Saturday, 26 December 2015



3. Sween Castle, Scotland
6. China
10. Loch Maree, Scotland.
13. Iceland
15. Or probably not.
17, 18, 19.


  1. Picture 4 looks nothing like 290 Bath Street.

    Love the barraload of Orangs

    Merry Christmas to everyone - except Unionists.

    Saor Alba

    1. The Orangs in the barrow are really fantastic.

  2. It's a close call, but I think the Orangutans in the barra have it. Though I do like the lynx, looks a bit like my oldest cat.

    1. Seems to be a favourite, Jim.

  3. Hope Tris and everyone had a nice Christmas.

    Nice Bison.....a little too close for comfort, outside of a photograph.

    Cool Castle! Sween Castle sent me to Google and Wiki, and "Historic Scotland" websites. Twelfth of the oldest such structures in Scotland. Brooding old medieval and Dark Age structures are interesting......and somewhat spooky. (Historic "atmosphere" is somewhat spoiled by a holiday park right beside it Google says.)

    Turns out the "12th century" Eilean Donan Castle.....the one on all the Scotland travel a twentieth century reconstruction, built for tourists on the site of the old castle ruins. With interiors suitable for a 1950's movie set. Nice looking place though.

    1. It's interesting, Danny, that houses they put up in the 20th century have such a short lifespan, and yet, back in the 12th century they could build something that would stand for 800 years...

      I've never been to either of them... there's rather a surfeit of them about the place and we get a bit blasé about them.

      Hope you had a good Christmas too.

  4. Yeah two Soppy Sundays in one week. Loads of goodies - I like the family portrait of the owls. We share much with our great ape cousins but who knew trying to get comfie after making your bed was one of them :-). The gorillas are so cute. There are TWO gorilla documentaries tonight, one BBC and one STV - hopefully both will be on demand later. As others have said the barrowload of orange folk is SOOOOOO cute. However, given the horrid and illegal behaviour of toffs, including Tory MPs apparently, in England my joint winners are 9 and 14. Still orange though!

    1. I think the toffs will have problems if they try to reverse the ban on fox hunting. The Tories are split about it, and at the moment I doubt if they need another reason for internecine war...


  5. Cad grianghraif álainn chun deireadh na bliana. Athbhliain faoi mhaise daoibh a thabhairt duit agus do léitheoirí.

    1. Go raibh maith agat Marcia ... agus a thabhairt duit.

  6. tris

    Ooh ! wook and the pwitty picures so wery pwitty..Bah Humbug !

    anyways you should if you havent read this already
    When Hilary's Benn's finest will be judged his foulest.
    Hilary Benn will cringe if he reads his Syria Debate speech in nine months time. He will then judge it to be a shameful piece of crude demagogy. Listening to it was nauseous for those of us who admired the talents of his father. The voice and the gestures were the same: the contents were self-serving, simplistic emotional and lacking rigorous analysis

    1. Good article, Niko.

      Benn may pay for it in a new Year shuffle.

      Putting big hitters on the back benches may cause some problems for Corbyn (the old outside the tent versus inside the tent), but in the end, people with Blairite views and people with Corbynite views are not really compatible.

      One confort for Labour is that Cameron and his referendum have stirred up deep hatred int eh Tory Party and they too are tearing temselves apart.

      Maybe there is a realignment coming.

      Oh and Niko, there's nothing wrong with pretty pictures. You're being to sound like John Brownlie with a hangover.

      Talking of which, where the hell is he?

  7. Paul also said...

    Britain punching above its weight leads to people dying above their

    1. Of coruse it does...

      And more.

      While we find billions for nuclear weapons, and wars in the near and middle east, why is it beyond the wit of British engineers to did channels and build flood barriers?

      Why is it beyond British ingenuity to feed people and keep them warm?

      And why are we demanding that people get out there and look for work when they are in intensive care units?

      Time Britain did its duty and no more.

  8. I too like the barrow load Orangs I also love Gorillas they are so peaceful to stand beside as we often did in the Zoo in Edinburgh. Sween Castle, well I am going to have a look and as for Eilean Donan Castle, they never show it with the car park on the other side. Our favourite is Dunnottar, So atmospheric.

    1. It's a bit disappointing now that I know it's a reconstruction...

      It was on my "to visit" list. It isn't any more !!!

    2. The story goes god told the guy, in a dream, to rebuild it. No drink involved, apparently.

    3. Obviously! Wasn't called Noah was he... coz we're getting the rain now... Anything is possible.

    4. Internet has interesting stuff about Eilean Donan. Seems that Lt. Colonel John MacRae-Gilstrap (of the clan MacRae) bought the place and hired a local stonemason named Farquahr MacRae to simply restore the ruins. But while the Colonel was off at WWI, Farquahr had a dream that told him to rebuild it, and he said told him exactly how the old place had looked. So when the Colonel got back from the war, he found the site being readied for a full reconstruction. He gave the go-ahead and the rest is history. Apparently it was used as the John MacRae family home, until a grandson opened it to the public in 1955. Wikipedia has a picture of the ruins as it appeared prior to 1911.,_pre_1911.jpg

    5. Kind of a middle ground between ruins and reconstruction is the way that old castles and buildings that have been in more or less continuous use are changed by periodic remodeling. It seems that Windsor Castle had fallen into disrepair by Victorian times, and was extensively remodeled inside and out. It was at that point that a lot of external elaboration was added to make it look more like an old Norman Castle (which it originally was of course.....but didn't necessarily look like anymore.) I was also a little disappointed to learn that while William the Conqueror was crowned at Westminster Abbey in 1066, it didn't happen in the building that's there today. The 11th century church was largely demolished in the 13th century and rebuilt by Henry III. I've read that there are still some eleventh century things down in the basement.

      Car parks are a problem with the view from old historic sites. Seventeenth and eighteenth century colonial sites in the states are sometimes in an "historic district" where modern vehicles are not allowed. You have to walk some distance from the car park at Mount Vernon to get to George Washington's house. The car park is situated out of sight of the eighteenth century plantation house.

    6. @ HB, Dunnottar looks amazing! And it's sure not obvious where they've hid the car park.....LOL.

    7. That's an interesting story for the man with the almost comic book name... Amazing that the stone mason should take it upon himself. Looking at the 'before' picture, it was some almighty task.

      The car park is always a problem, but if you make it too far away you exclude a lot of older or disabled people from viewing.

      I guess we just have to do some imagining.

      I suspected that you to be rather fit to get to Dunottar, then I saw that they do weddings adn I can't imagine people in their best clothes walking all the way up that hill, so I guess there must be some arrangement.

    8. Danny, the Car Park is away from the Castle, you have to walk down and then up. The hiding place of the Honours of Scotland, cannot think of a better place.

    9. @ HB, Yes. Looks like an amazing place. And I see the walkway to the castle now.

  9. There is now a law in the states that requires disabled access to all public places.....whether private or governmental or historic. It took a ton of public and private money to rebuild restrooms, water fountains, ramps to replace stair steps, etc. At historic sites with far away car parks, they will have shuttle busses that take people closer in to where they can transfer to motorized wheelchairs, etc.

    Dunnottar does indeed look like a real challenge in that regard. I do like the evocative atmospheric feel of a well tended and maintained old ruin. Sween has a REALLY OLD look, as befits what may be the oldest stone castle structure in Scotland. (Internet sources say its origins are unclear, and variously date its beginnings from the late eleventh to the late 12th centuries.) It seems that Stonehenge is an example of restoration but not reconstruction. Some of the stones that were leaning in Victorian times have been straightened, and some even reset in concrete. The place has been tidied up considerably.....LOL.

    1. Yes, pretty much law here too... although I'm not sure where that comes from Edinburgh, Brussels or London.

      Imagine resetting standing stones in concrete!!!!

  10. And imagine archeologists of the far distant future who will think that the Druids had concrete.......LOL.

  11. The reconstruction of ruined castles is really common. Many of those in Germany are 19th Century rebuilds. The fabulous Neuschwanstein is "brand new".

    The reconstruction of King James's palace at Stirling does not diminish the experience of visiting. I remember it the first time I visited - many moons ago. It had been vacated as a barracks not long before. Historic Scotland have done a wonderful job renovating it. It was hellish when the army gave it back.

    I suppose I am a bit disappointed to learn about Eilean Donan ( I don't recall being told it was a folly, but then it was also a long time ago I was there ), but I'm not sure it would be much of a tourist draw in that original state. I cant remember ever seeing Cadzow Castle on a calender.

    Please google Himeji castle in Japan. It has just finished a full "rebuild". The Japanese rebuild castles and temples frequently, which helps retain the skills required to actually do that. It doesn't make you feel cheated at all when you actually see one.

    Perhaps, like nostalgia for the great Empire, or folk memories of coal mining, or glorification of our our fame in martial glory, we want to believe in some idealised past. Is that really a good thing?

    I hear younger children are especially fascinated by the toilets in castles. Sanitation now or 200 years ago anyone? Indeed indoor bath or tin bath? En suite or key for the cludgie?

    Saor Alba

    1. Yes, I accept that. But when I'm in one of these places I tend to think of how life know, how bare, cold, and miserable they must have been in the winter, especially in Scotland.

      I try to imagine the people who lived there, bioth upstairs and downstairs, and the conditions they faced.

      It makes that a lot harder if it's all been rebuilt. I guess it depends on how it is done, rather than THAT it is done.

      Yes, we've all looked at the toilet facilities... or rather the hole in the wall... and imagined what it must have been liked to clean up for people.

      I have to say, I've never, not for a second, wished that I lived in earlier times.

      The Japanese castle is amazing. Trust them to do that to keep the skills alive.

    2. Actually Tris life in these Castles was not as bad as you imagine, even for the workers things were probably better than in the butt and ben, more food for instance, fires which were fed constantly and then there were tapestries hung on the wall and shutter to keep the cold out before they invented glass. People haven't changed since the Stone Age and they were capable of having their comforts too. What I would say is that remembering my childhood, we were tougher, coal fires in rooms, draughty windows and the worst thing was my folks Council House which had in total one fire. I have got used to central heating and double glazing, I returned to my bedroom in my parents house one night when my Husband was away on a course, once was enough, I had the electric blanket on with me in the bed all night and could not get warm.
      They used to employ a peasant to clean the area of the "ahem" toilet, some poor soul used to have to do the shovelling, well at least there was full employment.

    3. I've been thinking about this topic for a few hours now. I wonder if the romanticised rebuilding started in Germany. I know the usual version we are fed of Scottish history is that the Napoleonic wars stopped the "Grand Tour" for Anglo aristocrats. Turning their attentions to "home" they discovered the Highlands and Ivanhoe. But the Germans were discovering Grimms Fairytales and Armanus defeat of Quinctilius Varus at the same time. We Europeans all have creation myths ( obviously William Wallace is the only true hero).

      However, the Georges were Germans. Prince Albert bought Balmoral and paid for the remodelling. At the time there were a lot of castle projects in Germany - Hohenschwangau, Stolzenfels, Falkenburg for example. I would think its a German import, all this castle rebuilding.

      So along with Christmas trees, Scottish landscape painting, Sir Walt (er) Scott, et all, even our traditions are just a propaganda line we are fed all our lives. We are descended from chivalrous warriors who were loyal to their monarch with good reason.

      The ancestors I know most about worked in factories. Their surnames imply immigration/ flight from religious persecution on the continent. My granny had a shared cludgie key. None of them lived in a castle.

      Its not the history of the majority of us which we see in any visit to a castle. It is just a romanticised view of the life of our "betters". We live in perhaps the best of times for ordinary people. Perhaps ever. We have healthcare, abundant food, warm homes, the aforementioned sanitation - well those of us who are able to game the system well enough. Will that last forever?

      More of us had ancestors down coal mines than ever stayed in a castle.

      And prior to the first German war most European countries were monarchies. Nowadays most are republics. Progress? I tend to think so.

      Saor Alba

    4. Yes. That's true, Helena. I'm sure that compared with the peasants in cottages, life for servants in the castle was considerably better. I too have lived without central heating, although never without electricity, fridges, tvs, phones, etc...

      And of course today there are many who can't imagine what it was like without the internet.

      Progress in some ways, but there's a lot been lost on the way.

      I usually avoid being in the town centre at any time, but this weekend it was unavoidable. The thing that struck me were how many people there were pushing prams around while texting/surfing, with no particular regard to who was in their way.

      Town centre on a busy day is something I hope I'll be able to avoid for a long time to come.

    5. I see what you are saying Saor. Of course my ancestors too were more likely to have been in a factory, garage, mill, etc., than anywhere near a castle.

      And I've seen the tenement buildings with outside toilets that some of them lived in.

      Not nice. But most of them no longer exist. What is preserved though are castles, and when you look at how bleak that was, you realise how much worse it must have been for the poor.

      As Helena points out, they were tougher. They had to be.

      There is a huge amount that came to us from Germany. As you say, the Hanovers, and then Dearest Albert, with his traditions of Christmas trees, and much else. Some probably for the good.

      You'll not find me disagreeing that the move from monarchy to republic is a good one. I wish we could get on and do it.

      Interesting though that, apart from the UK, the monarchies that are left in Europe, are by and large, in relatively progressive countries.

      Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Lichtenstein, Monaco, are all much more "modern" societies than we are.

      Not so sure about Spain, although they got rid of their old and unpopular king probably by hinting that they were sick of him.

      (Vatican and Andorra are kinda separate cases, and certainly the Vatican could hardly be called progressive!!!

    6. @ Tris, HB, and SA: As for sanitation, the “Undiscovered Scotland” website showing Castle Sween dedicates some photographs to the “Latrine Tower,” which I read was quite impressive for a castle of its time. Apparently, visitors have access to the Latrine Tower (which thankfully, appears to have been cleaned up quite nicely.)

      As for reconstructions, it seems that the industrious Victorians were in love with the Middle Ages, and liked to build and reconstruct in that style. As Saor said, Albert bought Balmoral, and then converted the existing structures into a “Medieval” looking castle. And when the Victorians rebuilt the Houses of Parliament after the fire of 1834, they built it with “Norman” towers, and interiors that seem to an almost outlandish Medieval stage set. Apparently the fire destroyed much of what had been a royal residence since Norman you don’t see much of where Henry VIII lived (when not at one of his other palaces.)

      BTW, I found this interesting picture from the dawn of photography about 1841. Said to be the first picture of the Thames.....taken after the 1834 fire that mostly destroyed the Palace of Westminster, and before the place was rebuilt. So all you see on the distant horizon is Westminster Abbey. No Big Ben and no Houses of Parliament as it was rebuilt and completed a few years later.

    7. I agree that reconstructions can be very acceptable. Americans go to Philadelphia to what is now called "Independence Hall" (where the colonial Pennsylvania legislature met) to visit the room where revolution was declared, independence was debated and declared, and the federal constitution of the new republic was written. But the building was used for years as the Pennsylvania State House, and by the twentieth century, the interior was much changed from when Jefferson, Adams, Franklin, Washington and the boys founded the nation. So the interior was faithfully reconstructed and furnished. Today's new "18th century" interior is inspiring to see and experience, within the original exterior walls of the building.

      Same with the White House. By 1949, the old wooden framing within the masonry walls was falling apart. The engineering study stated that the ceiling of the state dining room was only staying up by "force of habit." So while it would have been much less expensive to simply knock it down and rebuild the White House from the ground up, it was decided that the stone walls were too historically important to destroy.....including the lovingly maintained scorch marks in the stone from where the British army burned the house in the War of 1812. So the walls were left up, while the interior was totally gutted and rebuilt with steel framing. Visiting the precisely reconstructed historic rooms today doesn't seem less satisfying, even though you know you're not really walking on the floors where Adams, Jefferson, Lincoln, etc, walked.

    8. Interesting photo of London, Danny. Amazing for its time.

      I reckon that as long as they are up front with you about the fact that the building has been completely renovated, and remodelled, it's fair enough.

      After all, if you take the White House, there is plenty of history which has actually happened on these carpets and within these walls... just not the earlier stuff.

      Must have been quite a sight to see a royal palace burning to the ground.

      Nowadays of course the fantastic wealth that would go with the building would be a huge loss. I remember when there was a fire at Windsor Castle and the artwork was being hauled out of windows... stuff worth millions (which might be sold now to shore up flood defences! Only of course it will not!)

  12. I think an extra large print of photo 15 ought to be plastered on every planning department wall.

    1. Apparently a large number of the areas designated by the genius Osborne for the new build he has promised, in on flood plane.

      You'd think even a towel refolder could have worked out that that was bonkers. But apparently not.

  13. You know what really depressed me? Sitting on a bus watching a mother engrossed with her mobile phone while her child sat in a pushchair watching her.

    I felt sick to my soul.

    I am glad I am old.

    1. I've had an even worse experience since I posted that.

      I walked back from the shops this evening, and there were a mum and dad with a pram, but BOTH were on their phones.

      If you are lucky enough to have a kid, you'd think that they would be more important than any text or email.

  14. Late again. Great set again. Loch Maree, Otter and China, favourites, and in that order.

    Last of the turkey today, why do we feel so compelled to finish the dam thing rather than throw it out.

    Anyway 12 months before I have to face it again.

    Have a good New Year everyone.

    Lang may yer lums reek.

    1. Hi Golfy...

      Good choices.

      12 months before the next turkey... but you know you don't have to have turkey. You could have goose, or chicken, or duck... or you could go wild have have lamb or beef...

      If you wanted to be really outré you could have beans on toast.

      I did one year. I'd had a little too much to drink the night before, and couldn't eat all day.

      At about 6pm I opened a tin of beans, and made some toast!

      Happy New Year...

    2. My Mum only ever had pot roasted lamb and roast brisket or pork. Never ever had turkey until I was about 26.
      My company bonus was a huge turkey, which only just squeezed into the oven in our flat. It was much wife and I's first Christmas in our first home and neither of us had ever cooked a turkey.

      Because of the size of the turkey, we decided to invite all of our nearest and dearest to diner, Needless to say, the turkey in the oven had more elbow than our guests in our small flat.

      It became a family tradition for the next 30 years. Though we have stopped feeding the 5 thousand now, the turkey habit has been hard to break.

      Nothing beats roast lamb or brisket.

    3. Lovely story, Golfy. To be honest, I don't mind turkey. But I'd rather have chicken, or pork or lamb.

      I'm not sure why we have a traditional meal. Nobody likes half of it.


  15. Well, out turkey was a disaster.

    Instructions - defrost at room temperature for 6 to 11 hours.
    24 hours we thought to be on the safe side.... nope.

    So we had battered chicken portions and a Gregg's sausage roll (Iceland sell them and I love them).

    But much fun was had with the Pie Face game. Get it, funny as hell.


  16. Well,

    Just to share.

    My daughter gave birth today to a boy. Which makes me a grandfather for the very first time.

    It is an emotional moment for the parents and for me.

    Bloody hell!

    1. Many Congratulations Douglas to your daughter and her husband, your grandson and you.


      We'll call you granddad from now on....

      (Only joking).

  17. Given the time of posting, strictly speaking, yesterday.

  18. Well, RIP Lemmy from Motorhead. A guy who had a fuckit attitude and enjoyed life. I will definitely be annoying the neighbours with some loud music!

    Great news Douglas. Bet that makes you feel bloody old!


    1. Yes, sad news. As I said over a Conan's place, he died like he lived. He was diagnosed with cancer on 26th, and died on the 27th...