Category Archives: Places

Inchcolm Island and Abbey



Yesterday I had big plans to do lots of work-related writing, but then the weather was so fantastic I thought we’d better make the most of it (we probably won’t get many more weekends like this for a while!), so we headed out east to Queensferry and caught the Maid of the Forth ferry to Inchcolm Island, one of the islands in the Firth of Forth. Some folk from Ship of Fools had had a meet up there a few months ago, but as I was marking essays that weekend we didn’t go that time, but the photos convinced me I really did want to see it at some point. The island is home to Scotland’s best-preserved medieval abbey (it is 12th century, Augustinian) and also some gun batteries from the two world wars as the Forth islands were all used as defences, as there was so much nearby that were potential enemy targets (Edinburgh, the Forth Bridge, and Rosyth shipyard for starters). It takes about half an hour on the boat, they then drop you off for about an hour and a half then come and pick you up again. It is plenty of time to explore the abbey and the eastern side of the island, and I felt even with around 200 people on the island that it was really peaceful there. I’m definitely keen to go back sometime!

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I took loads of photos, a selection of the best are in this flickr set.

Our holiday

We’ve been back a couple of weeks, but I realise I haven’t really blogged about what we got up to at the end of July.

I was already in Sheffield with work, and HD had a stag do there conveniently, so we started off in Sheffield, and then went on to see friends in York. This was meant to only be for 1 night and then leaving in the morning, but unfortunately Mercutio the Megane needed a bit of repair work, so we ended up in York for a bit longer than originally planned. We did reach our intended destination by the evening though, we spent 3 nights in lovely Whitby.

Whitby harbour:

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The following day was HD’s birthday, and we spent the day on the North York Moors Steam Railway. The tile shows the route we took, from Whitby to Pickering – it was through such beautiful scenery, it was lovely:

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Once we got to Pickering we had lunch and then spent an hour or so looking round the very interesting Beck Isle Museum of Rural Life before heading back to Whitby later:

IMG_8394 (near the museum – this just looked like picture postcard England!)

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The next day we explored St Mary’s Church and Whitby Abbey. It is all very atmospheric, and no surprise to anyone that Bram Stoker set part of ‘Dracula’ in Whitby.



I wonder if Dracula had to walk up the 199 steps though, that might have worn him out a bit and caused him to do a bit less damage! Afterwards we went on a boat trip just out of the harbour on a replica of one of Captain Cook’s boats – it was a bit choppy!



After we left Whitby we headed to my parents’ place, but on the way we came across Kirkham Priory. As we are Kirkhams this was very exciting – I don’t think we could stake much of a claim on it though, so I guess we’ll leave it in the capable hands of English Heritage!


At mum and dad’s we celebrated my dad’s birthday, a month and a half early but they are going away for a few days on the day so we went for a meal while we had the opportunity. We don’t see them that often, but it was really lovely and relaxing and they were on form. Dad has bought himself a concertina that he is trying to teach himself, so that will keep him (relatively) quiet and out of mischief for a bit!

The final weekend was a different adventure, we ended up on an archaeological dig at Flag Fen, a Bronze Age site near Peterborough. The dig was arranged through crowd-sourcing, so all the participants (novices like us right through to old hands) paid to participate, and got lots of tuition about archaeology and got to do our little bit for the project. There was also a cracking pub quiz, which our team didn’t win but should have 🙂 My photos are in a flickr set. I really enjoyed it, but am not sure my knees will ever quite be the same again!

It was all a really busy but great week. I think though I might want to do something a bit more relaxing next year – we’ll see 🙂

RHS Harlow Carr

At the end of the week I was in Yorkshire for a couple of days doing more interviews for work. They went really well and I am really chuffed with them (as well as really grateful to everyone who agrees to give up their time to tell me about their lives). On Thursday I had a few hours between interviews so as I was relatively near the RHS gardens at Harlow Carr I thought I would pop in. I spent the equivalent of my lunch hour wandering round taking photos and enjoying the fact that it wasn’t raining (unlike the quite scary journey down the day before), then spent a couple of hours on a bench in the shade doing some work-related admin and reading – it was lovely, so much nicer than doing it at my desk! I took a lot of pictures I was pleased with, and have put up the lot (good, bad and indifferent – well not the bad, I deleted a couple of them!) in this flickr set. I think I am pleased with the close-up shots and less pleased with the wider angle, landscape ones, on the whole – so that’s something I can work on. The last photo was of a flower bed right next to the bench I was sitting on to work. It was so nice to look up and see this!





More travels

This last week I was back in Sheffield for work, starting the interviews for the research project I’m working on. I stayed with lovely people from the Ship (including holly who used to blog here) and their two furry owners. As well as the interviews (which on the whole I thought went really well) I also managed to meet up with another shippie, Jengie, which was great, visit some of the gardens and galleries around the city centre, and make contact with an old school friend who now lives and works in Sheffield and, bizarrely, is the lead research governance person for my project! I may be going back there in a few weeks, so hopefully we will be able to meet up then, timetables permitting.

I ate a couple of times at a hippyish vegan cafe in the centre, which featured these clocks which really made me laugh:

Yorkshire timezones

As mentioned, holly and JonoT are owned by a couple of furry brothers, Charlie and George. I was freaked out before I even met them as every photo I have ever seen of them has them with laser eyes, both staring in the same direction and convincing me I was going to have to don a tinfoil helmet every time I went indoors. They actually weren’t that bad most of the time, although on my final evening I did have an audience while I was eating my tea which was a bit disconcerting:

Charlie says "You will give me all your dinner now"

The final interview was on Thursday evening, I had toyed with the idea of returning home straight after it but hadn’t because I had worked out I would get home at some stupid small hour of Friday morning so it wasn’t very practical. Which turned out to be a good decision given the rain/floods further north on Thursday afternoon/evening which meant that train travel anywhere up north was chaos, I was following several people’s torturous journeys home on facebook and very glad that I wasn’t having to go through that. On Friday morning when I did leave it was still bonkers, but at least it was daytime, and although I had to change a few times and it did take hours and hours and I wasn’t well which didn’t help, the train staff were all cheerful despite all the bonkersness that they must have been dealing with, and I am really happy to get home at last, though I struggled to stay awake till 8pm after a very long day.

Today the most exciting thing has been to buy some new pants (it must be an age thing, but I really like that satisfying feeling of knowing I’m going to be wearing nice new pants :D), and watch a gaggle of birds fighting on our bird feeder. And trying to ignore the length of the grass, which will bury the bird feeder from underneath if it’s not cut soon.

Brief Romanian encounter

Apologies for radio silence – the last few days I have had the joy of a brief return to lovely Romania, where I was speaking at a conference in Bucharest. This is the first time I’ve been back since my PhD fieldwork 5 years ago, so I was really happy to be there (even though Bucharest is far from my favourite place in Romania). I was pleased that my language seemed to hold up and I could understand and be understood, and I think it is the first time that I have ever been to Bucharest where I haven’t felt on edge or like I need to be looking over my shoulder (it’s not helped by the fact that I usually stayed somewhere else in the country, and whenever I mentioned I’d be going there absolutely everyone would go “ooh, you really don’t want to go there” and be full of tales of ne’er-do-wells, muggers and thieves). This time I was relaxed, and wandered round more than I ever had before.

The conference went well I thought, and it was great to revisit my PhD material, particularly now that I’m not working on anything related to central/eastern Europe in my new job. I was a bit nervous about speaking, I had run through my paper in the hotel the night before and it went way over the allotted time, so I had to chop out quite a bit of it and I was worried it wouldn’t make sense, but people seemed to like it and asked interesting questions. I also chaired and acted as discussant for another panel the following day, I’d never been a discussant before (it involves summing up and generally making intelligent comments about the presented papers, and asking questions, pointing out areas for development etc) so was a bit nervous about that, but it seemed to go OK too.

The day before the conference I had a free day so as well as picking up some Romanian books from the university bookshop that I’d really struggle to get hold of over here, I did what I’ve been meaning to do but never had the time before, and went on the tour of the Palace of Parliament (known more colloquially as the House of the People – Casa Poporului) which is the massive building that Ceausescu had built in the 1980s, razing thousands of homes and churches in the process, and which is probably the most famous building in Romania, most likely to appear on pictures from Bucharest. I’m really glad I did it, though it was also pretty sobering, remembering all those who had suffered for its construction, and the megalomania that was behind it. The tour took the best part of 2 hours, at the end our guide told us we’d only seen about 5% of the building and had probably walked about 3km.

Here are various photos, firstly the Arcul de Triumf and Herastrau Park, near where I was staying:




Then various photos from inside and outside Casa Poporului (including me on the balcony – apparently Ceausescu intended it to be the place where he and visiting dignitories could wave to the people; this ambition was thwarted by the revolution and the only person who has actually waved to the people from it was Michael Jackson). The first chandelier is apparently the largest chandelier in Europe, and requires 4 people to change a lightbulb – I must admit I couldn’t help but think of *that* Only Fools and Horses scene:








Finally the logo of the Academy where we had the conference. We were given a tour of the building and talk about its history, where it has to be said women were noticeably lacking. In fact amongst all the portraits and photos of distinguished members, this was the only woman we found!


Spot the plane

We went down to the wood again today, the bluebells were well and truly out! Here are some snaps:

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While we were there a small low-flying plane flew overhead, I had my camera so pointed it up and was sure I’d caught it between the trees. Obviously I didn’t time it quite right – see if you can see it!


When cultural references go haywire

IMG_7829 So there I was in Edinburgh this week, mum and dad were up so we went and had a look round the city centre as they’d never been there before, and I came across this sculpture outside St Giles’ Cathedral. It’s a snippet of a quote from the 3 Witches in Macbeth. As I read it I found myself wanting to carry on the quote further in my head, but in a bizarre mixing of cultural metaphors what came out was:

“Double, double, toil and trouble, Cuthbert, Dibble, Grubb”.

(there’s one for the 70s kids among us :O)


Over the weekend HD’s parents were staying, so we were out and about a bit with them. On Friday we went to the Falkirk Wheel (his dad is a retired engineer and had read about it in his journals but never seen it), and then on Saturday while I was marking (boo!) they explored Stirling Castle with HD. Saturday evening though we took them to a brilliant gig, Spiers and Boden (from Bellowhead) at the Tolbooth in Stirling. It was a great concert, we all really enjoyed it. Here’s a taster of what they sound like here on YouTube.

Yesterday we had a trip out to Summerlee Museum of Scottish Industrial Life. For a non-engineer, it was still pretty interesting, and the engineers among us enjoyed it too.

The in-laws left this morning, but my folks arrive tomorrow, so there will hopefully be more adventures to be had (if I ever finish the marking, argh).

No weekly weigh-in this week. The weighing had got a bit out of synch so I only weighed myself last Thursday; I’m trying to get back to Monday weigh-ins so will miss out today and start again next week. Which will hopefully give me a bit of time to repair the damage from meals out, whoops!

Muddy walk

Today the weather was lovely so we got out and about, at lunchtime we made our way over to Bridge of Allan and then did this walk from BoA to Dunblane (well, I say we did that walk, we got a bit confused at the beginning, so the first bit of our walk featured a bit more local housing and a bit less riverbank than intended; we managed to find our way eventually and rejoined it about half way through the second paragraph where it talks about the path dropping down through a leafy gully and a second bridge over a tributary). It was a lovely (though very muddy) walk – not too onerous, but enough to make us sweat a bit without being miserable! (I am such a fair weather walker). I am stiff as a board now though!

Here are some pictures from the walk:

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The cave is thought to be the inspiration for Ben Gunn’s cave in “Treasure Island” – the author Robert Louis Stevenson was a local, and apparently spent lots of time here as a boy. The church is Dunblane Cathedral.

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Inside the Cathedral was this ancient carved cross; also very movingly was this tribute to those who died in the shootings in Dunblane Primary School in 1996:

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For those of you who were amused by my account on facebook this morning of HD’s preferred activity for the day, this was taken at the end of the walk. Here he is on the bridge at Stirling Station, taking pictures of the signals:


There’s a few more (and you can see them all a decent size) in the flickr set.

Ham and jam and spamalot


This afternoon we met up with friends and I finally managed to get to Doune Castle, which is only about 10 miles from where we live now, and which I have wanted to visit ever since moving to Scotland. Of course it is best known as the IMG_7469 location for several scenes from ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail’, which meant that we were able to wander round at our leisure, seeing the various film locations and (highly originally; I bet noone has ever done this before) IMG_7509 quote random bits of the script in appropriate locations.

As you can see from the photos quite a lot of the castle is still intact and well preserved. Unfortunately there was scaffolding up one inside wall which meant that we couldn’t go onto the ramparts where the French Taunters hurled their abuse at the poor knights, but there was still plenty to see. We also took a walk around the wider grounds, the River Forth and one of its tributaries surround two sides of the castle so we wandered down to where they met and back again. What a lovely day. There is my flickr set here (and more on facebook if you know me there).

It is a silly place. Run awaaay! etc.