Sounding a bit like “Wallace and Gromit” but it really was a “grand day out”. When the Scotrail operator changed I managed to snap up a couple of free rail tickets. Given the choice of destinations I picked Stonehaven on account of its open air swimming pool. And vague recollections of very good fish and chips. It proved to be a good choice. Easily manageable in a day , not too far to walk from the station to the pool or town centre and with more to do than we managed to fit in on one visit.
This year the pool has opened for its 81st season but in the 90s it was threatened with closure and I remember having signed a petition to save it. Fortunately the campaign was successful and the pool has gone from strength to strength ever since , supported by a very active community team. They give it a lick of paint over the winter and it was looking beautifully colourful.
What sets this pool apart is that it is a heated seawater pool. And they are now thin on the ground. I have to wonder why, as the water was so much nicer to swim in than the normal chlorine smelling pools.
The weather was a little changeable but we braved the elements and , though the water was apparently a little cooler than normal, it was perfectly fine. I think during the school holidays and on very sunny days it will be much busier but I still wouldn’t hesitate to return.
There is a poolside cafe – we sampled delicious freshly cooked scampi , as well as a warming cup of hot chocolate later on. In summer there is plenty room to sit outside and soak up the sunshine.
I’d done a bit of research before leaving home and it also turns out that Stonehaven has an ice cream parlour of some repute called Aunty Bettys. Well, they know a thing or two about icecream ! Quite an unusual collection of flavours alongside the traditional ones – apparently Scottish Tablet and Butterscotch are amongst the most popular ones. If you choose to have “toppings” your ice cream will come bedecked in sugary decorations – and it makes quite an impression. Alongside the ice cream counter is a very well stocked old fashioned sweetie shop.
Travelling by train was perfectly feasible, with direct routes from Edinburgh. Now I’m looking to see where else might make a great day trip.
In years gone by Scotland had the tradition of gathering in a public square to see in the New Year, followed by “first footing” – visiting friends and family. First person over the threshold was preferably tall and dark – the dark hair signifying they were unlikely to be a Viking and “up to no good”. And the traditional thing to bring along was a lump of coal for the fire as well as perhaps, some shortbread, whisky or a dense fruit cake called Black Bun).
Edinburgh’s Hogmanay has come a long way since then, when the crowds gathered round the Tron Kirk on the Royal Mile for the Bells and then faded away. This was largely down to the vision of Peter Irvine, the man behind the Scotland the Best guide book.
By 2014 the event has grown to three days of activities and illuminations to brighten up this darkest time of the year.
The event that heralds the New Year is the torchlight procession. I’ve watched it snake through the town in the past , but have never walked along with it before, as I did this time. It’s an impressive sight, all those thousands of folk with their torches. And despite the fire and the crowds everything passes off safely and with good humour.
The final destination is the top of Calton hill where a huge bonfire was lit. Gazing at it, and in the presence of “Vikings” down from Shetland, I couldn’t help think of those people down the centuries who must have been captivated by similar fires. At that moment I felt aware of some kind of common thread linking us all – right back to those who might have been gathered around huge fires at sites like the mysterious settlement at the Ness of Brodgar on Orkney. It was just magical – no other word for it.
The spectacular finale was a son et lumiere that danced around the whole of the hilltop – from the skies above the bonfire, to the National Monument and the Nelson Monument. To the sound of Skyfall the stars blazed around us , glittered and exploded. A fitting way to say goodbye to a year if ever there was one.
In winter Edinburgh can get pretty dark and gloomy. So its just as well that there are so many reasons to festoon the city with as many lights as possible. In recent years there seem to be ever more, and that is just fine by me. The more lights in the darkness the better.
From the end of November onwards there are more and more lights added until by the time New Year comes the city is a riot of lights.
The Christmas market , ice skating and high flying rides are still in full swing if you fancy a wee whirl into Edinburgh in the next couple of days.
A little while ago, when the days were just starting to shorten , it occurred to me that trying to find a few new routines might not be a bad thing. I settled on a handful of ideas, some I have stuck with, some have fallen by the wayside. But one of the ones that I have kept up is to go for a very short walk first thing. Sometimes even before that all important first cup of tea ! But definitely before breakfast.
I don’t walk very far and there are about three variations that I can make to the route. But even though short , it seems to be enough to blow the sleep away and get me going for the day. Not to mention that I get a little blast of daylight straight away.
To add some purpose into it, I set myself the challenge of coming home with one photo every day too, one photo that I am happy with , that is ! And this also pushes me to look for new angles on what are now familiar vistas.
Apparently arty folk are in particular need of routines and structures – do you have some that underpin your day ?
A little bit of catching up around here is called for. As last year , I paid a visit to the Woonbeurs while I was in Amsterdam for Meet The Blogger. Last year we visited as part of the event , this year I just added it in myself. My favourite part is seeing the different “houses” that the Dutch interior magazines create. Some of them are quite fanciful and while interesting to see do not feel like environments that you would want to live in. Of the three main ones, the one I’d most like to spend time in is the Ariadne At Home house. They had a lot of beautifully styled little vignettes in each room with lovely colour combinations.
My other favourite this time was a bit of a “hush hush” project done by VTWonen. They imagined how the young royal family might like to redecorate their palace. There were so many funny little Dutch details but also quite stylish reworkings of more traditional palace interiors.
And a very cute nursery for the three princesses. They used quite a few of the very popular ceramic dolls by Lammer and Lammer . I’m sure this bedroom would go down very well with the three little girls.
I've been a fan of Uppercase magazine for quite a long time. Yes, its expensive, whether you buy loose copies or subscribe direct, but it is beautifully curated and visually delicious – no matter what the theme. I used to buy the magazine by issue at a local bookshop, but what really helps the magazine to survive and thrive is the subscriber base. And so after I heard Janine Vangool, creator of the magazine, give a talk at Hello Etsy in the Netherlands I just had to subscribe.
If you'd like to hear her , then here is a link. (I couldn’t link directly to her speech – this takes you to the collection of various Etsy videos – you are looking for Hello Etsy 2012 )
So fast forward another little while and I happened to spot that one of the requests for submissions was based on “What colour means to you” – in whichever way that could be interpreted. I couldn’t resist sending something in – and hurray – it was accepted. So if you have a copy of issue 22 see if you can find my little snippet.
To whet your appetite, or introduce you if you haven’t come across Uppercase before, here is a trailer for this issue. If you want to subscribe you can do so here and hopefully the little secret code “roygbiv” is still current and will give you a $15 discount.
I am cooking up some changes and new things at StarryBlueSky / Rhiannon Connelly over the next while – if you’d like to make sure you are in the loop then I’d invite you to subscribe to my studio newsletter – you can do that here , or at the top of the sidebar on the right.
A few weeks ago I hopped down to London for a few days to go to the Blogtacular conference. It was very inspirational and I returned home full of new ideas. I’d also expected that it would have got me back into a blogging routine again, but strangely , that didn’t happen. I think it was because there was so much going on behind the scenes, a lot of online study and a lot of work on the house.
Some people manage to blog right through these things and document changes as they happen. I don’t seem to have the knack for that so much and take time to process and move through things before I am ready to write again.
I won’t do a full review of the conference, because , frankly, so much has already been written, so instead I’ll point you in the direction of the pinterest round up.
Actually, the quality of the presentations did exceed my expectations and there were none that were not interesting in some way. A few favourites were hearing the “Mini Modern” guys talking about branding, Yvonne from Yvestown giving her take on blogging , Anne Ditmeyer from PretaVoyager talking about how she has created a business combining design and travel and Joy Cho from OhJoy talking about how blogging has shaped her own career. As this has included having her own product range and then moving into licensing it was particularly useful. I also really enjoyed Ellie Tennant’s talk on styling and picked up a few tips to try out on the next photo shoot.
If you are a teeny bit sad that you didn’t make it then there is the next best thing – a virtual conference. You can find the info on that here. I have also subscribed so that I can rewatch the talks – it is hard to take it all in at the time, even if you take notes. The two Kats who set up the conference are all set to do it again next year so put that in your diary too.
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