city. Yes, it is countryside, complete with horses and cows.

And here is the farmer's hay all stacked and ready for the winter.

I then rushed up to Mugdock to where there is an escarpment giving a fine view of the city below.

It really was socked in and did not lift... at all.

Above the Milngavie Resevoir looking east. The temperature was 2 degrees above zero and stayed that way for 2 days.

Fog is more an east coast thing; we seldom get this. (In the past - before the days of the city being smoke-free - it was a real problem both for health and buses trying to navigate. Iain recalls having to get out and walk ahead with a newspaper wide open so the driver could 'see'!)


Friday, 11 December 2009

WATER ENGINEERING

All eyes have been on Copenhagen this week. Quite right. To that end here is a video that I found absolutely fascinating. The title is The Ancient Ingenuity of Water Harvesting.

"With wisdom and wit, Anupam Mishra talks about the amazing feats of engineering built centuries ago by the people of India's Golden Desert to harvest water. These structures are still used today -- and are often superior to modern water megaprojects.

To promote smart water management, Anupam Mishra works to preserve rural India’s traditional rainwater harvesting techniques."

The video is 17 minutes long and is here on the internet.
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Quote from website
Photo: unknown

LAKE CHAMPAGNE

Hear ye! Hear ye! Did you know that there is a 'Champagne Lake', i.e. a glut, in the world just now. The supermarkets and off-licence shops are offering bottles for sale at a very much reduced rate just now. (M-m-m-m, come to think of it, maybe this is what they do every year in the pre-Christmas push for sales.....!)

Be that as it may, Maggie and I feel we must do our bit to help the economy. No we haven't quite sunk into the North Sea yet but there certainly are signs of slippage. Either way, the stuff has to be drunk.

Actually I have another reason to buy this and that is to do with the fact that Alastair and Dawn (with the help of Mairi beavering in the back-room, so to speak) have planned a 'Re-Wedding' here next August. The hall - Glasgow Piping Centre - has been booked. I took the opportunity to lay down a few bottles to help our Florida visitors celebrate (of course!) but I also felt they might need a little help to adjust to our climate. We get thirsty here but it ain't due to hot weather!

Now the really important part of this exercise, of course, is for Maggie and I to find a couple of flute glasses ... m-m-m maybe we should experiment with another shape? ... and test the stuff. Ah-h-h ... August is a long way, away!