Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Precious hours of daylight

The Scottish winter days continue to shorten.  We have about eight hours of good daylight at this time of the year.  The winter solstice is one of my favourite days in the year.  It means, of course, that the days start to lengthen again and by the middle of June we really only have about three hours of proper darkness between midnight and three in the morning.  Roll on 21 December!  

This morning, at 7.30, the sky looked like this.  The moon is waning now but last week there were some braw, bricht, moonlicht nichts!  
Today, less than half an hour later, as we walked down the drive for the school bus, the sky was ablaze with colour.
And one skein of geese flew overhead as they commuted across to Aberlady Bay.  They are flying lower over the house now, sometimes just above the surrounding trees.  I can hear the swoosh of their wings beating as they pass.  It's an exhilarating moment and I always look out of the window or nip outside when I hear them approaching.
By the time Tilly and I have walked half way round the block the sun is up and at the moment the colour of this particular field never ceases to amaze me.  I think it is a future crop of rapeseed and the intensity of its green is extraordinary.

Friday, 22 November 2013

A colourful Friday morning walk

It has been a cloudless blue day today.  The sun has shone from dawn till dusk.  I had some Marie Curie fund raising envelopes to deliver about the parish so I set forth this morning with my trusty terrier and a beloved weekend guest.  We tramped up and down the drive and then on along the track, round the edge of fields and down a grassy tree-lined avenue to cover the area I have been designated.  On such a beautiful day it was a bit of a treat!

Jack Frost danced through the wood last night, leaving his trademark glisten on the leaf litter and undergrowth,
but amid the collapse and decline of this year's growth I spied the promise of the new year with these hazel catkins.
One garden in a steading development we visited had a rose bush in full bloom.  There is something poignant about any flower blooming outside its customary season and these beauties were no exception.  We have a dainty primrose in flower in the garden at the moment!  It's been there for weeks.  In fact it's the same plant I photographed last Easter, covered in snow. We live in crazy times.
There is still plenty of colour in the countryside.  I am enjoying it all, some of the colours are so intense.  In 2011 we had snow on 25 November and it stayed for months, but I have far too much work to do in the garden before it disappears under a blanket of white, so I am keeping my fingers crossed that we do not have a repeat performance this year! 

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Early days of winter

We flew down south for a wedding at the weekend.  It was a wonderfully happy and joyous occasion.  Lots of laughter and more tears than I have experienced at a wedding before but they were all for the right reasons.  The bride and groom were back at work yesterday and it must have all seemed like a dream!  However they will celebrate their honeymoon in South Africa at Christmas time when they will catch up with the groom's father who could not attend the ceremony, except on Skype from Zimbabwe.  I am sure there will be more champagne flowing, some more tears and especially lots more laughter!

We took the red-eye flight from Edinburgh on Saturday morning.  That involved getting up at 03.30 but we did see dawn rising from the comfort of our Easyjet seats!
I love taking photos from the air.  My camera isn't really sophisticated enough to get really great photos but it's fun to record what's going on umpteen thousand feet below.  The network of fields over southern England are amazing to see.  All different shapes and sizes and in places you can still make out the remains of the feudal system of apportioning land.  
Back home now and winter seems to have arrived with a bit of a bang today.  It is bitterly cold but bright and sunny.  The garden is glistening in the sunshine and the children found this leaf and it's frosty impression left on the driveway this morning.
When we were coming in to land at Gatwick Airport on Saturday we noticed that the trees still had most of their leaves whereas ours have more or less shed theirs.  However there are still some trees which are clinging on to their glowing colour, notably the oaks and beech trees.  
I grew up under a copper beech tree and their gingernut biscuit coloured leaves at this time of year are always my favourite.  

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

A couple of walks

I took the dogs for a walk on Belhaven beach yesterday afternoon.  The tide was out, lovely waves as always, and a huge expanse of sand for the girls to run and run and run.  The Labrador lass was in and out of the water as usual.  She is so excited to be on the beach that she just doesn't know what to do with herself, running here, there and everywhere.  It's lovely to see.  Tilly enjoys herself too, bustling from one pile of seaweed to another, taking a generous nibble from each.  

We came back along the saltmarsh which runs behind the beach.  The dogs put up quite a variety of birds, including one of my favourites, the curlew.  They are big birds with their lovely curving beaks.  These flew off, but not too far away and then treated me to their wild, remote whinnowing call.  
It's a simple landscape.  Undemanding, beautiful, full of subtle colour and a perfect place to go and breathe in deeply.

This morning Tilly and I took the opportunity to walk around the stubble field at the end of the drive, before the plough finished turning over the soil.  The tractor has spent the last two days in the field, preparing it for the next year's crop.  There was just a little bit left to complete today and we walked on the remains of this summer's cornfield and now it is all gone.  The soil is a deep cocoa colour and in the furrows there were some other lovely colours.
By fiddling around with iPhoto I can pull some really rich and beautiful red and ochre colours out of the earth.  They look a bit like an abstract painting.
Two good walks.

Saturday, 9 November 2013


I know this is not a red poppy but it's beauty and fragility is, to my mind, a reflection of life itself. So, for Remembrance Sunday tomorrow this is my offering and my expression of thanks for those who gave, and still give, their lives to enable me and my precious family to live life as we do.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Bits and bobs

Another Friday and the week has flown by, as usual!  I spent another happy day in the Museum of Scotland yesterday and returned to the lobby to do the drawing that I spent last week preparing for.
I am quite happy with the way it has turned out.  Next week, back in the school studio, I will try and reproduce it on a bigger scale.  I am not finished with the lobby yet!  

This morning Tilly and I had a peaceful walk round the block.  The sky was high, the geese were overhead and the air was fresh.  It has set me up for the day.

Have a good weekend.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Frosty morning

We've had a couple of frosts over the last few days but this morning was a real winter wake up call!  Here are a few photos taken early today when I took the children down the drive to wait for the school bus.

This photo was taken by Number Two Grandson who took charge of the camera before I could get my hands on it!  It's a slighty squiffy out of focus image but it has a real feel of the moment and I thought he might enjoy seeing his picture on the blog!  Always good for young confidence.
As we head out of the wood this is our view across the fields to Traprain Law.  It's always beautiful, in all weathers, every light and time of day.
It is such a lovely sunny morning that Tilly and I decided to walk around the stubble field.  The frost was on the chestnut leaves and the remains of the corn stalks reminded me of the little straws we used to have at primary school for our third of a pint bottles of milk.
Photographs are great for capturing moments but I would need a very sophisticated camera to really be able to convey how magical this view was.  The frost was on every stem and the sun shining through gave a wonderful haze of light.  

Another pile of books

I have just spent the weekend working in the bookshop of the Lennoxlove Book Festival.  Three days of twelve hour shifts selling books - a long time on my feet but I LOVE it!  Lots of lovely books, lots of enthusiastic book lovers and some great authors.  The administrators of Lennoxlove's sister festival, Borders Book Festival, have pulled it off again.  
 Getting unpacked and set up.
This year we welcomed Sir Chris Bonington, Rory Bremner, Peter Snow, Alan Johnson, Jeremy Paxman, Mark Lawson, Kate Mosse and Douglas Hurd, amongst others.  

The Incredible Spice Men joined the throng of famous names and here they are posing for photographs with the wonderful backdrop of Lennoxlove House and the Lammermuirs in the distance.
Children came and enjoyed story telling given by authors with wondrous imagination and then a little chat afterwards during their book signing sessions.
The late autumn sunshine was a bonus and the customary sideshow enabled young visitors to hone their circus skills.
And this is what it is all about.  Authors talking about their new books!  Here we have Kate Mosse being interviewed by John Sessions about her new publication 'The Mistletoe Bride'.
I am looking forward to next June now.  I will be working at the Borders Book Festival in Melrose again, and I can't wait!