Wildlife

I took a long walk along the Water of Leith at the weekend with a chum. It’s always a delightful stroll – the river runs through the city, quiet paths, trees, running water, birdsong – essentially it offers up a countryside walk right in the city.

Heron On The Water Of Leith 01

Heron On The Water Of Leith 04

This weekend’s stroll came with the added bonus of seeing a lordly heron, overseeing its kingdom, standing by the weir just below the back entrance to the Gallery of Modern Art. The few times I’ve been lucky enough to see a heron on the river before, they normally stand stock-still, just watching everything. This time, however, it started walking around, with that peculiar, long-legged gait, so I snapped more photos and some video (thankful again that my old but serviceable camera has a decent, big zoom lens to get a bit closer)

Heron On The Water Of Leith 05

Vid - Heron on the Water of Leith 1

Vid - Heron on the Water of Leith 2

Le Monde Sans Fin exhibition

Le Monde Sans Fin Exhibition
Institut Francais D’Ecosse, until 10th May (free)

I’m sure some readers even in the Anglosphere will be familiar with the name Christophe Blain,  the Angoulême-winning (for Isaac the Pirate, and, with Abel Lanzac, for Quai d’Orsay) French comics creator who has also created works with some of the greats of the Franco-Belgian bande dessinee scene, such as Lewis Trondheim and David B. For Le Monde Sans Fin (World Without End), published in 2021 by Dargaud, Bain collaborated with environmental scientist Jean-Marc Jancovici to explore one of the burning issues that hangs over the heads of every person on our planet, a Sword of Damocles of our own making – climate change, its impact, our own responsibility for it, the truths and distortions over the arguments made on climate change, and what we can potentially do to help decrease the serious consequences.

The album has been an enormous best-seller in the French language for Dargaud, selling in excess of 800, 000 copies, a figure most of our friends in the English-language comics world can only dream of. The free exhibition is fairly small, just one room, but still very much well worth a visit if you are in Edinburgh (the Institut Francais is in the French Consulate, which is in a handsome building right next to historic Saint Giles Cathedral, right by the Royal Mile). It has been arranged quite cleverly – instead of just reproducing artwork from the pages, or presenting initial sketches next to finished works, we are taken around the room, broken into four sub-themes from the book, plus an introduction and conclusion:

Introduction – Le Monde sans fin

Thème 1 : L’énergie a façonné notre monde actuel (How energy has shaped our world)

Thème 2 : Le Climat : qu’est ce qui va arriver ? (Climate – what is going to happen?)

Thème 3 : Notre alimentation a un impact (Our food makes an impact)

Thème 4 : Sans avion, sans voiture, on va se déplacer comment ? (How can we get around without using planes and cars?)

Each of these section showcases panels with Jancovici explaining the issues and problems to Blain; Jancovici is shown in a more realistic fashion, while Blain depicts himself in a far more cartoony version, large-nosed, reminding me just a little of Dupuy and Berberian’s Monsieur Jean character. This continues in the discussion panels – while the text and illustrations convey serious information in an accessible manner, Blain lightens the mood a little (this is, after all, very heavy subject matter) with his own cartoon avatar with touches of visual humour here and there, which I appreciated (also some of those single panel images were just some damned nice cartooning, a single depiction of his character getting over several ideas from one picture in a way anyone would understand).

Walking through the various displays effectively takes us through a capsule version of the book, seeing the scientist and artist engaging in a conversation, Blain’s character our everyman stand-in, there to ask the needed questions that Jancovici tries to give him in a way that is understandable to anyone. Yes, it can be quite heavy, and of course it can easily lead to a certain fatalism and despair that I’m sure many of us have experienced when considering this issue, not least the feeling that governments in collusion with greedy giant corporations will obstruct changes we desperately need to stave off disaster for as long as they can make obscene levels of profits, consequences be damned.

But, as I said, Blain tries to temper this with some smile-inducing cartooning worked into the seriously heavyweight discussion, and there are are also hints in there that yes, we have made a mess, we’re still making it, but we’re an adaptable, clever species and if we put our collective minds and wills to it, we can change things. It’s one of the most important issues facing us globally today, and one which will impact generations to come even more, so it is important reading and no bad thing to invite informed contemplation of the issues. We were talking to a member of staff, who mentioned to us that the reactions children visiting had was very different to the adults – the children mostly looked at these issues then, with simple child logic, asked if we know these are the things going wrong, why don’t adults just fix them? A good question…

Le Monde sans fin by Jean-Marc Jancovici and Christophe Blain is published by Dargaud, with an English-language edition coming from Particular Books in September 2024. La Belle Adventure, who helped with the exhibition, are currently running pop-up stalls at the Leith street market and the Stockbridge street market in Edinburgh, while hoping to open a permanent shop selling French and English-language graphic novels (I was lucky enough to buy some French BD from them recently); meantime you can follow them on Instagram. My French is far from perfect, so apologies for anything I didn’t translate quite right here! While the exhibition itself is in French, there are also accompanying English-language translations.

This review was originally penned for Down the Tubes

Taking the night tram

I rarely use the trams in Edinburgh, as the nearest stop is almost twenty minutes from my apartment (and I can walk to Princes Street in twenty-five). However, the redesign of Leith Walk and the big roundabout at the top at Picardy Place has made road traffic a horrible, slow, frustrating mess – I can get a bus from right by my flat, right down to Leith, but that bottleneck is so frustrating that on the return I decided since a tram stop was right outside the venue I was in, I would get it back, dismount at Haymarket and walk the twenty minutes, as it was still better than the almost direct bus that gets screwed up by the council’s Escher-like designs for the road traffic system around the top of the Walk.

Night Tram 01

And of course, since I was down there, I decided to take some night shots, because where I go, the camera goes too!

Vid - Night Tram

Tram Stop At Night 01

Tram Stop At Night 03

Dark nights, bright lights

Dark along the Union Canal, by Harrison Park, but the night lit up by the festive lights strung along the lovely, old boathouse, reflecting in the dark, nocturnal waters

Festive Boathouse 03

Vid - Two Wheels In The Night

Coming out of the side doors of the National Gallery of Scotland, which opens out into a lower part of East Princes Street Gardens – the festive market was going on up on the higher path levels, and the colourful lights of the giant Ferris Wheel were reflecting on the wet paving stones in front of me, in a smeared, rainbow reflection, like an oil slick on a puddle

Colourful Reflections

Looking across the open square in front of the Usher Hall, towards Lothian Road, just after winter sunset. You can see the curving glass wall of the modern extension to the Hall on the far right, reflecting back some of the scene

Lothian Road, Dusk 07

Waiting on the night bus, Lothian Road

Lothian Road, Dusk 06

Sitting in front of the Usher Hall – I was just setting up this pic, using the tiny, mini tripod (only 3 inches high, with bendy legs, fits right in my satchel), when this couple sat down on the stairs near me. I actually quite like the way they add to the scene.

Sitting Outside The Usher Hall

Nocturnal scenes

With it now being dark by four in the afternoon, I tend to take a lot more night photography around this time of year, which is something I have always liked doing since I was a kid with my first cameras. There’s something about the way the camera sees a city at night, drinking in the available light on a long exposure to show more than the naked eye sees, the way the long exposure turns passing people into translucent blurs, like ghosts walking past your lens.

Victoria Street After Dark 03

Victoria Street is one of the prettiest in Edinburgh, which is saying something in this remarkable city. It curves steeply up from the Grassmarket, below the Castle, to George IV Bridge above, and along the way it showcases the many levels the tall, old, historic buildings of the Old Town are contructed on as they descend the steep, volcanic slopes of the ridge they are based on, running down either side of the famous Royal Mile.

Victoria Street After Dark 04

The Last Drop

The Grassmarket on a winter evening, taken with the wee, mini-tripod (just 3 inches high, bendy legs, small enough to go in my satchel) to steady the camera. Situated on an open square right below the Castle, at the bottom of the Old Town, this area contains many old pubs, most of which were old even when Robert Burns stayed in them, and started off as coaching inns centuries ago (a couple still have the larger entrance next to them for carriages to go round the back for the night).

Grassmarket At Night 03

Grassmarket At Night 04

Grassmarket At Night 07

Crispy Potato Skewers

Steam rising from hot food on a cold night at the festive market

Christmas In The Quad 01

Christmas tree in the handsome quadrangle of the Old College building

Christmas In The Quad 02

Biblos 01

Biblos cafe, bar and restaurant at night, Southbridge

Biblos 02

Bento

Bento noodle shack after dark (above), Southbridge at night (below)

Southbridge After Dark 01

Noodles Or Pizza
Pizza or noodles???

Christmassy Cockburn Street
Beautiful Cockburn Street with its festive lights – this street curves down from the Royal Mile to Waverley Bridge and the railway station below.

Edinburgh After Dark

As we move through late November and towards December, it is now dark here before four in the afternoon, so I have a bit more time for some night photography!

Malt Shovel
The Malt Shovel pub at night, on the steep, curving Cockburn Street, which links the Old Town to the New Town

Cockburn Street At Night 02
Cockburn Street after dark

Cockburn Street At Night 01
The bottom end of Cockburn Street, viewed from Waverley Bridge

Night Crossing
Lady waiting to cross the Royal Mile at night

Nocturnal Telephonic Trio
Classic British telephone boxes at night, on the Royal Mile

Royal Mile At Night 04
Looking towards the junction of Southbridge with the Royal Mile

Royal Mile At Night 01
Looking down the Royal Mile at night

Remembrance

Dulce Et Decorum Est

Garden of Remembrance at night, Princes Street Gardens. In the background you can see the historic Bank of Scotland building lit up red for Armistice Day (see closer up shot in the next pic). As ever you can see the larger versions on my Flickr.

Lit Up In Remembrance

Crafted Remembrance
hand crocheted poppies decorating the railings outside Gorgie Parish Church for the Remembrance Weekend.

Edinburgh After Dark

Tempo Perso

With autumn coming in and night falling earlier each evening, I have been trying out the camera on my new phone, which has a much better low-light camera than my previous one. While obviously not as sharp as using my big camera on its tripod, I’m fairly impressed with these freehand phone camera night shots.

Dreich Night 06

Dreich Night 05

Dreich Night 04

Rather dreich evening in the Old Town!

Dreich Night 03

Dreich Night 02

Dreich Night 01

Princes Street At Night
Princes Street at night

Time To Head Home

Evening tram

Teuchters After Dark
Teuchters pub at night, West End

Future’s So Bright…

Future's So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades 03

I study nuclear science
I love my classes
I got a crazy teacher
He wears dark glasses
Things are going great, and they’re only getting better
I’m doing alright, getting good grades
The future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades
I gotta wear shades
I’ve got a job waiting for my graduation
Fifty thou a year’ll buy a lot of beer
Things are going great, and they’re only getting better
I’m doing alright, getting good grades
The future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades
I gotta wear shades
Well I’m heavenly blessed and worldly wise
I’m a peeping-tom techie with x-ray eyes
Things are going great, and they’re only getting better
I’m doing alright, getting good grades
The future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades
I gotta wear shades

Timbuk3.

Future's So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades 02

Future's So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades 01

Strolling By The Canal 013

People watching along the Union Canal on a very warm, sunny, spring evening, so many people in sunglasses, which always makes me think of the classic 80s pop song, “Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades” by Timbuk3.

Strolling By The Canal 06

Strolling By The Canal 04

A Trip to the V&A

I finally got to visit the new V&A museum and gallery which opened on the riverfront of Dundee recently, which included an enjoyable train trip up from Edinburgh, which takes you across both the massive Forth Rail Bridge and the Tay Rail Bridge to cross both huge firths. The Tay Bridge, while not enjoying the iconic status of its southern cousin on the Forth, has an eerie side to it – as you cross, if you look out the south side of the structure you can clearly see the line of the remnants of piers, which once held up the first Tay Rail Bridge.

Vid - Crossing the Tay

I snapped these two out of the train window, so they’re not the sharpest

Bridging The Tay 04

Bridging The Tay 03

That bridge was an engineering marvel of the age, the designer was knighted for his works, Queen Victoria even travelled over it returning on the Royal Train from a stay at Balmoral. However on December 28th, 1878, a huge, gale-force winter storm struck the Tay, and it transpired that it hadn’t really been designed to take that force hitting side-on to bridge and train. A passenger train was lost as the bridge collapsed, taking sections of bridge and the train with it, seventy five people plunging into the cold waters below, all lost. The replacement bridge runs right alongside the original’s route, but was, as you can imagine, built to be far sturdier, and remains in service to this day. The remnants of the first bridge’s piers now remain like tombstones, a ghostly reminder to all who cross the bridge of the one that was there before.

The V&A Dundee is a striking building, right on the riverfront, next to the famous polar exploration vessel Discovery and its own museum, and right across from the train station, so pretty perfect for visitors to the city.

The V&A Dundee 01

The V&A Dundee 03

The V&A Dundee 04

The V&A Dundee 07

The V&A Dundee 08

It’s an impressive space inside, two main wings, with a lot of open space, windows often giving sudden glimpses of the bridge, the silvery Tay (the most powerful river in the British Isles) and the tall ship, Discovery.

The V&A Dundee 05

The V&A Dundee 06

Vid - The V&A Dundee

The V&A Dundee 017

There are permanent exhibits, many global, but also a good selection that reflects the culture, arts, crafts, industrial, scientific and engineering history of Scotland, with some there drawn from its host city Dundee’s own history, as well as travelling exhibitions (the current one is on tartans).

The V&A Dundee 016

(above: the Oak Room designed by the great Charles Rennie Mackintosh for Miss Cranston’s tea rooms. Below: the Kinloss Psalter, a beautiful illuminated work though to date from between 1500 – 1530 CE)

The V&A Dundee 012