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Tag: Scotland

Scotland the most beautiful

Sunday, 10 September, 2017 0 Comments

1. Scotland: And finally, the world’s most beautiful country is revealed: Scotland. Who can deny that these wild beaches, deep lochs and craggy castles are some of the most wonderful and beautiful sights in the world?”

That was the result of a poll of readers conducted by the Rough Guides travel publisher in a bid to determine “the most beautiful country in the world.” Angus Wright dutifully wrote up the result for The Scotsman, but it’s the comments on his article that take the Walkers Shortbread biscuit:

Rank Bajin: “It’s quite nice when the rain stops. Usually that’s March 28 and June 30 at 3:30pm. The rest of the time you can’t see anything”

Stewart Mckirdy: “Seriously ??? Who did Rough Guides ask ? people from Scotland presumably”

14152956259: “Not Scottish unionists, that’s for sure.”

Paolo Tognini: “Italy has 53 UNESCO World Heritage sites, highest number in the world on a country basis. Scotland has 6. It is obvious that none of the voters has ever visited Italy….. Mind you, I do like Scotland but this survey result needs a reality check.”

RejeanLavoie: “…or…Scotland needs more UNESCO sites and Italy has a complex?”

Ed Watts: “Paolo, with all due respect why “It is obvious that none of the voters has ever visited Italy…..” – I have visited Italy, and had little, if any, interest in UNESCO sites. Italy’s nice, undoubtedly – Scotland’s better.”

Filmmaker Adam Stocker would agree with Ed, there. After driving around Scotland in his (white) van, he made a short video titled “Scotland – Lochs, Mountains & Light”. He included lots of the most beautiful rain, too.


A sense of place

Monday, 10 July, 2017 0 Comments

Landscape is a mirror that reflects life. Those fields, woods, rivers and mountains reveal the soul of a place. The English filmmaker Max Smith began his “Sense of Place” series of videos in the Argyll Forest Park on the Cowal peninsula in the Scottish Highlands, and he’s just added the Cairngorms, a mountain range in the eastern Highlands that forms part of the Grampians. The two clips offer a combined seven minutes of sublime place.


Tweeds and tweets

Saturday, 3 December, 2016 0 Comments

Hackney-based filmmakers Jack Flynn and Nick David are Dog Leap and their fashionable clients include Stella McCartney, Alexander McQueen, Sons Of London and the Harris Tweed Authority, which represents the weaving traditions of the Outer Hebrides islanders of Harris, Lewis, Uist and Barra. “The Big Cloth” is a short Dog Leap documentary about an industry that is transforming itself with new looms, young weavers, lighter tweed for the needs of a global market and tweets.


Danny MacAskill’s Wee Day Out

Thursday, 13 October, 2016 0 Comments

The Scottish bike artist Danny MacAskill from Dunvegan on the Isle of Skye leaves no trick unturned when he takes a two-wheeler trip around Edinburgh.

The background song is National Express by Neil Hannon and The Divine Comedy from their 1998 album Fin de Siècle. National Express is based on Hannon’s observations of life as seen from the window of a British National Express bus. Critics have accused him of sneering at the English working classes in the song:

“On the National Express there’s a jolly hostess
Selling crisps and tea
She’ll provide you with drinks and theatrical winks
For a sky-high fee
Mini-skirts were in style when she danced down the aisle
Back in ’63 (yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah)
But it’s hard to get by when your arse is the size
Of a small country
And everybody sings ‘ba ba ba da’
We’re going where the air is free
Tomorrow belongs to me.”


Hodge and his lexicographer

Sunday, 18 September, 2016 0 Comments

On this day in 1709, Samuel Johnson was born. The poet, essayist, moralist, literary critic, biographer, editor and lexicographer spent nine years writing his Dictionary of the English Language, which was published in 1755 and continues to enlighten and amuse: “Oats: a grain which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people.”

The drudgery of lexicography was alleviated somewhat by Hodge, a cat the good doctor loved, and his friend and biographer James Boswell found Johnson’s relationship with Hodge so important that he preserved it for posterity:

“I never shall forget the indulgence with which he treated Hodge, his cat; for whom he himself used to go out and buy oysters, lest the servants, having that trouble, should take dislike to the poor creature. I am, unluckily one of those who have an antipathy to a cat, so that I am uneasy when in the room with one; and I own, I frequently suffered a good deal from the presences of this same Hodge. I recollect him one day scrambling up Dr. Johnson’s breast, apparently with much satisfaction, while my friend smiling and half-whistling, rubbed down his back, and pulled him by the tail; and when I observed he was a fine cat, saying why, yes, Sir, but I have had cats whom I liked better than this; and then as if perceiving Hodge to be out of countenance, adding, but he is a very fine cat, a very fine cat indeed.”

Hodge is remembered by a bronze statue outside the house at 17 Gough Square in London he shared with Johnson and Barber, Johnson’s black manservant and heir. The statue shows the cat sitting next to a pair of empty oyster shells atop a copy of Johnson’s dictionary, with the inscription “a very fine cat indeed”.

Hodge


Film of the Year

Sunday, 20 December, 2015 0 Comments

On the outer edge of desolate Highland battlefield, a trio of witches predict that the Thane of Glamis will one day become the King of Scotland. Inspired by their prophecy and goaded into action by his wife, Macbeth murders the monarch and takes the crown for himself. What follows is classic Shakespearean tragedy.

This year’s screen adaptation by Australian filmmaker Justin Kurzel of the 400-year-old work wins the Rainy Day Film of the Year award. Kurzel’s interpretation revolves around a pair of truly powerful performances by Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard. Her fair is an ideal match for his foul and the film captures perfectly their intimate treachery as they plot to take the throne and keep it.

Justin Kurzel is equally good at depicting the psychological consequences of their crimes. When Macbeth confesses to his wife, after the murder of King Duncan, that his mind is “full of scorpions,” one can empathize with the director’s theory that this Macbeth is suffering from some kind of post-traumatic stress disorder. Were those witches a hallucination? What about the fact that he can’t get any sleep? When he begins to talk to Banquo’s ghost, Lady Macbeth tries to calm the frightened nobles at the feast: Don’t worry. He’s had these turns before, she says. It doesn’t work, though, and the guests depart.

Macbeth is about power and the evil that people will do to get it, keep it and bequeath it. But all the cruelty of Mr and Mrs Macbeth begs a critical question: What’s the point in brutally grabbing a crown if you’re going to lose it within a generation? Tragedy.

Macbeth

Tomorrow, here, the Rainy Day Post of the Year award.


Drink of the Year

Thursday, 17 December, 2015 0 Comments

And the Rainy Day award goes to Caol Ila 12 Year Old Single Malt. Why? Because winter is here and ‘flu prevention measures have to be taken. Seriously. And this is a seriously medicinal single malt. Check out the Official Tasting Notes: “Nose: Subdued, citric fruitiness; a whiff of bath oil and dentist’s mouthwash. A little water raises almond oil and old-fashioned oilskins; still a fresh fruitiness (lychees?), a trace of olive oil, and after a while pot pourri or scented hand-soap.”

Kills bad breath, doubles as a deodorant and protects against the hospital bug — what more could one want? But that’s not all. Based on personal tasting, we can confirm that this remarkable whisky also delivers a tang of seaweed, a whiff of smoke, a glimpse of green barley, a hint of lemon pudding, a taste of treacle, a perception of salt, a smidgen of creosote and, depending on one’s temperament and temperature, wellness. Seriously.

Caol Ila

Tomorrow, here, the Rainy Day Video of the Year award.


The poetic game

Sunday, 23 August, 2015 0 Comments

The Scottish Lowland League football club Selkirk FC has hired a poet in residence. Thomas Clark, 35, will be the team’s wordsmith for the season, with his verse appearing in match day programmes and an end-of-season anthology. His published works include Intae the Snaw, a collection of Chinese poetry rendered into Scots, and a Glaswegian retelling of Alice in Wonderland. This is the business.

Take Shelter

It’s Scottish Cup day in Selkirk
An aw things are richt;
The redness on the leaves like yon,
The shinin on the watter like yon.
Och, it is a perfect day,
A joke for the guyin o the cynic an the pessimist
Wha woke up sure it would be comin doon;
An no a clood in the sky, nor a drap on the breeze,
Hints at the troubles aheid.

Thomas Clark

Facts: The people of Selkirk are known as Souters, which means cobblers (shoe makers and menders). Selkirk is twinned with Plattling, a town in Bavaria that was the home of SS Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler. On 1 May 2011, Plattling hosted veterans of the US 65th Infantry Division, who joined local people for the dedication of a memorial to the Division’s role in liberating the Plattling concentration camp in April 1945.


August in January for Burns Night

Friday, 23 January, 2015 1 Comment

Tonight is Burns Night, the annual commemoration of Scotland’s national poet, Robert Burns. In honour of the occasion, we present Dick Gaughan’s Glaswegian rendering of the beautiful Song Composed In August. Its origins date back to 1775 when Burns, then 16, was still at school. The object of his affections was Margaret Thomson, whom Burns described as, “a charming Filette who lived next door to the school. She overset my Trigonometry, and set me off in a tangent from the sphere of my studies.”

Now westlin winds and slaughter’n guns
Bring Autumn’s pleasant weather;
The moorcock springs on whirring wings
Amang the blooming heather:
Now waving grain, wide o’er the plain,
Delights the weary farmer;
And the moon shines bright, when I rove at night,
To muse upon my charmer.

The partridge loves the fruitful fells,
The plover loves the mountains;
The woodcock haunts the lonely dells,
The soaring hern the fountains:
Thro’ lofty groves the cushat roves,
The path of man to shun it;
The hazel bush o’erhangs the thrush,
The spreading thorn the linnet.

Thus ev’ry kind their pleasure find,
The savage and the tender;
Some social join, and leagues combine,
Some solitary wander:
Avaunt, away! the cruel sway,
Tyrannic man’s dominion;
The sportsman’s joy, the murd’ring cry,
The flutt’rin, gory pinion!

But, Peggy dear, the ev’ning’s clear,
Swift flies the skimming swallow,
The sky is blue, the fields in view,
All fading-green and yellow:
Come let us stray our gladsome way,
And view the charms of Nature;
The rustling corn, the fruit at thorn,
And ev’ry happy creature.

We’ll gently walk, and sweetly talk,
Till the silent moon shine clearly;
I’ll grasp thy waist, and, fondly prest,
Swear how I love thee dearly:
Not vernal show’rs to budding flow’rs,
Not t’Autumn to the farmer,
So dear can be as thou to me,
My fair, my lovely charmer!

Robert Burns (25 January 1759 — 21 July 1796)


Protection from internal parasites

Friday, 2 May, 2014 0 Comments
Protection from internal parasites

Agriculturally, sheep dip is a liquid insecticide that farmers use to protect their herds from parasites such as ticks and lice. But the term was also a synonym for home-made whisky, which was made illegally and stored in plastic containers marked “Sheep Dip” to protect it from the inquisitive eyes of policemen and revenue collectors. In the 1980’s, British farmers were ordering hundreds of cases of “Sheep Dip” from distillers and including it in their accounts as insecticide until the scam was exposed and the customers were fined for tax evasion when it was discovered that most of them didn’t have a lamb or a ewe or a ram on their lands.

The legal version of the drinkable Sheep Dip is made of pure malts from the four distilling regions of Scotland. It is a mild and pleasant drink made all the more charming by its backstory and the fierce-looking sheep on the label.

Sheep Dip


Scotland, Scotch, Scottish, Scot and Scots

Friday, 28 February, 2014 0 Comments

Published in 1791, The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D. is a biography of Dr. Samuel Johnson written by James Boswell. Some say it is the greatest biography written in English; most scholars regard it a seminal moment in the development of the biography genre. Then, as now, Scotland was topical in polite London conversation and Boswell captured the mood of the day, and the language used to express it.

Mr. Arthur Lee mentioned some Scotch who had taken possession of a barren part of America, and wondered why they would choose it.

Johnson: “Why, Sir, all barrenness is comparative. The Scotch would not know it to be barren.”

Boswell: “Come, come, he is flattering the English. You have now been in Scotland, Sir, and say if you did not see meat and drink enough there.”

Johnson: “Why yes, Sir; meat and drink enough to give the inhabitants sufficient strength to run away from home.”

Scotch, meaning either “of or relating to Scotland” or “a person/the people from Scotland”, was widely used in the past by writers such as Boswell, Robert Burns and Sir Walter Scott. It is now regarded as old-fashioned, but it survives in phrases such as “Scotch whisky”.

Scottish is the everyday word used to mean “of or relating to Scotland or its people”. Example: “She’s Irish, not Scottish.”

Scot is the common word for “a person from Scotland”, along with Scotsman, Scotswoman, and the plural form “the Scots.”

Scots is used to refer specifically to the form of English spoken in Scotland, as in “He’s got a very strong Scots accent.”

Scotch