Sunday, January 29, 2006

Why we do this

What started out as a rather ho-hum hillwalk today turned into one of my best ever days out. The target was Meall nan Tarmachan, chosen because I saw nothing of its lovely four tops and rugged ridge during my first ascent over a decade ago. In fact my clearest memory is possibly of my clothing steaming dry in a bar in Killin later that day.

Today's weather looked OK--dry and calm, but somewhat cloudy. Up we went and entered the cloud at around 700m. Near the top and half way up a rather steep slope, somebody points out that you can see blue at the top. And at the top, we emerge from the leaden cloud into a sunlit world of sparkling ice and crisp blue shadows. We stop for food and crampon fitting, and the top of the cloud slowly sinks, revealing Ben Lawers; several miles off, but seen in pin-sharp detail. Yes, it's a cloud inversion, and a close-to-perfect example of its type.

The summit of Meall nan Tarmachan reveals an incredible view. It's a relief map of the southern highlands, but with everything below 1000m obscured by an ocean of cloud. To the south, there is an unbroken sea, flat as a millpond. To the north, all the famous peaks as far as the great glen, are floating like whales.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Cattle truck

I'm getting the 22 bus a lot these mornings, which usually means being crushed against somebody's oxter and having to climb over the bodies of the slain to get off. Why don't Lothian Buses put on double deckers at the busy periods?

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Unless I've miscounted...

...Frank and Bob have obliged us with another couple of lengths of railing.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Stealth railings and seagulls

The railings that I noted previously have grown, but only slowly. I think the workmen are moonlighting from another less interesting job. "By day they poured concrete, but by night Bob and Frank were two of the country's leading fitters of historically accurate decorative ironwork."

I'm crossing the Meadows more often again. This morning, several hundred seagulls kept me company. As the wind blew, skeins of birds would lift off and float across the grass, then drop again like a fold of gauzy material.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Match Point

I saw this on Saturday night and wasn't going to post anything, but the number of reviews claiming it to be a masterpiece, leads me to state that it's not. It is very good, with some nice performances from a mainly British cast (how odd to see Penelope Wilton and John Fortune in a Woody Allen film), but for me it never gets much better than that. The ball-hitting-the-net motif is very nicely done and the final plot twist is effective, but there are a few glitches from the famous Manhattanite: I've never seen snow in London the likes of that seen in one scene (too much Dickens, perhaps); and the Royal Opera House seems unable to afford an orchestra (piano only).

And I am embarrassed how long it took me to see the Crime and Punishment reference.

Still, keep making the films, Woody.

Sunday, January 15, 2006


I'm glad to report that some workmen started putting up railings at the end of the Meadows this morning. The stone strip (too low to be a wall really) that runs along here has been railingless since about 1940, when the previous railings were taken down as part of the war effort, then (according to my Dad) left lying in heaps, because we weren't actually that short of cast iron. Quite why this has to be done on Sunday morning escapes me. Only a small stretch has been put up so far, but some reasonably authentic street furniture is always welcome.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Statistics and owls

Went to an interesting RSS talk last night. The location of these talks is a rather lovely Georgian town house in the New Town. There are quite a lot of portraits of famous mathematicians and scientists on the walls, but I've never noticed before the rather lovely pencil (?) drawing by William Dyce of James Clerk Maxwell as a child, apparently embracing a large owl. I find it a rather compelling image: the young scientist embraces wisdom. Or am I just overloading it, and it's a piece of pure whimsy? I'd love to know more. My main knowledge of Dyce is as the painter of a version of Christ in the wilderness, where the landscape used is very clearly Scottish.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Getting better

I'm glad to say that I feel quite a bit better, and hope to go to work on Monday. I need to work out a reply to the traditional enquiry of "Did you have a nice Christmas?". "No, it was fucking miserable" may not strike the right note of cheery comradeship.

My spluttery wanderings round Newington the other day lead me to find a £2 copy of Joshua Reynold's Discourses on Art in the Bethany shop. I also explored the excellent and idiosyncratic Word Power books yesterday, which shows that moderate enjoyment can be had without adequate bronchial function.

Re-viewed Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy last night, and confirmed my impression that it was good. Some fans seemed to hate this version, but I'm not sure why. And there should be more knitted sequences in sci-fi films.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

More misery

As if the misery recounted in yesterday's entry wasn't enough, last night I had my worst asthma attack ever. I suspect something I ate disagreed with me (a fried egg sandwich being the main suspect), giving me a temperature, uncontrollable shivers, scary asthma symptoms, and more than a little fear. As somebody who rarely suffers from any sort of ill health, it's doubly frightening that your body can suddenly bring you so low. Towards midnight, my stomach felt a little more settled, and I decided not to send for the ambulance after all. This morning I was back to feeling just wheezy, thus confirming my fried-egg-sandwich theory.

Since I spent most of the day in bed, there's little else to report, apart from some very pretty fog that came at 3.30 or so, then lifted to reveal a crescent moon.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Me, moaning about Christmas

Since I am supposed to go back to work tomorrow, can I just say what a crap festive season/midwinter festival this has been?

I like this time of year little enough, what with short days, the lack of public transport, the lack of non-Christmas items in the shops, dreadful weather, and that utterly humourless bonhomie that comes over many people. Add to this feeling ill and wheezy, and still not knowing many people in Edinburgh, and you have a truly miserable couple of weeks on your hands.

Let's just count the good things, shall we:

  • I did manage to read through quite a backlog of books, including some Hunter S. Thompson, Alan Bennett's latest, Pompeii by Robert Harris, Eastern Approaches by Fitzroy Maclean.
  • I saw some good films (Constant Gardener, and Narnia at the cinema, and a revisit for Young Adam and Nixon on DVD) .
  • I visited Edinburgh Zoo for the first time since about 1978, it being a suitable activity for somebody who wants to get exercise and diversion, but not get too far from a coffee shop or the bus back.
  • I managed to see the physics bods (colleagues during postgraduate days) for the first time in several years.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

A guid new year to ane an' aw...

For once it is a nice day too. Assuming that I'd been well enough to go somewhere interesting for Hogmanay, it would have been possible to go for a decent walk today. But that's too many subjunctives and most New Year trips that I can remember consisted of watching drizzle fall from low cloud on Jan. 1st, while attempting rehydration.

The wheezing is somewhat better, which meant I did manage to ascend Arthur's Seat. All the far away hills that one can so unexpectedly see from here were visible, including Ben Lomond, Ben Ledi, and Ben Lawers. I still can't quite get over the amount of Scotland that this view spans, but then we do live in a small country. As usual, the summit was full of tourists, and also as usual, I ended up taking pictures for a few people. It's sad how few of the good folk of Edinburgh take advantage of the exercise on their doorstep.

There was also a triathalon in the park today, which gives you some stupidly fit people to stare at.