30 September 2011

Loving Scotland

Or should I say, Och aye the noo?
Another week, another picture postcard from me - this time all the way from bonnie Scotland.
Or at least the pictures are.

Here are a few of the things I'm loving about the Highlands...

Endless Scenery like this.
Mountain upon mountain.
Loch upon loch.
Around every corner something else to take your breath away.

Rugged Beauty.
There's something about Scotland that's very different from England.
The southern sister has been tamed, domesticated.
Scotland retains her wildness.
In the Highlands Nature dominates and refuses to give in. She shrugs off all attempts to civilise her.
Only things built of her own rock and stone will stand the test of time.
Mankind camps out on her edges, creating patches of warmth and comfort.
I love the wildness.
Something in it calls to me.
Or it could just be that I loved Braveheart.

Family Ties. And Borrowed Roots.
I love that I have claim to a part of Scotland because I'm married to a half-Scot. I love that we have family here. What a lovely time we had at Aunty Sandra and Uncle George's waterfront home. The wind and rain swept in and we watched the waves churn up whitetops on the harbour. A submarine or two sailed past. We talked and laughed until the wee small hours. Och, the stories they tell, bonnie lad!

Local Knowledge.
Thanks to Uncle George's expert knowledge of the roads, we took the shortcut to Fort William, across the harbour on the car ferry to Dunoon.
I love the Scottish names. Dunoooooone. You've got to say it with a lilt.
Meanwhile Mr G is loving Irn Bru.
Haven't heard of it? Its the most popular soft drink in Scotland. It outsells Coca Cola. {Tastes like fizzy bubblegum, made from Iron, or so the adverts say}

Authentic Scottish Weather.
While the rest of the UK basked in an unseasonal heatwave, Scotland put on her best display of native drizzle so we could see what Scottish weather is really like. The rugged hills disappeared into misty clouds, the countryside painted in muted shades of grey. Grey skies and hills, reflected in grey water. So moody. So very Scottish.

Speed Snapping AKA Drive-by Shooting
Around every corner is something worth photographing. A mountain range, a mirrored loch, a quaint cottage... a derelict castle.
Ahhh but when you are the passenger in a car being driven by a man with a mission you must get good at leaning your head out the window and snapping passing scenery on the move.
There is no stopping. No pulling over for a better view. Just imagine what a few minutes of focus could have done for these images....

{Actually he did let me pause to take this one. We had stopped to wipe vomit off Scrag. I was allowed twenty seconds to photograph this abandoned garage.}

Journey on a Steam Train.
On our second day in Scotland, we got last-minute tickets on board the Jacobite steam train, promoted as "One of the world's Greatest Train Journeys"

So much easier to snap pictures from a moving train than an automobile.
You can push the window right down and hang out to get the best shot. Making sure your camera strap is around your neck of course.
And it also helps that the Scottish weather has decided to give you a break.

Something so romantic about steam trains.
{Except when you go through a long tunnel with the windows open and the carriage fills with coal smoke.
That is not so romantic.}

Also not so romantic when you are accompanied by three wriggling chilluns who say after five minutes, "I'm booooored.... when are we there???"

Quaintness everywhere. 
Clocks and flower baskets, picket fences and trains-turned-teashops.
And the shortbread. Mmmm.

And then here come those wild colonial children with their whooping and their jumping as they stretch their train-bound legs.
Most of the other passengers were retirees or honeymooners. You can imagine their joy at being seated near us.
But I'm certain they welcomed the energy and exuberance of my offspring. Found it endearing, charming?
I think. I can't say for sure because I was too scared to meet anyone's eye...

Reminders of Home.
This picture reminds me of my beautiful homeland across the sea....
Don't you think?
This could almost be New Zealand.
Imagine that cut-off spruce is a ponga tree...

Beautiful. Even shot from a moving train.

Fishing Villages. So Picturesque.
The town at the end of the line was the wee fishing port of Mallaig.
Blokes painting boats. Gulls still as statues.
Great fish'n'chips eaten on the dock.
Sadly, no souvenirs.
Why? Because nobody in the Highlands seems to like credit cards. Shops up there are not equipped.
We had to spend all our cash on the train tickets. And the fish'n'chips.
Found a bunch of great souvenirs and went to pay by card... Sorrrrry we dinnae take credit carrrds.
And so the story went. Even the B'n'B demanded cash.
I tell you, its another world up there in those Highlands.

I loved that every turn of the track brought a new vista...

I loved that the kids sat in their seats. Sometimes.

I loved this viaduct. And this photo I got of the train crossing it, as I leaned out the window.
I loved the feel of the wind in my hair and the camera around my neck.

I loved that the kids made friends with the B'n'B kids. I mean the Scottish kids that live at the B'n'B, cos their parents run it. Our kids made instant best friends with the boy age 9 and the girl age 7. Perfect.
Until it was time for the Scottish kids to do their homework. And go to bed.
Ahhh Reality. We are on a holiday from you.

The Road South.
The next day it was time to return to Newcastle.
The Scottish weather returned with a vengeance. We loaded the car with rain dripping down our necks.
One good day. And we got it. I love that!

The road south through the hills was incredible.
Mountains shooting up almost vertical. Lochs and burns and glens and cairns.
And Gaelic road signs.
So moody. So very Scottish.

A Cairn. Diana Gabaldon's Jamie Fraser could have met Claire near here...

I kept expecting to see Jamie Fraser wandering the hills in his kilt.
William Wallace leaping over the mountains.
Scotland is that kind of place.
The land is unchanged and it has not forgotten.
Scotland makes me feel so very poetic.

Its those hills. As Mr G says, They're a painting waiting to happen.

The further south we got the warmer and sunnier the weather became. We left behind Scotland and Scottish weather, and emerged into a late English summer.
Where Grandma celebrated our safe return by opening a bottle of New Zealand Sav and serving pasta in the garden.

And that was Scotland. Loved it.
Even the Haggis.

Have you ever been to Scotland? Do you have Scottish Relatives/ancestors? Have you read Diana Gabaldon's Scottish Time-travel books? What did/do you love about Scotland?


{Linking up with my lovely friend PaisleyJade. Who has a town in Scotland named after her. Really.}
28 September 2011

Guest Blogger: Project Alicia on Motherhood

Welcome today to our lovely Guest Blogger, Alicia of Project Alicia, all the way from Iowa, USA. Alicia is one of my favourite bloggers and an amazing photographer - she's also the one who introduced me to Photoscape... so you can I bet I love her a lot! Her images often give me goosebumps and steal my breath away. I asked Alicia to share with us a post she wrote on Motherhood that brought tears to my eyes and gave me a serious case of the warm'n'fuzzies. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did... if you're mother, I know you'll relate xxx

... that I could grow as big as a house in 9 short months.


... that labor could last more than 24 hours.

... how difficult childbirth could be.


... that my child and I would both end up in ICU.

... that I would bring home the most beautiful, perfectly sculpted tiny person.


... that I could have cracked and bleeding nipples.

... that I could love another human being this much.


... that I would want to lock myself in the bathroom from time to time.

... to invest in ear plugs.


... that I would put cabbage in my bra to alleviate painful clogged ducts.

... that a baby could cry for two straight months.


... that tantrums would start before "the terrible twos" and last well past the trying threes.

... how much joy I would feel watching those first steps.


... how much I would treasure showers alone.

... that a child could look so angelic after hours of screaming.


... how clingy a child could be.

... that there would be endless photo ops.


... that cutting a bottom front tooth at 24 months may be normal for your kid.

... how fast the years would fly by.


... that no amount of crunches would ever make my old abs come back.

... to cherish every single moment.


... how quickly I would forget all the milestones if I didn't write them down.

... to bring tissues to the first day of kindergarten.


... that I could laugh so much.

... to treasure snuggle time more.


... that a child could have a personality larger than life.

... about all the critters that would greet me unexpectedly.


... that there is a light at the end of the sippy cup/ carseat tunnel.

... that lego would overtake my home.


... that kids really do say the darndest things.

... that I would be a soccer mom.


... what a conversationalist a child could be.

... that there would be moments of pure awe.


... that sleep deprivation would make a comeback for the tween years.

... about the raw unadulterated emotions that would greet me for middle school.


... how much I would live in my car running kids from one activity to the next.

... what a godsend electronics would be for road trips.


... that I'm not smarter than a fifth grader.

... how busy I would be playing.


... how much I would have to bite my tongue.

... how moved I could be trolling through old photos.


... all that I would learn from my children.

... how much being a mom could change my life.





Thank goodness no one ever told me.


*sniff* pretty cool huh?

I hope you'll go over and make yourself known to my lovely friend Alicia {I call her "Lish" cos we are pals}and maybe even join in the Wordless Wednesday Linky that Alicia runs.

Are you enjoying these guest bloggers as much as I am???