Thursday, 30 April 2015

In celebration of gorse!

Tilly and I have just walked back from a spot just south of North Berwick.  Mr Gaucho dropped us off and we had a wonderful wander home.  We didn't see a soul, just enjoyed the soundtrack of the wind, and the song and calls of birds - great tits, skylarks, peewits, curlew, seagulls blown inland from the nearby coastline, and the constant chattering of chaffinches and co.  
I can remember my mother recounting the country saying that a young man can only kiss a girl when the gorse is in flower.  But he's always in luck!  There is rarely a time when there isn't a little bit of gorse blooming somewhere.  At the moment it is full blown and gorgeous.
At Easter time, when I was about eight or nine, we cooked up some gorse flowers, and then boiled some eggs in the water.  The shells turned bright yellow!  Then we drew all over them with coloured crayons!
We passed this lovely bank of honesty, glowing pure white in the shadow of the overhanging tree. I've made a mental note to go back in the autumn and harvest some seeds from those decorative, papery round seedheads.
In complete contrast to the romantic billow of white honesty, much of the landscape at the moment shows evidence of having been controlled by GPS as the new crops have been sown!  
One part of me enjoys the clean lines which create a kind of design, but it is a bit soulless.  I very much prefer the rolling countryside which lies beyond.
Walking towards this gorse bush, I received a waft of spicy coconut from the mass of golden yellow flowers.  Delicious!

Sunday, 26 April 2015

A chilly start to the week

It happens every year!  As soon as the blossom is at its best, the wind gets up and the weather rains down on those lovely delicate flowers.  We've had two hail storms today, and the air has been bitterly cold!
The skyscape didn't bode well for our walk this afternoon, and we got sandblasted by hailstones, driving home from the beach, but the bits in between were good!
The little white dots in the photograph above are gannets, swooping and swirling around the Bass Rock.

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Botanical gardens

My youngest son's future mother-in-law and I had a very enjoyable wander around the Botanics in Edinburgh on Thursday.  The weather was glorious.  We walked through some of the gardens, and then went and had lunch on the cafe terrace, outside Inverleith House.  There was some wedding stuff to chat about.

We entered the gardens by the east gate,
and headed for one of my favourite parts of the gardens, the Scottish Heath Garden.  It's wild, representing the Scottish Highlands, and not frequented much - hence the attraction for me.  A 'tumbledown' croft, constructed a long time ago now, has really been taken over by nettles and other wild plants. There is a little pond there too, which a couple of mallards were enjoying.
Colour is beginning to return to the gardens, after the browns of winter.  
We enjoyed lovely hot sunshine as we meandered past the different areas of the gardens.   
These beautiful anemones were my favourite find of the day.  I've got the grand total of two soft  blue ones out in my garden.  They were everywhere in the Botanics!
After we parted company, I walked on through Inverleith Park.  I was meeting my granddaughter from school, and the park's allotment site was en route.  It's been there since 1942.  There's a pretty impressive selection of huts, which I am rather envious of.  I had a wonderful hut on my allotment, on the other side of the city, but some lesser specimens of the human race burnt it down one January night, about ten years ago.  Broke my heart.


Mindful of the significance of ANZAC Day, I have made some ANZAC biscuits, from a recipe given to me by my Australian daughter-in-law.  I am pretty sure that my little granddaughter in Melbourne will have demolished a few of these today.

 The balls of mixture get a little flattening down before going in the oven.
The end result looks pretty authentic to me, so I'm going to put the kettle on now, for a cup of tea and a tasting!

Friday, 24 April 2015

Shipping Songs

I was in Edinburgh yesterday, so I missed 'Shipping Songs', broadcast on Radio 4 during the morning.  So I am listening to it now, on iPlayer.  The programme is inspired by the mysterious allure of the shipping forecast, and I would urge you to listen to it.  
I love the shipping forecast.  It is especially evocative, listening to it in bed, late at night.  I visualise the coastline, especially the waters around the Inner Hebrides, which I have travelled on a ferry a few times, and the raw beauty of the sea off the coast of Harris and Lewis.  And I always listen out for the forecast for Forth, which covers our part of the world.  The programme explores what it is that draws so many people, who are not sailors or fishermen, to listen to these broadcasts, for they have inspired poets, writers, composers.  I love the way it progresses all the way around our coastline, no part of United Kingdom is left out.  It emphasises the fact we are one island nation. 

Have a listen :  You won't be disappointed!

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Wednesday treat!

I was enjoying the sheen on the tulip and the velvet of the pansies today, and thought that I would try and capture the flowers' depth of colour and the textures, and here's how the photos turned out. Not too bad, but not nearly as delicious as the real thing!

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Tuesday treats

Another lovely sunny day today.  The leaf buds on the trees just get fatter and fatter, and now they are fit to burst.  The early mornings have such a wonderful, positive vibe.  It's so good to be outside at the start of a new day - always worth the effort, even when the air is still very cold and the duvet feels so snug and warm!  

These are lime leaves, making their 2015 debut!
Today I noticed that the wood sorrel, which has planted itself into the wall around our outside boiler, was in flower.  What a magical little plant.
And finally, the last treat of the day, an orange tip butterfly, Anthocharis cardamines, on an aubretia - giving a great colour combination!

A birthday outing

It was Mr Gaucho's birthday on Sunday, so we went to town.  There is an exhibition of Roy Lichtenstein's work at the National Gallery of Modern Art, which he wanted to see.  

The grounds of the art gallery are as good to visit as the interior.  There are snake's head fritillaries out at the moment, such fabulous flowers.
The flowers hold my attention rather more than the work of Lichtenstein.  I enjoy comic strips but find the bigger, singular pieces to be rather soulless.  
In front of the gallery there is one of Charles Jencks's landforms.  This is a small piece of his work, as you will see if you explore his website.  (!projects
Across the grass from the landform there is this crazy little construction, the Pig Rock Bothy project (, and on the other side of the road is the Dean Gallery - quite recently renamed Modern Two, which seems a bit dull!  It does, however, have wonderful exhibitions.
We waited for the National Gallery minibus to take us back into town, where it dropped us by the Royal Academy.
We went to The Gardener's Cottage for dinner.  On Sunday evenings they do a delicious, seven course tasting menu, some dishes using foraged ingredients.
One of the jars on the shelf below is a jar of fermenting alexanders, which is a hedgerow plant introduced to Britain by the Romans.  It's a very handsome plant and although I know you can eat it, best in April and May, I haven't tried it yet!  The Gardener's Cottage chefs are obviously great preservers, with a telltale stack of Kilner jars on a sideboard behind our table, and the array of jars in front of us as we walked in the front door.
Here's the cheese course of Keen's Cheddar, apple jelly and two kamut crackers - one with nettle and the other with leek.  Really good!

The restaurant is in a B-listed building, designed by William Playfair.  It was built in 1836 as a cottage for the gardener in Royal Terrace Gardens, at the foot of Calton Hill.  It's a delightful little building which, since 2012, has been rejuvenated by the restaurant, and now buzzes with activity, producing delicious food.  Well worth further visits, maybe to celebrate other birthdays!