Tag Archives: atmosphere

Lake Minnewanka + plans





The mist holds its hand over the foreheads of the mountains. The reservoir sits full to the brim, not lapping. It has a deep blue colour apparently when the light is up. But you can see it a little here, a tinge in the greys.









A passing snow-plough followed by another vehicle throw snow-dust in their wakes. Today, it was just a quick walk around the dam road, and then back. Because tomorrow there is a longer trip. I and the three other Creative Futures artists are going by car up to Jasper, which will take us through the Icefields parkway – and with two serious photographers and this eager amateur, I think the drive up will be a slow taking in of the canyons, lakes and glaciers there.


So I’ll be quiet here for a few days, hopefully to be back with shots of the wilds there. I’m taking my Polaroid too, but posting those will have to wait until I can get my hands on a scanner. Perhaps a good thing, seeing as how I flood this place with my pictures regardless. One last one, and wish us luck!




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Silent post: The Banff Springs Hotel




























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Of Hargate Hall

-Rather than of the wedding D and I attended, which was full of light and bustle and food and good cheer, this post is about the venue itself. About the feeling it carried, subtle, overwhelmed by the good mood of our party (70 odd souls and three dogs).


Hargate Hall, Friday, early evening. That white tent is a marquee.

Hargate Hall, Friday, early evening. That white tent is a marquee.


You could say it was the perfect setting for hush, for suspense. For reading at the windows, looking out across the stumbling, black-tree garden. Hargate Hall was built (so a photograph in the entrance-way told us) in 1899, so not very old by the standards of English Country Houses. In little over 15 years after its construction, the facade of the aristocracy would begin to crack with the onset of World War One.


Nowadays it’s a collection of self-catering apartments adjoining a fantastic central hall replete with stained glass windows with pseudo-heraldry, and a spiked candelabra hanging from the ceiling. We stayed in a low mezzanine, located up a steep wooden ladder and overhanging a small central room. It was like staying in a cosier treehouse.


On that first evening, D and I walked the grounds through the soft wet mist as it grew darker.


the flash reflecting off the white mist, just outside our kitchen.

the flash reflecting off the white mist, just outside our kitchen.


The garden path curves both up and down. We followed the downward path first, by the marquee and into the thin woodland.


hargate hall 3


we found this little...house? It is used for wedding ceremonies in warmer weather. Here it stared at us mournful, open mouthed

we found this little…house? It is used for wedding ceremonies in warmer weather. Here it stared at us mournful, open mouthed



This ghostly gate marked the edge of Hargate Hall's lands. Beyond was a farm reeking of the cows.

This ghostly gate marked the edge of Hargate Hall’s lands. Beyond was a farm reeking of the cows.


The light was beginning to go, and my poor wee camera struggled to keep up. It’s hard to capture the atmosphere under such conditions. It wasn’t eerie – I have been in eerie places – but was instead still. Stoic.


The farm, the drystane walls shelving the fields off into the close horizon

The farm, the drystane walls shelving the fields off into the close horizon


hargate hall 4


We wandered round along the main road and towards the gates of the hall. I’d like to say I had time then to read The Secret History (it would I think have been a perfect choice – second only to The Little Stranger) but there was far too much to do and far too many people to meet. The same of course was true of Saturday, the day of the wedding itself. But the evening of the second day brought snow, and our last morning saw Hargate Hall and the farmlands covered white.












One last shot of the hall itself. We had to take a taxi and then a five hour train ride back north. It’s funny though, on the ride to Buxton train station, the driver referred to us coming ‘up’ to the Peak District, though he had already asked where we were from. Perhaps he misspoke, or perhaps it was something to do with where he felt situated – Northern, already. It always strikes me strangely, to hear of ‘the North’ on the BBC weather forecasts, when there’s so much more north. It reinforces the idea that Scotland is, to those who live below it, a different country, though they might in other respects (and irksomely to those who believe otherwise) refer to Scotland as a region. A region North of Thule, I suppose.


From the train we watched the snow storm follow us into the North, skittering the higher lands and leaving the valleys green and then, further, the tufty brown of semi-moorland, then green once again. I began The Secret History, but still have much to go. It seems so far like a slip of caramel over a big white plate – flavourful, but. More coherence (possibly) later. Thanks to all who wished us a good trip. It was.


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Old Stone


Here’s a song for this post: Laura Marling’s ‘Old Stone’. I like to think the ‘you’ she is addressing is the city itself, and the volcanic rock much of it sits on.




A refrain of rock and clinging moss. The ground under these leaves I think where once the Nor loch stood. Outcasts – unwed mothers, ‘deviants’ and like criminals were occasionally thrown into the loch to drown, and their bones lie under the bones of the respectably buried. But this time let’s not linger. The city is not all steeped in such a mood.



Most early afternoons I walk back from work thinking of the way the wind and cold have stripped back the greenery and darkened, higgledy stones. Here the ivy persists on one side, forming a contrast that highlights the absence, the dying, elsewhere. Environment as editor, removing excess. Elsewhere, humans have more actively written themselves onto the canvases of near ruined space:



This is up behind the University of Edinburgh main campus. I can’t help but feel more could be done with these mews. Maybe because I’d like to live in one myself. Little cottage in the city.




I love the way the shadow covers the cobbles and washes against the side of the mechanics. I love the difference each cobble carries, the breakages, the inconsistancies which mark a lingering presence, something repaired and patched over time. The road was not the only thing I found repurposed but left fragmentary, left with its half-sentences intact. The grammar of this city might have changed over time, but the words don’t always alter.


Closer to home I came across a mysterious sign –



Clearly, in this area, there was no longer a bowling club (that’s the more frequently found outdoor lawn bowls, rather than the American indoor style).

Behind it, there is some kind of official looking building – perhaps Crown Lands or Parliamentary business. And yet, the doorway to this non-existent place remained:



Did I push the doorbell? Of course! It went in, and though I listened, I couldn’t hear the bell. No admittance to the club, this time.


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Down among the mossy stone


Edinburgh is it seems a city of cemeteries, best visited as I said in Monday’s post, on days like this. When the water droplets seem to condense from the air around you, and umbrellas are nearly useless.



I can tinker with the filters, bring out the richness that my camera cannot catch, or leave it out. The dark sodden colours of stone and moss can speak for themselves.



At other times, I try to get the vibrancy of dying leaves in low light, and with a flick of the camera phone, sometimes fail and sometimes succeed. Compare these two images, the first with a filter, the second, of the graves below the tree, without any manipulation:






This one, unfiltered, shows a close up of those strange physallis-like flowerheads. I wanted to pull one off and pocket it and take it home. But who knows what might come crying round at my window in the night, to claim it back again?



In this lower graveyard, the stones are green and black, from moss and smoke. The ground is black too, under the leaves and the grass. Churned by the rain and my unsteady feet.



This is an old burial ground: as I said there has been a church on the site since at best guess the 850s AD. Twelve centuries of worship. Were there graves in those early days here? I imagine so. No visible sign remains. I found some stones that I thought looked to date from the sixteen hundreds, with angelheads with wings and mason signs. The record online might be able to let you know, if you are interested.





I explored only about half of the graveyard – the cold dampness nipping at me. Another time, definitely.



Up by the church, I saw people sitting apart on the steps, eating their lunches. Business people, it looked like, though the rain was as I said a miserable and constant drizzle. It seemed to make no difference, and I had seen people there from the upper graveyard in similar dreichness. I decided not to bother them with my photography. But you can imagine the hunched bodies on the damp steps, pushing wet sandwiches into their mouths. Seeking peacefulness, down here hidden away from the main road and the openness of the gardens.



Though it’s been a long time since anyone could say this part of Edinburgh was rural, I’m going to sign off with the open verse of ‘Elgy Written in a Country Churchyard‘ by Thomas Gray, suggested (and quoted down the phone) by my father.


The curfew tolls the knell of parting day,

The lowing herd wind slowly o’er the lea,

The ploughman homeward plods his weary way,

And leaves the world to darkness and to me.



Do you know of any other poems concerned with the specific peacefulness of a graveyard?


Filed under 2012, Edinburgh, Photograph, The Now

Good weather for a walk in the graveyard



Today I walked through the upper part of the graveyard that sits at the West End of Princes St, in a hollow by Princes St Gardens.


Damp and dark and sullen. The picture above taken at 1pm today.







Two churches share the burial grounds. Where that church stands, there has been a church since at least 850 AD.







Bracken and moss, and glaucous leaves and dew, and old blossoms still hanging wetly down or redly. The Lower graveyard, awaits me for tomorrow. Though if it’s sunny, I’m not sure I’ll be seeing it at its best.


One last picture, reveling in the grim November:



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The lure of damaged places

Down in Comely Bank, another part of Edinburgh, I added another couple of photos to my growing collection of shots of abandoned buildings.

I have been thinking now of how the eye is drawn to the wreck, the boarded up window, the collapsed roof, the weeds sprouting from the windowsill.  So, a post, drawing a few of them together in my mind. some you may recognise if you’ve been following this blog a while –

Romantic Shack, Catalonia.


Ruined store (?), Ocate, New Mexico


Dead Restaurant, Tierra Amarilla, New Mexico


A window in Golden, New Mexico


Abandoned house on private property, Espanola, New Mexico


Empty house, Bruntsfield, Edinburgh


Condemned clubhouse, Dunbar


Pub, Comely Bank


This last one, along with the building in Bruntsfield, is not lost entirely. There was a sign in the front saying work would be done. At some point.

But how long is time, in a building without people?


Filed under 2012, art, Edinburgh, New Mexico, Scotland