Friday 31 July 2020

A tornado?

It was nice and sunny when Gail and I set off to ascend Morven, our favourite Aberdeenshire hill, last Sunday.

Needless to say, conditions were not so favourable when we reached the 872 m high summit.

After a few minutes braving the full force of the westerly gale, I opted to direct photography from the relative comfort of the stone wind shelter, where I also had high hopes of finding morsels of food carelessly dropped by previous hikers.

Gail says you have to biggify the next three photos for full dramatic effect.

Before descending, I posed in front of some little yellow flowers. These are Alpine lady's mantle and they grow in the wild at high altitudes in Scotland. The harsh conditions dictate they are much tinier than their lowland cousins. That the photograph below is focussed on my beard rather than the plant is not, to my mind, a shortcoming, but Gail insisted on taking a close-up of the flowers, which also turned out to be imperfectly focussed - well it was rather windy up there...

On the way down we spotted what almost looked like mini-tornado in the distance.

By the time we reached the lower slopes, the sun was shining brightly on the blooming heather and, miraculously, we somehow dodged the showers and made it back to the car without once getting wet! 

Happy Nature Friday friends! Once again we are delighted to join in with Rosy, Jakey, Arty and Sunny for their weekly blog hop. 

Monday 27 July 2020

The Freedom of Union Street

I guess even the darkest cloud has at least the faintest glimmer of a silver lining. 

Although it's only a kilometre from our front door, Gail doesn't very often walk me into the Aberdeen city centre. The main thoroughfare, Union Street, tends to be full of noisy traffic, and with pedestrians crammed on to too narrow pavements.

So imagine my delight when a few days ago, when Gail had a few messages* to do in town and I accompanied her, I came upon a scene transformed. 

Yes, this is post-coronavirus Union Street, where cars, buses and lorries have, in the cause of social distancing, been displaced in favour of two and four legged transport, and bicycles, and flower boxes. 

If I was to let Gail write my blog, I have no doubt you'd be in for a lengthy rant about how it's been obvious for decades that this should be done, that Aberdeen City Council is run by short-sighted dinosaurs, blah, blah, blah. 

Well I'll spare you all that, but I will side with my owner in hoping that these supposedly temporary measures will end up a permanent and positive legacy of the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic, a place where I can do zoomies unhindered all the way from St Nicholas Kirk to Marks and Spencer and back...

I'm wondering if my friends have seen any similar street alterations in their home territory? 

*'Messages' is Scots for 'errands', a usage which causes some confusion for English immigrants when they first arrive in this part of the world. 

Friday 24 July 2020

There is a willow grows aslant a brook

Sometimes I have to question the thinking behind my human's urge to explore new places. 

I mean, would you really want to visit the place where Ophelia drowned? Or to be strictly accurate, the location where the drowning scene in Franco Zeffirelli's film of 'Hamlet' (that's the Mel Gibson one) was shot? 

Well here we are, in a steep gully beneath some cliffs, near the coastal village of Muchalls, about ten miles south of Aberdeen. 

This is 'Ophelia's Pool', a local, well-hidden beauty spot.

So how did Shakespeare have Gertrude describe the scene? 

There is a willow grows aslant a brook, 
That shows his hoar leaves in the glassy stream. 
There with fantastic garlands did she come 
Of crowflowers, nettles, daisies, and long purples, 
That liberal shepherds give a grosser name, 
But our cold maids do dead men's fingers call them. 
There on the pendant boughs her coronet weeds 
Clamb'ring to hang, an envious sliver broke, 
When down her weedy trophies and herself 
Fell in the weeping brook. Her clothes spread wide 
And, mermaid-like, awhile they bore her up; 
Which time she chaunted snatches of old tunes, 
As one incapable of her own distress, 
Or like a creature native and indued 
Unto that element; but long it could not be 
Till that her garments, heavy with their drink, 
Pull'd the poor wretch from her melodious lay 
To muddy death.

Well I have to say I had no plans to fall in the 'weeping brook' and risk dying a 'muddy death', no matter how good a photo opportunity it might have made.

I took care to steer well clear of those weeds and keep my paws firmly planted.

I'll concede that 'Ophelia's Pool' is a pretty spot...

...but if you want the full picture of garlands of cornflowers, coronets of weeds, and aesthetically pleasing drowning, I refer you to the painting by John Everett Millais, as found a long way from here, in the Tate Gallery, London. 

Happy Nature Friday friends! And once again thank you to the ever wonderful LLB Gang for hosting this blog hop.

Wednesday 22 July 2020

Matchy-Matchy 2020 Style

Remember, we're all in this together. 

Monday 20 July 2020

Panic stations!

Imagine my horror.

Back in Aberdeen on Friday morning, after a disappointingly hurried walk around the park Gail did something completely unheard of and deeply worrying.

She announced she was heading off into town, to ..... I can scarcely bear to say it..... to visit a bathroom and kitchen showroom, supposedly in order to "get some ideas".

Never before in the ten years I've known her has my human darkened the doors of a such an establishment, nor spent much time at all thinking about interior design, beyond perhaps admiring the insides of some of the homes we see when visiting our friends' blogs.

Hitherto she has, entirely reasonably in my opinion, focussed her efforts in her free time on finding beautiful places in the natural environment where she and I can go exploring to our hearts' content (e.g. see photo below).
Loch Torridon a week ago
And my little heart was quite content with that.

Apparently the new kitchen and bathroom stuff will be for a planned modernisation/upgrade of the Torridon cottage.


The way I see it, if the clear Torridon mountain streams are good enough for my bathing requirements, then why not for Gail also? And for any visitors who come to stay? After all, it's not so many days in the year when you have to break the ice before getting wet...

Humans are a mystery aren't they?

I am mightily relieved to report that Gail did not linger too long in the showroom, and normal service was restored in the afternoon when we revisited a favourite Aberdeenshire spot. Here I am, at the summit of Millstone Hill, lord of all I survey. The ridge in the background is Bennachie

Panic over. Bertie's in his heaven and all's right with the world!

Friday 17 July 2020

Flowerdale Glen

None of your unpronounceable Gaelic places names for our nature walk this Friday!

While over on the west coast last week Gail and I went exploring in the environs of Gairloch - first onto the gloriously empty sandy beach and then a gentle stroll up the prettily and aptly named Flowerdale Glen to a half-hidden, waterfall.

We'll let the photos do the talking today.

Thank you once again to our lovely friends Rosy, Arty and Jakey AND Sunny, for hosting the Nature Friday blog hop. Do hop along and enjoy all the other posts.

Wednesday 15 July 2020

Lift, toss, scramble, repeat

So Gail and I went for a short walk on the hill behind the cottage on Monday. In normal times, the path can be hard to locate. This year, with so few visiting hikers, one very steep part of the path was totally overgrown with bracken as high as Gail's chest, and I, unconvinced that Gail had the situation under control, resolutely refused to proceed onwards through the dense vegetation. 

In such circumstances, I expect my human to pick me up and carry me until we reach a well-defined track again. Unfortunately, on this occasion it seems that Gail was unable to simultaneously carry me under one arm, and brush aside the bracken with the other, while ascending a 25% gradient on the uneven terrain, 

Ever resourceful, Gail adopted a protocol which involved the follow steps: (1) lifting me up, (2) holding me aloft, arms stretched out in front of her, (3) leaning forward and throwing me up the hill, (4) stumbling forwards through the bracken to where I landed. And then repeating steps (1) to (4). 

Obviously, no photos were taken, but in case you have difficulty visualising the situation, I have provided below a sketch of step (3).

I am pleased to report that Gail and I did in the end make it safely back to the cottage with no broken bones.

The next morning, I indicated that I would prefer just a short walk along the road. Although I had suffered no physical damage, the psychological scars might take a few days to wear off...

Monday 13 July 2020

Some days are not so exciting

Gail has pointed out an omission in my description last week of our Torridon cottage as "a little patch of heaven'.

What I should have said, of course, was that, in the months of July and August, on dull and damp days, it is "a little patch of heaven for the Highland midge".

The cottage is nestled below a boggy hillside, surrounded by birches and Scots pines, and sheltered from the prevailing westerly winds. Perfect conditions then, when the light is low and the atmosphere humid, for massed ranks of our local species of biting midge to come out and party in the garden.

And it seems they did not get this year's memo about social distancing. So when, on Sunday morning, Gail got all togged up for a spot of shed painting, I opted to stay indoors behind closed windows and catch up on some zzzzzzz.

Only later, when the weather had brightened up a bit and the midges had retreated to their boggy dwelling places to hide from the sun, did I emerge to supervise Gail's work in the garden.