Counterbalances

The yard was full of violets this week, before Paul had to cut the grass. Nice. He skirted around all the lily of the valley that jumped its borders; I’ll transplant it.

The two days of admin work turned into five full days and nights, with estimated deferred taxes thrown in there in the middle of it.  On a gorgeous 81 degree day, I took a five mile roundtrip walk, which seemed like a good idea. Clearing my head outdoors was good; wearing new shoes was not.  I’d had them on before and they seemed quite comfortable, but by the time I reached my destination, my feet began to feel sore;  by the time I got back home I was limping and had six huge blood blisters, in spite of cotton socks. They’re still pretty awful (sigh). I can hardly believe it, but I can finally return to the studio today, so I am segueing to part of (S)Edition that keeps me off my feet.

Some of what I’ve been doing involves re-examining unpleasant things.  That resulted in waking in the middle of the night three nights in a row, and being unable to get back to sleep.  So, when I happily saw Aimee’s photos, posted immediately after she visited a place I’ve always wanted to see, I decided to counteract the disturbing energy by revisiting good times. Last night I began finally putting the past 23 months worth of photos up on Flickr, chronologically, beginning where I left off: Scotland. I’ve got Edinburgh and the National Museum up. And I slept all night. I’ll keep at it bit by bit: Scotland, Catwalk, Jentel, Chicago, WSW, I-Park, Ragdale…

Scottish bluebells in Inverleith, Edinburgh, May 2008

Time Travel: Edinburgh, with Museum

 

Polished cross-section of bony limestone, which I wanted to steal.  It probably weighed a ton.

This morning, after another session trying to get the correct password to work at the guest house, to no avail, I headed to Waverly to try to get my railpass in person.  On the way there, though, I got sucked into a gigantic used book sale put on by the Christian something-or-other league.  It’s probably a good thing that I’m traveling; lots and lots of fascinating stuff.  There were many gorgeous old bindings.  I saw some wonderful samples from the l700s on up.  I did buy myself a present, a trade book from 1869, for 4 pounds.  It’s Dante in Italian, very small but thick, quarter-bound with a vellum spine and a shiny paste paper loosely resembling vellum.

Then Waverly, where great huge crowds of people were queued up.  I took a number and pulled out the Lonely Planet, and found that internet access on a rented computer was five minutes away. I got out of there.  2 pounds later, I had checked e-mail, ordered the railpass (which still hasn’t been confirmed) and had my credit card denied by a hotel in Glasgow, the night before the flight back, because it was an American account.

Then, I stopped in to the National Museum of Scotland. I confess that I don’t really enjoy most large museums, so I expected to just duck in and out, check on some information I needed for the research part of my trip, and shoot a few of the Lewis chessmen for Linda. But, it was fascinating, one of the best I have ever visited. I spent hours there. It’s historical, cultural, geological, a natural history museum, and an art museum both in the artifacts displayed and the manner of their presentation, much of which could be called contextual installation work. It traced the development of Scotland from pre-pre-history, well before humans, via reconstructions, large dioramas, and geological samples; and then, as humans entered the timeline, it traveled through all their permutations, presenting a plethora of excellent artifacts that have been found here.  And, it continued on to the present. They allowed a non-diner go out to the open-air rooftop restaurant, for some great city views, as well.  Excellent.

 

Pictish carvings.  I love the accuracy and economy of the line.  It was good to  see them in person.  I’ve also long been fascinated by the little creature in the top of the second photo.  The other carvings are so very accurate, so what IS he? There are a number of carvings of him, all the same. Sometimes historians call him the ‘elephant’ but that can’t be right.

Evening was spent attempting to use the wireless at a Starbucks, then not quite two hours at a massive cybercafe; they closed while I still had just under 30 minutes to go! I lost a pound. They wouldn’t extend it till tomorrow.  They were Russians, I think.

I had a very late sort-of dinner in the room to save money (Hmmm. I buy a book I can’t read because it’s beautiful, and then eat cheap stuff.  Feed the soul first; that’s me.)  Yogurt, fruit and oatcakes, with jelly filched from the breakfast room.  And then, I tried to plan the rest of the trip. Frustrating.  I’m going to be locked into a schedule, won’t be able to just stay longer when I find a place I like. I need, oh, a year or more here! It’s 1:30 and I’m signing off for now.

                                           Now, what man wouldn’t look great in this?

 

A Bit Aboot Edinburgh

I’ll backtrack a bit, with a few things about Edinburgh:  It’s a little like going to New York city, if you can imagine Manhattan built on steep little mountains, and begun well before the twelfth century; it’s just constant motion, a lot o’ lot o’ people all on the move.  Its streets are also canyons, of stone rather than concrete.  It was once a walled city and the later building kept to that tradition; the blocks are solid masses.  In Old Town, they’re punctured by narrow closes, passageways to the walled interiors, which are courtyards, sometimes more shops, often gardens, or wynds, narrow twisting alleyways, often with stairs to accommodate the land. Yet almost all of it closes down at 5pm, except for the pubs and some of the restaurants.  It was a big deal to find the internet café, and to have it be open till nine.  It’s bustling. It’s big.  I stayed mostly central; my B & B was on the far edge of New Town, near Cannonmills, and I didn’t get much further south of Old Town than Lauriston.  I didn’t get to Leith and the waterfront at all (think Irvine Welsh), though I’d planned to.

It’s gorgeous, like nowhere else on earth.  It’s crass with wall-to-wall made-in-China tartan tchotchke shops in old town, and tours and tour buses, and it’s peaceful and lovely in its version of Central Park, the Princes Street Gardens, a natural valley dominated by the Castle.  The Scots do gardens very, very well, formal or informal; they take them seriously and they’re made for the eye, whether distant or close, and lovingly tended, though they contain way too much bad, highly sentimental monumental sculpture and downright goofy ornate fountains. Gardens and huge parks are all over the city, and the people are out using them.  And even houses that may have less than three square feet of open space have something growing in that space.

Actually, everything in Old Town is dominated by the castle, high on its central rock.  It’s magnificent, foreboding, stately and a little eerie.  I am still fascinated by how it just grows right up out of the bare rock.  And down past New Town, at the far end of the botanic gardens, miles away, the castle still ruled over the landscape, as I sat and watched about 15 swans gliding in a serene, gigantic, green and lovely park.  Here are a few photos of all of that:

Old Town