Sunday, 6 February 2011

Well, it's been a while again. I got back from Scotland on Monday evening and couldn't bring myself to write, having just filled out and handed in what is hopefully the last of my university applications. Today is a perfect day to blog, too, having woken up to do a morning walk through the Allschwil forest, enjoying the Föhn winds - the Alpine equivalent of the Chinook - which has brought us some warm, sunny weather. I bought some more potatoes at the Farm Shop and added to my documentation of things only found here in Switzerland. Here, a coat-rack at the entrance to the forest, where people have hung their expensive coats (and parked their bikes):

A notice reminding horse-riders that all horses must be wearing a license plate:

...and a random selection of Swiss forest-gnomes:

And here we are, looking smug...

Nathaniel, Nathaniel, Claire, Me

If that weren't enough to make for a perfect morning, we all met up an hour after getting back to Basel and read some music together. Now I'm on my way to enjoy the first BRS (Beer-Rhine-Sunset) of 2011 with the people in the photo above.


It was spectacular, mostly because of the perfect cheshire cat moon, and we toasted BRS with prosecco. Then I got back and had a proper Sunday supper and some of the whisky I brought back from Scotland.

One of the stories about Föhn is that people don't sleep well when these winds come. I didn't quite believe this yesterday, but was woken up by a random nightmare about endless airports and deadly street-cleaning machines and, having been wide awake for the last hour, settle down now to finish this post at seven-thirty in the morning.

So, on to Scotland...

I arrived in Edinburgh airport on Monday evening and oddly enough you can't get directly from that airport to Glasgow by public transit (UK: transport) despite it being less than an hour away. You have to either go into Edinburgh first at great time and expense, or do what I did, which is wheel your suitcase one mile to Glasgow road and hop on the Citylink 900 bus. If it stops. The first didn't stop (but waved - thanks) and then the house nearby started burning some tires and I was engulfed in disgusting smoke so I started walking to the second stop half a mile a way - but the 900 wasn't due there so I kept walking, only to be passed by the next bus shortly before arriving. Third time's the charm though, and pretty soon I was on my way to Glasgow, where Alison was waiting with some delicious home-made burritos.

The next day was Jan. 25th - Robbie Burns Night when evening would roll around. In the afternoon we went for a walk around Mugdock Country Park - very cheering to know that woods, hills, ponds and castles are only 9 miles north of Glasgow.

Boardwalk to Castle

From this boardwalk I first took notice of the incredible Glaswegian sky. When I was there last summer it was sunny, but now in winter, despite the clouds it was luminous, textured, and always changing - a constant reminder that the sea was just around the corner.

A Glow behind the Trees

Soon we arrived at Mugdock castle, a ruin whose building spanned from medieval to Victorian times:

The only bench I remember seeing:

As we left the castle we saw that we were being watched:

This tree has a fern coat:

And here, next to the castle, we ate lunch. Fried mushroom & pesto and mushroom and horseradish sandwiches - yum!

The park was bigger than it seemed and felt very far away - you can see the first hills of the highlands sticking out behind these crossed paths:

This is what's called a kissing gate, which people can get through but cows can't:

Before long we realized we'd joined up onto the West Highland Way:

The end of the hike provided a dark view of Glasgow in the distance, not to mention a few more glimpses of awesome sky:

Upon coming home, it was time to make a traditional Burn's Night Supper: Haggis, Neeps and Tatties. Haggis you'll have to look up - it's delicious, Neeps are turnips and Tatties are potatoes, these two all mashed up of course. Our meal started with some Scottish salmon on miniature oatcakes, then it was time to begin traditional Burns Night activities, like taking the Haggis out of the oven. Actually there were two (...haggi? Haggisses? anyhow...)

We took it in turns to read the "Address to a Haggis" after a moment of panic when Alison discovered that the pages had been removed from from her sister's copy of the (otherwise) Complete Works of Robbie Burns!
But sure enough the Internet provided, and I brought this laptop into the kitchen to read from...

At the appropriate moment in the poem, the hagges (surely it pluralises like 'crisis'?) were pierced by Alison's deft knife! (Actually in retrospect it was more like 'punctured' but that doesn't feel very poetic now, does it?)

Then we brought the haggides (surely it pluralises like 'glottis'?) to the table and much merriment was had.

Alison and Ruth and a Full Burns Supper - num num num

Cranachan for dessert - a traditional Scottish delicacy with raspberries, heather honey, cream, toasted oats, and of course whisky:


You'll notice perhaps that we were three and there were four bowls. David came by late the next morning and ate his before taking me on a tour of Glasgow University. Here's the river Kelvin, which we passed on the way there:

and one of many interesting corners of Glasgow's West End:

Quite soon we were greeted by the sight of the University tower against the sky:


It doesn't loom quite so much when you get up close though:

David and not-looming Tower

Venturing inside, I saw the chapel, concert hall, exam room, and a reminder of the origins of my own Alma Mater:

Soon it was off to the music building - a small but beautiful interior with wood paneling and winding staircases. Unfortunately the practice room situation is a bit dismal:

I could play in here as long as I didn't need 6th position

Right. I did scavenge about for other practising possibilities and may have found a solution or two.

Then it was off to the new cake shop to meet up with Alison again before she caught the train to London.

Choices, Choices

My Choice (two pieces thereof)

Walking back, I noticed something I'd never noticed before at the corner of Great Western Road and Byres Road - it's true what the Doctor said, people do just walk by and not ask any questions.

Abandoned Tardis

Thursday I thought I would go down to the Uni, meet with my potential Ph.D. supervisor, hand in my application, and go. Ha ha. Oh well. The meeting was very good but I had many fine pieces of advice to work into the application. I gave up hope that it would be done within hours and went to a concert instead, where I saw among other things, Barnaby Brown play triplepipes and sing Canntaireachd - which is pronounced 'Cantara' and is Gaelic mouth music - or a way of singing what bagpipes play. I liked it so much, I wanted immediately to learn it. So far I've learned to spell it, but perhaps I will be able to get a lesson when I'm back again?

When I got back to Alison's I got a text message from Helen saying that she was already on the bus to Edinburgh - never assume the same flight times with easyjet! Ah! So I went down to the train station and we soon met up in Edinburgh to check in at the hostel and find us some pub fare. Helen had haggis.

The next day was quite perfect. We wandered down the Royal Mile, popping into charity shops and a shop where they made animal horn trumpets (we tried them - should have bought one probably!) and a few private whisky establishments (I bought a bottle on the way back).

The Royal Mile

At the end, across from the Scottish Parliament, was Holyrood castle, but it was far too lovely out to go inside, so we climbed a hill in Holyrood park instead.

Helen, Catherine, Ediburgh

On the way back, mulling about what to do for lunch, we saw this red restaurant. "I'm tempted. Are you tempted?" "I'm tempted too!" So, off to the tempting tattie we went and ate baked potatoes with all sorts of fillings and cheese.

Scarlet Establishment

Curiously, having just arrived, we were eager to 'get out of the city', so after some coffee, we hopped on the bus to Rosslyn Chapel, the site of many sandstone engravings of everything from angel musicians and the dance of death to many carvings of the pagan "Green Man", to the inscription Forte est vinum fortior est rex fortiores sunt mulieres super omnia vincit veritas: "Wine is strong, a king is stronger, women are stronger still, but truth conquers all."

You'll have to visit the websites for pictures because we weren't allowed to take any. Having a bit of time before the return bus, we wandered down to Rosslyn castle, an eerie ruin at twilight:

Rosslyn Castle

Park Bench

Upon returning to Edinburgh, we ate curry and found some traditional music in a pub. At one point they put their fiddle and sang my favourite Stan Rogers song.

The next morning it was off to Aberdeen - a glorious sunrise over the Firth of Forth greeted us on the train ride.

Looking upwards, Aberdeen reminded me a bit of Lancaster with it's stone houses and many chimneys:

After an afternoon of wandering around (yey charity shops!) we went back to Frauke's house, equipped with a functional fireplace, and toasted marshmallows.

Helen, Frauke, Hot Coals

The Germans have a tradition they call Abendbrot, which is a supper of bread and the best meats and cheeses you can find. So to our cracked wheat we added smolked salmon, pigeon breasts, two types of Scottish cheese and some traditional oatcakes, cheddar and chutney for good measure.

The next morning, we went riding:

Horse in a Frosty Field

Me on Wesley

Frauke and a slightly unwilling Benji

Helen on Goose

There was just enough times for a quick romp around the dunes of Balmedie, just North of Aberdeen, before heading to the bus.

Um, tide coming in or going out?

Frauke, Helen and Me

Helen failing to display English Wistful
Melancholy at the Appropriate Moment

The Grassy Dunes

More of the same

And more...

Fiery Sunset

Taken from the car going into Aberdeen

No trains running that day, Helen and I took the Citylink Gold express bus, which went from Aberdeen to Glasgow, only stopping to pick up some sandwiches, drinks, and tablet for us. Free (if dodgy) wifi the whole way too, and all for £10. Ok, I say.

When we got to Alison's, she had some lovely sea bass waiting, and we listened to the first edit of the I Fedeli CD recorded last October...very exciting!

The next day was pretty chaotic, as finishing my Uni applications took, as usual, much longer than I expected. But with some help from Alison and some fresh gumption from the air outside - smelled of heather and the sea - I got them in and headed back to Basel, exactly a week ago today. The week was not very eventful, mostly spent in the Egger workshop, where sawing out little angels on the jewelry saw provided some welcome respite from the inhuman CNC lathes. And now I have to head back there, or I'll be late!

1 comment:

  1. Hell Catherine,

    I hope I got the right Catherine. I just came across your blog by chance and thought I'd just drop by and say hi I'm still of this world. Glad to here the music career is progressing. I'm still writing crappy reviews and articles as well as doing interviews with bands. Just did one with the bass player from a German jazz/rock fusion band called 7 for4 who are based in Munich. Their name is a play on the weird time signatures they play in. I'm also appearing on an album by a British band called Janus which should be out this year sometime. I'm also still struggling with writing a book. Everyone with a laptop or access to the internet seems to be doing the same too! I've got three done but they all still need tweaking.

    I liked the photo of the terrier at Mudgok Castle. Looks like an alert sentry on the lookout for questionable arrivals. Those practice rooms look like an interrogation room out of a cold war spy film. The Dr. Who police callbox was cool too. As for haggis. Yuk. Had to eat it every Jan 25 when we were growing up. Too bad you didn't make tit to Inverness to wait forthe monster. Did that years ago but Nessie was a no show. Party pooper.

    Hope 2011 has been good to you thus far and best of luck with your doctorate. I had to join the site in order to send this message but I'm not much of a blogger but I'll drop by your blog from tIme-to-time.