Resting on the Nethers

The first Saturday in June, no Meadows Fair again so I headed to the Park and clambered up Raven’s Rock on to the Nether Hill. That is a knackering climb up on a warm day (okay, so warm for Edinburgh so far this year), a lie down was definitely in order. There’s worse places to stretch on and enjoy the sunshine! The occasional breeze was nicely warm, even though overhead there did seem to be a number of dark clouds massing (the rain gods possibly thought, first weekend in June? – we should at least threaten rain).

The Nether Hill is a good place to be still; it’s neighbour Arthur’s Seat is more popular and everyone knows it’s name, but it’s all about getting up there, a quick pic for evidence and back down, busy busy. On Nether Hill I could lay back and watch swallows swooping around and about, the odd crow would enjoy a glide on the thermals. Just a smattering of chatter could be heard wafting over from the Seat and the usual background hum of traffic in the town, but plenty birdsong distracted from them. Oh, and there was a piper playing somewhere in the distance for a while. That’s how pipers should be heard – at a distance!

As I lay there it occurred to me to share with you just what I could see at that moment, so, a head turn to the right and it’s Arthur’s Seat, and above me some rather worrying clouds (glad to say they all just moved along without shedding their loads).

Sitting up I could see the Castle and the Palace. One of those, wow, and I live here moments. If I’d stood up and turned left I could have made out the top of another castle, I didn’t, I stayed sitting marvelling at the views. The two observatories on Calton Hill and Blackford Hill, the three bridges spanning the Forth, well, just bits of them, Cramond Island with the causeway just visible. For all that humans can make things hard and drain the joy out of life, seeing my adopted town spread out before me always gives me a sense of wonder and hope. All the lives that have been lived here, are being lived here, weaving into the rich, colourful tapestry that is Edinburgh. I may feel on the fringe of it all at times, but there’s no place I’d rather live.

Aaand, back in the room. I eventually shifted my butt and toodled over the hill down to Dunsapie Loch, where much to my surprise, a heron was busy fishing on the road side of the loch (they usually stay on the far side, well away from people). I’ll leave you with the view over to Fife as I headed down and the heron doing his best to ignore me.

Toodle pip!

Three films and a lot of haar

What a cracking weekend it’s been! I don’t think the weather gods realised it was a bank holiday weekend, way too sunny! Well, sunny once the sun burnt off the haar each day. Sunday morning I enjoyed a ramble up into a haar swathed park, no sign of Arthur’s Seat at the top, total white, er, grey out. It was almost noon before the Seat was visible and the sky blue, even then, looking down at Portobello the haar was still clinging to the coastline.

Joys! The cinemas are open again. Just as well I had a ganders last Wednesday evening, Judas and the Black Messiah was showing just one more day, phew, ticket booked. Two more films caught my attention, Raya and the Last Dragon and Demon Slayer: Mugen Train, tickets booked, god, I love having an Unlimited pass. So, just like the old normal I had to trot quite smartly to get to the cinema on time on Thursday afternoon! Even with the social distancing of empty rows and seats, as I often go when films have been on a while it looked almost normal to me – apart from all the masks.

Judas and the Black Messiah is a stunning film, so glad I caught it. Daniel Kaluuya was brilliant, now I see why he received so many nominations and won many awards for his portrayal of Fred Hampton. Lakeith Stanfield as Bill O’Neal had me constantly wondering how he’d play the situations O’Neal found himself in; the use of the real Bill O’Neal in interview and other historical from the time really brought up how real this all actual was. I found it a rivetting and chilling film, so much to take in and digest.

Saturday morning I was back in for Raya and the Last Dragon, a very different movie! I actually knew very little about it but hey, it’s Disney and there’s a dragon. There’s also a strange creature called Tuk Tuk, a giant armadilloey type thing, useful as a mode of transport for our heroine Raya and also her cute animal sidekick (a Disney staple); and in a quick googling sess, I discovered he’s voiced by the excellent Alan Tudyk! That guy has done so much stuff, looks like he’s Disney’s new version of Pixar’s John Ratzenberger, just more animal noises! The dragon’s voice wasn’t what I expected but my initial surprise was soon forgotten as I sat back and enjoyed the visuals and some fairly quick, funny dialogue. There were a few gripes but overall it was a fine film; the whole “trust” thing running through it may really confuse some kids, parents may find themselves in some tricky discussions afterwards.

Saturday night and back again for Demon Slayer: Mugen Train and this time I knew nothing, except that it’s anime and according to a couple of reviews it wouldn’t be too tricky to pick up without seeing the previous tv series. They were right, I just went with it, the best way with Japanese films in general! Another visual treat, very different for a newcomer to watch. I’d gone to a subtitled showing as dubbed versions are generally not as good in my opinion. Would I go see more anime films? Yeah, probably.

By the time I was walking home from the cinema the pubs were shut obviously not long shut as there were plenty of folk about, many steaming drunk! The Grassmarket was seeming more like it’s old self, only, it seemed to me there were more streams of piss running from doorway corners, like even more men than would be usual had forgotten the art of taking a piss before leaving the pub (well, it has been a while). I was surprised then when The Three Sisters was still open, and with a queue waiting to get in! Brewdog next door was closed and all locked up for the night.

Oo, I just noticed the time, and there was me planning to have an early night! I’ll tell you the latest on the Fringe next time. I shall leave you with a couple of pics of the Meadows on Sunday morning. Toodle pip!

At ten on Sunday morning there weren’t many about except sporty types.
The Meadows with the rooftops of Marchmont peeping through the trees.

Escapee egg terrorises walker!

Winter came back this week with below zero temperatures every morning and tonight Edinburgh has a forecast of snow! There have been a few fierce flurries so far. Come on, snowflakes! I intend to be up early and am expecting the Park to look pretty enough for a picture or two. I’ve been trying hard to get up and out at a reasonable time this last week. It’s definitely the case that morning walkers are friendlier, I found that the earlier the hour the more eye contact and friendly greetings. Climbing high in the recent clear mornings has afforded me some amazing views…..

View from the Lang Rig looking across to the remains of the Camstane Quarries. In the distance to the left are the Forth Bridge and the new Queensferry Crossing can just be spotted.
Looking across from Whinny Hill to the Lang Rig and Arthur’s Seat. There’s only six walkers at this time in the morning!

There were plenty of remains from Easter Sunday shenanigans scattered around the slopes; broken pieces of egg shell, plain, painted, and this one, so beautiful decorated, there was a true artist at work here. Nothing of any the boiled innards though, the Park inhabitants had done a thorough job of clearing every edible morsel.

Then as I headed down Whinny Hill I spotted an egg that had survived the annual rolling event and is now living feral on the hillside….

The jackdaws are all busy sprucing up their accommodations, going back and forth from the crevices in the wall below the Queens Drive as the road starts down towards Powderhouse Corner. As soon as one peeks over the wall there’s usually a flurry of jacks taking off but I think they’re getting used to me now. I always bid them good day and tarry a while to enjoy their noisy banter and aerobatic skills. I think some folk wonder what on earth I’m looking at as they pass by, don’t reckon the jackdaws even register with them.

I’ll leave you with a view that quite surprised me, I’m referring to the thing between the two cranes, this was the first time I’ve actually noticed it . A new addition to the Edinburgh skyline, a part of the new St Andrew’s Quarter (previous St Andrew’s Shopping Centre).The locals have given it a variety of names. I’ll let you just ponder on that!!

What day is it?!

It’s been a while, I know, sorry, I’ve been distracted, befuddled, just downright apathetic. Another annual trip to the old country has gone by the wayside, Mothering Sunday. I spoke to mater in the morning over the phone, then went and snoozed some more; I wasn’t expecting to be called again, certainly not a WhatsApp video call, hadn’t even done my ablutions! In fact I didn’t step a single hoof outside that day, no excuse, shameful.

I really should do better. Ideas for blog posts have come, been scribbled down, looked at a day or two later and tossed out. I crawl to bed late, determining to do better on the morrow, then do the same thing twenty four hours later. How are you doing, dear reader? Have you managed to keep your pecker up? Does life in your area seem like an extended Twilight Zone episode? Have you embraced the new, the Zoom, taken it all in your stride? Have you kept your focus, or gone rather fuzzy like me? Have you had a hug today?

Ho hum. The sky is blue outside, the forecast promises a clear sunset, I shall away to the park and leave you with pictures taken the last time I ventured there (meant to be shared with you last week).

See, this is just not right! Snowdrops, crocuses and daffodils in the same photo?! Inconceivable!
Wishing I’d headed up the way, tougher but probably less muddy than Hunter’s Bog!
I always find myself stopping to admire these trees. Every time! Can’t help it.

So I may have taken a photo or two in the snow……

Can’t believe a week ago I was frolicking in the snow (and drawing hearts for photos not shared on Valentine’s Day, doh!)

Messing about in Dunbar Close Garden, a quiet nook, before heading off to the Park

Not a smidge of snow left in town now, just the Pentlands south of the town and the hills over the Forth in Fife have a smattering left. It’s a whole ten degrees warmer than this time last week! Last Saturday Dunsapie Loch was so solidly frozen that someone had gone out on it and taken the red sledge previously frozen there. Oh yeah, and there were clear markings that someone had been ice skating on St Margaret’s Loch, not sure I would have been so brave but I wish I’d seen it!

Right into the dark of Saturday evening students were still hanging out, a few still sledging on whatever remnants were even slightly viable. A number had obviously made beer runs and were heading back up to the Crags for some après-sledge! Whilst it had been a glorious sunset on the Friday evening (well worth taking in with a beer), the following evening wasn’t as clear, but I suppose Saturday night is still Saturday night and students will be students.

Ever hopeful even with only a slither of sledge left! Okay, so this bit of the Park is called Powderhouse Corner aka Students Meet. Friday evening sunset from Powderhouse Corner.

By Sunday afternoon the temperature was up above freezing and the snow starting to vanish away. Now that was a very clear evening, I was delighted to have Orion and his belt before me in the sky as I wound my way up round the Park on the Queen’s Drive. Can’t remember the last time I saw him, and I spotted the Big Dipper – they’re the only two constellations I know (oh, and the Southern Cross when I was down under). Dunsapie Loch was two thirds clear with the wind really choppying it up, the more sheltered end nearest the carpark was still very iced over. It was a beautiful evening walk, plenty of other folk had the same idea, and a few twinkling lights way up towards Arthur’s Seat denoted the hardiest of night strollers (one time it would be great to do).

Of course, there had to be one on watch, keeping an eye on everyone…….

Toodle pip!

Hello Darcy! (aka Beast from the East II)

As I’ve mentioned before, Edinburgh doesn’t get much snow, usually just for a morning then it’s gone. Just two months into this year and we’re already into a second bout of sledging! Okay, we doesn’t include me, unfortunately, my left hip is still a bit jippy so I’m watching everyone else going down any slope they can find, on anything they can find, yes, just about anything. The shops that are allowed to be open (Scotland is still majorly locked down) are all sold out of cheap tray sledges (so I was informed by a student holding a half-inched road diversion sign), they’re having to get creative! Best yesterday was a girl on a large two handled frying pan!

This was sunset on Monday in the Park, there’d been the odd swirl of snow but nothing major, tiny bits were still lying around from Christoph over a week before. Darcy was on her way – snow from the East, so that’s lots of lovely, dry, powdery snow. Yay! By Tuesday morning Edinburgh had a sparkly white covering, time to hit the Park again.

I noticed this little fellow in the trees near the Parliament.

Something a tad bigger must have made these meandering tracks on a frozen St Margaret’s Loch.

Heading up the road it was good to see that the Park Service had actually been round and cleared the snow from it (indeed, they cleared it again this morning). Mind you, walking on this snow has been fine so far, but tonight the temperature is to drop to around -6°C (about 21°F), it may be a bit hairier tomorrow! All the slopes that have been compacted down today will be super fast tomorrow, there may be a few tears and bruises before bedtime. I reckon quite a few will be sore and battered from today, but as I overheard one student say “This is the best Wednesday ever!” I think any bruises will be worn with pride as battle scars.

One chap had a large boiling pan with a cushion in it, yeah, that wasn’t a success. A friend of his had a large bin liner, now that was a success, it was surprising robust for such thin plastic. Certainly more robust than the washing basket that was already breaking apart after several goes and then completely lost its bottom, which was retrieved from halfway back up the hill. Another in the same group was using the two thirds remains of a tray sledge, he actually did reasonably well with it. Of course, there’s always various cardboard pieces and oven trays, one Aldi bag did ok, there was an Ikea bag but I didn’t see it tried out.

The pilfered road diversion sign went very fast, it did look to have been bent and shaped somewhat. An old hand shovel seemed a daring and somehow old-fashioned cobbled sledge. Today’s best was a camping ground sheet, yes, really. His mate helped wrap it around him then he hurtled off the side of St Leonard’s Crag (scarily steep). Wow! It looked scary, dangerous but somehow oddly safe, and very exhilarating!! Even when it completely spun round the chap was fine, cocooned inside. Genius.

Of course, there were plenty of sledges too. Some of the cheaper ones left shattered in park bins by the end of the day. There were also skiers and snowboarders around and about, they almost seemed quite dull compared with the antics of some of the sledgers. As I said, every reasonable and some rather unreasonable slopes have been playing host to young and not so young these last two days, a tonic for all who have ventured out! The snow could stay until Sunday morning as we’ll only get up to 2°C before then, after that the wind changes direction, brings rain and higher temperatures, and it’s back to normal winter weather for these parts. Bah!

I’ll leave you with two more pictures from Holyrood Park today. It’s possibly the most photographed sledge in the Park over the last two days…….

I so wish I could have been there and seen it when it happened!

A Happy New Year To You

….. And all your kin! We’ve made it to 2021, woohoo, and I made it to the top of Arthur’s Seat and back down again without any serious mishaps. Never have I known it so treacherous before, a friend on Facebook joked that she’d like a helicopter to take her back down – if ever there was gonna be a serious accident requiring an airlift, then today was definitely in the running.

The snowfall from a few days ago wasn’t much but freezing temperatures and lots of feet compacting it down, then drizzly weather and more freezing! The pavements around Holyrood Park are like ice rinks, the road through looks deceptively fine in comparison, but as I and plenty of others know, its just out to give us a false sense of security, then, BAM!! All the well-trodden paths up the hillsides are now ice or compacted snow. The best way to get up to the top was definitely off piste……

So I went into the Park a much longer way round (but less icy), I totally avoided the scene of my fall, by walking through rough tussocky grass that I had to check didn’t conceal any deep holes. I avoided all the main routes upwards, instead heading up Nether Hill and veering to the right just before the final rocky climb up to the Seat, that was a scary part, it wasnt so much up as, up a bit, left, left, down a bit, left, up, up, right, no left, up, you get the picture! The last wee bit and the top were actually the easiest, least slippy bits. God, I was knackered, as is rather obvious here……

I spent a while just sitting near the top, sipping ginger liqueur from my hip flask and munching on a large slice of Yorkshire parkin (a bit like gingerbread but way better), enjoying the spectacle of all the jackdaws and crows having a fine time soaring above. Alas, I had to head down at some point. At least in our mutual terror folk were chatting to strangers as we’d pause, pondering where to put our feet next. Yes, there were definitely more smiles and encouraging “Happy New Year”s than usual. Staying off the main routes as much as I could, I realised how much more I know about the Park now thanks to all my summertime wanderings. I really am a lucky moose to have such amazing parkland close by, sometimes I forget.

I leave you with a pic of me having a wee rest in a pine tree on the way back down. Yes, in a pine tree! I can just let my legs hang and relax a while that way.

Toodle pip! And Happy New Year!

Esther? Is that you?

Today’s constitutional was a once round Holyrood Park, just on the road, nothing off piste today. I just needed a good long walk, and to get milk too. The park can be quite busy on a Sunday but I wasn’t expecting to see so many folk up by Dunsapie Loch…..

I thought, wow, I know people like to take photos of the swans but this many? Is it a photography club outing?! The chap hunched down at the water’s edge had the longest lens I’ve ever seen! Just one swan swam majestically in the middle of the Loch, loving the attention.

Ah, hang on, no, everyone’s attention was on something else, something to the left of the swan. A ripple, did a fish just jump? And another one. And I saw it – an otter! Holy mackerel, Batman! That’s a first, an otter in the top pond, and it was having a fine time frolicking! Oh, she knew how to work the crowd, a little peekaboo here, a frisky leap there, disappear a while to keep us in suspense, only to reappear a short distance away for a brief flirtation before diving down again with a flick of her tail.

Honestly, that is an otter, I promise you.

Toodle pip!

The Long Dusk

Errol Flynn sure did have some wicked ways! Yes, I’m still reading My Wicked, Wicked Ways, it’s tiny print – plus I only read it on sunny days out in the Park. Boy, was it sunny yesterday! I took myself up Whinny Hill to find a quiet grassy spot hidden in the gorse, annoyingly my usual “go to” spots had already been got to by others! I wandered higher and higher to find a suitable spot – so I’m particular, bite me. The sun was so sunny and the book was so fascinating, it was going on for seven o’clock before I headed home for tea.

Tea over I headed out again, well, it was still very warm, I reckoned it would be a good night for bats. As it would be quite a while before any bats came out there was plenty of time to head to St Margaret’s Loch the long way round – right round the Park! For the back of ten o’clock there were still quite a number of folk out taking the evening air watching the dusk deepening (dusk takes it’s time in Scotland in the middle of summer).

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There was still some birdsong, oh, and a peacock sounding off over at Prestonfield House, a posh affair just south of Holyrood Park. The jackdaws were all away for the night, a few swallows zoomed about but most noticeable was the sound of the grasshoppers (grasshoppers/crickets? I looked it up, pretty sure it’s grasshoppers here). That sound! It evokes other places, other times, dreams! It rose up from the large sweeps of long grass around that area; I will definitely go on more evening walks up around Dunsapie Loch. And then, bats, oh my!

One, I hadn’t even thought there’d be bats around Dunsapie Loch (where would they roost?) and two, it was much lighter than when they usually come out down at St Margaret’s Loch. They were flitting around by the trees in the carpark area, had the swallows just knocked off up there? – I have a thing that the bats aren’t allowed out until every swallow has parked up for the night. You’ll always see the odd one or two cheeky swallows taking their time with a few last flybys. It was definitely much lighter, I was able to walk at the edge of the Loch and see the bats skim way across the water (by now, at quarter to eleven). I would have walked to the other end of the lochside but ahead I saw the swans were all asleep on the path, apart from one that was obviously on duty. Nope, I backtracked enough to find another way back on to the road, I’m not stupid!

Only a couple of bats flitted by as I walked down the road towards a more wooded area. In the gloom under the low hanging trees I saw an animal ahead of me, it slunk along looking for trouble, umm, black and white. Aww, it was a cat, a cat that glared at me for calling it Puss, a number of times to no avail. Didn’t I realise that tonight she was a badass Nightprowler?!

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Wow, even at that time there were walkers and cyclists going past me up into the Park. One cyclist had no lights AND he was on the path under low dense trees! I could hear something odd ahead and luckily decided to move off the path as I could see the road better. Finally down at St Margaret’s Loch it was very gloomy, but no bats!? I stood and waited in my first spot (I’ll wait around a long time to see a bat), nothing, walked to the second spot (I have my five best spots to  bat watch around the Loch), zilch. Third spot, come on, guys, it’s definitely past bat o’clock by now. Fourth spot, and oo, one, then nothing. I was sure it would be Bat Central there but instead, just Norman-No-Mates.

I headed home somewhat perplexed. I do hope the bats are okay, I would hate to have anything happen to them. Yeah, course they are, what do I know about bats? Not a lot, they’re just great to watch, like vampires. Yay, Buffy was on telly when I got in. Marvellous!

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Just strollin’ in the rain

The rain is lashing down outside, tomorrow’s gonna be way cooler, yay, it’s June! It was forecast (the rain not June) for this evening, it tried to start earlier but all that could be mustered were a few very pleasant drizzly showers. We had a lovely warm day here in Edinburgh with balmy breezes too, the drizzle didn’t seem to put off anyone from going out, including yours truly; some were prepared with brollies or rain jackets, others just didn’t care as it was so warm, so Holyrood Park was still a popular place for the day’s exercise.

20200602_191723The scents wafting on the breeze were intoxicating, the gorse, of course, and now the elderflowers are adding their sweet sherbetiness, there’s plenty of dogtooth roses out now too (they always make me think of my father). Plenty of other smells too mingling in, especially after a shower. This afternoon I noticed how many foxgloves seem to have recently popped up, they are some of my favourite flowers.

The big tree by the side of Dunsapie Loch was literally buzzing with life (well, bees). The swans were proudly showing off this year’s brood, six cygnets all looking well with one being a bit of rebel, dawdling doing it’s own thing (there’s always one in every family!) An inquisitive young spaniel was subjected to the most awful language by the father, well, he did sound like he was swearing. Poor pup wasn’t even that close to the water’s edge when the swans came by, possibly the fact that the pup was quite wet made Pops decide best to discourage any future doggy paddling.

As often proceeds heavy rain the birds were all singing like billy-o; a fair few keen amateur photographers were about trying to catch sight of them. The poor jackdaws were ignored as usual, I like them with their shiny black caps, all hanging out together in their bovver boy gangs on the craggier parts of the park. Somewhere on a lower spot a pheasant would occasionally let out a few raucous squawks, not a pleasant sound!

I did notice today that some parts of the Park were looking quite parched and both the ponds were looking lower than usual, the rain will be very welcome. And the good folk of Auld Reekie can go back to moaning about the weather!