Category Archives: Scotland

Not a chuffin puffin in sight

I went off on a little morning jaunt to a local seabird breeding ground with the aim of trying to spot me a puffin. I’ve been every year for the past 3 years; not seen one yet but I like to persevere. There are thousands of other breeding birds to entertain even if the puffins don’t make an appearance, plus the prospect of spotting dolphins at sea (none this year but a pod last).

The only downside is it is a bit pungent, but you do get used to the tang of ammonia after a while. The scale of the cliffs gives me the willies every time, I’ve never been a lover of heights and these are huge. Probably not such a good idea to get used to them, it would be all too easy to walk off the edge.

Although there must have been thousands of pairs, there were decidedly fewer birds than previous years. I wonder if the weather is to blame.   We’ve not had a hard winter in our bit of Scotland but the rest of the UK has had it worse than usual and it’s certainly gone on and on and on.

I’m starting to give up hope of ever getting a glimpse of a puffin. There was a sign up in the hide at the end of the cliff path.  ’20 puffins seen 9th May – elusive since then’. Oh well, maybe next time.


We went to see the Queen

Well, we went to the Queen’s house anyway. She wasn’t there. I imagine she makes herself scarce when the hoi polloi have been given license to roam the grounds.

There’s an annual running event held at Queenie’s Scottish pad (Balmoral) which we’ve been to for the past few years. It’s a rather scenic spot; I can quite see why the royals like it.

Balmoral castle

The house (castle? palace?) is a bit of a strange one, you’d be forgiven for thinking it had been designed by an English architect who ‘made it Scottish’ by adding a rounded turret at every opportunity. The blinds were firmly shut so no opportunity for nosey parkers to have a peek inside.

Big littl’un would like to know why the Queen has several houses when some folk don’t have any. Answers on a postcard please; I failed miserably.

Run Balmoral has a mix of kids’ and adults’ races. The littl’uns ran first (a mile), then we had a couple of hours wait for the 10k in which the T-boy was running. Enough time for HOT TEA and HOT CHIPS with CHEESE (the food of champions, the littl’uns would have you believe). Very glad for the HOT food as it was a tad nippy, I believe there must have been an unspoken agreement not to mention that it very definitely snowed just a little bit at one point. Everyone just avoided looking at each other for a minute or so, then carried on like nothing had happened.

There was meant to be a minute silence in out of respect for the 3 people killed by the bombing at the Boston Marathon. The T-boy and I were both a little uncomfortable with this. It felt a lot like jumping on a bandwagon – I doubt there were many people at the event who knew any of the people directly affected. I did wonder, if the organisers were determined on showing their respect for something, whether it might have been more appropriate to hold a minute’s silence for the hundreds of people who were killed in the Dhaka factory collapse – I think it much more likely that runners or spectators would have been wearing clothes made in that factory complex, or another very like it. In the end the silence wasn’t particularly well announced and I don’t think the majority of people noticed it happening. I confess we were much more excited by the fire brigade’s demonstration of how not to put out a chip pan fire using water (Flames! smoke! heat!). (In case you happen to be cooking chips while reading, you need to know that you never ever put water on a chip pan fire. Official advice is to turn off the cooker and call the fire brigade. Unofficial advice (gleaned from me Mum) is to wet tea towels, wring them out and put them on the pan. Or the pan lid, if you can remember where you put it.)

My runners were all happy with their respective performances – they’d improved on their previous year’s times, which as we like to remind them, is all that matters. Beating other people isn’t the point.

Finally, to illustrate the oft quoted maxim that ‘money can’t buy taste’, I bring you Queenie’s equivalent of the garden gnome – the life-size plastic deer. There’s another one round the corner so it can’t have been a mistake. They amused me greatly (I am easily pleased).