Wednesday, 30 December 2015

In with the New

Millennium Clock Tower

The clock strikes
We raise our glasses
Clink and cheer
Happy New Year

The Millennium Clock Tower's Intricate detail

Clock exhibited in the National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh.
Made by: Tim Stead, Eduard Besudsky, Annica Sandstrom, Jurgen Tubbecke, Maggy Lenert.

Sunday, 27 December 2015

'Floating Bob'

Firth of Forth
    It was a cold morning, walking along the north shore of the Firth of Forth. The sun was trying, desperately, to burn off the haar that hung over the estuary.

North shore of the Firth of Forth
    I was following the sign that said, Preston Island, anticipating that a small land mass would come into view at any moment. However the path continued for some distance before turning slightly inland and although there was no island there were a group of buildings up ahead that were definitely worth investigating.

Ruins of the buildings used for mining and salt panning
    These now ruins are what is left of the 18th century site and indeed the island where, Sir Robert Preston, Tory MP, friend of Sir Walter Scott, carried out his business of salt panning and coal-mining. Both businesses worked hand in glove as the fires used for the salt pans were fuelled by the coal extracted from beneath the river.

    But, centuries after Preston's enterprise ceased to produce salt and coal, the ash slurry that was piped out of the nearby, Longannet Power Station, engulfed the water course. This reclaimed land inclusive of the island, is now part of a nature reserve and although man altered the landscape with this contamination, nature has been allowed to return and flourish.

Brief history of Sir Robert Preston, nickname 'Floating Bob'

    Longannet itself will close by March 2016, the end of another era in Scotland's industrial history, and of which Sir Robert Preston was a contributor. 

Longannet Power Station

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Christmas Greetings

Merry Christmas and love to you all. Thanks for your wonderful support throughout the year. I'm having a sneaky day off but please read my archive posts.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015


The day is short and the night is long.
Pagans honouring it with song.

Their merry chants accompanied with the beat of a drum,
On the day of the Solstitium.

Homes are decorated with the colours of red, green and white.
Candles are lit, the darkest hours are now filled with light.

On the green tree, hangs a yule charm.
Keeping the assembled safe from the way of harm.

Feasts are prepared and gifts are exchanged, for all to enjoy.
The children are excited, in anticipation of theirs containing a toy.

The sun is now directly over the Tropic of Capricorn. 
Indicating that the centre of our planetary system has been reborn.

Lengthening days in the north and shortening them in the south.
But, importantly marking a time when we can spread comfort and joy, by word of mouth.

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Then the Wind Came: Part Six

    “Tell us, tell us,” said Kai excitedly.
    “You can both come with me. I asked about the guys I was travelling with and the woman in registration told me that they haven't been here. There is a new camp about two miles from here and they've possibly moved on there. This camp, as you can see is bursting at the seams and she told me that she heard that the facilities and accommodation are much better there,” said Kim.
    Olivia looked at her brother and said, “We better get going then.”
    “You'll be safe with me,” said Kim rubbing Kai's head playfully. “Here got you these, to help keep the glare out of your eyes.” Kim handed them each a pair of sunglasses, which they gratefully put on.    **
    The group of five men made their way into the registration tent. They pushed their way through the thirty or so waiting and made their way to the front of the line. The over-worked woman looked up when one of the men slapped down a small leather wallet in front of her.
    Lifting the wallet the woman read the identification it contained, closing it over she handed it back to the large framed, man.
    “If I hadn't seen it with my own eyes I wouldn't have believed it,” said the woman.
    “Unfortunately, it is true. We're the agents sent here in search of a young man who is wanted in connection with the devastation we now face,” said the burly man.
    Taking a photograph from his inside coat pocket, he handed it to the woman and said,"Have you seen him?"
    “No I haven't. I'm sorry,” said the woman shaking her head.
    He took the photograph back from the woman and handed it to the first man who was standing in line.
    “Yeah, I saw him.I passed him and two other kids as I was coming into the camp,” said the man. 
    “It was definitely him,” asked the agent.
    “Yes, he was with a young boy and a teenage girl,” said the waiting man.
    “You're sure it was him,” said the agent.
    “Yeah. I've told you already. I'm positive. You see, I couldn't understand why they were leaving. I stopped him and asked if it was full up in here?” said the man.
    “What did he say?” asked the agent.
    “He didn't say anything, he ignored me. It was the boy who spoke to me. He told me before the guy pulled him away that they were going to the other camp,” said the man.
    “ What camp?” said the agent.
    “ I tried to tell them that there is no other camp. But this guy wasn't interested in what I had to say. He grabbed the boy by the hand and told him that I was some nut talking rubbish,” said the man.
    “ Okay thanks for your help,” said the agent. Turning to the men accompanying him he said,             “Let's get out of here.”  
    “As I said to the agent I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't had seen it with my own eyes,” said the woman behind the desk.
    “Who were those men?” asked the man who had helped the agent.
    “They're the devil hunters that are looking for Satan's grandson,” said the woman.
    “That  teenage guy in the photograph must be him,” said the man.
    “He must be,” said the woman.


Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Then the Wind Came: Part Five

    The camp was chaotic when the three arrived, tents crammed together and poorly dressed people queuing up in front of a make-shift wooden building with the words Medical Centre scrawled on a piece of board, hanging above the entrance.
    “ Wait here. Give me the papers you brought with you, I'll go register you,” said Kim.
    “Shouldn't we go with you?” said a concerned Olivia.
    “I can skip the queue because I know the ropes. There could be a few objections if three of us walk behind the desk and hold the others up that are waiting in line. I know a couple of the guys that are doing registration here and I'll get you registered in quick time,” said Kim.
    “Okay, we'll wait right here,” said Olivia.
    “Good girl,” said Kim.
    Olivia handed Kim the plastic folder containing passports, birth certificates, vaccination certificates and other important papers relating to the Williams family. Her grandmother had kept it beside her while they were in the cellar and reiterated its importance before she became critical.
    Kim smiled and said, “Stay safe and don't move.”
    “Hurry back Kim,” said Kai uneasily.
Olivia put her arm around her little brother's shoulder to give him some comfort, she wished someone would do the same for her.
    “Okay. That's you all registered,” said Kim handing back the envelope to Olivia.
    The twenty minutes that Kim had been away had seemed like two hours to Olivia and Kai. They had managed to stay put even although they had been constantly badgered by various youths, looking for money. After Olivia and Kai finally emptied their pockets out, they managed to convince their harassers that they'd be better looking for other prey.
    “Do we get any kind of receipt with a number or something like that, to show that we're entitled to be here?” asked Olivia.
    “Olivia I told you that this place isn't organised by anything official. Just good people, doing their best. You just stand in line get food, get medicine, whatever you need, they will give it to you if they can," said Kim."
    "Its just that I find it all a little disconcerting,” said Olivia.
    “You'll have to get used to it. This is it until the world gets back on its feet,” said Kim. “I'll take you to the tents where you can find yourself a place to bunk up and some basic toiletries and then I'm off.”
    “What do you mean tents?” asked Kai.
    “Males and females are segregated here. Olivia will be in a tent with females around her own age and you little guy will be with boys your own age too,” said Kim,
    “I'm sorry I can't leave my brother. He'll end up like those kids who were hassling us while you were away. No way,” said Olivia indignantly.
    “Olivia you've no option,” said Kim.
    “Olivia we can go and find our Mum and Dad ourselves,” cries Kai, tugging at his sister's arm.
    “No Kai, we can't but we will find another way we can stay together,” said Olivia.
    “There is one way you can stay together but you will be taking a few risks along the way,” said Kim.

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Then the Wind Came: Part Four


    It had taken them around thirty minutes to get the body of Jane Williams out of the cellar and bury it into the shallow grave which Kim had dug. They had left hurriedly when Kai noticed a group approaching in the distance, of whom Kim identified as the marauders he had spotted on his way to the William's farm.
    “Kim if you're part of a team of rescuers, where are the rest of them,” asked Kai.
    “ I told you earlier we split up when we came across the looters. It was for our own safety. When I heard the noise coming from your cellar. I couldn't walk on by, after all I was heading back to the camp anyway.”
    “Well thank goodness you did.,” said Olivia.
    “Yeah. Thanks, Kim,” said Kai.
    “We'll soon be there. Look you can see the makeshift shelters all grouped together up ahead,” said Kim.
    Olivia and Kai peered into the distance, but they were still struggling with the brightness around them. They had wanted to search in the rubble that now represented their grandmother's home for essential belongings, which would have included sunglasses, but there was no time. The light didn't seem to bother Kim at all, Olivia could only assume that they too would soon get used to it.
    “What will you do when we get there Kim?” asked Olivia.
    “ I'll get you registered and then I'll go search for the rest of the team I was travelling with. Then see if it's possible for us to regroup. It's easier to travel in a group. Easier and safer I should say.”
    “Are you not going to try and see if there are any of your family or friends there? asked Olivia.
    “I've no family left. They were all killed when the winds came. You may not have been aware of the devastation it caused since you've been hiding away. But, I think you now know just looking around that the world is no longer as you knew it. There are no towns or cities. I just met up with like-minded people who wanted to help and I'll meet up with some more if I can't find them again when we reach camp,” said Kim candidly.
    “We need to try and contact our parents in Washington. Do you know how we can go about that? asked Olivia.
    “Olivia, there is no Washington. Your parents are probably safe, however, communication channels are down. Everything is being organized by people from all walks of life. Mixed in the groups are city officials, doctors, nurses and religious leaders but they're not working in any official capacity. They're just folks who are thankful that they still have their lives and willing to put their lives experiences to good use. I'm sure it will eventually get better, but that is a long way off I think.”
    Olivia couldn't take it in and she knew that Kai found it difficult to comprehend the whole horrible reality that they were embroiled in. His silence said it all. Her little brother was only quiet when he wasn't so sure of himself and that wasn't so often. She hoped that she had done the correct thing by agreeing to come here with Kim. But what else could she do?
    She was seventeen-years-old in the middle of a situation that no-one could have ever foreseen, including her parents. It may be that her parents were dead, because according to Kim many cities had been devastated by fires that started when the power surged before the country eventually blacked-out.
    “I'll do whatever I can to help you find your parents, before I set off on my travels again,” said Kim.
    “Thanks, you've helped us just by getting us this far,” said Olivia.
    Kim smiled warmly and said, “It's no trouble and there is no need to be afraid I'll do what I can.”
    Even although she had only known Kim for several hours, Olivia felt she and Kai had made a good friend. She would be sorry to say goodbye to him. She would once again feel vulnerable. His reassurance and guidance had made them both feel they were in safe hands.


Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Then the Wind Came:Part Three


    Olivia blinked hard as her eyes adjusted to the bright light that surrounded them. There was no blue sky, black sky or it seemed any other kind of sky, only silvery white light. It was as though they were in the middle of a cloud with the sun trying to force its way through. Kai rubbed his eyes hard, they felt pained as he also tried to focus to his not new but very unfamiliar surroundings.
    “Hi, how long you guys been in there?” asked the rescuer.
    “Four weeks,” said Kai excitedly.
    “ You all alone?” asked the stranger.
    “ Well no and yes,” said Olivia, swallowing hard. She could feel her face flush slightly as she found herself instantly attracted to the young black haired teenager that was firing questions at them.
    “ What do you mean no and yes? asked the male.
    “ Our grandmother was here with us but she died last night. Her body is still in there,” said Olivia pointing back down into the cellar.
    “ Oh, I see. I'm sorry. Hey, I should have introduced myself. My name is Kim Lee, I'm part of a team of volunteer rescuers that are searching for survivors. There's a camp about a mile from here are you both fit to walk?” Olivia was fascinated by Kim’s black coloured eyes that seemed to flash every time he spoke.
    “Yes we are, however, we would like to bury my grandmother. Then once we find our parents we can come back and give her a proper funeral,” said Olivia.
    “Okay, but it's not safe to stay around here alone. There are human scavengers going around, looting everything they can. They won't take you to safety, that's for sure,” said Kim with a note of concern in his voice. “ I'll help with the burial and then I'll take you to the camp. Okay?” Kim Lee patted Kai on the back in an effort to reassure the younger boy, who he could see was overwhelmed by the ordeal.
    Kai gawked around him. There was no roof on the house and gone were the small farm outbuildings that use to circle the property, pieces of furniture, fabric and the carcasses of dead cows and goats littered the yard. His nostrils filled with the pungent odour of death and he wanted to be sick. But he remembered the words of his father before he left, “ You're the man around here now Kai. Look after Olivia and Gran. Promise me.” They had shook on it and that shake was binding between boy and man.
    “Kai can you find a shovel?” asked Kim.
    “Yes, there's one down in the cellar,” said Kai nodding.
    Kim looked at Olivia and said, “And do you want to lead me to the body?”
Olivia started to descend the steps without saying anything with Kim and Kai following on.
    The artificial light provided by the small gas lanterns hanging from the stone pillars that had supported the farmhouse, projected the threesome's shadows onto the whitewashed walls of the underground room as they moved about.
    Kai could see the old rusty shovel poking out from behind a pile of old hessian sacks and he decided that he would busy himself with its retrieval while the other two started to haul at the cadaver.
    “ Listen Olivia I'm sorry but the only way we're going to get the body out of here is to bump the body up the steps. We'll do it as gently as possible, but between us we aren't going to be able to lift the body clear of the stairs,” said Kim.
    “ No, no,” cried Olivia.
    Kim took hold of her and began shaking with some force. He said, “ It's the only way. Otherwise you'll just have to leave her here there is no other way.”
    Kai dropped the shovel, running over to Kim he pushed at the teenage boy and shouted, “ Leave my sister alone you bully. We don't need your help.”
    Kim grabbed hold of Kai by the shoulders and angrily said, “ Listen you little idiot, you do. There were looters in the next farm too here and it will soon be your turn. There will be no burying Grandma then.”
    Olivia was surprised by the tone of Kim's voice and his rough manner. She quickly, sobered emotionally, gathering her senses she shoved at Kim and shouted, “Let go of my brother. Okay, we'll do as you say."
    Turning to her brother, Olivia calmly said, "Kai your old wooden sleigh is over in the far corner, please go get it. We'll use it to move Gran's body."
    “Good you're talking some sense at last,” said Kim. If he was still angry he was hiding it


Saturday, 5 December 2015

Then the Wind Came: Part Two


    Kai bent down and with both hands he pulled up the black coloured bolt that fastened the bottom of the door to the stone lintel. The door remained secure, it was now Olivia's turn to remove another one of the various fasteners that had kept the door in place while the storm raged. She heaved with all her might at the metal bar that was across the middle of the door, but she could not lift it clear of its holder. It thumped back down and as it did so, the rough edge caught the end of Olivia's finger causing her to smart.
    The tear in her skin began to trickle with blood, however, she wasn't planning to give up at the first obstacle that had been put in her way and she repositioned herself to have another go. Without speaking Kai took his place beside her and the two determined juveniles heaved at the bar in unison. This time, it lifted completely clear and swung towards Kai who quickly moved out of its way.
    Olivia and Kai pushed at the door simultaneously, it creaked and then shuddered it wasn't moving anywhere. Kai suddenly realised that they hadn't pulled down the bolt that held the top of the door in situation. He tugged at it hastily, unlike the other, it slid free without much effort and both siblings pushed against the creosoted wood structure. It shuddered again, something on the other side was definitely stopping it from opening.
    Kai kicked the door in frustration and shouted, “Aagh!”
    “Kai, we'll need to get something to use as a battering ram. We can force it together. There's no point of you breaking your toes,” said Olivia licking her congealed, bloodied finger.
    “ There's a wooden fence post down there in the far corner behind all the stuff Gran had put together for the Church Fair,” said Kai. He left his sister's side and began to jump down the flight of stairs two at a time.
    “ Kai, watch what you're doing. Don't go hurting yourself. I'll come and help you carry it up. We need to concert our effort and strength,” said the young boy's sister racing after him down the stairs.
    Olivia and Kai  had spent the last two hours thumping at the door and had only succeeded in splintering the wood of the door.
    “It's no use all we've succeeded in doing is exhausting ourselves. Something has fallen against the door on the other side and until someone comes along and moves it we're stuck in here... with Gran,” said Olivia in a trembling voice. The thought of spending more time in the cellar alongside her beloved grandmother's body knowing that it would soon start to decompose filled her with dread. 
    “Help, help, help,” shouted Kai, banging on the door with his fists.
    “What the hell are you doing?” shouted Olivia grabbing hold of her brother's arms.
    “ I can hear someone out there. Listen,”Kai pushed himself free from his sister's hold and pushed her towards the door.
    Olivia put her ear to the door, Kai was correct she could hear something, hopefully, it was a someone outside and not their imagination's playing tricks.
    “Help, help,” shouted the both of them.
    Olivia rattled the little metal handle on the door as she shouted. They could hear things being dragged across the ground, but the noises still seemed to be a little distance away. Suddenly, something scraped across the door, there was shuffling sounds, then the door opened wide. The two siblings nearly falling on top of their rescuer in anticipation of being freed.
    “Thank you, thank you,” said Olivia to the young man who had caught hold of her, narrowly saving her from falling onto a roll of razor wire.


Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Then the Wind Came: Part One

Then the Wind Came

    “Olivia what are we going to do now?” sobbed ten-year-old Kai Williams, looking down at the body of his dead grandmother in disbelief.
    “We can't stay in the cellar any longer Bro. We have to go and find Mum and Dad,” said Olivia, taking hold of her younger brother, hugging him into her chest.
    “I mean, what are we going to do with Gran? We can't just leave her here.” Kai pulled himself away from his sister's hold and dropped onto his knees beside the camp bed where his grandmother lay. He gently stroked the dead woman's face and said, “Gran, what should we do?”
Touching Kai's shoulder, Olivia said,“Kai it doesn't matter how many times you speak to her, she isn't going to wake up. You do know that don't you?”
    “ Olivia just because you're seventeen doesn’t mean that you know everything,” said the distressed boy. Jumping to his feet, he turned to face his sibling and he said, “I know we have to leave here, but we have to bury her, give her the best burial we can in the circumstances. And I know she isn't ever going to reply again. Is that you wanted to hear? Well, now you have.”
    “ Listen to me Kai. I love you and until we can find our parents we have to stick together. I'll try and not to be so patronising in the future. How does that sound?”
    “A deal Sis,” Kai kissed Olivia on the cheek and said, “We know the wind has calmed and we can now find a nice spot to bury Gran.”
    Olivia nodded hesitantly, she suddenly felt that as though some kind of role reversal had just taken place. Kai was acting like he was now the elder sibling.
    Olivia looked at the set of wooden steps in front of her that led up from the cellar out into the yard. The sound of the high wind had ceased the day before, but Jane Williams the children's grandmother had refused to let them go for help. She had promised her son, their father that she would keep them safe until he came to get them.
    He and their mother were a part of a team of scientists assembled by the government to discuss emergency plans for the predicted weather turmoil they had forecast when Jupiter and Mercury headed for a collision. What they hadn't foreseen was that when the two worlds did collide, high winds then a massive tornado would engulf Earth.
    However, Jane's ill-health hadn't been planned for either and since they had been holed up in the cellar for the last four weeks her asthma attacks had gradually become a regular daily occurrence. Last night the oxygen that Olivia had administered along with her grandmother's medication couldn't save her. Each attack had made her frailer and frailer.
    “ Kai. Where are you going?” asked Olivia.
    “Outside. Or were you just blowing a lot of hot air?” said Kai. He had ascended the steps so quickly that Olivia hadn't really taken in what her brother was doing. Her head was in a spin, she had never felt so confused or alone in her life.
    “Kai, we'll go together,” said Olivia, looking back at her grandmother's cadaver.
    “ Okay. But we need to do it now. We don't know what's happening out there. And the wind could start up again. And then we would get nowhere,” said the boy excitedly.
    The two of them now stood side-by-side facing the heavily secured door that was all that stood between them and what could be a very changed world.