Some more pictures …

Well, it would seem that I’m completely rubbish at writing a blog regularly unless I’m motivated by writing for the website of a highly regarded broadsheet newspaper.

But the flip side is that we’ve been having a great time exploring Scotland and other places.

For some of the latest galleries of pictures of our adventures, follow the links below to my Facebook photo albums.

About two weeks after our brief sojourn back in Australia for Dianna’s wedding, we headed off to Holy Island again for a long weekend. You can view pictures here.

We also joined some of Cathy’s classmates from Edinburgh Uni for a 40th birthday party at the Sheep’s Heid hotel, one of the oldest pubs in Scotland, where we had beer and skittles – and I mean real skittles in a very old bowling alley. See pictures here.

I also spent a day exploring Linlithgow Castle, where Mary, Queen of Scots, was born – it’s only about 20 minutes on the train from Edinburgh. You can look at some pictures here.

But our most recent adventures, in late October/early November, included a week in the Netherlands on a quest to find some of Cathy’s family history, and a week in the Islands and Highlands of Scotland, including Skye, Harris and Lewis. You can see pictures of the Netherlands here and here, and some quite spectacular images of our Highlands and Islands adventures here and here.

I hope that’s enough to keep anyone who’s still reading this blog satisfied. We’ve only got six weeks left in Scotland, and then we’re heading for Ireland for about 10 days, and then on to Europe.


What a spectacle!

The pipers emerge from the castle

The pipers emerge from the castle

At the moment Edinburgh is chock-full of people for the festival season. Although in other places we hear it referred to generically as the Edinburgh Festival, it’s actually a series of festivals rolled into a few weeks, including the International Festival (high culture), Fringe Festival, Comedy Festival, Festival of Peace and Spirituality, and heaps more. I think I’ve heard it said that Edinburgh’s population doubles during this time (and a lot of the locals leave town to get away from the madness).

One of the great icons of festival time is the Military Tattoo, held nightly on the forecourt of the castle. It’s quite a spectacle, and well worth watching (though I don’t think I could do it more than once). We were lucky enough to go on one of the first nights when it was still nice and dry – the next few nights the rain was pounding down, and at various times coming home late from work I saw plenty of soaked-through grey hairs stumbling their way back down the Royal Mile.

The pipers in full flight

The pipers in full flight

It’s strange going to see something like the military tattoo if you’re into nonviolence and such. It’s quite an amazing artistic spectacle, and the precision of playing and marching is highly skilled and you can’t not enjoy it – but lurking in the background is always the knowledge that it’s also a celebration of “our glorious military heritage”. In the end, I left thinking that if the military spent more of its time concentrating on making high-quality music instead of making war, then the world would be a much better place.

There are more pictures on my Facebook page. Just click here to have a look.

Risk management and climate change

I’m trying to figure out why so many people seem reluctant to believe the threat of climate change, or unwilling to support substantive, preventative social and political action.

It seems strange that people who probably have some form of insurance to mitigate against the effects of what are generally unlikely events would be even more inclined to take the same approach with the possibility that our climate might be on the brink of catastrophe if we don’t change our ways.

The below clip from youtube gives a great exposition of the arguments – not in terms of climate science, but rather in terms of the logic of risk management.

How about considering responding to climate change as a type of global disaster insurance?

All skeptics would be advised to watch and weigh it up.

Indigenous encounter

Yesterday morning as we walked through Edinburgh, we were quite surprised to see an Aboriginal man in full ceremonial decoration step out of a University building surrounded by a media pack.

Intrigued as to what he was doing in Scotland, we hung around and watched as he performed a traditional smoking ceremony, burning gum leaves and wafting the smoke around and over a covered box and the surrounding people. It smelled like home. It was a weird feeling.

It turns out that he and other members of his tribe, the Ngarrindjeri from the Coorong in South Australia, were in Scotland to retrieve the remains of ancestors taken for study.

It was very moving to observe and in some ways take part in this important step in healing for our indigenous people.

You can read some news reports about the ceremony here and here.

More adventures

The last few months have involved a few more adventures.

At the start of June Paul and Amber Toms (friends from Urban Seed networks) arrived in Edinburgh to stay with us. It was wonderful to see people from home.

A few days later we hired a car and headed off on a road trip together. We drove up through the spectacular Highlands (via Glen Coe) and then way out to an area on the West Coast called Ardnamurchan. It’s the westernmost part of mainland Scotland.

Here we visited a gorgeous beach called Sanna Bay, with turquoise-blue water and white sand. Apart from the freezing water, it could have been a tropical island.

From Ardnamurchan we caught a ferry across to the Island of Mull, where we stayed in a small self-catering cottage for four nights. On the first day we went for a walk on the hills around the small fishing village of Bunessan. The other two days we went across to the Holy Island of Iona.

You can see pictures on my Facebook page if you click here and here.

Iona is quite a remarkable place, and it was amazing to be on one of the key sites of the Christian faith in the UK. You can learn more about Iona by clicking here.

While on Iona we took part in a six-hour pilgrimage around the island run by the Iona Community, which was also a wonderful experience. You can learn more about the Iona Community by clicking here.

After a few days back at home, we headed off on a 10-day journey through Wales, Cornwall and Dorset, while Paul and Amber went to Spain for a pilgrimage walk and then some more time in southern England. They’re coming back to Edinburgh for a few months – it’ll be great to have them around for a bit.

While down south we did a lot of exploring our family history. Some of Cathy’s ancestors were from Wales, and the ancestors of my mum’s parents were all from Cornwall. It was quite moving to find ancient churches where our ancestors had worshiped, been married and baptised, and to learn more about my Celtic Cornish heritage.

I’d never given too much thought to family history before, but I found that it has quite an impact on your sense of self and identity to understand better where you’re from.

After a few days in Cornwall we travelled to Bradford Abbas in Dorset where we stayed with Mark and Jenny Beckwith. Mark spent a year with Urban Seed a few years back. While with them we made the obligatory trip to Stonehenge – more big rocks.

For pictures from Wales, Cornwall and Dorset, click here, here and here.

Now we’re counting down to Cathy finishing her thesis and heading back to Australia in early September for a family wedding, so we’re staying pretty close to Edinburgh for now, but I’ll try to put some more reflections up here periodically.

A whole stack of pictures

Well, I’ve been really slack on the blogging, but I’ve been putting lots of pictures on Facebook with captions.

So for those who want to see a visual history of our journeys, including our past 10 months in Scotland, follow the links.

Paul and Amber from Urban Seed/Seeds have just arrived with us, and on Sunday we’re heading off to Mull and Iona for five days together. Hopefully I’ll have some pictures and stories of that for all the Seedy mob soon.

Facebook picture galleries by country:


A long time between drinks

It’s been quite a while since my last entry, apologies to all who’ve been waiting for another instalment.The ring of Brogdar

Travelling to and from Glasgow takes up a fair bit of my time, but over the past two months any spare time I’ve had has gone into finishing a major report for Plan International based on our time in India. It was a big job, blowing out to 25,000 words including appendices, but now that’s done and sent so I’m hoping to blog about once a week from now on.

I’m still trying to figure out how to use WordPress effectively, particularly for photos, so if anyone has any tips they’d be very welcome!

Even with the Plan report and working full time, we’ve still had opportunities to experience different aspects of Scotland. Between Christmas and New Year we spent time with friends, made another trip to Holy Island, and partied in the street for Hogmanay (New Year), which is highly overrated. They really need some Aussies to come and teach them how to run an event – tens of thousands of people standing around on cold concrete with nowhere to sit, stages with poor sound, and only Fosters to drink makes for a pretty average event.
About a month ago we headed to the northern coast of Scotland to a little town called Thurso. From here we caught the ferry over to Orkney and explored 5000-year-old ruins, and an ancient burial cairn with 800-year-old Viking graffiti. It was spectacular and highly recommended.
Now we’re looking forward to the days getting longer and (slightly) warmer, and visits from friends, including Paul and Amber from our Urban Seed networks in May.
That’ll have to do for now – i’ll try to put a couple of pix up, but for family and friends over the next week I’ll be putting heaps more up on my Facebook page as well.

More to come over the coming weeks.