The V&A at Dundee

V&A Sign, Dundee

We’ve been to the V&A at Dundee a couple of times now since it opened recently, the second time we had hoped that it wouldn’t be quite so busy – but it was. I think it’ll be quite some time before the visitor numbers settle down a wee bit. Below is a close up of one of the walls so you can see how curvaceous it is. We’ve watched this building grow very slowly for years and it seemed at times that it would never be finished so it’s no surprise that people have been chewing at the bit to get into it.

Exterior Curve, V&A Dundee

In parts it overhangs the River Tay and I’m not sure if it’s meant to be inspired by a ship or Scottish cliffs, or a conglomeration of both. Dundee was famous for shipbuilding in the past. It looks like a perfect nesting place for seabirds of which there are plenty around here, but apparently they are being kept at bay by the use of sonar.
Overhanging River Tay, V&A Dundee

The weather in Dundee does get pretty wild at times so I hope that the planting has been chosen for hardiness. I think it’s supposed to be prairie planting. It’ll be interesting to see if it survives.
Exterior Planting , V&A Dundee

The interior is definitely different with this angled slatted shingle effect which is reminiscent of an old ship.
V&A Interior

V&A Interior

V&A Interior,  Dundee
The staircase is elegant I think.
V&A Interior ,staircase, Dundee

I’m not sure if the stone of the floors and stairs is natural or some kind of man made substitute, but it looks like it has all sorts of fossils embedded in it.

Interior Stairs, V&A Dundee

V&A Interior floor, Dundee

If you want to see more photos you should click over to Jack’s post here.

RRS Discovery at Dundee

I love ships and there’s something special about lovely old wooden sailing ships and all that rigging, but I can’t imagine ever being brave enough to actually set sail in one – on a long journey anyway. Those chaps who sailed off to explore the Antarctic were incredible. The Royal Research Ship Discovery was launched in 1901.

Mast & lifeboat

Going aboard Discovery the first thing that you notice is the mushroom vents which are fitted on the decks, they’re the equivalent of skylights in a house roof and bring daylight and fresh air below decks, but they’re chunky (well they had to be) and they’re terrible obstacles for anyone getting about on deck, in fact they were nick-named ankle grinders by the crew. There are no portholes in the ship’s hull as they would have weakened the structure.

Mushroom vents

Going down into the hold I was surprised at how small it feels, considering they had to take so much with them in the way of stores.

Store room on RRS Discovery

Below Deck

Equipment Room

The actual living accommodation is quite stylish in an Edwardian sort of a way, with lovely wooden panelling, a bit gentlemen’s club-ish. It was a time when people knew their place in society though so although the officers had really comfortable looking cabins, complete with hanging bookshelves and a dining room the accommodation for the ‘men’ was basic. They just had hammocks slung up in the mess room, eating, sleeping and relaxing (if they ever could) in the same place.
Mess Room
The officers’ wardroom is in the middle of the ship with the officers’ cabins situated just off the room as you can see in the photo below.

Wardroom

I was quite taken with the officers cute wee rooms until I was told that they were the coldest part of the ship and the mattresses regularly froze up as they slept in them.
Officer's Quarters
Captain Scott’s cabin is very comfortable looking.
Scott's Quarters

Shackleton’s cabin below isn’t quite so plush.
Shackleton's Quarters

They had a gramophone player and a harmonium for entertainment, the harmonium is in the exhibition centre and is behind glass, presumably so that people can’t have a go of it. I was amused to see that the cast iron pedals say ‘mouse proof’ on them. It’s impossible to see that with all the reflections though. I suppose that harmonium bellows were made from leather which was apt to be gnawed by rodents.

Harmonium
They also wrote their own newspaper articles – for The South Polar Times – to keep their spirits up, some of them drew cartoons, it was all very light-hearted in a black humorous sort of way. When they got back home they were printed and bound with a very small amount of copies being published. They put on plays and shows with the men inevitably getting togged out in women’s clothing.
South Polar Times

Discovery cost £51,000 to build which is the equivalent of £4.1 million in modern currency. She did have a coal-fired steam engine but relied mainly on sail as they didn’t have enough storage space for the amount of coal required for a long voyage.

The Antarctic expeditions weren’t only about staking a claim on the territory for Britain, they also conducted important science experiments and made great discoveries.
Science Space

Win-terrrrr

We just had to bite the bullet yesterday and despite the horrendous weather we hired a van and made our way to the flat pack furniture shop beloved by many that is Ikea. The journey there was pretty hairy because so much snow had fallen. Duncan has taken the week off work and as luck would have it all of the schools in Fife are closed so my husband was able to drive the van. The worst nasty moment was when we crashed into a roundabout and ended up spinning around and pointing in the wrong direction but we managed to get out of that situation and carried on to Edinburgh.

Our plans for a leisurely look around the store and having a late lunch there before buying everything required were shot to bits when they announced that the store was closing in one hour not long after we got there. So it was a mad dash roung gathering up beds and bookcases and such before being chucked out and having to brave the roads again.

It was a slow journey back to Kirkcaldy with the snow coming at us, on and off. Then when we got back home we just threw some food down our necks, loaded some more stuff into the van and set off for Dundee and Duncan’s new flat.

I hate roundabouts. We skated around them and at times it was really terrifying as the van didn’t really like any change in direction, it’s just lucky that there was hardly anybody else on the roads. The snow was even worse when we got to Dundee and the van got stuck in the entrance road to Duncan’s place so we just had to unload all the stuff and trudge through the snow which was about a foot deep. Then up to the second floor flat – no fun at all.

My husband said we’re getting too old for such shenanigans, and I think he might be right. We had to dig ourselves out in the end, with the help of some very good neighbours and a dog.

The journey back to Kirkcaldy was very scary especially when a blizzard hit us and we couldn’t even see the road at times. I dreaded seeing the lights of up-coming roundabouts in the distance. But we made it, and returned the hired van unscathed.

During that marathon journey in three different counties we only saw one snow plough and it had the plough bit raised so it wasn’t doing anything. We saw no gritters at all.

We had to travel across the scary Forth Road Bridge twice yesterday, but today it has been closed for the first time since it was opened in 1962 – which just shows you how bad the weather has been. It’s quite depressing really as we have a long way to go till the end of the winter. It used to be very rare for us to get snow before Christmas but winter seems to come earlier each year now – and stays with us longer, and summer is non-existent.

This is a photo of a very disgruntled bird which appeared in my garden after our first fall of snow. I think it’s a snipe, but I’m not sure. I’ve never seen a bird like this here before, it’s definitely some sort of wading bird and the poor thing seemed to think that the snow was sand because it kept poking its enormous bill into it and was very disappointed to find nothing it could eat.

The Tay Railway Bridge


We were in Dundee yesterday, so I thought I would take the chance to photograph the bridge, including the scary stumps of the old bridge. The one which collapsed in a very high wind over 100 years ago.

Looking down on the remains of the original bridge from a train is not a very pleasant experience. Luckily, if it is a nice bright day you will be distracted by the lovely view of the hills of Perthshire in the distance.

William Topaz McGonagall that eccentric Dundonian ‘poet’, famously wrote one of his truly dire poems about the incident.

As you can see there is work going on to the fabric of the bridge at the moment. The same can be said of just about every bridge that I’ve seen recently.

New Year 2010

Well it turned out to be just about the quietest Hogmanay that we have ever had. For the first time since we had kids we ended up spending it on our own. Usually our house is full of young people as our boys have always had their friends spending the time here and we come down to a lot of half dead bodies in the morning, which has a charm all of its own.

This year however, as they have both finished university and found good jobs, one has his own place with his girlfriend and the other is planning to move out very soon, they were both doing their own things, very strange.

We had a bit of a drink together and after a short time decided just to go to bed as the pavements are still too dangerous for gallivanting about on even in the daylight, very icy.

We were all strung out along the east coast of Scotland from Dundee to Burntisland. From Burntisland beach you can see the firework display which they have on Edinburgh Castle battlements. At midnight all the ships in the Firth of Forth hooted their horns. Everyone ended up back at home base in Kirkcaldy for the New Year meal. I know that as the cook I shouldn’t boast but I must admit that it was a great leg of lamb.

The cooking reminded me that in my family home it was the tradition to have a huge meal on Hogmanay. Whilst I was doing all the house cleaning, my mum was busy cooking an enormous steak pie with all the trimmings which was ready to be served around about 10.30/11.00 at night on Hogmanay. The idea was that if the men got a big stodgy meal inside them, then they wouldn’t get so drunk after midnight – they needed something to line their stomachs.

Notice that I said ‘the men’, because when I was a youngster very few women drank alcohol. A very small sherry would be the most that any of them would have. I can’t help thinking that things would be much better if we went back to that way of behaving. I’ve seen some terrible mother role models for young girls recently. Why would any woman want their children to see them paralytically sozzled? Mind you, it isn’t any better if fathers end up like that too.

Well that’s me got my first blog moan of the year over with and my last post about this new year.