Thursday, 29 August 2013

Strangers on a Train

     I'm someone who fears heights and I find it somewhat scary to think of travelling 100m by lift, up to the top of the south tower of the Forth Rail Bridge. But I don't think my personal fears, or phobias were likely to be considered when Network Rail proposed the new visitor centre and viewing platforms to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the bridge's opening in 2015.

The Forth Rail Bridge
    This magnificent metal structure designed by Sir John Fowler and Benjamin Baker opened March 4th 1890. Ten times the amount of metal to that of the construction of the Eiffel Tower was used to link our capital city Edinburgh, to Fife and the North of Scotland thereon, across the River Forth.

The Forth Road Suspension Bridge
    The bridge itself, as well as the road bridge which was opened in 1964, is important to the whole infrastructure of Scotland. Being the second longest single span cantilever bridge in the world;  it commands breathtaking views of the river, Inchcolm Island, its Abbey and I'm sure demand for the tours will outstrip supply.

View of Inchcolm Island through one of the cantilevers
     The Forth Rail Bridge was used for a scene in Alfred Hitchcock's 1935 film, 39 Steps, an adaptation of Scottish writer John Buchan's book of the same name. Although it would have been befitting to the film Vertigo, the director's adaptation of Boileau-Narcejac's novel, D'entre les Morts. 

Train approaching Dalmeny Station, on the Edinburgh outskirts

        I think for some visitors it will be an adventure of a lifetime, but for me I'll be keeping my feet firmly on terra firma and I'll admire the scenery from below. That way I won't experience wobbly legs, dizziness, my hair being messed up by a hard-hat and I won't need to encounter any strangers on a passing train.

    Both Forth Rail and Road Bridges

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Brave Heart

Stirling Castle
    Bloody battles are being fought all over the world today, with no end in sight. Bringing misery to the lives of many. Everyone killed, is someones son, daughter, father, mother, lover, or friend. Some of those who have lost their lives are innocent by-standers, others for various reasons are fighting for what they believe in; rightly, or wrongly.

Stirling Bridge. Sir William Wallace defeated King Edward's Army here in 1297.
    Writers of fiction know that their MC seems to dictate as to how their story will conclude. Just as non-fictional individuals can influence the course of history. One such character was Sir William Wallace who was sentenced to death by King Edward 1. His punishment for leading an opposing army to the English King's, in the War of Scottish Independence, was that he was hung, drawn and quartered. His execution took place on the 23rd August 1305 in Smithfield, London.

Stirling Bridge
    Many of you will be familiar with the film 'Brave Heart,' starring Mel Gibson which depicted the life and times of the guardian of Scotland. William Wallace fought and died for what he believed was correct and now has his place in the history of Scotland. In 1869 a monument was built in Stirling overlooking the battle site to commemorate him and is visited by tourists from all over the world.

Wallace Monument
    As is Stirling Bridge, which although it's a replacement bridge, it is said to mark the victory site of the battle where William and his army defeated King Edward's. Scotland, once again is debating a state of independence and a referendum will take place on the 18th September 2014. Thankfully no swords, or other weaponry will decide the outcome this time round, only a ballot box. Because if nothing else, we have learned lessons from our sanguinary past.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

A Hug's a Great Place to Start


    Teenagers over the last few weeks have been experiencing angst. They've been nibbling at their fingernails and had butterflies in their tummies.Why? Because the day of reckoning, they felt was upon them and it's all down to it being time for exam results.

   It's a difficult time for kids, parents and guardians. But, if grades aren't as good as was expected, the world isn't about to end. Is it? Not achieving the top grade in a subject, doesn't change the kid. The word fail, or the letter that equates to failure, doesn't suddenly make them into a bad person.

   Yes, it may mean that they have to change the path that had been planned. It maybe that a place at college, or university may no longer be open to them. However, coping with failure isn't as easy for some kids to handle as it is for others and the feeling of angst can turn into one of shame.

    Enough bad things happen in this world, without children feeling as though they have to apologise for not performing on the day. A majority of us have the confidence later in life to pick ourselves up, when we're faced with disappointment. We learn that talking a problem through gets things into perspective and that feeling disappointed isn't something to be ashamed of. It's all part of being human.

    Firstly, the parent needs to try to comprehend as to why the grades were bad. Even if the kid had been procrastinating their studies, there will be a reason why they did so. Whatever has gone wrong, the negative emotions that are being encountered, can with a little help be turned into positives. Giving them a hug is a great place to start, but speaking to someone who is a neutral party can help





Monday, 19 August 2013

Reinventing the Wheel

Heads of a Kelpie, a mythological horse
      I live in a country that oozes with historical locations and many are only a short drive away from my home. These sites are presently enjoyed by people from all over the world. But what does the future hold for these great places?
    Will the children of tomorrow still be interested in the castles where Kings and Queens of the past were born, or forts where battles were won and lost? I'm sure some will, however the world is an ever changing place. A world where technology and great scientific inventions prevail.

The Falkirk Wheel
    If we want to keep the children of the future interested in the past, I believe we need to link the two and one such example is the Falkirk Wheel. Built on the site of a disused tar works, an industrial site which was nothing but a blot on the landscape and a hazard to the local inhabitants health. The Falkirk Wheel enables boats to travel along the Forth & Clyde (c.1790) and Union (c.1822) canals, by acting as a boat lift between the two. 

The aqueduct that meets the Wheel, joins the waterways together 
    These waterways lie on different levels, are unconnected and in times gone by this journey between Glasgow and Edinburgh could only be done by the boats passing through a series of lock gates. Each gate having to be worked manually and eventually falling into disrepair in the 1930's.

The Falkirk Wheel is 79 feet high 
  The Falkirk Wheel, is a feat of engineering. Note, I don't say modern day engineering because although designed by architect Tony Kettle and opened by the Queen in May 2002, it was based on the principle of Archimedes's. I'm no physicist, so excuse me for not going into the ins and outs of this law of physics, discovered by the great Greek physicist and mathematician. However, I can tell you that it's all about buoyancy. 

The whole experience can be enjoyed by taking a trip on a canal boat
    This sample shows that we can preserve our heritage with a few scientific, technological tweaks and we can link the past to the future seamlessly, without having to reinvent the wheel.




Thursday, 15 August 2013

Edinburgh Rocks

Edinburgh Castle
    If you've never visited Edinburgh, Scotland's capital and you have the chance to do so, don't miss out. Spring, summer, or winter, it's a city that will make a lasting impression on you. I worked there for many years and I never grew tired of what it had to offer, other than the job.

Edinburgh International Book Festival, Charlotte Square, Edinburgh

    On Tuesday I visited there, because I wanted to stop by the International Book Festival and I wasn't disappointed.  At this time of year, Edinburgh is bursting at the seams with visitors from all over the world. They have one thing in common and that is they want to sample a slice of  Edinburgh's Summer Festival programme a world renowned celebration of International arts. Whether it be books, the theatre, film, art, comedy or music, there are treats galore and I must mention the renowned Royal Military Tattoo also.

Sample a show 
    Street performers, thrill the visitors with their diverse performances, which sometimes can only be described as being on the slightly unusual side. But, nevertheless there is never a dull moment. Walking along Princes Street and looking at the gardens there, the backdrop of the castle definitely adds the wow factor.

Street Performers
   If like me you have a limited budget, there's lots to do and see for free. The atmosphere alone, will make the hairs on the back of you neck stand up, raise goose bumps on your arms and the blood  tingle through your veins. You will be filled with sheer and utter delight. Having a good time is easy, because Edinburgh Rocks.

    Princes Street Gardens, has the most awesome backdrop

Monday, 12 August 2013

All Work, No Play


    In a country where its constitution prohibits child labour, India's textile factories still teem with a workforce made-up of children between the age of 5 and 14 years of age. In the past week  we have seen Amber alerts in the USA and the equivalent in the UK alerting the public to be on the lookout for missing children because we believe that our children should be protected from harms way.

    But thousands of children in India are being sold to contractors by their own parents, to work in  sweat shops, making clothes for us in the Western World. A fact I find very difficult to comprehend and fills me with great sadness.

    I live in an area of Scotland where children worked down coal and shale mines, this practise finally ceased 75 years ago. Although I'm sure it was of little solace, in most instances their whole family worked in the same mine and they could return to their family home at the end of their long and arduous shift.

    Whereas the child work-force in India eat, sleep and work in the same squalid room, sometimes never ever seeing their families again. I can only imagine it is a miserable existence for these children. Their childhood has been stolen from them, with a life of all work and no play. If you would like to help, or find out more,


Thursday, 8 August 2013

Ahoy There!

    The plant pots were bursting with flowers in full bloom, the rockeries weeded, the roses pruned, the grass was mowed to an inch of its life and resembled the bias of a billiard table. The boiling water bubbled in the large stainless steel urns in readiness to make cups of tea. The smell of home-baking wafted past the nostrils of the gathering crowd, tempting them to sit down at the tables on the terrace and partake of a refreshment.

An abundance of different varieties of flowers
     I can't leave out the ornamental elves and fairies who were adorned in their best, or the grecian statues that held their flower arrangement's high and proud. No I'm not talking about a scene out of a Walt Disney movie, but my neighbour's garden open day, last Sunday.

 The elves wait for their visitors
    Around this time every year, she opens her garden up to the public to raise funds for charitable organisations and the weather for once was glorious. Her garden as you will see from the pictures is a credit to her all year round hard work, love and dedication.
The fairies adorned in their finest
    A minimal entrance fee and tombola proceeds are then distributed to various needy charities. One such charity is the Royal National Lifeboat Institute. The crews of these lifeboats, that provide this lifesaving service are manned by volunteers and the funding is dependent on donations.

The mowed lawns surrounded by flowerbeds
    The lifeboat featured in the picture is a Trent Class Lifeboat called, Mora Edith MacDonald based in Oban, Scotland and has recently according to their web-site carried out its 1000th rescue. Without events such as garden open days, the RNLI would not be able to continue to help save lives at sea throughout the world.

Mora Edith MacDonald


Monday, 5 August 2013

Under the Cover


    A member of my close family has a passion for sports cars and he's taken delivery of a new Porsche. I have to admit the car's sleek lines and luxurious interior, are very pleasing to the eye.When I make a decision to purchase a car I'm more interested in the aesthetic quality initially. Although the deal breaker will be how the engine performs, especially mpg.

    But, is my purchasing a car any different from me buying a book? Although I do know more about books than cars, the purchase process is similar. When I browse in a bookstore, first impressions are very important to me. Primarily it will be the jacket art work that catches my eye. Then the blurb hooks me and motivates me to read an excerpt.

    Therefore my conclusion is that there are strong similarities, after all I make my decision on the buying of a car on what's under the hood, just as it's the words inside the cover, on the page, that lead me to the check-out with a book.

    I should add that obviously none of the pictures contained in this blog are my relatives Porsche.





Friday, 2 August 2013

Stacking and Meshing, No Experience Necessary

A nation of media stackers and meshers
    In the UK it seems we're a population of  media stackers and meshers. I can confirm I'm guilty of  the charges put forward especially stacking. Media stacking sounded like a strenuous activity until I realised it means that the participant checks emails, tweets and updates Facebook, whilst watching TV. Yes, it's media multi-tasking, whilst sitting on your butt. No special training, exertion, or heavy breathing involved, therefore it's safe to do at home.

    Now that we are a nation of laptop, tablets and smart phone owners it's easier for us to come together as a family in one room, sit in front of our TVs and use the social media of our choice without having to desert the rest of the clan. The good news that is attached to this somewhat alarming observation, is that we are interacting more in our family units.

    Our friend's and social media acquaintances aren't left out either because if we take part in media meshing we chat, tweet and text with them whilst watching our favourite soaps, talent and reality shows. We exchange opinions on the programmes in real time, rather than the next time we meet up, or chat on the phone.

    Although I don't participate in this type of meshing, I am still a mesher. I regularly consult the Internet to find out more information about the actors/actresses in the programme we're viewing, usually because my partner and I can't remember what film, or soap we viewed them in previously.

    The good news in my opinion doesn't outway the downside of this report, which is we prefer being couch potatoes than getting outside, enjoying outdoors and communicating with our friends in person, whenever possible.