Happy New Year!

Like many people I’m fairly glad to see the back of 2017, but given the MAYhem that has been unleashed on us in the UK – I’m trepidatious about 2018.

But heigh-ho – onwards and upwards. I hope that 2018 will be a good one for us all, so Happy New Year to anyone who drops in on me at Pining.

Every year there’s a torchlight procession down Edinburgh’s Royal Mile on the 30th of December. I think we might take part in it next year – I’m told it’s good fun.

Christmas Update

A fine time was had by us all, both for J’s birthday and Christmas, but after stuffing our faces for two days running we were glad to get out of the house and stretch our legs on Cellardyke beach this afternoon. We took part in their beach clean up- a first for both of us.

Compared to lots of beaches I’ve seen it looked fairly clean to me but when we got in amongst the rocks we found lots of plastic bottles, plastic bags, polystyrene, insulation foam, rope and netting from fishing boats, broken creels, casing from electrical equipment, hub caps …. the list went on and on.

Luckily it was a gorgeous blue sky and sun shiny day and we were warm enough while we were actually picking litter, despite the fact that the rock pools were covered with ice, surprising as it’s obviously sea water.

As it got towards 3 o’clock the sun disappeared and the chill came down on us and hot pies provided by a local shopkeeper were very welcome at the end of it all. I’d definitely take part in any other beach clean ups, it’s a good way of getting to know people – and their dogs.

Sadly there’s no photographic evidence though – I was too busy!

But you can see some images of the beach here although we were at the far end of it where it’s much rockier.

Merry Christmas

Christmas

Merry Christmas!

A certain person in our family (not me) has his birthday on Christmas Eve, so that’s always a very busy day for me, cooking for everyone for that celebration. Thankfully I have today off from the kitchen as others in our extended family are doing the honours!

Have a lovely time – whatever you’re doing.

Christmas

Wintry Walk in Fife

Come on – how about coming with me on a wintry walk in Fife, it’ll help blow the cobwebs away! One afternoon a couple of weeks ago during a really cold snap we went for a walk in nearby woodland.

Balbirnie Estate trees

And then we left the woodland, crossed the road and set out for the open farmland surrounding the woods.

Estate Trees

Farm Track

It was the middle of November but the trees were still holding onto leaves and looking quite colourful, I think some of them are beeches.

Trees

In the summer these fields will have crops of wheat, oats or barley in them.

winter Trees

The fields had been boggy after all the rain we’d had earlier in the year but where there were tractor tracks the puddles in them had been frozen over. We kept to the farm track, in the photo below you can just see a small bridge that goes over a railway line, there’s a concrete and brick structure above and beside the track which looks like a World War 2 pillbox.

Railway  Bridge and pillbox

Presumably the pillbox was built to defend the track in the event of attack.

Pillbox

Below is the track going north.
Railway  track

And below the track is going south to Edinburgh.
Railway  track, Fife

We disturbed some pheasants in one of the fields and they flew off in that awkward way they have that makes me think that anyone who shoots them for ‘sport’ is akin to a murderer as it seems they can’t fly away very well, having said that they were too fast for me to get a photo of them.

Trees in Fife

By then we were frozen to the bone so we turned for home, it was coffee and cake time! I’m sorry I couldn’t share that with you, but I hope you enjoyed your rural stroll with me in Fife.
Road

The land around here isn’t that far from Falkland Palace and I imagine that when Mary of Guise, Mary Stuart and King James lived there this area would have been part of their riding and hunting ground as Falkland was built as a hunting palace. It would have been much more heavily wooded in those days. The Palace is mentioned in Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles

Rochdale Town Hall, Lancashire

We stayed in Rochdale for a few days last month, visiting friends who live there. I knew very little about the place, apart from knowing that like many towns it has a very grand town hall built in the Victorian Gothic Revival style. We had just missed a tour of the building and they only have a couple of them a week, but we were being treated to afternoon tea in the tearoom there so we were at least able to see some of the interior. I can highly recommend the afternoon tea – delicious.

Rochdale Town Hall

Rochdale Town Hall

Rochdale Town Hall Interior 1

Rochdale Town Hall fireplace

It’s a good setting for a wedding if you live in that area.
Rochdale Town Hall interior

Sue and I made a trip to the loos and we were held up a bit because there was an old lady in front of us, obviously not able to walk very quickly – and leaning on a man’s arm. Luckily they veered off in a different direction and Sue said to me “Did you realise who that was?” No I didn’t. It was the actress Julie Goodyear, better known as Bet Lynch of Coronation Street fame! And – blow me down – she had been wearing her trademark leopard print too, just in case people failed to recognise her I think. We all saw her from the front later on so Jack and I feel we got the authentic north of England experience of seeing a ‘soap’ actor around town. With Emmerdale also being filmed nearby actors can apparently be seen around and about quite often.

If you have no idea who Bet Lynch was you might like to see the clip of her below, when she was in her heyday. This is probably from around when I gave up watching Corrie as they went from two episodes a week to just about every day of the week. Too much.

It was obviously too much for Julie Goodyear as she seems to have retired from acting to concentrate on breeding horses. Martin and Sue pointed her property out to us, on the outskirts of Rochdale, she has a good view anyway.

Rochdale has come in for a lot of flak in recent years but I was quite impressed by it.

Penny Lane, Liverpool, and more

I still have lots of Norway photos to share with you, but I thought I would relive our recent visit to Liverpool, we were staying with our good friends Martin and Sue in the north of England and they had arranged a Beatles open top bus tour. Close to the bus stop there are statues of The Beatles, they’re larger than lifesize, about seven and a half feet tall I believe. This actually looks better in the photo than it does in real life I think. My favourite – George, second from the left is particularly anonymous looking.

Four Liverpool Lads

Penny Lane sign

The first stop was Penny Lane. I don’t know what I had expected but I didn’t expect a quiet leafy road. Obviously the original road sign was nicked years ago, and I suspect they still are stolen because this one is just a modern plastic thing.

Penny Lane

Most of us piled out of the bus to take some photos anyway. Apart from being given Beatles information from the tour guide Damien, he was also quite handy with a guitar, so we had a sing-a-long too. There is still a barber there and a bank.

The other end of Penny Lane is residential although some of the buildings have been turned into workplaces. A few computer bound upper office workers are happy to wave back at you, maybe it brightens up their day to have a tour bus pass them every now and again.

Penny Lane

Strawberry Fields Forever – but not THE gate apparently. Yoko Ono took the original after John Lennon was murdered. I believe she put them somehere in the US. These replica gates were made, but I don’t think they should have allowed her to remove the originals. Strawberry Fields was of course the name of a Salvation Army children’s home and it had a lot of ground around it, the local kids used to play in there, it was their bit of paradise. It seems that fans have come from all over the world to scrawl messages on the gatepost.

Strawberry Fields

Meanwhile back; onto the bus and the street in the photo below is where Paul McCartney grew up. Apparently he still goes back there now and again, to show people where he grew up.

McCartney's Road

Then on to Aunt Mimi’s house below. This is where John Lennon grew up, staying with his Aunt Mimi when his parents lost custody of him, both being deemed unfit parents. He was lucky to have his aunt and uncle who stepped in to bring him up here. The people who own this house now must be really fed up with constant tour bus stops, they have the bedroom window curtains drawn and I don’t blame them.

Aunt Mimi's house

You can see the front porch has been fairly recently refurbished, but that is where John Lennon and Paul McCartney used to practice their guitar playing when they were kids. I think it was supposed to be less annoying for the neighbours if they were out there.

Aunt Mimi's house

If you are a Beatles fan then the trip is well worthwhile – even worth getting soaked as happened to us up the back of the open-topped bus.

I was a bit too young for the Beatles in their heyday but my sister was a teenager then so I grew up with their music. She was a fan and had George Harrison framed on her dressing table.

Meanwhile back to Penny Lane.

Flam, Norway

Our first port of call in Norway was Flam (pronounced flom as in from) , somewhere that I had never even heard of before so I had no idea what to expect. As it turned out it was perfect for us, just some shops selling the inevitable trolls and knitwear as well as T shirts and mugs, the usual tourist stuff.
Flam

We hadn’t booked any of the organised trips, preferring to be independent and strike out on our own, so that is exactly what we did. The weather was fine and we were keen to stretch our legs so we went a walk in search of the source of a large waterfall, sadly we didn’t find it as the route became too muddy after a long yomp uphill and we had to give up, in fact nobody seemed to have managed to get to the waterfall.
River
High above the river there is a small group of buildings as you’ll see if you click the photo below to enlarge it. I suspect that those places are only inhabited in the summer months. Apparently Flam only has 350 inhabitants.

Flam

Turf roofs are fairly common in Norway, in rural areas anyway.

Flam

The river is very fast flowing and noisy and it has a lot of fishing platforms situated above it, you can walk on some of them. Strangely though there are also ‘fishing forbidden’ notices there too. In the background you can see that waterfall we didn’t reach.

fishing platforms

The bird life and planting in this part of Norway seems to be much the same as in the UK, but I’ve never seen a tree like the evergreen one in the photo below before. It was very pretty with ‘fruits’ like teeny trees on it, lemon yellow.
evergreen tree

We passed a church at one point and luckily it was open so we were able to have a peek in it, but I’ll leave that for another time.

Aurlandsfjord, Norway

From Lysefjord we sailed into Aurlandsfjord which turned out to be even more spectacular. It’s a branch of the much larger Sognefjord as in the map below. If you look to the right hand side of the map you will see Aurlandsfjord.

Sogne Fjord map

The photographs don’t look that wonderful, it was a grey day, but I think you can get a flavour of the ethereal atmosphere with the wispy low clouds.

Aurlandsfjord

I think of Norway as being just like Scotland – with knobs on! It always amazes me that trees can thrive in such grim growing conditions, this is a very heavily wooded mountainside and the trees have their roots in the rocks.

Aurlandsfjord mountains

Aurlandsfjord leads to the small town of Flam (pronounced flom as in from) and on the way there there are small communities, wherever there are some small patches of greenery people have settled there. These pieces of fertile land are few and far between, most of Norway is too rocky for growing crops. That was the whole reason that the Vikings had to get on their ships and look for somewhere else to live, the land couldn’t support all of the inhabitants.

Aurlandsfjord houses

Some of these houses are only lived in during the summer, they look idyllic to me but I can imagine that the winters are long and grim.

Aurslandfjord houses

I was quite happy with our grey sky views of the fjord but if you want to see other people’s blue sky photos have a look here.

The next Norway post will be of Flam.

Lysefjord, Norway

For the first couple of days in Norway we sailed through some fjords before actually getting off the Black Watch.

Lysefjord

There are loads of waterfalls tumbling down the sides of the mountains. It’s all quite magical, so atmospheric.

Lysefjord in Norway

Pulpit Rock below is famous, it’s a flat piece of rock about 25 metres square and people go up there to sightsee, I’m not sure I fancy that!

Pulpit Rock

These are just a wee taster of our first fjord on our trip, I have loads more photos. Sadly they don’t capture just how spectacular the area is – but I’m sure you know that feeling when you look back at your own photos, they still bring back the memories though.

Lysefjord

I’m back!

I really enjoyed our trip to Norway, it was something I’d wanted to do again for donkey’s years, and often when you’ve looked forward to something so much it can be a wee bit of a disappointment. But Norway lived up to my expectations, I don’t suppose the fjords ever change, except when some more scree falls down the mountains, just making it even more scenic than before.

As ever, the food on the cruise was excellent, but luckily we were able to go for long walks when we got off the Black Watch, we were just about the only ones to do that, although one couple did hire bikes to travel up to the lakes at Flam.

Queensferry Crossing

The cruise started off from Rosyth though and we were lucky enough to be the first cruise ship to sail under the newly completed Queensferry Crossing which was being officially opened by the Queen the next day. It had been closed to traffic to allow 50,000 people to walk across the bridge over the weekend, it’s not a pedestrian bridge normally. There was a lottery for the tickets so as you can see there were people waving at us as we sailed under the bridge. The bridge isn’t open to pedestrians at all now so that was a rare opportunity for them – and for the passengers who were out on deck waving back to them, quite emotional really.

Queensferry Crossing

All going to plan tomorrow’s post will be in Norway!