A snowy journey home..
And heroes appeared to be a theme..
Here is the engine that pulled the train on the outward journey.
And I saw Gary Oldfield as Churchill in Our Darkest Hour (he will surely win an Oscar).
Where was I?
In York to meet Mary!
A nice wee Scottish town with great beaches,
and long-legged people
with interesting shoes
I wonder who designs the soles?
and if it's a fun job..
Nairn also has
this lovely old postbox
and the best flower shop in the area. (My sister's!)
So many of York's important buildings were under scaffolding on my last visit (Phoebe the cat lives in York).
St William's College.
The Mansion House.
With photograph. (To show you what you are missing.)
And many many more..
Inluding the Minster which always was and always will be partially covered in scaffolding. It's essential work and it is good that the money can be found for conservation though it must be a bit frustrating for visitors who have come especially to see the architecture.
The east end of the Minster has been covered in scaffolding for many years while the restoration and conservation of the largest expanse of medieval stained glass in the world was carried out. It is wonderful to see it uncovered again.
The very essence of an ideal holiday for me..being out of doors in gentle sunshine, eating out, a total media break, a good book/gallery/concert...simple requirements.
This can be city or country, abroad or at home, any season, and for a day or a week. I could add no timetable, the freedom to change my mind on a whim, and I would always want my camera.
I prefer short breaks and like to think that is because I love home and don't need to 'escape' it to have a holiday.
Are you also torn between returning to places you love and going somewhere new?
I enjoy quite frequent changes of scene and prefer the company of family and close friends to that of strangers, though I'm happy with my own company too.
Childhood holidays at the seaside, away from the city grime were very special and keenly anticipated once a year events, though when an aunt moved to rural Wigtownshire we spent Easters and some of summer there in the bracing air with wide sandy beaches to ourselves and the freedom to go and explore on our own.
I love holidays.
A special birthday with a patchwork theme.
Quilt expert Maggie (we set up Quilter's Patch in York together) hung her favourite quilts around the walls of the prettily transformed hall where the party was to be held. We took the opportunity to photograph the collection the day before.
It was such fun being part of a team again, and I also had the nice job of doing flowers and candles for the tables....
Plentiful food and drink, music, family and friends to catch up with - the party, like the birthday girl, was amazing!
Thank you Maggie and family.
Do you have a place you think of as your second home?
Regular readers will know that I feel that way about the city of York.
I love this statue by the Minster.
That hand - so expressive of power, cinfidence, arrogance even. It makes me wonder about the man and his times and want to know more. Nowhere brings history alive for me quite like this city.
I was there for a very special party.
The Bach Christmas Oratorio in the Berliner Dom was thrilling.
A dusting of snow on the hills at home today...and here is a poem for the solstice.
I was staying with my artist friend Lynne Cameron who is living and working in Berlin and has an exhibition at Under The Mango Tree Gallery in the attractive Schoneberg district - good restaurants, stylish clothes shops, great coffee shops and a Saturday market with traditional German cakes, Turkish food and Polish specialities, Christmas foliage and amaryllis and masses of mistletoe.
See Lynne's work here and read what she says about the recent tragedy here at The Empathy Blog.
I got back from a wonderful few days in Berlin yesterday afternoon and am so dismayed at how the atmosphere - so friendly, civilized, festive and delightful when we visited this beautiful market on Friday - must have changed to one of horror since the violent attack on innocent people last night.
I am full of admiration for all those Berliners who made a point of attending the Christmas markets today.
We change the clocks back an hour here in uk this weekend. Hibernation instincts revive (if that's the right word!)
I am looking forward to reading The Idea of North by Peter Davidson.
More about north tomorrow..
Real music in Betty's and on the street, real coffee, real food, real friends, history made real at every turn, real charm, real luxury in ancient buildings for the price of a cup of tea - treating the commercial world as a museum (a suggestion I think by architect Frank Gehry) I had a wonderful week in York, my favourite city....
Do you have a favourite city?
PS On this grey drizzly morning I have just ordered some deliciously coloured tulips from the Sarah Raven Sale.
..houses with my artist friend in York. City for me, country for Elizabeth.
Have you ever swapped houses?
Back in a week!
Meanwhile I think this is worth a second look, don't you? (Scroll down to Smiling Face.) And the fuchsias still look fabulous.
We stayed in Comrie in Perthshire and visited The Earthquake House above. We were lucky to be there on the one day a year when it is open to the public (at other times you can look through doors and windows) and even luckier that there had been seismic activity recorded during the early hours of that morning which I thought was quite exciting.
I also felt very lucky to stay in a house designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh - a very modest commission taken on between the first and second phase of his famous Glasgow School of Art. It is looked after by the conservation charity The Landmark Trust.
Austere, but comfortable too.
The view from the window of Comrie, a comely or couthie wee place and a good centre for touring the area.
..with attractive shops, hotel and restaurants- not fancy...but I liked it.
Plain and simple.
I'm a bit of a hit and miss photographer (digital cameras allow that don't they - love that delete button!) and I got lucky with this shot when I rested the camera on the handrail of the ferry to North Uist...I love the abstract quality of it..
This was 'the one that got away'. The two stags were standing facing each other, antlers proud and high, silhouetted against the sky in the middle of this opening - magnificent! Classic!
By the time I got out of the car and got my camera set up they had lost interest in posing and turned their backs on me....
I still see the shot I nearly had when I look at this.
Has this happened to you?
I have wanted to see the machair in flower for years, but had never been in the right place at the right time until last week on North Uist, specifically at Balranald Nature Reserve run by the RSPB and the crofters of the area.
(I am having difficulty creating links, and text to go with the photos so am just posting this anyway and will work on it......)
There is an excellent campsite here with a catering van from 11 - 3 selling wonderful home made food.
It was a joy to walk through fields of wild flowers.
Many are familiar, but the wild carrot, sea pansies, the little erodium (stork's bill, relative of the geranium) and many hybrid orchids were a special delight.
I had planned a much longer post on this special habitat but Weebly is playing up today and deleting things as fast as I can type them!!!
Well I didn't sing, but I felt the joy! We heard The Ebor Singers perform Benjamin Britten's Ceremony of Carols in the lovely medieval setting of The National Centre for Early Music in York.
You can hear them here (5 mins) singing some modern choral works including Hail Gladdening Light which feels appropriate, as the days are getting longer, starting now!
Isn't it amazing how much you can fit in to a couple of days? Seeing good friends, galleries museums and churches, a concert, window shopping and a few last minute presents, eating out and coffee stops, evening drinks (we forgot it was office-party season!) Sometimes the city gives me energy that surprises me.
Does this happen to you too?
Have you been singing this Christmas?
Or been to hear someone else sing?
Or simply felt the joy!
..if you find yourself anywhere near Edinburgh before the end of the month!
I loved the two main exhibitions at The Scottish Gallery, and we went to look at the Venetian Old Masters in the National Gallery.
Charles Jencks Landform at the Gallery of Modern Art looked serene in the rain, although the weather was lovely except for this hour or so. (Good café in beautiful garden too.) The exhibition Heads - drawings, paintings and photographs - was so absorbing I didn't get further than the corridor they were displayed in. Wonderful. It included an Augustus John drawing that looked like a Raphael.
I've added a couple of links to yesterday's post.
I expect a lot of Edinburgh residents find the Festival disruptive, but we were with my 95 year old Edinburgh resident Uncle (I've mentioned him before. He is the one who when asked if he ever takes taxis said 'I will when I'm older'.) Uncle John attends concerts, opera, theatre and book festival talks. He is stimulating company, interested in politics, economics and philosophy as well as the arts. We try to keep up with him!
Do you have a favourite arts festival?
Or a favourite uncle?
The beaches are the best thing about Lewis (did you notice there are five people in Saturday's photograph? Gives an idea of the scale!)
But the words most often used to describe the islands are wild, bleak, harsh, unforgiving. There is nothing pretty about Lewis - the only pretty things I saw were some diminutive wind-dwarfed primroses and the new lambs. It's not that kind of place. They don't call it On The Edge for nothing,
We were in the district of Uig which is very beautiful, but I found the road from Callanish to the northernmost point - the Butt of Lewis - rather depressing. More derelict houses than you'd see in any inner city sink estate! There are the ruins of the blackhouses and beside them the ruins of the whitehouses, and beside those ruins are the ubiquitous bungalows. The latest houses are eco friendly wooden Scandinavian style which I think suit the landscape, but as and when these replace the bungalows will the bungalows too just fall into dereliction? Very bleak. Not redeemed by being turned away from Cafe Sonas at lunchtime at Port Ness because we only wanted coffee and cakes! We offered to sit outside which was empty, but no....and it was the only place to eat
We were grateful for a warmer welcome at Morven Gallery where my friends bought a beautiful print of one of David Wilson's photographs of Luskentyre Beach on Harris.
David Wilson does not shy away from the dereliction in his photographs in Peter May's book Hebrides and I can see that it has visual interest and is redolent of the tragic history of poverty and the clearances, but I still find the evidence of man's hand in this fabulous place distressing!
This great rocky windy isle with it's scant covering of soil and windburned trees and peat bogs has wonderful wildlife and scenery, must be a geologist's dream destination, is popular with super-fit cyclists and campervans - basic but well cared for and spectacularly positioned sites - not many pubs or places to eat and the culture of the present day is not really visible to the tourist. Community run shops and museums are good.
I still have two Outer Hebridean ambitions - one is to see the machair in flower (see the banner photograph on this site) and I would LOVE to swim in one of these shallow sandy bays on a hot sunny day!
There are so few nesting places for birds that they try to nest in the postboxes, so they are all fitted with flaps to keep the birds out! I don't know if only Hebridean cuckoos do this, but one near the cottage called cu-ckoo-ckoo all the time....
Have you been to this part of the world?
What were your impressions?
A wonderful wedding, dearly loved friends, daffodils, primroses and wild anemones, the moors, the sea, great food and a lovely place to stay. Brilliant sunshine. I do love North Yorkshire!
There is so much I want to share with you but I'm going to skip straight to Gillies Jones glassmakers at Rosedale Abbey.
This place in its beauty and simplicity, these people in their dedication to quality and their laser-like focus on doing one thing well had a great impact on me.
Have you ever visited somewhere that just speaks to you, and perhaps changes you?
An artist seeking a simpler life - (but not too simple!)