Changing Cityscape

Walking home from the cinema last night, I paused to take some night shots as I walked by the Union Canal in Edinburgh. As I had been to the movies, I wasn’t carrying my tripod, so these were rough, improvised night shots (I’d guess about half of my hundreds of night photos on my Flickr have been improvised), sitting the camera on a railing with the timer mode to steady it for a long exposure.

I took a shot across an empty, dark block, once home to part of the massive Scottish and Newcastle Brewery complex, which used to sprawl over several blocks on both sides of the road, high, dirty walls and stink dominating this part of town (very glad it is gone, also the beer they made was industrial swill for the most part, bleah!). This looks over the final block waiting to be redeveloped, towards the new Boroughmuir High School next to the canal, on the next block along, while on the far right you can see an old, brick industrial building, once the North British Rubber Company (making wellies for the trenches of WWI), later part of the brewery complex, now home to Edinburgh Printmakers:

The New And The Still To Come 01

And here is pretty much the same viewpoint, taken back, also at night, in 2008 – the foreground is just recently cleared of the demolished buildings, but in the background you can see a handful of industrial brewery buildings awaiting their turn for demolition:

old Slateford brewery at night

And here’s another night shot, again shot from pretty much the exact same spot, this one taken in 2016 – the last of the brewery buildings is long gone at this point, and you can see the new school that’s in the most recent, topmost photo here, still under construction, cranes towering over it in the dusk sky. In another few years that remaining gap site in the foreground will be built on too, and again this view will be changed. Perhaps I’ll take a photo of that too.

(as ever, click on the pics to see the larger versions on my Flickr pages)

new rising from the old

Saint Cyprian’s in Autumn

After days of heavy rains and dark, grey skies, for a few hours the sun started to peek out from behind the clouds, illuminating the autumn colours on the trees. Dad and I paused by Saint Cyprian’s in Lenzie – framed by the trees and their changing colours, with the autumnal light on the old stone of the 1873 church it was a rather beautiful scene.

Saint Cyprians In Autumn 01

Saint Cyprians In Autumn 02

The spire on Saint Cyprian’s boasts some handsome gargoyles at the top (if you are wondering about the difference, while gargoyles and grotesques are both sculpted forms of monsters, odd beasts or humans and have symbolic meaning, the grotesques are non-functional, purely decorative, while gargoyles contain water spouts for drainage, usually from the mouth).

Saint Cyprians In Autumn 03

Saint Cyprians In Autumn 04


This charming old doo’cot is part of the estate around Elcho Castle in Fife, just a few miles from the River Tay:

Elcho Castle Doo'cot 02

The inside is slowly being colonised by nature, ferns and creeping plants growing out of the stone nest ledges of this hive-shaped old dovecot, which gave it a particular beauty, I think:

Elcho Castle Doo'cot 07

And looking up through the open roof to the sky beyond I liked the effect it made, and it just seemed like a scene that would work better in monochrome, so I switched to B&W mode on the camera and positioned myself looking straight up to get this:

Elcho Castle Doo'cot 06


I’ve been meaning to take some photos around the gorgeous old cloisters that divide the two main quadrangles in Glasgow University for ages, and as I was visiting nearby Kelvingrove then walking past the Uni with chums on the way to Ashton Lane (a regular haunt from the old days, lovely wee cobbled back street with indy cinema, bars, restaurants and cafes), we paused at the uni so I could get a few shots.

Cloisters 04

Cloisters 01

Glasgow University 04

The Graffiti Project

What do a bunch of famous Brazilian street artists have in common with a historic Scottish castle? Well, they are painting graffiti all over it – at the invitation of the laird. Turns out Kelburn Castle, 35 miles west of Glasgow, was covered with a dodgy rendering a few decades back which is proving detrimental to the ancient stonework underneath it, so it will be coming off in the future. Meantime it provides an amazing temporary canvas for the Sao Paulo Crew to work their colourful designs on. Not often you see a historic castle being redecorated like this – its been on the Scottish news a lot in the last week or two and really made me smile. The month long project has an official site here with lots of pictures and some very cool time lapse videos of them working (when the Scottish weather doesn’t interrupt them).


The massive former Scottish and Newcastle Brewery site a few minutes up the road from me, right next to the cinema Mel and I regularly go to, is being demolished at last – it has been empty for some time (brewing was once big business in Edinburgh, probably why it is such a real ale city, but now it is mostly gone – thankfully the much better Caledonian Brewery is still going strong. This area was popular for brewing because of the pure water from local wells, the so-called ‘charmed circle’ of wells). There have been plans to redevelop it for years and finally they seem to be making progress – the site is so big it goes across both sides of the main road; now one half is totally gone – where the buildings and cooling towers and tall walls were there is just fields of rubble. Quite odd to walk past this spot which was so built up before and now I can see clear across it to the area beyond. Not the first time it has been redeveloped in the last century though, as the old tenement where Sir Sean Connery was born was next to it, but was demolished long ago. In fact, he used to deliver milk around there as a young lad – these days when he comes back to the area it is to walk the red carpet at Film Festival launches; talk about change.

In such a built up area near the city centre there obviously isn’t a lot of opportunity to remake areas, so I’m keen to see them do something nice with such an enormous brownfield site. We’re promised a mix of business spots, leisure and new homes with much-needed open spaces – this part of town lacks some decent open areas because it is so heavily built up. It all ties in with the revamp of the nearby canal, which now has lots of barges on it (some for holidays, some folks living on them year round), new flats overlooking it and waterside restaurants and cafes and a redone towpath for walking and cycling on which Mel and I make use of a lot (beats walking by the busy main road and you can feed the ducks as well as grab some nice photos). Of course, it may end up being a mess as these things can be sometimes, but hopefully they make a good job of it since it is going to be a big part of my local environment (and probably boost the already inflated housing prices) – they’ve put up a website for this new area, which they are going to call Springside and a short video, which also takes in some of the history of the Fountainbridge area.

I wonder if it will actually look like this when done. Always interesting to see something in transition; few years back a major brewery, then empty buildings, now rubble and in a couple of years people will have their homes there – in fact, a lot of people; this isn’t just a couple of old buildings, its a big site and will change the nature of the area a lot. Right now it is just an idea of a place; I think I will enjoy it being translated into a real place – if any part of a city can be said to be truly real, since some of it is always in our impressions of it and our imagination and our memories.

Behold the mysteries of the Great Pyramid revealed!

French architect Jean-Pierre Houdin (I wonder if he is related to the famous 19th century magician Robert Houdin, who later inspired the stage name for Harry Houdini?) claims to have solved the mystery of how the Great Pyramid of Cheops was built – he has a 3-D simulation available online (although you may need a plug-in to make it work and it takes ages to load), which will walk you through the theory or also allow you to ‘free navigate’ the 3-D reconstruction. There’s even a little Second Life-style animated person (presumably a virtual Monsieur Houdin) who walks on to narrate the theory part. Fascinating stuff.