The weather: a comparison

This seems to have been doing the round on the web and passed around by email:

50F degrees
People in southern England turn on the central heating
People in Edinburgh plant out bedding plants

40F degrees
Southerners shiver uncontrollably
Glaswegians sunbathe on the beach at Largs

35F degrees
Cars in the south of England refuse to start People in Falkirk drive
with their windows down

20F degrees
Southerners wear overcoats, gloves and woolly hats Aberdonian men throw
on a T-shirt; girls start wearing mini-skirts

15F degrees
Southerners begin to evacuate to the continent People from Dundee swim
in the River Tay at Broughty Ferry

Zero degrees
Life in the south grinds to a halt
Inverness folk have the last BBQ before it gets cold

Minus 10F degrees
Life in the south ceases to exist
People in Dunfermline throw on a light jacket

Minus 80F degrees
Polar bears wonder if it’s worth carrying on
Boy Scouts in Oban start wearing their long trousers

Minus 100F degrees
Santa Claus abandons North Pole
People in Stirling put on their ‘long johns’

Minus 173F degrees
Alcohol freezes
Glaswegians get upset because all the pubs are shut

Minus 297F degrees
Microbial life starts to disappear
The cows in Dumfriesshire complain about farmers with cold hands

Minus 460F degrees
All atomic motion stops
Shetlanders stamp their feet and blow on their hands

Minus 500F degrees
Hell freezes over

Snowy hills

In the Campsie Hills (an extinct volcanic range north of Glasgow – my parent’s home has a great view of them) a couple of weekends ago with dad taking some photos; snow lower down had melted, snow on top of the hills and bens was still there, the streams and burns full of ice and the wind bitterly arctic. Still beautiful though and the weather didn’t stop people going out for a good walk on the hills as we passed quite a few.

The iron road to the Highlands

Early yesterday morning I caught the train for Inverness to cover a brand-new comics convention for the FPI blog. Crossing over the mighty Forth Bridge (I can’t remember going over that since I was a kid, usually I’m going over the nearby road bridge) the train went along the Fife coast to begin with, curving around past Burntisland, giving great views right across the Firth of Forth where you could see all of Edinburgh in profile, the Pentland Hills behind the city dusted with snow and an orange glow behind them as the early morning winter sun struggled to rise above the hills. As the train turned further inland the rolling hills of Fife were sprinkled with snow too, while the rich farmland between them was mostly snow (although not ice) free.

(click the pics to see the full size version on the Woolamaloo Flickr stream)

However, as I got further north, heading up past Perth, Pitlochry and further, the snow went from a light sprinkle to deeper, purer, whiter. As we got up into the Highlands proper and the Cairngorms national park it got colder and ever more spectacular. The view from the train window was quite simply spectacular: snowbound forests (fallen trees with their skinny, snow-covered branches looked like the skeletons of some long-spined creature), rivers swollen and fast-running with recent rain and snow runoff from the mountains, except where the water had frozen fast into ice.

Deer ran lightly through the snow; as the train past one field I saw a young buck, couldn’t have been more than two years old, bouncing through the snow and off into the treeline. There were a number of football fans, all loaded up with beer, on the train (I think their match ended up cancelled because of the weather) but even they grew quiet, totally taken in with the astonishing beauty of the Scottish Highlands passing outside their window to the clickety-clack, clickety-clack beat of the train on its rails. You can feel the pressure on your ears as the train begins to climb steeply – it isn’t as clear from the view but your body can feel it as the train pulls you ever higher into the land of mountains.

I haven’t been up that far north in years, not since going on a few ski trips many moons ago and that was driving so you don’t get to appreciate the view quite so much. Sitting on a train with a great big window you could just watch all of this slip past, one of most scenic parts of the whole of Europe just sliding past my window. God we’re so lucky to live in this country – next time any of us moan about our weather we should think about these scenes then realise just how utterly beautiful our mountain kingdom is.

Two sides of the Castle

Going to work a few days ago, south side of the Castle as the bus goes through the Grassmarket, home to old inns where Burns once stayed. At this time of year in Scotland the sun is so low in the sky it doesn’t clear Castle Ridge in the early morning, so from the New Town side on the north it is silhouetted with the rising sun behind it. But from the southern view that same low sun, stretched out to a golden copper as warm as the morning air is frigid, washes across the ancient wall and makes the native stone glow with life against a clear, pale blue sky.

This morning, the north side of the Castle, looking from Princes Street, the battlements in shadow as the low sun hides behind the Ridge. Everything is covered in hard frost, from the plants in the valley of the Gardens below the volcanic mount to the walls of the Castle, glittering in morning light, sparkling as if millions of tiny diamonds had been dusted over the city. Beautiful.

Blue, green, gold

Suddenly after a depressingly bad summer (even for someone like me who is allergic to strong sunlight) we’ve had a sudden burst of sunny, warm weather, very summer like; the beaches by North Berwick were packed at the weekend. Ironically as we have this sudden splash of warmth and sun as we move into September and autumn – instead of light until late into the night the darkness is falling earlier each night and as soon as that sun goes down its cool, a coolness that whispers of the change of seasons and the autumn and winter knocking on the door.

Looking up from my book on the way home this evening the sky was the most beautiful shade of blue, glowing with light, the trees in Princes Street Gardens and the side of Castle Hill still a deep, lush myriad of green hues, a brilliant contrast against the blue, long, long shadows stretching out as the slow autumnal sunset drifts into golden beams. When we do get dry, sunny days at this time of year it really is a golden time in Scotland, the sun moving further round the horizon from its position of summer dominance so that now its light is stretched out to softer, more golden-copper tones. And here and there among the still-emerald foliage the odd leaf slowly turning brown; within a few weeks they will all being to turn, crisp, brown and red, fluttering to the ground and I’ll go running through the piles of leaves and kick them in the air because you’re never too old to enjoy that.

And just a few more weeks on from that it will be dark by the time I come home, the deep darkness of winter as the wheel of the seasons turns. My breath will mist in the frigid air and frost will sparkle on the bare branches. And again I’m not sad as some are when summer turns to autumn to winter because I love the seemingly eternal cycle of the seasons; each has its own transitory beauty and each connects us to nature and our world. When the long darkness falls it also means watching my cats contentedly sleeping in front of the fire’s flickering flames, the lights of the Winter Wonderland, the wonderful warmth of a friendly pub after walking in from a cold, dark night, the simple delight of hot, homemade soup after a cold walk. Then the spring will dawn again behind that, then back to summer and Festivals once more. How quickly they seem to go past and yet how everlasting they feel. Goodybe to another summer, welcome to another autumn in its golden crown.


S n o w!

At last, after a mild, mild winter which just ain’t right (like msot Celts I’m suspicious of any winter where I don’t have icicles hanging from my ears, it makes me feel something is deeply wrong) we’ve been hit with some serious winter weather. Some good snow over Edinburgh today, but then it started to clear up just before I went home. Lucky me, it started snowing heavily as I walked home. Walking in snow is fabulous!