Archive for the ‘scotland’ Category


Sunday, July 26th, 2009

Some photos from Tentsmuir that I took a couple of years ago.


Onto the dunes

In case you skipped the link in the last post, here’s the official website for Tentsmuir, a large nature reserve about five minutes from where I live. It has everything – seals, sand, forest, deer, red squirrels, rare flowers, rare insects (and their not so rare or lovely cousins, unfortunately), an icehouse, world war 2 pill boxes and anti-tank defences, an RAF airbase…

The odd cat…

Cat waiting for mice in the undergrowth

African plain - in Scotland

Beginning of the bog

Well worth a visit if you’re in this (pardon the pun) neck of the woods.

You can see some of my photos of the area on my other website

Accidental bike ride

Sunday, July 26th, 2009

Tayport to St Andrews and back
Find more Bike Rides in Fife, United Kingdom

I went for a bike ride the other day and decided that instead of the usual ride to Tentsmuir Sands through the forest near where I live that I’d head on to Leuchars. But when I got to Leuchars it felt too easy so I decided to carry on – to St Andrews (home of golf!)

The weather was pleasant and warm, I had plenty of water with me and even thought I’d never cycled that far, or that way, before I reasoned that as I was on part of the national cycle network I couldn’t really go wrong (plus I had my iPhone with me so if I got lost I could locate myself on Google Maps).

It was a fairly easy ride through a couple of small Scottish towns. After Tentsmuir Forest it is, for the most part, a mix of small suburban districts and cycling alongside a small motorway – not much to see really until you get to just outside St Andrews when you once more begin to see the coast.

What was odd was that even though I’d cycled quite a long way, all I’d done was cycle inland a bit, following the estuary, cross the bridge and then cycle east again, which meant that just as I was reaching the outskirts of St Andrews I could easily see RAF Leuchars across the water, which made my achievement much less impressive!
(Cycling near the RAF base is quite impressive as aircraft regularly come in to land. Last week at the beach I’d seen about four or five come in to land in close formation, sweeping out across the North Sea and back in again. On this ride two flew just a few hundred meters – if that – above my head – again in close formation. RAF Leuchars lost a plane a couple of weeks ago when it flew into a mountain near Glasgow and even though it looks like they’re going slowly from the ground, it must be a case of split-second timing inside the cockpit).

Anyway, just as I was reaching St Andrews I could see dark clouds looming from the south and realised why all the cows had suddenly started lying down when I was cycling through the fields just outside Leuchars. It began spitting at first but as I got in to St Andrews a steady drizzle started. Fortunately I’d packed my raincoat and went off to find a café to have lunch and a sandwich.
St Andrews isn’t short of nice independent cafes but of course I ended up in Starbucks! As it turned out, I was served by one of my own students! Small world…
I could see outside that the rain was now quite bad so I went back to the bike and got my waterproof(ish) trousers out, intending to change out of my shorts. Which meant finding another café…

The cycle back was in the rain which didn’t feel so bad but when I got back to the forest I took a wrong turn and ended up getting a bit lost, finding a small group of houses and following a minor road/track figuring it must end up in civilisation. I stumbled upon a bridge standing in the middle of a clearing. It didn’t connect to anything, just an old brick bridge on its own. Turns out it used to be part of the railway line that led from Edinburgh to Tayport, back when it was called Ferryport-on-Craig and was the main route to the north. Before the Tay rail bridge was built you had to get a ferry (while still on the train). After the bridge was built the line became less important (until the bridge fell down, of course) and eventually it disappeared, leaving just the bridge standing alone in the forest. I’ll go back and take a picture next week maybe – it’s very strange.
It turns out I’d ended up in a nature reserve and in better weather I’d have gone looking for deer and highland cattle, but as it was I was now feeling rather wet and despite it only being about 4pm the light was very poor. So I kept cycling and found a row of telegraph poles and cycled under them for a while, coming out at a farm and onto the road just south of Tayport. Home at last.

When I got in I realised quite how wet I was – absolutely soaked to the skin. But feeling quite good. A few minutes later, after a shower and a change of clothes, though, I sat on the sofa and my body caught up with what had just happened…

45km or 28 miles. That’s nothing to some cyclists, of course but considering my longest ride up to that point was about 18km, it’s quite a leap. Three hours, excluding the rest at St Andrews.

So, a somewhat unplanned adventure but a good one – fairly flat and easy. I intend to do it again when the weather improves (we’ve had a week of sun and showers after a couple of weeks of hot sunshine when, of course, I mainly sat around). But I also fancy trying a few other local rides. The Salmon Run goes from Dundee to Dunkeld via Perth, following the Tay and the route the famous Tay salmon take. There’s also a ride from here to Arbroath where the Smokies are produced (I could follow that route up to Aberdeen and then on either to John O’Groats or take a ferry to Orkney, but I think that would be a bit too much!). And the route to St Andrews carries on to Edinburgh and beyond in to England. You can see all the routes in the National Cycle Network at Sustrans’s website. But all those routes are trickier, over hills and a mix of on- and off-road.

I had planned to use my holidays for this but they seem to have flown by with little achieved – which is of course the point of a break. But there’s still plenty of summer left so time to do a few of these rides yet.

Pickle the Hunter

Tuesday, October 7th, 2008

I had a couple of friends over for dinner the other weekend and I got up early to make a Summer Pudding and tidy up (two women = very critical).
Having a break I heard the cat come in through the bedroom window (it was the last warm day of the year and I was taking advantage of it) accompanied by some muffled miaows.

I didn’t think much of it and carried on watching Quincy. Then out of the corner of my eye I saw Pickle with what looked like a kitten hanging limply from her mouth. Except it wasn’t a kitten. Oh no.

I think this was her contribution to the dinner party. I should say that a) I live on a harbour not a waste dump, b) it was very clean, c) while filming I’m also thinking how the hell I’m going to get rid of it and d) it was actually quite tasty in the end.

Designers win medals too

Friday, September 19th, 2008

This is something I wrote for the study guide for my Design History, Theory and Practice (DHTP) module which starts next week. The first lecture asks “what’s the point of DHTP?” and I try to head off the usual complaints about having to write and read and go to the library. I’ve found spending the first lecture on making the case for approaching design from an intellectual point of view not only saves time later, it tends to improve attendance and grades!

Plus, I happen to believe in it.

The 2008 Beijing Olympics offered a showcase not just of excellence in sport, but in design as well. Everything from the equipment being used to the garments being worn was designed. Ask the average person what we mean by this and they will undoubtedly talk about what things look like – the ‘style’ of the outfits, the shape of the bikes and so on.

brennan_sydney_main.jpgBut to take a view like that is to miss what we might arguably call the ‘real’ design, the design that’s the product of years (if not decades) of intense research into textiles, alloys, aerodynamics, ergonomics and more. When people talk of the millions of pounds spent on sports in the UK, they may think that all gets spent on training. But it doesn’t. Chris Hoy’s bike, Rebbeca Adlington’s swimming costume, Charlotte Burgess’s bow, and Deborah Brennan’s wheelchair are all the result of investment worldwide in design research.

And then there are the games themselves – everything from the obvious opening and closing ceremonies to the transport networks, the global television feeds, the ticketing systems, the catering, even the queues — all designed.

Design history and theory are no longer simply endless slideshows of the great and the good; pictures of this designer and that piece. Over the next three years you’ll be exposed to, and encouraged to discover, not what’s gone before but what’s possible. DHTP is about the future as much as it’s about the past. It’s also about broadening your view of what design is, from the ‘man on the street’ idea of design as style to something a little more ambitious and all-encompassing. And it’s about encouraging you to pursue a role in the cutting edge through your own research.

If I get the time, I’m going to do a video to go with it too…

Happy as a pig in sh*t

Thursday, August 21st, 2008

I spotted this poor chap today in the Grassmarket, Edinburgh. The worst thing about it was the fact that the pig seems to be smiling.

I find its slow disintegration from the back rather worrying too.

Looks bloody tasty, though…

HSBC. The World’s Dumbest Bank?

Saturday, August 16th, 2008

Spotted this ad in Dundee today. A few points spring to mind. Firstly, it’s a crap ad (sumo wrestlers do budge – it’s the whole point of the sport. In fact they don’t half get a wriggle on sometimes…)

But most importantly, given the strapline “The world’s local bank” it should perhaps be pointed out to whoever at HSBC signed off on this space being hired that, erm, there is no HSBC branch in Dundee.

In fact, the ‘local’ branch is a half hour drive away in Perth. Might as well be in Japan – which is the only thing that might help this ad make some sort of sense.

A Walk Up The Fife Coast

Monday, January 14th, 2008

This VoiceThread tells the tale of a walk I made last summer

Mother dies on the same date she was born, engaged and married

Wednesday, September 19th, 2007

The Scotsman – Scotland – Dundee – Mother dies on the same date she was born, engaged and married:

“A woman who got engaged and married on her birthday has died on the same date.

Moira Brodie was born on 16 September, 1938. She got engaged on 16 September, 1959, married husband Peter exactly two years later and died on 16 September, 2007.”

As one of the commenters on this article points out, there’s nothing supernatural about it. You have a one in 365 chance of dying on your birthday, all things being equal, while the engagement and wedding are deliberate acts, so take those out of the equation and it’s no longer quite so spooky and instead just a ‘nice’ (if sad) story.


Saturday, August 25th, 2007

I photographed this cat last week while on a walk in the Scottish countryside. It was staring intently into the long grass, presumably waiting for something warm, small and furry to show itself.
It’s not a great picture but I love it.

Dog exercise is among police FOI requests

Friday, August 17th, 2007

The Scotsman reports that my local police service*:

“yesterday revealed some of the more unusual requests made to them in the past two years.

Tayside Police showed under Freedom of Information (FOI) legislation that officers were asked if police dogs used treadmills or exercise machines to stop them becoming overweight, what a beggar’s average daily income is and how many parking tickets are given to foreign nationals.

Other bizarre questions submitted to the force included a request for information about an incident in which a flowerpot was ‘criminally damaged’.

Another was for details of how many Dundee taxi drivers accessed internet paedophilia sites between the hours of 4am and 7am.

The force was also asked whether it employed psychics to help with the work it carries out. A spokeswoman confirmed they did not.

The health of police dogs seemed a particular cause for concern. As well as being quizzed over their exercise regime, the force was also asked whether the animals became travel-sick, and if so, how they overcame it.

A Tayside Police spokeswoman said: ‘All the police dog handlers exercise their dogs several times a day in the normal fashion – by taking them for a walk’.”

I’m going to make a request under the act to find out how much time and money is being wasted by people asking such stupid bloody questions.

(* The Scotsman calls it a ‘police force’ but the corrct term these days is ‘police service’. I learnt that watching ‘Hot Fuzz’ at the weekend – one of the funniest films I’ve ever seen).

(Via The Scotsman.)