The Raft Race Returns!

Last weekend saw the return of Raft Race and the Edinburgh Canal Festival for the first time since before the Pandemic years. I was at the very first Raft Race, taking photos back in 2007 (I hadn’t realised how long ago it actually was until I looked back at those photos and saw the date taken).

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It started as a fun Raft Race, with people building wacky designs (sinkings were common and still are – part of the fun!), and over the years evolved into the local Canal Festival. We had a warm, sunny weekend for it (you can’t take the weather for granted for outdoor events in Scotland, even in summer!), and a lot of folks turned out to welcome it back. I met several friends to watch it, two of whom had never been to it before, so this was all new to them, which of course made it more fun.

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Despite the warmth and sun, it was very, very windy – this wee raft was the only one I saw with a sail, which I imagine was as much for decoration as anything else originally. But with the strong wind, and fortunately for them, in the correct direction for the race, they scurried along at a great clip! Lucky!

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It’s not the Raft Race until someone ends up in the drink!!!

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This chap in costume, with the recumbent bike approach to his design, was going great guns, handily ahead of the others… until it broke down and he was trying to fix the pedals and chain as the others caught up and passed him. They all got big cheers anyway.

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As you can see, it was a pretty busy day, and everyone was having fun, cheering on the rafters. I think we were all just enjoying being able to hold these events again after the last couple of very difficult years.

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There was also live music – this lady in the pic above was playing her violin under the stone arch of the old bridge over the canal at the bottom of Viewforth, which gave amazing acoustics. Others played by the side of the canal or even on passing boats!! Insert pun here about performing Handel’s “Water Music”!!!

Water Music

Making Music 01

Making Music 02

As ever, if you click on the pics you can view the larger version on the Woolamaloo Flickr photo stream.

I Do Like to be Beside the Seaside

Very windy but sunny and warm day off, met with chum and his old hound, off down to Portobello for a stroll. Despite being a weekday it was still quite busy, when among the folks on the beach, something caught my eye – a woman in a totally white costume, with a white inflatable ring with an animal head around her waist, trotting down the beach, then joined by a man, also in a white costume and clutching an inflatable palm tree.

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The pair of them then ran down towards the shoreline, where they were joined by another chap with a camera, so I imagine it was some sort of photoshoot, although I have no idea what for. Still, it was a wonderfully odd thing to just come across and grab some pics of – hope their photos for whatever it was come out too.

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A little further long the beach we spotted something else that was rather delightful: someone had created a wee sculpture of the TARDIS and a Dalek, mounting them on the post of the wooden groynes that run along the beach periodically, to help stabilise the sands. I do love when artists create something like this, then leave it somewhere public so anyone who spots it can enjoy it – certainly made us smile!

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

Fun on the Water

Sitting on a bench by the side of the Union Canal on a very fine evening, reading. Hear some splashing, look over and see a kayaker coming along, enjoying the spring evening. Managed to grab the camera for some very quick pics as he came towards where I was, then turned as he passed and saw a traditional “Indian” style canoe coming the other way.

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They both moved over to give each other plenty of space, passing with friendly smiles and waves, all enjoying a very welcome evening of warm sunlight after several days of rain and wind.

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And while we’re on the canal theme, here’s a nice bookend to my recent photos of this year’s new cygnets – this year’s new ducklings on the Union Canal! All looking unbelievably cute and fluffy, also looks like I caught one of them here mid-quack!

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As ever, click on the pics to see the much larger version on the Woolamaloo Flickr site (now over 24, 000 photos!)

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New Life

We’ve reached that time of year when something rather wonderful happens: I heard a few weeks back that our resident breeding swan pair on the Union Canal had nested, laid their eggs, then hatched them. The main nest is along near Wester Hailes, but the pair claim a roughly five mile stretch from there right into the city centre where the canal ends at Lochrin Basin.

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Well, as you can see from the photos taken on a canalside stroll, the we cygnets are now strong enough to start swimming up and down that range of canal with Mama and Papa Swan keeping a close eye on them. I’ve been waiting for them to be strong enough to start going up and down the canal, and had heard from a friend they were around our area the previous night. I went for a stroll the next day, not really expecting to see them, assuming they would have drifted back down the way before I was there. I had reached the final section of canal and given up on a chance of seeing them – with them moving up and down several miles, it is pure luck if I happen to be walking by a section they are in at the right time.

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I paused at the Watershed, the floating cafe-barge moored by the old Leamington Lift Bridge, and as I was waiting for my coffee, I happened to look over – and there they were, the Swan Family, happily bobbing around in the water right behind the barge. Just when I had pretty much given up for that day and assumed I had missed them, that they had already headed back down the canal, there they were. I’ve taken photos of their broods each year going back quite some years now, but it still always makes my heart sing to see them with their new cygnets, especially when they are at this size, just adorable, fluffy, beautiful little creatures, sticking close to Mum and Dad.

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I’m so lucky to have this just a few moments walk from my flat, and right in the middle of the city. Always cheers me to see this little annual miracle of nature, then to try and follow them through the next few months, taking more photos of them as they grow into adolescents, before one by one they fly away to start their own lives. So many people out walking or cycling by the canal stopping to admire them, it really does brighten the world for many of us.

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They swam back along a little further, then up through the reeds onto the opposite banking, a spot the mother and father know well and often use as a temporary nest for the little ones to rest for a while before heading back along to the main nest. As ever, click on the pics to see the larger versions on my Flickr.

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Snow day

Light snowfall overnight, woke up to cold but bright winter morning, snapped a few photos on the way to work:

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Holy Corner (so named because it has a church on all four points of this busy junction) was looking especially beautiful on this February, just a small amount of snow, but draped across the roofs, chimneys and ledges, outlining them in white against the slowly rising winter sunlight, had to grab a couple of photos on my way into work. The Italiante architecture of Morningside United Church (where Eric Liddell, whose story was told in the Oscar-winning Chariots of Fire, worshipped – one of the stained glass windows still commemorates that Olympian) looked especially handsome.

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City of Night

Being December, it is now dark here well before four in the afternoon; while most people bemoan the very few, short hours of daylight we get in our wee northern kingdom at this time of year, I rather like it and tend to use it to get some nocturnal shots of my city.

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Project Coffee After Dark 01

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Project Coffee and Cafe Grande after dark, in the Bruntsfield area of the city. There’s something about the dark, winter night outside and bright, warm lights and people inside the cafes and diners and bars that just cries out for a good black and white photo. Slightly rough as these were all taken freehand on the way home from work, so no tripod with me.

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Fountain Bar at night, Fountainbridge

Blue Note

Blue note: corner shop lit up brightly against the winter night, Fountainbridge.

Ghost By The Steps

“Ghost” strolling near the benches by the Union Canal. I love the way long exposures capture the surroundings clearly, but a moving person or object becomes blurred and translucent, like a ghostly, spectral figure, which sometimes quite suits the photo.

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Festive Barge 02Homes With A View

Golf Tavern At Night

Tenements overlooking Bruntsfield Links, one of the ancestral homes of the game of golf (there's still a putting green there right in front of the apartments). Always coveted one of these flats, but way out of my price range. The old Golf Tavern can be seen on the far right of the upper pic, and a closer view of it in the second pic.

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Theatre Crowd

Busy junction at Tollcross at night, and the King's Theatre, with a crowd waiting to go in for a show.

Cinematic Nocturne

Cinematic Nocture: people waiting at the bus stop under the marquee over the entrance to the lovely, old Cameo Cinema. I miss marquees on most moden cinemas, to me they were always part of the magic, all lit up, the regularly changing signs telling you what films were screening, I like that the Cameo still has it.

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Edinburgh Castle during a light show, seen above and behind the old Victorian tenement buildings around Bruntsfield Links and the Meadows, because you just get views like this in Edinburgh as you casually stroll across a park path after work...

Dreich Night

Walking back from my long-running book group on a cold, very wet winter’s night through the New Town, I was heading for the bus stops on Princes Street late evening. Despite the pouring rain and the hour, there were still a few folks going around the festive market on the Mound and Princes Street Gardens, most clustered around the food stalls.

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As I was coming from my book group, I wasn’t carrying my tripod, so all these night shots were freehand, with the zoom, in the rain – not exactly ideal situation for taking nice, clear, sharp shots, of course! But you take wat you can get with street photography, which left me with a choice of rough shots or nothing. The way the rain and the lights made the streets glisten was too irresistible though, so I fired off a few shots – perhaps the roughness of the shots actually suits this kind of night street photo (even if it doesn’t though, it was all I could manage with what I had!).

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(as ever, click on the pics to view the much larger version on my Flickr)

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:

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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

Autumn calls

Despite some sudden bursts of very fine weather, summer is most certainly giving ground to the approach of autumn here now. Even if we get a warm, sunny day, the shadows are longer, and the sun sets earlier each evening, and when it does the temperature drops a lot quicker than it did in the middle of summer, while the early mornings are noticably cooler. But the light, on a sunny day at least, is now moving towards that glorious golden quality, while the leaves are turning on the trees, right now at that beautiful mix of still some leafy green mixed with increasing golds, reds and browns, and every day there are more fallen leaves along the pavements (yes, I have indulged in my first kicking a pile of dry autumn leaves into the air of the year, it has to be done).

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The chestnuts are now large on the old tree leaning over the wall of the nearby boneyard, the boughs heavy, the conkers about to fall to the ground below (sadly the days when schoolkids grabbed them to play conkers with seems to be long gone, but it’s still nice to see this annual sight).

Autumn Apples
Autumnal apples approaching full size, hanging over a garden wall on my route home from work, sparking a sudden childish desire to go scrumping. And yes, I did say that partly because I wanted an excuse to use the word “scrumping”. As ever, click on the pics to see the lager versions on my Flickr site.

Life by the Canal

The last couple of months have seen the usual yearly increase in wildlife along the Union Canal, not far from my flat in Edinburgh. Ducks with fluffy wee ducklings, the Moorhens and their little chicks calling to them among the reeds, and of course our resident breeding mute swan couple who have been on this stretch for some years now, with their 2021 brood of cygnets, which have gone from smaller than my hand a few months ago to almost as big as Mama Swan now. As ever click the pics to see the larger sized versions on the Woolamaloo Flickr page.

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It’s rather wonderful to have all this, right in the heart of a major city, we’re very, very fortunate to have it on our doorsteps, little slices of natural beauty in the middle of the urban jungle, a once polluted, dirty, industrial waterway now home to pleasure craft, houseboats and a great refuge for wildlife.

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Of course, all this wildlife attracts the attention of the local apex predators!

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And naturally it is a great place for Edinburgh citizens to enjoy a stroll by the water and to see the wildlife (always makes my day a little better to see the swans and ducks and their young). Some don’t even just stroll by the water – this chap stretched out in his canoe and let it idly drift while he snoozed happily in the warm sunshine!

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Others prefer to walk, cycle, or run alongside the canal, or simply sit by it in the sunlight, or read. I like to walk along to the floating cafe-barge, The Watershed, and get a coffee and flapjack there, sit by their open air tables by the water with my latte and a book before walking home. Great stretch for a wee promenade.

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Tired

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The Thinker

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I can teach you to skateboard!!! I love the look of joy on their faces.

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Serious Cyclist

Future's So Bright I Gotta Wear Shades

Pause the walk for a rest and coffee and a read at The Watershed, the floating cafe-barge by the old Leamington Lift Bridge.

Coffee, Camera, Book

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A Year Ago Today – Deserted Streets

On my Twitter feed I often have a look through my huge Flickr archive of photos to see if I took any photos on this day in previous years, and tweet a few of them. Today I noticed the ones I took on 21st March 2020, a year ago today. I was coming home from visiting a friend on the other side of town; we both knew the Lockdown was coming very soon (it was announced just a couple of days later) and this might be our last chance for a visit for a good while (we had no idea then just quite how long, of course, none of us did, we were all still thinking a few weeks, a couple of months perhaps).

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It was around ten or eleven on a Saturday night as I crossed Lothian Road near the Filmhouse. This area is full of restaurants, bars, cinemas and theatres, and so you can imagine on a Saturday evening it is extremely loud and busy. And here it was all but deserted, a couple waiting for a bus and that was it. The Lockdown hadn’t quite started, but the bars, restaurants, cinemas and theatres had all already closed; continental Europe was being ravaged by Covid-19 and cases were climbing alarmingly here. People were scared, streets were empty, places closing; the storm was about to break over us.

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It was disturbing to see my city so empty of people on a Saturday night; it was just a preview of what was coming over the next few months. Lockdown hit two days later, we left our bookshop wondering when we would be back, when we would see one another again, when we would be able to see our friends and family again now everything was closed and travel not allowed. We were thinking some weeks, perhaps a couple of months, nobody had any idea just how bad it would be and how long it would keep going for. Over the next few months on furlough I walked the streets of my beloved Edinburgh, and as always my camera went where I did, documenting this strangest time in the city.

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On a sunny Easter bank holiday weekend, when the city should have been bursting at the seams with tourists I could stand in the middle of the Royal Mile, devoid of people and traffic, to take pictures, I saw perhaps three or four people on the Esplanade in front of the Castle where normally it would be packed with tourists. It was beyond disturbing, unsettling to walk around this magnificent, old city and see hardly a soul, the very occasional bus going by almost empty. Sounds like the footsteps of the postie delivering mail became a source of reassurance, that some normality still existed. I could hear the music from 28 Days later in my head as I walked through utterly empty Old Town streets, my city, like others all round the entire world, was a ghost town. I’ve seen more people around the town at 4am walking home from the film festival than I did on those strange, spring days…

As I write this a year on we’re still in a second Lockdown after another wave of infections, although the vaccine roll out is giving some hope, and restrictions should slowly ease next month. But in Europe many are experiencing a third wave of infection and the worry is that we may too (as spring weather returned last week I saw large groups of students gathering in the Meadows, flagrantly breaking the Covid restrictions on numbers and distancing, which fills me with anxiety as this is the sort of thing that can lead to more spikes in cases).

We’re now in a very strange mix of fear and hope; it must be a cousin to the strange morass of conflicting feelings those who endured the last war felt. I want to do normal things again. I want to hang out with my friends. I want to sit in a cinema, a pub. I want to be able to go home and see my dad. And we’re all in the same boat.

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No Passengers Today

Please keep washing your hands and wear a mask and distance. And don’t dare tell me that doing that infringes your “freedom”. It doesn’t, this isn’t about you and your selfish needs if you think that way, this is about trying to protect everyone around us, our friends, families and communities: you wear a mask to help protect everyone around you; do your bit. We will get through it.

Everything Is Going To Be Alright