Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Scotland: the beautiful bookshop

 When I was growing up, I could never quite understand my Dad's fascination with second hand book shops. To me, they were incredibly disorganised, higgledy-piggledy affairs, and I didn't know why you'd want to go into a bookshop where things weren't clearly labelled, and where you didn't know what you were looking for. Second hand book shops were, in my eyes, a delay to getting home, or wherever else we might be headed, because it was as though there was an invisible magnet that drew my Dad into any secondhand bookshop in the near vacinity. 

In my teen years, a second hand book shop opened up quite close to my home, and we would always pass it on the route to and from town. I remember the man who ran it, who had a giant beard - the kind that covered his mouth so it looked like he didn't have lips. I remember a friendliness between my parents & him, and cannot recall if that was because they knew him, or because they were such familiar faces in the bookshop that there was always an exchange of pleasantries whenever we were in there. I remember looking at this man with a new-found respect when I realized that somehow, on his old computer found amidst endless piles of books on his desk, he had some system of organisation to the books that appeared to me, to be completely orderless. To think that in his head, he probably knew 80% of the titles in his care seemed quite marvellous. 

Thankfully, as I have grown & changed, so too has my appreciation for second hand book shops.

On our return journey home from Scotland, we had a couple of hours in Inverness before we needed to head to the airport. Tim & Becky (who also seem to have access to the same invisible bookshop-magnet that my Father has) had spotted a great big second-hand bookshop when they had arrived in Inverness at the start of the holiday, and so that's exactly where we resolved to spend the next couple of hours. It turned out that we were a little too keen, and the shop didn't open until 10am, so we pottered down the road to a little cafe & consumed coffee, cake & smoothies until the bookshop opened.

Leakey's Bookstore is no ordinary bookshop. Thousands of books reside here, in this old, beautiful church and we did our very best to soak up as much as we could. We left our luggage next to the comfy sofas upstairs so we  could freely browse. And browse we did.

We crawled along on our hands and knees, inbetween bookshelves filled with row upon row of beautiful books. We breathed in the old familiar smell of books that have lived for more than the sum of our years, and revelled in the history set before us. Oh what fun we had. 

 {Becky & Tim browsing the extensive collection of books printed by The Folio Society}

Sadly, I was only able to buy one book as I was greatly restricted by luggage space, having only taken hand luggage on the plane. Becky,on the other hand, filled her arms with books until she was sure she could not fit in any more.

 {John & a wood burner + plenty of wood for the cold Scottish Winters}

If you ever find yourself with a few hours to kill in Inverness, this bookshop is a must (you'll find it on Church Street).

Scotland: the flora

It seemed that everywhere we went in Scotland, we saw Rose Bay Willow Herb. I don't remember ever seeing these flowers before, and was glad to have my in-laws there to find out the name of the pretty pink plants I kept seeing. I loved their shape, their colour, their great height - basically everything about them. These photos don't really do justice to their beauty.

There's something wonderfully endearing about these black, furry seed pods & the way you can see the shape of the seed through the pod.

Quite simply, beauty-full.

Scotland: the skies

For those of you who regularly visit my blog, or know me in real life, you'll have probably noticed by now that I love the ever-changing skies. The sky is probably one of the things in nature that I photograph the most. Scotland was no exception, so please induldge my love for the clouds & all of their colours for a few moments...

'Clouds always tell a true story, but one that is difficult to read...And clouds are going to go on telling their stories, endelessly and forever.' - Richard Hamblyn

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Scotland: the games

Life on the boat was pretty simple, really. One person drove (mostly Gerald, designated skipper, although we all had little turns here and there), one person kept the skipper company, and the rest of us stayed inside the boat where it was warm & dry, until we were needed at a lock. 

We entertained ourselves with games & reading. Simple, brilliant fun.

Have I told you about bananagrams before? It is one of my favourite games. It's a bit like Scrabble, except it's much faster - each person starts off with 11, 15 or 21 tiles (depending on numbers of players), and you have to make intersecting words with the tiles until you've used them all up. At which point, you shout, 'Peel!' and everyone picks up another tile. Keep going until all the letters are used up. I love it.

See my little elf slippers? I am so glad I took these for extra warmth & coziness
Becky introduced me to Skip-Bo, which is an American card game. Very simple, based on luck as well as a bit of skill. The boys weren't too bothered by this, so most of the time Becky & I would play together. 

We played a lot of Scrabble & Uno too, but sadly, there's no photographic evidence.

And lastly, the most fun game to watch was when the boys decided it was a good idea to go for a swim in Loch Oich. We'd chatted to a local lady at Drumnadrochit who said she wouldn't recommend swimming as the water is so cold, but if we really wanted to, Loch Oich was the warmest place (in the mildest sense of the word) to swim, with the water being about 5 degrees! 

Us sensible ladies didn't need to think twice about not going for the swim, but when we moored and were greeted by three lovely Scottish children running off the pontoon & leaping in, the boys had to follow suit. It was so very funny to watch & hear their reactions to the temperature of the water sapping their body heat away from them!

 Gerald approaching the cold waters of Loch Oich
 John's face as he realizes just how cold it really is
 Gerald, by far the most hardy of the bunch, swimming off into the distance. Meanwhile...
 Ready, steady.....
Tim's face as he let out a roar (quite literally) from the shock

I loved that while you could visibly see the shock & impact of the cold on John & Tim, who swiftly got out and declared how utterly freezing Loch Oich was, Gerald glided through the waters, emerged on shore & pronounced how nice & refreshing it was. The Scottish children we met continued their running & jumping off the pontoon game long after our boys had left the water, and when we revisited Loch Oich on the return journey, they were still there, still jumping in, again & again, making many happy childhood memories.

the blue shack

One of the regular activities which took place on our holiday was running. Five of the group are in training of the Bristol Half Marathon, and being on holiday didn't mean a break from running. 

When we had moored at Loch Oich, Tim, John & I went for a run on a track alongside the Loch. After darting here & there, jumping over the tree roots that were sprawled across the path, we came across a little blue shack. We wondered aloud whether anyone lived there, although it looked pretty shabby & like it had been a long time since it had been loved. Tim poked his head round the door & spotted a sleeping bag with some empty beer cans, and the smell of wood smoke greeted him, before he withdrew to tell us what he had seen. 

When you were a child, did you ever see old, derelict & deserted buildings & wonder what it would be like to venture inside? I remember that feeling of avid curiousity - was there anyone living in there, and if so, would they eat me alive or shout at me for trespassing?

The feeling of nervous excitement & caution coursed through our veins as we toyed with the idea of venturing inside, wondering who or what we might find. Our intrigue overruled caution and we ventured in. Although there wasn't anybody in there, I still felt the need to creep around on tiptoes, holding my breath as I went, as though the emptiness of this little house commanded an unspoken reverence for its history.

Here's what we found...

 paper thin floors
 I wonder when this little oven was last used

 I loved the fabric of this blanket, despite the dirt

a teeny tiny bedroom that I could only just stand up in

One of the curious things about this little shack is that there was a kitchen, bedrooms, living rooms, but no bathroom. We pondered why this might be, then as we emerged back into the sunlight outdoors, I heard the sound of a rushing waterfall behind me and looked at the Loch in front of me. This shack was surrounded by water. Who needs a shower when you have a waterfall?

Monday, 15 August 2011

The Great Glen

We're back from a week spent in the Highlands of Scotland, travelling on a boat along the Caledonian Canal.

Our week was buffered with glorious sunshine & filled in with buckets & buckets of rain.  

As you can imagine, being somewhere as beautiful as Scotland meant that a lot of photos were snapped. So as not to overwhelm you, I'll be sharing some of my favourite images over the next few days.

The Loch's & the Locks

 Loch Ness

Loch Ness at dusk

Loch Oich
 A very wet Sara at Fort Augustus
Me & Gerald, soaking up the Scottish rain
 my favourite person pulling our boat through the lock on a very rainy day
{the butcher in the background made the most delicious pies - we went there twice & loved the Scotch & Bridie pies}
some of us didn't have adequate footwear for the slippery stones, so when it rained, we went barefoot
 Becky ensuring we stay alive in the lock
 Tim manning the ropes & the sun gleaming on our lovely cruiser, the Taransay III