Saturday, August 29, 2009

New season - new blog

Life is a journey, as they say, and we've reached the beginning of a new curling season. That's as good a reason as any for some changes at Skip Cottage. From today, curling news can be found at, and NOT here. Check out the new blog now, and if curling is your main reason for following my rambles, verbally or otherwise, then bookmark the new site in your browser.

Trains, gardens, Japanese drums and other bits and pieces from my life will continue to be posted here at Skip Cottage, although not so frequently as in the last few months.

Thanks to all blogallies who have supported Skip Cottage, and I hope you will continue to follow me in my life's perambulations in the months ahead - in two places rather than one. Read about the new venture here.

Friday, August 28, 2009

New Zealand update

This week I've been following the curling event at the 100% Pure New Zealand Winter games, previewed here. It's reached the playoff stages.

In the men's event, where seven teams played a round robin, China beat the USA in a tie-breaker to make it to the semifinals and then met the top qualifiers, Japan. China won that 11-3 and will meet Australia, winners over Korea in the other semi, for the gold medals.

In the women’s final, the world champions China are against Japan for gold, and Korea and New Zealand contest bronze. Five countries took part and played a double round robin just to eliminate Australia.

The Winter Games website is here, and the linescores of all the games are here.

The Curling News blog has had interesting info about the games and the competitors here and here.

(Added later. Japan beat China 8-5 in the final of the women's event. And Australia beat China 9-6 for gold in the men's competition.)

Rainy day smiles

Lis Burke's photo above captures the atmosphere of this week in Edinburgh. However, despite the rain, the Signspotting Project exhibit at Princes Mall really made me smile. It's a collection of a hundred funny signs from around the world. It really appealed to my warped sense of humour.

When I lived abroad I always looked out for strange signs, such as the one above. My favourite was 'Translation for Alien' in the window of a local language school! But one should not laugh at the difficulties foreigners face with the English language. However, if you are not averse to doing so, check out!

Or if you have limited time this weekend have a look at all 159 examples of 'horrible translations'. There's a guaranteed smile, or two, amongst these! Enjoy.

The top photo is © Lis Burke and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Moffat miscellany

My postal address is Moffat, although Wamphray is several miles from the town itself. It is an attractive place, which grew up as a coaching stop and 19th century spa town. Recently I counted eighteen coaches in the car park adjacent to the Moffat Woolen Mill, so the old 'coaching stop' traditions live on, although for different reasons! See the town's official website here.

On the other side of the coin, Moffat is Scotland's first 'Walkers Are Welcome' town and is a great base for walking locally, or in the hills around the town, as well as wider in Annandale. I'm looking forward to the official opening of the Annandale Way next month. Writer Linda Cracknell has walked it already, see here, and here, and here.

Local author Jim Storrar has published a couple of books, collecting lots of information about the town from all sorts of sources including old newspapers. Volume 1 of his Moffat Miscellany is called Early Visitors and Their Impressions of Moffat. I was fascinated to find in this volume a very early reference to curling!

Storrar had discovered this reference to curling in Moffat in 1780 in a book The Life of Mrs Gooch by Elizabeth Sarah Villa-Real Gooch which was published in London in 1792. It says, "We walked about the town, saw the spa, and a diversion they call 'curling' which consists of several men throwing stones over the ice with iron handles to them, and from forty to fify pounds weight."

I bought the second volume of the Moffat Miscellany recently. The cover is shown above. It has lots of stories relating to crime and punishment, accidents and disasters in the Moffat area. I couldn't put it down!

One of these stories concerned the terrorist activities of the Tartan Army (no, not the supporters who follow Team Murdoch to world curling events) which was perpetrated in Wamphray. These electricity pylons run up towards Blaze Hill on the right of this photo. On December 10, 1972, taking exception to Scotland exporting electricity to England, Donald Currie and Gerard McGuigan allegedly drove from Glasgow to Wamphray and attached two explosive devices to a leg of a pylon on Blaze Hill in what was a young forestry plantation at the time.

I should say that this is not the actual pylon, but just one on the many on this line that comes down past Abington, crosses the M74 near Beattock and continues down into England.

Currie and McGuigan had informed the newspapers hoping for publicity, but when their story did not appear, they returned to Wamphray to find that the explosives had indeed detonated and they had created, according to Jim Storrar, 'the only three-legged fully functioning electricity pylon in Scotland'!

If you are too young to remember the story of the real Tartan Army you can read all online at Electric Scotland here.

Pics © Skip Cottage

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Charity fundraising

Yes, it's time to get your wallets out again for a good cause. Do you remember Jim Taylor? Last December he pushed a ton of granite over a mile of ice to support the Hearts and Heroes Challenge, see the story here.

Now he's raising funds for The Big Build Appeal for the new Marie Curie hospice for Glasgow. Jim says, "I proposed the idea of a wheelchair curling team, with me as skip, to play against David Murdoch - pin up boy of Scottish curling - and his rink who won Gold at last year’s World Championships. Give Them A Sporting Chance embraced this idea and using their incredible organisational skills, for which I am indebted, have arranged a match."

This will take place at the new rink in Stirling, The Peak, at 1 pm on Friday, September 4.

Jim has set a modest target of £850 for his fundraising and as I write this he is 80% there. But I think that if all Skip Cottage blogallies who can afford to do so, chip in now, he could soon exceed his expectations. You can donate online here.

And if you can, get to Stirling on September 4th!

The pic of both 'pin up boys' of Scottish curling is © Skip Cottage.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Alternative barbecue

I am very proud to be the Hon Pres of the Alternative Curling Club which was formed in the mid 80s by a group of beginners and improvers who had attended drop-in classes on Sunday nights at Greenacres. The name arose because the club met every other week, with a play on words 'alternate' and 'alternative'! It then joined the list of clubs with interesting names, such as Between the Sheets CC and the 69 Club!

The ACC continues to flourish all these years later, with thirty-two members. Saturday was the annual barbecue.

Host Ian Rodney, who some may remember as the originator of Hoggie, the cartoon character in the Scottish Curler, had prepared for the worst! But there was no need for the wellies and it was a fine evening.

Tours of the garden at Alvis Cottage were on offer.

And here is Ian with an unusual artistic garden feature which we like!

And then we had to catch our food for the evening.

The Alternative CC spares no expense on its trophies for its out-of-season social events.

President George Manson was in charge of the barbecue.

But there was an 'alternative' in case of culinary disasters outside. Thanks Sally.

Hard working secretary David Robertson.

Some of the club's history was on view.

As was Mary Robertson with her buns!

Special toilet facilities

Paul, Mhairi, George, Janice, Mary, Sally, Gillian and David are all original members.

There was another reason for celebration - David's 60th birthday!

Highlight of the evening was a spectacular firework display. OK, I exaggerate, but it was fun. Here pyromaniacs Ian and George get organised. Perhaps this should be the caption competition? "I think this one goes 'BANG', George!"


Satisfaction is a lit Roman candle.

And we finished with the £5 rocket! Appropriately, this IS International Rocket Week, at Largs, see here.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Wamphray weather

I joked recently (here) about monsoon gardening at Skip. I wasn't joking. According to the meteorological station at Eskdalemuir, yesterday was the wettest August day in more than 100 years.

I left Skip early to go up to Glasgow, and the River Annan was already well over its bank at the Jocksthorn Bridge. The wee car had to float its way over the flooded road, and things weren't too bad after I had passed Beattock on my way north.

Apparently it didn't apparently get much better down here as the day progressed. I hear that the back road between Wamphray and Moffat was blocked by floods, as was the main road between Lockerbie and Lochmaben, and other roads in Dumfries and Galloway were impassable. This is summer.

When I got home in the evening, I set out to get some photos of the flooding, only to get chased inside by another heavy shower. Anyway, the top photo is of the Annan over its banks, seen from the bottom of Skip garden. Fortunately the house itself sits well up from the river.

But the field to the north of the house is on the flood plain.

Is this a field of forage maize... or a rice paddy?

Maria at the station

Lots of funny things happen at stations. Apart, that is, from trains arriving and departing.

Have a look at what went on in Antwerp Central Station on March 23 this year. The original link is here.

Thanks to the Skip Cottage blogspy who picked up on the connection between trains and musical theatre which she thought I would enjoy. She was right. Hope you enjoyed it too.

It was in fact a promotional stunt by a Belgian TV Station for their reality TV programme to find a Maria to play the leading role in The Sound of Music! Sound familiar?

Added later:
And if you think something like this couldn't happen here, well it did. See here. And how it was done here. At Liverpool Street Station in January. Thanks to wee jock for flagging this up, in the comments below. Life's for sharing, indeed! In stations too.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

New Zealand Winter Games

Billing itself as the largest winter sports event outside of the Winter Olympics, the 100% Pure New Zealand Winter Games begins tomorrow. It includes a curling competition, to be held at the Maniototo rink in Naseby. Eight countries (Australia, Canada, China, Czech Republic, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, and USA are represented in the men's competition and will play a round robin beginning on Sunday. Five women's teams (Australia, China, Japan, Korea, New Zealand) will play a double round robin during the week. Tiebreakers (if required) and semifinals will be next Friday, with the medallists being decided on Saturday, August 29.

The draw and results can be found here.

New Zealand's SKY Sport will be televising fourteen games live over the week, with highlights shown from other matches!

The Winter Games event website is here. The opening ceremony is tomorrow, August 21, and the whole thing winds up on August 30.

It looks as if the idea is to hold this event every four years, to provide, in the southern hemisphere, a training and competition opportunity in a variety of sports in the lead up to the Winter Olympics. The sports include alpine skiing, free skiing, cross-country skiing, snowboarding, and ice skating in addition to the curling.

Dumfries in the news

Take a look at what is going to be Scotland's next curling rink! The news yesterday (see here) was that Dumfries and Galloway Council has given the go ahead for the conversion of the indoor bowling facility at the Ice Bowl to a dedicated curling rink.

I talked about the story on the blog back in June, see here. When I learn more I'll post it here, of course. As a Dumfries and Galloway taxpayer, I have a vested interest! Personally, I think it's great. I've seen the Dumfries rink improve a lot in recent years, and would hope that an even brighter future lies ahead.

You can read some opinion about the proposals on the Scottish Curling Forum in a thread here, which starts when these were first aired in June.

What great news though for the users of the Ice Bowl! Not only is the future of curling, skating and ice hockey secured, but with two rinks side by side the complex will have the potential to host major competitions such as the World Junior Curling Championships. Indeed, it is an exciting prospect for the curling community around Dumfries.

Realistically, lots of water has to come down the Nith before then. Many questions need to be answered. But it is an exciting time. And how will it all impinge on the rink at Lockerbie?

Dumfries and Galloway Council has also recently launched its 'cultural strategy', see here. Associated with this is a local studies photographic collection website. This website contains more than 7,000 pictures. I searched for 'curling' (of course) and was delighted to find a number of old pics which show clearly the heritage of the sport in this part of the country.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Drums of Japan

I need to take you back to the year 1997, when the Web was in its infancy, before digital cameras, and blogs had still to be invented! I'm in Karuizawa, Japan. It was the World Junior Curling Championships, held in this beautiful arena, as a test event for the Nagano Olympics which were to follow a year later.

I wasn't actively working in the sport at that time, but I had taken my annual leave to support Julia Ewart, Michelle Silvera, Mhairi Ferguson, Lynn Cameron, who had won the Scottish Junior Championship, and were our representatives in Japan with Suzie Law as alternate and Pete Loudon as their coach.

It was my first trip to Japan, and I enjoyed it tremendously. The curling was great. The girls had a great week. They reached the semis with a 7-2 win-loss record.

The boys struggled a little. Ricky Tasker, Gary Wood, Jamie Kirk, Sandy Reid with Ewan MacDonald as their alternate, played ten games, winning five and finishing in seventh place.

Off the ice there was opportunity to appreciate a little of Japanese culture. Never mind the tea ceremony, I was knocked out when I saw taiko, traditional Japanese drumming, for the first time.

And so began a love affair with these Japanese drums that continues.

So I blame Team Ewart. Did I mention that they won the Championship? They beat Canada in the semi and Sweden in the final to become World Junior Champions 1997. I was thrilled to have been there to see it.

But if I hadn't followed the team to Japan, I wouldn't have experienced taiko for the first time. I wouldn't have seen Tao in Edinburgh in 2004... and 2005. Or this year. Twice.

As you know I've raved about Tao on this blog twice already, see here, and here. Standing in the queue last night I met two blogallies who had taken my recommendation and booked tickets for the show, and brought two friends. I do hope they all enjoyed it!

I certainly did. Seeing the new programme for the second time gave me the opportunity to appreciate a little more of what goes on on the stage throughout the performance.

Here's an eloquent review by someone who enjoyed the experience as much as I did.

(The photo above is from a selection on Tao's MySpace here)

So, as you see, it's all Julia and her team's fault, that, at 62, I've finally become a groupie! This is Tao's star performer Arisa Nishi, making an old man very happy on his birthday! Arigato gozaimas, Arisa.

(Caption competition?)

Now, just to get the tee shirt!

I wonder if Arisa has a fan club? What a talent she is on the bamboo flute, and on the koto, and even on the biggest of the drums, the Odaiko, on which she opens the new programme. But of course I don't have favourites! All the group are great.

Anyway, I've had a good Edinburgh festivals this year. Eight shows/performances so far in a variety of areas, and I've yet to experience a duff one. Three more days are planned, so I'm hoping the luck holds.

I overheard a keen fringe-goer say to Ai Fujimura, Tao's tour manager, "Tao are the best thing we've ever seen at the Fringe." I agree. I wonder if I can obtain a ticket to see them for a third time? Oh dear, am I addicted?

(Photos from Karuizawa are scans of pics in my scrapbook archive from 1997)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Is it still summer?

A query on the Scottish Curling Forum (here) about summerspiels has got me wondering whether the successful events at Dumfries and at Sirling might be repeated next year.

The curler looking for information hails from Irma, Alberta, population around 450. The town has a summerspiel in early August, which looks a lot of fun, and attracts seventy teams! That is a neat three sheet rink shown on the website, or is it a four sheeter? Search as I might I haven't been able to find any pics (yet) from this year's event but I presume it went off OK. Perhaps they need the services of Bob the Blogger?

And perhaps summerspiels should have 'twins', and swop teams and hospitality? Could we twin Dumfries with Irma? Or copy some of their ideas, like the golf and steak? Or even have a parade?

Who said I was missing the curling season? Not long to go now. First rink with ice would seem to be Stirling, which is already advertising its 'Come and Try' on Saturday 29 and Sunday 30 August, see here. Actually, THAT'S JUST ELEVEN DAYS TIME!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Monsoon gardening

What miserable weather it has been recently. Skip has seen a couple of inches of rain in as many days, and it seems more like winter rather than mid-August. Still, I always look forward to the odd rainbow, as you will remember here, and here.

Despite the rain, the containers are looking OK. These bright red geraniums were grown on from plugs!

Plant of the month though is the dahlia. I grew these Bishop's Children from seed this spring. They have done well in a couple of containers, such as here.

And here. As long as I can be bothered deadheading them, they will do well for quite a while yet.

In front here is one of a number of fuchsias I've grown on from large plugs. Colourful, but still fairly small.

Hard to believe, but this large clump of pink spray dahlias is just one plant. It started off from seed four years ago. I've left the tubers in the ground over the winters since then. I really thought that it had not come through the severe cold spell last winter, and indeed the shoots took a while to appear in the spring. But look at them now.

Bees are always welcome at Skip and seem to like the dahlias!

They make lovely cut flowers.

I haven't needed to top up the pond recently! And note that, despite the clouds and rain, a water lily is making a valiant attempt to flower.

Photos © Skip Cottage.