Sunday Football Monday, Jan 12 2009 

11 January 2009
My wife went out to hunt & kill some fabric with a girlfriend today. I took advantage and did some male-bonding of my own down at the local watering hole, No Frills Grill. In the company of 30 or so men of varying ages I watched several hours of NFL playoff action.
The Bar
Now, I’m not an overt, and certainly not rabid fan of American Football. I think it’s over-encumbered by a set of rules that is so byzantine you damn near have to have an eidetic memory to know all the ins and outs. I find that that reduces my enjoyment a great deal. I do, however, find the coaching strategies fun to watch and enjoy the action – in between commercials.
Cheers.

~KR (Written on 12 January 2009)

Listening to:
Let’s Go to San Francisco by The Flowerpot Men
from British Top 30 – 1967

Camera: Canon PowerShot SD850 IS
Exposure: 0.25 sec (1/4)
Aperture: f/2.8
Focal Length: 5.8 mm
ISO Speed: 800
Exposure Bias: 1/3 EV
Flash: Flash did not fire

Rahr Boundry Monday, Jan 12 2009 

10 January 2009
On 31 December 2008 we said goodbye to a long time employee at AA. This man did all the shite work that goes with any job. He was available 24-7 to answer any questions from the field and generally make my job easier. One of the primary things he did for us was enable us to have weekends off (barring any catastrophes). With his departure so goes my free weekends.
So, on Saturday, I woke up at 0700 to prepare reports and participate in the daily operational conference call. These are things I do during the week so it’s not a hardship…except that it was Saturday. I took the call, fired off the reports and settled in to watch some good footy on the telly only to fall asleep during a Serie A match (Italian football). My wife roused me with the words every husband longs to hear, "Darling, would you like to go have some beer?" 😉
Well, of course I would. So, we jumped in the motorcar, picked up our darling friend, Kelly, and went on down to the Rahr Brewery for same frothy adult yumminess. I took this photo on the way out.
Rahr Brewery Boundry Fence - Tilt Shifted
I did some post-processing on it to achieve what’s called Tilt Shifting. It’s a current meme and I really dig the look. The colour-enhancement coupled with a very narrow focal band tricks our mind into believing that it’s a macro shot of a diorama. Cool.
Cheers.

~KR (Written on 12 January 2009)

Listening to:
You Only Live Twice by Björk

Pencil Sharpener Saturday, Jan 10 2009 

9 January 2009
I tend, when on vacation, to buy souvenirs for others not myself. I content myself with the informational booklets picked up at historic places, beer mats obtained at bars to satisfy my tegestological urges and photographs. However, in the gift shop of the Radisson Edwardian in London I saw a miniature red British phonebooth pencil sharpener.
Iconic
Long before Flickr was even a dream, and digital cameras were far from the norm, I took a trip to the U.K. On that trip, my photos were concentrated around this particular British icon. Since then, I have received British phone boxes in numerous forms from friends and family. I suppose I could almost be considered a collector of them. So, when I saw this utilitarian pencil sharpener, I just had to buy it for myself. Now, it sits on my desk next to my laptop.
Cheers.

~KR (Written on 10 January 2009)

Watching:
Newcastle v West Ham United at St. James’ Park
Score 0 – 0 at 18:00 minutes

Camera: Canon PowerShot SD850 IS
Exposure: 0.125 sec (1/8)
Aperture: f/2.8
Focal Length: 5.8 mm
ISO Speed: 100
Exposure Bias: -1 EV
Flash: Flash did not fire

Subway Friday, Jan 9 2009 

8 January 2009
14 Days
14 Cities
32 Pubs, 4 Hotel Bars, 3 Restaurants, 2 Parks, 1 Brewery
74 Different Drinks (Beer, Wine, Cider & Mead)
and today…Subway.
Subway Melt
I must be home.
Cheers.

~KR (Written on 9 January 2009)

Listening to:
Blue Jeans and a Rosary by Kid Rock
from Rock & Roll Jesus

Camera: Canon PowerShot SD850 IS
Exposure: 0.125 sec (1/8 )
Aperture: f/2.8
Focal Length: 5.8 mm
ISO Speed: 100
Exposure Bias: 0 EV
Flash: Flash did not fire
Software: picnik.com

Kenilworth in Black & White Tuesday, Jan 6 2009 

6 January 2009
I’m sitting in a hotel room (the Radisson again), having just repacked all of my luggage for the return trip. We had a pleasant dinner of breaded plaice washed down with a good pint of John Smith while watching the unfortunate result of the Tott*ham v Burnley Carling Cup match. All of this on the heels of an otherwise lovely day.
When we got up this morning, it was a very brisk -5 degrees Celsius outside, but sunny. So, we went on up to Kenilworth Castle. Kenilworth, from all reports, is one of the largest set of Castle ruins in all of England. I must say, it was pretty remarkable.
Kenilworth Castle
And, being there on an early January morning gave us the place nearly to ourselves. Almost all of our photos are untainted by the casual tourist. Unfortunately, my camera batteries died early in the visit even though I had charged them the night before. So much for grey-market batteries, eh? So, the first half of our visit is well-documented, the second half…considerably less so (although my wife did take a lot of photos, too).
From Kenilworth, we drove on in to London. I had to make a quick stop at the Cargo facility. After all, even on vacation, duty does call. I met with the guys there for an hour or so, then we continued on to Bath road to secure lodging for the night. We are at the same Radisson Edwardian Hotel in which we started our Hogmanay journey and in a very similar room. We started off in a different room, in a different wing, on a different floor. However, Hotel issues with plumbing (boilers went out) and our issues with smoking rooms, places us in the 3rd room of the night and here we will stay. For tomorrow we must depart and return to the home of our birth if not necessarily the home of our heart.
Thank you everyone for following along with us, for encouraging us and for allowing us to share our journey, our love, our passion for this country with you.
Cheers.

~KR (Written on 7 January 2009)

Camera: Canon PowerShot SD850 IS
Exposure: 0.01 sec (1/100)
Aperture: f/8
Focal Length: 5.8 mm
ISO Speed: 100
Exposure Bias: 0/3 EV
Flash: Flash did not fire

Peebles and the Borders Monday, Jan 5 2009 

5 January 2009
We rose early, had breakfast, bade our friendly hosts goodbye and stepped outside – into a Winter paradise. The sun was shining down, but everything was covered with a glorious layer of beautiful frost. For the next 2-3 hours we were treated to this spectacular, breathtaking display of nature’s glory as we wound our way through the Scottish Borders.
We did stop for a couple of hours in Peebles, placing a well earned break in the middle of the day. It was there that I took this photo of the Church of Scotland’s Old Parish Church of Peebles.
Peebles Kirk
After doing a bit of shopping and a bit of dreaming and a whole lot of wishing, we clambered back into the motorcar and pointed it southward. We were still driving through the borders and still marveling at every twist and turn in the road. The sheer power of the scenery was breathtaking and neither photography nor the greatest eloquence can describe what Mother Nature accomplished with her canvas on this day.
Eventually we wound our way to a major motorway, drove around Manchester, skirted Birmingham and eventually found our way to Kenilworth. We had dinner in an incredible 500 year old pub called the Famous Virgins and Castle (the locals call it the V’s). Now, we are relaxing in the face of the penultimate night of our journey. Tomorrow will be faced with a mixture of dread, fear, despair and a small amount of happiness. We will end the day in a big, probably faceless, corporate hotel just off airport property where we will repack and prepare for our return home. We are sad, but right now we are still here and delighted to be so. Thanks to everyone for following along with our journeys.
Cheers.

~KR (Written on 5 January 2009)

Camera: Canon PowerShot SD850 IS
Exposure: 0.003 sec (1/400)
Aperture: f/2.8
Focal Length: 5.8 mm
ISO Speed: 80
Exposure Bias: 0/3 EV
Flash: Flash did not fire

Waiting at the Post Saturday, Jan 3 2009 

3 January 2009
In a departure from our travelling norm, we are staying at a hotel rather than a Bed & Breakfast. We made the decision when we arrived in the small village of Bridge of Allan on the outskirts of Stirling to visit the Bridge of Allan Brewery. The brewery, like most businesses in Scotland, had taken the day off. So, we went inside the adjoining hotel on a lark to inquire as to cost and availability. To our delight, the General Manager gave us a rate (that included breakfast) that was on par with, indeed a fraction less than, B&Bs in the area. So, although the building exterior is antiquated (Victorian, I believe), the interior has been gutted several times and currently is very art deco with a splash of Danish modern. What it is, is comfortable. So comfortable in fact that by the time we got up and finished breakfast (good, but not as good as what Erlend had been providing at #2 Cambridge Street) it was closing on noon. We walked to the only Post Office in town, bought the necessary postage, then spent the next half hour affixing all the stamps to the postcards and mailing them.
Waiting for the Master
(This photo was taken as I re-entered the Post Office to help affix the postage. The well-behaved, beautiful, if aging Spaniels were waiting patiently by the door)
By this time the pubs were open, and I stopped in at the bar inside the Adamo Hotel to get a pint of Lomond Gold from Bridge of Allan Brewery. Upon receiving the pint, I also received the invitation to visit the lounge in the adjoining room to watch the Hearts v Hibernian derby on Setanta Sports. This is a match to which I’d been trying to get tickets for four days. But, as the Tynecastle Stadium only holds 17,800 people and the tickets were going for upwards of 400 quid it had proven to be nearly impossible. Therefore, the invitation proved irresistible. My wife soon joined me and we made acquaintance with a charming individual, Euen, who is moving to Dubai in the next few weeks. Perhaps I’ll take his place here in Scotland. 🙂
When the game was over, a disappointing nil-nil draw, we walked over to the Bridge of Allan Brewery where we engaged Craig (the keep), Douglas (the brewmaster) and Mack (a displaced Iowan) in conversation and beer drinking – The Glencoe Wild Oat Stout is exceptional. Dinner at the Allan-Water Cafe followed by a quick pint at the Crooked Arm and then it’s time for a journal entry. So, here I am.
Cheers.

~KR (Written on 3 January 2009)

Watching:
Barcelona v Mallerca (1 -1 at 58 minutes)

Camera: Canon PowerShot SD850 IS
Exposure: 0.008 sec (1/125)
Aperture: f/3.5
Focal Length: 10 mm
ISO Speed: 800
Exposure Bias: 1/3 EV
Flash: Flash did not fire
Software: picnik.com

Edinburgh Castle at the New Year Friday, Jan 2 2009 

1 January 2009
The year begins with my wife and I on extended holiday. We arrived in London on Christmas Day and wound our way North so as to be in Edinburgh for the 4-day Hogmanay Celebration. Today, the first day of 2009 is the final day of the Hogmanay Celebration and incorporates a new festival into the Hogmanay fold. "Feet First" is the celebration and is an immersive, interactive two-block stretch of Performance Art and frolickry. Since it is brand new, absolutely no one knew what to expect and we were all amused and bemused by the entire thing.
We started our day by walking Castle Terrace around the castle and up to the High Street followed by a slow amble down High Street onto the Royal Mile and all the way to Holyrood Palace. Across from Holyrood Palace stands the new Scottish Parliament building which caused no small amount of controversy upon it’s erecting. An offhand, somewhat derisory, comment to our host at the B&B we’ve been staying at was met with patient explantion as to how & why it is what it is. I sit corrected & educated for which I am grateful.
We walked back up the Royal Mile looking for a place to sate our appetite for it was nearing on 1500. Eventually we did find a place that not only was willing to cook, but still had food to cook. So, we ate and drank at the Tass there on the Royal Mile. From there, we did a bit more shopping on our way back to the Castle. Once at the Castle, we strode the Esplanade and took a number of photographs as we waited for "Feet First" to start.
Edinburgh Castle by Night
Just before 1900, we started back down to the enclosed area for "Feet First" where we had a grand time for the next two hours. As I stated at the beginning of this blather, it was a series of interactive performance art and installations. It gradually swung from cool, to surreal to downright strange and then back again. The weather being benign (not rainy and above freezing), the crowd was large, energetic & friendly. But, after four days we’d had enough. We grabbed a Scottish burger and some chips at a trailer and strolled back to the B&B. We had packing to do after all. It was the end of a glorious four-day adventure the likes of which I may never experience again and the memories of which I hope never fade. Thank you for letting me share.
Cheers.

~KR (Written on 2 January 2009)

Camera: Canon PowerShot SD850 IS
Exposure: 1 sec (1)
Aperture: f/5
Focal Length: 18.6 mm
ISO Speed: 400
Exposure Bias: 0/3 EV
Flash: Flash did not fire

Happy Hogmanay! Thursday, Jan 1 2009 

31 December 2008
Happy Hogmanay! & a Happy New Year!
My goodness what a day. I don’t know how to begin to describe the emotions, the feelings, the sights, sounds, smells & noises. Overwhelming in a word, but comfortable in a sense. There was an absolute vibration that permeated every aspect of every physical being throughout the city.

We walked the length of Princes Street nearly to Calton Hill before deciding we were famished. We had done some shopping along the way, picking up last little oddbits we’d promised people but were well and truly peckish by the time we’d settled into a beautiful little pub called the Guildford Arms just off Princes street tucked away in a little corner of Register Street. As it turns out, this was another pub on my list of “must visit” pubs that I’d simply forgotten about. But, the selection of Real Ales here was, to put it plainly, astounding. We stayed here people-watching, pint-drinking & postcard-writing for a number of hours.

By the time we were ready to leave, Princes Street had been closed off, evacuated and re-opened for the Party in the Streets: The largest New Year’s Eve Party in the world (or so it’s billed). With our wrist bands (the street party ticket) on and our Concert tickets in hand we walked into a smallish, but vibrant throng of people. The true crowd (in fact, the largest crowd ever for a Hogmanay event in Scotland) was still on its way.
Ferris Wheel
(This is one of many carnival rides set up for the event. This ferris wheel dominates Princes Street right next to the Walter Scott Memorial Tower. I had a very difficult time settling on which photo to use for the day but finally chose this one.)
We walked the length of Princes Street before deciding on some more food before taking our place in the Garden Enclosure. We ate our Scottish Beef Burger (with mustard and brown sauce) on the way into the Gardens, stopped at the beer trailer for a Red Stripe (the only beer available) and took our place against a centuries old Oak tree where we could see crowd, castle & concert. What an extraordinary event. The castle sent fireworks up once an hour to mark the hourly countdown; the bands on the stage played shortish sets in between firework displays; the crowd grew larger & larger and drunker & drunker as time went by (outside Bourbon Street in New Orleans, I’ve never seen so many stumblers in one place). Groove Armada, the headliners for our stage, began their performance at approximately 2320. They played right until 2357, when they went silent, the stage went dark and a Master of Ceremonies came forward to kick off the countdown. At exactly midnight, the Castle simply erupted in a three minute fireworks barrage the likes of which I have never seen before. Immediately following, the largest Auld Lang Syne choir (all the ticket holders) ever assembled began the singing of the traditional song belting it out in pure raw, beautiful emotions that even as I’m writing this many hours later brings a tear to my eye and bumps to my flesh. As the final refrain ended, a lone piper emerged on stage and piped “Flower of Scotland” – the crowd went rabid crazy and sung louder and more fiercely than ever before. Groove Armada joined the piper on stage in the dying skirl and renewed the concert in a furious flurry of sound and emotion. I cannot do justice to the power of the event with mere words, it simply must be experienced. Now, some hours later, I’m awake and still trembling with exhaustion from the sheer emotional toll of the event. This has truly been one of the most brilliant events of my life.
Slainte Mhath!

Cheers.

~KR (Written on 1 January 2009)

Camera: Canon PowerShot SD850 IS
Exposure: 0.3 sec (3/10)
Aperture: f/4
Focal Length: 14.3 mm
ISO Speed: 400
Exposure Bias: 4/3 EV
Flash: Flash did not fire

Torches Pass the Balmoral Tuesday, Dec 30 2008 

29 December 2008
We left the Oaks Hotel in Alnwick (the castle of which, I am told, had substantial Harry Potter scenes shot here) and headed coastward on the A1. The drive from Alnwick to Edinburgh takes you through some truly superb landscape; it’s no real wonder that early man settled this area. Plenty of arid land for agricultural endeavours and easy access to both winding burns and creeks and the North Sea. It’s very definitely a windswept area and I was glad of the constant “Sidewind” warning signs along the road. We stopped once to fill up with Diesel at .99p per litre (somewhere near $7.00 per gallon if I did my numbers right), once more when we drove near enough the coast that we could see Bamburgh Castle and one last time at the First & Last pub on the Scotland/England border (on the Scottish side). We had promised our B&B hosts a 1500 arrival and after fighting horrible Edinburgh traffic (between visitors arriving for Hogmanay and the roadworks all over the place as Edinburgh puts in a city-wide tram system, how could it not be horrible?) we pulled into a slot in front of #2 Cambridge Street and gave the door a few hard knocks. Our fascinating host, Erlend, greeted us warmly calling us by name and invited us in. The road in front of his absolutely fabulous flat is private so after unloading quickly, I drove the car across the street to the carpark. We enjoyed a quick spot of tea with Erlend and Helene then walked on up to the Royal Mile (Erlend headed to the library, so accompanied us part of the way). The Hogmanay torchlight procession is held two nights before Hogmanay each year. The Council sells torches for charity and invites all torch-bearers to march from the City Chambers on High Street to Calton Hill via the Mound, Princes Street and Waterloo street. Marita Beth and I chose not to march in, but instead to marvel at the magnificent procession. We started on High Street with all the marchers, but we took a different path to Princes street. By the time we got to Princes Street (approximately midway along the processional route) the Vikings that headed the parade had already begun the assent of Calton Hill. Looking back South and West, we could see the Mound and the steady stream of torches still coming down it. It was truly a sight to behold. We stood on Princes Street and goggled at the sheer number of people bearing torches. For a full 20 minutes we watched; the Vikings crested Calton Hill and still there were people marching down the mound. This lasted long enough that Marita Beth and I wended our way back up North Bridge, up High Street to Bank Street where we roosted to watch the remainder. The last torches were just exiting Princes street onto Calton Hill as we settled in. We did miss the end on Calton Hill where they burn a Viking ship in effigy as it was on the far side of the hill; but even from our vantage point a great ways away we could see the massive bonfire and we did have a most excellent view of the fireworks display. Balmoral Hotel & Torchlight Procession (The photo is of the tochlight procession as it passes the Balmoral Hotel on Princes Street – this is not where we are staying; we are staying somewhere much better) After the incredible display, we returned to the B&B where Erlend offered to escort us to a free park zone some ways away. Since we had long ago decided we wouldn’t need a car while in Edinburgh, this was eagerly agreed to (the price for parking at the Castle carpark is £18.00 per day) and off we went. It’s a ways away, but in a safe zone near a police HQ. We returned to the B&B in Erlend’s care and visited with them briefly while MB showed off some of the photos from the torchlight procession. Then, it was off to bed. Exhausted, and very, very happy. (I’m sure I’ve left stuff out, if I remember bits, I’ll update) Cheers. ~KR (Written on 30 December 2008 )

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