Hope you had a happy Halloween! Here is Girl Twin and her dad looking pretty scary I think you'll agree.
Thank you to those who have left very interesting comments on my last post to which I have only just replied. I seem to be behind with just everything these days! I wanted to post some photos I took a week or so ago in an autumnal Scotland before I forget them, and this is one of the things I saw. You might think it looks medieval and Gothic, but in fact it was built in the early 20th century.
Here is another view of the same place.
If you know Edinburgh you may recognise this is the Thistle Chapel at St. Giles' Cathedral, in the centre of the city's Old Town. The Order of the Thistle's the highest order of chivalry in Scotland, and it's given to distinguished Scots or people of Scottish descent. The recipients of the Order sit down the sides of this chapel on very special ceremonial occasions, while the monarch sits at the end, in a stall decorated with the Royal coat of arms.
I was interested to learn that St. Giles' is a Presbyterian cathedral - there aren't too many of those around. Scots Presbyterians are associated with a rather austere approach - which is not reflected in the exuberant style of the Thistle Chapel - and Presbyterians really don't go for bishops, which I had always thought were essential if you were going to have a cathedral. To my eye, the statue of John Knox (founder of Presbyterianism) which stands in the cathedral's North aisle looks a bit disapproving, but whatever he might have thought of this cathedral, I loved it. There are so many interesting things to see, the windows are an art gallery of stained glass, and the atmosphere is friendly and welcoming. To make it even better, the apartment where we were staying during our Edinburgh trip directly overlooked its East Window, so I woke every morning and it was the first thing I saw, along with the Scottish unicorn standing on a pillar, which you can probably see to the right. It was a nice feeling.
T. and I were spending a few autumnal days in Edinburgh with S. who was taking the chance of taking a look at St. Andrew's University, about an hour away, where he might apply. It was my first trip to Edinburgh, and felt we'd hit it really lucky with our location. There must be lots of great places to stay in Edinburgh, but Parliament Square, in the heart of the Old Town, must be one of the most central. It's within steps of not only the cathedral but also in easy walking distance of the famous castle, the Museum of Scotland, Holyrood Palace and the Scottish Parliament (which is not in Parliament Square but in a modern building.)
On our first evening we took a walk to the castle as twilight fell. It was closed by then, but there's the huge forecourt in front which is a good place to walk around, with wide views of the city and the Firth of Forth in one direction, and towards what I guess was the shadowy Blackford Hill in the other. Most of the leaves on the trees had gone, so you could see a lot.
We did wonder if perhaps J.K. Rowling, who wrote the first Harry Potter book in various nearby cafes, was thinking of somewhere that looked like Edinburgh Old Town when she dreamed up Diagon Alley, the place where the Hogwarts pupils do their shopping. You could just imagine those ancient places selling Sneakoscopes or best quality wands, Quiddich gear or Skiving Snackboxes,
even though, in fact, they were all selling souvenirs. But not even the endless scotch whisky and tartan stores, bagpipe players and fridge magnet sellers could obliterate the quirky, unusual appearance of the place with its tall thin houses and innumerable alleys and courts.
Fortunately, very few tourists ever ventured even a few steps off the well beaten path, and if you went down an alleyway you could feel yourself in a quieter and more peaceful world.
We spent a lot of time walking around the narrow streets and archways of Old Town in the evening. They offered so many unexpected vignettes as we panted our way up and down the flights of stone steps, which are often the best way to get from one street to another in this near-perpendicular city.
Autumn seems to me the perfect time to wander through the little courts that the crowds don't find.
Talking of courts, our apartment was also directly by the Court of Sessions, Scotland's highest court. We went in to have a look at its 17th century hammerbeam roof, one of the best in Europe, and also, on our last day, (on the advice of someone in the cathedral), to get ourselves a really cheap lunch in the court's cafeteria, since we'd checked out of our apartment and could no longer use the kitchen.
It cost just over twelve pounds for three hearty meals and three cups of tea, and it was served by one of the nicest and most helpful members of staff I have ever met. Mind you, you do have to be frisked and go through a scanner to get into the place.
We very much liked the Scott Monument, another famous Edinburgh sight. In fact, T. spent ages photographing it from all angles. It's a memorial to Sir Walter Scott, the novelist, and it is very tall, and looks like I imagine a Victorian space rocket . It is for my money it's even more eye catching than London's Albert Memorial, though considerably less gilded.
Scott's books are barely read today, as they are thoroughly out of fashion, but they were hugely popular in the 19th century. (He died in 1832, so never saw the Victorian era, which is a shame because he was so very famous then.) He wrote poetry, including the immortal lines "Oh, what a tangled web we weave/when first we practice to deceive"; and won the 19th century's heart with his long chivalrous historical novels on Scottish themes - you might have heard of "Ivanhoe" and "Rob Roy."
You might be able to glimpse the Scott Monument in the background of this sunset scene which we took on our final evening after a stroll on Calton Hill.
I know, this is not only autumnal, it is a bit touristy too. We did other touristy things as well, like slog halfway across the city because S. wanted to visit a cafe which did a special student discount on deep fried Mars Bars, something he's yearned to try all his life. The people in the cafe were charming, and kindly served him a Mars Bar without either icecream or chips, (which was the option on the menu) at a greatly reduced price. It looked pretty gruesome - like an exhibit in a police museum if you ask me - but S. enjoyed it. In case you don't know what a Mars Bar is, it's a bit like a Snickers, only, I always feel, nicer. Or at least I used to like them when I was a teenager!
I'd meant to write about the excellent Museum of Scotland, which looked as if it had had a renovation and redesign not too long ago. But there was so much to write about it that I decided to save it for another post when hopefully I will be able to do it justice.
When we came back to London we went for a walk, and although autumn wasn't as far on here as in Scotland, it was definitely autumn in the woods near Lesnes Abbey, in South east London. This was such an amazing bit of carving - those intricate swirly shapes and the two leaves. I can only imagine how long it would take to create.
Carved by nature, of course, it's an old tree stump standing by the path., Much of the ancient woodland at Abbey Wood is sweet chestnut and there's always something to see. This pond interested me, as its surface was alive with light and ripples. I thought it must be fed by springs underneath, since as you see it is constantly in movement and I don't really think there were thousands of fish under the surface. Or maybe I am wrong? Maybe you have a suggestion. (I do apologise for my bad camerawork.)
Also in the wood, a little lad raced unheedingly past as I photographed an eye catching display of fungus on a fallen tree. When I investigated I found someone had actually picked the huge toadstool and placed it there, as a sort of impromptu work of art.
Finally, returning to the comments to my last post, Val from Rivergirl blog asked for more pictures of Dorset. It seems so very long ago now even though it was only five weeks! So here is Dancing Ledge, east of Lyme Regis. Ian Fleming, author of the James Bond books and "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang " went to prep school at a big house nearby, and used to have to come down with his class to swim in this rock pool, which is fed by the sea. It's a mile or so walk from the school and you have to climb down the last part of the cliff. I suppose it's safe enough really but I wouldn't care to take a group of small boys here myself!
I wonder what it looks like at this time of year. I bet there aren't many swimmers there now, and it is probably being lashed by the sea in the high winds we are having at the moment.
I am enjoying Autumn this year, and I hope you're enjoying it too.