Monday, February 23, 2009

St Cuthbert's, Edinburgh

Today I went to Brook Street, to see if they could get me a mutha huffing job. I had a camera with me, so on the way back home I stopped in to have a look at the churchyard of St Cuthbert's. It's probably the oldest kirk (that's Scottish for 'church') in Edinburgh, it looks like it was built in 1970.

I took a load of photos of some old gravestones, and a robin:

This is Elizabeth Bellfradg's grave, apparently it's from 1730 or something. The important thing on it is the phrase 'Memento Mori': Be Mindful of Death. When a Roman general had a triumph, a slave would ride in the chariot with him, and whisper 'memento mori' in his ear to remind him that although things were going pretty well considering he was having a triumph, he was still going to die. Anyway, having it on her gravestone proves that Elizabeth Bellfradg was probably a Roman general.

I don't know who's grave this is, but it's got a good view of Edinburgh Castle, or it would do if it faced the other way.

Here's another picture of the same grave. It's not Roman, so you can move along now.

This is yet another grave, apparently this guy was a ropemaker.

While I was taking a photo of the ropemaker's grave this robin showed up and just sat there looking at me, cheeping. It showed no fear, not even when I jammed a lens in its face. Either it was very brave, or very stupid. Or it thought I'd feed it.

I swear it said "Hey sucka - gimme some god damn grain!" just as I took this photo.

This was taken from about 40cm away, I couldn't get any closer because my lens wouldn't focus any closer. Maybe the bird was thinking about robbing me?

There was also a monkey puzzle tree in the graveyard, it certainly didn't puzzle me.

You're in for a double treat today, because I'm going to give you a link to the best video you'll see all week. It's about boats. It features T-Pain and Poseidon and helicopters. Just don't play it in a primary school.

God damn.


Monday, February 16, 2009

Portraits in a forest

Bronach and I went walking in the hills around Drumnadrochit, overlooking Loch Ness. Needless to say, we didn't spot any plesiosaurs, probably because it was damnably cold and any self-respecting giant lizard would have bogged off to warmer climes.

After wading through knee deep snow for several miles, we decided to cut our planned route short, and make for civilisation. I have no pictures of the walking section of the trip, because - far from being a pleasant stroll - it turned into a death march, a race against time and battle against the elements. Our objective was to scale the Falls of Divach, but when we reached Craigmonie Crag we realised that our rendezvous at the extraction point was imminent and we would have to make for the landing zone to await the arrival of our transport (bus). We arrived in theatre late due to an unplanned diversion to Primark; had we missed the rendezvous I would have been able to fashion a small, but cosy, shelter out of the Primark packet. The key in a survival situation is to keep your wits about you and to think laterally.

As it happened, my superior navigation skills got us off the mountain in record time, so there was plenty of time to spare before the bus came. So I took the opportunity to bully Bronach into standing there while I took some portraits. Her calm appearance belies the fact that mere minutes before, we had been in a life or death situation.

Duke of Edinburgh candidates would probably have tried to fashion a lens out of a chunk of ice, to start a fire, built an igloo or burst into tears. Waste of time. Decisive action saved the day, and no amount of mucking about with a Swiss army knife would have helped.

Anyway, here are a load of pictures I took after the march, while we waited for the bus. I've been trying to get away from taking portraits that are just a headshot, sometimes with more success than others.

Anyway, there you go. For a more witty blog, go read Alex's.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009


Today, the fortunes of this United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland took a turn for the better. That's right, I have been formally naturalised as a British citizen, conferring upon me the right to vote, stand for Parliament and box foreigners about the ears. In addition, I can wear a top hat, hail a taxi and be awarded an Order of the British Empire. I intend to do all of these things.

Pundits are already proclaiming today as "a great day, one which will go down in history", and foreseeing the reversal of the economic decline.

The ceremony took place in the Lothian Chambers, a masterpiece of late Victorian/Edwardian architecture, and was a tour de force of pomp and ceremony. After signing in and having our document's scrutinised for the final time, we were admitted to the ceremonial suite, decked out with Union flags, saltires and a portrait of the Queen. Several minutes ensued while the Lord Provost of Edinburgh was tracked down, during which the kids who were being citizenised rapidly got very bored. In the seat immediately in front of mine, a 9 year old investigated the contents of his nose, turned the shattered remnants of his sunglasses into a pair of fangs and was about to start shredding his Oath of Allegiance prompt card, when the Lord Provost hurried in.

After a couple of speeches about how privileged we, as well as Edinburgh and indeed the whole country are, we stood and pledged allegiance to Her Majesty. The national anthem then belted out from a cheap stereo for about 30 seconds, before stopping abruptly and we were told we were done.

All that remained was to grab the certificate, shake the Lord Provost's hand and avail ourselves of as much free tea, coffee and biscuits as possible. The first thing everyone did was to prove how extremely British we all were by forming a queue. No one really stuck around - no doubt they were all hightailing it down to the Post Office to apply for a passport in case the Home Office changed their minds.

Bronach and I then went to celebrate with a traditional British tea of Coca cola and some lemon tart. I nearly had my eye out with the thistle boutonniere which Edinburgh Council generously provided with the naturalisation certificate (see top picture), so we called it a day and came home.