Posts Tagged ‘Aberlady’

Redhouse Castle, walls and daffodils, and honeywort

April 11, 2017

Sometimes you get to places by accident. Recently, we were visiting the Carol Barrett exhibition and there was a huge queue of traffic going into Aberlady (good photos), we headed west, through Longniddry  and ended up at Redhouse Castle (good photos). There is a new garden centre next to the ruin of the castle, which is a late 16th century building originally standing 4 storeys high. The first photo shows the ruin from the edge of the garden centre. It is perhaps not one of the most attractive castles which have survived but, given the technology available in the late 16th century, it is an impressive site.


Redhouse Castle., East Lothian (Click to enlarge)

The 2nd photo shows the arched entrance into what would once have been an impressive courtyard of the Douglas family who built the original castle. It was acquired by the Laings (good photos) in 1607.


Entrance to Redhouse Castle, East Lothian

The final photo is a close up of the doorway into the castle. Above the wooden door, on the pediment, can be seen the Laing family coat of arms and the initials MIL for Master John (Ioannes) Laing and RD for his wife Rebecca Dennistoun or Deenistoun. The motto on the lintel is Nisi Dominus Frustra – one translation being without the Lord, all is in vain, although like many Latin mottos, other translations exist. The stonework around the doorways is smooth, unlike the rougher – but more attractive, sandstone of the building itself.


Doorway into Redhouse Castle, with the Laing family arms

On to stonework which is on a much lesser scale but, as I built most of it myself, remains attractive and has been enhanced by the array of daffodils now in flower above the walls. The first photo is of the first wall which I built with much advice and help from former stonemason Ian Sammels. This remains – unsurprisingly – the most impressive wall.


The Sammels/Herring all and Spring flowers

The 2nd photo is of the latest – and final(?) stonewall, which I built myself. The mixture of daffodil types – white or yellow petalled – with the different shades of red sandstone, plus the shadows of the bushes behind, make this – I think – a well composed photos.


The Herring wall with a variety of daffodils

A new plant in my garden is honeywort, given to me by my lifelong friend and fellow blogger Tam Bruce and his wife Sandra. Tam gave me two cuttings from their impressive garden in Edinburgh. This plant, shown below, has the wonderful name of Cerinthe major “Purpurascens”. It is a long established plant which attracts bees – thus its name – and one source quotes Virgil as ” using this plant as an offering to swarming bees in order to entice them into a new hive”.  As the photo shows, the plant has very colourful  tubular bell flowers, and at the moment, the leaves are starting to change colour and will develop into brilliant blue leaves or, more precisely, bracts which are defined as “leaf like structures”. So there is more to come from this plant, which seeds itself vigorously and has to be controlled. Tam and I had some fun in email exchanges, suggesting a modern update of the Beatles’ song Honey Pie, with a new line of “Honeywort, you are driving me crazy..”. I like the shadow of the plant against the stone and its intriguing shapes.


Honeywort in my garden


Richard Allen and Jan Wilczur exhibition and lifeboat exercise

July 13, 2016

Another dazzling array of talent on show at Waterston House, Aberlady at the moment, in the form of an exhibition by Richard Allen and Jan Wilczur. The show includes Allen’s paintings and linocuts and Wilczur’s paintings of birds in a wide variety of settings. Both artists kindly sent me photos of their work. Richard Allen’s linocuts are smaller pieces than his paintings but no less effective for that. As can be seen in the portrayal of the curlew below, the linocuts in the exhibition draw your eye to the flowing lines in the picture and the almost abstract quality of the way the lines make shapes e.g. the curlew’s eye. Although the linocuts present us with birds, the flow of the lines reminded me of Australian Aboriginal drawings and paintings.

Allen Curlew

Curlew by Richard Allen

In contrast to the linocuts, Allen’s paintings are full of colour. Some of the bird portraits have a lightly surreal feel to them, such as the Drake Goldeneye which clearly shows the ducks but includes a variety of areas in light and dark blues which are not naturalistic. One of my favourite birds, alas not seen as much around here as when I was young, is the lapwing aka peewit because of its call. Allen’s painting of the lapwing, shown below, was for me one of the highlights of the exhibition. The natural setting, the dignified portrayal of the bird and the range of colours on the bird and in the flora all combine to very good effect. Look at how the lapwing’s crest bends as do the reeds.

Allen Lapwing-sml

Lapwing by Richard Allen

Jan Wilczur has provided visitors to the exhibition with a stunning range of paintings. For me, the most striking and one I went back to several times is Bullfinches – shown below. When you first look at this painting, you see the birds, especially the striking red breast and piercing eyes of the top bird. The lower bird – a female? – seems to be a little shy, as if aware that she is being painted but the colours on the head and the wings are delicate and draw your attention. Come back to the painting and you see the branches and the berries. the little globules of berries hanging precariously, it seems, from the branches, which seem animated with their hand-like twigs waving in the air. So – that’s what I see – what do you see?

Wilczur Bullfinches and sloes

Bullfinches by Jan Wilczur

The second painting I noted down on my phone Memo was Long Eared Owl which is a fascinating work of art. Central to the picture is the imperious looking owl, a beautifully manicured bird without a feather out-of-place. It looks dressed to go somewhere. I like the subtle colours on the bird’s feathers and face and those penetrating eyes. Then you see the trees with their irregular notches, some of which could be small owl feathers that have drifted off and stuck to the trees. I think that the trees may be silver birch, one of my favourite trees.

Wilczur Owl, Long-eared a

Long eared owl by Jan Wilczur

The two artists have set up an exhibition which is a must see for anyone in the area and the quality of the linocuts and paintings transcend what might appear to some people as a narrow subject. Richard Allen’s book of linocuts Coastal Birds is available at the exhibition and is superb value.

On a recent Sunday afternoon, the sound of a helicopter close by attracted my attention and it appeared to land in a nearby park. I then saw it hovering above two RNLI lifeboats outside Dunbar Harbour. I went to the harbour which is just along the road from my house and took photos from the harbour wall. I’ve been having problems with my camera lately – just got the normal lens repaired – so I put on my longer lens. The photo below is perhaps not as sharp as it might have been but it does capture the helicopter and lifeboats, which were on a training exercise. There are many more photos – and better ones I think – here (scroll down to see photos). The 2nd photo below is of the lifeboat returning to harbour at the end of the exercise.


RNLI/Coastguard exercise


Dunbar lifeboat returns to harbour


Jane Smith exhibition and a different look at Coldingham Beach

March 12, 2016

The new exhibition at Waterston House, the home of the Scottish Ornithologists’ Club is by wildlife artist Jane Smith. We visited this very impressive exhibition and could see why Jane Smith is an award-winning artist. I got in contact with Jane Smith and she kindly gave me permission to download 2 examples of her work, which are shown below. What impressed me most about this exhibition – mainly of screen prints – were the shapes, of both the birds and the background, and in some cases, the shapes of the birds’ wings are replicated in the background sea and hills. So there is an abstract quality to some of the works on display, while in others, there is a fairly true representation of the bird but with melodious lines and curves both on the bird and in the water behind. This is shown vividly in  The Great Northern Diver, shown below.

Jane Smith Great Northern Diver

The Great Northern Diver by Jane Smith

In her prize winning portrait of diving gannets – Fishing Frenzy – shown below, there is a dramatic representation of the gannets entering water, with their bodies narrowing, and their concentrated focus on the fish. Again, the shapes – and this time, the colours, stand out. If you can get to this exhibition, it’s a must see. You can also see Jane Smith’s book Wild Island in which the author writes about a year in Oronsay and accompanies her fascinating text with a variety of paintings and prints.

Jane Smith Fishing Frenzy

Fishing Frenzy by Jane Smith

We haven’t ventured down to St Abbs Head and Coldingham Beach for a good while, so last Sunday – a clear, bright but cold day – we parked at the Nature Centre and walked down to the harbour and along to Coldingham Beach. I’ve posted photos of this beach and its surrounds on this blog before but this time, I pointed my camera in different directions. From the harbour, I took a photo of Northfield House which sits proudly on the headland. In the 19th century, the house was bought by an Edinburgh brewer and has recently been refurbished.


Northfield House St Abbs Head

Going along the coastal path to Coldingham Beach, I looked back over the harbour, the centrepiece of which is the now defunct Lifeboat Station, which closed last year, despite a determined campaign by locals. The sea was quite rough and, perhaps with my knowledge of its closure, I thought that the Station looked forlorn.


Looking back on the Lifeboat Station at St Abbs Head

On to the beach itself and there have been some dramatic changes over the years to the west side of the beach. Firstly, a large and impressive new house The Pavilion has been built on derelict land. Secondly, to the left of that house, the garden of the Dunlaverock House has been beautifully developed. Thirdly, there has been a dramatic transformation in the quality of the beach huts at Coldingham Sands. All three changes are in the photos below.


Beach huts, The Pavilion and Dunlaverock House at Coldingham Sands


Beach huts, The Pavilion and Dunlaverock House garden at Coldingham Sands

As there was a big swell on the sea, the surfers were out in force and I counted 12 of them, some of whom were standing on their boards and gliding effortlessly towards the shore. There’s a video of Coldingham surfing here.

The French Table and Kalamkari exhibition

January 20, 2016

One of the highlights of our recent trip to London was going to the delightful The French Table (aka TFT) restaurant in Surbiton. We were staying nearby with relatives in Thames Ditton and we were out celebrating our nephew Sid’s 21st birthday. The staff at TFT had added fine touches to our table, including red and white ribbons round the menu, as Sid supports Southampton FC. Also, at the top of the menu, they had written “Happy 21st Birthday Sid”. We were given a warm welcome by the cheery, helpful but not intrusive staff who were willing to answer questions about the menu – see below.


The French Table Menu

This was a menu – with the exception of the cauliflower – from which I could choose any of the dishes. To start with, my wife and I had the butternut squash crème brûlée. This was a new dish for us and it did not disappoint with the combination of the squash, the crunchy top, the flavoursome vegetables and tasty dressing. I’m going to try to make this and found a recipe (with video). Will it be as good as TFT? – unlikely but watch this space. I had the venison for main course and it was cooked to perfection – tender and pink in the middle, with a real depth of flavour. Two of the party had the monkfish which was praised for its flavour and superb accompaniments of crispy samphire and truffle froth. Zoe from TFT kindly sent me some photos of their dishes and the monkfish is shown below.


Monkfish at The French Table

We all shared a plate of delicious desserts and my favourite was the chocolate and peanut fondant with malt ice cream. Mmm – the malt ice cream was among the best I’ve had. There are two more photos below – the rabbit terrine and cherry soufflé.


Terrine of rabbit, ham hock, green olives and foie gras with homemade piccalilli and toasted walnut bread from The French Table


Morello cherry soufflé with pistachio ice-cream from The French Table.

So, if you ever anywhere near the Surbiton area –  and it’s not far from London – try out this restaurant, as it’s a real find. Next time we’re at our rellies (as the Australians say) we’ll be back.

From food to art and particularly fabrics. There’s a new exhibition at Waterston House in Aberlady and it features the work of the Dundee-based group Kalamkari. The group’s title derives, as the useful handout indicated, from ” a fabric painting and dyeing technique known as ‘kalamkari’ or ‘qualamkari’. There is something for everyone in this exhibition and the standard of textile art on show here is of a very high standard. The theme is nature and this is interpreted widely by the various textile artists on show here: Jan Reid, Carol Gorrie, Maureen Shepherd, Lorna Morrison, Lyn Gourlay, Mona Clark, Morag Gray, Mary Wallace and Sheila Paterson. There are flowers and birds here, but also shorelines,fantasy dolls and abstract pieces. We will certainly return for another viewing. Mona Clark kindly sent me photos two pieces I selected from the exhibition and the two on show here – Land of the Midnight Sun by Lorna Morrison and Rockface at Lunan Bay by Morag Gray – are indicative of the quality of the overall exhibition. If you can get to see the exhibition, please do, or look out for the work of the Kalamari group in the future.


Land of the Midnight Sun by Lorna Morrison of the Kalamkari group

Kal 1

Rockface at Lunan Bay by Morag Gray of the Kalamari group


Chris Rose exhibition and cooking risotto

December 25, 2014

A new exhibition at Waterstone House, Aberlady is the best yet. The exhibition features the work of wildlife artist Chris Rose who is an award winning painter who specialises in wildlife mostly birds – but whose real strength and impact on the viewer lies in his depictions of water and reflections of water e.g. on rocks. Chris Rose has an enviable ability to portray his selected species in different lights and this has astonishing effects on those viewing the pictures. The current exhibition has a range of Chris’ prints and paintings and the quality of his paintings has taken SOC exhibitions to a new level. These are very impactful pictures which have – to use a not very technical phrase – a wow effect. For example, at the exhibition, you walk down the corridor admiring the clarity and quality of the prints and then go into the main room. On your left is what for me was the standout painting – Heading North – Migrating Dunlin (click on painting for better effect). On the link just given, you can see the reflection of the water on the brown rock but when you see the actual painting, the detail of the shining reflection is remarkable. If you can get to Aberlady or if you see a Chris Rose exhibition in the future, go there for an outstanding experience. I contacted Chris and he kindly sent me photos of my favourite 2 painting from the exhibition – Heading North – Migrating Dunlin, and Beachcombers and I’m privileged to include them below.

 Heading north - Migrating dunlin by Chris Rose

Heading north – Migrating dunlin by Chris Rose

Beachcombers by Chris Rose

Beachcombers by Chris Rose

To go from the sublime to the perhaps fairly ordinary, I’ve been trying out some risotto recipes lately. I’ve cooked smoked haddock, leek and pea risotto, based on a BBC recipe. For two people, you start with a good sized leek which you dice finely and sweat in butter or olive oil for about 5 minutes. You then add 150g of Arborio rice and stir for 2 minutes. Then add 350ml of fish stock – I use fish cubes – a ramekin of frozen peas, and 125ml of milk and simmer for 5 minutes. Cut up your natural smoked haddock (c190g) into chunks and lay these on your rice and leeks, then pop this into a preheated oven at 180 deg fan for 18 minutes. When it’s ready, take it out and stir in about 3 tablespoons of crème fraiche. Now, this is not for the purist risotto cooks, who stand over their risotto for 15-20 min and add the stock ladle by ladle. I’ve tried this method and found that there’s not much difference in taste, with the oven method maybe having more depth of flavour. I had some streaky bacon left over, so I cooked this in a pan until very crisp and served the risotto with the bacon on top – see photo below. I add grated parmesan cheese to the served dish but you can either leave this out or add the parmesan with the crème fraiche. I’ve also done leek, pea and mint risotto and leek, bacon and pea risotto. However you celebrate what we in the west call the festive season, have a relaxing break, eat well and stay healthy.

Smoked haddock, leek and pea risotto with crispy streaky bacon

Smoked haddock, leek and pea risotto with crispy streaky bacon

Szabolcs Kokay, the Internet of Things and more tulip photos

May 13, 2014

A visit this week to a new exhibition of paintings at the SOC gallery in Aberlady, featuring the work of Szabolcs Kokay  and Jonathan Latimer, whose paintings I hope to feature in next week’s post. Szabolcs kindly responded to my email and sent me 2 photos of his work, one of which is featured in the SOC exhibition. The artist told me that he no longer works in acrylic, although he did so for many years. I thought that the acrylic paintings in the exhibition were outstanding and you can see examples of Szabolcs’ acrylic work on his website. The photos below are of a snow leopard (oil) – in his email Szabolcs noted that the snow leopard is ” a species I’m dealing with recently (not as much as I would like)”, and a waxwing. Both are stunning, with the snow leopard pictured near a fast flowing stream, which is set among rocks that would give the snow leopard camouflage. I like the way that your eye is drawn from the bottom of the painting up the stream to the animal. I love the colours in the waxwing painting – the orange, blue, yellow and white of the bird, and the bright red of the berries. As with all the SOC exhibitions, this one is not just for those interested in birds.

S Kokay's Snow Leopard

S Kokay’s Snow Leopard

S Kokay's Waxwing

S Kokay’s Waxwing

An interesting article in The Guardian this week, which was focused mainly on the proposed merger of Dixons and Carphone Warehouse, but discussed this in relation to the Internet of Things which the Guardian states is “about connected computers in everything”. Now, this is lazy journalism as computers cannot be connected to everything in the world. It really means about connections with everyday items such as fridges, cars, washing machines etc which, to use another loose phrase, will become “smarter”. So technology gradually advances and we may, for instance, be able to talk to our cooker or dishwasher but the IoT is not in any way revolutionary, as some might suggest and despite the hype around these technologists, talking to our cooker – as opposed to just pressing its buttons, is not going to change our lives in any way. It’s not as if we will be able to have a conversation with our cooker on e.g. what the cooker has been reading or viewing lately. On the other hand, for some people with illnesses or handicaps may well benefit greatly from voice driven technologies, but there still may, as with all technological advances, be privacy issues. The moral is, therefore, be careful what you say to your cooker, washing machine, car etc.

A week on and we’ve still not had the strong winds we often get at this time of the year, so the tulips in my garden have lasted much longer than usual. the photos below show the range and depth of colour that has appeared this year, with this new batch of tulip bulbs, which I bought at a bargain price last November – it often pays to wait until late autumn before buying bulbs. In her poem Tulips, A E Stallings writes that “The tulips make me want to paint” and when you see the vivid colours on display, you can see why she thinks this way.

Tulip head

Tulip head

Tulip heads

Tulip heads

Tulips, pansies and aquilegia in the Spring garden

Tulips, pansies and aquilegia in the Spring garden