Posts filed under 'Scottish'

Rugby relief at Murrayfield

Add comment March 20th, 2011

Thankfully Scotland finally came good against Italy yesterday and avoided the wooden spoon with a decent display. Ritchie Gray was particularly good and if we’d had him against Wales it might have been  different season, while Sean Lamont has been a revelation in his inside centre role, even if he did have one embarrassing failure to convert a kick and chase. Great to see Chris Paterson back to such good form after that serious internal injury kept him out for so long – his second last-gasp try saving tackle in two games showed again that even the big men can be brought down with good technique and bravery.

Jackson is now beginning to look promising at stand-off and seems to get the backs moving better than Parks does, and with Paterson taking some pressure off him by providing options with his experience of the distribution required there’s a better balance. We do miss the quality of Parks’ kicking but that can be learned, as John Rutherford famously proved.

After the success of the Argentina tour and the Autumn internationals we should have been able to push forward but the first half against Wales blighted the next couple of games. With a bit more confidence the England game could have been won and that would have given us a much better feeling as we head towards the World Cup.

Appearance of a rather unexpectedly unbiased commentator

I must say a few words about Brian Moore. In his playing days he was a man that Scotland fans loved to hate. He had a way of consistently winding us up (and a  few other countries) with outrageously biased comments. However as he’s settled into his role as a commentator alongside  Eddie Butler he’s been showing quite another side to his character. While not afraid to call a spade a spade he’s been remarkably unbiased in judging on-field events, frequently calling the play against his own England team or criticising refereeing decisions that he felt were wrong. In an era where commentators are tending more and more to be supporters he’s been a breath of fresh air and I congratulate him for it. Not quite in Bill McLaren’s class yet but following in his traditions, and I can’t praise him much more than that. Well done Brian.

Travels with a stand-in camera

3 comments August 8th, 2010

It’s curious how the mind can become compartmentalised when you’re really busy. Earlier this week I was up in the north-east of Scotland visiting a new client near Stonehaven. Now I’ve been to most parts of the Scottish mainland but this is an area that’s had little attention; I think I’ve been to Aberdeen four or five times at most and as far as I can recall I don’t think I’ve been to the coastal section from Arbroath to Stonehaven before at all. Yet as a landscape photographer I’ve been meaning to go and photograph Dunnottar Castle for many years – it’s a spectacular sight and it’s mentioned briefly in Dorothy Dunnett’s Ringed Castle so I’d intended to add it to the places to visit feature on the Dunnett website.

Yet consciously I didn’t tie in the business trip with any thoughts of Dunnottar until after the meeting had taken place and I was thinking about heading home. And of course with my mind on business I hadn’t taken my SLR along with me, despite my subconscious hinting to me that I should. It knew that Dunnottar was nearby while my conscious brain was busy ignoring it.

It was raining heavily as I left the meeting and drove down to Stonehaven harbour but it cleared up after a short time giving a hot sun with clear blue skies and bubbling white clouds. The harbour area is picturesque and delightfully peaceful and I could have happily spent the day there. In fact under normal circumstances I would have take the 1½ mile walk from there round the coast to the castle, but being dressed for business made that inappropriate. Instead I pottered around and tried taking a few photos with my new mobile phone, a Samsung Apollo. I had no great expectations of it as I hadn’t included camera quality on the list of desirable attributes when it was chosen. In the bright sunshine I could hardly see anything on the reflective screen so the composition was pretty much guesswork, but I reckoned that at least it would be a reminder to take the real camera next time. I then drove round to Dunnottar and although again I felt overdressed for a full visit I took a quick walk down to the viewpoint and took a few more snaps.

To my surprise the pictures are much better quality that I’d expected, and while it’s never going to challenge the Nikon D80 it’s nice to know that there’s a reasonable alternative when it’s just not possible to have the big camera with me. Here’s a couple of the pics as examples – click for larger version. The originals are 2048 x 1536 which is a pretty useful size.

Stonehaven Harbour

Stonehaven Harbour

Dunnottar Castle

Dunnottar Castle

Transports of Delight (not)

Add comment May 22nd, 2009

Transport in Britain is awful. Transport in Edinburgh is approaching catastrophic.

A few months ago I decided to buy a car, something I hadn’t had since 2002. I had resisted this for a long time as I knew the Edinburgh traffic would make for a frustrating commute, and I enjoyed the mile walk across country from the railway station to my current place of work, but after three train cancellations in 10 days including being stranded in Uphall in freezing conditions by a complete shutdown of the line and being left without any information on alternatives, I decided enough was enough and a car was duly purchased.

Now of course this was the worst possible time to switch to road transport as Edinburgh is currently in the throws of traffic chaos with much of the city streets being dug up for the purpose of moving utilities to allow tram lines to be put in.

Now initially I was quite favourably disposed to the idea of a tram system. I am generally in favour of both trains and trams as efficient, fast, and clean methods of transport, having had positive experiences of trains in Switzerland, Austria and Germany, and of trams in cities like Amsterdam and Innsbruck. It’s just that in this country we seem to be completely incapable of running them – they are habitually late, often cancelled and hideously expensive.

If we were getting a real tram network in Edinburgh it might just be worth the current upheaval and disruption; but we’re not. Now that the Roseburn to Granton spur (which should have been cheaper since it ran on a former railway line) has been cancelled due to lack of money, we’re getting a single line. A line that won’t even be useful to most people. It won’t even go all the way to the airport – it’ll stop at a park and ride carpark where travellers will have to switch to a bus – and it will have only one stop in the whole length of Princes Street. Now we hear that some genius in the council has said that since the “diversions” have been so successful they now want to keep Princes St (currently completely dug up and fenced off for the forseeable future) not only free from cars but free from buses as well!!

Ignoring for the moment the incredible idea that having a city reduced to gridlock with the massive increase in pollution and fuel consumption and the loss of working time for our commercial centres could possibly be described as successful, the idea that buses should not be allowed to use the main street in the capital city (and incidentally one of the very few east-west corridors across the city centre) is staggeringly stupid. What do we tell tourists who want to visit attractions in the city centre?

‘No the buses don’t run to there any more and the trams are only an option if you are staying along the Glasgow Road cos they don’t go anywhere else in the city, and even then they only stop in one place along Europe’s most scenic street of over a mile in length.’

They’ll think we’re mad.

And the locals? Well the journey times will all be permanently slower because all the buses will have to take a tortuous route around to Queen Street which is where all the other traffic is as well.

But hey, half the shops in the city centre have closed down because of the tram-related road works in the last two years already, so why would anyone want to go into the city centre? The shopping has been crap for years and most people go to out-of-town centres, Livingston or even Glasgow to shop. And given the planning disasters that the council have perpetrated recently we’ll probably lose our world heritage status anyway so there’ll be fewer tourists. Hmm, why were we putting in trams again?

Listen up council. I’ve lived virtually all of my life in Edinburgh and I’ve always loved it. But if I were 21 again now I’d move somewhere else because you’re making it a nightmare.

Scottish history we weren’t taught

Add comment November 23rd, 2008

I don’t watch much television, hardly at all in fact, but occasionally I’ll watch something on the BBC iPlayer service. Having heard about the new Scotland’s History series and having been quite impressed by Neil Oliver when he first started to appear on archaeology programs a few years ago, I caught the first two episodes recently. As always seems to be the way these days there was a big build-up, making out that it was rewriting the whole history of Scotland. Well I don’t know if they are exactly rewriting it but they do seem to be mentioning some things of which I was unaware, particularly in the second episode.

I’ve always had a keen general interest in history and later developed a fascination with archaeology, and of course this was boosted still further by becoming involved with the Dorothy Dunnett community due to Dorothy’s extraordinarily detailed research. However I was always aware of a few gaps where things were hazy. One of those was that I knew about the short but well-regarded reign and tragic death of Alexander III, but had often wondered in passing about the earlier Alexanders. Working in James Thin for so long I was able to dip into their stock but there never seemed to be anything published specifically about them and I never really followed it up. It was therefore with some astonishment that I watched the second episode last night in which Oliver told of Alexander II’s invasion of the England of King John following the mention of injustice done to him in the Magna Carter. No mention of such an entry had ever been made in either school history or in other books or TV programs I had seen on this supposedly critical document in British history. And certainly no mention had come to my attention that Alexander marched all the way to Dover to join the French in besieging Dover Castle. It seems that only the unexpected death of John saw the English barons change their allegiances from Alexander to John’s young son. Otherwise it seems likely that Scotland would have at least extended to the Cumbrian and Northumbrian territories and possibly further.

I’ll continue to watch this series with interest to see what other gaps I may have in my knowledge, and see what other material they may bring forward in radio articles. While I found some of the photography and special effects a touch overdone I was glad to see the emphasis on the changing boundaries of the various sections of the country – too often it seems to be assumed that the current boundaries have always been set in stone and the impression given that countries were always united in the way they are now.

I just wish we’d seen a bit more in the first period they covered which, while interesting in the coverage of the “problem” of what happened to the Picts, seemed to me to be rather light on the Viking period and omitted any mention of the period of Thorfinn and Macbeth, which is of course a time that fascinates many Dunnett readers.

Bob Crampsey – broadcasting legend

Add comment July 28th, 2008

We heard today of the death of one of Scottish broadcasting’s most respected figures. Bob Crampsey was a man who made you thankful you owned a radio or TV, for whatever he was talking about it was always worth hearing. While it was the football fans who were the most numerous and regular beneficiaries of his erudition, he was eminently capable of discussing a multitude of subjects with a quiet authority born of copious study; a true Scottish polymath.

A winner of Brain of Britain, and later a semi-finalist on Mastermind, he was also a headmaster, an author, and a historian of many subjects, including sport at all levels which he could recall seemingly at will to the constant admiration of his radio and TV colleagues. On STV at a time when the general quality of their sports content rather lagged behind the BBC, Crampsey’s pieces to camera (which must have been live) were a haven of intelligent and unbiased comment to me as a youngster who was already fed up with the bias that was rife at the time.

In later years on Radio Scotland’s Sportsound in the midst of the football banter and sometimes bickering between Jim Traynor, Chick Young and Gordon Smith it was always Bob who would drop in a persuasive observation or recall a historical precedent that would become the definitive answer on the topic being debated. While he loved football he was also an expert on Cricket, a game he said gave him even more pleasure, frequently attending Somerset’s games in Taunton.

Though he was a summariser rather than a commentator, when Bob retired it was like losing John Arlott from Test Match Special or Bill McLaren from the rugby commentaries; the authority wasn’t there any more. A few years later there is still no-one around with anything like the knowledge or integrity that he had. Now his death leaves an enormous hole and cuts a link to a past in which football was the game of the working class rather than the playground of super-rich businessmen. He will be sorely missed.