Posts Tagged ‘robert Louis Stevenson’

Deputy weatherman’s deputy and rain on flowers

July 12, 2017

My pal Kenny Stanton reads the weather station at Winterfield in Dunbar every day and sends his results off to the Met Office. He was on holiday recently and his deputy Ronnie took over. Then Ronnie was on holiday and I took over and became the Deputy Weatherman’s Deputy, something that not many people achieve in their lives, and surely ranks alongside positions such as Vice President of the USA or Steve McQueen’s stuntman in The Great Escape. It is an intriguing post to hold, particularly in relation to the use of language. The first task is to enter the weather station (photo below). For security, the station is fenced in with iron railings, so you go in as a prison warden with your keys jangling, in the style of Mr Mackay (video).


Dunbar Weather Station (Click to enlarge)

Once inside, you open the Stevenson Screen   which is not a screen but a white, wooden, slatted box, which could be mistaken for a beehive, seen on the left of the photo above. It is called after the Edinburgh born engineer Sir Thomas Stevenson, the father of the author Robert Louis Stevenson i.e. the father had the novel idea first. Inside, the Stevenson Screen looks like this.


Thermometers inside the Stevenson Screen

My instructions were to record the air huidity by looking at the left hand vertical thermometer and this is recorded not as air temperature but as dry bulb as the thermometer is “not affected by the moisture of the air”. The right hand vertical thermometer reading is recorded as wet bulb. “By combining the dry bulb and wet bulb temperature in a psychrometric chart or Mollier diagram the state of the humid air can be determined”. Are you still with me? So, dry and wet bulbs are not planted in the autumn and dug up in the spring, they record humidity. Wouldn’t it be good if you had something similar for humans e.g. bright bulb and dull bulb which recorded stupidity? You could do this surreptitiously and avoid people with high dull bulb reading.

There are many other readings but, at the risk of losing you, I will focus only on the sunshine element. The Met Office state that “A glass sphere focuses the sun’s direct radiation on a graduated card and the length of the burn trace on the card corresponds to the duration of sunshine”. The photo below shows the Campbell-Stokes sunshine recorder and if you’re feeling nerdy about sunshine recorders, check this out. My task was to replace the card which showed the previous day’s sunshine, with a new one.


Sunshine recorder in Dunbar weather station

The next photo shows the distorted view of part of the weather station through the glass orb and you get a weird sensation looking through the orb, which is 10 feet above ground.


Looking down the sunshine recorder at Dunbar weather station

The weather has inspired song writers and poets for many years. The Beatles (video) sang ” When the rain comes they run and hide their heads/  They might as well be dead … When the sun shines they slip into the shade/ And sip their lemonade..”. The first song heard on Radio 1 was “Flowers in the Rain” (video) by The Move. The Russian poet Anna Akhmatova wrote “Sunshine has filled the room/ with clear golden specks of dust”. In An Autumn Rain Scene, Thomas Hardy wrote “There trudges one to a merry-making/ With sturdy swing,/ On whom the rain comes down”.

We’ve had a lot of rain here recently, with heavy skies often moved along very slowly by a distinctly cool north easterly wind. One joyful aftermath of the rain is in the garden where raindrops on the flowers and leaves are a sight for sore eyes. I took these photos yesterday, to capture the ephemeral nature of the rain. An hour later, the raindrops had gone, extinguished by the sun. It’s a short existence if you’re a raindrop.


Raindrops on a gladiolus leaf


Raindrop on flowers and leaves


Raindrops on begonia flower





Robin and Yellowcraig

February 6, 2015

After a walk at St Abbs Head, I was back at the car changing from walking books to shoes, and a small, barrel chested robin hopped across and stood near my feet, looking up at me, his/her head constantly twitching. I’ve never been so close to such a tame robin before and of course, this was a great photo opportunity. Sod’s Law came into force as I’d forgotten my camera, but I did have my mobile phone and I took a couple of shots which turned out (see below) fairly well. We have a couple of robins near our house and they can be heard singing their confident songs to establish their territory. The robin is a popular and attractive bird, but is also very aggressive. I put out some muesli in a bowl a few days ago and the family of sparrows, which nest in our eaves, tentatively approached the bowl but would not go in. Along came the robin and s/he shooed the sparrows away and hopped nonchalantly into the bowl. Thomas Hardy’s children’s poem The Robin encapsulates the bird’s never ending motion: “When I descend/Toward the brink/I stand and look/And stop and drink/ And bathe my wings/ And chink and prink”. The word prink was new to me but means to make minor adjustments to how you look. Chink, also new to memeans to make small openings

Friendly robin

Friendly robin

Friendly robin

Friendly robin

Yellowcraig, which is reached via a narrow road from the historic village of Direlton (good photos), is a very popular stretch of beach about 16 miles (26K) up the coast from Dunbar. You can do a variety of walks around Yellowcraig, depending on how far you want to walk and you can include some forest walks along the way. We parked near the beach and walked east along the beach. When you reach the corner, you are presented with a panoramic view across to North Berwick Law, as in the photo below.

North Berwick Law from Yellowcraig Beach

North Berwick Law from Yellowcraig Beach

On the day we visited Yellowcraig, there was a freezing cold NW wind, so being rugged up was essential. The main historical feature of Yellowcraig is the island of Fidra, which houses a huge seabird colony in the late spring and summer. The island was thought to be the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. The author visited the island many times and his grandfather’s firm built the Fidra Lighthouse. The island lighthouse are shown in this photo.

Fidra and its lighthouse

Fidra and its lighthouse

On the walk back to the car, I passed a tree laden with berries. This tree is often referred to as the baked bean tree but I’m not sure what it’s called. If you recognise it from the photo below, please post a comment.

Baked bean tree

Baked bean tree