Tag Archives: Bill Bryson

Gritty Grimsby is not a Tourist Town

“Grimsby was not at all what I had expected…. The town centre was not compact and charming and town like, but grubbily urban with busy roads which were difficult to cross on foot” – Bill Bryson

I used to like Bill Bryson, I thought he was funny but in his last lamentable book ‘The Road to Little Dribbling”  he had the above to say about Grimsby.  I am not a Grimbarian so I have no axe to grind.  I am not arguing with him but I just got the sense that he hadn’t really visited Grimsby at all and his dismissive assessment was based on a Google search.  Despite its shortcomings I think the town deserves more than a quarter page in one of Bill’s travel books.

I have lived in Grimsby for ten years and I rather like it.

Read The Full Story Here….

 

A to Z of Balconies – Iceland

You don’t see many balconies in Iceland, neither the weather or the landscape is conducive. This one looks rather precarious, a good job that alcohol is prohibitively expensive.

Approximately three-quarters of Iceland is completely barren of vegetation and plant life consists mainly of grassland. The only tree native to the island is the northern birch but most of these are only a memory now because humans of course have damaged the delicate ecosystem as these birch forests were heavily exploited over the centuries for firewood and timber. Deforestation resulted in a loss of critical top soil due to erosion, greatly reducing the ability of forests to re-establish themselves. Today there are very few trees in only a few isolated areas of the island and none where we were driving.

Read The Full Story Here…

Postcard From The USA – Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone Grizzly

Yellowstone was designated as a National Park in 1872 when President Ulysses S Grant signed a new law ordering ‘the tract of land lying near the headwaters of the Yellowstone River to be set apart as a public park’ and in so doing it became the first National Park in the USA and indeed the world.

Read the Full Story…

Click on an image to scroll through the Gallery…

Early Days, 1955 Part Two – From Little Acorns to Globalisation

ray kroc mcdonalds 1

Some World changing developments were happening around about the time of my first year, most of them in the America where the USA was emerging as the wealthiest and most progressive country in the World.

Apart from the Atomic Bomb no development was more dramatic than the hamburger.

The  original McDonald’s restaurant opened in San Bernardino, California in 1940, with a diner owned by two brothers, Richard and Maurice McDonald.  The present McDonald’s Corporation however dates its founding to the opening of a franchised restaurant by Ray Kroc, in Des Plaines, Illinois in April 1955.

The McDonald brothers were interesting, some would say rather eccentric characters who were inspired by the assembly line manufacturing method of Henry Ford in his car factories and in 1948 without warning they suddenly closed their traditional and popular establishment for several months and set about applying the principles of mass production to the restaurant industry.

1955 mcdonald_brothers

They pared the service back to only the essentials, offering a simple menu of hamburgers, french fries and milkshakes, which were produced on a continuous basis rather than made to order and with no alternatives on offer.  Basically just ‘take it or leave it’.  This was whole new idea that they called ‘fast food’ that went against all service conventions which could be served to a formula, almost instantaneously and always with absolute consistency.

They also removed any distractions like jukeboxes and payphones so it wouldn’t become a hangout spot for young people and that there would be a continuous turnover of customers.

mcdonalds speedee

The brothers reduced labour costs because there were no waiting staff and customers presented themselves at a single window to place and receive their orders.  They made the food preparation area visible to the customers to demonstrate its high standards of cleanliness and they eliminated all plates and cutlery serving only in paper bags with plastic knives and forks.

Their introduction of the ‘Speedee Service System’ established the principles of the modern fast-food restaurant. The original mascot of McDonald’s was a man with a chef’s hat on top of a hamburger shaped head whose name was ‘Speedee.’  Speedee was retired in 1962 and replaced by Ronald McDonald which I always thought was the weirdest possible merchandising mascot.  He was just plain scary!

1955 ronald mcdonald

Ray Kroc was a multi-mixer milkshake machine salesman and he was intrigued by an order from the McDonald brothers who had purchased eight of his Multi-Mixers, which to him seemed rather a lot for a small restaurant.  Immediately after visiting the San Bernandino restaurant he became convinced that he could sell exceptional numbers of mixers to every new restaurant that they opened and so he offered the McDonald brothers a deal.

Although they were truly innovative the it turns out that the two brothers were not especially ambitious and were they were satisfied with their one restaurant that provided them with a comfortable lifestyle and regular income.  Their only indulgence was to treat themselves to a new car every year.  But Ray Kroc realised the potential of their idea and with much bigger plans proposed a chain of new McDonald’s restaurants and he tried to convince them to expand the operation.  They refused.  He eventually became frustrated with their lack of vision and forced them into an agreement.

Kroc prepared a business proposal but insisted that he could not show all of the details to the potential investors so the agreement was made with a handshake (as opposed to a milkshake). The brothers dithered and Kroc became impatient and annoyed that they would not transfer to him the real estate and rights to the original unit.  Kroc walked away from the transaction and then refused to acknowledge the royalty portion of the agreement because it wasn’t in writing.

The McDonald brothers were clearly poor businessmen and no match for the ruthless Kroc, they even neglected to register the name McDonalds so to force the issue Kroc opened his new McDonald’s restaurant near the brothers diner which they were forced to change to “The Big M”.

In 1961, he finally purchased the company from the brothers. The agreement was for the McDonalds to receive $2.7 million for the chain and to continue to receive an overriding royalty of 1.9% on future gross sales and very specifically 1.9% because when negotiating the contract the McDonald brothers said that 2% sounded greedy.

Nowadays McDonalds and Greedy are virtually synonymous!

McDonalds didn’t reach the United Kingdom until 1974 and now there are over a thousand of them and the Company business plan is to open thirty new restaurants every year.  I don’t remember when I first started using McDonald’s, probably at about the time my children started to request it as a dining option, and now, apart from the occasional breakfast bun, I would only use it if I am absolutely desperate!

One place where Kroc failed to make an impression was at Disneyland.  In 1955 he wrote to Walt Disney offering a deal: “I have very recently taken over the national franchise of the McDonald’s system. I would like to inquire if there may be an opportunity for a McDonald’s in your Disneyland Development.”  The story goes that Walt was too busy to deal with the matter personally so he passed it on to the President in charge of concessions.  Allegedly he agreed but wanted to increase prices by 50% with all the extra profit going to Disney.  Kroc refused and it was to be another thirty years before they worked together.

mcdonalds world

A Challenge Accepted

Just recently a blogging pal of mine challenged me to tackle these three questions. I don’t usually respond to challenges but in this case I have made an exception.

1. Which philosopher do you most admire and if they were alive today in your country/town how would they focus or direct their main theory and to what end?

Thomas Paine Thetford Norfolk

I immediately thought that I might go for John Locke “The Father of Liberalism” because I think that “Two Treatises of Government” is where nearly fifty years ago I formed my own views on politics and society.

I then considered Voltaire, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it” (not Voltaire himself of course even though it neatly sums up his contribution to the principle of Free Speech.

But I have decided to choose Thomas Paine. My interest in him was rekindled when I visited his birth town of Thetford in Norfolk.

Thomas Paine Hotel

Paine supported both the American Revolution (one of the Founding Fathers no less) and the French Revolution and his most important work was The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen which became the basis for a nation of free individuals protected equally by the law. In 1792 he was elected to the French National Convention. In all of the turmoil of the revolution he was arrested. He only narrowly escaped the guillotine during the reign of terror and was then (not being welcome in England) allowed to travel to the USA.

The Declaration is important, it is included in the beginning of the constitutions of both the Fourth French Republic (1946) and Fifth (1958) and is still current. Inspired by the philosophers of the French Enlightenment like Voltaire and Rousseau, the Declaration became a core statement of the values of the French Revolution and had a major impact on the development of freedom and democracy in Europe and Worldwide.

The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen is so significant that it is considered to be as important as Magna Carta, the English Bill of Rights, the United States Bill of Rights and inspired in large part the 1948 United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

If he was here now I’d like to think he would have a solution to the crisis of democracy in the UK which has been brought about by the whole BREXIT fiasco.

Thomas Paine Memorial

If he was here now I’d like to think he would have a solution to the crisis of democracy in the UK which has been brought about by the whole BREXIT fiasco.

2. If you could completely “remove” three things from this planet what would they be and why? By “things” I don’t mean poverty, disease, discrimination etc, I mean tangible items, goods, or artefacts that really bug you. 

Dogs

alsatian

In the UK you need a licence for a shotgun or to keep poison or even weed killer but not for a killer animal!

Apologies here to my canine loving friends but I really don’t like dogs, I suffer from Cynophobia – I am scared of them, and this isn’t completely irrational because they really don’t like me either – but they are not frightened of me!  As soon as people with dogs realise that I have an unnatural and unexplainable fear of them then they seem to take sadistic delight in subjecting me to the terror of their company.

I don’t like dogs because I see no redeeming features in them. They sweat, they are greasy, they smell, they have bad breath, they foul the pavements and they piss up my garden wall.  What is there possibly to like about them?

My dislike for them started as a boy when I was taken one day for a walk by my granddad and on a piece of waste land opposite my parent’s house in Leicester an Alsatian dog knocked me to the ground, pinned me down and stood on my chest.  The inconsiderate owner had let it off its leash and I was absolutely terrified.

I couldn’t sum it up better than in the words of Bill Bryson…

“It wouldn’t bother me in the least…if all the dogs in the world were placed in a sack and taken to some distant island… where they could romp around and sniff each other’s arses to their hearts’ content and never bother or terrorise me again.” 

I wasn’t always frightened of dogs…

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Garlic

I hate garlic, I mean I really, really hate garlic. I hate the taste, I hate the aroma, I hate the way that it dries your mouth out and I hate the way that it makes you smell for twenty-four hours after eating it. I know that it is useful for warding off vampires but that is all I really have to say about garlic.  I am not even going to post a picture.

Plastic

truckers rubbish

I wish plastic had never been invented.

I have recently become more upset than ever before about litter alongside roads and paths. While littering of the oceans is now at the forefront of public concern, general littering of the countryside and communities is barely on the national radar. Yet the amount of eyesore litter, not just plastic, is increasing exponentially on roadsides, in rivers, in public spaces and in the countryside and has a hugely negative impact on our lives.

Litter ruins people’s enjoyment of the countryside and makes open spaces feel like waste grounds. In Lincolnshire, where I live, many road verges are strewn with plastic sheets and bags hanging from trees, discarded meal containers and sacks of general rubbish.  Rubbish collection, or lack of it, compounds the problem. Bins for public use are relatively scarce, and litter collection is less frequent as councils simultaneously promote recycling and cut budgets.

This is me  at work in 1990 trying to tackle the litter problem with local school children…

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3. Magic wish …. you can visit and see anything or any place on earth for a week, what is it, where, why?

Easy, my garden with some bottles of fine wine and a plate of my favourite nibbles!

So that is my challenge completed.  It is my job now to pass it on.  I have decided not to nominate anyone specifically but to invite anyone that has a care to, to think about and answer my three questions…

1 Most disappointing place ever visited

2 Which King or Queen of England would you invite to dinner and why and what is on the menu

3 Should the World build walls to restrict free movement of people

If you don’t like my questions then you could always use Brian’s…

Brian.png

Check out his amusing and informative blog pages right here…

https://thetwodoctors.wordpress.com/

European Capital of Culture, 2002 – Bruges

“Everything about it is perfect – its cobbled streets, its placid bottle-green canals, its steep roofed medieval houses, its market square, its slumbering parks, everything.” – Bill Bryson – ‘Neither here Nor there’

We were driving to neighbouring Belgium today to visit the town of Bruges in the north of the country and by the time we had packed the car and set off there were big spots of rain falling on the windscreen.

This didn’t last long and it was one of those days when there were different weather conditions in all directions and it was a bit of a lottery about what we were likely to get.  It was about a hundred kilometres to drive and on the way we passed through a variety of different weather fronts so we were unsure of just what to expect when we arrived.

Northern France Wimereaux

We needn’t have worried because as we parked the car the sun came out and the skies turned a settled shade of blue and without a map we let instinct guide us down sun-dappled mazy cobbled streets towards the city centre.

I had visited Bruges before in 1981 so I thought I knew what I was looking for but over the years I must have got mixed up because the place looked nothing like I remembered it.  I knew that we were looking for a large square and I had in mind something classical like St Marks in Venice so I was surprised when we reached the famous market square to find nothing like that at all.

Bruges is the capital and largest city of the province of West Flanders in the Flemish Region of Belgium.  In the middle ages, thanks to the wool trade, it was one of the most important cities in Europe and the historic city centre is an important  UNESCO World Heritage Site because most of its medieval architecture is intact. The Church of Our Lady has a hundred and twenty metre high spire making it one of the world’s highest brick towers.

I Love Bruges Postcard

The sculpture Madonna and Child, which can be seen in the transept, is believed to be Michelangelo’s only work to have left Italy within his lifetime, it isthe most famous landmark is its thirteenth century belfry and also a pivotal part of the George Clooney film “Monuments Men”.  The church is also home to a municipal carillon comprising forty-eight bells where the city still employs a full-time carillonneur, who gives free concerts on a regular basis.

The city is also famous for its picturesque waterways and along with other canal based northern cities, such as Amsterdam in the Netherlands it is sometimes referred to as “The Venice of the North”;  but this isn’t a title that it holds uniquely because it has also been applied to Saint Petersburg, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Hamburg, Manchester, Birmingham and Edinburgh amongst others.

bruges-crop-xlarge

Bruges is a fine place and we really needed more time to appreciate all of this but the price to be paid for convenient close to the centre parking was that we were restricted to just two hours.  Even though I didn’t remember it quite like this the city square was delightful, fully pedestrianised except for the odd horse and carriage and surrounded by bars and cafés all around the perimeter.  We liked the look of the Bruges Tavern which had tables surrounded by pretty flowers tumbling effervescently from boxes and containers and a vacant table with a good view of the square.

The official language in this part of Belgium is Flemish, which is similar to Dutch and the man who came to take our order identified immediately that we were English and spoke to us in that delightful lilting sing-song voice that Dutch and Belgian people have when they speak English.  He made us feel welcome and we enjoyed a glass of beer sitting in the sunshine.

The girls wanted to shop so whilst they went off in the direction of the main  street we finished our drinks and then took a leisurely walk around the square overlooked by brightly painted houses with Dutch style gables and facades and then disappeared down the warren of quiet side streets that had something interesting to stop for around every corner.

Making our way back to the car we stopped in another, more modern, large square for a second drink where the service was slow and there was an amusing exchange between a flustered waitress and an impatient diner. ‘Alright, alright, the food is coming’the waitress snapped in a reproachful way when she was asked for a third time when it would be served.

Our beer took a long time to come as well but we thought it best not to complain.

As we left Bruges to drive back towards Boulogne the sun disappeared underneath a blanket of cloud and we drove through intermittent showers along a road cluttered with heavy trucks all making their way to and from the Channel ports.  This was not an especially interesting journey through a flat featureless landscape and although we had taken our passports with us there wasn’t even any real indication that we had passed from Belgium back to France except for a small EU sign that could be easily missed.

Past Calais the weather improved and by the time we returned to the gîte the sun was out again but it was still quite windy.  Richard complained about this several times but it was really not so bad and it didn’t stop us sitting in the garden.

Interested in Belgium – take a look at this website – https://discoveringbelgium.com/

Travels in Spain – Andalucía and The Rain in Spain

Ronda The Bridge

“Dogs don’t like me. It is a simple law of the universe, like gravity. I am not exaggerating when I say that dogs that have not moved from the sofa in years will, at the sniff of me passing outside, rise in fury and hurl themselves at shut windows. I have seen tiny dogs, no bigger than a fluffy slipper, jerk little old ladies off their feet and drag them over open ground in a quest to get at my blood and sinew. Every dog on the face of the earth wants me dead.”, Bill Bryson – ‘In a Sunburned Country’

The next morning it was raining, raining quite hard, raining very hard and after breakfast and with no immediate prospect of improvement Kim decided to go shopping to buy some shoes she needed which left me free to visit the historical centre.

The weather was thoroughly horrid with gusty winds that turned my cheap umbrella inside out and sharp squally showers which tested even the most boasting of waterproof clothing claims.

I walked for a while and then as though by magic the sky cleared, the clouds blew away in an instant and I didn’t need the umbrella and the waterproof clothing any more. That is what I like about Spain, when it rains in England in the morning it generally rains all day but in Spain it can quickly blow away.

Street Ronda Spain

I walked to the edge of the town, through the old gate of the defensive walls of the old Arab Alcazaba and then spotted a path that I estimated would take me to a viewing spot at ground level below the bridge.  I asked a local man and he confirmed my judgement and so I optimistically set off.  It was a steep downhill path of loose shale and after a quarter of a mile or so I began to have doubts but I had reached that point when I felt committed to carry on even though my confidence was by now beginning to evaporate as quickly as a kettle left to boil dry on a burning hob!

And so I carried on, forever going down into the canyon and increasingly regretting my adventurous resolve to carry on.  Eventually I reached the bottom of the slippery path and my worst fears were confirmed.  This was a dead end and there was no way of returning to the town without either advanced mountaineering skills or alternatively retracing my steps up a very steep slope.

On the positive side I did get some good pictures of the bridge!

The path was quite remote and deserted and on the way back I began to worry about the prospect of running into a dog.  You may remember that it is fair to say that I am terrified of dogs – I suffer from cynophobia.  This was exactly the sort of place that I would not want to be confronted with a loose canine beast.

Anyway, I got most of the way back and came to the edge of town and then was confronted with my worst fear.  Here was a massive dog with the scent of blood in its nostrils staring down at me from the top of a ten foot wall.  I can’t tell you what sort of dog it was because my brain had dissolved into jelly and I wasn’t thinking straight.  It desperately wanted to jump down and rip my throat out but luckily it was more afraid of heights than I am of dogs and it couldn’t bring itself to make the leap.  I rushed past, my heart thumping like a bass drum from the combination of the stiff walk and the dog scare.

A good friend of mine who loves dogs once asked me why I don’t like them.  I tried to explain that I am genuinely afraid of them, I don’t like them anywhere near me, I don’t like the smell of their sweating bodies, I don’t like the feel of their greasy hair, I don’t like their slavering tongues and their slobber anywhere near my hands.  Like all people who like dogs he didn’t understand my explanation.  Some people don’t like cats – I do but if people come to my house and explain that they don’t like them then I put them in a different room and anyway a cat would have more manners than to keep pestering people, they are so much more intelligent  and socially aware.

As Bill said…

“It wouldn’t bother me in the least…if all the dogs in the world were placed in a sack and taken to some distant island… where they could romp around and sniff each other’s anuses to their hearts’ content and never bother or terrorise me again.” 

Unscathed but shaking uncontrollably with fear I negotiated the final few steps and returned to the safety of the town and slipped inside the old Arab gate and into the labyrinth of twisting narrow streets, still damp and dripping with residual rain.  I followed them for a while dropping down again towards the bottom of the canyon but this time on the opposite side of the town.

Arab Baths Ronda Spain

Eventually I came to the two earlier bridges and then to the Baños Árabes, the Arab Baths which are claimed to be the most complete and most important example of its type in all of Spain.  It was impressive I have to say and well worth the €3 admission charge to go inside.

I almost had time to go to the secret gardens which looked well worth a visit but it was starting to rain again and I was due to meet Kim in fifteen minutes, so I turned down the opportunity and returned directly to the hotel.

Kim was already back.  She hadn’t got the shoes she needed because the shop hadn’t got them in the right colour but to make up for this disappointment she had alternatively bought some shoes that she wanted!

This is another of my phobias – Shoe Shops…

Kim Shoe Shop spain

Village Cricket

W G Grace

“I’m getting into cricket. I love the way you stop for lunch and afternoon tea. I’ve had strawberries already and some Pimms.” – Judy Murray

23rd October 2015 is the one hundreth anniversary of the death of probably the World’s most famous cricketer – W G Grace.

“Our bag is green & made of canvas, strong and leather bound,                Overfilled with kit we’ve purchased, borrowed, begged or found;               Emptied out on summer evenings when it doesn’t rain,                                                But frankly half the stuff it holds we’ll never use again-                                          Worn out gloves with pimply rubber stitched up to the knuckles,                    Floppy pads with leather straps & little jingly buckles,                                                  All marked ‘Brookfield School’ in pen in prominent positions,                                  And some with names of other clubs, nicked from the opposition.”  –  Arthur Salway

20 Over Village Cricket

Like my dad before me I worked for the local council and one of the nicest things about this was the social aspect because I worked with a lot of people with similar interests.

One of these was cricket and like most organisations the council had a twenty over cricket team that used to play weekly fixtures against other councils, banks and other businesses in the town.

Village Cricket 20 over competition

Before I started work I used to get a guest spot in my dad’s team, Rugby Rural District Council, this was pre 1974 and the reorganisation of local government so there were a lot of small local authorities who sometimes struggled to field a full strength team so there were always places to fill and I was more than happy to go along every Wednesday night for a bat and a bowl and a glass of bitter shandy afterwards.

In 1975 I started work at Rugby Borough Council and my boss, the Borough Treasurer, John Lord, was the captain of the cricket team so amongst my other duties he gave me the job of team secretary and it was my job to arrange the fixtures, book the pitches, look after the kit and make sure we had a full squad every week.

Throughout the summer every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday I had to allocate a fair amount of my time to phoning around and putting the team together, arranging the catering and making sure all the kit had been returned the previous week.  We had three or four old bats, a collection of balls of varying age and quality, battle scarred batting pads and some old fashioned batting gloves with green rubber spikes sewn onto the fingers.  Best of all were the protective boxes which were several years old and it was a good job we were not too concerned about personal hygiene because these things had been slung around several sweaty groins in the past I can tell you!

Village Cricket

On Wednesday we would worry about the weather because many a match was washed out without a bowl being bowled but hopefully it would stay fine and we really didn’t mind playing through a bit of drizzle now and again.

Twenty overs each side meant about three hours of cricket and if both sides used up their full allocation then we had to get a move on towards the end of the season when the days were getting shorter.

We were reasonably successful and joined the local twenty over league where we were not.  I used to produce an annual review of the season and the 1976 yearbook tells a sorry tale of played 10 and lost 8 and finished bottom of the league.

This didn’t really matter because it was the cricket that was important.  Taking to the field to bowl or just sitting waiting for your turn to bat, someone lovingly keeping the score book up to date and wives and girlfriends turning up towards the end of the game just in time to go to the pub afterwards where we would review and assess, exaggerate and rue our mistakes.

Twenty over evening cricket was one of the best things about the summer and was always missed during the long winter months!

The sorry tale of the 1976 season:

“It is not true that the English invented cricket as a way of making all other human endeavors look interesting and lively; that was merely an unintended side effect. …It is the only sport that incorporates meal breaks. It is the only sport that shares its name with an insect. It is the only sport in which spectators burn as many calories as the players-more if they are moderately restless.”    – Bill Bryson

Scotland – Edinburgh, the Scott Monument and the West End

Walter Scott Monument Edinburgh

“All towns ending in –burgh were instructed to change to –burg, whilst all those ending in –borough where henceforth to read –boro.  On the matter… the Board was nothing short of relentless and even now you can search a gazetteer long and hard to find an exception to these two terminations.  The main and obvious one is Pittsburgh (because) the city’s leading institutions… refused to buckle under.”  – Bill Bryson, ‘Made in America’

We found a back street pub now for a lunch time drink but didn’t need food on account of the large breakfast and the cement like consistency of the stodgy haggis – another reminder to myself not to have it again tomorrow.

Whilst drinking beer I wondered about the pronunciation of the name of the city Edinburgh. In the UK we pronounce it Edinborough but it spelt in the way that in America it would be pronounced burgh as in Pittsburgh.  Subsequent research tells me that there is an Edinburgh in Indiana but that is pronounced as in Pittsburgh and there is also an Edinburgh in South Australia also pronounced in the American rather than the UK style.  To complicate matters there is a town in England called Happisburg which is misleadingly pronounced as Haysborough – curious thing, language.

After struggling with our debate about conflicting linguistics we left the pub and made our way to the Walter Scott memorial because for a modest admission charge (sadly no concessions for over 60s) it is possible to take a winding spiral staircase to the very top for a grand 360° view across all of the city. It is quite a tortuous climb and people going up have to compete with people coming down for restricted staircase space which made me think how much better it would have been if the architect had made provision for two sets of steps, one up and one down!

Some people don’t like the Scott monument, Bill Bryson compared it to a gothic spaceship but I quite like it.  It is the biggest memorial to a writer anywhere in the World and a rather appropriate memorial to a man who regularly features in a top ten list of most important Scots although recently Alex Salmond has been creeping up that list which might devalue it somewhat!

I have been up the Scott monument before but once again I couldn’t really remember anything about it.  This is me in 1984 and Kim in 2015.

Walter Scott Monument & Edinburgh CastleWalter Scott Monument & Waverley Hotel

One of the views that interested me was the Old Waverley Hotel directly opposite.  I stayed there both times and as far as I can recall it hasn’t changed a great deal inside but at street view there were obvious changes of shops.  In 1984 there was the gentleman’s outfitters Dunne and Co. which ceased trading in 1996 and next to that a specialist kilt maker.  I imagine that this was quite an expensive store but today you can get a full kilt outfit including jacket, shirt, socks and a sporran for about £80 in the tourist shops.  Today there is a Monsoon and an Accessorize.

From the top we took the giddy steps back to Princess Street and in late afternoon Kim decided that there were a couple of shops that she had missed so disappeared back towards the shopping mall and walked along Princess Street under the shadow of the castle and towards the West End.

This is an area of the city that is trying to invent itself as an alternative tourist attraction away from the Old and the New towns.  It is an area of preserved Georgian streets with original shopping streets and terraces of granite houses.  It is an understated part of the city and I enjoyed walking along the pavements of an area of period splendour sitting effortlessly alongside modern corporate architecture.  I would have liked to have spent longer there but the day was ebbing away so I made my weary way back along Princess Street to the Old Waverley.

We spent some time in the room enjoying the view as the sun went down behind the castle and then predictably returned to Café Marlayne where we had an excellent second evening meal and reflected on our short visit to Edinburgh.  We had enjoyed it but it was almost over because in the morning we would be catching an early train back to Newcastle.

005Old Waverley Hotel Edinburgh

Weekly Photo Challenge: Inspiration

This challenge is so easy!

Ivan Petcher (1932-2003)

When I was a boy I developed a desire to see interesting places after visiting them through the stories that my Dad used to tell me. He was a well read and an educated man who passed on to me his love of history and geography. The family house was never short of books and encyclopaedias and he always had an abundance of time to enjoy them and share their stories with me. Through his inspiration I learnt about Paris, Rome, Athens and Madrid and travellers like Marco Polo and Captain Cook and I vowed that one day I would see these places for myself.

Read the full story…