A Tale of Four Cities

June 19, 2017

The cities in question were the four we visited last month when in Spain.  But first a little digression.  I always smile when filling in my address on an online form.  Usually there is space for two address lines and then the next one says ‘city’ – so I ‘promote’ Rothesay to city status.  Then I feel I should apologise to my fellow residents because we all chose to live here and not in a ‘city’!

Our trip to Spain was a concentrated sight seeing feast of Andalusia but we started with a short visit to Barcelona.  This was very specifically to see again the wondrous Sagrada Familia.  We last viewed it about 16 years ago and knew that much more of the building has been completed since then.

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Sagrada Familia dwarfing the surrounding city.

When we were last there it was even more of a building site, with really only the eight giants towers in place.  This time the main sanctuary is almost complete. It has been consecrated (in 2010 by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI) and is already used occasionally for worship.

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The huge, elegant, soaring pillars.

To stand inside this amazing space is to make you feel at the same time very, very small, and also in awe of the  immensity of the human brain able to design and build such an incredible building.

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Exquisite detail on the enormous doors.

Antoni Gaudi who designed the Sagrada Familia was in charge from 1883 until his death in 1926 but others have continued to bring his visions to reality.  Gaudi was very influenced by nature and passionate about conveying the teachings of the Gospels and the Christian Church so every detail whether large or small has meaning.

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Stained Glass Windows

The sun streaming through the glass simply filled the sanctuary with multi coloured light – it felt like standing inside a rainbow.  I loved the stained glass – no depictions of  saints, the Holy Family or Bible stories – all abstract, but a very carefully planned movement of colours.

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In most ways it has the form and shape of a traditional cathedral but just on an awesome scale.  Modern building technology and new materials allow for the heights both inside and outside to be greater – very clever geometry means that the supporting pillars appear slim and elegant.

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I used my binoculars frequently to look at the details and the sculptures on the two main facades – the Nativity and the Passion.  Sagrada Familia is now estimated to be completed by 2026.  I pray that I will still be fit enough to return then.

Whilst in Barcelona we made a quick return visit to another of Gaudi’s masterpieces – La Pedrera with its iconic chimneys.

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The other three cities we visited were all new to us.  In Cordoba we were introduced to another building ,equally as awesome as the Sagrada Familia but from a different era – La Mezquita, a mosque begun in AD786 which was frequently extended during the next six centuries until it had over a thousand pillars.

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Just a few of the forest of pillars.

The 10th century Mihrab in an octagonal chamber has some of the finest Byzantine mosaics in existence.

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In 1523 about 60 pillars were removed from the centre of the mosque at the behest of Emperor Carlos V and a huge Christian cathedral built inside and to this day it has been a place of Christian worship.  My guide book says “La Mezquita’s identity as a mosque is inescapable – notwithstanding the cathedral insensitively placed in its centre like a huge spider in its web.”

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Cordoba Cathedral

The next photograph shows how refurbishment work has been done in places on the outside to show how glorious it must once have looked.

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I loved the narrow streets of Cordoba – sometimes only a few feet wide, and sometimes just enough space for a car to squeeze along with its wing mirrors folded in.

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It was hot in Spain so we were very grateful for our cool hotel, housed in a series of very old buildings with a number of inviting little courtyards to relax in.

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Not sure how authentic the ‘ancient broken Roman pillar’ was but the oranges were real and were virtually falling off the trees as we watched.  As well as the ‘formal’ sightseeing at La Mezquita and other places we had the huge privilege of being in the right place at the right time.

Cordoba was holding its version of Gardens Open Day – La Fiesta d Los Patios d Cordoba, and we discovered the most beautiful garden gems normally hidden from sight behind the whitewashed house walls with their lace covered, ornately barred windows and solid wooden doors.  We had a sketch map outlining a route around the neighbourhood and like many local people we popped in and out of the riotously coloured and lovingly cared for private patios.

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Hours of watering every day!

That is two of my four Spanish cities – Seville and Granada will follow soon.


I’ve Set Myself a Real Problem

June 2, 2017

Because I have been ‘missing’ for six months I really don’t know quite where to start catching up.  There was no real reason for my absence, dear reader – perhaps a combination of laziness and being too busy!

All the winter activities are now finished for the season.  The diary is less full with that ‘out every evening’ scenario – the Film Club, Natural History Society, Literary Society, Bute Arts (live concerts), Rural, and Book Group have kept me entertained, educated and amused during the dark nights of winter.

In January we had the joy of travelling south to visit family in Shrewsbury to celebrate the 90th birthday of my Aunt Rene.  There can’t be many 90 year olds who can have eighty or so guests at their party and only about a quarter of those being family.  Aunt Renee invited her friends from the walking group, Tai Chi class, Discussion Group etc.  – one very lively lady.

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Rene’s daughters have inherited her amazing genes which make them all look 10 – 20 years younger than they are.

The weather in the last five months, with its typical west coast confusion regarding which season we are in, has produced ferry disrupting gales, days of continuous stair rod  rain, occasional calm, crisp spells, stunning sunsets, and, only last week, record breaking temperatures.

In February we had the opportunity to scrub up tidily, dust off the dancing shoes and help raise some money for Macmillan Cancer Charity.  The Glenburn Hotel, just up behind us, pulled out all the stops laying on good food, good company and the toe tapping music of the Bute Ceilidh Band.

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In March we made the decision that after 12 or so years of being part of the Puffer Work Party Week at Crinan every year it was time for us to stand down and allow other folk with more appropriate skills and, dare I say it, perhaps a few months younger than us,     have a chance at the unique experience of helping to get VIC 32 ready for her summer sailing programme.  We will hugely miss all the fun and laughter, hard work, the good friends we have made over the years and the wine fuelled games of Scrabble.  On a beautiful spring day we nipped up to Crinan to say hello.  We are still the unofficial ‘Rothesay agents’ for the Puffer and have helped them berth at Rothesay pier a few times during their Clyde Cruising part of the season.

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On the Tarbert to Portavadie ferry on the way home from Crinan.

 

The winter evening activities have been replaced by the SAS and a large gardening project.  More of the latter when it gets to look a bit less like a building site.  The Strollers and Striders have had very mixed weather so far – at least the rain keeps the midges away.

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A low evening sun and big sky at Kingarth.

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Arran always looks good when seen from Bute.

Regular readers may be thinking – they haven’t been on holiday for a while.  But we have of course.  In May we visited the awesome grandeurs of Andalucia in Spain – more of that  later, I promise to come and post another blog soon now that I have got restarted.


The End of Another Year

December 27, 2016

It is the few quiet days between Christmas, with its weeks of anticipation and preparation, and Hogmanay with its reflections and shenanigans.  I realise I haven’t blogged as much this year and posted nothing at all in the last three months – no real reason but lots of excuses – so I will, as tradition dictates, finish 2016 with a quick review of September to December.

Three times we had ‘little’ holidays – two within a few hours driving time and one a short haul flight.  When we visit family or friends in the south of England we usually just shoot past the Lake District en route for somewhere else but in late September we stayed on Ullswater for a few days of glorious autumn sunshine.

 

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MV Balmoral

The sister ship of the PS Waverley came to visit in Rothesay, so of course we had a wee sail on a rather chilly, grey day.  A nice ship but in my eyes without the personality of her sister.

Another weekend at the end of October we had reason to visit Pitlochry for a few days  when the autumn colours of the trees was quite spectacular.

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In amongst all the trips away life on Bute continued in its fascinating way – the dwindling numbers of tourists and the starting of winter activities underlining this time of transition between the seasons.  There was a good dry spell of weather and the farmers gathered their harvest in.  We celebrated at church with a service and a scrumptious lunch.

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He didn’t have to do all the dishes by himself!

At the beginning of November we jetted off seeking some winter sun – and found it very pleasantly warm in the south of Tenerife.  The Hotel Bahia del Duque was beautiful, peaceful and with a choice of restaurants.

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The perfect terrace for breakfast and afternoon tea.

There were a number of swimming ‘pools’ scattered down the hillside, all beautifully set in the landscaped gardens.

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There never seemed to be anyone in the water when we strolled past en route for our daily amble along the esplanade to the next village along the coast.  It was a very luxurious place and we even had our own wee plunge pool – I could manage three strokes from corner to corner.

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The young lady in the next photograph had gone to a lot of trouble to get comfy whilst she sunbathed.

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This short break set us up nicely for the whirl of activities that arrive with December.  Each of the organisations we are members of holds a Christmas party or dinner ( I try to avoid turkey until Christmas day, while Colin chooses it every time) – lots of fun and laughter and good company.  There were also concerts and special church services.

The Fundraising Committee at the United Church of Bute held a Cake and Coffee morning in mid December and I helped mount a display of Nativity Sets in the sanctuary at the same time.  It was amazing – 18  depictions of the well known story but each one different and having its own story to tell (bought in different countries, some very old and some fairly new etc).

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My sister brought this set from Russia many years ago.

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Beautifully carved; hand knitted by various members of the congregation; very old.

The whole church was beautifully decorated.

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…. and even some cakes were suitably festive.

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Would I be tempting fate by making a New Year Resolution four days before 2017?  I’m not promising but I will try not to leave such long gaps between my blogs next year.

The weather has been very wild for the last ten days – storm Barbara followed swiftly by storm Connor.  The inevitable disruption to the ferry services over the whole of the west coast of Scotland has been immense.  We personally were not affected as fortunately none of our family’s comings and goings were scheduled for ‘no service’ days but many folk around us suffered  anxiety and the last minute rearranging of already complex travel arrangements.  I hope my readers have had a joyful and Happy Christmas.

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Christmas Day 2016 on Ettrick Bay


The Flower Show

September 13, 2016

The Flower Show aka Rothesay Horticultural Society Annual Show had to be a bit different this year.  After decades of being held in early September in the Pavilion the venue was changed because of the ongoing refurbishment of that iconic building.  The Show committee managed to shoe horn all the exhibitors into Trinity Church, its halls and even marquees in the garden.

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Mixed herbaceous border flowers in the church.

As well as reduced display space there was also a much tighter fit for viewing visitors – just as well that plant growers and flower lovers are a generally friendly bunch.

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A Bumblee

The floral artists were quite tightly squeezed for space but still turned out beautiful displays.  It was impossible to get far enough back from the big floor standing exhibits to take photographs.

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I personally did not like this year’s craft theme of ‘Weddings’ so only entered one black and white photograph of zebras from our recent trip to Namibia (obviously not wedding related!) and was quite chuffed with a Third Prize from an entry of 18.

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A Mouthwatering Line Up

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Another example of perfection.

Inevitably there was much talk of the awful growing conditions we have experienced this ‘summer’ here on Bute and the consensus of opinion was that particularly fruit entries had suffered.

The following photographs of our little ‘orchard’ will create a false impression.  In reality some of the trees do not look in the best of health – sadly I suspect canker.  Not removing any yet but will do some serious pruning and play a waiting game.

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Three of the dozen juicy looking plums before they all fell off.

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The Bramleys look good but the foliage is a bit sad.

This is the first year that the Conference Pear has had fruit.  It looks really impressive in the following photograph but I have to confess that each pear is about two inches long and hard as a brick.

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The young rowan tree is laden with scrumptious looking berries – I hope the birds appreciate this feast.

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Another first for our orchard this year has been the appearance of two hazelnuts.  We have never seen squirrels in our garden so I am hopeful that these nuts will still be there when they are ripe.

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I had to do a quick google on hazelnuts because as well as the precious bounty of two nuts the bush is covered with tiny yellow catkins – to my relief this seemingly sometimes happens.

Winter is certainly drawing in – the Waverley has stopped visiting, the farmers are furiously dodging downpours to harvest, the Flower Show is over, leaves are changing colour, the ferries were off yesterday because of the wind.  Bute is still the most beautiful place to live.


Annual Waverley Trip 2016

September 4, 2016

A sudden realisation last Saturday morning that it was the final weekend of the PS Waverley’s visits to Rothesay for this year  and we hadn’t yet made a trip.  Fortunately the forecast was quite good so we quickly rearranged our plans.

It is a delight to have to go through the Cabbie’s Rest on the pier on the way to the boat, whether it be the Calmac ferry or the Waverley.

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Hanging baskets in the Cabbie’s Rest, Rothesay

When the Waverley arrived she looked very busy but, as always, most of the passengers who have come from further up the Clyde or Glasgow disembark for a few hours in Rothesay so we had plenty of space to move about and take in the scenery from all angles.

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Leaving Rothesay

Our house can be seen neatly framed by the left hand side of the wheel spokes.  We weren’t going on a long journey – just through the Kyles of Bute and round to Tighnabruaich.

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Through the Kyles while the ferry is tied up.

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Tighnabruaich Pier

I love looking under this old barnacle and seaweed strewn pier as it brings back memories of many hours spent playing under the pier at Whiting Bay.  Whiting Bay (on Arran) in those days didn’t have a million or so pounds worth of yachts anchored around.

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Mainland on the left and ahead, Bute on the right.

It wasn’t really a meal time when we were on board so we had to forego our usual fish and chip tea but a spell watching, hearing and smelling the engine was compulsory.

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Very shiny and mesmerising.

I can still feel my father’s arms around me as he would hold me up to see the engine – comforting and scary at the same time.

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On the Waverley through the Kyles of Bute

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It was a great afternoon out but with the usual tinge of sadness that it will be mid October before we see the iconic shape of the Waverley come sweeping into Rothesay Bay again.  She is off down south now. We have a bonus this year as I understand that the Waverley’s sister ship, the Balmoral, will be visiting us in September (23rd – 26th September).  It must be autumn.


Bute Highland Games 2016

August 26, 2016

Before starting to type up this post I have had a read through the words I chose in previous years to describe this wonderful event – this is the eighth time we have visited.  The thing that strikes me instantly is the weather – this is the first year we have been wet! It rained off and on nearly all day, only clearing up in the late afternoon.

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Coats on.

Sadly the pipe bands lose a lot of their spectacle when their colourful tartans are carefully protected from the downpours.  Another sad consequence was that the competition for the hundreds of beautiful Highland dancers had to be moved up to the gym hall at the school for safety – it was too slippy on the dancing platforms.

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But our hardy visitors stuck it out ……

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The competitors stuck it out too, and showed their usual determination and skill in the various competitions.

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From young teenage girls sprinting …

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… to the all age groups starting off on the 10K Road Run.

I did a double take when I heard that we were moving into the 21st century and that the runners were being ‘micro chipped’ for the first time this year.  Instant vision of the local vet being seconded to attend the Games with his little ‘gun’.  Turns out that it was only the runner’s official vest numbers which were to be tagged, allowing everyone to get an accurate personal race time.

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Race officials getting the medals lined up.

We enjoyed very tasty burgers or steak rolls from the Kingarth food tent and were very grateful to have access to the Patrons’ tent for a seat.  While there, our visitors, two Americans and one English (not counting family) were thrilled to meet our friend Len Scoular, Lord Provost of Argyle and Bute, and have a close look at his magnificent chain of office.

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Presented with a special ‘wee dram’.

All the time the dancers, throwers, pipers, wrestlers, etc  were beavering away at winning medals and trophies and sometimes small amounts of money.  Mostly they were just having fun and enjoying something they loved doing.

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Pipe Major’s Competition

The youngest competitor in the Pipe Major’s competition looked so tiny in the middle of the great space of the arena but she was strutting her stuff with great aplomb.  At the same time some bigger girls were throwing their weight about – and trying to toss the caber.

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Wet grass, slippery tree trunk but no disasters.

There is one person who never minds being last – the gentleman from Greenock, who, dressed as a clown, raises large amounts of money for charity as he ambles around the 10K route.

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‘Tommy Frae Greenock’

The weather did improve later in the afternoon and by the time of the Grand March down through Rothesay most of the pipers were able to discard their waterproofs and show a welcome splash of colour.

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This row of beautiful wee girls from one of the local dance schools got a great cheer as they launched into a sequence of ‘pas de bas’  as they swung round the corner.

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You can wait all day for a Pipe Major to come along when all of a sudden you get four in a row.

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Kilsyth Thistle Pipe Band

If your Mummy or Daddy plays in a pipe band there is always the chance that you will get to carry a trophy in the Grand March – They take their proud duties very seriously.

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This is the second of our two local schools of dancing – they are privileged to have a wee boy in their ranks.  We watched some of the dance competition up at the school earlier and saw a couple of teenage boys – handsome, immaculately turned out and twinkle toed.

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The host Pipe Band always comes last in the Grand march – Rothesay and District Pipe Band.

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A fast twirling mace.


Rothesay Raft Race 2016

August 18, 2016

On Sunday we had another of the Island’s fun filled charity events.  No rain at this one but a lot of people got wet anyway.  The Sailing Club organise this race of home made rafts from the beach at Children’s Corner to in front of the Yacht Club.  Nine teams entered on this overcast but warm, calm day.

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There are strict rules about wearing life jackets plus official encouragement of sabotage equipment – flour, eggs and pump action water pistols.

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They’re off.

Teams of more than four adults have a one minute time delay so the hardy folks from Stand Up to Cancer had a bit of catching up to do.

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Ballerinas tentatively tiptoeing through the seaweed. 

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The Co-op being not quite so elegant.

A lot of effort had gone into the building of the rafts, decorating them and creating the costumes.

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A wetsuit, a lifejacket and then a bikini on top.

The sea conditions and the weather were so benign that the safety boat took to zooming very fast through the fleet to create waves.

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Man made waves.

I think it was gravity and balance that did for this team rather than waves.

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They look as though they are chasing after the ferry.

I wonder if any of the paddlers will make the GB Team for the next Olympics.  According to the Buteman report all nine teams finished the course although the last home, with only two oarsmen remaining, took two hours – that’s the kind of grit and determination that wins gold medals (all they would get would be a beer and a beef burger).  A great afternoon’s entertainment.