To the Beautiful north of Scotland….Glasgow to Inverness

One of the delights of retirement is the ability to make sudden decisions about events or make alterations. And so it was that a two night visit to Inverness a week ago, to celebrate our wedding anniversary with friends, was extended into a trip much further north, and into the north-west of Scotland. As we are now ‘getting-on’, and creaking bones and stiff backs are now unlikely to get much better, we decided that it was a good a time as any to revisit old haunts, and take the chance to see new areas while relative fitness was still available. ‘carpe deum’ was the motto. the Good Lady has a love of Autumn, and if Canada was not to happen this year, then at least this would be ‘something’.

Waterproofs were packed to add to the ‘dressy’ clothes, and off we set…in Imagebeautiful weather. Now this is not unusual in September and the beginning of October, but here we were, verging on November and the trees were beginning to change colour. we took the A9 to Pitlochry, with a famous theatre, and got our first shots of the changes.

Stopping on the A9 is not to be normally recommended but we found a suitable place just before the Pitlochry turn-off and began to see the delicate tones of Autumn. Luckily the clouds in the back-ground did not materialise as rain….at least not then. And the lower sun in the west gave a more-intense background for the colours

Pitlochry itself, is an old spa town, with lovely hotels, walks, and access to much beautiful countryside. Unfortunately, like many such Imageplaces, there is an air of sadness about, as small, niche businesses open and close, and the numbers holidaying abroad means there are fewer beds taken here. Whether the old days will ever return is uncertain, but there are still places where women can browse, often as a group (whilst their men wait outside!).

Of course, this was the day when a terrible storm was to hit middle England, but we saw nothing of this as we proceeded on through sunshine, and cloud towards Inverness. We had planned that we would not be travelling large distances every day so could ‘tootle along’ at a reasonable pace, but without hassle, or shattered nerves. we did see the occasional driving idiot, but mostly it was trouble-free.

It lies at the north end of the great split which divides Scotland into east and west. Known rightly as the Capital of the Highlands, it straddles the River Ness, with OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAglorious bridges. Much of it is flat so it is accessible for easy walks. The River is clean, bright, and wends like a silver thread through the city. You can cross it in many places so the opportunity for photography is endless. You can see Inverness Castle in the photo, but of course it is no longer a fortress.

It boasts excellent hotels and B and B’s offering accommodation to cover a wide Many fine restaurants are situated on its banks, so that dining-out can also be a visual delight. We were staying at the Kingsmills Hotel, courtesy of our son who had given us the weekend as a present……great!

A marvellous meal at the Italian Riva Restaurant (not an Italian on the staff!) with our old friends, and we were glad to lay our heads down in anticipation of the trip to Brodie Castle on the morrow………………………..

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Seven ages of man..

april-2009-calendar

Aaaarrrrrgh!………………….I’ve just passed another birthday..

1/2 of 128

2 x 32

4 x 16

8 squared

4 cubed

2 to the power 6

…………take your pick, or work it out for yourself!….I just can’t bear to say it!

A small Borders town

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Over 40 years ago, (1967 to be precise) when Lady of the House and I were just engaged, I was living in Watford, and used to travel up on Friday overnight by coach (11 hours!) from London to Glasgow to visit her, and make sure the wedding was still on!

The coach had a few ‘comfort stops’, and the one north of the Scottish border was in a small neat market town. We knew when we had arrived there as we were rudely wakened from our slumber by the lights going on and the doors being opened. We were graciously allowed the facilities of the local hotel, before we headed on our last leg to the arms of our loved ones, and Lockerbie to its own devices.

Fast forward to  Christmas-tide 1988 and we were preparing for the festivities. Son was still at school and Daughter preparing for her passing-out parade at the Scottish Police College the next day.

We had promised hospitality to the young son of friends, who was driving up the A74 (which skirts a number of pleasant small market towns), and my folks who were over from Ireland and were also driving north.

They had all arrived safely and we were looking forward to having a Happy Christmas…..and then we turned on the television and heard what had happened to that little Borders town……………….

Birds and the bees

Yesterday, on our 41st wedding anniverary, Lady of the House and I were determined to find out about the Birds and Bees. ‘What?’ I hear you say, ‘Only now?….after all these years?’

Well, it’s not really as simple as this, or even what you think. We were going out for a meal to celebrate this lifetime together (well, we have to eat!), and were not sure where to go. Daughter, and friend, mentioned that they had recently been to a very pleasant restaurant on the outskirts of lovely Stirling, only a short walk from the lofty Wallace Monument.

‘Seems pleasant,’ we said and got the details. So off we went last night to find this epicurean centre, and arrived at the Restaurant, surprisingly called ‘The Birds and the Bees’.

Great ambiance, even for a Tuesday evening, with a pub quiz in the bar, and very mellow, gentle un-obtrusive music in the background. Decoration was un-deniably dedicated to birds, and bees, but we were also met by a sheep (not real!) in the reception area, and a couple of mangles (remember them?) beside the bar area.

There were several ‘cubicles’, big enough to seat 4-6, and we had one to ourselves. Wonderfully private, but prevented me hearing the conversation of a French couple who were obviously touring the area.

Food available was eclectic, with Indian, Italian, ‘good old British’, and ‘even-better Scottish’, dishes from which to choose. We shared spring rolls, then Lady had pork loin, while I had Oriental stir-fry…impeccably served and presented on un-usually-shaped plates. Unusually I chose a Chilian heavy red wine (14 %), which actually worked well.

After an appropriate rest, Lady had home-made banoffee pie, and I had caramel apple pie…….followed by wonderfully hot coffee…….before heading into a perfectly-clear evening with stars twinkling a welcome to winter.

I know not everyone is lucky enough to live near here, but I’ve put a link below so that you can simulate our delightful meal or pick your own.

 http://www.thebirdsandthebees-stirling.com/

P.S. As I was driving, I could only take a 1/2 glass of wine, so brought it away to have tonight!

P.P.S So now you too know about the Birds and the Bees!

A full Church and Choir Stalls!

Sunday evening saw our Choir joining with other singers to sing the Office of Evensong, in St Aidan’s Church on the southern outskirts of Glasgow as they celebrated 85 years in existence.

We had been helping in the arranging of the musical content of the Service along with the Rector and the Organist, but were not sure how many others would join us in the Choir stalls from the other invited churches, so did not know how many copies of the music would be required.

The equivalent problems were being faced by those organising the printing of Service sheets and also the catering for our bodily needs afterwards as regards food.

In the event we were all caught un-awares by the numbers turning up for the practice, the service itself, and the numbers of sticky buns required.

Choir stalls, church and hall were all filled to overflowing!……you never see that mentioned in the newspapers!

‘I believe in Angels’

This is one of the lines from one of the last songs in ‘Mamma Mia’. The Lady of the House and I went to see it last night. We had been given the tickets by Son and Daughter as a wedding anniversary present at the end of last year, and last night was the booked performance.

We went early to the Scottish SECC, as we do not like to be arriving late. Within 10 mins of the starting time about one third of the seats were un-occupied, but it then rapidly filled-up, and there was a full-house.

An original story uses the musical works of the two male ABBA members, and has been so well constructed that it is difficult to believe that the play did not come first with the words following on.

The musical content is of course superb, and mostly passes the ‘Old Grey Whistle Test’ with flying colours. Some of the playing was VERY LOUD, so if you are of a nervous disposition, be prepared to be surprised by sudden noise! The choreography is exciting and keeps your attention, as there is always something going on at all corners of the stage.

The audience (even the groups of what-looked-like line-dancers) were well behaved but enjoyed it. The most astonishing thing was the age-range from relatively-young couples to grannies and grandpas. No cultural or musical divide here.

There was one small incident when someone taking a photo was escorted from the auditorium. Whilst I am sure it is not un-common, and there are warnings about use of cameras, can I make a suggestion. To many people the entry cost is quite high (and so is the programme at £6), and they might like to have a small momentum of the evening, via a photo. I appreciate the copyright problems, but surely it would be possible, during the final dance or curtain call, to allow the taking of a photo. If folk knew that the opportunity would arise to take one or two photos at the end it might stop the surruptitious attempts at flash-less photos.

Despite that, it was a wonderful evening with great music, well-played by the 7-piece orchestra.

…THANK YOU FOR THE MUSIC!…

Forty etc…..

“Forty Days and forty nights……….”

“Forty years long was I grieved with this generation…”

“Life begins at forty….”

“When forty winters shall beseige thy brow…..”

“Forty years on, when afar and asunder, parted are those who are singing today” (From the Harrow School Song)…….

Writers seem to feel that something special attaches to the number forty. Any dictionary of quotations will give many references if you care to look them up.

This weekend, the Lady of the House, and I celebrated forty years of marriage, and it doesn’t seem as long as that. Actually I have no real idea what 40 years is like! The passage of such a large amount of time can only be assessed in retrospect, but as the time goes on, you do not have any great sensation of such a time approaching.

Only when such an event comes does it actually hit you that this is a milestone which you will not pass again. You may have acquired more acquaintences but you basic friends stay the same. It has been great fun and as long as health is preserved then we hope to see 50 years…..so here’s to the next ten !!