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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Vid - Edinburgh Raft Race 2022 01

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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

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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)

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...

Autumn reflections

In a quiet loop of the River Forth just outside Stirling, dad and I found late afternoon – just an hour or so of daylight left on the short, winter’s day now – on a bright day was perfect, casting golden light, with the still water creating some wonderful reflections of old, rotting boat hulks on the muddy banks, some nearby industrial buildings and the Ochil Hills.

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In the distance in this one, you can see the tall, Victorian-era Wallace Monument, which celebrates the life of the great Scottish hero of the Wars of Independence, Sir William Wallace, whose greatest victory was at Stirling Bridge, not far from this spot.

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The Ochil Hills were catching the lat hour of daylight, the sun so low in the skies now it was stretched out to a beautiful, honey-gold colour. The river was very calm, this loop fairly far from the main roads, so also quiet and peaceful, just the sounds of the birds on the river.

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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

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.

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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).

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A day by the Forth

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Since the new lockdown restrictions mean I am not allowed into the family home if I go through to see dad (but we can meet outside in a busy cafe or bar?? Doesn’t make a lot of sense to me…) we met partway and had a day out in South Queensferry, then I had a wee wander around Linlithgow on the way back to the train home. Naturally I was taking photos while I was there ambling through the town and along the mighty Firth of Forth, and of course, the bridges (especially the Rail Bridge, which I think is a wonderful landmark as well as a gem of Victorian engineering)

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The Forth is, as you can see, not just a majestic piece of scenery on the Scottish coast, or home to much history, it’s still a working river, with gas and oil tankers in particular passing up and down it, or loading and unloading at these offshore terminals, helped by tug boats

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Autumn is knocking on the door

Autumn Whispers Quietly in the Ear of Summer

Walking in the Hermitage of Braid today, near the foot of Morningside (Miss Jean Brodie country). The trees are still mostly resplendent in their verdant coat of summer greenery, but Autumn, Autumn is whispering in Summer’s ear “my turn is coming….”

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Just outside the Hermitage, over a tall wall of an expensive house, the branches of its trees were laden with the autumn bounty of apples. And me there without my scrumping ladder to grab any…

Lockdown Photo Journal

We were allowed one single, solitary exercise walk during the height of Lockdown. For those living alone this was especially hard, essentially meaning being isolated at home for the bulk of the day and evening, so those walks were important to my mental health as well as physical. Of course where I go the camera goes, and that was another way for me to cope with the months of stress and depression during Lockdown, documenting my city during these strangest of times

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Coming home from the last visit to a friend before Lockdown – even though the official announcement was still a day or two away at this point, the cinemas and bars and restaurants had already closed. Saturday night on Lothian Road, lined with bars, restaurants, two cinemas, two theatres and a concert hall all nearby, a place I would avoid late on a weekend evening because it is so busy with drunks, and here it was, the only other people I saw a couple waiting on their own for a bus home. It was eerie and unsettling to see this normally busy, lively area so quiet – I have seen more life there at 3am walking home from a late night Film Festival show… This was a harbinger of how my city, and countless others around the world, would soon become.

Thank You NHS

Back in late March, early days of Lockdown, little traffic, the normal noises of the city mostly absent, and a haar had descended on the city, as it often does here, the mist rolling in from the mighty Firth of Forth, adding to the sense of quiet and fear. On this day as I walked Princes Street I saw the digital advertising billboards on the bus shelters had all been changed to “Thank you to our amazing NHS staff”, one after the other after the other progressing down this normally bustling street.

Rebus Will Not Drink Here Today

The famous Oxford Bar, where Ian Rankin’s fictional Edinburgh detective from his Rebus novels likes to drink, as does the author himself. Closed like the other bars. His birthday fell during Lockdown, so Ian took a bottle of beer and a glass, walked to the Ox, poured his pint and had it standing outside the closed pub.

Viva NHS

Rainbows in windows and on the streets, and support for our NHS workers were everywhere. As with other nations the health professionals were overwhelmed, and in addition they were in the front line so even more vulnerable to infection, and the risk of bringing that home to family (some simply didn’t see their families for ages to minimise travel and risk). And still they looked after us as best they could.

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Bright sunny spring day – the Blue Blazer bar in the foreground, the western flank of Edinburgh Castle atop its great volcanic rock in the background, Both closed.

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Normally bustling George Street in April sunshine, all the fancy, expensive shops closed, no shoppers, no tourists, barely any traffic.

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The top of the Royal Mile on a bright spring day. This should be heaving with tourists, instead barely a soul to be seen. As I walked the eerily deserted streets that would normally be so busy I kept hearing the music from the film 28 Days Later in my head. Much as we moan about legions of tourists it was, frankly, scary and unsettling and disturbing to see my city like this, still a glorious, grand old dame on a day like this, but with nobody there to admire her save me and my lens. An uncanny feeling to be able to stand in the middle of the road in this UNESCO world heritage site and be able to do a 360 degree pan with the camera safely because there was no traffic…

The Distance Between Us Keeps Us Safe

Ladies having a socially-distanced safe chat early in Lockdown, in the grounds of the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. I should have been enjoying the Ray Harryhausen at 100 exhibition there of this wizard of cinema, a movie maker who filled my early cinema going with sheer wonder. But the galleries were closed – the grounds remained openk so I walked to them often, enjoying the sculpture gardens.

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Empty Old Town Streets

The Grassmarket, right below the Castle, normally packed with locals coming and going and many tourists, stag and hen parties and students enjoying the many bars and restaurants. Some of the inns here were centuries old when Robert Burns came to stay in them. Now empty, just me and my camera, some of the old pubs boarded up as they were worried about vandals or looters early on, which added to the strange empty feeling of the city.

All Closed

Cockburn Street in the Old Town. Just a few years ago Hollywood was in town shooting scenes for the Avengers at the top of this street. Look at it here…

The Tired Expression Says It All

Quick, street shot from the hip, lady early on in Lockdown carrying her groceries home during the period when a lot of shelves were empty and some items hard to get, adding to the overall feeling of worry, stress, fear. Not a technically good shot, being hurriedly shot from the hip, but it captured that oh so bloody tired of it and wondering how long the road would be feeling, I thought.

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Hardware store on Morningside Road, one of the few businesses still open. Nobody allowed in during Lockdown, so they had a screen at the door, people socially distanced in queues outside, waiting their turn, then asking for what they needed, it would be brought to them at the door and they would pay by contactless card. This would become a model later on as Lockdown eased a little more, my own bookshop did this sort of “click and collect” until we were allowed people back inside in the last couple of weeks (with many safety rules implemented).

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Cycle shops stayed open too, peforming much needed maintenance – many took to bikes to avoid what was still running of public transport (to avoid more possible infection vectors). Bus drivers and trams kept going on reduced service here, props to those who kept them running for those who had to keep working and needed the transport, while the bike shops made socially distanced queues and saw people at the doors for repairs and advice to keep them going too. I noticed most bike shops also had air pumps and water outside so cyclists could use them if needed without coming in, just a nice little extra but of help being offered to the community.

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A Tunnel of Cherry Blossoms 02

Not all doom and gloom though, nature kept ticking away regardless of the worries oppressing the human world. The cherry blossoms performed their annual magic, something always lovely to see, but this year oh so much more special and wonderful and needed. As I was lining up this shot of the “tree tunnel” in the Meadows I hadn’t noticed these young, masked women had spotted me and posed for the shot!

Cathedral, No People

Saint Giles Cathedral and Parliament Square, with not another soul to be seen. Normally so many tourists here, some sitting on the steps in the sun, resting their feet, lawyers coming and going from the nearby High Court and the Advocate’s Faculty. Not now. I’m not used to seeing it like this, it was upsetting and worrying, but again mediating it through my camera lens helped a bit, and I was determined to document my city during this time.

We Are Observing Social Distance

Safe, social distanced chatting in Princes Street Gardens. My walks brought me here often as a place to rest mid-walk before going home. With almost no traffic the sounds of the birds in the Gardens was so much more obvious and wonderful, while the spring weather meant they were perfumed with the scent of blooming flowers, all of which helped me cope with the endless days of isolation and worry.

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As the months passed a few places re-opened doing takeaway only coffee, like this one in the Meadows. My god the luxury of being able to buy a coffee again, even if you had to take it outside, the first brew I hadn’t made for myself in weeks and weeks. The simple pleasure of being able to buy a cup of java then sit in the park with it…

Spread Out For Safety

Socially distanced walking, jogging and cycling on the Union Canal at Fountainbridge. I avoided the narrower parts of the canal walkway – not enough space for social distancing, and if people left space between walkers then joggers and cyclists would go right through the safe gap, huffing and puffing as they did, which was alarming under the pandemic conditions, so I stopped walking those areas and only using the segments like this where there was more room for everyone to be safer.

Just One Passenger Today 02

Single, solitary passenger waiting for a tram at what should be rush hour, in the Haymarket area, next to bus and train interchanges, should have been packed with commuters, but this time just one chap.

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Dominion 02

Cinemas closed even before the official Lockdown. Normally see several films a month and it was very strange to go so long without being able to see the silver screen (yes, I can watch at home, it isn’t the same experience), and this incuded my annual sojourn at the world oldest continually running film fest, the Edinburgh International Film Festival, which didn’t happen this year, of course. The closed and shuttered cinemas were stuck in time, their posters advertising current and coming attractions from just before everything stopped, like a time capsule. This is the family-owned Indy cinema The Dominion in Morningside.

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Some made use of local green spaces – while I walked with the camera or sat on a bench in the parks to read for a while, others were performing their yoga exercises on Bruntsfield Links, or learning to juggle.

Life Among the Flowers

God, how important nature was to many of us in lifting our spirits – the return of life and colour and light in the spring is always welcome after winter here, but this year it was so badly needed to help us remember there was still magic and beauty to be found.

It's a Quiet Springtime This Year 02

So few people in the earlier parts of Lockdown even in the heart of the city in Princes Street Gardens, just below the now closed Castle.

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Masked and hooded in the Gardens during Lockdown.

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Some were fortunate enough to have someone to hold their hand during this long, dark, isolating time.

Hello, There

Mask and Turban

Mask or turban, which to wear today….

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Operatic Vid

We had to look for any small win, any little thing to cheer ourselves. One bright day, walking alone in the Meadows, I heard a beautiful voice singing arias, and found this young woman. I hadn’t heard anyone busking in weeks, let alone singing like this. The birds chirped in the trees above as she sang, voice clear, soaring out and up into the branches above to join those birds. I sat under a tree and listened, it was so sublime and wonderful and magical I cried at the beauty I had so unexpectedly found. It reminded me of the moment from The Shawshank Redemption where Tim Robbins’ character breaks the rules to play an opera piece over the prison tannoy, and everyone stops, all those locked within the walls lifted by the beauty of the song and the music. Oh god, it was just beautiful for a few, precious moments.

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Masked trio strolling the Union Canal during Lockdown.

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Taking Shelter

Masked in the Mist

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The haar returned as spring became summer and Lockdown rolled on. Despite the weather I went walking – I had to get out even for a while, and besides, it is more like walking through a light cloud than rain. Naturally I took photos and video clips as I walked. Edinburgh looks wonderful, draped in this soft, silken blanket…

Water Music

As the weather rurned to warmth and sun, more were out walking, some found good spots, like this chap sitting by the old Leamington Lift Bridge to play his guitar in the sunlight.

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It's So Tiring 02

With little road traffic much of what was on the road was cycle couriers, working round the clock delivering meals – with restaurants closed only home delivery was available, and these guys were criss-crossing the city all the time. I would see them in the same few spots on my walks, where they had found areas to grab a quick, much-needed rest. Many were clearly exhausted.

Dalry Road, Midsummer Night 02

Sring had turned to summer as Lockdown went on. I went out for a stroll on Midsummer Night and took a few photos. This was after eleven at night, an hour after the summer sun had finally set, but in Scotland at Midsummer the skies just don’t really get dark. Even after the sun goes down there is a long, faerie light of twilight, the sky remains aglow and by 3am the sun is already rising again. We are not in the land of the mmidnight sun, but we do overlook their front lawn.

Keeping the City Tidy

Even during Lockdown the city had to be kept clean. While many of us were furloughed the bin lorries still came round, the street cleaners still picked up the litter and made our city look nicer.

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The concrete monstrosity of the multi-storey car park which previous generations of town planners allowed to be constructed right next to the Castle (what where they thinking??). Horrid, brutal structure and jarringly out of place where it is, but during Lockdown, totally empty of cars, and shot in black and white, it looked photogenic. I nipped in during a walk to snap this thinking I may never see it empty like this again…

Grassmarket Slowly Returns To Life 02

Grassmarket Slowly Returns To Life 01

The pubs re-open with strict distancing and safety rules next week, but the beer gardens and pavement cafes re-opened just a few days ago in Scotland (where Lockdown rules have been more cautious – as they should be – than those rules enacted by Westmonster down south). It was odd to see the Grassmarket like this, still quiet by what normal standards would have, but at least some life, compared to the deserted, boarded up scenes I shot a few weeks ago in this spot.

I shoot so many photos each year, and took even more during Lockdown, partly to document the times in my city, partly as one of my coping methods. I was also live tweeting video and photos as I walked, as a sort of “virtual walk” for those who couldn’t get out at all to enjoy, and several people got in touch to say they appreciated that and that those pics and videos helped them when they were confined, shielding, which made me feel a bit better, at least something postive had come out of it, however little. My photos went past the 21,000 uploads mark on my Flickr during Lockdown, and my daily views shot up as people were stuck inside, often looking online for diversion, so I hope those too helped some people pass the long, Lockdown days.

Books Are Back

We’re still in the early easing of restrictions here, on guard, they could change if more infections appear, but let us hope not. I am back to work, we can let people in – carefully – to our bookstore once more, which is wonderful. Two of our very young readers even dressed up in costumes for their first visit in months, which made us happy. Things are still so uncertain, many places will simply not re-open, those that have will have to struggle and adapt to new ways of doing things, but at least we are back.