Archive for the ‘Real ale’ Category

Lucy Newton exhibition and walking up to Arthur’s seat

July 5, 2017

At Waterston House in Aberlady, the current exhibition (until 26 July) is by well known wildlife artist Lucy Newton. I reviewed Lucy’s last exhibition at SOC here almost exactly 2 years ago. If you had asked me in 2015 whether the then exhibition could be surpassed in quality, I would have doubted it, but along comes Lucy Newton in 2017 and produces an even more stunning exhibition than the last one. I again requested two images for the blog and Lucy kindly sent me four. The first one on view below is Brown Hare and I found the detail of the animal’s fur amazingly delicate, especially the whiskers around the mouth. You have a feeling from the hare’s eye that it is sensing something – danger perhaps and getting ready to run. The alert hare looks comfortable in her/his environment – sprigs of heather  and maybe snow? You can see how the hare might blend in nicely and use the heather as camouflage. I occasionally see hares while out cycling and the hare will often stop on the road, look at you from a distance, as if daring you to catch it. As soon as you get anywhere near it, the hare speeds down the road and disappears through a hedge. Even Chris Froome would not catch a hare.

newton brown hare

Brown Hare by Lucy Newton (Click to enlarge)

Choosing the 2nd photo of Lucy Newton’s work was difficult. There is a superb painting of a woodpecker on a moss laden tree, in which the moss and the bark flow down the trunk, and contrast with the vibrant colours of the bird. I chose the painting below of a barn owl in flight. You can see in the photo below that there is an energetic sense of movement about this piece of art. It is more stunning at the exhibition itself, as when you first see it, there is a fleeting feeling that the owl might really be in flight. In the background to the bird here, the series of abstract shapes also suggest movement to me and they reflect the swish of the bird’s wings, which are drawn with such detail that you see and feel action in the depiction of flight. This is an exhibition not to be missed if you are in the area.

newton barn owl in flight

Barn Owl in Flight by Lucy Newton

My good friend an ex-colleague from Charles Sturt University Bob Pymm visited us recently from Australia. Unlike the rest of June in Dunbar, it was a gloriously sunny and warm weekend, with a flat calm sea. On the Monday, we got the train up to Edinburgh and walked up Arthur’s Seat (good photos). We walked from the Scottish Parliament along part of Holyrood Park (good photos in Gallery) and then up the direct route. It’s quite a climb up the rough steps and there are some parts where the scree is slippery. However, you get great views of the city as you climb higher. The first photo looks over to Fife, with eastern part of the city in view.


View from half way up to Arthur’s Seat, Edinburgh

In the 2nd photo, Edinburgh Castle (good photos) is prominent on the right of the photo, with the spire of St Giles’ Cathedral half obscured by the Salisbury Crags. At the very top of Arthur’s Seat, there were crowds of visiting tourists, many of them young people, and we heard many languages going up and down the track. Edinburgh is now a very cosmopolitan city all the year round an there is great pleasure to be had in seeing so many people from different nations enjoying this outdoor environment.


View across Edinburgh city centre from near the top of Arthur’s Seat

Going back to town, for lunch in the famous World’s End pub with its range of Belhaven beer, brewed here in Dunbar, we walked around the back of the Scottish Parliament, with its exquisite use of wood outside the offices of the MSPs. The photos below show firstly the wide view of the so-called “think pods” in the offices. In theory, these were designed to help the members as they contemplated developing policies to help the Scottish people. More cynical views see the pods as places where plots are hatched against the opposition.


“Think pods” at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh

The second photos shows a closer view of the pods and their external wooden facades. The pods are elegantly designed and the wooden poles, set at angles to become an abstract feature, add to the aesthetic quality of the building’s exterior.


“Think pods” and wooden facades at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh




Cooking Beef’n’Beer, RSNO Concert and tulips

February 2, 2016

We were having family over for a meal last week and we decided to cook something that has been off our menu for a few years. Beef’n’Beer i.e. beef cooked in beer is very simple but very tasty, and has the added value of a crusty bread topping. We’ve had a Le Creuset casserole dish for many years and the wee book that came with the dish has the recipe in it – now it’s online here. For my Beef’n’Beer, I used round steak instead of the beef chuck  (aka chuck steak) in the book. Round steak is much more tender and certainly takes less time to cook – it’s also much less fatty. For four of us, I bought 1.5lbs (0.68KG) of round steak. In our local butcher’s, everyone still asks for their meat in a pound, three quarters of a pound, half a pound or just “a quarter” e.g. of cold meat. I covered the steak lightly in flour and gently browned it in some Flora oil. I then added 2 medium sized shallots (I sometimes use a red onion) , a garlic clove, 2 thickly sliced carrots, 2 bay leaves, some dried thyme and rosemary (the recipe recommends fresh herbs) and some fresh parsley from my garden. After the shallots had softened, I added a bottle of real ale, in this case, a bottle of locally brewed Belhaven St Andrews Ale. I cooked this in the oven at 180 degrees Centigrade for about an hour and 15 minutes – you are always better to try it for tenderness after an hour. You can eat the dish on its own but adding the topping makes all the difference. I cut thick slices from a large baguette bought in our local community bakery (photo below) and covered the top of each slice with some Dijon  mustard  (interesting article). Two things are key here. Firstly, you need to make sure that you have enough liquid for serving the meat, as the bread will soak up some of it. Secondly, you need to squeeze the slices to maximise the number of slices – I allocated 2 slices per person. You put the dish back in the oven and in 20 minutes, the bread should be going brown at the edges. I served it with mash potatoes and broccoli but other vegetables  e.g. peas, green beans or buttered carrots would do as well. It is very tasty and …. roll of the drums... this is what it looks like.


Beef’n’Beer cooked in a Le Creuset dish.

bakery front-page-tbd

Dunbar Community Bakery

I haven’t been to a classical music concert for years although every year I’ve promised myself that I will do so. Last week, I took the plunge and went to the Brunton Theatre in Musselburgh which is half an hour’s drive from Dunbar, to see the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. The concert started with the lively Romanian Concerto (very good video) by Ligeti, a composer unknown to me. Ligeti was a Hungarian composer who received many honours for his wide range of works. The second part was Mozart’s enchanting Bassoon Concerto in B Flat Major (video of the piece), featuring the principal bassoonist of the RSNO, David Hubbard (interesting video). It was fascinating to see how Hubbard controlled his instrument and seemed intent on getting the best out of it. The sound was melodious and you could not help but admire this man’s craft. The main event of the evening was Brahms’ Symphony No 4 (video of the whole concert with Daniel Barenboim). To this uninitiated listener, this was a melodic and joyous symphony with a combination of slower, softer sections and a crescendo of a final section. For a more detailed analysis – and a much darker view of the piece – see Tom Service’s review. So, a very enjoyable concert – the only thing missing being my camera. The photo below is included by permission of the RSNO.


Section of the RSNO

We’re still in thick of winter in Dunbar but it’s now February and my garden is suddenly strewn with emerging heads of daffodils and a few tulip heads have also appeared. Today, with Storm Henry approaching, they are being blown about relentlessly. Inside the house, safely and serenely arranged in a vase are a bunch of multi-coloured tulips. These tulips are a welcome flash of colour, and a promise of Spring being not so far away, on an intermittently dark and windy day. Tulips have their origins in Turkey and came to Europe in the 17th century. An interesting fact from this website is that multi-coloured tulips were originally diseased but the modern versions are safe hybrids. The first photo shows the tulips in a resplendent array of contrasting colours, offset by the green of the stems. The second photo is taken from above the flowers and shows them in a completely different way, possibly bursting into song or yelling with pain at being shown at such an unflattering angle?


A dazzling array of tulips


Tulips from above

Sylvia Plath wrote “The tulips are too excitable, it is winter here” in a rather melancholy poem entitled Tulips. A much more joyous celebration of tulips comes from A E Stallings and she writes “The tulips make me want to paint” and “Something about the way they twist/ As if to catch the last applause” which could be an acute commentary on the 2nd photo.



Flowers and trip to York

September 14, 2014

There’s a distinctive floral theme in this week’s blog. Firstly, my gladioli and sword lilies are now in full bloom. Searching for information about gladioli, I came across the British Gladiolus Society, which has the intriguing website name, which sounds as if it might be a website for people glad to be British. Given the upcoming Scottish Referendum, this might have been a great website name for the No Thanks campaign – which we are strongly supporting. Gladioli are of African origin and the name is derived from the Latin gladius meaning sword. Now sword lilies are a bit harder to pin down as they are known as gladiolus murielae and Abyssinian gladiolus and Abyssinian sword lily. No matter, they have beautiful, delicate, multiple heads with a white flower, which has a glowing purple interior. The two photos below show gladioli and sword lilies on our decking and a close up of a sword lily.

Gladioli and sword lilies

Gladioli and sword lilies

Sword lily

Sword lily

Last week, we went to spend a couple of days in York, in an apartment not far from the centre. Like Edinburgh, York is a wonderful city for walking around, taking in the old and new architecture and reading the history. The main focus tends to be on the magnificent York Minster which towers above the narrow streets. The Minster is out of view mostly and it can be a shock when you emerge from one of the streets and are met with this extensive structure. It’s a very pleasant walk around the outside of the Minster (see Photos 1 and 2 below) and we visited the Treasurer’s House (good photos on this site) which has a charming garden in front, with anemones in full bloom (Photo 3).

York Minster

York Minster

York Minster through the trees

York Minster through the trees

For a real ale enthusiast, York has an extensive range of pubs, serving beers from all over the UK. I went into the eccentric and wonderfully named  House of Trembling Madness . On the ground floor, there is a shop with a huge range of bottled beers from across the world, and upstairs there is a bar, which has 800 year old beams. It’s a small bar, with a low ceiling but the beers on offer, which change regularly, are very tasty. On the wall, they have a Yard of Ale glass (Photo 4). I remember this from my student days – the advice was always to spill as much as possible down your front.

Yard of Ale

Yard of Ale

One of the busiest places in York is the famous Betty’s Tea Room, an upmarket shop and restaurant. There was a long queue , so we went to the Café Tea Room. Bettys is much more expensive than your normal café but what you pay for is exquisite cakes, such as our pear tart (Photo 5), white-aproned waitresses and waiters, silver tea pots and very personal service in a very well furnished tearoom. On the first the evening, we ate in Café Concerto which, despite its name, is an excellent restaurant serving very good quality food – their courgette, pea and mint soup was superb. The second evening saw us in the very busy Rustique restaurant. Again, very good food here but not of the quality of Café Concerto.

Pear tart with fruit and cream

Pear tart with fruit and cream

We also went on a Cruise on the Ouse (pr Ooze) which was an informative trip up and down the river Ouse, with the captain giving us a commentary on the history of York and its bridges, such as the Lendal Bridge from where Photo 6 was taken.

River Ouse from Lendal Bridge

River Ouse from Lendal Bridge

Craning day, cycle route and Ben Waters, and Bert’s Bar

April 13, 2013

This morning, I walked along to Dunbar Harbour to see the biannual craning day. In the spring, the yachts are craned into the harbour and in the autumn, they are craned out, as the high tides in winter could cause damage. Organised by Dunbar Sailing Club, craning is an elaborate process of fixing straps to the yacht, rapidly painting over the gap left by the supports, holding the yacht with ropes at either end, and steering the yacht over the harbour. Photos 1-3 below show the spectacle.

Out on my bike yesterday, for a 27 mile (44K) ride and a fairly hilly route after the first 5 miles, to Cockburnspath (pronounced Coburnspath or Co’path), up the Abbey St Bathans road, up the hill to Oldhamstocks, then another hill as you leave the hamlet, on to Innerwick and then up a big hill to The Brunt farm, then (thankfully) down Starvation Brae (Photo 4) and back home against a cold east wind. On the bike, I was listening to, amongst others, Ben Waters’ Boogie 4 Stu. Waters is a fabulous piano player in the boogie woogie style and he features heavily on the alblum. There are also tracks featuring Mick Jagger singing Bob Dylan’s Watching the river flow and the final track is Ian Stewart (to whom the album is a tribute) sings a great version of Bring it on home.

On Tuesday, my pal Roger and I had our monthly meet up and we’ve been trying out food and beer in a range of pubs in Edinburgh. We started in Teuchters for lunch and some excellent Timothy Taylor Landlord beer. Across the road is Bert’s Bar where we had the tasty April Theses. This bar has several exhibits relating to the law on the walls, as well as account books from the pub dating back to the 1940s, so it’s an unusual bar and well worth a visit, although I’d avoid days when there are rugby internationals in Edinburgh.

Craning day in Dunbar harbour

Craning day in Dunbar harbour

The yacht is strapped up and ready to lift.


Craning day in Dunbar harbour

Craning day in Dunbar harbour

Swinging the yacht over the harbourside

Craning day in Dunbar harbour

Craning day in Dunbar harbour

Lowering the yacht into the water


Looking down Starvation Brae

Looking down Starvation Brae

Lessons from Obama and Twisted Thistle

November 21, 2008

From eSchool News, a report on how school might learn lessons from Barack Obama’s extensive use of Web 2.0 tools to organise his campaign and get the vote out. The emphasis of the report  is on how schools might encourage the use of social networking between teachers and students and that this might be a platform for discussions about media literacy and responsible use of social networking. The report also states that schools may find this prospect “daunting”. One aspect of this that is currently likely to put on hold developments in social networking is the banning, in state schools in the UK and Australia in particular, of social networking sites for fear that students will access inappropriate material. So education authorities need to decide whether they really  want to encourage the use of Web 2.0 or are just paying lip-service.

Picture the scene. My cycling friend John’s retirement party and a wee celebration but John has retired from Belhaven Brewery  here in Dunbar and a group of us went to the party which was held inside the brewery. So, a free bar and about 7 different beers to choose from. I elected to go for Twisted Thistle which is not, as you might imagine, some form of medieval Scottish torture, but what the brewery calls “A stunning India Pale Ale (IPA)”. Think smooth, think thirst quenching, think heart warming and think a woozy next morning. The picture below shows 2 bottles beside the winter flowering cyclamen outside the window where I write this.

Twisted Thistle and cyclamen

Twisted Thistle and cyclamen

Scan and sticky toffee pudding

June 25, 2008

The recent copy of Scan makes it way to me from Wagga Wagga. As ever some very good articles in this quality journal. The first article is about blogging in a primary school and if you don’t have access to Scan itself, there are links to the students’ blogs at Belmore South Public School and also to the Assistant Principal’s blog. There are some excellent ideas in this articlewhich focuses on learning and how Web 2.0 tools can be used as just that – tools. This is no “isn’t technology fab” article but focuses on what can be done and you have the feeling that this school has created a culture where technology is seen as ordinary and integral and learning is encouraged. As with most articles like this, it would be good to have an insight of the problems faced as well as the obvious successes but it is certainly worth reading.

At the weekend, we ventured into England to visit my son Jonathan and his wife Rebecca in the historic town of Carlisle which is an attractive place withthe river Eden flowing through as well an impressive castle and cathedral, both of which are magnificient buildings. It was always amazes me to think that the cathedral, first built in the 12th century, must have been an awsome sight for those working on the land nearby. Cathedrals such as this were probably at least a hundred times bigger than anything the local people would have seen. As with castles, of course, cathedrals were built to impress and to show who had the power in that neck of the woods. On Saturday evening, we went to the Queen Inn in the attractive village of Great Corby. Very nice meal in a dining room with real tablecloths and the highlight for my son and I was the Sticky Toffee Pudding desert. This version was light, not too chocolateyand was served with a syrupy custard which wasn’t too sweet. You have to be careful where you order this sweet as some can be heavy and tasteless, but this was a pudding person’s dream. Did I mention the Black Sheep Ale served in the bar?