Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Express Yourself - a photographic blogging challenge

January 31st already (happy birthday Keith) and time for the photographic blogging challenge hosted by A 'lil Hoohaa - P.J. sets a theme at the beginning of the month and then we take five photos that we think represents the theme. Simple? This month the theme was "Express Yourself".

Here's how I've interpreted the theme.

1. It was my birthday earlier this month and my beloved bought me a birthday cake that I think expresses me very well - I may be fast approaching the big 50 but I'm really a big kid at heart, so of course he got me a pink princess cake.

2. The below shop is in Inverness, sitting between much bigger buildings and yet I'm sure everyone notices this wee shop. Why - because it expresses itself very well, with over the top Scottishness, loud bagpipe music being piped into the street, and to top it all off, a fake owl sitting at the upstairs window.

3. This month we visited Portmahomack which is a bit further north than us in the Scottish Highlands. As we had a look around this small fishing town we came upon this garage door - these people obviously believe in standing out amongst all the quaint, understated cottages.

4. This is the window of a cafe in London called Antipode (can you guess why I like this place?). The window has a coffee cup (that's the large thing in the top left of the photo) and a cat drinking coffee - apart from that there are no signs to identify the cafe. The pictures are enough to express their individuality as an independent cafe that serves excellent coffee.

5. Final picture is of my workplace which is normally brown and green, but as we're raising awareness for World Cancer Day on Saturday, February 4th, today the building was lit up purple and our landscaped mounds have fairy lights all around them. As purple is my favourite colour I think it's fabulous. The purpose for the lights is that hopefully more people will learn about Maggie's and know that they can come to us if they are affected by cancer - we're expressing ourselves so that we're noticed.

So there you have it, my concept of the theme, Express Yourself. Before you go why don't you pop over to P.J's blog and see what my fellow bloggers have come up with - click HERE to visit.

Until next time, be good, stay safe, and make sure you express yourself well this week.

Pamela & Ken

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

A Scottish tragedy preserved in glass

It's time to continue on with our Sunday drive like two old pensioners pootling around the country roads (see previous post for the first part of our day.

As we drove on we came upon another fabulous old church and graveyard - I was now in seventh heaven, two graveyards in one day!! This was Kincardine Old Church which is now a heritage centre and first records of it date to 1227. There is also a Pictish Stone at this site but again because it is winter we couldn't see it. It was still a lovely graveyard to wander round with some really interesting headstones.

This is obviously a very old headstone as it's very worn and nature is welcoming it back into the earth.

Love how the moss and lichens have outlined the symbolism on this headstone, especially the hourglass in the middle.

Ken finally managed to drag me away from the graveyard and as we journeyed on we came across two lovely horses to stop and have a chat to. The little horse was a very rotund little chappie and was reluctant to come too close, but his friend was happy to talk to me up close.

The roads were becoming smaller and smaller as we headed for our original destination of Croick Church. It's not a very old church by Scottish standards, having been built in 1827, but the reason we wanted to see it was more to do with an event in history. The Clearances is a period in Scottish History when wealthy landowners (often English) decided that instead of renting their land to tenant farmers, they would make more money by forming large sheep farms and to do this they needed to clear the tenants away. This wasn't done as it would be today, with a nice little notice period, instead highlanders were forced out of their homes and sometimes homes were set alight to make sure people left. Many people lost their lives and a lot of historians describe this as an early form of ethnic cleansing - it definitely changed the lives of highlanders forever and caused even more hatred of the English and the wealthy landowners.

On the 24th of May 1845 18 families were forced off the land around Croick church and took refuge in the graveyard. On one of the windows are scratched messages from the past - whispers of history preserved in glass from those displaced people so long ago.

This is the window where the messages have been left.

If you look closely in the two diamonds below you can just make out the carved writing - it was incredibly moving standing there looking at these faint echoes of an awful moment in history.

The church is left open and it is a plain but beautiful space.

Whilst we were exploring the graveyard (my third for the day - imagine how happy I was) we came across a geocache poked in amongst the stones of the wall. We just left our names and the date we had come across it - the last entry was well over a year ago as I'm guessing it is a bit out of the way for most people.

One of the trees in the graveyard had some fabulous Bracket Fungi all over it - they almost look like footholds spaced up the trunk.

Here's just a few of the lovely headstones from the graveyard at Croick Church - there was such a great range of carvings and designs.

This one is very unusual - a tall thin column which is rough rock except for the bit that has been smoothed for the inscription of the names. We've never seen one like this before.

Monolith beautifully carved with celtic designs that stands in the more modern graveyard in front of the church.

Looking back down at the church - it's such a remote but picturesque setting.

On our way home, only 60 miles, we passed this great spot of communication in the middle of nowhere. I was wishing that there was still snow on the ground as it would have made the red stand out even more.

Grand old bridge that we went over - note the walkway that goes underneath it. We think that this river is very popular with fishermen as there were signs about rules for anglers in this area.

So that was the rest of our day out exploring another area of this incredible bit of the world we live in. Bramble Jelly was exhausted when we got home so happily fell asleep on her daddy's knee with her head on my hot water bottle (we're not spoiling her at all).

Until next time, be good, stay safe, and take time to enjoy the area you live in this week.

Pamela & Ken

P.S: Final picture is a mug I treated myself to for my birthday earlier this month - I just felt it described me perfectly.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Vegetarian haggis and an old graveyard

A crisp, cold, frosty morning greeted us when we woke today, so what else to do but to head out for a day of fun. It was mid morning so our first stop was at James Cafe in Nairn for a cup of hot chocolate - the seats are outside with blankets provided if you're feeling too cold. It overlooks the crazy golf course which had a few ice hazards today.

Our first stop on our Sunday drive was Portmahomack which is 54 miles from Nairn. This pretty fishing village dates from 975 AD when St Colmac established a priory there. It's very quiet and as it was a Sunday there wasn't anything open.

Fountain on the seafront that celebrates the arrival of gravitational water in the late 1800's - very strangely it has crocodiles in it.

After a brief stop we travelled onto Tain which is a bit bigger and had life going on, including the lovely Sunflower Cafe being open where we stopped for lunch. It's a lovely bright little place with a distinct theme going on inside.

Even the ceiling has sunflowers painted on it.

We both ordered the vegetarian breakfast for our lunch and as you can see it was huge! Also very tasty, including the vegetarian haggis. I haven't eaten any tea tonight as I was still full from this monstrous lunch.

After we left Tain we came across a wonderful old graveyard and as it would have been rude not to stop and have a look around we pulled in to explore. This is Edderton Old Church which was built in 1743 on the site of a much older church.

There are some lovely old headstones around the church, with some interesting carvings.

At some point in the last couple of hundred years this headstone has fallen over and nature is claiming it back - as you can see, even though it was now about 2pm it was still very frosty.

Looking across the graveyard and sheep to the Dornoch Firth.

This headstone is quite interesting with it's dark surround.

Bramble Jelly amongst the snow drops which are starting to appear everywhere.

A few more interesting headstones for you to enjoy (or is that just me) including a very lovely angel.

Frost on the wall moss.

Within the burial ground is a large Pictish Stone that is believed to date from 900 AD. This is the picture on the information board at the entrance to the graveyard.

This is what we got to see as they cover it up in winter to try and protect it from the Scottish weather. We'll definitely have to go back in summer to have a look at the real thing.

At the bottom of the graveyard is this beautiful old Ash tree which is at least 200 years old - it's full of character with lots of nobbly bits sticking out on the trunk.

I think I'll stop there and share the rest of our Sunday of fun in another post. We found lots of interesting things so I think it might make one post a bit long. So until then, be good, stay safe, and have a wonderful week.

Pamela & Ken

P.S: Final picture is of our very strange Cookie Cat who no longer sleeps inside her tunnel but instead sits on top of it surveying her minions.