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Archive for July, 2012

A you may be aware, there’s a large sporting event taking place in London at the moment.

This week’s Quotes from the Masters challenge from Robin at Bringing Europe Home is dedicated to the 4 yearly marvel that is the Olympic Games, and her quote is one that I think I could do with applying to myself when I get frustrated by my inordinate sloth and inability to complete projects or learn things as quickly as I think I should. Here it is:

“Never discourage anyone who continually makes progress, no matter how slow.” – Plato

When I read this at first, however, I thought not of myself but of delightful assistant no.1 (aka my mum).

My mum has a bit of bother with her right knee, and ideally she would have it operated on so that she can be without pain and with a straighter leg that doesn’t slow her walking pace down as much. However, due to medical complications she has been advised against this and so instead she hirples along and does the best she can.

When we go out together on little tea-taking adventures, we often try to include a walk for exercise and enjoyment of the outdoors, and she is forever apologising to me for being so slow with her gammy leg. She never complains about my antics, running up and down steps and dashing around, when I know she wishes she could still do these things herself. She’s just grateful that she can still walk, and she pushes herself to go up hills and is determined not to miss out just because she’s slow.

This is a picture I took after dashing up a flight of steps in Culross, Fife (post to follow – it’s a truly glorious place), while she walked more sedately along the street.

Watching this year’s Olympics, I am constantly amazed by the feats of the incredible athletes. Whether it’s swimming, weightlifting, running or any other sport, their dedication to the cause is awe-inspiring and I find the whole thing very uplifting.

In her own small way, to me, my mum is just as inspirational as any Olympian.

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“Happy is the man who has broken the chains which hurt the mind, and has given up worrying once and for all.”

Ovid

The above quote forms this week’s Quotes from the Masters challenge from Robin at Bringing Europe Home. Her photos of the sunny Californian coast are spectacular and make me want to go and drive along Highway 1.

Closer to home for me, there is a wonderful place where I like to go to clear the cobwebs. When I’m a bit tense or in need of revitalisation, a visit to Drumderg windfarm soothes me and gets me back on the right track with a clear mind.

I find the turning of these enormous turbines (each one is 107 metres tall) mesmerising and very relaxing. I visited them a few days ago on quite a windy day, and was so taken with them that I sat down in the road and just enjoyed their revolutions. The road is a very quiet one and there was no traffic at all while I was there.

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Yesterday I felt the need of an adventure involving tea, cakes, and a bit of Scottish heritage (I have to do this for my next book, it’s all work, work, work…) so I whisked my delightful assistant off to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of New Lanark, in South Lanarkshire (roughly central southern Scotland).

New Lanark is one of 5 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Scotland (the only other one I’ve seen is Edinburgh’s old and new towns, so I think I should make the effort to visit the rest). It consists of a small village and series of cotton mills that were built in 1786 by a Scottish businessman called David Dale.  It sits low in a valley of the River Clyde, and was built there because of its situation next to the only waterfalls on the Clyde (water power being needed for running the mills).

The reason it’s now a World Heritage Site is due to the innovation and industry of David Dale’s son-in-law, Robert Owen. Owen was a social reformer ahead of his time, and came into partnership with Dale at New Lanark when he married Dale’s daughter.

This is the first glimpse you get of New Lanark if you park at the upper car park and walk down towards the village:

I don’t know if the bunting had been put up for the Jubilee, the Olympics, some other celebration, or if it’s always there, but in any case there were lots of brightly coloured little flags fluttering in the breeze:

Having travelled for more than 2.5 hours to get here, the cafe was calling our names loud and clear (I admit, we had stopped for refreshments en route, but it felt like a long time beforehand).  The cafe was the sort you find in a large visitor centre, not terribly inspiring but providing much-needed refreshments to weary visitors. Having had previous refreshments (hot chocolate and biscotti for me, coffee and croissant for delightful assistant), we decided to share a sandwich and then have a cake each.

The sandwich selection was very carnivore-orientated, but we found a cream cheese and cucumber option that suited us both. I was absolutely desperate for tea by this time and was delighted to find that the tea was just the way I like it – strong, flavourful and Fairtrade:

My only complaint about the tea was that there was only enough for one cup each in the pot for two. However, that was remedied by ordering another pot, along with a coconut tart, a piece of Mars Bar slice and a small pot of grapes:

The cafe had been almost empty when we arrived:

But was very busy when we left, it being the lunchtime rush, and we were glad to get away from all the noise.  It also meant that the exhibitions were nice and quiet for us while our fellow visitors noshed in the cafe.

The first bit we went to was an audio-visual display and we were taken round in little pods seating two people in each one. The pods were suspended from a track in the ceiling that took us slowly round the exhibition, with the voice of ghost child Annie McLeod telling us her story along the way. At the end of the ride I had my picture taken with Annie McLeod and two faceless ghosts:

At the moment, New Lanark is forming Chapter 2 of my book, and I intend to visit it again and see the bits we didn’t manage to get round (there’s a lot to see – too much for one visit, but thankfully the ticket allows you to revisit and see the things you missed before).

Since I haven’t seen it all yet I can’t be sure of my favourite bit of it, but certainly from my first visit the part I liked best was the roof garden on top of one of the mill buildings:

We spent a long time up in the roof garden, having it to ourselves for a while, and it was a welcome relief from the exhibitions. Unfortunately, I had quite a headache all day, and being up there at the treetops with the breeze and the sunshine coming out a little now and then, was blissful.

One of the features of New Lanark, at least that we found, was that it had a claustrophobic feel, due to its situation down in the valley. There is no doubt that it’s a fascinating and amazing place, and I’m looking forward to visiting again, but it was nice to get out of it after spending 3 hours there.

When we left the village and were walking back up to the car park, we saw a grassy path leading off entincingly above the valley, and felt an overwhelming urge to investigate:

It was beautiful, with very fresh air, an earthy smell and lots of wild foxgloves:

Looking down on New Lanark, I felt free up there amongst the trees:

Next time perhaps we’ll visit in a different season and see what else is growing along the enticing path.

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One of life’s little pleasures, and something I find very rewarding, is finding hidden gems in my own neck of the woods.

I used to enjoy voyages of discovery of this sort when I lived in Edinburgh, wandering through the streets and taking turnings that I hadn’t taken before, just to see what lay beyond my usual route. I was often delighted by surprising details – a nice architectural feature here, a beautiful garden there.

This afternoon, since we were both in need of a bit of fresh air and exercise, I whisked my delightful assistant off towards Kirriemuir and took a turn off the road that I had seen many times before but never investigated.

The road was marked ‘Silvie’, although I didn’t see any further signs of anywhere with that name. It was a very pleasant discovery; here are a few photos of what we saw:

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tearoomdelights:

I’m joining in this little challenge, because even when I don’t feel like it, I know I have a lot to be grateful for.

Originally posted on Cauldrons and Cupcakes:

“If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, “thank you,” that would suffice.” ~Meister Eckhart

Welcome to Day 1 of our 30 Day Gratitude Program.  If you’re only just catching up with us today go here first to find out what you need to do to get ready.

Gratitude is a powerful tool in any Lightworker’s kit.  In fact, it forms an essential part of my Daily Habits. When we say thank you to the Universe, in effect we are placing an order where we are saying more please of all this good stuff, or other things equally as wonderful, or even better!

Today we’re going to initiate our gratitude habit using three primary tools – our hands, a journal and a gratitude rock. Then for the next 30 days we are going to continue this practice. Of course, I shall be spicing it up with extra…

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Having published my first tearoom guidebook a couple of weeks ago, I’ve been feeling a bit lost.

It was great to get the book published after writing it, but there was a feeling of deflation once it had rolled off the presses. I’ve spent the past two weeks distributing and selling it (which I don’t find easy, or particularly pleasant) and now I want to get back to writing again.

I fully intend to continue my series of Tearoom Delights, but after spending 6 months on the first one, I feel I’d like to do something a bit different before the next one.

I’d been puzzling over this, wondering what to write next, when I had the idea of writing a travel book.

The book, as it’s shaping up so far (I’ve only written the introduction and the first chapter) is a bit about tearooms and a bit about other things that interest me on my little outings hither and thither. It’s rather like this blog I suppose, but without the supporting photographs, so I’ll be relying on descriptive text more than I do with my blog.

I’m a big fan of armchair travelling, letting someone else go and see places and report back through the pages of a book, although admittedly such books are usually full of thrills and spills, hardship and endurance, and a dearth of reliable cups of tea.

The sort of travel book I’m writing is slightly different from that, considerably less alarming and eventful, and quite possibly more dull.

Is there a market for this sort of book? I have no idea, but then I had no idea if there was much of a market for a guidebook to tearooms and I wrote it anyway. Sometimes, when something grabs you, you feel compelled to run with it, whether or not it looks like a good idea to anyone else. This has, admittedly, been my downfall on many occasions, but my thinking is that if you don’t try, you’ll never know.

Chapter 1 is all about Aberdour, a village in the Kingdom of Fife that boasts many interesting attractions, including one of the oldest castles in Scotland, one of the oldest churches in Scotland, and a prize-winning railway station. Here are a few pictures to give a taste of the place.

St Fillan’s Church, dating back to 1123:

Inside the church:

The lovely lane leading to the church from the street:

An exquisite bit of stone carving on one of the many interesting headstones in St Fillan’s graveyard:

An impessive beehive-shaped dovecot in the garden of Aberdour Castle:

What’s left of Aberdour Castle, the oldest parts dating back to the 12th Century. The big chunk in the foreground fell off at some point:

The most complete part of the castle:

One of the beautifully kept platforms at Aberdour railway station:

A street leading down to the beach:

Stormy clouds over the Black Sands of Aberdour (the more well-known Silver Sands are just around the coast from here):

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“Nature, like a kind and smiling mother, lends herself to our dreams and cherishes our fancies.”

Victor Hugo

The above quote comes as Robin’s most recent challenge on Bringing Europe Home (thank you Robin!).

I really like this quote and it could apply to so many of my photographs of nature, particularly those that remind me of a strong connection with my environment.

I’ve chosen to interpret it with a photograph taken 2 years ago while I was camping in Galloway, south-west Scotland. Galloway is an area I spent many childhood holidays in, camping and having adventures, and it has furnished me with many happy memories.

I was working in Dubai in 2010, 5 weeks away at a time, with 5 week break periods between each work stint, and this was taken during one of my breaks.

Having become soft and desirous of home comforts in my adulthood, I don’t go camping much nowadays, but I had a real desire to get away on my own in an tent on this occasion and I remember lying there looking out at the view with the warm breeze gently flapping at the tent, the smell of freshly cut grass, and the wonderful peace and tranquility of the setting. I did, indeed, feel that nature was lending herself to my dreams and cherishing my fancies.

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There is a small town in Scotland called Doune (pronounced ‘doon’, as in Lorna Doone).

My delightful assistant and I tootled down to Doune recently, to do a bit of tearoom research, and noticed some mugs in a shop bearing the legend ‘Doune, Perthshire’.

This surprised me because I had no idea Doune was in Perthshire. It’s only a few miles from Stirling and I had always assumed it was in Stirlingshire. When I got home I checked up on this and discovered that although Doune does indeed (geographically speaking) reside in Stirlingshire and is administered by Stirling District Council, its postal address puts it in Perthshire. Curious.

My reason for mentioning all this is that I deliberately left Doune out of my tearoom guidebook to Perthshire, but that is not because it doesn’t have an excellent tearoom, because it does.

I didn’t take many photos inside the tearoom because it was rather busy, but I did snap a delicious home-made quiche. There were two different quiches on offer and we both plumped for the roasted vegetable option, which came with a side salad, potato salad and French bread:

It was extremely good, the quiche just melting in the mouth (I suspect it had been made with cream), and it provided sufficient energy for a mosey around the town afterwards.

Doune is an attractive little place with some lovely buildings. These houses can be found on one of the side streets off the main street:

The town has a number of shops, including some surprises, such as this one (you don’t often see independent mapmakers’ shops in Scotland these days):

We enjoyed ambling through the backstreets, looking at burgeoning gardens and interesting features:

We were particularly interested in a wooden gate at the top of some well-worn stone steps. The wall only came part of the way up the gate on either side, and was the entrance to somebody’s garden, as my delightful assistant discovered after climbing the steps and peeping over the wall:

Some of the houses appeared to be getting swallowed by their gardens:

One particularly splendid, previously ecclesiastical, building had been split down the middle and made into two houses (the split occurs between the two arches at the bottom). I would be very interested to take a look inside:

Some decades ago there was a railway line running through Doune, but the only vestige now remaining is the well kept Station House:

I don’t know if they’re discernible from this picture or not (you might need to click on the photo and then click again to enlarge), but on this gate there were various creatures and plants, including a tortoise at the right hand side of the middle crosspiece and several little mushrooms and insects along the crosspiece:

Just beyond Station House there is a new housing development, and we were surprised to find a nature reserve, complete with swans, tucked away amongst the buildings:

Prior to the 1970s this area housed a sand and gravel quarry, but has now been made into a wildlife reserve containing several ponds and bird hides:

When we ventured down to the water’s edge, the swans and their cygnets came over to say hello:

As we walked alongside the main pond we noticed that quite a few of the trees had keeled over and were now growing out into the pond more horizontally than one might expect. It made me think of Amazonian swamps:

When the sun shone, the reserve looked beautiful in its lushness:

I had been under the impression that bracket fungi only grew on dead trees, but there were several live trees covered in fungi in the reserve:

After our walk round Doune Ponds, we headed back to the car, sadly too late to partake of tea at the tearoom we’d lunched in, as it had closed by that time. However, I knew of another place nearby that stayed open a bit later, and so we headed off there for a little refreshment.

The first tearoom had been offering Lady Grey tea, and I had been thinking about this during our walk and getting myself very much in the mood for some. I had virtually no hopes for the second place having Lady Grey because it is quite an unusual tea to find in tearooms and I had no memory of having seen it there before. Imagine my utter delight when I discovered that they did indeed have Lady Grey!

My delightful assistant had ordinary black tea, and we shared a rather solid, but agreeably lemony, lemon drizzle cake:

I can imagine this being a bit of a nightmare to dust, but the tearoom’s lampstand made from stacked teacups and saucers added a nice touch to the surroundings:

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Some time ago, two fellow bloggers very kindly gave me awards that I have not yet thanked them for publicly.

Aparna from Midnight Hues Poetry gave me the Versatile Blogger Award and Ashley from Backyard Provence bestowed the Very Inspiring Blogger Award on me. Due to the generous nature of this blogging community, I had already received these awards, but I was most grateful to have them again from two bloggers who have provided me with some excellent reading material.

Today, I received another two awards from Meg at Meg Travels and these two are awards I’ve never had before.

The first one is the Illuminating Blogger Award:

The rules for accepting the award are:

  • to visit the award site Food Stories and leave a comment indicating that I’ve been nominated and by whom
  • to thank the person that nominated me by including a link to their blog
  • to share one random thing about myself
  • to select at least five other bloggers whose illuminating, informative posts I enjoy reading, and nominate them for the award

I’ve visited the Food Stories site and left my comment as instructed, and I heartily recommend a visit to Meg’s blog, which has lots of wonderful photos on it and little stories of her trips and travels around the world. Thank you Meg for this award.

One random fact is that garlic is the only vegetable I can think of that I don’t like.

I find illuminating, informative posts all over the place on the blogosphere and so this list is just a taster of wonderful things, but I’m inclulding these blogs particularly because I frequently feel illuminated, informed and inspired by all of them:

The Hazel Tree

The Naturephile

Writing From Scotland

Journeys to Scotland

Cauldrons and Cupcakes

 

The second award from Meg is the Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award:

For this one I have to again pass the award on to 5 blogs and share 7 things about myself.

The blogs are:

Tea with Betty

Bringing Europe Home

Leanne Cooking For the Family

The Cosy Creative

Make and Bake with Bert 

Seven things about myself:

  • I eat cereal with fruit for my evening meal just about every night
  • I have a weakness for new shampoos
  • I got my first pay packet aged 15, working in a record shop on Saturdays
  • I have a weakness for stationery
  • Earlier this year I started a writing course that was meant to lead to me becoming a published author on completing the course; I’ve only done the first assignment so far, but I’ve published a book, so I’m doing it the wrong way round
  • I have a weakness for second-hand books
  • I would quite like to do a course in French polishing

Just as I was about to publish this post, I received another award from The Charmed Cupcake:

Thank you very much to Angela for that. Her blog has a wonderful subtitle: “Cupcakes are an important part of a balanced diet”. Angela lives in Austria, a country I once visited when I was about 7 years old on a family holiday, and I like the way she introduces herself on her blog; in her words: “People call me Angela, Ange or Angie – whatever suits their personality”. My instinct was to call her Angela, so I don’t know what that says about me, perhaps that I’m rather a formal sort of British person.

The rules for this one are to thank the person who nominated me, tell people 7 things about myself and pass it on to 7 other blogs. Since I’ve just mentioned 7 things for the previous award, I’ll borrow those for that bit of this award and nominate the following blogs:

Idun in Scotland

That Doodling Gal

Cocina de Nihacc

Backyard Provence

Tea Buddy

Ummanaal’s Musings

Midnight Hues Poetry

Thank you to everyone who’s given me these awards, and to all of the nominees for providing great blogs for me to read.

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While out and about on my tearoom travels, if I see an interesting looking graveyard, I find it very difficult to pass by without taking a look. I don’t know why I, and so many other people, find graveyards fascinating, but they do have a strange appeal.

During various conversations with my dear parents over the past year or so, on more than one occasion they had mentioned a graveyard just outside the Angus village of Edzell. Although I have visited Edzell quite a few times over the years (it has an excellent tearoom), up until recently I had never seen this graveyard. It’s on a little country road that I had never been along before, and I had been thinking for a while that I must make a deliberate effort to go and visit it.

Last week I got round to it.

It was a beautiful sunny day, and I had delightful assistant no.1 with me as my guide.

One of the first things I noticed on entering the gate was a rain butt with a kettle on top of it:

There being no way of heating the water, I suspect this kettle was placed there to be used as a watering can for flowers, rather than as a container for making tea (a pity – a small, discreet tearoom might have enchanced this already attractive graveyard).

I had no idea that this graveyard would hold so many firsts for me. As far as I can recall, I had never seen a rain butt with a kettle in a graveyard before.

I don’t think I had ever seen a headstone fashioned out of iron, either:

Nor had I seen a gravestone made of cobbled together lumps of rock:

As is often the case, the older gravestones were mostly grouped together in the main section of the graveyard, while newer ones inhabited a different area. This was one of the older ones, displaying some beautiful stone carvings:

It was interesting to compare the old method of decoration with its modern day equivalent:

There were quite a few headstones sporting photographs, which is certainly something I’ve seen elsewhere, but in keeping with the other oddities aforementioned, this new area also held some surprises.

I don’t know if it’s clear in this picture, but this one had a sort of bas-relief image carved into the top, which is something I don’t remember ever seeing before:

And this one had the same sort of thing coloured in:

I liked this one with the curly ‘W’ at the top and the little anvil at the bottom, a fitting headstone for a blacksmith:

Looking at all these different gravestones, I began to wonder if I should consider designing my own, and felt a slight sense of panic that I hadn’t given it any thought up till that point.

I asked my delightful assistant if she’d considered what she’d like on a gravestone and she said she hadn’t, but she knew where she’d like to be put (cremated and then scattered in the graveyards of two little churches in Scotland’s south-west where she’s enjoyed many lovely holidays) (the holidays weren’t mainly spent in the graveyards, just to be clear). A bench seat in one of her favourite gardens would seem very fitting, too.

My father, being the extremely well organised sort of chap that he is, has already given his own demise some considerable thought. He is very keen to be donated to medical science, and has even written to Dundee University to register his desire to be put to good use. He lodged a copy of the forms he had to fill in for this with his lawyer, who warned him that there was a possibility the University might not be able to take him if they happened to be (to quote him verbatim) ‘awash with bodies’ at the time of death. In that event, however, I believe it is possible to contact another university instead. I’m not entirely sure how the body gets to the university, but I hope they have some sort of collection arrangement.

It’s a bit morbid this, isn’t it? Sorry about that, I do hope I haven’t offended anyone.

Back to the gravestones, my assistant and I were particularly interested in this one:

It wasn’t so much the headstone that caught our attention, as the jam jars at the foot of the stone. One of them contained a very cheerful looking teddy bear:

Two other jars contained letters, written by young members of the family:

One of the letters was very clear to read, and I hope the people concerned won’t mind me quoting it, but it seems such an excellent way of helping children to deal with death:

“To Uncle Berty, Granny Edzell, Grandad Edzell, I’m 14 now, Sarah is 3. We have been travelling over Edzell today – exploring all the rivers and skimming stones where my dad played when he was little. Hope you are all getting on fine up in the clouds and staying healthy. Lots of love from all the family.”

Reading that letter and sitting quietly next to that gravestone gave me a great sense of peace and contentment, and I thought how lovely it was that this granddaughter had written a letter to her dearly departed relatives, remembering them and wanting to share her news with them.

The grandparents I knew best are buried in a graveyard in Edinburgh and it’s many years since I went to their grave. I’ve only been there a few times and found it a bit upsetting, but perhaps if I’d visited it more often I might feel more at peace with it. Somehow, when I saw their names on the stone, it seemed cold and very final.

I think if I was planning this for myself, I would prefer a little plaque attached to a park bench. Then, anyone wanting to come and visit me would have somewhere to sit and have a wee chat (and perhaps a nice cup of tea, that would be ideal), and hopefully there would be a lovely peaceful view for them to enjoy while they sat there.

I wouldn’t particularly want to be buried in Edzell, since I have no real connection with the place, but as graveyards go, if I was going to be interred in one, I could do a lot worse:

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