On doing new things

This weekend I made a Tik Tok and drank a Negroni and both of these were firsts for me, or strictly speaking the Negroni was a first time enjoying a properly made Negroni at home – surprised it has taken me so long to embrace this cocktail du jour.

These accidental firsts are not part of an active quest to do new things or me ticking off a bucket list, more a reflection of my butterfly mind and a preference to hop, skip, and jump to the new to avoid doing all the boring old stuff I need to deal with.

Wind back to a couple of weeks ago when the sun was shining in Edinburgh & inspired more by optimism than the reality I bought a couple of cute tins of ready-made Negroni – thinking to enjoy these outdoors as a pre fish supper aperitif. This story has, as many weather dependent stories do in Scotland, a rather muted conclusion when the clouds rolled in from the hills and the appeal of drinking or dining Alfresco evaporated.

Blossom watching at the Meadows

Against the plummeting temperatures and grey skies,the tiny cute tin of Negroni was a ray of sunshine- the contents were delicious straight up and made a refreshing long drink with sparkling water added.

Pocket Negroni

So this weekend with research made on the perfect serve ( Stanley Tucci food memoir – Taste My Life Through Food page 9 ) – and ingredients purchased, my husband was appointed barman /mixologist. He created a splendid Negroni even if we had a bit of an exchange of views over some of the finer details around the correct glass to use and whether it was over ice or without.

I am so late to the party on the Negroni front and is odd to have missed out on this joyous experience for so long – what was I thinking? Maybe I missed the cocktail memo or I was washing my hair or just not paying attention. Regardless of the reasons for the oversight I am now happy to raise a glass to this wonderful late discovery. ( and as a note of caution to myself and any new to this delicious cocktail – Negronis are deceptively strong ) ūü•ī

Cheers !

Cheers

So to the Tik Tok – my daughter was home & so on hand to provide instruction and a steady hand for filming. Dinner was to be lamb with peas, onions and vermouth, a Diana Henry recipe from her book Simple (another first, trying this recipe) and I thought it a good subject for Tik Tok.

Leg of roast lamb with peas and onions
Lamb with peas, vermouth, and onions

Now and again I make amateur recordings of the food I am cooking and post these on Instagram stories. My filming style might be generously described as ‘unpolished’ and the finished output depends on various factors including – how behind schedule I am, how many glasses of wine the cook has enjoyed ( I do channel my inner Keith Floyd ), and whether I am making the recipe for the first time. Readers – do remember to read the recipe all the way through.

Diana Henry – cookery book

I have no specialist kit to speak of other than my phone and my husband is usually watching football so it’s usually a lone effort,without tripods or flattering lighting. I tend to film in between cooking & often miss lots of steps, and navigating the fine line between verisimilitude and burning dinner is quite the balancing act.


The end result is rarely a ‚Äėhow to‚Äô guide, more a cook along and sharing.

My daughter Ellen who is almost a millennial and naturally a digital native, is at ease with phone technology, but more than that she has a really good eye for photography and infinite patience when working with her dear old Mum.

Ellen was both art director and videographer for Tik Tok number 1 – but she did give me small tasks to complete unaided – like choosing the music and cooking the lamb.

For a first attempt using some of the easier Tik Tok functions and effects,I was quite pleased with the finished film and it may have opened up a whole new set of distractions for me from the eternal unfinished ‚Äėto do‚Äô list.

The finished film is hereūüĎá

Tik Tok

tiny little numbers

pictures of numbers

 

I can’t quite remember when I started taking pictures of numbers, but I love typography and commercial art and perhaps an interest in these tiny artworks is a by-product of that.

I don’t have any rules as to what constitutes a ‘good’ number – it’s very subjective and there is no formula – it just depends on what tickles my fancy ūüėČ

It might be a carefully painted number in gold leaf above a door, or brass numbers screwed on a bit squint. I love a weathered number on a stone gatepost – but am equally fond of a 70s style ‘stick-on’ decal against a garish painted door.

number 98

On doors and gateposts, these tiny numbers sit sentry both welcoming and protecting and while houses are extended and reconfigured over the years – often the house number remains unchanged. Sometimes I wonder about what lives the number may have witnessed, and the tales it might tell, if only numbers could talk.

Some numbers seem to have more of a personality than others – cheeky, austere, whimsical, stalwart and for those, I pen a short caption by way of description.

This is entirely my own interpretation of the number persona and others may not see the cheeky insouciance I see – or the flirty nature of a particular digit as I do. My tendency to anthropomorphise numbers does often depend on the mood I am in when snapping.


Other numbers need no description and their beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

When I was training for a marathon a few years ago, like a trainspotter, I had a notion to collect a full set of numbers 1- 26, but I soon gave up on this when my eye was more often drawn to 2s and 3s and 5s – and never finding a 26 or 14 that made the cut.

As a hobby, it suits me to be free to take pictures of those numbers that appeal and so my collection of number pics will always have doubles and triples and omissions as there will always be some that for whatever reason I just don’t like.

As a photographic subject, it is one of almost infinite possibilities – the world is full of numbers and I am happy to just keep surreptitiously snapping as I encounter those that catch my eye.

London weekend, art and protest

It had been a while since I had last visited London after a spell of working there last year.

This weekend was a time to visit my daughters and see an exhibition or two and the date turned out to coincide with the People’s Vote march – an event that had passed me by in the blur and Groundhog Day noise that Brexit has become.

I did not join the march, but witnessed some excellent placards and did enjoy a good conversation and an expression of solidarity on the topic with a marcher I met on the tube.

Last year my spell of working in London was brief, but during that time I felt I had, like millions of others before me, been welcomed as a temporary Londoner.

Now back home working in Edinburgh, I do sometimes miss the vibrancy of London, and the diversity of people and experiences that were an everyday occurrence.

London is ‘always on’ and can be a hard place to work & live – keeping up with the energy and pace can drive you to weariness, but that energy is also exhilarating and challenging in a good way mostly.

This weekend trip was not about challenge but more about family and a chance to discover new places. With my grown up children living away from home, I was looking forward to spending time with them in their new neighbourhoods.

We had art on our agenda but also time for chatting and wandering, eating & drinking and catching up on news.

In between and by accident almost, I visited three different art exhibitions and as is often the way, the best one was unplanned.

Despite being a fan of pop art, I had not heard of Corita Kent – Sister Corita – and my visit to the House of Illustration was prompted more by wanting to see an exhibition of drawings by Ludwig Bemelmans – from the Madeline books.

The ticket included entry to 2 other exhibitions – Journeys Drawn – illustrations from the Refugee crisis and Corita Kent Power Up. A trio of very contrasting exhibitions.

Journey’s Drawn was a powerful and moving testament to the experiences of refugees seen both by observers and drawn from experience.

Moving on to the Ludwig Bemelmans exhibition felt like a more innocent interlude after the reality of Journey’s Drawn – a brief glimpse into how the stories and characters evolved and a window into his approach and style of Illustration.

Carita Kent was a revelation for me – I had not heard of this pop art nun – whose art combined messages from Holy scriptures with advertising slogans. A mash up of Los Angeles billboards and mass media, creating motivational and uplifting messages screen printed in day glo.

She talked about her art being like the original books of illumination – where Illustration ‘throws light’ onto a message.

Was a joyous, colourful exhibition and a new discovery for me.

On Sunday – we all visited Pierre Bonnard – The Colour of Memory exhibition – at Tate Modern. His was a different use of colour and his ability to recreate landscapes from memory created beautiful paintings and his skilful way and modern composition of painting nudes and landscapes was very evocative.

I liked the paintings but whether because I was overfilled on art or my expectations were on the high side, it did not have the same impact as any of the exhibitions I had seen the day before at the House of Illustration.

Before visiting either of these exhibitions my first exhibition visit was to see Dorothea Tanning also at Tate Modern.

On Friday evening after a long and tiring day travelling – I took advantage of late opening at Tate Modern and decided to visit the Dorothea Tanning exhibition.

I think as a canny Scot and with my annual membership of the Tate coming to an end, I was trying to use it to the max by seeing as many exhibitions as possible!

I can’t say I really enjoyed the exhibition save for a few pieces, ( e.g. her sketch of tango below ) maybe I was just too tired. I whizzed round the galleries desperate to get beyond the Surrealist paintings and fur fabric sculptures so I could sit down and have a cup of tea.

Although I like visiting exhibitions, I am not a true art aficionado and sometimes whether through tiredness or just sensory overload, I find it overwhelming to process the visuals and grasp what the artist is trying to convey.

Walking out of the Tate onto the riverside picture of night time London, hearing birds singing in the midst of the city was perhaps the best painting for me.

Train dreaming and place name poetry

 

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For the past 6 months or so I have been working in London and commuting weekly between my home city Edinburgh and London. Travelling for around 4 and a half hours each way on the same route – gives plenty time for train window dreaming and watching.

Maybe because I spent my¬†early years on a farm – I notice the crops and farming circle of life more than what might be happening through glimpses of windows or back gardens. My ‘seen from a train window’ novel –¬† would be short on drama and deeply lacking in Girl on a Train tension.

My Oct to June photo feed is packed with seasonal variations on a theme of east coast skies, fields, sea, distant cooling towers, tiny houses, trees jumping into focus, blurry videos and the odd sunrise and sunset. Watching how the colour of ploughed fields changes – from the reddy brown earth of Dunbar to almost black of the Fens.

There are familiar punctuations that mark the journey passing; southbound Рout to sea on the East Lothian coast, approaching the Scotland РEngland border at Berwick, counting the bridges over the Tyne, the light at York station, and then non stop from York as London draws nearer Рthe big  flatlands of the south.

And the poetry of place names

Balderton Barnby, Norwell Cromwell, Temple Hirst, Chapel Haddesey, Appelton Roebuck

Rattling on…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Londoning around

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Last week there was a brief Spring sunshine interlude, sandwiched between bouts of wind chill and snow ( in London at least ), so after six months of observing and contemplating Рnot to mention working out the run/ shower/ workwear logistics РI attempted my first run commute.

It’s not the full commute – as ‘door to door’ the eight-mile distance is a mile or four too far for me to cover before work, even if my understanding of London geography was street perfect which it is not.

Instead,¬†I ran to the station, jumped on an early train then from Paddington, ran through Hyde Park, skirted Green Park gave a nod to Buckingham Palace, through St James’s¬† Park¬†and over and back across the Thames – arriving at Somerset House full of early morning¬†joie¬†de vivre and a just a tiny bit of a smug glow.

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Somerset House

A thing of beauty is a joy forever – running with poetic inspiration

Forgive the lofty and possibly misleading headline – but today as per my ongoing post marathon quest to rediscover my love of running, my ‘mojo’ or however best to describe the need to get back on the two-legged horse, and remember why it is a fun thing to do- I decided to try running a favourite route.

The route¬† I chose is much loved for many reasons. First and foremost – it includes a section through the evocatively named Poet’s Glen, whose name appeals to my inner romantic – ¬†but beyond these¬†literary¬†references, it is a much loved run because when I am not in training or being a ‘serious’ runner, I opt to walk part of the route.

I  could run the narrow uphill section Рbut I choose to walk not simply to avoid the steep incline and the stony path with associated high ankle twisting potential, but importantly Рand here is the big thing Рsometimes it is nicer to walk than to run.

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Walking the short section that takes you from the road above the Dell path to the reservoir section,  is a welcome pause to gather breath, take in the surroundings and slow down.

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This route has lots of other things going for it Рnot least the views. After the first half of steady uphill running, you find yourself elevated above the tree sheltered  Dell path and see all of Edinburgh and Fife below. And knowing that after a two-mile uphill slog there is a welcome downhill section leading me back to my front door is a very rare and attractive feature in a run route. There is something very pleasing about a run that takes you home with a downhill ending and something I appreciate living as I do on a fairly elevated part of Edinburgh.

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This route is a good illustration¬†of the contrasts you can enjoy¬†running in Edinburgh. As a fairly compact city surrounded by both hills and water – you do not have to be a distance runner to experience a smorgasbord¬†of rugged heather clad hills, bucolic pasture, leafy glades, urban architecture and a ¬†glimpse of the sea all in the course of a morning’s running.

To return to this route – I would love to give an authoritative¬†account of the significance of the Poet in the poet’s Glen – but this requires more¬†research than I have undertaken. Earlier this year, I did meet two ladies from a local historical society who were very well informed and shared a lot of background on local history with me as I stopped at a 7 mile half way point on a training run.

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Alas, I  confess when I am running my ability to retain detailed historical or other relevant detailed facts is limited.

So today’s outing was an easy Sunday run,¬†filled with many life-affirming¬†views of nature – and at ¬†5 miles is the longest distance I have managed to cover since the marathon, so was a step in the right direction.

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writing and running in the key of green

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Running in the months of  January, February and quite a bit of March Рthe skies have been grey, the trees bare and the paths muddy brown.

But this weekend the sun came out and as if by magic everywhere was green.

Wild garlic seemed to grow overnight into a lush fresh carpet of pungent loveliness and even my neglected garden threw up some vibrant colour Рbless my everlasting die hard euphorbias.

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With Monday a rest day from running, I picked some of the wild garlic and made pesto.

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Running the seasons

Based on a highly unscientific sample of fellow runners, I have come to the conclusion that Autumn is the favoured season of most. Autumn, or Fall as those across the ocean prefer to describe these months, certainly wins on the light stakes Рwith soft pink sunrises and hot red sunsets.  Even the grey flat days have an elegant beauty.

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Come late afternoon there is ample opportunity to run through cool sunshine, catching the beauty of orange, red and yellow leaved trees bathed in golden light as backdrop.

And if October weather is kind and free of storms, the stillness brings with it mists and mellow fruitfulness and easy running in cool, quiet air.

While the days shorten and we all know that winter is just around the corner, nature says goodbye for now – leaving in a blaze of glory before hibernating till spring.

Running undercover

I am not long back from a lovely sunny holiday in Ibiza. As is my new holiday habit, I took my running kit with me and despite the 30+ degree heat, I managed to go out on a few short runs.

While I love my regular runs back home, I always like running in a different place. Of course you can explore a new destination as a tourist on foot at walking pace, but there is something about putting on my running clothes and going out for a run- often early in the day – that makes me feel I am temporarily a local and getting a different sense of the destination.

Regardless of where I am running Рearly in the morning I will encounter much the same collection of folk Рdog walkers, boot camp exercisers, shift workers , early morning night time revellers on the way home Рif it is a city, the quiet army of people who clear up after the night before or set up for the new day, and of course fellow runners.

 

Black Rock 5 – sunshine and salty air but no sand dunes

Black Rock run - 1

In amongst the big ticket marathons and the associated ‘tarantara’ of commercially organised running events there are still lots of community based races with a history and character to remind you of the simple joy and fun of running.

The Black Rock 5 is one of those. Each year on a May or June evening, and always on a Friday but at a time depending on the tides, the Black Rock 5 takes place. It is an out and back from the centre of Kinghorn to the Black Rock.

Despite its’ name The Black Rock 5 race is neither 5 miles nor 5 k in length. I am guessing at some point it may have been 5 miles and the route has changed or maybe just calling it the Black Rock 4 and a bit miles had less appeal – who knows and as it happens it does not really matter.

Whatever the history of the route length ( and it has been going for more than 25 years ), the Black Rock 5  is one of those races that manages to achieve the balance between creating the buzz of a special occasion while managing to remain anchored to the  local community and true to its roots.

Of course it helps that the race takes place in late spring in a beautiful seaside location where when nights are long and if weather is kind РScotland is just the best place ever ( is it not always ; )  ?

How lovely and lucky we are to run in the evening in the East coast light of a long Scottish day.

It really is quite magical.

Weather earlier that day had been good and the temperature at 7 PM was still warm enough to wear a running vest as runners started to gather. As it was the third time I had taken part in the race,I knew what was ahead of me and was happy to enjoy the pre-race atmosphere.

The first time I did this race I remember being quite anxious, having heard from fellow runners how tough it was and so wondering if I could keep going until the end after the rigours of running on the beach. This year with two previous attempts as ballast – and not setting any time targets – I was just looking forward to taking part.

So the route is as follows : You start underneath the railway arches then run mostly downhill through the town for a mile towards the beach, then a mile out on the sand – at low tide towards the Black Rock where you circle the rocks serenaded by Scottish piper, then back towards the town. Simple you may say – save for running 2 miles on wet sand and the killer hill sprint finish .

Black Rock run - 1 (5)

This year I was feeling fit and in fine fettle Рand  not under any pressure to better my time -I even stopped briefly on my way out to record the scene of the ribbon of runners heading out towards Black Rock. I was tempted to stop again a mile later at the rock to capture the image of the piper on the rock Рbut my running competitiveness and running rhythm won over my desire to capture the image Рso one for my memory.

I did notice  a couple of fellow  runners recording the event Рone with Go Pro strapped on his body and the other more cumbersomely holding a selfie stick aloft the whole way.

It’s a very photogenic race – but I could take a million pictures, videos or whatever – and none could convey the feeling you have as a runner. As you hit the sand from the road – the splishing and the sploshing – negotiating the unpredictable surface of ridged sand after the stability of the tarmac, that weird feeling as your feet get wet dashing though pools of sea water and best of all the salty sea tang you catch as you breathe.

This year – whether because my senses where heightened for some reason, or ozone was at an all time high – I felt acutely assaulted by the smell of the sea, of sea creatures and of an essence that it is hard to describe.

The salty air, the sploshing wet sand,the east coast light and the lung busting hill finish, makes this a race to remember.

And not forgetting – magnificent beer at the finish .

Black Rock 5 – Rock ON !