Friday, July 31, 2009

Waving at trains

As a train enthusiast, I rather enjoy living where I do. Although Wamphray no longer has a station (really it DID, a long time ago), the West Coast Main Line passes close to Skip. It's close enough for me to see what's going up and down, but just far away that any noise is minimal. If you are on the train, and if you know where to look, you can see Skip flash by for a second or so on your journey.

I have friends who also like trains. One of these, who should probably remain anonymous, takes great delight in phoning when he is about to pass... and we wave to each other! I'm not sure what my neighbours think, not to consider what the other passengers on the train make of it all. Anyway, I was outside on the road waving away yesterday and two memories jumped into the forefront of my mind.

The brain is indeed a wonderful organ. These two memories have been hidden away on the hard drive for many, many years, and it is a wonder indeed that they should suddenly pop up on the screen, when triggered.

Anyway, the first was a story that I was told in the 70s by my Aunt Jenny and Uncle John who lived in Dumbarton. Their home sat alongside the Caledonian and Dunbartonshire Junction Railway. My sister stayed with them during World War 2 as a little girl, round about the time of the Clydebank Blitz, it being thought safer than home in Glasgow. Apparently she used to enjoy standing in the back garden waving to the trains as they passed. The drivers got used to seeing her, and would give a blast on the whistle. It seems too that some coal would mysteriously appear beside the line near the house after certain trains passed. Coincidence? Or a kindly fireman making sure that a little girl and her family stayed warm during a difficult time? I wonder.

(This railway line closed when the parallel Helensburgh line was electrified. Remember the 'Blue trains'? There a marvellous collection of photographs of the Glasgow Dumbarton and Helensburgh Railway here.)

The second memory was of an embarrassing incident that happened to me when I was a teenager in the early 1960s. The Bungalow Cafe sat on the bridge over the Paisley Canal line. I used to frequent this establishment often, it being on the road home from school. The nearby Pollok Estate park was the local adventure playground!

Anyway, a young lady of my acquaintance and I made an escape from the larger group of friends late one afternoon and had found our way round the back of the cafe, on to the railway embankment, for what can best be described as a 'kiss and a cuddle', which was pretty much all than happened in 1961-2! It was quiet and secluded, and we were unlikely to be disturbed.

That is, until the 5.10 pm out of St Enoch for Paisley Canal passed by on the line! I don't know how many of my neighbours who had been on the train told my mother what her son had been doing in full public gaze that afternoon. Ah well, it could have been worse! Needless to say, courting was not carried out in the open air on railway embankments in the years that followed.

(The Paisley Canal line was run down after Beeching and closed completely in 1983, but part of the line was re-opened in 1990. There is even a new station at Dumbreck! Lots of pics here, including some of the old sheds at Corkerhill where my interest in trains was first ignited.)

Can you see Copey waving, as he passed last night?

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Scotland's midden

I had to visit Edinburgh earlier this week, and I was ashamed to be Scottish. Our capital city is inundated with visitors this month, what with Homecoming celebrations and the start of the festival season. It is usually a beautiful city, but is a tip this month. The problem is a dispute between Edinburgh Council and those who collect the city's rubbish. There is a work to rule in place, and mountains of rubbish are lining the streets. The Haymarket area was especially bad. 'Disgusting' doesn't begin to describe it. It's a disgrace.

The pile of bags above was on the Royal Mile! Scratch the screen to smell the problem. If your computer hasn't this feature, then just imagine stuffing your nose in a country pancake... or whatever. It was awful.

I don't want to take sides in the dispute, but really, heads should be banged together. Scotland needs its tourists. Impressions count. If Tuesday had been my first visit to Edinburgh, I can assure you I would be thinking twice about returning. I commiserate with my friends who live and work in the city. And I would like to apologise to the thousands of tourists I encountered. Some of us are embarrassed.

Read news here and here. And an apology to visitors from a council representative is on YouTube here. Good enough? I think not.

I know that Edinburgh residents are also frustrated by the ongoing roadworks and traffic disruptions caused by the new tram works.

Indeed, it is sad to see this most iconic of streets in such upheaval. I can only hope that it will all be worth it when the tram project is completed. Read about it here.

Is it just me, or are buskers getting younger and younger?

Eating one's lunch in Princes Street Gardens is soon going to require considerable bravado. The black backed gulls are getting really aggressive, and are quite a size!

Right, I wouldn't want to leave the impression that I was only looking at the world through dark glasses on my visit to the big city! I encountered something at the foot of the Scott monument which really gladdened the heart.

For the past couple of weeks the Edinburgh Playhouse Stage Experience 2009 has been taking place. This project has been going for four years. It's a two-week theatrical workshop to give the city’s young actors, musicians and technicians experience of acting and production. At the end of the two week camp the youngsters put on three performances. In 2006 this was Oliver; in 2007 it was High School Musical, and last year the production was Annie.

Tomorrow and Saturday the Stage Experience presents Cole Porter's Anything Goes at the Playhouse.

The hundred or so young people in the cast were selected in auditions last February, alongside musicians and technicians.

As a marketing ploy, the cast were rehearsing in Princes Street Gardens on Tuesday. And very good they were too.

Enthusiasm was much in evidence, and I'm sure the final production will be great. I'll let you know! I wonder if Sir Walter enjoyed the rehearsal?

There were a number of different reasons for my visit to Edinburgh on Tuesday. One was to look in at Cairnie House, the headquarters of the Royal Club. The office sits in the RHS Showground at Ingliston. In the years ahead, the staff will move to new offices within the National Curling Academy when it is completed in Kinross.

There is no truth in the rumour that I've already begun my new retirement project!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

New blog in town

Just a quick pointer towards a new blog about the Edinburgh International Curling Championship at the Murrayfield Rink in November. This is a joint venture between Robin Copland, in charge of communications for the event, and Skip Cottage. Its purpose is to provide information and news about the Edinburgh International in an easily accessible way. The blog has just gone live in the last few days, and will be updated regularly in the run up to the event.

Please check out the blog here, bookmark it, and check regularly for news of this Champions Tour event.

Note in particular the fundraising Gala Dinner and Fun Evening which has been organised for the evening of Saturday, September 12. The dinner speakers are about to be announced. Why not plan to attend? Tickets are just £25 each.

Simpsons to go curling

If you are a fan of The Simpsons, you will be interested in the fact that Homer and Marge are to take up our favourite sport next year. The episode will be shown in early February on the Fox Network, just prior to the Vancouver Olympics. The story is here, and includes quotes from Randy Ferbey who is a Simpsons' fan, apparently.

Talking about the Olympics, the draw for the curling competitions can now be downloaded from the World Curling Federation website here. The GB men's team have their first game against Sweden at 09.00 on Tuesday, February 16. The women have a bye that day and open against China on Wednesday, February 17, at 09.00. The competitions run from February 16 to 27.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Eating the garden

The only problem about spending the last ten days or so immersed in summer curling activities has been that Skip garden has been rather neglected. The growth over the past few weeks has been rampant, and fortunately not all of it has been weeds. The overall impression of the bottom of the garden is quite pleasing, with a lot of things in flower, as above.

Two of my favourites are these pink astilbes, and Crocosmia 'Lucifer', which I should have staked a bit better than I did.

But this is my plant of the week - Aconitum, common name Monkshood. If you are at all interested in the medicinal or toxicological properties of plants, then this is a cracker! All you want to know about the various monkshoods is here. Then wash your hands... thoroughly!

The vegetable garden has been doing OK. I am overwhelmed with potatoes! The purple sprouting broccoli has provided a couple of meals. My favourite herb is coriander, here growing in a little container and much better than anything from the shops in my Thai stir fries. The container grown dwarf runner beans are flowering, and I'm looking forward to seeing how they crop. Needless to say various butterflies and moths are enjoying finding play areas at Skip for their caterpillars.

Chard looks colourful on the seed packet, and this is my first attempt at growing it. I ended up searching for the best way to cook it, and when I find a recipe that is successful, I'll let you know.

I have a couple of containers of cut and come again salad leaves, and these have been great, as long as I remember to keep a succession going. I went out to cut some leaves at the weekend only to discover that something, or someone, had got there before me, and completely cropped the lot.

I suspect it was this cute little fellow, or one of its friends. I watched him (or her) sitting on top of the stone wall. Now, I was surprised to learn that rabbits can climb walls! But I can assure you they do. Maybe it's a Wamphray thing. Anyway, by the time I had fetched the camera, she/he had come down off the wall and was investigating the garden just outside the patio, unaware of me taking this pic through the glass. Seconds later though I got noticed, and perhaps mistaking the camera for a shotgun, he/she/it was off.

I just wish the rabbits would eat the weeds!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Team Howard wins Stirling International Skins

Gillian Howard and her team of Kelly Wood, Claire Sloan and Brad Hay skinned the field to win the first Stirling International Skins event today. They beat Colin Dick, Anna Sloan, Mette de Neergaard and Troels Harry in the final.

Earlier, Howard had beaten Logan Gray, Richard Woods, Colin Campbell and Graeme Baxter in the semi, the game going to the last stone. In contrast, Dick had grannied Rasmus Stjerne, Kristian Lindstrom, Graeme Black and Lewis Houston on the other side of the draw.

(Above L-R: Brad Hay, Claire Sloan, Kelly Wood, Gillian Howard with Logan Gray, the event organiser, presenting the winning envelope!)

I only made it to Stirling in time to see the last end of the quarterfinals. But here are a few pics to give a flavour of the semis and final.

Rasmus Stjerne from Denmark is a class player, but it was not to be his team's day in the semifinal.

Graeme Black and Lewis Houston work on Kristian Lindstrom's stone.

Gillian Howard in the head as Logan Gray and Richard Woods watch behind.

Kelly Wood's stone is looked after by Brad Hay and Claire Sloan.

Team Gray in action.

Logan getting lots of moral support from his team as he ponders what to do!

Last stone of the semifinal. Kelly calls for sweeping on Gillian's stone which has to remove the front blue to count two, to win the skin, and the game.

Gillian Howard's release, with Claire Sloan in attendance.

Claire at full stretch.

What do you mean you've never heard of Brad Hay? A top swimmer, he is Active Stirling's Swimming Development Officer. This was his first curling competition. You have to say it was an impressive debut!

Colin Dick delivers with Anna Sloan ready to pick up the sweeping.

Mette de Neergaard

Troels Harry

Anna Sloan

Down four skins to one after five ends in the final, the writing was on the wall for the Dick team.

And that was that. Well done to Gillian, Kelly, Claire and Brad.

Good competition, good swinging ice, and good fun by all accounts. What with Dumfries last weekend, and Stirling this, there certainly seems to be a place for summer curling in Scotland.

Pics by Bob.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Homecoming Camp rounds up

The Homecoming Scotland International Curling Camp wound up today. I enjoyed having the opportunity to observe some of the activities on and off the ice during the week. It was great, as always, to see young people enjoying themselves, making friends, and learning more about this great sport of ours. I was impressed by the enthusiasm of the campers, the professionalism of the instructors, and the unflappability of the organisers, Judith McFarlane and Graham Sloan. Stamina should also get a mention in there too!

The photo above captured the camp for me - that's Lauren Baxter and Maggie Wilson on ice on Friday. Previous blog posts with pics of the camp are here and here.

The Bravehearts, naturally enough, produced this Mel Gibson lookalike for their themed presentation at the 'performance night' on Thursday.

The Scots successfully defeated the English, as in the script.

The Highlanders had a cunning idea to bribe the judges (David Horne, Marion Murdoch and me) with some Highlander crisps!

You had to be there!

Serious talent on display as Ruth and Carlos entertained us all.

Chariot races.

Puck curling.

Camp? What's camp?

The Howkit Tatties provided the music for a ceilidh for campers and some one hundred others at the Barony on Friday night. Great fun.

Scotland meets Spain in one example of international understanding and friendship. Or it could be a knobbly knees competition, I'm not sure!

And here are the campers, instructors and organisers dressed up for the occasion. Click on the photo to see larger size.

Pics by Bob.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Kinross progress

I mentioned in passing last week (here) that the website of the Kinross Curling Trust had not been updated, leaving us wondering how things were progressing with the new rink which is to be home to the National Curling Academy. On Tuesday I was pleased to receive an email newsletter about the project (have you signed up to receive it?), with a link to an updated, and improved website.

The gist of the newsletter is that plans for the facility have now been submitted to Perth and Kinross Council. The site plan, floor plans and elevations are displayed in the foyer of the Windlestrae Hotel or can be downloaded from the Kinross Curling Trust website.

Applications are soon to be made to sportscotland and other funding bodies and organisations to pay for the bulk of the capital costs of the project.

A local fundraising committee is being established headed up by Linda Young and Mary Morgan. A letter has recently been sent out to all the local curling clubs that currently use the curling rink at Kinross asking them to start considering organizing fund-raising activities.

The Kinross Curling Trust itself is organising a BBQ to be held at Loch Leven’s Larder from 7.15pm on Friday, September 11, with other events and activities to follow.

Ena Stevenson and Judith McFarlane are working on a development action plan for curling in the Kinross area covering the next three years, including the opening of the new facility. The broad aim is to increase participation at all ages and levels.

And, importantly, the Kinross Curling Trust has been recognised by charity regulators OSCR as a Scottish charity. This dictates how the Trust can operate once the facility is in operation. In the short term, it allows the Kinross Curling Trust and donors to benefit from the government’s gift aid provisions. The current subscribing trustees (Jamie Montgomery, Bob Tait and Colin Grahamslaw) would welcome approaches from any curler who is prepared to help fund the project.