Tag Archives: place


fairy dell


D and I are back from the isle of Arran, and while I’m going through my photos and readjusting my lungs to city air, I thought I’d leave this picture as placeholder. It was taken along the North-western coast of the island near the village of Lochranza, in a tiny landmark called Fairy Dell – not much more than a cut in the side of the hills, with bare rock and mossy sides, and a lush ‘valley’ posyed with primroses. I didn’t notice until I uploaded the photo that there was a tiny tiny rainbow over the burn, just there in the lower centre of the picture.  We decided that someone should come back with kitsch toadstools and carved trolls, but obviously nature decided just to go right ahead all on its own. Fabulous.




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First pack


Something different today: a little gallery all taken in the last few weeks, on Impossible Project Film, using the 30+ year old Polaroid camera (a Supercolor 635, for those who like to know these things).




Rhododendrons seen from the window of the Lochranza Youth Hostel, Isle of Arran (first image taken)




The Kelvingrove Museum, Glasgow




Dusk at Dalry Graveyard, Edinburgh




A reflection of the Polaroid camera and my hand, taken through the window in our new flat, Fountainbridge, Edinburgh




The Union Canal, Polwarth, Edinburgh


As you can see, the images have a few colour leaks, and a dreamy look to them. Possibly that means I have to clean the rollers on the camera. Or, in the case of the last picture, refrain from stuffing it into the pocket of my trousers. But anyway, using the Polaroid is a treat, and one that I take full care to enjoy. I like the wooziness. The unpredictable qualities. And being able to have a physical thing to hold. To watch emerge over minutes (long minutes, hidden in a safe unlit place) as I once watched darkroom films swim into clarity.


I have to be mindful with each shot, since the film costs £24 for 8 images. For the next two days, there’s a discount code for five euros off, though I’m not sure if it will work in the UK. As of right now, I have one pack left, tucked into our tiny fridge.  What would you like me to take a picture of out and about Edinburgh? I’m thinking the castle from down near St Cuthbert’s Kirk. I’d love to hear your ideas. And of course, have an excuse to go roaming.

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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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I <3 _____ [you are here]

(source: Liz Your Best Life)


This is a late Valentine’s to PLACE.


I finished Everywhere is the New New York a long while ago, and neglected to mention it here. So many great essays on hometowns and adopted cities, the good the bad and the foetid. But I think my current favourite was this, by Tyler Crumrine:


Are you sad? That’s fine. People get sad. Celebrities get sad. Politicians get sad. Sometimes I even get sad. But do you really want to live in a city that rubs it in your face? Where people are always smiling, and looking you in the eyes, and making you feel like YOU’RE the one with the problem? No. You want to wallow. You want to lash out. You want to swaddle yourself in a blanket of sadness so thick you can sit back and say, “It’s not my fault. This is the natural state of things. How else am I supposed to feel? I mean look at this place.”


That’s where Pittsburgh comes in. We understand you here, sad sack. In Pittsburgh, there’s no pressure. In Pittsburgh, we feel you. In Pittsburgh, you can recover as slowly and as bitterly as you want.


There’s no Broadway or Disney World here. No sir. Just bridges. And not even well-kept bridges. Just long, lonely ones built from the sweat and tears of steel workers. The kind that are perfect for standing on and brooding.


I feel like I should visit Pittsburgh, properly this time. The last time, it was a stop on the Greyhound bus trip to New Mexico. The NRA were in town, and a couple of emo teens got on the bus with a huge gun, hidden in a towel. They were arrested in Columbus, I think. What we saw of Pittsburgh was what surrounded the bus station. It looked pinched, a bit grim. Old buildings that could be beautiful, if you squinted or the sun hit them just right. A little like Glasgow – so I probably should give it another try.


Ask me on any given day, and I’d have a new favourite from this collection. It’s rich, funny, personal, grim, kind. You can buy a copy of Everywhere is the New New York, if there any left, here. I’d love to see this as a world wide series – a chapbook or an essay collection, bound in maps. It’s fantastic to see a light shone on all these small (and not so small) places. To see what gleams and what little beasties crawl out.

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And the winner is…

Well, I didn’t really want to keep you in suspense! My post was eaten by the hungry internet!


To those asking what a clootie dumpling is: a cloot is the Scots word for ‘cloth’ – clootie dumplings are sweet puddings, a little like a Christmas pud but lighter, traditionally served on New Year’s Day in Scotland. Here’s the recipe I used (I added mixed peel, subbed the oats for millet flour, and used golden syrup instead of treacle/molasses). It was warmly spicy and very filling.


Now on to the winner of the ‘place’ photography contest.


After dinner, my parents looked through the photographs and cast their votes – D had to be brought in for the final decision. He chose the same photograph my mother had picked, and we had a winner: Chris J. Rice. Here is her entry:


chris j rice photo entry


She included this lovely descriptive piece with her photograph, though the judges evaluated the photos all on their own merit:


Your favorite color was yellow. Yellow, so heavenly even when mixed with black, often expressing otherworldly grief, like the field in Van Gogh’s last painting; wheat overshadowed by darkness, yet, there it was, a hint of the sun, a thick shimmer of light. In fourth grade when the teacher told the class to paint the flower on her desk, a purple iris—dark veined and fragile—you did what she asked. Except you made it yellow. Dipped your brush in water, mushed it in the palest color cake, and copied down what you saw in your head. Transferred the flat world of your vision to the flat world of the page. So easy to do, you were surprised by her praise. Still you soaked it up, feeling momentarily okay, good for something. Like it was acceptable to see what you saw, to like what you liked.


Chris, please look through the archives of pictures here and choose one you’d like me to frame for you. Let me know by email – alongside your postage address. I’ll also be sending a mystery book from my shelves, and shopping for small goodies to include in your parcel. I’ll send it to you as soon as the city has recovered from its hangover.


To all the rest who contributed a photograph to the competition: Thank you. The standard of entries was very high, and it was tough for the judges to reach a consensus on the winner. Happy New Year, and hope to run another giveaway/contest at a later date.


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Happy January, Live The Dream



Happy 2013 everyone! This picture was taken at the Edinburgh Hogmanay celebrations last night. Not visible past the fireworks is the castle up on the hill. There were about 80,000 people in the city centre, according to the BBC, but I think that was on Princes Street alone.


The title of this post comes from something an enthusiastic drunk English man said to my friends and I as we were walking home – he informed us that January is the best month of the year, his favourite month, anyway. Happy January, he said, and he seemed convinced.


In the spirit of celebrating the new month, I’m going to be announcing the winner of the ‘place’ photo competition later today – I had so many good entries that I’m going to have to defer to my family as judges. They’re coming over for the traditional Scottish New Year’s Day meal of steak pie and clootie dumpling (one of these I’ve made gluten free for me – I get salmon for a main course). After the meal, I’ll show them your pictures and we’ll take a vote. So come back later on to admire/be jealous of the winning entry.





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Views of a cold city – a giveaway



Scott Monument through muslin netting


Edinburgh from the University health centre


A cold blue-dark, a glittering, hazed transformation of black stone. A stalled whirlwind, a battered roof, snow in the distance.


I’ve decided to hold another giveaway here, to mark the ending of 2012 and the promise of a new year. You might remember the giveaway I held at the beginning of this year which was for a booklet of pictures and some other goodies from Scotland. For this giveaway I’d like to set you a challenge:


I’m asking for the best photograph on the theme of PLACE.


A sense of place as obsession

as identity

as an extension of the body

as something to react against

as mood altering vision, as sense memory, as psychogeography


This could be your neighbourhood, your favourite chair (as we saw in the Share Your Spaces posts earlier this year), a mountain or a wood you love exploring, the texture of stone, a tattoo, the interior of a bookshop you frequently haunt – anything that speaks to you on that broad theme. Feel free to write a short explanation of how this image is meaningful to you.


The winning picture will be posted here, with links to the winner’s blog if they have one.


The winner will receive a small framed print of their choosing from any of my photos posted on this blog  – I have taken a lot this year, so hopefully there’s one that takes your fancy. Have a look through the archives! It’ ll also probably reveal a bit about my aesthetic biases.


AND ALSO a book from my creaking shelves – this will be a secret, but I have a lot of good reads to choose from and will pick based on what I think you (the winner) would like. Now, I’d love to be able to give away my own novel at this point, but since it’s not published yet, that will have to wait. One day, I hope.


FURTHER GOODIES will be picked up from the fine City of Edinburgh as the mood takes me. Here’s what I sent Artboy68 when he won.


Send your photo entries on PLACE to: wheresthebread[@]hotmail.com by the 31st of December. Please forward this to any friends who might be interested in taking part.


I look forward to seeing what you come up with.



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