Posts Tagged ‘sea’

Mantel on history and Constable and McTaggart exhibition

June 14, 2017

A very interesting article in The Guardian Review section by well known author Hilary Mantel. In the article, Mantel discusses “Why I became a historical novelist” and writes “My concern as a writer is with memory, personal and collective: with the restless dead asserting their claims”. The author cites her great grandmother as an example of a historical figure and there is evidence of where her relative grew up, who she married and of her 10 children. However, Mantel, argues “I have no access to her thoughts” and it is in expressing the thoughts and words of historical characters – real or imagined – that the work of the historical novelist is involved. Mantel also discusses what we call history and states that “history is not the past – it is the method we have evolved of organising our ignorance of the past. It’s the record of what’s left on the record”. My first degree was in history and I’m now doing an oral history project on my home town of Dunbar in the 1950s, so definitions of history intrigue me. I remember having lectures in 1st year at university where the lecturer posed the question “What is history” and referred to E H Carr’s book with that title. Much of Carr’s arguments about what constitutes history has been revised since the 1960s when it was published. In my own educational research and in my current local history research, I take a constructivist view i.e. that historians construct their versions of history from evidence that is also constructed. For example, in my oral history project, when I was interviewing people about visiting the whales stranded at Thorntonloch in 1950, I was not expecting the people (aged between 70 and 95) to report what they saw, but to construct the scene from their memory. My job was then to interpret what I heard in the interviews and newspaper reports and construct a version of events in my book. So history for me is an interpretation of events in the past, not a reporting of them.

An exhibition currently on at the National Gallery in Edinburgh features the work of John Constable and William McTaggart. This is a small but powerful exhibition with 2 outstanding paintings at its core. The first is Constable’s Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows shown below.

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Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows by John Constable (Click to enlarge)

This is a very large painting and in the booklet helpfully provided by the National Gallery at the exhibition, Constable is quoted as stating “I do not consider myself at work without I am before a six-foot canvas”. At the time of this painting, landscape was not seen as a proper subject for artists and Constable was also criticised for his use of both brush and knife when paintings were supposed to be smooth. It is also very detailed and worth close study at the exhibition or online. At first, you notice the rainbow, the church, the large tree and the cart being hauled across the river by horses. Then you see the dog in the foreground, the birds on the water and another church to the left. What is striking of course are the clouds and their various colours and the threat of rain. Constable was criticised for his depiction of the clouds as it was a departure from the painting norms at the time. The booklet states “Constable created a varied surface where dense, craggy areas alternate with passages of subtle translucence and movement is created by the dynamic application and flecking of paint”. The more you look at this picture, the more you do see movement in the horses, the swaying trees and the clouds.

The exhibition seeks to show how McTaggart was influenced by Constable, particularly in his painting The Storm shown below.

William McTaggart

The Storm by William McTaggart (Click to enlarge)

This painting is not as clear as Constable’s and deliberately so. The first impression you get is of the flow of the water and light and landscape, like a lava stream. Then you see the figures at the bottom left who look desperate and frightened. Look again and in the mid to top right a small boat looks in peril on the sea. The notes at the exhibition comment on McTaggart’s “remarkably dynamic brushwork” which was influenced by Impressionism. There are other paintings in this exhibition by Constable and McTaggart which makes a visit to the National Gallery well worth while. As a footnote, my lifelong friend Tam, on a recent visit to Dunbar, recalled that my current interest in form and shape in art did not match my inability to create art at school. Despite the advice of our excellent art teacher Carnegie Brown, my attempts were hopeless. I still can’t draw for toffee but I have learned to appreciate some aspects of art, including how it is constructed.

 

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Tracey Herd poems, crocus show and shiny sea

February 27, 2016

Last week, the new Poetry Book Society padded envelope came through the letter box, with the new Choice inside. I didn’t (and haven’t) opened it as I still hadn’t started the previous one, Tracey Herd’s Not in this World. I heard Ms Herd speak at the Royal Festival Hall in January – see previous post – at the T S Eliot Prize readings. Herd has some arresting images in her work which is often quite dark, not to say menacing. In the first poem What I Wanted “There was a muffled/ silence each night when/ darkness married with snow”. In the 3rd poem Little Sister, the younger sibling of the narrator from America’s Midwest is killed “in a moonlit road accident”. The final 2 lines are hauntingly ambiguous “She was pushed in front of a car./ I pray to God for my own salvation”. In The Living Library, a woman’s bookshelves are filled with crime novels and the books are “sitting/ well-mannered on the shelf,/ pushed in tight to keep/ their suave murderers inside/ their victims’ choked cries unheard”. I’m only at p20 of 73 pages, so I’ll come back to Ms Herd.

 

Herd

Tracey Herd Not in this World

Last month it was snowdrops, so this month it must be crocuses. There is some debate about whether it should be crocuses or croci as the plural of crocus, but as that word is mainly thought to be originally from the Greek then, as my Latin teacher Mr Jack Milne would have said, it can’t be croci. Around Dunbar over the past few years, there has been a welcome upsurge in the planting of spring flowers by the local council and, just up the road from me at Spott Road, there has been a sudden growth of bright yellow on the grass next to the pavement. The crocus flavus – to give it its Sunday name – originated in Greece and Turkey and the ancient Greeks saw it as a bringer of cheerfulness and joy in the late winter – it is thought, although I’m never too sure about the veracity of some websites on this. Emily Dickinson’s poem LXXXIV starts with “The feet of people walking home/ With gayer sandals go-/ The Crocus-till she rises/ The Vassal of the snow”. An interesting take on the crocus being a vassal as this was a feudal tenant who was granted land by a nobleman in return for loyalty and perhaps military service. Even although the crocus is in the earth, Dickinson sees the snow as its master – until of course, she rises.

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Crocuses at Spott Road Dunbar

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Crocuses at Spott Road Dunbar

Having taken photos of the crocuses, I walked back down Golf House Road, near my house, to the beach. You could hear the waves before you saw them – an incessant, unstoppable  thundering. When I got to the promenade, the late afternoon sun was shining on the waves a bit out to sea and there was a superb light on the waves. This is very hard to capture i.e. with my limited photographic skills, but I tried. Hart Crane in his poem Voyages writes “The sun beats lightning on the waves,/ The waves fold thunder on the sand” and this beautifully describes what I was watching. I met my friend John who was coming along the prom and he said “Look at this! How lucky are we to have this on our doorstep?”. Very lucky indeed.

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Sun on the waves

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Rocks and the incoming sun-kissed tide

Six little terns, wintry St Abbs harbour and green shoots

December 16, 2015

I’m reading the new Poetry Book Society ChoiceLes Murray‘s Waiting for the Past. Murray’s poems are dense with images and he has the poet’s knack of reducing into a few words what the rest of us would need a paragraph to explain. One of the early poems in the book is entitled Dynamic Rest:

Six little terns

feet gripping sand

on a windy beach

 

six more just above

white with opened wings

busy exchange of feet

 

reaching down lifting off

terns rising up through terms

all quivering parallel

 

drift ahead and settle

bracing their eyes

against the brunt of wind

So we have four short verses and like all the poems in this book, you need to read and re-read to gain an insight into the depth of what the poems is about and what happens in the poem. The title is an oxymoron in that dynamic and rest appear to be contradictory. My English teacher at school, Mrs McKie, would be impressed that I remembered the term oxymoron. The terns are “resting” on the beach and in the air, and in the last verse, they “settle”. Murray imagines the birds – I assume that you cannot see birds “bracing their eyes” – perhaps narrowing their eyes in the face of a strong (and cold?) wind. The last phrase is “the brunt of wind” i.e. not the brunt of the wind, suggesting a forceful and unpleasant wind for the birds. The wind also affects the birds on the ground as their feet have to grip the sand. So the poem is dynamic, with “terns rising up through terns” and there is constant movement in this attempt at rest. Murray’s white terns are common in Australia and have striking blue/black beaks and black eyes.

White tern (Public domain photo from http://www.ozanimals.com/Bird/White-Tern/Gygis/alba.html)

White tern (Public domain photo from http://www.ozanimals.com/Bird/White-Tern/Gygis/alba.html)

We drove down to St Abbs Head on Sunday on a cold and damp winter’s day. It was grey all day and dark in the morning until 8am and dark again at 4pm. Despite this, we were well rugged up for a short walk, there was still plenty to see. The harbour, which still contains the now defunct lifeboat station, has fewer boats, with some on the shore for maintenance (see photos). The sea, of course, never stops and the waves were gently caressing the sea walls – the wind was light and south westerly, so no dramatic coastal scene on Sunday, but the sea still looked cold. There were some people about but you felt an absence – of tourists, divers and fishermen that throng the harbour in the summer.

St Abbs Head harbour in winter

St Abbs Head harbour in winter

St Abbs Head harbour in winter

St Abbs Head harbour in winter

St Abbs Head harbour in winter

St Abbs Head harbour in winter

Before walking to the harbour, we parked at the Nature Centre and visited the excellent Number Four Gallery. On the way to the gallery, I remarked that it would not be long until we saw snowdrops here. Looking down at the leaf strewn ground, there was no sign of growth, but when I pushed back some leaves, the green shoots of the snowdrops were well above the ground – see photo. I pushed the leaves back over the stems for protection. I remembered the final lines of Shelley’s Ode to the West Wind – “O Wind, / If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?”. Apparently not, as the snowdrop growth looked strong and healthy and the green provided a good contrast to the ever-fading leaves from the trees, although some ivy leaves were still green.

Emerging snowdrops at St Abbs Head

Emerging snowdrops at St Abbs Head

Visit to Cove and harvest time in the Dunbar area

September 9, 2015

On Sunday, we went 9 miles (14.6K) along the coast to the hamlet and harbour of Cove (good photos). From the road into Cove, there is no indication that there might be a harbour nestled below the cliff face. At the car park, there is an information board about Cove and its coastline, and there is also a memorial block with metal figures of women and children on the top. This is in memory of the men from communities along this coast who were lost at sea in a freak storm in 1881. The website notes that “Cove itself lost 11 of the 21 fishermen who worked from the harbour at the time”, so this was a local disaster of epic proportion, as fisher families were the bulk of the population of Cove at the time. The photo shows a close up of the distressed women and children. There is a similar memorial at St Abbs Head.

Cove memorial to lost fishermen

Cove memorial to lost fishermen

From the car park, you walk down the hill with the sea to your left. On Sunday, two surfers were enjoying the generous waves. At the bottom of the hill, you can either turn right and go through the tunnel to the harbour or keep going and end up at the main harbour wall. The harbour itself is very small and perhaps more attractive when the tide is in. The photos below show the harbour at low tide and the entrance to the harbour with the coastline – to St Abbs and beyond – on the right. Sunday was bright and warm and blue was the predominant colour.

Cove harbour at low tide

Cove harbour at low tide

Cove harbour at low tide

Cove harbour at low tide

At the harbourside, there are two large stone dwellings which were no doubt occupied by fisher folk in the past. Next to the houses, there is a  rock escarpment which comes up from the shore and forms a natural wall, next to which was built the existing harbour wall. Cove harbour is a little pocket of tranquillity, especially if you go on weekdays or in the winter. Thomas Hardy’s poem At Lulworth Cove a Century Back begins “Had I but lived a hundred years ago/ I might have gone, as I have gone this year,/ By Warmwell Cross on to a Cove I know/ And Time have placed his finger on me there”. If you could go back to Cove in 1915, I’m sure that, while the sea, the rocks, the harbour wall and cottages would look the same, the lives of the people there would be so much different.

Cove harbour cottages and harbour wall

Cove harbour cottages and harbour wall

It’s harvest time around Dunbar now and the wide fields of barley, wheat and oats, having turned from green to cream in colour and having developed fecund heads of grain, are subject to relentless destruction by combine harvesters which gobble their way across the fields, digesting the barley/wheat/oats and spewing out straw at the rear and then grain from a long tube into a tractor. This is at once a fascinating sight for the viewer but also a regretful one, as soon the swaying, creamy corn will be replaced by the glistening brown of the ploughed earth – darker and colder, although attractive in its own right. The combine harvester I photographed – a few hundred yards from our house – left a trail of straw but also a fine dust behind it, as the ground is very dry.

Dust storm from combine harvester

Dust storm from combine harvester

The combine completed two lengths of the field before disgorging its load into the waiting tractor. It made me think of the gannets we see from the back of our house, who dive for fish and return to feed their young although the combine regurgitates its grain at a phenomenal speed.

Combine harvester filling a tractor with grain

Combine harvester filling a tractor with grain

Close up the heads of grain take on a beautifully sculptured multitude of shapes, like neatly stacked little parcels waiting to be opened.

Close up of ripened grain

Close up of ripened grain

As I walked back to the car, the tractor pulling the trailer full of grain has spilled some on the road. The grains could be peanuts scattered on the floor. The grains will shortly be disembodied and made into flour and then into bread, rolls or cakes for us to eat. In the days when barley was cut by hand with scythes, and it took men and women days to cut what the combine does in an afternoon, bread was the staple diet, and while it continues to be in some parts of the world, in the resource-rich west it is no longer of such importance. If you’re lucky enough to live near the countryside, watching a combine harvester is an exhilarating experience.

Grain on the road

Grain on the road

Glass bluebell, Town House wedding and early summer evening

May 26, 2015

In my poetry calendar a while ago – To Capture Endymion – a poem by Christopher North, begins “That bluebell -/ I would have one like it,/exactly like it, to the filigree detail/but in purest glass”. I did a search for glass bluebells and there are many for sale e.g. via Amazon but I struggled to find anything which was very impressive. The bluebells around East Lothian are just beginning to fade but they are an inspiring sight when seen in the woodlands e.g. in Woodhall Dean. The following photographs were taken near Hedderwick Farm, about 3.5 miles from Dunbar.

Bluebells at Hedderwick

Bluebells at Hedderwick

Bluebells at Hedderwick

Bluebells at Hedderwick

Bluebells at Hedderwick

Bluebells at Hedderwick

On Saturday, we were at our friends’ wedding in Dunbar’s Town House, a 16th century building, described in Canmore –  “Dunbar Town House is oblong on plan and has two storeys and a dormered attic; a semi-hexagonal stair-tower capped by a slated piend roof and then a lead-covered, oval-vented spire projects from the W wall”. The wedding ceremony took place in the Council Chambers where the old town council used to meet. It is a large room with photos of the Provosts of Dunbar around the walls. The bride and groom are both members of Dunbar Running Club and at the reception – in the excellent Open Arms in Direlton (good photos) – each table had a flag with the name of a marathon which had been completed by the bride and/or groom. This was a wedding of a mature couple and while this was not their first kick at the baw, it was still a joyous occasion.
It’s almost summer here in Scotland and the temperatures are slowly creeping up. The most important change to our lives is the lengthening days and it’s now still light at 10pm. Last night was the first time I’ve grabbed my camera, gone our the back door, and photographed the sky with the multi-shaped clouds. As ever, you are invited to identify what you associate with the shapes in the sky in these photographs. My ideas are in the captions.

Rock shapes and cloud shapes

Rock shapes and cloud shapes

Sky waves

Sky waves

Whales in the sky

Whales in the sky

Stones and flowers; stones and flowers

April 24, 2015

In January, I found 2 boxes of daffodil bulbs on a garage shelf – I’d forgotten that they were there but I planted them even at this late stage. They have flowered very well and I noticed the other day that they showed off the stone wall (built with the excellent tuition and proper stonemason tools of Ian Sammels) to very good effect. That it was a warm and sunny spring day helped to enhance this photo.

Stone walls and daffodils

Stone walls and daffodils

There was more sandstone on view, this time in a natural setting, on our walk from Tyninghame Links to Ravensheugh Sands (good photo) which is often referred to as Tyninghame Beach by locals. The nearby hamlet of Tyninghame (pr Tinning him) has an excellent coffee shop. There was a strongish NE wind, so we set off into the wind to the small stretch of beach at the end of the woods. I’ve written about this here before, not least Chris Rose’s wonderful painting of dunlin. The painting’s depiction of the rocks in the sun is stunning and the photo below shows some of the other sandstone rocks near the exposed roots of a tree. The 2nd photo shows stratified rock and I liked the combination of the swirling curves of the rock, the seaweed’s greens and the sea’s sun generated blue.

Sandstone rocks at Tyninghame Beach

Sandstone rocks at Tyninghame Beach

Stratified rock at Tyninghame Beach

Stratified rock at Tyninghame Beach

At the end of the walk, there was a pleasant surprise as we came across a large bed of wild primroses, with not just the normal yellow flowers but also some with delicate purple flowers (see photos below). The poet Wordsworth wrote “Primroses, the Spring may love them; Summer knows but little of them” but come the summer, this patch of forest will be a very plain green again.

Purple primroses in Tyninghame Woods

Purple primroses in Tyninghame Woods

Yellow primroses in Tyninghame Woods

Yellow primroses in Tyninghame Woods

Whitesands cross country and Belhaven Beach walk

January 28, 2015

Firstly, for those in Australia, I hope that your Australia Day went well and those of you in the Sydney area didn’t get too wet. On Sunday, my wife and I were out at The Whitesands helping with marshalling and timing of the Borders Cross Country event. There were  84 junior runners and 163 seniors taking part in separate races. The races started on Whitesands Beach and the juniors ran along the beach towards Dunbar Golf Course, back over the beach, up the hill and over to Barns Ness Lighthouse. The adults went past the lighthouse, on to a stretch of beach, on to a track near the Dry Burn (burn=stream and this one dries up in summer) and back on narrow tracks to the Whitesands. The photos below show the start of the junior and adult races and the adults returning across the sands.

Junior cross country race at Whitesands

Junior cross country race at Whitesands

Adult cross country race at Whitesands

Adult cross country race at Whitesands

Adult cross country race at Whitesands

Adult cross country race at Whitesands

To Belhaven Beach, on the other side of Dunbar from the Whitesands. I’ve featured Belhaven Beach on this blog before and will again. It is a wide sweep of beach and a glorious walk at all times of the year. This week, there was a cold SW wind blowing the sand across the beach, a stunning site but I failed to do it justice with my camera, so no desert type photos of rushes of sand over sand. The sand itself is very firm in some parts, very ridged in others and very soft near the sand dunes. This was a sparkling Scottish winter afternoon, with sun now higher in the sky and delineating the metal structure of  Belhaven Bridge on the beach – in the photos below. The tide was well out for our walk, but people can get stranded as the tide comes in fast and covers the bridge’s steps. You can see two contrasting views of Belhaven Bridge from a previous post. You can walk for about 5k along the beach and back, or you can walk around the John Muir Country Park. The sea was a postcard blue next to the beach, with some interesting driftwood and views out to the Bass Rock – see photos below.

Belhaven Bridge

Belhaven Bridge

Belhaven Bridge shadow

Belhaven Bridge shadow

Runners' tracks on Belhaven Beach

Runners’ tracks on Belhaven Beach

Driftwood on Belhaven Beach with Bass Rock in the distance

Driftwood on Belhaven Beach with Bass Rock in the distance

 

Seaside walk and Alice Munro stories

January 9, 2015

On Sunday, my wife and I set off on a walk which takes in forest tracks, farm tracks and a wide sweep of beach. We parked the car at Tyninghame car park which was packed . You have 2 options on this walk – either straight to the beach and walk west or through the woods and farm track to the beach and walk east. The wind direction usually determines which way you go. The initial track through the woods (1st photo) gives you a pleasant, if occasionally muddy, walk, with large fields on either side. One of the fields still had its full complement of sprouts, with the thick green balls clinging to the yellowing stalks. The winding track then goes through some woods and out on to open farmland. My pals and I go on this route on our mountain bikes and there’s a downward section with a tricky corner.

Start of Tyninghame walk

Start of Tyninghame walk

The farmland near the beach, which is out of sight over the hill to your right, is used mainly for grazing horses, with the arable land further inland. To your left, in the trees, you can see some of the Harvest Moon treehouses which invites both campers and – a new word to me – glampers, who are people who  go camping, but want more upmarket accommodation e.g. a wooden cabin or treehouse i.e. no pitching of tents in the pouring rain and no external ablutions in the middle of the night for these glamour campers. There are several horses in the fields near this track and one was close enough to get two attractive photos (see below). This horse looked as if s/he took a stoical view of life, not quite posing for photographs but showing little apparent interest. Would we be as calm as this horse, if a horse was taking a photo of us? The shadow cast by the horse and fence post give the 2nd photo an added value. We get the horse as well as what looks like a black flattened metal sculpture on the ground.

Horse near Tyninghame Beach

Horse near Tyninghame Beach

Horse and shadow  near Tyninghame Beach

Horse and shadow near Tyninghame Beach

You climb over grassy dunes to the beach itself which forms an arc in front of the sea. The tide was coming in and the little waves sparkled in the winter sunshine. Philip Larkin refers to “the small hushed waves’ repeated fresh collapse” and Larkin’s repeated shhhh could be heard along the shoreline. To the west, the Bass Rock (photo below), now gannet-free and therefore  having lost its white top, dominated the view. On this part of the beach, there are few shells but I did come across two delicately coloured razor clam shells (photo below).

Razor clam shells

Razor clam shells

At the end of the beach, you can follow the forest track back to the car or you can keep going over the ridge which takes you on to a stretch of small beach and rock pools. From here, you get superb views across the sea to Dunbar on your right  and up the hills on your right. In the sunshine, the subtle green of the seaweed on the rocks contrasts well with the light blue of the rock pools and the deeper blue of the sea – as seen in the photos below. This is an intriguing walk at all times of the year.

Rock pools at Tyninghame Beach

Rock pools at Tyninghame Beach

Rock pools at Tyninghame Beach

Rock pools at Tyninghame Beach

I’ve just finished reading Alice Munro’s book of short stories Dear Life. I’ve had this book for over a year now and picked it up from my shelves again, having read some of the stories months ago. Munro is an intriguing writer. Her lead  characters  in this book are female and of various ages. Munro has that expert short story writer’s ability to sum up a middle aged person’s life in a few telling sentences. Families figure strongly in the stories  – mothers, fathers and sisters are often remembered from the viewpoint of an older woman reflecting on an incident in here childhood in Canada in the 1950s and 1960s. These are a set of compact vignettes, to be read singly and no more than one per day, by an enviably talented writer.

Alice Munro Dear Life

Alice Munro Dear Life

Country walk and the end of the year

January 1, 2015

On Sunday, on a clear, crisp, frosty morning here in Dunbar, with a biting south westerly nipping at our faces, my wife and I went for a walk in the country. We parked at Oswald Dean – locally know as Oasie Dean – and walked up towards Doon Hill (good photos) where there is an important archaeological site near the summit. We walked towards the historic Spott House before going up the edge of a field at the foot of Doon Hill. On the way back down towards Spott Farm, there are views across to the sea and the Bass Rock. I took the photo below to show the winter bushes, the farm and the sea.

View from near Doon Hill

View from near Doon Hill

On the way back, we passed fields of newly emergent spring wheat which has a striking colour at this time of year and the colour is enhanced by the strong winter sun. I also like the defined lines of the winter crop.

Lines of Spring wheat near Spott

Lines of Spring wheat near Spott

Our route back to the car took us down Starvation Brae, the origins of which, apart from brae meaning hill in Scots, I have yet to discover. The strong December sun was in our back and, rounding one of the corners of the brae, my shadow lengthened considerably, giving an almost surreal aspect to the photo below.

Shadow on Starvation Brae

Shadow on Starvation Brae

At the foot of the brae lies the village of Spott (good photos), although this website contains a historical error, as it claims that Marion Lillie who was deemed a witch, was burnt to death near the village. A local historian has discovered that she was buried in Spott and therefore could not have been burned as a witch. One of the features of Spott village – it is more of a hamlet than a village nowadays – is Spott Kirk and the photos below show the kirk and what I saw as interesting shadows next to the grave stones.

Spott Kirk

Spott Kirk

Grave stone shadows at Spott Kirk

Grave stone shadows at Spott Kirk

This is the last day of December and of 2014. It is, in South East of Scotland parlance, Auld Year’s Day and the New Year will start at the end of Auld Year’s Night. There is also the Scots word Hogmanay which is generally pronounced “hog” at the beginning in the east of Scotland but “hug” in the west of Scotland. Traditionally, Auld Year’s Night was the winter festival in Scotland, with many people (e.g. in the late 1950s) still working on Xmas Day. On my poetry calendar, there is an excerpt from In Memoriam by Alfred, Lord Tennyson and the 2nd verse begins with the familiar “Ring out the old, ring in the new”. This section of the very long poem has some what might be seen as utopian ideals e.g. “Ring out the feud of rich and poor,/Ring in redress to all mankind” and this, of course, remains an ideal today. Here in Scotland, people will ask each other “What are you doing for the bells?” and this relates to how, where and with whom people are going to bring in the New Year. “The bells” are thought to relate not to church bells but to the town house bell being rung at midnight. The Scottish New Year is emphatically linked to having a good time and to drinking alcohol, and tradition has it that the New Year should be brought in by toasting friends with a malt whisky e.g. Bowmore and this is often the only time that some people will drink whisky. At the time of writing, it is already New Year’s Day in New Zealand and in half an hour, it will be a new year in Australia. To everyone wherever you are, I wish you a Guid New Year and love, luck and laughter for 2015 and beyond.

Winter storm, Belhaven Bridge and sawmill

December 16, 2013

Last week, we had a winter storm which brought very strong winds down from the Arctic and this was accompanied by a big tidal surge. With 4 hours to go to high tide, the water was lapping the short promenade which we see from our back garden. Fortunately, there’s a wall, the road to the gold course, and a steep slope up to our house. As the waves piled in one after another, with the incoming waves being rugby tackled by the outgoing waves, there were great crashes and water leapt high in the air. When the incoming waves broke the tackles, they slammed into the promenade wall and di mighty Fosbury Flops 30 feet in the air. Photos 1 and 2 show the waves in action. A high tide is always a boon for local seagulls and they gathered in large groups, feeding frantically as the tide came in and, when a big wave approached, they wheeled as one into the air and glided in the wind – they looked to be enjoying the feast – see Photo 3.

We were driving west out of town and stopped at Belhaven beach (scroll down to walk) to see the high tide and it was well beyond its normal stopping point. I was also interested to see the Bridge to Nowhere as Belhaven bridge is known when the tide is in and the bottom steps of the bridge are covered. When we got there, it appeared at first glance as if the bridge had gone somewhere! The tide was so high and the pulsating water was so vigorous that the bridge had almost disappeared – see Photos 4. At low tide, the bridge looks like a normal bridge over a fairly shallow estuary and at sunset, it can be quite beautiful – see Photo 5. So, an exciting day for anyone who loves seeing the great power of the sea and the waves’ acrobatics.

A visit to Tyninghame Sawmill this week as I’m putting up shelves in the garage. One aspect of the sawmill that I like is the smell of the wood when it has been cut on one of the sawmill’s large electric saws. There is wood in a variety of states at the sawmill – logs, planks, batons, stakes and fence posts. I took my camera and shot dead tree trunks next to live ones (Photo 6) and a stack of wood showing a wide variety of patterns and colours in the wood (Photo 7).

Crashing waves in Dunbar

Crashing waves in Dunbar

Crashing waves in Dunbar

Crashing waves in Dunbar

Seagull feeding frenzy

Seagull feeding frenzy

Belhaven Bridge almost submerged

Belhaven Bridge almost submerged

Belhaven Bridge at sunset

Belhaven Bridge at sunset

Dead trees and live trees

Dead trees and live trees

Wood patterns and colours

Wood patterns and colours