Sunday, 28 August 2011

Scottish Ballet at the Playhouse

Last night, I had an absolute treat! I 'splashed out' on a student ticket for the Scottish Ballet's programme at the Playhouse, part of the Edinburgh Festival. It's the first time since I started studying ballet and taking a firm interest in it that I've seen any live ballet, so don't expect an expert's opinion! Not that you would of course, you know me too well for that dear reader.
Noellie Conjeaud and Teun van Roosmalen in Jorma Elo's Kings 2 Ends. Photo: Andrew Ross.
The first piece was a brand new piece called Kings 2 Ends, which was choreographed by Jorma Elo, specifically for the company. Set to music by Mozart and Steve Reich, this is a beautiful work of art, and although not a narrative piece, tells a different story to each individual who sees it. I adored the pas de trois in the third section, and the pas de deux sections danced by Noellie Conjeaud and Teun van Roosmalen (above) were incredibly fluid and well co-ordinated, although all the couples were beautiful.

Sophie Martin and Erik Cavallari in MacMillan's Song of the Earth. Photo: Andrew Ross.
The second piece, Song of the Earth, was choreographed by Kenneth MacMillan in 1965 and explores the idea of mortality as a young man struggles with it in his life and in his relationships - the link above the McMillan's website explains the whole thing a lot better than I could! I have to admit, I didn't read the narrative description before I watched the piece - I had no money for the programme - so my own interpretation whilst I was watching it was somewhat different - I saw two best friends and a beloved sister. However, I don't think that detracted anything at all from my enjoyment of the piece, which showcased some excellent dancing from the male danseurs, and some incredible pas de trois from the three soloists, Erik Cavallri, Adam Blyde and Sophie Martin. The music was Mahler's Das Leid von der Erde (the Song from the Earth), which is a beautiful song-cycle, translated from eighth century Chinese poetry into German. The music was performed by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, led by Sian Edwards, with Katrina Karneus and Peter Wedd as the soloists.

Adam Blyde and Sophie Martin in MacMillan's Song of the Earth. Photo: Andrew Ross.
All pictures are from the Scottish Ballet website, taken by Andrew Ross. They have a few more production photos of these two pieces in their gallery there and also on their flikr photostream.

Love and hugs

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Rosal Township - Highland Clearances

Today was my last day in Tongue - early bus home tomorrow as I have an important afternoon appointment. This afternoon, I went with mum and dad to the township of Rosal, which was left after the highland clearances. It was a big field with stones and signs in it, but if you like that sort of thing, it's pretty good. The information boards are frequent and very interesting, and told things from the point of view of the people who lived in the township and were eventually cleared out of them. Life there was by no means easy, but it was much better than living by the coast, which was where they had to go.

The clearances occurred because the people who owned the land, who were mostly rich enough to start with, didn't make enormous profits from their tenants, who were mostly crofters and worked enough to feed and clothe themselves but weren't interested in profits and property and such nonsense. However the landowners realised they could make a lot more money by grazing sheep on the land - not the wee highland sheep that the crofters looked after, but big, hardy ones. Demand for meat and wool were increasing as the country industrialised, and so the highlanders were cleared and moved to the coasts, to the cities, or emigrated to America or New Zealand mostly.

The sheep still graze on the land here - apparently descendants of the ones that were the reason for the clearances. They didn't seem as interested in the stones as we were.

On the whole I'd say it was a really good site. The walk from the car park through the forest was lovely, and it would be a great place to visit if you have kids studying the clearances, like I did when I was 14, or just an interest of your own.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Clambering upon Archaeological Artefacts

I still haven't stitched our panorama so today's post will be about the end of the day on Friday, rather than the main event.

After we'd come down of the mountain we drove a few minutes up the road to see the remains of another Iron Age structure - this time Dun Dornagil broch.

These were probably defensive/offensive places, with hollow outer walls that had staircases in them to take you up to various galleries with different rooms that people lived in. There was a space in the centre which went right up to the top, so that they could have a fire quite safely. The wikipedia article on brochs is quite informative so do direct your general enquiries in that direction.

The one that we saw was intact only as the outer structure, and it had been filled up with earth, perhaps to protect what remained of the structure from people like me who clambered all over it. The tall remaining wall had been reinforced as well, to stop it collapsing into the road, and to preserve it for interested people.

To be fair I only climbed up to see if I could see inside it. Which I could not. It was just too fun to come down right away. And the view was pretty!

Friday, 19 August 2011

A Teeny Weeny Tiny Underground Adventure

Today's adventure in real life was a "yomp" (Mum's favourite hill-walking related word) up a Munro, but I'm going to save that til later. I took a 360 panorama from the top which I'm working very hard on stitching, but it might be a day or so yet and I reeeeally want to show you.

So instead I'm going to tell you about something I missed out previously - the day Mum and I walked to the Iron Age wheel house, we also went along to see this thing called the souterrain.

Those of you with an elementary understanding of French may have worked out that this is an underground thing, and in fact, apart from its age, that's the only remarkable thing about it. It's also, I believe an iron age structure, and happens to be just off the road from Laid to Durness, so not a two hour round trip like the wheel house.

It's just a small structure - only one chamber, and only just underground, with a few steps down, which was likely used for storage rather than dwelling, I would have thought. I don't have a useful tourist leaflet beside me to confirm the details, but it was an interesting wee hole in the ground anyway. It had a few inches of water in it, as it floods in the rain, and since it's pretty low to start with and we weren't wearing wellies, we just took a few photos from the bottom of the steps and headed back out again. It was only about a metre across at the widest, and maybe a metre and a half high, and it was about 4 metres long (I'm guessing, size/quantity estimates are a massive failing point of mine).

My favourite part was the way the entrance was so hidden from the road, but really nearby, and even if you were going that way you might almost walk past it.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

The Tongue Hotel

My younger brother, Andrew, had his last day at work yesterday, so in order to celebrate his freedom we went for lunch at the Tongue Hotel with my parents. It's about 100 yards down the road so it was about 20 seconds walk, and there was no one else in the restaurant when we arrived (which is nothing against them, its just that this is the middle of nowhere and people don't "do lunch" on a Thursday.

We had two courses each but it was a bit of a jumble.

Andrew had a smoked salmon starter and a steak and ale pie with mash and veg and a side of chips (glutton! And he couldn't eat them all).

Dad had a smoked salmon bagel and then cranachan for dessert. For those who don't know, its made of raspberries, whipped cream (sweetened if you like), oatmeal and usually some whisky too, and it's absolutely delicious!

Mum had potato and leek soup with crusty bread and then a warm chocolate muffin with cream.

And I had a roast beef sandwich and then a piece of white chocolate and marshmallow cheesecake. The menu had said toblerone cheesecake but they'd only just made that and it hadn't set yet, so I got a bit of yesterday's instead, but the chef put two triangles of toblerone on as garnish to make up for it. No complaints here!

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

A Quiet Day

It would be fair to say that it was a quiet day up here today. I didn't really do anything at all, except dissect the more exciting social lives (at least at present) of some of my nearest and dearest.

So in honour of my quiet day I'm going to keep this a quiet post. Instead of deafening you all with my chatter I'm going to leave you with this gif of a kitty in a hamster ball. I hope you enjoy it.

This is how I feel when I spend too long up here with no one to cause trouble with... ;)

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

A Few "Holiday" Snaps

Today was another quiet day up here on the coast. Slept late. Read a lot. That's about it. We had sweet potatoes for tea.

So your substitute entertainment this evening is going to come in the form of some photos. I'm tired though, so this is going to be a wordless post. I'll tell you the stories another day, I promise.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Wheel-y Tired!

Dear reader, I'm exhausted! Despite my youthfulness and lack of obese-ness, I'm really very unfit. My day has tired me out, so if I seem to doze off and lose track of myself in the middle of this post, you'll know to blame my mother...

Yesterday afternoon wasn't so tiring. We went down to Coldbackie Beach and had a wander around there. No shark wrestling, no picturesque welly boots. Just me and my mum being a bit silly. You can see the results of our silliness in yesterday's blog post if you're curious - today I'll be sharing some of the more sensible photos.

This is the view across the beach which you see walking down the hill from the road. The sand dunes before the beach are about 20ft high, which is very impressive, and there's a stream that comes all the way down to the beach in wetter weather, parts of which make a very good flume (water slide).

This stream at the north end of the beach was pretty, but probably less enjoyable to slide down...

The high water mark is an interesting feature of this beach. It's seems that there is a stream which runs along the edge of the beach - that is, a counter current that runs at right angles to the direction of the tide. The effect of this is to create a sandbank at the edge of the water, which moves up the beach as the tide comes in, and gets left behind, like this, as it goes out.

Some interesting geological features as well - for example, part of this rocky outcrop was shaped and coloured just like me... Kidding. I think we were actually interested by the stripe of quartz in the rock behind me. However, I know nothing about geology, we just thought it was pretty.

There was also a massive cliff at the south end of the beach, about 100ft high, with this wee cave at the bottom. It doesn't go very far back, but its full of reeds that get washed in by the highest tides, and if it wasn't soaking wet, I imagine it would be quite a cosy bed...

Today's expedition was much further away. It's Dad's day off, so he went to play golf over at Durness, and he dropped us off in a place called Laid to go for a walk.

We headed from the tea room there, up the side a very pretty burn (stream), following a path marked by little heaps of stones, called cairns, and big long upright stones balanced in the top of cairns, or stood up by themselves.

The view of Loch Eriboll on the way up was incredible - I just wish I had a better camera for panorama shots.

Anyway, the main reason for our walk up and along the ridge was to see an Iron Age Wheelhouse. Now, I know absolutely nothing about the Iron Age, so instead of trying to say something intelligent off my own bat, I'll quote from a guide leaflet instead (entitled "Laid Heritage Trail" produced by Durness Community Council).

"A Wheel House is a dry stone dwelling house used in the Iron Age. Circular in construction with slabs of rock forming the basis of a roof, these slabs also appear to mark interior divisions of a family habitation."

"Considering its age of some 2000 years it is in excellent condition, one of the best preserved in Scotland. It measures 5.5 metres NE-SW by 5 metres NW-SE within its dry built wall, 1.1 metres thick and 1.4 metres high, with the entrance in the east. In the interior a circle of 7 [uprights] set at a distance of about 1 metre from the wall, one of which is lintelled and another partially with roofing slabs lying close by."

This particular Wheel House is the only one of its kind in the area, the rest are in Shetland, the Hebrides and Caithness, for the most part. Also, most of those are much lower down, and seem to be associated with other buildings. This one is high and isolated. The leaflet suggests "one explanation which can never be proved is that it was built by strangers, possibly from Caithness, who were only allowed this spot to make their home." Caithness is east of this area.

Can you imagine how much it would suck if you'd just walked miles and miles from your own home ranges, only to be told by your grumpy new neighbours that you had to go build your house a mile out the way and 900 metres further up hill. I might be moving soon and I have to say, I hope our new neighbours are nicer than that!

Daily picture of Mum, taking a picture of me taking a picture of her taking a picture of me taking a picture...

Love and hugs