Monday, August 21, 2017

Time to move on

So, after nearly fifteen years at Skip Cottage, and having just hit the 'milestone' of seventy years of age, I've decided to move on. Bob's 'Skip Cottage Years' are nearly over!

This was the perfect place for me when I became Editor of the Scottish Curler magazine back in 2002, and for seven years this is where the magazine was put together, prior to it being printed up in Dunfermline each month.

I fell in love with Skip because of its large garden, and I've spent many a happy day pottering therein, and gradually improving it.

This is what the garden was like when I first saw it. Lots of potential!

Here it is back in 2004, with it mostly laid out.

More than ten years later, the bottom garden is more than mature! It needs someone new to take it in hand.

Me? A new chapter in my life beckons in North Ayrshire. New places to explore, new friends to make. This blog will have to close down soon - at least I hope Skip will sell soon - and I trust that whoever buys the cottage will enjoy it as much as I have done in the past 15 years.

I suspect that I will still need an outlet for future meanderings with my camera, so look out for a new blog in due course once I get settled in Largs! In the meantime, wish me luck.

ADDED LATER: Bob's new blog can be found here:

Pics © Skip Cottage

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

More fishes

My car went in for a service at Carlisle yesterday, so, to pass a few hours, I took the train a little way down the Cumbrian Coast line to Maryport. The tide was out!

The Lake District Coast Aquarium at Maryport had been on my 'to do' list for a while. I'm glad I was able to get there yesterday. What a splendid place, with friendly and knowledgeable staff! The website is here.

I enjoyed the challenge of trying to photograph various fish in their tanks, such as these mackerel.

Lionfish are fascinating to look at, and eat, apparently!

The Sealab, with the lobster hatchery, was fascinating to spend time in, see here.

Hopefully the babies will grow into lobsters like this guy.

A handsome chappie, seemingly as interested in the camera, as I was in him!

 Definitely the star of the show! I watched the seahorses for ages.

Photos © Skip Cottage

Sunday, August 06, 2017

Edinburgh Fringe at 70

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe was born seventy years ago this month, as was I! It is my intention to get a couple of days up in the city to celebrate together. Yesterday was the first, and what a good day it turned out to be.

I had done my homework, so first up was a performance by Helen Wood entitled 'The O.S. Map Fan Club'. For anyone who has ever walked anywhere, and appreciates paper maps, rather than digital maps on a phone or tablet, this is a must see. Great fun! Dressed the part, Helen took us a walk along a route on an Explorer map with illustrations, facts, explanations, reminiscences, poetry, and impressions. Audience interaction too - I got to hold her lunch flask for the duration!

Just a wonderful easy comic performance. And now I've got the Fan Club badge to treasure into the future.

See Helen at theSpace@Surgeons' Hall at 11.55, just until August 12.

I really enjoyed Tago: Korean Drum II last year, and I knew I would enjoy seeing them again. This time they were in the Assembly Rooms Ballroom in George Street, a much bigger venue.

Just brilliant - music, comedy, dance ... and lots of drumming. They got a standing ovation, so I doubt I need to say more!

Until August 27, at 15.15. So if you want a mid-afternoon treat, this is for you ... if you can get a ticket!

Now, the best laid plans etc ... The next group I wanted to see had cancelled. So it was a quick look to see what was on around the same time.

'Concerto a Tempo d'Umore' slotted in perfectly, and was a brilliant choice. This was performed by the Orquestra de Cambra de l'Emporda from Catalonia. They are a twelve-strong string orchestra, but this is not classical music as you might expect it. The group make music fun, a physical comedy, with audience interaction and involvement!  I'll not write a spoiler by describing what happens in more detail. As one reviewer put it, "An original way to enjoy classical music!" Very, very clever. For all ages, not just an old guy like me.

They got a standing ovation! One of the best hours I've ever spent at the Edinburgh Fringe! I loved it.

The orchestra are here within the Aurora Nova group's celebration of international, physical and visual theatre. They perform in the Music Hall at the Assembly Rooms in George Street at 17.00 until August 27. Go see them, and be royally entertained. You may even get to conduct!

I had hoped to get a ticket for 'Whose Line Is It Anyway', but that was sold out yesterday. Not a problem, as the alternative was 'My Leonard Cohen', a tribute to the songs of Leonard Cohen who died last year.

Stewart D'Arrietta, vocals and piano, does a good job with his take on many of Cohen's favourites. I liked the band. Philip Alexander on accordion, melodica, and backing vocals; Tom Bancroft on drums; Graeme Steven on guitar; Heather Macleod on vocals. The star was David 'Demus' Donnelly on bass guitar. Don't know what he was on, but I would like some of it! His enthusiasm was wonderful to see. I understand he put the band together.

Welcome to the Church of Leonard! I particularly enjoyed a version of 'First We Take Manhattan', a long time favourite. And of course the performance finished with a rendition of 'Hallelujah'. Cue ear worm for the rest of the night.

Live music in the Ballroom of the Assemby Rooms, George Street, at 19.45 until August 27.

Sam Underwood starred in 'One Day When We Were Young', which I raved about two years ago, see here. So, remembering this, yesterday I made my way to a little performance space in the basement of the New Town Theatre (aka the Freemason's Hall) in George Street at 21.40 to see Sam in 'Losing Days'.

Wow! Not only is Sam a great actor, he is a singer and musician. He shares the stage with Maks Kubis, a talented instrumentalist, who acts as a foil to Sam's performance. But this was a tough watch in places. It is described in the Fringe Programme as a 'hilarious, harrowing journey'. 'Hilarious' (as it was at times) and 'harrowing' (that too) are good adjectives to describe the experience. 'Losing Days' is Sam’s own story, acted out splendidly with incredible honesty. Mental illness is not a comfortable subject for most people, and, by my generation at least, is not talked about much. Huge congratulations to Sam and all involved in putting this performance together!

I drove home with my emotions in tatters. 'Losing Days' was a Fringe experience I will remember for a long time! Not for everyone, I think, but if you are up to be challenged, go see this! Until August 27. There's a good interview here if you want to find out a little more.

"Sam, we definitely need to talk!"

Images from flyers and posters.

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Through the lens

I visited the Lakes Aquarium at Lakeside on Lake Windermere recently, and had another go at trying to photograph some fishes through the glass. This tank held predominantly Angel fish.

This roach is a little bigger than I'm used to. 

 Some days I feel like this this when I look in the mirror!

"Who's a pretty boy, then!"

"This is my best side!"

Back at Skip, I spent ages trying to get a good pic of daddy Great Spotted Woodpecker teaching his recent fledgling where peanuts come from!

"I'm not a pheasant plucker
I'm a pheasant plucker's son
And I'm only plucking pheasants
Til the pheasant plucker comes."

"See that old bloke in there? If we stare at him long enough, he'll remember to fill the feeder!"

Photos © Skip Cottage

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Moffat Classic Cars at 20

This past weekend was the twentieth anniversary of the Moffat Rally! The Saturday involves some of the cars in a scenic fun run. Here's Chairman/Rally Organiser Gordon Bisset leading the first batch of cars away from Moffat main street.

Here are a few of my favourite cars.

I always look out for cars that I've owned in the past. Top marks for this good looking Reliant Scimitar!

When I had a Sunbeam Talbot back when I was a student, I had never heard of 'classic cars'. But this was my favourite 'old banger'.

Hillmans, such as this Minx, were the family cars for many years.

All heading out of Moffat, past the Beechgrove Sports Centre, to tackle the Beef Tub.

Not only cars!

Another lovely Scimitar!

And another Sunbeam Talbot. I look out every year for my first car - a Triumph Mayflower, but I've not seen one at Moffat ... yet!

A smart Landrover, in the final batch waiting for the off.

I liked the co-driver!

My pick of the day was this American classic, a Chevrolet Corvair 95. Unusual to see, and immaculate. Loved it. Read about the model here.

The weather was good for both days of the show, and the showground packed with cars on Sunday.

Pics © Skip Cottage

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Two Lakes

I was in need of a 'steam fix' yesterday, and an away day in the Lake District began at Haverthwaite, for a short ride on the Lakeside and Haverthwaite railway.

Providing the traction for the day was No 42073 British Railways Fairburn 2-6-4 tank, built in Brighton in 1950. Two of these Brighton-built locomotives survive in preservation on the Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway although one (No 42085) is currently in the engine shed, minus its boiler.

The short ride was popular yesterday, passengers including two tour groups which were heading for a boat trip on Windermere.

MV Teal (see here) was doing duty yesterday.

MV Teal was built at Barrow in 1936. Sections were transported to Lakeside by rail, and the boat assembled there.

I travelled back to Haverthwaite to get some more pics of 42073 in action.

Heading to Lakeside.

On my previous visits to the shed at Haverthwaite I would probably have paid little attention to No 20214. However, a recently article in the Railway Magazine about these Class 20s has meant I was able to appreciate the locomotive rather more! Details of 20214 are here and here.

After Haverthwaite, I headed home via the Kirkstone Pass and stopped off at Glenridding on Ullswater. I liked this shot of action on the water, taken from the steamer pier.

I had hoped to see MY Lady of the Lake, and was not disappointed. Here she is seen departing Glenridding. The vessel was launched on 26th June 1877, and is believed to be the oldest working passenger vessel in the world. Designed by Douglas Henson of Penrith, she was built at Rutherglen, transported in three sections by rail to Penrith. The sections were pulled by horse to Waterside near Pooley Bridge, where she was assembled. Originally steam powered, she was converted to diesel in 1936. More details here.

A trip on board now goes on to my 'to do' list! The Ullswater Steamers website is here.

Pics © Skip Cottage

Monday, June 05, 2017


The Woodland Garden at Ardkinglas, near Cairndow at the head of Loch Fyne, is one of my favourite places. I have visited a number of times and recently spent another day there.

Visiting at Rhododendron time you encounter sights like this.

And this!

I know that not everyone shares my love of Rhoddies, but I was just blown away by what I encountered last week.

The garden is also home to some spectacular trees, such as this European silver fir. It is around 250 years old and when young it may have been damaged by frost or deer, and it has grown with four large trunks!

More colour ...

And another 'Wow'!

Ardkinglas House was built by Sir Robert Lorimer for Sir Andrew Noble and completed in 1907. The earlier buildings on the estate are described here. The house, a family home, is only open to the public on certain days during the summer. I was lucky to be able to join a tour this time.

It helps to have a knowledgeable and enthusiastic guide, and we certainly had that. One of the most interesting houses I've ever visited.

The OS map from 1874 shows a 'model railway' running along the shoreline at Ardkinglas. It was constructed in 1866. Its story is here.

The only surviving artifact relating to the model railway is this axle and wheels, on a shelf in the house!

The ornamental pond in the grounds is called 'The Caspian'.

The centrepiece of the Ladies' Garden (not usually open to the public) is this small pond, with an 'unusual' statue!

Azaleas galore! What a wonderful place.

The estate website is here. For a bird's eye view of the house and surroundings, see here.

Photos © Skip Cottage