Category Archives: Relationships with Cities

Bench in the Botanics

Written today, for a picture taken yesterday.


Taken 9 January 2007

Beyond the hut, the gravel path turns right
To meet a branch that leads across the bridge.
And, nestled in its curve, a pleasant sight:
The wooden bench sits sheltered by its ridge.
Like half a hundred others in this place,
The seat’s a gift, and labeled with a name:
Our hostess here, whose memories still grace
This place she loved, and hoped we’d do the same.
Her unobtrusive presence here receives
Me with no ceremony, and we share
The silence as I sit and watch the leaves
Drop in the pond, and brush and braid my hair.
She is a gracious hostess, and her guest
Appreciates her gifts of peace and rest.

The only technical point I would make is that the transition between the octave and the sestet is, in this case, the transition from setting the scene to my entry onto the scene.

Alex: an adventure

Alex has been petitioning me to go visit London and see the London Eye ever since I sent him a postcard of it while on a course. We finally agreed that we would go in October, when he was settled into school.

So on October 6 – 8, we did. I picked him up from school on a Friday afternoon and took him home for lunch and a change of clothes. Then we took a taxi to the airport and flew down (British Midland to Heathrow). We took the Heathrow Express into Paddington, then the Tube to Victoria, where we stayed at the Comfort Inn.

Best moment of the journey down, for me: we bought some crisps and some apples in Heathrow, because we were going to be a long time getting our dinners. I was going to be flexible about food on the journey, figuring that any blood sugar was better than none, and offered to open the crisps for him. I got a five-star telling off, because apples are “real food” and crisps are not, and you do not eat junk food until you’ve eaten your real food. He harped on it throughout the trip.

Best moment of the journey down, for Alex: after school, taxis, planes, trains, tubes, and shops, walking hand in hand through the darkness at Victoria, the baggage trailing behind me, he was still cheerful and stable. I said, “You are such a good travelling companion. It’s a real pleasure to be with you right now.” It seemed to strike him deeply that I should feel that way.

We got up the next morning and took a photo of ourselves in the mirror. Here we are, getting ready for adventures:



(He’s being a squirrel in the second of these shots.)

We set out for the Eye before 9, on foot to burn off some of the excess energy. There was some running on the deserted pavements, the odd shot with Big Ben, all that sort of thing.


We got to the Eye before it opened, and queued for tickets in the sharp breeze. By 10:00, we were on board. Alex is a little nervous of heights these days, and nearly funked out a couple of times, but when he got on board, he wasn’t as scared. It reminded him of a space ship.


Although he would only go to the window when I asked him to for photos, he enjoyed the ride.


By the time we were at the top, he was pretty much reconciled to the trip.


He still did his fair share of scowling.


Still, he was glad to get down.


Then we had ice cream (his idea, not mine) and watched the people who paint themselves metallic colours and pretend to be statues. I bought us onto an open-top bus tour for a bit of a rest, and we rode around London for a while, playing with the headphones and the pre-recorded narratives. We got off near Regent Street, with the intention of going to Hamley’s. A bit of lunch restored our energy, and off we went. I let Alex take the lead through the shop. This meant that we saw a lot of Lego.


He wanted to buy himself a toy, and quickly settled on a dragon in its own egg. Then he wanted to make sure we got one for Fiona, at which time I silently decided that we weren’t going to use his pocket money for any of these purchases. (Generosity is rewarded.) We found a cuddly puppy for her, then walked up a staircase themed after the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Alex enjoyed sitting in High King Peter’s throne at the end.


After watching some older kids play with Scalextric, we added a green light sabre to our stash and left. By then, Alex was beat. We went back to the hotel and found a documentary on people who base jump with peregrine falcons (I am not making this up). He watched that, surrounded by his toys, then came out for dinner. We went home and crashed.

We woke the next morning in a silly mood (Well, one of us did, but he was silly enough for two.)


We packed up the room, checked out, and headed for Hyde Park to play about before our flight home. The park was crowded with runners in some sort of footrace, but we soon found an activity more suited to us: a tree that reminded Alex of Yoda’s house on Dagobah. So we did a little Star Wars playing.


Then we headed for the Tube, dodging through the endless stream of runners. We stopped at Paddington for lunch, took the Express back to Heathrow, and flew home at last.

It was an inexpressibly wonderful weekend, with an inexpressibly wonderful boy.

(There’s a Flickr photoset with more pictures as well.)

Recent Photos

In case you’re wondering, dear reader, Edinburgh continues to be lovely. It isn’t always sunny, or warm, but it is still magical to me.

Leaves, a pattern shot
Taken 10 July 2006

Tree bark in the botanics
Taken 18 July 2006

Rose in Gorgie Farm
Taken 14 August 2006

Monocot lying in the arms of a dicot
Taken 22 August 2006

Scarlet poppies, glowing in the rain
Taken 23 August 2006

Poppy seed head. (This photo has been cropped)
Taken 23 August 2006

Thistle buds, insanely purple. (This photo has been cropped)
Taken 23 August 2006

These photos, like all of mine these days, are hosted on Flickr, and can be viewed in different sizes by clicking on them.

Recent Edinburgh Shots

In between trips to London, I’ve been so busy studying that I’ve taken very few shots around Edinburgh. Of those, only a few are really worth your consideration, gentle reader.

The roses are past their best in George V Park, but I still love them.


Taken 15 June 2006


Taken 15 June 2006

Splendidly bizzare monkey puzzle in the Botanics.


Taken 1 June 2006

Tender shoots of holly, Arboretum Avenue


Taken 1 June 2006

Photos from London

I’ve been down in London a good deal over the last few weeks, studying for an exam. I brought my phone, of course, which means I brought my camera.

I rarely find the classic London landmarks inspirational for photography. They’re too…well…big.

But the pavement by Tower Bridge really got my interest.


Taken 17 May 2006


Taken 17 May 2006


Taken 17 May 2006

The leaves of an ornamental plant near the Tower also caught my eye.


Taken 13 June 2006

On one of my visits, I walked by the crew setting up for a concert on the Tower grounds. The ironmongery was interesting.


Taken 23 May 2006


Taken 23 May 2006

I was also fascinated by the bright yellow locks on the gates to Trinity Square, a tiny park dedicated to naval war dead near the course hotel.


Taken 24 May 2006

Rainbow over the Thames


Taken 23 May 2006

Overall, though, London does not appeal to me photographically. I guess my heart is in Edinburgh.

Biking on the Beach

Friday, though cold, was a bright and sunny day – perfect for a family expedition. We took Alex’s bike to the John Muir pathway along the Firth of Forth, just outside of Musselburgh. It’s time for Alex to get more confidence in his bike and himself on it. He needs to ride faster if we’re going to take his stabilisers off.

It was a good ride – he started slow and hesitant, but I started challenging him to races. As the trip went on, I found myself striding less and running more to keep up with him. He was thrilled to be pushing me, but insisted after a time that we were “a team” and should cross every minor finishing line at the same time.

At the midpoint of the ride, we all stopped on the beach. The kids threw rocks into the water. I found a couple of old bikes on the stony shore, slowly rusting in the salt and being buried by the tides.

The first bike, frame and cables


Taken 14 April 2006

Cables round the stem of the bike


Taken 14 April 2006

Pedal mount on the second bike


Taken 14 April 2006

Rust replaces chrome on the second bike


Taken 14 April 2006

Handlebar mount on the second bike


Taken 14 April 2006

Sprockets in stone, bike 1


Taken 14 April 2006

Stone in sprockets, bike 2


Taken 14 April 2006

Wheel mount, bike 2


Taken 14 April 2006

Not just a bike, but the headphones for a walkman too!


Taken 14 April 2006

Handrail hardware by the firth


Taken 14 April 2006

The Camera is Back

My phonecam developed a spot about a week ago. Ugly, in the way, and depressing. It ruined a number of photos that I really wanted to take.


Taken 1 April 2006

Occasionally, I could get a shot in that it didn’t ruin, but that was rare.


Taken 29 March 2006

Fortunately, my phone insurance covers the functionality of the whole instrument, including the camera. I called Vodafone, and they sent a new phone to replace the old one. So now I have my camera back!

I tried it out on Fiona this morning.


Taken 4 April 2006

Then I was back to taking the pictures I’ve been missing.

Leaf growing through a fence, Newington


Taken 4 April 2006

Shadow of a doorknob, looking like a warmer day


Taken 4 April 2006

Cut-off fence post.


Taken 4 April 2006

Framing the world, one tree at a time (this photo has been cropped)


Taken 4 April 2006

Yay new phone!

I Love My Coffee

…and it loves me back.


Taken 6 March 2006

I love this city, too, though it doesn’t show its affection in the same way.

I love the Botanics, and they show me the delicate drops of rain on a branch.


Taken 7 March 2006

The first yellow flowers come out for me, even on a cold day.


Taken 9 March 2006

The side doors of St Giles Cathedral on the Royal Mile stand solemn and graceful.


Taken 9 March 2006

And the door handles from the back of the cathedral have their own rhythm. (Yes, this has been cropped.)


Taken 9 March 2006